Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Local Vine makes Top 10 List

The Local Vine, one of Seattle's top wine bars , ranks No. 5 in this month's Bon Appetit Magazine as one of "The Hot 10." The atmosphere is quite a bit like a neighborhood coffee lounge. There's a fireplace, people lap tops using free wireless access, etc., but instead of ordering a latte or cappucino, you can order from a selection of than 100 wine-by-the-glass with a pairing menu as well. While nothing is pretenious about The Local Vine, dont' think they aren't serious about wine. Prices range from $5 a glass to $485 a glass.
Here's a look at the complete list:
Terroir, New YorkPaul Grieco and chef Marco Canora own this funky East Village spot near their popular Hearth restaurant. If you like your wines esoteric (Casamaro Blanco from Spain, Zweigelt from Austria) and your bar snacks edgy (sage leaves stuffed with lamb sausage, turkey wings tossed in agrodolce sauce), this is the place.413 E. 12th St.; 646-602-1300
Bar Bambino, San FranciscoThis slick new Ital-inspired spot, complete with a heated patio, is one of the best in a city of great wine bars. There are more than 40 wines by the glass, as well as a menu with highlights that include excellent salumi and cheese plates, pastas (try the bucatini), and polpette (meatballs in a rich tomato, onion, and green chard sauce).2931 16th St.; 415-701-8466
Top Flr, AtlantaAt this two-story gem in Midtown Atlanta, the small but smartly chosen list changes weekly and always includes interesting varietals from small-production wineries. The full-flavored, rustic food—duck confit and applewood-smoked-bacon pizza, grilled hanger steak—completes the experience.674 Myrtle St.; 404-685-3110
Tria Cafe, PhiladelphiaFermentation involves the conversion of carbohydrates into alcohols or acids. Put another way, it's how you make three of the world's great epicurean pleasures: wine, cheese, and beer. That trifecta is the inspiration behind the two locations of this popular tasting bar (there's also a separate "fermentation school," which features classes on all).1137 Spruce St.; 215-629-9200; 123 S. 18th St.; 215-972-8742
The Local Vine, SeattleOpened by friends and Harvard Business School grads Sarah Munson and Allison Nelson, The Local Vine is a wine bar masquerading as a coffee shop, complete with comfy chairs and free WiFi. The duo was also smart enough to hire Jason Wilson, of nearby Crush, to consult on the locally sourced menu.2520 Second Ave.; 206-441-6000
Cork Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.Every neighborhood needs a bar like Cork—a place where you can order a flight of sparkling wines paired with dishes like double-fried french fries tossed in parsley, garlic, and lemon, or chicken liver bruschetta. Thanks to husband-and-wife owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, the Dupont Circle area has just the place.1720 14th St., NW; 202-265-2675
Brasserie du Vin, HonoluluLocated in Chinatown, this transporting spot offers a taste (and sip) of the French countryside. Choose from classic dishes like frisée aux lardons, escargots baked in herb-garlic butter, and moules frites. As for the wine, pick from 25 choices by the glass, or for 30 percent of the bottle price, they'll pour you anything from the list.1115 Bethel St.; 808-545-1115
Tasca, Los AngelesThis rustic charmer is the kind of wine bar you'd expect to find down a side street in the El Born district of Barcelona. If you're into old-world wines and small plates—white anchovy crostini, boudin noir, chicken liver mousse—this is for you.8108 W. Third St.; 323-951-9890
Max's Wine Dive, HoustonJudging by the jukebox, concrete floors, and big, old-fashioned booths at this "dive," a beer would seem like the most obvious order. But then you'd miss out on the 160 selections of wine by the glass and inventive comfort food like the Kobe burger with Brie or fried oyster nachos.4720 Washington Ave.; 713-880-8737
Lavomatic Café, CincinnatiOccupying the site of a former Laundromat—lavomatic in French—this Gateway Quarter spot is the latest from Cincy celebrity chef Jean-Robert de Cavel. There are 30 wines by the glass available at the long bar made of—what else?—cork, or for a full-on restaurant experience, head to the rooftop dining area for rustic French fare.1211 Vine St.; 513-621-1999

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So what are you waiting for?

A few weeks ago my husband and I were looking over our wine collection and began imaging when and where we were going to enjoy some of our more precious bottles. - Call us wine geeks, but we do actually get giddy discussing the possibilities and whether the bottle should be decanted, who we'd share it with and the what not. -
We initially started listing life's normal celebrations; anniversaries and birthdays, moving on to milestones like our daughter's graduation. But then we started discussing life's everyday celebrations; a family dinner together, good friends who share the same political humor, a glorious sunset over the water in West Seattle; I think you get the idea. When people say celebrate life, are we? Do we? Or, are we caught up in the hub-bub of it all and that's why we wait for those occasions to pull out the special bottle? We asked that question of ourselves.
So, in celebration of it all, we decided to take out two glasses from the cupboard and open a bottle of 1995 Dalla Valle. It was an amazing impromptu celebration! And aren't those the best kind? The wine was rich and full of body with flavors of dark cherry, currants and hints of cocoa. We noticed a little bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle which is normal. I can't wait to do it again...soon! So what are you waiting for? Isn't it time to celebrate?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Portland - BlueHour

