Braiden Answers Where to Send Seattle Tourists

April 14, 2015

Space needle seattle city skyline photo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Tourist season in Seattle must be about ready to hit, judging from an email in my inbox this morning.

“A friend of a friend is coming to Seattle at the end of the month,” my friend explained. “Could you give me a few ideas of restaurants and activities she and her husband might enjoy?”

The “what are your favorite restaurants and things to do in Seattle” question always amuses me. How old is the couple? Are they independently wealthy or on a budget? What kind of food do they like? Are they ambulatory?

Anyway, not having any parameters leaves the field totally open. So here, for your reading pleasure, is the list of things I suggested the “mystery couple” might enjoy.


Steelhead Diner in the Pike Place Market (“the Market”). . .not really a diner (more an “upscale diner,” although ambience is casual and fun). . .some of the best seafood in town.

Cafe Campagne in the Market. . .good for breakfast/brunch or dinner, true French bistro fare.

Place Pigalle in the Market. . French/NW food with beautiful Elliott Bay (ferry boats!) views.

Shuckers in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. . .the best seafood in town.

RN74. . .especially if they are wine drinkers/wine aficionados as the wine list there is excellent.

Pike Place Market. . .they can just walk around on their own or take a Savor Seattle Market tour (which provides lots of walking and samples from the restos/stalls)

Ride the Ducks. . .I haven’t done this, but the trucks drive by our condo all summer and it seems wildly popular

Underground Tour. . .lots of walking in the under-the streets part of Pioneer Square, the historic part of Seattle. We’ve taken lots of people there and they love it, although it is rather offbeat!

Walk the Waterfront. . .and eat lunch at Anthony’s Diner or Six Seven in the Edgewater Hotel (where the Beatles stayed and fished out of their hotel room window!)

The Space Needle/Seattle Center/Chihuly Glass House. . .panoramic views of the region from the Needle, gorgeous art glass at Chihuly and lunch at Collections Cafe. Tell her to take the Monorail (90-second ride) to get there as that’s also a very Seattle experience.

Experience Music Project (EMP). . .also at Seattle Center. . .if they are into rock music and sci-fi (it’s Paul Allen’s pet project/museum).

Argosy cruise of Lake Union/Lake Washington which takes you by lots of interesting sites/different parts of town including Bill Gates’s home.

So next time you have tourists in town, or are asked the inevitable “what are your favorite restaurants and things to do in Seattle” question, you can crib from my list and/or use it to spark ideas/suggestions of your own.

Happy summer in Seattle!!!

Northwest Wining and Dining Update

March 13, 2015

You may have noticed that here at Northwest Wining and Dining things have been pretty quiet since our last post over the holiday season.

That’s because, as of December 31, Braiden “officially” retired from food and wine writing.

However, not to worry! Ever the writer, Braiden is now hard at work on her next book, NOT food and wine related, but a more personal endeavor.

Think “memoir!”

It feels fabulous to be creating/creative once again. As Lynne Rossetto Kasper once said to a group of us at the Symposium for Professional Food Writers at The Greenbrier, “Writing a book is like weaving an intricate tapestry. . .you have to make sure all the threads are interwoven.”

We’ll keep you posted from time to time on the book’s progress; hoping to have a rough draft by early May (my self-imposed deadline).



Warm-By-the-Fire Holiday Wishes from Northwest Wining and Dining

December 15, 2014

Cheers to the delights of the holiday season–gathering with family and friends, eating and drinking usually forbidden goodies, taking some time off from work and daily cares to reflect on the wonders of the season.

Here at Northwest Wining and Dining, we would like to wish you and yours a memorable Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or whatever else you celebrate.

Pike place public market seafood cookbook cover at pac place northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

And encourage you to consider the gift that keeps on giving–a copy (or three!) of my Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook, which is available in both print and e-editions. With 50 recipes from the Market’s fishmongers, chefs, restaurateurs, and specialty-food shops, not to mention 50 gorgeous color photos, the book is great for home cooks and armchair travelers alike.

In honor of the season, here’s a photo and accompanying 10-second video that is bound to make even the biggest grinch feel warm and cozy.

