Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: The Chocolate Tasting Kit by Eagranie Yuh

Eagranie Yuh's new chocolate book and kit, The Chocolate Tasting Kit, shows us that the world of chocolate is just as complex and fascinating as the worlds of wine, coffee, and tea. Ever wanted to know the difference between white and dark chocolates? Hungry to identify the top chocolate producers and regions worldwide? Yuh's 48-page book, just one of multiple components in The Chocolate Tasting Kit, offers all of the gooey details succinctly, and it's fun to read.

Is The Chocolate Tasting Kit just for chocolate geeks? Well, it does include around 100 "tasting notes," little cards for filling out price, chocolate origin, flavor notes, and more that only the most chocolate-obsessed might eventually use up. It also comes with a pouch for storing labels from your favorite chocolates as well as 12 tasting flashcards; for example, the "fruity" flashcard reads: Fruity is one of the biggest flavor families in chocolate—which makes sense, since chocolate comes from a  fruit. The most common flavors are red fruits, berries, and citrus. When it comes to citrus, see if you can distinguish between the fruit, which is more sour, and the zest, which is brighter.
Tasting Notes
But no. The Chocolate Tasting Kit is a practical resource for anyone who wants to learn about chocolate, and it opens up the world of chocolate in ways that few other resources have.

To get the most out of this kit, begin by reading the book. I learned so many fascinating facts, such as the difference between mass-market and fine chocolates and how chocolate makers coax the inherent flavors from cacao beans through the conching process. 

In style, Yuh's writing is witty but doesn't include the tacky chocolate puns usually found in writing on chocolate. Amazingly, the book keeps things light while informing us of such things as the complex five-step process of turning cacao beans into chocolate. Like producing wine, fine chocolate production requires masterful technique and an appreciation for the natural flavors found in fruit.

After reading the book, it becomes clear how to use the rest of the tasting kit. The flavors and descriptions of single-origin chocolates had me salivating and anxious to sample a few top chocolates. Importantly, The Chocolate Tasting Kit DOES NOT include chocolate. I imagine that this would be too difficult to monitor, as the freshness of good chocolate is far shorter than the freshness of a good book. In other words, it just wouldn't be practical to include chocolate in a kit that will likely stay on book shelves for years to come.

Accordingly, I went out and purchased some of Portland, Oregon's best chocolates—Woodblock Chocolate, Alma, and Moonstruck. Next, I peeled off a few tasting notecards and began filling out the information. Between this and the tasting-note flashcards, I quickly found flavors and aromas in the chocolates that I had never identified before. And I call that a success.

Chocolate is something everyone has access to and that most people love. Eagranie Yuh's The Chocolate Tasting Kit is a one-of-a-kind resource for expanding your world of chocolate.

Price: $24.95
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Where to Buy: www.chroniclebooks.com

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sagrantino: The Insider's Italian Wine

Review of 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG Wine

The first time I visited Umbria, Italy—the land of the age-worthy sagrantino grape and Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG—I'd just quit a job teaching English in Lecce in Southern Italy to take an extensive tour of Italy's wine and food; Umbria was the fifth stop in the Italy From Top to Bottom travelogue, published by EuropeUpClose.com, and there, I discovered the famous cities of Perugia and Assissi and some of the most manicured countryside in all of Italy. Picture Italian cypress trees forming dotted lines across hills and valleys; astutely straight rows of freshly harvested hay; and luxurious wineries and estates built high above, on rolling green hills. To cap it all off was the wine, and when I reached Montefalco, the center of Umbrian wine country, I was welcomed with a huge wine-drinking festival, called Cantine Aperte.

While memories of my discovery of the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG remain strong, I have the luck of knowing where to find fine sagrantino wines in the United States to make the memories even stronger. Sagrantino is very unique grape, and if you're seeking a special holiday gift for a wine aficionado, you need look no further. With powerful tannins and flavors reminiscent of cherries and damp fall leaves, the wine has as much depth as any I've found elsewhere on the globe, but its rarity and price often keep it under the radar. They shouldn't. Prices are comparable to fine Oregon pinot noir and less than most Napa Cabs. What better time than Christmas to splurge on an exciting, sure-to-impress Italian wine? And the best sagrantinos age beautifully for 15+ years in the cellar.

