Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Archive for the ‘Drinking’ Category

A group of friends gathered at 106 Pine for mid week wine and cheese. Next to Chocolate Box, both are boutiques specialising in Northwest goods. With adjacent entrances and a common wall with two gaps, the joie de vivre of chocolate, wine and cheese are intertwined.

A wooden table in the bay window was laden with Christmas themed gifts and wine paraphernalia. Recycled wine bottles are converted into bright lights.

Glass shelves displayed hampers, decanters, Artisan Salt Company salts, Chocolate Shop wines and Boat Street Pickles.

I sampled the Chocolate Shop wine at Seattleite and Gilt City Seattle’s Fall Comforts Taste the Season at Wing Luke Museum a couple of months ago. It was a favourite of Naomi‘s, an infused red wine with an intense chocolate aroma.

A view into Chocolate Box and Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.

A map of Washington State‘s American viticultural areas.

Bottles of wine lined neatly against the wall.

A long communal table is at the centre of the room. The bar separates a handful of cosy tables at the back.

It was a busy evening but service was efficient. The menu recommended wine flights, and wines are priced by full glass and tasting size. Flights of red wine were customised, and charcuterie and cheese platters were ordered to share.

From top to bottom: Mt Townsend Cirrus camembert, Beecher’s market herb curds, Rogue Creamery blue, Rollingstone Chèvre and Boat Street Pickles pickled raisins. Presented on a plank covered by parchment, the camembert was delightfully creamy, the curds squeaky, the blue mild, and the goat cheese delicate. I was the only one who nibbled on the mini bowl of pickled raisins which were appetisingly acidic.

From top to bottom: Beecher’s Flagship, Beecher’s market herb curds, salumi, olives and Deluxe Foods plum jelly. The wafer thin slices of Flagship were sharp and paired well with the buttery salami.

A smiling Ms S said ‘wine and cheese, just like in France … I’m happy’!

Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of Lane PR. This is not a sponsored post.

I like wine. A simple statement, yet meaningful. Moments in life are celebrated or commiserated with wine. Champagne flutes at weddings, a bottle of red to listen to a friend, decanters at dinner parties or a glass while cooking. Our ‘cellar’ in Sydney, a cupboard underneath the staircase, was partial to bold Australian reds and fruity whites. We were blessed with wine regions in each state and proximity to New Zealand. I considered French, Italian and Spanish wines as special and for restaurant wine lists as they tend to be expensive.

We have drunk more ‘foreign’ wines in the eight months we’ve been here than we did the last three years in Sydney. They’re affordable and of quality. We’ve sampled Piedmontese wines and learned about French wines from Gallic friends. My knowledge of Spanish wines was limited to Tempranillo and Pedro Ximénez so I was keen to attend the eighteenth annual Wines from Spain Great Match ‘featuring Spain’s vivacious varietals’ held at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC).

Leslie Sbrocco hosted a Rías Baixas (means lower estuaries) tasting. The Denominación de Origen (Denomination of Origin, DO) in Galicia is located in northwest Spain and there are five sub zones. It’s wet and lush in the Atlantic climate and the grapes are grown over pergolas for air circulation, to ripen the fruit and to prevent mildew. An intense minerality of the wines is from the granite in the area. Leslie noted that Albariño is a balanced wine that is flexible with food pairings. Local dishes such as roasted Padrón peppers, tetilla cheese (‘nipple’ cheese) and percebes (goose barnacles) are eaten with Albariño.

We tasted eight wines – five from the Val do Salnés sub zone, two from O Rosal and one from Condado do Tea. Of varying shapes, sizes and colours, the eight bottles are a reflection of the diverse culture of Rías Baixas!

From left to right: Condes de Albarei Albariño 2010, Burgáns Albariño 2010, Mar de Frades Albariño 2010, Albariño de Fefiñanes 2010, Laxas Albariño 2010, Valmiñor Albariño 2010, Santiago Ruiz Albariño 2010 and Pazo Señoráns Albariño 2010.

Wine glasses were placed on a numbered piece of paper. As we swirled, sniffed and sipped, Leslie talked us through each wine and the audience commented on the aromas and flavours. The Rías Baixas DO has 9,000 acres planted and 6,500 growers with half an acre being the average plot of land. Leslie quoted a grower that ‘it’s like a garden’. It is a mountainous topography with thick foliage.

My favourite was the Albariño de Fefiñanes, a vibrant and elegant wine from an old winery. The Mar de Frades Albariño has a thermo-sensitive logo of a ship that only appears on the label when the wine is chilled to a serving temperature of approximately 55°F. The label of the Santiago Ruiz Albariño is hand drawn by the owner as a map for his daughter’s wedding.

