How To: Have More Fun Tasting Wine

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I used to mentally roll my eyes into my forehead when I heard people talk about what they tasted in a glass of wine: wet rock, black cherry, tobacco, candied lemon peel, “jammy, red fruits”, oak, leather, clay, EARTH. It all seemed so contrived, RIDICULOUS, but I’d smile across the table with a slightly purple stained upper lip and nod—all the while silently thinking, “OooOKay. Tastes like wine to me.”

Despite what most wine guides would lead you to believe: there’s actually no definitive list of What Wine Tastes Like. That list doesn’t exist. We taste what we know. Sometimes when I taste a wine it brings back a specific memory from a transformative trip, other times it’s a flashback to my childhood. It doesn’t have to be all tannin, acidity, and finish.

 The fact is that common tasting notes, like those of our thirsty friend at the table, just don’t translate the same way for everyone. We haven’t all eaten the same foods or smelled the same smells or met the same well-spoken sommeliers who had a vast vocabulary of attractive and repeatable wine descriptors. And ultimately it’s not about what you’re supposed to taste. It’s about what you actually taste. It’s your experience.

So, backtracking a bit, what’s tasting wine other than tossing that third pour back at the quaint coastal winery? It’s a process consisting of two parts: what you smell in the wine and the actual taste once it’s in your mouth. Perhaps for you wine tasting is the ritual of identifying the primary, secondary and tertiary aromas of the contents of your glass. Perhaps not. Actively tasting wine is different for all of us. While I definitely now lean towards being one of those friends who swirls and sips at happy hour, my spouting off of tasting notes has been known to contain phrases such as:

  • It’s like licking the outside of a peanut shell served table side at a roadhouse.
  • Slightly old Bubbilicious gum from my grandma’s purse.
  • Clementines and honeydews.
  • Bruschetta on a patio in Italy in the summer.
  • Sweet, buttery, breadiness of just-heated King Hawaiian Rolls.
  • The aftertaste of watermelon fruit-by-the-foot (if you know you know).
  • Steak juice.
  • Flat coke that’s been sitting in the sun with a spicy candy in it (Fine. This was Fernet.)
  • Dried apricots.
  • Olive Tapenade.
  • Maple.
  • Green strawberries.
  • Biting into a peach fresh off a roadside truck.
  • Running through a forest in the autumn.
  • Strawberry soda like they served at Elementary school Honor Roll parties.
  • Eating a tart lemon bar at the peak of an alpine hike.
  • Like popping a snap pea in half.
At 27, it’s safe to say that the majority of my life hasn’t been spent eating sophisticated meals, so my points of reference for taste and flavor come from a place a bit different than those in the upper echelon of the Wine Community. I take pride in my southern upbringing and my relationship with food. I’ve got strong opinions about biscuits, country ham, and red eye gravy.  I appreciate the well-known undertones called out by wine professionals, but I also firmly believe wine should be approachable to everyone—not just those who’ve had every Cru, can define which bank their grapes were grown on, and who base their worth on the list of vintages in their cellar.

While my palate is influenced by a smattering of fine dining experiences, flavors of international dishes, spices, herbs, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and wines I’ve had in the past, it’s also one of a girl raised in Little Rock, Arkansas who’s favorite foods were deconstructed Burger King cheeseburgers, reheated mozzarella cheese sticks from a store like Costco, and fresh-out-the-microwave meatball and mozzarella hot pockets.

The plastic champagne flutes of my youth might’ve been filled with the juice from a cold red SqueezeIt, that too sweet purple drink that came in a plastic container resembling a barrel, or that barely citrus-flavored fizzy drink my mom kept in the fridge called Diet Splice (during that phase where we were trying to get off Diet Coke). We ate thawed out enchilada TV dinners on the patio paired with pitchers of tea tinged with the taste of Sweet N Low, and our favorite meals out were at places like Macaroni Grill, Red Lobster, and Catfish City.

It’s nothing fancy, but it’s where I come from and I love it.


Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re drinking and tasting wine to experience it a little differently:
  1. First and foremost: not all white wines taste the same, not all reds taste the same. Nor rosés. Nor orange wines. Nor bubbles. Break down the barriers you’ve built for yourself and EXPLORE.
  2. Be creative. Think about what you’re drinking. Write it down. Who cares how weird or irreverent it is? Use your ~ imagination ~
  3. If you want to taste more, TASTE more. Go to wine bars, go to wine tastings, go to wineries. And don’t just try wine, try new foods and flavors that you’re unfamiliar with. Smell the salty air more fully when you’re at the beach.  Take in nature when you’re on a hike. Expand your points of reference at any given opportunity.
  4. Next time you’re sharing wine with your friends go around the table and see what kinds of tasting notes ya’ll come up with. Me and four friends did this on my 27th birthday and it was a real hoot (then again, maybe that’s because we tasted almost the whole wine list at Bottle House).
Oh, and if you’re three weeks out from taking that Somm test…just disregard everything you read.
Cheers,
L

Current Favorite Wine Bars in Seattle

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetFor the last couple of years I’ve made the same resolution: that I’d get into wine. Why? Because it was time. Because it pairs with food—my one true love. Because it’s history and science and art. And because it makes me feel warm and like my jokes are landing while I swirl my glass like an intellectual and a sophisticate.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that, to get in to wine and to learn about wine, you must do exactly what you’re hoping you need to do: drink as much of it as you can. Wines of different regions, varietals and production methods; reds, rosés, oranges, sparklings, and whites (if I can get over my Chardonnay prejudices then so can you, bud); wines that make you uncomfortable because you can’t say their name which means the server is going to think you’re less cool than you were trying to convince them that you were. All. The. Wine.