Portland, Oregon for a while now has been a weekend get-a-way for West Coast foodies. With less than an hour travel time to some of the best Pinot Noir wines in the world and home to a growing number of well known chefs and restaurants, Portland is a foodie mecca in the Pacific Northwest.
So, it comes as no surprise when a opportunity to travel to Portland came up, I planned to squeeze in time to visit a few places that have been creating buzz.
One in particular, Blue Hour. A modern styled restaurant in the Pearl District of Portland, it has received complimentary reviews from magazines such as Gourmet, for their simple yet flavorful Mediterranean styled dishes. The review from our hotel concierge was not as flattering, but I still wanted to give it ago.
The atmosphere was contemporary posh. The restaurant is in a large open warehouse with flowing black curtains separating tables, low light, candles, white leather and stainless steel chairs.
While the service was professional and impeccable, I wish what we had ordered was equally as nice. It was disappointing that there was only one Pinot Noir (by-the-glass) on the menu. My colleague Caroline, opted for the "special" cocktail - special of the house that evening - which was mediocre at best.
I was excited knowing that the BlueHour menu is a daily menu, thinking fresh, fresh, fresh. There are of course a few favorites which are standard.
I ordered the seared foie gras with roasted fig as my first course. It was among the best I've had. Tender, creamy and rich with flavor balanced by the sweet smokey flavors of the roasted fig. But, my risotto however was another story.
The next course was the Mushroom risotto. Foraging in the Pacific Northwest is a popular past-time, and the mushrooms are plentiful and robust. My disappointment was that I had little mushrooms, if any, and the flavor was pure Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving, but to have my risotto taste like good old fashioned poultry seasoning was something I could have done without.
Caroline's soup and pasta dish were also equally as disappointing. Luckily, there was the cheese cart. As I mentioned, the waitstaff is incredible. The cheese selections were beautifully categorized and presented on white marble. Our cheese steward knew every cheese and how to describe it in detail, making our mouths water. We asked for a selection of soft cheeses which would compliment one another in a flavor progression, and the steward did not disappoint us.

While a few things were good, overall, I thought while the prices reflected the publicity, neither reflected the expectations of quality. Perhaps it was an off night for the restaurant? That's the only thing I could think of...except that maybe our concierge was correct after all.

Monday, September 08, 2008

According to Media Week, the first isssue of Food Network Magazine is slated to be distributed next month. Below is the article by Lucia Moses.

Let's hope the magazine will feature more than just the personalities mentioned below in the article!

Hearst to Test Food Network Magazine

The first of two test issues is slated to come out in October, with a second to follow in January, said Michael Clinton, executive vp, chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst.

Despite the mixed history of publishing partnerships, Hearst Magazines and the Food Network are forging ahead with their new food title. Food Network Magazine, as they’re calling it, will represent the array of the network’s celeb chefs, from Paula Deen to Ina Garten to Bobby Flay. The first of two test issues is slated to come out in October, with a second to follow in January, said Michael Clinton, executive vp, chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst.Hearst has been tight-lipped about the magazine since starting to work on it in earnest early in 2008. The company has only recently acknowledged its existence and begun sharing information with buyers. Hearst is proceeding relatively cautiously, calling the titles a test, setting distribution at a relatively modest 300,000 copies, and holding off on hiring a publisher or dedicated sales staff until it decides to proceed with a full launch. Clinton agreed to talk about the magazine after Mediaweek learned details of the tests. The first issue contains 160 pages, 50 of them ad pages, including such clients as JCPenney, Kraft and Unilever. Some buyers said Hearst offered pages for free to loyal advertisers; Clinton said the company doesn’t comment on financial arrangements with clients. He also declined to give details of the partnership with the Food Network, saying only it was a collaboration.Food titles have taken their licks this year, with ad pages down 11.5 percent across the category, per the Mediaweek Monitor. But Jeff Fischer, senior vp, managing director at Universal McCann over Johnson & Johnson’s print business, said that with only a handful of mass-reach food magazines, there was room for another title, particularly as advertisers look to target consumers based on their passions. He said the Food Network, with its strong brand equity, also would be a plus.With the tagline “Cook like a star,” the oversized title will plug a hole in Hearst’s portfolio, which is heavy on women’s books but lacks a pure food magazine.“We saw an opening in the epicurean field for a unique product,” Clinton said. “It is such a powerful brand today in America. The opportunity to create a new product through the lens of the Food Network got us really excited.” Magazines formed from partnerships have had uneven success, as Hearst well knows. Three such magazines it was involved with, Offspring, Talk and Lifetime, flopped. Even O, The Oprah Magazine (a partnership between Hearst and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo) has seen its success cool lately. Single-copy sales fell 17.3 percent in the first half of 2008. So far this year, its ad pages have declined less than other women’s lifestyle publications, but for all of 2007, its ad pages rose only 4.5 percent versus an overall category gain of 11.3 percent.Clinton said Food Network Magazine’s advantage would lie in its fun approach to cooking. Unlike other celebrity-based magazines, notably Reader’s Digest Association’s Every Day with Rachael Ray (where Maile Carpenter was an editor before Hearst poached her to create the tests), the Food Network Magazine won’t have its fortunes tied to a single personality. “It’s not just focused on high gourmet or food that you make everyday, but everything in between,” he said. “Anyone who’s interested in food is going to be interested in the magazine.” The magazine will be promoted though subscription cards in the test issues and other Hearst titles; direct mail; and Food Network’s online and on-air properties. Clinton said a decision about a full rollout and frequency would be made after the test period.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ripert Report - Coming to Seattle

A few weeks ago I attended my first ever Seattle Food Bloggers event at a new restaurant named Olivar. The Chef came out and greeted our table, introducing the tasting menu he had prepared for us all. There were a few items I preferred over others, but the lamb was the bit hit among our two tables. Olivar's restaurant menu is designed around small plates for sharing…I’m beginning to see that trend pop up in quite a few new places around town. I definitely want to go back and see if the food and service is as good without the special attention to our table that evening.

