Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

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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.

The Good Food Guide is the Sydney and Melbourne equivalent of the Michelin Guide. Similar to the Michelin star ratings, restaurants are awarded one, two or three hats on a scale of twenty points. Published yearly to coincide with the Sydney International Food Festival, I purchase it as soon as it’s released and the book had a permanently spot on our coffee table.

When we moved here, I was searching for a comprehensive listing of Seattle restaurant recommendations to assist in our gastronomic navigation through our new city. I was very excited when I read about the impending publication of Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle, eager to use the guide book to explore the neighbourhoods of Seattle.

Author Keren Brown introduced herself to me after I bought a copy at What We Talk About When We Talk About Food by Kim Ricketts Book Events as I was the first person to officially purchase the book!

Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle has replaced the Sydney Good Food Guide on our coffee table and is now our primary reference for a snapshot of Seattle dining.

To celebrate the publication of her book, Keren hosted a launch party at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club which was also a fundraiser for FareStart. With a panoramic view of Puget Sound, the Beach Club was a spacious venue for tasting bite size samples from various eateries while gazing at the still water and moody sky.

I heard the click of the Wheel of Fonté all evening with guests spinning it out of nostalgia, or lured by the aroma of freshly ground coffee and the chimes of the espresso machine.

Punjab Sweets attracted crowds with a vibrant display and silver platters of burfi. Hidden in the foil trays were spicy samosas.

My favourite bakery was there to showcase their breads and pastries. Boulangerie Nantaise had baskets of croissants, Danishes, buns, scones and cookies.

High teas are popular in Australia because of our British heritage but I haven’t encountered it in Seattle. Pretty in pink, the Tuscan Tea Room enticed with three tiers of strawberry jam sponge cake.

Tom Douglas Restaurants served farro salad with cucumbers from their Prosser Farm.

Slices of Prosser Farm cucumbers were topped with a dollop of tzatziki and dotted with glistening jewels from the Seattle Caviar Company.

The definition of self-control, I restricted myself to two pieces of Theo Chocolate! A shard of toasted coconut dark chocolate was rich and smooth, and Mr S would have liked the intense Scotch ganache.

A whimsical arrangement of cascading sausages was at the Fonté Café table.

Louisa’s Café and Bakery tempted attendees with petite caramel cream pies.

A spiral of spicy tuna empanada at Olivar were crispy and flavoursome.

I love the Blackboard Bistro logo! Oink! I watched the chefs expertly assemble these salsa verde pork sliders in double time.

These grilled figs from Volunteer Park Café were a delectable combination of sweet and savoury, creamy and crunchy.

Piñata and a game of Twister concluded a convivial evening.

Congratulations again Keren!


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