Recipe of the Month: Mussels in Pinot Noir Butter

October 31, 2013

Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir

Mussels in Pinot Noir Butter

Wine Varietal: Oregon Pinot Noir

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Although many people believe that red wines and seafood don’t mix, this recipe proves them wrong with delicious results. Cornichons are tiny crisp, tart French pickles. They are available in specialty stores and better supermarkets.

3/4 cup Oregon or other good-quality Pinot Noir

2 dozen large mussels (about 1 1/2 pounds), scrubbed and debearded just before cooking

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

6 tiny cornichons, cut lengthwise into quarters

1. Bring 1/2 cup of the Pinot Noir to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan or Dutch oven. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the mussels, cover, and steam until the mussels open, about 5 to 7 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to redistribute the mussels. With a slotted spoon, remove the mussels that have opened and continue cooking the remaining mussels 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the open mussels and discard the rest. Reserve the mussels and cooking juices in separate containers for later use.

2. While the mussels cool, place the remaining 1/4 cup Pinot Noir, the shallots, and lemon juice in a nonreactive medium skillet and reduce over low heat, about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the liquid is almost gone. Stir in the reserved mussel cooking liquid and reduce over medium heat until the liquid thickens slightly and is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. In the final stages, the liquid thickens rapidly, so watch it carefully and do not allow it to burn.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 or 2 small pieces of butter. Add the remaining butter one piece at a time. Whisk steadily until blended. The butter sauce should have the consistency of homemade mayonnaise, neither too solid nor too liquid. (The warm skillet should retain sufficient heat to do this smoothly; if the temperature drops too much, return the skillet to low heat. If the butter separates or curdles, whisk rapidly to emulsify.)

4. Remove the mussels from their shells and discard the upper shells. Place a cornichon quarter in the lower shells, place a mussel on each cornichon, and cover with sauce.

5. To serve, divide the mussels among individual plates or place on a large serving platter and serve immediately.

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.

Dames Auction Offers Up Dessert “Dash,” Signature Cocktails, Amazing Cuisine, and More!

October 28, 2013

Les Dames, Seattle Chapter 2010 Italian Ceramics Fundraiser

Readers of my Northwest Notes blog and the Northwest Wining and Dining website love great food, wine, cocktails, and travel–in short–the storied “good life!”

And one sure way to enjoy an evening of the “good life” is to attend the upcoming Les Dames d’Escoffier, Seattle Chapter’s  biennial fundraiser entitled, “There is Nothing Like a Dame.”

I’ve been a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Seattle Chapter (LDES) since 2004, serving in many positions including President, Vice President, Secretary, and International Liaison, my current role.

Our chapter’s 70 members include such food- and wine-industry luminaries as Renee Erickson (Boat Street Café, The Whale Wins, The Oyster and the Carpenter, Barnacle, the Narwhal oyster truck, and Boat Street Pickles), Fran Bigelow (Fran’s Chocolates), and Kay Simon (Chinook Wines).

In 2012, I stepped onto the International Board, serving as Chapter Board Liaison. Later on this month, I will become the organization’s Second Vice President!

So you can bet that LDES’s auction/fundraiser is an event for a cause VERY near and dear to my heart.

This year, the popular, 200-seat auction will take place on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, at the Women’s University Club (Sixth Avenue and Spring Street) in downtown Seattle. Doors open at 5:00 for the silent auction; dinner starts at 7 p.m.

“There is Nothing Like a Dame” will feature our chapter’s signature Dessert Dash, when guests bid on their favorite desserts created by LDES members, and then race to claim them. This year’s 20 offerings include Flower-Power Cake (Dame Sue McCown), Dark-Chocolate “Royal” Ruffle Cake (Dame Lisa Dupar), and New York Bye and Bye Cheesecake (Dame Rose Ann Finkel).

Dame Kathy Casey of Kathy Casey Food Studios—Liquid Kitchen fame will once again serve as Master of Ceremonies. And, for the fifth time in a row, Kathy has designed a special cocktail in keeping with the theme of the event—South Seas Sparkling Punch.