After tasting eight wines and only eating a couple of thin slices of baguette, I was in need of food to absorb the alcohol before the main tasting. A handful of clothed tables were decorated with a bowl of spiced Marcona almonds and a saffron coloured Dahlia.

Tiered platters of charcuterie had a selection of cheeses and cold cuts including Manchego, tetilla, jamón serrano and chorizo.

A large salad of greens, tomatoes, corn, Manchego, red onions and vinaigrette was fresh and tangy.

The tortilla de patatas is a soothing wedge of comfort food and I devoured the Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions.

Bain-marie stations had spicy chicken empanadas, and bamboo skewers of marinated and grilled scallop, salmon and halibut.

Albondigas, meatballs in tomato sauce, were neatly lined in a tray.

A spoonful of paella was topped with saffron seared scallop.

I was so happy there was lamb. Seasoned with garlic and parsley, the lamb chops were tender and juicy, and slightly pink in the middle.

Nourished and hydrated, I walked a couple of laps of the Crystal Ballroom. A beautiful bouquet was the centrepiece.

Hundreds of WAC branded wine glasses were gleaming.

A grand room lit by chandeliers, it was buzzing with wine lovers.

I spotted Salty Seattle who introduced me to The GastroGnome. We drank merrily, and had convivial conversations with representatives from Lane PR, Embassy of Spain and Trade Commission, and Wines from Spain.

The highlight was the Conde de Valdemar Reserva 2005 and Gran Reserva 2004, both spicy and rich Tempranillo. The terms Reserva and Gran Reserva are governed by law in Spain, stipulating a minimum period of aging in barrel and bottle.

I concluded my tasting with the Finca Antigua Moscatel and La Guita Manzanilla. Syrupy and smooth, the Moscatel would be a sweet end to a meal. In contrast, the Manzanilla was delicate and light.

It was a fun afternoon and I can now select Spanish wines with some confidence.

Despite being on a thoroughfare, we still missed Bleu Bistro. We were searching for directions until we realised we were standing across the street from it. A couple of bar tables are fenced off on the narrow sidewalk and the entrance is draped in plastic vines.

I was a little hesitant walking in. The place is dimly lit and compact. Cosy tables are divided by velvet curtains creating an intimate atmosphere, and eclectic collectibles, lamps and chandeliers decorated the space throughout. We picked a corner by the door and shuffled into the booth seats.

The waiter informed us a full food menu is available forty-four steps away at Bleu Bistro Grotto but we were happy with the snacks. We perused the extensive drinks menu with detailed descriptions of the components and how they’re mixed.

Mr S ordered a mojito which is served in a beer stein and my lemon drop was poured into a dainty sugar rimmed cocktail glass.

As the evening faded into night, the table lamp and three oil candles were the only source of light. With the curtains drawn, we felt like we were the only patrons in Bleu Bistro!

We shared a gargantuan plate of nachos, and pita bread and hummus. The nachos were overflowing with tortilla chips. Molten and stretchy, the cheese had cascaded over the beans and salsa with a large dollop of hummus and sour cream balanced precariously on top. I haven’t eaten nachos in a while and it was tasty and messy to untangle.

Lightly griddled, the pita bread was delightfully fluffy. It was served with two large scoops of hummus and a side salad. The hummus was thick and nutty, the puréed chickpeas (garbanzo beans) dip was lightly seasoned.

The four of us were full from the two snacks and forty-four steps was too far this time!

After several hours of bicycling around Bainbridge Island, we were parched and in need of shade. We returned our rentals and I was relieved to release my head from the constraint of the helmet. Definitely safety first but I couldn’t adjust mine and it was too tight!

We had spotted wine tasting on the tourist map as we exited the ferry terminal and were keen to find the nearest one. A short walk to the main street of Winslow and a wine bottle shaped sign directed us to the Harbor Square Wine Shop and Tasting Room.

A bottle of G.H. Mumm Champagne greeted us at the entrance, and the cool air conditioning was welcomed reprieve from the late afternoon sun.

Well stocked with local and international wines, the bottles are grouped by grape variety and region.

There is a small shelf of wine paraphernalia including wine stoppers, stemware and gift bags.

Four flights were on the tasting menu – local, Woodinville Grape Killers, Fielding Hills and Charles Smith. Wines are also available by the glass, and a nibbles menu too.

We share the local flight of Perennial Vintners 2009 Müller Thurgau, Rolling Bay 2008 Manitou Red and Liberty Bay 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. All three wineries are on Bainbridge Island.

The wines are poured from taps attached to a temperature and environment controlled dispenser to preserve the quality of the wines.

We each ordered a glass of our preferred wine and sank into the comfortable stools to rest our aching bodies.

