Andaluca’s New Pintxos Menu

September 30, 2008

Wayne Johnson, long-time executive chef at Andaluca in the Mayflower Park Hotel, just returned refreshed and rejuvenated from a trip to Spain, where he picked up ideas and inspiration for his new Pintxos (small plates) menu. 

After sampling through almost a dozen of the offerings, we were convinced that Chef Wayne is doing the best work of his career. From the Gazpacho Trio (creamy almond soup and refreshing shaved grapes served in small cocktail glasses, cucumber soup with very thinly sliced romaine and crab meat, and tomato soup with goat cheese and a grilled prawn) to Seafood Risotto (with halibut, salmon, and shrimp) to Harissa Green Beans (simply steamed green beans with spicy harissa sauce, garlic, Maldon sea salt, and shaved Iberico cheese), every beautifully designed little plate sang. 

Here are the green beans, along with the Broken Egg Papas Frites (thin fries and roasted mushrooms draped with an over-easy fried egg!) and the Crisp Duck cake (served with apricot chutney and cucumber raita). 

And here are the Spicy Calamari and Assorted Marinated Olives, along with the duck cake and green beans. 

Calamari, Olives, Crisp Duck Cakes, and Harissa Green Beans are a few of the pintxos (small plates) offered at Andaluca.

Among the most amazing of Chef Wayne’s small plates is the Lamb Burger Meatballs, pictured below. Somehow, some way, the chef manages to place a soft-boiled egg inside the meatball and cook both to perfection. Salty feta, creamy olive aïoli, and crispy onions make boldly flavored counterpoints. 

A soft-boiled egg is the surprise inside Andaluca\'s lamb meatballs!

Pintxos even show up on the dessert menu, where we enjoyed both the Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Thyme Cream (below) and the Chocolate Nut Tart with Cherry Gelato. 

The soft in texture olive oil cake served with thyme cream at Andaluca.

We ordered wines by the glass, including a traditional Spanish Cava (Sumarroca Brut), Cortijo III 2006 Rioja, and Borsao 2004 Coupage, all good drinking values at $9 a glass.


Inside Out Sassafras Float

September 28, 2008

TASTE\'s Inside Out Float will float your boat, so to speak, with sassafras ice cream and vanilla soda.

We’ve been enjoying new executive chef Craig Hetherington’s playful, yet sophisticated menu items at the newly revamped TASTE Restaurant and Lounge. Here’s his take on the classic ice cream soda, which he makes with sassafras ice cream and vanilla soda (!), and serves with a pair of warm vanilla cookies. Mmmmm. . .

And just for more fun, here’s the chef’s St. Jude Albacore Tuna, beautifully deconstructed into its three main elements. . .tuna on a bed of green-olive pesto, Israeli couscous, and baby greens. Healthful, yet hearty. 

Deconstructed albacore is both beautiful and playful at TASTE.

Braiden Visits the Yakima Valley

September 26, 2008

I enjoyed two booksignings, a lovely stay at Desert Wind Winery, and two memorable dinners during a visit to the Yakima Valley September 19-21. More on that to come, but in the meantime, here is a short (four-minute) Vodcast filmed by my editor from Wine Press Northwest, Andy Perdue. 

In the film, I share my thoughts on Northwest cuisine and thank Andy for giving me the opportunity to write the food-and-wine-pairing column for Wine Press over the past eight years. 

You can watch the Northwest Winecast two ways (both free):

On the Wine Press Web site:

On YouTube:

Oyster Wine Competition

September 24, 2008

Lane Hoss, director of marketing at Elliott\'s Restaurants, fills in her official judges\' form at the 14th annual Oyster Wine Competition.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 14th annual Oyster Wine Competition at Anthony’s Homeport on Seattle’s Shilshole Bay in April, not as one of about a dozen judges, but as research for an upcoming story for Pacific Northwest, The Seattle Times Sunday magazine. It was a fascinating experience watching the judges slurp an oyster, chew it, then take a sip of one of the 20 wines that were being judged for their “bliss factor” when paired with Kumamoto oysters. You can read the results in the October 5 issue of Pacific Northwest; in the meantime, here’s veteran oyster judge Lane Hoss, marketing director of Anthony’s, hard at work.



Spritely Spur Gastropod Gallops into Belltown

September 22, 2008

Spur Gastropod\'s bar offers a timeless feel.

