Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Bridgeworthy: Cheese, Beer and Booze – A Culinary Trifecta

Top shelf sometimes means just that. Gene Fielden, the manager at Bottlecraft, also has a connection to Coronado as he sits second seat viola for the Coronado Philharmonia.

How do cheese, craft beer, and booze qualify as a trifecta? Artisan cheese, craft beer, and top-shelf liquors all under one roof feel like a triple win. Bottlecraft and Venissimo in North Park are a marriage made in heaven. I have loved both of these stores for years. It blew my mind when I discovered Venissimo and Bottlecraft shared the same space.

Items that can be enjoyed on-premises.

Upon entering, order a beer from their small but well-thought-out tap list, then, drink in hand, head to the cheese counter. A chalkboard menu guides you through snacks that you can enjoy on-site. Stroll through the shop, and browse all the fantastic beers while the cheese mongers assemble your order. Could this place get any better? What if they added top-end spirits? Bingo, Bottlecraft now carries top-shelf amaros, mescals, bourbons, rye, and much more. The selection surpassed all my expectations; there is something for everyone.

I like to venture into this den of temptation with a specific cocktail in mind. Several times the manager Gene Fielden has helped me find the perfect ingredients for the cocktail on my list; Gene possesses a wealth of knowledge, and if he doesn’t know something, he has a great selection of reference books. He also has a connection to the island as he sits second seat viola for the Coronado Philharmonia. 

I planned a simple but fun dinner consisting of a cheese board and a cocktail. Jessie, the bar manager at The Henry in Coronado, had turned me on to a cocktail called a Naked and Famous.

Gene, the manager at Bottlecraft, finds the correct citrus for a Naked and Famous cocktail.

Craft beer can feel overwhelming if you are not keeping up with it. San Diego has 160 craft breweries and 55 tasting rooms. Even long-time craft beer fans need help to keep up with all the new stuff coming down the pike. Not to worry, I have a guy, an old friend, Ken Clay meets up with me at least once a week to talk about food and drink good beer. I asked him to give us a rundown of his favorite seasonal beers. Never fear if you don’t have the luxury of a beer enthusiast in your life. The employees at Bottlecraft know their stuff. Tell them what you like, and they will steer you in the right direction. 

Here is the word from Ken about winter 2022 beer picks from Bottlecraft. Winter beers started when brewers wanted to include holiday spices and add additional calories so that beer drinkers could pack on a layer of protection from the forthcoming colder weather. Here in San Diego, it was a brisk 64 degrees today, and my knees did get a little chilly in my shorts.

The following list features current beer offerings that only appear during winter. Looking to stay warm this winter in style? The following five beers made my holiday list.

  • Enegren Brewing’s “Christmas Bock” – Bockbier is a rich amber lager with caramel notes. This version gets its “Christmas spices” naturally from the German Hallertau, and Herkules hops.
  • Prairie Ales’ “Christmas Bomb!” – “Bomb!” is already a fantastic stout with coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and ancho chili that can be found year-round. The Christmas version adds cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg; let it warm a little so all the flavors go BOOM!
  • Kern River Brewing Company’s “Winter Ale” – KRBC does hoppy beers as well as anyone on the planet. A big west coast double rye IPA is sure to warm you up. Pine, resin, citrus, and a little extra bite from the rye makes this the perfect beer for hop heads.
  • Sierra Nevada’s “Celebration Fresh Hop IPA” – First brewed in 1981, this beer is a celebration of the fresh hop season. I haven’t missed this annual offering for at least a decade. I plan to drink this until the homies pour some on the ground in my honor.
  • Burgeon’s “Barrel Aged Dutchman’s Pipe” – Burgeon, a  Carlsbad brewery, makes some of the best beer in the county. Dutchman’s Pipe is a coffee and vanilla imperial stout. This year’s version is aged two years in charred oak Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. So smooth, rich, and decadent, you can skip the fruit cake and serve this for dessert instead.

Bottlecraft has three locations, North Park with Venissimo Cheese, Little Italy, and Liberty Station Public Market.

Located in Little Italy on the far end of India Street, Bottlecraft has a top-notch selection of hundreds of craft beers, both foreign and domestic. You can grab a pint from one of their 24 taps, a glass of wine, or kombucha. You can bring food, and your dog is always welcome. 

Bottlecraft at Liberty Public Market provides a top-notch beer selection to accompany all the great food there. Coronado’s own David Spatafore and his company Blue Bridge Hospitality manage the marketplace. Liberty Public Market is an upscale food court styled after Pike Place Market in Seattle. The food choices run the gamut. The market sells a fantastic array of foods providing something for everyone. Simply pick up what you want to eat and return to either one of the indoor seating areas or patios. Grab a drink from the fully stocked Mess Hall Bar or a beer from Bottlecraft. They often have live music on the weekends.

One of the owners of Venissimo, Gina Freize, has a wealth of knowledge.

Time to move on to the cheese. Hazy IPA in hand, I headed to the cheese counter. One of the owners of Venissimo, Gina Freize, walked me through all my choices. After asking several questions and tasting a few kinds of cheese, we decided on three for my board. Next, I chose some items to round things out; fun crackers, stuffed cherry peppers, little cornichons, a honeycomb, and some olives. 

Accompaniments to a great cheese board.

Venissimo can put you in their system. They will record all the cheeses you purchase, so the next time you come in, they can remind you what you bought. Wine pairings round out the experience. If you request an emailed copy of your receipt, it will have wine pairings for the cheeses you purchased. 

Venissimo has three locations; Mission hills, North Park and Del Mar. They are the premiere cheese shops in San Diego. The opposite of cheese snobs, Venissimo employees educate and inform while holding your hand through the process.  

Take the worry out of putting together a cheese board for your next party; call them up, tell them what you are looking for, and give them a head count. They will provide a show-stopping assortment with just the right amount of everything. As the once chef at Neiman Marcus here in San Diego, I set up an account with Venissimo. They did all my cheese trays for some of my most demanding clients, such as Tom Ford, Gucci, and Channel. It was cost-effective and of the utmost quality. I am not a cheese expert, but I know some people who are, and now you do as well. 

We don’t have anything like this on the island, so it is worth a trip over the bridge. If you need more motivation, you can always add a stop. Shopping can make you hangry and a bit thirsty. I like to time my North Park visit to coincide with happy hour at Seven Grand across the street. Go about four o’clock on a Monday if you want to grab your cheese at Venissimo in Mission Hills. That way, you can slurp down some oysters and eat a dry-aged hot dog at Fort Oak’s happy hour. You don’t have to work hard if you work smart. I hope to see you out there stocking up. 


Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde is a trained chef that has worked in hospitality for nearly 40 years. In addition to cooking, he is a freelance food writer and storyteller. Clyde is a third-generation Coronado local, CHS graduate, and father of three. He owns and operates Olive Avenue Supper Club, a boutique catering company specializing in culinary experiences. You can follow his culinary journey on Instagram @oliveavenuesupper.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]