September 7, 2008

Local Vines Make Good

Left to right: Gary McLean, Sarah Munson, Tom Hedges at The Local Vine

A Belltown wine bar that's been open for a year makes it into the national magazines, while across the lake in Kirkland, a wine-centered restaurant is making waves as well.

Hail, first, to The Local Vine, just named one of America's ten hot new wine bars in the upcoming issue of Bon Appetit. Co-owner Sarah Munson was celebrating this weekend with a couple of visiting winemakers: Tom Hedges (Hedges Family Estate) and Gary McLean (Barons).

"We knew this was coming," says Munson, "we just didn't know when." She and business partner Allison Nelson were classmates at the Harvard business school, crossed paths again in Seattle after successful careers in marketing, and opened TLV a little over a year ago.

The magazine article says it's a wine bar masquerading as a coffee shop (why? because it has wi-fi and comfortable seats? Didn't you notice the100-bottle Enomatic?). It also praises TLV's culinary consultant, Jason Wilson, who, truth be told, hasn't been on hand for almost a year. Still, Wilson was in the papers this week as the consultant for a new line of flavors from Dry Soda, which, their PR folks tell me, will be in the stores by November.

The Local Vine, 2520 Second Avenue, 206-441-6000 The Local Vine on Urbanspoon

Chef%20Lisa%20Nakamura%20at%20bin%20Vivant%20with%20barman%20Yahsar%20Shayan.JPG Oysters%20%26%20sparkling%20wines.JPG

bin vivant chef Lisa Nakamura with bowl of Champagne grapes and barman Yashar Shayan; half-shell oysters with flight of sparkling wines

Across the lake, in Kirkland, Lisa Nakamura and Dawn Smith have done very well with their new wine-first bistro. (I still have trouble with the name, bin Vivant, with its bold, lowercase "bin" and Frenchified "vivant." Granted, a bon vivant is someone who lives the good life, but the bin part? Bin number? Bin ends? Dust bins? Binary files, perhaps? Red or White? (Which reminds me, completely off topic: that there are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary numbers and those who don't.) Maybe Buy It Now (as in, that Alaska state jet on eBay.) I digress. Sincere apologies.

bin vivant's wine selection is impressive, as one might expect. There's a bi-level Enomatic here, with three-button options (1, 2 or 4-ounce pours). Nine flights of three wines, aptly described, ranging from effervescent, verdant and "fruit & cream" to "smoke and spice" and "drop-dead gorgeous." Some two dozen dishes (small and large portions) are offered for pairing, ranging from the classic (oysters with sparkling wine, scallops or halibut with chardonnays) to less obvious (flat-bread pizza with rosé, asparagus & mushrooms with sauvignon blanc).

Nakamura's previous kitchen, Qube, turned out intricate, almost fussy plates as part of an ambitious concept of courses as "sets." Here, she can focus on one thing at a time, enhancing Moroccan-style lamb with cucumber yogurt and tomato salsa, or prawns with mushrooms and avocado. For her part, Smith's flights can reach the stratosphere ($33 for tastes of three "formidable reds") but, gee, what else would you drink with a kobe-beef burger topped with foie gras?

bin vivant, Woodmark Hotel, 1200 Carillon Point, Kirkland 425-803-5595 bin vivant on Urbanspoon

Posted by Ronald Holden at September 7, 2008 11:51 AM | TrackBack

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