Most importantly about the night however; I found out that Eric Ripert is coming to Seattle as part of a “cooks and books” tour promoted through Kim Ricketts book events. Being fans of Union and HUGE fans Le Bernadin, I phoned Union that evening and signed up for the dinner event.

For those who are interested, the dinner is on Sunday, December 14 , 2008 and from what I hear, Ripert will be discussing his book "On the Line," and give guests an "inside the World of Le Bernardin."

A bit about the book and the topic for the evening here is an excerpt from the Kim Rickett's Web site:

How does a four-star restaurant stay on top for more than two decades? To answer this question, all one has to do is walk through the doors of New York City’s celebrated Le Bernardin, which is one of only three restaurants in the city to earn three Michelin stars.
Chef Eric Ripert, with New York Times writer Christine Muhlke, offers fans of gourmet dining a unique insider’s account with his new book, On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin. From the front of the house to the back of the pantry, Ripert takes readers on a detailed tour of the restaurant and shows how culinary magic is created station by station, person by person and plate by plate.
On the Line goes way beyond a behind-the-scenes restaurant tell-all. It includes 50 of Le Bernardin’s signature recipes with breathtaking images and candid photographs capturing the energy of those on the line. It reveals the secret to snagging a reservation, how to fold a Madeleine napkin, the 129 “cardinal sins,” which every new employee must memorize, and takes readers inside the 14,000 bottle wine cellar and more. Truly, a must have for foodies!
Eric Ripert is the celebrated and award-wining chef and co-owner of New York City’s highly acclaimed restaurant, Le Bernardin. Ripert served as guest judge (and “fan favorite”) on Bravo’s highly rated Top Chef for two seasons. Ripert is the Chair of City Harvest’s Food Council, working to bring together New York’s top chefs and restaurateurs to raise funds and increase the quality and quantity of food donations to New York’s neediest. When not in the kitchen, Ripert enjoys good tequila and peace and quiet. He lives on the Upper East Side and Sag Harbor with his wife and young son.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Gauntlet

This weekend, Luke threw down the gauntlet. Not certain exactly what was said; I just know my ears perked when I heard a challenge was initiated. A food challenge to boot! The next thing I knew, we were preparing for dueling clam recipes, followed by a second dish. It was like Iron Chef when they reveal the secret ingredient. We were a flurry of turning cook pages, clacking computer keys, and scribbling pens. We hopped in the car and headed to the market...keeping our ideas secret only to be revealed when completed.

Now, before I get too far into this story, let me just say, this was the last weekend Luke's dad would be in town for quite a while, so it was sort of a send off dinner as, we needed a judge!

We arrived at the market, and quickly gathered all of our necessary items. Complete with wines for pairing. Then we raced home, not that we needed too, it was just part of the excitement, and quickly started our prep work. Of course by this time, we had a pretty good idea of what the other was making (we kept sneaking peaks at shopping lists and grocery carts) but we still kept it secret to the end.

The drum roll please..........


First course - Steamed Clams in a spicy white wine broth served over orzo pasta with fresh basil and parsley. Paired with a 2002 Chenin Blanc.


First course - Broiled clams on the half shell topped with homemade pesto. Paired with a 2006 Ponzi Pinot Nior.


Second course - Chocolate ganache cupcakes filled with dried cherries and chunks of chocolate ganache and topped with more, yes you guessed it - chocolate ganache.


Second course - Homemade pasta with mint and green tomato pesto.

So who won? I think we all did, after all we were the ones enjoying a fabulous meal!

Friday, August 01, 2008

"Pre" wine flight - literally

While it's always exciting to be traveling to a new locale, it's no secret air travel isn't as fun as it used to be. Good news for those folks with delays or layovers in Baltimore, Seattle and Sacramento, and at JFK and Dulles! Vino Volo (Italian for wine flight) is the first upscale airport wine bar and from what I hear, plans are inthe works to open Vino Volos in Philadelphia and Detroit by the end of this summer.

Though we weren't delayed, we did have the opportunity to enjoy a brief stop, and try a wine flight at Vino Volo. Offering international and domestic wine flights, the prices were suprisingly low for an airport. I opted for a Dominus flight and Luke went for an Oregon Pinot flight. We chose the crabcakes and duck confit which was also suprising tastey considering what airports normally have to offer. The crabcakes were tender and full of meat, and the duck confit (served on top of lentils) was tender and flavorful. Our entire meal came to less than $50, including tip. Another great benefit; Vino Volo restaurants are located inside the airport after you're through security. So if you find a bottle you enjoy, you can actually take it with you and enjoy it at your next destination!

So before putting your tray tables in the locked and upright position...Salute!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Finding the secret

In this new age of celebrity chefs, restaurants easily fall out of fashion as new food trends and even new hot spots steal the foodie spotlight. There is one place however that seems to holds to secret to remaining a constant favorite - Dahlia Lounge. So what is the secret?
Maybe it's because its the first restaurant of chef Tom Douglas, who also helped to define Northwest cuisine? Maybe its because he received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Northwest Chef in 1994 or that Food Wine named Dahlia Lounge the "Quintessential Seattle" restaurant in 1999. Or, could it be because he 'reigned supreme' over Masaharu Morimoto in an episode of Iron Chef America? Well, we needed to find out for ourselves.

Starting our dinner, we decided to try three items first; the honey lacquered pork belly, the dungness crab cake and the wood grilled Pacific octopus. Each were unto their own, fantastic. The octopus was a pleasant surprise, rich and meaty and not at all what I expected. Of the three, it was my favorite.

