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

Washington’s burgeoning cult wines

This post originally appeared on Seattlest.

Cult wines. Ask wine people their thoughts on them and you’ll get divisive opinions. On one hand, you have wines of high vineyard quality, scarcity, and prestige. On the other, you have wines that are absurdly expensive, nigh impossible to get, and carry a snob level that is only matched by those that regularly read the Robb Report. So this recent article from local wine writer Paul Gregutt is an interesting shift on the notion of cult wines. The tenet is this: The main principles of cult wines and how the scarcity, high quality, allure, etc, can all be attained by delving into the world of Washington wines.

How did the market land at this nexus of bottles of wine that fetch $300 (and more) which are often more suited for collectors than consumers? How it started is debatable, but one of the first of the notable cult wineries mentioned is Napa’s Screaming Eagle. In the early ’90’s, the folks behind Screaming Eagle released a wine with high quality grapes, but low case quantities which received high scores from wine writers. Now, people go out of their way to acquire them and often spend time searching for the next cult winery. Cult wines are often a California thing as a number of their wineries sport this status. Other California cult wineries of note are Harlan Estates, Shafer, Sine Qua Non, and Opus One. In the case of Opus One, they are so revered that Jay-Z has namechecked them.

Ever since breaking into the market, Washington’s wine industry is always on the upswing. With a growing number of wineries, high quality vineyards, and talented winemakers, Washington is consistently poised to set their worldwide mark on the industry. Some feel that Washington is the next great wine region. And in Gregutt’s article, he used Washington wine to tweak the notion of how cult wines are perceived. Instead of thinking of them as difficult to obtain, he thinks of Washington wine as easier to get a hold of and not something for collectors. This speaks to the quality of Washington wine and it’s limited quantity by means of emerging producers, but not a purposeful mandate to produce a cult wine.

Access is one of the nice things that Washington wineries have going for them. While some may have closed mailing lists, they still want to get their wine into the hands of consumers, so they work hard on distribution – a little clever Internet searching and you can likely find most anything. An added bonus to high-end Washington wines? They won’t be as expensive as those in the Screaming Eagle and Harlan fold. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be cheap either.

Washington wines entering the mindshare of the new cult start that leap to mind are Quilceda Creek and Leonetti Cellars. They are often the standard bearers and in the case of Leonetti, starting a second label that draws upon its initial success. But there are other wines in our state that can place in the new cult: Abeja, Gramercy Cellars, Cayuse, Corliss, Long Shadows, and Rasa. All can be found at your local wine shop. This is exactly the advantage about this new cult that Paul Gregutt envisions; high quality wines can not only be found without having to empty the wallet, relatively speaking.

Enjoy searching for the next great Washington wine. Who knows, you may have the next Screaming Eagle in your cellar.

Seattle Wine Outlet’s new rooftop deck

This Sunday is the ‘Deck Warming Party’ for the Seattle Wine Outlet’s Interbay location. The Seattle Wine Outlet has long been a resource to score deals on wines from all over the world. But it also hosts classes and tastings, along with an upstairs room for private events. If you’ve ever been upstairs you know that it has access to a rather spacious deck. Prior to this Sunday, the deck wasn’t used for anything in particular. That has now changed as you can use the rooftop for events or to sip on vino or some noshes. Hopefully under the mercurial Seattle sun.

Richard Kinssies’ Interbay Seattle Wine Outlet is the largest of his three spots. The original, in SoDo, was the first and went through a remodel a few years back. Greenlake Wines is the newest one with more of a neighborhood wine bar feel. Interbay, with their new deck gives another reason to go. If not for the deck, visit for the various roast parties they host through the year. To tally them, they’ve had salmon roasts, lamb roasts, pig roasts, and wurst roasts.

For a fun excursion this Sunday, from 12-5pm, the Interbay Seattle Wine Outlet will be cutting the ribbon and celebrating their new rooftop deck. There will be food off the grill and wine deals to compliment. The three bottles that are priced to sell are an OR Pinot Noir ($7/bottle), Italian Gavi from Piedmont (3/$12), and a NZ Sauvignon Blanc (3/$12). Wine al fresco? I think there is a place for that in Seattle.

