The Best of Both Worlds
Beer Chef Paton Sizzles with Lagunitas
by Bob Coleman
If good beer is the consummate partner to good food, then a special beer dinner orchestrated by a great chef can achieve a bit of culinary divinity. Such is a regular occurrence at Chef Bruce Paton's "Dinner with the Brewmaster" series at San Francisco's Cathedral Hill Hotel, and the Lagunitas Brewing Company dinner on November 15, 2002, was no exception. Local beers from the Sonoma County, Calif., brewery shared the spotlight with exquisite autumnal cuisine and beer-based enlightenment from the brewery's resident "Beer Weasel," Ron Lindenbusch.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Paton's brewmaster dinners serve several purposes. They showcase creative approaches to beer-food pairings, highlight the products and personalities of outstanding breweries, and bring beer fans together in a "gathering of the tribe." Most of all, they are incredibly enjoyable, high-spirited affairs. Paton's background is unique, giving him unsurpassed skills and credentials (president of the Chefs Association of the Pacific Coast, San Francisco Chapter of the American Culinary Federation) combined with the "street cred" of his reputation as a genuine, unpretentious fan of quality beer.
A San Francisco native, Paton was raised in a city that's unusually supportive of robust authenticity, both in personal behavior and in flavor -- and that's what Paton dinners are really all about. With top-flight preparations shared by friendly beer folks, these memorable evenings make similar events in the wine world feel a bit like overpriced penitential rituals. Here, there's no room for anything but fun and the honest appreciation of excellence.
During the opening reception of the Lagunitas dinner, Lagunitas Pilsner made a surprisingly suitable match with such varied offerings as sweetbread satays with roasted corn aioli, artichoke with crab salad, pulled pork spring rolls and a delicious lobster bisque. The first course of tuna tartare with truffle olive oil settled into the taste buds like a dense San Francisco fog bank, as memorable as passionate love. The strong seasonal ale Lagunitas Maximus provided the appropriately sensual counterpoint.
The entree, a culinary tour de force, was duck "three-ways" (breast, confit and foie gras), an uninhibited, wild menage lusciously paired with the decadent richness of Lagunitas Imperial Stout. Dessert restored a second wind; pumpkin custard with mascarpone cream and golden balsamic syrup was served with nicely aged 1999 Gnarlywine barley wine, still well hopped with a lengthy finish.
Lagunitas Brewing got its start in late 1993 when Tony Magee purportedly got kicked out of his kitchen by his wife, Carissa Brader, after ruining the stove with his brewing detritus. Exiled, Tony moved up the street to brew Lagunitas (later Tocaloma) Red, Bugtown Stout and Dogtown Pale Ale, all named after the rustic hill villages in west Marin County about 40 miles north of San Francisco.
A skeptical Carissa was eventually won over and is now enthusiastically involved in the enterprise, even to the point of ruggedly loading pallets of beer by forklift. That gives Tony more time to dream up Lagunitas's hysterical label copy, which emulates fiction styles from Raymond Chandler to Charles Bukowski to Jack Kerouac. Beer Weasel Ron Lindenbusch pitches in with the wacky Lagunitas newsletter. His beer journey goes all the way back to managing Mendocino Brewing's pioneer Hopland pub in the 1980s.
Historically, Lagunitas's hometown of Petaluma, Calif., reached prominence as a chicken-farming mecca with socialist-utopian leanings, and the Lagunitas brewery continues the community's progressive legacy. Brewer Jason Brentwood, a local Petaluman, skateboarded up to the brewery one day, asked to help out, and worked his way up from the bottling line to become head brewer. With this "homegrown" talent, Lagunitas has had ever-growing impact on the world of beer.
The brewery's first "wild seasonal" was its IPA, now 70 percent of its burgeoning production. The brand has become synonymous with the IPA style for many consumers.
Expect more surprises from this plucky, idiosyncratic brewery, as promised by its Website: "Lagunitas Brewing Company is emerging as a battle-tested brewery capable of making great beer out of goat's milk, brambles, and asphalt on the surface of the moon, if need be." Should that ever come to pass, Chef Paton is ready.
Good news: You won't have to wait very long to join in the merriment. The dinner series continues on Friday, February 21, with North Coast Brewing Company, and on Friday, March 14, with Magnolia Pub and Brewery, San Francisco!
Dinner with the Brewmaster Series
Cathedral Hill Hotel
1101 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Reservations: Kymberlie Avila, 415-776-8200, ext. 7498, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
1280 N. McDowell Blvd.
Petaluma, CA 94954
Bob Coleman is writing a book on father-son bonding and beer. He can be e-mailed at RColemanSF@aol.com.
Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!
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