New Scotts Valley spot’s owner on the joy of cooking with beer
Scotts Valley’s Hophead is a new haven for folks’ obsession with both food and drink. Owner Jay Patel opened the restaurant last year, fulfilling a lifelong dream. He quit his day job and scraped together every penny he could to do so. He has 10 taps and rotates them with new beers all the time. The food is a hodgepodge of creative culinary finger foods, and pairing it isn’t tough because so much of the food is cooked with their beer.
So how exactly do you cook with beer?
JAY PATEL: Our goal is to focus on seasonality, and we create dishes based on that, and what beers are typically good around this time—the ports, the stouts, a lot of coffee flavors. We do incorporate our beer into our food, for example, our smoked pork butts we use both for the Cuban sandwich and the pulled-pork fries, we soak the woodchips for the smoker in either the Imperial IPA or the Porter or Stout to give it that extra dimension. For our beer-battered pickles, we used fresh-squeezed IPA as part of that batter. Cooking with beer is like, when you’re at a barbecue with friends, and someone’s like, let’s throw some beer on the chicken. We’re doing it hopefully in a more precise way.
How do you pick which beers to stock?
I don’t buy anything I haven’t tasted. Not only do I taste it, but our team—it’s almost a tasting event. We all have a passion for really good beer. In regards to what we have now, a few IPAs, a couple of Pilsners, I like to have a representation of the local guys. As a team, we decide what we want to bring in and what rounds out our beer menu. We don’t want to have a one-dimensional beer menu.
Tell me about those pulled pork fries.
The pork butt has a special rub that we make in-house. We brine the pork butt for about four to five days, take it out, put a rub on it for a couple of hours, then it goes into our smoker. We soak that pork butt anywhere from 8-12 hours, so we can get as much flavor out of that pork butt as possible—and the texture’s important. The pork butt comes out, that’s put on the fries. On top is a barbecue sauce that we make out of a chocolate stout and there’s some molasses and habanero to give it that little kick. On top of that barbecue sauce is a slaw we also make in-house.
18 Victor Square, Ste B, Scotts Valley, 430-0793. PHOTO: Jay Patel with pulled-pork fries and cole slaw, a specialty at his new restaurant Hophead. CHIP SCHEUER