Sunday, December 28, 2014

The 5,000 Mile Point-of-View

Travel has always been a way for me to shake the proverbial Etch-A-Sketch and clear the mental clutter. The clarity gained from a change of scenery, new acquaintances, sites, and smells is among my favorite vantage points.  At a time when I think back over 2014 and ponder the year ahead, I am eternally grateful for the gift of travel.

A few months back I was lucky enough to embark on a journey to France and observe a beautiful way of life mostly throughout the south, spotlighting new wines to accompany our bold flavors back at B&H.

My journey began briefly in Paris where I traveled by foot, taking in familiar and new sites for a day. Getting lost in such an incredible city is hardly a waste of time as Paris is among one of my all-time favorite international destinations. While I was sad to depart so early, my eyes were set further south to learn about epicurious things outside the metro area. 

Paris - Odéon 

Paris - Jardin des Plantes

Paris - Square de l’Arsenal

A quick train ride deposited me outside the ancient walled town center of Avignon.  It is a quaint city that sits on the left bank of the Rhône River, a popular residence for popes and one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts.  Avignon provided me a wonderful transition to the south and a gateway to my rental car and the Cotes du Rhône valley.   

Avignon – post serenade 

History and natural beauty make the Southern Rhône one of the richest regions of France for interests of every kind.   Next stop Gigondas, at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail, is a village with fewer than 1,000 people residing is a must see-do for your wine loving travels.  They have dedicated all of their agricultural efforts to winemaking and it shows. With just under 8 miles of dedicated vines they produce roughly 5 million cases of wine a year.  

A few notable producers included:

The history dates back to Pierre de Beaucastel in the mid 1500’s with the purchase of a barn and some land. A hundred years or so later one of Pierre’s descendants converted to Catholicism and was appointed as “Capitaine de la ville de Courthezon” by Louis XIV.  Fast forward to the start of the 20th century when the land was acquired by Pierre Tramier who then turned over production to his son-in-law Pierre Perrin. (If you haven’t noticed, Pierre is a popular French form of the name Peter and means “rock” or “stone”.)  Today the Perrin family is continuing the legacy and is following in the rich traditions set before them.  Their wines are highly regarded and are a worthy addition to your wine cellar.

Domaine des Bosquets is owned by the Brechet family, who also owns Chateau de Vaudieu.  The winery was bought in 1962 by the legendary Gabriel Meffre. It's his grandchildren, the brothers Laurent and Julien Brechet, who run the two domains today.  Julien is a strong advocate for the next generation in the area and deeply involved in the young winemakers’ association while brimming with a youthful energy.  He appreciates the friendly competition with his brother as they share quite the wine heritage. 

Domaine Chamfort is located at the foot of the Sablet Montmirail. It stretches over twenty one hectares and is spread over three towns. In March 2010, Vasco Perdigao (pictured above) and his wine Sonia took over the vineyard and decided to enroll it in sustainable viticulture by minimizing the use of non-natural products in the vineyard and to better control the future transition to organic agriculture.

One glimpse of Serge Ferigoule's moustache might be enough to fall in love with him and the wines, although they do a fine job themselves.  In the mid-70's he left winemaking school and went to work for Monsieur Ricard's family. Without anyone in his family to succeed him, Richard decided to partner with Serge in 1982.  After Monsieur Ricard's retirement in 1990, Serge launched Le Sang des Cailloux.  Vacqueryas had just been awarded an A.O.C that same year helping his wines to become as celebrated as they deserve.  

The Bruniers' story dates back to the late 1800's with Hippolyte Brunier, a modest farmer who lived off the land.  His small vineyard was at one of the highest points in between Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Bedarrides, a stony plateau called "La Crau."  The elevation of this terrain had prompted the construction of a communication tower in the late 18th century to transmit telegraph messages between Marseilles and Paris.


One of the most memorable dinners on this portion of the trip was thanks to L’Oustalet.  A multi-course meal dedicated to the bounty of the Mediterranean. 

