Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

Posts made in: December, 2014 (27) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 27

December 1, 2014 at 2:38pm

Christmas Eve dining options in Tacoma

Pacific Grill in downtown Tacoma will serve dinner early Christmas Eve. Courtesy photo

What is about Christmas Eve that conjures up the image of the second ghost who visits Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol?

The Ghost of Christmas Present tends to be depicted as a Father Christmas-type character: enormous in size and spirit with constant raucous laughter and a booming voice. He is typically dressed in long, flowing robes and other finery and is surrounded by a gluttonous feast of holiday foods while he hoists an impressively large goblet of wine.

Perhaps this is why on the eve before the big day, so many of us want to eat, drink and be merry with wild abandon.

More than ever, locals are flocking to grab their favorite eats on Christmas Eve and revel in the deliciousness of the holiday spirit.

Following are a few Tacoma establishments getting ready to welcome patrons to relax and enjoy fine holiday dining the day before the big day. Let the feast and festivities begin!

Important note and BIG TIME WARNING: We can't reiterate enough how popular this dining day is. Things at your favorite restaurant may be different that day as well - like reduced hours. To avoid disappointment, pre-plan. Make a reservation well in advance and check websites to get the scoop.

And hey, don't get all bah humbug on us and say we didn't warn you.

Pacific Grill (downtown Tacoma) and Smoke + Cedar(at the Allenmore Golf Course in Central Tacoma)

The beautiful and iconic Pacific Grill and its sister restaurant, the eclectic and exciting Smoke + Cedar, will both be open from 3 to 8 p.m. for a special Christmas Eve dinner. The award-winning Pacific Grill features a menu of fun and high-energy fine dining, and Smoke + Cedar has put a creative spin on American food and craft cocktails. Guests will find a menu with many of the delicious regular items from both establishments, plus some special dishes for the holidays. 

CI Shenanigans (Ruston Way, Tacoma waterfront)

This elegant waterfront restaurant has sweeping views of the sound along with a terrific selection of savory seafood and steaks and so much more. Lunch and dinner dining will be available on Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It is also playing host to a special Christmas Day buffet at the restaurant, by reservation only, from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Adults are $31.99; seniors are $28.99, kids ages 6 to 10 are $13.99; and kids 5 and under are $6.99.

BITE (Hotel Murano, downtown Tacoma)

This lovely restaurant, located in the gorgeous Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma, is known for its nibbles, cocktails, small plates and unique dinners that use the freshest local ingredients. It will be open regular hours for dinner on Christmas Eve and will have special holiday features to celebrate.

Stanley and Seafort's (downtown Tacoma)

This iconic Tacoma landmark restaurant has stunning city views and classic American fare featuring steaks, chops and seafood. The restaurant will be open on Christmas Eve from noon to 9 p.m. and on Christmas Day from noon to 8 p.m. Diners can expect the traditional menu flavored with special holiday-themed desserts to mark the occasion. 

The Cliff House (Northeast Tacoma, Brown's Point)

The historic and eclectic Cliff House restaurant, nestled atop a bluff in Northeast Tacoma, offers spectacular and panoramic views of the Tacoma cityscape, Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier. Specialty steaks and seafood are its hallmarks. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 24. As of press time, staff is putting together a limited holiday menu for diners to enjoy. 

The Lobster Shop (Ruston Way, Tacoma waterfront)

Combine stunning views of the bay along with a bevy of classic and eclectic seafood selections, and you have the iconic Lobster Shop. It will be open Dec. 24 with a special all-day holiday dinner menu featuring the restaurant's most popular dishes. Hours are from noon until 8 p.m. 

The Melting Pot (downtown Tacoma)

Dip your way to holiday fondue fun at The Melting Pot on Pacific Avenue. Break out your fondue forks to enjoy the current menu fare on Christmas Eve. It will be open standard hours for dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.

El Gaucho (downtown Tacoma)

El Gaucho offers elegant fine dining, literally at its best through both food and service, and is ready to wine and dine patrons with its current dinner menu on Christmas Eve during standard hours; dinner will be served from 4 to 10 p.m. 

Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (Triangle District, downtown Tacoma)

This dining establishment is located in the historic and glorious Walker Building and serves up a diverse menu of seasonal fare using the freshest local ingredients. On Christmas Eve, the restaurant will open at 4 p.m. and close early at 8 p.m. There will be a special menu featuring one or two holiday-inspired choices.

