Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eating Chocolate and Discovering Enoteca on Seattle Celebrity Stop

It had only been a month since I was last in Seattle yet I didn’t mind coming back. Aside from the weather – which was definitely not cooperating on this day – it’s a great city to explore wine, food and spirits in.  We were going to start with a mixture of all on the Chocolate Indulgence Tour, one of the offerings from Savor Seattle.

We met with Brett Affleck-Aring (yes, he is related to the Oscar-winning actor) at the Mayflower to start our tour at that hotel’s Oliver Bar. Brett shared our motto that chocolate is the fifth food group and he was prepared to show us all aspects of the treat, starting with the Seattle Flatliner ,a coffee and chocolate cocktail served by bartender Patrick. This yummy mixture of Café Umbria, Dark Crème de Cacao, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Demerara 151 Rum is shaken with ice (there’s no blender here). It’s the perfect drink to make you forget about the wet day, something Seattle gets about 200 days a year. While we were sitting at the bar, I also spotted an absinthe fountain and Patrick let me try some of Pacific Distillery’s Absinthe, a licorice spirit that’s not as thick as Sambuca.

We ventured out in the rain to Dahlia, a bakery that belongs within the chain owned by Tom Douglas. Everything here looked more than good enough to eat, but Brett had already set us up with rich and chewy Chocolate Crumble Cookies and mini Coconut Cream Pies with White Chocolate. I was feeling full already and glad we had to walk a bit to our next stop, Chocolate Box. This unique shop is a must visit for any chocolate lover coming to Seattle as they have items from more than 50 local, independent chocolatiers. You can also have wine here (with or without chocolate) at the Wine Bar next door. 

We skipped the wine (for now) and instead tasted some perfect Brownies from Chef Matt Carter and creamy Chocolate Dreams from Wink Cupcakes, washing it down with some Sorbet and Gelato from Gelatiamo! It was then time to head back in the rain and down toward the water. I had actually stopped at The Confectional on my last trip, but one never has to beg me to revisit cheesecake and I enjoyed a tiny taste with a short gulp of thick and spicy drinking chocolate. I also learned that The Confectional was building a larger location down at Capitol Hill.

We switched from the thick and rich to the chewy at KuKuRuZa, where the popcorn is flavored with just about everything, including chocolate. While it looked great, I took mine to go, enjoying them the next day (especially the Rocky Road Popcorn).   We then met with Soufi Farzanehpour at Fran’s Chocolates who told us about this small family owned company that is a favorite of President Obama’s (and now given out to White House guests). The basic blend of chocolate comes from Venezuela and Madagascar and their Chocolate Dates, Raspberry Truffle and Buttery Sea Salt Caramel definitely earns the phrase “chocolate to die for.”

We said goodbye to Brett from Savor Seattle and had a little while to get up an appetite for an absolutely delicious lunch at Art, the restaurant at Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel.  I really loved this menu as Chef Kerry Sear brought the slightly unusual to the dishes without going over the top. Lynn had the Market Tray, a kind of gourmet TV dinner that brought together a meal on a plate – Mixed Baby Lettuce with White Asparagus, Capers and Egg in Morel Vinaigrette; Morel Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Tart; Grilled Chicken; and a Lemon Tart with Berries. She thoroughly enjoyed it.

I had some of the Minestrone Soup, which was a bit too spicy for my taste, but full of fresh vegetables, and a wonderful Crisp Baked Beecher’s Cheese Sandwich, which was perfectly crispy. I washed it down with a light Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc. Before we left we were treated to the restaurant’s homemade donuts, which I compared to the Italian Zeppoles you get on the streets of New York, with even more flavor and no grease.

After lunch, we walked around the Pike Place Market for awhile.  Lynn had never seen it and I didn’t mind going through again and enjoying the hustle and bustle of food and arts vendors for awhile before we were picked up by Terry Thompson for our trip to Urban Enoteca. This is a unique wine concept within the city limits where you can taste a variety of wines in a comfortable atmosphere. I fell in love with the place and wished I had one in my own neighborhood.

