Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

April 20, 2015 at 3:15pm

Publisher Ron Swarner retires from the newspaper business

My Macintosh and I launch into the newspaper business.

It's been a daunting task. How do I cram 29 years of journalism - 29 years of life - into a farewell column? Luckily, there's a lot to draw on. The boxes and file cabinets and towering piles of pulp that I have been digging through the past few months provide ample evidence of what I've accomplished.

"I can feel my lifetime piling up," Talking Heads' David Byrne sang about 23 years ago. That's certainly how I feel after turning every page of approximately 1,450 issues of Choices Entertainment Weekly, Tacoma City Paper and the Weekly Volcano. That doesn't take into account all the special sections over the years and the last two years of editing The Ranger and Northwest Airlifter. But as the memories surged and the musty, old papers yielded their treasures (and embarrassments), I was struck by the vitality and the spirit of the work. The great thing about my job - from copy boy, sales representative, marketing director, art director, webmaster, editor, publisher and newspaper delivery guy - it's a new paper every week.

After the Weekly Volcano ended its run as an alternative newsweekly in April 2013, I knew that any given edition could be my last. To fault, my passion to captain weekly newspapers diminished, which has been evident on our blogs the last two years. My beer column, New Beer Column, consumes my thoughts and passion. I stopped exploring new band nights. I haven't been on the Tacoma Art Bus in months. The company and the audience don't deserve a restless writer, editor and co-publisher.

So, beginning today, I'm retiring from the newspaper business.

I'm leaving with my head held high, though. We were the first desktop publishing operation in the South Sound; my newspapers documented the rise of several local music scenes (the early '90s were exhilarating); I created two alternative newsweeklies, awesome Best of Tacoma and Olympia issues (including one in 3-D); invented Tacoma Restaurant Week and Olympia Restaurant Week; launched seven March Madness food tournaments; ran a foodie club for two years; sponsored more than 200 events including Tacoma Arts Month, Tacoma Art Bus, Tacoma Farmers Market, Tacoma Craft Beer Festival, Music & Art in wright Park, Urban Art Festival, Showcase Tacoma, Freedom Fair, Olympia Film Festival, Tacoma Film Festival, Art on the Ave, Tacoma Maritime Festival, Hotrod-A-Rama, Downtown Block Party, Squeak and Squawk Music Festival, Olympia Music Awards, Old Town Blues Festival, Tacoma Jazz Festival, South Sound Blues Association, Dockyard Derby Dames, Tacoma Prom; and ran the music stage at the Franciscan Polar Plaza ice rink (thanks Tacoma Art Museum!) as well as nabbed a few awards along the way, including the AMOCAT Arts Award, Go Local Community Stewardship and 25@25 City Club honor. Most importantly, the writers and I kept our fingers on the pulse of the South Sound, and we liked to think we made a difference in our community.

So what do you say after all this time? There is so much I want to say. How do you sum up a lifetime of work (and typos) and pouring your heart (and demented mind) onto paper and computer to share it with other people? Do you write something profound? I have been thinking about this for a while. And here is my answer.

Thank you. Thank you to all the wonderful people I worked with through all the many years. Instead of writing 3,000 words on what this place has meant to me over the years and the myriad of people I'd like to thank, I'm going to sit down with my staff - past and present - the supporting businesses and organizations, my parents (thank you!), family and my dear friends and express my gratitude.

And thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the readers who have stuck it out with me, and by me I mean Bobble Tiki, Suzy Stump, Brad Allen, Jason de Paul, Volcano Staff and all my other pseudonyms.

Thanks most of all and always to my wife, Kate, and daughter, Asa. They are my life.

Thanks to everyone again for among the most incredible experiences of my life. I'm babbling now.

As for Swarner Communications, it's not going anywhere but up. My brother and co-publisher, Ken, has big plans. I wish him and the company the best.

My plans? I'm not 100 percent sure. I do know I'll redirect my passion for beer and the outdoors into a hobby at peaksandpints.com. Drop by and say, "hi."

Wife: "How do you feel right now as this ends?"

A little heavyhearted for sure.

But most of all, this is what I feel.

Twenty-nine years.

Not a bad run.

Not a bad run at all.

Ron Swarner

April 20, 2015 at 2:51pm

Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. expands production, hires Andy Kenser

Steve Navarro brewing at Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. in downtown Tacoma. Courtesy photo

Some historians estimate that man has been brewing beer for more than 8,000 years. Anthropologists have even speculated that bearded Neolithic man made the transition from a nomadic to sedentary existence in order to cultivate grain for brewing beer. The beer served as an important nutritional supplement to an otherwise limited plant-heavy diet.

