Mill Valley, May 29, 2013—EARLIER THIS YEAR I made a mental note to self: Try to learn a bit about beers this year. The immediate inspiration was hearing about an Ale made by a fan of Chez Panisse and named for that restaurant with its cheerful permission. Then too, so many people seem so dedicated to beers these days, and so many well-respected microbreweries have sprung up hereabouts, it seemed only reasonable to explore the subject.
But I must admit I've fallen down on the job. I did have a glass or two of Chez Panisse Ale last week, when I was a bit off my feed — bubbles and fermented things seem to be what I want in such thankfully rare moments. It seemed bright, clean, engaging, a little fruity.
Then tonight we find ourselves at another local brewery, having dinner with a friend. I tried two of the house drafts: Sweetwater Kölsch, a light, lager-like, clean, very pleasant ale; and Westfalia, described on the menu as ienna malt & saphir hops lead this malty nuremberg rothier inspired ale": to me it was bland, sweet, and bulky; I didn't quite finish it.
The food, though, was very nice indeed. We started with a dish of pickled vegetables: sliced carrot, cauliflower flowerets, and green asparagus tips in a dill-flavored pickle. Then came grilled artichokes, three or four pieces cut from a large globe choke, with anchovies, pesto, toasted pistachios, and lemon zest.
My main course was fettucine with fresh anchovies, garlic, basil, and black pepper, and if it wasn't quite up to the considerable level of the preceding dishes, still it was quite good. Only the dark chocolate tart, confused by its thin glaze of rhubarb compote, seemed a bit of a let-down toward the end.
Vermentino, Matthiasson "Tendu" (Yolo county), 2012: a weird Vermentino, tasting of apples, and quite sparkling• Mill Valley Beerworks, 173 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley, California; (415) 888-8218