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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 1, 2015 at 7:16am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Cheesy 16 games

The Crown Bar's mac and cheese (pictured) battle the Rosewood Cafe's version in Tournament of Mac and Cheese action today. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1: CHEESY 16 GAMES >>>

The best mac and cheese in the South Sound? You think you know where to find it. We all do. After weeks of feverish voting (and with the help of a complicated computer program stolen from cavemen) we at the Weekly Volcano World Headquarters have watched you, beloved readers, narrow down the region's mac and cheese from 64 to the very best 16, the cream of the cheese. Yesterday, the first eight mac and cheese dishes did battle. Today, the remaining eight go at it.

Without further ado, let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: STINK Cheese & Meat (628 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma)

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T" is how the song goes, and that's just what Over The Moon Café has been earning so far in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, knocking off Quickie Too and Harmon Brewing in earlier rounds. Yesterday, in the battle that knocked over their antique lamps and tabletop poetry books, Over The Moon Café proved they could go all the way. Even with an impressive evening push that closed the gap to 20 votes, STINK Cheese & Meat, deservingly a number one seed, with weekly gourmet mac and cheese specials, fell to neighboring Over The Moon Café. I wouldn't be surprised to see STINK owner Kris Blondin and Over The Moon owner Deanna Harris Bender hug it out at the corner of Seventh and Saint Helens Avenue today.

Game 2: Bar Bistro (1718 99th St. E., Tacoma) vs. BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma)

The Provenance Hotel group isn't messing around. The Portland-based boutique hotel collection phoned in psychological ploy for their Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma to use in their battle with Bar Bistro yesterday. "Push our new free WiFi option and in-house pet psychologist," the team in Portland might have said. That they did, as well as turn up the upbeat chill music in the lobby and placed three mints on pillows instead of two. With the solid play from BITE Restaurant's meaty orecchiette pasta fused with a mix of melted white cheddar, ricotta and Parmesan, and the corporate suggestions, BITE was able to maintain a lead all day, capturing 61 percent of the votes over Bar Bistro's worthy mac and cheese, and a slot in tomorrow's Baked Eight competition. 

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. The Valley (1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma)

Marrow likes the narrow. The modern vegetarian, vegan and animal proteins bistro on Sixth Avenue is not a run-and-gun player. Rather Marrow will slow play their opponents, concentrating on their baked gourmet mac and cheese, then throwing a bunch of craft cocktails at them. They kept scrappy gritty The Valley within arms reach the entire game. Marrow knew golden boys Justin and Rob Peterson and their Valley could easily go on a run and take it. In perhaps the most hotly contested match of the tournament, Marrow, who trailed the entire game by a good margin, pulled it out seconds before the buzzer, winning by one vote. Marrow moves into the Baked Eight to take on the winner of today's Engine House No. 9 and Mac N More game.

Game 4: Westside Tavern (1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia) vs. Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma)

This game was a bit of a surprise. Yes, Boathouse 19 was seeded slightly higher and their cast iron, three-cheese macaroni and cheese with caramelized onion and huge chunks of ham is exceptional, but to beat Westside Tavern and their secret family cheese sauce and thousands of fans was a shocker. The other seven South Sound mac and cheese joints in tomorrow's Baked Eight need to sharpen their elbows because Boathouse 19 is the real deal. With 73 percent of the vote, the waterfront restaurant next to the Narrows Marina moves closer to the title.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Baked Eight:

Over The Moon Café

BITE at Hotel Murano

Marrow Kitchen + Bar

Boathouse 19

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

OK, let's check out today's Cheesy 16 mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.

Today's Cheesy 16 Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Crown Bar (2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma)

Tipping off the second day of Cheesy 16 games we have number eight seed Crown Bar, with its popular late-night street food and tasty cocktails, battling number four seed Rosewood, a Proctor District-ish neighborhood café popular with bicyclists and dogwalkers. Both businesses serve worthy mac and cheese dishes, and are well loved with the community, so rallying support won't be an issue. The real question is: will Rosewood Café be intimidated off the court at the sight of Crown Bar's lively clientele, or will the comfy feel café just tighten up the shoelaces and go to work? The votes will decide. VOTE HERE

Game 2: Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma) vs. Steel Creek American Whiskey Co. (1114 Broadway, Tacoma)

Working class mac and cheese dishes face off in this Tournament of Mac and Cheese Cheesy 16 game, albeit one donning a cowboy hat. Steel Creek's lobster mac and cheese knows how to win against creative versions, beating Masa and Chambers Bay Grill. Can the country/western whiskey bar beat Eleven Eleven cheese-driven creation? Will Steel Creek grow quick beards to handle what 1111 beerdos Justin and Rob Peterson throw at them off the bench? Do you wish I'd stop asking questions and just allow you to vote? Do it!  VOTE HERE

Game 3: Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma) vs. Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey)

