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Culture Opinion

Wolfgang Puck Has Been Innovating for 30 Years, And Is Nowhere Near Done

Behind swank velour curtains, surrounded by a genius staff, is a mastermind, an artist, but most prominently, an innovator.

Chef Wolfgang Puck stands across from me in his domain. We’re separated via the greatest spread of food I have ever seen, a stunning and glowing preview of what the legendary chef has cooked up for this past year’s Oscars dinner.

It isn’t surprising that every article or interview with Wolfgang Puck revolves around his repertoire, seeing as he’s the seminal celebrity chef of modern American cuisine; his reputation radiates and draws attention like the proverbial moths to a flame .

However, I was pleasantly surprised to be joined in this interview by Wolfgang Puck’s son, Byron Puck, which led to some rather not-so-formal chit chat that revealed some illuminating facts of Wolfgang’s past.

Wolfgang came from incredibly meager means. At the age of 14, he worked in a kitchen for a hotel in Austria. After days of being berated by his stepfather, telling him he was good for nothing, he decided to leave the house for good. So Wolfgang left to go to the only place he found any comfort — the kitchen.

Unfortunately, the kitchen wasn’t having it this fateful day, and his boss, who chose Wolfgang as his punching bag, told him that he was fired and to never come back. After this, a dejected Wolfgang decided to go to a bridge to drown himself. After hours of sitting on the bridge, he decided that the only real option, the one that he felt his bones dragging him to, was to go back to the kitchen.

It’s in this kitchen that Hollywood can find some of its glitz and glamor, not the facades like in the backlots of studios, but the stuff called passion and culinary artistry. It’s a fitting choice to have the one and only Wolfgang Puck as the chef to feed Tinseltown on their biggest night.

It’s with the values and morals Wolfgang walked away with through his tough time coming up that he has instilled in Byron, which are reflected in his form and methodology when cooking.

Though Byron has somewhat followed in his father’s footsteps, he is also still trying to find his own culinary voice and style.

Byron cooks at an LA restaurant/incubator, called Rogue, helmed by his father, which features a crew of young artists searching for their own narratives through food. While Byron has the option to train under and obviously mirror one of the greatest chefs on the planet in his father, he instead discovered a way to tread his own path with the tools his father gave him.

Ultimately, that’s what every parent wants, to afford their children the ability to fend for themselves. With Byron, that faculty is palpable and palatable.

Through seemingly simple dishes like steak and carrots, Rogue and Byron Puck are showing the culinary world that traditions don’t need to be ditched in order to innovate. Instead of simply fine tuning a classic dish until it’s reached perfection, Byron flips what the general public might view the dish as and create something entirely new while still respecting tradition.

It’s refreshing, too, to see that Wolfgang posits the same ideals when recounting the reason for Spago’s — his seminal restaurant — success.

“It’s really interesting because Spago has been there for over 30 years, and all the other restaurants that were open around that time have closed. Why? Because there was no change. I think change is really important, but we also cannot forget where we came from. So you have to have a good mixture of tradition and innovation,” Wolfgang posits.

“One thing I didn’t like was when people would be kept to doing small things, like dishwashing then chopping potatoes and beans, like I did for three years. I said no, I’d rather have someone who’s innovative,” he asserts.

Especially being surrounded by remakes all over Tinseltown, it’s important that there is some originality being strewn into the mix, and what better way to start than with the gut.

Rogue is doing just that, with Wolfgang allowing young chefs to experiment without worrying about economic constraints.

Now, this can very easily be painted as some elite, privileged restaurant and these young chefs are being given an advantage. But anyone who truly looks at what this restaurant means can see that it is essentially a brick and mortar of the American Dream.

With Wolfgang, he’s got both hands on the wheel, his flagship restaurant Spago is still as iconic as ever in fine dining and Rogue is showing the culinary scene what’s what in terms of pushing the envelope of culinary ingenuity.

Wolfgang Puck is synonymous with modern cuisine, and with the help of his son and the chefs of similar mind at Rogue, he can become the father of contemporary cuisine and immortalize what it truly means to be a modern chef in a performance that should be deemed Oscar worthy.

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Hit-Or-Miss

Sriracha Beer Is a Few Clicks Away from Your Fridge

Sriracha addicts everywhere just got a little closer to drinking the spicy condiment straight from the bottle. Rogue Ales, the Oregon brewery with a penchant for interesting flavor infusions, now sells a Sriracha stout on their webstore.

Courtesy of Mashable

The Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout Beer comes in an obvious, but still aesthetically pleasing, Sriracha beer bottle and ensures that every mouthful of your meal will be drowned in the popular hot chili sauce.

