Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Remember last month when Portland was buried in snow? Temperatures in the 20s kept cities coated in a thick glaze, bringing life to a standstill for nearly a week. But if you ventured over the mountain pass separating the Willamette Valley from the Oregon Coast, you would’ve discovered a slice of the state that appeared reanimated following the winter chill. Surfers clad in wetsuits bobbed up and down in the Pacific, searching for the rhythm of the waves. Spectators claimed seats in the sand before the sun went down. And Haystack Rock in Pacific City was framed by wispy clouds in an otherwise sapphire-hued sky.
What a difference a hundred miles makes.
That was the scene at Pelican Brewing Company in mid-January — a world away from the foot of snow blanketing the metro area at the time. The beach has always operated at its own leisurely pace, making it a favorite destination for many Oregonians to abandon their everyday routines, no matter the season. And for the last 20 years, the most popular detour off coastal Highway 101 has led to Pelican — for both beer and food lovers alike. If a Valentine’s Day getaway or storm-watching trip has you headed to Pacific City this month, take note of the subtle changes to the brewpub’s dining experience, which will continue to evolve under the direction of new research and development chef Anne Haerle.
Beyond the oceanfront view, one of Pelican’s strengths is that it understands what it does well and never wavers. At the business’s core are familiar dishes like burgers or fish and chips that fill hungry people up and make them happy. But you’ll also find elevated offerings on the regular menu and at Brewers Dinners, where the ties between food and beer flavors are emphasized. Ultimately, though, it’s all approachable.
“At Pelican we’re not complicated. We’re not fancy. We’ve got a grounded approach to ingredients, presentation and cuisine in general,” said Ken Henson, Pelican’s co-owner and director of restaurant operations.
With the introduction of Haerle to the kitchen, the goal is to build upon that foundation and then develop new flavor and texture combinations.
“I really want to play more with the ingredients that we use for beer making,” Haerle described. “I mean, we use a lot of beer in our dishes, obviously — marinades, sauces, all kinds of things. But I would love to say, you know, use hop shoots in the springtime — experiment with some of those ingredients that we do use and make them more of a focal point of the dish.”
Haerle, who admits she never had an interest in the culinary arts growing up, started her professional career as a graphic designer in branding and marketing. However, working the last decade in professional kitchens has taught her that some of those skills garnered from her previous field can cross-apply to her role as a chef when putting edibles on a plate. For instance, Haerle makes sure that every morsel — from gastrique to garnish — serves a purpose. That was evident in her amuse-bouche: the exotic lychee fruit perched atop a prosciutto crisp alongside a coral-colored wedge of grapefruit. Each element reflected or stood up to the beer pairing: Pelican’s Beak Breaker Double IPA, which is bold but deceptively smooth and balanced at 9% ABV. Its tropical aroma evokes the grapefruit in the hors d’oeuvre while notes of citrus and pine stand out without any cloying malt or biting alcohol characteristics that can sometimes overwhelm this style.
In a nod to some of the beer’s earthiness, Haerle gathered shore pine needles from her front yard and through roasting them, teased out a nutty coffee flavor. The rest of the bite bounces between sweet and salty — the fleshy lychee bringing grape-like elements that are tempered by the tart grapefruit and light, crunchy prosciutto that manages to pack all of the flavor of a slab of Sunday-morning breakfast bacon.
Customers expect fish at a coastal restaurant and Haerle said salmon is a perennial favorite at Pelican. The protein, coated in pale malt, comes resting on a quinoa cake and roasted asparagus, providing an alternative to the guest who’s had one-too-many fried cod baskets at the beach. There’s also more textural variety in the salmon dish — from the slight crunch of the grain crust on the fillet to the soft pop of the quinoa — there’s fun to be had in eating this dish that extends beyond the taste buds. MacPelican’s Scottish-Style Ale has a boozy, sweet scent and a caramel flavor that’s amplified by the malt topping the fish and the slight char on the asparagus spears. The beer is also used to make the maple syrup-like gastrique swirled on the plate, which contrasts nicely with a bright, tangy swipe of Kiwanda Cream Ale aioli. Taken as a whole, this is an entree that summons spring even in the dead of winter.
