Top Beverage Trends for 2014

March 24, 2014

The Pink Door Mint Julep cocktail northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Following a blog post earlier this month about possible food-and-wine trends for 2014, here are the top beverage trends we may see this year.

The first six come from the latest annual trend-prediction webinar given by Andrew Freeman, chief executive of San Francisco-based hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. Theme of the webinar was, “Blurred Lines.”

• Infused ice: Last year, bars and restaurants were making distinctive cubes or shaving their own ice. Now they’re infusing cubes with herbs and other ingredients to enhance flavors, Freeman said.

• Wine by the ounce: “People don’t like commitment,” Freeman said, noting that they also like to try different things, which is why more restaurants are offering wine by the ounce, as well as recommending wine flights.

• Artisanal spirits: Local craft beer is well established, but local spirits are trending, too. “Local spirits are infusing cocktails like I have never seen,” Freeman said.

• “Tippler nibblers:” Expect more food-drink combinations such as potent snow cones and graham cracker squares in root beer floats.

• Local and Iberian wines: Every state in the union now makes wine, and they’re becoming more popular — and so are wines from Spain and Portugal, Freeman said.

• Tea cocktails: “Tea is going crazy right now,” Freeman said, noting that it’s in food and desserts, but also in cocktails.

BOKA tea-infused martini northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Here are other possible beverage trends, as predicted by Washington Restaurant Magazine, a publication of the Washington Restaurant Association.

• Non-Alcoholic Beverages: In this category, look for housemade soft drinks and gourmet lemonade (freshly muddled), specialty iced tea (such as flavored or Thai-style), dairy-free milk (soy, rice, almond), and the ubiquitous coconut water.

•Cocktails and Cocktail Ingredients: Cocktails aged in barrels onsite and culinary cocktails (made with fresh, savory ingredients) will continue trending, augmented by regional signature cocktails, edible cocktails, and food-and-liquor/cocktail pairings.

•Alcoholic Beverages: Locally produced beer/wine/spirits and micro distilled/artisan spirits will continue strong; “new-make” whiskey, gluten-free beer, and food-and-beer pairings will pick up steam.

Wine glass photo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The beverage trend below was taken from a report by the Food & Beverage team of MSLGROUP, which operates in offices throughout North America, representing leading food and beverage brands, and manages a state-of-the-art Culinary & Nutrition Center in Seattle.

• “Wine-y” Millennials? Consumers ages 21-34 drink more wine than any other demographic. They’ll make up 40 percent of the population over the next few years, so the popularity of wine is expected to rise for years to come. Cheers to that!

More Top Trends for 2014

March 10, 2014

Northwest seafood photo

I love to see what famous public-relations firms, national restaurant magazines, and culinary websites predict as the trends for the new year.

And with that in mind, here are half a dozen trends that I saw mentioned time and again from various reputable sources including Andrew Freeman, chief executive of San Francisco-based hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. (my favorite source); MSLGROUP’s specialized North America food PR and marketing team;; and the January 2014 issue of the Washington Restaurant Association magazine.

1. Desserts Go Savory! But we all know savory desserts were already a trend in Seattle years ago.

2. Locally Sourced Meats, Seafood, and Produce; Sustainable Seafood; Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Stalk Cooking: Plankton Conchiglie Pasta is on the menu at Craigie on Main in Massachusetts; author Tara Duggan wrote an entire cookbook on using the whole vegetable.

3. Home Cooking and Childhood Favorites Making a Comeback: Creative takes on comfort foods encompass the entire menu at Haute Dish in Minneapolis; Ice-cream sandwiches are on trend in flavors such as milk chocolate and malt at Hardwater in San Francisco.

4. Chef and Home Cooks Experimenting with Unusual Nut Butters and Nut Oils: For the first time ever, the Good Food Awards offered up prizes for small-batch oils, such as squash seed and avocado: JIF now offers several versions of “Hazelnut Spread,” no doubt inspired by the popularity of Nutella.

