Stone has some pretty strict philosophies when it comes to food. We stand by local and organically cultivated ingredients because we know they’re better for the environment, and they taste pretty darn good, too. You can get amazing items prepared with truly farm-to-table ingredients every day at our three Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens locations, but there are a few nights out of the year where we take it to the next level of freshitude—Fresh Dinners. These feasts are made solely from ingredients procured the very same day, and some of those ingredients come from our very own Stone Farms.
When I was a kid, my mom had an old green Volkswagen bus, you know, similar to the one in Scooby-Doo; the iconic hippie-mobile. At the time I was really embarrassed by my mother’s eccentric taste in automobiles, but looking back it made perfect sense. The beads in her hair, the penchant for woodworking, and the green VW bus all pointed to one thing—she was a TOTAL hippie. Naturally, hippies were the first thing that came to my mind when I saw The Big Green Bus pull into our parking lot here at Stone on Wednesday afternoon, leaving a pungent aroma of hash browns in its wake.
The Big Green Bus is a full-size bus (1989 MCI Motorcoach, to be exact) remodeled by 15 Dartmouth students to be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible. The students are taking their green labor of love on a summer-long cross-country tour to raise awareness about sustainability and energy-efficient practices. And it smells like hash browns because it runs on 100% recycled vegetable oil, not because the students have a deep affinity for breakfast fare.
At first glance, The Big Green Bus looks like a glorified version of my mom’s old green VW bus, but that couldn’t be father from the truth. “We spend a lot of time convincing people that we’re not gross-smelling hippies,” said one student, “most of us showered this morning.” The Big Green Bus is much more than a meagerly-funded flower-child mobile with wicked green graphics. Along with running on biodiesel, the bus is also a mobile showcase of environmental conservation. Everything inside, from the low-energy plasma TV to the recycled bamboo flooring, is the epitome of energy efficiency.
If a summer-long tour on The Big Green Bus sounds like a great time, think again. These kids work hard. According to Kerry, it’s about 90% work and 10% play. Not exactly your quintessential summer of love. Everywhere the students go they’re greeted by news cameras and general media hubbub, and Stone was no exception. Escondido Mayor Lori Pfeiler, the folks at the California Center for Sustainable Energy, and a bevy of local media joined us in welcoming them to Stone on Wednesday afternoon.
So why did they come to Stone? Because they were hungry, of course (I guess word got out that our Bistro serves locally-grown, organic food). They also enjoyed a tour of the brewery and learned a bit about our solar array and our other efforts to operate sustainably. But most importantly, they came to fill up their tank with our Bistro’s used vegetable oil—the same stuff that our Lead Brewer John Egan uses to power his truck.
We’re stoked The Big Green Bus chose to stop and share a part of their journey with us, and we’re glad we could help spread their message. If you spy a lumbering green bus speeding down the highway smelling like Sunday brunch at iHop, give those hard-working Dartmouth students a honk in support. They deserve it.
Remember last summer when gas prices were ridiculously inflated? Remember wiping away the tears while your hard-earned cash ticked away at the pump faster than our national debt? John Egan doesn’t. While the rest of us were subject to the tyranny of fossil fuels, John avoided gas stations entirely, comfortably enjoying his wallet-friendly biofuel solution. When John isn’t supervising our brewing team, managing our cask and barrel aging program, and watching over our prized special creation beers (like Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans), he’s indulging in his green side by converting 100% of our Bistro’s waste oil into biodiesel fuel to power his truck. So how does he do it?
Every other week, John uses an electric pump powered by his truck battery to extract waste oil from a 50-gallon drum behind our Bistro. Once the oil is filled back into the containers it first came in, he takes it home, processes it in the custom-built system in his garage, dumps it in the tank of his truck, and voila!
So what does biodiesel have to do with beer? Well, according to John, being a brewer comes in handy. “There are a tremendous amount of parallels between biodiesel and brewing,” said John. “You take raw materials and turn them into something else, and quality is extremely important. Much of the same equipment is used such as pumps, hoses, valves, tanks, filters, etc. Actually, used brewing equipment would work exceptionally well to make biodiesel with.”