The best place to taste? Wine bars (duh), and Seattle has some great ones. Here are a few that are nursing my grape cravings at the moment:

Revolution Wine — Capitol Hill

Revolution Wine first blipped on my booze radar when I learned about a sweet and satisfying summer treat they were serving in 2016: frozen rosé aka frozé (of #frozéallday fame)—a slushy unlike anything that poured from the tap of those circus tent striped Icee machines of yesteryear, and instead contained ingredients like Lillet and Pinot Grigio; Coconut and Sauvignon Blanc. I slurped them all summer long on their sun soaked patio through pink and white-striped paper straws. Try and tell me there’s a better way to beat the heat.

Wine bar and wine shop, Revolution Wine (now Revolution Wine and Cocktail Lounge) sits at the corner of Pike and Belmont on bustling Capitol Hill. Leather couches, candle light, and soft textures and tones throughout the space are offset by the pop art-style mural that spans the entirety of the back wall, making the room feel comfortable but not stuffy.

The wine’s listed on the menu are limited, but you’re welcome to purchase a bottle from their selection on display to enjoy there as well. Last time I visited I had a glass of red that I can only describe as, “colorful leaves in the fall and maple straight from a tree tap.” It was a Tempranillo and I think it might’ve forever changed my mouth.

Recently Revolution has added a full cocktail list to their menu, as well as a selection of beers. Oh, and snacks. Do not sleep on the snacks. Probably just go with a group for a happy hour sitch so you can order everything on the menu (because, truly, there’s something for everyone).

Hot Tip: In the window facing Pike Street there’s a running list of tastings and wine events that are being hosted in-store. You’re gonna want to check those out—they’re where the real revolution happens. The wine revolution (that might be overkill I’m sorry??)

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Bar Ferd’nand — Capitol Hill

A selection of carefully curated wines on display around every corner, warmly toned string lights effortlessly draped amongst the exposed wooden support beams, and an open kitchen complete with a cooking fireplace—walking into Bar Ferd’nand feels like walking onto the newly renovated patio of your cool friend’s Euro villa. A friend who is clearly living their best life, and you’re along for the ride.

The first time I went to BF (not what the Seattle sophisticates call it) was a day I’ll henceforth refer to as: The Day I Drank Too Much Wine in Public and Joyfully Frolicked Around My Neighborhood In The Rain, but that’s another story for another time.

***Important tidbit no.1 about visiting Bar Ferd’nand: Do not be mistaken—even though the sandwich board is on the left side of the hallway, the entry to the bar is on the right. This is probably obvious to most people, but I once spent five minutes looking for a secret entrance into (what I can only assume was) a storage closet.***

At the time of my first visit my wine knowledge didn’t stray far from what was available in the wine aisle at Safeway.  As I glanced above the bar, it became clear that I was unfamiliar with many of the varietals written on the three chalkboards that displayed the menu, but the bartender quickly assuaged my wine worries by inviting conversation about what I’d liked before and which wine profiles set my palate on fire. I asked her about 200 questions and she was able to answer them all with ease—it was clear she knew her shit. She poured some tastes of wines she thought I’d enjoy, we discussed, and then I settled on my first glass of red—a mouthful of olive tapenade, balsamic, and sun dried tomatoes. Nailed it.

I know what you’re thinking, “What about the snacks,”. Oh, there are snacks. Remember that open kitchen I mentioned? Yeah, it’s plating up things like a pâté of pork and dried tomatoes, cured fish and meats, pizzas and my current favorite: buttery chantrelle “alla carbonara”. You can view the entirety of the current food menu here (including the tasting menu!)

With their focus on quality, artisanal and natural wines, Bar Ferd’nand always leaves me feeling comfortable, excited, and like I’ve learned a little something. They even encourage wine education by hosting weekly tastings on Wednesdays from 5-7pm with a different theme every month. In February they did a Badass Women of Wine series and I am SO upset I missed it.

Not a wine person? They offer a CHILL list of beers, ciders and sakes.

Check it out and grab a glass—or a whole bottle from their bottle shop.

Bottlehouse — Madrona 

People had been telling me about Bottlehouse for like two years before I ever finally made my way to Bottlehouse. And I’ll tell you what, the first thing you need to know about Bottlehouse is that you have got to go to Bottlehouse. [insert clap emojis between all of those words].

First of all, Madrona is the most charming neighborhood in Seattle—so it makes sense that this is where you’ll find one of the most charming wine bars. I went for post-BBQ wine with five friends on a Friday (an untraditional series of events, but it was my birthday and I was queen) . While we waited for a table we perused the selection of wines and trinkets that were for sale at the front of the store. Before even seeing the menu we’d mentally swiped right on about thirteen bottles.

Bottlehouse’s dining room has walls of windows, so I’m sure it lets in all kinds of Seattle “sunlight” in the day time, but at night it’s candle lit and full of animated wine-fueled chatter. The artwork was eclectic, and so was the wine menu. Wines of all colors, vintages and styles. I couldn’t begin to tell you everything we ordered, but I can tell you that between the five of us we probably had glasses from 75% of the menu—including Tawny port. The wine list is extensive and easy to navigate, so it doesn’t feel as intimidating as a chalkboard might.

Other things they have:

  • Cheese boards
  • A killer happy hour
  • A BIG patio where I’ll be getting too tipsy on French white wines this summer

Le Caviste — Downtown

Le Caviste translates to The Wine Cellar, but personally for me it translates to, “I’m really trying to become a regular because I love it so much.” As I’m sure you’ve already assumed, Le Caviste specializes in French wines. They also specialize in the best meat/cheese boards of this entire list so really planche out and order something unfamiliar like the chicken liver paté (do puns work with French words?).