Marrow (6th Avenue District, Tacoma)

Satisfy the carnivores and the vegans/vegetarians in your holiday group at terrific Marrow, which specializes in seasonal Northwest food and drink. Marrow will be open its standard hours from 4 p.m. to midnight. As of press time, the menu is still being planned, but will surely offer some great choices. As a reminder, patrons need to be 21 and older to enter this establishment.  

Over the Moon Café (Opera Alley, Tacoma)

This café, located in quaint and charming Opera Alley in downtown Tacoma, serves up Northwest and European cuisine and fine wines with a lovely ambiance. It will offer the current menu Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

What other Tacoma, of for that matter, South Sound restaurants are open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

December 2, 2014 at 10:20am

Drinking for Conservation to host Drinks for Lynx at ParkWay Tavern

Tip one for me.

Some people are just not "people" people. Some people are dog people, some are cat people and some are just plain animal people. If you are an animal person, or would like to at least keep animals on the planet, you need to go be around party animals Wednesday, Dec. 10.

You need to know a few things first. You don't have to say "fuzzy duck" to the person on your left, drink like a T-Rex or chase Ping-Pong balls. And you won't be freezing your ass off at the zoo; although it's no coincidence that one of the only words you can form from the letters in booze is zoo. No, really, it's totally deliberate; people love to get liquored up around caged animals (see: Zoobilee). No, the game you need to be concerned with Dec. 10 is wild game.

If this sounds like altogether too much mumbo-jumbo for you, I apologize, it's my writing style.

Actually, the event I'm babbling about isn't a party animal situation, but rather a party about animals. The ParkWay Tavern will host animal AND people person Suzanne Akerman and her Drinking for Conservation organization's "Drinks for Lynx" night Wednesday, Dec. 10. Like most people, Akerman has spent many sleepless nights pondering the plight of lynx in the Pacific Northwest, which first gained federal protection as a threatened species in 2002. Then again, maybe you haven't. She has. And, it's time you atoned for your environmentally apathetic ways. Fifty cents of every beer, cider and wine sold between 6 and 10 p.m. at the ParkWay will go to help Conservation Northwest protect the lynx.

"Drinking for Conservation is part of a larger organization called the Point Defiance Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers," says Akerman. "That's not super important though, what IS important is that we are dedicated to raising funds for and awareness of endangered species around the world. The first Drinking for Conservation event was Pints for Pandas at the ParkWay Aug. 9, 2011. Whitney Weibel and I are co-chairs of the DFC committee. She heard about a very similar fundraiser done by a chapter of the zookeepers' association in the Bay Area in Cali. She wanted to try the same thing here, and at first we did an event about quarterly, but we've been ramping things up. Now we try to do one per month."

DFC donates to organizations with missions the committee believes in - helping animals and the environment. Then, Akerman and her fellow animal people find cool organizations with big hearts, such as the ParkWay Tavern and Doyle's Public House, to donate to the cause, let them roam through the establishment to chat up conservation, and in Akerman's case, dress like the spotlight animal and, if need be, arm wrestle Hop Valley Brewing salespeople for extra donations. Since Pints for Pandas, DFC has promoted Libations for Lions, Sloshed for Seahorses, Buzzed for Bees and most recently at the ParkWay, Brews for Bats, where Akerman wore bat wings.

"The most recent organization was a suggestion we received through our Facebook page, where we promote the events," says Akerman. "The events range widely in the amounts they raise, depending on the day of the week, how busy the bar is, how ‘sexy' the animal we choose is. The largest amount ever raised at an event was close to $700; more typically we raise $300 or so, but our average is on the rise. Sometimes we choose charismatic mega-fauna, such as elephants or lions, but other times we choose animals whose importance might be overlooked, such as frogs or bats. When we talk to people in the bars, we try to tell them a little about the animal and it's significance. Hopefully some of them will be inspired to learn more about what they can do to help animals and be environmentally friendly."

One of DFC's lofty goals is to eventually find a brewery or winery that will partner with them to donate a portion of the proceeds from a beer or wine to Drinking for Conservation.

"Don't you think Animal Ale or Species Specialty would FLY off the shelves?" asks Akerman.

That's how animal people think.

They drink to help animals.

They drink to help the lynx.

I'll drink to that.

