Road Trip Review – Volt Restaurant

By Iron Chef Leftovers

It has been a long time since I wrote a restaurant review, so one is definitely overdue.

DSCN0648On a recent trip back East, I got the opportunity to travel through Frederick, Maryland on the way back from the Antietam Battlefield National Monument (on a side note – if you have never been to Antietam, you really should go.) Luckily, Frederick is the home to former Iron Cheftestant Bryan Voltaggio and his restaurant Volt. Located in downtown Frederick in a converted mansion is a mix of the old charms of a mansion and a sleek modern interior. We opted for the dining room, which was fairly empty on a Tuesday night, but there is a chef’s table option, which was packed and they seemed to be having a good time.

The menu is what you would expect from Voltaggio – twists on the familiar, artfully done with intense flavors done with seasonal ingredients and combinations that should not work but somehow do. Our server recommended 3-4 courses per person (they also offer a tasting menu) and, depending on what you order, 3 could easily fill you up. Because 2 of us ordered 4 courses and 2 of us ordered 3, our waiter, Joseph, arranged the plates to be delivered so that there was always a variety of food on the table. This was a great thing because the plates at Volt are worth sharing.

Here is what we ordered (with the prices after the |) – it represents more than half of the menu.

MOREL MUSHROOMS pickled ramps, steel cut oats, sea lettuces | 18
I wanted to try this since I am such a sucker for morels and they are in season. This was a take on a polenta dish and frankly this may have been the best dish of the night and possibly one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. The oats were combined with corn foam and might as well have been polenta and the smells and flavors on this dish were amazingly intense – I could actually smell this dish as the server was bringing it to the table. I really wanted to lick the bowl. I would go back just to have this again.


SPRING PEAS buttermilk, shrimp, smoked pine nut | 10
Perfect example of how well they use ingredients. I guess I would describe this as pea soup on steroids. Amazing intense flavors, but well balanced.


YELLOW MUSTARD RADIATORE rabbit, prosciutto, ramp pesto, cippolini | 11
Ok, I have to admit, I was skeptical about yellow mustard pasta, but after having this, I am going to have to try to make it at home. It was a light mustard flavor which paired perfectly with the rabbit and prosciutto. Ant the rabbit – perfectly cooked prosciutto wrapped cigars of loin. Probably the second best rabbit dish I have had in a restaurant.


CALAMARI BOLOGNESE miso, squid ink cavatelli, parmesan | 12
The most interesting dish of the night and certainly the most ambitious. It was good but wasn’t as good as the rest of the meal. The pasta was perfectly cooked the miso balanced the strong squid flavors well and the Bolognese itself was tender and delicious. It really reminded me of my dad’s seafood pasta that we ate growing up. If you really want to go out on a limb and try something different, this is the dish.


SOURDOUGH LINGUINI olde salt clams, smoked potato, chives | 14
This was probably the groups’ favorite dish of the night. It really had a ton going on for such a simple dish. The smoked potato really threw it over the top – they were crunchy like breadcrumbs and added a great contrasting texture to the pasta.


COD CHEEKS charred spring garlic, smoked raisin, pickled grapes | 23
There was some apprehension ordering the dish, but it was stellar – perfectly cooked cod cheeks, very mild in flavor balanced nicely with the salty/sweet/sour punch of the grapes and raisins. Heck, I could have gone for a bowl of the grapes. They were fantastic.


HALIBUT wilted green cabbage, chorizo, purple top turnip, mustards, green apple | 25
Living in Seattle, I am always hesitant to order halibut since it is usually either not done well or overwhelmed by the other items on the plate. This was a perfectly cooked piece of fish and another one that involved all of the senses. I think the chorizo really threw this one over the top and I am going to have to try a version of this at some point.


YOUNG CHICKEN chickweed, sunchokes, black trumpet mushrooms, dates | 23
This was far and away the best chicken that I have ever had. Delicate and intense at the same time, really makes me want to go out and get a sous vide machine.