While at dinner I was seated in between a French couple to my right and a small group of Americans to my left.  Dining alone in France is quite common and despite the intimate setting, it was delightful to relish in the solitude.  It is a different sort of dining experience when you eat alone.  I focused my attention to savoring each morsel and taking my time.  It was a great lesson in being present and not needing my phone or other gadget to fill the void.

As the four Americans were wrapping up, the opportunity presented itself to engage slightly before they slipped out.  We exchanged small talk of "how was your meal, where are you from", etc. When I replied that I was visiting from Seattle, Washington, one of the women said, "Well it just so happens that next week I am meeting my friend Jeffery Bergman from Seattle." I had a split second thought... what are the chances that we both know a Jeffery Bergman from Seattle and could it be the same person?  I kindly replied, with a bit of hesitation in my voice... "It's not the same Jeffery Bergman married to Katherine and works with gourmet food is it?"  She looked at me stunned and voices hit a pitch of of excitement that made most of the other patrons look our way.  "Of course it is." I looked on in disbelief and kindly requested her name.  Little did I know that I was meeting such culinary royalty and the likes of Patricia Wells. She has several other ties to the Pacific Northwest and we marveled at the shared contacts between us.  What if I had brought my kindle to read during my solo dinner and didn't engage?  I felt so lucky to feel the world shrink around me.


My final days were spent in a small beach town called Sanary-sur-Mer outside of Bandol on the Mediterranean coast.  Rumor has it that it's one of the sunniest places in France, with an average of only 61 days of rain a year.

Winery highlights included:

This tranquil estate has been in the hands of the Bunan family for three generations and is surrounded by incredible olive and cypress trees with grapes growing on steep terraces facing the Mediterranean.  Quite a site! They have farmed organically since 2008 and have focused their attention on the impressive Mourvèdre grape while incorporating Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah into the mix as well.  This region in particular is known for producing hugely powerful reds and sultry rosé wines.

“Read as much as you like about the microclimate of a wine region; it is only when you feel it that you truly comprehend. The panoramic view of the entire Bandol amphitheater with its dramatic limestone outcrops is complemented by a cloudless sky, yet proprietor Eric de St. Victor informs me that beyond the protective Sainte-Baume mountains, it has been raining all week. No wonder Bandol enjoys 300 days of sunshine each year, no wonder it exists as a separate AOC from Provence, and no wonder its wines are hailed as the apogee of Mourvèdre.”—The Wine Advocate

Comte Henri de Saint-Victor and family have been producing wines perched atop La Colline du Télégraphe in the northernmost part of the appellation, the château commands sweeping vistas of the amphitheater of vines known as the Théatre d’Epidaure, and beyond, the Mediterranean Sea.

The restanques, or terraces were carved into the hill by the Saint-Victor clan in an effort to minimize erosion and maximize water absorption, which is of the utmost importance in a hot, dry terroir such as this one. 

Domaines Ott was founded in 1912 by Marcel Ott, an agricultural engineer from Alsace who dreamed of establishing a great wine estate near the Mediterranean. Today, the wineries are owned and managed by Champagne Louis Roederer. These wines are made at three distinctively different estates in the Bandol and Côtes de Provence appellations: Château Romassan, Clos Mireille and Château de Selle.  


The south of France has a natural intoxication about it. From the stunning landscape to the beautiful people that inhabit it. From the coastal influences on food to their world class wines and beyond, it is an area I would go back again tomorrow to dig deeper and learn more.  If it isn't already on your travel to-do list, you won't be disappointed.  

I would like to share a passage I found just before departing for this trip by Rick Steves. This could easily be expanded beyond your passport and into our daily lives.  

"Connecting with people carbonates an experience.  Extroverts have more fun. If your trip is low on magic moments, kick yourself and make things happen.  If you don't enjoy a place, maybe you don't know enough about it.  Seek the truth. Give a culture the benefit of your open mind. See things as different, but not better or worse.  Any culture has plenty to share.  Of course, travel, like the world, is a series of hills and valleys.  Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic.  If something's not to your liking, change your liking. Travel can make you a happier American, as well a citizen of the world.  Our Earth is home to seven billion equally precious people...

