“Food is one of those things that is a reference point. Food can immediately transport you to a place or moment in time.” This sentiment was shared by Chef Nicholas Brune, Co-Founder & Executive Chef of Eco Caters as he created an interpretation of a Thai dish in the kitchen above Pizza Port Ocean Beach. Yes, Pizza Port Ocean Beach has a kitchen on the roof. In fact, there is a chic rooftop patio that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and last Sunday it played host to the latest Storyteller’s Dinner.
Brune, who also helms the kitchen at Local Habit, collaborated with musicians Katie Leigh and The Infantry for a special evening of five organic courses paired with five tracks and five beers chosen by Head Brewer Ignacio Cervantes.
Before the event started Chef Brune shared with diners his hopes for the afternoon under the clear sky as the cool breeze came rushing over the roof top. “I listened to the music and created a dish that was defined by what the track means to me. Hopefully these pairings will create an experience where, in the future, if you have a meal, or hear a song, or taste a beer you’re transported back to this moment.” In fact this event grew out of just such an experience. Last year at Local Habit’s crawfish boil, Brune, a Louisiana native, had just returned to San Diego from The Big Easy. As he sat there, elbow deep in craw fish, listening to The Euphoria Brass Band, he succumbed to the smells, the flavors, and the sounds, all of which instantly transported him, emotionally, back home. It was this experience that brought together a group of people to Pizza Port’s island in the sky.
As each course was presented singer/song writer Katie Leigh shared the stories of each of the five songs. This was followed by Head Brewer Ignacio Cervantes’ description and story behind the beers he and assistant brewer Gino Fontana created. “Beer pairing events are always fun,” said Cervantes. “Good food. Good beer. A chance to showcase the beer to fans. Usually they take place at a bar or restaurant, but here on the rooftop, with live music, and great food, it’s a totally different experience. For me, here at Pizza Port OB, we don’t have much storage space or a cellar, so I didn’t have the luxury to store beers ahead of time.” Assistant Brewer Gino Fontana chimed in, “These beers are all relatively freshly brewed.” Cervantes continued, “I paired the brews blind to the music, and somewhat to the food. I based the pairings based on Chef Nick’s detailed description of the menu and the ingredients.”
The finest example of how their vision came to life happened during the second course, introduced by Katie Leigh and her description of the song “As They Seem.” The expectant mother described her inspiration for the song to her guests the way two friends may share a personal story over a beer. “I wrote this song on the beach one day, looking out at the waves and thinking about my life. I grew up in a very traditional, conservative family and have come a long way since then. I was feeling good about how my life had turned out and was thankful that I chose to live the way I wanted to, even if that meant going against some of the things I was taught growing up. Through all the pressures of this world, especially as a woman, it’s nice to know that I have a good safety net (my friends, my family, my husband). My favorite part of the song, which gives me goose bumps when I perform it is, ‘There’s a poison in this world that droughts the waters and drowns the girls, it keeps us floating above the surface, and drags us down from time to time. I never worry that it will get me ’cause I have a survival device, but there are those that get dragged under and then they wonder where they have gone.’ Through everything I’ve been through I’ve been able to keep my head above water and see what’s really important in life.”
Chef Nick added, quite emotionally, “This song made me think about how, when I look at people, I think about their story, how they got there. It made me think of my time spent in Thailand. Seeing this elderly woman on the street. How long has she lived there? What’s her life like? She was selling her Khao Soy, the dish of Northern Thailand. I made this dish because it reminded me of the feelings I had when I was in Thailand, enjoying this woman’s wares, a single dish that she had made her whole life, that she had perfected. I hope that I honored that dish, that I honored her, while bringing in my heritage, my Creole flair. So I made a “Creole” Khao Soy prepared with Spur Valley chicken, fermented cabbage, rice noodles and fish sauce in an effort to honor this memory.”
Ignacio then shared the light-hearted story of how he created “Vincesanity,” a 4.5% ABV Belgian golden ale with persimmon and lime alongside Vince Marsaglia, co-owner/co-founder of Pizza Port. According to Cervantes, “Vince had not brewed for quite some time. We were set to go to Norway to work with a Norwegian brewery. In an effort to dust the cobwebs off I asked Vince to help me tweak a new recipe I had for a Belgian Golden Ale. It was Vince who thought of adding persimmons and lime zest five minutes into the boil. We used a Duvel yeast strain to dry it out, and the result was a citrusy, dry Belgian Golden Ale. Vince still has it!”
These stories were so vivid that attendees felt they were a part of them. The stories they shared, the way the food and beers were presented, the skill and soul of the band, this wasn’t an ordinary event, it was a visceral experience. In many ways this event didn’t just create a new experience for those of us in attendance; in a very real way, it made us a part of the personal experiences that inspired this Storyteller’s evening.