BEEF SKIRT STEAK sugar snap peas, carrots, vadouvan, coconut yogurt | 31
Volt does something interesting here – they take 3 pieces of skirt steak and press them together in a meat napoleon. I have no idea how they do this but I really want to learn it. They also managed to turn a beef dish into something light and distinguished without skimping on the flavor. Extraordinary.


LAMB hulled barley, slow braised neck, chickpeas, lacinato kale | 33
It had all the intensity that you want from a lamb dish with so many subtle flavors from the compliments that I would have lost if I was making the dish.


Amuse Bouche – smoked oyster with rice wine vinegar and apple.
If you don’t like oysters – try this. Amazing flavors.

We didn’t make it to dessert – we were too full.

Service – the service was outstanding, some of the best I have seen in a long time. The table was completely cleared between courses, plates were put down simultaneously, wine glasses were never empty (nor were water glasses) and every need we had was attended to. The staff should be proud of the service they provide – it is how every restaurant should do it.

Wine – I wanted to give a special shout out to our wine steward for the evening. Volt has an extensive wine list and they were out of the Sassella which I spotted on their list. He listened asked me what I was looking for in the wine and brought back a couple of selections that had similar characteristics but were not on the list. It reminds me why all restaurants should have someone that knows their wine list well.

Overall, Volt was an amazing dining experience; so good in fact that I am going to say that this was the 4th best restaurant meal that I have ever had – behind, Le Bec Fin in Philly, Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal and the CIA restaurant in Yountville. If you are in Baltimore or DC, take the 1 hour drive north to Volt. You might even get lucky and catch a glimpse of Bryan Voltaggio in the kitchen on your way to/from the bathroom.

El Camion in Ballard

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have never been shy about my love for the local taco truck, El Camion, which has locations in Ballard, SoDo and North Seattle. I do go there frequently and I do tend to order the non-gringo items on the menu (tripas, cabeza, lengua and chorizo) and I love them. Actually, I am not sure I could tell you what their other stuff actually tastes like, but I am sure it is good. When you go to the truck and there is a Mexican in line ahead of you, I can almost guarantee that they will order one of the four above meats. Heck, I have had Mexicans in line behind me ask if I knew what I was ordering because they are surprised that a white guy would actually order them. But I digress.

Mrs. Iron Chef has been reluctant to go to El Camion because she has a thing against eating food from a truck. Well, she has that excuse no longer – El Camion is opening a non-mobile location in Ballard (in the space formerly occupied by Zesto’s and Ro-Ro BBQ) AND they are keeping their truck in Ballard! Hopefully they will find success there and have a few more items on their menu beyond what you can get on the truck. Let’s celebrate – dos tacos tripas for everyone!

The Great Cheese Steak Search: Philly Boys

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Philly Boys was a food truck located on 4th Ave in Sodo in the parking lot of an auto repair shop. Philly Boys is now a physical location just past the said auto repair shop on 4th Ave. in Sodo. This is a much preferable location just because you won’t be standing out in the rain to get your cheese steak fix. I had the pleasure of venturing down there on a nice, sunny weekday to sample their wares.

I just ordered a steak, with onions and whiz, I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry and my was stuck behind a massive order that the staff was trying to get finished, so I ended up waiting about 20 minutes for my food. I can’t believe I am saying this, but it was definitely worth the wait. The steak came out perfectly cooked and seasoned, a hint of salt and pepper and slightly greasy which mixes in perfectly with the cheese whiz creating a cheesy/meaty sauce that lubricates the sandwich. The amount of whiz was just about perfect, it probably could have stood just a touch more to properly lubricate the sandwich, but there was enough that I did not end up with bites that were all meat. The roll was a great combination of soft and chewy, durable enough to maintain its integrity while the sandwich sat, but retained enough of its original form to give the sandwich more than just one texture with each bite. The onions really made the sandwich though. They were perfectly cooked and seasoned and lent a slight sweetness and toothiness to the sub, heck, I probably wouldn’t mind ordering just a grilled onion sandwich. The steak cost $8.50 and was worth every penny.