DRINKS FOR LYNX, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 6-10 p.m., ParkWay Tavern, 313 N. I St., Tacoma, no cover,

Filed under: Benefits, New Beer Column, Tacoma,

December 2, 2014 at 12:24pm

Visit This Now: Point Defiance Tap and Grill

Point Defiance Tap and Grill serves a Short Rib Grilled Cheese with the house-baked bread, gooey Golden Glen Gouda and tender slow cooked Jerry Foster Ranch beef short ribs. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

The nature of a trend is the ebb and flow of its popularity of occurrence. This happens in many realms of one's lifestyle and the culinary culture is no exception. Some habits are all the rage, nitpicky and annoying proclamations of preference (don't even get me started on my gluten intolerance soap box) while others are positive shifts in societal perspective and hopefully here to stay, like say restaurants focusing more and more on locally-sourced ingredients and compelling "gastropub" styled preparation. This is a trend whose bandwagon I can hop right on!

Recently opened Point Defiance Tap and Grill is a gastropub/bistro styled joint with a Tacoma address, but can be considered the town of Ruston's new treasure at the corner of North 51st and Pearl. Co-owner Bill Bonnie, he of Stadium Wine Merchants and Enoteca Wine Bar in Tacoma's Stadium District, has created Northwest-focused cool with minimalist ambiance with a touch of color thanks to hanging art, exposed brick peeking out here and there and a family-friendly open dining area. In the back of the house, with a separate entry, sits an intimate lounge highlighting Pacific Northwest craft brews and wine. Point Defiance T&G is lovely matrimony for the demographic, great for a quick brew before hitting Point Defiance Park's 5 Mile Drive or a sit-down meal with the family post zoo.

>>> Point Defiance Tap and Grill's Albacore Tuna Melt / photo credit: Jackie Fender

To pair with the PNW libation features, Point Defiance T&G's menu boasts ingredients that are primarily locally sourced INCLUDING house baked bread setting the foundation for their sandwiches and housemade sauces, right down to the ketchup. The Albacore Tuna Melt ($11) came highly recommended by both servers working the evening of our visit and was tasty and fresh featuring local albacore tuna grilled with tomato, Tillamook Cheddar and house aioli. I was hooked on the Short Rib Grilled Cheese ($12) made with the house-baked bread, gooey Golden Glen Gouda and gratuitous amounts of tender slow cooked Jerry Foster ranch beef short ribs. Both come paired with either mixed greens with tomato and feta cheese or fries. While the salad was über fresh and perfectly simple but flavorful, the fries came with the housemade ketchup and a side of their spicy aioli, which I will slather onto ever bite of everything from this day forth.

Both dishes were lovely; my only qualm being the crust of the bread proved to be a bit rough around the edges and hard to chomp through, which is saying a lot for an establishment only three weeks in.

Go forth, sample their menu, devour über fresh nibbles and pair those with PNW libations. Jump on this wagon with me. It's a delectable ride.

POINT DEFIANCE TAP AND GRILL, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5101 Pearl St., Tacoma, 253.426.1593

December 3, 2014 at 10:55am

Harmon Brewing crafts new Pt. Defiance IPA, announces Twelve Beers of Christmas

Harmon Brewing Co. added Citra hops to its Pt. Defiance IPA.

The warm and fuzzy feeling you get when in good company, complimented by a delicious and unique local beer, is what makes the Harmon Brewing Co.'s Twelve Beers of Christmas a worthy holiday merriment. The Tacoma brewing company will, once again, pour a beer a day at its Harmon Tap Room, beginning Dec. 13. Below is a Harmon news release naming the 12 beers, as well as an announcement that they have updated their Pt. Defiance IPA recipe. ...

TACOMA - Harmon Brewing Company announced today that their Pt. Defiance IPA recipe has undergone an exciting change. The new Point Defiance IPA is an updated version of their iconic classic, without straying from the roots.

"Bright, clean, crisp and hoppy, the iconic PT. Defiance IPA is re-born," said Head Brewer Jeff Carlson.

Originally brewed in 1997 to commemorate the opening of the Harmon Brewery, the Point Defiance IPA was crafted to encompass what Tacoma stood for, a no fuss, palate quenching brew.

The improved version uses five different malted barleys to accommodate the boat load of Pacific Northwest hops.

"The combination creates the classic West Coast hop aroma and flavor that we all crave, while maintaining drinkability," added Carlson. "In keeping with tradition we left the hoppy backbone unchanged, but added some Citra to give it that edge.  Hop in your Kayak, pour yourself a glass and enjoy."