5. Crazy for Coconut (Milk, Butter, Water, Etc.): I knew the coconut-water craze had become mainstream when my 91-year-old father’s caregivers started offering this to him to drink–and he even liked it! NPR weighs in on whether the coconut-water craze is all it’s “cracked up” to be.

6. Pleasing Pickles and Fantastic Fermenting: Perbacco Chef Staffan Terje is experimenting with as garum, a fermented fish sauce, in braised-meat dishes; Wente Vineyards’ Chef Matt Greco uses wine lees in the restaurant’s house-made bread.

Later on this month, we’ll discuss trending cocktails, wine, beer, tea, and other popular beverages.  So please stay tuned! 

Are You a Liberal or Conservative Drinker?

February 24, 2014

Canon restaurant seattle jamie boudreaux hooker cocktail northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Could your political party predict your propensity for partying? An intriguing new study published by the Journal of Wine Economics finds that alcohol consumption in American states rises as the population’s political persuasion becomes more liberal.

The Journal of Wine Economics, which is published by the Cambridge University Press, is the official publication of the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) – a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to encouraging and communicating economic research and analyses and exchanging ideas in wine economics.

Findings from the study into the relationship between drink and politics across 50 states in the U.S. over the past 50 years suggest a direct correlation between political beliefs and the demand for alcohol.

Economists from Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University reveal that, as states become more liberal politically over time, their consumption of beer and spirits rises – while their consumption of wine tends to fall.

For example, the research reveals that more politically liberal states like Nevada tend to consume up to three times more alcohol per head than more politically conservative states like Arkansas and Utah.

The study by Pavel Yakovlev and Walter P. Guessford reviewed more than five decades of data between 1952 and 2010 and measured alcohol intake against “citizen ideology,” which was inferred from the voting patterns of congressional representatives.

“In this study, we show that liberal ideology has a statistically significant positive association with the consumption of alcohol in the United States even after controlling for economic, demographic, and geographic differences across states,” the authors say.

“Holding everything else constant, our findings suggest that when a state becomes more liberal politically, its population consumes more beer and spirits per capita, but possibly less wine per capita.”

The authors’ findings are relatively consistent with recent sociological studies in other parts of the world showing that people with more socialist views tend to engage in more unhealthy behavior, such as excessive drinking.

For example, they cite one 2002 study, which found that Russian pro-socialists were significantly more likely than anti-socialists to drink alcohol frequently. Another 2006 survey in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine found that adults with anti-communist views had healthier lifestyles than their pro-communist peers.

Explanations offered by the authors of this latest study include the suggestion that people of a more liberal persuasion tend to be more open to new experiences, including the consumption of alcohol or drugs – or that they might feel more confident in government healthcare and social welfare to pick up the pieces of their socially irresponsible behavior.

The authors suggest that further research is needed to explore the relationship between political beliefs and other unhealthy behaviors in future.



Seattle Wine and Food Experience February 23

February 10, 2014

Wine Glasses

Buy your tickets today for  the city’s premier food and wine event, the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SWFE)!

SWFE is back for its sixth year on Sunday, February 23, 2014. VIP tickets are sold out; general admission tickets cost $55 per person and allow entry from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Throughout this unique gastronomical event guests will learn about and taste a wide offering of quality products through “experiences” and event features.

According to my friend and fellow Seattle Dame Jamie Peha, president of Peha Promotions, TableTalk Northwest, and producer of SWFE, “What makes Seattle Wine and Food Experience unique in the marketplace are the ‘experiences’ that guests encounter. Guests have the opportunity to educate themselves about beverage and culinary products from the Northwest and beyond, talk to producers, and taste samples from a variety regions and growing industries.”

