Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

November 21, 2014 at 11:04am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Half Pint Pizza Pub

Half Pint Pizza Pub in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood pays tribute to the famous "Pasteurized Recipe Cheese Product" in its mac and cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Macaroni and cheese seems simple enough - the ingredients are listed in the name of the dish. However, as I have discovered over the last eight months, the varieties are endless.

Depending upon the pasta, cheese and toppings, it can have a gourmet, beer, Southern, Mexican or Texan spin. The dish goes with everything from bacon to lobster and truffles. Even the crust can vary - croutons or breadcrumbs can add exciting flavors, as well as a textural crunch, to the cheesy goodness.

At its core, two schools of macaroni-and-cheese philosophy exist: the artisanal, gorgonzola-gruyere-gouda kind and the one devoted to the blue box. This week's mac and cheese dish tips toward the box.

The Half Pint Pizza Pub, formerly Medi's, is a small, red sauce Italian pasta and pizza joint in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Check that; it's a red sauce Italian pasta, pizza and craft beer joint. You can't miss the chalkboard proudly listing craft brews, including several local breweries. Half Pint's mac and cheese version fills a small, cast-iron skillet with small elbow noodles bathing in a bubbling, creamy Velveeta (a nearly 100-year-old Frankencheeese) and heavy whip sauce, freckled with tiny nubs of croutons. Two perfectly toasted garlic bread slices and a tiny cup of tangy marinara sauce were welcomed sidekicks. The small size makes a nice lunch.

Gooey and good, and no doubt artery clogging, may I suggest you can wash down this cheesy morsel with a pine-y and strongly bitter Breakside IPA, which, like all beers, is only $3 on Thursdays.

HALP PINT PIZZA PUB, 2710 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.2531

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

November 19, 2014 at 11:19am

Beer Here: Hop Valley Brewing, The Red Hot vs Japan, Hops For Hope, dark beers, Harmon beer dinner ...

Rob Brunsman chats up Hop Valley brewing at Pint Defiance tonight. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

October has the German celebration of beer. November has the American feast to end all feasts. If only there was a way to merge the two months into one long, gluttonous season. Octember might be a figment of my imagination, but Novem-Beer isn't. Drink up South Sound. ...

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 19

Lane County, Oregon, is in a yeasty beer boom. Whiteaker, Oakshire, Ninkasi, Plank Town, Viking Braggot, Claim 52, Falling Sky and Hop Valley Brewing Co. are just a few of the breweries keeping Eugene and Springfield on a constant beer run. Pint Defiance Specialty Beers & Taproom picked Hop Valley from the notable beer region for a night of beers and prizes from 5-7 p.m. Eugene native and brewmaster Trevor Howard opened Hop Valley Brewing Friday, Feb. 13, 2009. Indeed, he and his father, Ron Howard, Jonas Kungys and Chuck Hare chose Friday the 13th. Good luck has only come their way, as Hop Valley has undergone incredible growth. The growth should continue as Hop Valley hired Rob Brunsman, the funniest man in beer, to rep Washington state. Join Brunsman for such Hop Valley brews as Alphadelic IPA, Double-D Blonde, Mistress of the Dark Black IPA and Smokin' Porter.

Japan's Kiuchi Brewery was established in 1823 as a sake brewery. In 1996, they began brewing beer under the Hitachino Nest label, and have since produced a range of well-regarded, tasty beers. Their White Ale, a wheat beer spiced with coriander and curacao orange peel in the Belgian style, is top notch, and certainly on par with the best Belgian representatives of this classic style. The Red Hot offers a flight of four Hitachino beers today.

Iron Horse Brewery - the Ellensburg, Washington, brewery that loves to party - will bring a bunch of beer and schwag to The Swiss from 6-9 p.m.

Puyallup River Alehouse hosts North Coast Brewing Company out of Fort Bragg, California, for a night of Blue Star Wheat Beer, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Acme California IPA and other brews, plus schwag giveaways from 6-9 p.m.

McMenamins Spar Café celebrates the Terminator Stout's 29th birthday with $3 pints all day. Expect Terminator floats and chili dogs, too.

