Social Kitchen and Brewery finally has a new Executive Chef, Christopher Wong, formerly chef at Luella in Russian Hill. Wednesday, December 14, 2011, will mark his debut in the ongoing Social Kitchen Brewmaster’s Dinner series. Chef Wong will team up with Brewmaster Rich Higgins and his latest round-up of SKB pub-brewed ales for this pairing dinner, “A Holiday Gathering.” Based on our experience at the September dinner, this affordable beer dinner is worth signing up for. The addition of the popular Chris Wong promises to be the start of a new chapter at SKB, which will benefit from some attention to their regular menus as well.
On Brewmaster’s Dinner nights, Social Kitchen has been a whole other restaurant. Higgins has been producing creative and moderately priced beer dinners in collaboration with guest culinary talent during the last year. He works with the chef in a beer tasting session where they plot flavor combinations, and on the night of the dinner, the beer and food pairing alchemy is unveiled. Starting with this next dinner he will finally have an inventive collaborator in house again.
In September the two of us Beer-by-BARTers joined some friends for the “Thai-Italian Night” Brewmaster’s Dinner. September’s guest chef, Tyler Moorish from Osteria Coppa, had worked with Higgins to create that special menu. Since then, the still-under-construction Southern Pacific brew pub has arranged to bring Moorish aboard as chef, so we will get to appreciate his beer-friendly food creativity in another venue soon.
The pairings for the September dinner included Simon Saison paired with a salad including bean spouts, cilantro and peppers. Surprisingly, the fresh bean sprouts brought out a lovely earthy quality in the dry saison. The third course of that dinner featured Rapscallion, a Belgian-inspired strong golden ale. Higgins had served a special version of that beer, White Thai Affair, brewed with galangal and lemongrass, for last year’s SF Beer Week. At the dinner, the Thai flavors came from a delicious lemongrass red curry sauce rather than being infused in the beer, and the combination was just as good. Higgins served as host and beer pourer for the event. He was enthusiastic and available to discuss the pairings, his brewing processes and any questions having to do with beer during the meal.
Brewmaster’s Dinner prices are modest – September’s multi-course meal with matching beers was only $40 per person, and the December dinner is the some price. Allergy adjustments are made graciously. Vegan and vegetarian variations are built into the menus from the start so everyone can be included. Social Kitchen is right on the N-Judah MUNI metro line, so transit access also works.
Rich Higgins has made the idea of a San Francisco neighborhood “Cuisine a la Bière” a major part of his agenda. He’s brewed at Social Kitchen since it opened in May, 2010. Previously he brewed downtown at Thirsty Bear. Rich is also, at this point in time, one of three beer professionals in the world to have achieved the Master Cicerone certification. This beer steward certification program focuses on excellence in pairing beer with food as one of its multi-faceted goals. (Several Bay Area Cicerones are awaiting results from the most recent Master exam in Chicago, so hopefully this elite club may soon expand some.)
If you want to learn from the master, you can also take beer appreciation and pairing courses from Rich Higgins at the Boothby Center, a promising new San Francisco spot for beer and spirits education, where you can attend a single class or take a course. We attended one of these beer classes in November. There Rich worked with the chef from Firefly Restaurant in pairing Thanksgiving-inspired foods with some classic and unusual European beers. The innovative approach to traditional flavors and the class conversation about the beer pairings was a real treat. The Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail is the nonprofit group behind this new education facility, conveniently located near Civic Center BART. The next beer and food class will be December 18th, featuring pairings with food created by Delarosa restaurant.
Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.