The former Mistral space in Belltown on Blanchard Street, halfway between First and Second Avenues, has been reborn as Spur Gastropub, and the new entry is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. The lofty prices and hefty attitude of Mistral have given way to an inviting historic space and expert service backed by a steady hand in the kitchen thanks to the chef team of Brian McCracken and Dana Tough. McCracken comes from a family of fisherman and farmers and has studied with some of the nation’s top chefs. Tough, the former Chef de Cuisine at Tilth restaurant, is most inspired by his local farmers’ crops like Bill & Steff’s tomatoes, arugula and peaches from Billy Alstott’s Farm and Annie’s French heirloom melons and cape goose berries from King’s Garden. According to their media representatives:

Brian and Dana first met working together under Maria Hines at Earth & Ocean. Schooled in techniques from around the world, these chefs have polished a cooking style where sustainably conscious dishes feature farm-to-table, native ingredients on a menu where a ham sandwich is not a “croque” and a casserole is not a “cassoulet”. Look for signature dishes like the duo’s Pork Belly Sliders (with Smoked Orange Marmalade, Arugula and Mustard) and seasonal rotations like Pan-Seared Trout (with MizunaFarro and Almond). Spur nods to the area’s pioneer, fisherman and occasional outlaw roots. Spur will feature a rotating photo exhibit projected on restaurant walls.

From the first moment, we were on board thanks to our knowledgeable server, Bree, who we remember from Campagne (where she also works). She advised us on which wines went best with our choices and how much food to order. 

Chioggia Beet Salad and Mussels and Clams at Spur Gastropub make wonderful choices.

We began with Mussels and Clams with Butter, Parsley, and Chicheron (fried pork skin) and weren’t disappointed. Salads were stellar, from something as simple and flavorful as Spencer’s choice–Heirloom Lettuces with Champagne Vinaigrette, Pine Nuts, and Ricotta Salata–to my Baby Chiogga Beets with Chèvre, Arugula, and Pistachio.

The Pan-Seared Trout was a study in creative contrasts thanks to the addition of slightly bitter/peppery mizuna, sharp mustard, and crunchy almonds. The Charred Bison Burger with Provolone and Aïoli, served with a heap o’ thin-cut shoestring potatoes, was the real deal for meat lovers. 

Although sated, at Bree’s suggestion, we opted to split the Sous Vide Strawberry Ice Cream and weren’t disappointed. This essence of berry was topped by the perfect plump, local berry and underlined with coconut crunch, a light, crunchy counterpoint that reminded me of similar accompaniments we’d experienced at wd-50 in New York City.

The wine list ranges around the world with well-thought-out offerings. The only local wine by the glass is A to Z Chardonnay, although local bottles include Buty Sem/Sauv Blanc and Cab Franc/Merlot and Seia Horse Heaven Hills Syrah.   

Voilà’s Provençal Dinner

September 20, 2008

Every so often Voilà Bistrot, Madison Valley’s little slice of sunny France, offers a themed dinner. In August we were lucky enough to experience the Provence & Languidoc-Roussillon dinner, complete with a three-course dinner ($45), wine pairings ($20 extra), and a live guitarist.

The Grilled Sardines at Voilà Bistrot did not disappoint.

We most enjoyed chef/owner Laurent Gabrel’s Grilled Sardines, a duo of dollar-bill-sized beauties on a bed of buttery Swiss chard. Summer Vegetable Soup was light and lovely, rife with veggies of the season. 

Bouillabaisse was swimming with seafood and not overly tomato-y. Roasted Half Chicken with Fennel Gratin was simple and satisfying. 

Apricot Pie, all buttery crust with a layer of almond cream, sang of the season, while Pèche Melba boasted a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, a poached peach, and a fluffy dome of whipped cream. An assortment of cheeses from southern France rounded out the dessert selections on a savory note.  

A Whirlwind Tour of Eastern Washington

September 19, 2008

The assistant winemaker at Badger Mountain/Powers Winery uses a glass thief to distribute barrel samples.

Immediately after the Riesling Rendezvous in late July, the Washington Wine Commission set up a one-day trip for visiting journalists to the conference to visit four wineries across the mountains in eastern Washington. At 6 a.m., a busload of us left the warmth and comfort of the Willows Lodge in Woodinville and made the journey to Sea-Tac for our early-morning Horizon flight.

