When to Drink at Seattle’s Tasting Rooms

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We like wine. Using the royal ‘We’, America’s wine consumption is growing by the year.  Join in the imbibing with these Seattle-area wine purveyors. Support local! Here is a quick rundown of area tasting rooms, shops, and retailers and the days where they do some pourings. Cheers.

Bin 41
-Friday 6-7:30pm

DeLaurenti
-Saturday 2-4pm

Esquin
-Frequent tastings throughout the week, check website

Greenlake Wines
-Thursday 5-7pm

McCarthy & Schiering
-Every Saturday 11-5pm (both locations)

Pike & Western
-Wednesday 4-6pm, $5
-Friday 3-6pm, complimentary

Portalis
-Tue & Wed 3-9pm

Sixth Avenue Wine Seller
-Thursday 3-7pm, $10

The Tasting Room
-During business hours $2-5pm

Vino Verite
-Thursday 5-8pm

West Seattle Wine Cellars
-Thursday 5:30-8pm, complimentary

Wine World & Spirits
-Every weekday 6-8pm
-Every weekend 2-5pm

Travel Channel’s Chowdown Countdown

Or it could be titled “Places to eat in Texas, New York, California, and a sprinkling of other places”. But I get the Travel Channel’s title; short and catchy.

A few weekends ago, the Travel Channel re-aired its series of shows touting its Chowdown Countdown. This has replayed every so often since its original airing a few years ago. It’s a mesmerizing collection of entertainment. They feature various eateries in their 101 Tastiest Places to Chowdown from hole-in-the-walls to renowned restaurants coast-to-coast.

But, the thing I notice about Travel Channel’s Chowdown Countdown is that they don’t disclose the criteria for making their list. Yeah, it’s cool to have a countdown, but by numbering these restaurants you imply the best, which they didn’t quantify or explain the reasons why. Well, dear reader, I did the viewing for you and after watching the five hours of programming, I’ve found that the chief criteria to place is to have a calorie-laden, protein-heavy dish that wallops you with enough fat to survive winter hibernation. Some of these things are gastronomic wonders, and in some cases it isn’t a good thing

That said, I was entranced with the show and always had it on in the background as it aired. And I got some ideas for new places to visit. But there were some places that I would avoid. Sorry, but a five-pound burrito isn’t my idea of fun. I barely even stand some of the mega-burritos we have locally in Seattle, so there is no way I’ll go out of my way for that 80 ouncer.

It’s an odd show, sometimes they’ll provide context to a place; tell a backstory, give sense of appreciating the people. For others, they zoom right by. And the show often leans heavily on certain states and cuisine. Texas, New York, and California are frontrunners. Are you from Virginia and think you have some hole-in-the-wall gems? Well, the Travel Channel doesn’t really agree with you, because Virginia is amongst the states that don’t have a single entrant. As for food, if you love barbecue, pizza, or fried chicken, you’re in luck. There are a ton of those types of places. I would’ve loved to some of the history on these places, learn more about their staff and why they are iconic. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

For many of the restaurants that made the list, bigger isn’t better. Some of these places were jokes. When it comes to what I eat, I want to know the why, not just the what. The Travel Channel did a great job with the what. In many cases they just featured the dishes that were preposterously massive. But my main squabble is that they never talked about flavor and context. Why should I care about a 6 lb burrito? Or a 12 patty burger? Outside of horror, much of the list included places that had over the top dishes. Sorry Travel Channel, you had a window to shine a proper spotlight on cool places across America, but you reduced many of them to a gimmick. Not cool. If you can’t tell already, I’m conflicted with the show. It’s American to love lists. And to gripe about them. So yeah, well done Travel Channel, you got me talking about your show.

As a proud Washingtonian, I had major beef that our state’s few representatives were Paseo and Beth’s Cafe. Paseo, I’m cool with because their sandwiches are delicious. As for Beth’s? Because it’s TV and cliched, they focused on Beth’s 12-egg omelet. Whoop-de-doo, it’s been featured before. And there are other mediocre overrated breakfast places in Seattle, so they went with the most obvious. Darn Texas took all of our other spots.

If I were Danny Meyer, where would I open a Shake Shack in Seattle?

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First off, this is not to say that the rumor line is purporting that a Shake Shack is in the works for Seattle. Secondly, there isn’t a Shake Shack on the West Coast. Thirdly, this is all speculative and meant to be fun. Lastly, Shake Shack is awesome and would be welcome in Seattle. Where they may open is what we’re pondering.

