Northwest Wining and Dining Drinks Seattle!

June 3, 2013

A.J. Rathbun Drink Seattle iphone app

A.J. Rathbun, our good buddy and prolific author, whom we’ve written about not one time, but twice for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, has done it again.

But this time instead of another book (among which he has written “Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz,” the award-winning “Good Spirits,” and a host of others), this time A.J. has come up with his own app: Drink Seattle: A Spirited Journey Through Seattle Bars and Cocktails with A.J. Rathbun.

The Drink Seattle app costs just $1.99 in the iPhone App Store, with an Android version coming soon.

In the app, A.J. Rathbun, awarding-winning author of a host of cocktail and home-entertaining books, recommends over 50 of the best bars, cocktails, distilleries, and cocktail supply shops in and around Seattle.

And whether you’re visiting Seattle or already live here, if you like a good drink, you need this app. With the ever-jovial and witty A.J. as your guide, you won’t miss a lounge, bar, distillery, or dive that’s worth sitting down and sipping within.

This bubbly whirl gives you a great drink in nearly every neighborhood, specific cocktail picks for each place and a host of insights on individual bar personalities.

Each recommended establishment features a detailed review, notes on what to order, and great photos and tips for having the best experience you can.

As you’d expect, the app has a lot of bells and whistles–GPS, one-touch dialing, and turn-by-turn directions – and vital info like business hours, websites, etc. And, awesomely, the app is updated frequently so you stay abreast of all the latest changes in the Seattle cocktail scene.

A.J. knows from whence he writes, since he pens the monthly Bar Hop column for Seattle Magazine and a weekly blog for them on spirits, cocktails, and bars, as well as authoring his own tipsy blog Spiked Punch. He’s a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and a contributor to culinary and entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others.

For even more from A.J., you can follow him on Twitter.


Don’t Miss the First-Ever Victoria, BC, Spot Prawn Festival

April 29, 2013

Spot Prawns

Hungry foodies will want to plan trips to Victoria, British Columbia, in May and July to coincide with two upcoming food festivals: the inaugural Victoria Spot Prawn Festival and Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food & Wine.

According to a recent press release, the Victoria Spot Prawn Festival runs from May 25 to 26, 2013, and kicks off with a long-table dinner and film presented by the Island Chefs Collaborative. Tickets are $150 CDN and limited to 250 people.

On May 26, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors are invited to take in crafts, music, guest speakers, and chef demos by local favorites such as Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub and Vancouver Island Salt Company. Fresh seafood will be available on site along with plenty of other food vendors.

This family-friendly party by the sea is free to attend and not-to-be-missed!

From July 25 to July 28, 2013, experience Victoria’s fifth-annual festival of food and wine with Taste held at the Crystal Garden. Showcasing more than 100 British Columbia wines, guests will experience local fare prepared by top Vancouver Island chefs from some of the city’s finest restaurants such as The Marina Restaurant and AURA Waterfront Restaurant + Patio at the Inn at Laurel Point.

Tickets for the main event are $79 CDN, with more intimate events with themes such as Swine on the Vine and Sips &  Seafood filling the remainder of the festival schedule.

For more information, visit

Twitter Handles: @IslandChefs and @TravelWithTaste


Wining and Dining with Guests Through Seattle and Environs

April 15, 2013

The first week in April, from Thursday at 1:30 p.m. to Sunday at 11 a.m., we enjoyed showing my brother and sister-in-law around Seattle.

Welcome sign nan and brad

Here’s the cute “pig” blackboard sign in our condo that welcomed them to town.

Place pigalle oyster stew photo

We had our first lunch at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market (oyster stew, beet salad, duck confit, crab cakes). Here’s a gorgeous shot of Place Pigalle’s oyster stew, one of the best, if not THE best, version in town.

Wild Ginger Seven Elements Soup

At Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar, in downtown Seattle, three of us ordered the justly famous Seven Element Soup, which is available only at lunchtime (pity!). We also managed to down platters of Seven-Spice Beef, Siam Lettuce Cups, Hanoi Tuna, and bok choy.

