Category Archives: Festivals

Tasting Washington… and beyond

Elena Fernandez 

And here we are! Facing again a big food and wine event! The difference is that Taste Washington is not big is totally massive! So massive that is the biggest of his kind in the US. 225 wineries, 65 restaurants. 700 wines, 5,000 glasses, 200,000 wine pours. And these are only the estimated facts of the Grand Tasting weekend. Much more happened last week because this event who began humble but steady 19 years ago reinvents itself every year.

2016 edition novelties were 2 fun evening parties: Red & White Party and The New Vintage and 3 lunch excursions really rooted in the sustainable farm to table movement that is shaking the State and pretty much the way we are beginning to approach food in the whole country.

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Schedule issues only allowed me to attend Saturday´s Grand Tasting for the first time ever. This means a fresh new approach but some amateur mistakes driven by me and my impossible goal to envision the real size of the event. Because who is able to taste 700 wines without ending emotionally, intellectually and physically intoxicated? It´s simply impossible to do it although a fun winemaker from Walla Walla told me: “Some people try… and fail” giving me a metaphorical wink. “I prefer focusing on trying all the food”.

So you should have checked the impressive list in advance but you didn´t and you don´t have so much time now. And every booth is a magnet calling your attention… And then, between bite and bite You see Pomum Cellars! No problem in admitting that I find pretty awesome the idea of making Washington wines with Spanish varietals. I visited the winery last year and the wines didn’t disappoint me at all so first wine tasting of the day.

Javier Alfonso Pomum CellarsI was lucky enough to meet the owner and winemaker, Javier Alfonso, who came to WA to get his degree in Engineering and never went back. But he hasn´t forgotten his love for Ribera del Duero one of my favorite wine areas in Spain where the climate and terrain is pretty similar to Eastern Washington with cold winters, dry summers and a huge difference in temperature from day to night which gives this bold balance between sugar and acidity to the wine. Really good red wines at this winery particularly the Tempranillo, made with our unofficial official grapes.  And don´t forget Idilico Albariño to pair with oysters and crab.

April Redout from the relatively new Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser was so nice to give another clue about some new interesting things happening. She invited me to visit this center in Prosser (bucket list) and pointed me towards Intrinsic Wine Co. a new adventure from Saint Michelle wine group leaded by Juan Muñoz-Oca his head winemaker.

Not easy to talk with this expert, one of the real celebrities of the day but he was so nice to take a few minutes to explain why this wine is so different: “the grapes remain on the skins for 9 months and 10% of the wine is fermented in a concrete tank”.

It´s to interesting and innovative that in a back to the farmland era as previously cited Muñoz-Oca has taken a complete different direction creating an urban modern wine. Even the amazing bottle design “Fun, it looks like a flamenco dancer” I thought, it was created from graffiti art. Another really interesting wine really rich, I usually find Cabernet a bit plain and soft, for my list perfect to impress guests and hosts.

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Really fun the marketing campaign of Red Mountain AVA alliance with pins reading “Ask me why Red Mountain is so special” and other pins with the answers scattered through the association wineries. Sometimes you don´t need a lot of budget to make an impact.

DSC_0085Because when you are competing with other 224 wineries you have to use to imagination to stand out. Charles & Charles winery only needed to be the only ones… as far as I know to serve rosé wine. It´s fun this trendy trend of you not being a wine connoisseur because you drink rosé. I love rosé because it reminds me two things: summer and paella. You can find an occasion for every kind of wine. Other interesting classics with no failure rate… Betz Winery, Gorman Winery and again Alexandria Nicole Jet Black Syrah 2014. (link Seattle wine and food experience).
Kalaloch lodgeLet´s talk about food now. Nope I didn´t hit the 65 restaurants either but I tried to be pretty eclectic as I had to give my cork-vote to my favorite one. It looks like I missed the favorite, the Swiftwater Kobe short rib… Maybe because I am more into the seafood/fish world. Anyway I always will have room for torchon and foie, really good. Good to know there is a reliable French style place so close to home in Kirkland Le Grand Bistro AmericainThe nice people from another Capitol Hill classic, Gnocchi Bar, showed me how to cook them to perfection.