I first learnt of Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack about four years ago. I was asking my friends for suggestions on places to eat in Manhattan. Amongst the usual suggestions one gets when going to the city (the Momofuku restaurants, Balthazar, Katz’s, etc) was this suggestion of a little burger joint in Madison Square Park. It was called Shake Shack and was one of the many restaurants from Danny Meyer. My knowledge of Danny Meyer (and his Union Square Restaurant Group) was nascent, but I had heard of him; that he was a restaurateur of the highest order, he wrote the book Setting the Table, and that was it. But Shake Shack was the place that I wanted to check. It was a burger stand in Madison Square Park. The lines were legendary. And their burgers and ‘concretes’ (milkshakes) were purported to be delicious. We were staying nearby and knew we had to go.

Of course it was tasty. But it wasn’t just the quality of the food at Shake Shack that made it great; it was the experience. The park setting was idyllic. The lines were long but were part of the experience and was managed well by the Shake Shack staff. The staff itself was professional and courteous. It was that experience that I keep returning to. A lot of people that try Shake Shack often say that they don’t understand what the big deal is. Which is an opinion they’re entitled to, but taken with just the burger is missing the point. When Shake Shack opens up new locations, it’s part of a cultural zeitgeist and can revitalize and energize the area near where it opens. And that is why we’re going to list out places in Seattle that I think would make sense if Danny Meyer would open up a Shake Shack in Seattle.

Let’s talk about the criteria. The first Shake Shack opened up in a park. The recent openings have used existing storefronts. I’d like to take the park formula as there are a few Seattle parks that could use a shake-up. Also consider nearby food options, walking traffic, available parking, and area revitalization. Yeah, we could theorize that Ballard or Capitol Hill would make sense, but that’s too easy. And besides, this is all food nerd make-believe so we’re going the park route and what it would mean for the area. Continue reading

Porcine Party – Cochon 555 returns to Seattle

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Imagine a party. With a decadent and debaucherous vibe. A lively hum of conversation. All sorts of interesting people. Plenty of food and booze to revel with. And amongst the food, a focus on pork. And the people cooking are some of the best in the biz. The pigs they’re using to cook with are prized for unique fat and flavor. The booze has a local slant of buzzy wineries and distilleries that are so hot right now. Have that picture in your mind? Good. Because it’s real. And it is awesome. Cochon 555 makes its return to Seattle after a hiatus in 2012. The food lovers of Seattle couldn’t be happier.

We last touched on Cochon 555 in 2011. At that Cochon, the focus had the ’555′ format; five chefs, five types of pork, and five wineries. I remember Ethan Stowell’s pork zeppole, Holly Smith’s maltagliatti, and John Sundstrom’s pork belly. And strips of bacon stuffed into Mason jars dotting every table as a snack. There were epic lines to each of the chef’s table. It was like Disneyland, but instead of waiting for Space Mountain, you waited for the swoon of pork fat. It was awesome and the Prince of Porc in 2011 was Chef John Sundstrom. And I couldn’t wait to the next Cochon 555.

Alas, it wasn’t to be as Cochon didn’t swing through Seattle in 2012. But the porky people at Cochon are returning to Seattle this weekend and they’re turning up the volume. They are referring to this year’s event as the 5th Anniversary Tour (pdf). This time there will be even more chefs featured; instead of the five of years past, there are no eight that’ll do their thing. They are:

A highlight of Cochon 555′s is to see what the chefs will do with their pigs. Be assured that each dish is unique from one another and taking it further; because of the various breeds of pigs, the flavor and texture will be different from one to the next. To get a gauge of the types of pork you’ll taste, check out what each chef is making and be mindful of the fat levels and richness from each one. Some pork will have a real milky fat, while others are very full and rich. God, I love pork.

Here is the breakdown of the event; it’s this Sunday, March 17th, with VIP starting at 4pm, and general admission at 5pm. The host for this pork gitdown is the Cedarbrook Lodge in South Seattle near Sea-Tac Airport. This page will give you all of the information you’ll need. And if pork isn’t your thing (impossible), there are a bunch of other things going on: butcher demo, bourbon tasting, mezcal tasting, a ton of wine, lots of beer, and so much more fun to celebrate with pork. In fact, if I was a playwright, I’d write a sequel to Die Fledermaus where pork is the source of all the fun.

Look forward to seeing you around the table, I’ll be the guy stuffing my face with crispy skin, pork fat, and trotters. Oh yeah.

Another Round at Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen

Another Round is a series of posts that take a look at the wine and drink lists of area restaurants. The series will consider the story that the restaurant will have in the curation of their beverage list. Ballard’s Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen is in the crosshairs this week.

When Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen, it opened up with much fanfare. From the guys that brought the Matador restaurants throughout the Northwest, they’ve opened up the sprawling Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen off of Shilshole Ave. in Ballard. Much of the local media has covered the restaurant and the food experience, but their wine and drink list has yet to receive much review.

With a name that includes the word ‘Whiskey’ in it, know that you’re in good hands with brown liquor. The drink list is broken down into ‘Libations‘ (wine, beer, house cocktails, etc) and ‘Whiskey + Spirits‘ (whiskey and spirits, natch); both lists are robust. As befits a restaurant whose food menu leans heavily towards barbecue and items imbued with smoke and comfort, the drinks are lined up to balance with those flavors. You want a beverage with a to match that heft. Expect power, strength, and richness with the wine list. And a lot of brown liquor. Here are some highlights:

  • Bottles of white wine range from $24-100; mostly domestic
  • Bottles of red wine range from $27-220
  • By the glass program – white wines $8-10; red wines $8-17
  • They have a house bottle called ‘Kickin’ Boot Syrah’ made by Darcie Kent Vineyards; a winery in California.
  • Cocktail list is whiskey-prevalent

The decor of Kickin’ Boot reminds me of Back to the Future Part 3; it’s a bit of the Old West, but with an element of frivolity. High ceilings, windows, aplenty, and TVs everywhere, one could find themselves amongst many a bro. Not that it’s a bad thing, Kickin’ Boot clearly has a formula and they’ll do quite well with it. Heck, the restaurateurs have a formula with Matador that is rolling like gangbusters. I’d imagine that Kickin’ Boot will be packin’ ‘em in and servin’ ‘em up like crazy.

 
Kickin' Boot Whiskey Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Another Round at Lecosho

Another Round is a series of posts that takes a look at the wine and drink lists of area restaurants. The series will consider the story that the restaurant will have in the curation of their beverage list. Though the sightglass this week is Seattle’s Lecosho.

Located on the Harbor Steps up from Seattle’s waterfront, Lecosho has been open since September of 2010. With a name that is Chinook for ‘pig’, one would think that it would be a porcine mecca. One would be wrong. While pork is featured, it’s not exactly the driving force. You could say the same for the wine list. It’s not featured on their website and the list itself feels small with only a few dozen bottles in total. Not small, but not large either. But their porchetta is the star of the show and the wine follows in line.

Here is what I gathered from the wine list:

  • White wines range in price from $39-90 a bottle. French and Washington wines dominate the list. Thoughout the list are unique varietals with a hallmark of acidity (always good to balance rich dishes).
  • Red wines are between $35-98 for a bottle. Wines from the Northwest and Italy are prevalent with acidity and fruit-forward flavor profiles as the name of the game.
  • The wine-by-the-glass program has less well known varietals and white wines are priced between $7-10, with reds between $8-13.
  • Sparkling wines are between $47 (for a a half bottle) to $112.

The drink list is also not on their website, but they do feature the Martinez; an under-rated cocktail that is purported to be the precursor the Martini. And it was an excellent cocktail; the balance of the gin with the sweet vermouth offers a beguiling tone.

What the wine list is telling me is that the wines are intended to have acidity and fruit to balance the perceived richness that the menu entails. The goal of any restaurant is to have a pairing between food and wine balance, and that is what Lecosho is trying to do. It’s not exactly an exciting list, but you go to Lecosho for the notion of pork, not for wine.
Lecosho on Urbanspoon

Food Network’s daliance with Seattle

The Best Thing I Ever Ate photo courtesy of Hulu

-This post originally appeared on Seattlest

In case you missed it, last Monday featured the Food Network crushing on Fremont’s Revel for the ‘Messy‘ episode of their series, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The premise of this show is the Food Network featuring various culinary dignitaries waxing poetic on what they think is the best thing they’ve ever ate. And this past Monday was Revel’s turn to be celebrated. But this restaurant gem isn’t the only place in Seattle that they’ve considered for the best thing ever eaten; there are a solid group of restaurants famously noted by people talking about their food, famously talking about our city’s food.

