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April 20, 2015 at 2:51pm

Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. expands production, hires Andy Kenser

Steve Navarro brewing at Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. in downtown Tacoma. Courtesy photo

Some historians estimate that man has been brewing beer for more than 8,000 years. Anthropologists have even speculated that bearded Neolithic man made the transition from a nomadic to sedentary existence in order to cultivate grain for brewing beer. The beer served as an important nutritional supplement to an otherwise limited plant-heavy diet.

In 1840, archeologists digging up ancient Sumeria (present-day Iran) found clay tablets dating back 5,000 years that are inscribed with representations of brewing activity. From the tablets, we learned that these ancient cultures used beer as a dietary staple before bread was discovered. Their beer consisted of water, barley and flavorings.

Not as ancient, but certainly well bearded, man has been brewing beer in Tacoma since the late 1800s. In 1897, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. was established in downtown Tacoma and grew to become the second largest brewery in Washington state, until shut down by Prohibition in 1916.

Last September, head brewer Steve Navarro and financial businessman Brent Hall reopened Pacific Brewing and Malting Co., not in Tacoma's old brewery district near 25th and Jefferson, but rather down the street in the lower level of the historic Old City Hall Annex Building on Pacific Avenue, near the corner of South Seventh Street.

Even before trying a single beer, one can't help but be drawn to the photographic evidence of Pacific Brewing's history adorning the taproom walls of the new brewery. During a recent visit, I wasn't the only one taking photos of the photos.

But what are not as evident are the changes Pacific Brewing has undergone in recent weeks. Navarro and company have increased production capacity and hired veteran beverage sales rep Andy Kenser to distribute product to restaurants and bars - freeing up Navarro's time to concentrate on brewing beer, which is vital with the recent departure of assistant brewer Bethany Carlsen to the head brewer job at Gig Harbor Brewing Company.

"We doubled our capacity," Navarro told me as we strolled the halls of the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland during last week's Craft Brewers Conference. "We opened the brewery with four 7-barrel fermenter tanks and we just bought two 15-barrel fermenters, so we went from producing twenty-eight barrels to fifty-eight barrels. With Andy coming on, we'll be brewing more beer."

Kenser comes to Pacific Brewing & Malting from Click Wholesale Distributing where he represented hundreds of brands, including Dogfish Head and Bear Republic. Kenser started his career at Pike Brewing Company, moved to Harmon Brewing Company where he was assistant brewer, and eventually became a head brewer for RAM Restaurant and Brewery.

"Andy is my neighbor in the North Slope of Tacoma. He'd come into Pacific Brewing from time to time and really enjoyed the beer," Navarro said. "I knew we were increasing production and I simply couldn't do it all anymore - brewing, selling, delivering. I needed someone to rep our beer so I could focus on brewing. So I gave Andy a call. He's the perfect fit. Andy is well known and liked in the industry. And he's a brewer. He is going to help take us to the next level."

While Kenser will travel Washington state spreading the Pacific Brewing brand, the next level is actually firmly planted in Tacoma. Navarro and Kenser will focus heavily on saturating Tacoma with their 1897 Pale Lager, Dirty Skoog IPA, Citra Pale Ale and Grit City Porter, as well as their seasonals and specialty brews. They want to be Tacoma's beer. They want the Pacific handle to be in all four corners of the city.

As 12,000 brewers from around the world squeezed by us, Navarro and I discussed the brewery's history and success on Facebook. His historical posts drew thousands to his page well before he opened his big doors to Pacific Avenue.

"Our one-hundred-year-old history sparked more interest than we could ever imagine," Navarro explained. "Thankfully, we have been able to back it up with beers that people enjoy."

There are more beers on the way, too.

"We're coming out with a red amber called Red Front," he said. "Back in the day, Pacific Brewing had ownership interests in dozens and dozens of bars in Tacoma. They all sold Pacific beer. During Prohibition, they had to divest all their interests. One of those bars was called Red Front."

He's also brewing another IPA as part of his seven IPA series. This one will be low bitter and all-aroma, made with Amarillo and Simcoe hops. A hoppy Pilsner will follow the IPA release.

Pacific Brewing will begin bottling in May.

