One of my favorite restaurants in San Diego is Wine Vault & Bistro on India Street. The chef and owners are so creative, and the setting is a perfect place to enjoy a great meal and beverages. I always feel like I just stepped into a farmhouse in Napa! It’s an interesting concept: you check the restaurant’s calendar to see what is scheduled for the night, week or month, and call to make a reservation. Usually it’s a multi-course of small plates paired with wine. One night, I enjoyed Japanese inspired dishes paired with different sakes. So the themes vary, but they are always great!
On St. Patrick’s Day, I attended the Stone Beer Dinner. Jeremy Moynier, Lead Brewer at Stone Brewing Co., was available to discuss the beers on hand as well.
The meal started off with La Quercia Rossa Prosciutto Picante Served Over Baby Lettuces with a Root Vegetable Remoulade and Pickled Cauliflower. That’s a long description. The abbreviated description: perfect salty meat goodness with a tangy kick! It went perfectly with the Stone “Levitation” Ale. The hoppy quality of the Ale paired with the “vinegar-y” and salty bites really went hand in hand. The mild lettuce brought it all down to earth again. It was a great dish and a great beer. The only problem was that I could have had 10 more plates!
The second course was an Oyster and Broccoli Veloute with Green Garlic, Tempura Mushrooms, and Smoked Yogurt. A second bold beer accompanied this course: Stone “Ruination” IPA. It was another choice pairing. The soup was so subtle in flavor that it was asking for a kick in the behind. The first sip I took, I wished I had my bottle of sriracha. But then I tasted the IPA, and I found the strong flavor I needed. Back and forth, this pairing was taking me to a nice, clean flavor spot and back to the kick of hops.
The third course was by far the best! Crispy Pork Belly with Crushed New Potatoes, Garlic Braised Cabbage and a Side of Beer Mustard. Stone “Oaked Arrogant Bastard” Ale was served with this amazing dish. Again, I could have eaten 10 more plates! I wanted to lick the plate. My husband and I love pork belly. Once we went overboard and had so much on a trip in New York City that we couldn’t order it for a few months after. We agreed that Wine Vault’s was the BEST pork belly ever. Why? The skin was so perfectly crispy, and the fat was just enough – not too much that you feel like you need a shower but not so small that you don’t get that decadent feeling. The flavor was so spot on! And anytime I can get cabbage on a plate, I will! There were so many flavors on such a small plate. Perfect! And the beer did what it was supposed to do: it supported the dish but let all of those flavors come through. A Ruination or Levitation would have muddied the flavors.
The next course was a kind of a bummer: Braised Brisket with Roquefort Leeks, Glazed Carrots, Smoked Potato Puree and a Horseradish Gremolata served with Stone “14th Anniversary Emperial” IPA. I was underwhelmed by this plate. Brisket is a difficult cut. My husband’s piece was just fat. Mine was half fat, half leaner meat. I don’t think this was any fault of the chef, but the nature of the cut. I thought the sides were delicious. I could have had a stronger horseradish flavor in the gremolata, but I go a little crazy with horseradish! The dish was ok, but after the amazing pork belly, it was hard to compete. The IPA was so good! I love Stone’s description of this beer: “A dry-bodied ale with a powerfully spicy, earthy aroma. On the palate peppery hops assert themselves early and often, with malt sweetness making a brief appearance before being taken back by a long, complex and decisively bitter finish.” Well written!
The final course was Molasses Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache, Gingersnap Ice Cream and Crumble. The cake was decent, but the ice cream and crumble??? I loved the ice cream and crumble!!! Stone “15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black” IPA was another winning pairing. The ginger in the ice cream, the bitterness of the cake, and the smooth taste of the ganache went perfectly with the coffee and malty flavors of the IPA. It was like a perfect cup of coffee, but with 10.8% alcohol. What a great way to spend Saint Patrick’s Day!
If you haven’t been to Wine Vault & Bistro, check out the calendar on their website (http://winevaultbistro.com/), find a date that works for you, and call for a reservation. An interesting event takes place on Wednesday, April 18th. 100% of the dinner proceeds go directly to Scripps Green Cancer Center. It’s $150 per person and $100 is tax deductible. Check the website for more details. It sounds like a great evening!
Take Care and Happy Eating!