Interview with Chef Jim Takacs of Waterfront Ale House

Jim Takacs
Waterfront Ale House 155 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Brief Bio Chef at the Waterfront for 13 years, previously owned a restaurant in Cobble Hill Brooklyn for 9 years.

Why is the pairing of food & beer important to you? The importance of beer as an accompaniment to food has grown considerably in the past 20 years. It is up to chefs to explore the unique and flavorful beers being produced by microbreweries, matching them up with the cuisines they reflect. I am a big fan of Caribbean and Asian food. These are places where wine is not the main choice for dining. Bold and spicy flavors are perfect for beer.

What got you started on pairing food & beer? My first trip to the west coast in the late 80’s got me hooked. San Fransisco and Northern California had the whole food revolution in full swing and beer was no longer a chilled bud.

Who are the chefs you admire? Chris DeBarr of Green Goddess and Susan Spicer of Bayona in New Orleans. Saul Bolton in Brooklyn, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, Fergus Henderson, St John, London, Rick Bayless in Chicago, Barbara Tropp, whose China Moon was so ahead of its time, and whoever is cooking at Anchor and Hope in Waterloo London.

What are some of your favorite pairings? Stouts or porters with braised briskets or lamb shanks. I like to use some of the sweeter beers to infuse flavors in slowly braised pork as well. Cup of Kyndness is quite suitable with its smokiness and floral hints.

Favorite style / beer to pair with? IPAs work well with much of the barbecue dishes i do.

Favorite all time beer? Guinness

Feature dish in which you pair beer with food or use beer in preparing the dish? Magic Hat #9 is featured in my Vegetarian Chili, wonderful contrast to the spiciness…and really, it is a tasty chili.

Thoughts on the future of food & beer in fine dining? It can only continue to evolve. The beer list will soon be as important as the wine in many enlightened establishments.

Favorite restaurant in a city not your own? Jose Enrique in San Juan, no sign, chalkboard menu and amazing.

Mushroom Ragu for game meats
2 cups portobellos, sliced
2 cups shiitakes, sliced
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup medium diced onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon each of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 pint of Hennepin Saison Ale
1/4 cup demi glaze

Sauté the onions and garlic till lightly colored. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté till most of their juices have been cooked out. Add the tomatoes and herbs, continue to cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the ale and let simmer till slightly reduced. Finish with demi glaze.

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