For the first beer of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Yes, it's time again for Harmon's annual Twelve Beers of Christmas. The daily festivities, held at the Tap Room, begin on December 13th and end on Christmas Eve. To get people in the spirit of the holidays, the first beer, a delectable Candy Cane Porter, will be served Firkin style, just as beer was quaffed back in the mid-15th century.

The Twelve Beers of Christmas lineup, including everything from barrel aged imperial stouts to blondes and sours, is subject to change. Here is the lineup in no particular order:

  • Ivan Russian Imperial Stout - 2013
  • Apricot Tart - 2012
  • Casper's Revenge Ghost Pepper Peach - 2012
  • 11th ST. +1 IPA
  • 5-Mile Drive IPA
  • Old John Barrel Blend
  • One Hop Wonder
  • Columbus Candy Cane Porter Firkin
  • Honey Blonde
  • Dry Fly Barrel Aged New West CDA
  • Farmhouse Blonde
  • Whiskey Soaked Oak Aged Steep & Deep
Filed under: New Beer Column, Holidays, Tacoma,

December 4, 2014 at 2:25pm

Words & Photos: Annual 7 Seas Beer Dinner at Brix 25

For the fourth year in a row, Brix 25 restaurant hosted 7 Seas Brewing for a beer dinner to battle Black Friday nerves. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

First, let's dispel the likely initial reaction upon hearing "beer dinner." No, this is not some bacchanalian kegger where the winner is he who drinks the most. Instead, each course includes 10-ounce pours of beer, which is supposed to be sipped and savored, not chugged. Though, full-disclosure, Brix 25's annual 7 Seas Beer Dinner pre-dinner reception offered a chance to sip cocktails, which many participants did, and the dessert course arrived with two beers riding shotgun. So, that's all good news.

For the last four years, the Gig Harbor fine-dining restaurant has offered a fabulous way to wind down after Thanksgiving and celebrate small business, sailing through Black Friday with a beer pairing dinner with neighbors 7 Seas Brewing. Chef/owner Thad Lyman welcome the crowd of 7 Seas beer dinner regulars and new faces, announcing new flavors will be enjoyed, concentrating on "Southern Low County" flavors, Southern culture on the skids with Northwest twists.

>>> Brix 25 Chef/owner Thad Lyman

"Keg Commander" Colin Harvin, who concentrates on sales and marketing for 7 Seas, represented the brewery, substituting for co-owner Mike Runion who had his hands full with a newborn girl. Commander Harvin ran through the history of the night's first beer, the 253 Pilsner, how it was the brainchild of Runion and 253 Heart Foundation owner/Shake Shake Shake co-owner Steve Naccarato, the fact that proceeds benefit local charities and how the Northwest pilsner is crisp and clean. He explained co-owner and head brewer Travis Guterson incorporated Sterling and Cascade hops from the Yakima Valley, barley from Washington state and the golden cans are produced in Olympia. For more background on the creation of the beer and its charities, click here.

The 253 Pilsner was paired with breakfast, bacon and eggs on flat bread.

"Beer isn't just for breakfast; breakfast can be for dinner just as well," said Lyman.

Lyman used malts from the beer to create the béchamel, bacon lardons underneath the sunny side egg with a little Blanc Rose. Lyman suggested picking up the rich starter like a taco and let it drip away, which most did. The bacon and egg looked to dominate, but the refreshing, crisp pilsner found a perfect balance. Off to a good start!

The second course: fried oysters and grits turned out to be incredibly delicious, especially when paired with 7 Seas' Reign Man ESB - the toasty malt character with a slight caramel sweetness brought out the rich, creamy polenta. The Reign Man ESB rarely makes an appearance outside of the 7 Seas' taproom. The Northwest-style Extra Special Bitter features citrusy Yakima Valley Centennial hops and malt heavy, and was brewed in honor of the Seattle Space Needle's 50th anniversary. The Fat Bastard oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms, which were in the water the previous morning, were prepared with a little okra, fried quick with cornmeal and placed on creamy polenta with a little bit of clams.

Up next, the main course - I think the best part of the night - was a short stack of Johnny Cakes with pulled pork paired with the Chili Pepper Imperial Stout. The beer basically made its South Sound premier at the dinner. Harvin introduced the nine percent stout treated with three different kinds of chili peppers - including ghost peppers - which were added during the second fermentation, letting the oils seep out. The beer starts off with a nice, silky chocolate, espresso roast flavor with the peppers hitting the back of the throat, cutting through the bitterness at the end, bringing back the chocolate notes. I could be my favorite 7 Seas beer.