While I toured the huge space that Urban Enoteca has and listened to Thompson’s even more exciting plans for the future (which includes bringing in more of wineries), I also tasted some Washington wines I had missed previously, looking for the standout ones. I found it in the 2008 McCrea Winery Picoul, a Rhone varietal that is full of pear and citrus; 2006 Cote Bonneville Carriage House, a complex red blend heavy on the cabernet sauvignon; 2007 Kiona Chenin Blanc, tropically, peachy and just plain yummy; and the 2006 Cave B Cabernet, smooth with lots of fruit.  We also sampled some of Urban Enoteca’s small bite menu and you shouldn’t miss the Pork Belly Lettuce Wrap and the Risotto Croquet with Cherries.

Urban Enoteca has another way for you to check out their unique concept, one I can highly recommend after this week. They have a  Taste of the Vineyards Wine Cruise so you can spend a week in the Caribbean to “Swirl. Sip. Savor” all of the wineries they feature at this wine bar. The cruise is on the Celebrity Solstice next April and will include wine events and programs with all of the wineries in their library
Earn a $100 flight credit with code MKTNW.
When we returned to the Celebrity Cruise I was realized we were in a great spot to see the Space Needle from our balcony. The weather wasn’t cooperating for any sunset photos, but I enjoyed the view as we sailed away. Food was not exactly on my mind as ithad been a day full of eating (and drinking).  I had a very light dinner of soup and a Caprese Salad and got plenty of rest for my full day in Victoria, British Columbia.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Washington Wine From Woodmark to Willows in Woodinville

The title may sound like a tongue twister, but that’s how my second full day in Washington progressed as I continued to enjoy tasting my way around the state.

The day started with breakfast at the Woodmark Hotel’s Beach Café. Joining me was Jodi Forslund, Regional Director of Sales & Marketing for MTM Lodging. As we gazed out at the lake (and enjoyed pancakes) she told me about the group of properties that included this one and the hotel I was heading to, Willows Lodge. The company believes in pampering, but not overdoing on the luxury to the point of stiff. I can quote her as describing the rooms as “WWF – wild, whimsical and fun!”

After the tour, I headed down to the spa for my Mimosa Manicure & Pedicure. Though we had to do a bit of an alteration to the theme (since I have a citrus allergy), I thoroughly enjoy the hand and foot pampering with a glass of sparkling wine in hand. It was the kind of indulgence I never do at home and, actually, I don’t think I ever sit still for that long anywhere without a computer or IPhone in front of me!

My trusted driver from British Motor Coach picked me up for the 15 minute ride to Willows Lodge in Woodinville.  I could tell instantly that this was the place comfort was made from and the large fireplace and woodsy look helped to enforce that.  I couldn’t get comfortable for too long, though, because Rhanda Rosselot came to give me a tour of the property.

I enjoyed the décor inside and out at Willows Lodge. We went through The Herb Farm restaurant and – after seeing the beautiful table settings and impressive wine collection – I wished I could stay an extra day to eat there. I also stopped short at the garden for a moment of déjà vu.  It all made sense when it was explained that Bardessono – one of my favorite hotels – was a sister property and this garden was replicated there. I would have a chance to sample some of the garden later in the night during my dinner at the Barking Frog, but first I had to go check out some wine!

Cynthia Daste, Executive Director of Woodinville Wine Country, picked me up to show me around town. It’s not really a place filled with wineries and vineyards, but more the home of tasting rooms from wineries around Washington, over 80 in all. We did go first to one of the few that have it all, Columbia Winery.  The tasting room is in a large building that also houses rooms for events, a large shop and a wood-burning oven, from which I had a delicious Spring Asparagus Flat Bread.  I enjoyed quite a few of the Columbia Wines, especially the 2009 Cellar Master’s Riesling with its pineapple and peach, and the Rose, an unusual one made of Petit Verdot, which was very fruity without being too sweet.

