Let’s Get WineWise!

February 28, 2010

My latest post for Amazon.com’s Al Dente blog is a book review of The Culinary Institute of America’s wonderfully written tome, “WineWise: Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine.”

Everybody’s Smiling at Sonrisa

February 28, 2010

Sonrisa Chips and Salsa

After running a few much-needed post-holiday errands at University Village, we worked up an appetite, and had been curious about Sonrisa, a self-described “Modern Mexican” restaurant, so decided to give it a spin. If my college Spanish serves, “sonrisa” translates as “smile.”

Which is just what we did when we were promptly greeted with a basket of freshly fried chips (blue corn and regular) and a glistening bowl of salsa. Quickly, we ordered a coupla Sonrisa Margaritas to quench our thirst and start the afternoon off right.

Sonrisa Chicken Fajita Salad

Here’s my Frontera Salad (dressings on the side per my special request). It’s described as “Ancho-marinated grilled chicken breast, served sliced on a bed of roasted corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, and onion. Tossed with romaine and ancho ranch dressing. Grated cotija cheese.” The Frontera (“frontier” or “border”) salad was the perfect antidote to the holiday feeding frenzy. If not for the margarita, I’d have felt positively virtuous eating this healthy, fresh salad.

Sonrisa Chicken Fajitas

Meanwhile, my meat-eating hubby opted for Ancho-Grilled Chicken Fajitas served with sautéed red and yellow bell peppers, white onions, guacamole, pico de gallo, and flour tortillas. They were okay. . .nothing to write home about. . .and a far cry from the sizzling platters of goodness, served with heaping mounds of black beans and Spanish rice, from our days in Texas, home of Tex-Mex cuisine.

CIA Napa Valley Introduces New Wine Program

February 25, 2010

A recent press release informed me that the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone. the school’s Napa-based campus (where I’ve had the pleasure to attend many classes and symposia) has created a new wine and beverage certificate program for 2010.

The Accelerated Wine and Beverage Certificate Program (AWBP) will advance a student’s professional skills in the wine and beverage sector. An AWBP certificate will position graduates to pursue career opportunities in numerous segments of the food and beverage industry.

“A deep understanding of wine, beer, spirits – even coffee and tea – is vital to career success in the foodservice and hospitality fields,” said Adam Busby, CMC and Director of Education at CIA Greystone. The pioneering AWBP program will equip students with skills and insights required for advancement toward leadership positions in beverage management in both fine and casual dining, restaurant front-of-house management, wine and beverage retail, wholesale, and more.

The accredited 30-week AWBP will impart knowledge and skills related to sensory evaluation, flavor dynamics, cellar management, and mixology. Food and beverage pairing, service, and hospitality are major components of the eight-month curriculum.

“AWBP students will graduate with a wine and beverage education on par with those skills learned by the CIA’s culinary students,” notes Busby.

The program launches in September 2010 at the CIA’s Greystone campus in St. Helena. Classes will be held at the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies, a state-of-the-art complex featuring two tasting theaters ideally designed for the in-depth study of wines and beverages.

Program enrollees must have a bachelor’s or associate degree in hospitality management, culinary arts management, or a related field, or have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline as well as relevant food and beverage industry experience. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

Mussels Pigalle = Dish of the Day

February 22, 2010

Years ago, during the five years I served as food editor at Seattle Homes & Lifestyles magazine, I wrote an article entitled, “Seattle’s Top-10 Restaurant Dishes.” Among my top picks was the yummy Mussels Pigalle served at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market.

Here’s what I had to say back then:

“The idea for steamed mussels dressed with bacon-rich balsamic vinaigrette was inspired almost 25 years ago, long before balsamic vinegar became a household staple and mussels became a commonly ordered item in Seattle. I figured this unusual dish was discovered by Place Pigalle owner Bill Frank while wandering the backroads of France. WRONG! Back in 1982, Frank and then-chef Connie Miller Cheifetz were trying to incorporate the philosophy of the restaurant (which Frank describes as “unusual preparations of good raw products without being off the wall”) into a new appetizer. Frank also appreciates dishes that combine meat or animal components with seafood, which is where the rather offbeat (albeit brilliant) idea of pairing bacon and mussels was born. In today’s version, plump mussels are placed lip to lip like upright soldiers in a pristine porcelain ramekin, then topped with a thick balsamic vinaigrette laden with chunks of celery, shallots, and chewy lardons (bacon bits). Don’t be embarrassed to sop up the vinaigrette; luckily, Frank supplies tangy sourdough rolls, strategically suited for dipping.”