The menu also tempts, with Sushi Rolls provided by Dame Thoa Nguyen of Chinoise Café; Salumi Artisan-Cured Meats courtesy of Dame Gina Batali; Salade Verte with Mustard & Hazelnut Vinaigrette provided by Dame Joanne Herron of Le Pichet and Café Presse; and Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks with Celeriac Crema & Pomegranate from Dame Holly Smith of Café Juanita. Dames Leslie Mackie, founder/co-owner of Macrina Bakery & Café, and Kristi Drake, co-owner of Le Panier Boulangerie Francaise, will supply the evening’s artisan rustic breads.

Auction items include an overnight stay at the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Seattle and dinner for two at ART Restaurant & Lounge; dinner and wine for six people at ARAGONA restaurant, the latest creation by über Seattle chef Jason Stratton; and Willis Hall wine tasting in your home for 10 lucky people!

John bell willis hall photo northwest wining and dining website link

Speaking of Willis Hall and its super-talented founder/owner/winemaker John Bell (above), Spencer and I purchased a similar auction package at an American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF) event and enjoyed a tasting with John and two other couples last month during my birthday weekend.

John bell willis hall winemaker group photo northwest wining and dining website

The photo above shows John “holding court,” as he likes to call it, explaining his philosophy of making “Old-World wines with New-World grapes.”

John bell willis hall wines photo

John makes all sorts of wine (including dessert wines such as Razzmatazz, a luscious, not-too-sweet raspberry wine that pairs perfectly with dark chocolate) but he specializes in Merlot (his favorite grape and what he feels is Washington State’s best varietal).

Among our favorites that day (an entire mixed case of which made its way home with us!)? John’s 2002 Syrah, Willis Hall 2005 Merlot, and Willis Hall 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The chance to buy unique auction lots such as tastings with winemakers; dinners prepared by LDES members; and travel opportunities, such as a romantic San Juan-Island getaway for two people on a private yacht, with lodging and dinner in Friday Harbor, make the LDES biennial auction a not-to-be-missed experience!

Monies raised through the Dessert Dash, Silent and Live Auctions, Raise-the-Baguette direct-donation of funds, and the Cork Pull will be used to fund scholarship endowments for women, Green Tables grants, community-outreach programs, and sustainable-agriculture projects. All of LDES’s efforts are based in Washington State. To date, the organization has raised $482,000 toward these efforts.

Tickets, which cost $125 per person, are available on the LDES website.


Electronic Tongue Evaluates Washington Wines

October 21, 2013

Charles daiko electric tongue wine evaluation washington state university northwest wining and dining website link

Washington State University Ph.D. student Charles Daiko uses the e-tongue to evaluate red wine.

One of the worries that every wine “expert” harbors, whether he or she admits it or not, is how “good” their nose, a.k.a., their perception of wine aromas and flavors, really is.

Now, according to a press release from Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology Department, there is  an “electronic tongue” that is hard-wired to taste wines in a way that human tongues cannot.

According to Carolyn Ross, associate professor of food science and viticulture and enology, unlike human taste buds, this so-called “e-tongue” never tires or takes a day off, even after hours of around-the-clock sampling. Ross runs the sensory evaluation lab on the Pullman campus.

Ross is evaluating wines produced in the state of Washington, which is the second largest producer of premium wines in the United States. Working with Ross is her Ph.D. student, Charles Diako, originally from Ghana, who is a super-taster himself.

Diako appears to have met his match, though, working with the e-tongue to evaluate Washington wines.

While humans can detect flavor attributes, the e-tongue identifies taste compounds at the molecular level, said Ross. “The e-tongue gives an objective measurement of taste profiles and we try to correlate that to what happens in human sensory evaluation,” said Diako.

Automatic Wine Taster

The e-tongue works by dipping its “tongue” into a beaker filled with wine on a rotating platform called an autosampler. Then it reads a profile of sensory attributes ranging from metallic and savory to sweet and bitter. After the tongue recoils from the sample, the platform turns to present it with the next beaker of wine.