  • Revel’s Asparagus Pistachio Olive Chutney Radicchio Rice Bowl – This Fremont hotspot has packed the house since their opening last winter. That likely won’t change with the New York Times‘ Frank Bruni expressing his love for Revel’s Rice Bowl. If you recall, last summer, Bruni shared his recap of his time in the area and one of those loves was for Revel’s Rice Bowl, so much so, he thinks it’s one of the best things he ever ate.
  • Toulouse Petit’s Cured Pork Cheek Confit Hash – This episode featured Toulouse Petit’s breakfast happy hour by Melissa d’Arabian; Season Five winner of The Next Food Network Star. She particularly likes the ‘Bang for the Buck‘ that one gets from Toulouse Petit’s Pork Cheek Hash.
  • Dahlia Lounge’s Lemon Scallion Dungeness Crab Cakes – Once again, the Food Network gives some love to Tom Douglas for his crab cakes at Dahlia Lounge on the ‘Obsessions‘ episode. Giada De Laurentiis was smitten with these glorious hockey pucks of crab meat created by the TDR group. This Seattlest agrees; these crab cakes are delicious.
  • Cafe Juanita’s Fruit Sorbet – Another Eastside  entrant, this time they give kudos to Chef Holly Smith’s Poco Caretto Fruit Sorbet at Cafe Juanita. In this ‘With Fruit‘ episode, Melissa d’Arabian sings the praises of the Beard award-winning chef’s sorbetto.

Eight different dishes from Seattle-area restaurants that the folks at the Food Network consider some of the best food they’ve ever eaten. Always good for the area to get culinary street cred. Now I’m hungry.

*Note – Give the restaurant a call if you want any of these dishes specifically. Menus are subject to change and just because it was on television doesn’t mean it will be there when you go. 

Tako Truk returns for the summer

This post originally appeared on Seattlest

Tako Truk has led many lives. And Seattle eaters have benefited from all of them. The first came during the summer of 2009. This maiden voyage was a pop-up restaurant (before pop-ups were over-exposed) and was situated within Eastlake’s 14 Carrot Cafe. It was a summer party framed with delicious and fun food. Alas, Tako Truk only ran through the summer. The second life of Tako Truk was last spring when they partnered with SoDo’s Two Beers Brewing for a benefit collabo towards ShelterBox‘s relief efforts in Haiti. Just like the first life, it was tasty, yet even more fleeting with its one-time-only showing. Now we’re onto the third life of Tako Truk; it is kicking off its Sunday Social at the fresh digs of its big sister, Madison Park Conservatory. And just like the other two lives, we benefit from this one.

When Tako Truk’s facebook page let out a teaser last week, Seattlest’s ears were perked. Bryan Jarr and Cormac Mahoney’s summer experiment of 2009 was one of my favorite food memories that year. (Full disclosure; I went to high school with Bryan.) So when the facebook page was updated with more info, I had to know more.

Here are the broad details; this Sunday 6/26, from 4pm – 8pm-ish, the smoldering hot Madison Park Conservatory will host its first Tako Truk night. How on fire are they? If you haven’t heard, The New York Times‘ Frank Bruni was quite taken with his visit. Aside from the great plates the Conservatory team is doing most nights, we have another way to connect with them. And this Sunday we have the first opportunity with Tako Truk. The folks at the Conservatory will be creating a party on Sunday nights; a ‘Sunday Social’ different from their regular dinner service. For this first Social, they’re reviving the beloved Tako Truk and the good times that came of it before. They’ll also have a few more Sunday Socials throughout the summer with tentative plans for July 10th, 17th, and 24th for starters.

On the Conservatory events page, the menu mentions their tacos, guisos, fried things, raw things, and booze. But what I gleaned from my talk with Bryan, the menu will take inspiration cues from the original Tako Truk menu. Imagine variations on their chorizo tako, coco piggy (pork belly braised in coconut water), and chicken adobo tacos. Guiso is a type of stew and the fried things will be their bitty fries, their twist on shoestring fries. Prepare to eat these by the fistful.

The big difference from the original Tako Truk is that it will be framed by the devilish allure of booze. There will be Modelo drink specials and shots of tequila to go with your order. As an added bonus for old school Trukkers, Cormac will bring back his famed Green Drink, a variation on limeade with hits of lemongrass. And there will be a spiked version.

As for the flow of the evening, it won’t take on the traditional setting of Madison Park Conservatory – it’s a Sunday Social after all. They’ll use the open window to the kitchen at the entrance to take orders. And cash is encouraged. So bring a $20 and you should be rolling. Place your order and move your way into the dining room where there will be communal tables to grub. But don’t limit yourself to the dining room as you could also sit outdoors, or head across the street to the park and beach along Lake Washington.

Stay tuned to Tako Truk’s Twitter; they’ll provide updates leading up to the night and (if form holds) will call out when dishes are 86′d, so pay attention. Start planning out your summer because the good folks at Madison Park Conservatory have some fun Sunday Socials up their sleeve. Tako Truk starts it off this Sunday.