THURSDAY, NOV. 20

Over by Pacific Lutheran University, beer geek Erick Swenson will offer a German beer sampler at 208 Garfield for $6 a person, beginning at 6 p.m. 

Top Rung Brewing will run its Trashed Pumpkin through a Randall loaded with coffee beans.

Narrows Brewing Co. hosts Hops For Hope, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Grab a pint of the new Turkish Coffee Stout from 6-9 p.m. and maybe your raffle ticket will land you a prize.

FRIDAY, NOV. 21

The Copper Door hosts a Movember fundraiser beginning at 6 p.m. For every pint sold, a dollar will be earmarked for The Movember Foundation to fight prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health issues. Expect a raffle with Movember schwag.

Gig Harbor icon Finholm's Market and Grocery will host Narrows Brewing Co. for a brewer's night from 5-7 p.m.

SATURDAY, NOV. 22

Wingman Brewers knows you need a malty, roasty, chocolatey barrel-aged hug - the warmest snuggle-buddy in all the land - during these cold times. In celebration of their Stratofortress and Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress Belgian Strong Dark Ale style beer releases, Wingman has created a mini festival of darkness and deliverance. In addition to Team Stratofortress, and hauling out its other dark beer goodness, Wingman has invited a few fellow winter beers - some equally dark and strong as the Stratofortresses. Wingman calls the event Denizens of the Dark. From 2-11 p.m. the Tacoma Brewery will offer dark ones: Stratofortress, Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress, Jack' o Fortress, Chocofortress, Bourbon Barrel Big Baby Flat Top, Bourbon Barrel P-51 Porter, Oak Aged Heavy Bevvy Scotch Ale, 2013 Stratofortress (limited bottle release) as well as Lost Abbey Bourbon Angels Share, Alesmith Speedway Stout, 2013 Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, 2013 The Bruery 6 Geese-A-Laying, Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist, North Coast Old Stock, Pelican Barrel Aged Poire and 2013 Scaldis Noel. Seven bucks scores you a commemorative Cthulhu snifter and your first pour.

TUESDAY, NOV. 25

As one of the lucky few who can claim every meal eaten out as a tax deduction, I don't have much incentive to spend time in the kitchen. Even the prospect of guests to impress doesn't tempt me to start cooking, since I'm acutely aware of how many more talented epicureans are practicing their art in the South Sound, including Bar Bistro's executive Chef Jason Blessum. Bar Bistro hosts a five-course beer-pairing dinner with the Harmon Brewing Co. For $35, you'll receive an ahi crostini with a Hop ‘N Rye beer cocktail, braised pork belly with the Black Tartan CDA, pork tenderloin with the new Fall Ball Imperial Red and other treats, beginning at 6 p.m. Reserve your space at 253.537.3655.

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 26

For some, the night before Thanksgiving can be a greater cause for celebration than the holiday itself - an opportunity to return to the old stomping grounds, imbibe oneself with threatening amounts of beer and play catch-up with some forlorn acquaintances. The Puyallup River Alehouse provides the venue. Widmer Brothers provides the beer ... and some raffle prizes ... from 6-9 p.m.

November 19, 2014 at 10:25am

Eat This Now: The Ensemble

B Sharp Coffee House in downtown Tacoma serves a grown-up toasted cheese sandwich. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

I am a mother of four - four monstrous little beasts who treat the home like it's a bounce house redesigning my living room to look like Dorothy's house - Land of Oz version. This, needless to say, affects my eating habits. More often than not, I'm forced to eat like a 5-year-old, or a teenager, though the two are nearly identical in habit. You'd think upon the rare occasion I sneak out of my residence from the strong grasps of those sweet little snot nosed animals I would eat deconstructed reconstructed grown-up food. Enter winter's chill. During these chilly, crisp days comfort food is my go to - sometimes this means eating similarly to that I do at my Dorothy house. Read: The Ensemble.

B Sharp Coffee House serves The Ensemble ($8) - essentially a grown-up grilled cheese with provolone, pepper jack and cheddar cheeses embellished with just a touch of pesto sandwiched and toasted between two slices of Macrina Bakery Bread (always a favorite of mine). It's cheesy, ooey-gooey and makes for a happy belly. It's a satisfying meal perfect to nosh upon while typing away on the laptop ... right ... this ... moment. Great. My laptop keys are already greasy from those little Munchkins I call my offspring.