A good mac and cheese experience owes as much to the atmosphere as the actual elbows and cheese themselves. And what I have discovered in my travels is that firehouse equipment and beer club plaques in a restaurant usually signal that a mac and cheese feast of epic proportions is at hand. Be lucky enough to find a joint with a fire hose and, holy three-alarm, you're in for a treat. You'll be happy to know that Engine House No. 9 fulfills such criteria, as well as grabbing the "People's Choice" award at last weekend's Slider Cook-Off at the Museum of Glass. The Sixth Avenue neighborhood restaurant and bar will need every hose, every fire hat, every craft beer recipe from brewer Shane Johns to beat Mac N More, the Lacey house of mac and cheese. Truth is, I have pulled up a chair at the Lacey strip-mall eatery a dozen or so times since Steve and Katrina Cobb opened the mac and cheese centric restaurant in 2012. Steve, who has seen the world through a restaurant kitchen window while his wife, Katrina, served in the Army, tweaked his macaroni and cheese recipe during a 25-year journey. After tasting the famous macaroni and cheese at S'mac in New York City, and making the final adjustment, the Cobbs felt confident enough to open their own joint at the corner of Martin Way and Dutterow Road. And their recipes are freakin' delicious. VOTE HERE

Game 4: Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. Top of Tacoma Bar and Café (3529 McKinley Ave. E., Tacoma)

I'm not sure how to describe this game. Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge vs. Top of Tacoma Bar and Café could end relationships, cause car title exchanges and fill the tattoo shops with sad faces. These two mac and cheese dishes are equally outstanding. Glad you're voting and not me. VOTE HERE

Tomorrow's Baked Eight Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma) vs. winner of Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma) vs. Steel Creek American Whiskey Co. (1114 Broadway, Tacoma)

Game 2: BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma) vs. winner of Crown Bar (2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma)

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. winner of Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma) vs. Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey)

Game 4: Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma) vs. winner of Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. Top of Tacoma Bar and Café (3529 McKinley Ave. E., Tacoma)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 30, 2015 at 7:57am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Second Round ends today!

King Solomon's Reef's mac and cheese (pictured) faces off with Mac N More's version in a worthy Thurston County battle today. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

MONDAY, MARCH 30: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

Now it's getting exciting. The elbows are really starting to fly, and the cheese is getting so thick you cut it with a cheese knife.

Point is: this is serious.

Today, the Weekly Volcano's Tournament of Mac and Cheese is in its 12th day, the last day of the Second Round and the competition is as hot as ever. Who will be crowned on April 6? The path to South Sound mac and cheese greatness continues.

Here's a look at today's Tournament of Mac and Cheese action and a recap of yesterday's results. Shake some Parmesan on it if you know what's good for you and get stirring.

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Steel Creek American Whiskey Co. (1114 Broadway, Tacoma) vs. Chambers Bay Grill (6320 Grandview Dr. W., University Place)

It's becoming a little busy around the 930-acre Chamber Creek Regional Park. Trails and dog parks are closed. The Tent City is under construction. The USGA is preparing for the U.S. Open golf championship to be held June 15-21 at Chambers Bay. Coach John Tartaglia took advantage of the Chambers Bay Grill's location, pushing his 10th seeded Steel Creek to victory with 68 percent of the votes, behind solid play from his lobster mac and cheese. Steel Creek moves into the Cheesy 16 round.

Game 2: C.I. Shenanigans (3017 Ruston Way, Tacoma) vs. Crown Bar (2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma)

In NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament history, an eighth seed has only one once. The legendary 1985 Villanova Wildcats beat heavily-favored Georgetown as an eighth seed. But this is the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, and number eight seed Crown Bar handed number one seed C.I. Shenanigans a defeat the Tacoma waterfront restaurant will long remember. The Sixth Avenue hangout stomped on Shenanigans with 68 percent of the votes.

Game 3: Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma) vs. Paesan Kitchen and Bar (1705 Dock St., Tacoma)

In a back and forth matchup pitting third seed Paesan Kitchen against 11th seed Engine House No. 9, Engine House No. 9 was eventually able to pull ahead of the stout Paesan Kitchen thanks to a late run - grabbing 57 percent of the votes. Paesan gambled Saturday night, closing down for a huge wedding party celebration. Did the closure affect Sunday's voting? Tournament of Mac and Cheese statisticians can't say. Apparently our stat people where all at E-9 drinking craft beer and eating mac and cheese Saturday night.

Game 4: Ricardo's Restaurant (5211 Lacey Blvd. SE, Lacey) vs. Top of Tacoma Bar and Café (3529 McKinley Ave. E., Tacoma)

Sitting in opposite counties, operating in very different styles, gritty Top of Tacoma and fancy Ricardo's battled hard yesterday. While their Facebook pages remained idle, their fans vigorously clicked computer mice. At the final buzzer, Top of Tacoma Bar and Café captured the third 68-percent-of-the-vote win of the day. Top of Tacoma moves on to the Cheesy 16.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Cheesy 16:

Steel Creek American Whiskey Co.

