Northwest Chefs Honored to Cook at the James Beard House

May 13, 2013

The Willamette Valley

On back-to-back evenings, beloved chefs from the Pacific Northwest will cook at the James Beard House.

John Sundstrom, chef/owner of Lark in Seattle, will work his magic on Wednesday, May 22nd, at 7 p.m. A James Beard Foundation (JBF) award-winner, John has just released his first cookbook. It is entitled, “Lark: Cooking Against the Grain,” and featured his rustic, yet elegant style of cuisine which focuses on the work of the finest local artisan food producers, farmers, meat producers, and foragers.

The five-course dinner, plus hors d’oeuvres, features Walla Walla White Asparagus Bagna Cauda with Cured Egg Yolk; Wagyu Flap Steak with Morels, Spring Onions, and Smoked Marrow-Red Wine Sauce; and Savarin Cake with Strawberries, Rhubarb Mousse, and Lemon-Yogurt Meringues. Wine pairings hail from Abeja and Belle Pente.

The next evening, also beginning at 7 p.m., Portland chef Jason Barwikowski of The Woodsman Tavern, takes over the reins in the kitchen, to produce hors d’oeuvres and a five-course dinner featuring European-inflected American fare sourced from local and artisanal purveyors. Wine pairings will be chosen by Woodsman Tavern wine director Carly Laws, with the same pricing as John Sundstrom’s dinner.

One June 10th at 7 p.m., Jessica Bagley, general manager/owner of The Painted Lady, located in Newberg, Oregon, and chef/owner Allen Routt, will bring a taste of the Willamette Valley to the James Beard House. Their innovative and locally inspired menu will be paired with wines from Anderson Family Vineyard, an organic, boutique winery.

All three dinners are priced at $130 for JBF members; $170 for the general public.

Not to be forgotten is Gabriel Rucker of Portland’s Le Pigeon, one of the chefs chosen to cook at The 2013 JBF Awards gala on May 6th. Congratulations to all our talented chefs who strut their stuff at the James Beard House!

Oregon Chardonnay Symposium Showcases New Wave of Artisan Winemakers

April 22, 2013

White Grapes

Oregon Chardonnay is garnering national attention, taking center stage in the New York Times article “Oregon Chardonnay Speaks Up” last year and mentions in February’s Sunset Magazine article, “The Great White.”

And it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. The second Oregon Chardonnay Symposium on Saturday, May 4, at Red Ridge Farms will showcase a new wave of smaller producers and set out to define their signature style of North Willamette Valley Oregon Chardonnay.

The event will begin with an educational and interactive panel discussion, featuring eight artisan producers and nationally renowned wine writers. The discussion will include a technical tasting of very limited production Chardonnays from the panelists.

Participating Wineries

Arterberry Maresh

Big Table Farms


Division Winemaking Company

Durant Vineyards



Walter Scott

Participating Media


Katherine Cole, wine columnist for The Oregonian and author of “Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers”


Paul Gregutt, “Wine Adviser” columnist for The Seattle Times and NW editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

W. Blake Gray, author of the Gray Report blog, winner of the 2012 Wine Blog Awards for Best Industry Blog and columnist for, will also be participating in the event.

A walk-around tasting at the Durant Vineyards Tasting Room will follow the panel discussion, featuring wines from the participating wineries along with charcuterie plates accompanied by Oregon Olive Mill olive oils. Participants will be provided with seminar notes, tasting notes, and a logo wineglass.

Tickets are limited to 60 and cost $60 each. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Red Ridge Farms at 503-864-8502.

Panel Discussion Topics:

· Each winery will define their signature style of North Willamette Valley Oregon Chardonnay

· Drive and influence of each producer

· Visions

· Oak regiments

· Vineyard sources, soil and climatic influences

· Winemaking practices

· What does the future hold for Oregon Chardonnay


The Oregon Olive Mill at Red Ridge Farms

5510 NE Breyman Orchard Road

Dayton, OR 97114


Saturday, May 4, 2013

1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Panel Discussion and Technical Tasting

3:30 p.m. Expanded Tasting

Find more information on Facebook or Twitter @OregonOliveMill.




