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July 18, 2014 at 11:23am

Mac and Cheese Madness: King Solomon's Reef

The mac and cheese at King Solomon's Reef is simple, good food. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Longtime Olympia residents are well acquainted with King Solomon's Reef where everyone and their brother - at least in Oly - has had a job at The Reef and, at some point in their adult life, participated in its 6 a.m. happy hour. (Today, the lounge opens at 10 a.m.) Good homemade food - such as fresh pies and chicken fried steak - and the intimate bar that holds more stories in its walls than Rupert Murdoch has secrets are the reasons this bar is so epic. It has been known as a place of solace and debauchery and gritty bartenders.  Clientele has ranged from state workers to gutter punks, with everyone rolled into one non-judging, loving ball of humanity.

If I were to cast judgment, I'd say The Reef's mac and cheese is simple, good food. The menu describes the dish as "a bowl of macaroni noodles and our own creamy multi-cheese blend, mixed together with a crispy top." Indeed. Efforts to reveal the cheese blend ingredients fell short, but I can tell you it's a buttery, oily bowl of comfort.

It will no doubt be voted in as one of the 64 best mac and cheese dishes in the Weekly Volcano's Tournament of Mac and Cheese next spring.

KING SOLOMON'S REEF, 8-3 a.m. daily, 212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.742.3199

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

July 15, 2014 at 1:29pm

Food philosophy at new Page St. Cafe in Olympia

Page St. Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Rogers Street establishment formerly known as Sage's Brunch House. Photo credit: Christian Carvajal

The doors are open once more at the Rogers Street establishment formerly known as Sage's Brunch House. The sign out front now reads "Page St. Café"-the original name of Rogers was Page Street - but the fragrances wafting from its open kitchen are every bit as appealing.

Joel Hart, one of the creative talents behind Dino's Coffee Bar, is responsible for an eclectic menu that slings huevos rancheros, curried tofu and tartines at breakfast, then adds fajitas, artisan bratwurst and killer mac and cheese for lunch and dinner. One of those bubbly pasta classics emerges from the oven as I walk in, dripping and oozing with cholesterol-laden delights. Hart shows it off proudly. "Look at that!" he crows. "No one else does it like that!" I'm hard pressed to disagree.

Hart warns he's something of a talker. This is also true. "I'm a native Westsider," he begins. "This building has always been magical to me. I used to come in and buy candy from Eddie when it was Eddie's Groceries. I got my first candy cigarette here when I was seven years old. It was all downhill from there.

"We opened Dino's and roasted our own coffee," Hart continues. "It kinda blew up. We began offering a small menu to support the coffee business, and people started coming through the door. It was as though Olympia had never seen a plate of food before. In the first 18 months, we outgrew our seating capacity. Sage, who's a friend of mine, came to me and said she was retiring. We took over this space and spent 60 days on the remodel, then opened on Saturday the 15th. We're trying to keep it Olympia and offer something this community wants. It's locally-sourced, fresh, quality food with awesome coffee and beer on tap."

I note the wide variety of dishes on Page St.'s menus. "I really got to know food when I traveled in Spain," Hart explains. "I was introduced to lots of ingredients I'd never worked with before. Our menu bridges the gap between traditional American food and some European influences, but I really believe the roots of our menu are American. Our entire philosophy of what we do is simplicity. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel; it's about honest sourcing philosophies and honest cooking techniques. We don't own a microwave. We don't have a freezer. We don't need a fryer. It helps us maintain our original vision. When you don't use modern tools, you're forced to work with old-school philosophies. We have a lot of respect for ingredients. All our dressings, our sauces - it's all from scratch. While that seems daunting for a lot of establishments, it's really the best way to put out a good product."

Preach it, brother. Hart may have the gift of gab, but his food clearly speaks for itself.

PAGE ST. CAFÉ, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, 903 Rogers St. NW, Olympia, 360.878.8490

Filed under: Open and Shut Cases, Olympia,

July 14, 2014 at 8:15am

Served Blog Banner Boy: Q&A with Steve Wirtz of Eastside Club Tavern

Slinging craft beers requires knowledge beyond the basic pour. Eastside Club Tavern bartender Steve Wirtz has the answers. 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 Steve Wirtz.

