Savoring the moment at Sitka and Spruce

I get this question asked an awful lot – what’s your favorite restaurant in Seattle? Ugh, tough question! It’s loaded because there are so many great options to eat at around town. And my favorite could be contextual; I have a favorite comfort food spot, a place to meet friends, grab a beer, what have you. But a bar none favorite? That’s bit tougher, but I do have one. And I have no problem in saying that Matt Dillon’s Sitka & Spruce is my favorite restaurant in Seattle.

And it’s tough to explain why because Sitka & Spruce is unlike any restaurant experience that you’ll have. On one visit, I was able to speak with Matt about the quirkiness of the restaurant’s location and how it was a goal of his to serve four-star food without being snobby and pretentious. Yup, it’s in a strip mall along Eastlake. It’s neighbors are a Subway, a teriyaki shop, and a convenience store. And then there is Sitka & Spruce standing out as one of the best places to eat in Seattle.

But the quirks don’t just stop at the location. Once inside you’ll notice a cozy and small dining room. There about 20 seats, no hostess, and a small bar. That bar is where we had our first dinner a couple years ago. Sitka & Spruce has a sign by the bar that says “Food worth standing up for”. Indeed it is, we stood up the entire time and had a great dinner. With such a cozy atmosphere, you’ll be able to speak with Matt’s team, Matt himself, and our fellow standers on most occasions – learning about the menu is always intriguing to me.

That’s another thing of note, there isn’t a ‘standard’ menu. The menu each evening is actually on a chalkboard resting against the north wall. There are about a dozen choices for the evening and a handful of white and red wines to go along with your meal. All work in balance and all play nice with each other. I love food and wine, and you get the idea that the folks at Sitka & Spruce do too.

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Drinking fish bladders

During my television viewing of Emeril Lagasse on his Planet Green show, I’ve been noticing this commercial for Bill Nye’s new show called ‘Stuff Happens‘. In the commercial, I’m always caught off guard with Bill asking people if they would drink ground up fish bladders. This sounds gross right? I felt I had to clear the air and figure out the misconceptions.

First off, I’m a Bill Nye fan. He was an original member of the Almost Live! crew for goodness sakes! Almost Live is legendary for Seattleites and he was Bill Nye The Science Guy afterall! He’s a super smart dude who makes learning and science super fun and interesting. So I’m not bemoaning him – if anything I’m just annoyed at people’s perceptions.

When Bill was talking about drinking fish bladders, I’m sure he was referencing Isinglass. What’s Isinglass? Well it is indeed fish bladders and it’s often used in making beer and wine. It’s used to clarify alcohol, helping remove the yeast sediment, sort of like a filter. It’s not for all beers, and it predominantly follows British-style ales.

I first learned about while trying to learn about the myth of Guiness beers. I came to learn of isinglass and it’s use in beer and wine. I didn’t really have a problem with this, but I could see that if I was vegetarian (especially one of those strict, militant ones)  this would be a problem. Luckily, these folks have kept a handy little list that breaks down most every type of beer that would or would not be suitable for vegetarians. That said, Wiki says that most of the isinglass is gone by the time the beer is drank, but it is something to think about nonetheless.

So yeah, there you have it, my little science lesson for the day. Now you know, and as the dudes from GI Joe told us, knowing is half the battle. I’m still looking forward to checking out Bill Nye’s show.

My half hour watching Emeril Green

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of this new show that Emeril Lagasse has on the Planet Green network called Emeril Green. I like this show because Emeril dials down a lot of his schtick that made me avoid him while he was on the Food Network. It’s pretty informative; the premise is that he helps out Average Joes and Janes with cooking. All while talking about how to be healthy, sustainable, and being mindful of the planet. It is on the Planet Green channel after all.

But what is also fun about this show is Emeril and his tendencies. The man definitely knows his food, but he sure doesn’t know his way around the English language. I chalk this up to growing up in Massachusetts (updated – thanks Susanna!) and being so entwined with New Orleans. Emeril butchers a lot of words; Syraz (was he trying to say Syrah? Or Shiraz?) Vagan (Vegan?), kind of a fun little game during the show. Not really enough to make a drinking game, but often enough to keep things interesting.

Another part of the show that keeps things interesting are the regular folks that Emeril helps cook. Some know absolutely nothing. Some are relatively skilled. Some are absolutely annoying and makes you wonder how they got past the screening process. Others won’t let Emeril get in many words. The show is called ‘Emeril Green’, not ‘Some Dude Green’. Bill Simmons talks about something called ‘The Table Test“; he talks about what people bring to the table. That is whether they add to the conversation positively. Some people talk “things” off the table and actually negatively move the conversation along. Other people simply leave the table alone. Watching Emeril Green, you’ll see all three types.

