Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

December 23, 2014 at 11:04am

Greatest Christmas carols paired with beers

Christmas is better with beer.

The International Society of Pairologists has released its definitive list of 10 Greatest Christmas Carols of All Time And The Beer That Pairs With Each. The revered group of retired piano tuners who are also home brewers spent the entire year of 2014 holed up in their headquarters in Orting, Washington, listening to more than 800 Christmas carols and drinking 7,200 beers.

According to Rudolph Pinglehead, the distinguished president of the society and co-writer of the unauthorized biography of Josef Mohr, the author of "Silent Night," the tuner home brewers listened to every Christmas carol at least 11 times. "Once for the lyrics, once for the tune, nine times to pair the perfect beer."

Pinglehead, who hails from Düren, Germany, said he is aware that everyone might not agree with the list. "We were strictly objective, and did not let sentimental associations or drunkenness cloud our judgment."

I was disappointed to see several favorite Christmas carols not included. Where is "O Tannenbaum?" Where is "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," "The Christmas Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?" How about "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?" The biggest outrage is the omission of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," Elmo and Patsy's poignant ballad of loss and redemption.

Nevertheless, we shouldn't let subjective partisanship ruin the holidays.

Without further ado, here are the 10 Greatest Christmas Carols of All Time And The Beer That Pairs With Each, with commentary and analysis by Pinglehead.

1. "Santa Baby." As voiced by the sexy Eartha Kitt, this song asks the eternal question: "Santa honey, I really do believe in you, let's see if you believe in me." Eartha doesn't beat around the bush as she implores Santa to "hurry down the chimney tonight," and "fill up my sock." She assures Santa that she will wait up for him, and ends up with a provocative offer he can hardly refuse: "Come and trim my Christmas tree." Beer Pairing: The International Society of Pairologists found a spicy, dark rich beer to loosen up Santa. Seattle's Fremont Brewing took their Bourbon Barrel Abominable, aka B-Bomb - a winter ale with spicy aroma, dark roasted chocolate malt and rich notes of bourbon, wood and vanilla - and infused it with coffee and cinnamon to create the Coffee Cinnamon Bourbon Abominable. It's the bomb, Santa baby! Available at 99 Bottles in Federal Way, Gravity Beer Market in Olympia, Pint Defiance and The Copper Door in Tacoma

2. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." This perennial favorite, sung by former jockey Jimmy Boyd, takes a humorous approach to a child's shocking discovery of his mother's infidelity. "Mommy" and "Santa Baby" are just two of many songs dealing with the theme of Santa as sugar daddy. Beer Pairing: The Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City, Oregon, brews a beer that pairs with Mommy's merry adulterer - Bad Santa. This mysterious dark elixir is filled with complex malt flavors and aromas with toasted malt and roast character, blending seamlessly to the alluring herbal hop aroma that comes from copious amounts of Fuggle hops. Bad Santa doesn't care if you've been naughty or nice, he just wants Mommy. Available at Gravity Beer Market, Pint Defiance and Tacoma Boys

3. "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas." Everyone loves this upbeat song by Burl Ives, who played the role of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - a large, brash and vulgar plantation millionaire who believes he has returned from the grave. Beer Pairing: Iron Fist Brewing out of Vista, California, makes a Dark Days Imperial Stout with 11 percent ABV. It's a pitch-black beauty aged in brandy barrels with a chocolate after taste. It's perfect for Big Daddy's dark side. Available at Gravity Beer Market and 99 Bottles 

4. "A Marshmallow World." This was a popular hit in the '50s, and deserves a comeback. The gifted Arthur Godfrey with the Chordettes and the Cherry Sisters performed it. Mr. Godfrey makes effective use of onomatopoeia as he croons, "It's a yum-yummie world, made for sweethearts." Beer Pairing: The yummy Candy Cane Porter by Harmon Brewing Co. pairs well with the song, as Candy Man Jeff Carlson who uses 13 candy canes per keg of the deep brown goodness. The peppermint is forward, almost overwhelming the roasted malt and cocoa notes. Carlson makes the world taste good. Available at the Harmon Tap Room in Tacoma

5. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." The consensus among the pairologists was that the best version of this song about a vindictive voyeur - "He sees you while you're sleeping, he knows if you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake" - was done by the Beach Boys, with their sweet voices belying the dark theme of the song. You better watch out, indeed. Beer Pairing: And you better watch out for Maritime Pacific's Jolly Roger Christmas Ale, which is also sweet with just a hint of harsh booziness to it. The official insignia for this English Strong Ale style is a smiling skull-and-cross-bones, reminder to all to enjoy their Jolly, but afterward you better be good for goodness sake. Available at Gravity Beer Market, Pint Defiance, Tacoma Boys and The Copper Door

6. "Mele Kalikimaka." This is an admirable attempt to incorporate other cultural traditions into our provincial WASP celebration of Christmas. Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters tell the inspiring tale of the Three Wise Men getting lost on their way to Bethlehem, and ending up in Hawaii. Beer Pairing: Duh ... Tacoma's Wingman Brewers has planes and coconuts. It's Stratofortress Aged in Bourbon Barrels on dark rum-soaked cedar planks with notes of figs and ripe fruit will get you to Hawaii (aloha 11.4 percent!). Their P-51 Coconut Porter will keep you there (aloha 8 percent!). Available at Wingman Brewers' taproom, as well as Gravity Beer Market, 99 Bottles, Pint Defiance and The Copper Door

7. "Blue Christmas." This was the favorite song of many pairologists, with its complex use of "blue" as a trope. Blue snowflakes, blue memories, etc. We all agreed that only Elvis captures the full blueness of the carol, managing to say blue 13 times in his version. Beer Pairing: Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.'s Griswold's Winter Warmer, an easy drinking malty 8.5 percent ABV ale named after the Clark Griswold who was extremely blue after his employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs. "Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one," says Griswold. "I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?" Available at Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. in Tacoma

8. "Grandma's Homemade Christmas Card." There are many Christmas carols about Grandma, but our panel believed that this song says it all. Merle Haggard sings of his elderly grandma making a Christmas card out of scraps of discarded magazine inserts. Beer Pairing: 53 Peaks Brewing Co.'s Nut Brown. You'll have to go over many rivers and through many woods to reach Grandma's House, a Denver brewhouse and pub that allows other aspiring breweries the opportunity to create their beers on their brewing system, cover their tap handle with a knitted sweater and sell them through the taproom. 53 Peaks Brewing Co. is one of Grandma's grandkids, and its Nut Brown with Traeger roasted cashews and pecans, has Grandma pinching their cheeks with joy.

9. "Suzie Snowflake." Sung by heartthrob George Clooney's grandma, Rosemary Clooney, this particular carol is a vivid example of the carpe diem tradition. "I haven't long to stay," says Suzie Snowflake, just before she lands on the back of a border collie out for a walk. Beer Pairing: Rogue Yellow Snow IPA. While IPA is not commonly a winter beer, the southern Oregon brewery's winter-seasonal IPA with its bracing clean hoppy bitterness up front fits the bill. Suzie snowflake's dog walk will, no doubt, end with her falling in yellow snow; might as well enjoy a juicy fruit beer with a long-stay bitterness. Available at Tacoma Boys

10. "Frosty the Snowman." The pairologists were moved to tears by the picture of poor Frosty running here and there all around the square, frantically trying to have some fun before he melted away. If you listen carefully to the song, you realize Frosty is not quite the jolly, happy soul he was made out to be, condemned as he is to melt away, the sun being hot that day. Some dissenters saw in Frosty's promise to come again some day as a reference to Christian resurrection. Beer Pairing: ScuttleButt Brewing Company's 10 Below Ale. While the name suggests this Imperial Dunkelweiss from the Everett, Washington, brewery could keep Frosty from melting, the 7.4 percent ABV strong chocolate flavors of 10 below Ale is exactly what one needs to keep warm. It's a malty beast with just enough hops to make it drinkable, and make Frosty's fate forgettable. Available at Gravity Beer Market and The Copper Door

December 22, 2014 at 10:50am

Eat This Now: E.T. Roll

Sasquatch's cinnamon rolls are served in a 7-inch disposable pie pan. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

Sometimes I wonder why on earth people insist on trying to improve upon a classic. I mean, really? Red Dawn? Total Recall? We did NOT need remakes featuring slightly different plot twists and subpar acting. It wasn't necessary. This happens in the culinary world. Too. Time after time I see folks trying to take grandma's classic dishes and make them more compelling and unique. Sure, the result is often foodie success. Many times, it's a total miss.