The menu is pretty much limited to a couple of cheesesteak variations, fries, and drinks, but you really don’t need anything more from the place.

Two words of caution – they are cash only, so you need to bring some greenbacks with you if you want to enjoy your steak, and because of the location, the place is LOUD. There is a ton of truck traffic on 4th, so if they have their doors open, you really won’t be able to have a conversation sitting in their small dining area. That being said, you should still make the trip down to visit them. They don’t have a website, but they have a Facebook page.
With only Hey Piason left to try, Philly Boy’s takes the lead for the best “authentic” Philly steak in Seattle with 4 Betsy Ross’s out of 5.

When Web Designers Attack

By Iron Chef Leftovers

There are plenty of sites where you can find people’s opinions, good or bad, about restaurants. I have been known to check out sites like Yelp to see the bad reviews of a place just to see the kinds of stuff that people are complaining about when it comes to a restaurant that I am considering going. Any places that have consistently bad reviews and people are complaining about the same things are probably places to avoid.

In many cases, if a restaurant is terrible, the owner probably has cash flow issues and is not paying staff, vendors, taxes, etc. A recent case of this happened in Pennsylvania at a place called the Italian Village Restaurant (which also appeared on an episode of Restaurant: Impossible).

While not paying your restaurant staff can lead to lots of whispers and anonymous angry tweets, not paying your web designer can be a sticky situation for a restaurant owner.

Recently, the webmaster of The Italian Village in Milmont Park (which was on an episode of Restaurant:Impossible) decided to replace the cheesy web presence of the restaurant with detailed lists of shitty Yelp, Yahoo, and Google reviews. The very best one of the batch suggested throwing the live accordion player in the dumpster because he “belittled people” who didn’t request “Irish Eyes” and “Happy Birthday.” Instead of negotiating with the spurned HTML jockey, The Italian Village went ahead and bought a new domain.

I guess that when you fail to pay your webmaster, you probably deserve having all of your bad reviews put in one place.

Road Trip Review: Olympic Provisions

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Photos by Mrs. Iron Chef Leftovers

Olympic Provisions from the outside.

On a recent trip to Portland, Mrs. Iron Chef and I made a stop at Olympic Provisions for brunch. Located in a group of warehouses in the southeast part of the city, it would be easy to miss if you didn’t know exactly where it was. Olympic Provisions specializes in cured meats and it is a very industrial looking space. The food however is to die for.

Wanting to sample the charcutiere, their menu lists all of the current cured meats they have, priced at $4 per ounce. They had about 15 on the menu when we were there.

The happy little plate of cured meats, after we dug in.

Not knowing what to order, we stared our meal with the Chef’s Choice plate, which included 2 salame (cacciatore and andalusiuan), 2 pates (pork liver and country) and pickled vegetables. The salame was fantastic, the cacciatore, probably my favorite salami, was sweet and peppery was as good as some of the ones that I sampled in Italy. The andalusian was off the charts good. A great balance of spices with a hint of heat and clove, I could have eaten it all day with some bread. I would seriously go back to Olympic just for that salami. The pates were both outstanding. The pork liver was smooth and creamy with a nice balance of pork flavor and just a hint of liver taste; it was a pate that I would serve to someone who had never tried pate. It was amazing on the crusty bread that came with the platter. The country pate was a flavor bomb, and with the addition of a touch of the stone ground mustard on the board, was among the best I have ever had. The veggies, while good, had a lot of vinegar and would not be enjoyable if you did not like your pickled food really tart.

For our meal, we had the sweetheart ham sandwich and the eggs benedict. The eggs were probably the best I have tried. Perfectly cooked poached egg pillows sitting on top of sliced ham and an English muffin, covered (but not drowned) in hollandaise sauce. The sauce, with just a hint of lemon, exploded when the runny egg yolk combined with it, producing an unxious, delicious experience.