Restaurant Marché Vegetable Plate

My brother was here partly for business reasons, so on the day he crossed over the mountains to attend a meeting in Yakima, Spencer and I took sis-in-law on a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island for a nature walk, exploring downtown, and lunch at our friend, Greg Atkinson’s, lovely Restaurant Marché.

We loved the menu, and enjoyed wild salmon, the Market Vegetable Plate (a daily-changing entrée with “five veggies five ways,” such as braised greens, grilled asparagus, carrots, and pea flan the day we were there).

Restaurant Marché Salad Niçoise

Here is my gorgeous Salade Niçoise with a very generous portion of perfectly cooked albacore tuna riding atop. The recipe is on Greg’s website and would be a snap to whip up at home.

And although we really weren’t hungry, we had to try a scoop at Mora Iced Creamery shop just outside of Marché. Pistachio, Gianduja (Italian hazelnut chocolate), and Coconut were our delectable choices.

Debra prinzing bouquet book

It was thrilling to see my dear friend Debra Prinzing’s book, “The 50-Mile Bouquet,” prominently displayed in the front window at Intentional Table on Bainbridge, in the Madrone Lane area  just outside Marché.

Steelhead Diner Caviar Pie

Our three dinners began in grand style at Steelhead Diner in the Pike Place Market, just across the street from bro and sis-in-law’s hotel, the beautiful, boutique-y Inn at the Market. In a bit of New Orleans-style lagniappe, chef Anthony sent over one of our absolute favorite dishes in Seattle–Caviar Pie.

After devouring that, we ordered more: Dungeness Crab Cake, Kasu Cod, troll-caught salmon. . .

Steelhead Diner Whole Idaho Trout

and the gorgeous whole Idaho Trout swimming in a brown-butter bath and sprinkled with a plethora of plump pecans. Yum!

Terra Plata shisito peppers

Vowing never to eat (or drink) again, we somehow managed to rally the next evening at Terra Plata, where the truly addictive Shisito Peppers with Aïoli didn’t last long.

Terra Plata Scallop Crudo

Nor did the Roasted Olives, Medjool Dates, or Scallop Crudo (pictured above).

Terra Plata Scallop Crudo

Scallops with Melted Leeks and a fried quail egg was my entrée; the meat eaters enjoyed the Braised Short Ribs.

Terra plata pavlova dessert

Two desserts sated our sweet tooths (teeth?!?!). Here’s the Pavlova. . .

Terra plata apple tart

And the Apple Tart.

RN74 Tomato Soup Fondue

For our last supper (sounds rather dire!), we lived it up at the always ebullient RN74 in downtown Seattle. Sis-in-law loved the Tomato Soup Fondue, while bro ordered a gorgeous Green Pea Soup with Dungeness crab. Spencer opted for escargots (served in the shell!), and I got the Butter Lettuce Salad with Blue Cheese.

RN74 Black Cod

Here’s the generous portion of Black Cod with Bok Choy and Wild Mushrooms that I ordered. Beef Bourguignon, Duck Breast, and Beef Filet satisfied my dining companions.

RN74 Woodward Canyon Wine

From the Last Bottle list (an ever-changing board, much like a railroad-station board) we chose a 2005 Woodward Canyon Winery Red Blend (made up of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc and Merlot) that was drinking absolutely perfectly (and a steal at $110, which is the reason we love the Last Bottle List so much!).

Etta's Seafood Salmon Cakes

Bro and sis-in-law wanted a really good Dungeness Crab Benedict for their final meal in Seattle. So bright and early (at least for Spencer and me) at 9:30 on Sunday morning, we trotted down the hill from their hotel for brunch at Etta’s, one of legendary Seattle chef Tom Douglas’s 10 restaurants.