Sasquatch Cinnamon Rolls, located in Freighthouse Square, is a prime example of taking a classic and hitting it out of the park with a flavor revamp. Now, don't get me wrong, Sasquatch's classic roll is divine with its ooey-gooey frosting and warm cinnamon-y flavor but my Eat This Now recommendation is their E.T. Roll. Yes, it's named after the movie (let's pray they don't remake that one too!). For anyone who has seen the flick, you can probably guess the secret ingredient of this dessert-y breakfast roll - Reese's Pieces. Uh, yea.

Sasquatch bakes every roll from scratch with the best ingredients. The E.T. Roll is no exception. Sasquatch swirls in creamy peanut butter and Reese's Pieces throughout then tops this behemoth with tasty frosting.

The E.T. Roll is available in different sizes - from the minis or a one-pound beast. I recommend sharing; this rich sweet treat is filling and a hard one to conquer.

Sasquatch also serves coffee, tea and cocoa and other baked goods on site, plus owners Dagmar Solveig Simard and Damien Simard are always there to provide dazzling service and guaranteed giggles.

SASQUATCH CINNAMON ROLLS, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Freighthouse Square, 2501 E. D St., Tacoma, phone home at 253.398.4301

Filed under: Eat This Now, Breakfast, Tacoma,

December 22, 2014 at 10:12am

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with bartender Tanya Chapman-Hedstrom of Engine House No. 9

Tanya Chapman-Hedstrom, aka Bandito Betty, will served you an IPA with a side of whiskey while she recaps the movie, "Over the Top." Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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 Tanya Chapman-Hedstrom.

Server Banner Girl, Dec. 22, 2014-Jan. 4, 2015

Tanya Chapman-Hedstrom

By now, you're probably familiar with Tanya Chapman-Hedstrom. You most likely didn't know 16-year-old Tanya when she served food at the Ponderosa Steakhouse in the greater Chicago area. She has horror stories from those days. You might have met her while she served food and drinks at the ParkWay Tavern, Puget Sound Pizza, Doyle's Public House and a few other Tacoma joints. Maybe you know her as Bandito Betty, a name she received while riding shotgun with former Weekly Volcano writer Steph DeRosa as they caused trouble around the South Sound from 2007-2012. Today, Tanya is happily employed by Tacoma's X Group Restaurants - specifically tending bar at the Engine House No. 9.

Why do you serve?

"It's like having a social life ... that I get paid for. I don't get out much these days with the little one so it feels good to still be part of the scene - even if I'm on the clock."

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

"Ricky at O'Malley's. He knows what I want without having to ask me and he always has fantastic stories about the night before."

What are you most proud to serve?

"We always have a great selection of hard-to-get beers and some customers are like a kid on Christmas when they see the handles. I always get a thrill when a regular walks in and I know we just tapped one of his or her favorites."

What's your current drink of choice?

"IPA with a side of whisky. I'm a simple lady. Or something like that. ..."

Favorite movie?

"Over the Top. My dad and I watched it all the time, but my mom hated it. Arm wrestling and truck driving? What's not to love?"

What don't you serve?

"Bacardi 151. Luckily, we eliminated it from our stock. I've said it before and I'll say it again: anyone trying to order it is a douchebag."

What's on your radar at Engine House No. 9?

"The bar remodel and additional tap handles. Someday ... it will happen."

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

LINK: South Sound Happy Hour App

Filed under: Served Banner Models, Tacoma,

December 19, 2014 at 12:18pm

Croissant Quest Olympia: À la recherche du the ideal crescent

Kyle LaCasse offers a tray of croissants during a busy time at the San Francisco Street Bakery in Olympia, Dec. 19. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Like the Roman cornetto, New York bagel or San Francisco sourdough, the croissant is a baked good linked inseparably with a city. That magical place, of course, is Paris, the City of Lights and walking off calories, and that's strange because croissants are in fact Viennese. They can also be called viennoisseries, and their arrival in France dates within the last 200 years. You can bake them at home, except you won't because, although they require just half a dozen ingredients and water, you're obliged to start making them two days in advance.

I'm no professional baker. I admit that up front. But I fell profoundly in amour with croissants in Paris, so much so that I breakfasted on impeccable crescents from the brasserie La Renaissance on Rue Ordener in the 18th for a week straight. Since I got back, I've been on the hunt for the perfect croissant, or at least as close as I can get to it in Olympia. Let me also state for the record that, as with pizza, sex or Paul Thomas Anderson movies, an imperfect croissant is still pretty freakin' amazing.

