The Monthly May 2014 : Page 15

Repast Reviews, Notes, and Trends kRiSTAN LAWSON review: elevation 66 Brewing Company Good together: David Goodstal mans the tap, while chef Joshua Steinberg turns out tasty Kölsch–white cheddar soup. Foam on the Range Come for the delicious stout; stay for the smoked-chocolate s’mores tart. By Anneli Rufus G leaming stainless-steel fer-mentation tanks tower behind a brick-faced wooden bar. Like glowing pears suspended from the high, pipe-skele-toned ceiling on strings, Edison bulbs burn brightly. Patrons sip beer, nibble pork belly for dinner and panna cotta for dessert, ad-mire framed artworks, and watch sports on TV. Its walls painted a subtly sriking hue at the hot-cold, industrial-rural confluence of moss and shamrock milkshake, this place is ever so slightly steam-punk. Welcome, friend, to the El Cerrito brewpub scene. It’s not cool in the same ways as its Amish-bearded, barrel-furnished counterparts in Temescal, say, or the Tenderloin. But this dif-ference is precisely what makes it cool, e.g., a deeply, genuinely, no-quotation-marks-around-it cool. Like pretty girls who know they need not flaunt it, Elevation 66 Brewing Company exudes an easy, savvy self-awareness that never becomes self-parody. Sport-ing plaid flannel shirts whose rolled-up sleeves reveal their rose tattoos, its regulars might have ridden the Google Bus today—or might have driven it. In our let-them-eat-cronuts era of fetishized hay-balers and forklift operators, the very no-tion that one might eat and drink here alongside actual laborers is a thrill. And because so few folks know that El Cerrito has a brewpub scene, you’ve got it almost wholly to yourself. Small pond, big beer-bolting frog. Cool 2.0. David Goodstal was working as a field chemist for the Univer-sity of Florida when he started craving a career change. UC Davis Extension’s Master Brewers Program—which cov-ers malting, mashing, brewing, fermentation, fluid flow, mass transfer, solid-liquid separation, and more—accepts only appli-cants with undergraduate science degrees. Goodstal qualified, and after completing the program in 2003, started working at Berke-ley’s Pyramid Brewery. “One day the bartender and I both got off our shifts at the same time,” Goodstal remem-bers. “Shooting the breeze over a beer—of course—one of us said: Hey, why don’t we open our own place?” Goodstal had long harbored the same dream with his archi-tect wife, Esther. A partner-ship emerged, and Elevation 66 opened in 2011. “We thought there was a big underserved population in this area,” Goodstal explains. “Our initial goal was just to keep the doors open.” Three years later, in a space that Esther Goodstal designed, a seasonally rotating beverage menu includes a range of full-bodied, assertively individual elevation 66 Brewing Company | american Bistro 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-525-4800, www.Elevation66.com Open Mon.–Wed., 3–11pm Thu., 11:30am–11p.m. Fri.–Sat., 11:30am–12am Sun. 11:30am–11pm $–$$ Accepts credit cards ales, stouts, Kölsches, and IPAs brewed right across the room. Guest beers are also on offer; several brews are always on tap. Towering 20-ounce imperial pints sell for about a shockingly low sawbuck—even less during week-day happy hours. IPAs are the top sellers; Goodstal’s personal favor-ite is his strong, orangey East Bay IPA, but he sagely helps patrons select brews to match their tastes: For example, Laurel Leaf Pale Ale’s spring-breeze lightness conveys the taste and aroma of locally picked bay leaves, while white-gold Contra Costa Kölsch suggests crisp toast. Outliers can order soft drinks, wine, Richmond-based Catahou-la Coffee, and/or Oakland-based Numi Tea. But while Elevation 66 is a se-cret to many of those who would love it most, Elevation 66 also has a secret, and it’s one of the East Bay’s best-kept. That secret is its executive chef, Joshua Steinberg, a Culinary Institute of America alum whose résumé includes gigs at Oakland’s Bellanico and Lun-gomare, Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen, and Napa’s Restaurant at Meadowood. Visible from the brewpub’s easternmost tables, Steinberg’s pocket-size kitchen turns out beer-inspired