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.
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.
I 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.
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.
Because 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).
Let´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 Americain. The 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.
Of 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.
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.
Culinary 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%.
LiveWell for LIFE , a WWF and Friends of Europe project, has released a milestone report: Adopting Healthy, Sustainable Diets: Key opportunities and barriers, a three-year project closely examining the relationship between food, health and the environment, This study, a continuation of the research the Rowett Institute did with WWF-UK in 2010-11, has identified some of the most important factors that explain why governments are not supporting sustainable diets, why food companies are discouraged from promoting them and why consumers are slow to adopt them.
Tony Long, director office, thinks that “many consumers, businesses and governments have a rather odd relationship with our food system which can be summed up as out of sight, out of mind”. People, and society as a whole, often prefer to ignore the impact that our consumption is having on the environment and our health”.
But, why is the way we eat so important? Today the average European consumes almost 3,500 calories a day, 25% more than the daily recommended level and eats approximately 70% more protein, mostly animal, than recommended. I have the feeling that these figures are not more optimistic in the US.
“Obesity in Europe is at an all-time high and rising, causing heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and 10-13% of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has become one of the biggest health challenges of our time, costing our governments billions of euros in health bills,” explains Long.
But WWF´s report shows a new point of view to the debate. The way we eat doesn’t only affect our health; it affects our environment as well. One of the clearest impacts of our food addiction is the destruction of forested areas for agricultural produce.
This puts a heavy toll on our global CO2 output. Between 1990 and 2008 Europe imported and consumed about 9 million hectares of newly deforested land, roughly three times the size of Belgium, and all this despite the fact that we throw away over one-third of the food we produce.
The good news highlighted by the report is that policy makers are starting to wake up to the idea of supporting sustainable diets. This is partly because old taboos warning politicians against interfering in what people should eat or drink, a taboo reinforced by the agri-foods industry, are breaking down in the face of rapidly mounting health costs.
Business and industry need to accept its role and its responsibility in developing sustainable diets. Not only do they have a duty to offer sustainable products to consumers but they also need to use their marketing might to create a market for such products.
The report concludes that the final consumer has a great responsibility in his food choices too. All studies and surveys show a big gap between what people feel and say, and what they do related to Healthy food choices.