Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Peter B's Grows Up and Celebrates a Big Birthday

September 13, 2016 – This piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Peter B's Grows Up and Celebrates a Big Birthday
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

Twenty years ago this month, Carmel Brewing Co. and the Monterey Doubletree Hotel—now Portola Hotel & Spa—joined forces and opened a 150-seat brewpub and restaurant to serve as a tasting room for the brewing company. Over the course of two decades, Peter B’s has expanded, earned accolades, collaborated with local food purveyors, earned even more accolades, and cemented itself as a pillar in the local craft beer scene.

For instance, every Wednesday, the brewpub hosts KRML’s live broadcast of Pub Talk featuring the Beer Geek, Chris Nelson, and the Girl Beer Geek, Merideth Canham-Nelson. Chris says of their broadcast, “This is a great opportunity to highlight Peter B’s and the greater beer community on the Monterey Peninsula. In my beer travels, I have seen how the pub, or public house, can be the soul and social center of a community. In a small way, I hope to recreate that feeling with this show.”

Next week, Peter B’s Brewpub turns twenty. And the team is celebrating by shaking things up with new brews and new dishes.

Some things won’t change, however. Home to eighteen high-definition televisions, Peter B’s will remain a favorite haunt for sports fans and beer enthusiasts alike. And the patio will continue to provide pet-lovers a comfortable place to lounge around cozy fire pits.

I recently sat down with head brewer Justin Rivard, executive chef Danny Abbruzzese, food and beverage director Brian Hein, and restaurant manager Sean Wall to hear what the next decade has in store.

While each one has vast experience in their fields, they are new as a team. They joined Peter B’s recently—with Chef Danny coming in three months ago and Justin moving to the area just two months ago. But they are already running smoothly and forging ahead to up Peter B’s game.

As Wall said, “The three most important things to me as the manager are the beer, the food, and the service. The beer? That’s Justin. The food? That’s Danny. And the service? That’s me.” He talked about the process of evolution and having to balance volume, quality, and diversity. “We want to make sure the local clientele can have all of their favorites, while making seasonal changes. And we have to appeal to tourists. It’s a push and a pull.”

Justin chimed in about making small tweaks, using Belly Up Blonde as an example, “I knew I had to keep the flagship beers, but I stripped down the recipe for the blonde, incorporated new hops, and spiced it up.” While it is a perceptible difference, it’s just as accessible and easy drinking. With a background in cognitive neuroscience, Justin credits his consistency to his scientific training. “Anyone can craft a good brew once. The trick is brewing it the same way over and over.”

After being part of a larger brewery in Michigan, Justin is excited to get back to the craft of small-batch brewing where he can incorporate local ingredients, support the community, and push the envelope. He talked about a smoked beer that he has planned. Smoked beer is a traditional German style, named for the process of drying the brewer’s malt over open flames in a kiln; the grains absorb the smokiness and impart that flavor to the beers brewed with them. Justin’s smoked beer will include local poison oak honey from the Honey Ladies in Los Gatos. The day we met, he was working on a sour beer and had just added a tropical IPA to the menu that was made with a glut of imperfect passionfruit.

“We like ugly fruit,” Chef Danny chuckled. With more than 160 pounds of imperfect peaches in the kitchen, he said, “I think imperfections equal beauty.” Danny spoke with pride about how local farmers will do a second harvest just for him. Because ugly fruit may have blemishes or not be perfectly round, they can’t be sold in most grocery stores. But they taste just as good and using those aesthetically challenged pieces increases a farm’s productivity and sustainability.

Aligned with Portola Hotel & Spa’s commitment to sustainability—they are Monterey’s first (and only) U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified hotel, after all—Peter B’s embraces the tenets of reducing, reusing, and recycling. They donate leftover spent mash to local farmers to use as feed for livestock. Some of the mash is also made into a signature dog biscuit available for the four-legged guests. The brewpub’s barrel room seats sixteen for private beer tastings and features a reclaimed wood table made from Randazzo Salvage wood.