Thoughtful travel engages us with the world.  In tough economic times, it reminds us what is truly important.  By broadening perspectives, travel teaches new ways to measure quality of life.  Globetrotting destroys ethnocentricity, helping us understand and appreciate other cultures.  Rather than fear the diversity on this planet, celebrate it. Among your most prized souvenirs will be the strands of different cultures you choose to knit into your own character."

May 2015 have adventures near and far!

Yours truly,


Monday, November 10, 2014

Upon Reflection

Going into business for ourselves and helping to create community through food and beverage is the best decision we ever made.

There is a blind faith necessary to leap off that proverbial cliff and as a friend once said, “jump and trust that the net will appear.”

Despite amazing coaches, colleagues, and mentors, no one can prepare you for the pressure, sacrifice, fear, nerves, responsibility, or knowledge required navigating these waters.

Conversely, it is heartwarming to see a successful first date evolve into a budding romance before our eyes.  Not to mention the handful of regulars that transition from acquaintance to friend with us and each other.  We witness bonds created with our crew, vendors, and neighbors. 

With the holidays and our anniversary on our heels, we are reminded that it is a time defined by a heap of gratitude and a pinch of humility.

On behalf of the relationships that have already been fostered, we hope that you will continue to bring in the people you are grateful for, curious about, excited for, thinking of doing business with, or just time by yourself as you juggle the busy outside world. 

We are eternally grateful for the opportunity to be in business on this little corner of Ballard and we hope that the coming year brings deeper connections and moderate growth.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Virtues of Smoking

Ben Barlow is a part of our amazing culinary team and one of the four guys at B&H that actually grew up in Ballard.  He really enjoys cooking French and Latin cuisines and considers himself a big baseball enthusiast, lover of the outdoors and fan of horror movies.

He started cooking professionally somewhat by accident. After finishing his degree in Chemistry at WSU, he was a little lost on next steps. Working outdoors was a big pull and tried his hand (without much luck) getting into environmental field work. The next best thing was finding work with access to outdoor recreation, which led him to apply for work at wilderness resorts.

Ben always liked to cook, but had never actually worked in a restaurant. With little understanding of how the industry worked or what line cooks did, he began applying for these positions at a number of resorts.  He received a call back from exactly one chef, Jim Roberts of the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch in the Sawtooth Mountains. He told him more or less, "you're not a line cook, but if you want to work in a kitchen, I'll find a place for you." Jim did a lot to foster Ben's knowledge and get him going in the industry and a big reason he's still at it three years later.

Each month B&H hosts an all team meeting where someone from our service and culinary crew shares a little knowledge nugget to help boost our understanding on various topics.

Last month Ben blew us away with his presentation on the virtues of smoke, as a flavorant and preservative. Clearly his background in organic synthesis has complemented his career in food.  We thought you too might enjoy this explanation along with a recipe of smoked trout.



Wood smoke contains a great deal of flavor compounds, as well as organic acids and antioxidants that slow rancidification of meat. While the benefits of smoking are clear, the process is sometimes misunderstood. The following are some points on how smoking works.

How do we smoke?

Because smoking alone is not a great preservative, smoked foods are often cured in salt beforehand.

Smoking is virtually always done with hardwoods (fruitwoods), as softwoods (conifers) contain resins which create unpleasant tar-like flavors when burnt.

Low temperature is critical, even for hot smoking, so the smoke can work before the meat is overcooked. Hot smokers rarely go above 180F.

The key to smoking is to use smoldering wood, which is wood burning around 600F.  Wood is kept around this temperature by using a low oxygen environment like tightly packed chips or soaked chips.

How does smoking work?

Keeping the wood burning at a low temperature is critical.  Complete combustion of wood would produce only carbon dioxide and water vapor, which would be flavorless.  By keeping the temperature and oxygen levels low, we create incomplete reactions.  Because plant molecules are so big, they break down in lots of intermediary steps.  It’s these intermediary steps that produce the flavor compounds in smoke.

