Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fermentation and civilization are inseparable.

“Fermentation and civilization are inseparable.” – John Ciardi, American poet (1916-1986)

Ancient history shows that almost any substance containing sugar can naturally undergo alcoholic fermentation, so it’s probably no surprise that beer was not invented but rather discovered thousands of years ago. 

While beer is no longer used as a form of payment, and people no longer greet each other with the expression “bread and beer”, toasting someone’s health before drinking beer is a remnant of the ancient belief in beer’s magical properties.  Beer’s association with friendly, unpretentious social interaction remains unchanged. Whether in stone-age villages, ancient banquet halls, or modern bistro-pubs in Ballard, beer has brought people together since the dawn of civilization.

Our little neighborhood establishment is a vessel for an abundance of conversations, smiles, debates and laughs that fill the space between the brimmer (top of glass) and heeltap (last drops at the bottom of the glass). Just as the conversations morph with the ebb and flow of the evening, our tap list aims to mirror that evolving, magical quality celebrating community.  

In total, we have eight beers on draft, rotating with the seasons and brewer’s yields. All are Northwest regional, ranging from as far east as No-Li Brewery in Spokane, to Backwoods Brewing Company in Carson, to a few in our own backyard and everything in between. Ballard has a cornucopia of breweries, ten in total, within a five mile radius of each other and two of which, we are currently featuring.  Meredith recently enjoyed a field trip to delve deeper into their current line-ups and practices.

First off, Stoup Brewing. It was a sunny afternoon, doors just opening, and the friendly faces of Brad Benson (co-owner/head brewer), Robyn Schumacher (co-owner/assistant brewer with cicerone certification--basically a sommelier of beer), Jason Bass (Sales Guru), and Danielle Zahaba (tap room crew), as the welcoming committee. As Robyn threw her backpack over her shoulder, taking off to enjoy the evening, it was clear that the days’ brewing was over.  Danielle began pouring samples of the seven beers they currently offer, from their India Session Ale (ISA), think of a lighter IPA in both color and alcohol content, yet still ripe with full flavor hops, to their Porter displaying delicious chocolaty, espresso notes.

Jason was kind enough to pull up a chair after a day of surfing to share more about the brewery.  Their namesake refers to a drinking vessel of various sizes.  Isn’t it ironic that their name and ours are quite inter-connected? Certainly an ode to the many laughs and conversations one has whilst enjoying a tasty beverage.  

Sipping through their line-up, tables filled up quickly.  Folks just getting off work, in from run, with their dogs, or just strolling by to enjoy a pint in the open air environment, and it felt good. Rumor has it that the weekends are intensified by food trucks offering up tasty bites to accompany their amazing beers. 

Stoups neighborhood vision is very much akin to ours.  It was casual, communal, relaxing, and welcoming. Bottom line, not only does Stoup have great beers, but they are also a team of passionate, great people, loving what they do, and that love shines through in everything they do.  

Next up was Populuxe Brewing, just a few blocks down from Stoup.  With limited tap room hours, co-owner Peter was kind enough to open the doors for an intimate tasting.  Populuxe is the union of Peter Charbonnier, Jiri Zatloukal and their partners who have been lifelong home brewers and experimenters. All four of them still have full time jobs, a testament to the passion and love they have for beer, that can only help in, one day, realizing their dream of brewing being their only full time job. Populuxe is a combination of both popular and deluxe.

Looking around, the walls are adorned by a local artist and the space is just about as quirky as the vision itself.  It felt right. Pouring a sample of their outstandingly tasty wine cask aged beer, Peter explained that they are a small operation. An operation so small in fact, that they only brew six barrel kegs and are referred to as a nano-brewery.  For this reason, unless you pop by Brimmer (we are one of only a few restaurants pouring them on tap), if you want to enjoy a pint of their beer, you’ll have to stop by the tap room. In the summer, Populuxe will welcome food trucks into their backyard for the Ballard/Fremont community to enjoy.

When asked what his thoughts were on all the local breweries, both new and emerging, Peter warmly responded that with great beer, there can never be enough. How true. That statement resonates with our own mission and why we feel so fortunate to be pouring some of these awesome local brews in a community that truly supports one another.  

We hope you’ll stop in for a pint or schooner soon and toast to the passions in your own life.

Jen and Meredith

Friday, February 14, 2014

Family Meal, B&H Style

Community is of utmost importance to us and breaking bread is the best way we know how.  Every shift, as a pillar of Brimmer & Heeltap, Chef Mike and his team create a Family Meal for the entire crew to enjoy prior to or after service, which is then put onto our “late night” menu (10 pm-12am) for the community to devour.