The ham sandwich, piled high with thin sliced, house cured ham, a fried egg and a brioche bun, was pork overload; the perfect sandwich for the morning after a little too much to drink. The perfectly cooked fried egg provided a wonderful contrast to the slightly sweet and smoky ham, especially as the yolk ran out of the egg.

The surrounding neighborhood. Great location.

Olympic Provisions has a small but “something for everyone” brunch menu with most items priced between 8 and 12 dollars. The Chef’s Choice plate was $16, and I believe the most expensive item on the menu for brunch. They also offer an extensive beer and wine list and have the hard stuff for those who are inclined.

They also have a second location in the Northwest of Portland. I would head back to Olympic Provisions any time I am in Portland, but I really need to get there at some point for dinner, which I am told is equally as outstanding as brunch.

This sign inside the restaurant really sums up what this place is about.

Overall, Olympic Provisions garners 5 laurel wreaths out of 5.

The Great Cheese Steak Search: Tat’s Deli

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Tat’s Deli, located in Pioneer Square is heralded as the best “authentic” Philly cheese steak in the city. The great cheese steak search brings us to this busy hole in the wall to see for ourselves.

Tat’s is generally pretty crowded, so even going on a Tuesday after 1 PM yielded a wait for a seat. Fortunately, service is quick although the staff is not always quick to wipe down the tables. I put in my standard order – cheese steak, with cheese wiz, no onions and cheese fries, which at Tat’s is about $12.

Everything came out on one platter, which presented an issue. The fries, with nothing to contain them, released a greasy mess onto the platter, which meant that it ended up in contact with half of the sandwich. As a result, eating the cheese steak was like eating 2 different sandwiches – one half was a soggy mess where the bread practically fell apart; the other the bread maintained its integrity and was actually pretty good of containing the sandwich itself. The meat was pretty pedestrian – they typical chopped steak, seasoned with enough salt but too much pepper (I love pepper, so for me to say it was too much, says something), to the point of it being the dominant flavor on the sandwich. The amount of cheese wiz also seemed a bit lacking, causing the sandwich to seem drier than it was. On the plus side, the sandwich itself was not overly greasy, which made for a more pleasant eating experience. It was still a messy sandwich to eat, but you did not fell like you needed a shower afterwards,

The fries were a standout, crispy and hot, even after a cheese wiz bath and Tat’s gets bonus points for carrying Tasty Cake products, an east coast favorite.

Overall, the cheese steak was pretty pedestrian, but on a great roll. If you go, stick to the regular sandwiches, which they do really well and save the cheese steak for when you are having a craving and find yourself in Pioneer Square.

Tat’s cheese steak gets 3 Liberty Bells out of 5.

The Great Cheese Steak Search – Dot’s Deli

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have previous reviewed Dot’s Deli here, so I won’t do that again. Dot’s has become a regular in the Iron Chef lunch rotation, mostly due to their intriguing specials like the tongue sandwich or the cheesesteak. Because of the lack of a good cheesesteak in Seattle, I decided to give Dot’s version a try.

I can tell you that this is not your father’s cheesesteak. The sandwich at Dot’s is not huge, but it makes up for its smaller than your average cheesesteak size with its incredibly high quality ingredients and bold flavor. For $9, you get a 6 inch mini baguette with a slathering of their provolone cheese sauce minced peppers and what tasted like thinly sliced round steak. In terms of the messiness factor, this is only a 2 napkin sandwich, which is not a bad thing. You don’t have grease and cheese sauce slopping all over the place.