He does have a lot of interesting recipes and techniques that he teaches on the episode. And they shoot the episodes exclusively at Whole Foods, so they do have access to some high quality ingredients. I like this show more than most of the cooking shows on the Food Network because Emeril at least knows his way around the kitchen. He’s led a few successful restaurants, while a lot of folks on the Food Network don’t quite have the same resume. You’ll have to swim through a bit of his catchphrases, but at least he knows what he’s talking about.

So yeah, another thing to watch on television. Especially when you’re stuck home from massive amounts of snow and ice.

The golden touch of Golden Glen Creamery

Milk does a body good. It truly does. Loaded with nutrients and vitamins, I love milk. Quick story, one summer before high school, my group of friends and I all decided to only drink whole milk to bulk up for the sports year. We bulked up all right; we enjoyed drinking the milk, but we didn’t really enjoy the working out part of the summer.

But back on point, my most favorite milk to grab around town is by Golden Glen Creamery. Their skim milk destroys all other skim milks. It’s so so good. It takes like 2%, so it’s not watery, more full and creamy. Look for the green cap! While I definitely love the skim, the whole milk is like this decadent milkshake treat. And the chocolate milk. Those that say adding chocolate syrup to chocolate milk is the same thing are deluding themselves. This is the chocolate milk to get.

Golden Glen Creamery is located north of Seattle in Bow, but what’s great is that tons of local grocery stores and markets carry it. We get ours from Eat Local on Queen Anne. Go get some today! Oh yeah, be mindful that it’s in a glass container, so you’ll need to pay a deposit, but this is just another excuse to go and get some more. Or you can keep it and toss your Nalgene.

Enjoy your milk and the fact that you’re buying product from local farmers that enrich our community. Neighbors helping neighbors!

Photo from the Skagit Foodshed blog

Going for Seconds at Christmas

A bit early but Merry Christmas! One of the things I love about the holidays is the additional opportunity to eat and induldge. It’s a whole season where you are encouraged to eat! The term ‘holiday weight’ is appropo! I don’t particularly mind this because it gives me a chance to spend time with family and friends. Isn’t that what the holidays are about? And for those dinners, it seems like prime rib or Christmas hams are on the table. Turkey too, but I think a lot of people are still recovering from the volume of turkey they had four weeks ago. So in the spirit of that post, here are some wine pairings to consider for the big Christmas dinner.

Prime rib

Also, called standing rib roast (if the bones are still attached) – it doesn’t necessarily need to be USDA Prime, it just needs to be comprised heavily of ribeye steaks from the rib section of the cow. It’s delightfully excellent and pretty simple to make. Definitely much easier to make than turkey – surprisingly. In fact, the Cooking for Engineers folk broke down what it takes to make a standing rib roast. Foodista also has a very simple take on making prime rib. I also love this article by Cathy Thomas, because she touches on an oft-overlooked side; horseradish!

So you have some recipes on making prime, what wine will you have with it? Just like turkey dinner, you can’t really go wrong with a pairing. Definitely lean towards reds. The tannins and body of most red wines will play nicely with the fat and heft of red meat.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent choice. Right now I really enjoy the Cab from Five Star Cellars in Walla Walla. It will definitely be a nice match.
  • Merlot – Definitely go for the heavier ones. I really, really like the Merlot from Otis Kenyon. Another star from Walla Walla, this merlot will convert any wine snob towards Merlot.
  • Petit Sirah – Also known as Durif, this is also a favorite. Strong, a bit of pepper, and tannins that are similar to biting into a wool sock – the Petite Sirah from Vincent Arroyo is a shining example of this grape.
  • Other reds that would be excellent with Prime Rib: Bordeaux type wines, hefty Pinot Noirs, Syrah, and Zinfandel
  • If you don’t want to go the wine route, single-malt whisky would be a nice partner.

Christmas ham

A truly traditional meal to have with Christmas dinner, Christmas ham is the type of dinner that the whole family could gather around. I think it’s because a massive piece of ham allows everyone to stuff themselves. There is a bit of history to the Christmas ham and now tables across the country are adding it as a part of their family history.

I think the key component of Christmas ham is the sweet glaze that most identify with. That sweet-savory balance is a winner and with this meal, most will enjoy it. In fact, some people even look to cook ham with Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper to boost up the flavor. Wacky southerners.