The owner delivered our cheese platter and there was a pause in our conversation. We were expecting two or three small wedges of cheese but it was just the one disc of cheddar! We happily snacked on the mild cheddar and crackers as we sipped our wines.

We joined the queue for the ferry home, and as we waited, we searched for Bainbridge Island properties for sale on our smart phones. The allure of an idyllic summer holiday cottage…

Cellar door tastings are free at most Australian wineries. We did a couple of day tours of California Wine Country on bicycles last year and we were shocked that we had to pay up to fifteen dollars for a flight of wines in the Napa Valley.

When I read that Soul Wine and Tom Douglas Restaurants were hosting Renato Ratti Winery, I called immediately to reserve spots. At twenty five dollars for the Piedmontese wine tasting and food pairing, it was exceptional value.

Ting Momo was an ideal space for the size of the group. Two long tables were set in the narrow room. 

The afternoon sun shone brilliantly and a cool breeze drifted in through the open windows.

Behind Brave Horse Tavern and above Cuoco in the Terry Avenue Building, Ting Momo serves Tibetan dumplings for weekday lunches. Aluminium tables, wicker chairs and wooden benches add to a casual feel.

Seven wines and five dishes were on the menu and the wines were generously discounted for order.  

Cuoco Chef Stuart Lane briefly described how each of the dishes was cooked.

Tom Douglas Restaurant Executive Chef Eric Tanaka assisted in the kitchen. The dishes were plated on the Ting Momo counter.

I love the vintage style labels on the Renato Ratti wine bottles.

Many Australian and New Zealand wines are twist tops. We’ve used our wine opener more in the last six months than in the previous six years!

We sipped on the first wine, 2009 Dolcetto d’Alba Colombè, as attendees trickled in. One of those was Tom Douglas!

The melodic sound of wine being poured into a glass, swirling the ruby liquid to release the aromas, caressing the stemware to reflect light, staring contemplatively at the wine legs – the beautiful ritual of wine tasting!

On the right is Michael Teer, owner of Soul Wine. Michael introduced his friend, Pietro Ratti on the left. Pietro’s father, Renato, worked in Brazil for the Cinzano company before returning to Piedmont and bought his first vineyard in 1965. Pietro inherited the winery from his father and he applies the same philosophy and approach as Renato. Pietro spoke with passion and humour, and we were all charmed by his Italian accent!

The region is also known for white truffles and Pietro joked that it’s better than the French ‘black potatoes’. Pietro explained that the Renato Ratti Winery owns parcels of land throughout the region and is not an estate. Grapes vary depending on soil (sandy or clay) and altitude (temperature); there are different microclimates within a distance of less than twenty miles.

Barolo is labour intensive, and it is manual and not mechanical. The viticulture is only on a hillside facing the sun at specific latitude. The grapes are tasted to determine when and where to pick. Each cluster of grapes is cut by hand. Cotton gloves are worn to protect the wax (natural water proofing) and yeast (natural fermentation) on the grapes.

The grapes are then crushed by equipment to replicate the gentle movement of feet. By law, Barolo has to age for at least twenty four months. Pietro recommended ‘drinking ’07 and cellaring ’06’.

Tom Douglas queried why Pietro doesn’t produce Rosato. Pietro responded that the yield is small and it interrupts the summer! Pietro mingled among the groups as we ate and drank and he happily answered our questions.

An earthenware plate with a slice of marinated red pepper was brightened by grassy green fava beans. Marinated in vinegar, the red pepper was a lovely balance of sweet and sour.

Carne cruda is a traditional Piedmontese dish. Similar to tartare, this was made with lightly seasoned minced lamb and drizzled with olive oil. This was the first time I’ve eaten raw meat and it was less meaty than expected, more like tuna.

Perched on the Barbera braised onions was a wedge of Toma. The layers of translucent onions were daintily sweet and their edges dyed by the wine. A Piedmontese cheese, the mild and creamy Toma highlighted the flavours of the small bulbs. Chef Stuart Lane noted the key to cooking onions is to lose rawness but retain freshness.

A tiny leg of quail was atop a smear of liver pâté. Golden and crispy on the outside, the quail was plump and moist. Mr S exalted the smooth and buttery liver pâté.

The final course was Nebbiolo Kobe beef cheeks with spiced lardo toast. Dark and chunky, the beef was easily pulled apart with only a fork. It was tender and enriched by the Nebbiolo.

Chef Stuart Lane commented on the interplay between food and wine, that it is a transformative relationship. Each bite and sip reveals depth and complexity to the food and wine.

Sincere thanks To Pietro Ratti for visiting Seattle, Soul Wine for organising the tasting event, Ting Momo for hosting, and Cuoco for the food pairings. Grazie!


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