The event “track list”:
Ahi Tartare with Mushroom Torte Truffle, Olive Oil, Cocoa, Coffee; paired with 9% ABV Eyelashes Belgian Golden Strong Ale; paired with “Heavenly Affair”
Creole Khao Soy prepared with Spur Valley Chicken, Fermented Cabbage, Rice Noodles, Fish Sauce; paired with 4.5% ABV Vincesanity a Belgian Golden Ale made with Persimmon and Lime; paired with “As They Seem”
Duck Galantine with Foraged Salad, Natal Plum, Nasturtium, Crispy Skin, Pretzel; paired with 8.1% ABV MiCano Quadizzle with Raisins; paired with “Edge”
Pickled Brandt Beef Belly on Toast with Pickled Onion, Parsley Salad, House Mustard; paired with 8% ABV Leather Bound Books “a nearly Wee-Heavy” Scotch Ale; paired with “Heartbreaker”
Homemade individual ice cream bars of Peanut Butter Chocolate, Fleur de Sel, Olive Oil and Black Pepper, Pistachio; paired with 8% ABV Bacon & Eggs Coffee Imperial Porter; paired with “Drunk in Georgia”
Read below for descriptions of each song:
Katie Leigh and the Infantry
1. Heavenly Affair- This is a love song. My husband’s and my song is “I will follow you into the dark,” which when you read the lyrics, it’s a pretty morbid song. But I wanted to write something that represented our relationship, how much we have travelled together, learned from each other and such. My favorite line is “We’ve walked hand and hand with no shoes on, the weather wore down all our clothes.” We took a trip with his parents to Costa Rica and went on a walk to down one day and it started to pour. I will never forget that experience. We were laughing so hard because it seemed so ridiculous to be running through a storm like that. No matter what we are doing we always have a good time and I’m lucky to have him in my life.
2. As They Seem- I wrote this song on the beach one day, looking out at the waves and thinking about my life. I grew up in a very traditional, conservative family and have come a long way since then. I was feeling good about how my life had turned out and was thankful that I chose to live the way I wanted to, even if that meant going against some of the things I was taught growing up. Through all the pressures of this world, especially as a woman, it’s nice to know that I have a good safety net (my friends, my family, my husband). My favorite part of the song, which gives me goose bumps when I perform it is, “There’s a poison in this world that droughts the waters and drowns the girls, it keeps us floating above the surface, and drags us down from time to time. I never worry that it will get me ’cause I have a survival device, but there are those that get dragged under and then they wonder where they have gone.” Through everything I’ve been through I’ve been able to keep my head above water and see what’s really important in life.
3. Edge- I wanted to write a song about love and had an idea about going to the edge of the earth for someone. One day at practice our bass player started playing the bass line of this song and I joined in on guitar. Slowly I started writing lyrics and wanted to write a song that was like a conversation between two people. If you broke up each verse it really sounds like two people talking to each other. It was my sister’s idea to make the theme of the song “Stand on the Edge” to give it more of an artsy feel than being so literal. I wrote this song right before I got married so I had a lot on my mind about being together forever, saying our vows, etc. This is one of our fans’ favorites and every time we play it people seem to sing along. 🙂
4. Heartbreaker- The theme of this song is pretty obvious, it’s about cheaters. At the time I was playing a lot with another band who had a more rock n roll sound and played a lot with minor chords. I wanted to write something as an ode to them. Plus, both of them seemed to have lots of trouble meeting good guys so I took it to the next level and tried to imagine what it would be like to be cheated on (I’ve been lucky enough to never experience that). There’s a country song called “From a Table a Way” which was also a muse for this song about a man cheating on his wife and his mistress finding out. I’ve heard stories about men telling their significant others lies upon lies, sugar coating their words, buying them gifts and the whole nine yards only because they are trying to make up for the fact that they are being unfaithful. The song is about empowerment and kicking those men out. The chorus goes “Oh heartbreaker, too many women is a deal breaker. ‘Cause nobody wants a man that can’t make up his mind, we don’ have the patience and we don’t have the time.” I have told my girlfriends over and over not to waste their energy on someone they can’t trust. It’s just not worth it.
5. Drunk in Georgia- One of my favorite artists, Ryan Adams, wrote a song called “Oh My Sweet Carolina.” It’s one of my favorite songs to listen to and to cover. I wanted to write a song that had the same significance to me. The song is about the angst of travelling and longing to be home but how our habits or jobs or others things in life keep us away from the place we want to be. Some friends of mine were heading to NY to visit family and on their way there said they had a layover in Atlanta. They said they would just, “get drunk in Georgia.” Of course, me being a songwriter, thought that would be a great idea for a song. This song continues to be one that we are known for and is requested at almost every show or event. There’s something about the mood of the song and the lyrics that keep people coming back, just like the way we do when we are one our way home from a long trip, or even a long day at work. We hope for something familiar and comforting and this song seems to sum up those feelings.