Wine and beer are associated with two dramatically different worlds, the former associated with fine dining, the latter with saddling up casually to a neighborhood bar.
Chef Ros Graverson knows this better than most. A year ago she was head chef at the posh Lula Drake Wine Parlour, orchestrating its Spanish-and-pasta-focused menu. Now, for the last month and counting, she’s in charge of the kitchen at the Irmo location of the bottle shop and beer bar Craft and Draft.
Lula Drake has remained closed throughout the pandemic for safety reasons, but its owner, Tim Gardner, plans to keep it in operation. Graverson said she will return to the wine bar once it reopens, and the owners of Craft and Draft agreed to this stipulation.
Despite the establishments’ seemingly divergent aesthetics, she finds her role planning and preparing food in drink-centric establishments hasn’t changed much. She said the tenets are the same — pair light libations with light foods, darks with darks and ensure the food doesn’t overpower the drinks.
“We’re slowly trying to gather more of a food audience there. Obviously, it's a bit more (beer) centric,” Graverson said. “The more people that we get to come and order the food, the more exciting things I can try.”
The impetus for the hire came with Craft and Draft co-founder Kellan Monroe looking to start a charcuterie program at the new location of the bottle shop, which opened in January 2020.
“I always thought charcuterie was a great thing to pair with beer, honestly one of my favorite things,” he said.
An employee connected Monroe and Graverson. With her previous position at Lula Drake still on hold, she was hired in early December.
Aside from adding charcuterie, she was brought on with relatively free rein in the kitchen and on the menu. And she’s already making changes.
She recently shifted from a Cuban sandwich to housemade pulled barbecue pork. And she plans to begin baking pretzels, one of the Irmo bar’s most popular food items, in house.
“We’re trying to get away from what they were doing, with simple sandwiches, and try to put a bit more quality and small things that make it interesting,” she explained.
Graverson’s path to Craft and Draft and pairing food with drink is an unlikely one. After graduating with a degree in marine biology, she moved to Columbia in 2007. Six years later, she started working at The Gourmet Shop.
She worked on and off at the Five Points cafe and retail store, and found herself taking to the cheese program, later becoming a sales manager for the store’s retail cooking section.
“I’ve always loved cheese, love to eat cheese. Once I started to learn more about the different kinds and all the difference pairings … it kind of led to new things that I hadn’t considered before,” she recalled.
In 2017, she began picking up dishwashing shifts at Lula Drake Wine Parlour on Columbia’s Main Street. At the cozy, dimly lit wine bar, she leaned on her experience at The Gourmet Shop to start a charcuterie program, she said.
This led to working in the kitchen regularly and, eventually, becoming the wine bar’s head chef after the departure of her predecessor, Pierce Bowers, who is now part of the kitchen staff at West Columbia’s Black Rooster.
Both Graverson and Monroe said the changes in Craft and Draft’s kitchen are leading to good results. They debuted a weekend brunch service Dec. 26.
Both admitted that making more people aware of the Irmo bar’s food menu remains a hurdle. The bottle shop has a well earned reputation as a go-to craft beer spot thanks to its robust package and draft selection, but Graverson said people in Columbia are often surprised to learn that the Irmo location has a kitchen.
Monroe thinks they’re chipping away at this problem — and that the kitchen has helped during this difficult, pandemic-stifled year.
“Having food and having a stable menu … I think it's been a good stabilizing force,” he concluded.