The crux of family meal is for it to be a nourishing plate, something that will help sustain us throughout service (not to mention always being unique and delicious).  Some recent plates include a sweet/spicy beef burger dripping with house made aioli and Asian slaw. Of course there is Mike’s ramen, a Sunday late-night staple, that includes a six minute egg, kimchi brussels sprouts, ginger and succulent pork belly. There’s a reason this one in particular is offered every Sunday night!  One of my recent favorites is Sous Chef Lieu’s take on her grandmother’s fish stew.  Lieu makes a homemade fish stock, in this instance rockfish and shrimp as the base, and packs it full of fish chunks and hearty vegetables. I ran back to the kitchen upon tasting this, inquiring how to make it in hopes of recreating it at home (although probably in vain-sigh) because it was that good!  The culinary team puts so much thought and creativity into their plates with the honest desire to share it with not only us, but with each of you as well. What We Eat You Eat!

Grubbing on Family Meal before shift also provides a great opportunity for us to convene as a family in a “pre-shift”.  A casual dialogue between Jen, Mike and the crew, we often highlight upcoming events, sample new wines and beers we are entertaining (and with so many awesome breweries and distilleries we will always attempt to offer something fresh and relevant), go over nightly specials (including our frequently changing and always inspiring seasonal seafood and daily toast), reflect on some of the press we have been receiving, and more often than not cracking jokes as we lighten the mood before service.

The team at Brimmer & Heeltap is humbled by the love the community, bloggers, papers and magazines have been sharing with us. There is always a certain degree of nerves upon opening ones doors for the first time hoping the community feels the same passion we do for our new home. Thank you Eater Seattle, The Stranger, Seattle Magazine, Seattle Weekly, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, Serious Eats, My Ballard and many more for your TLC! The feedback so far has been super positive, instilling in us a continuous aim to keep growing and striving for greatness so we can be your neighborhood home away from home. Thank You!



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We’re Back!

December 2013 marked the official establishment of Brimmer & Heeltap.  It has been a long and arduous process that has been met with amazing people, a heavy dose of humility, and a lot of caffeine.  The best reward is now having the doors open to the public and greeting curious diners near and far. 

Feelings of nerves and excitement arose when moving into such an iconic building.  Stories have been shared on both ends of the spectrum from engagements, first dates, Friday night traditions, to never stepping in the space and living just around the corner.   All of us feel so privileged at the opportunity and we would like to pay tribute to our predecessors for instilling so many memories, so much history and so much inspiration between the walls that is now our home. 

We are almost done with the interior changes and the response has been so favorable to how we honored the building and really made it our own.  I would like to sincerely thank our creative team: Erik Andrew, Marian Built, Sean Sifagaloa, and ShedArchitects

You can imagine there are so many people behind the scenes that make something like this take shape.  I hope you will come in soon and meet them all as they are an amazing bunch of talented and driven individuals.  While there are different areas of specialty, at the base of it all is an overwhelming attitude of care for the work they do and those around them.  One of the best compliments we have heard is that B&H doesn’t feel brand new but rather we’ve known/worked together for ages.  People are sharing their enthusiasm for our food, team and interior.  It is my sincere hope that you will come in at least once to check us out and with regularity after that because you’ve fallen in love with some aspect of our business.

In an effort to keep you better informed about various aspects of B&H moving forward, I have teamed up with one of our amazing servers, Meredith, to assist with updating blog posts.

Yours truly,


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We Have the Keys!

It’s with a measure of humility and a heap of happiness that I’m finally able to announce the official home of Brimmer & Heeltap – our take on the neighborhood gastro-pub.

The name Brimmer & Heeltap commemorates the proper pour, one that teases the top of the glass and culminates in a satisfying glimpse of the bottom. Like a good toast, Brimmer & Heeltap will be a place that evokes camaraderie – a sense of where we’ve been and where we want to arrive.

This has been a decade long ambition sustained by a life-long adoration of food and drink and the community that embraces them.  It’s been an emotional journey – challenging, edifying and ultimately, gratifying. Above all else, it’s been transformative and I am especially grateful to have shared so many illuminating experiences with you throughout.

Food, to me, is about community – an ongoing dialogue that not only sates the belly but nurtures a connection to each other and the spaces we inhabit.  Finding a venue in a neighborhood in which I feel intrinsically connected, was paramount in my search.

Serendipity, has planted me right in my backyard at the prior home of the beloved Le Gourmand/Sam Bar.  Populating the footprint of one of Seattle’s classically heralded culinary institutions feels especially fortuitous. I look forward to collaborating new epicurean adventures.

The Brimmer & Heeltap philosophy is couched in much of the same culinary aesthetics as Le Gourmand – exceptional cuisine and craft beverages garnered from smart, local, and environmentally progressive purveyors.  Where Le Gourmand was a high-end destination, Brimmer & Heeltap thrives to be a neighborhood institution where people are able to participate any given day of the week.  Our menu was drafted with an emphasis on quality at an accessible price point.