PACIFIC BREWING & MALTING CO., taproom open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.BEER

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

April 20, 2015 at 10:14am

Eat This Now: The Hoffa

Find The Hoffa at The Valley down the street from the Tacoma Dome. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

It's not often I get out of the house from some grown up shenanigans but after their domination of the Slider Cook-Off at the Museum of Glass, I finally HAD to check out The Valley. Naturally I was not disappointed. I'm a huge fan of Valley co-owners Rob and Justin Peterson's sister restaurant, Eleven Eleven on Hilltop Tacoma. Also, X Group partnered with the Petersons on The Valley, and I find the X-Group's friendly takeover of the Tacoma dining scene refreshing because each concept is unique from the next so a partnership between the two is culinary rock stardom and you can consider me a groupie.

On my visit we tried a few items with my favorite being The Hoffa ($9.49). This sandwich is a matrimony made in heaven with marinara, spicy Italian link sausage, mozzarella cheese, onions, peppers and pesto all served up hot on a French roll. All of the components are perfection making this sandwich a spicy, meaty, cheesy success. Served with a side salad or Tim's Cascade Chips the sandwich is quite filling and fun because this ain't yo mama's meatball sub.

I suspect all of their sandwiches to deliver the goods and highly suggest the Bacon Gorgonzola dip to start.

Pair it all with a cold brew or cocktail and the kitschy laid back ambiance and you have yourself a Tacoma gem that's located on the path a little less traveled. 

THE VALLEY, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, 1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.428.4265.

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

April 13, 2015 at 3:16pm

Wingman Brewers celebrates four years in Tacoma

Wingman Brewers head brewer Ken Thoburn will be behind the bar during the Tacoma brewery's fourth anniversary celebration. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Technically, Wingman Brewers produced its first batch of beer in 2007. "The first batch of beer I ever made was a five gallon batch of beer with my fellow Wingman Derrick Moyer.  We got the itch for brewing then and opened our business with a one barrel of 31-gallon batch of beer in April of 2011 with a party at The Red Hot," remembers Wingman head brewer and co-founder Ken Thoburn.  Friends and Tacoma natives Thoburn, Moyer, Daniel Heath and Jason Sabol launched the then Tacoma small-batch brewery. The brewery's name and image is homage to Thoburn's grandfather, an artist who served in World War II in the Pacific, and painted the sides of fighter planes when he could. Today, Thoburn, Moyer and Heath pilot the business.

Now four years after their takeoff, Thoburn still walks into his brewery with a smile. "My life has changed dramatically. I love my job for the first time in my life and that goes a long way," say Thoburn. "Even on the worst of days I still count myself lucky that I get to do what I love."

Wingman Brewers has produced iconic beers with aviation names such as ACE IPA, Stratofortress Belgian Strong Ale and P-51 Porter.

"We make a whole lot of Ace IPA and P-51 Porter," says Thoburn. "The Porter takes up the most production because aside from making the normal P-51 Porter we also do a large amount of Coconut P-51 and added Peanut Butter Cup P-51 this year.  It feels like I'm making P-51 nearly every week." 

But over the past four years, Thoburn has developed a startling number of different beers. By his count, he's designed more than 90 different brews or variations.

What has been the biggest challenge since opening? 

"Day-to-day business operations are challenging," says Thoburn. "Neither my business partner, Daniel, nor I had a huge amount of business ownership experience previous to opening Wingman Brewers so it's been and continues to be a heck of a learning process."

Currently, Wingman can't keep up with the demand for their beers. They could be selling many more beers, according to Thoburn.

"Our main issues have stemmed from production and distribution," he explains. "We continue to expand our business as quickly and safely as we can, though, so hopefully we will be able to get our beer to more people soon."

Wingman's strategic agility plans calls for an expansion of their beer production, distribution and retail space.

"In what order and how quickly depends on a number of variables," adds Thoburn. "We're just trying to stay flexible and enjoy the process as much as possible. We're very grateful for all the support from local businesses that we've had and we feel very lucky to have such great beer drinkers out there enjoying our product."

And, there's plenty to enjoy Saturday when Wingman Brewers opens the hangar doors for their "Here's To 4 in 253" four-year anniversary party. Lizzie Lou's Comfort Foodtruck, special glassware and plenty of beer are on the docket.

