Feasting with Brasserie Solera

If you’ve visited Third Window Brewing Co. in the past you’ve likely seen the small shack in the back area. Since opening, the tiny barn-like building has remained empty and staff and regulars have jokingly referred to it as everything from the play fort to the doghouse. It was intended to be a kitchen however due to complexities in the permitting process its opening continued to get delayed. But after some time and a lot of effort, Third Window is now happy to announce that the small kitchen, Brasserie Solera, is now open.

Brasserie Solera is a small kitchen serving Third Window’s guests and will be captained by Chef Mandy Barrett, who previously worked at such local hot spots as, The Lark and C’est Cheese. The food there will be inspired pub grub with dishes like beer-battered jalapeno poppers that use four cheeses and have been stuffed with pickled serrano peppers (because the one way to make jalapeno poppers better is by adding more cheese and more peppers). In addition to charcuterie boards and small plates like beet deviled eggs there will be more substantial dishes like meat pies, beer braised bratwurst, or fried chicken and yeasted waffles that use a saison yeast to give them a sourdough-like snap. This is Mandy’s first solo food venture and the recently held beer dinner, The Feast of Saint Barbara, was the launching exhibition of Brasserie Solera and the fun foods to come.  

A feast fit for saints

The Feast of Saint Barbara has been held on December 4th each year at Third Window to celebrate the feast day of Saint Barbara and the release of Bierbara, a collaboration beer between Third Window, Potek Winery, and The Bruery. Bierbara was originally inspired by burbara, a dish of boiled barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar that would be served on her respective feast day. Each iteration has taken on a different interpretation of the dish and is a collaborative beer that pulls from the skills of all three producers. For the fourth release of Bierbara, there was more of a focus on the dark fruit character of burbara than previous years. The 2017 Bierbara is comprised of Third Window’s Belgian Quad aged in Potek port barrels and blended with wine must and a spice blend from The Bruery. The 2017 Bierbara has the fig and raisin notes accented by alcohol tones of their Belgian Quad but features a rich port flavor and wintery theme from the foraged tangerine zest and vanilla beans used in the brew.

In previous years the feast was unable to be held in the brewery because of permitting reasons but this is no longer the case since Brasserie Solera is now open and it was the first year that they were able to hold the dinner within the brewery walls. Attendees were welcomed with a taste of Potek’s 2014 Santa Rita Hills Blanc des Blancs and entered to the brewery rearranged into long tables so that everyone could eat communally. The festive tables were set with candles, heritage cutlery, and plenty of glassware. As guests arranged themselves around the table, the glasses were filled with Bruery Terreux: Train to Beersel, which is inspired by the historic Oude Geuze Vieille produced by Belgium’s Brouwerij Oud Beersel (a personal favorite and masterpiece of the Geuze-style of lambics). Oud Beersel’s geuze has a notable brininess to the subtle funk and Train to Beersel hit all of its notes but with a fresh, American-style edge. The beer had a delicate aroma of pineapple and passionfruit which resulted from sixteen months spent in French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels and American Oak Sauvignon Blanc barrels.

The Train to Beersel was paired with a Board of Fanciful Fruits featuring Kiwi, Tangerines, and Persimmon served alongside a Housemade Ricotta and Fresh Baked Bread. The appetizers were a light and bright welcome to the guests and showcased the intricate flavors and textures that Mandy brings to the table. Persimmons had been simmered in a tea syrup and tangerine segments were carbonated to give them an extra sparkle. The range of fruits complemented the tropical notes in the beer and the bread and ricotta helped soothe the bite of this geuze. With everyone seated and the food starting to flow, the second course focused on Third Window’s own, Shake Weight. This Vermont(ish) (aka hazy) pale ale has a thick hop character with aromas of orange and mango and a touch of greenery that was pulled out by the Chodori Kale Salad served during this course. The hop flavors were heightened by blue cheese peppered around the plate and a pistachio butter that brought a nuttiness that complemented the other earthen flavors.

The salad was followed by an appetizer course of Potato Fried Oysters paired with a collaboration beer between Bruery Terreux (The Bruery’s separate wild ale brand) and New Zealand’s epic, Garage Project, called Ngongo. This oak foeder-aged (imagine foeders as gigantic, roof-high barrels) saison was brewed with chamomile, lemon balm and wildflower honey from New Zealand. The beer was introduced by Patrick Rue, owner/founder of The Bruery and a Master Cicerone (1 of only 13 in the world), who provided an anecdote about how the honey got stuck in customs (and the outrageous fee they had to pay to get it out of customs). The bright beer had a softness from the chamomile that matched the oysters’ silky texture. The crispy crust added a starchiness that was cut by the saison and provided a contrasting mouthfeel to the fluffy oysters. Each oyster bite was topped with ‘Nduja, a spreadable salami that brought a salty snap to the finish. The next dish consisted of Housemade Pasta in a Beurre Blanc served on a swirling bed of Mashed Squash. Ground pepitas, robust salt flakes, and crispy sage on top added a crunch to the bite that contributed a contrasting element to the soft texture of the squash. The dish was served alongside Third Window’s Fall Saison that brought a cleansing snap of malts and hop bitterness with a touch of cloves which blended well with the herbal flavors of the dish.

The main course featured a Robust Lamb Shank on top of a plate of Israeli Couscous and dressed with Carrots and Pickled Onions. It was paired with The Bruery’s Yount, a beer beyond rare. This brew had been only available through their Hoarders Members society and featured their legendary imperial stout, Black Tuesday, blended with Napa Cabernet Sauvignon must and aged in 100% New French Oak puncheons. The beer had almost no carbonation and so was packaged in wine bottles with a wine cork. The brew had an elegant flavor of cherry juice and brownies that melded with the tender lamb. The lamb shanks had been smoked in Bierbara barrels before being braised in Bierbara as well to give it a roastiness that pulled out the dark malt character in the beer. The pickled onions helped sharpen the Yount’s dark fruit character and a touch of yogurt on the plate helped cool the other flavors.

As with previous Bierbara feasts, several of the courses had Potek wines served alongside the dishes including the lush and juicy Potek 201 Rancho La Vina Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills, with the pasta and the Potek 2014 Kimsey Vineyard Syrah Ballard Canyon, paired with the lamb. For the final course, Potek’s Non-Vintage Port was served next to the star of the show, Bierbara, and Fancy S’mores. Dense brownies were adorned with graham cracker crumbs and dollops of chocolate mousse and caramelized housemade marshmallows. Pomegranates sprinkled around the plate gave the dish a touch of acidity that sharpened the port flavors in the beer. This was the first night of the Thomas Fire and as the power flickered on and off we finished our meals in candlelight. The conversation, now fueled by several rounds of food and beer, clamored on with excitement that had to do just as much with the darkness in the streets as the darkness in the sweets.

Bierbara is available both on draft at the brewery and in bottles. Swing by for a taste of this year’s version, and while you’re there make sure to grab a plate of the fun and expressive food coming from Brasserie Solera.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, December 13, 2017


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