I started at Wagner's European Bakery and Café, because although owner Rudy Wagner was born and trained in Bavaria, his restaurant smells so fantastic it lured me like a siren. Wagner's croissants are crispy and fluffy, with a taste balance shifted more toward the salty than the buttery. The interior is cool, unlike the slightly-warm versions preferred in Paris, with a flavor of chewy white bread. Bonus points for the Charlie Brown Christmas special music and inviting holiday directions, serious European points deducted for the server who thought I'd ordered something called a "café ¡ole!" No, server. No.

>>> Rhone Geha enjoys his croissant at The Bread Peddler in downtown Olympia, Dec. 19. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Then it was off to The Bread Peddler, which offers not only standard butter croissants but also varieties including vanilla bean sugar croissants - very tempting, but I stayed on target - and what Americans might call croissandwiches. The standard croissants here are small, about half the size of other specimens, and their crusts have a sugar-crystal crackle. That said, the pastries are delicious, with fluffy room-temperature interiors and welcome buttery aftertaste. The product's egg wash also leaves a noticeable flavor of yolk. Just remember to order two.

>>> Bonnie Elsey offers a bowl of fresh baked croissants at Mom's Baked Goods in Olympia, Dec. 19. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

I'd heard promising reports about the croissants at Mom's Baked Goods, a carryout establishment with cinnamon rolls the size of grand pianos. Their croissant is also a monster, more loaf than roll. That heft means its crust has little crispiness, so the product is more of a sweet, buttery bread with an aftertaste of sugar. It's the least similar to a Parisian croissant of the pastries I sampled, but it does have the makings of an absolutely unbeatable ham and Swiss croissandwich. Also, the bill came in at just two dollars flat for a tasty 500 calories of food. I guess Mom expresses caring through baking.

My quest met its satisfying end at San Francisco Street Bakery, whose croissant had exactly the right crispiness and size. Its interior was so airy you could almost fly a drone through it. To my palate, the pastry had the most balanced flavor of the four, especially its just-slightly-salty aftertaste. I do wish the product were nuked a few seconds, but again, I'm expressing minor quibbles. You won't go too far south with any of these products. Some sell out early, though, so arrive as close to opening as you can. It'll also improve the interior temperature of the pastry.

All in all, San Francisco Street's croissant was the most comparable to those I had in Paris. It was also served with a disdain bordering on disgust, a quality many Americans say reminds them of France. Bon appétit, mes amis!

WAGNER'S EUROPEAN BAKERY AND CAFE, open 7 a.m. weekdays, 7:30 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. Sunday, 1013 Capitol Way S, Olympia, 360.357.7268

THE BREAD PEDDLER, open 7 a.m., 222 N Capitol Way, Olympia, 360.352.1175

MOM'S BAKED GOODS, open 7 a.m. Monday - Saturday, 916 4th Ave. E, Olympia, 360.943.0993

SAN FRANCISCO STREET BAKERY, open 6:30 a.m., 1320 San Francisco Ave. NE, Olympia, 360.753.8553

Filed under: Olympia, Breakfast,

December 19, 2014 at 11:08am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Chambers Bay Grill

Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese is the perfect amount of food. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Following on the successful heels of the Weekly Volcano's Tournament of Burgers, our editorial staff will present a new NCAA Basketball tournament-like contest this spring. Once again we'll host a number of daily games that pit one restaurant against another, leaving it to the readers to decide the final outcomes all the way down to a final four and then a grand championship. (For newbie readers, Olympia's Westside Tavern edged out Tacoma's Maxwell's Restaurant in the final seconds of this year's Tournament of Burgers.) 

The competition for March 2015 will pit 64 South Sound restaurants that offer the ultimate comfort food - macaroni and cheese.

My goal is to report on a South Sound mac and cheese dish every week up to the tournament - to spread the cheesy word, ease into tournament research and, obviously, build hype. Chambers Bay Grill marks my 33rd mac and cheese dish.

There are many variations on the basic mac and cheese architecture - elbow macaroni baked in a cheddar cheese sauce - and as many different notions of what the best, truest version is, if such a thing can even be determined. All cooking is chemistry, but great macaroni and cheese feels more like the work of alchemy.

