Wednesday, August 31, 2011

FoodTrek: Drinkin' Around Town

Lest you think I'm a total hermit (more like a half-hermit), I do leave the house now and then to explore a little and see what my tastebuds find. My last wanderings brought me back to a favorite spot to try some spirits from a new distillery, and then to downtown Seattle, where a new brewery is making new things in an old space. Let the honorable pickling of my liver... commence!

Some very tasty bites at Trellis to go with the cocktails from Batch 206 Distillery - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I attended an Eastside Bartenders Association gathering at Trellis, one of my favorite places in Kirkland. It's not a typical spot, as it's a restaurant and bar below the Heathman Hotel. Don't brush off a place because it's "a hotel bar/restaurant." In and around the Seattle area, there's several great restaurants below hotels, like The Hunt Club at the Sorrento. Trellis is especially nice, as they take strides to serve dishes that feature ingredients that are locally sourced. For people living here, it's how we roll, but for visitors, it's an added experience for them to say they came to Washington and literally took a bite out of it.

On this occasion, Trellis prepared some really delicious pizzas and charcuterie platters to go alongside a couple of cocktails made from the spirits from Batch 206  Distillery. They're a partner of House Spirits in Portland, currently running their operation out of Oregon, but they're in the process of finishing their distillery in Seattle, as well as opening a tasting room. Their spirits, the Batch 206 Vodka and Counter Gin are available in a few Seattle bars, as well as in liquor stores. At the EBA event, the Batch 206 folks were on hand to pour tastes of the liquors so you could pick up the notes of the spirit by itself, and then they were serving cocktails to show how they stand up to other ingredients. The Batch 206 Vodka is very clean, super-filtered and crisp like a Grey Goose, but a little softer, and slightly sweeter to the palate. You wouldn't notice the nuance of the sweetness once it's mixed in a drink, but if you're a martini drinker, this would be a nice vodka to use -- twist of lemon, no olive. Brine would just bust up the taste, I think. I really enjoyed their Counter Gin. They really took time to mix and balance out the botannicals with care. Too many gins go for the juniper-forward flavor, as it's typical of the spirit, but then you feel like you're drinking Pine-Sol. Not sexy. Their Counter Gin has a lighter touch with the juniper and gives it a more rounded sweetness with things like cucumber, lavender, tarragon -- botannicals that all have their own strong notes, but blended with expertise, they become complex and fragrant.

Pizza, cocktails, sunshine - what could be better? - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I packed up my liver and headed west, to the South Downtown 'hood of Seattle to see what Epic Ales was serving and how their upcoming brewpub, Gastropod, was coming along. It's a new brewery in an old building, the cool R. R. Trigger Building, along First Avenue South. The brewer, Cody Morris, is on hand at their taproom that's open Fridays and Saturdays. I went to Epic Ales with several homebrewers and one professional brewer. Cody had started out as a homebrewer before starting Epic Ales, and the beers we tried run more towards the non-traditional, experimental side. Nothing crazy, just different ingredients and even different yeasts -- the ones we tried were brewed using sake yeast. The beers I tried were summery styles, citrusy like a Hefewiezen (but very tart) and light like a Belgian ale. But again, don't go in with the expectation of traditional styles; they're really playing around with things. I think for people who are really dialed-in to established beer styles and lean more towards a Northwest IPA, they may not fall in love with these beers, but if you go in with the mindset like you're tasting wine or trying something new, you'll be able to get out of your beer-head and appreciate that the brews are interesting.

Have an Epic beverage -- Fuji approves - Photos by Wasabi Prime

If you head over to their taproom, you'll likely be greeted first by Fuji, their resident brewer dog and fierce guardian. OK, so maybe not so fierce -- you'll get a few barks and then a wag of the tail with a pleading doe-eyed stare that begs for a scratching behind the ears. When we went on a Saturday, they were serving some food with the beer, testing out some recipes that will likely appear on their menu when the full brewpub is completed. It's a neat thing to try out a place early on; feels a bit like you're given access to a little clubhouse. The location really can't be beat, there's old neon signs in the main space and in the taproom, the bar is a boat. For reals. It's a decorative boat, you can't go fishing in it, but it's like the half of a big clipper, with the deck as the bar surface. The guys at Epic Ales were saying prior to them taking of the space, the taproom was actually an office and the ship bar was already there. Classy! And ironic that the bar sitting in an office, has now been turned into a taproom. It's like the boat bar knew it needed to just bide its time for the world to behold and admire its awesomeness.

A pretty cool place to have a drink in Seattle - Photos by Wasabi Prime

We finished our Saturday beer experience at a friend's apartment, where we barbecued and admired their crop of hops growing in their little personal "beer garden." We have hops growing in our backyard as well -- funny enough, at least one or two of our main vines were from rhizomes our friend gave us. It's a pretty spot to sit beneath, with twine strung towards their porch ceiling, to the large pots holding their hop plants, letting the long, leafy vines create a natural canopy over the walkway. The hop "cones" or blossoms were starting to bloom -- these are the things picked from the hop vines, which get dried and eventually boiled down in the wort, releasing the bitter, citrus flavors. It was a relaxing way to finish a full summer day, drinking beer and barbecuing with friends.

A true beer garden - Photo by  Wasabi Prime

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