Just as Justin is revamping the beer recipes, Chef Danny is putting his own spin on the food menu. He has added ceviche to the starters. His sweet potato tater tots are served with a curry aioli. And his Coke Farm Heirloom Tomato Salad elevates the traditional caprese with the addition of caper berries and pickled onions.

Danny talked about creating great food and I pressed him to define great food. He paused, then said, “Great food is about chasing memories. It invokes memories and creates new ones.”

His menu pays homage to some of his food memories and experiences. His Bamma Po’ Boy was created in honor of a po’ boy joint he once helmed in Alabama. Large shrimp are seasoned with traditional Bayou spices, breaded, fried, and served on a soft roll. Turning to Justin, I asked what he’d pair with the sandwich. He said the biscuity-quality of the Belly Up Blonde would complement the pillowy Bamma.

The new Peter B’s team is raising the sophistication of their offerings. We can look forward to collaborations on brewer’s dinners which will feature a themed menu of four courses paired with small-batch brews. They plan on incorporating more educational opportunities to engage the community. Justin is considering leading foraging treks to source wild ingredients for his beer. Those are more long-term projects.

But on the immediate horizon, on September 20 they are having a party. To celebrate Peter B’s 20th anniversary, guests will enjoy 20% off food all day long; bottles of Dancing Goat Russian Imperial Espresso Stout will be specially priced at $3; and 20 raffle prizes will be awarded throughout the day.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bartender Josh Perry Shakes Up the 1833 Cocktail Menu (Edible Monterey Bay)

May 24, 2016 – This piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Bartender Josh Perry Shakes Up the 1833 Cocktail Menu
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

May 24, 2016 – Late last week, lead bartender Josh Perry set up a bar beneath the redwood tree and invited media folks to preview of his brand new cocktail menu. Though Perry has been part of the Restaurant 1833 staff since March of 2015, this is the first cocktail menu that showcases all of his own creations.

“I started developing this menu in January,” Perry said. “I was looking for maximum flavor with minimal ingredients.” As we eagerly eyed the menu, devouring the cocktail titles and descriptions, he continued, “You should see the six hundred and twenty five recipes that didn’t make the cut!”

Standing over a tray of his Coconut Milk Punch, Perry told us the story of how he started mixing drinks two decades ago – when he was six years old. It was Easter Sunday and his grandfather decided it was time for him to learn how to make an Old Fashioned. When he got to describing the pour, Perry held up three fingers, “’Normally you would pour two fingers’ worth. But my grandfather said ‘your fingers are small, so make it three.’”

The Coconut Milk Punch takes four days to make and involves seven different strainings; Perry describes it as a clarified piƱa colada. It features copper pot-distilled Trinidad rum and a liqueur that oozes the essence of the Caribbean with flavors of vanilla, ginger, and clove. While I can appreciate the craftsmanship involved, it was not my favorite of the five we tried that evening.

Perry’s Hummingbird was inspired by the lavender bushes just outside the kitchen window. The cocktail includes a homemade lavender tincture, something akin to lavender bitters, made from those fragrant bushes and is decorated with a lavender sprig.

While Perry mixed and poured, Chef Jason Franey brought out some bites for us to share, including the Guajillo Chile-Crusted Baby Back Pork Ribs, Seasonal Mushroom Flatbread, and Homemade Falafel. As Perry talked about how the bar menu must complement the restaurant menu, we finally made it to his favorite cocktail: the Banana Boulevardier.

Boulevardier is the mysterious cousin to the Negroni. While the Negroni is simultaneously sharp and smooth, substituting whiskey for gin lends the Boulevardier a robust richness. “I love the Boulevardier because it takes such classic flavors of the original cocktail and throws in a twist that is both bold and nuanced within the drink,” explained Perry. When I asked what he would pair with his favorite cocktail, he paused for a moment and said, “The Banana Boulevardier goes very well with the Fire Roasted Sunchokes or our market fish selections.”

My favorite cocktail of the night was his Smokey & the Bandit. A concoction with both bourbon and mezcal, it was sort of like a sultry, supple kiss—tongue-tingling with a lingering sweetness and just a caress of heat from the homemade poblano-tabasco syrup. Perry let me try the syrup aside from the cocktail and I was instantly smitten. My mind began spinning with a dozen of other applications. But in the cocktail, it provided the perfect balance of sweetness to the citrus, smoky, and spicy flavors.