For our entrees, we enjoyed the roasted carrot ~ ricotta ravioli with sweet peas, oyster mushrooms and tarragon butter and the spit roasted Berkshire pork rack with grilled spring onions, watercress, rice beans and green garlic. Both were heavenly, velvety and creamy. Yes, creamy! For dessert, the triple cream coconut pie put us over the edge into food nirvana. I can't wait to go back.

Though the 1997 Dalla Valle was tempting (I say with a Cheshire grin) our wallets opted for a half bottle of one of our favorite pinot noirs - Patricia Green - and a half bottle of Sancerre. Both paired wonderfully with each of our dishes.

So here's a challenge, go find out the secret for yourself. For me, having enjoyed such a fantastic meal, the secrets are the culinary inspirations showing up on the menu!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Farm to Table - Culinary Sustainability

This week, a new crop of culinary students begins a six-month educational journey learning to guide our nation's restaurant, grocery, retailer and hospitality industries in the timely shift toward growing, eating and purchasing local and sustainable foods.

Culinary School of the Rockies (CSR) is pioneering a natural path for future chefs craving an unprecedented farm-to-table education through the launch of its Farm to Table Externship.
Students spend the first nine weeks of the course in the classroom at CSR.

Then, on Sept. 8, the off-campus Externship takes them to work on farms and ranches in Colorado's breathtaking North Fork Valley (near Aspen) and in Boulder County. Students will learn firsthand how to source local ingredients from farmers, growers and producers, and the farming experience is topped off by an apprenticeship with acclaimed "locavore" Colorado chefs.
Culinary School of the Rockies began developing the program two years ago as a response to the growing "sustainable" trend -- and the subsequent help- wanted signs in sustainable restaurants. Today, with gas prices soaring past $4 per gallon, the food industry is becoming even more sensitive to local sourcing.
CSR is acutely aware that culinary education requires chefs to know more than just the "back of the house.

Farm to table is a broad trend that refers to sourcing practices that support natural and organic farming and local farms and producers. The movement started centuries ago but has regained momentum during the past 35 years, when organic grocers and farmers markets began attracting the masses.

Nationally renowned chef Alice Waters pioneered this trend in 1971 when she opened her neighborhood bistro, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, Calif. Many restaurateurs have more recently adopted Waters' practices and ideals.
The Farm to Table Externship is new to Culinary School of the Rockies, but the program's philosophy is a natural extension of the school's values. Since its founding in 1991, the school has kept a "green commitment" by sourcing local, fresh products and ingredients when available for its programs and by recycling and composting its waste products year-round.
As recently as June 8, The New York Times featured several of CSR's farm and chef partners in an article, "As Skiers Depart Aspen, Chowhounds Take Their Place." Featured farmer Don Lareau, owner of Zephyros Farm, Ryan Hardy, chef at Montagna at The Little Nell in Aspen, and farmer John Cooley of Rivendell Farm are all participating instructors and leaders of CSR's Farm to Table Externship.
After the three-week farm portion of the externship is complete, students will apprentice for two weeks in award-winning Colorado restaurants with sustainable practices, such as Fruition in Denver, Montagna restaurant in Aspen, and The Kitchen and Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder.

SOURCE Culinary School of the Rockies

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Our Taste for Travel

For us, life's luxuries include good friends who share our same passion for food and travel. That's part of what makes our culinary getaways so magical, and our trip to Virginia and Washington DC was no exception.
After landing at Dulles airport, we quickly freshened up for lunch and headed straight to Black Salt located in the Palisaides neighborhood just outside Georgetown to meet our friends at the first stop of our gastronomic vacation.
A modern styled fish market with chilled granite slabs sitting atop crushed ice featuring the daily catches greets you as you walk in the door, Black Salt is a fresh take on seafood dining. Our friends were already sitting in the restaurant located the back of the market when we arrived. The open kitchen adds to the fun and casual atmosphere of this yummy place for all the senses. Wine flights offer a festive sampling and pairing to variety of menu options, but we opted for a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with our seared ahi salad. The presentation, a deconstructed nicoise salad, was beautiful and equally as tasty. A quick note; make reservations because the restaurant fills quickly at lunch time.
For dinner that evening we headed to CityZen in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in D.C. We each chose the the six-course tasting menu created by Chef Eric Ziebold, winner of the 2008 James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid Atlantic, which was presented with the Sommelier's pairing.
A tender mushroom souffle canape was offered as a prelude to the tasting menu which included: an asparagus salad topped with a quail egg, followed by a tempura soft shelled crab over rhubarb gazpacho, then a steamed Pacific Bay sable fish, next we enjoyed rare herb roasted lamb followed by selections from their cheese cart. The dessert was a decadent seven layer chocolate bar.
Having only two hours to enjoy the menu in order to make it in time for the Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the table attendants did everything to accommodate our schedule - which we truly appreciated. After the Symphony we enjoyed evening cocktails at Marcels, an old DC favorite of ours to recap the day's events. A nice little hint: Marcel's offers a pretheatre menu which includes car service to the Kennedy Center. That evening we phoned to have the car service pick us up from the Kennedy Center and take us to Marcel's for drinks, it's very convenient!

Sunday night we headed to Vidalia, a restaurant with a contemporary take on Southern specialities. Again we sampled another great tasting menu. The highlight of the evening for us however was a side-by-side tasting of 2003 and 2004 Hourglass Cabernet.