Mussels Pigalle

And here’s what I say now:

“I’m glad to report that when Lluvia and Seth Walker bought Place Pigalle from Bill Frank several years ago, they kept the Mussels Pigalle, along with other signature dishes such as Calamari Dijonnaise and the Chocolate Pot de Crème on their menu, while adding new favorites. Here’s a recent photo of the mussels served in all their glory.

And still, I’m happy to report, among Seattle’s Top-10 dishes.

“Glocal” Gateway Featured at Seattle Food and Wine Experience

February 19, 2010

White Grapes

Experience a world tour of wine, beer, and all things culinary at the Seattle Food & Wine Experience on
Sunday, February 28, starting at 1 p.m., when more than 1,000 wines from around the world join with top chefs and restaurateurs to transform the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall into a global (global and local = “glocal”) gateway for the palate.

The diversity of the wines and culinary traditions represented at the second annual Seattle Food and Wine Experience mirrors our city’s cosmopolitan character and its growing international presence.

Participating in the Experience are 50 California and international wineries, 25 Washington wineries, 15 Oregon wineries, 20 chefs or restaurateur, and 20 culinary, wine, lifestyle, and travel exhibitors.

Tickets to the experience cost $49 per person and includes access to all areas of the event. A portion of proceeds from event ticket sales will benefit Beecher’s Flagship Foundation. Founded by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in 2004, the Foundation has given more than $300,000 in support of non-profit organizations providing education about the benefits of pure, all-natural food.

Here are more details on what you can “experience” at the Experience:

• The Tulalip Resort Casino Culinary Exhibition Stage features all the chefs from the resort cooking up their latest Taste of Tulalip creations.

• Starbucks Coffee and Music Lounge features a World of Coffee tasting plus live music by Seattle Times wine columnist Paul Gregutt.

• The Artisan Beer Garden features international and regional breweries plus cider companies.

• Kathy Casey and Columbia Winery are teamed up (the first 300 guests receive her signed cookbook).

• Ruth Chris Steakhouse and Menage a Trios wines pair up to showcase American lamb cooked three ways.

• Chateau Ste. Michelle Culinary Director John Sarich is pairing WA wine with American lamb.

• Maximus Minimus is coming out of hibernation for the day and selling $2 mini-pork sandwiches.

• Frost Doughnuts may end up being the most popular booth based on their recent popularity!

• Beecher’s Cheese will be there sampling cheese and educating attendees about Beecher’s Flagship Foundation (Known as Pure Food Kids) and the beneficiary of event proceeds.

•Seattle’s food/restaurant scene will be preparing gourmet tastes throughout the experience, including Campagne, Ray’s Boathouse, Earth & Ocean, Andaluca, Ponti Seafood Grill, John Sarich of Chateau Ste. Michelle, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Hunt Club, Pearl Bar & Dining, Cicchetti Kitchen and Bar, Artisanal Brasserie and The Artisanal Table, Salty’s on Alki, Copperleaf Restaurant, Blackfish, Pike Place Brewing Company, TASTE Restaurant, Maximus-Minimus, Frost Doughnuts, Beecher’s Cheese, and more.

Toulouse Petit Making It Big

February 16, 2010

Toulouse Petit Interior

A recent relaxed Saturday-morning brunch at Toulouse Petit, the New Orleans-inspired restaurant in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, made us want to laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll)!

Here’s a photograph of the interior, formerly a non-descript Chinese restaurant that has been transformed into something you’d certainly expect to find in the Big Easy itself. Fleur de Lis wall art, custom metalwork, and hand-blown lighting fixtures surround the dining area. Inlaid wooden tables are mini works of art. It’s said the custom mosaic floor contains more than 85,000 hand-cut tiles.

Toulouse Petit Blue Crab Benedict

One of Toulouse Petit’s best, and signature dishes (not to mention one of seven Eggs Benedict dishes offered on the sprawling menu), Louisiana Blue Crab with Fines Herbes Benedict proved a lovely combo of warm English muffins, perfectly poached eggs, a fair amount of crab, and a decadent and not-too-lemon-y Hollandaise sauce sided with not-too-greasy breakfast potatoes.