Crown Bar

Engine House No. 9

Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe

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

OK, let's check out today's Second Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.




Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Tomorrow's Cheesy 16 Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: STINK Cheese & Meat (628 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma)

Game 2: Bar Bistro (1718 99th St. E., Tacoma) vs. BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma)

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. The Valley (1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma)

Game 4: Westside Tavern (1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia) vs. Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 29, 2015 at 8:29am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Sunday, Cheesy Sunday

Chambers Bay Grill's crab mac and cheese (pictured) battles Steel Creek American Whiskey Co.'s lobster mac and cheese today. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

SUNDAY, MARCH 29: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

Laid-back is the essence of Sunday. That means a lazy mid-afternoon mac and cheese, no work, phone off the hook, flip-flops ... you know the routine. The mere thought of lifting a finger to wash the mountain of dishes in the sink should make you shudder. Yesterday, a good chunk of the South Sound changed its Saturday routine. Voting in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese was added to the mix. Yesterday's vote total nearly doubled the previous record high for most votes in a day. Don't you people have lives?!

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Harmon Brewery & Eatery (1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) vs. Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma)

Sixty-five votes. That's the margin of victory Over The Moon Café had over the Harmon Brewery & Eatery. Was it Over the Moon Café owner Deanna Harris Bender's love of "elevated old school" cooking that advanced the Opera Alley restaurant into the next round? Maybe it was the funky knick-knacks in the building's bathrooms. Most likely it was the seasonal mac and cheese with penne pasta, rich cream sauce and Gruyere cheese. Whatever it was Over The Moon Café will need it March 31 when it faces neighboring STINK Cheese & Meat in the Cheesy 16 round. Families will be torn apart that day.

Game 2: The Forum Tacoma (815 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) vs. BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma)

BITE restaurant took a big bite out of The Forum's Tournament of Mac and Cheese dreams. The modern restaurant inside the Hotel Murano grabbed 66 percent of the vote over The Forum. Could the orecchiette pasta and truffles in BITE's mac and cheese have anything to do with the win? Or did the Murano's Bellhops whisper suggestions as they opened the front door? BITE moves into the Cheesy 16 and a March 31 date with Bar Bistro.

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Southern Kitchen (1716 Sixth Ave., Tacoma)

Tacoma's Sixth Avenue is a long-ass street. And it's loaded with mac and cheese dishes in this competition. Two of them - Marrow Kitchen + Bar and Southern Kitchen - faced off yesterday in a brutal battle that went down to the wire. After the cheese stopped bubbling, Marrow emerged victorious with 51.39 percent of the vote. Yup, I'm talking a two-vote difference. Marrow moves into the Cheesy 16 and a March 31 date with The Valley.

Game 4: Westside Tavern (1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia) vs. El Gaucho (2119 Pacific Ave., Tacoma)

Despite a late push from fancy El Gaucho, Westside Tavern and their large, devoted strongly motorcycle-riding following proved too powerful in yesterday's action, catapulting into the Cheesy 16 with 63 percent of the votes. You can't question the Westside Tavern's following, and sometimes a following is just what it takes in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese.  

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Cheesy 16:

Over The Moon Cafe

BITE

Marrow Kitchen + Bar

Westside Tavern

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

OK, let's check out today's Second Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.




Tomorrow's Second Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma) vs. Smoke + Cedar (2013 S. Cedar St., Tacoma)

Game 2: Metropolitan Market (2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma) vs. Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma)

Game 3: King Solomon's Reef (212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia) vs. Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey)

Game 4: Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. H.G. Bistro (1618 E. Main Ave., Puyallup)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 26, 2015 at 8:02am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: First Round ends today

Maxwell’s Restaurant + Lounge’s “Max + Cheese” does battle today. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

THURSDAY, MARCH 26: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

Low and behold, today marks the closing of the Tournament of Mac and Cheese's First Round. After today's battles the bracket will officially be down to only 32 area mac and cheese joints, and the competitions are getting fiercer by the minute. Honestly, if it gets any more exciting we'll start to understand why Marv Albert is always yelling "Yesssss!" Plus, we'll have serious back fat.

Without wasting anyone's time with elbow macaroni related basketball innuendo, on to today's Weekly Volcano Tournament of Mac and Cheese action.Let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Metropolitan Market (2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma) vs. Uncle Thurm's Finger Lickin' Ribs & Chicken (3709 S. G St., Tacoma)

Everyone loves a good comeback, and this may have been one of the better clutch performances in the (obviously short) history of the Tournament of Mac and Cheese. Down by a substantial margin by midday, Metropolitan Market was able to rally the shoppers at halftime, and by the time the final buzzer sounded the Proctor District grocery store had walked away with an impressive victory, racking up 57 percent of the vote. Metropolitan Market moves into the Second Round. ...