B SHARP COFFEE HOUSE, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, 706 Court C, Tacoma, 253.292.9969

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

November 17, 2014 at 5:02pm

TWOKOI Japanese Restaurant forced to temporarily close

17th Street in downtown Tacoma to undergo major construction, city's sake supply cut in half.

I stared at the message: TWOKOI is closing. My stomach turned, and my eyes watered. It wasn't until I approached the message a third time that "temporary" registered.

TWOKOI Japanese Restaurant is forced to temporarily close due to the construction improvements to 17th Street outside the restaurant's huge windows. According to the city of Tacoma Construction Projects website, "The University of Washington Tacoma has expressed a desire to re-align South 17th Street into a continuous Street and to reconfigure the intersections at South 17th/Broadway/Jefferson and South 17th/Commerce/Jefferson. This work will include a new rock wall on the north side of South 17th Street between Commerce and Broadway; new ADA ramps at both intersections; curb, gutter, sidewalk; a grind and overlay of Jefferson between South 19th and South 17th and a road section on South 17th between Commerce and the west side of Broadway. This project will also include some utility upgrades."

TWOKOI management, although scared to death, will take advantage of the downtime to make improvement to the Japanese restaurant.

The restaurant will close Nov. 27, and according to TWOKOI management, remain closed until probably May 2015.

The website will remain live, where updates will be posted.

Bye-bye best sake collection in the South Sound.

Filed under: Open and Shut Cases, Tacoma,

November 17, 2014 at 12:41pm

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with Jessica Nicoletti of King Solomon's Reef

Jessica Nicoletti serves delicious milkshakes at King Solomon's Reef in downtown Olympia. Photo credit: Nikki McCoy

Every week we swap out the Served banner art above, introducing you to the people who serve food and drinks in the South Sound. This week, meet Jessica Nicoletti.

Server Banner Girl, Nov. 17-23, 2014

Jessica Nicoletti

King Solomon's Reef in downtown Olympia re-opened in May 2012. After two fires and 15 months of restoration, the Reef's curse has turned into a blessing. The inside is immaculate. In the restaurant, the original booths are refinished to a smooth charcoal vinyl. The ceiling is pressed tin for a fascinating pattern. The wood paneling has been recreated. Everything is ship-shape, yet you can feel the nostalgia the building holds. The bar is still swanky, too. On the food side, the self-proclaimed "Best Diner in the Galaxy" serves favorites such as a delicious Monte Carlo, the Pac Man breakfast sandwich, fried chicken and waffles, homemade sausage and amazing housemade pies. Leading the charge are the coolest kids in town, including server Jessica Nicoletti.

Why do you serve?
"I have been in the service industry since I was about 13 years old - making milkshakes and sundaes in a tiny, stand-alone hamburger joint in a very small town in Wisconsin. It has always been a part of my life and I can honestly say I genuinely enjoy what I do. It is very rewarding to serve in such a centrally located spot in our quirky and lovable community."

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?
"I have some really amazing friends working downtown and picking just one is difficult! I really love Danielle Ruse at The Brotherhood and her drink knowledge blows my mind. Watching her bartend on a busy and packed Saturday night is amazing. She moves so quickly and fluidly, her drinks are always on point and she does all of this with a smile across her face. She is definitely a person that I look up to in live and in the serving world."

What are you most proud to serve?
"I am mostly proud of my milkshakes. Ironically, I have a dairy allergy, but I do put a lot of love into them. On a larger scale, I am proud to serve anything and everything at The Reef. Our staff works so hard."

What's your current drink of choice?
"I like to indulge in a soy chai tea latte at Cafe Vita or OCR made by some of the best baristas in town. Both have a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. In the spirits world, I really love a Moscow Mule. But I really love all of the cocktails on our drink menu at Obsidian. That's right, I'm going to be bartending at the new café and music venue down the street from The Reef. Our soft opening is this Thursday - with a partial menu for two weeks. Our grand opening will be in the beginning of December."

Favorite movie?
"Why is this always the toughest question? I'm not sure I can break this tie but I am somewhere in between The Little Mermaid and The Holy Mountain."