Toulouse Petit Eggs Forestiere

I wasn’t quite as happy with one of the Egg Dishes–Eggs “Forstiere” (sic) with Oyster Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Fresh Herbs. Described as “a softly scrambled omelet,” the dish was instead a scramble with eggs almost to the overdone point. A side salad (substituted for the breakfast potatoes) contained nary a wilted leaf (one of my pet peeves), a sprinkle of confetti-cut tarragon (one of my favorite herbs), some finely diced scallions, and a refreshing vinaigrette. Hefty points for that!

The lunch menu offers dishes such as a Fried Chicken Po’ Boy, Creole Gulf Shrimp Cakes, and Mussels à la Mariniere with Frites.

Dinner promises a choice among 14 different side dishes (!) including grits and red beans and rice, as well as entrées such as Crawfish Etouffée, Toulouse Jambalaya, and Louisiana Redfish.

Even during our mid-morning Saturday brunch, chef Eric Donnelly (former Oceanaire Seafood Room exec chef) was on the scene, striding in with a huge rolling pin that he probably bought up the street at the new (and fabulous!) Metropolitan Market. We were glad to see him keeping his  eagle eye on the bustling kitchen, and look forward to returning to this “Petit” restaurant with grandiose dreams.

In related news, it was announced earlier this month that the $6 Breakfast Deal, offered from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on weekdays, has been extended indefinitely.

From the press release:

The $6 breakfast happy hour includes almost every item on the Toulouse Petit breakfast menu. The two exceptions are the USDA Prime Rib Eye Steak and Eggs, which sells for $10 during happy hour, and the Louisiana Blue Crab Eggs Benedict, which sells for $9.

In addition to making the breakfast happy hour permanent, Toulouse Petit also recently rolled out an expanded lunch menu, adding more seafood and poultry dishes, more USDA Prime steaks, and additional soups.

Cupcakes with Conscience

February 14, 2010

Cupcake Royale Cupcake

My latest article, a Valentine’s Day Taste column entitled, Cupcake Love, was published today in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine. It profiles Jody Hall, founder of Seattle’s four Cupcake Royale shops, who creates “cupcakes with conscience” thanks to her efforts in behalf of sustainability, waste management, and health-care reform, among other worthwhile causes.

KCTS 9 Cooks: Northwest Favorites Rebroadcasts on Saturday

February 12, 2010

A heads up that “KCTS 9 Cooks: Northwest Favorites” will rebroadcast tomorrow (Saturday, February 13), from noon to 4 p.m. So if you missed watching me cook up Alaskan Spot Prawns with Saffron Couscous the first time and in subsequent rebroadcasts, you’ll have another chance to view my segment (first in the show) and buy a copy of the companion cookbook.

Even More Meyer Lemons!

February 12, 2010

My recent story on Meyer lemons for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine elicited lots of interesting feedback in various online posts and e-mails. Here an excerpt from an e-mail from orchardess Karen Morss, who owns an organic Meyer-lemon orchard in California.

“That was a great story on Meyer lemons! I like them so much I planted 40 trees in my backyard and started my own orchard, Lemon Ladies Orchard. I sell these beautiful organic lemons online. Meyers are sometimes hard to find–especially organic lemons. In the Seattle area, Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream uses my lemons in their products.”

And, a few weeks ago, winter citrus (including a recipe for Petrale Sole with Meyer-Lemon Beurre Blanc) was the focus of Georgeanne Brennan’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pike Brewing’s Second Annual Chocofest!

February 10, 2010

Tomorrow, February 11, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the good folks at the Pike Brewing Company will ask the age-old question, “What beverages go best with everyone’s favorite food: chocolate?”

And for the second year in a row, Pike will pair the best beers, wines, spirits, and mead with an assortment of chocolate that would make Willie Wonka jealous.

According to the company’s press release:

“Pike’s Chocofest, billed as ‘foreplay before the big day’ is a romantic and educational way to discover the wide variety of chocolate treats from here and around the world. Stations set up throughout the Micro Brewery Museum and Naughty Nelly Room feature different chocolate treats, each presented by an expert (usually the chocolate makers themselves). Adjacent to each chocolate table is a drink table staffed with experts to sample and explain their beverages.

