ART-ful Sliders

May 29, 2009

Chef Kerry Sear has been working in Northwest restaurants for many years, most recently landing at the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences in downtown Seattle as executive chef at ART Restaurant and Lounge. It’s a place we frequent since it’s right across the street from our condo; the Lounge is particularly inviting for a glass of wine and heavy appetizers.

Art Restaurant and Lounge\'s sliders make a tasty treat.

You can order from the Lounge or dining room menus, but often we opt for Chef Kerry’s Salmon, Vegetarian, and Beef Sliders. Three come to an order, and you can mix or match as you desire. For example, I’m not into beef, so I order two salmon and a veg. My hubby, on the other hand, manly man that he is, goes straight for the beef, along with an order of Truffle Fries, of course.

Crossing the North Cascades

May 26, 2009

The North Cascades Highway in all its snowy glory.

Our drive back from Lake Chelan over the North Cascades Highway was truly spectacular. We drove through two mountain passes (highest was 5,500 feet!) that had only been open for the season for only two days. 

Twenty-foot-high snow banks rose up around us, while the road was totally and blissfully clear. Overhead, alpine peaks lush with snowy-topped pine trees surrounded us. The outside temperature dipped almost 20 degrees between the time we left the kitschy cowboy-themed town of Winthrop (home to luxurious Sun Mountain Lodge) and the summit!

Yakima Redux and Lake Chelan

May 23, 2009

This glacial scene was taken while on the road to Yakima on April 23!

While on the road to the Yakima Valley, we happened upon this glacial scene just before we hit Snoqualmie Pass. And this was on April 23!!!



Suncadia’s Swift Trout

May 19, 2009

On our recent jaunt to the Yakima Valley and Lake Chelan, we had a lovely stop for lunch driving from Seattle at Suncadia Resort. We were lucky enough to be at Suncadia’s grand opening last fall and had a delightful experience, albeit neither the construction nor the landscaping were quite finished at that point.

Glad to report that the property is now complete, and the restaurant in The Lodge, Portals, is going full steam ahead. Service was smooth, the dining room on a Thursday around noon had several two-tops, a big party of eight, and a couple of four-tops, and it was a cool, sunny, windy day.

Here’s the main dish that both Spencer and I enjoyed: Swift River Trout. The rosy pink trout was flappin’ fresh and perfectly cooked; a brown-almond butter and sautéed haricots verts kept things (fairly) light and simple.

Swift River Trout from Suncadia Resort\'s Portals restaurant.


Even something as seemingly simple as a Green Salad was special at Portals with nary a wilted or blemished leaf (one of my all-time pet peeves in so many “upscale” restaurants these days–can’t the chef even sort through a bag of greens?!?!) and lagniappe of razor-thin radish and English cucumber slices. 

Even the mixed greens are special at Portals restaurant at Suncadia Resort



The Vancouver Dining Scene Revisited

May 16, 2009

We always love wining and dining around Vancouver, British Columbia, and inevitably start our culinary journey with lunch at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, a long-running seafood restaurant just off Robson Street, the main artery in downtown. 

Joe Fortes Raw Seafood Plate left a lot to be desired.

But sad to report that my entrée, actually an appetizer dish called Joe’s Raw Plate and designed for sharing, was a muddled mess of tasteless pumpkin-seed vinaigrette (that looked more like a pesto sauce), overly sweet pomegranate molasses, and too many pickled onions. At least the fish itself, smoked salmon and albacore sashimi, were okay. 

Still, you just gotta love the wine list here, which features an incredible selection of BC wines by the glass and by the bottle. 

The Warm Seafood Salad at O\'Doul\'s in Vancouver\'s Listel Hotel is a signature dish.

Much better was the Seafood Salad at O’Doul’s in the Listel Hotel (where we stayed). 

The Duck Salad at O\'Doul\'s was a satisfying dish.

The Duck Salad, a lunch special of the day, was another winner, and quite beautiful to boot. 

A tuna dish at Diva at the Met in Vancouver is one of the most beautiful presentations we\'ve ever seen.

Triple Soy-Seared Tuna Tataki, an appetizer at the venerable Diva at the Met in the Metropolitan Hotel, was one of the most beautiful presentations we’ve ever seen. Its multiple layers included cucumbers, pickled shiitake salad, and soy “caviar,” while the dots on the plate included a kazu emulsion. This dish paired nicely with a cool glass of Blue Mountain Pinot Grigio. 

Sushi is flappin\' fresh at Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar in Vancouver, BC.

More beautiful presentations, of a Nigiri Sushi Sampler plate, at Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar in trendy Yaletown. Among the yummy nibbles: Unagi, scallop, salmon, halibut, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, and a California roll in a glorious egg wrap. I enjoyed sipping glasses of 8th Generation 2006 Riesling and See Ya Later Ranch Brut with this dish. 

An appetizer of scallops shines at Market, Jean-Georges Vongerichten\'s new restaurant in Vancouver, BC.