Every time I’ve been to Le Caviste it’s been filled to the brim—from the windows to the… chalkboard walls. I like sitting at tables but I LOVE sitting at the bar because their bartenders are, how do you say, the literal best. They are so educated in the wines and will absolutely point you towards what you’re feeling, or perhaps something you really didn’t expect.

So, go have an evening’s worth of an Eat, Pray, Love experience in this wine bar that will absolutely transport you across the Atlantic—except you’re still in the same city, everyone speaks your language and the only thing that’s French is the wine (and maybe that attractive person to your left) so better just fill yourself up on that.

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Left Bank — South Park

Did ya’ll know there’s a neighborhood in Seattle called South Park? Did you know there’s a wine bar there? Did you know that not only is there a wine bar there, but they’re serving up some of the most interesting bottles in the city? Because I sure didn’t—until a few weeks ago. Left Bank is hidden behind gray, industrial walls, and the only thing announcing it’s presence is a sandwich board proclaiming the holiest words: WINE WINE WINE.

We walked in at 4pm on a sunny Saturday. After sitting down at the bar we were greeted by the owner, Campbell Scarborough. One thing lead to another and we’d decided to do the red flight. It was made up of both natural and conventional wines from all over the world. The most memorable two for me were this natural Gamay (that we got to compare with a more conventional Gamay) and a crazy Chilean red that I SWEAR tastes like Mezcal. I bought a bottle of it so I can relive the craziness at ANY moment.

All along the back wall, wines for purchase are displayed like colorful, alcoholic bouldering holds at a rock climbing gym—a focal point that I’ll soon be striving to recreate in my living room. Other than the bar seats there’s a community table in the middle of the small room, and a spacious booth in the back.

The playlist was perfect (SO much Thundercat). The wine was affordable. And the vibes couldn’t have been better. I’d highly recommend a visit as soon as you can figure out where in the hell South Park is (hint: south of Georgetown, YW).

In the mean time, check out their wine cub (LB Wine Clique) and Tuesday Vinyl Wino event.


So what are you waiting for? GO DRINK. Also, talk to your bartender/somm. Ask them questions! It’s what they’re there for and they want you to have a great experience.

Cheers!

Introducing: Gastrono.me

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Our first night in Vienna we sat silently on the couch in our AirBNB and tried desperately to outlast our jet lag. This was our first three hours in Europe of our 3 week Euro trip—what my friend and I dreamily envisioned as being a grand adventure accented by baguette sandwiches in parks, coffees in quaint corner cafes, and dinners in dimly lit restaurants on side streets that were easy to overlook.

In reality it was definitely an adventure, but one that consisted of a few meals out and a lot more frozen pizza than we ever could’ve imagined.

If only we would’ve done the research, if only there would’ve been a service who could’ve made that research happen for us. To ensure that we’d have the gastronomic travel experience that we were craving.

There wasn’t. So I started one.

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Gastrono.me exists to spread joy through food and drink no matter where you are, or what you order. A service that provides guidance for those of us who are hungry to experience the world, customized for your unique tastes.

Whether you’re looking for a cozy Italian restaurant in the middle of Boston, the best cheese plates in Boulder, or a curated cocktail crawl through a neighborhood in your own city, Gastrono.me provides travelers and locals with unique food and drink recommendations, based on their own personal tastes, budgets, and comfort zones.

Rather than relying on solely generalized guidebooks and online Must Eat lists, Gastrono.me works to get to know you and your preferences so we can make suggestions that we know you’ll enjoy, helping insure that your getaways, weekends, and staycations are lower in stress and higher in enjoyment.


How do we get to know you? Through an initial questionnaire, follow up conversations, and consultation. All about what and how you like to eat and imbibe.

What kind of guides do you provide? The site advertises guides for short and long trips, guides for eating excursions, and a recommendation subscription plan (coming in 2018!). That said, there are lots of opportunities for us to work together, so don’t hesitate to reach out!


I started Gastrono.me because I believe travel is a powerful experience that has the ability to change hearts and minds, especially with the impact of food. When we’re encouraged to look beyond the lists of standard tourist destinations we are treated with the opportunity of immersing ourselves in parts of a culture we otherwise may have overlooked. We are given the chance to see a place through our own eyes.

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And now it’s official: our website launched today! You can learn more at Gastronome.guide

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, or collaboration opportunities. I am so looking forward to this next chapter and the people and places it will bring into my life.

Cheers!

Lauren

Five Senses of Feast

 

Two years ago while visiting Portland with my parents my ears perked up at something I heard on the radio. I only remember sound clips: Sandwich. Invitational. Feast. Portland. Bon Appetit. I was still relatively new to the Pacific Northwest at the time so it was a mystery that grabbed my attention instantaneously. I needed to know more. Upon further Googling I learned 2 things: 1) Feast was an annual multi-day festival held in Portland, sponsored by Bon Appetit, that showcased Oregon’s bounty and featured several renowned Chefs from around the nation. 2) I HAD TO GO.

Fast forward two years to 2017. On the morning of June 2nd I sat at my computer, cheek in hand, impatiently refreshing the page where I’d purchase tickets for the festival once they were released at 11am. The moment struck and after surmounting a delay caused by an overloaded server I was in. I scored tickets to four events: Late Night Adventures in Takeout, The Grand Tasting (like a deluxe weekend costco sample experience), No Kilts Required: American Single Malts and—the piéce de résistance—Tillamook Presents: SMOKED (A BBQ PARTY, YA’LL).

