Aslan

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We recently checked out the newest addition to the Bellingham brewpub scene, Aslan Brewing. I had tried a couple of their beers at the Local and was impressed – they make a very fine IPA and, as it turns out, an extremely fine OPA (Oatmeal Pale Ale). The inside of the brewpub is very open with lots of glass and other hard surfaces, and was way too loud, but the weather was mild enough for us to sit outside on the patio, which had the added benefit of lots of cute dogs.

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They had poutine on the menu, so we had to try it. Theirs is a little different than the classic: waffle fries drenched in mushroom gravy, with Beechers cheese curds. Pretty great, but not for the faint of stomach.

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Their menu is short but includes three burgers – a bison burger, a bison burger with blue cheese and bacon jam, and a “hypocrite burger” with a veggie patty and bacon jam. We tried the blue cheese bison, which was pleasant but overdone to the point of burnt, and not as saucy as I prefer.

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To offset the poutine I ordered the kale salad, which was a pleasant surprise. Raw kale with a liberal sprinkling of pecorino, sultanas and walnuts, plus a corn muffin. This was good at the time, especially to go with the burger, but it was even better as leftovers the next day with a fried egg on top.

Nice place, interesting food options, good beer. A little off our usual path in Bellingham, but I’m guessing we’ll be back.

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jazz and a grilled cheese sandwich

Green Frog

We finally made it up to the Green Frog this week to see Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola play. Ten particularly awesome things from the evening:

1. The way Charlie Hunter does something kick ass and mind blowing on the 7 string guitar (he does lead guitar and bass at the same time), then looks around at the audience grinning like “damn, was that cool or what?”

Charlie Hunter at the Green Frog Continue reading

west coast beer tour

driving the Gorge

We just got back from our annual road trip down to Santa Cruz, and as usual we planned our route to include visiting as many new-to-us breweries as possible. Not hard to do on the west coast these days.

Bert's Pub in Yakima

Our band played a concert in Wenatchee, so we used my parents’ house as our starting point and headed down Hwy 97 to the Columbia Gorge. We stopped for lunch at Bert’s Pub in Yakima, which had some good reviews online. When we got there we realized it was the same space that used to be Grant’s Brewpub, where we’ve played music before. Weird. In any case, they had a great selection of local beers and some surprisingly good food. I had a Bale Breaker IPA and Jon had a Yakima Craft. Continue reading

spice and daiquiris

sunset over Bellingham

It was Caribbean night at supper club. The day had started unpromisingly with a dense spring snowstorm, but by evening it was clear and almost warm. We ate and drank and admired the incredible view across Bellingham Bay.

Hemingway daiquiri

Jon mixed up a batch of Hemingway Daiquiris. I like classic daiquiris, but these are even better: tart, refreshing, and with a nice depth from maraschino and fresh grapefruit juice (recipe at the bottom of the post). Cocktail umbrellas were a must. Continue reading

wine weekend

grapes

We spent our Labor Day weekend as usual, driving through the Yakima Valley ostensibly to play music at the Tumbleweed Festival in the Tri-Cities, but also (mostly?) to visit wine country. The weather was gorgeous and we hit all our usual favorite wineries, plus a few new ones. Continue reading

North Sound Brewing

North Sound Brewingsummer day

Last week I got to write up a review for Cascadia Weekly about our newest local brewery, North Sound Brewing Co. It’s in this week’s issue, check it out!

sampler

I don’t like all of the beer here (it tends towards the sweet and strong), but the Hop Chops IPA and the Bitter Rain ESB are really awesome.

beer and chips

I miss the funky British potato chips they used to have, but there’s nothing wrong with Kettle chips.

Indian takeout

Or a big mess of lamb vindaloo from Pami’s down the road. Or a pizza from Sahara or Pacioni’s, or a burger from the Net, or a picnic from home.

beer on the patio

It’s a fine place to spend a hot Sunday afternoon.

weekend eats

Hanky Panky

Last weekend involved two different trips down to Seattle to have dinner with friends. I only took a few pictures, but both dinners were notable.

The first night we started out with drinks at Canon (which was inexplicably empty despite the Cinco de Mayo madness going on in every other bar in town). I tried one of the aged cocktails, and was surprised to have it served in its own little flask. I felt rather foolish drinking from a bottle, but it was a great cocktail. Two of our party ordered the “shrouded roulette,” where you request your base spirit and the bartender makes up something for you. I hadn’t realized they wouldn’t tell you what was in it even after you were finished. Sneaky.

small plates at Quinn's

After drinks we walked down to Quinn’s for dinner, and the four of us shared a bunch of small plates. I’ve never gotten to try this many things at once at Quinn’s, and as usual it did not disappoint. We started with stewed oxtail with a bone marrow custard and a dish of excellent olives (not pictured), then had a green salad with scallion aioli, pig face nuggets, and a really delicious plate of sockeye salmon lox with steelhead roe and grilled bread. I would have been delighted to have a whole plate of the salmon to myself – the roe in particular was addictively good. The pig face nuggets sounded more exciting than they actually were, but they were unctuously porky and the sauce was delicious.

small plates at Quinn's

We had to get the wild boar sloppy joe, which was as wonderful as we remembered, and we also tried the cotechino sausage with cassoulet. It was very good, but maybe better suited for a cooler evening. I took a bite of the grilled fresno chile that came with the sloppy joe and nearly had the top of my head come off.

dessert at Quinn's

Some of our party had room for dessert. One of us got butterscotch custard, served in its own tiny jar, another ordered orange cake with Sichuan pepper ice cream, and the third got a chocolate peanut butter torte. I finished my beer and called it good.

sausage-rapini pizza

The next night we found ourselves at Via Tribunali pizza in Fremont with a large party. I’d never been here before and it was excellent.

