Navigating Around Napa

March 29, 2009

Copies of Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining were prominently displayed at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone when I was there in late February.

Some of you know that in late February, I received a fellowship to attend the fifth annual Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley. It was my second time to attend; first time was the inaugural Symposium in 2005. 

As at the earlier Symposium, workshops and events were held in various venues, but primarily at Meadowood and the nearby Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. I always love going into the bookstore/giftshop there. This time I was very pleased to see Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining displayed in the Food & Wine Pairing section just under CIA Wine Director Karen MacNeil’s books. (PNWD is the book in the lower shelf, right-hand side, with the green spine!).

I was lucky enough to have dinner one evening with the sponsor of my fellowship, Tony Terlato, patriarch of Terlato Family Vineyards. We managed to sample through 17 wines and sit through five courses. In the photo below, Tony is flanked by The New York Times’s chief wine critic, Eric Asimov, and yours truly.

Eric Asimov, Tony Terlato, and brj dining in Napa.

Another fun evening was spent at Trinchero Napa Valley, where almost 90 of us gathered around the massive banquet table in the barrel room. Food and wine (“only” about a dozen wines were offered that evening, not only from Trinchero, but other Napa Valley wineries) were yummy, although it was rather like eating in a medieval castle! Here’s a shot from on high:

Dinner at Trinchero Napa Valley included seating for 90 people in the barrel room!  


Interesting Oysters at Seastar

March 23, 2009

A new type of oyster debuts at Seastar.

While enjoying dinner at Seastar Seattle (see the post of March 10 for a complete review), I ordered the Northwest Oyster Sampler. It was a lovely presentation on a wavy white plate and included (left to right) Shigoku oysters with wasabi tobiko, Kumamotos with crème fraîche and caviar, and Virginicas with pomegranate-citrus relish.

I “relished” them all, but was particularly taken with the Shigokus, a new variety of oyster recently introduced to Northwest waters and being marketed by the good folks at Taylor Shellfish. They’re Pacifics, but their small and deeply cupped shells really set them apart from the often much larger variety. Our buddy and fellow Seattle Times writer, Nancy Leson, blogged about her first experiences with the beauties. 


Wine Blending and a Perfect Pizza

March 23, 2009

Braiden bottling her red-wine blend at Novelty Hill/Januik Winery.

On a gloomy Sunday afternoon, our day was brightened when we attended a class at Novelty Hill/Januik Winery in Woodinville Wine Country where we blended and bottled our own wine! 

Mike Januik, former head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, led the class. He said he prefers to blend as a team, not only because it’s more fun, but because he can blame others if the blend isn’t good.

Then he set us off on our own to taste through five red wines–Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon, Stillwater Creek Merlot, Stillwater Creek Malbec, Weinbau Cabernet Franc, and Alder Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon–in order to come up with the perfect blend. He  reassured us that with such wonderful base wines, we couldn’t go too wrong (whew!).

The paper tablecloths quickly became spotted with wine; our pipettes were put to good use; and finally we all had our own perfect blends. 

Januik and company even bottled our wines for us, as shown above. Only caveat was to let the wines rest upright (not laying down as you normally store wine) for a week or two; otherwise, the corks might slip out.


A warm mushroom pizza and a good glass of Syrah fit the bill at Novelty Hill/Januik Winery in Woodinville.

After a busy afternoon of blending wine in the cool, drafty barrel room, we were ready for some warm, solid food upstairs in the winery’s lovely tasting room/cafe. A Mushroom Pizza, hot from the wood-fired oven and perfumed with fresh orange zest, along with a glass of Mike Januik’s stellar Syrah, filled the bill. 

Columbia Winery Remodels and Refreshes

March 19, 2009

Braiden in the gift shop at Columbia Winery in Woodinville, Wash.

When Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining was first released, I was pleased to do a booksigning at Columbia Winery’s beautiful tasting room in Woodinville Wine Country (photo above). Months later, I was sad to hear that the tasting room, as well as the rest of the venerable facility, would be closed due to a change in ownership.