June, July, and the early days of September crawled by, but finally it was time to pack up the Mazda3 and zoom down to Portland for Feast. The weekend unfolded in what I can only describe as a sensory extravaganza. One that I’m going to try and recreate for you now.

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Feast looked like –

  • A series of electric parties across the city accented by thematic mood lighting that gave every event charisma. My favorite was the neon, untraditional at a BBQ event.
  • Crowded, enthusiastic gatherings of all kinds of people—friends and strangers, groups and soloists, from different places, of different generations.
  • A tie-dye of stains on my shirts from who-knows-which saucy snacks.
  • A never ending sea of artistically composed dishes created by chefs whose home restaurants are peppered around the US.
  • A list to which I was always adding, documenting names of new restaurants I otherwise may have remained oblivious to.
  • Caramel colored splashes on my collar from that last whiskey cocktail I shouldn’t have had.

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Feast sounded like –

  • The ubiquitous hiss of raw meats sizzling on grills.
  • Exclamations between guests about which dishes were worth standing in line for—guiding my next move.
  • Bumpin’ music adding to the energy of the night accented by the percussion of iced bourbon cocktails being shaken in both fists by the boisterous bartenders.
  • Soft speaking between members of a restaurant’s staff underneath the tents.
  • The wise words of innovative chefs being interviewed by Bon Appetit’s Adam Rapoport.
  • Clattering of metal stock pots and pans. The metal clapping of tongs.
  • Joy during a time of political turbulence—laughter, casual conversation, excited statements punctuated by each new bite.
  • The low, slow groans of indigestion around 2am.

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Feast felt like –

  • Oregon’s warm September sun, it’s chilly twilight breezes.
  • The crunch of my first air fried dumpling, and the contrasting soft textures of regional cheeses.
  • The delicate balance of my wine glass in one hand and two small paper plates in the other.
  • Warmth from open faced grills.
  • Fumbling with utensils: chopsticks, forks, spoons, skewers.
  • The constant pressure of my finger on the shutter button of my camera.
  • Conflict because my stomach was full but MORE THAN ANYTHING I just wanted to keep eating.

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Feast smelt like –

  • Competing smoky scents from the forest fires of Jolly Mountain and the plumes dancing skyward from the charcoal grills.
  • Complex combinations of spicy aromas characteristic of single malt american whiskies.
  • An amalgam of currently-being-cooked dishes—fermented, peppery, sweet, mesquite, fruity, floral.
  • The perfume of Febreeze inside of a suburban mom’s lyft vehicle.

 

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Feast tasted like –

  • Fruit-forward wines from all over the pacific northwest.
  • Sweet baked goods and fragrant berry jams from local vendors.
  • Unique combinations of sweet and savory ingredients that I would’ve never thought to combine like brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds.
  • Umami.
  • A just-been-torched s’more donut from Blue Star that was crunchier than I was expecting.
  • The spicy, moist brisket from Langbaan served in a pool of spicy gravy poured from a hot silver kettle, and decorated with flowers that packed a peppery punch that you can’t even imagine.
  • Very high quality hot dogs with very high quality pumped cheese.
  • The kind of tastes that left an impact on your palate, and lingered even after you brushed your teeth—more like a fond memory than an annoyance.

I am so grateful to have had the chance to attend my first Feast. For every moment I was there I was filled with joy and was able to momentarily forget about daily stresses that often overwhelm me. It wasn’t just me, I was surrounded by other people who were just as I happy as I was. I already look forward to the next Feast I’m able to attend. Next time I’ll go to one of the suppers, I won’t miss the Night Market, and I’ll bring more than 2 doses of indigestion tablets.

 

To learn more about the festival check out their website at feastportland.com

 

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Happy Go Shucky — Adventures in Oyster Tasting

I live in a city whose biggest tourist attraction is known for literally throwing fish at you and hoping you catch it. We’re a seafood city. After spending most of my life in landlocked states, I vowed after moving to Seattle that I would take full advantage of coastal living—indulging in pricy seafood dinners, the freshest sushi, shrimp on my pasta and becoming an “oyster person”.

The first time I was introduced to oysters was when I was like 8. I remember seeing an episode of Rugrats where the parents, Stu and Didi, went to a fancy resort and ordered a round of oysters for the table to enjoy by the pool. From that moment on I considered oysters a member of the upper echelon of food alongside French dishes like caviar and escargot. The hors d’oeuvres of the elite.

With summer arriving in the Pacific Northwest the happy hours are abundant and the oyster specials ubiquitous. After three years of acclimating to the west coast, I think I’m finally ready to claim my seat at the shuckers table.

To prepare for my new role I did about an hour’s worth of haphazard googling, enough to make me think I was informed about oyster tasting etiquette, and then hastily made a plan to stop into an oyster bar today after work. Here’s how that went:

First impressions
Walking into an oyster bar is intimidating when you don’t know anything about oysters. I had my pick of tables, but obviously this already self conscious occasion was begging for a seat at a table in the middle of an otherwise empty dining room, in the direct line of site of the entire restaurant staff.  I’ve gotta admit, I was expecting it to smell more like the aquatic section of a PetSmart in there, but it sure didn’t. As I started to get used to my surroundings I noticed that I also happened to have chosen the seat that sat right next to, what seemed like, a living seafood spa in the center of the restaurant. It was piled high with a variety of shellfish, including the oh-so-phallic geoducks (pronounced: gooey•ducks). The crabs were staring at me and I cared too much.

My server placed a menu on the table and I immediately (and abruptly) identified myself as a newbie, blurting out, “I’VE NEVER HAD OYSTERS BEFORE,” like I was telling her I was experiencing a medical emergency.  After getting over the shock of my exclamation she guided me through the menu. Most of the oyster’s names sounded like Fast and the Furious characters to me (Grand Cru, Fanny Bay, etc). We chose three to start with and  a wine that would pair well with my salty snacks.