In 1840, archeologists digging up ancient Sumeria (present-day Iran) found clay tablets dating back 5,000 years that are inscribed with representations of brewing activity. From the tablets, we learned that these ancient cultures used beer as a dietary staple before bread was discovered. Their beer consisted of water, barley and flavorings.

Not as ancient, but certainly well bearded, man has been brewing beer in Tacoma since the late 1800s. In 1897, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. was established in downtown Tacoma and grew to become the second largest brewery in Washington state, until shut down by Prohibition in 1916.

Last September, head brewer Steve Navarro and financial businessman Brent Hall reopened Pacific Brewing and Malting Co., not in Tacoma's old brewery district near 25th and Jefferson, but rather down the street in the lower level of the historic Old City Hall Annex Building on Pacific Avenue, near the corner of South Seventh Street.

Even before trying a single beer, one can't help but be drawn to the photographic evidence of Pacific Brewing's history adorning the taproom walls of the new brewery. During a recent visit, I wasn't the only one taking photos of the photos.

But what are not as evident are the changes Pacific Brewing has undergone in recent weeks. Navarro and company have increased production capacity and hired veteran beverage sales rep Andy Kenser to distribute product to restaurants and bars - freeing up Navarro's time to concentrate on brewing beer, which is vital with the recent departure of assistant brewer Bethany Carlsen to the head brewer job at Gig Harbor Brewing Company.

"We doubled our capacity," Navarro told me as we strolled the halls of the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland during last week's Craft Brewers Conference. "We opened the brewery with four 7-barrel fermenter tanks and we just bought two 15-barrel fermenters, so we went from producing twenty-eight barrels to fifty-eight barrels. With Andy coming on, we'll be brewing more beer."

Kenser comes to Pacific Brewing & Malting from Click Wholesale Distributing where he represented hundreds of brands, including Dogfish Head and Bear Republic. Kenser started his career at Pike Brewing Company, moved to Harmon Brewing Company where he was assistant brewer, and eventually became a head brewer for RAM Restaurant and Brewery.

"Andy is my neighbor in the North Slope of Tacoma. He'd come into Pacific Brewing from time to time and really enjoyed the beer," Navarro said. "I knew we were increasing production and I simply couldn't do it all anymore - brewing, selling, delivering. I needed someone to rep our beer so I could focus on brewing. So I gave Andy a call. He's the perfect fit. Andy is well known and liked in the industry. And he's a brewer. He is going to help take us to the next level."

While Kenser will travel Washington state spreading the Pacific Brewing brand, the next level is actually firmly planted in Tacoma. Navarro and Kenser will focus heavily on saturating Tacoma with their 1897 Pale Lager, Dirty Skoog IPA, Citra Pale Ale and Grit City Porter, as well as their seasonals and specialty brews. They want to be Tacoma's beer. They want the Pacific handle to be in all four corners of the city.

As 12,000 brewers from around the world squeezed by us, Navarro and I discussed the brewery's history and success on Facebook. His historical posts drew thousands to his page well before he opened his big doors to Pacific Avenue.

"Our one-hundred-year-old history sparked more interest than we could ever imagine," Navarro explained. "Thankfully, we have been able to back it up with beers that people enjoy."

There are more beers on the way, too.

"We're coming out with a red amber called Red Front," he said. "Back in the day, Pacific Brewing had ownership interests in dozens and dozens of bars in Tacoma. They all sold Pacific beer. During Prohibition, they had to divest all their interests. One of those bars was called Red Front."

He's also brewing another IPA as part of his seven IPA series. This one will be low bitter and all-aroma, made with Amarillo and Simcoe hops. A hoppy Pilsner will follow the IPA release.

Pacific Brewing will begin bottling in May.

PACIFIC BREWING & MALTING CO., taproom open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.BEER

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

April 20, 2015 at 10:14am

Eat This Now: The Hoffa

Find The Hoffa at The Valley down the street from the Tacoma Dome. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

It's not often I get out of the house from some grown up shenanigans but after their domination of the Slider Cook-Off at the Museum of Glass, I finally HAD to check out The Valley. Naturally I was not disappointed. I'm a huge fan of Valley co-owners Rob and Justin Peterson's sister restaurant, Eleven Eleven on Hilltop Tacoma. Also, X Group partnered with the Petersons on The Valley, and I find the X-Group's friendly takeover of the Tacoma dining scene refreshing because each concept is unique from the next so a partnership between the two is culinary rock stardom and you can consider me a groupie.

