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The Main Dish - January 2011


Main Dish Q+A

Candice Woo: How did you and your partners (wife Jennifer, Jeff Motch and Clea Hantman) settle on the concept for Blind Lady Ale House?

Lee Chase: The whole thing happened without a big plan. I was consulting for breweries, after stepping down as Stone Brewing Company’s head brewer in 2006, and looking for a space in an urban area to do a small brewery, tasting bar and possibly a bottle shop. At the same time, Jeff and his wife Clea were looking for a place where they could do artisanal food in a neighborhood and have some kind of community presence. We were playing in the same soccer league and telling each other what directions we wanted to go in; my project was having a hard time licensing a brewery in an urban setting, and he was having trouble finding a location for himself. I said, “If you see a space that would work, let me know, and I’ll do the same.” Jeff found this building, which already had a restaurant and kitchen, and thought maybe we could do a brewpub together that combined the food and beer. The space ultimately dictated what we wanted to do. Clea went to Neapolitan pizza-making school, and I felt that there were areas of draft beer that weren’t being served where we could do a better job.

CW: Coming up on your second anniversary (in January), does it feel like you made the right decision?

LC: Yeah, it’s been highly educational and a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of work, for sure, but a lot of the goals we had for ourselves have been reached. We wanted a space in an urban area, where we live and are involved in the community. One of the things my wife, Jennifer, had on her list was to be able to support nonprofits and good causes, and we’ve been able to do that through fund-raising. One Sunday a month, we pick an organization we want to champion, and 20 percent of that day’s business goes to the charity.

CW: Were you at all anxious about not being on the craft beer corridor of 30th Street?

LC: We knew Adams Avenue needed something like this; there were already pizza places, but we’re making different pizza than exists here. We sell a fair amount of beer, but we’re not really a bar--and we’re not really a restaurant. We live here in Normal Heights and have always liked this building; I don’t know if we’d have been able to duplicate all this on 30th Street. We get a lot of our food from the same vendors who are at the farmers’ market on Adams, and we’re glad to add to the food community in this neighborhood.

CW: Were you involved in starting DrinkAbout, a free monthly shuttle that connects bars and restaurants in the surrounding areas?

LC: Yes. One thing that sparked the idea came from an event organized by Chuck Silva of Green Flash Brewing, who paid for buses to take people on a progressive dinner through a group of craft beer restaurants. So we coordinated the DrinkAbout shuttle with our friends with businesses in Golden Hill, South Park, North Park, University Heights and Normal Heights; this month will be its first anniversary. It’s cool to think that if someone happened to be in San Diego on the third Wednesday of every month, they could jump on the bus and get a free tour of a bunch of places. And for Christmas this year, the DrinkAbout stops are trading gift cards with each other so our employees can get out and enjoy the other spots. So it has done more than getting people out to explore; it has helped to bond our businesses.

CW: What are you doing for Blind Lady Ale House’s anniversary?

LC: Our schedule is still coming together, but it’ll be a bit like Beer Week, with flight tastings, a beer dinner (with chef Aaron LaMonica) and keep-the-glass nights with featured breweries.

CW: Will you be brewing anything?

LC: TThere will definitely be some kind of anniversary ale on tap, and I think we’ll be doing a limited number of take-home growlers (from Blind Lady’s in-house brewery, Automatic Brewing Company).

CW: So you'll be offering growlers regularly?

LC: On a limited release. Our batch size is small, but we do want people to be able to take our beer and share it with friends.

CW: Do you want to expand your brewing capacity?

LC: Yeah, Automatic Brewing Company has the potential to expand into bigger production, and we’re sort of keeping our eyes open for spaces where we could develop our original brewery idea. Brewing hasn’t been the focus on-site because of our size restrictions, but we could see making more beer elsewhere and serving it here or possibly bottling it.

CW: What house brew do you have on tap right now?

LC: We have a little left of a beer I brewed for a breast cancer awareness benefit, a pink-colored Belgian white ale.

CW: And what will you brew next?

LC: I think a strong brown ale. In winter months it’s nice to have something warming and satisfying. And then I’ll brew something for our anniversary--possibly a double-something beer, since it’s our second.

CW: Do you have plans to change the menu?

LC: Not really. We’re at the point now where we are serving consistently delicious pizza. Our menu operates seasonally, so a lot depends on what we get from local farms. We always have daily specials that give our chef, Aaron LaMonica, some creative license, but we want our focus to be pizzas and salads. We make all our own pizza dough, which gets 36 hours to proof and develop flavor. And our chef makes some of his own charcuterie.

CW: Are you and your co-owners considering another restaurant?

LC: That’s not too far-fetched, but it’s not something we’re comfortable pulling the trigger on too soon. There are still a lot of things we want to improve here to make it a better experience.

CW: Would it have the same concept?