Game 2: Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma) vs. Serious Soul Café (35501 21st Ave. SW, Federal Way)

It would have been a serious upset of monumental proportion had the Serious Soul Cafe somehow managed to defeat the Rosewood Cafe, but - alas - it was never meant to be. The Rosewood dominated from tip-off to the final seconds yesterday, collecting votes at a more than three to one ratio and securing 85 percent of the votes. Bicyclists and mac and cheese lovers unite - the Rosewood Cafe will not be denied!

Game 3: Oakhouse Restaurant & Bar (8102 Zircon Dr. SW, Lakewood) vs. King Solomon's Reef (212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia)

In a back and forth matchup pitting two fairly evenly matched competitors (at least in the eyes of voters, it seems), King Solomon's Reef was eventually able to pull ahead of the golf course clubhouse in the Lakewood neighborhood of Oakbrook thanks to a late run - grabby 70 percent of the votes. The loss has to be especially tough for the Oakhouse, as they entered the Tournament of Mac and Cheese with plenty of hype, mainly coming from, well, the entire city of Lakewood. That said, King Solomon's Reef thanks its lucky stars every time it makes a bank deposit for the damaged livers of Evergreen students, and it has its jam packed nighttime diner scene, so the fact it's moving on to the Second Round isn't shocking. You can't question The Reef's following, and sometimes a following is just what it takes in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese.

Game 4: Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey) vs. Silvers Saloon (2752 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympia)

In a battle of Thurston County, Mac N More cruised to victory and securing roughly 87 percent of the vote by the time things were said and done. This one was over early, and the pummeling lasted all day. Luckily for all of us, Silvers Saloon doesn't need the Tournament of Mac and Cheese to get by ... it has an awesome saloon vibe, not to mention a grubbin' mac and cheese. The high-powered Mac N More moves on to Second Round action.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

Metropolitan Market

Rosewood Café

King Solomon's Reef

Mac N More

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

OK, let's check out today's First Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.




Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Tomorrow's Second Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: STINK Cheese & Meat (628 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. Doyle's Public House (208 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma)

Game 2: The Galley at 7 Seas Brewing (3006 Judson St., Gig Harbor) vs. Bar Bistro (1718 99th St. E., Tacoma)

Game 3: The Valley (1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma) vs. Pacific Grill (1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma)

Game 4: The Hub (203 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma) vs. Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 25, 2015 at 7:50am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Yesterday's winners and Day 7 First Round battles

Rosewood Cafe mac and cheese: bicyclists approved / photo credit: Pappi Swarner

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

Macaroni and cheese may not be duck à l'orange, but it transcends so-called gastronomy by inspiring devotion and embodying sustenance. Adults fight over whose mother's recipe wins out. Friends have mac and cheese cook-offs. Even fancy restaurants try to capitalize on such greatness by adding things such as chorizo, cotija and aged English cheddar. Hmmm, that actually sounds delicious.

Welcome to Day 7 of our Tournament of Mac and Cheese, where 64 South Sound restaurants pit their mac and cheese dishes against each other with the hopes of being crowned the champion at our championship party at McNamara's Pub & Eatery April 6.

Without further ado, let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Masa (2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Steel Creek American Whiskey Co. (1114 Broadway, Tacoma)

Steel Creek American Whiskey Co., formerly the Varsity Grill, is a cowboy joint, at least in terms of its décor. Everything it does, it does big: big dance floor, big whiskey selection, big hairdos and big bowls of creamy mac and cheese that arrive tasty and full of lobster flavor. The other big thing Steel Creek does is win big. Yesterday the downtown Tacoma joint grabbed 87 percent of the votes over Masa, and secured a spot in the Sound Round of the Tournament of Mac and Cheese.

Game 2: Chambers Bay Grill (6320 Grandview Dr. W., University Place) vs. Lunchbox Laboratory (4901 Point Fosdick Dr. NW, Gig Harbor)

Chambers Bay Grill opens its first food tournament with a big win against Gig Harbor burger joint Lunchbox Laboratory in Tuesday's First Round action. Grabbing 73 percent of the votes, the University Place golf course clubhouse dominated the stovetop for much of the game, only letting up a little to take in its own view of the Puget Sound passage ways. Chambers Bay Grill moves into the Second Round and a March 29 date with Steel Creek.

Game 3: Ricardo's Restaurant (5211 Lacey Blvd. SE, Lacey) vs. Oly Rockfish Grill (700 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia)

In yesterday's closest battle, Ricardo's edged out Oly Rockfish Grill with 54 percent of the votes. Maybe the screams of "Dungeness And You're Done!" from Ricardo's kitchen might have something to do with the victory. Stranger things have happened in Weekly Volcano food tournaments.