I recently tasted an astoundingly deep and complex sagrantino, the 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Established in 1971, Arnaldo Caprai winery has been instrumental in distinguishing clones of sagrantino grape vines, and winemaker Marco Caprai stands alone in my opinion in his talent to express Umbrian terroir with the sagrantino grape.

The 2009 drinks well now, and it will only grow more complex with age. I let the bottle breathe for an hour before drinking, and the first sip was, as I said, astonishing. It was as though the wine jumped out of the bottle and challenged me to a gentleman's dual—that's how powerful, voluptuous, and multi-layered it was. The 14.5% alcohol content offers the first clue as to the size of the body. On the nose, I found a seemingly limitless number of aromas, beginning with spicy black pepper and dark chocolate and continuing with damp fall leaves, eucalyptus, and black cherry. The palate revealed mineral complexity—chalk and granite—lending a velvety mouthfeel. Tobacco and dark spices led to a bitter-chocolate finish.

More than anything, the 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG is a wine for grown-ups. It is for those who have tasted through many vintages and are looking for something potent and beautiful. The fruit is subdued; clearly, "jamminess" was not winemaker Sig. Caprai's primary goal. Pair it with grilled, smokey meats or a Christmas roast with a rich, dark sauce. To truly geek out, check out some of Umbria's traditional foods for inspiration.

WHERE TO BUY: Typically costing between $85-100 dollars, Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG is distributed nationwide by Folio Fine Wines. Check your local fine wine shop. Alternatively, if you live in AK, CA, DC, FL, MO, NV, NH, NM, ND, OR, VA, or WY, order online at www.noblemerchants.com.

Let me know what you think. Salute!

Sample Disclosure: I received this wine for review as a free media sample. Each month, I receive twenty or so offers for free wine samples. I only respond to offers that I believe will be review-worthy, and if I do not like the wine, I do not write the review.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Article: The Great Winter Beer Festivals of the Alaska, Oregon, and Washington

Winter beers aren’t typical brews, and likewise, holiday beer festivals aren’t typical beer festivals... 

Your guide to the best holiday beer festivals in the Pacific Northwest

Pairing food and beer is one thing, but Christmas cookies and beer? And not just any beer: winter beers, such as Midnight Sun Brewing’s Arctic Devil, a 13.2% barley wine aged in whiskey barrels. Winter beers aren’t typical brews, and likewise, holiday beer festivals aren’t typical beer festivals. Picture rooms full of jolly beer lovers clad in ugly holiday sweaters, reindeer antlers, and faux Santa beards—you may even see a full-fledged Santa or two. This mix of holiday camaraderie and high-alcohol specialty beers makes winter beer festivals the most spirited of the year. But what exactly constitutes a “winter” or “holiday” beer? In Portland, Hopworks Urban Brewery brewmaster Christian Ettinger provides a professional perspective.

“When I think of holiday ales, I think of kicking off my snowboarding boots after a powder day. I’m sitting in a ski lodge after getting my ass kicked on the mountain, and all I want is to sit in front of a fire with a big plate of nachos and a great beer.” They keep you warm; they aren’t for sipping on a palm-tree-studded beach. Read the full article online---->

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Behind the Scenes: World Beard & Mustache Competition 2014

Originally published October 25

The 2014 World Beard & Mustache Competition in Portland, Oregon, isn't over, yet, but I had to share all the amazing action happening behind the scenes. These are definitely the most amazing beards and mustaches of the world!

Ross prepares his mustache to hit the stage

Rich Bartlet getting interviewed by PBS. "The nice thing about this year is that the people who are almost there didn't come. this is top-notch here," he says. 

MJ.... wow... MJ reminds me of Motorhead in all of the best ways.

Xtopher Grey (like his FB page!) with Monica Storss

Neo G Yo & Seige prepare for a freestyle, beard-and-stache-focused hip-hop battle onstage.