Understanding wood is critical to understanding smoke. Wood is primarily composed of two components, cellulose and lignin.  Cellulose makes up the bulk of all plants and the same is true with wood.  What makes wood special is its high lignin content, which makes it hard.  Cellulose is a carbohydrate, just a gigantic string of simple sugars.  Lignin is a phenolic polymer, a big string of aromatic alcohols.

As cellulose smolders, it produces ketones and organic acids responsible for the sweet and fruit flavors in smoked foods.  The organic acids like acetic acid and formic acid lower the pH and help preserve the meat.

As lignin smolders, it produces phenols.  Phenols are hugely important flavor chemicals that flavor wine, coffee, and just about everything tasty.  It is the phenols from lignin that preserve the meat (as antioxidants) and produce the complexity and that signature smoky aroma (guaiacol and syringol).  Smoked meat often tastes like other things because the same compounds are present in the meat.

Wood also contains some nitrogen, which produces nitrogen dioxide as it burns.  This nitrogen dioxide affixes to the myoglobin in the meat, which preserves color just like a nitrate salt.  However this can only be accomplished before the meat reaches 140, when the myoglobin is destroyed.

Smoked trout - this is the most basis approach and Ben suggests improvising with your own herbs and spices to make this your own.  You can use this in a salad, put on top of zucchini cakes, make a spread, top your toast, or anyway your taste buds guide you...

2 trout fillets
2 cups salt
1 cup sugar
4 cups hardwood chips, such as apple or oak

1) Pack the fillets in salt/sugar mixture overnight
2) Remove fillets, rinse clean and pat dry
3) Use what you can to smoke. If you have a smoker, just put the chips in and go. If not, soak the chips
for an hour and spread them over the coals of your barbeque. The key is to keep the temperature low (less than 120 F).
4) Smoke the trout for four hours, or until the flesh is firm and the outside is tacky.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Then & Now

It has been a little over a year since we took ownership of 425 NW Market Street and in the anniversary of being new tenants it seemed only fitting we share a little more about this historic address.

One of our amazing neighbors, Sue Pierce, gifted us a great narrative on our little corner property.  Her inquisitive nature leads to all sorts of discoveries on our West Woodland neighbors and is documenting stories and photos wherever possible.  

Our property dates back to the 1920’s and the original two story structure is the first account of our lineage.  The Brower family owned our land and a significant amount of property in the area. In the photo above, you can almost see Lowell Brower in the wagon and his son is standing near the back of the horse.  His son attended West Woodland grade school and would deliver groceries with his father after class. Rumor has it that the Brower family was willing to gift the land West Woodland sat on to the city if they named it after them.  I guess that wasn’t a deal the city was willing to shake on.

A little fun fact: We have a studio that sits to the rear of the property and was originally housed under the Ballard Bridge.  Evidently it was going to be demolished or given away to the Brower family if they moved it. So, it found a new home a few blocks east of its original location. 

The brick structure we currently call home was probably rebuilt back in the 30's or 40’s and spent much of its life as an IGA Grocery Store.  This alone is an interesting fact because the Independent Grocers Alliance was started in the mid 20’s when a group of 100 independent retailers in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Sharon, Connecticut organized themselves into a single marketing system.  The group experienced rapid expansion and within a year there were more than 150 retailers nationwide.

Other interesting facts as our building was erected include:

·        Don Ibsen, a senior at Roosevelt High School, screws a pair of tennis shoes onto a cedar board and becomes one of the co-inventors of water-skiing
·        Bertha Landes is elected mayor, the first woman mayor in any major US city
·        Fisher's Blend Station Corporation is formed, and KOMO-AM radio station goes on the air
·        Seattle’s population was roughly 365,000

Stand-alone grocery stores were typical of the 20’s when the city was expanding.  Our building remained a grocery store well into the 60’s.  Most of these neighborhood stores were built along a trolley line, including this building.  The trolley had been serving the West Woodland Neighborhood for 14 years by 1926, and came to us through the Fremont and Halibut Flats Neighborhood.  The trolley travelled along 6th AVE until reaching West 55th (now Market Street) where it went east and then immediately north again onto 5th AVE NW.  I sure wish they were still part of the local landscape. 