The menu is officially launched. Up next for Perry, he has submitted a cocktail for Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition. “I am currently waiting to hear back on the results of my submission. If selected, I will be traveling to London to compete in the finals,” he said. While he didn’t share the name of his drink, he did share that the cocktail contains Bombay Sapphire, mango curry, sherry, Rangpur limes, Thai basil, and egg whites. Whether the cocktail is honored, or not, I hope it makes it to the menu at 1833. It sounds fabulous.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dolatas Look to Expand Their Food Community at 7D

May 3, 2016 – This piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Dolatas Look to Expand Their Food Community at 7D
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

Jay and Chloe Dolata, who own the community-centric Carmel Belle restaurant, are looking to expand our local food options and need your help. They are going to the Carmel City Council tonight about 7pm seeking permission to install a food marketplace in the underused 7th and Dolores building, which will offer everything from espressos and homemade granola to charcuterie, wine and caviar.

“Food is the centerpiece for gathering people together,” says Chloe Dolata, who affectionately calls the new project 7D. “Jay and I want the marketplace to be the center of our community because we love neighbors and eating and celebrating.”

Their established restaurant, nearby Carmel Belle, attests to that mission. Over the years they have amassed a crowd of passionate fans who enjoy the Dolatas’ focus on local, sustainable foods.
Jay and Chloe invited friends and community members interested in their new venture to visit the proposed marketplace one evening last week. The space is airy and modern with lots of natural light and warm wooden floors. There is also a full commercial kitchen already in place.

On the floor, in blue tape, were the outlines of fixtures, labelled with what they intend to place there. “Chocolate Bar” read one sign; “Espresso Machine” read another. There were also outlines of tables and chairs, designating where they plan to have seating for customers to eat inside as well as outside on the Dolores side of the building. Nestled between the two buildings is a cozy fire pit surrounded with wooden chairs.

Around the main room were informational boards that shared what the Dolatas have planned in various areas. For their Pantry & Grocery section, they plan to emphasize organic, locally produced goods, including fresh pasta, jams, honey, and nut butters. They will offer housemade almond milk, granola, and bone broths. “Pho in a jar?” one of the signs asked. “Why not!”

For Home Goods, they will carry ceramics, Pendleton beach blankets, custom-made flip flops from Big Sur, and pour-over coffee filters. Beer aficionados can pick up branded 7D growlers while wine connoisseurs will be able to select both red and white wines from a variety of Santa Lucia and Monterey County vineyards. At one table, representative of two local vintners’ they plan to sell, they were pouring Heller Estates’ 2013 Cachagua Cabernet Sauvignon and Big Sur Vineyards’ 2014 Chardonnay.

Their Cheese & Charcuterie Bar will include an array of caviar and an olive bar. The Coffee, Pastry, & Prepared Foods options will provide pour-over coffee, overnight oats, and everything customers would need to pack a picnic. “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner everyday,” read a sign.

After guests had mingled, chatted, and sampled the eats—large platters of charcuterie, cheeses, fresh fruits, and fresh-baked pizzas—Jay, Chloe, and their daughter, Brogan, ascended the stairs and addressed the crowd below. Jay presented a concept of “Community in Food,” echoing what Chloe had said about food being the center of gravity for social gatherings. Jay offered ways in which they hope 7D will be the location of such gatherings. They plan to host a variety of special events including pop-up meals and cooking demonstrations. And they will offer local authors a venue for book talks or cookbook signings. Jay asserted, “We want this to be a gathering place for all.”

Tonight at 7pm Jay and Chloe bring their proposal before the Carmel City Council. They invited friends and community members to attend the meeting in support of the project. But before that, Jay called for people to come talk to him. “Ask me the hard questions!” he challenged. I didn’t ask him any questions that were too tough, but I did probe about the two people ahead of me who are well-known business owners in the vicinity. “I assured them that this venture is about community and collaboration,” Jay explained. “Our marketplace isn’t meant to compete with what they are already doing.”