Archive for October, 2012

Uncorked: Quivira 2007 Syrah Hommage a Ampuis

October 25, 2012

Several years ago, while attending the first Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, I had the chance to tour Quivira Vineyards and Winery, in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley outside of Healdsburg. I remember a gorgeous late September day, leaves turning on the hills and harvest winding down in the vineyards, the smell of fermenting wine rich in the air. Our group was fortunate enough to get a private tour through the winery’s gorgeous biodynamic estate vineyard, taste the current releases, and have a lovely, locally-sourced lunch on the patio before hitting the road again.

My visit to Quivira made a lasting impression on me. I’ve always been somewhat skeptical about the principles of biodynamic winemaking.  Gnome houses in the vineyards? Burying ram’s horns full of green manure on the equinox? Some of these tenets seem fanciful at best, and unlikely to improve wine quality. But I can also appreciate the wisdom of a (non-biodynamic) vineyard manager I respect, who often points out that time spent in the vineyard is time spent improving growing conditions – and so the time-consuming vit practices of Bio-D acolytes like the folks at Quivira probably do account for some sort of increased quality. At the very least, these practices don’t hurt.

And the wines from Quivira, which I’ve revisited over the years, are indeed quite enjoyable. We opened a 2007 Dry Creek Valley Syrah from the cellar to pair with an ancho-spiced grilled skirt steak. In this bottling, “inspired by blends from the French village of Ampuis,” a small percentage of Viognier is co-fermented with the Syrah grapes, giving the wine some lovely floral notes and a tannic structure that remains balanced even five years on. I got a lot of blackberry, white pepper, lilac, and vanilla off the wine on that first night, along with some surprising heat. It paired well to the smoky adobo flavors, and had enough acid to hold its own against the rich fattiness of the meat.

Two days later, we finished off the bottle with a simple pot roast. The wine had really opened up, keeping its structure while offering up more blueberry and cocoa-covered cherry flavors and a mellow, mouth-filling juiciness.

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One Night Only: Chef Mark Fuller and Georgetown Brewing

October 18, 2012

Launched earlier this summer, the One Night Only Project, brainchild of Julien Perry and Melissa Peterman, takes the supper club dinner party concept to a new level: participating chefs create a special menu, available for one night only, for around 40 guests. Each chef is paired with a winery, brewery, or mixologist to create pairings for the food, and the dinners are held in offbeat locations which can include event spaces or private homes.

The stand-alone nature of ONO events allows for some very creative themed pairings: past dinners have included Josh Henderson of Skillet stepping away from diner food for a night to prepare a meal of upscale seasonal favorites paired with wines from Efeste and Manuel Alfau of Blind Pig Bistro and  La Bodega preparing a Dominican pig roast paired with rum cocktails by Rob Roy’s Anu Apte on the patio at Bottlehouse, Madrona’s awesome wine shop-tasting bar.

Manny Chao of Georgetown Brewing and Marjorie Chang Fuller of Ma’ono discussing the menu and beer pairings.

When we heard that the latest ONO dinner would feature Chef Mark Fuller of West Seattle’s Ma’ono (formerly Spring Hill) cooking up a six course Mexican feast paired with beers from Manny Chao of Georgetown Brewing Company, we knew this would be an evening not to be missed.  We were right!!

First Course: smoked clam salsa on a porky crouton, with a tequila aperol cordial

The dinner was held at VUDE (Velvet Underground Dining Experience), a very cool private event space and dining club in South Lake Union owned by the Seattle-based proprietor of Argentina’s Hand of God Wines. The candlelit South American vibe of the room – paintings of Eva Peron and matadors, dark wood tables, and swaths of brick red paint on the walls – along with the mellow tunes spun by Andrew Means provided the perfect atmosphere for Fuller’s inspired menu, which paired perfectly with Chao’s beers. What’s better than great Mexican food and beer, right?

While every course was delicious, the standout courses for me came early in the evening. A rich and satisfying pork meatball soup with slices of smoky sausage, preserved tomatoes, and avocado was paired with Georgetown’s Belgian Ale for a light palate refresher to cut through the rich fattiness of the sausage and meatballs; and the undeniable star of the night, Fuller’s crispy pork shoulder tacos, served simply on corn tortillas with  chopped onion and cilantro, a drizzle of smoked tomatillo sour cream, and a crumble of housemade brined cheese. The tacos were served family style on a platter that would have defeated our table even if we hadn’t already consumed huge bowls of soup, and paired with Manny’s namesake crisp and malty Pale Ale.