If you’re thinking of bringing wine over, you definitely have a fair bit of choices to consider, but you shouldn’t go for something too overpowering. The flavors of Christmas ham are a bit more delicate, so a wine that showcases these nuances would be a good idea. The delightful Natalie MacLean suggests wine from Burgundy. Found this out from her very cool food/wine pairing tool. Other wines to try out:

  • Beaujolais – This bright red wine would be a really nice pairing with ham. The flavors are juicy and would balance with the sweetness of ham. I really like it.
  • Riesling – I think some Rieslings are perfect food wines because their acidity is perfect for almost all foods. Same goes with ham. And one Riesling that you can find everywhere is the Dry Riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle. It’s about $10, has won numerous awards, and available nationwide. I drink this one often.

Enjoy your Christmas dinner! Drink up, eat lots, and soak it all in. Happy Holidays indeed.

Introducing Corliss Estates

Corliss Estates is one of those wineries that aims to be larger than life. Veiled in secrecy, it has been lying patiently in the wings, ready to introduce itself to the world as the next great Washington wine. With the release of their 2003 vintage they are entering the front door of the wine world and not planning on leaving. I’m excited by them, I’m sure you will be too.

I first learned of Corliss Estates at a wine tasting that I attended with Stephen Tanzer this past summer. Steve was talking about this new winery from Walla Walla called ‘Corliss Estates’; he discussed how they’ve been very low key and quietly doing their thing. Steve envisioned Corliss Estates to be one of those wineries whose goal was to hit 100 points continually. Grand ambitions indeed. It was both intriguing and exciting to hear of a winery that wants to be the very best at what they do and given Steve’s excitement for their release, I was interested too. Armed with this knowledge, I did a Google search for Corliss Estates, came upon their website and signed up for their registry.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something ground level up with the ambition of positioning itself to be one of the great wineries of Washington and to further establish itself as world class? I received email updates (they were great with correspondence!) and then the letter came in the mail requesting orders for their 2003 vintage. This release included a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Red Blend. I jumped at the Red.

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Like food? You’ll love Foodista

Early in the week my friend Amy P. of Go Go Green Garden emailed me about a website that some of her friends launched: Foodista! It’s pretty cool! Seattlest mentioned in a recent post that it aims to be a encyclopedia to the world of food. (Think Wikipedia for food.) And the consistently great Nancy Leson wrote about the site, as it inspired her to make some lentil soup. Mmm, soup.

Foodista is entirely user-generated so it’s a fun site to place your famous homemade recipe of whatever it is. And it’s super blogger friendly! In fact, I’ve embedded a link to the recipe for fried chicken. Why? Because fried chicken is awesome.

Spend some time with Foodista and enrich the food loving community that it’s creating.

Fried Chicken on Foodista

Eric Ripert. Ethan Stowell. Kim Ricketts. Me?

Having the opportunity to take in greatness doesn’t happen too often. But when it opens itself up to you, you have to take it. Thus began my food adventure for a dinner by Ethan Stowell for Eric Ripert. The occasion was to celebrate Chef Ripert’s recent book, On The Line, but it could also be about celebrating food.

One of the things I love about blogging is sharing my experiences. What is blogging but a diary that the world could read? Mine just happens to be about food and wine. That’s why I have to share this great event that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Because isn’t a great meal about sharing?

First off much credit goes to Kim Ricketts, and her friends Judy and Kirsten. Kim is awesome, she hosts these really cool book events all over the place. We conversed at the FAT event last month and talked about how great the Eric Ripert event will be. She got the thing rolling and was kind enough to have me join them at their table. Always an honor to be a VIP, and I was thankful for it.

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Stylin’ at Shiku

When thinking about style, food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for most. But for jaded food nerds like me, I think style is a huge part of the experience. Take for instance a restaurant; ambiance, vibe, crowd, presentation, and design all have a role – and style can enrich that experience. Which brings us to sushi. More than any other style of food, sushi has style. It’s reflected in the design of the rolls, nigiri, and sashimi. The sushi master has an opportunity to impart his personal flair onto the food. The colors, textures, and shapes create the canvas and tools for their art. It’s quite the experience and this past weekend, we went to Shiku in Ballard for sushi and indulged in style presented by Johnny and his team.

Shiku has a prime spot along Ballard Ave, which has been open for about three months now, but it wasn’t until this weekend we had a chance to visit. We love sushi. One of purest ways to experience food, it plays on your palate, introduces you to new stuff, and challenges you. I’ll always remember this one experience at the old Nikko’s in the Westin with some friends; we loved our lunch so much we were ready to stand up and start clapping. We had that good of a time. If you love sushi, you know what I’m talking about.

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