Moseying into Mo’s

January 29, 2010

During our recent trip to Cannon Beach, we drove all the way down to Lincoln City, obstensibly to enjoy the inspiring scenery as our car hugged the Oregon coast, but really so I could go to the Tanger Outlets for some after-Christmas bargain-hunting.

Mo\'s Restaurant Interior

After partaking of the hearty breakfast buffet at The Stephanie Inn, we headed southward down Scenic Highway 101, and arrived at our destination several hours later. Something about car trips always makes me hungry, so before we descended upon the outlet stores, we thought it best to fortify ourselves. Frankly, luncheon options in Lincoln City were slim to none, so we chose a modest waterfront restaurant named Mo’s, one of five in the Oregon-based chain.

Mo’s is known far and wide for its award-winning clam chowder. It’s the kind of place dominated by large communal tables, so you often side elbow to elbow with complete strangers. Luckily, we snagged a table for two, although that didn’t keep the couple sitting next to us from asking what we were eating and offering us bites of theirs!

Above is a photo inside Mo’s, with the interiors all decked out (so to speak) for the holidays.

Mo\'s Blackened Salmon Caesar

And here’s the healthful salad we each enjoyed. . .Blackened Salmon Caesar. A plump, center-cut king salmon fillet was gently kissed with blackening mix (a not-too-spicy one–good!) and gently grilled until medium-rare. With a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan (calcium-rich!) and Caesar dressing on the side, I was ready to indulge in something healthful after many, many weeks of holiday overindulgence.

Note the merry yellow bucket beside the salad. . .designed for stray shells from the many oysters, clams, and mussels served daily at Mo’s locations up and down the Oregon coast.

Columbia Gorge Named Iconic Destination

January 26, 2010

After five relaxing days in Cannon Beach over the holidays, we made the gorgeous drive through the Columbia Gorge to stay at the White Salmon Inn in White Salmon, a small town on the Washington side of the Washington/Oregon border. We enjoyed our time in the Gorge, especially Hood River, where we dined at Celilo, 3 Rivers, and Brian’s Pourhouse. We’d recommend all three!

White Salmon Downtown Scene

Here’s a photo of town looking down the street from our hotel. Note the threatening skies that held the promise of snow. So much so, that when we heard three to six inches were due, we were forced to cut our trip short by a day so we could get back to Seattle in time for a doctor’s appointment!

Once home, I was thrilled to receive a press release in which I learned that the Columbia Gorge region was named an iconic destination by National Geographic Traveler. According to the release:

“The National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Donations, which recently released its annual scorecard of the world’s most precious places, rated the Columbia River Gorge sixth internationally and second in North America for sustainable destinations in 2009.

“Judged on aspects such as social and cultural integrity, aesthetic appeal, tourism management, environmental quality and outlook for the future, the judges also considered the Columbia River Gorge for its vibrant wine culture:

“[The] burgeoning wine industry is bringing a new kind of cultural and environmental awareness to the area that is certainly going to be a boon for tourism and for the area’s prospects…”

In my seventh book, Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining, I devote an entire chapter to the Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area (AVA). Established in 2004 with only four wineries, the Columbia Gorge AVA is one of several bi-state wine regions on the Oregon/Washington borders. After just five successful years, the Columbia Gorge AVA boasts 20 wineries and is one of the most diverse AVAs in the country, with more than 30 grape varieties.

My book features a yummy Cream of Morel Soup recipe from Maryhill Winery, the AVA’s largest and most impressive and Washington State’s tenth largest winery. It was named the 2009 “Washington Winery of the Year” by Wine Press Northwest magazine and “Best Destination Winery” by Seattle Magazine. Producing 80,000 cases a year, Maryhill celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and also celebrates landing top scores on more than half a dozen of their varietals in recent reviews from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

Among the winners? Maryhill Winery’s 2006 Cabernet Franc Proprietor’s Reserve (91 points), 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Proprietor’s Reserve (90 points), 2006 Malbec Proprietor’s Reserve (91 points), 2006 Merlot Proprietor’s Reserve (91 points), 2008 Pinot Gris (87 points), 2006 Serendipity (91+ points), and 2006 Syrah Proprietor’s Reserve (92 points).