My Favorite Dishes 2011

November 8, 2012

Here is a look back at some of our favorite dishes from last year. We are posting a series of Dishes of the Day the next couple of weeks as we take some time away from the office and computer to refresh and relax (our very belated “summer vacation”). 

It has been another great year of wining and dining both around the Pacific Northwest, but in other parts of the United States and Canada.

So I thought it’d be fun to throw up photos of some of my favorite dishes from 2011. Herein are the “winners” on that list in no particular order.

The Seafood Skewer served tableside on Holland America’s m.s. Eurodam.

ART Shrimp Cocktail in downtown Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel

Shuckers Crab Louie in the Fairmont Hotel in Seattle

Antipasti Plate at The Pink Door in the Pike Place Market

Roasted Beet Salad with Grilled Salmon at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar in Woodinville, Washington

Vietnamese Crepe at Bambuza Vietnamese Cuisine in downtown Seattle (now under new ownership with a new name–920 Pike)

Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad with Cheddar Dressing at Dominion Square Taverne in downtown Montreal, Canada

Crab Tails at Elliott’s’ Oyster Bar and Restaurant in downtown Seattle

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market

The Abalone Appetizer at The Oyster Bar along the Chuckanut Drive north of Seattle

The Everything Green Salad with Dungeness Crab at The Pink Door in the Pike Place Market

Grilled Oysters with Cheese at The Inn at Semiahmoo in Blaine, Washington

Octopus and Beans at Lecosho on the Harbor Steps in downtown Seattle

Smoked Salmon Appetizer and Side Salad at Luc in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood

Shrimp and Grits at Joule in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood

Tuna Bowl at Revel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood

And, just for a bit of final fun:

The Fried Mars Bar with Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream at Garde Manger in the Old City section of Montreal, Canada

Taste and Tote Your Wine

September 18, 2012

After a visit to Washington State’s ever-expanding wineries east of the mountains, do you ever worry about how you will get all those cases of specially chosen wines back home?

To the rescue comes Washington Wine Country’s Taste and Tote promotion, which makes it easier and more affordable to taste and travel the vineyards of Washington State in the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities area, and Walla Walla Valley.

This new collaborative effort is in conjunction with Alaska Airlines and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. And, as part of this new partnership, Alaska Airlines will expand its existing wine check-in program “Taste and Tote” (which originated in the Walla Walla Valley in late 2011) to the Yakima and Pasco/Tri-Cities Airports.

The Taste and Tote program allows outbound passengers to check their first box of wine free on their return flight. In addition, Enterprise Rent-A-Car will waive rental car drop-off fees for visitors flying on Alaska Airlines into Yakima, Pasco/Tri-Cities, or Walla Walla Regional Airports who wish to fly out of one of the other two airports.

“The ‘Taste and Tote’ program has been a big success in Walla Walla and we feel our expansion to the Pasco and Yakima airports shows our dedication to being Washington Wine Country’s airline of choice,” said Clint Ostler, Alaska Airlines’ manager of retail advertising and sponsorships. “Washington State’s tourism and wine industries are so closely connected and we are committed to making it easier for travelers to visit our award-winning vineyards.”

In addition, visitors will be able to sample wines at participating Washington Wine Country wineries and pay no tasting fees by showing a current Alaska Airlines boarding pass from one of the three airports.

Organizers hope that with these added incentives, visitors from the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas and others served by Alaska Airlines will utilize air service for their trip to Washington Wine Country.

Happy 100th Birthday to Julia Child!

August 15, 2012

Many years ago, when I had been writing about food for just about five years, I attended The Symposium for Professional Food Writers at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The Symposium was like the holy grail for food writers, as much because of the quality of speakers and attendees as for the difficulty of getting from just about any place in the country to the small, bucolic town where the world-class resort is located.