The just-opened Market in the glittery Shangri-La Hotel in downtown, the creation of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was a delight. . .and packed. Definitely the “hot” reservation to have during the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Here’s a lovely appetizer–Seared Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower and Caper-Raisin Emulsion–the perfect fusion of sweet and salty. 

Vancouver may be the city of cool restrooms (or washrooms, as the Canadians say). Market’s had black granite slabs for walls and square milky glass sinks with square fixtures. 

One of Our Favorite Places in the World

May 13, 2009


The jaunty exterior of La Bicyclette, a modest but inspired restaurant in Carmel, California.

We’ve been remiss in writing much about our four-day stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea last Christmas. So when a good friend and colleague from British Columbia spilled the beans by telling us he’d scheduled his wife’s 50th birthday celebration there, and asked for restaurant recommendations, we couldn’t help but jump in. Following are the highlights from a very long e-mail we shot back to him with places to be sure to go (and some to skip).

Cypress Inn (where we stayed in December) is Doris Day’s hotel that is dog-friendly. Really fun for a drink or lunch to watch the dogs and their owners. 

L’Auberge Carmel (where we stayed two years ago) is a Relais et Chateau property and very upscale. David Finkel is the proprietor/owner and also runs Bouchée and an Italian resto, both located in the heart of Carmel. There’s also a high-end resto at L’Auberge–multi-course and very expensive. Worth it if you are in the mood for that sort of an evening.

One of our fave places is much more modest and pictured above. . .La Bicyclette (LB), sister resto of Casanova (that isn’t really worth going to because it is larger and just seems kinda canned and staged). LB is worth visiting, however. with food served in well-worn crockery and iron pots, and authentic.

The entrées at La Bicyclette are served in generous portions and family-style.

The wine list feeds off Casanova’s (which is vast) so if you want a bottle not at LB, the server gets on the bicycle stationed outside and rides to Casanova to retrieve it. And don’t miss the chocolate mousse, which is big enough for four and delish.

La Bicyclette Chocolate Mousse is one soul-satisfying dessert.

There’s an excellent cheese shop in the Plaza (where lots of the chain shops, such as J. Jill and Anthropologie) are concentrated.

Skip Grazing’s–it’s been good in the past but seemed rushed and distracted this time (maybe because it was Xmas Eve!).

Flying Fish has a good rep although we haven’t eaten there in several years.

 Skip Flanigan’s Seafood but the oyster bar on the main drag (Ocean Drive) is good for lunch. Il Fornaio is in the venerable Pine Inn but we’ve never eaten there. 

Christopher’s is chef-owned and good, although we ran out of nights this year (good two years ago). 

Of course you must drive to Big Sur and check out Ventana Inn and drive the 17-Mile Drive, although The Lodge at Pebble Beach for lunch is disappointing (beautiful views, though).

It’s fun to go for a drink at Roy’s on Pebble Beach as well, especially if you can time it with the bag-piper’s performance.

Skip Monterey (very touristy and the outlet stores there are pitiful) except for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is truly magnificent. 

Vanquishing Vancouver

May 10, 2009

The architecture in Vancouver, BC, is super-modern, yet appealing.

One of our very favorite cities in the world is Vancouver, British Columbia.

Beautiful coastal views abound aboard the Amtrak Cascades train.

It’s easy to reach from Seattle thanks if you take the Amtrak Cascades train (a pleasant, four-hour journey), clean and cosmopolitan, and one of the best places to wine and dine we’ve ever encountered. Here’s a view from the train on our ride back from Vancouver. 

The milling crowds at the 31st annual wine festival in Vancouver, BC.

Last month we headed up north for the 31st annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, which we’d been hearing about for ages but never had the pleasure to attend (until now). It was everything and more than it had been billed. . .as two huge trade tastings proved, with distributors from around the world.

Stephen Cipes, owner of Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

We saw some familiar faces, such as Stephen Cipes, owner of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, located in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. 

Gilles Nicault of Long Shadows Vintners pour wine for the crowds at the Vancouver Wine Festival.

And, from closer to home, Gilles Nicault, from Washington State’s Long Shadows Vintners. 

Joe Dobbes of Dobbes Family Winery checks his messsages.

We also ran into Joe Dobbes (center), from Oregon’s Dobbes Family Estate.

The neatest thing about this year’s fest was that the theme was British Columbia wines. This was a first in the venerable festival’s history. . .only one before had Canadian wines been the center of attention. And for BC wines to finally take their place front and center stage was a real feather in the cap for a wine industry that has really just gotten up and running during the past decade. 

Braiden \

One of the most fun workshops I attended was entitled, “Blind, Blind,” during which we did a blind tasting of wines while actually blindfolded! It was a challenging exercise not only to not knock over the nine wine glasses (!) but to try to figure out what was in each glass. In the photo above, I am “listening” to the wine to determine if its is still or sparkling. 

In an upcoming post, we’ll give you a rundown of the restaurants we tried and liked, and those that didn’t fare as well. 


An Interesting Gift for Your Wine-Loving Mom

May 5, 2009

Last night I tried a very interesting wine from Olympic Cellars Winery, a long-time Washington-State business located on the Olympic Peninsula.

