Soft Tail Spirits Announces Second Location

May 31, 2011

Soft Tail Spirits, which I wrote about for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, has some exciting news: the opening of its second location.

Within the Woodinville Tourist District, Soft Tail is located on the south roundabout, across from the popular Brian Carter Cellars tasting room.

Visitors to Woodinville are invited to come by and sample award-winning spirits, as well as their new creations, while checking out Soft Tail’s Tasting Room and Distillery.

Reportedly, the second location boasts a little more room than the first location, with two decks, tables and chairs, and a fire pit for when it gets chilly.

Both locations will be open normal hours 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, with plans to have later hours in the summer months.

Chilled Strawberry Soup

May 31, 2011

Chilled Strawberry Soup

Varietal: Late-Harvest Riesling

Serves 4 to 6

This interesting dessert-soup recipe comes from my colleague and friend Sharon Kramis, who has been singing the praises of home cooks using local, seasonal produce in their daily meals for many years. Sharon was a student of the late James Beard, and spread his (and her) philosophy through her popular cooking classes and cookbooks such as “Northwest Bounty” (Sasquatch Books, 1999). More recently, she and daughter Julie Kramis-Hearne have co-authored books on cast-iron and Dutch-oven cooking. Sharon is also a long-time consultant with the Anthony’s Homeport restaurants, where she continues to champion the use of the freshest, farm-grown produce and seafood. Serve this “best-of-the-season” strawberry soup with homemade croutons (see the Cook’s Hint, below) when local strawberries are at their sweet peak of perfection.

4 cups fresh strawberries, stems removed and sliced

1 fresh banana, peeled and cut into 4 pieces

1 cup freshly squeezed orange or canned pineapple juice

1 cup light sour cream

1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur or raspberry syrup

2 ice cubes

6 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish

1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the strawberries, banana, orange juice, sour cream, and raspberry liqueur until smooth.

2. Add the ice cubes and swirl briefly to chill the liquid, removing the ice cubes before they melt completely. (Warning: Do not crush the ice!)

3. To serve, divide the soup among small, chilled bowls. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.

Cook’s Hint: Serve the soup with pound cake “croutons.” To make the croutons, cut a pound cake into 1/2-inch cubes until you have about 1 1/2 cups. Preheat the broiler, then toast the cubes, turning once to brown on two sides. Float the croutons on top of the bowls of soup before serving.

Recipe reprinted from the “Pike Place Market Cookbook: Recipes, Anecdotes, and Personalities from Seattle’s Renowned Public Market” (Sasquatch Books, 2003, $18.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

What’s Your “Riesling for Being?”

May 28, 2011

Since its launch in 2007, Pacific Rim has been extolling Riesling’s virtues–versatility, purity of vineyard expression, and the varietal’s ability to inspire all manner of culinary exploration.

Since Monday, May 16, the winery has passed the torch to its 12,000-plus Facebook fans and a nation of passionate Riesling zealots. Pacific Rim fans and all lovers of this most noble of wine varietals have enjoyed the opportunity to lead the Riesling conversation by sharing their personal “Riesling for Being” on the Pacific Rim Facebook page.

Each week until July 24, fans will vote to award $1,000 to the author of the most popular weekly submission. Entries are limited to 20 words or less and will be accepted from Monday through Friday.

Voting will occur on Saturday and Sunday. The contest is open to United States residents aged 21 and older in all states except California. Riesling fans can learn more and enter by visiting Pacific Rim’s Facebook page.

Brand Development Director and Co-Founder, Shawn Barvaresco, explains: “We want to inspire our fans to openly express their love for this glorious grape through personal connections and passionate proverbs. We’ve been singing Riesling’s praises for nearly five years… It’s now time for our fans to voice their love of Riesling. All personal anecdotes, creative puns and jokes are welcome–as long as the submissions are relatively tasteful and pertain to Riesling.”

Pacific Rim has over 12,000 Facebook fans. The brand’s fan base of Riesling loyalists was built through several innovative social-media programs launched in the past few years, including the RIESLING RULES BOOK and SAVE WATER/DRINK RIESLING sustainability program (a conservation awareness program promoting the preservation of wild salmon ecosystems). To date, Pacific Rim has distributed over 40,000 complimentary copies of its RIESLING RULES BOOK, which is also available online.

Pacific Rim makes 10 different Rieslings in 10 different styles (from bone-dry to medium-sweet to dessert sweet… and everything in between). |

Insider Travel Info for Vancouver, BC, and Environs

May 24, 2011

The good folks at Tourism British Columbia sent us word about a cool new travel service–604pulse–for tourists planning a visit to Vancouver:

If a spring journey to Vancouver, Coast, and Mountains proves a burning agenda item, be sure to check out 604pulse.

