For my 2nd article in the craft beer spotlight series I would like to cover Ric Cutillo. Ric is one of the owners of Kensington’s beer Mecca: Midtown Kitchen & Bar. As a regular at Midtown I know that this place is a definite plus when it comes to showcasing how incredible good beer can be. Judging from the crowds that I’ve seen at Midtown, there are lots of people who would agree with me. But for anyone unfamiliar with the spot, I hope that after reading this you’ll be inspired to go see what it’s like for yourself. And now on with the show.
Cooking Up Experience
Ric took to the culinary arts at a pretty young age. He started his education in cooking where most good sons do, in momma’s kitchen. This was when he was eleven years old! That’s much better than I was at that age, while Ric was beating eggs I was tossing them at houses (just kidding, I was a model for good behaviour).
This interest/curiosity/child labour (jokes) grew into a career when Ric began working in professional kitchens. This includes a stint in Spain where he spent approximately nine months studying and working under chef Steven Mack whom had previously been in charge of the kitchen at Madison Square Gardens. Seeing how Spain is no novice when it comes to the art of pleasing our taste buds, I can only guess at how productive this time must have been.
While in his 30’s Ric started to work as a chef in the kitchen of the Stephen’s Avenue restaurant & bar, Blink. Hard work & determination pays off because Ric’s career advancement chugged along quickly while at Blink’s restaurant. Eventually he ended up as their general manager.
I should mention that while there Ric also studied & obtained his levels one and two Sommelier certification. The intense study and dissection of wine’s flavour was one of the catalysts that led to Ric’s eventual fascination with craft beer.
Like most of us (if we’re telling the truth it’s all of us, right?) Ric began his romance with beer, drinking what I like to think of as the floozies of the beer world….shallow, blond, bubbly and leaves you hurting the next day. But again like most of us (hopefully one day all) it took one slightly different tasting beer to awaken a curiosity about how much more there is to beer. In Ric’s case that beer happened to be Rickard’s Red (not exactly craft beer, but hey, it was enough to lead towards that end of the spectrum).
From this point on his interest grew and led him to discover how diverse the world of flavour can be when beer is crafted by people who care about what they are creating. Throw in his keen sense of tasting which he developed while training to be a Sommelier and you have someone with a real interest in finding new avenues to explore in the world of craft beer. Ric is one of the founding members of CAMRA Alberta, so I would say that his exploration of craft beer has been productive.
Ric formed the idea for a restaurant during his 20’s. It would be a place with a quaint feeling but that had modern art on the walls; the menu would be full of fresh, locally sourced ingredients; the wine list would be comprised of small, select vineyards and; there would only be craft beer available. Yes, like Beer Revolution there are no macro beers at Ric’s (does anyone else think of Casablance when they say that?).
This dream became Midtown Kitchen & Bar, which coincidentally, has been the answer to my dreams for a good local hangout. Midtown boasts a rotating draft selection of 12 tap handles. This generally includes some of our fresh, local delights along with fun discoveries from places like Green Flash of San Diego fame , BC’s Fernie or Alameda from Portland. A selection like that gives you the opportunity to grab a local favourite (and you know I’m all about growing the local scene) plus try out something completely new.
Don’t forget to try pairing your pint (a full 20 oz one) with something from the gourmand side of the flavour spectrum to experience the tasty bliss that a good match can give you. One of my personal favourites is contrasting the spiciness of the beef tacos with the bitterness of an IPA. But you don’t have to listen to me, just ask one of the waitresses and they should be able to guide you in the right direction.
Alberta benefits from having restaurant owners like Ric who work hard to present us with the creative, artistic & lest we forget, scientific sides of craft beer. I feel privileged to not only have him as a source for socializing but also as a friend.
So take a walk along 10th Street NW and stop in. Maybe you’ll see me there to share a pint with. Until then cheers to local craft beer!