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.
Altought I´m happy Eastsider I periodically feel the need to cross 520 bridge to keep warm my urbanite side. Last Monday I decided to meet my friend Mary with the idea of having a quick bite at Etta´s seafood and visiting after the brand new SAM exhibit Peru: kingdoms of the sun and the moon.
I know everybody is happy enjoying a sunny day, but I love driving to the Waterfront when is cloudy and foggy because is in these days when you can nearly “touch” the real Seattle spirit. For me Etta´s seafood belongs to this real seattlelite experience nobody has to miss visiting our city.
Anyway It was my first visit, so I look dissappointely to the menu looking in vain for the famous Eggs Benedict with Dungeness crab, another authentic Seattle dish. Everything 100% authentic, oh my lord.
But I rediscovered a better alternative. The $15 Seattle Week Restaurant*, menu, a real bargain! I opted for the squash soup and the salad with pasta, and mushrooms, but I didn´t want to miss the opportunity to taste the local oysters so I chose the Vancouver variety, suggested by the waitress.
Eveybody knows that we Spaniards are seafood lovers, so I was transported for a moment to Galicia, but with the local touch of Tabasco and a little fork. In Spain you eat oysters with your hands, only with a touch of lemon. I´m happy to live in a aplace with such an amazing sea creatures.
Coming back to the menu, the squash soup was really good. A bit spicy for me, but I have to say my taste is super austere, I love foods with few spices, dressings and sauces. Following the Spanish term, I´m a food purista.
That´s precisely why I enjoyed so much the pasta, arugula and mushrooms salad. It´s been tossed only with olive oil, so the aromatic flavors of green and fungi were sublimated instead of camuflated.
By that time I had forgot to check my watch and Mary was giving me all the details about her new fascinating new role as Program Coordinator of Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, that provides college education inside the Washington Correction Center for Women.
FEPP offers courses in English, Math and Spanish to more than 60 students. In addition to these classes, FEPPS sponsors a monthly lecture series. I´ve always believed that everybody deserves a second chance to give a meaning to his life, so I find this project and its mission really fascinating.
When the dessert came, panacotta for both of us, we decided to loose our maybe too ambitious schedule and to go back to the SAM exhibition in a few weeks. Sometimes is better to enjoy pleasures bite by bite.
“But next time we´ll visit first the exhibition, OK?,” I said. “Done,” answered Mary with a big smile.
*the Seattle Week restaurant ends today, October Thursday 24th