February 28, 2005

Vino Venue

An exciting discovery: a wine bar in San Francisco called VinoVenue.

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About 100 wines by the glass, dispensed one ounce at a time from contraptions that debit your prepaid card. As little as a buck for a taste of a simple white from California or New Zealand; as much as four, five or six for some pretty impressive reds from prestigious vineyards in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Napa.

The software comes from Italy, I’m told. Only a matter of time until we see the same concept in more locations.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 3:40 PM

February 24, 2005

Flexing my car's muscles

Did you happen to catch ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings last week? You might have seen correspondent Brian Rooney interviewing yours truly for a story about Flexcar, the pioneering car-sharing program I belong to. Four-person crew--reporter, producer, cameraman, soundman--came to my place, followed me around on errands, got me to expound on the virtures of no longer having to own a car.

Brian Rooney at RHs place.JPG Shooting Flexcar 3-1.JPG abc_wnt_flexcars_050216_t.jpg

In addition to a link to the video, there's a text version of the piece online. Why me? Flexcar's PR guy John Williams set it up through his company, Scoville PR.

UPDATE March 1, 2005: The hits just keep coming. Similar story on the KOMO TV website, on a site about commuter news, and another about transportation technology. Finally, even TIME Magazine has caught on to the notion of sharing cars.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 12:12 PM

February 21, 2005

San Francisco Treat

Glide effortlessly from SeaTac into Oakland, onto BART, emerge at Embarcadero station in downtown San Francisco ... now I'm off to find a spot of lunch and discover an alley full of cafes called Belden Place. Take a seat at the sunny and very French Cafe Bastille, order a crab salad and a glass of wine and feel like I've never left Paris.

Transamerica bldg1.jpg Belden alley1.jpg outdoor cafe Belden alley.jpg Crab salad at Bastille1.jpg

Posted by Ronald Holden at 12:36 PM

February 16, 2005

Eat your spinach!

Seattle’s restaurant-goers are a savvy bunch. There’s a short list of signature dishes around town, and the spinaci served at Assaggio Ristorante is on that list.

It’s an unexpected take on spinach salad. Unlike your standard tossed leaves with raspberry vinaigrette, this is sautéed spinach, served warm and fragrant, redolent of pine nuts, garlic, mustard and balsamic vinegar.

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Once again, 25 of Seattle’s most popular restaurants are offering a month-long promotion: 3 courses at dinner for $25. Ten of the group, including Assaggio, are also offering 3 courses at lunch for $12.50.

Too bad that Assaggio’s Mauro Golmarvi has his regular spinach salad, the insalata di spinaci on the promotional menus for both lunch and dinner. Still, you can always order the sauté, or just read the recipe and look at more pictures ...

Serves 2.

Prepared by Chef de Cuisine Hiram Macias.

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For the salad: 2 TB finely chopped onion olive oil sea salt 2 TB finely chopped garlic ½ lemon 12 oz fresh spinach leaves, washed, blanched, drained & squeezed dry ¼ cup pine nuts

For the dressing: 2 TB Dijon-style mustard 1 tsp fresh lemon juice 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

In a 12-inch pan over high heat, soften the onions in 2 TB olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the garlic and brown it slightly. Add the spinach and heat thoroughly, about 2 minutes, adding more olive oil if needed to keep from drying out. Mix in the pine nuts, squeeze the juice of ½ lemon over the spinach, add a bit more salt if needed.

In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together quickly. Turn the salad out on a warm serving plate and drizzle with the Dijon-balsamic vinaigrette. Serve warm.

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Posted by Ronald Holden at 3:51 PM

February 15, 2005

mike's makes it Seattle

Dumping Denver, blowing off Chicago, mike’s hard lemonade® has said “yes” to Seattle.

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mike's founder Anthony von Mandl is moving the company to find fresh resources. Specifically, new creative talent.

Mandl essentially created the “malternative” or FMB (flavored malt beverage) category six years ago with the launch of mike's hard lemonade® in New England. The first ten million cases were sold without any advertising. Now the company has outgrown its Denver headquarters and wants to move to a bigger talent pool. Want to work for mike's? Check the company's new recruiting website.

Facing a similar relocation dilemma a few years back, Boeing, you may recall, chose Chicago. But Mandl has opted for Seattle, in large measure because of what’s been called its “creative class.”

Seattle has the fifth-highest concentration of “creative” people (artists, designers, writers, software developers, etc.) in the country, according to Richard Florida's book The Rise of the Creative Class.

As it happens, Seattle's also a great market for mike's. It's 60 percent ahead of its closest competitor, Smirnoff Ice.

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Posted by Ronald Holden at 11:27 AM

February 13, 2005

New wine, new bottles

Couple of interesting items at a recent tasting of wines distributed by Wilson Daniels.

First, a wine from the Australian producer Grant Burge, their 2003 Unwooded Chardonnay. A bright, fresh wine, rich in flavor without being too creamy. Is the terminology too complicated? Au contraire, it's a good idea to let buyers know what style to expect, especially if you're offering an alternative to oaky, California-style chardonnay. And it's only ten bucks!

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Then there's the latest on the screwcap front. The whites from Wirra Wirra in South Australia were presented with twist-off tops ... and, for the curious, a neck tag that explained the rationale for screwcaps: no need for a corkscrew, no risk of oxidation or spoiled corks, guaranteed freshness.

