July 2009 Archives

Falling for Snoqualmie

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The historic lodge, on a stone ledge overlooking the sacred falls of the Snoqualmie tribe, is one of those grand gabled timber hotels, like a summer resort in the Berkshires or Adirondacks, that's become part of the landscape. Officially known as the Salish, it's a bit too far from Seattle for a casual dinner, but it's always been a terrific weekend getaway (with 89 rooms). Now, with another ambitious restaurant just down the hill (Bruce Dillon's Terra Vista at the Snoqualmie Falls Casino, the Salish is turning the spotlight back on its cuisine. We sent our pal Jacqueline Pruner out for a taste-drive; her verdict: Salishious!

The Salish Lodge & Spa and its Executive Chef Justin Sledge recently hosted a dinner to introduce the world to Chef de Cuisine Jack Strong and Pastry Chef Laurie Pfalzer. ‘Twas a multi-coursed “food orgy.” A fanciful feast. One misfire among the starters: the peas & carrots (think baby food). Overall: innovative, palate-pleasing eye candy.

Highlighted favs – none currently on the menu; but if the culinary gods are smiling they soon will be: over-easy quail egg served on a tiny Russian blueberry pancake, or blini (an awful lot of effort for a breakfast bite, but oh-so worth it); salt cured foie gras torchon, served with a toasted lavender marshmallow – I confess had my doubts about this, but hey, I like foie gras and I like s’mores … the carmelized sugar of the toasted ‘mallow set off the creamy foie gras; and a twist to the ol’ chestnut of cedar planked salmon really worked: native caught Columbia River salmon wrapped in a cedar sheet and topped with morel mushrooms, heirloom spuds, snow peas, leek blossoms, celeriac apple puree, and lemon confit.

Chocolate was the finisher: layered mousse cake with a pistachio gianduja crust, balanced out by crunchy caramel-coated bing cherries (pitted so no chipped teeth), a poached black plum and an apricot salad – a dish destined to convert even the strongest of hearts into a chocoholic, with enough fruit salad to almost make you think you’re eating healthy. And if chocolate is in fact your thing, be sure to order the Chocolatier’s Palate, which is currently on their menu – both diverse and divine!)

Hats off to you both, Jack and Laurie – well done!

P.S. – The Salish also has a new spa menu – more about that later – and will give all its guest rooms a face lift this fall.

PPS: Food snapshots follow.

Salish Lodge & Spa, 6501 Railroad Ave., Snoqualmie, Wash. (Exit 25 from I-90), 800-272-5474  Salish Lodge - Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Molly_Brandon.JPGHe's Brandon Pettit, musician from New York. She's Molly Wizenberg, the voice of Orangette. Their romance is chronicled in Molly's book, A Homemade LIfe ( title that makes you think it's going to be about an old lady's patterns for quilts, while it's actually two interwoven stories about Molly's dad and Molly's boyfriend). Anyway, Brandon--a composer and lecturer who studied in France (as did Molly) moved to Seattle and, wouldn't you know it, decided that his calling life was (wait for it) pizza.

And not just any pizza, but his very own pizza parlor, to be called (wait for it) Delancey. (If you don't quite get it, back up two decades, to the Amy Irving movie, Crossing Delancey.) The point of this self-referential loop of cultural expectations is about to reach fruition: Delancey (the pizza parlor, off 15th NW, in the no-man's land between Ballard and Crown Heights) has announced an opening day, August 12th, and a series of pre-opening events for friends and family. Hungry? Follow the young couple on Twitter.

Delancey, 1415 NW 70th St., delanceyseattle@gmail.com    Delancey (Opening Soon) on Urbanspoon

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Above: winning Boulangerie Nantaise tart, Tony Delguidice, Patrick & Alyssa Lewis. Below, Enza Sorrentino's fruit crostata.

Ah, summer, when a chef's fancy turns to thoughts of fruit-filled pastry.