LC: : It would depend on the space. Whether we do it, or someone else does, I would love to see a beer-centric vegetarian concept. I think there’s room in San Diego for something like that.

CW: What else do you think is missing that you’d like to see in the beer community?

LC: I really want to see more neighborhood brewpubs. San Diego’s got a really vibrant brewing community, but there are big gaps as far as brewpubs in areas that locals can walk or bike to easily. Most current brewpubs are more commercial than are comfortable. It’d be great to see more small neighborhood places that have the capacity to brew their own beer--like in the Northwest or Colorado--or just more bars and restaurants deciding to serve good beer.

Blind Lady Ale House
3416 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 255-2491


San Diego Restaurant Week is back
Restaurant Week is back for its seventh year running: From January 16 to 21, more than 180 local restaurants are offering three-course, prix-fixe menus for $20, $30 or $40 per person. Among the participants are the fine, underrated French restaurant Cavaillon, with a dinner lineup of choices including lobster bisque and roasted duck; Del Mar’s Kitchen 1540; the Gaslamp’s Italian Bice Ristorante; and Whisknladle in La Jolla, whose entire farm-to-table menu is eligible for Restaurant Week. Visit sandiegorestaurantweek.com or a complete list of restaurants, menus and to make reservations.

Ballast Point Chili Beer Blowout
Colby Chandler, specialty brewer at Ballast Point Brewing Company, will be at The Grill at Torrey Pines on Wednesday, January 19, for a special beer dinner featuring chili-infused versions of Ballast Point’s flagship brews. At 6:30 p.m., join Colby and chef Kyle Bergman for a five-course dinner, served family style, matched with a series of spicy beers that have been spiked with chili peppers for the occasion. The menu starts with blackened shrimp and scallops, paired with a beer cocktail of Abandon Ship Smoked Lager and Ballast Point’s peppery Bloody Mary Mix, and includes a curry-spiced pork loin served with habanero-Sculpin IPA and a smoky chipotle-flavored Black Marlin Porter alongside a Mexican chocolate cake. The dinner is $55 per person; call 858-777-6645 to reserve. http://lodgetorreypines.com/beer/

Come out for the DrinkAbout Sponsored by a group of craft beer and food spots and Brewery Tours of San Diego, this monthly event facilitates progressive dinners, encourages exploration and connects some of the best local neighborhoods for eating and drinking by providing a free shuttle that runs from 7 to 11 p.m. It goes from Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park to Blind Lady Ale House in Normal Heights, making stops that include North Park’s Ritual Tavern, Sea Rocket Bistro and Small Bar in University Heights. This month’s DrinkAbout is on Wednesday, January 19. See sddrinkabout.blogspot.com for shuttle schedule and all shuttle stops. See sddrinkabout.blogspot.com for shuttle schedule and all shuttle stops.

January's Meals

The Appetizer
Honey-Hoisin Spare Ribs at Stingaree
If you think bacon is like meat candy, wait until you taste Stingaree’s spare ribs, sticky with a finger-lickingly good glaze of honey and Chinese hoisin sauce. The hefty ribs, cut St. Louis style, are yielding and tender, with their sweetness moderated by the tang of quick-pickled kimchi. The ribs, from aptly named Happy Tummy Farm, are listed as a starter and are great for sharing--but the four ribs are so meaty that this appetizer could easily be a meal. Go Tuesday through Thursday, when Stingaree’s nightclub is dormant, and pair these delicious ribs with a beer and a farm-fresh veggie side: cauliflower gratin with artisan California Cheddar, or greens with toasted garlic and pine nuts. - More Details »

The Main Course
Ricotta Pancakes at Farm House Cafe
These are technically a breakfast item, but if Adams Avenue’s Farm House Cafe would let me, I swear I’d eat them for dinner. The signature item on the Sunday brunch menu, these eggy, ricotta-enriched pancakes have a triple whammy of orange flavor--zest in the batter, juice in the luscious butter sauce, segments of the fresh fruit as garnish. The pancakes are offered in large and small, in case you also want to order the equally good French toast, which comes topped with lavender honey. - More Details »

The Dessert
Cheese Plate at Blind Lady Ale House
Cheese is one of those fantastic, versatile foods that can easily bookend a meal. I love starting, and finishing, dinner with cheese, and one of my favorite not-assembled-at-home versions can be found at Normal Heights’ Blind Lady Ale House. The eatery’s chef, Aaron LaMonica, is a devotee of the stuff, as you can tell from the well-curated cheese plate. The selection of three cheeses varies, but they’re always of good quality and taste, and the plate comes with an assortment of cheese-friendly accompaniments, including house-made condiments, wedges of honeycomb, nuts, olives or seasonal fruit. And with a couple dozen craft beers on tap here, there’s always something tasty to drink with it. - More Details »

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