While John genuinely enjoys “taking waste materials and turning them into something of value,” he admits that brewing biodiesel isn’t a walk in the park. “It’s quite involved and takes effort,” said John. “It’s not one of those things that you try out, and then decide to scrap after a few months.”
Sure, brewing biodiesel isn’t easy, but it is easy on the wallet. After processing, one gallon of biofuel comes out to about $1. Aside from being outrageously cheap, biodiesel also runs a lot cleaner than regular diesel, and emits a pleasing french fry smell as an added bonus. It can be slightly less efficient than regular diesel, though still more efficient than regular gasoline.
John is obviously a fan of the environment, but he’s also realistic. He feels that biofuels are “an important part of our energy matrix as a supplement, but they aren’t the solution to our energy problems.” Sure, biofuel may not be the magical panacea for our energy woes, but it definitely helps. John put it best when he said “it feels very good to reuse things that would otherwise find their way into a landfill.” That’s something I think we can all agree on.
Check out the press release we wrote about our Delivery Truck Fleet running on biodiesel.
While the origins of our culture’s oddball Easter traditions are convoluted, one thing’s for certain—our egg hunts rock. There’s nothing kids like more than descending upon our beautiful Gardens in search of a thousand candy and prize-filled eggs, and there’s nothing parents like more than redeeming a certificate for some awesome Stone merchandise that their industrious offspring lovingly procured for them.
Our annual Egg Hunt & Brunch was a huge success, with over a hundred kids partaking, but we’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Congrats to all the successful hunters, and cheers to all the fortunate merchandise-winning parents. Until next year….
When we opened the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in 2006, we knew we wanted our menu to feature the highest quality ingredients, and beef was no exception. We knew very little about the beef industry, but once we did our homework, we chose grass-fed/grass-finished beef because it’s all-natural, healthy, and most importantly—it’s freakin’ delicious!
In case you’re wondering, there is a difference between grass-fed beef and grass-fed/grass-finished beef. The majority of cattle are grass-fed at some point, but it’s the final months of their lives that really make the difference. Most cattle are shipped to feed lots and fed grain in their final months to fatten them up, which alters their flavor. We predominantly serve beef that has been grass-fed throughout its entire life cycle, hence grass-fed/grass-finished (the one exception is our Prime Rib Melt, which uses all-natural grass-fed/grain-finished Meyer’s beef to achieve a different flavor).
Today, grass-fed/grass-finished beef could draw similarities to the earlier days of craft beer. There were folks that wanted it, but distributors and retailers often felt there wasn’t sufficient demand to make it available. “Grass-fed/grass-finished was an item we were looking into anyway because of the recent industry leaning towards more naturally raised beef,” said Jonathan Sachs from Hamilton Meats, “but there was no interest from any of our current clients to justify offering the product.”
That was about to change, as consumers and restaurants became interested in grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Together with three other local restaurants, including our good friend Jay Porter, proprietor of The Linkery in North Park, we were able to raise demand enough for Hamilton Meats to offer grass-fed/grass-finished beef.
Most of our beef now comes from verdant pastures thanks to Tallgrass Beef, a company dedicated to all-natural, great-tasting grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Their cattle live stress-free, roaming freely and eating lush natural grasses throughout their lives. Brad Schoenberg, Vice President of Sales & Business Development at Tallgrass Beef, gave us the rundown on why grass-fed/grass-finished is a good way to go:
“The most important thing that people should know about grass-fed/grass-finished is that it is good for the animal…but the health and nutritional benefit for us is the real key. Tallgrass Beef contains a higher level of omega 3′s, high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acids (an anti-carcinogen), and is lower in saturated fats and cholesterol.”
Brad poses an interesting question—“Can you imagine your doctor telling you to eat more beef?” While it may be difficult to imagine a medical professional advocating increased consumption of beef, it’s not difficult to imagine your tongue advocating increased consumption of grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Sure it’s healthy and at the top of the ethical and environmental scales, but just as important–it’s damn good.
- Matt Steele
Our beloved gardener, Chili, stumbled upon a pleasant surprise this morning as he was mowing the lawn in our Gardens. We thought we would share his discovery with you…
The ducklings are the newest additions to our Gardens, which have been enjoying a Springtime boom. We’re glad to be graced with their presence, brightening an already tranquil Tuesday morning here at Stone.
