887 W. San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos
When it comes to craft beer bars and restaurants, it’s important to the success of such a venture (at least in San Diego, where there’s such a high level of competition) to have an owner who is engaged to the nth degree. In the case of most suds temples, publicans are extremely involved in staying on top of trends, forging and maintaining contacts with breweries, getting rare and special beers to their establishments, and setting up beer geek-attuned events. A prime example of this type of beer business owner is Ivan Derezin.
As the owner of San Marcos’ Churchill’s Pub & Grille — regarded by many as North County’s finest craft beer eatery — his gumption and foresight (he installed a 50-tap system way before such over-the-top beer devotion was en vogue) have raised his outwardly inauspicious venue to national acclaim. And, as if his eatery’s consistently killer beer lists and gargantuan cold box (stocked with enough archived beer to stave off the end of days) isn’t testament enough to his seemingly endless drive, more proof of his workaholic, overachiever nature is offered via The Bellows (803 South Twin Oaks Valley Road, Suite 107, San Marcos), his soon-to-open restaurant just south of California State University, San Marcos.
In opening a second business, many a beer baron would go easy on themselves, simply installing a similar version of their original model somewhere else. But again, this isn’t a normal hospitality tycoon we’re talking about. While obsessed with quality beer, he’s also a lover of spirits (particularly whiskey) and an appreciator of wine. Seeing San Marcos’ restaurant scene pretty much devoid of dining experiences going beyond what chains can provide, while also noticing a lack of quality wine and spirit lists, he set out to provide one to the community, and The Bellows is his vehicle for doing so.
Styled by Onairos Design and James Denton Design, Derezin describes the space as evocative of blacksmithing, with old fireplaces, “flame” light fixtures, and a wood-fired oven. The 3,000 square foot space will offer exhibition-style dining at the bar around the oven, along with a plethora of other seating options — bar, single and communal tables, banquettes, petite bar tops, and a lounge area featuring punched leather chairs. An additional 40 seats will be available outside and be accessible via roll-up, windowed garage-style doors.
Having seen early iterations of the menu, I can tell you it will be extensive. I can also attest to its foodie appeal. Mediterranean in nature with heavy Italian and French influence, it includes a septet of cheeses and a dual charcuterie list broken into house-made specialties (pâtés and rillets) and cured meats (prosciutto, air-dried beef, salames). Other starters include prepared salads (Lyonnais, Caesar, wedge) and vegetable preparations ranging from grilled King Trumpet mushrooms and cheese-and-lemon dressed Brussels sprouts to Yukon Gold potato “pommes soufflés” with creamy aioli.
For mains, that aforementioned oven will put out eight varieties of flatbread topped with a variety of straightforward ingredients, including house-made sausage, salame, goat cheese, and, daring as it sounds, the polarizing anchovy. Composed dishes include Berkshire pork chop and flat iron steak, both procured from Niman Ranch (most ingredients hail from such highly respected purveyors), the latter of which is served with fingerling potatoes, mango chutney and sherried onions. Loch Duart salmon with mussels in a saffron broth, and duck confit with dandelion salad will also be available along with a braised celtuce and kohlrabi dish that fits in with Derezin’s vegan regimen. But fear not, carnivores…there’ll also be a burger (with Cahill’s whiskey cheddar to boot).
The chef responsible for this classic-meets-contemporary fare is Schuyler Schultz, who San Diego Beer News readers may remember from a 2012 article about his book*, Beer, Food & Flavor: A Guide to Tasting, Pairing, and the Culture of Craft Beer. A former Las Vegas steakhouse chef who, upon arriving in San Diego, manned the kitchen at La Mesa’s The Vine Cottage while serving as a consulting chef to AleSmith, his respect for classic European technique and ability to both incorporate and pair beer, wine, and spirits are well pronounced.
On the beverage front, there will be 20 rotating craft beers, but the focus is on vino and spirits (or perhaps “firewater” is more in keeping with the fiery motif). Expect pre-Prohibition-era cocktails and a slew of whiskey cocktails. For those who like it straight, many premium whiskies will be available. Even The Bellows’ well bourbon will be a private bottling of Elijah Craig 12 Year. As for the red, white, and blush, Derezin want to give love to smaller, lesser known international winemakers.
When asked about this step outside the box, Derezin points to the passion-project nature of The Bellows, stating his belief that everyone should demand the best out of every experience — fresh food made with quality ingredients, cocktails fashioned with exceptional spirits, and noteworthy ambiance. It’s his hope he can provide all of that, and based on the buzz from San Marcans, they’re hopeful he can, too.