Warm by the fire photo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Warm-by-the-fire video

Happy New Year!

Braiden’s Favorite Thanksgiving Potatoes: Double Apricot Sweet Potatoes and Red Curry Mashers

November 30, 2014

Braiden’s Favorite Thanksgiving Potatoes

Tired of the same old side dishes at Thanksgiving? How about trying these favorites from the Rex-Johnson family?

Double Apricot Sweet Potatoes
Varietal: Riesling

Serves 4 to 6

Sweet potatoes get a double whammy of taste and texture when they are flavored with apricot nectar and topped with amaretti, Italian macaroon cookies baked with apricot-kernel paste. Amaretti are available at DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine in the Pike Place Market and at upscale grocery stores. Pair the sweets with a stone-fruit-rich wine, such as a Riesling. Its apricot and nectarine aromas and flavors, along with the classic kerosene (think new bike tires!) nose, work especially well with this side dish, as well as other tastes and textures on the Thanksgiving table, such as roasted turkey and oyster stuffing.

12 Amaretti di Saronno cookies (6 individually wrapped packages)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large, uniform-sized chunks
1/2 cup apricot nectar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons dark rum or apricot nectar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a medium baking dish or spray with nonstick spray. Unwrap the amaretti, place them in a small plastic bag, and crush with a meat mallet or rolling pin until medium crumbs form.
2. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by one inch, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
3. Drain the potatoes and put them through a ricer or food mill or mash with a potato masher or fork. Stir in the apricot nectar, orange zest, fresh ginger, and salt, then transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish.
4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the crushed cookies and rum, then spoon the crumbs over the potatoes, smoothing to the edges. Bake 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are heated through.

Red Curry Mashers
Varietal: Pinot Blanc

Serves 6 to 8

Mashed potatoes have become the ultimate adult comfort food. I like this Asian rendition in which the potatoes take on the tawny color and nutty flavor of toasted sesame oil, followed by the slow afterburn of red curry paste. Pair the potatoes with Pinot Blanc, a balanced/refreshing wine that displays delicate fruit aromas and flavors of apple, citrus, pear, and/or melon along with good acidity.

2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large, uniform-sized chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 cup regular or nonfat half-and-half
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (Note: Be sure to use toasted or Asian, not regular, sesame oil in this recipe.)
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste

1. Place the potatoes and the garlic in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by one inch and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain well, then shake the potatoes over medium heat until they become mealy and dry.
2. Put the potatoes and garlic through a ricer (preferred method) or food mill, beat with an electric mixer, or mash with a potato masher or fork. Do not use a food processor or the potatoes will become gluey.
3. In a small bowl mix the half-and-half, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and red curry paste until smooth. While whipping the potatoes with a fork, add this liquid, then whip an additional 30 seconds until the potatoes are fluffy. Serve immediately, or spoon into a lightly oiled baking dish and keep warm in a low oven (200 to 250 degrees) until ready to serve.

Nancy’s Pumpkin Cheesecake

September 30, 2014

Market pumpkins northwest wining and dining website

Nancy’s Pumpkin Cheesecake
Varietal: Dessert Wines: Late-Harvest Riesling

Serves 8 to 12

With all the recent interest (some might say hysteria) about pumpkin flavorings in foods and beverages (e.g., Starbucks Pumpkin-Spice Lattes, Pumpkin-Spice Oreos, and even Quaker Foods Pumpkin-Spiced Instant Oatmeal), I thought we were long overdue in looking back at this recipe from Nancy Nipples, longtime proprietress and “head milkmaid” at The Pike Place Market Creamery.

Nancy suggests making her special cheesecake a day or two before you plan to serve it to allow the flavors to meld and intensify. I like to “frost” it with my invention—Rum Cream—for an added layer of decadence, but that is entirely up to you.