Haerle looks forward to expanding the creative array of toppings customers can choose to heap onto Pelican’s burgers. One example of a departure from tradition is found bursting out of the sweet, toasted buns of one menu item — the Blue Cheese Burger comes with a thick hunk of pork belly instead of bacon. A sandwich that rich calls for a lighter beer, like Kiwanda Cream Ale, that can cut through the bite in the herbed cheese spread and fatty meat — allowing you to go back in for the next creamy bite feeling refreshed.
While based at the Pacific City location, Haerle will be logging plenty of miles in her car as she travels up and down the coast to Pelican’s two other locations in Tillamook and Cannon Beach, bringing her new perspective to each menu. Essentially, she wants you to know that just because you’ve visited one Pelican, doesn’t mean you’ve seen them all.
“It’s not just that, OK we have three cookie-cutter locations. They all have their little twist on what we do,” Haerle explained. “The core of what we do is going to be consistent, but we have an opportunity with our different locations and markets to tweak things a little bit — make some unique items to each location.”
Paired with Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale
By R&D Chef Anne Haerle
To make preparation simple, use canned mashed sweet potatoes, pumpkin or butternut squash in place of cubed sweet potato. For even more flavor, cook the quinoa in a mixture of vegetable stock and half Kiwanda Cream Ale. These quinoa cakes can be made and frozen up to 1 month in advance; thaw them completely in the refrigerator before cooking (if cooking them cold, the cakes may need an extra 4-5 minutes in the pan).
1 large (10 ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
8 ounces quinoa
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 ounces baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons Kiwanda Cream Ale
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
—Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
—Toss sweet potato cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
—Place cubes on baking sheet and bake until tender, about 30-40 minutes.
—Remove from oven, mash into small pieces with potato masher and let cool.
—While sweet potato is roasting, pour water into medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and heat on high until water boils.
—Add quinoa and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water, stir well and bring water back to a boil.
—Reduce heat to low, cover saucepan and cook until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.
—Allow quinoa to cool.
—Pour 2 tablespoons into large skillet and heat over medium heat until oil shimmers.
—Add chopped garlic, shallots and onion, stir well.
—Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 4-5 minutes.
—Add spinach leaves and Kiwanda Cream Ale to skillet, stir well.
—Cook until spinach has wilted and most of the liquid in pan has evaporated, about 3-4 minutes. —Remove from heat and let cool.
—In a large bowl, mix mashed sweet potato, quinoa, spinach mixture, chopped herbs and mustard. Stir gently with rubber spatula until all ingredients are well mixed.
—Divide quinoa mixture into 4 equal portions and form into 4 cakes measuring 4-inches wide and 1-inch thick.
—To serve, pour remaining 2 tablespoons into large skillet and heat over medium heat until oil shimmers.
—Add quinoa cakes to pan and cook, undisturbed, until bottom of cakes are golden brown, about 4 minutes.
—Carefully flip each cake and cook until second side is golden brown, another 4-5 minutes.
Paired with MacPelican’s Scottish-Style Ale
By R&D Chef Anne Haerle
The pale malted barley crust gives the salmon a subtle caramelized flavor.
4 6-ounce wild salmon fillets, skin and pin bones removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pale malted barley, finely ground
3 tablespoons olive oil
--Season salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper.
--Spread malted barley across a shallow dish. Press one side of each fillet into malted barley to coat evenly.
MacPelican's Ale Gastrique
2 cups MacPelican's Scottish-Style Ale
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
--Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat.
--Reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 30 minutes.
To finish salmon and gastrique:
--Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until oil shimmers but is not smoking.
--Place fillets coated-side down and cook, undisturbed, until coating is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
--Carefully flip salmon and cook on second side for 3-4 minutes on medium.