Last November, the good word came out that  Columbia Winery had signed a long-term lease to stay in its current Woodinville Wine Country location.

And, after 20 years in its Victorian landmark location, the latest news is that it’s time to remodel the interior, which will lead to significant enhancements to the overall visitor experience.

According to a press release, here’s what you can expect to see when you visit. . .

Phase One:

•An open floor plan with a modern new fireplace, wireless capability, and updated materials and furnishings.

•The banquet rooms will receive new carpeting and paint. 

Phase Two:

•A redesigned tasting bar, a Cellar Club tasting room, and a bride’s room.

•Following the interior remodel phases, the patio will be given a facelift, creating an outdoor-seating area. 

While the work goes on, Columbia Winery will continue to be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and you can track the remodel process via frequent photo postings on the company’s website.


Seastar Shines in New Seattle Location

March 16, 2009

From his days at Palisade to his gutsy opening of the seafood-centric Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar on Seattle’s Eastside when the restaurants on that side of the lake were a crap shoot, we’ve loved chef John Howie’s cooking. 

Now, glad to report he’s opened a Seattle location of Seastar in Paul Allen’s swanky new multi-use development that includes a stylish Pan Pacific Hotel and Whole Foods Market. We are are glad to say that Howie’s new venture is clicking along on all four cylinders after being open just shy of one month, as you would expect from a chef and restaurateur of Howie’s caliber.

Here’s a photo of the lovely Putaportiwon’s Calamari Poppers. Our server warned us these ahi tuna-stuffed calamari tubes were hot and they were (a bit too much for my taste, but my hot-mouthed hubby loved ’em). Red and green grape slices and a bed of zesty slaw moderated the heat and made for a pretty plate presentation on this very generously sized appetizer.  


Seastar Seattle\'s calamari appetizer is outstanding.

I enjoyed the Sushi Sampler for my entrée, along with an extra roll called the Super Dave, glistening slices of salmon and bright green avocado on the outside of the roll with Dungeness crab in the middle.

Sushi shines at Seastar.

Here’s the lovely Caesar Salad. Note the miniature starfish whose tentacles are fashioned out of anchovy slices astride the Parmesan crisp!

The Caesar Salad at Seastar Seattle features a miniature anchovy star!

Spencer’s entree, Hazelnut Grilled Rainbow Trout, was an architectural wonder as well as a good value. Pieces of Clear Springs Idaho boneless rainbow trout hovered above a mound of wild rice-barley-wheat-berry pilaf. I also love the asparagus “spokes” that were both tasty and beautiful.

Entrées at Seastar are beautiful and delicious.

Our dessert choice–Coconut Cream Pie–could easily have fed four people. We ate as much as we could, then brought the leftovers home for the next evening. It easily surpassed Tom Douglas’s signature Triple Coconut Pie, but don’t tell Tom. That being said, nobody has ever topped my mother-in-law in the Coconut Cream Pie category. Bobbie Sue made hers with Jell-O pudding and pie filling (that she prepared like pie filling so it would be thicker), then enhanced it with coconut flavoring and at least a stick of melted butter and several egg yolks. The egg whites were whipped to stiff peaks, fluffed over the filling, and baked until golden brown and chewy like the perfect toasted marshmallow. 

Like all the courses, dessert at Seastar shines.

Seastar Seattle’s stellar wine list has all the hallmarks of Seastar Bellevue sommelier Eric Liedholm. It boasts intriguing wines by the glass from our region and around the world, a theme that carries over into the wines by the bottle.

In these tough economic times, it’s both brave and perhaps a bit daft for a seasoned restaurateur to open a 150-seat restaurant. Hats off to John Howie for offering up a bit of glamourous chic to the youngish crowd enjoying the vibe on the Saturday night we dined at Seastar Seattle. 