Cheers and Happy Tenth to Maryhill and congratulations to the entire Columbia Gorge region!

Oregon Gets a Taste of Italy

January 25, 2010

In yesterday’s Pacific Northwest Taste column, I profiled two Willamette Valley, Oregon-based businesses that are giving the Italians a run for their money in the production of truffle oil and balsamic vinegar. I hope you’ll enjoy reading Truffle Troves + Balsamic Barrels.

Sip and Serve at Fonté Micro Coffee Roaster

January 19, 2010

Coffee Cupping

I must admit, I’m more of a tea drinker than coffee imbiber. My daily tea habit runs the gamut from a healthful green tea/Red Zinger mix during the early morning to bracing black tea with 2% milk the rest of the day.

But a recent informal coffee tasting at Fonté Micro Coffee Roaster on First Avenue, right across from the Seattle Art Museum, set me to thinking about the similarities between wine tasting and coffee cupping. According to Fonté master coffee roaster Steve Smith, body (the way the coffee feels in your mouth), acidity (or liveliness), and aroma (depth) lead to coffee flavor (the overall perception of acidity, aroma, and body). As with wine, the finish (how the coffee tastes after it leaves your mouth) is also a major factor in enjoying and appreciating your cuppa Joe.

Smith demonstrated what he was talking about by tasting me through four different coffees including Bin 16 (Fonté’s signature blend), El Socorro y Anexos (the 2009 Cup of Excellence winner), and Fonté Holiday Blend (described as “a heavily bodied cup with a pleasant ‘wine-y’ brightness).

Thanks to its price tag alone, I was most intrigued by the beautifully named La Esmeralda Geisha, which translates as “the emerald geisha.” Smith said this complex, single-estate, very-limited-production coffee from Panama exhibits prominent acidity along with lovely aromatics including notes of jasmine. Annual production is only 125 bags, and so it sells for $49.95 per half pound!

The coffee is so exclusive, that during the holidays there was a limit of one-half-pound per customer, and sales benefitted the Pike Place Market Foundation. The Market Foundation funds the four social-service agencies in the Pike Place Market: the Downtown Food Bank, Medical Clinic, Senior Center, and Preschool and Child Care. This fundraising effort was and is a perfect example of the neighborhood spirit surrounding Pike Place!

Sip Makes a Splash at Fifth and Madison

January 16, 2010

From the moment it started coming out of the ground, the proverbial buzz began to build (so to speak) around the 5th and Madison building (appropriately named since it’s located in downtown Seattle at Fifth Avenue and Madison Street). The new condominium complex, located smack-dab in the center of Seattle’s downtown Financial District and across the street from the Rem Koolhaas-designed downtown Seattle Public Library, is a gorgeous glass monolith with an large outdoor plaza with water features and greenery–a favorite play space for the building’s resident dogs.

About the only thing lacking in the glitzy development was an upscale restaurant. Answering the clarion call came the third location of the “Napa-Valley-inspired” Sip. at the wine bar & restaurant, whose two other locations are in Issaquah and Gig Harbor.

On one of the coldest days of winter so far, a Wednesday in early December, we met friends who actually live at Fifth & Madison for a quick drink and tour of their condo before heading down the elevator and out the door to Sip.

Immediately, we were taken with the restaurant’s dramatic design, from the living-room-like feel of the “Great Room” to the expansive wall of wine to the bold and whimsical wine-related artwork on the walls. Warm, earthy hues and plush leathers dominate; a bustling vibe and interesting blend of people–from downtown office workers to downtown-dwelling empty nesters to 20-somethings out for drinks and apps–adds to an atmosphere of relaxed, adult sophistication. An added bonus? Northwest jazz musicians perform live on Thursday evenings.

According to a press release: “Guests will find a cozy yet stylish ambiance with an impressive wine selection and distinctly flavorful food,” says founder Lane Scelzi. “Many wineries in Napa Valley capture that feeling and that’s what we’ve achieved with Sip., all while adding our own distinct Northwest flavor.”