Beard and mustache competitors line up to hit the stage.

The Keller Auditorium was packed.

God bless America.
Cheetos, too.
I loved this classy stache.

Life is good as a pirate.

...and with good friends.


The 2014 World Beard and Mustache Competition is sponsored by Just For Men.

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Website Launched for Ghostwriting, Developmental Editing, & Writing Consulting

For the past year, I've been working with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon to take my writing and editing business to the next level. This past week, I reached a milestone by launching a new website dedicated to my ghostwriting, developmental editing, and writing coaching and consulting services: www.mattiebamman.com.

The next step—after sending out travel-article pitches to AFAR, Portland Monthly, and Northwest Travel Magazine—is to hit the local colleges and libraries with flyers. Virtual advertising still has to be paired with good old fashioned community advertising! Wish me luck.

If you get a chance, take a look at the website and let me know what you think, and, if you know someone who needs help with a nonfiction book, article, website, or other written material, please consider referring me for the job. www.mattiebamman.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Early-Bird Registration Now Open: Northwest Travel Writers Conference - Travel & Words

Hey all— Just a quick note that early-bird registration for the Northwest Travel Writers Conference is now open. If you're a travel writer who writes about travel in the Pacific Northwest, this is your conference.

Firstly, it puts you in direct contact with editors who want to publish and are willing to pay for travel articles about the Pacific Northwest. Secondly, it's dirt cheap: $99 through January 31, 2015 (the host hotel gives significant discounts on rooms, too).

The 2015 conference will take place April 26-27, at the sprawling Sunriver Resort in Bend, Oregon. To visit Central Oregon and the 3,300-acre resort alone is enough reason to join—never mind the editors panel, networking, workshops, CVB exhibitors, and, yeah, great post-conference parties. Travel writing can be a very solitary profession, and this conference is really all about community. That's why we all volunteer our time each year to put it together.

To learn more about workshops, which editors will attend the 2015 conference, and more, check out the Northwest Travel Writers Conference here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The New 2015 Portland Events Wall Calendar Hits Stores

Now in its fourth year, the Portland Events Wall Calendar has just hit stores with loads of new Portland events and beautiful photos of the Portland area. We also have some big news: The calendar will be sold in 43 new locations this year, including all local Fred Meyer and Albertsons. So, if you're wondering where to by the 2015 Portland Events Wall Calendar, you won't have to look far.

As always, I want to thank all of the event organizers for providing us with reliable 2015 dates so far in advance. Some of my favorite new events include the All Jane No Dick Women's Comedy Festival—a showcase of all-female comedians—and Curious Gallery—an art festival focused on wonder cabinets (you know, those strange boxes filled with everything from botanicals and bones to dolls and found objects). It's been a lot of fun working on the calendar and serving as editor for another year. I hope you all love the 2015 edition!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Article: Wine Tasting Has Never Been Easier: Portland’s Urban Wineries

Portland urban wineries are just plain cool, and I had to write an article to share the inside scoop. The full article includes travel-guide-style information on how to go wine tasting at Portland's urban wineries. So happy to see my photos included in this Northwest Travel Magazine piece!

Enso Winery Bar Manager Paige Glowacky
Wine Tasting Has Never Been Easier: Portland's Urban Wineries

Step through the garage door at Enso Urban Winery, past the hand-painted sign from the building’s 100-year past—Storage Rates, Parking 35 cents—and enter the industrial-chic wine lounge. A chalkboard lists 17 house wines by the glass. Well-heeled Portlanders sit on couches and bar stools casually sipping happy hour bubbles and pinot noir. It soon becomes clear, this is a wine bar, and they make their own wines.

In 2011, Enso Urban Winery was the first winery in Portland to embrace a wine-bar atmosphere. “The idea came from a trip to Paris,” says winemaker Ryan Sharp. “I got on a train by myself into the Loire Valley, and then I walked 20 miles and visited three wineries. What I loved about them… they were village wineries.” With Enso, Sharp created a Portland winery, a place for wine-loving locals and travelers to connect.