and beer-inclusive savories and sweets so spectacularly sumptuous, satisfying, and sly as to render the phrase “pub grub” obscene. Duck tacos with tamarind, black tea and sikil pak . Hopped gravlax with rye crostini, capers, and sun-choke crème fraîche. Herb-crust-ed cardoon-and-celery-root cakes with harissa aioli and shallot jam. Changing his menus every three months, “I try to make everything as local and seasonal as possible,” and to use environ-mentally fragile ingredients spar-ingly, Steinberg says, “because even though we’re small, I don’t want to put extra stress on any-thing.” An avid homebrewer, he loves creating dishes that pair well with particular beers. For instance, rich, savory dishes such as fluffy-bunned crab sliders and plump Wagyu-beef baconburgers bring out the best in Kölsch, he says, while “the hoppy bitterness of an IPA goes really well with spicy items“ such as Sriracha-sauce chicken wings and kimchi-sauce scallops. “Beer and food are both pas-sions of mine, so I read constantly about them and about how to pair them,” says Steinberg, whose regular diners “really appreciate the fact that I try to incorporate actual beers and beer compo-nents into many dishes,” such as beer-brine in the wings, hops in the gravlax, IPA remoulade over ale-corned beef, and malted bar-ley in the dough for a chocolate-butternut-squash pasta dish that gained fervent fans after its Feb-ruary debut. Dreaming up sudsy desserts “can be tough,” the chef admits. “So I try to pick a beer first and then design a dessert to include it in or go with it. For example, IPAs possess floral notes, cocoa notes, caramel notes, and burnt-spice notes” that could pair with or be incorporated into every-thing from smoked-chocolate s’mores tarts to house-made sor-bets and ice creams in seasonal flavors such as avocado, pump-kin, curried stone fruit and—so creamy-rich! so stand-a-spoon-up-in-it thick!—vanilla caramel. Michelin, meet this guy. Steam swirls nostalgically from a golden palisade of beer-battered fish and chips. Classic bar fare, synonymous worldwide with “cheap,” but Steinberg’s paprika-dusted fries are slender, al-dente ambassadors for farm-fresh, well-considered produce. And his hand-sized slabs of delicate white melt-in-the-mouth fish are swathed in magnificent crispy-outside, light-as-a-cloud-inside batter that borders on pancakes and which could easily be a meal unto itself. Sweeter-than-sour house-made bread-and-butter pickles provide crunchy contrast. A roasted-kohlrabi-and-cauliflower gratin with Gruyère and broccoli slaw and a grilled-goat-cheese sandwich (whose bread, like all breads used here, is Berkeley-based Acme) served with frisée salad are further exer-cises in contrast: Smooth. Crisp. Salty. Semisweet. But so is beer. This beer-paired fare mirrors the many-mooded, all-things-in-one-beverage, friendly complexity of beer itself, the unpretentious luster that has kept it populist and popular since Neolithic times. Which leads us from “The Epic of Gilgamesh” through Proverbs 31:6 to the “Beer-Barrel Polka” to Steinberg’s Kölsch—white cheddar soup, a sunny yellow cup of fried-parsley-topped liquid glory with a life-changing whisper of tang. Worthy of blazing buzz from Pinole clear to Concord, Fremont and beyond, this soup speaks volumes of the dawning of a culinary genre which, intel-ligently elegant, infuses glamour into one of history’s most basic, equalizing actions: swigging brew. And where better to celebrate this than San Pablo Avenue, our own Appian Way, a rolling thoroughfare on which just about everything has happened at least once? Its El Cerrito passage is The Street That Time Forgot: On certain sunny afternoons, it could so easily be 1957. Only Joshua Steinberg’s smoky house-made sausages with wake-up-call curry-miso sauce suggest that it’s not. ● . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . food foR thought Caterers • Food & Wine Purveyors • Etc. Catering For All Occasions “Relax—I’ll take care of it!” Donna Weinberg 510-548-1694 goodandplentycatering.com upport your local merchants. Shop locally. S  16 T H E M O N T H L Y . C O M 15

Restaurant Review

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