Leonard’s Barbershop was located on the south-west side of the main building and eventually relocated across the street to where Slate Coffee is combining hair cutting and gun sales. I can only imagine the social interaction and public discourse that would happen within these walls.  In some instances throughout history, the barbershop was the location for open debates, voicing public concern, and engaging locals in discussions about contemporary issues.  Not to mention had an influential role in helping shape the male identity.  Can you believe that in much earlier times, barbers (aka barber surgeons) performed surgery and dentistry?

The building has seen only a few businesses in its tenure. After the grocery stores and barber shop, The Handy Saw and Ribbons Pasta Company held down the fort at 6th & Market Street until the early 80’s when Bruce Naftaly had a vision for creating a “destination dining experience”.  Having come from the Bay Area where diners wouldn’t blink an eye to travel from San Francisco to Napa for lunch, Bruce knew the 10 minute commute from Seattle to Ballard would catch on.  

An amazing discovery was learning that Bruce came to Seattle in the late 70’s in hopes of becoming an opera singer after graduating from Berkeley.  He came to study under Carlisle Kelly, a well known coach in the area with ties to the Rossellini family.  This family introduction got him a job as dishwasher at one of their restaurants and perhaps opened the proverbial door to his inspired path in food.  Bruce helped shape the culinary landscape in Seattle and those that worked within his walls have gone on to do remarkable things.

Nearly 100 years later, our corner remains an outpost for community connection and inspiration.  Brimmer & Heeltap hopes to continue building relationships and serving as a vessel for community engagement for years to come.  We are incredibly honored to follow in the footsteps of such predecessors. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Whole Cow

My inspiration for whole animals began while I was working at Revel and learned to butcher them for "The Shack" during summer months. It opened a new world of ideas for utilizing the whole animal and seeing the array of benefits to a small business and our clientele. This inspiration spread through the culinary crew, our guests, and it immediately fostered a desire to continue this tradition into my own practice someday so that I could share it with those around me.

It seems obvious, but whenever possible local is best, and our beef is no exception.  We are working with Jerry Foster, a third generation family farm that is running a 600 head operation in Curtis, Washington.  His grass fed and finished beef are pastured on the fertile ground of the Chehalis River drainage.  The grass has an extended growing season, as well as the ability to grow haylage* to be fed in the winter months.

*Haylage is a grass crop which is cut, harvested, and stored for feeding animals. It is made from the same crops as normal hay, but with higher moisture content.  With proper equipment and storage techniques, this method increases food value and decreases losses for the crop.

Sourcing local beef is more financially sustainable for all parties.  The farmer receives a fair market value without a middleman and in doing so, the restaurant receives a better price, and ultimately we pass along those savings to our guests.  Not to mention shorter travel for delivery, keeping money in the area we live, and training our chefs so they can continue this tradition.

In addition, we have teamed up with Heritage Meats, an amazing local butchering company, that is supplying us a quarter of the cow at a time and dry aging the remainder in between deliveries.  This allows me to cut the meat exactly how I want it and sometimes that can be unconventional.  You can expect to see cuts that you wouldn't likely find in the average butcher shop.

Benefits to dry aging are remarkable and change the beef in two main ways.  First, moisture is evaporated from the muscle and creates a greater concentration of beef flavor and taste.  Secondly, the beef's natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef.

Having this flexibility allows the cuts and preparation to be highlighted and is an important part of why I am using the whole cow.