The cheese sauce was really a standout – a creative take on cheese whiz, it was slightly sharp and tangy and I came really close to asking for a side of it to dump over my order of fries. The sauce is what cheese whiz wants to become when it grows up. The beef, while sliced thin, is significantly thicker than your average cheesesteak’s meat, so there is significantly more toothiness and chew with Dot’s version of the classic. This is not a bad thing. Since Dot’s is using a high quality beef, the flavor of the meat really stands out in the sandwich, rather than being a supporting player like in the classic, and when melded with the cheese sauce and the punch from the peppers, brings you to a place where you feel like you are no longer eating a sandwich at a deli, but eating a steak at a sit down restaurant. This steak really reminded me of the tongue and round cheesesteak I did at my Odd Bits Dinner (recipe to be posted eventually) and that was definitely a good thing.

Overall, Dot’s cheesesteak garners 4 “hey, what you lookin’ at’s” out of 5, with the only thing keeping it from getting a perfect score is that it is only infrequently on the menu. If you are looking for the classic Philly cheesesteak, this is not it. If you are looking for a delicious take on a Philly cheesesteak, head over to Dot’s when they have it, you won’t be disappointed. It is not much more expensive than any other cheesesteak in the city, and despite its smaller size, go for the quality over quantity and you won’t be disappointed.

Check Dot’s Facebook page for their daily specials and run over to Fremont when the cheesesteak is on the menu.

The Task of Finding Great BBQ in Seattle

By Iron Chef Leftovers

It is difficult to find a great BBQ place in Seattle – there are a lot of them, but they generally range from mediocre to bad (and yes, I have gone to see the man, and I was underwhelmed). I am usually cautiously optimistic when a new place opens, and then usually disappointed because the quality is not up to snuff. There are 3 food items that any BBQ competition judges on – pulled pork, brisket and ribs. Those are the BBQ staples (although I long for burnt ends) and, like a cheese pizza, any place that can’t do those well is probably not worth going to.

A couple of months ago, a new BBQ place opened in Ballard – The Boar’s Nest. I decided to give it a shot. The place is small, seating about 30, with a minimal décor, rolls of paper towels on the tables and a nice selection of sauces – 6 in all, ranging from vinegar based, to mustard, to “classic” BBQ to spicy, so there is a little of something for everyone. The menu is small – 4 sandwich options (pulled pork, brisket, sausage and chicken), 2 sizes of ribs and a smattering of your classic sides. They also have a veggie option on the sausage. It is a pretty basic BBQ menu, but one that is generally perfectly acceptable.

The sandwiches are excellent, easily at the top in Seattle, and on par with some of the best BBQ that I have had. The pulled pork is tender and smoky, with the right amount of fat mixed in with the meat. My biggest complaint about most of the pulled pork I have had in Seattle is that it tends to be very dry or overly fatty, and the only way to save it is to drown it in sauce, which then eliminates the flavor of the meat. I would highly recommend the sandwich with the coleslaw on it and a small squeeze of the vinegar based North Carolina Sauce, to add just a bit of tang and sloppiness to the sandwich and really allows the pork to shine.

The brisket is another well prepared sandwich, served on Texas toast. You could see the classic smoke ring, which is essential to good BBQ and the meat itself was tender with nice amounts of char and smoke without being fatty or stringy, the sandwich stands up well to a dash of the Texas sauce to bring a bit of heat to the party. My only complaint – save me the burnt ends and put them on a sandwich for me!!

The sides are pretty standard BBQ fare offerings, and I highly recommend the fried mac+cheese, 4 crunchy, gooey, cheesy balls of happiness, the slaw, a nice balance of vinegar and sweet with a pleasant crunch, and the cornbread, moist and tender, but if you get it to go, have them give you the butter on the side – if you put it in the bag, you will end up with melted butter. Both of these sandwiches would have held their own to anything I have tried in BBQ competitions.

Since I was 2 for 2 at The Boar’s Nest, I got adventurous and decided to try the ribs. Ribs are classically the downfall of just about every BBQ place in Seattle – they are either too dry or mushy or just not really well smoked. A perfectly done BBQ rib should be very tender and not stringy, have a slight resistance to coming off the bone (it should NOT just fall apart when you bite into it), a smoky flavor and a visible smoke ring. It should also hold its shape when the rack is cut into individual ribs. If you ask BBQ lovers if the ribs should be wet or dry (sauce or no sauce), you will get very different answers, but either way, the meat should hold up to what I just described.