We made a quick stop at Dusted Valley (I will save that info for later in the week when I have my dinner in Walla Walla with owners Chad and Corey), before we headed to Brian Carter Cellars. While I really liked the 2009 Oriana (55% viognier, 29% roussanne, 16% riesling, with fruit and floral), I was extremely excited about the 2008 Abracadabra. This blend is different each year and contained 10 wines in ’08. It’s named for the “magic at the end of the vintage” and it had enough magic to satisfy this woman who favors whites.

I only had a short time to change before heading down to the Happy Hour at the
Willows Lodge's
Fireside Cellars. I enjoyed some great music and a Page Sauvignon Blanc before my hosts arrived.  It would turn out to be quite an evening at the Barking Frog as Restaurant & Wine Managers Matt Davis and Jennifer Schmitt, as well as Chefs Bobby Moore and Matt Kelley, would take turns sitting with me between courses.

I started with a cocktail, the Spring Thistle Martinez that was made with Voyager Gin, Cardamaro, and Spiced Orange Bitters.  It worked well with an excellent Seared Fois Gras, but I was fine with giving it up for a spectacular 2009 Chateau St. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling.  Soon I had a great Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad  with goat cheese and hazelnuts in a vanilla honey drizzle in front of me and was wondering why I ever said I didn’t like beets.  It blended with the fresh Sourdough Bread garnished with Sundried Tomato Pesto that waiter Brian (who has been at the Barking Frog for nine years) brought me.

Next to arrive was the Celeriac Soup with fennel and shaved black truffle, paired with an oaky 2009 DeLille Chaleur Blanc, followed by Focaccia and Prosciutto with Fig Preserve and a 2009 Alexandria Nicole Viognier from Crawford Vineyard, my favorite wine of the night.  I was glad to have a quick break from food and had the pleasure of sitting next to a lovely couple who shared some positive thoughts on their appetizers, the Popcorn Lobster and Black Quail & Pepper Waffle.  I thanked them by sharing some of the overabundance of wine I had and got back to “work.”

Brian arrived with an English Pea and Shitake Risotto Pistou and a Warm Watercress Leek Salad, and before I knew it there was another glass of wine in front of me, this time a 2005 Tranche Barbera, a red on the milder side that I preferred to the peppery next one, 2008 DeLille Doyenne AIX.   I cleansed the palette with some Coconut Sorbet with Pineapple and then ate what I could of the Muscovy Duck with Smashed Fingerling Potatoes and Fois Gras Huckleberry Demi Glaze, followed by a tasty Sous Vide Tenderloin on top of Egg Yolk Ravioli, with Caponata.

As much as I love chocolate – and the Dark Chocolate Valhrona Tart with Cinnamon Chantilly was the perfect dessert specimen – there wasn’t too much room left in me for that or the just sweet enough 2003 DiStefano St John Dessert Wine, a semillon, sauvignon blanc blend.  I left the restaurant feeling totally stuffed to the brim with excellent gourmet food (and impeccable service). When I returned to my room at Willows Lodge I had a surprise waiting for me – a bubble bath in the large soaking tub!  I couldn’t have asked for more on a long day and it helped me relax and settle in for the night before my morning flight to the next area of Washington wine country – Yakima.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Learning to Wine, Dine and Spa in Washington

When I received my itinerary for my trip to Washington, I was surprised to see all the fine dining, wine bars and spas on the schedule.  I knew Washington was now a well-known wine destination, but I didn’t know that it was such also a great place for foodies and spa goers. I began to really experience this on my second full day in town.

After a battle with the coffee press (they are serious about coffee in this state), I started my morning with a Veggie Omelet and some incredible Corned Beef Hash on the recommendation of Tawny Papera, the hotels Director of Sales & Marketing. She then took me on a tour of Hotel 1000, located in downtown Seattle. It’s a modern accommodation with some very unusual (and desirable) amenities meant to make you feel the luxury while keeping you comfortable.