Lyman slow-roasted the pork for hours, then removed the meat from the smoker and braised it with the Chili Pepper Imperial Stout, picking up the chilies and malted barleys. The pork was placed on high cornmeal cakes, with green Tabasco sauce, goat cheese drizzle and Jack Daniels maple syrup.

The crowd erupted in chatter after Lyman described the dish. "I mention Jack Daniels and the crowd stops listening," Lyman said with a laugh.

Runion made an appearance during the main course, to thank everyone and show baby pictures.

Finally, a delicious, rich dessert was brought out to finish the evening. Mississippi Mud Pie with caramel pecans, paired with 7 Seas' Port Royal Stout AND a return appearance by the 253 Pilsner for a "deconstructed" black and tan, as Harvin put it. The traditional English-style stout offered more flavors of dark chocolate, espresso and malt sweetness. Nugget and Mt. Hood hops gave it a nice, clean finish.

"As a little boy, I made mud pies, but as most of the men in this room would agree, it tasted like crap," said Lyman. "This mud pie has a dark chocolate ganache bottom with chocolate pudding on top and a malted meringue on the finish, toasted it off, decorated with rolled oats that went into the stout, toasted pecans and a caramel made with really heavy black sea salt to give it a little pop."

>>> Colin Harvin, left, and Mike Runion from 7 Seas Brewing

>>> The talent in Brix 25's kitchen

>>> I wish I could remember what Chef Lyman was discussing at this moment.

The dinner proved to be an enjoyable way to sip two 7 Seas Beers I haven't tried, and gain an appreciation for the ways in which various flavors combine and work together in nontraditional Southern dishes. Bravo!

BRIX 25, 4:30-9:30 p.m. daily, 7707 Pioneer Way, Gig Harbor, 253.858.6626

7 SEAS BREWING, taproom 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3006 Juson St., Gig Harbor, 253.514.8129

December 4, 2014 at 3:06pm

Served Blog Banner Boy: Q&A with bartender Josh Hill of The Swiss and Eleven Eleven

Josh Hill behind the bar at Peterson Bros. 11i1 on Hilltop Tacoma. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Every week we swap out the Served banner art above, introducing you to the people who serve food and drinks in the South Sound. This week, meet Josh Hill.

Server Banner Boy, Dec. 1-7, 2014

Josh Hill

Josh Hill began bartending at The Swiss Restaurant & Pub shortly after his father, Bob, Jack McQuade and Gayl Bertagni opened the joint in a then sketchy part of downtown Tacoma in 1993. The Swiss was one of the main reasons the neighborhood turned around. Basically, Josh turned 21 and stepped behind the bar. Not only did Josh have a front row seat to the revitalization of downtown Tacoma, he watched the downtown YMCA grow too. Josh was one of the founders of the Y's popular Noon Hoops program. For years he battled many a player underneath the hoop. Today, Josh is still at The Swiss, as well as behind the bar at Peterson Bros. 1111, the Hilltop Tacoma bar and sandwich joint run by Bob Hill's other boys, twins Robbie and Justin Peterson.

Why do you serve?

I serve because following in your father's footsteps is a good thing.

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

My favorite server is the whole crew at The Copper Door. I like to go for a run, and then stop there for beers. It's fun, local, good brew and good company.

What are you most proud to serve?

I like to think I can find the right drink for each person. A couple questions and instinct is all it takes.

What's your current drink of choice?

My drink lately has been a Moscow Mule. Greg at The Top makes the best.

Favorite movie?

Favorite movie is Hoosiers, of course.

What don't you serve?

No drinks with more than two shots. Responsibility is important too, even if the customer doesn't agree.

What's on your radar at 1111 and The Swiss?

At 1111 and the Swiss it's always new. You never know whom you'll meet. That always makes it fun.

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

Filed under: Served Banner Models, Tacoma,

December 5, 2014 at 10:38am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Boathouse 19

Boathouse 19's spectacular mac and cheese pairs well with the Giant Pacific Octopus IPA from neighboring Narrows Brewing Co. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

It's a well known fact that cold weather = comfort food.

And what's more comforting then hot and cheesy mac and cheese?

On a recent rainy night, Boathouse 19 shone like a lighthouse for those craving comfort food. Next to the Narrows Marina, tucked behind the massive Narrows Brewing Co., you could see the glow through the windows that become live paintings of nautical themes.

