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March 30, 2015 at 10:15am

Eat This Now: Spinach Salad

If you're in the mood for a salad, Doyle's Public House has a delicious spinach version. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

Looking back on the last few weeks of Eat This Now recommendations it's pretty clear I love food like a fat kid loves cake.

Mmmmm, cake.

Though, I haven't covered any cake recently, the last few weeks included cheese dip, doughnuts and fried cheese - all delectable and all maybe on the decadent side.

With summer approaching, I got to thinking: maybe, just maybe, I should help both you and me get the whole bathing suit body ready, or something. Or at the very least not tempt you each and every week to join me in my chubby-wubby ways.

So, with that, we visit Doyle's Public House in Tacoma's Stadium District and their Spinach Salad ($6.99). The salad is a pretty simple concoction with a hearty helping of spinach tossed in honey mustard dressing laying the foundation. Add to that red onions, tomatoes, large crispy bacon bits (none of that dehydrated almost bacon stuff), feta cheese, and hardboiled egg. The ingredients are über fresh and generously portioned throughout. Add chicken breast if you're looking for something with a little more oomph and that's a meal that won't kill the waistline. It's a well-executed salad in a joint that specializes in Irish cuisine, which isn't known for its light food fare, Hell, you have to chew through their beer even, so you don't have to feel like a Debbie Downer when your friends want to nosh on some "Irish Nachos" and you're thinking you should be eating something on the lighter side.

DOYLE'S PUBLIC HOUSE, 11-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 7-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, 208 Saint Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.7468

Filed under: Eat This Now, Health, Tacoma,

February 16, 2015 at 10:39am

Tacoman opens gluten-free brewery

Jason Yerger, left and Brian Thiel poured their Ghostfish Brewing Company gluten-free beers at the Cascadia Grains Conference in January. Photo credit: Karen Fleur Tofti-Tufarelli

One evening in January, Olympia's South Puget Sound Community College student union turned into a tasting room as attendees of the Cascadia Grains conference helped themselves to a gluten-free, mostly vegan dinner, then ambled over to brewers and distillers to sample whisky, beer, liqueur and more.

Tacoma resident Brian Thiel poured tastes of his Ghostfish Brewery Company's Single-Hop Eldorado IPA, Buckwheat Brown and a stout - all experimental varieties concocted in a brewing laboratory he developed with $30,000 raised through Kickstarter.

The tasting topped off the Cascadia Grains Conference - a funky mix of craft brewers, farmers, academics, maltsters, marketing types and entrepreneurs sniffing out opportunities in the go-go world of craft brewing. Craft breweries surged from 537 in 1994 to 2,768 in 2013, according to the Brewer's Association.

New barley and quinoa varieties, organic certification, and the intellectual property perils of selecting brewery names were just some of the conference topics.

Thiel's Ghostfish opened Feb. 5 in Seattle; the grand opening celebration occurs in March. Thiel and his business partners considered locating in Tacoma and looked at property on Hilltop, but ultimately opted for Seattle.

Ghostfish is dedicated (but not yet certified) gluten free; that distinction has led to inquiries from several states and even the U.K.

"People are beating (your) door down," he said, asking, ‘When are you going to be in Maine?'"

Ghostfish packaged beer products will be distributed in Tacoma and the South Sound, says Thiel.

Craft brewing is a mix of science and spunk, clear-eyed corporate and folksy collaborative: propelled by the "Grain to Glass" model - the craft brewing answer to a growing focus on quality ingredients and local sourcing -conference participant Westland Distillery has started meeting with farmers and workers in its supply chain, said Westland's Matt Hofmann; a future Westland label might feature a farm where its barley is grown.

"People care about where their (product) comes from - not just whether it's local, but how it's made," he said during a conference lunch of chicken roulade, local beet quinoa salad, cauliflower tabbouleh salad and winter-roasted veggies prepared by Yelm-based Simply Organic.

"What cool barley varietal can you grow, and can you make whiskey out of it?" Hofmann asked.

That question could be asked of both farmers and scientists: Westland wants to participate in helping local academic institutions develop more productive barley varietals - a process that Hofmann says takes a minimum of 10 years - trying to "turn the tide" of barley production upward.

Westland uses 40,000 pounds of malted barley every week, and as GMO corn "keeps marching Northwest," Hofmann said. Westland wants to ensure a robust supply of Washington-grown barley.

"We've been helping these guys develop their business and saying in effect, if you build it, we will come," Hofmann continued. "Western Washington is one of the best barley-growing regions."