On my visit we tried a few items with my favorite being The Hoffa ($9.49). This sandwich is a matrimony made in heaven with marinara, spicy Italian link sausage, mozzarella cheese, onions, peppers and pesto all served up hot on a French roll. All of the components are perfection making this sandwich a spicy, meaty, cheesy success. Served with a side salad or Tim's Cascade Chips the sandwich is quite filling and fun because this ain't yo mama's meatball sub.

I suspect all of their sandwiches to deliver the goods and highly suggest the Bacon Gorgonzola dip to start.

Pair it all with a cold brew or cocktail and the kitschy laid back ambiance and you have yourself a Tacoma gem that's located on the path a little less traveled. 

THE VALLEY, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, 1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.428.4265.

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

April 13, 2015 at 3:16pm

Wingman Brewers celebrates four years in Tacoma

Wingman Brewers head brewer Ken Thoburn will be behind the bar during the Tacoma brewery's fourth anniversary celebration. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Technically, Wingman Brewers produced its first batch of beer in 2007. "The first batch of beer I ever made was a five gallon batch of beer with my fellow Wingman Derrick Moyer.  We got the itch for brewing then and opened our business with a one barrel of 31-gallon batch of beer in April of 2011 with a party at The Red Hot," remembers Wingman head brewer and co-founder Ken Thoburn.  Friends and Tacoma natives Thoburn, Moyer, Daniel Heath and Jason Sabol launched the then Tacoma small-batch brewery. The brewery's name and image is homage to Thoburn's grandfather, an artist who served in World War II in the Pacific, and painted the sides of fighter planes when he could. Today, Thoburn, Moyer and Heath pilot the business.

Now four years after their takeoff, Thoburn still walks into his brewery with a smile. "My life has changed dramatically. I love my job for the first time in my life and that goes a long way," say Thoburn. "Even on the worst of days I still count myself lucky that I get to do what I love."

Wingman Brewers has produced iconic beers with aviation names such as ACE IPA, Stratofortress Belgian Strong Ale and P-51 Porter.

"We make a whole lot of Ace IPA and P-51 Porter," says Thoburn. "The Porter takes up the most production because aside from making the normal P-51 Porter we also do a large amount of Coconut P-51 and added Peanut Butter Cup P-51 this year.  It feels like I'm making P-51 nearly every week." 

But over the past four years, Thoburn has developed a startling number of different beers. By his count, he's designed more than 90 different brews or variations.

What has been the biggest challenge since opening? 

"Day-to-day business operations are challenging," says Thoburn. "Neither my business partner, Daniel, nor I had a huge amount of business ownership experience previous to opening Wingman Brewers so it's been and continues to be a heck of a learning process."

Currently, Wingman can't keep up with the demand for their beers. They could be selling many more beers, according to Thoburn.

"Our main issues have stemmed from production and distribution," he explains. "We continue to expand our business as quickly and safely as we can, though, so hopefully we will be able to get our beer to more people soon."

Wingman's strategic agility plans calls for an expansion of their beer production, distribution and retail space.

"In what order and how quickly depends on a number of variables," adds Thoburn. "We're just trying to stay flexible and enjoy the process as much as possible. We're very grateful for all the support from local businesses that we've had and we feel very lucky to have such great beer drinkers out there enjoying our product."

And, there's plenty to enjoy Saturday when Wingman Brewers opens the hangar doors for their "Here's To 4 in 253" four-year anniversary party. Lizzie Lou's Comfort Foodtruck, special glassware and plenty of beer are on the docket.

The taplist will be as follows:

  • Ace IPA;
  • P-51 Porter;
  • Peanut Butter Cup Porter;
  • Coconut P-51 Porter;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Old Plank Pils;
  • 2014 Bourbon Barrel Aged Stratofortress;
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Baby Flat Top;
  • 2014 Vintage Sour Brett Berliner Weisse; 
  • Madagascar Vanilla Bean & Raisin BBFT;
  • Red Hot Chili Pepper Ace IPA;
  • and more.

Wingman will also have bottles of: 

  • Bourbon Barrel Big Baby Flat Top;
  • Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Peanut Butter Cup P-51 Porter;
  • Chocolate Fortress; 
  • and more.

