August 1, 2007

Newsy Notes

Happy Birthday, Pike Place Market!

Festivities in honor of the Pike Place Market’s 100th anniversary were years in the planning, and have been taking place in earnest since Daffodil Day back in February. Now, THE BIG DAY—August 17— is almost here! And during Centennial Week (August 11 through August 17), you can count down to THE BIG DAY while enjoying twice-daily musical performances on the Centennial Days Stage (near Rachel the Pig) and daily chef demos, among other fun events.

A handful of my favorite happenings that honor the city’s most charismatic centenarian include:

Sunset Supper
Friday, August 10, 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Pike Place Market
Various Ticket Prices

The always-fabulous, always-sold-out Sunset Supper offers wining, dining, and dancing under the stars as Seattle’s top chefs, winemakers, brewers, and a cast of thousands (well, at least hundreds) converge on the cobblestones along Pike Place. Hosted by the Market Foundation, Sunset Supper benefits the Market’s four social-service agencies: the Pike Market Senior Center, Medical Clinic, Preschool & Child Care, and the Downtown Food Bank.

Braiden Rex-Johnson Booksigning and Author Chat
Saturday, August 11, 1 to 3 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, Pacific Place, Downtown Seattle

Stop by for your very own autographed and personalized copies of the Pike Place Market Cookbook, Second Edition (Sasquatch Books, 2003) and the Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook, Gift Edition (Ten Speed Press, 2005) as I sign books and answer questions about the Market and the Centennial at this popular downtown bookstore.

Friday, August 17
Pike Place Market

Celebrate the Pike Place Market’s 100th birthday at this day-long party that includes a 1907 re-enactment, salmon-toss championship, giant birthday cake, awards ceremony with local dignitaries in attendance, and an evening concert and fireworks over Elliott Bay.

“Our Market Century” Exhibit
Through August 24
University of Washington, Suzzallo Library

This chronicle of the Market’s history was compiled from resources of the Special Collections Division of the University of Washington Libraries.

For a complete listing of all Centennial Days events, please go to

Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining Update

The first review of my seventh book, Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining, was issued by one of the heavyweights in the publishing industry. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly had to say in its July 16th edition:

Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia
Braiden Rex-Johnson. Wiley, $32.50 (263p) ISBN 978-0-471-74685-0

Rex-Johnson, a food and wine writer from Seattle, has created what she calls “a love letter” to the Pacific Northwest, riding the wave of place-based cookbooks. One may not be able to dine at the Herbfarm, in Woodinville, Wash., for instance, but Rex-Johnson allows home cooks to recreate the restaurant’s Sea Scallops with Spiced Carrot–Dill Sauce. Better still, she realizes that some of the simplest and most delicious fare is what winemakers serve to their friends and families. She calls it “vineyard cooking,” and she has persuaded many of its practitioners to offer up their favorites. Most charming are her stories of leisurely and convivial meals spent at the table with her subjects, such as the hearth-baked pizza she shares with Bob Betz of Betz Family Winery. The book is organized by region, and the dishes are eclectic—don’t expect to find things according to course—and each is offered with a wine pairing, usually a varietal. Unfortunately, the recipes are laid out a bit confusingly, with ingredients in a sidebar, and often split over two pages, but the book is comprehensive, and the recipes are appealing and not overly fussy (Oct.)

Don’t forget to lock in the very reasonable pre-publication price for Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining byordering your copy (or copies!) on NOW.

Advance copies are available for just $21.45 on

Mexico City Tapas and Tacos Opens in Pacific Place

Mexico City Tapas and Tacos, the shiny-bright sibling of Mexico Cantina (located right next door) opened for business in mid-July on the top level of Pacific Place. Shoppers can enjoy cervezas, margaritas, and sangria (priced from $4 to $6) along with Tex-Mex Burritos, Fish and Vegetarian Tacos, and Mexican “tapas,” such as Empanada con Salmon or Stuffed Pimientos, priced from $5 to $7.