What don't you serve?
"Trashcans."

What's on your radar at the Reef?
"We have recently added some delicious blended cocktails - some with more standout names such as the Astroglide. Yes, you may ask us what is in it ... but you should definitely try it first."

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

November 17, 2014 at 10:28am

Beer science and history with Three Magnets Brewing's head brewer Pat Jansen

Three Magnets Brewing's head brewer Pat Jansen checks the status of his sours in his barrel room. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

For a high schooler with designs on coolness, there's only one peer-sanctioned response to a long lecture on organic chemistry: boredom. Notebook doodling, loud gaping yawns - perhaps even a head slumped on the desk, for good measure - until, of course, the instructor drops organic chemistry lab phrases such as "three-way stop-cock" and "prying open the bung hole," then you laugh along ensuring fellow teenage classmates there isn't some geeky girl-repelling chemistry kit in your closet.

Yet, there's always that one kid in class who views the science as more essential than oxygen. That kid grows up to be a head brewer at Three Magnets Brewing Co. in Olympia.

Science mystifies Americans, while art seduces them. It's a phenomenon that Pat Jansen - head brewer and local sourcing liaison at Three Magnets - has a hold on both. Having studied soil chemistry for 10 years, Jansen knows how soil pH levels ultimately affect beer and other science behind brewing beer - and by science I mean he knows the isomerization path of a-acids into iso-a acids during the boiling stage of brewing - the chemical breakdown of humulone into isohumulone - as one of many examples. It's gaping yawn garble unless Jansen is disseminating the subject. He's a one-man show. Hands are flying. His body jerks and twists. His face morphs through 15 different expressions. He is passionate about brewing beer, right down to the stabilizer polyvinylpolypyrrolidone.

I've been Jansen's audience member twice now. Once, during a Three Magnets brewer's night at Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen, down the street from the brewery, and a second time Thursday night on a progress tour of the brewery, which has opened - the brewing and bar side of the business are in operation while construction continues on the family dining section. Jansen's stage show was restricted to body gestures at Dillingers due to space constrictions. Inside the brewery, I had to run to keep within listening distance. At one point, Jansen had Three Magnets co-owner Nate Reilly, assistant brewer and bar manager Jeff Stokes, kitchen manager Nancy Bickell and Weekly Volcano sales executive Nikki McCoy and I performing in his stage production, The Barrel-Aged Bung Hole Peek Conga Line. Early review: It's a lively production that should produce some tasty cherry and currant cherry sour ales down the road.

While Three Magnets has a Farmhouse Saison named after Helsing Junction Farm in Thurston County and an Autumnal Saison on tap, most of the farmhouse and Belgian-style beers brewing at the downtown Olympia brewery are for future barrel projects.

"The goal is to put them in barrels and age, to be reinoculated with wild yeast or fruit or a combination of what lives on the fruit with wild yeast," says Jansen. "I have been waiting for the first frost, which means the bacteria load in the air will die and stop reproducing and lose its aggressiveness. Bacteria will tolerate 110, 120, 130 degree temperatures. Yeast will tolerate down to freezing. Bacteria, however, doesn't like freezing temperatures. Once we get to the freezing point, I can take raw wort from a brew, take it up on to the roof of the brewery, and set it in large shallow pans to start collecting wild bacteria yeast. These will be heat tolerate, cold bacteria yeast, which means we can make indigenous sour beer, instead of buying cultures from a lab." (If you could only see the short jump and raised hands during this speech.)

The 14 barrels in Three Magnet's auxiliary room have purchased or home-procured wild yeast and wild yeast from fruit. Most of the barrels are from Doug McCrea's Salida Winery in Thurston County, with a couple from Columbia Crest. The room, located off the open kitchen and behind the family dining area, will eventually house spirits barrels too, with the barrels arranged to allow tastings and other private functions.

Running Beer Man

In addition to brewing, Jansen also shows passion for brewing history, especially old English beers and traditional brewing processes. He's interested in making "real ale," and running a firkin off the countertop in the brewery's bar area.

"In the 1700d and 1800s, British brewers were making pale ales, bitter beers and porters," explains Jansen. "In the 1900s, technology allowed for stewing malts - to create crystal malts, which means coffee and toffee forward malts, red fruit character malts - red cherries and currants, and purple character malts such as prunes and figs. And the British made a beer that you could make quickly and drink it fresh. They were called running beers. ...