We took the chance and packed the wines in our suit cases, one from each of our cellars. We agreed that the 2003 was mature and rich and ready to drink. The 2004, while floral and full of fruit ,was a bit too young for my taste and I felt it needed to be cellared for a bit longer. It was such a treat to compare two years of one of our favorite wines.
The next day before heading to our final destination, we lunched at Brasserie Beck. This new Belgian styled restaurant of Chef Robert Wiedmaier, also of Marcel's, is a must for anyone who appreciates true Brasserie fare. The attention to detail is not only evident in the decor and service, but also in the menu selections. Having traveled to Brussels and eaten our fair share of mussels and frites, we can be a bit tough on our critique at times when it comes to finding that special finesse it takes in preparation. Becks did not disappointment us and we vowed to return! In addition, Becks offers guests a list of hundreds (literally) of Belgium beers. Talking to our waiter, he explained that Brasserie Beck is one of the few places in the United States which features some of their listings.
After lunch we headed to our much anticipated final stop for the trip, The Inn at Little Washington. If you didn't know it, you'd think Patrick O’Connell defined the term "Southern Hospitality." The staff greeted us as we drove into the tiny driveway, opening our doors and ushering us into the receiving parlor. We were then immediately served a refreshing cocktail of Proseco and fresh peach puree, similar to a Bellini. From there we were given a tour of the Inn, the outdoor courtyard and taken to our rooms. That afternoon, we strolled through the herb and butterfly garden at the Inn and then visited the quaint shops which lined Main Street. Afterward, we returned to the Inn to enjoy afternoon tea. A very elegant menu of teas was presented and served with small canapes and sweet treats.

Dinner that evening was amazing. You can see why Chefs and restaurateurs from around the world seek out and visit the Inn. We began by selecting three wines: a 2005 Rudd Cabernet, a 2000 Pichon-Longueville and at the Sommelier's recommendation, an Angela Pinot Noir in place of a Ken Wright.
Instead of the tasting menus, we opted to create our own. Our dinner started with a sampling of eight canapes. The sauteed watermelon with chile oil was a refreshing favorite and was followed by an herbal Vichyssoise. For our courses, some of the selections we made included a chilled seafood sampler of Lobster Maki, Tuna Tartare and Ceviche of Diver's Scallop, A "Marriage" of Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Sauternes Jelly and the Inn's Housemade Pickled Cherries from the Inn's orchard, Beef Two Ways (Pecan Crusted Barbeque Short Rib, and a Miniature Filet Mignon Wrapped in Swiss Chard) Veal Sweetbreads Braised in Ruby Port on Pappardelle Pasta with Huckleberries and Virginia Country Ham, and a Parsley-Crusted Elysian Fields Lamb Loin with Minted Grape Leaves and Greek Yogurt Tzaziki Sauce. Desserts for our table includes a sampling of cobblers and the "Seven most Decadent" desserts from the menu - and they truly were! After dinner, we received a tour of the kitchen. From what we were told by Marta our host, the Inn’s new kitchen is referred to as “the most beautiful kitchen in the world” and was added in 1998. The design was inspired by the dairy room at Windsor Castle, the kitchen features an enormous Vulcan range which was made in France. The copper hood seems like it belongs in a story book and is topped with shinning brass trim. Guests may also reserve the kitchen table if desired. As a bit of background about this wonderful place - The Inn at Little Washington was the first establishment in the Mobil Travel Guide’s history ever to receive 5 stars for its restaurant and 5 stars for its accommodation, and is the first Inn ever to receive AAA’s highest accolade - the 5 Diamond Award, for both food and accommodation. We can't believe we were able to share this memorable experience with such close friends who share our same passion for food, wine and travel.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Taste of DC

It’s become a much anticipated tasty tradition. Every year, we get together with some good friends of ours from Nashville for a culinary tour of a U.S. city. We research which new chefs are creating buzz, emerging restaurants and the absolute “musts” for those who appreciate good food. Much goes into the planning of the trip, but once we have our itinerary we are as giddy as children the night before Christmas.
This year we’re focusing on Washington D.C. with a side trip to the Virginia countryside (one of my favorite places for foxhunting) for a stay at The Inn at Little Washington. We typically hit the ground running, packing in as many places to visit as we possibly can and this trip is no exception. Below is a brief look at our upcoming trip. We’ll have a complete review upon our return!
Black Salt
Beck Brasserie
Inn at Little Washington - chef's tasting menu
Vidalia - we will be doing side-by-side tasting of Dalla Valle and Hour Glass Cabernet (YUM!!!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Every place has an off night - Mortons Steakhouse

Morton's Steakhouse for me, has always been the pinnacle of steakhouses. Now, I've been to plenty of places in my day, Murray's in Minneapolis, Plaza III in Kansas City (both of which are two of my top favorites when it comes steaks) along with a host of other places across our great nation who's speciality is preparing the perfect cut of red meat.

In an era of "steaks and chops" gone by, the nostalgic atmosphere of Morton's with the consistent quality and service is something I look forward to and cherish when "dining" out. My husband and I actually make our entire evening out at Morton's an event. Dressed up of course, he in a suit with French cuffs, cuff links etc., me in , dare I say it, an Audrey Hepburnesque dress; we pop Frank Sinatra and Chet Baker into the CD player and head out with only high expectations for the evening.

Raw oyster's on the half shell with a martini to start, followed by a wedge salad and blue cheese, awaiting the perfectly prepared rare filet while our bottle wine breathes, then the meal ending with the chocolate cake and a Baileys and coffee.

As you can tell, I too am quite nostalgic when it comes to my experiences with Morton's. So you can only imagine how excited I was when a good friend of mine recently told me she visited Morton's for the first time. Quickly I perked up and asked how she enjoyed her experience, ready of course to hear only a positive recount of her evening.