Once there, we stopped at Badger Mountain/Powers Winery to see their gorgeous spread of estate grapes in the midst of a bustling residential neighborhood (!). Next stop was the huge facility of Pacific Rim, which specializes in Riesling of all sorts and price ranges (value-priced, single-vineyard-designate, and a yummy dessert Riesling). 

After a tour of the Col Solare facility, a partnership between Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Antinori family of Italian winemaking fame, and designed by Boxwood, a Seattle architecture firm fast becoming known for its gorgeous winery designs (such as Novelty Hill/Januik in Woodinville), we enjoyed a three-course lunch (paired with various vintages of Col Solare, of course!) prepared by Picazzo 7Seventeen chef/owner Frank Magaña. 

We ended the day at Goose Ridge Vineyards, which boasts the largest spread of contiguous vineyards in Washington state and is making two tiers of wines–Goose Ridge and Stone Cap–which we tasted through with winemaker Charlie Hoppes.

Then it was back on the bus for the short ride back to the Pasco Airport and the 45-minute flight home, exhausted but all the wiser about our state’s formidable eastern Washington grape resources.

Delish Dungeness Crab “Ravioli”

September 16, 2008


The Dungeness Crab \

The Dungeness Crab “Ravioli” at the new Juno restaurant in the recently opened Arctic Hotel in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood is simply sublime. Lacy and light pasta is studded with chives, draped over crab meat, and napped with lobster cream sauce that is intriguingly sweet thanks to the addition of the dessert wine. Arugula and pine nuts add both bitter elements and crunch. Inspired!

Go for the double serving (two ravioli) for $24 versus a single for $18, as you will be sure to savor each and every bite. 

Kushibar Grand-Opening Celebration

September 14, 2008

The interior of Kushibar on Second Avenue in Belltown.

Steven Han and executive chef and partner Billy Beach welcomed media members to the opening of their newest Japanese restaurant, Kushibar, on August 27. The new Belltown restaurant, located at 2319 Second Avenue, features grilled foods, noodle dishes, beer, sake, and cocktails. Lovers of the less-well-known cuts of meat will appreciate offerings such as beef tongue and heart, chicken cartilage and gizzards, and pigs’ feet. More conventional offerings include fried squid and tofu, edamame, yaki soba, and ramen. 

The heated seating area at Kushibar promises year-round outdoor dining. A large outdoor patio, complete with overhead heaters, promises streetside dining year-round. 


Keeping Cool at Juno

September 12, 2008

Over the Labor Day weekend we had the pleasure of trying Juno, the new restaurant in the refurbished Arctic Hotel in downtown Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, for the very first time.

It’s a beautiful space with dark wooden booths, marble floors, and a full bar with warm Veuve-Clicquot-orange back lighting. An Heirloom Melon & Cucumber Salad with Elderflower Vinaigrette was a Day-Glo sculpture of melon balls and cucumber curls. Light and luscious!

Crab & Fig Salad suffered from too many elements. I would have preferred the organic greens with the sweet crab claws, crunchy Marcona almonds, and vanilla vinaigrette alone. Both the halved figs and Cabrales (Spanish blue cheese) overpowered the rest of the dish. 

My main of Dungeness Crab “Ravioli” with Sauternes Lobster Cream, Arugula, and PIne Nuts was simply sublime–one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time. The dish was suggested by our overly perky server, whose constant description of everything as “perfect” quickly grew tiresome. 

Although offered as a Small Plate appetizer on Juno\'s menu, I chose Stilton Soufflé instead as a savory cheese course to end my meal.

A three- or five-course tasting menu is offered for $45 or $65, with accompanying wine flights for $15 or $25. Shrimp & Grits and Niman Ranch Ribeye were two of the savory courses, with a Mission Fig Tart (paired with McCrea Ciel du Cheval Rosé) for dessert. 

For dessert I chose one of the “Small Plates” which is actually normally served as an appetizer. Stilton Soufflé was a real egg soufflé, and the “perfect” (sorry!) after-dinner savory cheese course with its creamy texture, sweet pepper relish, and thinly sliced trio of grilled bread ovals.

Sour Cream and Basil Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries and Basil Purée combined sweet and savory elements to “perfection,” the sweet, dense pudding tamed by the anise-y basil. 

The wine list is substantial and rich with wines from around the world, as well as many excellent Northwest selections. We chose a 2006 Meursault and were not disappointed. 

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