The taplist will be as follows:

  • Ace IPA;
  • P-51 Porter;
  • Peanut Butter Cup Porter;
  • Coconut P-51 Porter;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Old Plank Pils;
  • 2014 Bourbon Barrel Aged Stratofortress;
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Baby Flat Top;
  • 2014 Vintage Sour Brett Berliner Weisse; 
  • Madagascar Vanilla Bean & Raisin BBFT;
  • Red Hot Chili Pepper Ace IPA;
  • and more.

Wingman will also have bottles of: 

  • Bourbon Barrel Big Baby Flat Top;
  • Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Peanut Butter Cup P-51 Porter;
  • Chocolate Fortress; 
  • and more.

WINGMAN BREWERS "HERE'S TO 4 IN THE 253" FOURTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, noon to close, Saturday, April 18, Wingman Brewers, 509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.256.5240

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

April 13, 2015 at 11:18am

Eat This Now: Carbonara

A Carbonara with housemade vermicelli now graces the menu at Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge in Tacoma. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

While innovation is often times key to culinary brilliance, sometimes one just needs to go back to the basics to concoct a truly divine dining experience. My Eat This Now recommendation this week is one such dish that can be found at Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge as of Thursday, one of many new items to be included on their seasonal menu transition, the Carbonara.

Chef Slater keeps things nice and traditional with housemade vermicelli pasta tossed with bacon, English peas, Adam's shitake mushrooms, fresh arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, then topped with a perfectly poached egg. The peas and peppery arugula add pops of green that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also delicious - while the bacon lends a nice smokiness that compliments the cheese. I think anyone's Nona would agree that this is a carbonara well executed.

Aside from the spring flavors being added to the menu, Maxwell's is also anticipating other big changes on the horizon, such as new ownership. Beti Tarantino has applied for permits for the establishment. Local folks may remember the name Tarantino from her previous culinary ventures as owner/operator of Puyallup dining destinations BAR Steaks and Spirits and Comfort Food Café.

Will the new ownership equate to a revamp to Maxwell's ambiance and menu? Only time will tell, but I for one hope Chef Slater still has the opportunity to continue highlighting his culinary prowess with dishes like this week's feature.

MAXWELL'S RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE, 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday, 454 Saint Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.683.4115

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

April 8, 2015 at 11:55am

Eat This Now: Totchos

Smoke + Cedar's Totchos are crazy delicious. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

Did you know top dog on the list of most consumed vegetables in the United States is the potato? Really, it's no wonder. Its far less versatile and less tasty companion, iceberg lettuce, follows it. Anyhow, the potato is a clear winner because it comes in so many different forms: fry, jojo (the seasoned chunky fry cousin), scalloped, browned hash, diced and peppered, mashed and whipped and my personal favorite, the tot. Golden brown on the outside and tender bitty tater bits on the inside formed in a funky silhouette, the tater tot can itself be presented on many different and delicious platforms, such as tater tot nachos.

Smoke + Cedar's Totchos ($7/$10) are tops. Boy howdy, they know how to do things right at that joint. Smoke + Cedar presents the tot-nachos with golden brown tots covered with evenly distributed pepper jack cheese and sour cream, little black beans peeking through ooey gooey cheese windows throughout all topped off with a chunky spicy salsa and jalapeno.

I recommend diving into the Totchos with a fork for cheese twirling; otherwise you're sitting rail side with telling ribbons of cheesy goodness leading from the skillet to your mouth. And while tasty, that's not a good look for anyone.

Go forth, Eat This Now, because Tots + Nachos = a happy belly.

SMOKE + CEDAR, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2013 S. Cedar, Tacoma, 253.343.6090

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

April 7, 2015 at 7:25am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Champion crowned

Boathouse 19 of Tacoma won the 2015 Weekly Volcano Tournament of Mac and Cheese. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

After three weeks of voting the Weekly Volcano readers have picked the most popular mac and cheese joint in the South Sound.