Crab mac and cheese is hardly the novelty it once was - especially in Western Washington - but in the expert hands of Chambers Bay Grill, their talent elevates the dish to new heights. Overlooking the Puget Sound, the majestic Olympic Mountains and expansive Chambers Bay golf course, Chambers Bay's Chef Josh Corcoran and his team rely on Beecher's Handmade Cheese for their sauce and ample long King crab legs to give their creamy mac 'and' cheese ($16) an assertive edge.

The dish is creamy without sacrificing the cheese. I definitely tasted crab - practically every bite. The briny notes in combination with the nutty Beecher's was terrific. Toasted panko topped the splendid dish because toasted panko is to mac and cheese as caramelized sugar is to crème brûlée; without it the texture is just too smooth.

This is not a humble, modest, sit-by-the-sidelines macaroni and cheese. Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese is in the top group on the leaderboard.

CHAMBERS BAY GRILL, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to sunset Friday-Sunday,6320 Grandview Drive W., University Place, 253.460.4653 or chambersbaygolf.com

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

December 17, 2014 at 10:31am

Beer Here: Lagunitas night, Pelican party, holiday sweaters, Troll Crank ride ...

Ho ho ho yo!

You're lagging in the Christmas spirit this year. Just like last year. And the year before. Scrooging has always been your go-to reaction to the yuletide, but as your grow older, fatter and more sentimental, it's increasingly unacceptable to be crotchety and contrarian. It's unsavory. So, you decide to be proactive. You set aside this coming week to gorge yourself on Christmas cheer. By which I mean beer. ...

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 17

Engine House No. 9's 25 Days of Christmas beer-a-day countdown is going strong. Stop by 611 N. Pine St. and discover today's present.

Harmon Tap Room is hosting the 12 Beers of Christmas, tapping a different small batch holiday brew, every day, for 12 days in a row. By the way, the Tap Room just added 10 new taps.

Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California, releases anticipated seasonals every year with high levels of alcohol and names as charismatic and irreverent as any beer might hope for - Lagunitas' own Imperial IPA, brewed since 1996, is called Maximus. Brown Shugga, a seasonal brew from Lagunitas, was created in 1997 as the result of an attempt to rescue a failed batch of Olde GnarlyWine Ale by adding "boatloads of brown sugar" - or so the story goes, anyway. Fingers crossed, The Swiss will be pouring it at its Lagunitas Brewer's Night from 6-9 p.m. Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo!

As I have written ad nauseam, a steady stream of big, goonish stouts are filling shelves and taps. Some of these seasonals are worth the fuss and price (Deschutes' The Abyss, for example - head to The Red Hot Sunday) while many others are lopsided thanks to hyper-inflated alcohol content and overblown flavor infusions. Pelican Pub & Brewery's Tsunami Stout rises to the top. With a color only a few minutes from midnight and a thick but clean pour, it has a satisfying, but not overpowering (7 percent), heariness. Big, roasty cocoa flavors dominate, but hopheads will find that Magnum and Willamette hops impart a slice of crisp citrus and a cherry topper. Drink it and eight other Pelican brews at 99 Bottles, beginning at 5 p.m. The first 48 people to check in at the Federal Way beer store will score a free Pelican glass.

The 2nd Annual Cheers to Winter Beers event takes place at 6 p.m. in the Puyallup River Alehouse. Here's the deliciousness owner Eric Akeson has planned for patrons: 10 Barrel Pray For Snow, Alaskan Winter, Elysian Bifrost, Widmer Brrr, Redhook Winterhook, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, Naked City Potlatch Smoked Maple Brown Ale, The Lost Abbey Merry Taj Christmas IPA, Puyallup River Old Pioneer Winter Ale and others. "Our 2014 Old Pioneer Winter Ale is a new recipe for this year," says Akeson. "Last year, we brewed a malt-forward Amber Ale with vanilla beans and lavender. This year, we're brewing an Imperial Red IPA-style beer, with a big, dry hop that all the hop heads are going to love." Santa will arrive at 7 p.m.

THURSDAY, DEC. 18

Top Rung Brewing runs its My Dog Stout through a Randall loaded with candy canes beginning at 4 p.m.

How much wood can the Woodchuck Hard Cider chuck if the Woodchuck Hard Cider could chuck wood? I have no idea, but Topside Bar & Grill is allowing the Vermont cidery to take over four of its handles, beginning at 6 p.m.

