Fine dining and beer? You go to a pub to drink beer. You have bangers and mash with beer. Somehow, I was having trouble making the leap—that is, until I caught up with Jotham Michnovicz, a founding partner and director of operations at Bosque Brewing Company, and Andrew Cooper, executive chef at Terra Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. Admittedly, I am a late adopter, one who takes all kinds of flak for liking a flip phone. But yes, I found out fine dining and craft beer go together like I hadn’t even imagined. As part of the Outside Bike & Brew Festival, on May 19, Bosque Brewing and Terra hold a five-course beer dinner at Rancho Encantado. If there’s a restaurant in Santa Fe known for providing its guests with a fine dining experience, Terra is it.
After college, along with two partners, Jotham was working on starting a software company. “It wasn’t panning out the way we wanted, so we decided to redirect our efforts and in the same weekend we all had the same idea separately to open a micro brewery,” Jotham says. “So we decided at that point, ‘Well, we know we love beer and we love business but if we’re really going to make it go we have to start learning how to brew.’” After about two years of R&D, they opened their doors in October 2012.
On the perception of beer finding a place in the fine-dining scene, Jotham says, “I believe that beer is every bit as versatile and as wide-ranging as wine is. In fact, in some ways, it can be more so because you have more ingredients to play with that are more diverse.” He goes on to describe the multitude of malts, hops and yeasts available to a brewer, all of which can result in beers of drastically different character. “I do believe that beer is fine, and that it is a little more accessible to the average person,” Jotham says. “The perception is changing. I feel we’re a pretty young industry, as opposed to the wine industry which is centuries old, if not millennia.” Jotham is excited to partner with Chef Andrew and Terra. “I really like partnering with people who are going to the next level when it comes to service and quality and craft. Being able to do a dinner like this is really fun for me personally.” Taking a broader view, Jotham adds, “New Mexico is this little oasis when it comes to craft beer. There’s a high level of beer being produced here, and I think that it’s starting to make waves across the country. People are starting to go, ‘What? Albuquerque? What? New Mexico?’ People come from surrounding regions just to check out our beer scene.” Witness, Bike & Brew.
At the outset of this collaboration, Bosque sent a representative to Terra to present a tasting of their beers. “It was just an incredible experience,” says Chef Andrew, whose enthusiasm for all things food and dining is infectious. The chef continues, “They had their beers lined up and we did a nice tasting and…just the clarity of the beer, it looked so appealing. So before even taking a sip or smelling it, looking at it was incredible. And once we took a sip, tasted everything—the flavors are so intense, so robust—my restaurant manager [and I], we both looked at one another and said, ‘This is it. This is something that could be a perfect pairing.’”
Just like a chef in the kitchen, the brewer at a brewery comes up with all these great creative ideas—infuse this with this…It’s a craft, it’s artisan, that’s what it’s all about. That’s the love, that’s the passion. I deal with hot pots and pans and they deal with giant vats. —Chef Andrew Cooper
I mention the Bosque Slow Burn Red Chile Brown Ale I had recently and that it was delicious. The chef says this is the very reason brewing is so amazing. “They have six staple beers at Bosque, and in addition to that, they do seasonal beers where they come up with and test different things, and that’s what makes it so special,” Andrew explains. “Just like a chef in the kitchen, the brewer at a brewery comes up with all these great creative ideas—infuse this with this…It’s a craft, it’s artisan that’s what it’s all about. That’s the love, that’s the passion. I deal with hot pots and pans and they deal with giant vats.” He laughs, but the chef clearly has a lot of respect for Bosque’s work. “A brewer,” Andrew says, has “to allow it to develop, to ferment. It’s a much harder process. I like to see my results right away, whereas the brewer has to be patient. It’s an art, a craft, a science.”
In terms of working craft beers into fine dining, Chef Andrew says, “The beer itself has so many flavor characteristics that you can pair well with food, or food with the beer. You look at this beer and it’s a bright color and so you’re curious. As soon as you put it in your mouth, all the flavors come out of it, and you’re like, ‘Wow!’”