Boathouse 19's mac & cheese may not have a stadium named after it, but it takes the afterschool snack and hangover helper to a whole new level. Maybe the Boathouse 19 Mac & Cheese Bowl? It's certainly worthy.

Eating Boathouse 19's three-cheese macaroni and cheese ($13) is an out-of-body experience. Upon completion, it's a full body experience. The waterfront restaurant offers a rich, filling dish of elbow macaroni bathed in silky, cheesy goodness and served in a cast-iron pan. Maybe the secret to this mac & 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 but not cheesy, creamy but not creamy. No need to twist. No need for a spoon. Pepper jack, American and cheddar, blended all together, served by the happiest server I have ever met.

Seriously, this is worth a trip to Boathouse 19 all by itself. This is mac and cheese that makes an impression.

BOATHOUSE 19, 11 a.m. to close Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 9001 S. 19th St., Tacoma, 253.565.1919

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

December 8, 2014 at 5:20pm

JBLM soldier brings the heat during culinary arts team tryouts

Sgt. Andrew Shurden, a food services specialist with the 42nd Military Police Brigade, prepares a potato dish during tryouts for the JBLM culinary arts team Nov. 21. Photo credit: Sgt. James J. Bunn

The palpable scent of spices and steak filled the air as Sgt. Andrew Shurden, displayed his cooking skills at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Culinary Arts Team tryouts in November 2014.

If selected, Shurden, a food services specialist with the 42nd Military Police Brigade, and 15 other food services soldiers will compete in the Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event at Fort Lee, Va. in March.

The JBLM team will consist of eight team members, four student team members and four alternates. At the competition, the team will compete in eight events including the Armed Forces Chef of the Year, Armed Forces Student Chef of the Year, nutrition cook off, culinary exam, military kitchen competition, team buffet, student competitive training event and dessert competition.

Shurden competed twice at the MCACTE with a team from Hawaii and said he hopes his skills and experience will earn him a spot on the JBLM team.

"I liked being on the team in Hawaii," said Shurden. "I was able to learn more about being a chef and develop my skills beyond the dining facility."

Shurden will need more than sharp knife skills and tasty food to earn a spot on the team. The judges will score competitors using the same criteria as the American Culinary Federation and are looking for chefs that can work well in a team, exhibit good work habits, and strong cooking and organizational skills.

"First and foremost we're looking at how well these chefs work in the kitchen," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jesse Ward, one of the judges at the tryouts. "Second is skills used during the food preparation. We want to know that the flavors are good and the temperatures are correct."

>>> Sgt. Andrew Shurden slices beef tenderloin during tryouts for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord culinary arts team. Photo credit: Sgt. James J. Bunn

At the beginning of the tryouts team hopefuls had an opportunity to plan their menu for the cook off. The next two days competitors refined their menu selections and practiced cooking techniques.

Shurden has his sights set on competing in the Armed Forces Chef of the Year portion of the MCACTE. In this, category competitors have an hour and 15 minutes to cook and plate a meal using a mystery ingredient.

For the tryouts the mystery ingredient was beef tenderloin. Shurden quickly trimmed the beef, sliced it into steaks and prepared it for the grill, posing little challenge for the chef. His finished plate was a filet mignon on top of a blueberry red wine reduction topped with fried leeks, asparagus and layered potatoes.

"Before I joined the Army I was a chef at a barbeque restaurant," said Shurden, a Tupelo, Mississippi native. "Meat preparation is probably my strongest skill in the kitchen."

Working in a restaurant Shurden trained to become a professional chef and achieve one of his lifelong goals, but being a chef wasn't his only dream. The chef wanted to be a soldier as well.  

"I joined the Army as a cook so I could serve my country and continue my career as a chef," said Shurden. "Being able to serve those who are serving is rewarding to me."

Shurden's love of cooking started long before working in a restaurant or a military dining facility, and he attributes it to his upbringing. My family is a major driving force when I step into the kitchen, added Shurden.

"I'm from Mississippi and food is a big part of life back home and it has always been important in my family," said Shurden. "I grew up watching my dad in the kitchen."

Shurden said he wants to compete at the MCACTE not just for fun but also for the opportunities that come from participating in the largest culinary arts competition in the United States.

Soldiers who do well at the Fort Lee competition often get recruited to work at the Pentagon's dining facility, said Shurden. It's a chance to broaden my skills in the kitchen and advance my career, he added.