FRIDAY, DEC. 19

Want to drink a Cozy Sweater while wearing an ugly holiday sweater? Twisted Kilt Irish Pub hosts an ugly sweater party with an emphasis on Iron Horse Brewery beers, including Irish Death, Mocha Dream and said sweater. Expect a DJ spinning and giveaways, beginning at 9 p.m.

SATURDAY, DEC. 20

Top Rung Brewing hosts an ugly holiday sweater festival from 2-9 p.m., with a contest going down at 7 p.m. Santa will drop off a food truck. The Outlanders will play bluegrass beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Randall will be working overtime.

Also hosting an ugly holiday sweater party is Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. Those who don holiday cheer will receive a dollar off every pint, from 6-9 p.m., and entered into a contest to win a PB&M gift basket.

Itchin' for an excuse to pull that bicycle out of storage and get some extra wear out of your Santa hat? Saddle up and get ready to ride through the streets of Tacoma drunkon candy canes and the drinks they garnished. The Tacoma Mob Rider invites revelers to jump on their pedal-driven sleighs and eat and drink their way through Tacoma, Saturday. The Troll Crank zaniness begins at 7 p.m. inside the canned beer and bicycle shop Broken Spoke. From there, the pack moves on to other fine establishments, which will be revealed over cans of beer at the Spoke. It's free to participate, but you'll be shelling out cash for anything you eat or drinkalong the way. Tacoma Mob Rules asks you to dress festive, with a nod toward Crosby sweaters.

Tacoma Stars have dubbed Saturday, Dec. 20, "Wingman Brewers Night" for their soccer match against the Arlington Aviators. Wingman beer is now pouring at every match in the Far Post Bar at the Tacoma Soccer Center (2610 East Bay St., Tacoma). Saturday, beginning at 7:30 p.m., added giveaways and handshakes from the Wingman crew are an added bonus.

SUNDAY, DEC. 21

The Red Hot hosts its 3rd annual Darkest Day festival, while across the street Engine House No. 9 unleashes its 2014 Snow Cru, plus a multitude of other E9 big beers. Details on these Tacoma joints' celebrations of the longest night of the year can be found here.

MONDAY, DEC. 22

Fish Tale Brew Pub hosts the 15th Annual Holiday Brass Bash at 7:30 p.m. Trumpeter Andy Omdahl will lead a brass-tastic band, rattle beer pints and the donation boxes for Thurston County Food Bank.

December 16, 2014 at 10:26am

The Dark Walk: Engine House No. 9 and The Red Hot go big on the winter solstice

Engine House No. 9 will release its 2014 Snow Cru at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 21. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

During this time of year, it seems that no one can get enough of the celebrating, but some holidays are more noted by modern society than others. Nowadays, the winter solstice sometimes gets overlooked amid all the traditional eating and gift-giving days - but it's definitely significant. The winter solstice, Dec. 21 at 3:03 p.m., astronomically stands for the moment when the earth's axial tilt is farthest from the sun - directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. It also stands as the most ancient midwinter celebration and the source of many holiday traditions now associated with Christmas.

Throughout history, cultures around the globe have celebrated the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, as a time to reflect on the past year and look with hope to the coming year. Long ago, the winter solstice was a time communities came together in the uncertainty of living through the winter and enjoyed wine and beer that was ready to drink, but its significance was diminished after the spread of Christianity. These days, after '60s counterculture helped revive its memory, people are more aware of the solstice tradition from centuries ago.

A Winter Solstice Parade will be held in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood. It's doubtful the druid and pagan communities will be out in full force, dressed in magnificent costumes and singing incantations while waving luminous willow lanterns. No, this parade is a staggering affair between The Red Hot's Darkest Day and Engine House No. 9's 2014 Snow Cru release party. I do expect to see a BIC lighter or two.

"It's unfortunate the two celebrations landed on the same day. It wasn't planned that way," says Todd McLaughlin, bartender at Engine House No. 9. "You'd think since our staff drinks over there after shifts, and their staff drinks over here, that the big beer celebrations would have been planned on different days."

McLaughlin believes the two events happening at the same time is actually a good thing, bringing the beer community together due to the short walk between the two establishments. After all, the winter solstice has a social and spiritual element. At the time of greatest darkness, the solstice has been a beacon of light. There could be hugging and laughing at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Pine. There could be exchanging of beer and beard suggestions and alcohol by volume warnings. There are many ways to celebrate the solstice, but only the souls at The Red Hot and Engine House No. 9 could, by chance, create an observance loaded with symbolism, and robust, full-bodied beers with rich color and flavor.