I surveyed what was left on the table in front of me: two forks. One normal sized and one miniature. I don’t know about you, but even in a normal restaurant setting irregular cutlery is always a catalyst for my anxiety. How would I ever use both forks? I pictured Ariel running the dinglehopper through her hair. Before I had time to act on this impulse, the server set down my glass of Muscadet. I raised the glass, gave it an ultra-confident swirl and took a big sip. It tasted clean and minerally. My confidence began to return and I braced myself for what would come to the table next.

Oyster 1 — Kumamoto

The six oysters were fanned out over crushed ice in front of me. In the middle was a lemon wedge and a ramekin filled with a dressing called champagne mignonette.

“Try the oysters on their own first,” she advised, “and then if you add seasoning be careful not to overwhelm the flavor of the oyster.”

She left me alone with the aliens on my plate. I started to feel a pang of regret for ordering six of them (2 of each), but I’m no quitter (especially when I’m being watched by a kitchen staff).  I picked one up and, without thinking, tried to cooly toss it back like I read about on some blog. The meat in shell the wasn’t loose enough, so I got a mouth full of sea water. After loosening the gooey mass with a spoon I tried again and it slid right into my mouth.

“Holy shit it’s so slippery,” I thought. It tasted like I tripped and fell into the ocean with my mouth open, but it also tasted sweet. I didn’t hate it. The coloring of the shell reminded me of the camouflage clothing people deck themselves out for a night out in Arkansas.

I squeezed a drop of lemon on the second one and I loved it.

Oyster 2 — Kusshi

The Kusshis tasted less sweet and more like I was sipping on an ocean water cocktail. They were astringent and made my tongue feel dry. After three oysters I’d started to gain a little confidence back, but still felt self conscious being isolated in the middle of the room.

Between my third and fourth bites I had an enlightening conversation with the server about developing a palette for tasting oysters, so I decided to work harder at identifying flavors outside of ocean and salt. I put the fourth one in my mouth and slowly chewed. Suddenly I tasted…weird, wet mushroom?? Maybe I went a little aggressive on the lemon squeeze. How was I supposed to use the condiments?

I noticed the wine was starting to taste different—more mineral forward. Like a wet sea rock. Maybe I was becoming a barnacle.

Oyster 3 — Fanny Bay

“SHIT these are big,” I thought as I picked up the first Fanny Bay oyster.  Their shells looked the most prehistoric. I decided that the slimy part of the oysters kind of look like rotting human ears to me, which is a bad comparison to make before you eat something. You know the dreadful feeling you get right before you take a big pill? That’s how I felt looking into this oyster.

I tossed it back.

I really chewed on this one. It tasted brighter than the others. I think. While I was trying to pay attention the meroir of the one in my mouth, I knocked my last oyster out of it’s shell, off my plate, and onto my phone’s screen. As I’m sure you have no problem imagining, I panicked and then surreptitiously attempted to slide the wet, slippery blob back into its shell. HORRIFYING. That’s when I noticed there were barnacles still on the shell. She’s fresh!

Rather than using the lemon on my second Fanny Bay, I decided to go with the champagne mignonette instead. Immediately I realized this was a choice I should have made from the beginning.  It was delicious. The acidity of the vinegar really toned down the weird after taste that the oysters left in my mouth. I want to stay that it also amplified the other flavors, but if I’m being honest I was still only tasting salt. By this point I had come to terms with the fact that my oyster-tasting palette would not be developed by the end of my first visit. The wine tasted its best after the second Fanny Bay. They were my favorite.

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This is where I thought the oyster adventure was going to end, but then I ordered two more because I was halfway through my glass of wine and I really wanted to challenge myself. It’d been thirty minutes and my nerves were lower so SURELY I’d be able to taste my final two more comprehensively.

By this point several more tables had been seated around me in the restaurant, and all of the people sitting at them seemed a lot more fancy and bourgeois than me. The seawater that was puddled in front of me on the table was like a small, salty puddle of shame.

Oyster 4 — Pacific (from Fanny Bay)

The last two oysters came and I felt less intimidated than I did earlier. With the flair of an aficionado I raised the shell to my my mouth, preparing to tip the next one in. Back, back, back my head went until the shell was completely vertical and my elbow was pointed towards the ceiling. I’d tried to shoot it the wrong way out of the shell. My eyes were wide and my cheeks were pink with self-inflicted embarrassment. Sea water dribbled down my chin.

As I chewed the gummy Pacific oyster I felt the makings of a (skeptical) Eureka moment, “Did that taste tomato-y, or did I make that up?”

Maybe it was just the viscosity.  The shell was super beautiful. Like a very exaggerated ruffled Lays potato chip.

Oyster 5 — Shigoku

The last oyster was definitely briny, but also tasted kind of like a green bell pepper. Maybe my palette wasn’t a lost cause after all.  After I finished, my lips were burning from all of the salt I’d put past them. I could confidently say the last oysters were my favorites. I knew I’d never never ever doubt the power of champagne mignonette again.

Final impression

While I may never have a reserved seat at the shuckers table, I’ll definitely pay a visit to the oyster bar again. I don’t think they’re my favorite food, but I’m curious to learn more about the nuances of their flavors. People liken the methods of tasting oysters to that of tasting wine, and I can definitely see what they mean. The taste is ever changing and will always surprise you. I look forward to seeing what I taste on my next visit.

And, no, I never used the tiny fork.