While human taste buds can get saturated and lose their keen ability to accurately distinguish taste features, the e-tongue never gets fatigued. But that doesn’t mean human taste testers and sommeliers will find themselves out of work. Many companies and institutions, including WSU, use tasters–some volunteer, some professional and paid—to sample products and provide feedback that fine-tunes the development process.

“Human evaluation is more sensitive and integrates a huge amount of information and perceptions in response,” said Ross. “This new technology won’t replace human evaluation.”

For example, the e-tongue might be able to give some information about the mouthfeel of a wine, but it isn’t designed to do this, said Ross. A wine’s mouthfeel provides sensations of physical and chemical interactions among the human palate, often described in terms like tannic, aggressive or “chewy.”

And while the e-tongue interprets data by using biosensors and statistics, Diako uses his taste buds and brain. “The human tongue is the primary taste organ of the body,” said Diako. “Being a living tissue and being integrated with the most sophisticated computer the world has ever known–the brain–its perception of taste is absolutely matchless.”

Flesh-and-Blood Wine Taster

Just as fortuitous as pairing a good wine with the right cheese, the new e-tongue has been paired with the right scientist. Diako joined Ross’s lab a year ago, shortly after WSU purchased the e-tongue for its expanding role in Washington’s wine research. While there’s no way to know if the e-tongue enjoys its work, it’s clear that Diako loves what he does in the lab. Always smiling and often laughing, Diako knew little about wine or e-tongue technology when he came to WSU, he said.

“I didn’t even know there was a difference between Washington the state and Washington, D.C.,” he said, throwing his head back in laughter.

But he does know sensory science and, now, what makes a good wine. Diako’s research history includes work on aromatic rice, an important staple food in his native African country. Diako plans on applying his expanded sensory skills to the research and higher education needs of his country upon returning home.

“I love research. I love teaching,” he added.

Diako is often sought out by lab members for his ingrained expertise at detecting precise tastes. Advanced taste sensitivity is often genetic and he was born with finely-tuned taste buds, he said.

“You need that to be able to work in this field.”

Raising a Glass

The sensory lab is evaluating 60 red wines from Washington state, including a planned follow-up-study on the same number of Washington-produced white wines.

“The use of the e-tongue for assessment of this many red wine samples hasn’t been undertaken before,” said Ross.

The information gathered from the evaluations is important to the Washington grape growers and winemakers to guide fruit and wine flavor development, said Diako. After all, a great bottle of wine begins in the vineyard. Will the e-tongue know if that bottle does contain, in fact, a good wine?

Absolutely, by providing it with a gold standard, said Diako, adding with a smile, “But it doesn’t know the price.”

Photo credit: Chelsea Pickett/WSU

October Events at the Pike Place Market

October 14, 2013

Arcade lights pike place market logo northwest wining and dining website

Friday, October 18, marks one of the Pike Place Market’s most fun events of fall–Arcade Lights.

Seven p.m. to 10 p.m. that evening is the time to join your fellow foodies, locavores, beer lovers, and wine enthusiasts in the Market’s historic Arcade to taste handcrafted savory and sweet bites, handcrafted beer, local wine, and nonalcoholic drinks by more than 60 local artisan food and drink purveyors. Adults (over 21 years of age) only, please!

This after-hours event, which benefits all the good works of the Pike Place Market Foundation, provides the perfect setting in which to taste the latest creations of Seattle’s famously innovative food and drink purveyors.

The Pike Place Market Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the following human service agencies at the Pike Place Market: Pike Market Child Care and Preschool, Pike Market Medical Clinic, Pike Market Senior Center and Downtown Food Bank

More than 60 local food and drink artisans will be showcased at Arcade Lights, including Drummin’ Up Wontons, Mt. Townsend Creamery, Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt, Sweet Iron Waffles, Whidbey Island Ice Cream Company, Finnriver Farm and Cidery, Naked City Brewery, Naches Heights Winery, Patterson Cellars, and more.

Pair your favorite must-have tastes with a glass of seasonal ale, Washington wine, or bubbly fruit soda in what has become known as the ultimate tasting event of the season!