At E9, the celebration centers on the release of head brewer Shane Johns' annual Snow Cru winter ale. This year, Johns blended his E9 Imperial Stout, Barrel Aged Belgian Dark Strong, Old English Barley Wine and Thunder Buddies Barley Wine to create a complex beer showcasing the characteristics of barrel aging. With the 2014 Snow Cru, Johns creates complexity centering on oak, in a multitude of forms, by brewing high-gravity beers in complementary styles, aging them in different barrel formats and then blending them together to achieve harmonious new flavor. As a finished beer, the 2014 Snow Cru will be dark, rich and complex.

In addition to the Snow Cru release, E9 will pour a bunch of their beers - from special barrel-aged house beers to double IPAs to wild ales - all pushing the upper end of the ABV meter. Here is what to expect Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m.: 2014 Snow Cru (of course), Life of Pi (ker), 2013 Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Passenger, 2013 Holy Diver, Barrel Aged Tripel, Nefelibata, Rhubarb Wild, VOLTRON 1.0, Viva la France Farmhouse, Vieux Monde Saison, Peabody Ale, Raspberry Farmhouse and the Peach Raspberry Tacoma Weiss. The Barrel Aged Triple and Raspberry Farmhouse might be new to folks. All these E9 beers will stay on tap until they blow.

The Red Hot's third annual Darkest Day begins at 9 a.m., pairing with its Sunday breakfast. Obviously, since it's a tavern specializing in craft beers and hot dogs, it will pour dark creations from breweries - 16 of them: 2011 Deschutes Abyss, 2012 Deschutes Abyss, 2014 Deschutes Abyss, 2012 Deschutes Black Butte XXIV, 2013 Deschutes Black Butte XXV, 2014 Deschutes Black Butte XXVI, Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti with cherries, Fremont Kentucky Dark Star, Fremont Kentucky Coffee Dark Star, Fremont Kentucky Spiced Dark Star, Midnight Sun Berserker, Midnight Sun Son of Berserker, Midnight Sun Bar Fly Smoked Imperial Stout, Naked City Big Lebrewski, Two Beers Sour Barrel Aged Jive Espresso Stout and Walking Man Jaywalker Imperial Stout. All these beers will be 5.5-ounce pours only, ordered by number, and when they're gone, they're gone. The Red Hot's celebration of the longest night comes with a cool T-shirt.

Sunday at the corner of Sixth and Pine will be a day of high alcohol warmth, lots of viscosity or mouth feel, assertive spices and bitterness and monstrous amounts of sweet, malty flavor. Society makes us feel weird and bad for sitting around in bars while the sun is still up (unless sports are on TV - then anything goes). On the winter solstice, you can feel good about hunkering down at your Sixth Avenue neighborhood bar when it's only 4 p.m., because it's probably dark out. And you can't really be depressed about it when you're looped on dark, heavy beers.

ENGINE HOUSE NO. 9, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21, 611 N. Pine St., Tacoma, no cover, 253.272.3435

THE RED HOT, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21, 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.779.0229

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma, Holidays,

December 15, 2014 at 11:15am

Eat This Now: Gnocchi

Gnocchi watch: When you see dishes done this well, you know that's Marrow, a restaurant that deserves to be loved. photo credit: Jackie Fender

I'm skipping the kid-friendly joints and take-out spots this week. My Eat This Now recommendation centers on "date night." I grabbed the husband and visited gastropub Marrow in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Always known for their exquisite presentation and compelling culinary prowess, the Hilltop Kitchen ownership purchased Marrow over the summer, resulting in some tweaks in the food and drink menu while still remaining focused on fresh, in-season ingredients and unique, flavorful dishes paired with riveting cocktails, craft brews and wine.

I recommend everything on the Marrow menu, but I implore you, beg of you, to try my favorite - the Marrow gnocchi ($18). You won't regret it, unless your taste buds are busted. Served in a large shallow bowl, Marrow's gnocchi features tasty gnocchi dumplings, tender braised oxtail, pickled mushrooms served atop a creamy butternut squash puree.

Le sigh.