Wine has never been more accessible thanks to urban wineries, where the wine is made within the city limits. Visiting urban wineries, you connect not only with local culture but also winemaking. Most urban winemakers make wine just steps from their tasting bars, and, during the fall grape harvest, the SE Wine Collective lets you join in.

To read the full article, look for this cover on newsstands or get a one-year subscription for $16.95 here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

New Book: The Specialty Coffee Book

I'm so happy to announce that The Specialty Coffee Book has just been published by Smudge Publishers. It follows in the footsteps of the publishing house's Coffee Encounters, and I feel so lucky to have been able to write on both projects. The Specialty Coffee Book tells the story of the world's specialty coffee industry through the eyes of Melbourne, Australia. Cafes and specialty roasters are profiled, and the large-format book includes many beautiful photographs.

Smudge Publishers is a family-run publishing house based in Melbourne, Australia, and it has published many books on Australian wine and food, including the award-winning Flavours of Melbourne.

Here's a preview:


Thursday, July 31, 2014

My First Feature Article in Northwest Travel Magazine!

Summer Adventure Activities (Not Just for Adrenaline Junkies)!
By Mattie John Bamman
Published July 2014 in Northwest Travel Magazine

Photo © John Malmberg

Warm summer days inspire adventure. Places never explored. Untried challenges to test your mettle. From Washington and Oregon to Idaho, they await—crampons, paddles, surfboards and expert guides at your fingertips.

Welcome to another summer in the Northwest.

While adventure activities can seem extreme, many are increasingly accessible to beginners—no experience necessary—and most can be enjoyed within a day. Let these top picks be your call to adventure...

Read the Full Article Online------>

Guide to Wine Tasting at Seattle's Urban Wineries

You don't even have to drive the 30 minutes to Woodinville, Washington, to taste wine at Seattle's urban wineries. Check out my article, Seattle's Urban Wineries, in the latest issue of Northwest Travel Magazine, for wine recommendations, tasting room hours, and prices (psst: most tastings are free!).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Photo Outtakes: Discovering Wine in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

There are always a few photos left over after the design folks get finished with an article, so I thought I'd begin sharing the outtakes. Here are the outtakes from my most recent publication, Discovering Wine in the Okanagan Valley, Northwest Travel Magazine 2014 June issue.

McIntyre Bluff, Okanagan Lake, and Blue Mountain Winery's vineyard.

--> Christie and Matt Mavety, owners of Blue Mountain Winery
Okanagan Crush Pad owner Christine Coletta with fresh eggs

--> Tantalus Old Vines Riesling
--> Tinhorn Creek Vineyard
Spring buds in the Vineyard

--> Southern Okanagan Valley in the evening

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Interview with Chef Mark Filatow, Waterfront Restaurant, Kelowna, BC

Mark Filatow is one of British Columbia's best chefs and sommeliers, and he owns and operates Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar in the city of Kelowna in the northern Okanagan Valley. He's won countless awards—Waterfront Restaurant was just named 'Best Okanagan Restaurant' for the sixth year in a row by Vancouver Magazine—but I didn't know that when I decided to write an article on him (Northwest Travel Magazine, Dec 2013). It was Filatow's ability to draw out the true flavors of farm-fresh vegetables that grabbed my attention.

In preparation for writing the article, I interviewed Filatow, and he had more fascinating things to say than I could fit into the piece. Most of this stuff will appeal to anyone passionate about eating local, especially chefs. For those fascinated with cooking, it's a great look inside of the mind of a cutting-edge chef, too. 

Without further adieu, here is the interview in full:

What is the winter food scene at Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar like?

It’s like a warm hug. We tend to start slow cooking a lot of things, so there will be a lot of braise items on the menu and a lot of off cuts.

How do you get the fresh flavors of local produce in the winter months, when so little is growing?

We really work off the storage crops. This year, we worked in a lot of house-fermented stuff, and we’re going to do a lot more in the future. Other dishes might include wild-fermented horseradish with a wild lacto front. Also, oysters will start up in the winter when the water gets cold again. Not that oysters are a warm hug, but they sure are nice when the water’s cold.