"Horrible," she said answering my question.

It came like a blow to my gut, I was saddened but stunned. I think I actually entered into the first stage of grief - denial - at that moment.

"You mean Morton's the steakhouse," I asked. She must surely be mistaken.

"Yes," she replied. She then began to share every horrible detail of the evening.

1 - they weren't offered a wine list

2 - when the server started to take their order, they requested a wine list

3- they asked for wine recommendations based on their meal - with a reply from the server "I don't like wine"

4 - no wine steward or sommelier was sent over

5- the salad attendant spilled bacon bits from the salad condiments all over the table and into a glass of wine, while the table linen was quickly cleared of bits, there was never an effort to replace the glass of wine

6 - when asking to replace the glass of wine, the server brought over another glass, but not of the wine they were drinking, but a substitute

7 - their steaks were not cooked to order

By this time, I heard enough and was truly saddened knowing how many wonderful dinners I've enjoyed at Morton's. Trying to show that Morton's does have a niche for service and is prepared to prove quality to their customers, I asked what they at least though about he presentation cart . She replied "what cart?" My enthusiasm about their evening was dwindling with every detail. So I quickly, and delicately, walked her through what her evening should have been. From Morton's standard's of service, to its history and trademark slogan "the best steak anywhere" along my past experiences with the restaurant's educated and professional wine staff in Richmond, Virginia, Chicago, Seattle, DC, and Nashville, I know in my culinary heart she and her party had to of been there on an off night.

(this story had been also told by other members of the dining party that evening)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

La Rustica

When it comes to Seattle, finding almost any type of food, restaurant or market is easy. But when it comes to finding an authentic, Italian restaurant it can be a bit more of a challenge. Having been to Italy many times visiting family , friends and on our own; we know Italian food and eateries and look for similar styles of food and ambience when seeking out places here in the States.
So, if you live in Seattle and have been searching for a quaint Italian restaurant that brings back the memories of your trip to Italy - where you found that little side street gem void of tourists and over flowing with the locals - than La Rustica is a must for your restaurant list.
Tucked away in the maze of waterfront condos on Beach Drive just off Alki Point is where you’ll find this hidden treasure. We’d driven past the restaurant many times, and after hearing wonderful things about the menu decided we needed to try it out. So on a chilly spring night - one that reminded us of our own spring wedding dinner in the hills of Tuscany - we headed to La Rustica. The ambience we found to be relaxed, cheerful and intimate.
The tables are close together and the host’s table is right beside the front door. We didn’t have reservations, but the owner greeted us like long time friends. He was extremely accommodating and recommended we head to the parlor to enjoy a glass of wine before dinner. To our surprise, the host escorted us back outside. We were quickly relived that we weren’t being politely turned away as the host showed us that parlor entrance is located outside, just a few steps away from the front door. Both the parlor entrance and the dining room entrance share the outdoor patio.
A few moments later after finishing our wine and thumbing through the Italian picture books, we were taken to our table – heading back outside, then inside once again. The menu overflowed with both familiar favorites and more traditional Italian home style options. The decision was difficult, but given the chill in the air, we narrowed it down to two hearty dishes; the pesto and prawn risotto and veal marsala. Both were incredibly decadent and generous in their portion size, as was the desert which followed. We ordered Tiramisu, and though it was a bit too sweet for our taste (we prefer more espresso in the flavor than sweet cream) it was still enjoyed with a bold cup of coffee. If you plan on heading to La Rustica keep in mind that finding parking can be a bit difficult. Plan on arriving at least 30 minutes prior to your reservation time. And if you don’t have a reservation, enjoy looking through the Murano glass and Italian picture books in parlor with a nice bottle of Italian wine.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Ama Ama

No matter what your mood, West Seattle has a number of yummy spots to satisfy your craving for both food and atmosphere. Of course it's when the food and ambience come together in a harmonious balance, make for the perfect experience. And of course, this doesn't always work out perfectly.
There has been a place in our neck of the woods that has been catching my eye for quite some time, both in reviews and "curb appeal." Ama Ama Oyster Bar & Grille. Being a HUGE fan of raw oysters on the half shell, Ama Ama was a must. Pour me a Bombay Blue Saffire Martini and I'm there. Only this particulat night I opted for Bombay Blue Gin & Tonic, but I'm getting off subject a bit....
So, after doing a bit of Internet research and finding nothing but positive reviews on the food, we decided to try it out. According to the Ama Ama Web site, the word ama literally means “sea women” in Japanese. Ama were free divers that for over two thousand years provided their families and villages with fresh seafood. Wearing only a loincloth and mask, the ama braved the cold waters of the Pacific Rim to collect shellfish, octopus, sea urchin, and other delicacies from the depths. Apparently, even today, the few surviving ama dive without scuba gear or air tanks. Upon entering this very '60's vibe restaurant, and seeing James Bond "To Russian with Love" playing in the artwork installation behind the bar, did it all seem very a prospro. We were sat quickly, ordered our drinks and of course the oysters. The oysters were fantastic! A sampling of various types of raw oysters, they were placed on the traditional silver tray resting in a bed of crushed ice and served with cocktail sauce, lemon and horseradish. All were incredibly fresh and delicious, another round was a must. Everyone in our party wished that the menu offered a bit more from the raw bar, but what they did have on the menu was quite good. We stuck with oysters, Ahi Tuna, sliders and the Penn Cove Mussels and Frites. All of which were tasty. The oysters were definitely the star of the table. The only two elements lacking: the drinks and the service. Yummy beverages that they were, they were not generous. Go to Ama Ama for the food and a festive fun atmosphere, but don't set your expectations on being taken care of or getting drinks of the same caliber as the oysters.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Seattle Saturday Night

Seattlites know how to hit the town.