And even better to know that there are some guys curing ham Spaniard style in Leavenworth. Yes, they call themselves Cured. Leavenworth is the perfect place for that, cold and drier in winter. I bet they wouldn´t be so successful in the Puget Sound area. Really good products, a touch salty for my palate, but they point an extra good reason to visit the Bavarian village soon.

ostrasOf course I had to follow the legendary line to get some Aqua oysters. Simply amazing. In fact, I was about to give them my vote, nothing is more perfect than oysters with squeezed lemon to me. But I wanted to reward some creativity too so I finally picked Kalaloch lodge´s chef, Ashley Miller, salmon mousse. OK, salmon mousse is not so innovative but the truth is that I love simple beautiful, classic flavors, not 12 ingredients packed in a bite.

Fun because I had the opportunity to taste his food again 2 days ago during my first epic loop around the Olympic Peninsula. Superb ingredients treated with simplicity and respect, just the way I love it. And with this also epic sunset as background. Lucky me.

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A real NW food and wine experience

Elena Fernandez 

Writing about a massive food event like Seattle Food and Wine Experience is always tricky. It´s like trying to describe a complicated puzzle piece by piece to the eyes that never had the opportunity to taste, smell and see all the bounty and the complexity that the Pacific NW (and our special guest, California) have to offer.

You also know that your body and your mind have to physically endure a lot of food and alcohol offerings and you don´t really want to feel silly sick or terribly bloated after this. The idea is having fun not a post event nightmare. So my strategy is grabbing a first bite, usually It will be close to the entrance, jambalaya in this occasion, and a glass of sparkling water and go for a first quick tour all around the place to see and prioritize your favorite pit stops.

I was particularly interested in the American Lamb Board´s Brews and Ewes Experience but I wanted something lighter at the beginning so I dropped by Chinoise restaurant booth. Unluckily the Bibimbap that gave chef Thoa Nguyen the victory against Bobby Flay in the Food Network show had ran out but the poke salad was really good too… A bit too much spicy for my Occidental taste though.

So I needed a glass of wine to rinse my palate. White if possible. Chateau Saint Michelle Riesling was a really interesting option. Loved again the classic, everyone´s favorite, the dry one but Eroica brand was quite an interesting discovery for me a bit more  fruity but not overpowering.  Both good options not only to enjoy as a drink but to steam clams and mussels, two of my favorite seafood dishes.

Just landed in lamb´s territory I grabbed one of the winning bites of the day, the smoked lamb meatballs from Gavin Stephenson, chef from The Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic hotel. Cute tiny little pots were used to highlight the hearty spirit of the dish and the potatoes were simply awesome. I felt more disappointed with the cold and not so appealing sticky rice cake from Frolik. Lamb plays better with a more traditional simple approach as its flavor is strong enough. So interesting the info displayed by the American Lamb Board about recipes, pairing and cooking techniques that you can find also in their web.

Talking about funky unexpected meats… meats that we love to cook in Spain I was so lucky to bump into Nicky Farms based in Portland. This company, created to support small ranchers in Oregon sell to retailers and restaurants delicacies as quail, goat, rabbit and venison. I had the opportunity to enjoy a really goat mortadella prepared by chef Seth Fenald from Lark and to have a fun experience exchanging with them my tips as a Spanish cook. Talking about more meat I had the opportunity to taste dirty rice with pulled pork for the first time from Davids & co a small American restaurant located in Benarroya Hall and It was pretty nice too.

The truth is that the pattern of not so much fish at all and this will be mainly salmon was played yesterday too. It´s a bit disappointing that a place like Seattle who is at the sea doesn´t take full advantage of this location to enjoy even more the gifts of the sea.

Time for more drinks… chosen carefully and sipped frugally. Fun the honey beverages from Nectar Creek in Corvallis (Oregon), interesting my first Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards, although I´m a girl of Grenache and Syrah, really happy with Jet Black Syrah 2014 from Alexandria Nicole Cellars who will be released this summer. Close to zero the Spanish wines representation at the event. Only Bodegas Torres 2014 5G Garnacha paired with Iberico cured ham… A hidden gem that I hope any foodie didn´t miss.

I wouldn´t to finish my SWFE chronicle without featuring the small entrepreneurs and artisans that work so hard to fulfill their dreams and to give us amazing food or condiments. It´s always so fun to talk with them and to learn from their experience and their journey. Sportsmen´s cannery, Rusty´s cheesecake, Forte chocolates, Copperworks Distillery are only a few of them. Special mention for Alaska Pure Sea Salt and Co from Sitka (Alaska) who worked for 5 years to find the perfect flake salt, the salt that I call Maldon. A bunch of dreams, goals and experience under the same roof for a few hours. This is Seattle Wine and Food Experience.

