The Tripel: food and drink balancing act with chef Brooke Williamson

The Tripel in Playa del Rey, CA, is a bar and restaurant opened earlier this year by chef/couple Nick Roberts and Brooke Williamson. The Tripel is their third project, Beechwood in Venice being their first followed by Hudson House in Redondo Beach. We visited Brooke during one of their newly available lunch hours to chat about how she became a chef, beer cocktails and the impeccable marriage of beer and food.

An early start

Brooke wanted to become a chef at a young age. She tells us, “from the time I was probably old enough to make my own pancakes. I wanted to be a chef.” She believed she was lucky to know what she wanted to do at such a young age. Brooke opened Beechwood when she was 23 years old with her husband Nick. “We kind of been going ever since. It's the only thing we have ever done and know.” Their newest restaurant, The Tripel, boasts an “extended upscale bar menu with interesting quality ingredients people usually wouldn't find at a bar,” Brooke describes.

Something different

One of the highlights at The Tripel is a selection of beer cocktails, like the Black Velvet, a take on an old school beer cocktail. The drink is a combination of a stout or porter with sparkling wine plus a dash of Blackcurrant liqueur and garnished with Luxardo cherries. This is also another way for Nick and Brooke to creatively give the average cocktail drinker another option, “It's another way to open people's eyes to something they haven't tried before,” Brooke says. Her philosophy, “I feel like cocktails are similar to food. You want to make sure they are balanced.”

[quote align=right]The restaurant and bar features wine and a wide selection of craft beers in bottles, cans, and on tap. All hand picked by Brooke and Nick with one distinguished goal in mind: flavor. She's all about the gospel of finer beers. “A lot of beer drinkers that come in here never had a craft beer and don't know what to look for. We try to get to know the person and see what they would normally drink. If they normally drink a lager, we would recommend a really great small batch lager. Instead of being a fizzy beverage it has some depth and character to it.”

The influence of food and drinks

Brooke wasn't always into beer. When she first started her career in fine dining the wine list was extensive, but the beers had little focus. “I've always studied wine and my husband always drank beer, and good beer. I never looked into it any further and as there was more to learn I kind of asked myself 'why are we not developing that area?' There are just as many beer drinkers as wine drinkers. They must be drinking beer for a reason, why not develop on that,” Brooke explains.

She recalls, it was at her second restaurant where she became focused on the beer. “That's where we started learning deeply about what we were serving people. People cared about what they were drinking. So in order to give our customers the best possible product we needed to study more about it.”

One goal at The Tripel is to have the drinks pair with the food. Brooke believes that part of what makes the beer great is being able to pair something with it and being able to pick out flavors and smells that you wouldn't normally be able to. She tells us that food and beer pairings are as relevant as wine and food pairings. “The batter on the onion ring is made with a pilsner. The funnel is braised in wheat beer. We actually do use a lot of beer in our cooking.”

Twisted menu

The food menu is described as a little bit of a “Belgium twist” featuring items like charred baby octopus, steamed mussels and clams, marinated skirt steak, chicken sausage stuffed dates, and burgers. One of the most popular items is the Tripel Burger, a burger Brooke calls “the big whammy”, a patty made with duck confit, pork, and aged beef with truffle Pecorino, arugula, and house made apricot jam.

Brooke and Nick strive to create an equal emphasis on both the beverage and food. “One is not more important than the other. Both are equally important.”

The Tripel is now open during lunch hours with an early birds menu available from noon to 4 PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.