It’s Hip to Spit: Tips for for Surviving Taste WA

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Ed. note  – So I’m writing for Seattlest now (huzzah!). This is my first post and be on the lookout as I write more about wine and all things tasty there.

The Washington Wine Commission‘s flagship event is this weekend; Taste Washington. It is a huge party celebrating all that is good about our state’s wine industry and one that is worth experiencing. Throughout March, local wineries, restaurants and retailers celebrate Washington Wine month leading up to the grand event. Come and discover why our Syrah is distinctive or why our Merlot would make the Right Bank proud.

With an epic event like this, one needs a game plan to properly partake and enjoy all the wines that will be poured. Most importantly, one needs to rise above the fray and not come to Taste looking to get smashed. Here’s how to avoid that.

  • Take a cab or have a designated driver – You’ll be drinking a lot of wine, so enjoy yourself, get a cab, or recruit a friend that likes beer a bit too much to be the DD. Besides, you’ll pick up a ton of swag, they can be the one to carry it.
  • Eat! – There are a host of great restaurants serving food throughout the event. You’ve already dropped a C-note for this, so come with an empty stomach to try all sorts of eats. Plus, it helps to absorb the vino you’ll be imbibing. While you’re at it, stop by the Canlis booth and tell the guys your tall tale from last fall’s scavenger hunt and visit the Dahlia Lounge’s spot to congratulate the Tom Douglas Restaurant team on their James Beard nomination.
  • Have a wine tasting game plan – Washington has over 600 different wineries and the Grand Tasting will have upwards of 200, so your options at Taste can be overwhelming. Target about 12-16 wineries that you want to try and seek them out. Take a look at the event guide (PDF) and plot your plan of attack. Note that the biggies like Betz and Waters will have huge lines and will also pour all of their stuff early. This is where having a VIP ticket is advantageous.
  • Prepare to be surprised – There will be moments where you won’t know what to taste next. Luckily you can walk in any direction and someone will be pouring wine. See what varietals they are pouring and if one interests you, try it. Who knows, you may discover your next favorite wine producer
  • To spit or not to spit – This is a classic philosophical question. If you want to drink more than five wines, you’ll have to do one or the other. The Washington Wine Commission had a marketing campaign that was called ‘It’s Hip to Spit‘. While the naming of this campaign is silly, the spirit isn’t. Your palate will be fried with too much wine if you keep drinking. If you do spit, be polite, no one likes a messy spitter.
  • Drink lots of water! – Stay hydrated and drink lots of water. Have your friend the designated driver hold your bottle.
  • Ask questions – When at the table engage the pourer. Ask them about their wine and their role at the winery. The winery may be their life’s passion; what you may learn in these few minutes could go miles.

Have fun and enjoy the tasting – It’s only wine; a consumable meant to be enjoyed. Treat it as such and have fun. One last thing, take your time. The event goes from 4-7pm , so don’t feel you have to cover it all as soon as you get there. Take the evening in and enjoy a glass. Or two. Or seven.

A Tea Party at the Northwest Tea Festival

This weekend Seattle will host a tea party that is open to all walks of life; on October 2-3, the Northwest Tea Festival opens its arms. In Seattle Center’s Northwest Rooms, the tea festival will be the place to be for tea lovers.

So if you’re looking for something fun, interesting and different to do, go check out the Northwest Tea Festival. For a $5 donation, you’ll get a souvenir tasting cup and entry into the event. There are a host of tasting sessions, presentations, and workshops throughout the weekend. Coupled with the floor of retailers, you should be able to find enough interesting things about tea to kick your coffee habit. Or rather, diversify your drinking habits.

For another cool reason to attend, the good folks at The Essential Baking Company have made three specialty cakes to pair with teas. I had the good fortune of attending a preview event at Pike Place’s Perennial Tea Room to learn about the cakes, the festival and tea culture. The tea cakes come in three flavors (Blueberry Orange, Lemon Raspberry, and Carrot Pineapple) and my dear friend CakeSpy shared her thoughts on them. Check out EBC’s cafes to check out the cakes as well.

One hidden benefit of going to the Tea Festival is the opportunity to learn immense amounts of a subject as broad as tea. The copious volumes of factoids will blow the doors off of the stuff that your friends know. Because really, isn’t it nice to know more than your friends? See you at the table for high tea.