I remember the journey involved a red-eye flight from Seattle to Pittsburgh on U.S. Airways, an early-morning connector flight to Charlotte, then a puddle-jumper that finally brought a bunch of white-knuckle flyers, including me, to our hallowed destination.

I attended The Symposium several times, finding that I always learned a lot of new tricks of the trade. Plus, it really helped me feel less isolated as a solitary cookbook author and food and wine writer.

But no year matched the very first time, when Julia Child was in attendance. The first day our group convened for class, under the able guidance of writing coach, mentor, and (now) long-time friend Don Fry, I was (understandably) more than a little bit nervous.

Cookbook-author greats were seated around me; food writers whose bylines I recognized from years of reading were reading over their syllabuses; Julia Child seated right down the row from me.

Don used passages from actual writing samples the participants had submitted prior to convening. One of the first ones he read was mine, an excerpt from an article I wrote about a professional tea tasting for Northwest Palate.

As he read passage after passage from my story, I began to get even more nervous.

How would my writing be received by this august group?

I needn’t have feared. Perhaps because they put themselves in my (now) quaking shoes, they praised the passages, with only one rather disparaging comment from a smart-aleck Los Angeles food columnist who said my article (because I made use of fiction-writing techniques) wouldn’t have been suited to his newspaper audience.

I was most shocked and humbled when Julia herself raised her hand and said how much she liked my writing. It was one of the pinnacles of my career, and did so much to instill in me a feeling of confidence moving forward.

Above, you can see the menu from one of the lavish dinners we  enjoyed at The Symposia. It featured five courses from famous “foodies,” including Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Anne Willan, Dorie Greenspan, Shirley Corriher, Andy Schloss, and Julia.

Her unique autograph, which begins with an outsized, loopy “J,” stands beside the course designed in her honor: Ragout of Duck with Twenty Cloves of Garlic paired with a Rombauer 1996 Zinfandel and Chimney Rock 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ooh-la-la. She really knew how to live large! Cheers to August 15, 2012, which would have been her 100th birthday.

Help Save Bristol Bay Salmon!

July 17, 2012

Brennon Leighton, Efesté winemaker at The Last Salmon Dinner at Blueacre Seafood

On July 11, Spencer and I were lucky enough to attend a dinner that every Northwestern resident–heck, every American–should know about.

Held at Blueacre Seafood in downtown Seattle, The Last Salmon Dinner was hosted by chef/owner Kevin Davis and his wife and owner Terresa Davis. The couple’s aim, in addition to feeding a five-course, salmon-centric meal to an enthusiastic crowd of 70 people, was to expose the proposal by Pebble Limited Partnership, a consortium of the world’s second largest multinational mining corporation, to build an open-pit mining complex at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, one of our nation’s last great salmon fisheries.

The proposed mine will span 20 square miles, with containment ponds that will hold between 2.5-billion and 10-billion tons of toxic mine waste.

Needless to say, the environmental impact of the proposed Pebble Mine on the surrounding waters of Bristol Bay would be immeasurable, and irreversible.

So much so that chef Davis, a life-long fisher, posed the question: Will the last wild salmon to leave Bristol Bay please remember to turn off the lights?

Efesté (pronounced F-S-T), was the wine partner, and winemaker Brennon Leighton said he was honored when chef Davis chose his wines to represent this event.

But the dinner was not all environmental hand-wringing and finger-pointing. Chef Davis outdid himself with cooking and presenting Bristol Bay salmon at its finest.

Chef Davis’s Assorted Delicacies of The Sea included crispy smelt, albacore tuna poke, chilled oysters, and geoduck ceviche, paired with Efeste Feral 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is special because it’s fermented using native, wild yeast–no commercial yeast is added–then it’s aged in two-year-old French Oak barrels.