We begin with a medley of tartes aux fruits entered in the inaugural Francophile Fruit Tart contest, sponsored in connection with Bastille Day by the French-American Chamber of Commerce. The winner--selected by a panel of chefs and food writers--was Boulangerie Nantaise, the Belltown bakery & coffee shop previously celebrated for its baguettes. Pastry chef was Tony Delguidice, who's been baking around town for 20 years, and at his current post since 2001.

Mondellina%20crostata.JPGNext comes Alyssa Lewis, with a decade of baking in Snohomish behind her, and husband Patrick, a home-builder looking for an alternative career now that home-building's in the tank. They've just opened Seattle Pie Company in Magnolia Village, where they mix up over 100 pies a day in a baker's dozen different fruit and cream flavors (roughly $15 apiece, $3.50 a slice), ranging from "Microsoft Apple" to blackberry to "Lemon Cloud."

Seattle Pie also sells meatloaf sandwiches for lunch, the bread coming from a deli in the same building, La Mondellina, whose chef and baker is none other than Mamma Enza, of Sorrentino's on Queen Anne. (She and her son, Corino, owner of Magnolia's charming Italian bistro, Mondello, are partners in La Mondellina.) For good measure, Mamma bakes her own crostata di frutta with a short crust, pastry cream and berries from the neighborhood farmers market.

A sweet suite, wouldn't you say?

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None of Seattle's typical "too cool for school" stand-offishness. Tens of thousands of cheerful riders, oohing and cooing, tweeting and twittering along SoundTransit's light rail line. Dozens of staffers in dayglo green shirts directed (human) traffic, and the trains (speedy, quiet) ran every ten minutes or so, tunneling under Beacon Hill and emerging high above MLK in Mt. Baker. Further south, African-American, Latino, Asian neighborhoods with exotic strip malls as well as depressingly familiar chain stores. Big crowds at the Stadium station, where the MLS Sounders acquitted themselves with honor against the visiting powerhouse, Chelsea. Then again, maybe the Brits didn't want to embarrass their hosts.

First person we encountered on the train was King County Councilman Larry Philips (SoundTransit board member and candidate for county executive) who told us he'd been waiting forty years for this day. "Every other big city on the West Coast, from San Diego to Vancouver, has had light rail for years." Cities around Old Europe, too, like Strasbourg, which (unlike Seattle) managed to integrate parking for bikes and cars into the system. Who cares if it's going to take longer to get to SeaTac by train than on the 194? (Seriously: the 194 takes 30 minutes flat from Westlake Station and costs $1.75. Light rail will take 34 minutes just to reach the Tukwila station, plus a shuttle bus to the airport, and the fare will be at least $2.50.) No matter! We're up-to-date now!

Actually, one light rail train carries 350 people. One bus, a tenth of that, especially when filled with flatland touristers and their rolling stock. Also, the 194 doesn't run late at night. Great sighs of relief on both counts.

Drinking to Oblivion

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99%20bottles%20of%20wine%20on%20the%20wall.jpgNews that Fred Franzia of Bronco Wine Company is about to launch a new brand of wine should send fear into the hearts of wine drinkers and grape growers everywhere. That's because cheap wine is not always a good thing.

Trader Joe's sells Bronco's Charles Shaw label for two dollars a bottle (three, in Washington). What's the result? Sure, they move a lot of Two (or Three) Buck Chuck, 400 million bottles and counting. Lots of four-dollar pinot grigio and six dollar prosecco, too, with the result that Trader Joe has firmly positioned itself in the customer's mind as the go-to store for...cheap wine. Ugh.

Similarly, Yellowtail became the best-selling Australian import by undercutting every other brand in the market. Who would buy a wine from Down Under for more than ten bucks these days? The entire category of Australian wine now means "cheap."

Side note: Argentina has become known as the go-to country for Malbec, a good thing. New Zealand has become synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc, an even better thing. In fact, the kiwi Nobilo brand has just overtaken Kendall Jackson to become the number one SB in America. How'd they do it? For one thing, by actually putting a cork in the bottle, rather than a screwtop, because the American wine drinker still perceives the cork to signify a better wine.