Next up: bag-in-box, already on the shelves at your local Costco, no doubt on their website soon. Good wine, too. Stay tuned.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 10:36 AM

February 9, 2005

Pizza guys

After four years on the move, the “pizza guys” known as Zagi’s have parked their trailer and moved the ovens indoors. Henceforth, Zagi’s signature New York-style pies—the most popular food attraction at west coast music festivals and on Snoqualmie Pass—will be baked in New York’s newest borough … Ballard.

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Creators are the bearded Zagi himself, "Cap'n" Ryon Weber, and his business partner, "Lieutenant" Steve Stehlik. Among Zagi's authentically hand-tossed pizzas is Seattle's largest, a 21-incher.

How good is it? New York-style is perhaps the most distinctive and elusive type of pizza. [Super-foodie site eGullet.org has over 150 entries on the search for New York-style pizza in Seattle.]

I loved it: a slightly charred, slightly smoky crust with just the right crunch; cheese that was tasty but not dribble-down-your-chin oily. Ballard? You betcha!

Posted by Ronald Holden at 8:28 PM

February 6, 2005

Colors of Afrikando

Africa doesn’t leap to mind as a hotbed of culinary delight, does it? But look around: across Capitol Hill and into the Rainier Valley you’ll find one Ethiopian café after another, where contented diners of all colors are mopping their tefs and wats with hunks of injira. And right here in Belltown we have Seattle’s only Senegalese restaurant, Afrikando.

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West African cuisine as practiced here shows the influence of its French colonizers. Jacques Martin Sarr arrived in Seattle in 1991 and opened Afrikando five years later. It’s an unpretentious, relaxed place, decorated with African prints and fanciful figurines snipped from colorful tin cans. Sarr, tall and thin, handles the kitchen chores with dispatch, then settles himself onto the couch to watch an episode of Cops! on the big-screen TV.

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He knows his flavors, that’s for sure. Debe, a shoulder steak of lamb rubbed with spices and grilled, was served over a fragrant couscous topped with spicy, mustard-flavored onion sauce and a beautifully dressed salad of field greens. Thiebu Djen, described as the Senegalese national dish, was a halibut steak simmered in tomato sauce and served with eggplant, carrots, cassava and cabbage over basmati rice. What lifted both dishes out of the ordinary were the dabs of habanera-style hot sauces on the fish and the meat.

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Beverage choices were limited, as Sarr, a Muslim, didn’t serve alcohol at all until recently. I tried all three of the homemade drinks: zurik, yogurt sweetened with pineapple; bissap, a deep purple concoction made with hibiscus and fresh mint; and a refreshing yellow-green drink flavored with ginger that reminded me why ginger beer used to be popular: it had real zing to it.

And that’s what Afrikando offers: nothing fancy, just authentic and zesty.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 4:05 PM

Vive Mireille!

A month ago, Cornichon posted "The Perfect French Woman" about Mireille Guiliano's new book, French Women Don't Get Fat: the Secret of Eating for Pleasure.

The New York Times review of the book, which appears in today's paper, is also the day's most widely e-mailed article. Bravo, Mireille! You're clearly hit a nerve with your argument that one should eat only tasty food, and only as long as it's enjoyable. The first chapter is online, too.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 9:15 AM

February 3, 2005

Wasabi wallow

Rant: Sunday night at Wasabi Bistro. Live jazz. Three guitars, a pan flute. Fairly crowded, several groups of 6 and 8 diners and drinkers. Standing room only at the bar.

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Closest to the band, a vacant table, four chairs, covered with detritus: dirty plates, napkins, glassware. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that someone would at the very least clear the table. The hostess, surveying the floor, picks up a napkin. A cocktailer and a dinner server pass by, carrying orders to customers at a neighboring table, and ignore the mess completely. Another cocktailer swoops down on the table … and removes one glass. After half an hour a busser shows up, loads dirty dishes and silverware onto a tray and disappears. Glassware and napkins remain behind. No one seems to be in charge, no one cares, and after 45 minutes, the table is still not reset. The band plays on, tunelessly.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 3:19 PM

February 2, 2005

Cascadia's Ultimate Distinction

Kudos to Cascadia, one of only three Seattle winners of the accolade “Restaurant of Ultimate Distinction” awarded by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. (The fancy wine mags have truly bizarre designations, don't they?) The wine list offers 450 selections, with some 6,000 bottles in inventory, presided over by Jeffrey Dorgan.

Cascadia sommelier Jeffrey Drogan.jpeg

After 19 years as a waiter at the Space Needle and a stint as operations manager at Jitterbug, Dorgan landed at Cascadia, put himself through an introductory Master Sommelier course, and was promoted to wine & spirits director shortly thereafter. He';ll be keeping a closer eye on all those bottles now that he's moved into the McGuire. "Love living in Belltown," he says.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 2:20 PM

February 1, 2005

Barocho mojito

Time now for our bartender-of-the-month citation. Kudos to Sarah Forbes at Barocho for her carefully made mojito. Baccardi rum, muddles limes, sweet & sour mix, soda, and a large handful of fresh mint leaves.

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It's a friendly space, that bar at bARoChO [their spelling]. Relaxed, unhassled.

Glamor chef Rachel Ray was on one TV, making arugula salad, while the Sonics were dribbling away on another. In a waiting area adjacent to the bar, on a red leather banquette, sat a Weimaraner named Jack. Jack's owner was at the bar, drinking a Stella.

The house dog is a chocolate Labrador retriever named Mocha whose countenance graces the cover of the ambitious wine list: 18 vintages of Grgich Hills, for example, and several magnums of Stag's Leap cabernet.

The same owners have the wine & gourmet shop next door called Epicure West. Nice.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 4:36 PM