Although it has been possible to make your own Sriracha beer for years, as well as many other cocktails, Rogue combines the richness of the stout and potency of the sauce without the michelada-esque separation of the two.

The 750ml bottle (about a pint and a half) will run you $13, nearly double the cost of Rogue’s Chipotle Ale, but the heart wants what it wants.

H/t Reviewed.com

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Sweet Nightmares: New Rogue Voodoo Pretzel, Raspberry, and Chocolate Ale

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Rogue Ales x Voodoo Doughnut collaborations are what you give people when you want to kill them, but only in the sweetest way possible. They are the frenemies of beer, cool enough to deserve your attention, but never afraid to leave you with an awful taste in your mouth.

Their latest beer-donut mash-up? A pretzel, raspberry, and chocolate-flavored ale. It’s inspired by the Voodoo’s infamous “Voodoo Doll,” a jelly-filled yeast donut covered in chocolate frosting and stabbed through the heart with a pretzel stake.

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Now, we’re not saying it tastes like a cloying, raspberry ale/chocolate stout hybrid, heart-attack in a pink bottle. But it probably tastes like a cloying, raspberry ale/chocolate stout hybrid, heart-attack in a pink bottle.

Gift it to anyone you hope to torture from afar, or yourself if you’re feeling especially masochistic.

Rogue Voodoo Pretzel, Raspberry, and Chocolate Ale: $13 @ Rogue

H/T Nerdalicious + Picthx Rogue, MNP

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Brand

The Gentleman’s Guide to Fast Food + Beer Pairings

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It takes a certain kind of person to want to drink beer with his Breakfast Jack, but we’re pretty sure we want to be his new best friend.

But not just any beer, mind you. No our friend is much more refined that that. He understands that fast food, good fast food, is not simply the repurposed soy slosh you wash down with too-syrupy Coke. It’s something that deserves to be relished. Celebrated. Perhaps, not with all the pomp of a Clara Brut Champagne, but come on, you could at least break out the Hefeweizens.

The way your friend sees it, why waste your precious taste buds on overpriced fountain sodas when you could purposely pair that Western Bacon Cheeseburger with a nice smoky Rauchbier? Or a Fish Filet with watery iced tea when you could be drinking a Kolsch?

The simple lesson he hopes to teach you, old sport, is that you wouldn’t. Since beer has malt, you’re able to pair it with all kinds of foods, similar to how you’d eat anything with at least some kind of bread. So put down that awful, ‘beetees-causing, “diet” Pepsi and kick back this summer with any of these fast food x beer pairings, courtesy of our friends over at Total Wine & More in Tustin.

Just don’t try them in the drive-thru, k?

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McDonald’s Fish Filet x Goose Island Summertime Kolsch

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TW: “With fish, any kind of white meat, you wanna have like a lighter beer. The thing with beer is you wanna do one of three C’s: It’s either you wanna contrast it, complement it, or cut it. Kolsch is a lighter German style from the Old World. It’s a summer, seasonal beer: very light, crisp, little bready. Not bitter, not hoppy or anything like that – just really nice and smooth. A good, refreshing, summertime lawnmower beer.”

Verdict: The crisp carbonation washed out the slick, doughy mouthfeel of the fish filet breading, while the citrus helped dress up the tartar sauce.

Goose Island Summertime Kolsch
Seasonal
Illinois — “The color of sunshine, with a light fruity aroma and a hint of fruity acidity, this is the perfect summer session ale. A Kolsch beer brewed in the traditional German fashion, you’ll find yourself enjoying and savoring each sip of summertime.”

$8.49 for a 6 pack of 12 ounce bottles @ Total Wine

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Carl’s Jr Western Bacon Cheeseburger x Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

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TW: “If you can pronounce it, I’ll give you a dollar because I sure can’t. This beer is really, really, really smoky. It smells like burnt bacon for the most part. There’s a little bit of bitterness on the end because of the hops. The bitterness helps cut through fatty things, because this is clearly a fatty burger. Overall though, smoke. Good barbecue beer.”

Verdict: For anyone who hasn’t had a smoky beer before, the nose is definitely startling at first, but eventually helps to draw out the deeper flavors of the burger, so the sweetness of the barbecue sauce isn’t too overwhelming.

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen
“Germany — This smokebeer, made with smoked malts, is unique to the town of Bamberg. It is very dark and the smoky aroma is immediately evident, but on the palate there is some maltiness. Give this wonderfully unique brew a try. Pairs excellently with sausages and meats.”

