Dining Out For Life – Thursday 4/30

Thursday 4/30 is Dining Out For Life, a great day of dining that puts the spotlight on a good cause, HIV and AIDS service organizations. Dining Out Lor Life is an annual event and it is super easy to support. Just go out to eat and drink!

Here in Seattle, our support will go towards Lifelong AIDS Alliance, the Northwest’s leading AIDS service organization. Thursday will be a day where participating area restaurants set aside 30% of your bill to go directly towards Lifelong AIDS Alliance. And almost all of the participating restaurants are locally owned spots that enrich their neighborhood. The locations vary from coffeeshops to white tablecloth restaurants, so please support.

The always excellent Nancy Leson even had a fun little game with the participating Dining Out For Life restaurants. She broke the participating businesses down to places she hasn’t been and would like to visit, places she hasn’t visited in awhile, and places she visits often. Pretty cool. Here’s mine:

  • Been never – Deluxe Bar & Grill; Restaurant Zoe; Smith; Sutra
  • Been a minute – Bizarro Italian Cafe; Cafe Presse; McMenamin’s
  • Been often – Palace Kitchen; Quinn’s; Red Mill Burgers

The point is to go out for a good cause! Tons of great choices across all budgets and styles to tickle your fancy. Dining Out For Life is an event across the country and into Canada, so lend your appetite to AIDS support organizations. As I’ve said often; see you around the table.

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Going for Seconds at Baconopolis

The buzz for Baconopolis was reaching a fever pitch as we were getting closer to the event. Twitter was aflutter. The blogosphere was excited. The general populace was starting to froth over the festivities. And with tickets sold out way in advance, the anticipation was on another level. All for the delicious bit of smoked pork belly that we all know and love as Bacon. If there was ever an event to put bacon up on an alter it was this one. We can thank Tom Douglas and his team for bringing Baconopolis to us.

We arrived a bit early to see Eric Tanaka, the executive chef for all of Tom Douglas’ restaurants, working the grill outside the Palace Ballroom. Eric is a super cool guy and very personable, so it was great to see him warming up the crowd. As a primer for the event, Eric was griddling Oscar Meyer bacon to sample. Apparently, Oscar Meyer is the #1 selling brand of bacon in the country, so it was fun to try it as a barometer for the good stuff we had in store for us. My thoughts? Not much fat, not much meat, tasted a bit like charcoal, but hey, it’s bacon, it didn’t totally suck. But we had much grander bacon in our future.

Stepping through the Ballroom foyer we were handed our menus and noticed a funky little necklace that the greeter was wearing. It was a couple of strips of bacon and some sunny side eggs in the shape of skull ‘n crossbones. Sweet. And they were made by a waitress at Lola and were for sale at the event.

Here is the rundown of bacon producers and the dishes that the Tom Douglas team made with them:

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Dinner at Cascina Spinasse

There are a slew of restaurants around town that have the blogging world in a collective swoon. These are places that draw an opinion one way or the other, but generally they are well liked. If not, folks are only trying to stem the tide to be different. Not exactly novel, but bloggers are an interesting lot. What’s my point? That there are restaurants that are so hip, so interesting, and so, so very good, that the food community has taken a look and realize that they love it. One of those places in Seattle is Capitol Hill’s Cascina Spinasse. Don’t believe me? Check out the role call on their Urbanspoon page; Cascina Spinasse is blowin’ up.

We went on a beautiful Monday evening in Seattle. The vibe at Spinasse was great; a rolling hum to the room that was mostly full, the soft breeze kicking in; it all helped make for a nice night for dinner. Stepping into Spinasse, you’ll notice the tables and decor. There are about five tables with three of those set up for communal dining and a bar with seats for about 10. We also really liked the layout and design; for being a relatively new restaurant it has a very ‘lived in’ feel. It felt like I was in an Italian kitchen. Bear in mind, I’ve never been in an actual Italian kitchen, but the fixtures, design, even the candles had a very welcoming feel.

This is all great, but a restaurant’s calling card is it’s food and Spinasse does Italian really well. One of the early things that folks may notice is the open kitchen. You’ll see a massive table where the chef Justin Neidermeyer will be rolling out pasta. This is where Spinasse stands out. They do all of their pastas fresh daily with chef Neidermeyer personally working with his pasta dough. But it’s not just pasta that makes the menu stand out, there are all sorts of other intriguing and exciting dishes on it too. From the antipasti’s, to the primi’s (the pasta), to the secondi (entrees), you’ll find at least one thing in each area that you’ll want to try. The food and buzz at Spinasse was so loud that even folks from LA had to make the trek to our corner and take Spinasse for a spin.

Here are my three really cool things about Cascina Spinasse:

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The many facets of Thierry Rautureau

Over the past few months, we’ve attended some cool new events hosted by one of Seattle’s most distinguished chefs. Among these events, Thierry Rautureau opened the doors of Rover’s to host cooking classes and a series of very cool local chefs’ events. What I love about this is that Thierry isn’t resting on his laurels, instead he is finding new ways to reach his legions of local fans and develop ones along the way. Rover’s is one of the very best restaurants in Seattle, this is due to Thierry’s vision and execution, and the excellence of his team. Throughout these new endeavors, The Chef in the Hat is extending his brand to more people and deepening the Rover’s experience.

First off, Thierry Rautureau is an unbelievably fun and amicable guy. If you’ve ever seen his TV appearances or caught the radio show you know. He owns the room, but he is super-friendly and his demeanor draws you in. This makes for an event type atmosphere at any junction. I do love how friendly he is, that he’ll go out of his way to small talk and converse with any of his guests or with new people he meets. Even doling out advice when appropriate. Basically, the dude is great.

