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BEER WEEK: A Coulon Reunion at Quarter Kitchen

Anne Marie, Michele and Nathan Coulon.
Photo by Heather Hernandez

In San Diego, the name Coulon is synonymous with the word “yum.” Since hitting the scene in 1977, when chef Don Coulon and his wife Arlene, a professional French-trained pastry chef, opened Ocean Beach’s beloved Belgian Lion restaurant, this talented culinary clan has been delighting local palates. Following Don’s sale of the restaurant in 2001, the Coulon legacy has not only endured, but flourished.

Don’s daughter, Michele, is head chef and owner of La Jolla’s Michele Coulon Dessertier, a superb spot for classic confections. Michele’s son, Nathan, is executive chef at The Ivy Hotel’s posh Quarter Kitchen.

But wait, there’s more. Cousin Anne Marie, the youngest of the crew, dabbles in savory and sweets, working at Michele’s shop while building her cooking chops on the home front.

Though extremely close-knit, it had been many years since the Coulons cooked together in a professional kitchen. That all changed Monday evening when they slipped on their clogs and fashioned an exquisite five-course meal at Quarter Kitchen. What force was powerful enough to inspire such a welcomed reunion? Four words—San Diego Beer Week.

Don has always been a fan of beer, particularly the Belgian variety. Upon retiring, he channeled much of his newfound free time into home-brewing. When the Coulons caught wind of San Diego’s 10-day craft brew celebration, it seemed a no-brainer that they should recreate the grand wine dinners that were so popular at the Belgian Lion, substituting Belgian beer for vino. A menu was drafted, the word went out and, in less than a week, the Coulon Family Belgian Beer Dinner was sold out.

Droves of friends, family, foodies and fans of the various Coulon-operated eateries descended on The Ivy. Many of them made pilgrimages to the kitchen area to say hello, relishing the opportunity to see familiar faces and catch up on old times. The feeling was mutual, but the best part of the experience for the Coulons was being around each other; especially in Nathan’s grand scale three-story kitchen, which blew his relatives away.


A quintet of desserts by Michele Coulon.
Photo by Heather Hernandez


When addressing the crowd before dinner, Don mentioned how beautiful the space was, playfully adding that the Belgian Lion had more comfortable chairs. Fortunately, there was plenty of comfort provided via lush dishes like a delicately bitter Belgian endive soup (a Belgian Lion throwback), sea bass in a Belgian ale reduction fortified with crème fraîche, beef short ribs slow-cooked in a braise of Chimay Grand Reserve trappist ale, veal stock and Dijon mustard and served with Arlene’s turnip soufflé (a Coulon family favorite).

The bevy of Belgian beers that accompanied the meal included Affligem Blond, Hoegaarden White, Duvel and a trio sour apple, peach and cassis-flavored lambics that complimented a delightful assortment of desserts, including a candied apple, almond-apricot tart and, as a nod to the good old days, a frosted lion-shaped cookie.

Three generations of Coulons converged to create one incredible meal that simultaneously celebrated their culinary past, present and future.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-814-1000
  • Name: Quarter Kitchen at The Ivy Hotel
  • Address: 600 F Street