If you read the blog about our Gardens, you know that our inventive gardener, Chili, re-uses by-products from our Brewery and Bistro in our topsoil. Buried within the accompanying flickr photo set, you may have missed an aerial mock-up of our Gardens with every single plant meticulously marked and labeled by Chili himself. It’s not a treasure map in the swashbuckling sense, but it does map out the locations of all of the botanical treasures in our Gardens. We think it’s a pretty good way to grasp the entirety of our thriving ecosystem and the plants therein, and Webmaster Mike has plans to work it into new content on our website. Also, if you plan on attending the event with Nan Sterman this Sunday, this layout offers a preview of what you’ll see and learn about.
If you’ve been to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, you’ve probably noticed that we have an entire acre of completely organic, fully sustainable Gardens attached to the Bistro. Some refer to them as our “Beer Gardens,” not knowing just how accurate that label really is. Truth is, we maintain our Gardens using by-products from the brewing process, resulting in real honest to goodness “Beer Gardens.”
Maintaining such a large expanse of Gardens is no easy task. So how do we do it? Meet Chili, Stone’s resident botanical wizard, and the keeper of our beautiful Gardens (he earned his nickname because he grows chilies and likes his food HOT). By reusing by-products from our Brewery and Bistro, and utilizing a few clever gardening techniques, Chili maintains our Gardens using nothing but what Mother Nature provides.
I recently caught up with Chili in his natural environment, which he lovingly refers to as his “cage.” While it’s true it isn’t exactly a window office, his “cage” is actually a fenced-off, covered storage area wedged between the Gardens and the Bistro kitchen where he keeps his desk and all of his gardening tools. Despite the jokes, Chili is quite fond of his decidedly unconventional office, and I get the sense that he prefers it to a view of Fifth Avenue. Actually, the real reason we keep Chili in a cage is to contain his unbridled passion for gardening (I apologize for that one, I couldn’t resist).
I stopped by just as Chili was preparing to plant a few early yield tomatoes, and he was kind enough to share some of his secrets with me. He explained that the most important step in maintaining a healthy perma-culture is mixing the proper soil. He then divulged his secret recipe:
Chili’s Spent Grain Topsoil Recipe
Chili’s proprietary (patent pending) soil blend works wonders in our Gardens, contributing to a fruitful year-round harvest. We’ve also noticed it makes the food taste better, due to the proliferation of essential micro-nutrients that petrochemical fertilized foods lack.
When I asked Chili why he uses spent grain from the brewery in his soil recipe instead of another fertilizer, he responded with a straight-faced “because it’s there.” I promptly reminded him that gardening is no laughing matter, and he gave me the real reason. Apparently the spent grain flourishes in the soil, creating an abundance of microbial activity and general liveliness. Chili also emphasized that it’s time proven. He’s been using spent grain since his days as a gardener at Pizza Port, and it’s worked wonders time and again.
Spent grain isn’t the only brewing by-product that Chili recycles. He also snatches up the used oak chips that we use to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale. These lovely, odoriferous chips not only have a beautiful deep silky brown color, but they retain their alluring bourbony smell for about a week. Chili puts them to use as a decorative top layer, propagating the pleasing smell and thick brown sheen of OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale throughout our Gardens. Their purpose isn’t solely decorative, however, as their acidity helps neutralize the alkaline properties of the decomposed granite that makes up our natural topsoil.
Our Gardens are proof that sustainable gardening works. Aside from the occasional use of manure, Chili procures everything he needs for the Gardens here at the Brewery. He takes what would normally be discarded and sent to a landfill and re-uses it to create a vibrant, flourishing perma-culture. So the next time you see Chili sipping on an after shift beer or tending to the Gardens, be sure to raise him a glass on a job well done.
If you want to learn more about our Gardens, the plants therein, and lessons that could translate to your own garden, join us for “A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman” on March 15th from 1-3pm. Nan is a popular speaker at garden shows, botanical gardens, garden clubs, and botanical societies throughout the State, and she’ll provide insight into how we “created an imaginative garden from an ugly, hole-in-the-ground sedimentation basin.”
