Here in San Diego, craft brewery is huge.
Like really huge.
San Diego boasts 100+ breweries and only a handful serve haute cuisine, and that’s a damn shame.
I mean it only makes sense that quality beer and food go hand in hand, right?
Now I’m not talking a greasy ass pizza or a late-night McDonald’s run (although it happens sometimes). I’m talking Duck Confit Nachos and a fresh California Veggie Wrap filled to the brim with peak greens and rich cheese.
Are you salivating yet?
A while ago I came in contact with the man behind that delicious food. He is the Executive Chef at my favorite brewery in San Diego; Colin MacLaggan of the renowned, multi-award winning brewery Ballast Point.
Often in breweries food plays side kick to the beer, which is on the contrary for the Ballast Point brand.
So, why do I care?
Although it doesn’t need to be said again, I am obsessed with food! It is beautiful how someone can create a whole concept of food, flavors and combinations in their head without ever getting anything on the plate.
Yes, a lot of it is trial and error, but for someone who has a passion for cooking it was inspiring to learn how a professional does it.
I sat down with Chef Colin a few weeks ago, to find out how he balances beer and food, how he started out in the business, and what the future lies for him and the Ballast Point culinary expansion.
Komal: “Tell the readers a little bit about yourself and background.”
Chef Colin: “SD native, caught the “restaurant” bug early at 17. I worked all positions from FOH (front of house) to BOH (back of house) and was drawn to the comradery of the kitchen…
cooking and creating dishes that were not only creative but artistic.
So I chose culinary school. At the time, Cordon Blue was considered the premier school in the world…I wanted to obtain a life experience and learn not only a craft but a language so I applied for the French school which was in 3 parts…the final leg in England.
Upon my return, I worked for Bradley Ogden, Carl Schroeder, Martin Woesle, Kevin Taylor, Matt Moyer before becoming Executive Chef at the Relias & Château property of Rancho Valencia. Had the opportunity to open my own venture in ’07 and sold it in ’12. Then came along Ballast Point.”
Chef Colin and his team are among the first in the haute beer food concept, keeping things on trend and always tasty.
Like me and a lot of you all, Chef Colin has a forward approach of keeping things healthy and California fresh, with the use of seasonal veggies and great protein.
Chef Colin: “I want the food to be chef forward, to change seasonally. As little as 6 years ago in SoCal brew food was still an afterthought heavy not very interesting. I approached the food from a fine dining perspective and hired all my upper echelon chefs from places like, Market Del Mar and Juniper & Ivy. We tone down the descriptions from the fine dining… but still apply technique. We use ABF chicken, hormone free beef, heritage hogs, also antibiotic & steroid free, line caught fish and local veg as much as possible.
Simple food with a three-component dish philosophy letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
We want the food program to be as diverse as our beer portfolio.”
Do any of you love to go to breweries? What are your favorite beers?
Like Chef Colin said, Ballast Point has so many different flavors and varieties. There’s something for everyone, ya know? I am all about the spice that is why I LOVE their Habanero Sculpin. Its bright, has citrus notes and a slight kick of heat from the peppers. Very tailored for me.
What’s crazy is that I learned the employees are able to brew their own beers! How cool is that?
Chef Colin: “We have a roots to boots program where every employee has an opportunity to brew at our Little Italy location working in collaboration with brewers to make a recipe sound and maybe come up with the next big hit. Sculpin was an employee collaboration, as well as Calm Before the Storm just to name a few. We also work hand in hand with the brewers in sourcing ingredients and with roasting or mashing of their raw ingredients which has been a plus for them now that we have professional kitchens and culinarians working together.”
For all my mad beer scientist’s checkout, the BP Home Brew Mart to schedule a beginner brewing class. They have a wide variety of ingredients and equipment to make all your beer dreams come true!
Homemade beer? Yes please.
Chef Colin: “Each location has its own personality and style that fits and caters to their demographic. We do about 6 or more beer dinners per location, small 20 to 30 people max where we present 6- 12 course beer paired dinners whereas chefs we can show case items and techniques that we would not usually execute on a day to day menu items.”
I have only been to one beer dinner in my life and it was amazing to say the least. A friend took me there and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
At first I thought it would be a dinner with all the food made from beer.
Yeah, I was wrong.
It was a dinner that had a drink pairing with every course. Each drink that we had enhanced the food with each bite.
Although Chef Colin only has a handful of dishes on the menu that actually contain beer, like the house made Pretzel with Sculpin Beer Cheese, he certainly has an eye (is that right? mouth?) for matching profiles.
It really is an art pairing food and beer. It takes a lot of time and a vast knowledge of numerous tastes and zests; something that I hope to have one day.
Chef Colin: “You taste notes and think what works. If I am drinking a live yeast beer …it’s kind of funky, so I would pair it with a dry aged piece of beef.”
If you guys haven’t checked out the Beer Dinners at BP yet, DO IT.
Check the events page to stay up on the next one hosted. Oh, and don’t forget to double check the location! With 6 locations open (with one opening in Virginia soon for you East Coasters) and 4 serving food, sometimes you might end up at the wrong location.
Ok…yes. It happened to me once. So, forewarning. Just saying.
Also, if you aren’t able to attend a Beer Dinner, Chef Colin will be hosting a ‘Cooking with Colin’ series for beer week where he is showing how to cook with beer at the Miramar location in June/July.
How fun is that!
Chef Colin: “Disneyland is hosting a Beer and Wine Food Festival where I will be doing a cooking showcase for 90-100 people. This is just another place we are taking BP and its food.”
The happiest place on earth, a brew and some bomb food sounds like the perfect day out for me.
Get your tickets now people!
Meeting with Chef Colin gave me clarity on how to improve the scope of my menu for my blog. It’s all about balance and making sure everything makes sense on a plate.
The artistry he conducts at a place people only think for brews speaks volumes.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are doing. There are always opportunities to help build your craft, learn and grow.
That is my takeaway from my time with Chef Colin.
What are you taking away today?
For more information on Chef Colin, Beer Dinners, and the new restaurant within a restaurant concept (very cool and exclusive) opening at the Little Italy within the month, please visit Ballastpoint.com.
Thank you to Chef Colin for his time and knowledge.
This is not a sponsored post; all opinions are my own.