"Anyway, because the UK beer market began pushing products of low flavor and overall quality onto the consumer, such as Budweiser and Stella Artois, four stodgy British guys basically said, ‘we need to form a society, and petition the government and save traditional-styled beers.'" (Jansen made a stodgy facial expression during this explanation.)

Campaign for Real Ale, or CAMRA, was formed in March 1971 by the four men from the northwest of Britain to save traditional, flavorsome beers promoting fermentation in the cask from which they were served and give British beer drinkers a better variety and choice at the bar. CAMRA's core aims are to promote real ale and pubs, as well as act as the consumer's champion in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry.

Jansen explained that toward the end of the 19th century, brewers built large estates of tied pubs. They moved away from vatted beers stored for many months and developed "running beers" that could be served after a few days storage in pub cellars. Draught Mild was a "running beer" along with a new type that was dubbed "Bitter" (3.4-3.9 percent ABV) by drinkers. Bitter grew out of Pale Ale but was generally deep bronze to copper in color due to the use of slightly darker malts such as crystal that give the beer fullness of palate. "Best" (4 percent and higher) is a stronger version of Bitter but there is considerable crossover.

"Running beers basically gave birth to the cask movement, which was cask beer marrying some of the barrel-aged, year old beers with quicker produced running beers - kind of a combination of the two," says Jansen.

The old beer will be more acidic and dryer. The bacteria and wild yeast will eat the most complex of sugars. The younger ale still has fermentable sugars, which will add some balancing sweetness to the blend while providing more sugar for the yeast to consume so that carbonation can be formed during bottle conditioning.

"Before running beers formed, all the porters were aged half a year to a full year then blended with fresh beer. Rodenbach beer (Flemish Red ale) is probably the closest beer around to traditional English porters these days. Rodenbach pasteurizes the beer so it doesn't turn and get sour or tart."

Jansen began telling the story of Rodenbach and Eugene Rodenbach, grandson of the founders, who traveled to England to learn about barrel aging and blending from English porter brewers. The methods Eugene learned, while no longer in use in England, are still used by Rodenbach today. Rodenbach is known as a "mixed fermentation" beer, meaning it's fermented with a mix of regular ale yeast and a cocktail of wild yeast and bacteria. This mixture then goes into large wooden barrels called foeders. ...

"OK, back to running beer ... the tradition in Britain wasn't to keg off beer and push it with CO2 because during the war there wasn't a lot of it around due to conversation, so they took beer from a large tank right before it finishes fermenting so there is just enough sugar to carbonate the beer, then put them into metal casks, sometimes wood casks, bung it for a pressure seal," Jansen explains. "For example, if you let our Smoked English Porter sit for a half-hour it would taste like a freshly tapped cask of British style beer would taste like back in the day - low carbonation, around fifty degrees warm."

The British brewers would make the beer, put it in a cask, and ship it out to the publican - the keeper of a public house or tavern. Then, the publican would finish the brewing process by aging the beer properly and placing it on the bar counter and presenting it properly.

"Today, the brewers have to do that work because the American consumer wants aged beer," says Jansen.

Two casks, or firkins, currently sit on Three Magnet's bar. Jansen hopes to launch a firkin program in several weeks. He's still pondering on the correct way to proceed.

"There are two ways of doing it," he says. "If you know you have a crowd that can kill a cask quickly because they want it or have a bartender who can actually sell beer worth a damn, you can actually put the cask on and sell it over a three-day period - because that's the amount of time before oxidation affects the character of the beer. After that, it gets really cardboard-y, a little too over sherry-ish and you get vinegar. It's terrible.

"The second way to run a cask is to put a cask breather on it where you get a slow blanket of CO2 on it and you're not over carbonating it, and continues to present the right way for a week."