By now, even intrepid eaters such as Spencer and me were in a food and wine coma. So I was very appreciate of the brunch special of the day since it was a bit on the lighter/healthier side: Salmon Cake and Grilled Asparagus and Arugula Salad (well, maybe the fried egg on top wasn’t so healthy!).

Etta's Seafood Dungeness Crab Benedict

The relatives raved about their Dungeness Crab Cakes Benedict, and Spencer chowed down on one of his long-time favorite dishes about town: Etta’s Breakfast (scrambled eggs, house-made chicken sausage, home fries, and sour-dough toast).

Etta's Seafood Family Group Shot

Here we are about to chow down at Etta’s, looking happy, and perhaps a few pounds heavier, after so much good food and drink in such a concentrated amount of time.

Of course, we did some sightseeing along the way (had to burn off some of those calories!) and enjoyed (and highly recommend) Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. We had been last May with Spencer’s cousin and wife, so feared we might be bored going again so soon. But we had a great guide–Dietrich–who has been working for the company on and off since 1989. He looked at things from an architectural standpoint as well as historical, and we all agreed we learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it.

SAM MIRROR art installation

We also spent a few hours at the Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibit: Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasure of Kenwood House, London. The paintings were truly inspiring, but perhaps most noteworthy (downright awesome) were the Rembrandt etchings.

Pike Place Market Scene

Bro and sis-in-law enjoyed discovering Pike Place Market, especially Le Panier for morning coffee, croissant, and banana bread.

Utilikilt Damaged Dummy Display

The weather was downright ugly (drizzle, heavy rain, a little sun, sunshine while it was raining!), and here is proof–a downed mannequin in front of the Utilikilts store in Pioneer Square.

Seattle Cityscape from Bainbridge Island Ferry

More proof of the inclement weather; brooding skies as shown from the ferry coming back from Bainbridge Island.

Seattle great wheel elliott bay waterfront july 4 photo

Bro and sis-in-law promised they would be back soon, so I’ve already started thinking about what we will do next time.

For starters? How about a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel?


Top-10 Drink Menu Trends for 2013

February 25, 2013

In our last blog post, we cited our 13 top culinary trends  for 2013.

Today we cover the top-10 drink menu trends for beverages, gathered from members of the United States Bartenders Guild.

United States Bartenders Guild Top-10 Drink Menu Trends for 2013

1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks.

2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings.

3. Culinary cocktails using fresh, savory ingredients.

4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor.

5. Locally produced spirits.

6. Locally sourced fruit, berries, and produce.

7. Beer sommeliers (cicerones).

8. Regional signature cocktails.

9. Beer-based cocktails.

10. Locally produced beer.

Source: National Restaurant Association

Northwest Wining and Dining 2013 Top Culinary Trends

February 11, 2013

While I’m working out on the elliptical trainer at the gym, I like to read food- and beverage-related articles I’ve clipped from magazines or printed from the Internet.

Of special interest is anything having to do with culinary trends. These articles tend to come out at year-end or early in the New Year. So this year I began saving them early on and then read them en masse.

Below you’ll find my compilation of a baker’s dozen of the top trends that I see on the horizon for the coming year.

My trends are taken from a variety of sources including Nation’s Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality,, Associated Press, the National Restaurant Association, Sterling-Rice Group, Technomic, The Chicago Tribune, and the Food & Beverage Specialty Team of MSLGROUP North America.

Will any or all of these trends move into the mainstream in 2013? Stay tuned!

Northwest Wining and Dining 2013 Top Culinary Trends  

1. Locally Sourced and Grown Meats, Seafood, and Produce: Locavore Movement still white-hot. Hyper-local (restaurant gardens and rooftop beehives) even better. Wild crafting (rescuing heirlooms from obscurity or extinction) becoming important to some chefs. Environmentally sustainable as a culinary theme.

2. Healthy Restaurant Items: Gluten-free menus; chefs add brown rice, high-fiber grains, and vitamin-rich vegetable broths; chefs are more willing to accommodate special dietary requests from diners.