Game 4: Top of Tacoma Bar and Café (3529 McKinley Ave. E., Tacoma) vs. South Bay Pub & Eatery (3323 S. Bay Road NE, Olympia)

The Tournament of Mac and Cheese can be brutish and short. One cold stovetop day can destroy title dreams of even the best elbow macaroni makers. Sometimes experience can be a deciding factor. Those who have made it far in food tournaments are more consistent and less prone to scorch panko or forget cream. Top of Tacoma Bar and Café is a veteran of food tournaments and knows how to garner votes, as demonstrated yesterday with 89 percent of the votes over South Bay Pub & Eatery.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

Steel Creek American Whiskey Co.

Chambers Bay Grill

Ricardo's Restaurant

Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe

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

OK, let's check out today's First Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.



Tomorrow's First Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma) vs. Farrelli's Pizza (4870 Yelm Hwy., Lacey)

Game 2: Smoke + Cedar (2013 S. Cedar St., Tacoma) vs. Johnny's Seafood Market & Bistro (1199 Dock St., Tacoma)

Game 3: Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. Homestead Restaurant & Bakery (7837 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma)

Game 4: Ramblin Jacks (520 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia) vs. H.G. Bistro (1618 E. Main Ave., Puyallup)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 24, 2015 at 8:02am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Day 6 First Round games and yesterday's winners

Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe serves a mac and cheese with prosciutto, pork belly, tomato or pesto options. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

TUESDAY, MARCH 24: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

The seed was planted last April during our Tournament of Burgers Championship party at Meconi's in downtown Tacoma. After taking second place to the Westside Tavern, Maxwell's chef Hudson Slater suggested mac and cheese for the Weekly Volcano's 2015 food tournament.

The South Sound Tournament of Mac and Cheese launched Thursday with 64 mac and cheese joints battling toward the championship game April 6. Follow along with the Tournament of Mac and Cheese bracket attached (below and to the right).

Without further ado, let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: C.I. Shenanigans (3017 Ruston Way, Tacoma) vs. Applebee's (10407 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW, Lakewood)

The nice thing about being a number one seed is it usually means you've got a paddy-cake game the first round. So was the case for Tacoma waterfront restaurant C.I. Shenanigans, which easily handled the 16-seeded Applebee's by securing more than 96 percent of the vote. Even better, Shenanigans survived the contest without wacky promotional schemes such as asking diners to rewrite popular songs with Applebee's menu items as the lyrics ... so bonus!

Game 2: Crown Bar (2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Tides Tavern (2925 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor)

Serving delicious mac and cheese to intoxicated masses on Sixth Avenue is business genius, probably why Tacoma's Crown Bar does it. However, name recognition also goes long way - and Tides Tavern has been slinging food and drinks wearing boat shoes for ages. In this contest, late night food carried the day, with the Crown Bar securing roughly 70 percent of the votes and winning easily.

Game 3: Topside Bar and Grill (215 Wilkes St., Steilacoom) vs. Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma)

If there's a trend developing it's that Tournament of Mac and Cheese voters are wowed by unique toppings. Sure, and fancy mac and cheese can get you somewhere in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, but it doesn't guarantee anything - and your cheese sauce foundation has to be sound before voters will get behind some of the stranger stuff. While Topside Bar and Grill gushes beautiful view and community feel, voters flocked toward the down home, Tailgate-style, Lit'l Smokies laden mac and cheese goodness of Engine House No. 9 in this contest, awarding the old firehouse roughly 83 percent of the vote.

Game 4: Paesan Kitchen and Bar (1705 Dock St., Tacoma) vs. Southbay Dickerson's BBQ (619 Legion Way NE, Olympia)

Fontina cheese is the star ingredient in Paesan Kitchen & Bar's gooey baked penne pasta, although the leeks, egg, mustard, chili flakes, grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs would tell you different, if they could. It's baked ... and so is Southbay Dickerson's BBQ after this battle. The downtown Olympia barbecue joint threw everything and the kitchen sink at Paesan, but the tiny Dock Street Tacoma's kitchen was too much for Dickerson's. With 88 percent of the votes, Paesan Kitchen and Bar advances to the Second Round and a March 29 date with Engine House No. 9.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

C.I. Shenanigans

Crown Bar

Engine House No. 9

Paesan Kitchen and Bar

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

OK, let's check out today's First Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.




Tomorrow's First Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Metropolitan Market (2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma) vs. Uncle Thurm's Finger Lickin' Ribs & Chicken (3709 S. G St., Tacoma)

Game 2: Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma) vs. Serious Soul Café (35501 21st Ave. SW, Federal Way)

Game 3: Oakhouse Restaurant & Bar (8102 Zircon Dr. SW, Lakewood) vs. King Solomon's Reef (212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia)

Game 4: Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey) vs. Silvers Saloon (2752 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympia)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 11, 2015 at 11:27am

Beer Here: Breakside, Pelican, Spinnaker Bay, Hops of March IPA, St. Patrick's Day ...