The rich, spicy cake pairs perfectly with the medium to viscous texture of a good-quality Late-Harvest Riesling. These wines often exhibit aromas and flavors of apricot and tropical fruits (pineapple!), honey and caramel, flowers and almonds, lovely counterpoints to the seasonal cake.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 1/4 cups firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about six 2 1/4-by-4 3/4-inch crackers)
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
One 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Rum Cream (recipe follows), optional

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Sift the flour with the pumpkin pie spice and reserve.
2. To make the crust, in a medium mixing bowl stir together 1 1/4 cups of the brown sugar, the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and cinnamon. Add the butter and stir until well mixed. Pat the crumb mixture on the bottom of the prepared springform pan and about halfway up the sides. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. To make the filling, place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat at low to medium speed until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly add the remaining 1 cup brown sugar, beating well after each addition, then add the reserved flour and mix well. Add the pumpkin and vanilla and blend thoroughly.
4. Pour the cheesecake filling into the prepared crust and bake 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake 1 hour, or until the top is light brown and slightly puffed. Turn off the oven and leave the cake in the oven an additional 20 minutes without opening the oven door.
5. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and cool completely. Refrigerate at least overnight or (preferably) for 1 to 2 days. Just before you are ready to serve, frost the top of the cake with Rum Cream, if desired.
6. To slice the cheesecake cleanly, dip a long, sharp knife in hot water, wipe off the blade, and slice. Repeat this process between each cut, using a spatula to remove each wedge to individual plates.

Rum Cream

Makes about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum

1. Chill a small mixing bowl and a whisk. Add the cream and confectioner’s sugar to the bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Stir in the rum and use immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 day.

Happy Summer!

June 2, 2014

Sandals on the beach northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Hope you are enjoying the first couple of days of June.

This is a quick heads up that here at the Northwest Wining and Dining Northwest Notes blog we will be taking a hiatus during the summer months and into early fall.

For the first time in more than 10 years, when this blog began, we want to begin some new non-food- and wine-related projects, catch up on our reading, and feel the sand between our toes.

And I’ll continue to post a Recipe of the Month even during this hiatus, so please check back the first of the month for a tasty bite from Seattle.

Recipe of the Month: Wild King Salmon with Macerated Cherries and Smoked Almond Beurre Noisette

April 30, 2014

Alaskan Wild Salmon northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Wild King Salmon with Macerated Cherries and Smoked Almond Beurre Noisette

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Serves 4

This recipe from “Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining” was created by Kevin Davis, chef/owner of Steelhead Diner in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market and Blueacre Seafood in downtown Seattle. It showcases two of the Northwest’s iconic ingredients: fresh, wild salmon and dried cherries and would be perfect to try with Copper River salmon, which begins its annual run in May. Pair it with another Northwest icon—Oregon Pinot Noir—which mirrors the lush berry, earthy, and smoky flavors in the dish. Some of my favorite Oregon Pinot Noir producers include reasonably priced versions such as Willamette Valley Vineyard’s amazing Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir (which winery founder Jim Bernau characterizes as “Pinot Noir candy”) or luxury-priced Pinots from Domaine Serene and Archery Summit.

Macerated Cherries

1 cup dried cherries (Chukar brand preferred)

1 cup port or Madeira

Four 8-ounce Copper River King salmon or other wild salmon fillets (center cuts preferred)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled

Freshly grated zest of 1 orange

1 cup smoked almonds, lightly crushed (Blue Diamond brand preferred)

1. To prepare the Macerated Cherries, place the dried cherries in a heatproof nonreactive bowl. Bring the port to a boil and pour over the cherries. Cover with plastic wrap and steep for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

2. Prepare a medium-low fire in a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the salmon with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the fillets on the grill skin side down away from direct heat. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, turn the fish, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more (for medium rare) or to the desired doneness.

3. While the fish is grilling, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter turns brown and gives off a nutty aroma. This is called beurre noisette in French, and translates as “brown butter.”

4. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the chopped rosemary, orange zest, almonds, and Macerated Cherries (drained and patted dry) in that order, pausing between each addition and stirring gently to allow each ingredient to render it essence into the butter. Be careful when adding the first two ingredients, as the butter may sizzle and pop. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Place the salmon fillets on 4 dinner plates, top with the brown butter, and serve immediately.