Another feature that makes the sixth SWFE unique is that the event’s charity beneficiary is Les Dames d’Escoffier, Seattle Chapter. According to a press release:

This year’s beneficiary, Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle, brings together it’s talented membership for a special experience at SWFE. Get a taste of the beverages, food, and specialty products from talented members of Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle including Thoa Nguyen/Chinoise Sushi Bar & Asian Grill, Maria Coassin/Gelatiamo, Lisa Nakamura/Gnocchi Bar, Nancy Donier/Kaspar’s Special Events & Catering, Leslie Mackie/Macrina Bakery, Susan Neel/McCrea Cellars, and Susan Kaufman/Serafina Osteria & Enoteca.

Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle raises funds for scholarships for women in the culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries, and also supports community-outreach programs and sustainable-agriculture projects based in Washington state.

Other Dames participating in SWFE include Rose Ann Finkel/Pike Brewing Co. and Holly Smith/Cafe Juanita.

Other featured “Experiences” to date at the 2014 event include:

*Featured Wine Region: Woodinville Wine Country – Taste wine from Washington’s up-and-coming destination wine region with more than 30 of Woodinville’s wineries (and all of Washington’s AVAs) including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Patterson Cellars, and many more.

*The QFC Advantage Lounge – In this lounge environment complete with leather sofas, guests will enjoy bites from Murray’s Cheese, Boar’s Head Meats, and Simple Truth Crackers and sips of luxury wine brands including Chateau Ste. Michelle Single Vineyard Designates, Spring Valley Vineyard, Col Solare, and Northstar Winery. You know it’s going to be good!

*Northwest, California, and International Wines – Get tastes of wine regions from the Northwest and beyond with sips from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, and international wineries (including Italy, France, Argentina, Spain, and Portugal). With more than 800 wines available to try from the world’s top producers, your palate is in for quite a tour.

*SIP Northwest Distillery Row – Take a run at Sip Northwest Distillery Row featuring many of the region’s hottest craft spirits makers as well as global brands. Sip through their latest creations and learn how grains and botanicals become whiskey, vodka, and gin.

*Tim’s Cascade Snacks Beer and Cider Exhibit – Local favorite Tim’s Cascade Snacks will be serving up its famous salty chips and popcorn that pair great with regional ciders and brews. Discover the new developments in the world of these craft beverages.

*Les Dames d’Escoffier Alley –See above.

*Washington Beef Butcher Block – Washington Beef presents a unique opportunity to “Crave, Cut, & Create” your way to a perfect beef meal. Experience and savor beef’s flavor when prepared with care and paired with complimentary flavor profiles in dishes from Andaluca, bin on the lake, BOKA Restaurant + Bar, and The Georgian.

*Top Pot Doughnut and Coffee Bar – Grab a sweet treat at the event and revive your palate, with a stop at the Top Pot Doughnut and Coffee Bar. Try a hand-forged doughnut and cup of Top Pot Coffee. For an added bonus, grab a sample cocktail from Sun Liquor Distillery.

*Chef Prepared Gourmet Bites – Guests can savor the incredible creations from more 25 of Seattle’s most accomplished chefs representing a global range of cuisines. Featured restaurants include Andaluca, Anthony’s Pier 66 & Bell Street Diner, bin on the lake, BOKA Restaurant + Bar, The Capital Grille, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chinoise Sushi Bar & Asian Grill, Dirty Oscar’s Annex, Far-Eats, The Georgian, Gnocchi Bar, Gracie’s/Hotel Deluxe, The Hollywood Tavern, The Hunt Club, Kaspar’s Special Events & Catering, La Bodega, Macrina Bakery, Miyabi 45th, Purple Café & Wine Bar, Racha Thai, Ray’s Boathouse, Serafina Osteria & Enoteca, Tai Foong USA, Tilikum Place Café, Trellis Restaurant, and Volterra.

*Chef in the Vineyard with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates – Meet Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Culinary Director John Sarich, sample creative bites and taste through a wonderful selection of Washington’s best wines from 14 Hands, Anew, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Michelle, and O Wines. Seek out their displays in local QFCs for a special ticket discount.

