Food

Bellingham Cider Company

A winning combination

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

If you haven’t made it to the Bellingham Cider Company on Prospect Street, make a point of getting there soon. The city’s newest eatery and cidery opened five weeks ago in the once-derelict Cascade Laundry Building—which is in the process of morphing into the Sylvia Center for the Arts—and is now a swanky space with high ceilings, reclaimed wood in all kinds of neat places, soft lighting and a great selection of food and beverages.

Partners Bryce Hamilton and Joshua Serface joined forces with Chef Dirul Shamsid-Deen for this new enterprise. Hamilton had been in food service for several years, while Serface had been a home-based cider maker. Shamsid-Deen previously worked all around the Pacific Northwest since first arriving on Whidbey Island with the military in 1996.

His menu is small but robust and unique, with plenty of cool items to sate the appetite. The top seller is his buttermilk-brined chicken and brown sugar waffle, served with real maple syrup and sage butter ($17). The cider-brined pork chop with rosemary spaetzle and golden raisins ($21) competes heavily for first place, but patrons are clearly loving Shamsid-Deen’s out-of-the-ordinary dishes.

We ordered starters of Brussels sprouts mixed with butternut squash, cranberries and brown sugar ($9) and gobbled it up with a cauliflower appetizer ($9), served with lemon, capers, cornichons and parsley. Both exquisite dishes, they represent the chef’s style of serving well-known comfort foods delivered with a slightly new, refreshing take.

My salt-roasted beets with goat cheese, pistachio pistou and local honey ($8) was perfectly prepared, while the braised short ribs ($24) were rich, filling and sublime. The most boring item on the menu is likely the seven-ounce burger with house-cut fries ($15), a satisfying but not very interesting dish. Still, for those diners who prefer to order exactly what they know and nothing else, the burger will appeal.

We complemented our meal with a flight of Serface’s fabulous ciders. He has 10 on tap—six of his own and four that rotate from other cideries. He also offers 10 beers and a full wine and cocktail list. I tried ciders in blood orange, semi-sweet, Spanish perry (pear), green granny (a St. Patrick’s day special) and blackberry ginger. The differences between them were subtle, but I didn’t find any I didn’t like.

“There are no additives and no sugar in the ciders,” Hamilton points out. “Our cider is pure fermented juice.”

On a Saturday night, the 86-seat restaurant was buzzing with happy diners and all tables were occupied. The partners are hoping their patio will open as summer descends, as this will double capacity and also give diners access to one of Bellingham’s best bay views.

The restaurant has been well received. “People are excited to have a cidery in town and tell us our food is approachable and affordable,” Serface says. Shamsid-Deen is in firm command in the kitchen, where there’s no hidden agenda to the menu.

“I just want to do what I love to do,” he says.

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