I’ve rarely had such a creative (and beautiful) rendition of gravlax as Davis’s Horseradish-Cured Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon with lovage salad (its lively notes of anise reminded me of fresh shiso leaf), pickled rhubarb, baby yellow and pink beets, and Austrian pumpkin seed oil paired with Lola 2010 Chardonnay, made from 100% Chardonnay and also fermented with native yeast and (refreshingly) not heavily oaked.

A zippy cup of Rainier Cherry Gazpacho with balsamic croutons, lavender goat cheese, and a flurry of edible flowers made a perfect (summery!) pairing with Babbitt 2011 Rosé, made from 71% Syrah and 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, and normally available only at the winery.

A Roulade of Bristol Bay Salmon, morel mushrooms, summer truffles, and sauce cardinal was a mellifluous melding of earth and ocean. It went “swimmingly” with Ceidleigh (pronounced Kay-Lee) 2009 Syrah, a rich, ripe Syrah rife with dried cherries and plum notes.

Vanilla Pound Cake with the season’s best Skagit Valley strawberries and raspberries, mint syrup, and house-made “cool whip” pulled up the rear in grand style.

I left with pages of notes and much to think about, both in regards to the proposed Pebble Limited Partnership Mine, Davis’s culinary prowess with prized Bristol Bay salmon, and winemaker Leighton’s outstanding wine pairings.

Even if you weren’t able to attend The Last Salmon Dinner, YOU CAN HELP!

Write to your local congressman to STOP the building of the Pebble Mine at the mouth of Bristol Bay. And visit the Save Bristol Bay and Bristol Bay Sockeye websites for more information.

Travel Oregon Makes Summer Trip-Planning Easy

June 15, 2012

Travelers arranging their summer vacations have a new set of digital tools to make planning an Oregon getaway easier, according to a recent press release from the Oregon Tourism Commission (dba Travel Oregon).

Visitors can now access Travel Oregon’s new social-enabled website, online help, and trip planner, and/or enter to win an Oregon adventure.

“Knowing that online travel planning can be overwhelming, we combined the latest technology with an old-school human touch to meet our consumers’ evolving needs,” said Mo Sherifdeen, Travel Oregon Director of Integrated Marketing and Publishing. “By combining our digital offerings –tourism listings from partners, inspirational stories and videos, suggested itineraries–and adding ratings and blog posts from locals, we made it so travelers can count on personalized, inspirational and informative content to help them during every stage of the trip planning process.”

With a goal to be the trusted and authentic resource for exploring Oregon, Travel Oregon developed a digital platform that offers trip inspiration as well as on-the-go information for those already traveling in the state. Features include:

•Curated, collaborative, and integrated content: Research shows that website users are looking for inspirational material like videos, story-based narratives and itineraries, as well as trip-planning tools like hotel and restaurant listings.

The new groups this information, developed in partnership with community experts throughout the state, into user-friendly views based on travelers’ interests, whether that’s an activity like golf or  bird watching, or a town such as Bend.

•Tailored advice: In response to consumer demand for genuine personal advice, Travel Oregon incorporated Trip Advisor reviews, added the ability for visitors to rate Oregon places, and developed the “Ask Oregon” ambassador program. Volunteer ambassadors are passionate Oregonians who have deep knowledge about relevant destinations and/or niche activities like cycling, family travel, and wine. To receive personalized, unbiased recommendations, visitors can easily contact the Ask Oregon ambassadors by tagging questions with #AskOR on Twitter, inquiring on the Travel Oregon Facebook page (, or posting a question on

•Social media: Travel Oregon continues to integrate its content with popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Visitors can inspire friends, plan trips together, and engage with others for travel recommendations. Until June 17, thrill-seeking travelers can log on to to create their own “Oregon Bucket List,” enter to win an Adventurecation in Oregon, and see which of their friends’ adventurous affinities best matches theirs.