3. Vegetarian Dishes: Meatless meals, flexitarians, vegans, innovative salads, steamed and roasted vegetable dishes. Use of “new” and gluten-free grains including quinoa, amaranth, and millet. Kohlrabi Bourguignon an entrée at AQ restaurant in San Francisco. Vegetables serve as main dishes, not just supporting players. Millet may be the next quinoa.

4. Casualization of Dining: Food trucks, pop-up restaurants, “The Food Truck Handbook.”

5. Food in Small Packages: Cake pops, chicken bites, mini cinnamon buns, mini milkshakes, mini corn dogs, cheesecake bites, sliders. Small plates meant for sharing are being replaced by small plates designed for one person only, which leads to a truly customized dining experience.

6. Snacks as Meals: Snacks are now accounting for one in five “meal occasions,” bar food and happy hour remain wildly popular, along with tapas, mezze, upscale bar bites.

7. Asian Food Popular: Noodle dishes, pho, ramen, layered noodle bowls, fragrant soups, mixed-texture salads, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Sriracha sauce.

8. Bold Flavors: Spicy food, real ethnic food, South American (Brazil, Argentina, Peru) foods including South American-style grilled meats and ceviche, and drinks such as the Caipirinha and Pisco Sour.

9. New Cuts of Meat: Cuts from seldom-used pieces, e.g., Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major. Sustainable use of the “whole animal.”

10. Cocktail Craze: Bars dictate future flavors, craft cocktails, barrel-aged cocktails, micro distilleries, “girly” liquors (cake-flavored Vodka, Skinny Girl products).

11. Bitter and Sour Flavors: Fermented cherry juice, varietal vinegars, homemade bitters, sour beer, kefir (naturally fermented milk).

12. Trendy Preservation: Cured, brined, pickled, dried, dehydrated, salted, and fermented foods, kimchi (Korean pickled vegetable).

13. “Hot” Ingredients and Flavors: Hibiscus, pomegranate, anything coconut (coconut water, coconut nectar as a sweetener, even coconut oil which was once demonized as a “bad fat), stevia, Greek-style yogurt. Leafy greens including kale and chard, plus beet, turnip, and mustard greens. Arugula a main salad component.

A Lovely Online Food and Wine Guide

October 26, 2012

I just found out about a food and wine guide that will be useful to anyone contemplating a trip around the Pacific Northwest, or even just for vicarious “travel” for armchair travelers.

The Northwest Food and Wine Guide features page after page of restaurant descriptions and menus for Portland, Seattle, Vancouver (British Columbia), and northern California.

Following the restaurant descriptors comes touring information for wineries, distilleries, and breweries in the same areas.

I loved “leafing” through the magazine’s pretty pages while viewing them on my new computer’s crisp and vibrant retina display.

The magazine’s editors are based in Portland, so the magazine skews heavily toward that town. I’m sure as they sign up more advertisers, and people find out about the Guide, that Seattle, Vancouver, and Northwest wine regions will get more play in the merry mix.



Springing into the Season at The Pink Door

May 22, 2012

We always enjoy eating at The Pink Door, the fun and funky restaurant with seriously good food located in the Pike Place Market along upper Post Alley.

But there’s no better time than spring.

The restaurant recently announced its new seasonal food-and-drink offerings, and they sound delish.

The Pink Door’s Duo of Spring Crostini

On the food side, we’re anxious to sample the Duo of Spring Crostini (fava-pea purée, radish, and sea salt. as well as shrimp, limoncello, and lemon-zest gremolata).

Spaghetti with Artichokes (spaghetti, fresh artichokes, parsley, garlic and artisanal olive oil) and the Bucket-O-Peas also sound so fresh and seasonal.

The Pink Door’s Fernet Mint Julep

New cocktails that signal spring include La Porta (Gin, Dimmi, Luxardo, and fresh grapefruit juice) and the Fernet Mint Julep (Bourbon, Fernet-Branca, and muddled mint, topped with soda). The latter sounds especially bracing and refreshing.