Advance tickets, which cost $28, allow advance ticket holders to enter the event at 6:30 p.m. Day-of tickets are limited, and cost $35.

Ticket price includes 10 tokens, a tasting glass, and a cloth napkin. Additional tokens can be purchased at the event entrances.

Market pumpkins northwest wining and dining website

A more family-friendly event takes place on Saturday, October 26, when the Market offers up a Halloween celebration presented by the community’s very own Orange Dracula.

Kids and parents can snap photos with friendly witches, explore a spooky kiddie haunted house, and find the perfect carving pumpkin.

Pets in costume can join in the fun too! Trick or treat through the crafts market and participating Market businesses.

The fun begins under the Public Market clock and continues to Orange Dracula, which has Halloween decorations, costume,s and a Dracula pinball machine. Orange Dracula is located on the third lower level of the Market.

So, all in all, October is shaping up to be a VERY fun time in Seattle’s venerable Pike Place Market.

Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival October 11-13

October 7, 2013

Dungeness Crab Festival

It’s that time of year again. . .time for the 12th Annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival, which takes place from Friday to Sunday, October 11 to 13, 2013, in Port Angeles, Washington.

“Crabfest is the annual celebration of our region’s diverse bounty, the seafood, agriculture and maritime traditions, and the breathtaking coastal environment that is home to the Dungeness crab,” says festival producing director Scott Nagel. “The event will once again take place downtown at the Port Angeles City Pier, Gateway Center, and Red Lion Hotel overlooking the beautiful Strait of Juan de Fuca and Victoria, British Columbia.”

A nationally renowned event, the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival was named one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association in 2011. Coastal Living Magazine designated it one of the Top 10 Coastal Events in 2012. The festival will also be featured in an upcoming issue of national food magazine, Saveur.

This year festival organizers are honored to host the return visit of our friend and colleague Graham Kerr, whom we’ve written about in The Seattle Times. Graham was the first television chef, known as the “Galloping Gourmet,” working with his wife and producer, Treena.

Graham will prepare his favorite crab cakes, talk about his world view of food, and have books on hand for sale and signing. Additionally, he will serve as the celebrity judge of the festival’s first-annual chowder-making competition, the Captain Joseph House Chowder Cook-off, to be held Sunday afternoon. The public will not only have several opportunities to connect with Graham, but will participate in the tasting and rating of the amateur and professional chowder cooks.

Festival hours are Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is FREE and the big-top tent provides covered seating.

There are several ways to get to Port Angeles: Drive route 101 to Port Angeles; fly Kenmore Air Express with connections to SeaTac and the world; and visitors from Canada will find special packages on the Coho Ferry from Victoria, which docks right next to the Festival!

For more information including transportation, accommodations, directions and the detailed program, please go to the Festival website.

Other Festival Highlights:

In the 9,000-square-foot Kitsap Bank Crab Central food tent, visitors will find an old-fashioned “crab feed,” complete with large kettles of fresh whole crabs ready to be enjoyed with fresh corn and cole slaw. The crabs are caught live locally – the freshest you can get!

At Crab Central and throughout the grounds, 15 local and regional restaurants will provide visitors with many delicious seafood dishes including crab cakes, grilled wild salmon, fish tacos, crab enchiladas, crab Rangoon, clam chowder, crab bisque, seafood gumbo, Northwest paella, fish ‘n’ chips, barbecued oysters, steamed clams, oyster stew, mussels, grilled scallops, and more. New this year is the Taylor Shellfish Farms Raw Oyster Bar!

In addition, there will be live music, Olympic-Peninsula wines for tasting, Northwest microbrews, and the Peninsula’s own Bedford Sodas.

But that’s not all! More than 80 booths will be featured on the city pier including juried crafts, merchants, nonprofit environmental organizations, and festival sponsors.

And The Columbia Bank Gateway Center will be home to the Chef Demonstration Stage, featuring ongoing cooking demonstrations by Graham Kerr and outstanding local and regional chefs, as well as a wine garden, food, and exhibits.