Server Banner Boy, July 14-20, 2014

Steve Wirtz

Steve Wirtz was with Dick's Brewing Co. for 13 years, spreading the Centralia brewery's good word and great beers near and far. For the last 21 years, Wirtz has been pulling the 42 tap handles at the notorious Eastside Club Tavern in downtown Olympia.

Why do you serve?

"I'm absolutely in love with the beer industry and all the people involved. Fitting since my last name means "tender of the bar" in German. My father was also a bartender for many years. I guess I'm just destined for this career and a lifer at the Eastside Club."

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

"My favorite tender in the South Sound is Terry Williamson at The China Clipper in Olympia. He is pretty much known worldwide at this point and his infectious personality keeps people coming back to the Clipper. Love that guy!"

What are you most proud to serve?

"Being an IPA guy myself, I'm most proud serving the wide variety of great IPAs on the market today. I really feel like I can connect to the breweries and then translate it to the customers - like an ambassador of beer.

What's your favorite movie?

"My favorite movie would have to be the Shawshank Redemption. I'm also into any movie containing classic and antique cars as I'm a gearhead."

What don't you serve?

"Thankfully, I don't serve liquor. Beer has a much better vibe and comes with much less trouble. My customer base at the Eastside is a very diverse, yet docile and relaxed crowd. I'm pleased to serve and converse with them.

What's on your radar at the Eastside Club Tavern?

"I'm excited for the Eastside cycling jerseys, which should arrive soon. The design looks great!

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

July 10, 2014 at 1:36pm

Two South Sound restaurants earn Wine Spectator's 2014 Restaurant Wine List Awards

True to its name, La Petite Maison means "the little house." Photo credit: Jackie Fender

Wine Spectator has announced its annual Restaurant Awards, honoring exemplary wine lists around the world. This year, 3,748 restaurants have been named award winners, spanning 50 U.S. states and more than 80 other countries and territories. Thirty-one Washington state restaurants earned one of three awards: the coveted Grand Award, Best of Award of Excellence or Award of Excellence.

Six top notch dining destinations - Clos Maggiore in London, La Toque in Napa, Nice Matin in New York, Saison in San Francisco, The Stonehouse in Santa Barbara and Studio in Laguna Beach - have earned Grand Award honors for the first time in Wine Spectator's 2014 Restaurant Wine List Awards. These restaurants join 68 other winners who have maintained their status as a top destination for wine drinkers, including Canlis and Wild Ginger in Seattle.

While no South Sound restaurant earned Grand Award honors, two restaurants from the our region made the Award of Excellence list: La Petite Maison and Waterstreet Café + Bar - both from Olympia.

La Petite Maison is a French restaurant with entrees in the $24-$39 range and a corkage fee of $15.

Waterstreet Cafe + Bar is a contemporary American restaurant with a fireplace and entrees in the $16-$42 range. Its corkage fee is $18.

Congratulations!

Filed under: Awards, Olympia,

June 26, 2014 at 2:01pm

Cooking Class Alert: HG Bistro Chef Rich at Bayview Monday

This salmon dish photo arrive with the cooking class alert.

Last night I stopped by HG Bistro, or The Goose, for its crab mac and cheese, a dish that will post in my Mac and Cheese Madness column in the near future. It's been awhile since I visited the Tuscan style, fine dining spot buried in on of Puyallup's less attractive areas. Two baseball games and a boisterous dude happy with his waterfront living situation entertained the bar.

Owner Tim Hall and his ancestors have owned the building for 45 years, from fireplace shop to the Hungry Goose Eatery and eventually HG Bistro, when Tim went from manager to owner in 2005. Instead of sandwiches and gifts, HG now serves 14-ounce Kobe New York steak from Snake River Farms ($32), Creole seafood and grits ($24), quinoa sautéed with kalamata olive salsa, shallots and zucchini-squash ($15) and a mighty tasty "Crab Mac" ($19), just to name a few.

I have Goose on the brain because I just received word HG Chef Richard Bretana will be sharing his seafood expertise at 6 p.m. Monday, June 30 at the Bayview School of Cooking in Olympia. According to Bayview hype, "Chef Rich loves to feature seasonal, local food in dishes that are as beautiful as they are scrumptious. His menu this evening starts with a Grilled Prawn Salad with Asparagus, Charred Tomato Crema and Greens with Strawberry Vinaigrette. The entrée is a summery Oven-Roasted Herb-Rubbed Salmon served with Greek Quinoa-Orzo Salad with Olive Salsa and Honey-Ginger Vinaigrette. The sweet finale is a decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake with Fresh Cream and Berry Compote. Learn to make the special dishes tat make HG Bistro a destinations restaurant."

