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Native delights: Pueblo Harvest Café pairs nature-inspired dishes, Alaskan Brewing beers

Executive chef David Ruiz finds inspiration in nature and current trends to create his signature dishes.

“I bike a lot, and I saw a sunflower and I was like, I want to come out with a dish that looks like a sunflower,” said Ruiz, who works at Pueblo Harvest Café. “So a lot of what I see is just in everyday life. I do a lot of research. Every day, I force myself to spend about 30 minutes looking at what’s going on everywhere in the world, seeing what the top chefs are doing. I kind of draw inspiration from a lot of things that I see that’s out there, trending. But then again I make it my own instead of copying.”

Ruiz’s inspired dishes are part of a five-course pairing dinner with Alaskan Brewing Co. on Wednesday, Aug. 23. It begins with an amuse-bouche of prickly pear-cured salmon jerky served in a unique way.

“We’re basically making it like a clothesline,” Ruiz said. “So it’s like this 2-by-4 that’s two beautiful sticks and a piece of aluminum. What we’re going to do is we’re going to make the jerky here. We’re actually going to hang it from clothesline pins and we’re going to set them on the table for people to pick off when they sit down and get here. It’s something that’s more interactive more than just, here’s your meal. So the starter gets people to talk to each other and get new people to get to know each other.”

The first course of beet terrine will be paired with Alaskan Summer Kolsch-Style Ale. It is made from glacier-fed water and a blend of European and Pacific Northwest hops, according to Alaskan Brewing Co. tasting notes.

“I love doing it,” Ruiz said of the beet terrine. “It’s local beets, yellow and red, and basically I braise them off and I compress it together so it comes out like this beautiful layer. It almost looks like a rainbow, like a beet color. So I like that.”

Next is smoked trout toast accompanied by Alaskan White Ale, which is a Belgian-style witbier that has a subtle flavor with a slight spice and an orange citrus aroma.

“A lot of this stuff, like the jerky that we’re doing, is a precursor to our (fall) menu. We’re doing something that is very native,” Ruiz said. “The smoked trout, obviously. Trout is one of the only fish that (breed) in the lakes naturally here in New Mexico. Obviously a technique used way back and today is smoking the trout, so we have that one on there.”

The third course consists of a confit rabbit tamale with a blackberry puree served with Alaskan Free Ride American Pale Ale, which combines three styles of hops resulting in a full-flavored crisp APA with floral, fruity and citrus notes. A sous-vide elk chop with currant jam served with truffled potatoes follows. It will be paired with the limited edition Alaskan Smoked Porter, which is has a dark, robust body and pronounced smoky flavor. The dinner wraps up with a raspberry panna cotta with mango gel served with limited edition Alaskan Raspberry Wheat that is made with nearly 1 pound of fruit per gallon and has a tartness that balances the full-bodied wheat profile and malt sweetness.