At the heart of Sip. Seattle sits a huge, granite-topped bar that overlooks both the dining area and the patio. I can’t wait to try Sip during the summer, since  the patio–one of the most expansive outdoor dining spaces in all of downtown–features a fireplace, a lush grassy area, and views of Elliott Bay.

Sip Bibb Lettuce Salad

Now. . .enough with the bells and whistles–let’s get down to the food. Here’s the Bibb Salad, a towering mound of whole Bibb lettuce, marinated tomatoes, Nueskie’s smoked bacon, Point Reyes blue cheese, and Dungeness Crab. Sauced with Point Reyes blue cheese dressing, it was so plentiful, I could gladly have eaten this as my main course!

Sip Short Ribs

My meat-eating hubby highly recommended the Short Ribs, which the well-written menu describes as, “boneless ribs, parmesan “jo-jos,” arugula salad, meyer lemon, gremolata, parmigiano, and red-wine braising jus.” Discussion around the table centered around exactly what “jo-jos” are. I’ve always thought they were simply flour-coated (so they stay nice and crispy), deep-fried potato wedges that originated on the West Coast. I was introduced to them at the old Deluxe Bar-B-Que in the Pike Place Market, although since that space has morphed into a sushi joint, I haven’t seen them in the take-away case in years.

Sip Main Dish 2

I was in the mood for Black Cod, a.k.a. Sablefish, a fish I reported on in one of my recent Seattle Times Taste columns. This rendition skewed traditionally Asian, with a red-miso marinade, edamame wasabi “mash,” herb daikon slaw, fried shallots, cilantro oil, and sweet-chili butter. And even though it looked like a bit of a mash-up, the elements flowed as harmoniously as a Japanese fountain.

Sip Chicken

The female half of our dynamic-dining duo ordered the Jidori Chicken Confit. For those of you who don’t know, Jidori is a trademarked name of a very special type of chicken beloved by chefs in the know. According to the Jidori Web site, their birds “are raised cage-free, fed all-natural grain with no meat by-products, and without any hormones or steroids.” There must be something to their claims, since our friend, a long-time foodie and wine lover, pronounced the dish well prepared and the chicken very tasty. The “cured natural heirloom chicken hind quarter” was served with roasted-garlic mashers, brown-butter-basted Brussels-sprouts salad (the leaves painstakingly separated from their cores like frilly miniature lettuce leaves!), and garlic butter.

Sated and happy, we passed on dessert (as we usually do) in favor of finishing the last dregs of our bottle of Washington-state red wine. But I must admit that the Roasted Sugar Pie Pumpkin Cheesecake and the Hot Buttered Rum Brulée were tempting sweet options.

As you’d expect, Sip’s beverage program is impressive. The restaurant features nearly 70 wines by the glass; more than 250 bottles from the Pacific Northwest, California, and around the globe; a wide range of red, white, rosé wine, and champagne flights; nearly 15 domestic and imported beers; and cocktails made with fresh and natural ingredients.

Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, happy hour is offered Monday through Friday 4:30 to 6:30.

Cheers to Sip. Seattle, and welcome to the neighborhood!

More Uses for Meyer Lemons

January 15, 2010

My latest Taste column for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine was published on Sunday, and since then it’s garnered some interesting commentary in the blogosphere thanks to a Facebook tag. Here’s the link to the article, and here are some of the comments with additional serving suggestions:

Nathalie Dupree: I pick my own Meyer lemons every December. I do roast chicken, lemon curd, lemon soufflé pudding, and everything else I can think of. Then I freeze them flat on a tray and move to a plastic bag and use them all year round. (Even I can’t use 30 Meyer lemons.) I do not give them away willingly.

Paula Lambert: I LOVE Meyers lemons! They make everything better!!

Linda Sendowski: Use the lemon zest in everything you bake or even in salad dressing, on grilled meat or chicken. Meyer lemons brighten apple anything or is also great in sweet-and-sour dishes like stuffed cabbage.