*Event Feature: Stella Artois – With more than 600 years of Belgium brewing experience, Stella Artois is best known for its detailed method for pulling a pint and their “special” Stella Artois chalice. Enjoy a sip of Stella Artois and its other world-class brands including Cidre, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Leffe Brun, and Leffe Blond.

*Northwest Travel Magazine – Test your palate with a blind comparative tasting of the same varietal from different AVAs. Northwest Travel contributor Cole Danehower will be hosting this fun and interactive experience.

Tickets for this year’s event are on sale here. General Admission tickets are $55. New this year is an optional VIP ticket is available to guests for $65 and includes one hour early entry, custom event tote bag, wine glass and tasting plate, plus an opportunity to win a variety of prizes including a wine trip weekend for two to Woodinville Wine Country, tickets to July’s Wine Rocks event, and more. Ticket prices include access to all areas of the event. No one under 21 will be admitted and ID is required.

So please plan to attend the sixth-annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience. . .good not only for you but for the good of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Seattle Chapter.


Valentine’s Day Dining Options

January 27, 2014

Heart cookie photo

A few weeks ago, a friend and consultant of mine told me he was going out on a first date and asked me to recommend a few restaurants with the following parameters:

I am seeking a a restaurant in downtown Seattle. . .perhaps somewhere in or around the Market. Here is what I am kinda of shooting for in terms of requirements:

• good place to meet for drinks

• good wine selection

• maybe dinner or good Happy Hour menu

• not too $$$

• good first-date place

• view of Waterfront

• small/intimate. . . .yes, perhaps even romantic

• not noisy and crowded

And, after a bit of thinking, I answered:

Man, you don’t have too many parameters here. Ha! Hard to find one bar/resto that meets everything you desire, but here are some suggestions:

Il Bistro in the Market (dark, romantic, nice bar area, inexpensive and good-value Happy Hour [HH]). However, no water view.

Steelhead Diner in the Market (more casual than Il Bistro and probably more noisy, but wouldn’t seem like such a commitment. Also less price-y.) Peek-a-boo water views depending on where you sit. Not sure about HH menu or pricing. . .

The Pink Door in the Market is fun and funky but you’d need a reservation for dinner for sure. . .bar is fun but crowded and possibly noisy. Good price points, wine list, food, etc. Water views in summer on the deck but not in winter (but there is a trapeze artist on certain nights!).

Andaluca in the Mayflower Park Hotel has no water view but think romantic, tapas, and good wine list. . .perhaps better for a second or third date.

If you want a real “bar” bar, then Oliver’s in the Mayflower is a really well-established bar, noted for its martinis. They have a HH and also free appetizers.

If you want a real water view, there is also 67 at the Edgewater. . .we haven’t been there lately and never for HH but you might consider it.

So cheers to everyone near and dear in our lives as we approach Valentine’s Day 2014. . .

Welcome to the ‘Hood: Aragona Restaurant

January 20, 2014

Aragona rendering northwest wining and dining website link

Last summer, we got wind that Thoa’s Restaurant & Lounge would be pulling up stakes. One of several restaurants owned and operated by my friend and fellow Seattle Dame Thoa Nguyen, the restaurant was located in the base of our condominium building at First and Union for an impressive period–10 years.

We wondered who might take over the large space with a bar at the front, kitchen behind glass, and peekaboo views of Elliott Bay.

Soon, word leaked out that über-successful Seattle chef Jason Stratton, the genius behind northern Italian-leaning Cascina Spinasse and Artusi in Capitol Hill, was interested.

We saw the architect’s rendering (above) and learned the concept of the new space, named “Aragona,” would be regional Spanish food. Having studied in Madrid for four months while I was in college, and falling in love with both the people of that Iberian country and its cuisine, I was psyched!

Aragona jason stratton tour northwest wining and dining website link

We watched the construction, heard the whine of the saws and banging of the hammers, and even sniffed the glue and shellac when the workers laid the floors, so felt very invested in the latest iteration at First and Union.

A few weeks before opening, we enjoyed a hard-hat tour, with Chef Stratton pointing out artistic details and the many new facets to the restaurant. . .