Yesterday's Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship matched the romantic downtown Tacoma spot Over The Moon Cafe against the Narrows waterfront restaurant Boathouse 19. It was a battle that saw elbow-to-elbow online voting before dinnertime (5 p.m.) of the tournament, and then switched to the live ballot voting at 6 p.m. during the Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party at McNamara's Pub and Eatery in DuPont. At the party, folks filled out mac and cheese voting ballots when they weren't pounding beers and screaming at the televisions. The mac and cheese voting couldn't help but take a backseat to the tight NCAA Men's Championship hoop game in which there were 16 lead changes, five ties and enough tension and pressure to choke on an elbow macaroni. In the end, however, Duke had the answer for every Wisconsin run and won 68-63, capturing their fifth national title in the program's history.

A large representation from Boathouse 19 were in the house, and were treated, as was the whole house, to two complimentary mac and cheese dishes, thanks to McNamara's Pub and Eatery.

Just like the previous five Weekly Volcano food tournaments, we tallied the in-house votes during the first half of the hoop game, and then added them to the day's online votes. The winner ended up with 65 percent of the online vote as well as secured a two-to-one vote ratio at McNamara's. At halftime, Weekly Volcano co-publisher Ken Swarner handed out raffle prizes, then announced the Tournament of Mac and Cheese winner:

Boathouse 19.

Both Tacoma mac and cheese joints will be receiving Tournament of Mac and Cheese trophies after completion of the engraving. Also, look for a feature on the Boathouse 19 in the April 16th of the Weekly Volcano.

So it's official: Boathouse 19 is the winner of Weekly Volcano's 2015 Tournament of Mac and Cheese. Eat it up, South Sound.

Thank you!

We would like to extend special THANKS! to BITE Restaurant and Bar at the Hotel Murano for sponsoring the Tournament of Mac and Cheese. The modern restaurant made it to the Final Four before falling to Over The Moon Cafe. BITE serves a damn tasty truffle mac and cheese.

Also a big thanks to McNamara's Pub and Eatery in DuPont for hosting our Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party last night. Good times.

But, most of all, thanks to all the awesome folks who voted. You rock.

April 6, 2015 at 7:54am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Final vote and tonight's party

The Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship game is on!

MONDAY, APRIL 6: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME >>>

The titanic mac and cheese throwdown finale in on! Voting for the 2015 Weekly Volcano Tournament of Mac and Cheese Readers' Poll Championship Game is live.

After three weeks of voting, you have picked the most popular mac and cheese joints in the South Sound area. What began as 64 elbow-slinging joints has been narrowed down to two: Over The Moon Cafe and Boathouse 19. Online voting will end at 5 p.m.

At 6 p.m. we'll hand out mac and cheese voting ballots at our Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party inside McNamara's Pub and Eatery, 1595 Wilmington Dr., in DuPont. McNamara's will be broadcasting the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game on all its screens. Throughout the first half of the game we'll be handing our mac and cheese voting ballots for a final push of voting. At half time of the hoop game, we'll announce the winner of the 2015 Tournament of Mac and Cheese. Then there will be much rejoicing.

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

Welcome to the big elbow and cheese dance.

Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game

Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma) vs. Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma)

Using penne pasta, Over the Moon Cafe takes the classic mac and cheese dish beyond comfort food. The base of rich cream sauce and Gruyere cheese has seen many co-stars over the years. You might remember fresh Roma tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts and sliced Portobello mushrooms, or huge chunks of butternut Squash, sage, sautéed shallots folded into a gorgeous, creamy sauce that isn't slick with grease, but accented with stringy Gruyere cheese. Topped with housemade croutons and Parmesan, Over the Moon Café's mac and cheese is a task to finish due to its size and richness.

Boathouse 19 serves elbow macaroni bathed in silky, three-cheesy goodness and served in a cast-iron pan. Maybe the secret to this mac and cheese greatness is the caramelized onion and huge chunks of ham. Maybe it's the thick blanket of panko, that is the perfect contrast rather than steel the show. Maybe it's the dish's fine balance of being cheesy and not cheesy, creamy but not creamy. No need to twist. No need for a spoon. Pepper jack, American and cheddar, blended all together.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE

Again, online voting will end at 5 p.m. Voting will resume at 6 p.m. live at the Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Party at McNamara's Pub and Eatery in DuPont.

Thanks again for voting.

April 4, 2015 at 8:00am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Championship Game set

Over The Moon Cafe will battle Boathouse 19 in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Game Monday, April 6.