Cook’s Hint: Wild king or Chinook salmon has a very high fat content and will tend to flame up if cooked too fast. It’s always a good idea to have a water bottle handy, just in case. Don’t leave the grill unattended at any time throughout the cooking process. Also, Chef Kevin has an easy way to prevent overcooking your fish. Simply turn the grill off when the fish is slightly underdone; this allows the carryover heat to finish cooking the fish.

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

Friends of the Market Celebrates 50 Years

April 28, 2014


pike place market spring northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Have you heard of Friends of the Market (FoM)? It’s the advocacy group, led by Seattle architect and civic leader, Victor Steinbrueck, who saved the Pike Place Market from the wrecking ball in the 1960s.

The group has become much more active and visible in recent years, hosting weekly Market tours on Saturdays during the summer months, helping revamp historic artwork through the Market, and taking an active role in the planning of the Waterfront entrance to the Market.

The group also celebrates its 50th birthday this year, and plans to launch a new website this month.

According to the March 2014 FoM newsletter, “Ritama Design is in the final stages of producing Friends’ new website. It will include concise histories of the Market and FoM, plus a complete pictorial review of the public art in the Market. . .Additionally, the site will keep the archived videos, newsletters, and interactive contact and enrollment features.”

So if you haven’t already checked out the group’s new online presence, please click here to learn more.

And, next time you are in the Market, be sure to pick up a copy of the Market News (a free newspaper available at the Information Booth at the corner of First Avenue and Pike Place). It contains Paul Dunn’s “Post Alley Passages” column, always a voice of authority about what’s happening in the Market (politics, people, even the occasional celebrity link).

Paul is FoM’s vice president, former executive director of the Pike Place Market Merchants Association, and long-time Market dweller. And a good personal buddy, to boot!

Photo courtesy of the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority.


Take Me Out to the Ball Park

April 7, 2014

Although I’m not much of a baseball fan (Confession: I have never even been to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners), I am interested in what they’ll be serving up during the 2014 season.

Cracker jack bag northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

A recent press release quelled my curiosity, and proved that Mariners fans can opt for more than just peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jack.

For once again Seattle’s very own Ethan Stowell (Tavolàta, How to Cook a Wolf, Anchovies & Olives, Staple & Fancy Mercantile, Ballard Pizza Company, Rione Xlll, Bar Cotto, Mkt., and Red Cow) is working with the Seattle Mariners, and Centerplate (a global leader in live-event hospitality), a successful collaboration that has won Safeco Field a reputation for serving locally inspired ,restaurant-quality food in a ballpark setting.

Wondering what’s on the menu?

Swingin’ Wings

Located in the popular area known as The ‘Pen, Swingin’ Wings offers three takes on America’s favorite finger food, smothered in sauces that get their kick from Bonache Sauce of Ballard.

—  Classic Wings–Tossed with housemade “classic” wing sauce spiced with Bonache’s Socorro hot sauce.

—  Honey Serrano Wings–Tossed with housemade honey-serrano sauce spiced with Bonache’s Hatch hot sauce.

—  Barbecue Wings–Tossed with housemade whiskey-cola barbecue sauce.

Don’t forget about our local seafood:

A wealth of fresh, local seafood is readily available at the Sound Seafood stand, located in the Third Base Terrace Club.

—  Fish & Chips–Single plank of fresh Pacific cod, hand-dredged in Manny’s Pale Ale batter, served with thick-cut sidewinder chips and housemade remoulade sauce.

—  Oysters & Chips–Taylor Shellfish freshly shucked oysters, hand-dredged in cornmeal flour, served with thick-cut sidewinder chips and housemade remoulade sauce.

—  Salmon Sandwich–Fresh local salmon served on a brioche bun with pickled red onion, arugula, and housemade remoulade.

—  Crab Roll–Local Dungeness crab served on a soft roll with shredded lettuce, tomato, and housemade remoulade.

—  Oyster Po’ Boy–Taylor Shellfish freshly shucked oysters, hand-dredged in cornmeal flour, served on a soft roll with shredded lettuce, tomato, and housemade remoulade.

—  Applewood Smoked-Salmon Chowder–House-smoked local, wild-caught salmon in a creamy chowder.

—  Clam Chowder–Housemade classic, creamy, New England-style chowder.