I’ve really been getting into the whole bitters thing (such as Campari and Cocchi Americano) lately. Both marry well with diet or regular tonic water as a mixer.

The Pink Door’s Everything Green Salad

Of course, nothing compares to the Pink Door’s Everything Green Salad with fresh fava beans, asparagus, English peas, and pistachios, all set atop lacy butter lettuce leaves and sauced with Green Goddess (creamy tarragon-tinged) dressing.

I’ve written about it many times in Northwest Notes, and love to add a mound of sweet, succulent Dungeness crab to turn it into a main-dish salad.

I also included the Everything Green Salad among my Favorite Dishes from 2011.

Crostini and Mint Julep photos courtesy of The Pink Door; Everything Green Salad photo by Braiden Rex-Johnson. 


RN74’s Somm Saturdays

April 17, 2012

One of our favorite new restaurants about town–RN74–has announced the dates for its Spring winemaker dinners.

The popular (often sold-out) dinners begin on April 24 with Piedmontese vintner La Spinetta attended by none other than owner Giorgio Rivetti.

And more good news. This season’s wine events are highlighted by a new feature, Saturday with the Somms (as in sommeliers), kicking off on April 21.

This informative and fun series features guided and focused regional tastings lead by RN74 Seattle wine team Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, Chris Tanghe, and Luke Wohlers.

Offered on three Saturdays (one in April, May, and June), these two-hour oenophilic excursions from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. take attendees on a tour of the wines of Burgundy and Champagne, paired with light, traditional appetizers along the lines of cheese and charcuterie. Saturdays with the Somms are $45 per class or $105 for all three.

RN74 is named after Route National 74, the major thoroughfare passing through the heart of France’s Burgundy region. With cellar access to more than 10,000 bottles, the restaurant’s wine list features international selections from Burgundy and throughout Europe to regional finds from the Pacific Northwest.

The wine bar and restaurant showcases roughly 80 wines on wall-mounted menu boards–the “Market Board” and the “Last Bottle Board”–which highlight special, limited wine offerings that change with each last bottle sold via Italian-made train station boards with plaques that flip over when a bottle is no longer available.

Here’s the complete list of upcoming RN74 Seattle Behind the Bottle Dinners: 


La Spinetta with Owner Giorgio Rivetti – 7 PM at the Chef’s Table


Pierre De Benoist From A. Et P. Villaine &  Anne Charlotte Genet

From Domaine Charles Joguet – 7 PM at the Chef’s Table


Nicholas Potel and the Wines of Domaine De Bellenen – 7 PM at the Chef’s Table



Here are upcoming Saturday with the Somms dates and details:

April 21 – COTE DE NUITS

Its Grand Cru Vineyards date to the 1100’s, its wines are the pinnacle expression of pinot noir. Stylistically the wines span the grapes tremendous range from the delicate Chambolle-Musigny, the sturdy wines of Gevrey-Chambertin, the rustic Nuit Saint Georges, and the power and grace of Vosne-Romanee. Immerse yourself in the extraordinary wines of the Cote de Nuits with Sommelier Chris Tanghe.


Puligny-Montrachet is the greatest white wine-producing commune in the world. The wines of Pommard are earthy and minerally, Beaune shows pinot noirs purity and expresses the grapes’ elegance even in its youth, Volnay is the most charming and delightful commune in the Cote d’Or. The wines of Corton are explosive and bold. Smell, sip and swirl the intricate expressions of chardonnay and pinot noir from their homeland with Lead Sommelier Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen.


Literally translated as ‘open landscape’, Champagne is not just any sparkling wine. It is a wine produced from three specific grape varieties: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier using the ‘Champagne method’ from the province of the same name. Although sparkling wine is produced all over the world, it can only be called ‘Champagne’ in this heavily regulated wine district.  Explore Champagne and the wines of Chablis through the eyes of Sommelier Luke Wohlers.