Chocoholics Central

Chocolate lovers about town could hardly wait to “open” Chocolate Box, just across the street from the Pike Place Market at First Avenue and Pine Street. The store’s bakery features enticing pastries and mini cupcakes, its gelato counter serves ice cream sandwiches with your choice of gelato, and the espresso bar features not only coffee drinks, but made-to-order hot chocolate. Choice chocolates from local purveyors include Theo Chocolates (made in Fremont from free-trade beans), Oh! Chocolate (a family-run operation that started on Mercer Island), Fran’s (whose namesake was named best U.S. chocolatier), and Fiori (based in Bellevue). It’s at sweet times like these we’re glad that dark chocolate has proven to be such a potent antioxidant.

Resto Reviews

Queen City Grill Celebrates 20 Years

In the tough and fickle restaurant business, many new ventures don’t survive their second year. Which makes Belltown’s Queen City Grill’s 20th anniversary at ten times that long all the more impressive. On a recent visit, we took advantage of the new awning-covered patio along bustling First Avenue to enjoy an appetizer of crab cakes with a kicky remoulade sauce. The beet salad (a generous portion of yellow and red beets and arugula) featured lavish slices of the best triple-cream blue cheese I’ve ever tasted.

A boatload of shrimp, clams, mussels, halibut, salmon, and Yellow Finn potatoes swam in the buttery broth of the Bouillabaisse, redolent of tomatoes and saffron. A properly peppered pepper steak came with mashers and candied carrots. Bread pudding with a killer Bourbon sauce was our final indolent indulgence.

We were also impressed with the wine selections. It’s nice to know you can choose among good-quality $20 bottles or order a $1,650 bottle of Chateau Haut Brion if so inclined. We had a lovely bottle of 2003 Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($70) and left with a doggie bag filled with enough Bouillabaisse and beet salad for another day.

35th Street Bistro

Over the July Fourth weekend, we enjoyed a soup-to-nuts dinner in “the Center of the Universe” when we supped on the outside patio at the 35th Street Bistro in downtown Fremont. A light breeze blew delicate leaves (organic, we hoped!) from overhanging tree branches into our shared appetizer of Sautéed Escargots. Not the typical garlic-butter-basted beauties were these. Instead, the toothsome critters had been bathed in a Roquefort cream sauce studded with sun-dried tomatoes and knobs of spinach and tenderly baked within precise pieces of golden puff pastry. Yum!

Creativity in the kitchen continued with the Kohlrabi and Apple Salad, napped with creamy mustard dressing, and the Alaskan Halibut, served with a generous portion of warm mushroom salad, pea shoots, and baby braised radishes (!), all lightly sauced with sherry vinaigrette. Almond-Crusted Rainbow Trout held up nicely to its lemon butter sauce and a baseball-sized serving of mashers.

Meyer Lemon Napoleon ended the evening as we had started it—with delicious doses of puff pastry and heavy cream. Don’t miss a selection from the lengthy wine list, which ranges across the globe but includes savvy selections from the Northwest. We’ll be back for the Latitude 46 Gewürztraminer from the world-famous Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge or the Archery Summit Premier Cuvée Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley.

Short Takes

Chef Brian McCracken has hatched a novel idea: he brings multi-course tasting menus to you and a small group of friends in the venue of your choice—be it terrace, beach, or even in the middle of a pasture! Flyte brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “a moveable feast.”

The advent of sunny, yet cool weather in Seattle brings fair-weather diners out in full force. Our recent fair-weather dining favorites include The Bookstore Bar (don’t miss the Cobb Salad), Cactus’s West Seattle location overlooking Alki Beach (try the rockin’ Blue Corn Calamari with Crispy Jalapeños, Smoked Fresno Chile Pepper Aïoli, and Lime Chimichurri along with a Casa [House] Margarita, served on the rocks), Serafina Osteria & Enoteca’s ever-charming back patio (gotta have the calamari or mussels appetizer and whatever Chef John’s fish of the day is, along with the Veal Meatballs!), Marjorie’s corn-studded crab/shrimp cakes, and Tulio’s Semolina-Encrusted Scallops with Crispy Capers, Toasted Marcona Almonds, and Vin Santo. The latter is listed as an appetizer, but makes the perfect light summer entrée when paired with an expertly crafted Caesar salad and a glass of dry Rosé.