Pick up some scandalous snacks:

—  Dirty Tots–Crispy Northwest tater tots topped with Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, Carlton Farms pork belly, and Bay Valley pickled peppers.

—  Fried Cheese Curds–Deep-fried Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar cheese curds (in a light cornmeal breading) drizzled with Ballard Bee Co. honey and topped with Bay Valley pickled peppers.

—  Deep-Fried Pickles–Crispy dill pickle spears dredged in a light batter.
Sound Seafood

Don’t forget the alcoholic offerings:

Cask Ale

Wash down  the new menu offerings with cask-conditioned ale from local brewers. For those who (like me) were unsure about exactly what “cask ale” is, the press release said it is “unfiltered, unpasteurized beer that completes its secondary fermentation in the container from which it’s served. Known by some as ‘real ale,’ cask ale is gaining devotees among those in-the-know in the beer community.”

Cask-conditioned ales from brewers from around the Pacific Northwest will be served in two locations on the Main Concourse: at the Power Alley bar in the Mariners Hall of Fame and museum, which features Northwest craft beers on tap; and at a station located near Section 129, just behind home plate.

Cask ale joins an already outstanding lineup of more than 50 beers available at Safeco Field, including craft beers from area breweries such as Georgetown Brewing Company and FremontBrewing of Seattle, Diamond Knot Craft Brewing of Mukilteo, Skagit River Brewery of Mt. Vernon, No-Li Brewhouse of Spokane, and GoodLife Brewing Company of Bend, Oregon, among others.

Local Spirits

Seattle’s burgeoning craft distillery community is represented at Safeco Field with a line of hand-crafted cocktails created by Rob Roy’s Anu Apte. The cocktails, which are available at the Sound Bar, located near Sound Seafood, feature local, small-batch premium spirits from Woodinville Whiskey Company, Oola Distillery, Rogue Spirits, and Fremont Mischief Distillery.

And even:

Hot Cakes Desserts

The gooey, molten chocolate cakes, cookies, s’mores, and other desserts from Hot Cakes in Ballard, which has won rave reviews and a devoted following, are coming to the Safeco Field private-suites menu. Chocolatier/Founder Autumn Martin has created an array of cakes, tarts, cookies, and other treats for guests in the ballpark’s premium suites.

Trending across the nation:

In his Sideline Chatter column in the Sunday, March 30, edition of The Seattle Times, Dwight Perry calls out these dishes from various baseball parks around the country:

12-Scoop Sundae ($17, White Sox)–four scoops each of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream plus two bananas, all topped with caramel, strawberry sauce, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and cherries, served in a full-sized batting helmet.

Bacon on a Stick ($7, Rangers)–A 3/4-inch piece of Hungarian-smoked bacon dipped in maple syrup.

D-Bat Dog ($25, Diamondbacks)–An 18-inch corndog stuffed with cheddar cheese, jalapeños, bacon, served with a side of fries.

To read more about baseball food in Seattle, check out Rebekah Denn’s recent blog post from The Seattle Times.

Pike Place Market’s Annual Daffodil Day March 20

March 17, 2014

Garden show 2014 yellow flowers northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

That lovely downtown-Seattle spring tradition we all know as Daffodil Day returns this year on March 20, when downtown streets will be awash in cheery yellow as legions of volunteers hand out over 10,000 daffodils to workers, residents, and shoppers to celebrate the first day of spring.

Mark your calendar now to take a stroll at lunch hour that day to pick up your little ray of spring sunshine–gratis, thanks to Pike Place Market flower vendors.

Arcade lights pike place market logo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle websiteAnd, while you have your calendar open, don’t forget to save-the-date for Arcade Lights, which returns to the Main Arcade on Friday evening, April 25. The annual springtime celebration of all things artisanal offers you a chance to taste handcrafted savory and sweet bites, washed down with craft beer, local wine, and nonalcoholic beverages, all made by local artisan food and drink purveyors.

Each ticket includes 10 tokens redeemable for food and beverages of your choose, plus a keepsake glass. Extra tokens can be purchased at the event. Proceeds benefit the Market Foundation.


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