When you think about it, salads and beer actually have a lot in common - both are made from plants; both can be described as "tastes great, less filling"; and both make you feel good when you consume them (albeit in different ways.)
Despite these sweeping similarities, we were still caught off guard when we noticed recently that Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, the duo of healthful joints in Beverly Hills and Century City, has been pairing some of its leafy creations with suds.
This unusual combination is the brainchild of chef and co-owner Jonathan Rollo, who says he was intrigued with defying preconceived notions about what goes well with greens. "It always seems more natural for salads to be paired with wine or something thought of as lighter weight," he told us. "But one thing that I've noticed about beer over the last few years is that a lot of brewers have come up with really interesting recipes. There are more options that are herbal or floral or savory or food friendly."
And so in addition to the menu's recommended wine pairings, he's started matching Greenleaf's salads with a rotating selection of draft and bottled beers.
The combo currently featured on the boards pairs the Buffalo Wangs salad with Stone Pale Ale (though Rollo says it would go equally well with the Green Lakes Ale that is also available on tap). The salad, which Rollo describes as "a gourmet homage to tailgating" is a smorgasbord of flavors and textures, including spicy crispy chicken in a citrus orange chipotle sauce, bleu cheese, herbal ranch dressing, and some bacon thrown in for good measure. The pale ale, says Rollo is a good clean beer with just enough bitterness to contrast with the bricolage of the relatively heavy salad. "It refreshes your mouth," he explains. "It cuts through all that conflict. It's like a flavor negotiator."
Rollo says that the brew pairing also aids in Greenleaf's goal of proving that salads aren't just for women. "One of our challenges originally was getting men to walk through the door," he says.
So they created what he calls "gateway salads" like the Buffalo Wangs. "We paired that one with beer to continue to make it more male friendly." Rollo recommends pairing the similarly carnivore friendly Steak Sandwich Salad with Abbey Ale (for oenophiles, he also likes it with Razor's Edge Syrah).
But lest you think beer can only go with meaty, caveman salads, Rollo also offers suggestions for Greenleaf's more virtuous creations like their Zorra the Great, a Greek-style salad served atop a bed of housemade hummus. Though the menu suggests an Alma Rosa Pinot Grigio, Rollo says the garlicky greens would also go great with an old-fashioned pint of Heineken Light.