The Burnham at CBD Bar (Christchurch, NZ)


Of the pizzas she’s had in Christchurch, my daughter likes best the wood-fired ones served, not at a pizzeria but a brewery out in the borough of Woolston. Known for award-winning beers that they’ve been crafting since 2010, Cassels & Sons added a gastropub to the brewery. Enter the pizzas. I’ve eaten there three times on the way back from Sumner, the Port Hills or The Tannery, of which the brewery is a part. Like my daughter and her family, my impression of the pizzas has been very good.

C&S opened CBD Bar in Christchurch recently with almost the same pizza menu, with slight differences. Its presence near the central business district (CBD) attracts the big city folk—and would make it more convenient for my NZ family to get a good pizza.

CBD Bar lists 13 wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas on the menu. All of them are named for local geographic areas and nearby towns. Mine was the Burnham, simply prepared with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, olives, red onions and mushrooms, all from the Woolston Market. The tomato sauce is fresh tasting, with no strong herbal or zesty notes, that places more flavor emphasis on the other ingredients. The only complaint I had were burnt, bitter spots on the bottom that a minute less in the oven could solve. Otherwise, this was practically a perfect pie (☆☆☆½).

CBD Bar
208 Madras St
Christchurch Central
Christchurch 8011
03-379 4223

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Better Than Your Average Brew Pub: Falling Sky Brewing (Eugene, OR)


Craft breweries are springing up almost everywhere. The Pacific Northwest has seen its mini-explosion start business only within the last decade. It’s fun when the beer is served in a pub setting, even more so when there are noshes, too. Most of these places are content to sell burgers, fries and pizza, maybe chicken wings. It’s the rare pub that aspires to something more and succeed at it. Better still that its ingredients are sourced locally and has vegetarian and gluten-free options. Enter Falling Sky Brewing and Gastropub in 2011, which has received numerous commendations and a loyal following. In 2013, Falling Sky Pour House & Delicatessen opened with even a larger food menu and questions began to be raised if this could be the best brewpub in all of Oregon, which could tweak Portlanders. Zounds, they even do their own baking, smoking, curing, brining and fermenting.

Copper brewing equipment

Copper brewing equipment

Order counter

Order counter

Finding the place can be a bit tricky, located as it is in an alleyway. The tavern is spacious with communal beer hall tables from which can be seen their huge copper brewing equipment through large glass windows. The current beer list is printed on a blackboard, as are the specials and wine list. Their standard menu is also handed out before you order.

Flight of four beers

Flight of four beers

The list of house beers is impressive, covering the gamut of styles, from lagers to IPAs. And, if you have specific preferences about your beer but know nothing about Falling Sky’s offerings, a convenient system of classifying their beers is provided: alcohol percentage (ABV) and bitterness (IBU), which can sort of tell you what to expect. (Falling Sky also supplies a beer’s original gravity, or OG, number.) I had a four-beer flight: Ready to Mingle Belgian Single (4.6% ABV, 19 IBU), Morning After Pils (5.0% ABV, 25 IBU), Dr. Optic Standard Bitter (3.6% ABV, 28 IBU) and Mash Transit Ale (5.8% ABV, 40 IBU), all of which were pretty nice.

As I mentioned, the food menu is taken very seriously. Going through it gives an indication of how serious. For example, appetizers include roasted brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and pretzel sticks. The chicken wings are thankfully not buffaloed but coated in za’atar and honey. One of their favorites is poutine, that Canadian snack of fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. Falling Sky’s gravy is made from mushrooms. Their sandwiches include two vegetarian ones (one of them a burger), a lamb burger and a burger made from grass-fed local beef and served (hallelujah!) medium-rare, which can only be possible when the quality, safety and provenance of the meat can be verified. It would normally be VERY tempting.

Moules frites

Moules frite

But, we weren’t particularly hungry, so we settled for a shared house salad and moules frites, one of tonight’s specials. The salad with lemon-tahini dressing and Belgian-style hand-cut fries were very fine, but the mussels were outstanding (☆☆☆☆). The mollusks were perfectly cooked, meaty and succulent, bathed in a cream sauce with leeks and star anise. No spoon was provided, so both my wife and I polished off the broth with empty mussel shells. It’s tragic that this is not on the regular menu.

Falling Sky’s motto is LET IT POUR, which (aside from being a clever phrase) has significant meaning in this Land of the Ducks. When it rains, a discount is applied to your beer, which happens often.

Count me in for return visits whenever I’m back in town.

Falling Sky Brewing and Gastropub
1334 Oak Alley
Eugene, OR 97401
541.505.7096

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
206.267.2437

The Goat Tavern (Mt. Shasta, CA)


VIA magazine pointed us to a gem of a diner, Nancy’s Airport Cafe, in Willows, and also highly recommended the The Goat Tavern in Mt Shasta, 150 miles north. According to the article’s writer, a food critic for San Francisco magazine, “I found spiritual uplift less than a mile off the highway in a juicy burger.” These endorsements were part of an article about the great finds along I-5 between Sacramento and Portland. My wife and I stopped in Mt Shasta for the night because we wanted to visit the namesake mountain on the following day.

The tavern is a local watering hole, sort of an oddity in a town known more for its New Age commercial district of crystal shops, yoga studios, alternative bookstores, and the like. Entry was confusing, not through what looked like the front door on the corner of Mt Shasta Blvd and Chestnut Street, but rather on the side of the building through an outdoor eating area. The place was dark on the inside with customers standing along the bar that had several beers on tap. A picture of the Mona Lisa was on the side. The atmosphere was convivial, loud and laid back. I ordered the aforementioned burger with cheese and fried onions rings, my wife the fish tacos. As it turned out, my sandwich was a full half-pound Angus cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, red onions and basil mayo. I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to finish it.

To my disappointment, the burger (☆☆½) was not the transcendent experience that the food critic had, but rather just a good enough one. The patty was lean and therefore a little dense, the bun a tad dry. The onion rings were great, coated in a fine crispy batter.

The grilled fish in the tacos (☆☆½) seemed a bit past its prime with a slight fishiness that announced it wasn’t absolutely fresh. Otherwise they too were tasty enough with seasoned cabbage and guacamole.

Angus cheeseburger with onion rings

Angus cheeseburger with onion rings

Grilled fish tacos

Grilled fish tacos

On the ceiling were mounts for all the draft beer handles, which the bartender could unscrew as needed to use when the beer selection changes. Nice touch.

Draft beer handles mounted on the ceiling

Draft beer handles mounted on the ceiling