Welcome to Where Chefs Eat, a semi-regular Eater feature in which we grill local chefs to figure out where they dine when they're off the clock. Up now, Chip Flanagan of Ralph's on the Park.
Chef Chip Flanagan, head chef at Ralph's on the Park in Mid City, has a NOLA Brewing connection; NOLA's brewmaster, Peter Caddoo, is also a chef and worked under Flanagan during the years between Katrina (which is when Flanagan started with Ralph's) and when the brewery opened in 2009. He remembers that Caddoo used to bring batches of his beer to the restaurant when working Sunday brunch, and after the shift, he and Flanagan would head across the street to City Park with the ice chest and try the beer. According to Flanagan, "He wasn't telling me that it was for the brewery, he just wanted everybody's opinion." Five years later, Flanagan is amazed at the changes in the local beer scene and proud of his former colleague. "It's sort of cool that they're still the only beer brewed in New Orleans proper, though that's going to change soon. I went to that WYES tasting and it was astounding how many new breweries there are. Local brews are coming."
On Friday, August 8, Ralph's on the Park is hosting a NOLA Brewing beer pairing dinner. The five course meal begins at 6:30 and costs $70 including tax and tip. More info here.
Here now, chef Chip Flanagan shares his favorite spots, his favorite beer, and gives some insight about how to create a link between beer and food.
Where do you go for a quick lunch?
That's a good question. Vietnamese, if I have the time. Namese is between work and home. Pho Bistro at Carrolton and Oak. I have to go light for lunch or I nap.
Where/what do you eat after you get off work late?
Anything you put in front of my face (laughs). We were just talking about this - I was in Natchez this past weekend, we did an event and then we had a little back room private party for the chefs, and we were all eating cold pizza. It was ridiculous, after we cooked all these great meals. But if I had a choice - What's that Japanese restaurant in the Marigny, it's right on Frenchmen. [Ed. note: Yuki Izakaya]. Because, it's open late - it's gotta be open late. And sometimes if I get off mid shift, I'll run down to MOPHO and grab a bite.
Where do you like to go get a beer/cocktails?
I like Finn [McCool]'s, because it has the best Guinness in the city. I love Guinness. That would be my main one. Last time I went out I went to Barrel Proof, that was pretty cool. Usually I'll have a glass of wine, geting off from work, but I love single malt scotch. I'm really more into liquor than a cocktail. Good quality liquor, a couple ice cubes. I don't need all the other stuff in there. All the other stuff, the frills... let's get to the point. I could have a beer anytime though.
Favorite breakfast/brunch spot?
Here, actually. I've got a son, who's seven, he loves Ralph's on the Park. He's crazy about it. And turtle soup. Is that wrong, to say that this is my favorite place? Otherwise, you know, I'm a chef, we're anti-brunch usually. We don't like to work on a Sunday. Especially getting up on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night shift. It's just the bane of a chef's existence, and it sucks that it makes so much money.
Do you have a favorite date night destination?
Date night - wow, it's been a while… what was our last date night destination? Oh, we went to the new La Boca recently and had steaks. They were great. I love that place. But I miss A Mano, I used to go there all the time.
Ancora, hands down. That's another spot, if I get off mid-shift, I'll stop there. Their puttenesca pizza is right on.
I guess it would have to be Company [Burger]. I'd have to jump on that bandwagon. But when I eat a Company Burger, I do need a nap.
What was your process of pairing beer and food and creating a menu?
The first dinner we did with NOLA [in 2012] I used a lot of the beer itself in recipes for the dinner. I'm not doing that as much this year, but I'm still doing it a bit. It'll be in some hors d'oerves, beer battered catfish. It's also in the charcuterie course, in the spent grain pretzel. I'm getting spent grain from the brewery - in fact, I just texted Peter this morning to let me know when I can come over and get some. We dehydrate the grain, pulverize it, make a flour out of it, and it's just a great flavor. So we'll use the pretzel to spread the duck liver pate all over. We're using the NOLA Brown in the beignet batter, I was just tasting those this morning. Oh my god.
Did you taste the beers first and then figure out the food?
For the crudo, I'm using Big Shot Pineapple soda, and I tried the Rebirth pale ale finished with Citra hops. You get this brightness, a citrus lemony element to it, and when I drank it, that's when I thought of this dish.
I knew I was going to do the lamb, that's something I've been wanting to do. I usually have a keg of Irish Channel Stout in the cooler to cook with - we've used it in a glaze here before, with lamb chops. And I have NOLA Blonde that I use for BBQ shrimp. I'm excited about the dessert - we're using the Brown and cinnamon in the beignets, so I think it's really going to connect.
· All Where Chefs Eat [-ENOLA-]
· All Ralph's On the Park Coverage [-ENOLA-]
· Ralph's On The Park [Official website]
Photo courtesy of Ralph's On The Park