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LET’S EAT & DRINK: Cheese Meat(s) Beer here

Jun 1st, 2012 | Category: Food

by Aaron Apple and Aaron Kayser

Cheese Meat(s) Beer is a new restaurant located in the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building at 250 Flora Street in downtown Bellingham, though they have their own entrance on Grand St. Remaining faithful to the name, Chef Travis Surmi uses locally sourced ingredients to offer a unique take on comfort food, while also focusing on beer, cheese and meat pairings.

The Alsatian Pizza, served with roasted garlic crème fraiche, skinny asparagus, mama lil’s pickled peppers, shaved white cheddar and an egg. PHOTO BY AARON APPLE

The atmosphere is laid back, inviting and comfortable, with lots of natural light. Only a handful of tables are available inside next to the open kitchen, but plenty of outdoor seating is available in the museum’s courtyard. There is a large chalkboard list of available beverages, ranging from a couple local beers on tap to a selection of craft beer in bottles and cans, as well as ciders and wines. The daily menu offers various plate selections, salads, and cheese, meat and beer pairings. The menu also may change daily with some items appearing more often, like the burger. When we visited, the menu noted that all of their ingredients are from local farmers by way of Acme Farms + Kitchen, Northwest Earth and Ocean, and Farmer Ben’s.

We sat down on a Wednesday night at the last open table. Because of the small size and open kitchen, the place had a lively, energetic feel to it. Being seated by the window had the added bonus of a great view of the sky during sunset, which made our meal even more pleasant. Service was quick, friendly and knowledgeable, as we had a few questions about the different cheeses we would taste.

We first split the namesake Cheese Meat(s) Beer platter ($12) as an appetizer. The plate included three cheeses – The Moses Sleep from Jasper Hill, San Andreas Sheep Cheese from Bellwether Farms, and Bleu d’Auvergne, a French blue cheese. The Jasper Hill cheese, which was our favorite, was pointed out to be the intended paired cheese with the meat and beer. The meat selection was delicious French salami made with rum, and the beer included was a 4 oz. taste of Pike Place Brewing’s Monk’s Uncle Tripel. The spread also came with house pickles and Bread Farm baguette. The complex sweet and spicy flavor of the beer paired perfectly with the creamy, rich Jasper Hill cheese and salty salami. It was all so good; we could have easily each ordered our own plates.

The Cheese Meat(s) Beer platter. PHOTO BY AARON APPLE

For a main course, Apple ordered the Alsatian “Pizza”, which came served with roasted garlic crème fraiche, skinny asparagus, mama lil’s pickled peppers, shaved white cheddar and an egg ($11). He had never had a single one of those ingredients on a pizza before, let alone all of them at once, and it worked amazingly. The pickled red peppers were the dominant flavor for sure, with the garlic and white cheddar adding a lot to the flavor – but the real star was the egg. Who would have thought one could get so much pleasure out of using pizza crust to wipe up egg yolk after a meal? The included side salad was a simple mix of local greens, topped with vinaigrette.

Kayser’s first choice for an entrée was the milk braised pork shoulder, but the dish was already sold out for the night. Instead, he went with the burger ($9 without cheese, $10 with it). Travis told us that his goal with the burger was to create something delicious using high-quality ingredients without anything to mask the flavor – and that’s exactly what he did. The burger consists of Long Valley Ranch beef, cooked to perfection, topped with Beecher’s flagship white cheddar and sandwiched between a pretzel bun. Only three ingredients, and they’ve managed to make our new favorite burger in Bellingham. It has no need for secret sauces, half of a salad bar, or whatever else other places might throw on a burger. When working with high-quality flavorful ingredients like these that stand on their own, less is more. The burger came accompanied with a side of house-made pickles and a salad of local greens with apple vinaigrette.

A burger. PHOTO BY AARON APPLE

Cheese Meat(s) Beer is the most exciting thing to happen in the  food scene recently, especially for those of us who love cheese, meat and beer. The only complaint we had was the limited stock of two of the items we were interested in trying, but that’s also a good sign for business and that hopefully they will expand. Oh well, guess we’ll have to go back over and over again.

Cheese Meat(s) Beer is open Wednesday through Saturday  from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday (all day brunch) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit www.cheesemeatsbeer.com/.

Published in the June 2012 issue of Grow Northwest magazine. Reprinted from What’s Up! Magazine.

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