“This year more than two dozen different chocolates will be sampled along with more than 20 different beers, wines, mead and spirits.”

Cost is $25 per person, and the tasting will be held in The Pike Pub’s Microbrewery Museum Room. R.S.V.P. to Michael St. Clair at mstclair@pikebrewing.com or (206) 812-6613.

Among the producers in attendance:

Badger Mountain Vineyards and Powers Winery – Seri Sedlacek will pour Badger Mountain Port and Powers Malbec
Carter’s Chocolates – Matt Carter of Port Orchard, WA will present his boutique truffles made with 3 different Pike beers.
Chocolate Box – This neighborhood retailer, located just steps from the Pike Place Market, specializes in Northwest chocolatiers and will showcase Lesley’s French-style artisan chocolates by sampling her “seafoam”, and salted caramels.
Chukar Cherries – Jamen Tyler will bring a dynamite Chukar Cherries – Pike Brewery tasting combo.
Classical Wines – Ole Thompson and Marshall Jorgensen will pour: Bodegas Toro Montilla-Moralles Albalá, Montilla-Moriles (Amontillado Viejisimo – Dry 30 yr. old), Don PX 2004/2005 (unoaked, very rich) and Don PX Gran Reserva 1982 (Great Vintage!) From Bodegas Gutiérrez de la Vega, Alicante: Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2007 (Sweet Muscat) and Casta Diva Recóndita Armonía 2005 (Sweet Monastrell)
Clear Creek Distillery – Lynn Bauer will represent this producer of Eaux de vie, Grappas, and Pot-Distilled Wine Brandy made with the finest fruit from Oregon orchards using traditional European brandy-making techniques; and McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey made in the Islay tradition of Scotch whisky.
Click Wholesale – Local distributor of fine beer, including Pike, and wines; will present Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence from Cooperstown, NY and Ficklin Chocolate Port.
Claudio Corallo – A “single origin” chocolate company with a compelling story of “plantation to bar” chocolate from São Tomé e Príncipe, the smallest and least well known country in Africa. The North American importer is located here in Seattle.
Confectional – boutique bakery in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, offering exquisite, sinfully dense, baked cheesecakes and cheesecake truffles
Fran’s Chocolates – President Obama’s favorite salted chocolate caramels presented by Fran Bigelow
Gelatiamo Gelateria – Maria Coassin and Skyler Locatelli are brainstorming to outdo themselves with another blockbuster Pike and Gelatiamo creation; a tough act to follow on the heels of last years Pike XXXXX Gelato, now permanently on the dessert menu at Pike.
Leonidas Chocolate – from Wallingford’s Bottleworks creamy chocolates from Brussels
Merchant du Vin Corporation – Jhon Gilroy of MdV will present Browerij Lindemans of Belgium and Samuel Smith Organic Fruit Beers
Mount Baker Vineyards – Randy Finley, owner, will pour his favorite wine pairing with chocolate.
Noble Wines – Naomi Smith will pour Scharffenberger Brut and Helix Cabernet
Oh! Chocolate – Stout Truffles made with Pike XXXXX Stout
Pacific Distillery LLC – Marc Bernhard will present his local, Woodinville made Absinthe
Pike Brewing Company – Pike’s menu features local, sustainable foods paired with Pike beers. Desserts include a Chocolate and Ale Pairing with Carter’s Pike infused Kilt Lifter, Tandem, and Stout truffles; and Gelatiamo XXXXX Stout Gelato Floats. A surprise beer or two will be paired with chocolates for Chocofest.
Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods – U.S importer of extraordinary Italian Bru-Co Chocolates.
Sky River Brewing – Denise Ingalls presents Sky River Mead from Sultan, WA
Taste Restaurant – Pastry Chef Lucy Damkoehler’s amazing Pike beer infused cupcakes
Theo Chocolates – In Fremont, America’s first genuine Bean-to-bar Organic chocolate factory making chocolates that compete with the finest of Italy, Belgium and France.
Trevani Truffles – Anne Boyington’s will bring her creative, locally produced Truffles that she sells only at farmer’s markets using many items from local farmers.

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