Mac and Cheese Madness: Topside Bar and Grill

By Ron Swarner on July 11, 2014

In May 1670, Prince Rupert, cousin of King Charles II, acquired the fur rich lands of the Hudson Bay in northeastern Canada to "the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay." Its first century of operation found Hudson's Bay Company firmly ensconced in a few forts and posts around the shores of James and Hudson Bays. Natives brought furs annually to these locations to barter for manufactured goods such as knives, kettles, beads, needles and blankets. By the late 18th century competition forced HBC to expand into the interior. In 1824, HBC chief factor John Work happened upon pink flower-covered hillsides flowing down to Puget Sound. He called the area Chilacoom, a variation of the resident Indian chief's name. In March 2012, John O'Reilly took over the Steilacoom space that formerly housed Jake's Bar & Bistro, where he had a stint tending bar, and renamed it Topside Bar and Grill. In honor of the town's British connection, O'Reilly secures Coastal Mature Cheddar from Ford Farm in the UK on the Ashley Estate located between Dorset Downs and the Jurassic Coast as his main ingredient in his Topside Coastal Mac & Cheese. The milk in the cheese comes from cows that graze on lush pastures, which makes the milk rich, creamy and perfect for making cheese.

Coastal Mature Cheddar is sweet and salty. The texture is typical of English cheddar, rugged, crumbly and slightly crunchy. Topside chefs add it to their creamy mac and cheese base, mix it with firm penne pasta and top it with toasted bread crumbs ($16). The flavor is wonderfully, nutty with a slight sharp flavor. For an extra $6, you may add fresh Dungeness crabmeat or bay shrimp.

Served only at dinner, I suggest enjoying the Coastal Mac & Cheese from Topside's deck with a spectacular view of Puget Sound, and pair it with Ninkasi's Total Domination IPA.

TOPSIDE BAR AND GRILL, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 215 Wilkes St., Steilacoom, 253.212.3690

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound