Berkeley’s Claremont Hotel has been a beacon of elegance for decades, from service to amenities. It doesn’t lose points in food either with both Meritage (upscale) and Paragon (casual) holding down the fort, both of which are prepping for a full slate of upcoming pairing dinners.

Sean Hubbard, Food & Beverage Director at The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, is looking to expand the horizons of both the hotel, its guests and the restaurants with specialty dinners. “I am trying to plan them once a month, one at Meritage and one at Paragon. Meritage will feature a lot of wine-pairing dinners while at Paragon, it will be more focused on beers and select spirits,” Hubbard said. “But I am also careful in which distributors I select. I want to work with smaller distributors who might not be as well-known. That way, guests not only get a chance to enjoy some amazing food from Executive Chef Josh Thomsen and his team, but they also get to learn more about a particular spirit or brewery. I want it to be educational for them.”

Paragon’s next scheduled dinner is on Thursday, July 12 and features Napa-based brewery Napa Smith Brewery, along with a multi-course whole hog menu from Thomsen. “I don’t ever want to shut anyone out of the dinner but I also want to limit the number to 40-50 so each guest has a chance to talk to in this case, Master Brewer Don Barkley from Napa Smith,” Hubbard said. “Chef has gotten each of the beers that will be featured at the dinner beforehand and has been preparing different dishes to match with each selection.”

Although Thursday’s whole hog dinner is sold out, Hubbard is already working with distributors on some other future pairing dinners. “We are working with Tres on a tequila dinner featuring some of their amazing products. I have something setup with Balcones Distillery, which offers some amazingly unique whisky. I’m also hoping to do a brandy dinner with Germain-Robin from Ukiah,” he said. “My main focus at each of these dinners is to have either the distiller or brewer on hand. A company salesperson or spokesman is very knowledgeable about the product they represent. But I want our guests to hear the back stories about each of these small producers.”

It’s all part of an effort to showcase the uniqueness of the resort and both Paragon and Meritage, while also featuring some great small producers of spirits, wines and beers, all of which are part of shaping the restaurant’s bar programs.

Paragon and Meritage are located at the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa at 41 Tunnel Road in Berkeley.