Stone Brewing Co. | World-Influenced Cuisine with a Stone Twist

May 3, 2011

Enter Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens: a desert oasis, exquisitely and artfully designed to take you on a journey to a new Shangri-La. As you enter this food and brew heaven through a lilac-canopied walkway, you are greeted by stoic stone, vaulted ceilings, 30-foot glass walls that peer into the pristine brewery, and an open-air bistro distinguished by koi ponds and glistening fire pits.

Continue into the serenity of the sanctuary-like gardens, in which you likely will want to sit back, relax, and watch the sun move across the sky as an afternoon spent sipping the finest craft beers slowly transitions into an evening of dining on high-quality, worldly cuisine that is both environmentally friendly and local.

Reading the extensive menu may well transport you to regions near and far, given the diverse cultural and regional influences incorporated into the eclectic array of dishes. Substitutions are explicitly welcomed, and the chef also caters to vegetarians and vegans.

Stone's culinary philosophy, touted on the menu, is admirable: "At Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, we use in-season, locally, regionally, and organically grown produce. We do this not just for the simple principles of freshness and sustainability, but also because fresh, local and organic tastes better. It's also better for you and the world in which we live." This forward-thinking approach is emphasized by Stone's movement in the direction of self-sustainability. Stone operates its own water purification system, and recently purchased a local farm from which they cull the organic produce featured on the menu.

Executive Chef Alex Carballo guided us on an edible excursion around the world that started with The Soft and Stinky Cheese Plate: a selection of four intensely odiferous cheeses, accompanied by seasonal fruit, homemade brewer's barley cracker bread and strawberry compote ($15.50). The cheeses included bleu de Bolsage made with goat's milk; an Italian sheep's milk cheese wrapped in walnut leaves; super-creamy goat's milk Lionara from Spain, and sheepish tome brulee from France. Spread atop cracker bread and coupled with a bit of sweet strawberry compote, these nose-twitching cheeses made for a rich, decadent starter. Pairing them with wine momentarily makes you forget the biergarten aspect of the setting.

The Mac 'n Beer Cheese is a must-have. This dish is made with Mike's Stone Smoked Porter & garlic beer cheese with basil, enriched with Stone Smoked Porter sausage from T&H Prime Meats & Sausage, an artisan butcher in San Marcos ($14.50). Baked under a crunchy crust of bread crumbs and minced carrot and garnished with plenty of intensely flavorful sausage, the dish makes you wonder how something so decadent and filling could be listed as an appetizer.

A Stone favorite, all-natural wild boar baby back ribs, are seasoned with the house dry rub, braised in Stone Smoked Porter, grilled, slathered with chile Agave Glaze and served with a crisp apple slaw that balances all the other elements ($12).

Stone's spicy curried mussels ($15), harvested at Carlsbad Aquafarms, are served in a sweet, slightly spicy green Thai sauce smoothed with coconut milk. The flavors of lemon grass, Thai basil, mint, cilantro and piquant chilies bring out the best in the plump, juicy mussels, and the creamy curry sauce was irresistible when mopped up with the restaurant's dense yet fluffy, herb-infused focaccia bread ($2).

Seasoned with tangy sea salt and served warm with specially-made Carlsbad's Gourmet Dijon mustard, the Stone soft-style pretzels are made specifically to be dunked in a fine Cheddar cheese sauce ($8.50). Doughy interiors contras and crunchy outsides, making these little delights a perfect match for an ice-cold Maui Dobb Overhead IPA.

Among entrées, the three barbecued duck tacos are another house specialty, served with an elegant chile de arbol-Stone Leviation Ale barbecue sauce, quality corn tortillas, micro greens, Vella asiago cheese, salsa fresca and pineapple-habanero salsa. Black beans and Spanish-style brown rice garnish a combination of flavors combination that has been known to set the imagination aflame ($21).

Pan-roasted scallops, served with a delectable, truffled potato puree and a mushroom- cabernet demiglace sauce, are accompanied by micro greens and purple, yellow and orange carrots ($26). The vibrant flavors that accompany the large, tender scallops make you yearn for even more flavors of truffle and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The pork Porterhouse is cut from all-natural Duroc swine. Brined in apple juice and Arrogant Bastard Ale, the hefty steak is grilled and served over herbed spaetzle with seasonal greens, spiced-apple compote and a drizzle of whole grain-mustard cream sauce ($25). The sauce arguably made the dish, and the sweet compote, reminiscent of Christmas cider, really pointed up the crisply crusted pork.

The desert list composed by Jamaica-born pastry chef Andrew Higgins follows the regionally diverse tone set by the main menu. Stating, "We desire not to desert you in a desert of no desserts, and instead delight in offering this directory or delectable selections from delicate to dumfounding," the list succeeds – it's both delicate to dumbfounding.

Opera, a classic French sweet that layers almond cake and coffee butter cream, is topped with chocolate ganache and a garnish of coffee-covered espresso beans ($10). A rich toffee flavor unifies the beans and butter cream. The favorite, however, was a pineapple polenta torte. Inspired by traditional upside down pineapple cake, the Stone version uses a polenta base topped with a corn and pineapple confection and a pistachio tuille ($9). It's not too much to call the blueberry-blue cheese-jalapeno cheesecake astonishing, since this savory, luscious cheesecake features strong flavors of Rogue smoky blue cheese and jalapenos. A blueberry compote smoothes things out ($9).

It's not easy to choose a beer list that boasts more than 100 bottled brews and 30 craft beers on tap, especially after you taste the crisp freshness maintained by Stone's stainless steel keg lines. And if you're not there for the beer, also offers distinctive wines by the bottle and glass.

Although Stone Brewing Co. is more than a stone's throw from the city of San Diego, it is worth the trip. With frequent special events, daily complimentary brewery tours, a cool company store, and an amazing bistro and gardens, it offers far more than a glance into the ins and outs of one of the nation's leading craft breweries.

1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido, CA 92029
(760) 471-4999


Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens: Sunday – Thursday 11:00 A.M. – 11: 00 P.M., Friday & Saturday 11:00 A.M. – 12:00 A.M.

Brewery Tours: Monday – Friday, 12, 2, 4, & 6 P.M., Saturday 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 P.M., Sunday 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, & 6 P.M. (*Complimentary Tasting Follows)

Stone Company Store: for Growler fills, bottles, kegs, and Stone merchandise: Sunday – Thursday, 11:00 A.M. – 9:00 P.M., Friday & Saturday 11:00 A.M. – 10:00 P.M., Sunday 11:00 A.M. – 9:00 P/M.

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