The first thing we usually receive is the drop loin, sirloin, and flank, which comes in one piece. This part of the cow has some of the most tender and succulent pieces of meat. The main ones that I use are the tenderloin, strip loin, tri-tip, culotte, bavette (inside flap), flank, top sirloin, hanger (only one per cow), and the skirt. The newest I am using is the spider steaks, located in the hip socket of the sirloin with only two per cow.  Most of the cuts from these parts are best served rare to medium-rare because the fat that is located in this part of the cow melts at low temperatures, which if over cooked, tend to dry out more easily.

A new technique we have been using is taking the kidney fat (aka suet) and grinding it down before rendering.  Once it is melted, we keep a portion of it warm during service to rest the steaks in helping seal in juices and add flavor.  Only some steaks benefit from this as the ones with a wet cure or slow cooking don't benefit from this practice.

From the whole chuck and brisket we get a lot of different muscle structures which means we have to tenderize, brine, dry rub, slow cook, BBQ, or different combinations of these. We also have this part of the cow dry aged for at least 21 days before we receive it, which also helps with the tenderizing process we use. There is a lot of trim and extra fat, which is ground for "Family Meal" burgers on Sunday night.

From the rib and rib plate we get a few different types of meat.  We get more of the skirt steak from the interior which we marinate in a wet cure that has Asian pears, garlic, ginger, onion, mirin, sake, salty water, and kasu (the residual paste from the making of sake).  We also get the short rib which we can do a couple of different ways.  We can either use a wet cure with a boneless version and serve it medium rare or we can cross cut it bone on with a dry rub and slow cook or BBQ it.  My wish list has a band saw on it for more efficient cutting practices.  Then there is the rib roast which I like to dry rub, smoke, and serve as rare to medium-rare slices.

The last part of the cow we receive is the round and hind shanks.  By the time we receive this part of the cow, it has been dry aged for at least 28-32 days. This part of the cow is the most load-bearing and as a result is among some of the toughest cuts so we tenderize and brine it to ensure amazing flavor and texture.  Another benefit are the marrow bones and in this portion are among the largest allowing us to make some amazing butter and serve it with the round.  I really hope that everyone gets as excited as I do when the round is available because of all the added flavor.

We are just at the beginning of our new beef program at B&H and it's already taking shape. I am thrilled to see where we can take it and look forward to having you come down to try this amazing product.

Thank you for your continued support!

Chef Mike

Sunday, June 15, 2014

In Remembrance of Sharlene Pulst

Goodbyes have never been my strong suit.  Sharlene was someone that was not only my childhood friend but also a vital member of the B&H family.  To my crew, she was our caring bookkeeper and we are mourning the loss of someone so special.

I have known her as long as my memory will allow me to recall. Her family lived around the corner only a few houses away allowing us free reign to share dolls, stickers, homework, bus rides, stories of first kisses, gossip of every kind, and Christmas wish lists to name a few. We went trick-or-treating, rode bikes to Dairy Queen, built forts, played hide-n-seek, camped in the backyard, and replayed the same song until we knew every word.  The rule between the houses was that if the street lights came on or if we heard our dads whistle, it was time to come home. We each had our stalling techniques to prolong the inevitable. As we entered our teens the scheming became more elaborate. The life stories we shared proved that adulthood was upon us and our friendship grew stronger.  Neither of us could have predicted that one day we’d work together.

I feel more lucky than sad at this moment knowing that I had a friend so special that makes saying goodbye so incredibly hard. 

There’s a saying that we die twice.  The first is when we stop breathing and a second time, when somebody says your name for the last time.  Thankfully, Sharlene has touched the lives of so many people that the stories we get to share will allow us to celebrate her spirit and good character for as long as we live. 

You will be sorely missed my dear friend.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Oregon Wine Adventure

My professional career began in wine and I often recollect an abundance of memories spent with the growers, producers, and story tellers.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to join an Oregon wine tasting adventure taking in a couple of days of the Willamette Valley.  It had been years since stepping foot on the soil of Dundee, Carlton, McMinnville, and Newberg.

Nostalgia is a powerful and sentimental feeling that the Greeks refer to as a homecoming.  Taking in some of the familiar views, tasty vintages, hearing the passionate stories they told was heartwarming and the new memories just as sweet. 

