Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Bottle Room

Tucked between the bustling shops of Uptown Whittier, a few miles east of Los Angeles, is one of the county's premiere gastropubs: The Bottle Room. Chef and restauranteur Tony Alcazar opened the place up just over 3 years ago, inspired by his passion for good beer and good food. When those components collide, it inevitably results in an abundance of good people.  After meeting Tony and his staff last night during their very special Night With Russian River, I was bombarded by that trifecta of awesomeness. 

First of all: the beer. I could go on for days about how Pliny the Elder is the perfect pint of beer, but you already know that. Luckily, in Southern California there are a handful of places that dependably keep it on draft. So instead, I deemed it more pressing to progress to a few of their barrel-aged sours which are far more elusive: Temptation--the sour blonde, aged in French oak--and the real winner, Supplication--a sour brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels from Sonoma County. Its tempered tartness overwhelms my palate with the pleasant pungency of wild yeast. The slight tinge of wine, a delicate dancing partner for the tart candy flavor that makes my lips smack. I could literally never have enough of this beer. 

Turkey Burger with Russian River's Supplication
To accompany this delectable nectar, some food was in order. Tony earned his pedigree in the kitchen working at high-end gourmet restaurants throughout the region. His menu reflects this expertise, highlighted by all sorts of inventive dishes and robust medleys of flavor. As he was describing some of the food, a wave of panic swept over me as I realized that I couldn't come close to trying everything I wanted in just one visit. Mac and Cheese, Belgian beer battered onion rings, flatbreads laced with bacon pineapple and jalapeƱo? Chicken lollipops? I don't even know what those are, but of course I wanted them. Yet when I'm drinking good beer on tap, something in my gut always steers me to steer. After I saw one of his towering bacon cheeseburgers come out of the kitchen, I my dining selection suddenly seemed a forgone conclusion. But Tony complicated things for me considerably when he described the intricacies that went into his impossibly juicy Turkey Burger. A 60/40 blend of white meat and dark, it's doctored up with smoked baconaioli, melted swiss, marinated mushrooms and fresh avocado. Although I never thought I'd hear myself say these words: "I'll go with the Turkey Burger," I certainly don't regret having said it.

25th Anniversary Toronado Ale
I was even happier still when John, the manager, offered me a taste of a supremely limited edition Russian River offering: their 25th Anniversary Toronado Ale. This wild sour is a bottle-fermented blend of all sorts of exclusive, craft-minded deliciousness. Celebrating the quarter-century mark of one of San Francisco's most beloved beer bars, it hasn't really made it too far outside of the Bay Area and I was super lucky to catch a taste of it.

After meeting all sorts of friendly homebrewers, we took our drinks out to the front patio, adjacent to the cozy confines of Whittier's commercial epicenter. We exchanged stories of craft beers past and made promises to meet up again for a bevy of beer drinking in the near future. In fact, it was such a warm, pleasant vibe, that I was invited back to a nearby house party shortly after the woeful pangs of last call.  An evening of old favorites like beer and burgers could only be topped with the introduction of new friends.

It took me a long time of living in this area to make a trek to the lesser-traveled streets of Whittier. If it wasn't for Tony and his craftily conceived establishment, I might not have ever known what this town was all about. The Bottle Room was worth the journey and as an all-around experience it's one helluva destination.