Black Forest Pork Tenderloin

October 31, 2010

Black Forest Pork Tenderloin

Varietal: Merlot

Serves 6 to 8

Camaraderie Cellars, located on the Olympic Peninsula in Port Angeles, Washington, bills itself as “a craft winery producing fine varietal wines.” Winemaker Don Corson produces award-winning wines from grapes produced at Eastern Washington’s top vineyards, wines created to be full-flavored, yet food-friendly. Son Steve, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley, devised the simple recipe below. The cherry flavors of the sauce are mirrored in the berry flavors of an easy-to-drink wine, such as Camaraderie Merlot. The Corsons and other winemakers and restaurateurs from Washington’s Olympic Coast were profiled in a Taste column I wrote for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine entitled, In the Loop, a fun read and inspiration to visit this very special part of the world (“Twilight” territory!).

2 tablespoons olive oil

Two 1-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of fat and silver skin

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups dry red wine, preferably good-quality Merlot

1 cup cherry preserves

1 tablespoon water (optional)

2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional)

1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Lightly sprinkle the pork on all sides with the salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the pork and cook, turning with tongs, until browned on all sides, a total of 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat and continue cooking the meat, turning occasionally, until still slightly pink at the center when cut with a paring knife, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.

3. Add the wine and preserves to the pan, scraping up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or heat-proof rubber spatula. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces slightly, 7 to 10 minutes. For a thicker sauce, mix the water and cornstarch and add to the pan, then stir well and simmer for 1 minute, or until thick and shiny.

4. To serve, slice the tenderloin and spoon the cherry-wine sauce over the meat.

Cook’s Hint: For fun and variety, try sprinkling the sliced, sauced pork with fresh chopped herbs such as sage, thyme or parsley.

Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

Pescatores Dish of the Day

October 28, 2010

After the perfect voyage from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia, during which we were surrounded by two super pods of Orca whales who danced around our boat for several magical minutes, we had worked up quite an appetite.

So, after checking into our hotel, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, we made a beeline for Pescatores Seafood & Grill, located in the Inner Harbour right across from the venerable Fairmont Empress hotel.

We’d eaten there on our last trip to Victoria and had fond memories of the place with its 20-foot ceilings, dark wood paneling, attractive bar, and five-blade, eight-foot-in-diameter chain-and-pulley ceiling fans turning lazily.

This visit, all three dishes we tried were good, from Pescatores Manhattan Clam Chowder (full of toothsome chunks of clam) to Pescatores Famous Seafood Salad (the salad and seafood–marinated scallops, mussels, clams, prawns, shrimp, and Dungeness crab–corralled by a long strip of cucumber so it looked like a frilly hat) to the Fish + Chips.

But it was the Fish + Chips that really shone, the freshest of fresh halibut cooked in the lightest of light tempura-style batter made with one of the three beers on draft–Sea Dog Amber Ale. The thin-sliced French fries were fluffy and not at all greasy; the tartar sauce delicious and whimsically served in a huge Pacific oyster shell, which we’d not seen done anywhere else before.

A couple of glasses of Mission Hill Family Estate 2008 Chardonnay from the Okanagan Valley, and we were well-stoked for some afternoon sightseeing and shopping in the cool autumn air.

The Bengal Lounge Curry Lunch Buffet

October 25, 2010

Whenever we are in Victoria, British Columbia, we make it a point to visit the venerable Bengal Lounge in the even more venerable Fairmont Empress hotel. The Empress is a fixture on Victoria’s Inner Harbour. It seems every tourist in town wants to take tea there (and you should definitely have that rarified experience at least once in your life).

But for those who have been there, done that before, nothing beats a drink or a meal in the Bengal Lounge. A couple of Sundays ago, with a roiling tummy and fuzzy head after a hard night of wine drinking, we rolled out of bed in a leisurely manner and walked (gently) to the Empress for the Bengal Lounge’s famous Curry Lunch Buffet (an all-you-can eat deal for $30; it’s also offered at dinner time for two dollars more).

Here’s the groaning board on the day we visited, replete with seafood chowder, fresh greens with buttermilk dressing or balsamic vinaigrette, naan bread, and peppery papadams as starters, not to mention mango chutney, hot-hot tomato salsa, and thick cucumber raita as accoutrements.