Photo Courtesy of RN74

Capital Grille Glorious Happy Hour

March 16, 2012

Now that we are living the low-carb/high-protein lifestyle, downtown Seattle’s Capital Grille has become one of our go-to places for a simply grilled piece of fish and a wedge salad.

The Grille is located in the venerable Cobb Building. It served as a medical/dental building for many years (our very own , now-retired dentist had an office there) before being converted into apartments. . .and home to The Capital Grille.

Here’s a gorgeous piece of ivory salmon I enjoyed a few weeks ago. Although a bit more cooked than I would have liked, the fish was flapping fresh and the simple tomato sauce and sautéed spinach didn’t overpower.

At a business appointment in the Grille’s bar earlier that afternoon, I enjoyed a glass of good-quality Sauvignon Blanc while Spencer had a California Pinot Noir. We didn’t have appetizers (knowing we were coming back for dinner in a few short hours) but watched in amazement as several of the tables around us partook of Miniature Lobster and Dungeness Crab Burgers, Pan-Fried Calamari, and Parmesan Truffle Fries.

Happy Hour is offered weekdays 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with all selections just six bucks apiece. Signature cocktails including the Stoli Doli (Cap Grille’s Signature Martini, infused with fresh pineapple!), Hemingway Daiquiri, or Adults Only Arnold Palmer, along with select wines by the glass are also available.

I’ll be back for such low-carb options as the Prawn Cocktail, while Spencer can enjoy red-meat options including the Miniature Tenderloin Sandwich or Miniature Signature Cheeseburger. Just hold the bread, please!

Time to Dine Around Seattle!

March 6, 2012

The amazing mussels appetizer from Steelhead Diner, one of the participants in Dine Around Seattle® 

March may bring the dreaded Ides, but also ushers in the ever-popular Dine Around Seattle®, Seattle’s original dining deal.

Now in its 11th year, Dine Around Seattle® will satisfy the fine food cravings of diners throughout the region with three-course, prix-fixe dinners for $30 and lunches for $15 at some of Seattle’s most delicious establishments.

New participants include Betty, Volterra, Local 360, Bako, The Scotch and Vine, Carmelita Vegetarian Restaurant & Bar, Assaggio, and BOKA Kitchen + Bar. (Prices do not include beverage, tax, or gratuity.)

Each restaurant will offer its Dine Around Seattle® menu Sunday through Thursday, from now until through March 29. Diners interested in making reservations can do so via the OpenTable reservations widget on the website and at the Dine Around Facebook page.

Dine Around’s blog features a lively play-by-play from participating restaurants. Diners are encouraged to check in during their dining experiences via Facebook, Twitter (@dinearoundsea), FourSquare, and Instagram.

The complete list of participating restaurants includes:

35th Street Bistro, Andaluca, ART Restaurant & Lounge, Assaggio Ristorante, Bako, Barking Frog, Barolo Ristorante, Barrio Mexican Kitchen and Bar, Betty Restaurant, Bin on the Lake, Blueacre Seafood, BOKA Kitchen + Bar, Carmelita Vegetarian Restaurant & Bar, Chandlers Crabhouse, Chez Shea, Chiso Sushi, Eva Restaurant, Fresh Bistro, Hunt Club, Le Grand Bistro Americain, Lecosho, Local 360, Lot No. 3, Mamma Melina Ristorante & Pizzeria, Monsoon East, Monsoon Seattle, Nishino, Palomino- Bellevue, Palomino-Seattle, Palisade Waterfront Restaurant, Peso’s Kitchen and Lounge, Ponti Seafood Grill, Preservation Kitchen, Purple Café and Wine Bar – Bellevue, Purple Café and Wine Bar – Kirkland, Purple Café and Wine Bar – Woodinville, Ray’s Boathouse, Shuckers, Spazzo Italian Grill & Wine Bar, Steelhead Diner, SZMANIA’S Steakhouse, Tango Restaurant, The Scotch and Vine, Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge, Urbane, and Volterra.

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