by C. C. Hansen
Because my daughter Isabella has worked on occasion with culinary artists, I’ve had the privilege not only to occasionally enjoy divine gastronomic creations and make the acquaintance of rockstar restaurateurs but also to sample libations that have redefined the cocktail for me.
So it was with great joy that I learned recently that Deluxe 1717 in Pasadena, a project of epicurean mastermind Chef Onil Chibas, had finally secured a license to serve beer and wine.
Chef Chibas’ consigliere, Casey C., knows a lot about wine, having worked with Isabella at the late lamented Crossings Restaurant in South Pasadena and being the niece of Uncle Bill (not to be confused with either Beachrock Bill or Sparklett Bill) a legendary wine collector and connoisseur. But she wasn’t as sure as she’d liked to have been about assembling Deluxe 1717’s beer offerings.
“Isabella,” Casey asked her comadre and sometime co-worker, “Do you think your dad would be willing to consult on our beer list?”
“I don’t see why not,” Isabella replied.
In the end, I think Casey wanted to challenge herself to put together a selection that would not only impress me, but also cater to Deluxe 1717’s clientele, who frankly don’t choose to worship at Chef Chibas’ culinary cathedral for the beer. It’s a very narrow path to tread.
Perfectly Tailored to An Evening’s Theme
On a recent cool evening, Eleanor and I invited my mother, my sister Karla Jean, and her husband Harvey to join us at Deluxe 1717 for our first visit under the new Beer and Wine License. Eleanor and Karla Jean elected to split a bottle of Esporão white wine from Portugal. Mom, Harvey, and I went with Casey’s craft beer selections.
Mom chose El Segundo “Mayberry” IPA. One of the reasons she chose it was because my sister Claudia had raised her three sons in El Segundo, and two of them still live there. Located just south of the Los Angeles International Airport, one of the town’s nicknames is “Mayberry by the Sea,” after the 1960s TV series, Andy of Mayberry, located in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. When Mom saw the term “7.2% ABV” on the menu, she asked what ABV meant. I explained it meant “alcohol by volume,” and that 7.2% was a bit high, but since she wasn’t driving, I thought she could handle it. And she did. It went perfectly with her pasta of the day: filipino lumpia ravioli, coconut bang-bang sauce, makrut cashews, shrimp & pork.
As it turns out, brother-in-law Harvey is of Filipino heritage, but born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium. If a beer could define Harvey, it might just be Smog City “Mango Pango.” As the brewery’s website says, “This refreshing ale goes down real easy and is jam-packed with tropical mangos, a hint of sweet peaches, and a subtly tart finish that cleanses the palate. Designed for warm-weather drinking at 4.3% there’s no reason to not have a few.” Because Harvey was driving, he stuck to just one, which he paired with Deluxe 1717’s classic Asian Fish and Chips, in which the “chips” are made of taro root and the fish is miso-marinated red snapper with nam pla and sambal tartar sauces on the side.
I was very pleased to see a pilsner on the menu from a brewery I’d never heard of, Crowns & Hops. This brewery, founded by Beny Ashburn & Teo Hunter, “is dedicated to preserving culture, expansion of the palate and community building through world-class beer.”
As it turned out, this glass of 5% ABV pilsner was just what the doctor ordered: “8 TRILL PILS is a beer brewed with NOBLE hops for a NOBLE cause. This beer was brewed to raise awareness to the ultimate benefit of achieving racial equity … eliminating disparities in Healthcare, Education, Housing, Criminal Justice, Entrepreneurship & Employment.”
My glass of 8 trill was the perfect accompaniment to the St. Louis-style pork rib special of the day that I enjoyed along with soup of the day cream of asparagus, garnished with toasted capers. Chef Alberto at Deluxe 1717 is a mad genius!
“Welcome to the New NOW of Craft Beer”
For me, Inglewood-based Crowns & Hops Brewing Company embodies everything that I think a craft brewery can be. As stated so eloquently on their “About” page,
Casey C.–you impressed the socks off of me! All local beers, each one capturing for each of us an aspect of identity, personality, and mood that made the evening at Deluxe 1717 not only memorable, but magical.
I didn’t know where else to work this in, but Deluxe 1717 is only one of Chef Onil Chibas’s projects. He also runs a high-end catering operation that recently provided the culinary experience for all the NFL owners at Super Bowl LVI held this year at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. And Consigliere Casey, who is one of the most loyal and committed Dodger fans I’ve ever met, handled the logistics of the NFL event flawlessly, I’m told. Or, if there were flaws, they were not of her making!
As a former comparative literature major, I’m always looking for “resonances.” And so it’s not lost on me that the beer I drank was brewed in Inglewood, where Chibas Events catered the Super Bowl’s first return to Los Angeles in 28 years, and the halftime show was a much-belated, but very enjoyable salute to homegrown hip-hop. What did Tupac and Dre say in “California Love,” which was released in 1995, just a year after the last time the Super Bowl was in L.A.?
Yeah, Inglewood, Inglewood always up to no good
“Up to no good” is maybe a backhanded, knowing compliment, an ironic wink, if you will, but with businesses like Crowns & Hops, it’s clear that positive transformation has a local face. They are up to a LOT of good. And cheers to that!
— C. C. Hansen, the OG SoCal Craft Beer Blogger