Bayview says there are a few spaces left in front of Chef Rich, so jump on the $55 ticket now. Complementary wine pairing is part of the deal just in case you need a nudge.

HG CHEF RICHARD BRETANA DOES SEAFOOD, 6-8:30 p.m., Monday, June 30, Bayvoiew School of Cooking at Bayview Thriftway, 516 W. Fourth Ave., Olympia, $55, 360.754.1448

June 23, 2014 at 6:40pm

Olympia Food Co-op's new Read and Eat book and potluck club

Not as idyllic as you might think.

When the weather starts to turn warm, there's nothing we love more than to spend a night with a great book and spicy stir-fried fiddleheads with chile paste, sesame oil and walnuts. OK, maybe we also enjoy a little company, but where to find someone with the same weaknesses? Consider heading to The Commons at Fertile Ground Thursday at 6 p.m. for the Olympia Food Co-op's new Read and Eat book and potluck club. This week, the book they will discuss is Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella Carpenter's story of her move to an Oakland, Calif., neighborhood plagued by gang violence and her decision, despite the circumstances, to dive headfirst into urban farming.

Do you hear late-night gunshots while feeding your rabbits carrots? Then whip together a fava and pecorino crostini with mint and pea shoots and join this group in the beautiful and serene Commons. Fertile Ground's mission is to cultivate urban sustainability on a neighborhood scale, the perfect spot to discuss urban farming, drive-by shootings and recipes. Potlucking is not required to come discuss the book, but if you do bring a dish, be sure to write down the ingredients. You bet your recipe is open for discussion.

READ AND EAT SERIES, BOOK GROUP AND POTLUCK, 6-8 p.m., Thursday, June 26, The Commons at Fertile Ground Guesthouse, 311 Ninth Ave. SE, Olympia, free admission, 360.357.1106

LINK: Olympia Food Co-op's class schedule

Filed under: Books, Community, Olympia,

June 15, 2014 at 10:01am

South Sound breweries win medals at 2014 Washington Beer Awards

Brewer Shane Johns and E9 Brewery walked away with three 2014 Washington Beer Awards, basically owning sour beers. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Yesterday during the Washington Brewers Festival, Specialty Competitions LLC and the Washington Beer Commission announced the winners of the second annual Washington Beer Awards. Seventy-five Washington breweries submitted 460 beers to be judged by blindfold trained beer judges.

South Sound Breweries grabbed a few medals, including three Gold:

American Light Ales

Silver: Puyallup River Brewing - Cream Ale

Irish and British Stouts

Gold: Fish Brewing Co. - Over & Out Oatmeal Stout

American Brown and Black Ales

Silver: Harmon Brewing Co. - Black Tartan IPA

American Barley Wines

Gold: Fish Brewing Co. - 10-Squared Barley Wine

Belgian Strong Ales

Bronze: Wingman Brewers - Stratofortress

Farmhouse Ales

Silver: E9 Brewery - Farmhouse Quatre

Sour Beers

Gold: E9 Brewery - Golden Berry Wild

Silver: E9 Brewery - Verre Violet     

Spice, Herb, and Vegetable Beers

Silver: Puyallup River Brewing - Black Pumpkin Saison

Bronze: Northwest Brewing Company - Bad Panda Ginger Pale Ale

Specialty Beers

Bronze: Wingman Brewers - Gratzer

Wood and Barrel Aged Beers

Bronze: Puyallup River Brewing - Oak Aged Point Success Porter

LINK: Read a recap of Day One at the Washington Brewers Festival

June 11, 2014 at 11:22am

New Moon, new menu

New Moon Cafe server/cooperative owner Eli Evans serves up the goods. Photo credit: Nikki McCoy

New Moon Café, which has sat comfortably along Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia for the last 15 years, has made a few changes.

Fourteen new owners took over last July, turning the café into a cooperative, and the group has settled in enough to keep the popular breakfast/brunch/lunch spot reliable for regulars, with just enough change to call it their own.

The upgrades include new menu design and items, such as a chicken bacon ranch burger, build-your-own omelets, cobb salad, a grilled feta sandwich, Wild Cat - a house specialty that has sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms and marinated tempeh over garlic rosemary potatoes - and for kids, a grilled Elvis, with peanut butter, honey and banana.