The ribs are where the Boar’s Nest fell down. First, they used baby back ribs, instead of the full ribs, which is a no-no as far as I am concerned with BBQ. Baby back ribs tend to cook more quickly and don’t absorb the smoke as a result, which is one of the problems The Boar’s Nest ribs suffered from. The meat was too tender – the ribs fell apart as I was trying to cut the slab into individual ribs, leaving me essentially with a pile of pulled pork. The meat was bland, despite being bathed in the Kansas City sauce (opted for the ribs wet), it lacked any real hit of smokiness and I actually had to add salt to the meat as I was eating it, which is not a good sign. I probably could have just added more sauce, but I wanted to try the ribs naked, just to make sure I got the full effect. This was really the only disappointing thing I have had off their menu. On the plus side, a half rack could probably feed 2 people easily.

While The Boar’s Nest isn’t perfect, it is still better than just about any BBQ place in Seattle. I would recommend without hesitation the sandwiches and any of the sides, but stay away from the ribs unless you like fall-apart tender baby back ribs. I would highly recommend trying all of their wonderful house made sauces to find your favorite.

Overall The Boar’s Nest scores 4 smoke rings out of 5.

The Dirt: Sandwiches run $7-8 without sides or $12 with 2 sides and cornbread and the ribs are $15 for a half slab and $25 for a full with 2 sides and cornbread. The sides are $2-3 each. They do have a couple local beers on tap and small bottles of wine available. Located at 2008 NW 56th St in Ballard.

Altura – A Review

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Altura is fairly new to the Seattle restaurant scene, having opened less than a year ago, and already, the tiny Capitol Hill eatery is getting a ton of attention locally and nationally, including being recently named a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant in the country by the James Beard Foundation.

Altura has fairly small and ever changing menu. The menu is broken out into an appetizer/salad section, a pasta section an entrée section and a desert section, each containing about 6 choices. Altura does things a little differently: you can pick 3 choices from anywhere off the menu for $49, any 4 items for $59 and any 5 for $69. So if you go in there and want to order 3 main courses, you can do that. The portion sizes are not overly large but they are rich and packed with flavors and the kitchen will adjust them depending on how much you have actually ordered. There is an optional wine pairing for each dish and they also have a tasting menu, which is the chef’s choice. When Mrs. Iron Chef and I were in, we both had 4 courses (I had 4 savory courses and Mrs. Iron Chef went with 3 savory and the desert) and I could barely move after the meal.

My menu choices were the sweetbreads with a lobster reduction, spicy grilled octopus (both off the appetizer section), the tripe and oxtail parpadelle, and the pork shoulder. Mrs. Iron Chef went with the beef carpaccio, the stinging nettle ravioli, the roasted chicken and the flan for dessert.

Overall the dishes were stellar. I was very skeptical about the sweetbreads with a lobster reduction, but it worked – a well-cooked pillow of meat sitting on top of an intensely flavored smear of the lobster, which was reduced to a syrup consistency. I found myself tempted to ask for a bowl of that with some bread and make that my meal. The carpaccio was well seasoned and reminiscent of a tartare and came with a brioche parmeggiano crouton, which was a symphony of, salty and buttery while still being crispy and chewy. The crouton may have been the best thing to come out in a fantastic meal and I could have been happy with just a plate of those. Heck, I would probably go back and order whatever dish it appeared with just to have it again. The parpadelle was a well cooked, house made pasta with an intense ragu of tripe and braised oxtail, bringing back fond memories of the tripe soup my dad made when I was growing up; personally this was my pick for the best thing I had in the meal. The nettle ravioli were a toothsome trio of wonderfully earthy pasta pockets, enhanced with a brown butter sauce – simple and delicious allowing the nettles to shine without overpowering the dish with a lot of complex flavor. The roast chicken was delicious and perfectly cooked, but was probably the least adventurous dish we ordered. The pork shoulder was a model of perfection of pork wrapped pork – crispy prosciutto surrounding a fall apart tender and fatty medallion of shoulder – very reminiscent of porchetta. The desert was well thought out and a nice compliment the richness of the meal.