Memories of Summer

January 13, 2010

Braiden Booksigning at Queen Anne Farmers\' Market

Back this summer, I had the pleasure of signing my books, including Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining, at the beguiling Queen Anne Farmers’ Market, an invitation from Queen Anne Bookstore.

Queen Anne Farmers\' Market Winners

Here are some of the creative entries in the fruit-carving contest, from porcupines to turtles to bird cages. Seems like a long time ago, with all the cool fog and drizzle of late.

Counter Dining at Il Fornaio

January 10, 2010

Il Fornaio Salad

Back during the holidays, on a Saturday night when the shoppers were out in full force, we made the BIG mistake of not making a dinner reservation. Turned away at several places, we finally took our chances at Il Fornaio’s Risotteria (the smaller downstairs location, not the more formal upstairs–and what we refer to as “baby” Fornaio).

Noticing two seats at the counter overlooking the sous chefs and busy line, we asked if they were available. And, very luckily for us, they were!

Above is the always-dependable Insalata di Spinaci–Fresh organic baby spinach, along with walnuts, mushrooms, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes, onions, and aged ricotta, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.

Il Fornaio Minestrone Soup

And here’s the Minestrone Soup that comes from “big” Fornaio that our server was nice enough to go up and fetch for us.

Il Fornaio Seafood Pasta

Spaghetti al Frutti di Mare–Long, thin pasta with clams, mussels, scallops, squid, shrimp, tomato, garlic,
chili flakes, marinara, and white wine was my main. While not loaded with seafood, the tomato sauce was rich and satisfying, and I took home half the pasta for the next night’s seafood soup.

Il Fornaio Roasted Chicken

Pollo allo Spiedo–rotisserie chicken served with a plume of rosemary–was a large portion and perfectly cooked. Sautéed kale and roasted potatoes were ample sides.

A bottle of Ripasso (sometimes considered a sister wine to Amarone) went down far too easily and soon we found ourselves making our way through the madding crowds and back into the cold wintery night.

Dish of the Day

January 7, 2010

Cafe Campagne Omelette

Every now and then, I just crave a real, perfectly crafted French omelet. And Cafe Campagne’s Omelet Choisy, a French-style rolled omelet flavored with herbs and filled with escarole and chèvre, always fills the bill. Here it is photographed in all its plumped-with-escarole-and-goat-cheese and studded-with-herb goodness.

It’s normally served with housemade chicken-and-pork sausage and roasted potatoes. But I prefer a simple green salad, dressing on the side myself. Along with a pairing of pink grapefruit juice, Omelet Choisy more than qualifies as my Dish of the Day.

From Chili-Cheese Omelets to Yak Burgers

January 4, 2010

Country Cousin Menu

We made our first stop on our holiday road trip to Cannon Beach at the Country Cousin Restaurant and Lounge in Centralia, Washington, which is probably better known for its outlet shopping than its culinary choices.

The place is pleasantly quirky. A crowing rooster sound greets everyone who crosses the threshold, which helps customers get in the mood for a real down-home experience. Two days before Christmas, as travelers were on the way to grandmother’s house, no doubt, the place was packed. So instead of the main dining room, we opted for the bar (entirely non-smoking) which was decorated with dark woods, a gas fireplace, and a plethora of Christmas lights.

Country Cousin Tortilla Soup

I ordered the Soup of the Day–Chicken Tortilla–with a side salad. It was the kind of salad adorned with canned beet strips and Pepperidge Farms Goldfish-cracker “croutons.” And guess what? With a drizzle of honey-mustard dressing, it was pretty tasty, as was the soup, an ample bowl chock full of tortilla strips and cheese.

Country Cousin Omelet

Spencer ordered a Chili-Cheese Omelet with Onions and whole-wheat toast that would have busted any gut but his (thank heavens he’s a good eater).

Country Cousin Yak Menu

Had we wanted yak, we could have had it in many iterations, from burgers to hamburger steaks to a patty melt.

Our server, Mona, was the type of motherly, middle-aged woman who calls everybody “honey.” The Country Cousin certainly primed our palates for many more culinary adventures during our trip through Washington and along the Oregon Coast.

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