Little balls of fried stuff have long been a match for beer, but these aren’t just any fried balls. These are lusciously non-greasy falafel-in this case, made of chickpea and lentil; just enough of a switch up to give them a wonderfully different accent from purely garbanzo-generated patties. Then there are the pretty pink pickled onions, satisfyingly sour and surprisingly less onion-pungent. To add another accent, the sandwich is dressed in a cucumber and parsley yogurt sauce, more tzatziki than tahini, more Greek-Turkish than Palestinian-Israeli. It’s smart without being clever, simple without being simplistic. It’s also totally addictive.
Falafel is only one part of the new food program at Hollister Brewing. As of March, Hollister has a new chef, Dylan Fultineer, most recently of Hungry Cat, and as of May 4, it has a new-well, 25 percent new-menu. “I got super lucky and had the opportunity to hire someone outside of our sphere of cooking,” Hollister co-owner and brewer Eric Rose said. “I wasn’t going to let the man I considered to be the best chef in Santa Barbara take another job if I had anything to do with it.”
The two have formed a mutual admiration society since Fultineer came to Santa Barbara from Chicago’s acclaimed Blackbird to help launch Hungry Cat two years ago. About this new, somewhat odd professional pairing, Fultineer said, “I left Hungry Cat to work on another project, but there are always glitches in time frames. I wanted to work, and truly and honestly there’s nowhere else in Santa Barbara I would rather work than here.”
Rose offered a story to express how simpatico he and Fultineer can be. “We both walked into the kitchen five minutes apart and the kitchen manager laughed when we both said, ‘Mmmm, pork,’ about the pulled pork for sandwiches on the counter.” As for their shared culinary goal, Fultineer claimed, “We just want to get the best products as possible and let them speak for themselves.” Turns out both were fans of the same purveyors at the farmers’ markets, and Goleta’s is right outside their door on Sundays. Rose recalled, “Just this week, Roots had lots of Swiss chard left-guess it was too wintery a green for people now that it’s warmer. If B.D. [of Roots] wants to bless it upon Hollister for some double IPA in his belly, I’m willing to oblige.”
“We don’t want to turn the place inside out,” Fultineer made clear. “I love Hollister : I used to come here all the time. I want to take what they do and make it better. It’s a pretty simple thing.” Rose pointed to the tune-up now available with the chicken panini. “Now it’s smoked chicken [indeed, they’ve now got a smoker they speak of in gleeful tones], and then Dylan came up to me with a fig mustard for it and asked, ‘Is this too much?’ Yeah, definitely, but it’s really good. I brew beer I want to drink, and I want him to make food that makes him happy.”
Indeed, talking to Rose it becomes clear he almost wishes he didn’t earn such acclaim for his big IPAs that approach the hoppy California-style pantheon of Russian River Pliny the Elder and Green Flash West Coast IPA. Of late, he’s most excited about his High Water Helles, a yummy notch of flavor fullness up from a Pilsner that’s a mere 5 percent alcohol and totally refreshing and food friendly. He opined, “I like the little things we do more than anything. The term gastropub, it sounds like a stomach infection.”
That’s not to say they won’t stretch out a bit, too. “We will try to push the specials, too,” Rose related. “Not up-sell, but things more interesting than on the regular menu.” For instance, a recent batch of sugar snap pea soup with hamhock was like diving into a bowl of spring. Now I know how green tastes. But there’ll be more than specials, for Fultineer and Rose are also cooking up beer dinners. “The first one [that happened May 13] we picked the beer first, but we might do it the other way,” Fultineer said. “We want it to be something special. Be creative and have things totally off the menu.” That doesn’t just mean food; Rose has a barrel-aged imperial stout he’s ready to share.
He also has a surprising confession: “I actually like food more than I like beer. I get more influences from foods I try than beer. I want to make beer that goes with food. We’re a brew pub and not Father’s Office [L.A.’s now two famed gastropubs]. Having a chef who can be creative is the goal.” With Fultineer in the kitchen, it seems Rose can surely say goal achieved.
Savor fine food and suds at Hollister Brewing Company, located at 6980 Marketplace Drive (in the Camino Real Marketplace) in Goleta. Call 968-2810 or visit hollisterbrewco.com.