Main courses included Butter Chicken (warm and super-rich, and a signature dish at the Bengal Lounge), lamb curry, tandoori chicken, vegetarian curry, spinach bhajias, and basmati rice. A veritable feast, and good with the chutney and salsa.

There were even bowls of peanuts, coconut, and raisins to embellish the curries to taste!

Dessert was special–Cardamom Crème Brûlée. A tummy full of food, lots of water and iced tea to hydrate, and a little hair of the dog–a cool, crisp glass of Tantalus Riesling from the Okanagan Valley–and I was set for several more hours of sightseeing before the Victoria Clipper whisked us back to Seattle.

A Lovely Weekend in Victoria, BC

October 21, 2010

This weekend we made the journey from Seattle to Victoria, a charming English-styled city on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, for a spot of research for an upcoming column for Wine Press Northwest.

Taking the Victoria Clipper, a visually beautiful and relaxing 2 3/4-hour ride, is always a good way to begin mentally moving from city to island time.

And although we were a bit apprehensive when the boat slowed considerably as we crossed from Washington state into Canadian waters, we were thrilled to discover the reason why: we were surrounded by Orca whales!!!

The captain said he spotted two “super pods.” They danced around the boat–left, right, and straight ahead. It was funny to hear the oohs and aahs and watch the tourists move from side to side of the boat as they spotted the huge breeching mammals (and one baby).

But it also seemed like a fortuitous sign of the trip to come.

Of course, The Fairmont Empress hotel is the fixture that many associate with Victoria. . .the place many choose to stay and also the place where you have to “take tea” at least once in your life.

We actually prefer to have a curry buffet, or at least a drink, in the venerable Bengal Lounge since it isn’t nearly as touristy and the food is reliably good.

The Empress is located on Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the town’s bustling center of activity rife with hotels, restaurants, seaplane docks, shops, government buildings, museums, and all manner of sightseeing attractions.

But our purpose was to explore Vancouver’s environs, and we enjoyed a full day of wine touring in the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island’s famous farm belt.

“Fresh From the Island” signs were everywhere that local products were farmed or produced, including Cherry Point Estate Wines, one of the first producers of blackberry wine on the island.

Cherry Point was one of the pioneer wineries in the Cowichan; here are some of the gorgeous grapes farmed on the winery’s 24 acres.

Saison\'s fresh produce

And here is a sign highlighting the fresh produce and mushrooms available at Saison Market Vineyard.

This wonderful new bakery/market/vineyard is located just north of Averill Creek Vineyard, one of the island’s draw-card wineries.

In season this time of year?

Chard and chanterelles

Chard and chanterelles. . .

Succulent squash

Succulent squash. . .

And sheaves of wheat and lavender.

Here’s a lovely Farm-Friendly Salad made of totally island-grown produce we enjoyed over dinner at Camille’s Fine West Coast Dining.

Even Canadian dogs are smart. Here’s a handsome doggie we spotted “driving” a car just outside our hotel, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, in downtown Victoria.

Blueacre Seafood’s New Look and Signature Dish

October 18, 2010

We stopped into chef/owner Kevin Davis’s fabulous new Blueacre Seafood last Thursday evening after I had a long but productive meeting at The Seattle Times to discuss story ideas for 2011, and since we were leaving at dawn the next day for Victoria, BC, the larder was bare, and I was too lazy to cook at home.

We’d run into Kevin on the street the weekend before and he said we had to come in to see the new transparent blue glass that he’d recently installed in front of the kitchen to keep down noise and smells that were bothering diners sitting at the tables on the other side.

He said the new glass created a sort of aquarium effect. When we saw it with our own eyes, we couldn’t agree more. It’s a neat decor element that casts a warm glow over the booths below it, plus it matches the panels that rim the lower portion of the outside walls, so seems like it has been there from the get-go.

We had a truly wonderful dining experience that evening including a helpful and knowledgeable server; an excellent bottle of wine that paired well with all our dishes (the well-aged Sonoma Cutrer 2004 The Cutrer–more French-styled and Meursault-like than your typical California oak bomb); memorable salads (including the Windsor Court, named after the New Orleans Hotel of the same name); and three remarkable dishes (Idaho Trout, Alaskan Spot Prawns, and Hot-Smoked Salmon Cheesecake).

