A.G. Warfield Takes Adventurous Food and Techniques to the Taps
For 10+ years, Churchill’s Pub and Grille has reigned as North County’s top craft-beer bar. These days it’s getting talked about just as much for the culinary offerings built to marry with 50 taps’ worth of quality ales and lagers. Ironically, it’s because of the work executive chef A.G. Warfield is doing outside of his home base.
“A chef buddy of mine, Nate Soroko, who is pretty much the food-and-beer ambassador of San Diego, got me in on the beer-pairing brunches he does from his kitchen at Toronado in North Park,” says Warfield. Among the chefs he met and made fast friendships with at such events were Phil Esteban of The Cork and Craft, Mike Arquines of The LAB Dining Sessions and Mostra Coffee, Eco Caterers’ Nick Brune and Cowboy Star's Chris Osborne.
“It broke me out of my little world. We’ve all checked our egos; it’s about the collective versus the individual. Now there’s nothing I look forward to more each month than getting together with these chefs and creating. It’s humbling and inspiring.”
Warfield likens such collaboration to San Diego’s brewing culture, wherein brewers work together to build interest in local beer as a whole, give credit where credit is due and provide assistance to each other rather than constantly competing for shelf space.
“When you think about it, a pint of beer is the great equalizer. Brewers and chefs come together over it,” says Warfield.
Warfield is one of the OGs* when it comes to syncing suds with what he calls his “elevated beer-centric comfort-food.” It all started when he first came to Churchill’s in 2010 and suddenly found himself with a plethora of highly varied beers at his disposal. Like many, he initially took baby steps, starting with existing dishes then pairing beers with them.
Nowadays, he takes an approach that provides far greater depth in the finished product—starting with a beer, getting into it and really examining all of its flavor and aroma nuances, then building a complex dish around it in order to simultaneously amplify both the food and beverage. This was already part of his modus operandi before Soroko and his band of merry gastronomes came along, but those brunches (and a number of other collaborative special-edition feasts and Chef Celebration dinners he has participated in) have pushed him.
“Nate comes up with out-there themes that make me think outside the box,” says Warfield. “And I’ve picked up a lot of cool ideas and refined plating techniques from the other chefs, as well.”
A dish that sums up Warfield’s growth, ingenuity and adeptness for the avantgarde is one he created for a Toronado brunch built around exotic takes on “junk food”—Sour Patch Kids–infused pork belly with a duo of purees: vanilla-cauliflower (a take on a Creamsicle) and Sour Patch Kids with gin. The brewery du jour for this event was The Bruery of Placentia, California, and the beer he was pairing with this seemingly crazy course was Imperial Cabinet, a wild ale brewed to emulate a Ramos gin fizz—a cocktail made with gin and citrus. Despite melting down pounds of sour candies, Warfield strived for balance while matching the gin botanicals, orange notes and vanillin pulled from oak barrels the beer was aged in. It worked, as do many of his dishes—the majority of which are far more approachable.
Warfield has shared three recipes that embody his elevated-comfort-food approach along with beer-pairings for each, so that readers can give them a shot on the home front. Of course, the genuine dish is always available just off State Route 78, AKA The Hops Highway.
Churchill’s Pub and Grille
887 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos
The following recipes on pages 8 and 9 courtesy A.G. Warfield, Executive Chef, Churchill’s Pub & Grille. An additional recipe for Imperial Stout Chocolate Coffee Pot Roast is on EdibleSanDiego.com/recipes
* OG stands for Original Gangster, someone who has been around.