July 1, 2007
Pigs on Parade
As part of the Pike Place Market’s Centennial Celebration, 100 fiberglass pigs in the likeness of Rachel, the Market’s beloved piggybank mascot, filled the streets of downtown Seattle as they paraded from Westlake Center to the Market on Saturday, June 2. Festooned with beads, tiles, gold paint, and even pennies, these porkers with a purpose spent the weekend at the Centennial Street Festival, then moved to their summer homes in locations all over downtown Seattle. On October 12 the creative masterpieces will congregate at the Westin Hotel, where they’ll be auctioned off to benefit the Market Foundation and all its good charity work. Among the most whimsical pigs? Pigasso; Dolly, the Public Relations Pig (donated by Seattle p.r. whiz Tamara Wilson of Wilson Public Relations fame); Pigasus; Pirate Pig; and my fave—Carmen Miranda Pig. pigsonparade.org
Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining Update
On June 13, I turned in the final corrections for my seventh book: Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining, which will be published in early October by John Wiley & Sons. This has truly been one of the most intense and rewarding times of my life. Research for the book took one year, writing a second year, and it’s been in production for one year with several rounds of copyediting; first, second, and final pages to review; and book jacket design, so I am more than ready to hold the first copy in my hands this fall. I’ve already planned two culinary demonstrations/booksignings at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival (October 26 and 27), and you’ll find articles on the book in magazines such as Plate, Seattle, and Wine Press Northwest. Advance copies are available for just $21.45 on amazon.com.
Tap House Grill Opens in Downtown Seattle
On Saturday evening, June 16, Seattle’s young and restless (along with some older press members such as yours truly) made the scene at the Tap House Grill VIP party. Located in the long-vacant Planet Hollywood location on Sixth Avenue, life-size action figures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, walls full of autographed Hollywood memorabilia, and food along the lines of Cap’n Crunch Chicken Tenders have given way to a contemporary, elegant space with 160 (!) beers on tap. The dramatic subterranean interior features gilded panels overhanging the curving bar, blood-red padded alcoves, and concrete floors that make for an energetic, if loud, zietgeist. Private rooms and elevated seating areas break the cavernous 13,000-square-foot space into more intimate areas for têtes-à-tête or private parties.
The buffet supper we sampled included finger food such as an assortment of sushi, chicken drummettes, mini-hamburgers, and lamb chops, and was generous, if underwhelming. Management plans an official media dinner once the kitchen and servers have a change to settle in, so I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to experience the menu in greater depth.
The Tap House Grill opened to the public on Monday, June 18. The Bellevue Galleria houses the original location, with expansion plans to Portland and California if the Seattle store proves successful. taphousegrill.com
Portland Announces the Northwest’s First “Selmelier!”
I’ve heard of wine, tea, and even maple-syrup sommeliers. But a notice from the Portland Culinary Alliance alerted me that our innovative neighbor to the south now has its very own salt sommelier, or “selmelier.” Mark Bitterman and his wife, Jennifer Turner, first fell in love with finishing salts after several years spent in France. Now, at The Meadow, their reportedly “charming little shop on Mississippi, in the heart of one of Portland’s most happening neighborhoods,” Mark and Jennifer sell 60 gourmet salts and 10 peppers, along with dark chocolate, wine, and flowers. The salts come from nearly every continent and range in color from white to black, including smoked salt. Mark keeps a blog (saltnews.com) in which he states, “Gourmet finishing salts are the crystals through which our world can be seen in all its variegated and changing beauty.” saltnews.com
Canada’s First-Ever Sake Producer
Not to be outdone, Vancouver, British Columbia, now plays host to Canada’s very first sake winery, Artisan SakeMaker Studio. Located on Granville Island, in the heart of Vancouver’s bustling False Creek, the new sake maker offers Junmai Nama (think crisp pear, melon, and citrus notes), Junmai Nama Genshu (with fragrant tropical flavors), and Junmai Nama Nigori (a sweet, cloudy sake, the ideal complement to spicy food). The sakes are fermented in small batches from top-of-the-line Japanese sakamai (rice), then hand-pressed and –bottled. artisansakemaker.com
“The Chef in the Hat,” Thierry Rautureau of Rover’s fame and Kurt Beecher Dammeier, owner/founder of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, competed against each other and several members of the Granite City Curling Club during the “Rolling of the Truckles” at the third annual Seattle Cheese Festival, held in mid-May at the Pike Place Market. Dammeier claimed the prize in the brief, intense contest which involved rolling 18-pound, barrel-shaped cheeses with a special cheese spatula down the brick cobbles along Pike Place.
Bewitching BOKA Kitchen + Bar
Despite recently losing its talented opening chef, Seis Kamimura, BOKA (Bold Original Kitchen Artistry) in the sleek Hotel 1000 (at First and Madison) remains on firm ground as one of the city’s most creative dining experiences. On a recent Saturday-night visit, we were thrilled to reconnect with Sommelier/General Manager Marc Papineau. Many of you know Marc from his stint at Earth & Ocean in the W Hotel; he’s been at BOKA for just about a year.