•Responsive design: The new displays on any device, so it’s easy to read and navigate on the road or at home. Whether it’s displayed on a computer, smartphone, or tablet screen, the layout evolves to give readers an easy and efficient way to find the content they care about. Location-based information allows visitors to find nearby attractions while on their trip.

•Robust search: Smart search functionality returns options that build on users’ interests, helping travelers round out itineraries with ideas they may not have considered in addition to their specific query results. A search on an experience– for example, cycling, fly fishing, or wine tasting–results in a combination of stories, blog posts, events, suggested itineraries, outfitters, retail establishments, deals, and answers to questions asked by others, all in one place. Additionally, the search bar auto-suggests other terms as the user types, making it easier to explore the vast wealth of material on the site.

“We’re using technology and the digital medium to bring the Oregon story to life,” noted Sherifdeen.

Photograph Courtesy of Spencer Johnson

Best Dishes from Carmel

February 14, 2012

Over Christmas week, we spent four days in the Napa Valley and four days in Carmel. Carmel is our spiritual home, a place we often dream of living in, but sadly, could never afford.

Anyway, it is so fun to visit. And whenever we are there, we have our favorite restos we frequent time and again.

One of those is Grasing’s, chef-owned and operated and a favorite among locals and visitors alike with a great menu. We always begin with Kurt’s Crab-Stuffed Artichoke with Lemon Aïoli. It’s a taste of California that can’t be beat!

Next comes the chef’s signature California Red Abalone Doré. It’s served in the beautiful shells with a generous amount of both shellfish and salad. YUM!

This year marked our 30th wedding anniversary, so once our server found out, she gifted us with an Eggnog Crème Brülée. Since eggnog is one of my favorite flavors, and pudding is one of Spencer’s favorite foods, we were both in dessert heaven!

Another Carmel restaurant we’re always drawn to is La Bicyclette. You get a three-course meal ranging in price from 29 to 45 dollars and each dinner includes the same first and second course (Persimmon Tart Tatin with Midnight Moon Fondue and Chicken-Orzo Soup the evening we were there), plus the diner’s choice among four entrées (Pan-Roasted Filet Mignon with Foie Gras Wellington and Asparagus, Slow-Roasted Lamb Roulade, Smoked Serrano Honey-Lacquered Bobwhite Quail, or Pan-Seared Scallops, for example). You can also order à la carte items from the regular menu; dessert is extra, and worth it (more on that below).

Here are La Bicyclette’s amazing Escargots (ordered à la carte so we could stay somewhat on our low-carb lifestyle). What set these apart was the addition of chopped hazelnuts and bread crumbs along with the garlic-y good drawn butter. Ooh-la-la!

Scallops were fresh-off-the-boat, large, and perfectly cooked to still rare in the middle. Root veggies and asparagus, plus a parsnip purée and Chimay Beer sauce rounded out an extraordinary dish.

Dessert is a Chocolate Mousse made for sharing. Not only is it the perfect consistency but there is a generous sprinkling of chopped white, milk, and dark chocolate atop. Talk about gilding the lily!

At Pèpe’s Little Napoli, an Italian restaurant right across the street from La Bicyclette, Spencer and I enjoyed a unique appetizer–Meatballs on a Stick!

For lunch, we make a point to go to Forge in the Forest because (even in late December) we can often sit outside (if it isn’t rainy or windy) and stay warm (thanks to numerous heat lamps that stud the patio).

I always opt for the Balsamic-Grilled Castroville Artichoke with a Wholegrain Mustard Dip (not unlike a very rich aïoli). Artichoke heart is one of my favorite things in the world, that interesting cross between potato and asparagus.

Other places we like to eat in Carmel include A.W. Shucks Cocktail & Oyster Bar, Christopher’s, and Andre’s Bouchée. So many restos, so little time, alas.

