Taste | The State
By Jaqueline Gutierrez
Photography by Erns Valdez, Erns Lab
The State on State in Redlands is a gastropub in its truest form. Its innovative dishes and a whiskey selection are its pride and joy, along with more than 20 beers on draft with an adjoining rotating beer selection. If there is a trend in the beer community, chances are The State will have those brews on tap.
When researching a restaurant for a "Taste" feature, I usually go with a small team of three people, including myself. This time, we invited a slew of food bloggers and photographers. I don’t think that I’ve ever had such fun.
The staff was attentive, gracious and had a wealth of knowledge about the menu items and spirit selection. They were especially helpful when it came to selecting from their specialty cocktails. That’s not to say they treated us any differently than any of their other patrons. I have been there a handful of times with friends, or on a date, and each occasion has yielded an outstanding experience.
I’ve come to realize that The State truly has something for everyone. A look at its expansive collective beverage selection would lead most to agree. On previous occasions, I have enjoyed beers from the State's rotating selection, so this time I thought it would be best to try its specialty cocktails. That was a great decision. We selected three cocktails: A Pineapple, A Chile; the Basil Bourbon Lemonade; and The Old Fashioned.
A Pineapple, A Chile was SoCal, Old Hollywood and Hawaii all in one. The cocktail is made with a Chile-infused vodka, fresh pineapple and lime juice and simple syrup. It’s shaken until a frothy layer is created and served with a fuchsia orchid in a coupe glass. It’s like a walk in the city on a summer day with a cup of pineapple spears and tajin, or like splitting open a fresh pineapple and digging your toes into hot white sand with the spray of the sea on your face.
The Basil Bourbon Lemonade was a breath of fresh air in a glass. W.L. Weller bourbon is shaken with basil that has been bruised and torn to bring out the flavor, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. The herbal notes of the basil make this a chic and adult lemonade. You won’t find this at your neighbor kid’s sidewalk stand.
The position of the Old Fashioned on the cocktail menu is indicative; it truly reigns number 1. The bartender macerates orange peel with demerara sugar; Angostura and orange bitters extract and emulsify the oils in the orange peel. Next add the Old Overholt rye whiskey and marry all the ingredients in a tall glass of ice. The cocktail is poured into a low-ball glass over a sphere of ice; orange zest is twisted over the top to release more oils. Finally, the crowning jewel that it is a black cherry on a toothpick is placed carefully on top. Our video tech Erns filmed the whole process.
Those were just the drinks. The food is on a whole other level. One of the best things about The State is its atmosphere. It’s relaxed, but sophisticated -- perfect for getting a couple of beers and picking at random from the appetizer list. Anything you choose is going to knock your checkered socks off.
One of The State's house favorites and a sure-fire winner is its poutine. It’s not your typical poutine, and each individual ingredient elevates the dish. It starts with the house-made fries in a bowl. Served over top is short rib meat that has been braised for hours, gravy made from braising the short ribs and cheese curds. The beef flavor in this poutine hits you in waves; it’s that intense. Don’t be surprised if when you put that first fork full to your mouth you hear choir angels singing.
An unexpected winner from the appetizer menu are the fried Brussel sprouts. They’re not your mama’s boiled-to-oblivion Brussel sprouts. The sprouts are pan fried with bacon caramelized shallots, tossed in an apple cider reduction. It’s presented with a pillow of goat cheese right in the center for your foodie dreams to come true. The Brussel sprouts have been transformed into unctuous, sweet and tangy little bites.
Something you can’t miss out on -- it’s almost non-negotiable -- is the Mac N’ Cheese Skillet. The menu description is unassuming; Orecchiette pasta, The State cheese sauce ND bread crumbs. It’s like if Gigi Hadid wrote in her bio “a girl that gets photographed.” Yes, you read that correctly, this Mac N’ Cheese is as delicious as Gigi is gorgeous. Out of everything that could go wrong with mac 'n’ cheese, nothing did; it was all executed perfectly. The pasta was al dente; it’s shape ideal to hold the most cheese sauce possible.
Now, let’s have a moment for the cheese sauce. It was positively luscious. I don’t know what the creator puts in it, but I’m betting one of the ingredients is crack. The chef himself came out to give us in-depth descriptions of what was in each dish and how everything is painstakingly handcrafted. I didn’t hear anything about what went into the cheese sauce; all I could here were cherubim and seraphim singing melodies about this mac n’ cheese skillet.
If you are wanting to achieve Nirvana, add bacon.
Now, getting only the Mac N’ Cheese Skillet may sound tempting (I don’t blame you), but you would only be doing a disservice to yourself. Man cannot live of mac n’ cheese alone, for man also needs burgers. Bourbon BBQ burgers to be precise. This burger is not for the faint of heart. It’s impressive in stature upon arriving at the table: Brioche buns glistening with butter, two hefty beer battered onion rings and a thick burger smothered in aged white cheddar on a layer of crispy Applewood smoked bacon. It’s all served on a platter like the heart of your enemy, stabbed with a steak knife with a side of your choice.
The State will leave you in a state of wonder; dreams of bacon and craft beer dancing in your head. The people there care about each individual meal they prepare because it is an extension of themselves. Passion is present in the food, spirits and service. The restaurant is in Redlands, which is a bit of a drive from my home. A worthy drive, but that won’t be a problem much longer. The State is opening a second location at Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, and boy oh boy, it is going to be good. It’s set to open in [December]next to [stores]. So whether you decide to go to Redlands or Rancho, you’re going to have a great time. Tell them IEShineOn sent you.