Yukon Salmon Feast Benefits Yukon River Delta Villages

March 13, 2009

Elliott\'s Oyster House and Restaurant on Pier 56 held a benefit dinner for Yukon River eskimos in late February.

Last month, Elliott’s Oyster House and Restaurant, located on Pier 56, hosted a Yukon Salmon Feast to benefit the small fishing villages on the Yukon River in Alaska that have been hard hit during the past year due to extreme winter cold, rising fuel costs, and a devastating 2008 commercial fishing harvest. 

During February, Elliott’s donated 25% of every Yukon Keta entrée sold to a special fuel fund to help relieve the dire condition of the villages. Elliott’s purchased the salmon that was featured throughout the promotion from community-owned Kwik’pak Fisheries, LLC, which was formed in 2002 to provide economic benefits and security to the residents of the Yukon River Delta. 

Before dinner, Seattle seafood guru Jon Rowley gave a Powerpoint presentation that contained heartwarming images of the Lower Yukon River Delta people. He explained that their villages, close to the Bering Sea, are so remote, they’re located 550 miles from the nearest road. The Delta encompasses 1,000,000+ acres, it’s very flat with lots of ponds and lakes (but no trees!), and ice break occurs in late-May. The Yukon River itself runs 2,200 miles. 

Salmon and salmon fishing form the heart and soul of this culture, according to Rowley, and the people are struggling because the fish are returning in far fewer numbers each year.

During the five-course meal, paired with Northwest wines, we were regaled with both Yukon River King salmon and Yukon River Keta salmon. The king is pictured above; it was roasted in a soft miso glaze, which brought out the fish’s creamy texture to perfection. Small dots of avocado cream, streaks of sweet soy, and a knob of sushi rice and daikon sprouts completed the oh-so-simple, yet oh-so-good dish. Interestingly, it was not paired with a white wine (such as a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc), but with a Bordeaux-style red blend, Basel Cellars 2006 Claret, from Walla Walla. 

It was an interesting exercise for all the foodies in the crowd to compare what is often considered the highest grade of salmon (King or Chinook) with a lower-grade salmon (Keta or Chum). And I must admit that the Keta performed admirably in raw or cured dishes, such as salmon tartare and carpaccio. It was also tasty when grilled and served over savory lentils.

Rowley reports that Yukon Keta salmon was recently discovered to contain more Omega-3 fatty acids and rich oils than any other salmon, with the exception of the Yukon King. So it not only tastes good; it’s good for you. 



Feelin’ Crabby???

March 10, 2009

Then head on over to Waterfront Seafood Grill (in downtown Seattle) or the Sea Grill (in Tacoma) during the month of March and indulge in the fourth annual “Cult of the Crab.” 

During a recent media dinner, we were feted with everything from Crab Rangoon (which made a very interesting pairing with Cave B 2007 Blanc de Blancs, a flavorful sparkling wine produced in Quincy, Wash.) to Blue Crab Benedict (paired with McCrea 2007 Grenache Blanc) to Fresh Maryland Soft-Shelled Crab (paired with Efeste 2007 Feral Sauvignon Blanc, which was as powerful and pungent as its name suggests).

Here’s the Blue Crab Benedict:

Waterfront Crab Benedict featured fresh Maryland crab.

And the Soft-Shelled Crab:

Waterfront Soft-shelled Crab was served with a lemon/garlic/caper sauce.

Perhaps most interesting dish of the evening was a simple preparation of Steamed Red King Crab legs (shown below), taken from crabs that hailed from the Barents Sea, Hokkaido Bay, and Dutch Harbor.

A trio of crab claws from around the world is available in March at Waterfront Seafood Grill. 

Paired with Sparkman Cellars 2007 Lumière Chardonnay, it was surprising the difference the growing area, plus the food the crabs eats, makes to the flavor and texture of the flesh. 