In addition to a stellar “regular” wine list that includes an impressive line-up of Northwest choices, he has a journal-like “If I were here drinking with you tonight” list of personal faves called “Marc’s List.” We were tempted by a Pinot Noir from Washington’s Syncline Wine Cellars sourced from the world-famous Celilo Vineyard and another from Oregon’s Beaux Freres, but opted for a more full-bodied, dark-raspberry-rich Russian River Valley Pinot from DoMUL Winery.
On the food side, the Dungeness Crab Cupcakes reign supreme among the city’s small bites (called “urban bites” and served in pairs at BOKA); Spring Garden Vegetable Soup arrived in a stark white bowl that looked like a miniature modern bathtub; Spiced Leg of Lamb (pictured below) was perfectly cooked to medium-rare, with creamy polenta and rich tomato sauce as accents; a cube of wild king salmon with crispy-cooked skin carefully perched atop seasonal veggies and a bed of flavorful couscous.
Sitting at the bar at BOKA was a sublime experience as the expert bartendress muddled mojitos and slipped us a sip of organic vodka when we expressed an interest. Designed by Seattle’s Mesher Shing, the interior is at once sleek, warm, and contemporary with glass art “trees” by Seattleite J.P. Canlis and Spanish gesture paintings by Gonzalo Martin-Calero.
Digitized images of the world’s great artwork play on plasma screens, while the glow behind the bar changes from lilac to turquoise to tangerine in slow succession, soothing the senses and calming the soul. bokaseattle.com
Tempting TASTE Restaurant
We could hardly wait for the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) to reopen, not so much for the expanded galleries and new collections as for the first tempting tastes of TASTE Restaurant. The brainchild of good buddy and fellow Seattle Dame Danielle Custer, TASTE reflects Danielle’s and Executive Chef Christopher Conville’s passion for sustainably sourced Northwest foods, such as Lummi Island salmon, St. Jude’s line-caught albacore tuna, and Full Circle Farms organic greens. These fresh foods partner perfectly with TASTE’s reasonably priced and thoughtfully devised wine list, which is composed entirely of Northwest options (!).
Our first meal there, during the soft opening, was a Saturday lunch that we expected would take 45 minutes and be the typical, institutional, museum-café experience. WRONG! Artfully arranged on a long white plate, my Wild Salmon Niçoise Salad was a colorful palette of baby beets, fingerling potatoes, hard-boiled egg, spring beans, medium-rare salmon, and crispy shallots. Croque Madame was upscale comfort food, the broiled ham and cheese playfully topped with a fried farm egg and accompanied by local greens. Chocolate lovers shouldn’t miss one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted—Chocolate Coffee Parfait with Hazelnut Biscotti. Deep chocolate mousse was doused in a shot of bitter Italian coffee while mascarpone cheese provided a creamy component, the dark-chocolate hazelnut “biscotti” (more like a chocolate bark) added a musky crunch, and a sprinkle of salt perked the palate. Deconstructed Berry Buckle with Lemon Cream and Thyme Meringue was another intriguing mix of sweet and savory. Two hours after our arrival, as we sipped Torrefazione Italian coffee and fought over the last remnants of dessert, we knew that TASTE more than lived up to its name!
TASTE’s contemporary, modern ambience rivals world-class museum cafes and restaurants around the world. Upon entering the 90-seat restaurant, guests are immediately welcomed with a whimsical, all-white installation by local artist Jeffry Mitchell. At night, the white takes on a blue glow thanks to softly flickering glassybaby candle votives. Once the new Four Seasons Hotel is finished construction across the street (Spring 2008), the “West Edge” neighborhood that’s home to SAM and nearby Benaroya Concert Hall will draw a steady stream of tourists and locals alike, and First Avenue may finally live up to its nickname as “the Park Avenue of Seattle.” www.tastesam.com
Two recent meals at Place Pigalle prove that the kitchen and front-of-house are in the very capable hands of Seth and Lluvia Walker after at the departure of owner Bill Frank after 25 years. Oysters on the half shell were full and lush; the oyster stew remains one of the best renditions in town (brimming with the essence of oyster in the lush, creamy soup base), and a baby beet salad came accompanied by a generous knob of hazelnut-crusted goat cheese. Long-standing signature dishes such as Calamari Dijonnaise, Steamed Mussels Pigalle, and Chocolate Pot de Crème soothe old-timers such as myself, but don’t miss chef Tom Schultz’s daily-changing specials, which often showcase a Korean/Asian kick that is especially intriguing. placepigalle-seattle.com
Recently opened at a rather dismal location on Stewart Street between Second and Third Avenues overlooking the Bon Marché parking garage is one of the most fun and fanciful French restaurants in all of Seattle: Entre Nous. If this place were on First Avenue (such as Le Pichet) it’d have a mighty following. Placed where it is, its survival seems precarious unless diners discover it and rally around the cause. The concept sounds strange: French tapas and fondue. But the friendly welcome with a basket of warm, freshly baked baguette and the small plates designed for sharing quickly dispel any doubts. French-born chef Stephane Ohayon and his family are much in evidence; on a drizzly Saturday afternoon, several generations were celebrating a family-member’s birthday at a nearby table! We enjoyed an endive, blue cheese, and walnut salad and mussels in a kicky red pepper/green pepper butter sauce. The Croque Monsieur was a decadent delight, but only for those who don’t mind a liberal douse of gravy-like béchamel sauce. Don’t miss reading the brochure that sits on each table (and is also posted on the Web site) entitled, “Decoding French Dining.” The “Decoder” explains the French people’s take on proper dining manners, such as keeping your hands out of your lap and ladies not pouring wine for themselves. entrenousseattle.com