Working as a chef in a place like the Pentagon requires a skilled professional. The tryouts not only helped decide the team, they also provided an opportunity for the chefs to raise their culinary excellence and professionalism and serves as a training event for all the competitors.

Shurden used his experience to answer questions from younger soldiers about the meal he was preparing and the techniques he was using. 

"I am more than happy to teach anyone about cooking," said Shurden. "Sharing what I know with others is as rewarding to me as knowing that someone enjoyed the food I prepared."

At the end of the cook-off the judges talked to all of the chefs about their food and offered critiques and constructive feedback.

"I want these guys to be able to take what they learn here and apply those skills in their unit's DFAC," said Ward. "This is a good way to build motivation in the soldiers competing and also improve the quality of food in their units.

Shurden is one of the top candidates for the team but he and the other competitors won't officially find out until February if they were selected for the JBLM team.

Filed under: Military, Contest,

December 9, 2014 at 10:21am

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with Kristina Vanous of Odd Otter Brewing Company

Standing in front of the shirts she designed, Kristina Vanous is ready to pour you an Odd Otter beer. 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 Kristina Vanous.

Server Banner Girl, Dec. 8-14, 2014

Kristina Vanous

Long long ago, Kristina Vanous was a Starbucks barista in high school, and then a server for a dinky restaurant out in Enumclaw called CJ Coasters. In college, she worked at a Seattle-based computer firm. She joined Odd Otter Brewing Company as a graphic designer to help them with a redesign of the logo. The scope of the project turned into so much more - a complete rebranding and, eventually, an investor in Odd Otter. Following her return from overseas travels to the lands of Hobbits and Aussies in March, she began working on the actual space. Many of the interior elements were designed and handmade by Vanous. Next on her to-do list is the much-requested flight trays. Yes, she hears you Tacoma. When she's not designing, she's pouring beers.

Why do you serve?
"Odd Otter Brewing Company was founded out of a desire to provide the community with a cozy place that is both inviting and fun. Additionally, the founders have a desire to give back to the community in other, non-alcohol based ways. I serve in large part because the spirit and purpose of the company resonates with my own life philosophy. Also, it's a great opportunity to break away from the week's work to socialize. I really enjoy being able to interact with the folks who have been watching and supporting our progress over the past year. A LOT of heart and soul have gone into this place, and it warms my heart to see people finally enjoying it. I serve because I care about Tacoma. This city has been my home for over a decade, and I love the people in it!"

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?
"How on earth could I ever choose? Can I list crews? The teams at Hilltop Kitchen and The Forum are always on top of their game whenever any of us Otters visit them. They are approachable, helpful and they tailor their communication styles to their clientele's preferences. I love how attentive they are."

What are you most proud to serve?
"I am proud to serve ALL of our brewer's well-crafted creations, Owen McGrane, Odd Otter's head brewer, is an absolute genius. He has a knack for creating "otterly" unique experiences for your mouth. We don't expect everyone to like everything that we serve: some people like their beer sweet; others like it subtle; some like it hoppy; others like it malty. I could go on with juxtapositions, but my point is that, we've something to delight almost any palate. We think that that's definitely something to be proud of.

As much as I love serving our beer, I am MOST PROUD to serve by utilizing my skills in design and art here at Odd Otter for the community to enjoy. I am proud and honored that the otter graphics on our merchandise; the bar face at which our customers sit; and the tables that I lovingly varnished, carved with otters and checkerboards, and stained reflect my hand and my mind in the brewery. I even made sure that under table and under bar coat and purse hooks were installed for our ladies and gents. The other curiosities I have created, such as the bathroom mural and rock wall, were my way of turning a predictable experience turn into something unique and enjoyable. Witnessing the smiles and laughter over the things I've created in service to our customers are what makes me the most proud. It means I did my job right!

Oh, and my favorite beer to serve is the Ottermelon Hefeweizen. It is soft, subtle and it's delightfully summer-y. Particularly here in Washington where three of our seasons are rain - a little summer sprinkled here and there can brighten up anyone's day."

What's your current drink of choice?
"Although I have tended toward water drinking historically, my current - it's always changing - most fancied beer is Momma Otter's Pancake Porter. "The Pancake" as we call it is a real treat, especially when it comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream brought in from Ice Cream Social. It's better than a root beer float."

