12 May Goshen Brewing Co. is behind schedule, but may be worth the wait
The bad news is that Goshen Brewing Co. won’t be open for a while.
The good news is that the food will be good when it opens. I know that. I’ve had some of what’s going to be on the menu.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way.
Opening a restaurant takes time and it nearly always takes more than an owner expects.
Owner Jesse Sensenig wanted to be open by now. But when bids came in, they were higher than expected. That happens too. So he’s been working with the bids to figure out how to proceed.
“Hopefully we can move forward with signing with a contractor and getting construction going before too long,” he said. “It has just been a process for sure.”
He has state approval to brew. But the construction process is predicted to take five months. And it takes longer than predicted more of the time than it doesn’t.
Sensenig wants to open this year. He’s hoping for this year. I am too. But it may realistically be 2015 until it happens.
Now for the good news.
Though contractors haven’t started working, the guy who will oversee the kitchen has been building the menu.
And he’s waiting for Goshen Brewing Co. He’ll be a key part of the team. And he’s been practicing.
Shoemaker isn’t formally trained. He’s a guy who grew up west of Goshen and started thinking about food at an early age. He got comfortable in the kitchen at Rachel’s Bread and then moved to Chicago. Then he started thinking about making food as something he’d want to do for a living as a grown-up.
When he came back to Goshen, he worked at Venturi and eventually took over the kitchen at Constant Spring, 219 S. Main St., Goshen.
The food got better there because of Shoemaker. He started making sausage. He made ethnic food on Wednesdays. At a charity meal he did away from the restaurant, I had some amazing smoked foods he made. The smoker he’d built from an old refrigerator his parents had went up in a ball of flames later, but it made a memory.
As he approaches building a menu for a brewpub, he’s asking what kind of food he likes to eat at a brewery.
Now this is where the process gets a bit dangerous. Shoemaker is a great cook and a great guy. But his brain doesn’t work like most people’s.
“It’s trying to figure out a balance of what others want to eat all the time and what I’d want to eat all the time,” he said.
He wants Thai food on the Goshen Brewing Co. menu. And he wants smoked foods.
“It ends up being a Thai/Southern fusion sort of thing,” he said.
He cooks from his gut. He follows recipes, but veers off of them, most of the time to a better spot. “Some of the best stuff I’ve made is because I didn’t have what I needed,” he said.
He starts with an ingredient, such as mussels, and then thinks about what he’s had that he’s liked. And off he goes. And he figures out how to use what he has. The pad thai salad at the Spring started because he turned leftovers into a salad, he said.
A group of friends who ate his food at the Spring has gathered on Monday nights for several years. But the range of options open for Monday supper is Goshen is limited. And Shoemaker needed to build a menu. So we are his guinea pigs. And we are well-fed guinea pigs.
In his home kitchen, he makes food for friends. And some of it will be on the menu.
I missed the night he smoked pork and pulled it. But that will be a staple at GBC.
I was there the night he made smoked duck tacos. And I’m thrilled that will be on the menu. The aoli, or mayonnaise-like sauce, he made that night was amazing.
He made ramen soup, but not the kind you think of from those packets.
The surprising item that we agreed needed to make the cut is a vegetable sandwich what was essentially grilled onions, herbs and a bunch of melted cheese. On good bread, it was a mess. And it was packed with flavor and interesting textures.
One of those moments that made me mutter a bit was when he served us macaroni and cheese. It had goat cheese and smoked cheddar on shells. It’s among the best from-scratch macaroni and cheese dishes I’ve had anywhere. And Shoemaker said it’s the first time he’d made it from scratch. (Boxed versions didn’t count.)
On a trip to the South, he brought back Benton’s country ham. Benton’s is among the best in the United States at curing and smoking pig. He heated the ham in a cast-iron skilled. He put it on good bread with a cheese sauce. And it too was simple and good. It needed some arugula and I told him that. He agrees and laughs his distinctive laugh that sounds like a machine gun.
He’s made some mustards that I look forward to eating more regularly. And I’m glad that he’s learning how to do more salads. He made a roasted and smashed beet and put it on spinach salad with goat cheese and asked for feedback. With a good vinaigrette, it’ll be a nice menu item.
As for those aforementioned mussels, he steamed them in a Belgian beer with shallots and also in a coconut curry sauce. The coconut milk sauce was rich and full of flavor. I wanted to drink it and nearly did.
I’m a guy who loves good food, who just wants a good meal. Shoemaker’s meal have rough edges and aren’t completely dialed in. But his instinct is so good. And he just enjoys cooking for people.
Those are the people I most want to feed me and with whom I want to share a meal.
I look forward to an old building just west of downtown Goshen becoming a new thing and having Shoemaker’s food. And that of others. Darrell Gascho, who replaced Shoemaker at Constant Spring, is doing some interesting things. Justin Venturi at Venturi is too. Chubby Trout is playing with fresh fish. The list goes on and on.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.