I took Mark out for his birthday four days early this year. No, I wasn’t rushing his advancement in age and wisdom. I simply wanted to treat him to one of his favorite things: excellent beer.
We managed to survive two weeks here without treating ourselves to one of this country’s finest breweries, and couldn’t hold out any longer.
So on an otherwise nondescript Monday evening, we tromped out to Stone Brewery, where gargoyles, chirping frogs, and every variety of ales and lagers waited. I felt immediately transported into some kind of Trappist monastery-meets-Midsummer-Night’s-Dream haze: in their extensive gardens, water trickled into ponds and fire bounced off slabs of stone. Revelry and tranquility cohabited the grounds as the evening rolled out one taste experience after another.
First order of business was dinner in what is properly called Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Mark ordered Stone’s own Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, and I chose the O’Briens IPA from California’s Alpine Beer Company.
Next came dinner. Once our server informed us that we realized were weren’t in fact limited to the “Meatless Monday” menu that was placed before us, Mark proceeded to order the Artisan Sausage Platter: Two locally-made sausages braised in Stone’s Smoked Porter, and served with herb roasted potatoes, braised cabbage and a side of stone ground mustard. I tasted his meal (twice!), and it was delicious. Something about it reminded me of the way the Forks Market in Winnipeg smells. Strange, but we can’t always control our taste associations, can we?
Despite the offerings of meat, I went with one of the Meatless Monday options: Tofu Yakisoba. It wasn’t life-changing, but it had a nice crunch of cashews mixed with chewy tofu, bright vegetables, and perfectly-chewy noodles.
And then there was dessert—one that made up for anything my (perfectly suitable) meal had lacked. I’d decided to take half my dinner home with me, and so had plenty of room for one of the BEST after-dinner indulgences I’ve ever had: Blueberry Blue Cheese Jalepeño Cheesecake. Yes, you heard that right.
I’ve loved cheesecake ever since I was little kid, and I was grateful to Mark for sacrificing his love of chocolate for this experiment (and on his birthday, too!) And it was a successful experiment, indeed: The small round of incredibly rich, soft, disappear-on-your-tongue cheesecake was accented with tiny flecks of green jalepeños and tasted ever so subtly of blue cheese. On top was a compote of blueberries and jalepeños preserved in syrup. The dessert had all of the flavor of the peppers formerly known as hot, and none of the heat. Each mouthful reminded me never to be afraid of unusual pairings.
After dinner, we joined the brewery’s “DR.” Bill Sysak upstairs for one of his “Beer U” events. This one was subtitled “Sensory Evaluation,” and with his guidance, we learned to properly taste about eight different beers. While the experience was far from being foreign to us, it was great fun to try such a varied line-up (including one that tasted like railway ties … in a good way!) We learned a bunch of interesting facts spanning everything from history to hops, and left pleasantly enlightened. I had no idea that San Diego was so well-known for its style of IPAs … one of our favorite styles!
The brewery offers an impressive list of weekly events including movie nights and beer pairings. Next time you’re in the area (if we don’t succeed in taking you there first!) be sure to check it out. If you love beer, don’t worry: There are no Millers or Budweisers in sight.
Stone Brewing Company/ World Bistro & Gardens
1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029