My Sweet Syrah Label

The Olympic Cellars Winery 2006 My Sweet Syrah is a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Riesling. With four-percent residual sugar, it is definitely sweet, yet lush and light on the palate with soft tannins. This may be something for dark-chocolate lovers to consider next time they want a workable wine pairing. I may almost like it better than the more traditional Port.

Although Benoit Murat, the French-born winemaker for Olympic Cellars was hesitant to make a slightly sweet red wine, customers were asking for it. And the wine has been a big hit, according to winery owner and self-described “bar maid and cellar rat,” Kathy Charlton. In fact, it’s outselling all other wines at Olympic Cellars. 

“Glamping” at Lakeside Resort

May 4, 2009

Glamping, or glamour camping, is becoming popular in Roche Harbor, Washington.

Here’s a new word to add to your vocabulary: “glamping,” a combination of “glamour” and “camping.”

And to kick off “glamping” season in May 2009 (according to a recent press release), “Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes, nestled between Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor on San Juan Island in Washington State, will offer new ‘Glamping Survival Kits,’ a collection of outdoor necessities for the glamorous camper (‘glamper’). Each package was developed to be enjoyed while staying at one of 13 ‘glampsites,’ featuring canvas cabins furnished with a queen bed, full-size sleeper sofa or lounge chairs, bed and bath linens, and beautiful hickory furniture.”

The Happy Hour and Rekindle “Glamping Survival Kits,” both priced at $70, sounded good to us:

Happy Hour: Two folding pilsner or wine “glasses;” one 10-ounce unbreakable hip flask; a freestanding wine bottle and glass holder; a bottle of Happy Camper wine (naturally!); one six-pack of beer and one Lakedale Resort logo corkscrew. 

Rekindle: One FireCone Eco Saucer fire starter basket; a bundle of firewood; one package of gourmet marshmallows; two gourmet chocolate bars; one box of graham crackers; one giant roasting fork; two folding champagne flutes and one bottle of sparkling wine. 

The press release goes on to say that, “Lakedale ‘glampground’ is open annually from May 1 to September 30. ‘Glamping’ rates start at $149 a night. Each custom built 225-square-foot canvas cabin features a queen bed with pillow-top bedding, a full-size sleeper sofa or two lounge chairs, pillows and a flannel duvet, a table and four chairs, one cordless lantern and bath linens. Every ‘glampsite’ also includes two Adirondack chairs, a picnic table and a fire ring. Continental breakfast is included.”

Roasted Salmon with Sorrel Beurre Blanc

May 1, 2009

Alaskan wild salmon works beautifully with spring sorrel.

Roasted Salmon with Sorrel Beurre Blanc 

Varietal: Chardonnay (Unoaked) 

Serves 4 

Sorrel, a lemony perennial herb that appears in the garden in early spring, plays a starring role along with another Northwest favorite-wild salmon-in this recipe from Chef Rocky Maselli of Marché restaurant (, located in the bucolic university town of Eugene, Oregon. Sorrel is known for its sour, acidic taste; when used in chef Rocky’s sauce, it turns a lovely celadon color with a slightly sour lemon taste and a nice hint of white wine and shallot. A good-quality unoaked Chardonnay, with lots of citrus and pineapple and a fresh, lively mouthfeel, pairs perfectly. 

2 tablespoons minced shallots 
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 large fresh sorrel leaves
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground white pepper
Four 6-ounce center-cut salmon fillets, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. 

2. To make the beurre blanc, combine the shallot and wine in a small nonreactive saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 1 teaspoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced to the consistency of maple syrup and coats the back of a spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. While the cream is reducing, remove the ribs from the sorrel leaves and cut them into a chiffonade by stacking the leaves, rolling them like a cigar, and cutting crosswise into thin ribbons.

3. Stir the sorrel into the reduced cream, remove from the heat, and whisk in the butter piece by piece, incorporating the butter completely after each addition. Place a fine-meshed sieve over a mixing bowl, add the sauce, and strain, pressing out the solids with the back of a spoon to remove as much liquid as possible. (Alternatively, chef Rocky suggests you can use a hand-held electric mixer, a blender, or a food processor for this step; the result will be a smoother sauce that will not have to be strained.) Season to taste with salt and the white pepper. Keep the sauce warm (a double boiler or a water bath works well for this) while you prepare the salmon.

4. Ten minutes before cooking, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

5. With a clean pastry brush, brush the salmon fillets lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and the black pepper. Place on the lined baking sheet and cook 12 to 15 minutes, or until they reach the desired doneness. 

6. To serve, transfer the salmon fillets to 4 dinner plates and spoon the sorrel sauce over the top.

Cook’s Hint: Sorrel is available in limited supply year-round in the specialty herb section of produce departments or at your neighborhood farmers’ market, although its peak season is in the spring. Look for bright-green, crisp leaves; store for up to three days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Chef Rocky suggests serving the dish with chive mashed potatoes or roasted new potatoes and spring vegetables such as asparagus, baby carrots, fava beans, or peas.

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