Sunday, January 29, 2006

Arrivederci Pastime!

I know. I know. Old news. The Pastime Cafe closed last Saturday, January 21. I suppose I was feeling rather melancholy and sluggish about it all. Too many memories for me and I know that I am not the only one in this town that feels that way. Four generations can recite their fond memories of this great Walla Walla landmark. I have yet to read a menu that offered fried egg sandwiches or fried salami sandwiches like the Pastime. Simple, working class and full of greasy savory flavor. No other restaurant in town would offer the poor man a free bowl of soup, either. No one left the small diner hungry that was started by Italian immigrants. The bar was like walking into a time warp of 1940. Laborers would drop by to cash their paycheck and stick around for a shot of whiskey. In the summer if you were unemployed, the farmers would stop by and give you a job for a day or so.

As a small child I can remember going there for dinner with my parents. Going out to dinner on a Friday night with my mother and father was a big deal. I was mesmerized by the chilled butter pats that were imprinted with a four leaf clover marking the dairy from where they were processed.

In high school I can remember several dinner dates at the Pastime. It's a small town, so some of those dates I still see from time to time socially with other friends or even in the grocery store. One date I had forgotten about until recently. I remember I dined on the Pastime's famous lasagne with a side of fried pepperoni. I would discover that the date was as slippery as the pepperoni grease that floated to the bottom of the lasagne plate. Thirty years later, he got in my way again, and made a bigger grease spot than before. "They" say that "To err is human and to forgive divine." I became divine once. It's a nice sentiment, but "They" also say "Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me." By the way, who are "They?" I hold my good memories to my heart and like I always told my kids, bad memories are okay as long as we can eventually set them free, and let them leave us with a valuable life lesson. Did the karmic aura of the Pastime ever know that they were responsible for all of that?

A couple years later I would be dining with a girl friend and happen to notice a handsome man at one of the half-circle booths dining with his two adorable red-headed toddlers. These beautiful toddlers had the attention of many of the diners with their curly red locks. Who knew that several years later I would be married to that man for 20 years and the red haired children I would eventually call my own. Now their children, my grandbabies, happen to resemble the toddlers that captured the diners attention.

Later came several dinners celebrating birthdays, anniversary's, graduations, and a lot of dinners after Mass on Saturday evening. Recently we chuckled at the wine list - who would have ever thought that the Pastime would offer a $100 Leonetti wine to go with their lasagne noodles and fried pepperoni? We ordered the basket of Chianti for $12.99.

Over forty years of memories for me. In the mean time, some of the locals are up-in-arms about the Pastime closing and a new owner taking over. Yes, the new owner wants to "clean" the place up a bit, update the menu and possibly add a wine bar. Maybe the new owner Charles Smith of K-Vintners will create some new memories for us - - if we let him.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Walla Walla Winemaker's Gallery

It's a great idea!

If you are a up-and-coming new winemaker imagine yourself in a winemaking gallery that can accommodate up to 12 separate, small production wineries. All working together, but still independently under one roof. There will be retail support with a on-site tasting room to distribute wine to the area visitors.

Construction of the 13,000-square-foot co-op is expected to start this spring, but no location has been published at this time. The Port of Walla Walla is expected to do a wine incubator with five buildings for wineries. Who will finish first? In any event, I think there is certainly room for everyone.

For more information on this gallery, check out Walla Walla Winemaker's Gallery.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Velveeta and the 1982 Chateau Petrus

Seriously. You might as well pair that yummy processed cheese food that we know of as Velveeta with the $4,500. bottle of Petrus.

The news from UC Davis in California is they gave trained wine tasters cheap and expensive versions of four different varieties of wine. The tasters evaluated the strength of various flavors and aromas in each wine alone and with eight different cheeses. They discovered that cheese masked the berry and oak flavors, sourness, astringency and just about everything! Only the butter aroma enhanced the cheese. I know this for a fact. Recently at a wine tasting it was suggested that the salty and nutty flavored Spanish Manchego cheese (one of my favorite cheeses) be paired with a specific Merlot. Yes, it was a lovely pairing if you didn't want to bother tasting the concentrated fruit, cocoa and earthiness. All I could taste was a smooth and creamy mouth feel with a buttery essence, but I wasn't complaining. My tastebuds enjoyed it. We love butter!

The paper will appear online in March in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. In the mean time check out:

Friday, January 20, 2006

Zerba, Not Zebra, Ice Wine

Zerba Cellars , not Zebra, makes Walla Walla Appellation based wines, even though the winery is located in Oregon - - about 10 miles from the Washington state border. This 5,000 case-a-year winery named Zerba, not Zebra, has been getting lots of excellent press on their wines.

In May 2006, during Spring Release Weekend, the Zerba Winery, not Zebra, will be releasing a ice wine. We don't see a lot of ice wines in SE Washington/NE Oregon. The frozen Syrah grapes were harvested during 2005 from the Jim Willard Vineyard near the Prosser area. I am anxious to check it out.

Friday, January 13, 2006

What Will $100 Buy?

Did you get a crisp $100 bill for Christmas and it is burning a hole in your purse, wallet or mattress? Need ideas on how you will spend it? Well, that $100 bill could buy you a bottle of Leonetti Cellars 2002 Red Reserve from the Walla Walla Valley.