SATIUDAY, APRIL 4: TWO LEFT BUBBLING >>>

Over the past three weeks, the Weekly Volcano challenged 64 of the South Sound's best mac and cheese serving joints to go elbow-to-elbow in a showdown of culinary combat. Some fell easily by the wayside, either faltered due to inferior skills or simply because they faced a superior opponent. Noodle by noodle, we ate our way down to yesterday's Final Four: Over The Moon Café, BITE, Engine House No. 9 and Boathouse 19. It was do-or-die, penne or macaroni, "They play for keeps 'cause they might not make it back" says Bon Jovi. After the last breadcrumb was spread, two restaurants fought their way from behind to face off Monday in the Championship game.

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma) vs. BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma)

The Weekly Volcano Steno Pool called it the game of the tournament, which is hard to argue with four and two seed battling it out. When the last piece of pasta was eaten, and a come-from-behind run beginning at 5 p.m., Over The Moon Café grabbed 58 percent of the vote and moves on to Monday's championship game.

Game 2: Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma) vs. Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma)

Engine House No. 9 came into the Tournament of Mac and Cheese as a number 11 seed and kicked ass, which was the Tacoma restaurant and brewery's game plan yesterday, taking a commanding lead in the morning. At 3 p.m., with the help of their happy hour crowd, Boathouse 19 poured it on. The Tacoma waterfront restaurant began racking up votes in an eye-popping display of pasta perfection, even drawing folks from neighboring Narrows Brewing. When the final buzzer rang, Boathouse 19 stood alone with 74 percent of the vote, and a date with Over The Moon Café in the championship game Monday.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Championship Game:

Over The Moon Café

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.

Here we go. Over The Moon Café in Tacoma's Opera Alley will face Boathouse 19, the restaurant and bar perched over the Narrows waterway, Monday, April 6 when the polls open around 8 a.m. Online voting will run until 5 p.m. At 6 p.m., the voting will resume live at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont during the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party. Ballots will be handed out. The live vote will close at halftime of the NCAA Men's Tournament final and the South Sound Mac and Cheese Champion will be announced.

This weekend, pack the car and eat mac and cheese at Over The Moon Café today and Boathouse 19 tomorrow, or vice versa. Compare notes with your neighbors. Then come Monday, vote here on the Served in the South Sound blog then join us at McNamara's Pub.

Thanks again for voting.

April 3, 2015 at 7:53am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Final Four today!

Tournament of Mac and Cheese Final Four is on. Vote now!

FRIDAY, APRIL 3: FINAL FOUR >>>

And then there were four. ...

Believe it or not, fine readers, there have been days during the Tournament of Mac and Cheese when, by noon or so, it was already obvious which mac and cheese-serving restaurants would be moving on and which would be going home. There were blowouts ... oh were there ever. Sometimes, it made my job a little easier; I could work on the next day's copy at a decent hour in the evening without fear the game would suddenly turn.

Oh, but yesterday was different. Yesterday, the votes just kept coming - from tipoff to the final buzzer. Three of the games were come-from-behind wins, and by wins I mean victories by a handful of votes. One was a dead heat with an hour left to vote.

The tournament began with 64 South Sound mac and cheese restaurants March 19. Today, four mac and cheese restaurants will face off for the ultimate glory - elbow to elbow battles to determine the best mac and cheese-serving restaurant in the South Sound. What four mac and cheese slinging joints will move onto the Final Four?

The drumroll please ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma) vs. Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma)

After mounting quite a tear through the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, a tear that - quite honestly - many weren't prepared for, Eleven Eleven's run came to a halt when it faced beloved Over The Moon Café yesterday. Hilltop's Eleven Eleven lead the entire day until five people somewhere in the world decided to vote during the final hour of the contest. With a one vote margin, Over The Moon Café and its fancy mac and cheese heads into the Final Four today.

Game 2: BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma) vs. Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma)

When first discussing the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, in editorial meetings that seem like they were many moons ago, Rosewood Café was mentioned almost immediately. The North Tacoma café has a following, and everyone knows it. The neighborhood hangout has fared well so far in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, but yesterday - despite being locked in one hell of a close game all day - the Rosewood couldn't sustain the cheese. BITE Restaurant & Bar, embedded in the boutique Hotel Murano, turned up the chill music, placed another bellhop in the lobby and pushed their Ooo la la Lemon Drop cocktails. When the buzzer sounded, BITE had garnered 52 percent of the vote, and a spot in today's Final Four.

