Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg at Emmer and Rye – Queen Anne, Seattle

Posted on: Monday 05 December 2011

On a gloomy day I challenged myself to walk up to emmer&rye. It was a crisp morning but I warmed up quickly on the Counterbalance. I had to pause for a couple of minutes after the steep inclines before entering the restaurant for a Keren Brown event with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine.

An elegantly restored Victorian house in Queen Anne, emmer&rye has a homely porch, a cosy dining room on the street level and a private function room upstairs.

Through the curtains were a narrow staircase and vintage framed portraits line the wall.

Skylights brightened the loft and the space was decorated with antique furniture.

Chef Seth Caswell, a champion of ‘locally derived, seasonally inspired’ cuisine, was our host. Platters and trays of hors d’oeuvres, stemware and books were presented on a wooden bench anchored by two ornate candelabra dripped in wax.

Dolloped into dessert wine glasses, the braised lamb with leek purée and Yukon potato shooter was delightfully creamy.

On house made herb crackers were Tumalo Farms goat cheese with nectarine chutney which was a lovely contrast of savoury and sweet.

Cubes of farro fries were neatly stacked on a duck egg blue platter with a pot of sage yoghurt dipping sauce.

Bite size squares of rye toast were spread with lamb liver mousse and topped with caramelised onions.

My favourite was the crispy pork belly with pepper jelly on fried brioche, a delectable combination of fatty meat and crunchy bread.

Dessert was a decadently chewy hazelnut and whisky chocolate caramel slice.

We munched on the morsels, and sipped on Chemistry Wines White Blend and Saviah Cellars 2009 ‘The Jack’ Syrah while Karen and Andrew spoke eloquently about their eighth book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine.

Flavour and aroma influence our taste. Karen and Andrew added the ‘X factor’ which is contextual to our eating and drinking experience, it increases the flavour and aroma of food exponentially.

2011 is a ‘watershed year for wine’ in America. After seventeen consecutive years of growth, the US is now the number one consumer of wine in the world. Since 2002 every state in the US has been producing wines.

My face creased in shock when Karen quoted a survey that the average American eat a sandwich and drink a can of soda for dinner. Food and wine are intertwined, and Karen and Andrew are champions of enjoying food and wine together.

Many wine books published detail the history and technicality of wine, a France-centric approach to wine writing. Karen and Andrew wrote about how early settlers in Virginia were required to plant grapes to produce wines.

Karen and Andrew encourage people to drink wine and to find out what they like without the high culture. Food and wine are ‘both groceries, staples’. ‘You just need a glass’ to appreciate wine. ‘If you like it, damn it you like it!’

The authors advocate drinking in moderation for pleasure and comfort. Karen and Andrew recommend drinking local wines but also to sample other regions and styles to expand our palates which evolve and refine over time. They mentioned the Wine Century Club, where you qualify for membership by tasting at least one hundred varietals.

Some of their pairing highlights were foie gras and a century old Sauterne, and curry and Riesling. Karen and Andrew are emphatic that wine is about quality of life and can be consumed for health and happiness.

They commented on the importance of educating children about alcohol, and trepidation and judgement as barriers for adults. They waxed lyrical about sommeliers as ‘gifted linguists’. Sommeliers will suggest matches if you let them know what you like! They shared an anecdote of a friend asking for wine that ‘won’t make my mouth feel furry’.

Sincere thanks to Keren for connecting us with Karen and Andrew, and to Chef Caswell and the staff at emmer&rye for their hospitality.

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