Aragona female chef northwest wining and dining website link

And chatting up Aragona’s Chef de Cuisine, Carrie Mashaney, who previously served as chef de cuisine at Spinasse and gained wide acclaim last fall after appearing on Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

Aragona wine guy chris northwest wining and dining website link

Behind the wine table (pouring a dry Fino Sherry and Spanish wines from small producers), we recognized a former buddy from RN74–Master Sommelier Chris Tanghe.

Aragona jason kitchen northwest wining and dining website link

Stratton took us behind the scenes in the gorgeous new kitchen, completely outfitted with new equipment including a plancha (a flat-top grill widely used in Spain and Latin America to cook fish and shellfish).

Aragona column northwest wining and dining website link

This stunning column really spoke to me. . .a modern update of the many beautiful columns and pillars one sees everywhere in southern Spain. In a press release, it’s described as “the visual showpiece of the dining room. . .created by internationally recognized Seattle mosaic artist Kate Jessup.”

The column is surrounded by a central service table that will be used for decanting wine, carving ham, and dishing out paella-like rice dishes.

Aragona food northwest wining and dining website link

We enjoyed a variety of nibbles that afternoon including savory cookies and olives. . .

Aragona food northwest wining and dining website link

flatbread and nut-covered cheese balls.

Aragona group shot northwest wining and dining website link

Here’s an overview of the main dining room taken from the private dining room at the back and looking toward the bar (with the kitchen on the left).

Aragona logo northwest wining and dining website link

And here is the lovely logo that evokes the proud traditions of España.

Just a few weeks later, after many hours of overtime work by the construction workers and staff, the restaurant opened for business on December 9.

Aragona restaurant main dining room interior northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

We were lucky enough to be included in the Family and Friends dinner the evening before, and were blown away by the glamorous transformation of the interior, which manages to be contemporary, warm, and elegant while still nodding to restaurants in Spain. Here (above) is the main dining room.

Aragona bar area northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The bar offers a separate, more small-plate menu and multiple wine-by-the glass options, which will be perfect for theater-goers and music lovers for pre-Benaroya-hall events.

Aragona restaurant jason stratton owner chef and carrey sous chef northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Here are Jason and Carrie looking relieved that their latest “baby” is finally open for business.

Aragona restaurant octopus cauliflower puree northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

We fought over the Grilled Octopus and Cauliflower Purée with its lovely charry notes and buttery richness.

Aragona restaurant dessert northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Although we didn’t have room for dessert, here’s a photo of one of several tempting options.

Rave reviews are already starting to stream in for Aragona. Please have a look at our friend and colleague Bethany Jean Clement’s complete, and very positive review from The Stranger’s January 15 issue.

Nicole Sprinkle, in The Seattle Weekly, also weighed in with a review in the January 21 issue, while Zach Geballe praised the impressive and inventive wine and Sherry offerings.

Architectural rendering and logo courtesy of Aragona.
Top eight photos by Braiden Rex-Johnson. Remaining photos courtesy of Aragona. 

James Beard Foundation’s Top-10 Best Dishes (Plus 5 Cocktails!) of 2013

December 23, 2013

Fat-Rice-Galdones-PhotographyFat-Rice northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Ever wonder what an organization as venerable as The James Beard Foundation considers the best dishes of 2013?

Canon restaurant seattle jamie boudreaux hooker cocktail northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Me, too. Here’s a link where you will find 10 best dishes, and five cocktails, including one from Seattle’s very own Jamie Boudreau, owner/founder of Canon: Whiskey and Bitters Emporium, for The Hooker.

There’s even a link to the recipe for this intriguing amalgam of Bourbon, Scotch, and beer, inspired by a song by John Lee Hooker, of course.

The cocktail is a very popular option at Canon. Way to go, Jamie!