Scott Fisk, an Oregon State University faculty research assistant, affirmed U.S. barley production has declined over the last 30 years - losing out to corn, soy, wheat and grass - but stopped short of saying that the U.S. is experiencing an actual barley shortage. Fisk's department is breeding barley for disease-resistance, quality and yield. One component of this research involves making crosses with barley strains from Germany, which Fisk says are fairly well adapted for Willamette and Skagit Valley growers.

But Thiel's Ghostfish, as a gluten-free brewery, doesn't use barley malt, since barley contains gluten.

Gluten-free brewers must use gluten-free malt such as that made by Wellington, Colorado's Grouse Malting and Roasting Company - one of the only certified U.S. gluten-free maltsters. CEO Twila Henley said that Grouse's gluten-free malt costs 50 to 100 percent more than regular craft barley malt.

Seattle's first gluten-free brewery Ghostfish is open 3-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday at 2942 1st Ave. S., just a few blocks south of Safeco and CenturyLink fields. The brewery also serves an assortment of gluten-free pizzas.

December 23, 2014 at 12:53pm

Souper's three favorite Tacoma soups

Chili con Carne and I do care. Photo credit: Kim Thompson

In the colder months, I am totally souper.

No, I didn't misspell super. Because that I am not in the winter. Souper is my own made up word for my love of soup, especially this time of year. I eat it with wild abandon.

I'm not alone; soupers abound in the South Puget Sound and feel no differently than I do.

What is it about soup? Why is it so satisfying and gratifying?

I believe the answer lies in nostalgia.

I was one of those asthma and allergy kids with a perpetual runny nose and cough in late grade school, so much so, that when confronted with any kind of viral illness, I moved right to the bronchitis or pneumonia stage.  Being sick and eating soup has worked hand in hand since, well, forever.

My favorite sick soup was chicken broth with star-shaped noodles, of the Campbell's soup variety (that was the era). What I loved about it was there were loads of stars, teensy tiny meat chunks, a few carrot bits thrown in for color and hot, extra salty broth. I liked to collect as many stars on my spoon as possible and gently pour the broth and other pieces out, while trying not to lose any stars; the goal in the end was to eat a bunch of hot stars.

It was fun. And soup just makes you feel better about everything, even if only for a little while.

As an adult, my tastes have drifted into more sophisticated realms, and the Campbell's has been long since abandoned. I adore the creamy soups - delicate and aromatic. Paired with some lovely country bread or small baguette, I am swooning.

That's fun, too (as well as nourishing and delicious).

You know what else is fun? Talking to other locals who are SUPER SOUPERS. The real deal, the ones who love to nourish other soupers. Following are three establishments that appreciate a really good soup and provide it to the rest of us (lucky us!).

Chile con Carne with Butternut Squash

The Social Bar and Grill (Foss Waterway, downtown Tacoma)

The Social not only appreciates a rich and flavorful soup, but also a beautiful and interesting presentation. Delighted patrons are eating it up, literally.

"We have a Chile con Carne with Butternut Squash Soup that is pretty amazing," says Social owner PhilipPanagos. "We use Negra Modelo in the broth with beef brisket, maple, tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic and chipotle. People rave about it all the time. One year, we served it in a mini-pumpkin, but it proved to be a lot of work."

Panagos also noted that the flavorful Seafood Stew draws raves from customers as well: the cream-based soup is a mix of seafood - fresh sweet bay clams, rockfish, prawns, chorizo and fennel - with a hint of Riesling wine.

Red Pepper Kale

Happy Belly (downtown Tacoma)

This soup has produced many happy bellies around town. In fact, it literally reached beloved status very quickly, and the legion of fans is only going to continue to grow.

Happy Belly owner Jennifer Johnson explains.

"People rave about it," she says. "Regulars come get it three to five times a week. Others stop by and get a bowl to take home several times a week as well."

Even better? It's soup goodness that really is good for you, which diners love.

"It's vegan, hearty and very delicious with just a little spicy kick," she adds.

Pickle Soup

Alina's Soups (various Tacoma locations, Proctor Farmers Market)

Yes, you read this correctly. Pickle Soup.

Alina Mikolajczyk of Alina's Soups is the producer of Pickle Soup, and she encourages folks to give it a go, really.

"The name alone raises eyebrows," she says. "Most people cringe when they see the name, but once they taste it, it's a favorite of the day. Nobody has ever heard of Pickle Soup. It's very Polish, but I love how the flavor outweighs the name every time. The curiosity on people's faces when they see my sign. Most of the people just want to sample it because of its name."

I know you are dying to know what is in Pickle Soup. Mikoljczk describes the flavor as a German potato salad in a liquid form.

Another soup that customers are enchanted by is her Potato-Kale Soup with Pork Sausage, which is always a winner with the meat lovers.

Filed under: Health, Tacoma,

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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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