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! 

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. 

Food and Beverage Trends for 2014

January 13, 2014

The Spontaneatini is a hot new cocktail at BOKA in downtown Seattle northwest wining and dining website link

Would you pay $55 for a cocktail that boasted five different flavors of infused ice cubes?

According to JWT, the world’s best-known marketing communications brand, infused ice cubes will become one of 2014’s top trends.

The company has just released its ninth annual forecast of key category trends that will drive or significantly impact consumer mindset and behavior in 2014.

Some topics of interest include:

Beer in Church: With church membership declining across the U.S., some churches are using beer as a focal point for gatherings, making the leap from communion wine to kegs. Some brew their own, while others hold services in pubs to attract curious bargoers. In addition to attracting newcomers, bringing beer to the church or the church to the bar can also build stronger relationships between congregants, improving retention. Examples include Beer & Hymns in Portland, Ore., The Pub Church in Boston, and Church-in-a-Pub in Fort Worth, Texas.

Cocktails on Tap: We’ve seen wine moving into taps, and now cocktails are being mixed and stored in kegs. It saves bartenders time and can lower the price tag for imbibers, who get the added bonus of being able to ask for sample tastes. With many cocktails, premixing doesn’t compromise quality—and may enhance it by enabling ingredients to mesh over time—though it only works well for some concoctions.

Orange Wine:  The result of using red-wine techniques with white-wine grapes, an ancient technique from the Caucasus region, orange wine offers the best of both worlds, according to its proponents. (The color isn’t exactly orange; it’s more in the range of light gold to amber.) While this wine will likely remain a niche product, we’ll be seeing it more often thanks to the efforts of vintners in Italy, France, California, and beyond.

Infused Ice Cubes: Taking cocktail culture to yet the next level, mixologists are starting to push the flavors of their concoctions with infused ice: cubes of different shapes and sizes that are made with juices, fruits, syrups, and herbs. They enhance the look of the beverage, and as they melt, rather than dilute the cocktail, the cubes add complementary flavors. They also up the cost. At Chicago’s Trump Hotel, for instance, the signature Opulence 5 includes five differently flavored ice cubes and can be had for $55; reportedly the taste changes completely by the last drop.


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!

Les Dames Online Culinary, Wine, and Travel Auction!

November 25, 2013

Victoria British Columbia Horse and Buggy Christmas Holiday photo

With holiday gift-giving much on everyone’s minds right now, may I suggest an easy way to get some incredible experiences for those you love by going to the Charity Buzz website and choosing an auction item or two?

By following this Charity Buzz website link, you’ll discover 13 unique and phenomenal auction packages, live now through December 10!

The packages were put together by Chapters of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI), a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality.

Beginning in late October, I started my one-year term as Second Vice President of LDEI, so this organization is very near and dear to my heart.

So please take a moment to have a peek at the fantastic auction items for sale.

Packages include Four Tickets to the International Pinot Noir Celebration and a $100 Gift Certificate to the Joel Palmer House in the Willamette Valley (donated by my very own Seattle Chapter); a Three-Day Napa Wine Experience for Four at Cakebread Cellars (San Francisco Chapter), and Lunch with Carla Hall and Four VIP Tickets to “The Chew” in New York City (Washington, D.C. Chapter).

So please go to Charity Buzz and start bidding today!!!

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.


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

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.


“Hopping” Along Yakima’s New Spirits and Hops Trail

August 26, 2013

Yakima Valley icon

A recent press release brought news that the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau has launched the Spirits and Hops Trail website to help tourists easily navigate the growing number of local craft breweries, cideries, and distilleries throughout the region.

According to the release, in the last five years, the region has welcomed three breweries, three distilleries, and the largest producer of hard artisan cider in the state. The new site provides information and online mapping capabilities for these new businesses, and many more tasting destinations throughout the Yakima Valley, including restaurants that feature locally crafted adult beverages.

The Yakima Valley is the top agricultural region in Washington State. In addition to growing 40 varieties of crops, the Valley produces 78 percent of the nation’s hops. For decades, commercial and craft breweries across the country and globe have relied on the quality hops grown in the Valley for their products.

Tourism leaders believe this project will complement the thriving wine industry of the Yakima Valley, which boasts more than 120 wineries and acres of rolling vineyards.

“Our agricultural heritage is a foundation of our visitor industry,” stated John Cooper, president and CEO of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau. “It’s only natural that we should celebrate our role in the beer and distillery industries.”

The website also contains a history of the hops industry, a blog with guest authors, and a calendar of events of interest to beer, cider,  and spirits enthusiasts.

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