Coffee Lovers and Stocking Stuffers

Well, we’re here. We’ve made it deep into the holiday season, and halfway through our cheap, chocolate filled advent calendars. If you’re like me, you’re still (stressfully) shopping for the people on your list. Bearing that in mind, I give you my final 2016 holiday gift guide! This one covers your coffee lovers and your stocking stuffers. Enjoy!

FOR THE ALWAYS-CAFFEINATED

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Just like last year, I’m obsessed with the idea of coffee being delivered straight to my mailbox (instead of realizing I’m out at 6am and pouting for 10 minutes before I settle for a cup of old tea). Coffee subscription boxes allow you to try different beans from all over the country, and sometimes from all over the world.

Driftaway Coffee is a customized coffee subscription service that bases their selections for you on your given flavor profile preferences. First, they send you a box FULL of different kinds of beans (my favorite so far is the Brazil. SERIOUSLY one of the best coffees I’ve ever had). Once you’ve had a chance to try them all, you enter what you liked and didn’t to the Driftaway app. From there on out, the beans you receive will be chosen by the experts at Driftaway based on what they think will perk you up the most, allowing you to discover new beans and roasts that you never knew about before.

Learn more here!

Of course, it’s not just what you brew, it’s how you brew it! I like to keep it simple with my coffee setup, but also enjoy experimenting with new brew methods.

  • Bodum Pourover Set — I saw this at Target the other day and freaked out! This pourover set up is a) aesthetically pleasing and b) has a built in filter. HELLO. This is great for your friends who are having trouble coming to terms with their strained relationship with Mr. Coffee.
  • Hario Skerton Coffee Mill — This hand grinder allows the brewer to have ultimate control over the grind of their beans, while also getting a sufficient bicep workout. Probably best for the experienced coffee drinker, and not your friend’s mom who is going to mistake this for a ~ swanky pepper grinder ~
  • Bodum Travel Press — ALERT ALERT! YOU CAN NOW MAKE A FRENCH PRESS WHILE YOU TRAVEL. Easiest decision you’ve made all day.
  • Aeropress Coffee Maker — This simple piece of brewing equipment has completely changed the game for my At Home Coffee Routine. The coffee produced by an aeropress is clean, and full of flavor. It also takes less than 5 minutes (if your water is hot) and you’ll look really cool prepping it in your office’s kitchen. Seriously, do recommend.

    [Also the aeropress kit literally comes with everything you need to brew, with the exception of beans. Have I sold you yet?]

  • Turkish Coffee PotWatch this video and then tell me* you don’t have a hip, home-barista friend who doesn’t need this in their life.

*ADMITTEDLY  I’ve never had Turkish coffee, but I hear that it’s some of the most aromatic and richly flavored around. PLUS THE POT IS COPPER!! Who doesn’t love copper in the kitchen?


Looking for something small and (possibly) snackable?

See below for my compilation of food-and-drink-centric stocking stuffers, all produced by small businesses and local makers from across the U.S.!

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And that wraps it up for holiday gift guides! I hope that everyone has had a fabulous holiday season so far, and that it only continues to be great.

SO looking forward for what’s to come in 2017 (and what’s to enter my stomach).

For the Craft Beer/Cocktail Companion — A Gift Guide

As a kid, I loved crafts. I truly couldn’t get enough of popsicle sticks that were dripping with Elmer’s white, runny glue and glitter. There was so much potential. So much whimsy.

It turns out that as an adult I continue to foster a love for crafts: craft beer, craft coffee, and craft cocktails, for instance. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit. I, like many of my friends (and yours, I’m sure), aspire to have a flourishing home bar with many tools and trinkets and bottles to boot.

Giving gifts to craft beer and cocktail lovers doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some of my recommendations:

Let’s start with some literature, shall we?

  • The Complete Beer Course – Do I need to type a description here? I think the cover saison you need to know (that was a bad beer pun).
  • The Canon Cocktail Book – Canon is one of the BEST bars in Seattle, not to mention the U.S., and they’ve just put out a cocktail recipe book! If you want to step up your game then THIS is the way to do it.
  • The 12 Bottle Bar – Buy this book and make a night of it! Stock the bar. Learn to make cocktails. This is a great pick for those people in your life who are bound and determined to get into home bartending but juuuuuust haven’t found the time to start yet. (Spoiler alert, the time is now.)

[Side note: this book is great because it not only teaches you about the basics of a home bar, but also how to maximize those basics. My boyfriend and I have been making our way through it this year and it’s been awesome!]

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Another good place to start with gift giving is with the essentials, and for a home bar, bar tools are just that. Whether you are giving to someone who is looking to beef up their tool kit or perhaps someone who wants upgrade their collection with pieces that have more personality and pizazz, there are a lot of options out there and plenty of places to look.

Specific individual tools could include:

  • A muddler (customize it!)
  • A strainer for a cocktail shaker
  • Jiggers
  • Bottle openers
  • Etc.

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Beer Brewing Kit from Midwest Supplies

Home brewing is America’s new favorite hobby, but how does your Lager-loving dad get started? With a beer brewing kit of course! While I’m not an expert in the topic  THESE GUYS are and they can help you find the kit you need. [Pictured above is their top recommendation for a beginner].

For both the traditional and adventurous mixologists in your life, bitters make great gifts and also great stocking stuffers. What even are bitters? Bitters have a lot of purposes, but for the sake of this post: Bitters are punchy, flavorful liquids that are made from herb/botanicals. Just a few drops can drastically change the taste of anything they are added to. For example, and Old Fashioned would not be an Old Fashioned without bitters (Angostura, to get specific).