The Crab Revival will take place on Sunday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The program includes a non-denominational service directed by Michael Rivers, gospel music from the Peninsula Men’s Gospel Singers, and other local musicians.

On Sunday afternoon all are invited to Crabfest’s first annual chowder cook-off sponsored by the Captain Joseph House Foundation, which provides respite and healing for families of our fallen warriors. All proceeds will go the House. Visitors can taste chowders from both amateur and professional cooks, and then vote for their favorite! The more tickets visitors buy, the more chowder they get and the more votes they can enter.

“Get crabbing” during the First Federal and Wilder Auto Grab-A-Crab Tank Derby, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Located on the city pier, the entire family can participate in this unorthodox derby by crabbing from large holding tanks using crab snares and bait. The $5 entry fee allows participants to crab for 10 minutes, no license or gear needed. Festival volunteers will be on hand to demonstrate how to catch, cook and clean the famous crustaceans. Purchase whole crabs to take home cooked or uncooked.

Stop by the Feiro Marina Life Center for a hands-on educational experience or to enjoy children’s activities.

The Peninsula College Athletic Department is a great Crabfest partner. Saturday and Sunday on Hollywood Beach is the Crabfest Sand Volleyball Tournament; Saturday is the Crabfest 5-K Fun Run/Walk with proceeds supporting the women’s basketball program. When visitors get their Crab Derby crabs cleaned and packed to go, the men’s basketball team does the work. And every night the soccer team cleans Crab Central.

Fresh cooked, chilled and cleaned crab will be available to take home throughout the festival (cooked crab can be taken to Canada).

San Juan Islands Great Island Grown Festival October 1-13

October 1, 2013

Crow Valley Farm Orcas Island

Bountiful farms, stunning pastoral landscapes and superb local food…that’s the San Juan Islands way of life!

The Great Island Grown San Juan Island Festival

Beginning today, and lasting until Sunday, October 13, farmers, restaurants, the Island community, and visitors will come together to celebrate this unique and coveted destination at The Great Island Grown Festival.

The Great Island Grown Festival features two weeks of events and workshops, from distillery tastings and plein-air farm painting to shellfish tours and sheepdog demonstrations to farm parades, bike tours of farms, and vineyard harvests. And, of course, farmers’ markets, harvest festival, and farm-to-table meals.

Island Grown in the San Juans is a membership organization of San Juan County farmers, restaurants, and supporters. The organization celebrates the bounty of the Islands’ rich agricultural heritage, and inspires Islanders, visitors, and businesses about the many benefits of buying locally grown and harvested products from land and sea.

The complete festival calendar and more details including dates and locations are available on the Island Grown in the San Juans website.

And here’s some really interesting historical information about agriculture in the San Juan Islands (from the media release):

The San Juan Islands are blessed with a temperate climate and were once considered to be the breadbasket of Western Washington. The local fruit industry began in earnest in the 1890s, with the introduction of Italian prune plums, and grew to include thousands of trees bearing apples, cherries, peaches, and pears.

During the early 1900s, farmers shipped boatloads of fruit from all the major islands to Salish-Sea ports, where the produce was transported by rail throughout the country. Although the islands no longer dominate Washington’s fruit industry, the legacy of historic orchards with local varieties such as the Orcas pear bear witness to the rich history of Island fruit-raising and distribution—a heritage that is still cultivated by San Juan County growers today.

Island Grown in the San Juans chose a logo with a pear in a boat as a symbol of the rich agricultural heritage of the island archipelago situated in the waters of the Salish Sea. Pears played a key role in fruit raising in the San Juans during the period from the 1890s to the 1930s.

The pear represents an Orcas pear, a delicious heritage variety that was discovered by Joseph C. Long along a roadside on Orcas Island in 1966. The Orcas pear (Pyrus communis) is listed as an American Heirloom Pear in Slow Foods USA “Ark of Taste,” and is suitable for fresh consumption, canning, and drying.

The boat was, and still is, one of the primary means of transportation in the islands. Even today, islanders are known to transport their farm produce by boat to markets on other islands.

Photo courtesy of Island Grown