$5.99 for a 500 ml bottle @ Total Wine

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Starbucks Birthday Cake and Chocolate Cake Pops x Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

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TW: “With desserts, stouts work really well because they’re really rich and usually have notes of chocolate or notes of coffee. With this one, it’s an oatmeal stout, so it’s not gonna be overpowering… For me, stouts can get too rich, too roasted because you have to roast the malt to get that dark color, but with this one, it’s perfect. Very well done. English-style stuff is known for being not as extreme as the Americanized-everything… We wanted to amplify the flavors of everything that came from the Old World over to the New World. But yeah, this is a really rich roasted beer, malty, but still sweet and not bitter. You can have bitter for contrast, but usually with dessert, you want the sweet, so you want to complement it.”

Verdict: Amazing coffee and vanilla flavors here, and a much recommended alternative to sucking down another too-sweet Frappuccino.

TW: “I think I like the chocolate one best, because that’s the flavor the malt has already. It should help a lot. It’s good, like fudge.”

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
Malty, Chocolaty, Coffee, Smooth, Medium-body
“England — This style of stout, with the addition of a small amount of oats, died out around the first World War until Samuel Smith revived it in 1980. It is almost opaque, with an unusually silky texture and complex, medium-dry velvet palate. Vegan Society confirmed.”

$3.29 for an 18-ounce bottle @ Total Wine

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Jack in the Box Breakfast Jack x Hangar 24 Orange Wheat

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TW: “Wheat beer is usually unfiltered, so you’re going to see yeast still in the bottle, so it’s going to be hazy, cloudy. It’ll have a real pretty appearance. I mean, they always ask if you want orange juice with your breakfast combo. It’ll be like, ‘Sir, it’s 7:30 in the morning, why do you want beer? And why are you in the drive-thru?’ Yeah, that definitely threw me off when I saw the breakfast sandwich on there. I guess maybe if you’re out late, Jack in the Box is the place for breakfast all day, so you can get an after 5 o’clock breakfast sandwich. Yeah, that’s really orange-y. Even though Hef’s got a fuller body because it’s a wheat beer, it’s still a lighter style. The flavors aren’t extreme, you just get most of the wheat feel and the orange and coriander flavor.”

Verdict: The unequivocal “Breakfast of Champions,” this combination was by far the winner – and the ultimate alternative to boring, watered-down mimosas that you never knew you needed.

Hangar 24 Orange Wheat
Crisp, Fruity, Citrus, Light-bodied
“California — Pours a hazy light orange color with a creamy white head. Aromas of oranges on the nose amidst a wheat background. The body is thin, delivering slightly sweet flavors of refreshingly tart oranges and orange rinds. Won Gold in 2012 at LA IC Beer Competition.”

$3.99 for a 22-ounce bottle @ Total Wine

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Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito Bowl x Anchor Steam Beer

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TW: “Definitely haven’t had that. I heard it was a little spicy. So the rule with anything spicy is that hoppy beer is gonna make it worse. It’s gonna make it burn bad… I’ve had IPAs with jalapeno peppers and it hurt the whole way down. I love spicy food, I put hot sauce on everything, and I was dying… So you want something to quench it. I went with an Anchor Steam Beer. It’s a California Common, made with lager yeast but at ale temperatures. That’s what makes it kind of special. It’s real nice, got a nice bready feel to it and it’s more of a thirst quencher….”

Verdict: This beer cut the medium spiciness of the meat and salsa really quickly, though the flavors didn’t really complement or contrast in any specific way. Overall, it tasted a little bit like soap and I think I’d rather just have milk if I wanted to get the heat out.

Anchor Steam Beer
“California — Iconic Anchor Steam derives its unusual name from the 19th century when “steam” seems to have been a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast under primitive conditions and without ice. This process produces a dark amber lager with lovely malty/hoppy aromas.”

$7.29 for 6 pack of 12 ounce bottles @ Total Wine

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Yoshinoya Beef Teriyaki Bowl x Chimay Premiere Red

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TW: “This is a Trappist beer. Trappist beers, there’s only eight of them in the world. This is technically a Dubbel, their Belgian style: roasted, but not sweet. Usually with darker Belgian ales, there’s like a raisin-y sweetness or a canned sugar. With this one, it’s roasted, it’s dark, but it’s still smooth. You get a lot of Belgian yeast in it though, which gives it a lot of spice. Trappist means it’s made by monks and it can only be made at the monastery. It makes it a lot more expensive, but you can never go wrong with Trappist. Most people enjoy it even if they don’t like darker beer because they can appreciate the style and the yeast, the spiciness, a little clove. But that should pair nicely with some teriyaki. Teriyaki’s got a little bit of sweetness and this’ll kick it right back.”

Verdict: You get a lot more fruit than spice at first, but the spice comes out with a bite of the teriyaki and results in a nice balance. A bit too pricey for a weekday, after-work beer though. Just saying.