The pizza is nicely charred and very, very thin. It comes uncut, so you can make the slices any size or shape you want. I got the salsiccia rapini – tomato sauce, Italian sausage and rapini (broccoli rabe) – one of my favorite Italian flavor combos.

pizza

Jon got the Via Tribunali house special, which is sort of an Everything pizza with the edges folded in on itself. Just a hint of smoked cheese gave it a distinctive character.

Great place! We’ll definitely be back to try more pizza, some salads and perhaps some tiramisu. Soon.

via tribunali

Boulevardier

BoulevardierBoulevardier cocktail

A few months ago Jon was looking through a book of cocktails and found an interesting but slightly complicated drink that was itself a variation of another cocktail called a Boulevardier. Apparently a classic, but one we’d never heard of, we decided to try the original drink immediately, and have made it many, many times since. We still haven’t made the variation.

The Boulevardier is like a combination of a Negroni and a Manhattan: rye, vermouth and campari. And it has many of the best qualities of both drinks. The campari is what I taste first, with its fruity bitterness, then the rye’s warmth comes up from underneath. Every sip seems a little bit different. Our recipe says not to garnish the drink, but I like it quite a lot with a good twist of orange peel.

We’re not the only ones enjoying this drink recently – there was a nice discussion of it in the New York Times last week. See how fashionable we are?

Boulevardier

Boulevardier

  • 1 ½ oz rye or bourbon (some recipes call for 2 oz)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz campari

Stir all ingredients with ice, then strain into either a cocktail glass or over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish, if you like, with orange or lemon peel.

homemade tinctures

tinctures

Guest post by our house mixologist, Jon!

I first discovered cardamom as a freshman in college. I was making a recipe from the Tassajara Recipe Book for an apple-cardamom quick bread. A trek to the More-4 (the grocery store in Northfield at that time) proved successful, and I immediately fell in love with the spice.

Fast forward a couple decades to my current fascination with the world of cocktails. Bitters are a key ingredient in many cocktails (some would argue that a true cocktail, by definition, has bitters in it). I started with Angostura, of course, and then tracked down bottles of Peychaud’s and Regan’s Orange Bitters #6. And then I heard about Scrappy’s. Scrappy’s is a local company (in Seattle), and they make…cardamom bitters!

I must have some of these cardamom bitters, I said to myself. And I’ve kept saying it to myself for the past year. You see, the only places I’ve found that carry Scrappy’s? They’re all out of the cardamom bitters. The bars where I’ve been able to taste it? They’re running low. From what I can tell, Scrappy’s cardamom bitters have been a victim of their own success. Supply can’t keep up with demand.

Meanwhile, life has gone on. I’ve looked up recipes on how to make bitters (including Jamie Boudreau’s ridiculous recipe that makes over 5 liters of the stuff), but the time was never right. And then a couple of weeks ago, the snow fell. And fell. And fell. School was cancelled for a week. Our one significant outing took us by a liquor store that had one bottle of Everclear, and I bought it.

And the experimentation began!

I started by following the recipe for a cardamom tincture in Left Coast Libations. That recipe says to steep 1 Tbs of decorticated cardamom seeds in 2 oz of neutral grain spirits (Everclear) for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking everyday. I was prepared to believe it, but the mix was noticeably colored after just a few days, and I just had to taste some after a scant week – already very strongly cardamom scented and flavored. I forced myself to leave it for most of another week, while I got a second tincture going. This one was coriander seed, in the same quantities, and I let it steep for just one week.

The original plan was to have equal quantities of the two, with which I could then experiment with blending until I found just the right proportions. A mishap while filtering cost me about a quarter of the cardamom tincture, though, and I didn’t really want to waste what I had left fussing over ratios. Okay, okay. I got impatient. I mixed my remaining 1½ oz of cardamom tincture with ½ oz of the coriander, and called it good. It may not truly be “bitters,” since it has no gentian, or milk thistle, or any of the other bizarre ingredients used to add bitter flavor, but it is good. Very good.

At this point, the only way I’ve tried the finished cardamom-coriander tincture is by adding a few drops to a glass of seltzer (which frankly, is a really nice way to enjoy them).  I bet they’d be good with rum, and they’ll make an exciting change to an otherwise classic Manhattan. The remaining coriander tincture I envision using in a gin-based drink – perhaps with Hendricks and cucumber. We’ll report our findings.

the Dray

The DrayThe Dray
The DrayThe Dray

It’s always nice to find a new place to drink beer. Not that we have any lack of beer up here in Mount Vernon, but when you’re in need of a place to hang out in the Ballard/Greenwood/Fremont area of Seattle it’s handy to find a good casual beer joint. The Dray on 65th Street is that sort of place – lots of regulars, warm wood walls and fixtures, soccer on the TV at all times, a short sandwich menu, and a really fine selection of beers on draft. The first time we stopped in they had Pliny the Elder, a hard-to-find IPA from Russian River that tends to disappear fast wherever it crops up, despite its slightly high price tag. Last time I was there I had a Green Flash Hop Head Red, an extremely excellent beer for those of us with a taste for the bitter. And they also had the Weed IPA, which I haven’t ever seen outside of the Weed Alehouse. The kegs change pretty briskly, from what I’ve seen, so you never know what you might be able to get there.

Also, there’s a squirrel on the wall of the bathroom. You might want to see it first while sober, so it doesn’t take you by surprise later.