Boeuf Bourguignon

December 31, 2010

Varietal: Syrah

Serves 6

Whipping up a big batch of Boeuf Bourguignon–Burgundy’s traditional beef stew–will keep you warm and cozy during the cold, cruel month of January. The recipe comes from the Bacchus Bistro at Domaine de Chaberton, one of British Columbia’s first estate wineries located south of Vancouver and near the U.S/Canadian Border in the picturesque town of Langley. This beef stew is made special thanks to the preparation of the garniture. The pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon are sautéed separately from the stew so they retain their shapes and robust flavors. In combination with the meltingly tender meat and the well-balanced flavors from the slightly crunchy vegetables and smoky bacon, the stew forms the perfect pairing with the often leathery, peppery, smoked-bacon notes found in Syrah.

2 1/2 pounds beef brisket, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups diced white or yellow onions

1 cup diced carrot

1/2 cup diced celery

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup sodium-reduced beef broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 bouquet garni (See Cook’s Hint, below)

4 cups fresh pearl onions

5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut cross-wise into 1/4-inch slices

8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, quartered

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Season the meat with the 2 teaspoons salt and the 1 teaspoon pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the beef and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and repeat with the remaining beef and another tablespoon of oil, if needed.

2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the Dutch oven, along with the onions, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Return the meat and accumulated juices to the pan. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the meat and vegetables and stir well to avoid lumps. Add the red wine, broth, tomato paste, and bouquet garni. Stir well and bring to a boil.

4. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. While the stew is cooking, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath (see Cook’s Hint, below) in a medium mixing bowl. Add the pearl onions to the boiling water and cook 1 minute. Drain the onions in a colander and immediately plunge them into the ice bath. With a paring knife, trim the root ends and pull off the skin. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and set aside.

6. Just before serving, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Return the skillet to the heat, add the reserved pearl onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to give off their liquid and aroma, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Divide the stew among 6 soup bowls. Garnish with the mushroom-and-onion mixture, bacon, and parsley.

Cook’s Hints: (a) To make a bouquet garni, cut an 8 by 8-inch square of clean cheesecloth and fill with fresh herbs of your choice; the classic combination is thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Pull up the ends of the cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Use the bag to flavor stews or soups, removing and discarding the bouquet garni before serving the dish. (b) Ice baths are called for when blanching vegetables or fruits; the cold water immediately stops the cooking process so that the produce doesn’t become overcooked. To make an ice bath, simply fill a large mixing bowl with ice cubes and add cold water to cover the cubes.

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.

Happy New Year from Northwest Wining & Dining!

December 30, 2010

Braiden and Spencer’s fun, if unconventional, Christmas tree!

With 2011 on the horizon, I’d like to thank all of you for being fans of this Web site, reading my Northwest Notes blog, as well as my articles in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, Wine Press Northwest, and’s Al Dente blog.

Cheers to more intriguing food- and wine-related research, reporting, and writing in the months to come.

Happy and prosperous New Year to us all!

Mark Your Calendars: Pike Place Market Key Dates 2011

December 27, 2010

Just in time for the New Year, here is your Pike Place Market Planner for 2011!

March 18: Daffodil Day

May 14-15: Seattle Cheese Festival

June-September: Farm Days on the Cobblestones–Look for farmers on the street Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays

August 17: 104th Birthday Party

August 19: Sunset Supper

Sept 18: Buskers Festival

Sept 24-25: Pike Place Market Artisan Food Festival

October 4: Feast at the Market

November 26: Magic in the Market Kick-Off

Please note that these dates are subject to change. Visit for more information.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Seven Ways to Puncture a Wine Windbag

December 23, 2010

I loved this press release I received about a column written by Washington State University writer Richard Miller. They invited writers to republish it on their Web sites, so I share it with you below. Happy Holidays/daze!

<<Uncle Patrick gargles his wine. “I taste blackberries and cherry and oak,” he says, “and a lot of tannins.”

The only thing you know about wine is that it comes in different colors. But, with holiday meals approaching, here’s how to puncture wine windbags, thanks to Washington State University Professor Kathleen Williams:

*Precipitate saliva. When Patrick says he tastes tannins, you say: “Tannins don’t have a taste. They create a sensation as they precipitate the proteins out of your saliva.” Tip: Stroke your chin sagely as you pronounce “precipitate.”

*Throw in a German word. Patrick swirls the glass. “Good legs,” he observes. You say, “The French call them tears. The Germans call them Kirchenfenster or church windows, because they form an arch.” Want more? Try this: “Water has more surface tension than alcohol. The evaporating alcohol pulls the water up with it. When the alcohol breaks through, the water runs down.”