Chef Andrew’s creations for the upcoming dinner will feature beer within them. “So whether I’m (using beer for) deglazing or as a finishing sauce, you really get the double enhancement. The alcohol will be cooked off the food, but all of a sudden, you get the flavor profile. That just enhances the dish even more, and then you have the beer (pairing) with the alcohol in it, and it cleanses your palate to refresh for the next bite.”
Chef Andrew approaches the menu not by pairing the beer with the food, but the food with the beer. “It makes it a little more challenging,” he muses, “a little more exciting to say, ‘Here’s the beer, what can I do with the food?’” Andrew gets his whole team involved. “Yes, I’m the executive chef, but without my team and my support, you know, we’re nothing. And my team is such an incredible, incredible force in this restaurant. We all gather around our chefs’ table, and we all come up with ideas and say, ‘Ok, here’re the flavor profiles.’ We talk about the beer, the intensity levels, the clarity, the fruitiness, the hoppiness, the wheatiness. All these creative juices start flowing through my cooks’ minds and the front-house staff and everyone starts putting their two cents in.” (This is when I start getting hungry.) “As soon as we get the ideas down, then we do a little tasting and everyone tastes it and makes sure it’s the way it’s supposed to taste and then let’s do the pairing, just to see if everything goes well. At the end, everyone is so proud of this product, it’s a sense of ownership for everyone and that’s what we do.” Listening to Chef Andrew explain this creative process, I tell him I wish I could be there. He beams. “It’s intense,” he says.
We talk about the menu and pairings. From start to finish, each of the five courses will be a delight, but it is the entrée course when my mouth waters and my stomach begins to growl. In the way Chef Andrew describes the dish, his love of food and everything about cooking is obvious. The fourth course consists of grilled tri tip, served on herbed manchego polenta, with wild mushrooms and a Doppelbock Brown Lager sauce. (Regretfully, I had a light lunch before this meeting.) “This beer has raisin and currant notes, healthy caramel, malty sweet, just enough hops but all malt-forward,” Andrew explains. “This is going to be paired with Riverwalk IPA. Tropical fruit notes, hops, little spicy notes, a little pine-resin quality. Absolutely delicious.”
I can hardly stand it, the pairing sounds so good. I’ll do anything. I have actual job experience washing dishes. Chef Andrew laughs. “If you can read a menu item and start salivating over it, that means it’s going to be fantastic,” he says. No kidding!
“With all the love behind it, with all the input from my team, and all the energy we’ve put forward for this,” Andrew concludes, “I think it’s going to be an amazing event, and a start to a beautiful relationship.”
Terra Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, fourseasons.com/santafe. Bosque Brewing Company, bosquebrewing.com. Outside Bike & Brew, outsidesantafe.com.
Bike & Brew Dinner Craft Brew Menu
Corn and crab chowder with red chile. Paired with Bosque Equinox beer, which has herbal notes, earthy and fruity, and finishes with hints of garlic.
Calamari salad, kalamata olives, blood oranges and arugula. Paired with Elephants on Parade, an incredible rose beer with citrus notes and very refreshing.
Pan-seared scallops with sun-choke puree, buttered fava beans, oyster mushrooms and tomato vinaigrette. Paired with Bosque Lager similar to a pilsner, tart aroma from the noble hops, malty, coats your mouth.
Grilled tri tip, herbed manchego polenta, wild mushrooms and a Doppelbock Brown Lager sauce, this beer has raisin and current notes, healthy caramel, malty sweet, just enough hops but all malt forward. Paired with Riverwalk IPA, tropical fruit notes, hops, a little spicy and a little pine resin quality. Absolutely delicious!
Pate choux shell, caramel, coffee, burnt almond cream. Paired with Scotia, a little red amber Scottish Ale, very malty sweet, healthy on caramel.
Thursday, May 19, 6:30 p.m. $65 per person, reservations recommended, 505.946.5800.
Story by Gordon Bunker