Belgian Sour Beer at Brouwer’s (Seattle, WA)

Last year, my wife and her friends happened to be passing by a beer fest being celebrated at Brouwer’s, a highly regarded tavern in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. There was a line of people outside and a sandwich board that advertised a Belgian sour beer, among other kinds. Our first taste of sour ale was at Monk’s in Philadelphia that was paired with steamed mussels and fries, a great combination. Anxious to try such a beer locally—it’s difficult to find around here—we stopped in to share a pint during our neighborhood stroll through Fremont. The Strubbe Ichtegem’s Grand Cru on tap was really nice, dark and sweet, a little foamy, with an understated but definite sour zing. Our bartender was kind enough to give us a sample of their other sour, Petrus Aged Pale Sour, which was bone dry, bracingly puckery, best with food than drunk alone. We noticed that Brouwer’s food menu has two kinds of steamed mussels, something we’ll have to go back and try in the future.

Stubbe Ichtegem Grand Cru sour beer

Stubbe Ichtegem Grand Cru sour beer

"Episserating" fountain in Brouwer's

“Episserating” fountain in Brouwer’s

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Brouwer’s Cafe
400 N 35th St
Seattle, WA 98103

Lunch at Revel (Seattle, WA)

At around lunchtime, we were enjoying the Fremont neighborhood sights along Phinney Ave N. The question of where to eat was settled when we knew that Revel was just up the street. It is one of two restaurants operated by chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi whose mission it is to fuse Asian and Western foods, with a particular emphasis on Korean. Their other restaurant is Joule, also in Fremont but on the other side of the Aurora Bridge and next door neighbor to The Whale Wins. We were seated immediately and chose to sit outside on the covered deck to enjoy the warm though overcast weather. The restaurant interior is decorated in minimalist colors of black and gray, suggestive of the modernization of traditional Asian offerings.

The lunch menu was divided into salads, pancakes, dumplings, rice and noodles with a limited selection in each category. What caught our eye immediately were a bibimbop and dan dan noodles.

Though not labeled as bibimbop, Rice with Albacore Tuna, Fennel Kimchi and Escarole (☆☆½) clearly was. Here was an example of classic fusion food where non-traditional ingredients were used to make a Korean preparation. Thinly shaved fennel was an interesting choice of material for kimchi. It was very sour from vinegar with no sweetness, garlickiness or spice normally associated with the most traditional Korean condiment. Was the kitchen afraid of offending or turning off some customers? A proper sear was applied to the tuna, which otherwise was not as fresh as it should have been, displaying a slight fishiness but coated with an interesting and tasty rub of fennel and coriander. Outstanding was the roasted escarole, charred and sweet, that gave me encouragement to try it on my own. The dish was topped by a raw egg yolk.

Bibimbop of seared tuna, fennel kimchi and escarole

Bibimbop of seared tuna, fennel kimchi and escarole

Dan dan noodles are served in almost every Szechuan restaurant. Revel’s version, Dandan Noodles with Smoky Pulled Pork and Peanut Crackling (☆☆☆), another excursion into fusion territory, was distinguished by fork-tender, delicious pork that the waiter revealed was smoked in their kitchen for over four hours. Another big plus were freshly made noodles, wide and thin, that had an eggy consistency. The dish was sprinkled with ground peanuts that had kochujang paste flavors, a nice touch, and sautéed chard. The only drawback was a more than subtle sweetness overall that did not appeal to me.

Dandan noodles, smoked pulled pork, peanuts

Dandan noodles, smoked pulled pork, peanut crackling

403 N 36th St
Seattle, WA 98103

De Libertas Quirkas: Seattle’s Fremont District

The mock Latin phrase De Libertas Quirkas, unofficial motto of Fremont and proudly encouraged on the side of The Rocket, roughly translates into “Free to be Strange.” No other place in Seattle can make that boast when Fremont has a statue of Lenin, a troll under the bridge, the Solstice Parade led by nude, painted bike riders and a sign that proclaims Fremont as the Center of the Universe. This is the People’s Republic (or People’s Soviet) of Fremont, as some would have it. To continue what we started last week with Pike Place Market, my wife and I decided to explore another of Seattle’s neighborhoods. We’d driven through Fremont many times, even stopped to eat at a restaurant or two, but never spent a half day just walking around and appreciating all the examples of its quirkiness. And there are many.

It has finally started to rain in earnest around here, but the forecast for today was partially sunny skies (high of 76o) with a 10% chance of precipitation. Fair enough for us to venture out without bumbershoots. As it turned out, the sun didn’t break through until the afternoon.

To avoid the frustration of finding parking spaces in Fremont which is largely RPZ-zoned or limited to two hours, we simply parked our car on the other side of the Fremont Bridge. This gave us the perfect opportunity to walk across the bridge, arguably the neighborhood’s most distinctive feature.

Painted in blue and orange, but now fading, and spanning the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the bridge is a double-leaf draw bridge (bascule) that operates frequently throughout the day to allow passage of high-clearance boats that are on their way to or returning from Puget Sound. It is the most opened bridge in the country, as many as 35 times a day. As if to emphasize this point, we were immediately stopped in our tracks, warning bells pealing, when we were ready to walk across. When the bridge drew down a few minutes later, an amazing number of bicyclists crossed the pedestrian and bike lane in both directions. At the northern end, we noticed high up on the two towers neon sculptures of Rapunzel on the west side and Kipling’s Elephant Child on the east (how the elephant got its trunk), which are best observed when lit up at night. Fremont Bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fremont Bridge's southern leaf drawn up

Fremont Bridge’s southern leaf drawn up

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