Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing Co. is a powerhouse brewery, widely regarded for its sustainable business practices and big, strong beers. Think high ABV and IBU. It routinely earns the highest marks from BeerAdvocate, RateBeer and others, and according to company literature, it's one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country.

Stone was the spotlight of a five-course beer dinner ($39.99 plus tax/tip) at soon-to-be-expanding Another Pint this past Monday. (Next up, on Jan. 9, the monthly series will feature Boulder's Avery Brewing Co.) Of Stone's six brews poured (the extra being the greeting beer, the Sublimely Self Righteous black IPA), all were excellent for their respective style. With free refills of any course and a souvenir Stone pint glass included, the dinner was undoubtedly a good value, though the food at times struggled to hold up to the beer.

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Another Pint

13860 Gleneagle Drive, 481-6446, anotherpint.net

I begin with a too-dry and disparate salad that connects only through its diced apples to an awesome, herb-enhanced pumpkin and yam ale. Later, I'll pair this beer with the satisfying pumpkin cranberry goat cheese mousse dessert course and find it a better, maybe too-obvious-to-be-chosen match. A super-rare 11/11/11 Vertical Epic chile beer slightly sours with the mousse, perhaps deserving the wild boar or veal and meatball courses more. Blue cheese enhancements were the redeeming aspects of each of those.

Mussels in a habañero tomato sauce paired with the first of three Arrogant Bastard versions — regular, oaked and double; fun to differentiate, but repetitive to comprise half the menu — make for the best course and pairing. I respect the gourmet ambition, but Another Pint needs to play to its culinary strengths. Something fried would have been perfectly apropos. — Matthew Schniper

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China Café

2761 Briargate Blvd., 260-1111

The most charitable thing to be said for my Kung Pao chicken ($9.49) at the tiny corner restaurant known as China Café is that there is a lot of it. Also, I guess some of the vegetables aren't too bad — crunchy green bell peppers and decent water chestnuts — but lifeless slices of carrot and bamboo shoots, and dead Japones peppers with none of their feared bite, are painful to eat, especially with the mushy chicken.

Most of the sides disappoint, as well. Bland, brown-colored fried rice apparently leaves behind any egg, onion, carrot or garlic in the kitchen, while a trio of skinny, over-fried egg rolls ($3.29) proves that not everything hot oil touches turns to culinary gold. Only a thick, chicken-packing hot and sour soup offers any comfort in the cold. — Bryce Crawford

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Buttercup's Frozen Yogurt

27 S. Tejon St., #110, 635-6666, buttercupsfroyo.com

Month-old Buttercup's distinguishes itself from most self-serve fro-yo spots by sourcing its yogurt locally. Boulder-based Yoki Bliss uses real ingredients (peanut butter itself versus a flavoring, for example) and beet sugar instead of corn syrups and the like. The true flavors come through, even in sweet seasonals like pumpkin spice, gingerbread and eggnog (42 cents per ounce, like all 16 flavors).

Blending flavors can create highlights: for instance, a Pumpkin Cheesecake constructed out of the pumpkin spice and New York cheesecake flavors, and a Cookies & 'Nog, fusing the gingerbread and eggnog. I leave mine sans toppings to enjoy the pleasant flavors more cleanly, but I do take co-owner Joshua Mitchell's suggestion to add a little honey drizzle as garnish. Three words: pure holiday excellence. — Matthew Schniper


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