Round two with Ian Clark, chef at BRU: "Yelling gets you nowhere"
This is part two of my interview with Ian Clark, exec chef and head brewer of BRU Handbuilt ales & eats; part one of our chat ran yesterday.
Your favorite smell in the kitchen:
I have a couple, but my top few would be toasted cumin and chiles, and, at BRU, the smell of burning oak and maple when we fire up our oven. And since our brewery is basically attached to our kitchen, I'll throw in the smell of fermenting beer or just-mashed grain.
Favorite dish on your menu right now:
Our pizza. Sounds kind of boring, I know, but it's all about our dough. I started growing our starter almost two years ago with a lambic yeast-culture blend from Belgium. Our sourdough starter has brettanomyces and lactobacillus in it, and it's constantly changing. The older it gets, the more pronounced the flavors get, and I love tasting it a couple times a week just to see how it changes from day to day.
What dish would you love to put on your menu, regardless of how well it would sell?
Cao Lao, a noodle dish from the small fishing town of Hoi An, Vietnam. My wife and I recently went there and loved it, and I ate as much cao lao as I could. The noodles can only be made in that town, and from the water of a specific well dug during the Cham Dynasty, probably due to the alkalinity of the water there. It was incredible: chewy noodles, pork boiled in five-spice and soy sauce, super-fresh greens and crispy rice crackers. I'm getting hungry right now just thinking about it.
Most noteworthy meal you've ever eaten:
That's a toss-up between eating enmoladas from a street vendor in Guanajato, Mexico, and the cao lao from this little old lady cooking out of a giant cast-iron pot over an open fire on the side of the road in Hoi An. There was no refrigeration, and both were cooking the one dish they'd been perfecting their entire lives; both experiences were incredible. There's something very special to me about dining in foreign countries; they're experiences we just can't get here in the United States.
Weirdest thing you've ever put in your mouth:
I braised a moose heart when I was in culinary school. It's a weird ingredient that most people don't get a chance to cook, let alone eat.
What specific requests would you ask of Denver diners?
Be open-minded. We miss out on great dishes because we refuse to get out of our comfort zone.
Best recipe tip for a home cook:
Recipes are just guidelines, unless you're in my kitchen, which means you follow my recipes. Don't follow them to a T; make them your own, and cook the way it feels best for you.
What should every home cook have in the pantry?
Fermented foods. Right now, I'm fermenting my own kimchi and always have yogurt going. It's super-simple, because the yeast and bacteria do all the work for you.
What's always lurking in your refrigerator?
Housemade salsa, pickled vegetables from our garden and some of my home-brewed beer. Oh, and copious amounts of honey from our beehive.
Most underrated Denver restaurant:
Tacos y Salsas on East Colfax. It's badass Mexican food in an unexpected location.