I heard that you try to match your dishes to the winter moods of your patrons...

Yeah, for me, my mood kind of changes in the winter. I like roasted vegetables, for example. In the summertime, I like a really light approach to vegetables—if they’re cooked at all. In the winter you get the squashes and potatoes, and the onions. We’re fully stocked with local garlic, carrots, beets, rhudabegas, and parsnips. All those beautiful, delicious, sugary root vegetables. Then there’s the brassica, the brussels sprouts and the kales that just turn amazing with that first frost.

What do you find the most difficult about cooking in the winter and, potentially, the most rewarding?

The most difficult is just trying to not cook outside of what is local and available. You know, it’s pretty easy—you can just grab a tomato or a strawberry—but will it be any good? No, it’s not gonna be any good at all really. The challenge is staying true to what you do and what will taste the best anyways.

You mentioned “empty flavors” in the past, what exactly do you mean by that?

I’m sure that you guys (in Oregon) get inundated with this, too. In March, the California strawberries start to come, and they’re big and beautiful and have great market appeal, but they don’t really taste like a phenomenal strawberry. I think people kinda get lost—they see a recipe and it includes strawberries and they see the strawberries in January and they really want to make it. So, instead of having something fantastic in June, you have something mediocre in January. Those empty flavors abound when food travels long distances and out of season, whereas, when you get a fresh asparagus spear out of the ground and you eat it within 24 hours and it comes form down the road, it’s a different beast.

Who are some of the major players in Waterfront’s life in terms of local farmers and producers? How do you work together?

Big Guy—he’s literally a big guy—an ex-Northern Californian outdoor grower. He moved up here, and he’s a potatoe farmer. He grew a couple varieties at first, but never russet potatoes. After the first year, I convinced him, and he grew about 12 tons and he’s super happy with us. And for us it’s fantastic to have a potato supply, with all types of potatoes, for about 11 months out of the year. His farm is called Sweet Life Farms.

That’s awesome to get to work together like that—to actually help to shape someone’s garden.

Yeah, for me, it brings a great sense of satisfation. For him, it’s economically viable. It’s not that he’s just growing it because I want it: it makes sense for him.  And that’s a huge thing. For me, I’m always trying to chase the potato and the garlic and the carrot and the onion in March and April, because that’s when the local supply really starts dwindling. Unless you’ve really done the work, you won’t have much luck and you’ll really have to outsource from outside of the town, the province, and the country.

We also work with Green City Acres and he does everything by bicycle. He has a sort of CSA, where you give him a piece of your backyard and he pays you back in vegetables. He’s also leasing a larger plot of land and they are very restaurant sauvy and ready. They’re growing all types of great things, such as pea shoots, baby beets—all kinds of things that are really built toward the restaurant market.

You referred to him as the “Bicycle Farmer” during our dinner, which was really funny and made me thing: Alright, let’s check this guy out.

Yeah, he’s kinda cheating now. He bought one of the three-cylenderr Suzukis, like the tiniest little toy truck you’ve ever seen. He’s still going to the market and delivering by bicycle, but he’s kinda evolved.

Does he just show up on your door with whatever’s fresh?

No, he’s email and tech sauvy. A lot of the farmers are. You just text him an order and he’ll get back to you with an email that lists the price. It’s first come, first serve, so it’s whoever orders the quickest.

Is there anything you can’t get in Kelowna that you wish you could?

Ah, fresh figs (laughs). I think the only thing that we’re really lacking is a local abattoir, you know, a really local meat supply from the town rather than from farms around the province. We get meat from just outside of town, but, historically, there was a lot of animal husbandry here. But that’s really gone away. It’s the same thing, I’m sure, where you are, the way federal inspection moved in an all of the local abattoirs got swallowed up by the large ones and disappeared.

Lastly, the restaurant was recently renovated, and you said that this allowed you to do more complex things. Do you have some examples?