A one-stop shop for insider information, this new site highlights the best of the region’s offerings–the who, what, where, when, and why–alongside online tips and insights from the locals.

Looking for tasty B.C. menus? Tune in for the tweets.

Eager to seek out that one-of-a-kind find crafted by a local designer? It’s all sewn up, courtesy of some savvy B.C. bloggers.

Indeed, 604pulse provides the skinny on what visitors can see and do in the region.

And, with new info online each and every day, your options are limitless.

After all, these guys have their finger on the pulse.

Dish of the Day: Elliott’s Fab Soup and Salad

May 17, 2011

Nothing beats a cup of Red (Manhattan-Style) Clam Chowder. And one of the richest and most satisfying versions I’ve yet found about town is served up at Elliott’s Oyster House, perfectly perched along the Seattle Waterfront.

The picture-perfect Spinach Salad with Alder-Smoked Salmon that includes crumbled house-smoked salmon,toasted slivered almonds, Jack cheese, chopped egg, button mushrooms, and tomato in a caper vinaigrette.

Whenever I eat this combo, I feel satiated, yet somehow virtuous (spinach, veggies, salmon, and lots of lycophene–good for the heart!–from the soup’s hearty tomato-based broth).

Which more than qualifies Elliott’s Soup and Salad as our Dish of the Day.

An ART-ful New Chef

May 14, 2011

One of our favorite places to eat–whether for Happy Hour goodies such as Salmon Sliders and Shrimp Cocktail or delectable dinner options such as Spice-Rubbed Salmon with Lobster-Poached Mashed Potatoes–is our next-door neighbor just across the courtyard–ART Restaurant & Lounge in the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle.

Jelle Vandenbrouck, new restaurant chef at ART Restaurant & Lounge

On a recent visit to the main dining room, we were thrilled to meet the new restaurant chef, Jelle Vandenbroucke, who will work alongside Kerry Sear, executive chef and director of food & beverage, will continue to oversee Four Seasons Hotel Seattle’s ART Restaurant & Lounge, special events, weddings and in-room dining.

From Michelin one-star restaurants Hertog Jan in Bruges, Belgium, and Mulberry Restaurant in Charlton House, Shepton Mallet, UK, to most recently, the Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche and Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village,Vandenbroucke brings years of experience at Michelin-star rated restaurants and a fresh creative flair to ART where he will continue to cultivate the restaurant’s urban Northwest cuisine.

Early last month, Vandenbroucke introduced a new menu with dishes such as Sunchoke Bisque with a Goat-Cheese Spring Roll and Chive Purée or a Pike XXXXX Stout, Pork Cheeks with Coffee Powder and Three-Way Belgian Endive to start. Entrée dishes include Alaskan Weathervane Scallops with Fava-Bean Cassoulet, Sweet-Pea Foam, and Carrot Purée or Pan-Seared Halibut with Fiddlehead Ferns, Spring Morel Mushrooms, and Asparagus.

Jelle attributes his success to professional mentors and chefs along the way. Having cooked in kitchens in Europe, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jelle prepared his first meal at the age of 12, before entering culinary school and becoming a classically French-trained chef.

“I’m really looking forward to working alongside Kerry and getting to know all the local foragers and producers to put my own stamp on the menu,” said Vandenbroucke. When asked which dish most represents him, Vandenbroucke said, “Fish Cooked en Papillote [in parchment paper]. It is plain-looking from the outside, but when you take the time to open it, it is full of positive surprises.

Cheers to lots of “positive surprises,” and “welcome” to Chef Jelle Vandenbroucke.

Photo courtesy of ART Restaurant & Lounge

May 14: Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival

May 10, 2011

A press release from our friends at Watershed Communications in Portland, including Lota LaMontagne and Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival (PIWFF) founder Lisa Donoughe, shared the following news:

“At this year’s Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival (PIWFF) where the Grand Tasting takes place Saturday, May 14, from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. at The Bison Building (419 NE 10th Ave, Portland), Indie winemaker alumni are taking center stage and pouring their wines, including Oregon’s highly lauded 2008 vintage.

“Returning winemakers will be joined by new wineries (some releasing their first-ever vintages at the festival) that are selected at a blind tasting organized in collaboration with Cole Danehower, author of “Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest,” published by Timber Press.

“Now in its seventh year, PIWFF 2011 will feature an all-star line-up of wineries that participated in the festival from 2005 – 2010, mixed with officially selected new wineries, set alongside Portland’s top chefs in a cool industrial space.