Second course: pork and rice meatball soup with sausage, avocado, and preserved tomato broth

Third course: crispy pork shoulder tacos with housemade cheese, tomatillo sour cream, onion and cilantro. The showstopper of the evening.

One of our fellow guests opined that these were the best tacos he’d ever eaten in Seattle, and I’d have to agree they they definitely beat anything I’ve had in a restaurant here in town. We stuffed ourselves and consequently were not able to appreciate the final three courses – grilled skirt steak with pickled peppers, corn cakes stuffed with lard-fried beans, and a cucumber shrimp salad; Beecher’s jack cheese tamales with chocolate mole sauce; and dulce de leche rice pudding with Corn Pops (yes, breakfast cereal!) and horchata – nearly as much as they deserved. And trust me, everything Fuller and his team of cook-helpers prepared deserved a lot of appreciation.

Chef Mark Fuller (second from left) and his team hard at work

Hostesses with the mostest: ONO Project founders Melissa Peterman and Julien Perry

In the end, we could eat no more, and literally rolled ourselves back out onto the street, clutching the stylish canvas Ma’ono tote bags and growlers of Manny’s IPA that served as takeaway gifts and hoping against hope that Mark Fuller will someday open a Mexican taco joint somewhere in town – preferably in our neighborhood.

The next One Night Only dinner will be held November 3rd with Chef Eric Hellner of the Metropolitan Grill – who I can attest smokes some of the best ribs this side of the Mississippi – and the Met’s Master Sommelier Thomas Price. I highly recommend you check out this or any ONO event. Information and tickets here

Breakfast at the Brave Horse Tavern

October 13, 2012

The Elvis Pretzly sandwich at the Brave Horse – peanut butter, banana, and bacon.

I visit Tom Douglas’s Brave Horse Tavern in South Lake Union for lunch a lot: it’s close to my office, offers service that can be quick or more leisurely depending on your needs, and the upscale pub food menu of pretzels, burgers, and beer is fun, filling, and inexpensive by neighborhood standards. It’s the perfect clubhouse, and it’s always packed and lively.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the team at the Brave Horse have been expanding their offerings lately. On a recent lunch visit, a platter of tender grilled beef skewers, braised greens, spicy smashed potatoes, and lemony feta spread was a bright mix of exotic and comforting flavors, and a variety of pretzel sandwiches with toppings including pork schnitzel and house-smoked ham, are tasty alternatives to a burger.

In another burst of creativity, the Brave Horse folks recently introduced a weekday breakfast menu to complement their weekend brunch program. One morning last week, I met my friend Robyn, who works in marketing for Tom Douglas Restaurants, to try out some of the new offerings.

Pretzel French toast sticks (front) and breakfast sandwich

Chewy, salty German-style pretzels are a star of the Brave Horse menu, and breakfast is no exception. One of my favorites from the Brave Horse brunch menu, a peanut butter, honey, and bacon pretzel sandwich known on the weekends as the “Elvis Pretzly,” is also available on the weekday menu ($7). I couldn’t resist ordering one, although the cream cheese and marinated Prosser Farm green tomatoes ($5) and braised kale and fried egg ($6) pretzelwichs sounded great too.

From there, we dug into a Cheesehead breakfast skillet of scrambled eggs, cheese curds, housemade bratwurst, and crispy potatoes ($8), a Texas Toast egg sandwich with scrambled egg, pimento cheddar, and bacon ($7), and pretzel French toast sticks with mascarpone and maple syrup ($6). Everything was fresh, delicious, flavorful and filling. The star of the show, again pretzel-based, was the French toast: toothsome and custardy, with just enough saltiness from the pretzel crust to balance perfectly with the sweet syrup and creamy mascarpone.

Bacon, egg, and pimento cheddar cheese on Texas Toast from the Dahlia Bakery

I was also impressed by the breakfast sandwich, which was elevated above the ordinary by the addition of cheddar pimento cheese cooked into, rather than smeared on top of, the egg, and thick cut bacon. Breakfast sandwiches start at $4 for a basic egg on toast, with optional add ons including cheeses, caramelized onions, braised kale, bacon, or house cured ham, which I would highly recommend.

For those looking for freshly made, locally sourced, fast and inexpensive breakfast in South Lake Union (Amazonians, I’m talking to you!), the Brave Horse can’t be beat. I look forward to heading back there soon.

Photo credits: Robyn Wolfe