Our anticipated opening is not slated until November however we can't wait for you to pull up a seat and share in Chef Mike’s locally inspired innovations and our bartender's concoctions one day soon. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Penny Profiler #57

If you'll recall a couple profilers ago, I intentionally skipped one as we were waiting on official clearance.  Today we received some great news and I can officially welcome Deanna Mantie to the penny profiles.

Banner Bank has agreed to lend us the start up funds necessary to set our ship in motion and join us down this exciting path.  Headquartered in Walla Walla, they have been in business for more than a century and pride themselves on strong customer relations and a high level of community involvement.  Our cup of gratitude is overflowing and cannot wait to make them proud of their decision.

Deanna will now be my bank liaison from here on out and I am sure we are going to have plenty of opportunities to get to know each other better.  At our last gathering I told her that I was leaving our meeting to see one of my old customers to pick up some pennies and explaining the backstory.  She immediately pulled one from her wallet adding  it to the collection.  The other penny profiles have a long term bond in common and while this is a new introduction, the gesture was sincere and heartfelt just like the others. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Penny Profiler #59

Betty Frost. Have you ever known someone for a long time but never really known them?  Betty is someone with whom I have crossed paths for years, often at wine and food events.  I have always had an affinity for her but never really known the source since our engagements have been in passing, until now.  Betty immediately responded to my penny query and we recently sat down for a lovely breakfast.

I learned of her deep love for animals, pastry, wine, cheese, volunteering, cooking, travel, and tomatoes (in no particular order).  She has lived in England, Italy, and Peru almost counts as a place of residence. 

Her active life and mind is no doubt a magnet for my adoration.  She radiates style, confidence, warmth and charisma.  I couldn't be more thankful for our penny exchange breakfast and look forward to strengthening the existing ties.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Maria’s Got Your Back (Literally)

As most of you know, my recent post has been working with the Maria Hines Restaurant Group, first helping open Agrodolce and the last few months as Lead Server at Tilth.  Maria was kind enough to bring me on board knowing my long term potential was limited. 

Her culinary achievements speaks for themselves and loudly:  James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest, Food & Wine Magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs, New York Times top 10 best new restaurants in the country, Iron Chef winner, and all three of her restaurants certified organic under Oregon Tilth. Only ten restaurants in the nation have the latter certification by the way. 

As impressive, it is worth noting that Maria is a board member with PCC Farmland Trust.  Their mission is to secure, preserve and steward threatened farmland in the Northwest, ensuring that generations of local farmers productively farm using sustainable, organic growing methods. The Farmland Trust takes its mission one step further by working to place farmers on rescued property, actively producing food for the local community. To date, PCC Farmland Trust has saved eight farm properties, totaling 1169 acres that support 13 organic farms.

Hopefully it is obvious how she has your culinary back, but wait there’s more!  Maria is in the process of updating the dining room at Tilth with a fresh paint job and new chairs, slated for a debut later this summer.  Knowing firsthand the daunting list of expenses for getting started, she has gifted me these green chairs.  They will undoubtedly get a little makeover before the B&H introduction but I am a firm believer in good juju and given the great dining experiences guests have had in them to date, I am beyond grateful for this amazing gesture. We want to make her proud and the future guests of B&H.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Penny Profiler #58

Yes, I intentionally skipped #57.  You'll see why soon enough.

#58 is dedicated to Mr. Gary Simeral. Gary is one of the most loyal and generous customer I have ever met.  His work routine brought him to the market weekly and he made a point of coming by The Tasting Room on each visit.  He would talk to anyone that would listen, attend every event we hosted, and for a man in his mid seventies still finds the time to tend to his several hundred roses, collect art, travel, and run his own business.

I have no doubt that Gary will be sitting at the bar upon opening, and I can only hope the neighbor to either side will indulge in his hair raising stories from yesteryear.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Penny Profiler #56

Kristen Winn.  Industry relations connected us while she was at DeLille Cellars and me at the Washington Wine Commission.  Needless to say our worlds have commingled for the better part of a decade and recent times have spawned deeper roots.  It is humbling to join in the transition from colleagues to friends.  I am grateful for the evolution and can't help but hope that B&H will initiate the same sort of introductions and conversions for the people that find themselves within our walls.

Kristen’s foot in the artistic world is such a gravitational lure.  Her peaceful and imaginative demeanor continues to inspire.  In addition to being a professional woman in the wine world, you can find her works of art online at

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Spring symbolizes new life and lends to ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation and renewal.  For me, it has generally been a time of awakening and development.  This year is no exception. 

As the winter season rounded out and 2013 became a reality, I have spent the last several months with my head down and working hard within the Maria Hines Restaurant group.  Maria is an advocate for growth and personal development and she has fostered my curiosity with open arms.  I am forever grateful for this opportunity.

The last few months have also delivered property and bank negotiations.  Formal offers are being penned and SO hopeful of securing a permanent resting space for B&H.  I invite anyone willing, to cross your fingers, light a candle, do a Hail Mary, or rub a rabbit’s foot for us.  We could use the extra good vibes.