Leonetti is one of the most famous small wineries in the state of Washington and even in the nation. Also can boast as being one of the pioneer wineries in the Walla Walla Valley. Gary Figgins, owner and winemaker, founded his winery about 23 years ago. He has received distinguished ratings from international wine media and ranked as some of the best wines of the world. Gary has a cult following because most of his wines are sold to those lucky enough to be on his mailing list. Rumor is there is a waiting list to get on the main waiting list to get on the mailing list.

Let's talk about this bottle of $100 wine. They say (How in the hell should I know? I cannot afford this beauty of a wine. I have to rely on the charity of others to taste the royal Leonetti and once in awhile a gift of a bottle will come my way.) the taste of the 2002 Leonetti Red Reserve boasts incredible sweet fruit, cedar, plums, and cassis. Dark, powerful and very aromatic. And like most of Leonetti's wines it is acid and tannic balanced. The blend is Cabernet Sauvignon 52%, Merlot 31%, Petit Verdot 17%. This wine is entirely estate grown in the Walla Walla Valley from the world class Leonetti Vineyards. Aged in new French and American oak barrels for 22 months.

So remember - if this wine is what you have chosen to spend your $100 on, can you remember me and invite me over for a glass of charity -- umm - I mean wine? I promise to just to have one glass.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

~January Cooking With Washington Wines~

Okay. First of all I have to tell you that this salad recipe has Rice-A-Roni in it. I know - - I know. You are probably rolling your eyes right now. My mind's eye rolled when I first heard about it. The legendary San Francisco treat that is made in Illinois. Then I read about this recipe in a cookbook I was given for Christmas and it finally intrigued me.

The recipe book was "Paula Deen & Friends: Living It Up, Southern Style," She's the star of Paula's Home Cooking on the Food Network. I was delighted to get this gift as I love Paula Deen! She's everybody's favorite cousin or aunt. Her Liz Taylor face is always smiling and you often see Paula rubbing her Willendorf goddess belly after a bite of her cooking. While some critics think that Paula has never cooked a fresh vegetable in her life, I don't care. I love her just the same. She's a Southern belle from Savannah, Ga., who is honest and true to her roots of home cooking, and I happen to love her for it. There is no pretense.

Anyway, I could hardly wait to open the book and start cooking. And there it was! The salad made from Rice-A-Roni. I gave in and made it. Damn it was delicious! Next time I prepare it I think I will add crab (this recipe can also be found on the Food Network and can be printed out in recipe card size).
Artichoke Rice Salad

1 (6.9-ounce) package Rice-A-Roni, chicken flavor
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 to 4 green onions, chopped, white and green parts
12 to 14 pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper
1 pound uncooked small OR medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (See NOTE:)

Directions:
In a skillet sprayed with cooking spray, brown Rice-A-Roni. Continue preparing rice according to package directions, but omitting the butter or oil. Drain artichoke hearts and reserve marinade. In a small bowl, whisk marinade and mayonnaise to combine. Mix in green pepper, green onions, olives, curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Add this mixture to rice. Gently stir in cooked shrimp. If serving as a salad, chill. If serving as a casserole, place in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 20 minutes, until heated through. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

NOTE: If serving as a cold salad, cook shrimp in a small amount of salted water for about 3 to 4 minutes, until firm and cooked through. If serving as a hot casserole, plunge shrimp into boiling water 2 to 3 minutes and drain, as they will continue cooking during baking.

This salad calls for wine. Sauvignon Blanc would pair perfect with the artichokes and curry. Waterbrook 2004 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc has a sweet herbal, yet clean nose. This smooth seafood pairing wine has a lot of citrus fruit going on. Very suitable for this recipe and an excellent price at $12.00.

Speaking of Sauvignon Blanc. Rumor is that Jill Noble of the new to be opened winery, "Couvillion", is going to have a great Sauvignon Blanc available for sale. Can hardly wait to try it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Homestead Restaurant

For 23 years, Executive Chief Clark Covey and his restaurant, Homestead has been serving Walla Walla some of the best meals from northwest fresh ingredients. It is one of my favorite places to dine in Walla Walla. Not only is the food always good, but the service as well. It is one of those places where you can dine well and drink excellent wines, but be relaxed doing it. The atmosphere is not fancy or intimidating, but most of all it is very affordable.

The dinner menu is very well-rounded with goodies like salads, pasta, seafood, chicken and Angus beef. My favorite is the Dungeness crabcakes. Grilled and topped with a fresh lime beurre blanc. The Chicken Sonoma is another dish that I enjoy. A chicken breast stuffed with cheese, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, mushrooms, browned, baked and topped with sauce supreme. The prime rib is a speciality and always good.

If you want a martini, even though they do not have a bar, they serve liquor and spirits besides their wine list which features Walla Walla wines.

The Homestead offers breakfast on the weekends and lunch through the week. They also do some amazing catering. I think it is some of the best catering in town. Chef Covey will even do some special catering dishes upon request featuring local wines such as lamb chops with risoto and cherries in a Merlot redux or beef tenderloin in a black pepper crust with a Cabernet redux (another one of my favorites). So check it out or check it out again. It's good stuff!