WINGMAN BREWERS "HERE'S TO 4 IN THE 253" FOURTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, noon to close, Saturday, April 18, Wingman Brewers, 509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.256.5240

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

April 13, 2015 at 11:18am

Eat This Now: Carbonara

A Carbonara with housemade vermicelli now graces the menu at Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge in Tacoma. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

While innovation is often times key to culinary brilliance, sometimes one just needs to go back to the basics to concoct a truly divine dining experience. My Eat This Now recommendation this week is one such dish that can be found at Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge as of Thursday, one of many new items to be included on their seasonal menu transition, the Carbonara.

Chef Slater keeps things nice and traditional with housemade vermicelli pasta tossed with bacon, English peas, Adam's shitake mushrooms, fresh arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, then topped with a perfectly poached egg. The peas and peppery arugula add pops of green that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also delicious - while the bacon lends a nice smokiness that compliments the cheese. I think anyone's Nona would agree that this is a carbonara well executed.

Aside from the spring flavors being added to the menu, Maxwell's is also anticipating other big changes on the horizon, such as new ownership. Beti Tarantino has applied for permits for the establishment. Local folks may remember the name Tarantino from her previous culinary ventures as owner/operator of Puyallup dining destinations BAR Steaks and Spirits and Comfort Food Café.

Will the new ownership equate to a revamp to Maxwell's ambiance and menu? Only time will tell, but I for one hope Chef Slater still has the opportunity to continue highlighting his culinary prowess with dishes like this week's feature.

MAXWELL'S RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE, 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday, 454 Saint Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.683.4115

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

April 10, 2015 at 4:18pm

Redhook Brewery introduces retro-style ESB design and new 16-ounce can

Redhook is like a hip uncle you enjoy hanging out with. Courtesy photo

Last Friday, Redhook Brewery tour guide and comedian Ben led me through Redhook's Woodinville plant and many beers. We chatted about my first Ballard Bitter in 1984, Redhook's innovative brewer Nick Crandall's pilot brew program, the brewery's history and one too many pirate jokes. If you've never toured the brewery, I highly recommend it.

Afterward, over a giant plate of nachos in their adjacent Forecasters Pub, Redhook retail supervisor, quality control taster and all-around cool person Valerie Hackett gave updates on Redhook's National Climate Declaration to reduce emissions, their partnership with Carl's Jr. to produced the Redhook Beer Battered Cod Fish Sandwich, the brewery's recent hiring of ad agency Duncan Channon and Redhook's desire to get back to their roots, with retro bottle and can releases and beer release parties.

Redhook took another step toward their goal with this news today. ...

Redhook Brewery, a Seattle staple since 1981, is unveiling a retro-style ESB design (Extra Special Bitter) today to pay homage to their brewing history in the Seattle. The throwback design will be featured on both bottle packaging as well as on a new 16 oz. can also introduced today. Both packages are available only in the Northwest.

As one of Redhook's original beers, ESB helped establish the craft brew landscape in Seattle in 1984, and remains one of the most-recognized in the brewery's portfolio. Brewed in the style of a traditional British Extra Special Bitter, Redhook ESB is distinguished by its balance of caramel malt sweetness and spicy, citrusy hops, making it a favorite among beer lovers for more than three decades.

A lot has changed in Seattle over that time, but ESB has continued to stay true. Said Redhook Brand Manager Karmen Olson, "Redhook has grown beyond what Paul Shipman, Gordon Bowker and those of us who grew up in Washington in the 80s and 90s could ever have imagined, and we wanted to reflect on the past and recognize the important role it played in Seattle's history. As the ‘Granddaddy of Craft,' ESB is a huge part of Redhook's Northwest heritage, and giving it a throwback design is one way to pay tribute to those roots."

12-oz bottles and 16-oz cans will each be available at on- and off-premise accounts in the Northwest. ABV 5.8%; IBUs 28

The Redhook ESB Retro campaign will include regional #TBT scavenger hunts, pop-up retro fitted vending machine (near the original brewery), presence at local sporting events, Washington State ferries and more.

Yes please!

Filed under: New Beer Column,

April 8, 2015 at 11:55am

Eat This Now: Totchos

Smoke + Cedar's Totchos are crazy delicious. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

Did you know top dog on the list of most consumed vegetables in the United States is the potato? Really, it's no wonder. Its far less versatile and less tasty companion, iceberg lettuce, follows it. Anyhow, the potato is a clear winner because it comes in so many different forms: fry, jojo (the seasoned chunky fry cousin), scalloped, browned hash, diced and peppered, mashed and whipped and my personal favorite, the tot. Golden brown on the outside and tender bitty tater bits on the inside formed in a funky silhouette, the tater tot can itself be presented on many different and delicious platforms, such as tater tot nachos.