Check out the flickr set: Gardening Stone-style with Chili
We get a lot of feedback of all sorts. We respond to 99% of it. I don’t have the opportunity to do that much of the responding…trying to do my job and all of helping Steve to run the company…but from time to time I do get the chance to have a bit of a dialog. Often, the ones that come to me are the ones that deal with the philosophies and menu choices that we have for the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Since I was the main driver behind the menu and philosophies, sometimes I’m the best to respond. So, when I can, I do.
This is one such short email thread that I thought I’d share. It has some similarities to other email conversations, so it seemed relevant.
It’s difficult to write about our FRESH! Dinners without resorting to cheesy puns or distasteful allusions to outdated television programs. It’s been a struggle, but thankfully I’ve managed to abstain from phrases such as “Keepin’ it FRESH!” or “Come get FRESH! with Stone!” More importantly, I’ve avoided referring to Executive Chef Alex Carballo as “The FRESH! Prince of Stone Brewing,” thus foregoing an awkward confrontation and subsequent apology. Whew. Crisis averted.
While it’s hard to elude the trappings of bland prose, it’s not hard to convey a genuine sense of excitement about our FRESH! Dinners. They are truly one-of-a-kind, and attendees agree. If you know nothing about these dinners, get out from under that rock you’ve been living under and educate yourself. If you were there, you know that Monday night’s FRESH! Dinner was one of the best yet.
In order to give attendees a rare behind the scenes look into the FRESH! Dinner, Chef Alex and his team brought cameras with them to all the local farms they visited Monday morning to procure ingredients. The colorful pictures were projected in a slide show during the dinner, along with play-by-play shots taken in the kitchen of the actual preparation. The crew’s photos demystified the meal, giving guests an intimate glimpse into the process involved in bringing local, farm-fresh food to their table. Many guests agreed that this was a nice touch.
The illuminating slide show wasn’t the only new addition to the dinner. FRESH! attendees were treated to an extra special reception this time around. Before ascending the stairs to the Mezzanine, guests were directed to the cocktail section of our Bistro where Chef Gordon Smith and Peter Halmay were showing off the ocean-fresh taste of their San Diego Red Sea Urchins. Otherwise known as “Uni,” these salt-water delicacies were cracked open live and offered Sashimi style or as a shooter with fresh Stone beer. With open minds and hungry stomachs, FRESH! attendees delighted in this rare indulgence, setting the tone for a very unique dining experience.
Once on the Mezzanine, guests were presented the first course, a Roasted Baby Beet and Mixed Greens Salad with a Kumquat Vinaigrette. It was accompanied by Garden Herb Dinner Rolls using herbs taken from our very own Gardens, followed by a palate-cleansing Meyer Lemon Granité with Calistoga intermezzo. Both courses received copious praise from delighted diners. Unfortunately, Chef Alex encountered technical difficulties with the third course, a Spinach Ravioli with Wild Mushroom
Filling in a Light Herb Sauce, when the pasta press malfunctioned, and so did the backup. Thinking quickly, Chef Alex decided to plate the remainder of the filling alongside the ravioli to complete the dish. This decision was a popular one.
Next up was the Chicken Thighs Braised with Heirloom Tomatoes and Spring Onion Bulbs, and Roasted Chicken Breasts with Herbs and Spring Onions; both were an instant hit. They were followed by Braised Fennel, Honey-Glazed Adolescent Carrots and Braised Seasonal Greens. The finale, and perhaps the star of the show, was the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pixie Tangerine Gelée and Lavender Spice Tuille Cookies served on flower-encased ice plates. “Divine,” “heavenly,” and “decadent” were just some of the adjectives used to describe this exceptional dessert.
If you were fortunate enough to taste the food (like me), I’m sure your body thanked you for treating it to a delicious night devoid of chemical preservatives and artificial food substances shipped from faraway lands. If it didn’t, you have an ungrateful, masochistic body, and you should consider getting a new one.
We want to thank all those who attended for making our latest FRESH! Dinner a memorable farm-to-table experience. We would also like to thank Chef Gordon Smith and Peter Halmay for bringing their spiny little friends to the party. I doubt that’s the last we’ll see of those prickly sea-dwelling delicacies.
We can’t wait for the next opportunity to showcase the word-class flavors of San Diego and the equally world-class talent of our Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens crew. Stay tuned for the next one!