It’s really changed and jumped our food forward. Mostly because of the space, but also because of the equipment. The way we have the line set up now, we have a person wholly responsible for expediting and plating. So, the cooks can just cook, and the expediter can plate so it frees us up for a little more complex plating. The garneshes have also become more complex. We’ve really just made it more difficult for ourselves (laughs). Oh, this will make it easier (in a mocking tone), we’ve got a big professional oven.

Besides making more bread, we’re doing a lot more drying—we’ve always done a lot of canning and freezing. Also natural ferments, just lacto ferments on everything from cabbage to wild horseradish.

That’s above my head: Is the lacto ferment for like sauerkraut and similar things?


I bet canning and drying plays a big role in the winter menu.

Yeah, we pull from the freezer basically about 600lbs of berries, and we use that on the menu all winter long. And then there’s canned apricots and the canned cherries and it just goes on and on. The sauerkraut, the crabapple jam...

Do you expedite sometimes?

I do, yeah. I probably do three to four nights a week.

I guess that’s it, do you have anything you’d like to add?

I don’t think so. You had the first and foremost experience of eating with us, and I got that you appreciated it and understood it all. For us, that’s the hardest message to get across. We serve a lot of different types of people here, and some people love what we do and some people don’t quite understand it or maybe have only dined in a sort of, narrow window. We try to broaden the horizon in that aspect and try to get people to open their eyes a bit to different things—the different flavors and textures.

I ate your rhubarb dessert and I got a gummy rhubarb and that displays a modern cooking technique, but I think of those different flavors and textures as... well, I really think that what you guys seem to do is give the diner the flavors intrinsic to the produce. What’s already there in the first place.

It really is the basis for it. If you make a carrot soup, it should taste like carrot. Too many people make the mistake of adding other things to it, and they end up masking the carrot flavor. I think that some fo the best stock is made in the style of an Italian brodo, so it’s a one-ingredient stock.

Is there a group of chefs that you look back on particularly for inspiration? Like, French cooking in the 18th century or…

I’m really looking backwards in a lot fo places. My restaurant chef Wayne grabbed this old cookbook for Schewavester [sic.] cuisine, which is a providence in Germany, an area that isn’t demarcated really anymore. They were doing a potato noodle, which was similar to a gnocchi only the potato is grated after its cooked with flour and egg. We do it only we added some tongue and chopped up sauerkraut to it. That book was probably written in the 40s, and we’re messing around a lot with charcuterie and kinda looking back at how simply things used to be done.

It really worked for me, as a diner. I said to myself, one wow: this is how you taste farm fresh. I think it’s really amazing how you’ve turned the whole thing on its head. It really blew me away.

It’s all fun. Heading to Italy this fall for Slow Food. They want to keep their rural techniques alive, and Slow Food sponsored this Italian salami-maker to write a book on butchery and he’s going to teach an old-school Italian charcuterie. We’re going to go there and slaughter a pig and then break it down and make the classics. There’s three of us coming from Kelowna, and it will be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Video of Rocky Mountaineer Train Tour Through the Canadian Rockies

Have you ever toured Canada by train? The experience is unbelievable. You can travel through hard-to-access back country; whiz through spiraling tunnels; enjoy gourmet meals in the dining car; and learn Canadian and railroad history. Oh yeah, and you get the opportunity to walk on ancient, massive glaciers and tour Banff and Jasper parks, including the iridescent Lake Louise!

I just returned from a week-long trip with the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train tour company, and the company will offer more than 20 trips from Seattle through the Canadian Rockies in 2014. This is big news, as the train tours typically leave from Canadian destinations.

If you want to roll into town in style, Rocky Mountaineer is the answer, as this video, created by travel companion and freelance writer, Marcia Biggs, shows:

Like it on Youtube!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Article: Discovering Wine in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Northwest Travel Magazine

Get to know one of my favorite wine regions, the Okanagan Valley in southeast British Columbia, Canada, in the May/June 2014 issue of Northwest Travel Magazine. My article shares the national-park-worthy beauty of the area and takes you inside of its booming wine scene. This is riesling, cabernet franc, merlot, pinot noir, pinot gris, and sparkling wine country. Expect high acidity and elegance as well as decent prices. One important detail: You'll have to visit the Okanagan Valley to taste most of these wines! Check out the article in this month's Northwest Travel Magazine, subscriptions of which can be found here.