*Hit him with Brix. Patrick looks at the label. “Oh my,” he says, “14.9 percent alcohol.” You’re ready for him. “Did you know that wines from hot areas tend to have more alcohol? That’s because the grapes have more sugar. As a rule of thumb, every 2 percent of sugar will produce about 1 percent alcohol. So this wine was originally almost a third sugar. Of course, wine makers don’t call them sugars. They call them Brix.” Tip: Refill his glass. Keep refilling his glass. This becomes important later.

*Diamonds are your best friend. He holds the glass up to the light. Tiny crystals stick to the sides. “It’s going bad,” he says. “Not really,” you say. “Those are potassium tartrate crystals, same thing as cream of tartar. They’re a naturally occurring acid in grapes.” Smile tolerantly, and add, “In Canada, they call them wine diamonds.”

*Herbal harmony. Patrick says, “A red wine would overwhelm the turkey.” You say, “It’s not really about the turkey. It’s about the herbs with the turkey, such as onion, celery, and sage. What works well is to contrast the herbs with a fruity wine, such as a Beaujolais Nouveau or a Gewürztraminer.”

*Make something up. By now, Uncle Patrick should be a bit toasted, so hit him with something ludicrous, but difficult to disprove: “Gewürztraminer has an umlaut,” you say. “The word umlaut is derived from the word omelet and Gewürztraminer pairs well with omelets. As a matter of fact, most umlaut wines go well with egg-based dishes, such as quiche. It’s called a bio-linguistic reaction.”

*Fancy footwork. As he sputters to object, quickly change the subject: “Do you know what the best pairing is? Scientists in England proved that it is milk and chocolate chip cookies. Speaking of dessert, how about some pie?”

WSU’s viticulture and enology program offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and certificates. For more information go to

Winning Washington Wines for the Holidays

December 20, 2010

With the holiday season firmly upon us, many of us are turning our thoughts to what to cook for holiday dinner. Equally important is what to drink, so I’d like to offer up some of my recent favorite wines–wines that are drinking exceptionally well right now (and also are great for holiday gift-giving).

Two wines from Walla Walla-based Cadaretta are high up on my list. The winery’s 2009 SBS (a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend) has bright fruitiness and just enough herbaceousness to make it interesting without veering into cat-pee territory. A great wine for many types of food (even the sous-vide cucumber salad I sipped it with!).

Cadaretta’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is also an extremely well-crafted wine, with dark fruit flavors and restrained use of oak. A wonderful wine with Cheddar- or Gruyère-style cheeses, or with Beecher’s Flagship, which is kind of a Cheddar/Parmesan hybrid.

Cookbooks We Can’t Live Without

December 16, 2010

Last week, a dear friend of mine (we are so close, we call each other, “Sis”) sent an e-mail to me and a handful of other culinary types with the following question that really piqued my interest.

Sis was trying to find the most indispensable cookbook to give to her daughter for Christmas. And she wanted our opinions!

Her daughter had already asked for three good excellent tomes, including “The New York Times Cookbook,” “The Joy of Cooking,” and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

But Sis knew there were others, so turned to us for help. Here’s how the e-mail string went that day:

From Braiden:

What a fun question to begin the day with. Of course, I turn to my own books quite a lot (J) and don’t really use a lot of cookbooks any more.

That being said, earlier on I relied on “The New Basics Cookbook” (Julee Rosso annd Sheila Lukins) quite a bit!

From Friend #2:

I turn to cookbooks more for ethnic cooking such as Indian or Thai food. II use” Joy” as a basic reference, but not as inspiration! I cooked many recipes from “Mastering the Art”…as a teen but don’t cook that way today. Since your daughter is living in California, she might enjoy the new Sunset cookbook. For years, the recipes in Sunset magazine represented California’s evolving approach to food and entertaining and informed culinary trends.

From Friend #3:

Hmmm…. I don’t use a ton of cookbooks anymore either. I just recently was very excited to buy “The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook,” after talking a hiatus from most of them. I have truly enjoyed every recipe I have tried and find the layout, recipes, and food photos to be very appealing and user friendIy. I also love their approach to healthy cooking, complete, of course with the nutrition analysis. It’s my new fave.

Vito’s Dish of the Day

December 13, 2010

We loved our first visit to the new iteration of a long-standing Seattle restaurant, Vito’s, which is located on Pill Hill near the Sorrento Hotel and St. James Cathedral.

The first night we ate there, it was my vegetarian night, something I’ve observed one night a week for many year now, so I enjoyed the Vegetarian Lasagne.