Jansen has taken his interests and binary compounds and brewed an exceptional Smoked English Porter and Brewers Best English Pale with Jeff Stokes, who often acted as an interpreter during Jensen's lightning-fast verbal dissertations. Also on tap are a Rye Meridian, Citra Wet Hop Ale, Mosaic + Citra Wet Hop Ale, Session IPA, Rainy Day IPA - named after Rainy Day Records -  and Brotherhood Brown Ale, named after The Brotherhood Lounge. A quarter of every pint sold of the last two beers goes to Thurston County charities. SafePlace benefits from the Brotherhood - and the popular downtown Olympia bar kicks in another 25 cents per pint. Helsing Junction Farmhouse Saison sales are part of the local causes program, too.

The history of the building, brewery owners Sara and Nate Reilly's history with their Darby's Café and the reason behind the Three Magnets name was covered when we announced the brewery this past spring. Also, look for a follow-up story on Three Magnet's menu on this blog soon.

Until then, drop by the downtown Olympia brewery and drink some science and history. And, while nobody has yet won a grant to explore brewer fringe theater - if such a grant comes to fruition - it's certain to be named after Pat Jansen. He makes science go down as easy as a Three Magnets classic British-style brew.

THREE MAGNETS BREWING CO., 600 Franklin St. SE, Suite 105, Olympia, threemagnetsbrewing.com

Filed under: New Beer Column, Olympia,

November 14, 2014 at 11:31am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Silvers Saloon

Silvers Saloon tops its ultra-cheesy bacon mac and cheese with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Cowboys retain a certain mystique: They're cool. Spend enough time in these environs, and you'll find yourself wondering: could I pull off a cowboy hat? Or cowboy boots, maybe? (For me, the answer is no on both counts.)

Yesterday, I was surrounded by cowboy hats and boots, listening to new country tunes at Silvers Saloon, the "Chuckwagon meets Saloon, Old meets New, Spacious meets Intimate, Casual meets Chic" joint, or so the Olympia restaurant bar claims on its Facebook. Silvers does have one cowboy boot firmly planted on the ranch, but it feels like it could have been DJ Murphy's Chip and Chowder House, which it was several years ago. Yes, the horseshoes dot the walls. The wagon wheels lean. And its rustic wares were once a mercantile's hot items. Yet, it needs one good bar brawl to paint the walls before it feels truly old and saloon-y. Also, I vote for more twangier tunes, but to each their own.

The service is ultra-friendly and fast. My bacon mac and cheese ($10) tray arrived quicker than a hot knife through butter.

Yes, I said "tray." A long, oval plate rimmed with cartoon cows corralled the enormous amount of thick mac and cheese. Yes, I said "thick." The elbow macaroni butted elbows due to a surplus of smoked white cheddar topped with bacon. Yes, I said "bacon." It's sad, but more often than not it's true. Bacon makes everything better, and cheese-soaked pasta is no different. Silvers Saloon's stick to your ribs mac and cheese is understated and simple, but a herd of bacon puts it over the top.

SILVERS SALOON, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. kitchen daily, bar later, breakfast all day, 2752 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympia, 360.489.0255

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

November 13, 2014 at 12:14pm

Aaron's Behavior: Chef Aaron Grissom on Top Chef, Episode 5

A scene from "Top Chef" Episode 5 featuring Chef Aaron Grissom. Photos courtesy of Bravo TV/bravotv.com

Aaron Grissom, of Bravo TV's competition reality show Top Chef, reigns from a little town that spells itself with a big-ass T: Tacoma, Washington. Chef Aaron Grissom ran the kitchen at Dirty Oscar's Annex on Tacoma's Sixth Avenue, before leaving to cook in L.A. Anyone who has worked with Chef Aaron knows his moments - his good days and his bad days. They've seen him at his most inappropriate, when he's trying really hard to not blow shit up, and when he's just simply had it with whatever server/line cook/manager is in his face. These tell-all personality traits are interesting to watch on an obviously well edited reality television program. Every Thursday, I recap Bravo TV's Top Chef and rate Chef Aaron's behavior on the previous night's episode. I call the series "Aaron's Behavior." I've also turned the show into a drinking game (natch). I call the game the Grissom Gulp. Viewers must take one sip for every profanity word uttered out of Aaron's mouth, and two shots for that "eat shit" grin.