According to a press release, “Hokkaido king crab (“tarabagani” in Japanese) comes from the frigid waters off Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost major island, waters that yield high-end, exceptional seafood. Very little of the Hokkaido king crab is exported, most of it remaining in the country to support the Japanese market.

“Also new to the roster is Maine Peekytoe Crab, a variety of Atlantic rock crab that was a by-catch throwaway of the lobster industry until it was renamed “peekytoe.” Now, these small crustaceans are embraced by the most discriminating chefs around the world for their sweet and delicate flavor.”

The complete list of crabs available this month includes:

• Blue Crab (from Maryland and Chesapeake Bay)
• King Crab (from Hokkaido Bay in Japan, the Barents Sea and Alaska’s Bering Sea)
• Stone Crab (from South Florida)
• Snow Crab (from the icy Barents Sea above the Scandinavian Peninsula)
• Maryland Soft Shell Crab (harvested, express shipped, and received daily)
• Jonah Crab Claws (from Florida)
• Dungeness Crab (the Pacific coast favorite)
• Maine Peekytoe Crab (rock crab from Maine)

The crabs will be delivered six days a week, than prepared on site to tender, succulent perfection, and the only suggested accessory for this cult is a bib!



Cooking with Les Dames Nominated for Cookbook Award

March 7, 2009


Cooking with Les Dames d\'Escoffier was nominated for an IACP cookbook award in early March 2009.

I blogged about it when it was released last October, and am now thrilled to report that “Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier: At Home with the Women who Shape the Way We Cook and Drink,” was nominated for an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award in the “Compilation” category.

Those of us with recipes therein are thrilled, not to mention that Sasquatch Books, which published the “Pike Place Market Cookbook,” is the publisher.

This nomination is real validation for a small(er) regional press (based in Seattle’s funky Pioneer Square area) that was up against publishing giants such as John Wiley & Sons (which published “Pacific Northwest Wining & DIning”),  W.W. Norton; Stewart, Tabori & Chang; Clarkson Potter; and Ten Speed Press (which published my “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook”). 

I am so proud of my friend and fellow Seattle Dame Marcella Rosene, who edited the book along with another buddy–San Antonio-based Dame Pat Mozersky.

The winners will be announced during the gala dinner at IACP’s annual conference in Denver early next month, so stay tuned! 


Spontaneatini at BOKA

March 4, 2009

The Spontaneatini is a hot new cocktail at BOKA in downtown Seattle.

On Valentine’s Day, BOKA Kitchen + Bar launched the new Spontaneitini package. The package includes two Spontaneitini cocktails at BOKA and a key to a Luxe room at Hotel 1000.

The Spontaneitini cocktails are a mix of Jean Marc XO and Tattinger Champagne served in a crystal glass with a chocolate-dipped rim dusted with edible gold dust, then garnished with a strawberry. It’s great for those who’ve been married a while and would like to spice things up a bit, and also for those who may have just met and are looking for love in all the right places.

The Spontaneitini will be available at Hotel 1000 and BOKA throughout 2009. Such spontaneous pleasure will set you back $250. 

Abacela Wine Seminar Series

March 1, 2009

Barrel samples at Sawtooth Winery in Idaho.

Our friends Hilda and Earl Jones at Abacela Vineyards & WInery in Roseburg, Oregon, started a seminar series in February that focuses on the hows, whys, whats, whens, and wheres of growing grapes, producing, and enjoying wine. The weekend-day seminars are structured in lecture and discussion format and are free of charge. Here are a couple of the upcoming topics:

February 28, 1 p.m.: Vineyard Threats

Learn about vineyard threats and diseases that can “kill” the fruit before it becomes wine. Hosted by vineyard manager Alex Cabrera.

March 28, 1 p.m.: Wine Containers

Learn the role of materials in winemaking–specifically the differences between oak-barrel and stainless-steel fermentation vessels, bottle shapes, closures, etc. Hosted by winemaker Andrew Wenzl.


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