When you enter Hotel 1000, you are offered complimentary hot apple cider or sparkling wine. The Studio Lounge is warm and inviting with a center fireplace and Microsoft Surface tables (which look like a big – forgive me Bill Gates – IPhone) around the room. Everything in this hotel has attention to detail.

The Hotel 1000 has a Virtual Golf Club where you can practice your swings if you can’t make it to one of the nearby courses. There’s also a fitness center and Spahh, where was I indulged.  Nita took good care of me, massaging my back and arms with warm oil before a complete facial that included exfoliation, cleansing, mask and moisturizer on my face and neck.

Chef Angie Roberts was busy when I dined at Boka Kitchen (which is open 18 hours a day) the night before, but she and friend/bar manager Misuk sat down with me a bit before I left the hotel to talk about their use of the freshest local ingredients in food and drink, the addition of Washington wines to the menu, and how they work together to design food to go with wine and wine to go with food. They also insisted I try the Truffle Fries and -- not wanting to be rude to my hosts -- obliged, devouring every morsel in the container!

British Motor Coach sent along a driver for me to make the short trip over to the Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland. It is owned by the same group as Hotel 1000, but the Woodmark is in a more suburban setting, on a large property on the lake.  It was there I was met by Kirsten Anderson, the public relations agent that had painstakingly organized my entire trip, coordinating with each person that was to meet and take me around.  Our evening was planned at the hotel’s main restaurant, Bin On The Lake. The name does justice to the view, but it doesn’t begin to tell you about the unbelievable selection of food and wine.

Darren Nicholas was waiting for us and we started in the bar area, where the automatic pourers can not only give you a choice of 83 wines by the glass, but they can give them to you at perfect temperature in any size glass you want.  I always try to stay with local wines when on a trip and this one was no different. I started with the Delille Sauvignon Blanc & Semilon, which had a bit of a mineral nose, but the taste was more toasty and vanilla.  The 2009 Mark Ryan Chardonnay was still a bit oaky for me, though the fruit balanced it a bit more than the 2008 Chris Gorman Chardonnay, which Darren declared as a “white that wants to be red” and may appeal very well to certain drinkers.  My favorite was the Transche Roussane Viognier Blend, with a lemon nose and very light tropical flavors going down.

We had plenty more wine to go with the exquisite menu prepared by Chef Paul Hyman, whose company we enjoyed as much as his food.   It’s a menu worth repeating in its entirety here and, though I liked every bit, I have to give major shoutouts to the soup, lamb and pudding cake...

Roasted Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Beehive Cheddar, Truffle Oil and Chives
Paired with: Rombauer Vineyards, Chardonnay, Carneros, CA

Warm Cypress Grove Goat Cheese
Sea Salt, Herbs, Olive Oil, Crostini
Paired with: Domaine Thomas, Sancerre, "La Crele", Loire Valley, FR

Salt Roasted Beet “Panzanella”
Ciabatta, Red Onion, Pancetta, Almonds
Arugula, Two Faced Bleu, Balsamic
Willamette Valley, OR

Artisan Sonoma Duck Breast
Creamy Spring Parsnips, Swiss Chard
Roasted Grapes, Verjus, Saba         
Paired with: Corliss, Red Blend, Columbia Valley, WA

Martinez Ranch Washington Lamb
Lamb Loin & Ragu, Broccoli Rabe, Cipollini’s Creamy Polenta,
Mint Salsa Verde
Paired with: Long Shadows, Sequel, Syrah, Columbia Valley, WA

Dark Chocolate “Budino” Pudding Cake
Mascarpone, Candied Orange, Citrus Olive Oil Sea salt

Tiramisu Crème Brûlée
Housemade Espresso Biscotti, Organic Raw Sugar

As hard as it was to go to sleep after that huge meal, I was exhausted, so I settled into my beautiful suite at the
Woodmark Hotel Yacht Club & Spa,
which had large windows and a balcony that overlooked the lake, and got some rest for another day of wining, dining and spa treatments in Washington.
Don’t miss any of my wine and spirit travels around the world.
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