Favorite movie?
"Oh boy, I'm a huge comedy buff. Some favorites include Anchorman, Grandma's Boy, Monty Python and Zoolander."

What don't you serve?
"As a local brewery and tasting room, we are presently licensed to serve only beer. We don't have wine or hard alcohol, but we have beers that wine drinkers and spirits sippers will love. We keep things simple on the food side too: anyone can bring in any food from anywhere and eat it here. Everyone who will deliver food is welcome to deliver it here as well, so even though we won't serve you food, you can eat anything you like. We do have some bags of odd chips for sale, and we'll have bar snacks coming soon."

What's on your radar at Odd Otter Brewing?
"We have some amazing new beers coming up in rotation soon. Two new beers currently fermenting are The Son of Otter, which is a Belgian with hints of spices, apple and pear. It's a nod to Rene Magritte's famed painting "The Son of Man," which depicts a bowler-hatted man whose face is obscured by a green apple. We will also have delightful holiday ale called WinterFace with unique herbal flavors of lavender, orange peel and juniper. I can't wait.

Once our larger seven barrel brewing system is up and running (soon!), we will expand our opening days from Fridays and Saturdays. We also anticipate bringing Tacoma a delightful handcrafted root beer in the next year as well.

And don't forget the gift cards we just received in the mail - hot off the presses and ready to stuff the stockings of Otter fans everywhere. If you pay attention, you also might read about our New Year's Eve party that we're planning, too."


New Brew Space Oddity

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December 9, 2014 at 11:33am

Cheers to Winter Beers in Puyallup

Puyallup River Alehouse asks patrons to bring an unwrapped toy for local children this holiday season. Those who donate will receive 10 percent off beers.

Beer's here! Beer's near! Let's give a beer cheer!

Yeah, the cheer is totally lame. But the sentiment; well, it's beer right?

Ah, but all bad cheering aside, there's a dreamy upcoming beer event to really cheer about. What do you want to bet Eric Akeson, owner of Puyallup River Brewing and the Puyallup River Alehouse, would be happy to lead the cheering squad? Indeed he would. Here's why.

The 2nd Annual Cheers to Winter Beers event takes place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17 at the Puyallup River Alehouse. Admission is free.

Here's the deliciousness Akeson has planned for patrons.

"One of our local distributors is sponsoring the event, so we'll have all of their winter offerings; 10 Barrel Pray For Snow, Alaskan Winter, Elysian Bifrost, Widmer Brrr, and Redhook Winterhook," says Akeson. "We'll also have some other great winter seasonals on tap too; Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, Naked City Potlatch Smoked Maple Brown Ale, The Lost Abbey Merry Taj Christmas IPA, Puyallup River Old Pioneer Winter Ale and others."

Akeson and his team are also introducing a new recipe at the event.

"Our 2014 Old Pioneer Winter Ale is a new recipe for this year. Last year we brewed a malt-forward Amber Ale with vanilla beans and lavender. This year, we're brewing an Imperial Red IPA-style beer, with a big dry hop that all the hop heads are going to love."

And that's not all there is to cheer about, either.

There's going to be glassware giveaways, lots of raffle prizes and a very special guest. You think Santa would miss out? Oh, goodness no. A 1,000 cheers for Santa! He will be arriving at 7 p.m. that night, so break out your holiday wish lists and have cameras at the ready.

Oh, you may want to arrive early. Last year, the joint filled up fast and everyone had a grand ol' time. It's anticipated that every seat in the house is going to be filled this year, so be prepared to grab a mug and give a toast to new friends and tablemates, too.

And Akeson and crew have more on tap to celebrate the end of a great year and to launch into 2015. Ring in the New Year with a special brewer's night on New Year's Eve at the alehouse. Two Beers and Seattle Cider Co. will be in the house with lots of beer, cider, giveaways and raffles. And enjoy a free champagne toast at midnight.

As for 2015?

A mug club is being planned, there's a second anniversary to celebrate Feb. 5, the joint will be playing host to two teams for the local billiards league and, of course, there will be more killer events.

"Thanks to all of our customers for their support in our first couple of years in business in downtown Puyallup," says Akeson. "We look forward to what 2015 brings. See you at the Alehouse."

Aww ... let's cheer to that!

2ND ANNUAL CHEERS TO WINTER BEERS, 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 17, Puyallup River Alehouse, 120 S Meridian, Puyallup, no cover, 253.268.0955

Filed under: New Beer Column, Puyallup,

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Any Spring beers?

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