Smoke + Cedar's Totchos ($7/$10) are tops. Boy howdy, they know how to do things right at that joint. Smoke + Cedar presents the tot-nachos with golden brown tots covered with evenly distributed pepper jack cheese and sour cream, little black beans peeking through ooey gooey cheese windows throughout all topped off with a chunky spicy salsa and jalapeno.

I recommend diving into the Totchos with a fork for cheese twirling; otherwise you're sitting rail side with telling ribbons of cheesy goodness leading from the skillet to your mouth. And while tasty, that's not a good look for anyone.

Go forth, Eat This Now, because Tots + Nachos = a happy belly.

SMOKE + CEDAR, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2013 S. Cedar, Tacoma, 253.343.6090

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

April 7, 2015 at 10:37am

Top Rung Brewing Company celebrates their first anniversary, releases new beers

Top Run Brewing celebrates their first anniversary April 10-12, 2014. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Lacey, Washington is still hugging it out with Top Rung Brewing Co. A year ago, Thurston County firefighters Casey Sobol and Jason Stoltz opened their brewery in Lacey's Hawks Prairie neighborhood.

Over the course of the year, the brewery released 11 beers from their initial three - Hosechaser, Irons IPA and Scout Stout - launched Thirsty Thursday Randall nights (my favorite is their My Dog Scout Stout run through coffee beans and chocolate nibs), hired sales representative "Brew Dad" Mike Besser that resulted in wider distribution, began bottling their beers, increased their taproom hours and launched a discount program for their "family" of service members - fellow firefighters, police officers and the military. The career firefighters - 21 years for Sobol and eight for Stoltz - celebrate their first year in business beginning Friday, although they began scheming in 2011. It became real when the duo's Hosechaser Blonde grabbed the Dick's Brewing "Beer for a Cure" homebrewing contest top prize in 2012 - and they began to shadow Dick's brewer Parker Penley.

Today, Top Rung is a 10-barrel production brewery with a large, firefighting-theme, family-friendly tasting room at the brewery.

Top Rung has titled their one-year anniversary celebration "Beerbalation," running April 10-12.

Friday, April 10, Stoltz will release his first bourbon barrel-aged beer - Bourbon Barrel Aged Pyrolysis Imperial Stout. Expect dark and malty flavors with notes of coffee and chocolate boosted with a smooth bourbon finish.

Saturday, Stoltz releases two more Top Rung beers. Part of their pilot batch series - a tasting room only program - the Flashover Red is a derivative of their 360 Red Ale, but with the kick of serrano, anaheim, jalapeno and habanero peppers balanced with vanilla bean and oak chips. "This beer was designed to provide a beer with a good pepper aroma upfront with some subtle heat in the back," according to Sobol. Stoltz will also release their seasonal Good Jake Cascadian Dark Ale with a big dark, malty and hoppy aroma and hints of coffee and chocolate notes throughout.

Top Rung Brewing's Beerbalation will run 2-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.They'll have a special commemorative glasses available for $7.50 each, while supplies last.

TOP RUNG BREWING COMPANY, 8343 Hogum Bay Lane NE, Suite B, Lacey, 360.239.3043

Filed under: New Beer Column, Lacey,

April 7, 2015 at 7:25am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Champion crowned

Boathouse 19 of Tacoma won the 2015 Weekly Volcano Tournament of Mac and Cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

After three weeks of voting the Weekly Volcano readers have picked the most popular mac and cheese joint in the South Sound.

Yesterday's Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship matched the romantic downtown Tacoma spot Over The Moon Cafe against the Narrows waterfront restaurant Boathouse 19. It was a battle that saw elbow-to-elbow online voting before dinnertime (5 p.m.) of the tournament, and then switched to the live ballot voting at 6 p.m. during the Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party at McNamara's Pub and Eatery in DuPont. At the party, folks filled out mac and cheese voting ballots when they weren't pounding beers and screaming at the televisions. The mac and cheese voting couldn't help but take a backseat to the tight NCAA Men's Championship hoop game in which there were 16 lead changes, five ties and enough tension and pressure to choke on an elbow macaroni. In the end, however, Duke had the answer for every Wisconsin run and won 68-63, capturing their fifth national title in the program's history.