Oysters as far as the eye can see

Over the course of the next two weekends, folks in Seattle will have at their disposal two events catering to oyster addicts. If you love the briny bite of the bi-valve, these two events will be up your alley. This Saturday will be South Lake Union’s Oyster Frenzy, while next weekend’s will be Elliott’s Oyster House’s Oyster New Year Bash.

I’m an unabashed oyster fiend. Love them. On the half-shell, in a stew, barbecued, roasted, whatever, I’m in for them. So events like these are totally up my alley. In fact, I went to Flying Fish’s Oyster Frenzy many years ago and was able to be a part of the gleeful carnage of shell and slurp. And it was awesome.

But truth be told, this oyster appreciation has only kicked in during the latter third of my life. Growing up, my parents would eat oysters (roasted, never raw), but they never held an appeal for me. Clams and mussels I was fine with, but oysters, no way. As one does when they get older, I experimented. I’m glad I finally did and now I’m making up for lost time. Which is why events like Oyster Frenzy or Ocean New Year are up my alley. I get to binge.

On deck is this Saturday’s Oyster Frenzy at Flying Fish. The one I went to was a blast. It was in Flying Fish’s Belltown location, and if anyone has been there, you know that the space can feel tight in a hurry. The newer Flying Fish in South Lake Union feels larger and will probably have a nice feel and flow. For $35 you get all you can eat oysters; raw, fried or in a stew. Along with tastes of beer and wine that aim to pair nicely. The event runs from 1-4pm, and it’s a crazy popular event, so call Flying Fish stat for last minute availability. Flying Fish 300 Westlake Ave N, Seattle 206.728.8595

I’m really looking forward to next week’s Ocean New Year at Elliott’s Oyster House. I was invited to a ‘slurp-up’ a few weeks ago as a teaser to the event. Local oyster growers told us of the history of the bi-valve in our area. We tried out some of the wines that Jon Rowley noted as being ideal oyster wines. And we were able to indulge in fresh oysters and other seafood bites.

All of this made me anticipate Elliott’s Oyster New Year bash (as part of their Ocean Harvest Festival) even more. On Saturday night from 5-9pm, Elliott’s will host a big bash with live music, a 90-ft bar, seafood buffet, wines from dozens of producers and more. An added bonus to the festivities is that all proceeds will benefit the Puget Sound Restoration Fund; a group with a mission to protect our waterways and the species calling it home.

For more information on the event, visit the Oyster New Year site; where you can see what’s on tap for the seafood buffet, the roster of wineries, and how to buy tickets. For $95, you can be part of quite the ocean party. Added bonus; Elliott’s is aiming to make this event as sustainable as possible. From compostables to recyclables, most everything will be handled as green as possible. I’m sure my SO’s dad would want the empty shells; he’s had a grand goal of lining his driveway with oyster shells. I’m sure an event with several hundred people consuming thousands of oysters will help this endeavor. Because otherwise, I think the turn of the century is the feasible goal.  Elliott’s Oyster House 1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56, Seattle 206.623.4340

Look forward to seeing you around town; knee deep in oyster shells with the look of delirium that all oyster lovers have. See you around the shucking table.

Photo courtesy of Serious Eats.

Queen Anne’s Icebox Grocery

For a funky little neighborhood gem, you can’t really get much better than Queen Anne’s Icebox Grocery. We mentioned the Icebox a long time ago as part of the 10th Ave microhood it shares with Muse Coffee Co, Red Square Yoga, and Le Visage. However, this Icebox Grocery is different and fresh; with new owners, a new layout, and new offerings, the neighborhood has a new option for good eats.

The Icebox has always been a great spot to grab some last minute essentials. I would often make a quick run to grab some flour, chicken stock, and most importantly when we were out of butter (the horror…). So when the new owners bought the space, it was exciting to see what they had in store and how they would place their own spin on it. On the subject of the new owners, they come to us as the original owners of Ballard’s beloved breakfast spot, The Dish, which means tasty food is definitely in play.

And their food is quite good. We’ve gone several times and have enjoyed ourselves each time. The last trip involved an excellent shrimp po’ boy sandwich. Perfectly fried shrimp in a rich, tangy tartar sauce, all housed in a roll from Macrina Bakery. On another trip, it was a bold Reuben sandwich with their house salad. Other menu items of note; waffles, their hot salami sandwich, and they serve beer. Keep an eye on their daily specials, we’ve had their breakfast burrito and that aforementioned po’ boy was one.

So when the mood strikes for a good neighborhood sandwich spot, or when disaster strikes and you’re out of butter, head to the Icebox Grocery. Then lament the fact that your neighborhood doesn’t have something like it. Fortunately for those on the west slope of Queen Anne, we do.

Icebox Grocery on Urbanspoon