So, yes, Franzia's Bronco Wine Company is going to start buying up surplus Australian juice and bottling it as Down Under. They hope it becomes known as "Three Dollar Koala." Not making this up.

Driving down prices does no one any good, least of all the wine growers. But it also means that consumers get crappier and crappier wine. When times get better and you think you can afford to drink better wines, there won't be any.

Storming Ballard's Bastille

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There's a Place Balard (one l) in southwest Paris, about 20 minutes from the Bastille, the one-time prison at the figurative center of the French Revolution. These days, the Place de la Bastille is a hub of music and nightlife, much like Seattle's Ballard Avenue on these warm July nights. At the brand new Bastille Café & Bar, a bustling crew of 60 tends to the needs of swarming drinkers and diners. Owners James Weimann (Peso's, Triangle) and Deming Maclise (Caffè Fiorè) recruited industry veterans Shannon Galusha (Veil) to run the kitchen, James Lechner (Café Campagne) to run the dining room and Armin Moloudzadeh (Black Bottle) to run the bar.

This isn't a review so much as a first look-around and a first drink (a frosty French 75). The space is vast and handsome, shiny white-tiled walls with dark wood accents in the front rooms, exposed brick and a grand chandelier in the back bar. There's also a large patio, where smokers were huddling furtively in the moonlight. As Obermaier Machine Works, the building spent half a century at the heart of Old Ballard's industrial district; it's been beautifully reworked as a grande brasserie. The long bar is molded zinc, just like in France; found objects from Parisian flea markets abound. The menu also takes its Frenchiness seriously, listing moules, frites, baguette sandwiches, soupe de poisson and salade niçoise.

There's also a wacky, self-congratulatory note of locavore political correctness at Bastille, with a rooftop garden (couldn't see it at midnight) growing herbs and salad greens for the $8 salade du toit. We'd guess, with the price of real estate and the cost of "urban farm" labor, that a more realistic price for that salad would be at least $2,500, but that's another story.

Bastille Café & Bar, 5307 Ballard Avenue, 206-453-5014    Bastille Café & Bar  on Urbanspoon

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Once again, Cornichon is otherwise engaged. Once again, Jacqueline Pruner, amateur blogger (and professional attorney) steps in. Her report below.

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The scene: Via Tribunali in Georgetown. The judges: a delegation of four pizzaioli from Naples, representing the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana. Seven applicants: Tutta Bella's new Issaquah location (incidentally, the first Seattle establishment to become VPN certified); Ristorante Picolinos, Pizzeria Pulcinella, and Via Tribunali’s Belltown, Fremont, Georgetown, and Queen Anne locations. The evidence, presented over several days: authentic pizzas from authentic pizza ovens.

AVPN's purpose is to ensure that pizzas are made the traditional way. Based in Naples – the birthplace of pizza – it allows the use of its collective certification trademark (i.e., brand name and logo) only after a rigorous set of regulations are met, including specific standards for ingredients, cooking and production methods, and the characteristics of the finished pizza. Take Article 3, entitled “Required equipment”, subsection 3.3, entitled “Wood” describes the wood permitted to heat the bell-shaped ovens (which, yes, according to subsection 3.3.1 and entitled “The pizza oven” must be bell-shaped, as it has been for centuries): “Wood that does not hold any moisture, smoke or produce odours that alter the aroma of the pizza in any way is required to cook Verace Pizza Napoletana. (The Association recommends oak, ash, beech and maple.) More legalese here.

Seattle is now the U.S. city with the highest density of certified Neapolitan pizzerias. (Take that, Noo Yawk! ) The attorney in me is drawn to the stringent regulations required for certification, but the proof is in the eating. My inner foodie loves the fact it’s simply an excellent thin-crust pizza reminiscent of the pies I enjoyed with such gusto in Naples.

Summary judgment: they came, they saw, they certified. Mission accomplished, case closed.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2009 is the previous archive.

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