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma)

Engine House No. 9 has made a lot of friends in its 40-plus year history at Sixth and Pine. Yesterday, the Tacoma destination for craft beer and mac and cheese needed all of those friends to take down hip Marrow Kitchen + Bar, a number one seed and a bistro many had advancing all the way to the championship on their Tournament of Mac and Cheese brackets. With a two-vote margin win, 11th seed Engine House No. 9 advances to the Final Four.

Game 4: Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma) vs. Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma)

Number two seed Boathouse 19 has killed it so far in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese. That said, most prognosticators still assumed Boathouse 19 would go down when facing number one seed Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge. Surely, Maxwell's with its fancy digs and celebrity chef would have too much firepower for Boathouse 19, right? No so fast, my friend! Boathouse 19 maintained a solid 50-point lead all day. After taking a victory lap in their bad motor schooner, Boathouse 19 finally took a deep breath and soaked in their spot in today's Final Four.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Final Four:

Over The Moon Café

BITE Restaurant and Bar

Engine House No. 9

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 Final Four 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.

Game 1: Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma) vs. BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma)

Inside Over The Moon Café you'll find black table linens, cozy colorful chairs and lighting that sets the mood perfect for date night or conversation over a glass of wine. A small lamp adorns your table alongside a collection of vintage hardback books, combined with the lighting and velvety seating you're enveloped in a gypsy-esque ambiance. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu is spattered with colorful salad options and tasty sandwiches during lunch that transition to artful fine dining worthy plates in the evening. The modern art zing of the Hotel Murano's décor is as entertaining as a People magazine cover story. Your 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, is just as cool. Located on the fourth floor, the space drips with chic. Over The Moon Café and BITE both serve "adult" mac and cheese dishes - no elbow macaroni, no American cheese. Here we go! CLICK HERE TO VOTE

Game 2: Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma) vs. Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma)

On the other side of the bracket sits a scenario nobody could have predicted. Eleventh seed Engine House No. 9 and their "Tailgate" mac and cheese ran over Topside Bar and Grill, Paesan Kitchen and Mac N More to reach the Final Four. Impressive, to say the least. Number two seed Boathouse 19 and their balanced three-cheese mac and cheese motored over Red Robin, The Hub and Westside Tavern to face E9 today. Number vs. number. Firehouse theme vs. nautical. Li'l Smokies vs. caramelized onion and huge chunks of ham. Engine House No. 9 vs. Boathouse 19. I fully expect the Tacoma Emergency Network to be activated today. CLICK HERE TO VOTE

Log onto the Served in the South Sound blog tomorrow and discover which two restaurants will battle it out in the championship game Monday, April 6. The online voting will launch around 8 a.m. Monday morning, closing at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m., the voting will resume live at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont during the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party. Our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

April 2, 2015 at 7:54am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Baked Eight today!

Chef Hudson Slater of Maxwell's snapped a shot of his mac and cheese and posted it on Instagram. #tournamentofmacandcheese

THURSDAY, APRIL 2: BAKED EIGHT GAMES >>>

The Baked Eight is fully fleshed out: eight establishments that - according to our readers' votes - serve the best mac and cheese in the South Sound.

Yes, only eight out of an original 64 mac and cheese joints remain, each going to battle today to stay alive and fight on toward ultimate Tournament of Mac and Cheese glory. All the signs in the restaurants, the mass emailings to customers and friends, the mac and cheese phone trees have paid off for these eight mac and cheese slingers.

On to today's Tournament of Mac and Cheese Baked Eight action and yesterday's results.

Yesterday's Results

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

Despite a late push from Tacoma Sixth Avenue neighborhood hangout Crown Bar, the Rosewood Café and its large, devoted, strongly bicyclists and families following proved too powerful in yesterday's Tournament of Mac and Cheese action, easing into the Baked Eight with 57 percent of the votes. Rosewood Café is known for their four-cheese mac and cheese - a dish elevated with nutmeg and ground mustard. It's going to need every bit of the nutmeg when it takes on BITE Restaurant and Bar today.