Chimay Premiere Red
Malty, Fruity, Estery, Chocolaty, Medium-bodied
“Belgium — 7% ABV. TRAPPIST ALE. Coppery in color, this beer gives off a light, fruity apricot aroma. The flavors perceived in the mouth confirm the fruity nuances noticed in the fragrance. The silky sensation to the tongue is made refreshing by a light touch of bitterness.”

$11.49 for a 750 ml bottle @ Total Wine

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Burger King Sweet Potato Fries x Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

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TW: “Browns go really well with sweet potato fries. This specific one is Rogue Hazelnut. It’s a brown ale and they added hazelnut, which gives it a little bit of richness at the end, but nothing too crazy. It should complement the sweetness of the sweet potato fries… Since it’s dark, they roast the malt so it’s gonna have a lot of roasty character to it. Burnt, toasted. But the hazelnut is gonna bring a little sweetness, a little richness, which should pair very nice. Both of them [the fries and the beer] have sweetness on the end, but it doesn’t kick in until later. You add the beer, it definitely helps it, brings it out.”

Verdict: BK’s take on sweet potato fries can come off as rather bitter, but the beer helps smooth out the inconsistency and actually makes both taste significantly better.

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Balanced, Malty, Caramel, Toasty, Medium-body
“Oregon — GABF Gold Medal 2012. Dark brown in color with a hazelnut aroma, a rich nutty flavor and a smooth malty finish. This has a blend of Great Western 2-row Pale, Munich, Hugh Baird Brown, Crystal 80 and Crystal 135, Carastan, and Beeston Pale Chocolate malts.”

$6.99 for a 22-ounce bottle @ Total Wine

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Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger x Green Flash Le Freak Ale

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TW: “With this, it’s a hoppier beer. It’s a Belgian IPA. It’s American, so it’s gonna be very hoppy. We’re extremist and they like to jack up the IBUs [International Bitterness Units]. It’s a scale from 1 to 100. Your palate can’t really detect past 100, it’s just gonna taste bitter. With this one, they used Belgian yeast, so the same characteristics you got off of that Chamay, they put it in here, with the hop bitterness of an IPA. It might work, I don’t know, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. This on the nose right away, you’re gonna smell the hops, so the citrusy, pine, grassy, grapefruit. And this is the one that’s gonna linger on your tongue for a while.”

Verdict: Actually originally meant to pair with a hot dog, the Le Freak went fine with Wendy’s new summer burger, but nothing particularly noteworthy. I admit I’m not a fan of hoppy beer in general though, so the disconnect might just be on my end.

TW: “The yeast jumps out at it, the yeast and the bun match up nice. As soon as it hits your mouth, they grab each other. Plus I love hoppy beer. It made it a little bit sweeter too, because the pretzel adds the sweetness.”

Green Flash Le Freak Ale
“California — 9.2% ABV. GABF Golde Medal 2012. A convergence of an American Imperial IPA and a Belgian Trippel. A zesty brew with enticing American hop and Belgian yeast aromatics leading you to delicious malts and a complex layering of hop flavors that quench and refresh.”

$8.99 for a 22-ounce bottle @ Total Wine

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Rubio’s Fish Taco x Orval Trappist Ale

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TW: “Another Trappist beer. This style is a Belgian pale ale. So not pale as in an IPA but this is Old World. It’s not as hoppy, because they most just use hops, you know, ‘cause you have to. This one should have a nice pretty color to it as well, but still that same yeast and the same spiciness of the yeast and the smell. […] The yeast of Belgian beers is really, really unique. So if you pair that with that, it’s got a nice crispness to it, almost like, I don’t wanna say ‘sting,’ because that sounds bad, but it’s crisp, you can feel it on your tongue – a little prickly I guess, but it should pair really nicely with that fish.”

Verdict: Great beer and a great fast food fish taco, but a slightly underwhelming pairing. I would have preferred if it was a little more citrusy.

TW: “That’s real light, nothing crazy jumps out at you. It’s kind of consistent and nice, good flavor, not super fishy either. This adds a nice Belgian yeast and it’s perfect. It comes and goes quick, it’s not really long lasting. Real light, real easy. It adds a different spice, I guess you could say.”

Orval Trappist Ale
Balanced, Estery, Spicy, Earthy, Medium-bodied
“Belgium — 6.9% ABV. TRAPPIST ALE. Orval is brewed unfiltered by Catholic monks at a monastery founded in the 1100s in the pastoral Belgium countryside. Three different malts and two types of hops, fermented three times, impart a great character and complexity. Balanced.”

$5.49 for an 11-ounce bottle @ Total Wine

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