The only dish that I would say did not come out to my expectations was the octopus. Flavor wise, the dish was great – a classic combination of white beans and chili peppers with a broth and grilled octopus. It had a nice heat without being too overpowering and the beans were cooked al dente to allow for some contrasting textures in the dish. The octopus was just a touch overcooked, causing it to be slightly chewy instead of completely tender and could have used a bit of char to lend some smokiness to the dish. It was not that this dish was a disaster; it was just that it was not nearly as well executed as everything else we had that night.

Altura has a small but well laid out wine list, both by the glass and bottle, with glass selections ranging from 8 – 16 dollars and bottles starting at around 30. The wine pairings come with a generous pour, so be aware if you go that route when you order. They also have a small cocktail menu available.

The dining room is small, with high ceilings, tables practically on top of each other, minimal lighting and an open kitchen, so the noise level can be pretty high. They do have 8 counter seats that overlook the kitchen, which might be a nice treat if you enjoy watching the kitchen churn out its product.

Overall, a visit to Altura is not an inexpensive meal, and will probably run you 75 –100 dollars per person, and can be difficult to get a reservation at based on its popularity and diminutive size, so not a place that you would want to hit every night, but definitely worth the trek to Capitol Hill for a special occasion.

Overall, Altura scores 4.5 bellissimos out of 5.

Road Trip Review – The D.N.A. Project

By Iron Chef Leftovers

A few weeks ago, I saw an announcement for the DNA project – a joint brewing project between three of my favorite breweries: Diamond Knot, North Sound Brewing and Anacortes Brewing. The collectively brewed 3 beers and released them on Tuesday, March 6th at the new Anacortes Brewing owned – H20 restaurant. Of course, being the sucker for beer and having nothing better to do on a Tuesday night, I trekked the 75 miles each way to Anacortes for the release. All three beers were great, and it was an overall fun night; well worth the drive. Now for the beers:

Hoppy Lager by Diamond Knot
Smells like a summer day – a lager that you want to drink on a sunny, 75 degree summer day on your back patio. Crisp and dry with a barely noticeable hint of hops. Lightly malted with a short, clean finish, enhanced by a hint of hops as the beer fades from the palate. A fine lager and one I would order in a second on a warm day, but not the beer I was in the mood for on a 35 degree evening.

4 sheepshanks out of 5

Red Rye Oat – North Sound Brewing
A red ale. Distinctive rye character on the nose with subtle whiffs of oatmeal. Slightly sweet and malty with hints of hops. A long finish of oats, rye and caraway. Dry, almost tannic on the tongue (in a good way). Reminds me of a very light rye bread.

4.5 whinnies out of 5

Big Black and Hoppy – Anacortes Brewing
A black IPA. Plenty of malt on the nose with a hint of hops. The initial taste is a hop bomb on the palate with a slight lingering bitterness, but not cloyingly hoppy nor overpowering with its alcohol despite its 9.8% ABV. Floral notes give way to a wonderful chocolaty and malty finish. Extraordinarily smooth; hangs around on the palate for a very long time (I mean minutes worth of lingering) in a wonderfully pleasant way. Reminds me of both a stellar IPA and a wonderful porter. Perfect for a cold winter day and paired wonderfully with the burger I had for dinner.

4.5 blackouts out of 5

There are 2 more release events scheduled for these beers – on March 13th at the Empire Ale House in Mount Vernon and March 21st at the Diamond Knot Alehouse on Front Street in Mukilteo. I would highly recommend trying all 3 of these beers at one of these events – especially since you will have the opportunity to talk to the brewers at the same time.