Remembering a dear friend.

This post originally went out on Seattlest.

That’s our dog. Her name is Feta. She’s a shedding, loving, bear of a St. Bernard. We call her ‘walrus’ every so often because of how she lies down. She’s a bit anxious and is still getting used to people. Sometimes, she’ll meet someone that she’s comfortable with, calms down, and nuzzles up next to them and she will be the dog we know she can be. One of the people she took immediately to was our friend Kim Ricketts. If you’ve ever met the amazing Kim, you’d know that her presence was magnetic. Feta figured that out. And all of Kim’s friends knew this as well. We had a cherished friend and a special person.

Kim Ricketts was a remarkable person. She had an uncanny ability to inspire and connect. Her love of reading was infectious. I remember all of my times with Kim. They each had their own story. And as a longtime book person, stories are one of the things that fueled Kim. Connecting people was another. And for that I’m also thankful. For Kim connected us to so many people; authors, chefs, visionaries. She introduced me to people that soon became my friends. Talk to any local chef, food writer or purveyor, and reader, they’ll each have a great Kim story.

Kim Ricketts passed away Monday after a fight with blood cancer and AL amyloidosis. A brave soul if there ever was one, I was honored to call her a friend. My thoughts and prayers are with all those close to her

A few stories that I’ll always remember of Kim. A few years ago, as I was just dipping my toe into the world of the local food community, I wanted to attend her Cooks & Books event with Eric Ripert. I barely knew Kim (or anyone else in the Seattle food scene) at the time, but she was so warm and welcoming and wanted me to be there. I said that I would be coming by myself. What did Kim say? “You can sit with me and Eric!” Honored to say the least. She barely knew me, but welcomed me openly. That’s the type of person she is. It was an amazing night, all brought to us by Kim.

Another story; Kim can be a whirlwind of conversation and movement. It’s a delightful thing. She’ll get engrossed with meeting people and catching up with friends. On one of the first occasions that I met her, I noticed that her voice was starting to go (as it was apt to do). Ever the gentleman, I offered her a cough drop. She said, ‘Honey, there is nothing that will help with this voice.’ She then continued to converse with those nearby. She would always lose her voice by the end of the night. I can still hear that voice in my head. It’s a distinctive one; raspy with a hint of a squeak. Undulating in tone and volume. Can you hear it? I always will.

An all those books that are stacked next to Feta? They’re from the many events that Kim held around town, the many events that I was fortunate to attend. We sent this picture to Kim in the winter. Of course there are stories in these books. But I’ll remember the stories of when I got these books. The dinners they were shared over. The conversations that were started by them. The friends made from them. Ultimately, I’m thankful of the time that I spent with Kim and to be a small part of her story. It still continues by carrying on her legacy. We can start by having dinner and a conversation with friends.

Donations in her honor can be made to the Seattle Public Library and 826 Seattle.

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Food Network enters the wine game

photo from Eater

On the scale of interesting news this fits somewhere between ‘huh’ and ‘that’s cool, I guess’. As shared by the folks at Eater, the lifestyle behemoth that we know as Food Network is releasing their first series of wine.

Making and releasing wine can definitely be a vanity project. It’s filled with hard work, massive overhead, low margins and more, but when you’re playing at the level that Food Network is, it’s pretty much an opportunity to brand something that already existed. It’s not like they’re having Michael Chiarrello or Tyler Florence lend a hand in the wine-making. For that, the Food Network has relied on the folks at Wente Vineyards in California. They are calling their new wine ‘entwine‘, with a goal to create a wine that pairs well with food. Well, no crap. Most wines match well with food.

Here is what I find interesting. The pricepoint is $13 a bottle. Not bad, some decent stuff can be had at that level. (Though, it is awfully hard for small producers to meet that pricepoint.) But their bottles state ‘California’ as the region designate. What this says to me is that the grapes, and grape juice, used to produce their wine are sourced throughout the entire state and each vintage going forward could likely have different vineyard designates each year. I’m not a geography major, but I recall California being huge. Such vineyard designates can be anywhere from Napa Valley, Central Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, or the dozens of other California AVAs. Or a combination of said areas.

While it’s possible one could get a good wine with no vineyard designate, it does raise an eyebrow as the yield of jug wines coming from California is staggering.  I personally want to drink and buy wine that celebrates its origin, not a chemical process that creates a consistent product. Buying grapes and grape juice on a spot market is a way to make winemaking more accessible, but purposely creating a brand that does not highlight the origins and producers that help to make the brand successful gives me pause. No matter how big of a presence you have, producing a wine like this will always be a community effort.

That’s not to say that entwine doesn’t have potential. I just happen to be skeptical of it. They’re making Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon a part of their suite of varietals. If you want to try these, they’ll be available nationwide soon enough. As for me, I think I’ll keep trying wineries closer to home with more character that aren’t conceived by marketing execs, rather produced by former marketing execs that are following a new passion and appreciating those who have helped educate them along the way to success.

The ‘Pen at Safeco Field

If you’re under 36 and have been to any Seattle Mariners game at Safeco Field over the last dozen years or so, you’d know that the Centerfield Meat Market is its own epicenter of action. A big open area with easy access to beer, digits and food; a great place to mix socializing with baseball. But as my desire to kick some game lessens over the years, so has my desire to go back to the Bullpen Market. That all changed with the introduction of The ‘Pen. I want to go back to that area to get full on baseball, drinks and food.

Last week, I was invited to a media tasting of The ‘Pen (the new moniker for the Bullpen Market) and its new food offering. These aren’t just food stands. They are new food concepts from an esteemed trio of chefs/restaurateurs; Ethan Stowell, Bill Pustari, and Roberto Santibanéz. As a baseball fan, I was excited for the changes to this area. As a food nerd, I was excited to try some good food. Combining the two, I’m giddy that the concept of ballpark food had been elevated. Peace out peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Here are the three cool things about The ‘Pen: Continue reading