A large representation from Boathouse 19 were in the house, and were treated, as was the whole house, to two complimentary mac and cheese dishes, thanks to McNamara's Pub and Eatery.

Just like the previous five Weekly Volcano food tournaments, we tallied the in-house votes during the first half of the hoop game, and then added them to the day's online votes. The winner ended up with 65 percent of the online vote as well as secured a two-to-one vote ratio at McNamara's. At halftime, Weekly Volcano co-publisher Ken Swarner handed out raffle prizes, then announced the Tournament of Mac and Cheese winner:

Boathouse 19.

Both Tacoma mac and cheese joints will be receiving Tournament of Mac and Cheese trophies after completion of the engraving. Also, look for a feature on the Boathouse 19 in the April 16th of the Weekly Volcano.

So it's official: Boathouse 19 is the winner of Weekly Volcano's 2015 Tournament of Mac and Cheese. Eat it up, South Sound.

Thank you!

We would like to extend special THANKS! to BITE Restaurant and Bar at the Hotel Murano for sponsoring the Tournament of Mac and Cheese. The modern restaurant made it to the Final Four before falling to Over The Moon Cafe. BITE serves a damn tasty truffle mac and cheese.

Also a big thanks to McNamara's Pub and Eatery in DuPont for hosting our Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party last night. Good times.

But, most of all, thanks to all the awesome folks who voted. You rock.

April 6, 2015 at 7:54am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Final vote and tonight's party

The Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship game is on!

MONDAY, APRIL 6: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME >>>

The titanic mac and cheese throwdown finale in on! Voting for the 2015 Weekly Volcano Tournament of Mac and Cheese Readers' Poll Championship Game is live.

After three weeks of voting, you have picked the most popular mac and cheese joints in the South Sound area. What began as 64 elbow-slinging joints has been narrowed down to two: Over The Moon Cafe and Boathouse 19. Online voting will end at 5 p.m.

At 6 p.m. we'll hand out mac and cheese voting ballots at our Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party inside McNamara's Pub and Eatery, 1595 Wilmington Dr., in DuPont. McNamara's will be broadcasting the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game on all its screens. Throughout the first half of the game we'll be handing our mac and cheese voting ballots for a final push of voting. At half time of the hoop game, we'll announce the winner of the 2015 Tournament of Mac and Cheese. Then there will be much rejoicing.

The daily mac and cheese battles here on Served in the South Sound are sponsored by BITE Restaurant & Bar inside the Hotel Murano.

Welcome to the big elbow and cheese dance.

Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game

Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma) vs. Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma)

Using penne pasta, Over the Moon Cafe takes the classic mac and cheese dish beyond comfort food. The base of rich cream sauce and Gruyere cheese has seen many co-stars over the years. You might remember fresh Roma tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts and sliced Portobello mushrooms, or huge chunks of butternut Squash, sage, sautéed shallots folded into a gorgeous, creamy sauce that isn't slick with grease, but accented with stringy Gruyere cheese. Topped with housemade croutons and Parmesan, Over the Moon Café's mac and cheese is a task to finish due to its size and richness.

Boathouse 19 serves elbow macaroni bathed in silky, three-cheesy goodness and served in a cast-iron pan. Maybe the secret to this mac and cheese greatness is the caramelized onion and huge chunks of ham. Maybe it's the thick blanket of panko, that is the perfect contrast rather than steel the show. Maybe it's the dish's fine balance of being cheesy and not cheesy, creamy but not creamy. No need to twist. No need for a spoon. Pepper jack, American and cheddar, blended all together.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE

Again, online voting will end at 5 p.m. Voting will resume at 6 p.m. live at the Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party at McNamara's Pub and Eatery in DuPont.

Thanks again for voting.

About this blog

Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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Recent Comments

Angela Whitten said:

Any Spring beers? www.myharmonyphotography.com

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RR Anderson said:

thanks for the cartoon drawing opportunities ! Good luck sir

about Publisher Ron Swarner retires from the newspaper business

Thomas Duke said:

Ron! Well done my friend. Well done. Until next time...Thomas

about Publisher Ron Swarner retires from the newspaper business

Del Brown said:

Thank you for everything, congratulations on your new adventures!

about Publisher Ron Swarner retires from the newspaper business

Audrey Henley said:

Ron, thank you for the years of support to the Olympia Film Society and the shows at the Capitol...

about Publisher Ron Swarner retires from the newspaper business