Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Roost Venue in Bellingham

Many who live on the West Coast know Bellingham as "that town between Vancouver and Seattle" but B'ham is quickly becoming a Portland-of-the-North. With its blossoming craft beer industry, its scads of college kids, and its improving live music scene, Bellingham is now worth visiting in its own right. While the town is still pretty small and quiet, The Roost is one example of how Bellingham is becoming a cooler and more creative city than Vancouver. It is a house, in a residential neighbourhood, that has been gutted and transformed into a teeny tiny live music venue. The venue is eco-friendly, powered by solar and renovated with reclaimed timber, and it holds between 100-140 people. Max. The founders are four young guys from Washington who want to create a space dedicated to art and community building. Yes, the musicians brought in are the focus of this enterprise; and yes, both tickets and beer are sold to generate some capital...but the overarching goal is to create a comfortable, unique arts space for the city. The Roost hasn't been open for very long, and there are only one or two shows a month here. Plus, the owners don't really want their venue to be super well known, mainly for practical reasons. The best way to hear about upcoming gigs is to join their mailing list or follow them on Facebook.

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins", "The Green Frog", "The Roost Bellingham"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Boo, Beaucoup...Boo!

Although the combination of coffee and pastry is one of my absolute favourites, and is a pairing that I indulge in daily, I was leery of Beaucoup from the get-go. From their six-month delay in opening, to the stabbing that occurred outside the bakery on September 13th, I just got an unsure vibe from this place from the very beginning...and my two recent visits have confirmed my early suspicions.

I need to reiterate the fact that I have an abnormal affinity for baked goods. I mean, I am pretty much a lifer at a place if it is a) an amazing coffeeshop with good pastries or b) an outstanding bakery with decent coffee. Beaucoup is a French-style bakery that produces delicately-prepared tarts, pain au chocolat, and double-baked croissants. They also serve 49th Parallel coffee. Unquestionable winner, right? Wrong!

First off, the range of baked goods they offer is incredibly limited and very expensive. They *only* produce French-style items, which are UBER buttery, flaky, fattening, and ultimately unsatisfying. Second, the use of good coffee beans does not equate to the creation of good coffee beverages. The dairy-to-espresso ratio was off for both the cappuccino and latte I had there, and the servers never attempt to inquire about your preferences (type of milk, dry/wet foam, to stay/to go, et cetera).

And yet another thing that bothers me about Beaucoup: the service. Both of the times I went to Beaucoup I asked for my drinks to be "for here", and they made my coffees in to-go cups. While this isn't the end of the world, it doesn't happen at better bakery-cafes (such as Terra Breads on 4th and Cafe Bica down the road on Fir) and it generally indicates a lack of care on the part of the Beaucoup barista.

I am boycotting Beaucoup. They just can't compete with the products and services provided in this neighbourhood. 

Keywords: "Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe", "49th Parallel Vancouver", "Alex Dawkins" 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Beer Shrine in Deming

When you drive from Bellingham to Mt. Baker - on your way to ski, hike, snowboard, or dirt bike - you find the landscape dominated by small farms, spindly hemlocks, pick-up trucks sporting McCain/Palin bumperstickers, and the occasional post-war bungalow. This is a stretch of highway that most people forget amidst their excitement to either climb Kulshan or return to B'ham for an apres ski drink. You can imagine how ecstatic I was to discover that mid-way between these two destinations is a craft brewery! Formally named the North Fork Brewery, but locally known as The Beer Shrine, this cozy lodge is packed to the rafters with breweriana. While the hallowed beer memorabilia everywhere and flowing ales from North Fork's eight taps may induce veneration in cerevisaphiles, this place is a shrine in more ways than is an actual wedding chapel. Who needs champagne when you can have fresh cream ale?

I visited The Beer Shrine with my dad and family friend from Bellingham. Our friend had gone once before, several years ago, and suggested we head there after a short hike in the area. The brewery is not large, and the taproom seats about fifty. We sat at the bar and promptly ordered schooners of their Hefe, ESB, and IPA. It seems as though North Fork uses nitro in most of their ales, as opposed to the cheaper and more common carbon dioxide. Excluding the wheat beer, all of our drinks were really really smooth (too smooth?) and displayed that trademark Guinness head. I tried all three of these beers and they were all decent. They were all drinkable and mild, which I kind of liked since we were day-drinking, but they were also pretty forgettable. We all wished we were hungry at the time too because North Fork specializes in New York style pizza. This is pretty much the only thing I saw people eating, and a couple behind us had the most intimidating (and awesome looking!) roasted garlic and capocollo pie on their table. I plan to return in summer, with a hunger and a growler.

Keywords: "Bellingham breweries", "Chuckanut Brewery", "Alex Dawkins"