The cheesecake is destined to become one of Blueacre’s signature dishes, designed to rival Steelhead Diner’s divine and decadent Caviar Pie. Dense and richer than Bill Gates, it is even served with the same accoutrements: egg, capers, and red onion, plus one new and wonderful addition–chive sour cream.

Ian, our server, suggested we try the Salt-Baked Alaskan Spot Prawns, a steal of a deal on the appetizer menu at just $12.95. It was so generous in size and my Organic Baby Lettuce Salad with pears, a yummy lavender-infused goat cheese, candied walnuts, and lemon vinaigrette was so satisfying and filling, I chose it as my main course. Five perfectly fresh spots were first baked in their shells over a bed of salt, then stir-fried with a sweet-salty sauce made up of soy sauce, shallot, ginger, and black pepper. Asian-fusion perfection!

Idaho Stream-Raised Rainbow Trout “Grenobloise” (Spencer’s entrée) was another generous portion, served with a piccata sauce, herb salad, and pine-nut gremolata. Spencer ate every bite and was still raving about the dish days later.

We were thrilled to see Terresa Davis (Kevin’s wife) back in the house after having given birth to twin boys just six months ago. Seems like all the Davises’ recent “births” (boys and resto) are bright and bouncing!

Rediscovering Vito’s

October 14, 2010

Many moons ago, a restaurant on First Hill in Seattle called Vito’s was known as a hang-out for people of dubious character who liked their martinis strong, their Italian food authentically prepared, and the lights turned down low.

Menu-wise, the original Vito’s was perhaps best known for its Cannelloni Bolognese. Thin sheets of pasta were stuffed with veal, beef, and vegetables, gently rolled, then baked in a rosa sauce with provolone cheese.

Management changed, and, according to our server, Vito’s became a hip-hop bar. It closed a few years ago, much the worse for all the wear and tear throughout the years.

Glad to report it reopened a few weeks ago and has successfully recaptured the coveted Rat-Pack vibe. The menu offerings and food have definitely been thoughtfully reworked, revamped, and revived thanks to Michael Bruno, former long-time chef at Tango.

Lasagne Vegetale (Vegetarian Lasagne) at VIto’s

“When I walked in here, I just felt like I knew it,” Michael told us during a recent Saturday-night dinner, undoubtedly referring to the space’s East Coast vibe. Smoky glass mirrors, real burgundy-leather-colored banquettes, sparkling lights over the dimly lit bar, and even a disco ball hanging over the grand piano make you think you’ve been swept back in time (in a good way).

I knew exactly what he meant, having grown up in suburban Philadelphia with its large Italian population settled in south Philly, not to mention Italian immigrants with businesses throughout the region. I’ll never forget Giuliani’s, a family-run Italian restaurant in Narberth, Pa. Mama Giuliana pumped out her own lasagne, pizza dough, and spaghetti and meatballs for years. My mother craved Italian food throughout her pregnancy with me and partook at Giuliani’s more than she rationally should have; both my parents only half jokingly used to say they were surprised I wasn’t born with spaghetti sauce flowing through my veins.

Spencer and I found out over credible Minestrone Soup (I would have liked more white beans and Parmesan, a lighter broth, and fewer chunky potatoes) and delectable Vegetarian Lasagne (fresh spinach pasta layered with zucchini, ricotta, béchamel, and marinara) that Michael hails from suburban Philadelphia, too! I went to Harriton High; he graduated from Norristown. Undoubtedly, our two schools competed in athletic competitions. Coincidentally, when Spencer and I got married almost 29 years ago, we got our marriage license in Norristown, the county seat.

Spencer enjoyed his Lasagne Bolognese–fresh pasta layered with ground beef, pork, ricotta, béchamel, and marinara; the wine list is thoughtful and reasonably priced; and the demographic runs from young to old. We both predicted the new Vito’s will do really well.