Our time was spent in a well concentrated area between Carlton and Newberg. 

View from Belle Pente Vineyard & Winery

Belle Pente (pronounced bell pont) Winery literally means beautiful slope.  The winery sits on 70 acres just east of Carlton.  Our host shared an impressive line-up of wines that are inspired from the producers of Burgundy and Alsace France.  My favorites were the 2010 Pinot Gris, 2011 Bell Oiseau (Edelzwicker blend varieties of Alsace: Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Muscat), and the 2011 Belle Pente Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Soter Vineyards was next on the list and did not disappoint!  Their picturesque winery sat high on the hills of Mineral Spring Ranch in a beautifully refurbished barn.  We were surrounded by vineyards mostly planted to Pinot Noir and a touch of chardonnay all sustainably farmed. The stand outs included their 2013 North Valley Rosé, 2011 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir, and 2006 Beacon Hill Pinot Noir.

I bet they would have let us sample from here if we asked nicely.

View from Domaine Drouhin

Domaine Drouhin with a stunning backdrop and catchy tag line (French soul, Oregon soil) introduced us to old world practices with the bounty of New World fruit.  They were among one of the more established wineries we visited dating back to the late 1980’s, however their family winemaking practices in Burgundy, France go all the way back to the late 1800’s. My favorites were the 2013 Edition Rosé, 2012 Édition Limitée Chardonnay, and the 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.

Crowley Wines was nestled on the outskirts of Newberg.  Our handsome host Tyson (owner/winemaker/chief barrel washer), shared with us his migration from upstate New York to the west coast.  Erath welcomed him with open arms as a cellar hand and thanks to that introduction, the Willamette Valley is now where he and his delicious wines call home.  Founded back in 2005, his wines showcased finesse, structure, and balance.  Top picks included: 2011 Four Winds Chardonnay, 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and 2011 Laurel Hood Pinot Noir.

Last on our itinerary was Big Table Farm.  A husband/wife power duo that was beyond impressive and hospitable.  Brian Marcy is the winemaker with a notable CV including Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and many more.  Clare Carver manages the 70 acres, designs wine labels and is an amazing artist! I loved everything they made!  2013 Laughing Pig Rosé, 2013 Wirtz Garden Edelzwicker, 2012 Chardonnay, 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2012 Pelos Sandberg Pinot Noir, and the 2011 White Hawk Syrah. 

In the coming months, we’ll be adding some of these wines on the list for you to try too. We look forward to hearing about your summer adventures.



Monday, April 21, 2014

What’s on the other side of a review?

At least a decade before B&H was established, ideas and dreams swirled of what my own restaurant/bar could be. Mock business plans and photo collages were hung on my walls. The time between the fantasy and reality fostered assumptions of hope and possibility.

As the launch became more tangible, questions circled like ‘What if people didn't get what we are trying to accomplish? What if guests didn't care for the food? What if we weren't successful?’  A new set of emotions were tugging at my sleeve.  I had been taught that fear can either motivate or hinder and I certainly was going to do my best at not letting the latter apply to us.

Owning a business is far more than what is mapped out on paper.  It is a living, breathing organism that requires constant accountability and care.  For the first time in my life, I am now responsible for the well being of others.  I am a part of something much bigger than I ever could have imagined. Our relations span from our crew to our guests, to the farmers, various suppliers, and beyond.

We are appreciative of the reviews and impressions by various publications like The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and a handful of consumer posts on sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, etc. They have been weighing heavily on my mind given the responsibility to my team, family, and community.

Do they matter? Yes and I hope they always will as congruence is an important factor in our business. My head is well aware that we will make mistakes and some guests won't get us no matter what we do.  Negative reviews act as a barometer for trends and we can adjust as situations necessitate.  My heart tries not to take anything too personal.  I take comfort in our dedicated work in creating community through Mike’s innovative food, our quality beverage selections, and genuine service from an enthusiastic team.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.  It is an honor.

Yours truly,


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,