Click on any photo to see the full gallery 

Seattle food landscape will pop this weekend

Elena Fernandez 

As a final kick to Seattle´s so boring gloomy winter before beautiful spring  this weekend arrives Seattle Wine and food experience will be a beatiful oxygen pump to Northwest foodies. More than 200 vendors including chefs, wine experts and cider and brew masters will help locals and visitors to enjoy and appreciate all of these food blessings that are in our backyard.

Lamb will be highlighted this year, something that makes this Spanish girl really happy as It´s the star protein in my homeland region, Aragon. So eager to taste our local chefs creations. Lamb is a powerful tricky meat.  Properly cooked makes a sublime experience, poorly cooked or seasoned can taste too strong or earthy in your palate.

Other more unusual types of meat will be played too by chef Jonathan Sundstrom from Lark, recently nominated as Outstanding restaurant semifinalist in the James Beard Awards and Seth Fenald from Novelty Hill/Januik wineries.

pop seafoodCulinary pilmigrage will be showcased here thanks to the Northwest Travel Experience too and wine, more wine, tastings courtesy of Yakima Valley Tourism. Like the cherry on top back by popular demand: Chateau Saint Michelle Riesling Challenge.

But other cocktails will be present too thanks to the magic of Dustin Haarstad, founder of Blind Tiger cocktails and mixologist at Cannon Whiskey & Bitters Emporium. Guest will have the opportunity to enjoy them in the Celebrity Cruises Modern Luxury Lounge.

Last but not least a new chefs competition kicks off, Pop! Bubbles and Seafood where local chefs and sommeliers like Thierry Rautureau from Loulay and Lindsay-Thorsen from RN47 will showcase their culinary artistry. Oysters lovers will have the opportunity to chat with local expert Cynthia Nims too. Cynthia just published her new book Oysters, recipes than bring home a taste from the sea. 

Unfortunately for my kid who loves food and wants to be a chef this is a 21-year over event so come prepared with your ID and maybe in a taxi or Uber ride just in case you want to party 100%.

 

Seattle Wine and Food Experience at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall on February 26, 2012.

 

Get more info here

Madrid Fusión 2014: The European Culinary Summit highlights

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Madrid Fusión is one of the great gastronomic events in Spain that brings together national and international chefs, journalists and food companies. It is one of the most important conferences in the world about cooking and food.

Madrid Fusion was held from 27 to 29 January at the Palacio Municipal de Congresos in Madrid. Some congressional figures give an idea of its importance and international projection: Madrid Fusion has had 3,500 visitors daily, of which 150 were foreign journalists in addition to another 500 professionals of national press. There have been 57 international speakers from 15 countries, more than 100 domestic and foreign chefs in total.

These are the highlights of what has been Madrid Fusion 2014 and trends in food that will arrive:

1 – The importance of local products and the binomial restaurant-small producers in the area. This is a growing trend worldwide. This was demonstrated by the chefs from Peru, Bolivia and Chile, which explained their agreements with market gardeners and farmers.

2 – Products of the orchard: a trend in the world of gastronomy, green, healthy and natural cuisine with products consumed directly, without going through cold rooms.

3-: Congress, as usual, held a charity auction of two specimens of black truffle from Soria. Were acquired by Andrea Tumbarello (restaurant Don Giovanni) and the Iberostar group in 3.000 to 5,000 euros each. In addition, the chef from Soria, Óscar García Marina, gave a presentation about the truffle and the soul of the mushrooms.

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4 – Great chefs in action. Every big name in Spanish cuisine went through Madrid Fusion to showcase their latest creations: David Muñoz, Quique Dacosta, Arzak, Joan Roca, Eneko Atxa or Ángel León, among others, who dazzled attendees with their edible luminescent bacteria.

5.- Winners: Madrid Fusion holds various competitions, such as the Revelation Restaurant, which went to Montia, (El Escorial) with Daniel Ochoa and Luis Moreno. David Muñoz and Gert de Mangeleer (three Michelin stars each) were chosen as the best chefs in Europe.