“PIWFF is a once-a-year opportunity to mingle with wineries that have been integral in building the craft winemaking movement in Oregon… and more importantly, to taste and buy their hard-to-find wines direct in one stop. Think of a quality-controlled, winemaker farmers market.

“Since the competition and festival began in 2005, we’ve seen many of our undiscovered wineries earn top scores from major wine media and grow into some of Oregon’s most talked about wine brands,” Donoughe said. “With Oregon’s 2008 vintage being touted as one of the state’s best ever, we thought it would be valuable to invite all alumni back (first-come, first-served!) to show off their best stuff.”

“Past PIWFF chef partners have included local chef luminaries such as James Beard nominated chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana and chef/butcher Adam Sappington of The Country Cat Dinnerhouse & Bar. Just as the winemakers are on site to pour their wines, so too are the chefs to prepare and serve their food.”


The PIWFF Grand Tasting takes place Saturday, May 14, 2011 from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. at The Bison Building (419 NE 10th Ave, Portland).

Tickets are on sale now for $75, and $125 for VIP early entry (1 p.m.). General-admission tickets include a commemorative festival tasting glass, pours from all wineries, and food from top Oregon chefs who share the same craftsmanship and values as the artisan wineries.

A complete list of participating wineries and chefs is now online.

Grilled Cheese, Please!

May 7, 2011

My latest Northwest Edge post for’s Al Dente blog features a review of San Francisco author and friend Laura Werlin’s latest book, “Grilled Cheese, Please!: 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes,” along with her recipe for Hog Island Grilled Cheese sandwiches. Yum!

Cooking a recipe or three from Laura’s book would be a good lead-in to the Seattle Cheese Festival at the Pike Place Market, May 14 and 15.

A Tasty New Tequila for Cinco de Mayo

May 3, 2011

We’re embarrassed to admit it’s been a full two months since we had our first tantalizing taste of a fabulous new tequila that’s just been introduced to Washington State and elsewhere throughout the country–Familia Camarena Tequila–at downtown Seattle’s tony Alexis Hotel.

But more than a tasting, this event was billed as a “Home Mixology Happy Hour,” where my fellow journalists and I got to mix it up, as it were, by making our own cocktail.

Each cocktail showcased one of Familia Camarena’s two grades of Tequila–Silver (unaged) and Reposado (aged two months in new and used American oak), made from 100-percent blue agave.

Both are expertly crafted by the Camarenas, a family that’s been in the tequila business in Mexico since the early 1700s, opened its first distillery in 1938, and bottled its first tequila almost 75 years ago.

Today, the family’s pure, smooth (very!), easy-drinking spirits are stylishly packaged and very reasonably priced at $20 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

Just this week I learned that one of the well-crafted cocktails we mixed that heady evening–Copa de Arandas–won the Chairman’s Trophy as the best original tequila cocktail of 2011 at the nationally recognized Ultimate Cocktail Competition held in New York City.

With Cinco de Mayo fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to share the award-winning recipe with you. It will make the perfect party sipper for the big day. . .something that stretches geographical boundaries and taste buds beyond the more-common Margarita.

Copa de Arandas

2 ounces Camarena Silver Tequila

1/2 ounce Blanc (white) Vermouth

1/2 ounce Sweet Vermouth

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce Italian Amaro

3 ounces ginger ale

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

1. Combine the Tequila, Blanc Vermouth, Sweet Vermouth, lemon juice and Italian Amaro in a highball glass. Mix well.

2. Fill the glass to the brim with ice.

3. Top with ginger ale, and stir gently with a bar spoon. Garnish with mint.

Dish of the Day: Steelhead Diner’s Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

May 1, 2011

On a gorgeous spring Saturday, when we struck out from home hungry and in search of the perfect lunch/brunch, we stopped in at Steelhead Diner for some sustenance before a bunch of errands and chores.

Now I’ve always been a BIG fan of Alex’s Vegetable Chili, served with pico de gallo, melted pepperjack cheese, and cilantro sour cream.

But casting out for something a bit more meaty, this day I opted instead for a cup of the Diner’s Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, a hearty concoction redolent with chipotle and assorted other peppers and teaming with chicken chunks and coins of Hempler’s Smoked Andouille Sausage.

Now I don’t even eat pork, but it was not much of an inconvenience to pick out the piggy parts and enjoy the rest.

An accompanying Golden Beet Salad with Watercress, Toasted Walnuts, Oregonzola & Toasted Black Mustard Seed Vinaigrette completed my meal on a healthy note. The vinaigrette was a joyous surprise of flavors–I never would have guessed its main ingredient if I hadn’t looked back at the menu.

Great work, Chef Anthony (Polizzi)! You’ve just won our Dish(es) of the Day award!