From the sublime food in Carmel, here’s the Jack Daniel’s Chicken we had at the San Francisco Airport at TGI Friday’s. It was the best option for people such as us trying to live the low-carb lifestyle (especially after enjoying several desserts, as outlined above!). And actually, it wasn’t too bad, especially since we got to choose our own sides (two veggies). But I always wonder why a food city such as SF doesn’t have better restaurants at its international airport?

Dining Around the Napa Valley

January 13, 2012

Over Christmas week, Spencer and I spent four days in Napa and four days in Carmel, California. It was a glorious time for beach walking, restaurant hopping, picnics centered around wine and cheese, and just being together.

Here are our dining highlights and fondest food-related memories from Napa. In a subsequent post, I’ll cover our best dishes from Carmel, so please stay tuned.

Bouchon Petit Plateau, a seafood tower comprising half a lobster, eight oysters, four shrimp, four clams, and eight mussels. Yes, this was my entrée, and yes, I did manage to eat each and every bite all by myself!

Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s new(er) resto in Yountville that joins Bouchon and The French Laundry, offers credible crab cakes; well-roasted monkfish and vegetables; and a rare, perfectly cooked and toothsome ribeye.

But, perhaps surprisingly, the star dish was a a salad made of French Laundry baby greens (grown right up the street), tossed with toasted almonds, citrus segments, red onion slices, beets, and a citrus vinaigrette. A crunchy crostini with a big dollop of Laura Chenel chèvre completed the dish. I’ve never tasted greens so delicate, fresh, and full of flavor!

Ad Hoc is currently closed until March for remodeling, as is Bouchon Bakery, which suffered a fire in late 2012 and has been unable to operate at full steam ever since.

Bistro Jeanty Escargots with Garlic Pastis Butter, properly served in the traditional way, in the shell (!), along with an escargot holder.

Not to be outdone were the Bistro Jeanty Moules au Vin Rouge, Mussels in Red Wine Sauce. Ooh-la-la!

For Christmas dinner, we enjoyed Sautéed Duck Breast with Chestnut & Pearl-Onion Confit, Parsnip Crème, and Thyme Jus at Brix (perhaps best known for its hearty Sunday brunches and gorgeous patio).

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustards Grill delighted for lunch with a Grilled Ahi, Basil Aïoli, and Pickled Ginger Sandwich, a veritable bargain at just $14.95. I guess I was too focused on eating, because I forgot to snap a photo.

“Lobsta” in “Glosta!”

November 11, 2011

Glosta lobsta: Braiden wrestles a 1 ¼-pound lobster

During the second port call of our Fall Foliage cruise on the Holland America Line, we stopped in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a.k.a. “Glosta.”

It was a small and not very interesting town, sadly. But we did enjoy lunch at the Seaport Grille, a popular waterfront restaurant and bar, before we got back on the boat.

I was drawn to this particular place (among several recommended dining options) when I saw one of the specials of the day–Steamed lobster with coleslaw, puréed squash (which reminded me of sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving) and potatoes au gratin–all for an astonishingly low $12.95.

I didn’t eat much of the starch or coleslaw, but I did manage to eat the entire lobster. Here are the poor creature’s sad remains.

Glosta lobsta eaten

After I excitedly emailed the “before” photo to a select group of family and friends, I received this response from my talented web designer, Christopher Prouty, founder of Studio 99 Creative.

“There is no better lobster than a Gloucester lobster,” he said. “And here’s a tip. A splash of vinegar in your melted butter adds some incredible flavor… got that from an old Maine lobster man.”

I was intrigued. But what kind of vinegar to use, I wondered. Balsamic would certainly be a big statement. Apple cider would add an interesting tang. Blueberry? Not so much.

Another round of emails elicited suggestions from both Chris and his wife, Amy.

“Malt vinegar for me,” Chris replied, “but Amy is a traditionalist and likes white. You know you get the right amount when it is indiscernible, yet different than regular butter. Yum-yum.”

BTW, my Gloucester lobster paired perfectly with a glass of California Sauvignon Blanc.

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