Top Chef, Season 12, Episode 5

This week's episode of Bravo TV's Top Chef starts us out with the chefs together in their resident kitchen, all hanging out amicably. Chef Katsuji is ribbing the other chefs, Chef Doug Adams states that having Katsuji around is like having a little brother, and Chef Aaron Grissom is even caught laughing at Katsuji's shenanigans. The episode looks promising that perhaps they will be focusing on another chef as being the star asshole, possibly taking a little heat off our boy Aaron. Remember, it's all up to the show's editors and how they want the chefs to be perceived. 

In the quick fire challenge the chefs are paired up, head-to-head, to compete and make their dishes. Katsuji is first up and picks Aaron as his immediate competitor. Aaron chooses smoked salmon as the dish he and Katsuji must prepare in this battle, a brilliant choice it seems as Aaron reigns from the Pacific Northwest, land of all things salmon. At this point, Grissom Gulp players, we have no drinks for you.  The show has not highlighted Aaron's foul chef-mouth as it usually does. Hell, Chef Mei is throwing the adult verbiage out more than anyone.

The judges circle the room, tasting dish after dish, finally getting to Katsuji's and Aaron's smoked salmon plates. Katsuji has created a sake-infused chipotle broth with smoked jalapeños and salmon, which sounds absolutely divine. I love anything smoked, and anything jalapeño. The rest of this fantastic sounding dish is just extra frosting on the jalapeño cupcake.

Read more...

November 12, 2014 at 5:32pm

Denizens of the dark invade Wingman Brewers

Wingman Brewers will celebrate the release of its Stratofortress and Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress Belgian Strong Dark Ale style beers Nov. 22.

For Tacomans, there is something really cool about traveling through the streets at night, because once you arrive at your destination, you feel like an unstoppable force. You put your tire jack in the car, venture out into the dark, have your spine shattered by numerous potholes and finally you arrive alive - at your favorite bar. This is an unparalleled driving victory.

With shorter days and colder weather, Wingman Brewers wants to reward you for your heroics. The Tacoma Dome District brewery knows you need a malty, roasty, chocolatey barrel-aged hug - the warmest snuggle-buddy in all the land. High alcohol winter beers inside a brewery, with the Tacoma Link and Uber car service mere seconds away, most certainly will wash away axel repair anxiety.

In celebration of their Stratofortress and Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress Belgian Strong Dark Ale style beer releases, Wingman has created a mini festival of darkness and deliverance. In addition to Team Stratofortress, and hauling out its other dark beer goodness, Wingman has invited a few fellow "HELLO!" winter beers - some equally dark and strong as the Stratofortresses. Wingman calls the event Denizens of the Dark.

From 2-11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, Wingman will offer 16 dark ones: Stratofortress, Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress, Jack' o Fortress, Chocofortress, Bourbon Barrel Big Baby Flat Top, Bourbon Barrel P-51 Porter, Oak Aged Heavy Bevvy Scotch Ale, 2013 Stratofortress (limited bottle release) as well as Lost Abbey Bourbon Angels Share, Alesmith Speedway Stout, 2013 Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, 2013 The Bruery 6 Geese-A-Laying, Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist, North Coast Old Stock, Pelican Barrel Aged Poire and 2013 Scaldis Noel.

Expect the dark, potent and complex Nov. 22. Some winter beers incorporate spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg; others add coffee, molasses or chocolate; and many are aged in bourbon or wine barrels, creating a soft mouthfeel and adding notes of whiskey and vanilla. The one thing that all winter beer brewers seem to agree on is a high-alcohol level. You might feel like puffing out your chest after successfully navigating the streets to reach Wingman Brewers, but go easy on these very strong beers. Hitting a pothole the next day will be excruciating after the morning's Death Bongo Band five-hour concert in your head.

DENIZENS OF THE DARK, 2-11 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22, Wingman Brewers, 509 1/2 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, $7 gets you a commemorative Cthulhu snifter and your first pour, 253.256.5240

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

November 12, 2014 at 10:41am

Beer Here: Three Magnets opens, Coast to Coast Toast, Tacoma New West CDA ...

There are people inside Three Magnets Brewing Co. in downtown Olympia! Photo courtesy of Facebook

Cold? Yes, I noticed. But that's one of the many reasons we have beer. Get to it. ...