These from Scrappy’s, a Seattle brand, are some of my favorites. [Their website is down right now, but just do a quick internet search for “Scrappy’s Bitters” and you should find what you need]

And finally, a few trusty gifts for the ones in your life who just like to kick it with a cocktail in hand. Any of these will be phenomenal additions to that stylish new bar cart:

  • Cocktail Shakers* – These are everywhere, for everyone.
  • Unique barware* – Cocktail glasses come in many shapes in sizes, but all serving the same purpose: to make your drink taste its best. They also come in many different patterns, colors, and with different metallic rims (did somebody say rose gold?). Think about which cocktails are most popular with your buddies and start with some glasses made just for that.
  • Cool coasters* – Guys, where there’s a drink there’s a risk for a cup ring! Coasters, obvi. Everybody needs more coasters (especially cool ones).
  • Interesting ice molds – Ice plays a huge role in the cocktail world. The shape and cut of ice can determine the way a drink tastes, looks, and lasts. Molds are available in traditional shapes as well as quirky shapes—like Death Stars — and even in kits that allow you to manipulate the ice into whatever form you need.[While the kit above seems a little bit superfluous, I think we all know that we have a friend who will be MAJORLY STOKED on it. The crew at Wired seems to think so, too.][Why didn’t you include any of those trendy stones? While the stones and rocks available are less likely to dilute your drink, my friends have found that they are also less likely to get as cold as you might like.]
  • Decanter* – Because bar carts look even cooler when the booze is on display in sleek glass bottles. These are great for liquor or wine (see, I haven’t ENTIRELY neglected the winos).
  • Import booze from abroad — Maybe it’s the specialty of a country that your person is dying to visit, or maybe it’s from their old home town. Either way this is a thoughtful option and your friend will appreciate it (and likely get a good, heartwarming buzz courtesy of you.)

*Go vintage! A lot of this stuff is easy to find at thrift stores and online. Hot tip: search for “MidCentury Barware” on Etsy and feel your heart take flight.

None of these are givin’ you that post-cocktail buzz? Why not plan a cocktail bar crawl in your city or a city near by?  Or maybe find a cocktail class to take with a friend? Like I’ve said before, some people would rather receive an experience than a gift. Have a drink and think on it.


That does it for this gift guide! I’ve got one more up my sleeve and that one is a little more high energy (spoilers: it’s coffee-centric!).

If you’re still having trouble thinking of a gift, I am totally game to help you brainstorm. Shoot me a comment or an email and we can figure it out together.

Happy Holidays!

For the One Who Cooks — A Gift Guide

The holiday season is here and none of us started gift shopping in September like we’ve always been told to do. But who has time for that, truly? The good news is that you still have plenty of time, but if you’re stumped when it comes to the actual gift selection then you’re going to burn through that time quick.

Never fear! Gift guides are here to help. I’ll be putting out a few this year to assist you on your quest to find holiday delights for the people in your life who love consuming food and drinks as much as I do. First up?

A Gift Guide for the Ones Who Love to Cook

  • Retro inspired kitchen timers — Because we all need a kitchen timer, and they might as well make a statement.
  • Cookware with character — The accessibility of artisanal goods has been made SO easy through sites like Etsy. Find a unique, useful gift online that supports the Maker community. Some even have options for personalization. (Pro tip: this is also a good way to scout out vintage finds).
  • Copper cooking utensils — For your trendy friend who enjoys cooking, and having a very instagrammable prep space.
  • Mortar and Pestle — The more I cook, the more I understand the need for one of these. They’re used for crushing and grinding herbs and spices, and it doesn’t hurt that they look nice on display, either.
  • Ravioli and Tortellini starter set — Remember your friend who studied abroad in Florence? Firenze. They’ll love this.
  • Hot chocolate pot — Why? The better question is “Why Not?”.  At first glance this probably seems ostentatious, but check this out: the teak handle makes pouring a breeze, the lid can be used as a trivet while cooling, and think of how COOL you/your friend will look when they whip out this puppy for a cocoa sesh.

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Joule by Chef Steps — Sous vide is a cooking technique that’s really blown up in the last couple of years. While I’ve never done it myself, it has already sealed its reputation as being a modern cooking method that boasts ease of execution and perfectly prepared steaks. But it can certainly do more than just cook your meats to the ideal medium rare. If there’s someone in your life who enjoys learning new techniques in the kitchen, this is the gift for them. Learn more on the Chef Steps website.

If you’re a person who feels safer giving, say, socks than this years trendy tech, try some of these safer, more practical gifts on for size:

  • Wooden Cutting Boards — Make it interesting, though! Look for different compositions of wood, wood grain, shapes, and materials.
  • Mandolin — No, not the instrument. This kitchen machine cuts major time out of slicing (see what I did there?).
  • Oven Thermometer — Yes, it’s just a food thermometer, but you can never go wrong with All Clad, right?
  • Scale — Bingo. A practical gift, with a high tech touch. (Plus, who doesn’t need a scale in the kitchen?)

I know what some of you may be thinking, “What about a cookbook?”.  My friends, worry no more. I’ve got you covered:

Perhaps you’re giving to someone who’s less of a “things-person” and more of an “experience-person”, which I totally get! There are a lot of options for these people, too.

Look for cooking classes in your area for the two of you to take together, or for them to take alone or with someone else. Are they adventurous? Maybe a foraging excursion is more their speed. Learn, alongside an expert, about the edible ingredients found in nature around you (+10 points if it’s a mushroom tour because that’s DOPE).

Or maybe they’re the kind of person that just wants to hang out and be together. Why not get all the ingredients you need to tag team a meal, and a few bottles of wine, obviously. Even plan an outing where you go to the Farmer’s Market together and gather everything you need, while simultaneously sampling your community’s best ciders and spiced donuts.