The dish is savory, rich, balanced and deeply satisfying on a chilly Tacoma evening.

Why isn't oxtail among the 2014 food trends? This needs to be a thing. Get with it Tacoma chefs.

MARROW, 3 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday-Saturday, 2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.267.5299

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

December 15, 2014 at 10:21am

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with bartender Brittany Crowder of The Valley in Tacoma

Brittany Crowder has a beer for you at The Valley in Tacoma. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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 Brittany Crowder.

Server Banner Girl, Dec. 15-21, 2014

Brittany Crowder

Brittany Crowder has been behind the bar at The Valley since its re-opening Aug. 6 down the street from the Tacoma Dome. Remodeled by Justin and Robby Peterson (Eleven Eleven) in partnership with X Group Restaurants (Asado, Masa, E-9), Crowder calls it the most fun she's had on the job, giving high praise to her bosses and customers. Before The Valley, she tended bar at the Milton Tavern for four years, and before that she put in five years at Autolube & Espresso in Tacoma.

Why do you serve?

I serve because I love it. You get the opportunity to meet all kinds of different people and there's never a dull moment. I basically get paid to people watch.

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

It's impossible for me to choose just one server I would call my favorite. There are too many fantastic people in this industry, especially in Tacoma. I'll say this though, Monica at the Top makes a wicked oatmeal cookies shot (insert winky face).

What are you most proud to serve?

I'm most proud to serve the amazing local micros we receive on tap. I'm definitely a beer girl, so I always get excited when something new and different makes it's way to our tap lineup.

What's your current drink of choice?

It varies. I like to switch it up and keep my taste buds guessing. I love seasonal beers. Currently I'm hooked on Firestone's Velvet Merlin. I was stoked to have a Jolly Roger on nitro at Hank's the other day. Citrus Mistress on nitro was delightful as well at the ParkWay.

Favorite movie?

Favorite movie would have to be anything Quinton Tarantino.

What don't you serve?

Hennessy. Absolutely no Hennessy will be served by me, ever.

What's on your radar at The Valley?

I'm looking forward to this next year at The Valley. We have had some great bands play here this year - Shotgun Kitchen, Hilltop Rats, Blanco Bronco, just to name a few. We have some brilliant ideas for events next year that should excite everyone. If anyone hasn't checked out The Valley, definitely put it at the top of your to do list.

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

LINK: South Sound Happy Hour App

Filed under: Served Banner Models, Tacoma,

December 12, 2014 at 12:38pm

Mac and Cheese Madness: BITE at Hotel Murano

BITE's truffle mac and cheese is several echelons above post-recess nourishment. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

The modern art zing of the Hotel Murano's décor makes me dizzy with delight. My eyes are pulled from left to right, up and down, catching equal parts fine art and whimsy. Upbeat chill music reverberates through the lobby, right up to the lobby bar. Their restaurant, BITE, located on the fourth floor, drips with chic ... and delicious, gourmet flavors.

Not surprisingly, BITE's mac and cheese is also an adults-only playground, thanks to the addition of truffles. For the uninitiated, the rare fungus grows symbiotically with the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. With a little luck, a farmer can expose a sapling's roots to black truffle spores and plant it in a truffière (truffle orchard), where it will grow for years before it is ready to start producing truffles. If it works, a good truffle tree will fruit for 40 years or more. It's an expensive ingredient that doesn't make an appearance at most South Sound restaurants.

BITE's mac and cheese is gobsmacked with truffle goodness. (Kudos to the genius who discovered you could drizzle truffle oil on mac and cheese and make a good thing great.) The mix of black truffle shavings and white truffle oil produces a forward truffle aroma - the taste lingers long after walking through the giant glass doors.

Meaty orecchiette pasta is fused together with a mix of melted white cheddar, ricotta and Parmesan. The pasta choice gives the dish even more personality, as well as acts as a reservoir for the creamy, white sauce. Baked crusty on top, the dish has a pleasant mix of textures and the perfect amount of pasta - I left wanting more, but knowing another bite would take me over the edge. It's served in a giant, hot bowl with a decidedly grown-up flair.

This mac and cheese ($14 lunch, $17 dinner) pairs beautifully with a nice glass of white wine, which offers a crispy acidity for the elegant decadence of the dish.

BITE, lunch 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily; dinner 4:30-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, until 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; Hotel Murano, 1320 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.591.4151

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

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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