The new 7 Seas Brewing growlers arrive this weekend. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Hello South Sound beer enthusiasts. Here is your workout leading up to St. Patrick's Day. ...

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11

From a three-barrel brewing system in Woodlawn, Oregon in 2010 to a 20,000 barrels per year in Milwaukie, just south of Portland, Breakside Brewing may hold the record for the highest number of different beers brewed in a year - 83 in 2012, 92 in 2011 and 100 in 2013. The Red Hot hosts the crew from Breakside for a few of their more unique and rare offerings, including the GABF-award-winning Wanderlust IPA, Liquid Sunshine Pilsner, Lunch Break ISA, Safe Word Triple IPA, Tropicalia Saison, New World Bruin, La Tormenta Sour, Salted Caramel Stout and Bourbon Barrel Aztec. Tapping begins at 5 p.m.

The Puyallup River Alehouse turns into a Raven's Nest when Black Raven Brewing Company out of Redmond, Washington, flies in at 6 p.m. Black Raven was opened in 2009 by Robert "Beaux" Bowman, who honed his brewing skills at Mac & Jack's Brewing, the now-defunct Far West Ireland Brewing and a few other local breweries. Cross your fingers for some Black Raven barrel-ages.

Thrill-seeking accountant Marcy Larson and chemical engineer Geoff Larson, both 28, founded Alaskan Brewing Co. in 1986 - Juneau, Alaska's first brewery since Prohibition. From the historically based Alaskan Amber recipe to alder-smoked malts and Sitka spruce tips, Alaskan beers reflect Juneau's local brewing history and innovation. Alaskan's rotating spring seasonal this year is the Big Mountain Pale Ale. Made with a variety of hops, its flavors range from tropical fruit to resinous pine. Six Alaskan beers will be served at Pint & Quarts Lacey beginning at 6 p.m. Go drink a Sitka spruce.

If you're thinking cider, then head to Pint Defiance from 5-7 p.m. and hang out with No. 6 Cider Company out of Seattle. Named after the hand-dug railway tunnel that lead to the expansion in the Pacific Northwest, No. 6 created hand-crafted ciders such as Honey Ginger Cider, Pomegranate Cider and others next to the railway.

THURSDAY, MARCH 12

Beachfront Pelican Pub & Brewery sits just off the dunes in the resort town of Pacific City, Oregon. Pelican's magnificent view beats the view out of The Copper Door in Tacoma's Stadium District, but it's all good through the bottom of a pint of Red Lantern IPA, Silverspot IPA, Stormwatcher's Winterfest and other Pelican brews, which will stick their beaks into Copper Door from 6-9 p.m.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13

Do you purposefully walk under every ladder? Seek out black cats? Open umbrellas inside all the time? Then why not toast your affinity - or respect - for superstition with some Hopworks Urban Brewery beers at Gravity Beer Market in Olympia. The Portland, Oregon brewery will pour Galactic Imperial Red Ale, Motherland Russian Imperial Stout, Nonstop Hef Hop, Survival stout and Rise Up Red Ale from 5-7 p.m.

Loosen up your drinking arms and test-run your offensive-to-the-Irish-community T-shirt at the St. Patrick's Day Pre-funk & Release Party at Puyallup River Alehouse. Puyallup River Brewing will be unleashing their springtime seasonals - St. Paddy's Day stout, Springtime Brown Ale and Green Cream Ale - beginning at 6 p.m. They'll also be tapping a keg of Cockrell Hard Ciders' Green Apple Cider. How do like them apples?

Narrows Brewing in Tacoma will release an ESB Friday in their taproom. It's the first Narrows brewing beer released by new head brewer Mike Davis.


SATURDAY, MARCH 14

Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel is dealing themselves in the beer festival game hosting their first annual Beer and Wine Festival from 1-5 p.m. For $20 advance (1.800.720.1788) or $25 at the door, you will receive a commemorative pint or wine glass, eight drink tickets and a straight line to Dick's Brewing Co., Hi-Fi Brewery, Mt. St. Helens Cellars and others.

When you think of a brewmaster, you probably envision a bearded fellow in a trucker hat. But not at Spinnaker Bay Brewery in the Hillamn City neighborhood in Seattle. The woman-founded, -owned, and -run brewery and taproom brews some damn strong, tasty beer without beards. Founded in 2012 by Janet Spindler and Elissa Pryor, Spinnaker creates "big flavorful beers with attitude," and those beers are boss this Saturday when they take over the taps at Morso Wine Bar in Gig Harbor from noon to 3 p.m.

Northwest Brewing Co. just outside of Sumner hosts a party with green beer and Dan Benz & Friendz on stage.