A typical Saturday night for these swanky foodies involves cocktails at one location followed by dinner at another and then a night cap. And who can blame them, with so many places to choose from, it's hard to be limited to just one.

It seems that the selection of restaurants is ever is our waist line! Below are a few of note which we've enjoyed most recently.

A few Saturday night's ago , we visited BalMar for cocktails, pre-dinner, with a couple of friends. Sidecars are the drink in vogue for the Emerald City, and we enjoyed sipping ours while sitting on the leather ottomans at this dimly lit, mohagany carved bar . The crowd was quite and conversation was easily heard. We then headed to La Carta De Oaxaca for a spicy authentic Oaxaca, Mexican dinner. The atmosphere here is extremely casual and loud. There are no reservations and it's standing room only until you get a table (hence the reason for the pre-dinner cocktails).

After dinner we went back to BalMar, where the crowd had turned over to a much younger, louder bunch and the music changed from jazz to club.

Most recently, we joined freinds for drinks at Union, a modern but smaller restaurant, before heading to dinner. Kudos to the bartender to made our martinis!!!! One of the best I've had since my days in Charlottesville dining at OXO and the Downtown Grille.

We enjoyed dinner that night at Boka Kitchen inside Hotel 1000, a swanky, ultra modern, high-tech boutique stye hotel. Boka's contemporary interior was designed by Mesher Shing of Seattle. Hand-sculpted glass art installations from local treasure J.P. Canlis visually anchor the dining room. Original paintings by Spanish gesture painter Gonzalo Martín-Calero add an abstract element. Additionally, an ever-changing pallette of digitzed images of the world’s great art on two plasma screens underscore an eclectic and refined character, well worth the visit. The Asian-fusion menu was quite yummy and was as creative as the atmosphere. The only dissapoinment was dessert. After the innovative dinner menu and wine list, we might have set our expectations too high.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Date Night" Menu

Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese Crostini
Alphonse Mellot Generatio XIX Sancere

Grilled Lamb Chops "Scottaditti" with Garlic Confit and Mint
Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2004

Chocolate Espresso Tart
Domaine de Coyeux Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise 2003

Mixed greens with Goat Cheese Crostini recipe
8 1/2-inch-thick diagonally cut baguette slices (about 4 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide)4 ounces (8 tablespoons) soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
1/4 cup olive oil2 tablespoons red wine vinegar1 small garlic clove, minced5 cups mixed baby greens2 tablespoons chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Preheat broiler. Spread each baguette slice with 1 tablespoon goat cheese. Arrange on baking sheet, cheese side up.
Whisk oil, vinegar and garlic in large bowl to blend. Add greens, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts; toss to combine. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad between2 plates.
Broil crostini just until cheese softens and begins to melt, about 1 minute. Arrange 4 crostini atop each salad.

"Scottaditt" recipe
Yield: 4 entrée servings
8 lamb rack chops, 1-inch thick, cleaned and trimmed
20 cloves white garlic, peeled
8 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sweet wine, such as Malvasia
2 cups dry white wine
4 sprigs mint, leaves removed
1/2 pound pom pom mushrooms, sliced 1/8-inch-thick
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat barbecue or broiler.
In a 8-inch to 10-inch pan, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat and add peeled garlic cloves. Sauté slowly until browned on all sides, shaking pan to keep them moving, about 10 minutes. Add sweet wine and dry white wine and cook at a slow boil until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Garlic should be very soft at this point. Remove garlic and liquid and set aside.
Season lamb chops with salt and pepper and cook over hot grill until medium rare, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large 12-inch to 14-inch sauté pan over high heat. Add pom pom mushrooms and sauté until brown and soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour garlic and liquid into pan with pom poms and stir to coat. Add mint leaves and remove from heat.
Season mushroom and garlic mixture with salt and pepper and arrange in center of the plates. Remove chops from grill and arrange leaning against mushrooms. Serve immediately.

Tart recipe
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, (preferably 61 percent cacao), chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons good-quality ground espresso beans
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment paper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 large egg

Make the ganache: Put chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl, and set aside. Bring cream and espresso to a boil in a small pan. Pour through a fine sieve over the chocolate; discard solids. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours.
Make the tart shell: Sift flour, salt, and cocoa powder into a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cream. Shape dough into a thick rectangle; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper to a 16-by-6-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Press dough into a 14-by-4 1/2-inch rectangular flan frame set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Trim dough flush with top edge. Prick all over bottom of shell with a fork. Bake until firm, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Unmold.

Put ganache into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (such as Ateco No. 828).

Smooth mascarpone cheese over bottom of tart shell with an offset spatula.

Pipe ganache rosettes, one next to the other, on top of mascarpone to cover. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 day.

Monday, February 04, 2008


It seems that no matter what Seattle neighorhood you wander into, you'll find a culinary gem.

One misty morning while driving around an area known as Queene Anne , we happened upon Macrina. Our tummies rumbling, we pulled over and headed inside the tiny cafe. Warm and cozy, with stone floors, small parisian style bistro tables, and old world style display cases full of pastries and fresh baked breads, the place was full of people and conversation. While in queue to order, we scoped out the cafe for any prospects of a table. Luckily, by the time we made it to the counter one had opened up.
The menu was full of mouth watering options. Sweet or savory is always a pleasant predicament. It was between the Brioche French Toast (French toasted topped with fresh sliced apricots, creme craiche and lavendar infused honey with whipped butter and apple pork sausage links) or the Smoked Salmon Scramble (eggs softly scrambled and served with onion baily, cold smaoke salmon and herbed creme fraiche. Served with roasted potatoes and a salad of organic greens.) Ending up choosing the French toast, it was not disappointment!

