consumed on 9/22/05

A friend of mine is a rep for a wine import company that specializes in French and South African wines. This means that he spends his day visiting restaurants, chatting and drinking with wine buyers. Nice job, right?

A big part of his job appears to be schmoozing—he schmoozes so much that I rarely get to see him anymore. After complaining about this, he invited me along on an informal drop-in to check up on a customer. I was a little shocked when he took me to Brouwer’s Cafe in Fremont, as the cafe is owned by Bottleworks (a.k.a. beer fanatics); I was surprised to hear they served wine as well.

It was my first visit to Brouwer’s Cafe and I liked the place. The patrons seemed subdued (for Fremont anyway) and the decor was dark with a medieval bent. The heavy use of stone and metal seemed both Gothic and modern at the same time. I found this a bit disorienting at first—it was definitely not like any other restaurant I’d been in.

Brouwer’s Cafe has a really appealing menu. I would call it European pub food with a high-end twist, complete with high(er)-end prices. Pomme frites and Belgium stews abound. I suspect that what made the menu so appealing was the use of beer in nearly every dish.

We both had a glass of Chateau Lamartine Cahors and split an order of Mussels & Frites ($14). The mussels were incredibly plump and tasty steamed in a light cream and Hoegaarden beer sauce. The dish had excessive amounts of thyme, which was surprisingly good with the mussels. The accompanying aioli didn’t seem garlicky enough—until I stopped eating and realized my mouth had gone numb from all the garlic.

I really wanted to try the endive gratin ($6) which was layered with pancetta, gruyere and breadcrumbs. Unfortunately, I am in the habit of asking waitstaff for their opinions. When I asked about this dish the waitress screwed up her face and said it wasn’t good because the endive was undercooked. Undercooked? Can you undercook endive? I like to eat it raw. I should have just ordered it anyway, but after her reaction I felt like I would be insulting her if I ordered it. But it’s a good excuse to go back.

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