PS>The local Okanagan winery Mission Hill recently won a significant award: That's right all you Oregonian, Burgundian, and Californian pinot noir fans, Mission Hill Family Estate's Martin's Lane Pinot Noir was named the World's Best Pinot Noir at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Article in Northwest Travel Magazine: New Tasting Rooms of Willamette Valley

Had a great time researching this article, which gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of cool people working in the Oregon wine industry, from architects to folks pouring wine in tasting rooms. The wine-tasting scene in Willamette Valley has drastically changed in the last two years, and this article features the biggest of those changes. It also gives an idea of the big plans that Kendall Jackson has for its recent acquisition of 315 acres of Oregon vineyard:

Wines of Willamette, Oregon:
Originally published in Northwest Travel Magazine

Long renowned for producing world-class pinot noir, Oregon’s Willamette Valley offers visitors a rich and varied selection of wine-tasting adventures. “People used to come for the coast and the mountains and visit us on the way,” says Mich Nelson at Stoller Winery. “Today, people visit specifically for the wine.” More than ever, both new and veteran wineries are building bigger, more imaginative tasting rooms to provide one-of-a-kind experiences.

Continue reading (full article)-------->

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Discovering the Old Italy: Puglia and Basilicata (new article)

Amphitheater in Lecce, Puglia
Originally published on the Viator Travel Blog.

It wasn’t long ago that travel guidebooks ignored Southern Italy, but the regions of Puglia and Basilicata have long been top travel destinations among Italy’s domestic travelers. Why let them have all the fun? In Puglia, white-sand beaches, a booming culinary culture, and an old style of hospitality—the kind Italy is famous for—is the norm, while Basilicata offers the beautiful cave-dwelling town of Matera, a place so old school that Mel Gibson used it to film the Passion of the Christ.

With cultural traditions intact, these destinations offer a different style of travel than Italy’s more visited towns and cities; indeed, each town and city in these Italian regions fiercely guards its identity, holding on to the old way to doing things....

Continue Reading--------->

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Extended Layover: Get More Out of Your Travels

Originally published on EuropeUpClose.com

For years, I flew from point A to point B without even thinking about the cities in which I had layovers. In Europe, I had stopovers in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and more, and I never really thought about the fact that these cities’ magnificent sights and cultures lay just outside the airport walls. Then an old friend clued me into the extended layover, a great way to take in additional cities and countries during your travels...

Continue reading------->

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Painted Lady Restaurant in Northwest Travel Magazine (this month)

Happy to have my second article in Northwest Travel Magazine! In this ravenous round of food-and-wine obsession, I explore haute cuisine, aka really innovative and surprising food, at The Painted Lady restaurant. Located in Willamette Valley and with a romantic guest cottage next door, The Painted Lady serves many of the most innovative dishes in all of Oregon, and it offers an Old-World style of dining that I love. You can find my article in this month's Northwest Travel Magazine, and the magazine is sold in stores throughout the Pacific Northwest (all the way up to Alaska, indeed!).

Here's the beginning of the article:

"Since 2005, husband and wife team Allen Routt and Jessica Bagley— both émigrés from Napa—have provided a romantic and sophisticated dining experience in a downtown Newberg restored Victorian home. They moved to the town of tree-lined streets and tasting rooms in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country to open The Painted Lady.

With Routt in the kitchen, Bagley choreographs each night’s dinner service, and if it’s old-world opulence you’re looking for, you’ll find a level of refinement rare anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Expect to have your coat taken at the door..."  See more at Northwest Travel Magazine------>

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The American Local Restaurant Review: Rockin' Izakaya American Style

In Portland, Oregon, The American Local restaurant opens January 15 (tomorrow), and I just returned from a surprising meal there. A venture by couple Jenny Nickolaus (host) and Chris Whaley (chef), The American Local will set up shop at 30th Avenue and SE Division, which Food & Wine Magazine named "one of the 10 Best Foodie Streets in America" in May 2013, and the concept is 100% American izakaya.