This time my diet was more free, so I ordered the dish that caught my eye the first time–Ahi Tuna Puttanesca. This glorious dish of slices of rosebud-pink tuna with a spicy, caponata-like puttanesca partnered perfectly with lightly olive-oil-bathed angel hair pasta. I’m getting hungry just describing and thinking about it.

It paired nicely with a wine we liked so much on our first visit, we ordered again (something we rarely do)–Tommasi Ripasso, which is reminiscent of a lighter-style Amarone.

More fun finds when I went to the Ladies Room and discovered a miniature statue of Michelangelo’s “David!”

But the best surprise that evening came thanks to our server, Ron, who suggested we visit the Cougar Room (just past the restrooms). We discovered a full-size, stuffed cat behind glass and 13 red-leather armchairs around a rectangular table. Talk about the perfect place for a small dinner party or business meeting!

Tasting Vodka in St. Petersburg

December 9, 2010

Cranberry, Horseradish, and Garlic Vodka, along with typical Russian appetizers, served at a restaurant in St. Petersburg

During our summer vacation cruise of the Baltic region, we took a shore excursion in St. Petersburg billed as “Life Through the Eyes of the Russian People.” It included a tour of the city’s massive subway system, a project undertaken during the Stalin era; a visit to a farmers’ market; a stop for souvenir shopping; and a vodka tasting at a “real” Russian restaurant.

The restaurant had the ambience of a Long John Silver and was filled with Americans from our cruise ship and others in port that day–no locals in sight.

We were served a trio of cranberry-, horseradish-, and garlic-flavored Vodkas, along with typical Russian appetizers.

The appetizers included a chunk of dill pickle skewered on a plastic toothpick along with a tasteless cherry tomato and canapes layered with coleslaw, whitefish, cucumbers, and other bland spreads and veggies.

If this was typical bar fare, I was glad I didn’t live in Russia!

Once back in the tour bus, our guide announced that “real” Russians would never drink flavored Vodka–only the straight stuff. And that most women eschew Vodka for Champagne (my kind of women!). The spread we had sampled was strictly for the tourist buses!

Preferred nibblies with alcoholic beverages  among St. Petersburg natives include brown bread with pickled herring, pickles of various types, and vegetables of the season.

Airplane “Food” Update

December 6, 2010

Much fun has been made of airplane “food,” and deservedly so.  We were especially reminded of this after experiencing what Alaska Airlines served up on our recent flights from Seattle to Orlando and back again.

We went first class because it’s a long flight (six-plus hours); these particular flights (thanks to the Disney World crowd) are always packed with an unusual number of young children traveling with their parents; and, after many, many years of tough business travel all around the world, my 6′ 4″ husband (understandably) won’t fly anything but business or first class any more.

Here’s the breakfast on our outgoing flight. . .sad Hollandaise (?) sauce sitting next to a circle of polenta topped with a round of turkey Canadian bacon. Sitting astride rode a poached egg and two limp pieces of asparagus. I ate the egg, asparagus, and half the cold croissant and called it a morning.

Since I don’t eat red meat anymore, I counted myself lucky that I got the last order of Chicken en Croute. . .until I saw and tasted a poor, terrorized chicken breast trapped in a pasty puddle of puff pastry, then doused with the same tasteless, bright-yellow-colored sauce that I’d been served at breakfast! More limp asparagus sat atop, so I ate that, rescued the chicken from its “puff-pastry” cage and had a few bites of that, then drank a lot of Chardonnay as consolation.

Spencer did a lot better with his beef short ribs in cherry sauce with mashers, carrots, and Brussels sprouts.

At least the fresh-from-the-oven cookies that were served later on for dessert were warm, filling, and strangely comforting when hurtling through the air at 40,000 feet, especially when paired with a glass of California red.

We wondered aloud if the people in the main cabin might have fared better with their granola and beef-jerky snack boxes?

Saturday Free Parking at Pike Place Market

December 2, 2010

Just in time for the holidays, the good people at the Pike Place Market are offering free parking on Saturdays from December 5 until January 1,  10 a.m. until 5 p.m., except Christmas day, when the Market is closed.

Here’s how it works: On those Saturdays, park at the Public Market Parking Garage at 1531 Western Avenue. Look for the entrance next to the tattoo shop. There is also an entrance off Alaskan Way across from the Seattle Aquarium. Purchase a minimum of $35 in merchandise from any Pike Place Market merchants, farmers, or craftspeople, and ask for receipts. Bring your receipts and garage-entrance ticket to the Information Booth at First and Pike for validation and a pass for the garage. The pass is good for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Saturday only, one per customer.

“We’re happy that we are able to offer this gift to local shoppers of the Pike Place Market for their holiday shopping,” said James Haydu, Director of Communications & Programs at the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), which manages most of the historic public market’s nine acres.