Brew Masters Dinner Goes Down Easy

I was invited to participate in a preview of the Brew Masters Dinner last Thursday, an event to be held Saturday, June 4th, at Cliff’s Resort as part of Wine, Waves and Beyond.

I have written about the drive between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and going north along the coast is every bit as majestic.

That’s one of the things I love most about the West Coast when I compare it with back East. Driving through wine country sure beats the hell out of the Jersey Turnpike.

When I left Santa Barbara (Goleta) the sunroof was open and the windows were down. It was a very calm morning and the sun was hot. I took 101 North the entire way (approximately 90 miles).

View from the car of the Santa Ynez Valley.

I had to turn off the radio at one point because all they kept talking about was the potential backlash of the bin Laden killing.

I did not want to be ignorant but I also did not want to think about those ideas when I was surrounded by such a pure, peaceful expression of nature.

I arrived about an hour early and took a walk along the bluffs that line the coast. There are some great pictures of the views (see below) and you can easily see the appeal of living on the Central Coast of California.

The meal began with champagne on the outside patio of Marisol, the restaurant at Cliff’s Resort, where we had an ocean view and a chance to speak with the hosts of the event.

The representative from Firestone Brewery (Mike) and I got along just fine, and I asked him about his favorite (Firestone) beer. He said the Union Jack – but I’d have to go with the Abacus barley wine. Served in a brandy snifter and reeking of bourbon and toffee, it was an amazing after-dinner drink, especially pairing well with the sweet chocolate of the dessert course: Deconstructed Whoopie Pie.

The fifth course: Deconstructed Dark Chocolate Whoopie Pie with bruled fluff, whoopie cream, and Velvet Merlin caramel sauce.

This foul-named dessert is a tribute to the childhood of Dana Cummings, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Amp Surf, who grew up eating a commercialized version of the Northeastern treat.

I am traditionally not a dessert guy, but it seems I have recently developed a sweet tooth. I alternated bites of the chocolate with sips of the brandy beer, and felt my sunburn getting worse and smiled at how happy everyone at my table appeared to be with what they were eating.

That’s sort of what it’s all about – the food and drink bringing people together – taking a moment to push back from the table and see it happening, to see life happening right there in front of you.

I saw others at different tables check their watches and scoot off to meetings, and I felt bad for them and hoped they remembered to stop and look around – to take note of the sun and the water and the beer in the brandy glass and remember that this is what life is, not deadlines and demands from people who want you to make them money.

Even though the last course was the best combination, I found them all to be rewarding in different ways. I really liked the Pale 31 – a clean, fresh aroma of hops without the thirsty aftertaste (Mike and I talked about how beers with high hop content tend to leave you wanting a piece of gum).

Second Course: Cayucos Abalone Ceviche

The 31 was paired with the Cayucos Abalone Ceviche, and I made a comment about how I appreciated the Mexican influence in the dish, how they put black bean relish and tortilla chips along side the fish (great for scooping). Someone responded that ceviche is Mexican, sort of trying to make my comment sound obvious, but I believe he was confusing Mexico with Central/South America.

Also of note was the 9.5% Double Jack, which certainly did not taste as powerful as it felt. A six pack on a Friday night would be interesting.

Tickets for the event are $60, purchased in advance. For more information, visit Wine, Waves and Beyond. All proceeds benefit AmpSurf.

More photos:

View from walking path just south of Cliff's Resort.
Shell Beach
Love these rocks.
Third course of Hearst Ranch Beef: Grilled hanger steak, short rib taquito, pineapple salsa and jicama slaw.
Pool at Cliff's Resort.
Fourth course - sheep/goat cheese and apple tray.

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