People watching is almost as good as the plate watching at Serafina Osteria & Enoteca.

Late-breaking word has it that the Madison Park Café’s charming tree-lined patio will be the perfect venue for Thursday-evening concerts sponsored by the Madison Park Business Association. Beginning at 6:30, and offered at the park directly across the street from the popular bistro, the concerts will feature headliners such as Suzie Bradford and the Side Project (pop/folk) and the SuperSones (traditional Cuban son music, the acoustic roots of contemporary salsa music).

I loved Crèmant from my very first visit over one year ago, when we sat on the patio under twinkling white lights and watched downtown Madrona come to life. Sadly, the patio is closed (landlord problems), but the restaurant continues strong with my favorite rendition of Bouillabaisse about town, brimming with seafood and paired with a side of properly prepared French rouille (hot chile/garlic paste). And neither Spencer, nor the grandmotherly gray-haired woman sitting next to him, had any trouble polishing off the lamb shank that arched from one side of the plate to the other.

David and Lily Kong made a bold decision when they were uprooted from their long-time Queen Anne location and moved to their stunning new restaurant—Perché No Pasta & Vino—near Green Lake. Built from the ground up to Chef David’s specifications (and wide-open wallet), the custom windows and banisters, open kitchen, majestic bar, outdoor patio, and rooftop deck are impressive; even more impressive are the happy crowds that pack the place most evenings. The Kong family celebrates their new location’s first birthday on August 1 with live opera music from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. and complimentary gifts for guests.

Chef David Kong, and son Christopher, in front of Perché No’s automatic pasta-making machine.

Super Sips

Sleek neighborhood wine bars are popping up in the Northwest almost as often as Starbucks outlets and wild mushrooms, but one that shows real promise is The Local Vine, located in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood at Second Avenue and (appropriately enough) Vine Street. The brainchild of Harvard Business School grads Sarah Munson and Allison Nelson, the pair made a brilliant move by enlisting Jason Wilson, celebrity chef/owner of the ever-popular Crush, to design the small-plates menu. Next, the dynamic duo purchased Washington State’s first-ever high-tech Enomatic Wine-Preservation System, which allows the proper preservation of nearly 100 wines by the glass. The coup de grâce is the well-thought-out wine menu, divided into helpful categories such as “Centered—Crisp, balanced, racy acidity” or “Bombshell—Oak, tannins, body, acidity, fruit.” Look for additional Local Vines to sprout up in your neighborhood, just as soon as the original Vine takes root.

I’ll be speaking on a panel entitled, “Writing/Media/Education,” at the Careers in Wine Symposium in Portland on Saturday, August 4, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., then attending the wine-and-cheese reception that follows. Hosted by The Wine and Spirit Archive, the all-day symposium will be held at the fun and funky Urban Wine Works (407 NW 16th Avenue, at Flanders), and is a veritable steal at just $20 per person, with pre-registration required.

The Auction of Washington Wines celebrates its 20th anniversary this month with a splashy “Roaring 20th Anniversary” party at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville. On Thursday, August 16, you can Picnic with the Winemakers and partake of the Barrel Auction. Friday brings a series of winemaker dinners at local wineries and private homes. The Gala Auction Peacock Ball struts its stuff on Saturday, August 18. The festivities will feature more than 175 wineries, celebrity chefs, entertainment, and incredible auction lots. Proceeds benefit Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center and the Washington Wine Education Foundation.

For just $500 a glass, you can enjoy the return of The Josephine, a signature cocktail offered at the Portland location of El Gaucho. The cocktail, which is served in a snifter, pairs extremely rare L’Esprit de Courvoisier Cognac with a shot of Grand Marnier 150. For the uninitiated connoisseur, L’Esprit retails for more than $6,000 per bottle and includes rare vintage Cognacs from the time of Napoleon I (1802), the Civil War, and the French Industrial Revolution. A press release issued by the restaurant states: “Ordering [this prestigious drink] provides the perfect way to indulge in high-class luxury, impress a dinner companion, or simply treat oneself very well.” Indeed.