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 12

Three Magnets Brewing Co. (600 Franklin St. SE, Olympia) has opened the bar section of its giant venture. Those 21 and older may enjoy a limited food menu and, of course, beers.

New Belgium Brewing will takeover the taps at Pint & Quarts Pub (1230 College St. SE, Lacey). Tickets for tastings are a dollar each, beginning at 6 p.m.

Seriously Puyallup River Alehouse? You couldn't wait until after Black Friday to host Chicago's Goose Island Beer Co.? The brewery's infamous Bourbon County Stout will be released the day after Thanksgiving, unleashing the imperial stout with a fearsome 14 percent alcohol content, aged in used bourbon barrels from places like Iowa's Templeton Rye, and hunted for by fans on their release dates like a Beautiful Angle poster. Oh well, Goose Island will bring its other beers and schwag to the downtown Puyallup alehouse from 6-9 p.m.

THURSDAY, NOV. 13

Thursday marks the official day (and night) of the Coast to Coast Toast. Vanberg & DeWulf, who founded the Coast to Coast Toast three years ago, was the first company to specialize in importing Belgian beers to the U.S. The principals of Vanberg & DeWulf (Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield) have been tireless champions for Belgian beer and now "honorary Belgians" all from independent family run producers. 99 Bottles (35002 Pacific Hwy. S., Federal Way) will raise a toast and feature the Vanberg & DeWuld portfolio, from 5-7 p.m.

The focus at The Forum in Puyallup (208 S. Meridian) will be Mac & Jack's IBIS IPA and Cascadian Dark Ale, beginning at 7 p.m. Two Seahawks tickets will be up for grabs, too.

The Copper Door (12 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma) hosts Full Sail Brewing Company out of Hood River, Oregon. Expect Cascade Pilsner, Wasail, Mathias's Main Ingredient Oatmeal Stout, Session Fest and others, besides a raffle from 6-8 p.m.

The ParkWay Tavern (313 N. I St., Tacoma) welcomes 10 Barrel Brewing Company from Bend, Oregon, and their Uberliner Berliner Weissbier, Power to the People American Stout, German Sparkle Party Berliner Weissbier, Apoxalypse IPA, among others, beginning at 5 p.m.

Randall alert! Top Rung Brewing Co. (8343 Hogum Bay Lane NE, Lacey) will runs its Prying Irons IPA through fresh hops beginning at 4 p.m.

SATURDAY, NOV. 15

Unless you have been living in a pothole, you know the Tacoma Art Museum busts out its Haub Family Collection of Western American Art and the museum expansion Saturday. TAM is celebrating the largest gift in the museum's 79-year history with an all-day and night party plus releasing a signature Harmon Brewing Co. ale and a Heritage Distilling Co. bourbon. Harmon's Tacoma New West CDA, a unique Cascadian dark ale brewed with six different malted barleys and chocolate wheat - which means it's black like a stout and the flavor is hoppy like an IPA. Tacoma New West CDA is sold in all Harmon Brewing locations, and a special limited edition will be available in the TAM Cafe. Heritage's Tacoma New West Bourbon Whiskey is a 92-proof bourbon aged less than two years with tones of caramel and vanilla, leaving a light sweetness in the high center of the palate and a smooth lingering finish.

Does the glass matter when tasting craft beer? That's the question Morso Wine Bar (9014 Peacock Hill Ave., Gig Harbor) will answer drinking beer from Spieglau's Pilsner glass, Hefe glass, IPA glass, Tulip glass, plus a typical pint glass, from 1-3 p.m. Reserve your $49 ticket at 253.530.3463.

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 19

Iron Horse Brewery - the Ellensburg, Washington, brewery that loves to party - will bring a bunch of beer and schwag to The Swiss (1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma) from 6-9 p.m.

Puyallup River Alehouse (120 S. Meridian, Puyallup) hosts North Coast Brewing Company out of Fort Bragg, California, for a night of Blue Star Wheat Beer, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Acme California IPA and other brews, plus schwag giveaways from 6-9 p.m.

THURSDAY, NOV. 20

Over by Pacific Lutheran University, beer geek Erick Swenson will offer a German beer sampler at 208 Garfield (208 Garfield, Parkland) for $6 a person, beginning at 6 p.m. 

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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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