Want to gift all your kitchen-dwelling friends at once? What if you invited them all over for a night of enjoying company and YOUR cooking? All they’re required to do is kick back and snack. Sounds like the makings of a special evening to me.


Hopefully this makes your holiday hunt for the Home Chefs (or Chef Chefs!) in your life a little less stressful, or gave you some ideas of your own! I’ve got more headed your way in the coming weeks.

Happy Holidays!

Where you should go during Dine Around Seattle [Fall 2016]

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If you’re anything like me, then you’re doing a real bang-up job of counterbalancing your election stress with delicious meals, snacks, and cocktails. And what better way enable yourself do that than by visiting and supporting local restaurants.
Enter: Dine Around Seattle. The bi-annual celebration of local food, chefs, and seasonal dishes from around The Emerald City. I’ve taken some time to break down the list and have determined what my top picks are and what I’d order if I had the opportunity to visit them all. Check it out below!
Key: (L) – Lunch, (D) – Dinner

BALLARD
  • Pork Chop and Co (L) (D) –  3 for $33, 1st course is a beverage, I’d order the: mole braised beef cheeks
  • [TOP PICK] Skillet (L) (D) – $3 for $33, Most excited about the: Like, literally everything sounds really flavorful and awesome
  • Bramling Cross (D) – 3 courses $33, Most excited about the: For The Table course
BELLTOWN
  • Local 360 (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: porchetta and the dessert selection
CAPITOL HILL
  • Anchovies & Olives (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: For The Table Course (honestly everything sounds great)
  • [TOP PICK] Poppy (D) – 3 for $44 – I’d order the: Herbed Rabbit Sausage with Glazed Shallots and Tart Cherries and the Braised Pork Shoulder with Vanilla and Pear (…and also everything else wow)
  • [TOP PICK] Rione XIII (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: for the table course and the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe
  • [GOOD DEAL ALERT] The Saint (D) – 3 for $22 – I’d order the: sopa de tortilla and the yuca frita
  • Terra Plata (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: rabbit terrine and the butternut squash cake
  • Skillet (L) (D) – $3 for $33, Most excited about the: [same as Ballard location]
DOWNTOWN
  • Cha:n (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: 5.3 bulgogi and ALL of the desserts
FREMONT
  • Chiso (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: dungeness crab sunomono and the local fish omakase sushi
  • Pomerol (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: pork shoulder steak
KIRKLAND
  • Trellis (L) (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: great choices all around (really doesn’t look like you can go wrong)
PIONEER SQUARE
  • [TOP PICK] Girin (L) (D) – 3 for $44 – I’d order the: grilled babyback ribs and choice of ssam (second course…any of them)
QUEEN ANNE
  • LloydMartin (D) – 3 for $44 – I’d order the: Hamachi crudo, vanilla salt, lemon oil, foie gras and the black truffle risotto, parmesan, truffle (menu changes daily)
  • Toulouse Petit (L) (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: french onion soup and the wild shrimp and housemade andouile
WOODINVILLE
  • Barking Frog (L)(D) – 3 for $44 – Most excited about: the Woodinville wine and the second courses
If you want to learn more about Dine Around Seattle or view the entire list of participating restaurants, click here : http://dinearoundseattle.org/restaurants/
Need to make reservations? Try Open Table http://www.opentable.com/seattle-restaurants or Resy https://resy.com/ (where available)
Get out and get eatin’! If there’s one cause I can get behind, it’s supporting local restaurants.
Cheers!

UPCOMING: Holiday Giving Guides for the Hungry People in Your Life

When I was in high school, scouting out unique holiday gifts was one of my specialties. I could cross the threshold of Target’s big red doors with a mission in mind and be back out in 10 minutes flat, arms full of thoughtful randomities sure to make someone in my friend group (or my mom) shimmy with excitement.

As I’ve gotten older (and more aware of expectation and whose taste is what) it turns out that gift hunting has lost a little bit of it’s sparkle. It’s not quite the exciting quest that it used to be, in fact, I think we can all agree that sometimes it can get a little frustrating. There have been desperate moments when I’ve walked into, what I’ve deemed is, the last store of my sad attempt to find a gift for someone and have picked something up, sighed as I settled on something mediocre, and felt guilty that I didn’t start shopping in September like I meant to.

And let me tell you something else, there’s truly nothing like quickly, softly whispering, “There’s a gift receipt in there if you don’t like it,” to really get someone excited for what awaits them in your haphazardly wrapped package. My favorite part is the hyperbolized excitement they show afterwards to prove how stoked they are for the thing you have ~blessed them~ with.

For those of you also feeling overwhelmed, clueless, like you’re blindly combing the shelves at the Very Posh Store That You’ve Always Meant to Go Into for the perfect something…these upcoming seasonal gift guides are for you. Of course, it’d be worth mentioning that these are for the people who hold my same interests near and dear to their hearts. Those interests, of course, are the consumable kind: food, cocktails, coffee, restaurants, cooking, recipes, kitchen supplies (ok, less consumable), etc. I’ll be listing them all!

Another thing that’s happened since I’ve gotten older is that I’d rather receive an experience, like an outing or a trip, than a thing (unless that thing is a mandolin slicer because SHE is currently burning a hole in my Amazon wishlist). That means I will not only be sharing my ideas for things you can buy for someone, but also things that you can do together.

The holidays shouldn’t be all about gifts, but I hope the ones you do give are received graciously and produce imminent hunger pangs.

Be on the look out for the first one next week!

PS: Throughout the holidays I’ll be posting some of my recommendations for where to eat and drink around The Emerald City as well. Stay tuned!