Frankly, it’d been years since we last tried The Brooklyn, even though it’s within two blocks of our downtown condo. But with the recent reopening of the Seattle Art Museum, you can imagine the venerable Brooklyn seeing an infusion of new faces in addition to ours. We were surprised that they now offer a “small plates” menu with the likes of a delicious Dungeness Crab Tower (more of a bowlful of fresh bibb lettuce, copious amounts of sweet crab meat, and a sweet/tart lime vinaigrette that rivals Tom Douglas’s version at Etta’s) and a lovely spicy fried calamari with Asian coleslaw and nuoc cham dipping sauce. Specially paired flights of oysters with oyster wines seemed very popular and are a big attraction for both tourist and locals alike. thebrooklyn.com
Chef Eric Donnelly is really hitting his stride at The Oceanaire Seafood Room if a recent visit is any indication. Having grown up on the East Coast, I can rarely resist any version of soft-shell crabs, and Chef Eric’s did not disappoint. The soft-shelled beauties were fried in a light tempura batter, cut in half with claws splayed skyward, and accompanied by an amazing spicy sweet corn risotto, which could have been a meal in itself. Hebi, a Hawaiian spearfish that reminded me of a lighter version of bluefin tuna, was cut sashimi-style with the classic accompaniments of soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Pristine perfection. The Grand Shellfish Platter never fails to astonish, with chilled oysters on the half shell, mussels, clams, huge shrimp, and cracked Dungeness crab claws. The thickest spears of Yakima asparagus with eggy Hollandaise form the final decadent indulgence. oceanaireseafoodroom.com
Located in a subterranean space with romantic alcoves divided by crimson curtains, 94 Stewart Restaurant is a heartfelt, family-run place where mom Celinda Norton serves as chef, son Nicholas is general manager and cheese expert, and father Michael Norton acts as “fix-it man” and owner. A quick, late-night dinner turned up two hearty mains along with an excellent bottle of Washington red. The Roast Pork Loin was sauced with a cider reduction and lardons (thick, crispy bacon bites) and sided with blue-cheese mashers. My Chicken San Marzano could easily have served two, for its double breast was fried in a light breading (panko, perhaps?), topped with Italian tomato sauce, and served over bulghur wheat salad. A trip to the restroom is a must here, for lining the corridor to the washrooms are hundreds (thousands?) of customer comment cards and maps with push pins that highlight 94 Stewart’s customers origins from around the world! 94stewart.com
With the advent of summer, my husband and I have been enjoying more than our fair share of dry, reasonably priced Northwest Rosés. They’re not only thirst-quenching and good partners with lighter summer foods, but they also bring back fond memories of patio lunches of Salade Niçoise (me) and Moules Frites (hubby) during our October visit to Provence. When sipping these rosy-hued wines, look for a pale- to medium-pink color; aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry fruit, and occasional hints of dried herbs and dill. Texture is lively and fresh, and sometimes a bit mellow. Some of our recent favorites include:
•Barnard Griffin 2006 Rosé of Sangiovese (100% Sangiovese) has been turning heads in national wine competitions including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, where it took home double gold and best of class after being judged among 3,800 wines. You’ll enjoy this wine for its cherry, cranberry, and raspberry notes backed by balanced, not-too-tart, acidity. Stocks are running low (1,041 cases produced) so stash some now for summer sipping. $11
•Syncline Wine Cellars 2006 Rosé is made from 68% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and 7% Cinsault and offers pleasing hints of watermelon in the nose and on the palate. Buy it soon and often, as only 460 cases were produced. $13
•Chinook Wines 2006 Rosé of Cabernet Franc (100% Cabernet Franc) has been called “the closest thing to a Rosé cult wine in this state” by Seattle wine writer Richard Kinssies. The 2006 vintage displays aromas and flavors of strawberry jam. $15-16
•Snoqualmie Vineyard Winery 2003 Cirque du Rosé is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and features pleasing strawberry and spice aromas and flavors. $9
Washington Wine Country was a fun-filled weekend of “wine-touring” held on the grounds of Woodinville’s venerable Chateau Ste. Michelle. Here I am in front of the Puget Sound Appellation pavilion, which featured an impressive assortment of wineries, restaurants, and travel partners from the appellation. The four regional pavilions hosted representatives from Walla Walla, Yakima, Red Mountain, and the Columbia Valley for a total of 70 wineries, 50 restaurants, and 30 travel partners. In its second year of operation, Washington Wine Country truly fulfilled its mission of “connecting the state.”