The new 7 Seas Brewing growlers will arrive in their taproom (3006 Judson St., Gig Harbor) Saturday at 11 a.m. This year's edition, once again, features imported glass from Germany and is decorated by Gig Harbor's Fresh Northwest Design. The growlers are $75, with a coupon for $2 off your next growler fill. For those who have last year's edition, grab your growler and drop in Friday to grab your same number (1-500).

SUNDAY, MARCH 15

It's March ... meaning Madness is in the air. Sixty-four well-oiled competitors (for the most part) will tip off and do battle - working their way through the tediously-constructed bracket and toward ultimate supremacy. We speak, of course, of the Weekly Volcano's Tournament of Mac and Cheese, which begins March 19 on our ServedintheSouthSound.com blog. Apparently, a college basketball tournament is also slated to go down this month. The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament selection announcement hits the tube Sunday, and the Harmon Tap Room in Tacoma will broadcast it beginning at 3 p.m. Ridding the wave of enthusiasm for our Tournament of Mac and Cheese, or more likely the hoops tourney, Harmon brewmasters Jeff Carlson has, once again, released his Hops of March IPA. Every March, Harmon releases this hoppy IPA, but rotates the hops. This year, the hops varieties of Magnum, Amarillo, Rainier, Cascade and Horizon - M.A.R.C.H. - were brewed with five malted barleys to give this medium- to full-bodied IPA (6.8 percent ABV, 90 IBUs) a brown color similar to a basketball. Nothing but the bottom of the pint, baby! Drink it up at one of Harmon's four houses of beer, including the Harmon Tap Room.

TUESDAY, MARCH 17

Your last name may not be O'Neil or McCarthy, but in the South Sound, we all have a little bit of Irish in us. Irish and Scotch-Irish served as crew aboard Spanish, English and U.S. vessels that explored the Puget Sound during the second half of the 18th century. They participated in land-based explorations as well. And now, here we are in this hodgepodge of a region. We're hardworking, tax-paying citizens (most of us any way), and we deserve the right to wear our finest green attire and down a pint at nine in the morning every bit as much as anyone who's authentically Irish. Fish Brewing Company will release this year's Over & Oat Oatmeal Stout and Hodgon's Double IPA at 5 p.m. in their Fish Tale Brewpub (515 Jefferson St. SE, Olympia). Westside Pints & Quarts (625 Black Lake Blvd. SW, Olympia) will pour Tullamores, Iron Horse Irish Death and Guinness. O'Blarney's Irish Pub (4411 Martin Way E., Olympia) will offer an outdoors Guinness VIP beer garden. The Forum (208 S. Meridian, Puyallup) will fire up the black and tans. Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. (610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) will host a St. Patrick's Day party featuring new releases Belgian Golden Ale and Galaxy Session IPA. The Hub (1208 26th Ave. NW, Gig Harbor) will pour Green Pale Ale and Jameson Oak Soaked Stryker Stout during its St. Paddy's Day celebration.

February 23, 2015 at 10:26am

Served Blog Banner Boy: Q&A with Mike Besser of Top Rung Brewing Company

You'd be hard to find someone more knowledgeable about all aspects of the beer industry than Mike Besser of Top Rung Brewing Co. in Lacey. 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 Mike Besser.

Server Banner Boy, Feb. 23-March 1, 2015

Mike Besser

Mike Besser has his grandfather to thank for enticing him into the beer and liquor industry. As a young boy he would have conversations with his "grandpa" came home from work. He was a butler/bartender for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills from the late 1940s until the mid 1990s and knew everyone. "Grandpa Charles was awesome," says Besser. "He would come home with different items from the parties. He would wake me and my brother up to show us what the lady of the house let him bring home. Most of the time it was whole hams, big bags of fresh food but then other times he would bring home whole bottles of whiskey. Now we were much too young to try it, but the bottles looked so cool. And he would tell us about how Jimmy Stewart would order his drink or how President Reagan would order and then Nancy would make him water down his drink. I was hooked!"

Besser knew he had to become a bartender when he turned of age.  At 21, he became a bartender at oceans restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, he has worked in many restaurants, bars and beer bars. When he and his wife decided to have a child, Besser became a stay-at-home dad. Although he had been home brewing and blogging for years, he decided to broaden his two loves and BrewDad.com was born around 10 years ago, which coincided with his daughter's birth, who is known today as "SodaKid." Besser posted stories daily with periodic piece in Northwest Brewing News and trips to the Beer Blogger Conference.

When Top Rung Brewing Co. in Lacey approached him to help with sales, he answered yes before owners Casey Sobol and Jason Stoltz could finish their question.

Today, when he's not posting as BrewDad or on the streets selling beers, you can find him at the Lacey brewing giving tours and pouring beers.

Why do you serve?

"I love chatting with people and when you include beer it is always a win-win for me." 