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6. – Vanguard and Tradition: Madrid Fusion is a showcase of the culinary art, but this year has combined the most advanced talks with a tribute to the tradition in the kitchen. At Madrid Fusion presentations have been added to the Taste of Spain, where great chefs have praised products such as legumes, hunting or cod.

7 – The Bullipedia: Ferrán Adriá and his team presented the Bullipedia, which is guessed as a key instrument for the work of young chefs like a virtual culinary encyclopedia.

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8 – Tapas: another trend that is consolidated in the world. One of the clearest examples, the chef José Andrés and his group Think Food Group, who said: “We have to celebrate and be proud of where we come from”, claiming the Spanish cuisine in miniature.

9 – Design and communication: food processing companies have to be distinguished in order to gain a foothold in the market. This requires not only enough to have a good product: the design and how to position it are vital.

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10 – Enofusión. Parallel to Madrid Fusion, where winemakers, restaurateurs, distributors, sommeliers, journalists and fans of the wine culture have shared during these three days is celebrated unforgettable experiences. One of the highlights was the tasting of three wines in the Parker 100 points list.

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Spain´s Great Match in Miami: the Yummy Chronicles

 Elena Fernandez

D.O. Rueda white Wine booth

D.O. Rueda white Wine booth

Last week, the Yummy Bull had the opportunity to attend to a Spain’s Great Match tour stop in Miami. The event took place at the The Moore Building in the Miami Design District. The Great Match is a celebration of the wines and food from Spain.

American importers and distributors of Spanish wines presented their finest products, to wine industry professionals, media, and consumers. More than 200 Spanish wines were featured in a walk-around tasting informal format.

The tasting was complemented with a seminar presented by Grandes Pagos de España, an association of Spanish wine producers dedicated to promote Spain’s estate wines, was held for select trade and media. Attendees tasted through 24 of the 27 prestigious winery estates that belong to Grandes Pagos de España including the finest examples of winemakers, including Carlos Falco, Víctor de la Serna and Mariano García.

As Spaniard and wine lover you can imagine I felt in heaven for a few hours… It was difficult for me to find a place to start my particular wine tasting tour, so I decided to begin with Las Rocas from Bodegas San Alejandro. This wine comes for a winery placed in Calatayud one hour driving away from my home town, Zaragoza. Garnacha Borja and Calatayud wine are my day to day wine options at home, so I wanted to test what is new.

Matarromera Ribera de DueroMy favorite was Garnacha 2009, 90 points rated by The wine Advocate. I love garnacha grape because has enough body to fulfill my Spanish taste but It´s fruity and affordable enough to pair with my daily meals. But I made room for Ribera del Duero wines, other of my favorites. I had the opportunity to taste Abadía Retuerta last releases, this winery belongs to Grandes Pagos de España association, and another really good Ribera, Matarromera Crianza 2008. A classic wine with a modern touch.

Whites are in my top list of wines too so I was happy to find a representation of Consejo Regulador DO Ruedain the Match. All  Verdejos were great and you could find a list who looks for distributor in the US too. I love the bitter spicy touch in mouth of Rueda wine, great for any kind of fish and seafood.

Another Spanish white best seller was in Miami last week: Albariño. Every of them where great but I found particularly special the wines from Paco & Lola, a boutique winery from Pontevedra with a really cool  and brave branding design too.

After 15 sips of wine aprox. I decided It would be a great idea to refuel so I visited Cheese from Spain booth, full of an amazing array of varieties. Cheese and wine are close brothers, you know. Olives were present too. I loved the small cheesecakes made with black olive tapenade on top. Unexpected combination!

In Spain we finish our celebrations with Cava, our particular sparkling wine sweet as champaigne, so I wanted to do the same. I could see the release of the new Anna de Codorniu bottles, girlie style! And I tasted Jaume Serra cava rosé, MMM so delicious!

Guests also had  the opportunity to visit: Tapas: Spanish Design for Food, an exhibition organized by Accion Cultural Española (AC/E) with the collaboration of SPAIN Arts & Culture, La Fundación España-Florida 500 Años and the Centro Cultural Español de Miami, in recognition of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the first European, Spaniard Ponce de León, to the shores of Florida.

This exhibition, who traces a fascinating path of Spanish design related to food  will visit Washington DC and many others US cities all around 2014.

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