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

Hilltop Tacoma's favorite sandwich and booze joint (at least based on Tournament of Mac and Cheese results) was able to fend off Steel Creek American Whiskey Co. yesterday and play their way into the Baked Eight. After an impressive run, western themed Steel Creek - even with a delicious lobster mac and cheese - couldn't saddle up again. With Eleven Eleven winning by just four votes, Steel Creek will also wonder if they should have added more cowbell.

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

When business partners John Xitco and Jeff Paradise and their X Group Restaurants bought Engine House No. 9, they skipped reproducing many of the joint's recipes. Instead, they came up with new recipes, including a mac and cheese perfect for tailgating featuring Li'l Smokies and lots of cheese. It worked. Eleventh seed E9 pulled out a 71 percent victory over number two seed Mac N More in Lacey. That's huge.

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

The other close battle yesterday took place in Tacoma featuring two Weekly Volcano food tournament veterans - two joints that always win deep into the brackets. Maxwell's and Top of Tacoma battled back and forth all day, changing leads several times. It's our guess Maxwell's Chef Hudson Slater's beautiful Instagram shot of his mac and cheese was the deciding factor, edging out Top of Tacoma by nine votes.

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

Rosewood Cafe

Eleven Eleven

Engine House No. 9

Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge

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 Baked Eight 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 Baked Eight Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma) vs. Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma)

Over The Moon Café meet Eleven Eleven. Eleven Eleven meet Over The Moon Café. It's quite possible these two have never met. There are worlds apart. Tranquil, cozy Over The Moon Café serves gourmet meals nestled in Tacoma's Opera Alley. Eleven Eleven raises their voices and their drinks on Hilltop Tacoma. Fancy cheese takes on classic cheese. All the media will flock to this game today. It has "Epic" written all over it. VOTE NOW!  

Game 2: BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma) vs. Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma)

BITE serves meaty orecchiette pasta 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. It's served in a giant, hot bowl with a decidedly grown-up flair. As mentioned above, Rosewood Café serves a four-cheese mac and cheese - a dish elevated with nutmeg and ground mustard. Penne pasta provides a tender chew, the wide ends of the noodles slicked with cheese, which will have at least one string dangling from the fork. The shotgun-riding bread slices should be used to dig out the leftover cheese. It's fancy, modern BITE versus cozy, neighborhood Rosewood Café. VOTE NOW!

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma)

Marrow and Southern Kitchen was your grandfather's Sixth Avenue mac and cheese battle. Today is a different day, obviously. Number one seed Marrow burrows at 2717 Sixth Ave. Number 11 seed Engine House No. 9 is a few yards around the corner at 611 N. Pine N. Some would call this the Battle for Sixth Avenue. Others would not. These two restaurants serve vastly different versions of the American classic dish. E9's Tailgate Mac and Cheese is a creamy, workingman's take on the classic dish with Li'l Smokies and elbow macaroni. Marrow offers a more gourmet version, with creamy, cheesy béchamel sauce and pork belly or truffle mushrooms options - served in a baking pot. I fully expect to wake up in the morning and see Sixth Avenue coated with cheese. VOTE NOW!

Game 4: Boathouse 19 (9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma) vs. Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma)

Next to the Narrows Marina, tucked behind the massive Narrows Brewing Co., sits Boathouse 19. It's a lovely spot. The waterfront restaurant's mac & cheese takes the afterschool snack and hangover helper to a whole new level. The three-cheese dish walks the fine line of being cheesy and not cheesy, creamy but not creamy. No need to twist a fork. No need for a spoon. Just right. Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge sits between Tacoma's Stadium District and downtown. You'll find no secret entrance, obscure protocol or whiff of illegality; you don't have to walk through a coat closet or trip down the stairs off an alley. But there is a sense of adventure every time you stumble into the dimly lit restaurant, styled after Prohibition lounges of days past. It's an ideal getaway spot for those yearning for excellent mac and cheese and a good drink away from rugrats. VOTE NOW!

Tomorrow's Mac and Cheese Battles: The Final Four

Eight South Sound mac and cheese joints go at it today for slots in the Final Four. Jump on the Served in the South Sound blog tomorrow to vote on the Final Four games.

Tournament of Mac and Cheese Championship Party

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.

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