Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Road trip: San Diego's got the brews
house-cured charcuterie at the Linkery
Why does San Diego county get all the good beer, while Los Angeles suffers by comparison? This question was never answered to our satisfaction during this weekend's whirlwind San Diego beer tour, but we had some great food and beer nonetheless. We started our tour on the way down at Pizza Port in Solana Beach, a cute, artsy little town just north of ritzy Del Mar. It's the kind of place they could use a half dozen of in L.A. -- super casual with outdoor tables, decent bready pizza overloaded with toppings, plenty of games to occupy the kids while the adults taste beer, and an excellent list of house-brewed and guest beers.
a flight of beer tastings with house-made chipotle potato chips at Stone Brewing
I tried the Baja Session ale, which had a nice spicy finish and very little carbonation, while Kathy had the Belgian white ale. We detoured to Imperial Beach, where they film "John from Cincinnati," to drop off Kathy's son at surf camp, and then checked into our hotel, the historic U.S. Grant, which is now owned by a local Indian tribe. After a bit of research I decided on The Linkery for dinner. Kathy was dubious, since their Web site seemed to contain many stipulations including a mandatory 18% service fee and no reservations.
Sun Cafe, a vestige of old San Diego still open for breakfast
We found it in the quaint North Park neighborhood which had several cute cafes, bakeries and bars, and were happy to see it wasn't at all busy on a Sunday night. The menu is chock full of dishes composed of local or sustainable or organic ingredients as well as a great beer list (and nice Californian wine, too.) I had probably the best beer I've ever tasted -- a cask-conditioned Summer Yulesmith IPA from San Diego's Alesmith Brewing. The full-bodied, carmel-scented brew was sweet enough to offset the hoppy IPA flavor, and it packed a real punch. I savored it with the Linkery's house-cured saucisson sec and grass-fed bresaola, some portobello tacos and a lively herb salad. The Yardhouse was right across from the hotel -- in San Diego, even the touristy chain places have 100 beers on tap.
Carlsbad mussels and clams in beer broth at Stone Brewing
On the way home, we stopped at Stone Brewing's amazing facility in Escondido. From a distance, it looks like a warehouse, but up close, it features a beautiful sunken garden, huge open air patio and restaurant overlooking the glassed-in brewing operations. The food at the Stone World Bistro was also excellent, including local mussels and clams and a salad full of extremely flavorful greens and veggies. We peeked inside the brewery, picked up a bottle of Arrogant Bastard, and went home to the nearly beerless Eastside.