Dish of the Day: BOKA Duck and Claret Cocktail

November 11, 2013

BOKA chef peter birk northwest wining and dining website

At a  press dinner last month to celebrate the new Fall menu at BOKA Kitchen + Bar in downtown Seattle’s Hotel 1000 (just a few blocks from our condo), executive chef Peter Birk (formerly with Ray’s Boathouse and McCormick & Schmick’s) wowed the crowd with many lovely courses.

BOKA duck breast northwest wining and dining website link

This is a lousy photo due to the ever-changing rainbow of colors glowing from the wall near our table, but among his best dishes that evening was Crispy Duck Breast with Black Tea Custard, Chanterelles, and Roasted Grapes.

BOKA tea-infused martini northwest wining and dining website link

It paired perfectly not only with a Matthews Cellars Claret, but with a Black Tea Martini with Matthews Claret Mousse created by BOKA’s new bar manager and chief mixologist Cory Duffy.

Cory, who also owns Rain City Spirits (“Seattle’s Craft Vodka”), is taking the BOKA bar menu in intriguing new directions with a carefully curated collection of handcrafted, culinary-inspired cocktails.

You’ll want to try Cory’s house-made tonic water (made with Pinot Gris!) that figures “big” in the House Made (Big) Gin & Tonic.

Cory, a self-avowed “big fan of punches,” wowed the crowd with his Dark Rum Punch. It’s made from roasted figs, orange peel, brandied cherries, Dark Rum, and VSOP Cognac, among other ingredients. Full of rich, spicy flavors, the media members at our table pronounced it, “Christmas in a glass.”

You’ll want to stop by BOKA for its upcoming seasonal events, which include chef Peter’s Thanksgiving Cooking Class on November 14, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner and three Holiday Hideout Pop-Up Boutiques in December.

BOKA chef peter birk northwest wining and dining website link

Here is chef Peter at evening’s end, relieved and proud after a job well done.


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.


New Flavors and Cans for DRY Soda

September 2, 2013

Dry soda can shot

Feeling a little parched after the long, hot summer?

Then how about popping open a can of DRY Soda?

The company, which I have written about for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, is excited to announce its biggest product line extension to date with the launch of new packaging and flavors.

In July, DRY began offering a new 12-ounce, slim aluminum can and introduced two new flavors this summer: Apple DRY and Ginger DRY. As consumers continue to demand real ingredients in their beverages and seek out all-natural and lower sugar soda options, DRY Soda is making its unique sodas more accessible to customers.

DRY Soda’s launch of slim cans (which will be sold individually at retailers for $1.29) and introduction of new flavors means that DRY customers can enjoy DRY in more places–on the go, poolside, cocktails, lunches, and entertaining at home. In addition to new Apple and Ginger, DRY will also offer three current flavors in cans: Vanilla Bean, Blood Orange, and Cucumber DRY.

Seven DRY flavors are available in 12-ounce glass bottles: Vanilla Bean, Wild Lime, Lavender, Blood Orange, Cucumber, Rhubarb, and Juniper Berry.

In 2005, well before low sugar products were part of the national conversation, DRY Soda CEO and Founder Sharelle Klaus saw the need for a less sweet, all-natural soda and created the first soda line with significantly less sugar and made with just four ingredients. DRY, the “better-for-you soda”, contains one-quarter to one-third the sugar and calories of traditional sodas, and contais only 45 to 70 calories per 12-ounce bottle or can.

“I am so excited for the launch of the cans and new flavors and the opportunity for DRY to be more accessible to people looking for a better soda,” said DRY Soda CEO Sharelle Klaus. “We continue to see consumers and policymakers getting more involved and educated about what ingredients are in food and beverage products. I developed DRY because I believe in offering a better soda option to consumers and am thrilled that DRY has been available for the growing group of customers seeking a low-sugar soda.”

The development of the new Apple and Ginger DRY flavors was led by Chef Richard Blais, television personality, restaurateur and author, and DRY’s creative director.

DRY Soda cans will be available throughout the United States in traditional and specialty retail stores, restaurants, cafes, and online, beginning July 2013.


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