But as we step into a new economy it’s interesting to see how restaurants adapt and reinvent themselves. For Thierry, he is opening up the doors to Rover’s. Among his events, he hosts Culinary & Wine Classes at Rover’s, partners with local chefs at Chefs Table events, and he creates new reasons for folks to go to Rover’s. The eaters of Seattle are better for it.

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For love of Bacon – Tom Douglas’ Baconopolis

-UPUDATE #2: Round two of Baconopolis is on Friday 2/26! Click for details.

-UPDATE: I survived Baconopolis! Here is my story to live to tell about it.

Raise your hand if you love bacon? Oh, ok, everyone. Which makes sense, bacon has an obsessive devotion amongst its legions of fans. I’ve heard stories of vegetarians sneaking it on the side. ‘Bacon – the gateway meat’ is an appropriate statement. I’ve written about the magic of bacon fat and how great it is, but I realize that not everyone would be crazy about saving bacon fat (although you should). Now there is another really cool event rolling right around the corner; Tom Douglas will be having his Baconopolis next week.

Tom has received all sorts of love from this very blog, and it’s all very well deserved. He knows how to create fun events; Baconopolis is no exception. It’s next Friday 4/24 at his Palace Ballroom on 5th and Lenora, across the street from the Palace Kitchen. The event rolls from 6-8pm and is only $20 for tickets. And you get a drink with that! Not a bad deal for some booze and bacon.

Ah, the bacon. In the description of the event, it’s mentioned that there will be different producers to sample their bacon. Dishes such as butterscotch bacon bits or bacon carbonara are on the menu. Interesting – as someone that has dabbled into the world of bacon ice cream, I’m curious at any unique application of bacon.

The contact info I have is  Christy at (206)448.2001 or via email at christinal@tomdouglas.com. Get in touch with her for a fun night of bacon indulgence.

Wine tastings at Seattle Wine Outlet

I’ve talked about Richard Kinssies’ Seattle Wine Outlet an awful lot. And why not? From their celebratory roasts to their stellar wine deals, they are a great resource for wine drinkers around town. The next cool thing Richard is doing is hosting informal wine tastings at his Elliott Avenue store.

These tastings are part of what Richard calls the Producer Wine Tasting Seminar Program. It’s basically an informal sit-down tasting once a week from 7-8pm. Producers will share their info and you can taste their wines. Fun way to learn from the source.

I went to the tasting last night and the topic of the tasting was wines from Portugal. I’ll write a bit more about this event later in the week, but I had to share how great these events are. For $15 we were able to taste seven different wines and had reps from the two different wineries to talk about their wines and the regions they produce. All for $15!

So here is the schedule that Seattle Wine Outlet has for the rest of the spring. I’d suggest going to some if you want to step up your wine game at a budget.

4/15 – Grgich Hills Cellar (Napa Valley, CA) – Sold out
4/30 – Wines of St – Emillion
5/5 – Dona Paula (Mendoza, Argentina)
5/7 – Symington family port wines (Oporto, Portugal)
5/13 – Conde de Valdemar (Rioja, SP)
5/14 – Mastroberardino (Campania, IT)
5/20 – Elk Cove Winery (Willamette Valley, OR)
6/4 – Wines of Tramin (Alto Adige, IT)

Call the folks at Seattle Wine Outlet today to get yourself to these classes, see you at one soon!

wineoutlet@seattlewineoutlet.com
phone: 206-652-1311
http://www.seattlewineoutlet.com

Top Chef Masters coming to Bravo this summer

Not sure if you’ve heard, but there will be a Top Chef Masters series starting June 10th on Bravo. This bit of news lit the Twitter and blogosphere world’s on fire. Why not? Combine the skill of top level chefs with the polished gloss that Bravo puts on their reality shows and you have a winner.

I’ll admit that I don’t watch much Top Chef. I’ll check out an episode or two, but I’d much rather watch the skill of folks that are already at the apex of their career, where the term ‘chef’ is actually appropriate. To me, some of the contestants of Top Chef are still feeling themselves out and this frustrates me! That’s why I loved it when the Food Network had their ‘The Next Iron Chef‘ competition show; they paired really talented chefs that were already successful at running their restaurants. To me, I always consider chefs to be akin to CEOs – talented, but also skilled at juggling all aspects of the business. High-level, creative and driven. I may be wrong, but I never got that impression with 99% of the Top Chef folks.

That’s why I’m excited for Top Chef Masters. To take some very, very, very good chefs and put them in unique kitchen environments. And these folks really know their way around a kitchen. Bravo pulled a line-up of two dozen chefs from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. There are a bunch of chefs that I’m not too familiar with, but the ones I am, I do appreciate their work:

  • Wylie Dufresne – Chef at WD-50 in New York, Wylie is one of those guys that pushes the molecular gastronomy envelope. It will be interesting to see how his talents translate in the competitions.
  • Michael Chiarello – Most people know him as the host of Easy Entertaining on the Food Network, but Michael is also behind the NapaStyle empire and his take on Italian has resulted in his Bottega restaurant in Yountville, California.
  • Rick Moonen – I was able to go an event at Amazon where Chef Moonen, of RM Seafood in Vegas, talked about his book, Fish Without a Doubt. It was interesting to learn about his skill and talent with fish. He has an informative nature about him and he was a really nice guy to talk with. Personally, I’m pulling for him.
  • Rick Bayless – Probably the most ‘well-known’ of all the chefs with his own show on PBS and his adoration of the Obamas. Chef Bayless also has some of the most renowned restaurants in Chicago. In fact, his Topolobampo was recognized by Saveur as one of the ’12 restaurants that matter’.

I am looking forward to watching Top Chef Masters. There are a few months before the season begins, but this allows for some time to do some research on all the chefs. I do have one question though; who were the chefs that weren’t able to do it? I love the world of food.