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

"My favorite server these days is Jarred at Skep & Skein. He has super knowledge of the product and always a huge smile followed by a big ‘Hi Mike.'"

What are you most proud to serve?

"I am most proud when I am serving a great beer that I can get behind. Take our CDA at Top Rung; this is a beer that can sell itself. The flavor profile along with the excellent brewing makes this one of my favorites to sell. I was sad to see it go so fast but. Not to worry - in a short time it will be back on our taps and available for me to sell." 

What's your current drink of choice? 

"I love a big citrus hoppy IPA. I love ours, of course; I can drink the Prying Irons IPA all day. Our Heavy Irons with the extra umph from the hops is always a tasty treat I quaff upon." 

Favorite movie?

"Give me any western and I am in. Lonesome Dove - although it's actually a TV mini-series - is my all-time favorite western movie. 'A man who wouldn't cheat for a poke don't want one bad enough.' - Augustus ‘Gus' McCrae" 

What don't you serve?

"Call me old fashioned but I will never serve anything with energy drink added. I think that is the worst invention and addition for drinking ever. When I see kids these days adding energy drinks to their drinks it is just a recipe for epically bad results." 

What's on your radar at Top Rung Brewing?

"Top Rung is headed for a terrific year. As we approach our first anniversary, I know for myself we have exceeded many of our goals we set last year. I am just so excited to see what unfolds as we venture into new areas and new accounts. just hope we get a new Top Rung rig for the sales department. Hint hint."

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

February 17, 2015 at 12:25pm

Happy Chinese New Year!

This year, the Spring Festival falls on Feb. 19. For 15 days, Chinese families around the globe are returning to their homes for half a month of feasting, money-stuffed red envelopes and much-needed bonding to honor the Year of the Goat.

One of the great things about living in the Great Melting Pot is it's always some Americans' holiday. For a half-Anglo, half-Latino dude from L.A. and Oklahoma, I know a surprising amount about Chinese New Year. Chalk it up to too many hours spent in Chinese buffets, but also to genuine interest in the culture. My Oklahoma friends and I threw a Chinese New Year party each February; it gave me the chance to show off my burgeoning wok skills. Oh, make no mistake, I can still throw down a half-decent Buddha's delight, the vegetarian medley traditionally served around that time because the end of its Cantonese name, fat choy, sounds like the phrase for prosperity. Don't delve too deeply into the black "hair weed" that thickens the dish, though. Instead, think of it as Chinese black eyed peas, and bon appetit.

Much like Westerners' spring cleaning ritual, the Ch?njié (Spring Festival) of the Chinese lunar New Year gives families a festive reason to spruce up the house, clearing the way for all that good luck to come. It's a time of reunion, when red decorations appear, firecrackers get 'sploded, and money is liberally distributed in red envelopes. Why all that red? A Nián Shòu is a mythical, leonine beast. Legends tell us that a Nian used to attack a certain village each year on New Year's Day. The villagers left food in front of their doors in hopes the man-eater would devour it and amscray, until finally, the gods hinted to a local hero that he should consider hanging red banners and lighting fireworks instead. The Nian, secretly terrified of the color red, hit the bricks and was never seen again-unless you believe a story that it was later captured by a Taoist monk, Hóngj?n L?oz?", who wore red undies and thereby scared the Nian into serving as his personal show pony.

It may surprise you to learn there's no real agreement on which numerical year this is in the Chinese calendar. That's because mainland Chinese tend to not to assign numbers to years, and scholars outside the country never quite agreed on when their calendar should start. We do know that as of this Thursday, Feb. 19, the twelve-year astrological cycle lands on the Year of the Goat, sometimes prettied up as Year of the Ram. In America, goats are known for their stubbornness. That's true in China as well, but they're also thought of as kind, peaceable and popular, if not a bit clingy (cf. those adorable kid videos on YouTube).

So how should you, fellow Yank, celebrate the Spring Festival? Aside from the fireworks where legal, red banners, good-luck messages, and gifts of money to stubborn but popular Volcano bloggers, I recommend getting your eat on. (I know. I recommend that for every occasion.  It's a thing I do. Shut up.) A downside of being ethnic-American is one often has to work hardest on one's own cultural holiday, as my cousins could attest every Cinco de Mayo. So yes, my beloved Main Chinese Buffet will be open in Lacey, as will the always delicious Indochine in Tacoma. You might also brave the crowds at Din Tai Fung up in Bellevue, my wife's favorite restaurant on the planet. Have a family photo taken. By all means, have a drink. The traditional toast is "g?n b?"i," which means "empty cup" or "bottoms up!" Then wish each other a hearty "gong hey fat choy," meaning "congratulations and prosperity." Teenagers are free to add the jokey suffix "hóngb?o nálái": "now gimme a red envelope!" More jao gok dumplings, anyone?

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Holidays, Lacey, Tacoma,

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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