Visit the site, get familar and get inside for a bite or for a meal!

Monday, January 28, 2008


One of the best things about moving to a new city, is trying out the new restaurants. This past weekend, we visited Lark. Located in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, its a small unassuming restaurant that can easily be passed by without notice. We did.

After finding the restaurant and having the hostess hang our coats, we settled into our table. With in moments of viewing the menu, were were excited that this could be a place to add to our list of Seattle favorites.

Not wanting to judge a menu by it's "cover" if you will, we slowly went through the sections: cheese, vegetables/grains, charcuterie, fish, meat, desserts.

Lark's menu is meant to be sampled and shared, and it's recommended each person orders two-three dishes per person. Depending on what is ordered, the chef then sends out the dishes in a succession, perfectly choreographed from delicate and soft to robust and more intense.

It was fantastic! We weren't disappointed with any of the dishes and can't wait to go back and try more.

A bit more about the chef: In addition to being named "Best Chef Northwest/Hawaii” by the James Beard Foundation in May 2005, Johnathan Sundstrom has also worked with some of New York and San Francisco’s most renowned chefs Daniel Boulud, Jean-George Vongerichten, Diane Forley, Gary Danko, and Traci Des Jardins. Following a series of inspiring and educational travels, John returned to Seattle with a renewed sense of purpose, new ideas and techniques, and a greater understanding of excellence.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Frozen Comfort Food

Seattlites take their food seriously. The quality, freshness and seasonality. And we're quickly finding out that grocery stores in this Northwest city are no exception.

Here, there is a fabulous small local chain of grocery stores called Metropolitan Market. Daily catch seafood, in house butcher, fresh European style breads and pastries, restaurant quality take out, global cheese selection, wine get the idea.

Of course fresh is always best. And really; who would argue? So when the Market's monthly promotional postcard came in the mail touting "buy one, get one free" frozen macaroni and cheese, it was tossed aside with the rest of the junk mail. Well, the food gods must have been looking out for our palettes, because the postcard ended up in our car on a grocery trip one afternoon.

It was shopping as usual. Stopping off at the cheese counter first to select a few of creamy stinky and oh so yummy cheeses (Greyson sampling everything she could), we next strolled through produce, the deli, and wines. After checking everything off our list, we made our way to the frozen food aisle to put our postcard to good use. Tossing two boxes into our cart we wrapped up the trip.

This is were fate stepped in.

It had been a long day, and the thought of popping something in the oven was just too convenient to pass up. Turn on the stove, wait for it to preheat, pop it in the oven and voila! Right? Sounds good.

Waiting for the oven timer to sound was the perfect opportunity to pour a glass of wine and study this month's Dean and Deluca catalog. Flipping through the pages, my mouth watering and tummy beginning to rumble, I notice something...

Mac & Cheese*"World's Best" is made with penne pasta and artisan Flagship and Just Jack cheeses. Mariachi is made with penne pasta, Flagship and Just Jack cheeses, plus roasted Anaheim chiles, cauliflower, red onion, corn and red bell pepper. From Beecher's award-winning kitchens. Shipped frozen.

What? Wait a minute! Could it be? Just to make certain, I reached into the waste bin to retrieve the cardboard sleeve. Yep, sure enough, it's the same Mac & Cheese in the beloved catalog. But it's frozen, so really, how does it taste?

When the timer went off, there was much anticipation about pulling it from the oven. The aroma was fantastic...and bite after bite...let's just say it is wine worthy!

Normally, frozen food isn't something found in our freezer, but we'll make an exception! Order a box now - get your hands on some and enjoy some frozen comfort food because unless you live next to Grandma, you're just not going to find better Mac & Cheese.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Turn your Teeth

You know you're having a fabulous time tasting wine, when everyone you're with has purple smiles. A fantastic place with both culintary and wine tasting menus is Purple Cafe on 4th Ave. in downtown Seattle.

So worry about your whitening strips, let's turn our teeth Purple!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Haute Chocolate

It comes as no surprise that we're learning Seattle winters are damp. It's that chilling damp cold that seeps right into your bones. No matter how many layers of clothing you pile or scarves you wrap around your neck, this Pacific Northwest cold chills you right to the core.

And, don't think we're strangers to what frigid temperatures feel like. You're talking to people who have fox hunted for hours in slushy snow and rain and who have skied the Alps - enjoying themselves the whole frozen time.

In the pursuit to warm ourselves from the inside out, we offer two "haute chocolate" recipes recently introduced to our kitchen. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

HC with a kick:

1 2/3 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 red chili pepper, split with seeds removed
1 cinnamon stick, around 3-4"
1 1/2 oz chocolate (bittersweet)
Simmer milk in a saucepan with vanilla bean, cinnamon and chili. Heat through for about a minute. Whisk in grated chocolate, and continue to simmer on low until melted. Remove from heat and let 'steep' for another 10 minutes. Caliente!

HC for the grown-ups:

2 cups milk
1 1/2 oz chocolate (bittersweet)
1 shot buttershot liqueur
fresh whipped cream
Simmer milk in saucepan. Whisk in grated chocolate and continue to simmer on low until melted. Remove from heat and add in buttershot liqueur. Top with fresh whipped cream and nutmeg. Sit back and put your feet up!