Read more...

Filed under: Olympia, Community,

June 5, 2014 at 12:28pm

Drinking in the South Sound

Hilltop Kitchen's To the Left cocktail swings both ways: sweet and heat. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

Weekly Volcano researches (that is, drinking) and writes (often while drinking) and fact-checks (usually not while drinking) on a daily basis to connect the South Sound with the nearest libation. This week we put in a few more hours of liver-enlarging labor. ...

Day-drinking in Tacoma

How I learned to stop worrying and pass out with my shoes on by Rev. Adam McKinney

Garden-to-glass cocktails in Tacoma

A few herb-y concoctions by Jackie Fender

New Brewery Alert

Three Magnets Brewing Co. to open in downtown Olympia by Nikki McCoy

PLUS: 2014 summer drinking calendar for the South Sound by Pappi Swarner

LINK: South Sound happy hours

Filed under: Bar Exam, Tacoma, Olympia, Booze,

June 4, 2014 at 1:24pm

New Brewery Alert: Three Magnets Brewing Co. to open in downtown Olympia

A rendering of the building Three Magnets Brewing Co. will occupy with Thurston First Bank and upper-story lofts in downtown Olympia. Photo courtesy of Thomas Architecture Studios

On the corner of Legion and Franklin streets in downtown Olympia, a building is coming to life. With 19 upper-story lofts and Thurston First Bank moving into the 26,000-square-foot space, one more business makes this trifecta complete: Three Magnets Brewing Co.

Owned by Sara and Nathan Reilly, who also own Darby's Cafe, a successful breakfast/brunch/Bloody Mary spot on Fifth Avenue in downtown Olympia, Three Magnets will be an extension of three things they love: beer, soccer and community.

The concept for the brewpub will include plenty of outdoor seating (gas fire pits anyone?) a family friendly vibe, up to 12 rotating beers on tap, a pub-version of a surf-and-turf menu and a 90-inch TV for catching all the Sounders' games.

"We're excited to make relationships and collaborate," said Sara. "I think everyone in Olympia wants Olympia to be known for beer again. And we are beyond supportive; we'd like to see this become a destination."

>>> Three Magnets Brewing Co. is currently under construction. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

So what's behind the name Three Magnets?

Inspired by the garden city approach to urban planning, Three Magnets Brewing feeds off the book Garden Cities of To-Morrow, written by Ebenezer Howard in 1898. Howard's diagram of the concept of town, country and town-country, which asks the question, ‘Where will people go?' contains three magnets to represent the areas of residences, industry and agriculture.

"Essentially, the third magnet, town-country, is proportionate parts of all," explained Nathan, "and what Olympia strives to be."

Plus, said Sara, the symbol of the horseshoe is a nod to Olympia's beer history.

>>> Nathan Reilly double checks details with the contractor. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

For the Reillys, the third magnet is represented in their relationship with many local farms, specifically Helsing Junction, where they picked up one of their brewers, Pat Jansen, whose creativity with hops, yeasts and brewing is exactly what Three Magnets desires.

One signature beer will be Helsing Junction Farmhouse Saison, with different botanicals from the farm in each batch. For example, they hope to start with fennel pollen. The other brewer is Jeff Stokes, who hails from Olympia businesses Gravity Beer Market and Skip and Skein.

Other unique qualities of the brew side of things are the offering of session beers that contain no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hops and, typically, a clean finish for drinkability. In addition to an ABV board, the temperature of the beers will be listed, too.

"We think that's the direction micro brew is going," said Nathan. "In the '90s, there were staples ... but now, people want something new.  Our idea is to have constantly rotating taps and a few flagship beers for those that don't like change."

And to continue with the vision of unique and local, the kitchen side will pump out casual versions of surf-and-turf: housemade burgers and in-house cured fishes, for example. Condiments will be made in-house as well, and a kid's menu will be featured.

"We want to do what we did for breakfasts for brewpubs," Nathan said.

The Reillys hope for a soft opening in July.

THREE MAGNETS BREWING CO., 600 Franklin St. SE, Suite 102, Olympia

>>> Another rendering of the building Three Magnets Brewing Co. in downtown Olympia. Photo courtesy of Thomas Architecture Studios

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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