And we can’t wait to return to try specials of the day such as Ahi Tuna with Puttanesca Sauce, along with menu standards such as Scampi Nero d’Angelo (black tiger prawns over a spicy red sauce on black angel hair pasta) and Steak Piazzola (a 12-ounce rib-eye steak with a spicy red sauce, red wine, and fresh oregano, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables).

And good news–the Cannelloni Bolognese remains a stalwart on the new Vito’s menu.

Bambuza’s Most Soothing Soup

October 11, 2010

A few weeks ago, right before Labor Day, I came down with what, in retrospect, I believe was an early case of the flu.

You know how having a touch of something–whether a cold, flu, grippe, or whatever you want to call it–makes you feel. Sore, draggy, headache-y, generally crappy.

And when I feel that achy-breaky feeling, the first thing I want and crave is hot soup.

The Vietnamese have a wonderful way with all things warm and broth-y. So that particular Saturday, Spencer and I headed uptown to the long-running Seattle restaurant, Bambuza Vietnamese Bistro.

This place really rocks on the weekdays, drawing nearby office workers who need their Asian dining fix. Weekends things are much more quiet; there is never a wait for a table and you get lots of attention from the cute young male server.

Vegetarian Pho courtesy of Bambuza Vietnamese Bistro

Here’s the dish that saved my soul that achy Saturday afternoon–Vegetarian Pho–and a half-eaten Chicken Salad Roll with Peanut Dipping Sauce along with a pot of steaming jasmine tea.

And here is the dish that Spencer always orders–Catfish Claypot–redolent with garlic, chiles, and just the right touch of sweetness. With an order of healthful brown rice, we were both good to go.

Barolo’s Telling Detail

October 7, 2010

In journalism, there’s something called the telling detail. It’s what professional journalists do when they observe the person they’re interviewing and writing about, or the place where a crime or fire has taken place, or a restaurant they are reviewing.

So if the person you are interviewing has a photo of President Obama in a frame on her desk, that might be a telling detail about the power and importance of the interviewee. Or if a 20-something sports an antique ring, that might be her telling detail. Or if a middle-aged man’s hair is dyed purple, that might be a clue as to their personality.

When we eat out, I like to look at the telling detail(s) throughout the restaurant. Here’s on I spotted at Barolo Ristorante in downtown Seattle. The candle drips are as lavish as the restaurant’s decor, replete with gauzy white veils, good-looking servers, and dim (flattering!) lighting.

I’ve been told that the servers cut the wax every day so it looks good. . .which, in itself, makes for quite an interesting telling detail.

Snoqualmie Wine Offered in Top Copenhagen Resto

October 4, 2010

We found a little bit of home at Restaurant Koefoed–a top restaurant in Copenhagen recommended by the concierge at our hotel–when we looked at the wine list and discovered Snoqualmie 2008 Chardonnay offered as one of the by-the-glass pours!

The restaurant specializes in contemporary Danish cuisine, with particular focus on seasonal ingredients sourced from the island Bornholm. The restaurant’s Web site says, “Bornholm is an island with a unique richness of nature. Its salty soil and sunny fields give a special foundation for growing corn and vegetables that actually taste of something! Both the spelt, figs, and mulberries grow and ripen under excellent terms on the island.

The Web site goes on to say, “We prefer simplicity over clutter and clarity over confusion. That is why our menu is simple and with few dishes, which are prepared thoroughly down to the last flavor.”

Maybe so, but we found the portions to be small while the price per person was extremely high. Nevertheless, Scandinavian cuisine is hot, touted as “Europe’s next big cuisine” in a recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News.

Just for fun, here’s Restaurant Koefoed’s summer menu:


‘Sol over Gudhjem’ – A la Koefoed | 95,-

Marinated veal, buckthorn, malt bread, & beetroot | 105,-

Lobster, cucumber, herbs & malt | 155,-


Rooster from Bornholm, potato foam, chanterelles & herbs | 195,-

Baked Baltic Sea Cod with foie gras from Bornholm, pumpkin & spinach | 235,-

Beef tenderloin, baby greens, new potatoes, & sauce | 265,-


Sorbet, buckthorn, blueberry, yoghurt, & raspberry | 85,-

Chocolate, fume, blackberry, & mousse | 95,-

Cheese with crispy & sweet | 115,-