Traditionally, an izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment, and with the drinks come a fun menu of miniature dishes ideal for eating while drinking. The prominence of izakaya-style restaurants in Portland has been on a steady rise, and famously, Andy Ricker's Whiskey Soda Lounge is designed as a Thai version of an izakaya. If you want to know what it's all about, begin there.

The American Local, interestingly, makes izakaya American. The dishes are made with local ingredients for the most part; they are reminiscent, at times, of diner food; and saké is on tap (yes, ON TAP). Here's a run down of what I tried:

Kennebec Fries/Gravy/Cheese Curd/Foie Gras ($10): This dish will probably cause the most stir among diners. An even more decadent version of Poutine, the dish is finished by shaving foie gras on top. The fries are made in house, of course—lending a Portland ethos—but do we really need foie gras Poutine? If you're a fan of Poutine, which I am not, then the answer has to be yes: This dish has the meatiness of fresh cooked giblets, giving Poutine a kick in the... ah, giblets.

Poutine with Foie Gras

Bacon Beignet/House Made Espellete Pepper/Honey ($5): Bacon flavored donuts par excellence! Why mess around with Voodoo Donut's Maple Bacon Bar when you can have it all integrated: the bacon, the sweetness, the dough? These tasty guys are just fun, and I thought they paired very well the "Spicy fermented turnip," i.e. turnip kimchi ($3).

Bacon Beignet

Crispy Grit Cake/Salmon Tartar/Sour Cream ($4): This dish is going to be The American Local's signature dish, in my opinion. It's light and beautiful. The grit cake has just enough of a hint of the flavor of Fritos to keep it interesting, and the tartar is obviously made using quality salmon, elevating the dish. I split mine: Don't make the same mistake.

Grit Cake w/ Salmon Tartat

Brussels/Pickled Jalapeno/Blood Orange/Miso ($6): This dish was the first to show the chinks in The American Local's armor. Firstly, I loved the dish when all of the flavors were present; however, the miso and blood orange were mixed in inconsistently, and some bites lacked flavor. Since I ate it before the restaurant had even technically opened, I look forward to trying it again.

Brussels Sprouts

Cumin Roasted Carrot/Avocado/Yogurt/Cilantro/Sunflower Seeds ($7): This complex dish places rustic carrots with harshly chopped tops and stringy bottoms still intact atop a silky yogurt. The cumin and avocado puts it over the top. This is one damn interesting vegetable dish, which certainly isn't common.

Pork Belly Skewer/Sriracha/Maple ($3) and Butternut Squash Skewer/Pistachio Pesto ($3): If you like pork belly, this is a smoky, spicy version that shouldn't be missed. It melts in your mouth, and the grilled edges add a chewy texture. The Butternut Squash Skewer, on the other hand, was also smoky and the pistachio pesto added some flavor, but overall, I found it bland.

Pork Belly Skewer and Butternut Squash Skewer
Poached Chicken/Noodle/Rich Chicken Broth/Egg ($12): Chef Whaley says of this dish, "We're all from somewhere—whether you grew up in Minnesota or your folks emigrated from Thailand—but wherever we are from, we all have a version of chicken noodle soup." His version has a principally ramen-esque broth and presentation, but also present was the salty, white-meat American chicken soup flavor that we all know and love. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to think that I don't like authentic ramen. I've made my own using David Chang's Momofuku recipe, and it tasted a lot like Chef 
Whaley's: Sadly, it's not to my preference. Additionally, the noodles were pretty tough, and the dish was difficult to share.

Chicken Noodle

The Takeaway: The American Local is an exciting restaurant in a neighborhood full of exciting restaurants. I think it will stand out though. As you might have noticed, the prices are low and the servings, especially in terms of the the vegetable dishes, are large. Having saké as well as two wines on tap lends a fun atmosphere—as does the simple and astute decision to offer an American-style izakaya. Portland and pub food have had a long and beautiful relationship: Maybe it's time to embrace the next level.

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