Monday, February 27, 2012

Under the Radar Wines: A Wine Writers Dinner

If you are a wine lover, and especially one that enjoys wine and food pairings, have we got a St. Patrick's Day dinner for you without the green beer and annoying shin-kicking leprechauns. 

Paul Gregutt, wine writer and musician, too!
The Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology and Viticulture will be scene for the Wine Writers “Under The Radar Wines” dinner held on Saturday, March 17. 

Join Paul Gregutt, wine advisor for the  Seattle Times and Spokane Spokesman-Review, and Northwest editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine; as he has chosen a variety of wines that he considers some of the most exciting wines representing "new frontiers" in Washington State. Many of the wines Paul has selected are from wineries that are small and relatively new.

These selected wines will be paired with a six-course dinner by the college's Chef Dan Thiessen, Director of the WWCC Culinary Arts program (soon to be renamed "Wine Country Culinary Institute") and Chef Thiessen's culinary team.
Chef Dan Thiessen in action!
The proceeds from this exciting dinner will benefit the culinary and enology/viticulture programs.

Check out the menu listed. Some of my favorite foods and wine varieties are listed, from the baby Kumamoto oysters to the pear tartlettes and the Barnard Griffith Sangiovese Rose to the Trio Vintners Far Away Vineyard Mourvèdre.

Walla Walla is known for  wonderful wine dinners, but this is truly one of a kind. I cannot believe the affordable price for such a wonderful evening of food and wine - $65 per person (tax and gratuity included). Only room for 33 guests and I understand the tickets are moving fast. So please contact  Danielle Swan-Froese at 509-527-4215 for reservations. 

So once again about the date being St. Patrick's Day. I guarantee this wine dinner will be the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" (I know - - corny). Oh yes - and I will there, too!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Future of Woodward Canyon

In 1981 this once small winery was one of the very first to claim a home in the history of Walla Walla wineries. Years later, it became known for its world class wines.

I can remember being asked several times where Woodward Canyon was located. Many a tourist would mention they had passed through the small town of Lowden in Walla Walla County and couldn't seem to find the winery. When I would tell them it was located next to the old school house L'Ecole No. 41, they would often comment, "Oh come on - you're kidding right? There's no way a world class winery would be located in a quonset hut."

Welcome to Walla Walla, where we still believe in agriculture, dedication and craftsmanship first, and fancy French-style chateaus aren't a necessity when it comes to making world class wines. Of course the quonset hut would evolve. Later came the new tasting room for Woodward Canyon - a charming 1870's farm house cottage that was remodeled and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Just a few years ago the stunning Reserve House, near the neighboring vineyard, was built for private tastings and dinners.

In keeping with craftsmanship and dedication, this week Rick Small and Darcey Fugman-Small, founders of Woodward Canyon announced their expansion of shareholders to their winemaker, Kevin Mott and their Sales Director, Thomas Woodley. Mott and Woodley will not only join Rick and Darcey in ownership, but also join the Small's adult children, Jordan Dunn and Sager Small.

In 2003, Mott and Woodley both joined Woodward Canyon and each one has extensive backgrounds in vineyard and winery management. Rick announced on behalf of his family and the winery that it was clear to them that Mott and Woodley were integral to their operations and to the future of Woodward Canyon. Rick and Darcey will continue to have daily involvement and management of the winery.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February for Foodies in Walla Walla - Chocolate!

If you are allergic or a hater of chocolate - - turn away now! You have been warned!

There are just a few days left to celebrate "February is for Foodies" the month-long promotion driven by "Experience Walla Walla." In fact, the last cooking class series is this Saturday, February 25. I understand there will be classes on pasta, soups, sauces and even chocolate truffles! For only $20 you get more than your money's worth. Not only do you learn handy food and kitchen techniques, but you eat and drink all day.

I could not pass up the Saturday, February 11 cooking session as it featured - - CHOCOLATE - - and so perfect since Valentine's day was just around the corner. The day started at 11:00 am at the Titus Creek Cafe at Walla Walla Community College. We were welcomed with introductions from the chefs; along with coffee, tea and fresh breakfast rolls awaited us.

Chocolatey-coffee goodness ready to be frozen!
Onto the first session of chocolate which was an introduction in sorbets and ice cream by Chef Dan Thiessen, Director of the WWCC Culinary Arts program (Chef Dan also made the announcement that the program will soon be renamed "Wine Country Culinary Institute" as well as some packaging of food products by the institute that will be seen on the grocery store shelves in the future). He had prepared the bases of what would soon become frozen and fruity deliciousness of an orange-pineapple-strawberry sorbet prepared with natural fruit juices and honey. Also, a rich and creamy chocolate-coffee ice cream prepared with not only cream and milk, but egg yolks and of course vanilla bean, semi-sweet chocolate and coffee. These fresh ingredients made even the best ice cream on grocery store's shelves pale in comparison.

Cocktails 101 by the Marcus Whitman's Mixologist, Silas Manlove demonstrated the ingredients needed at home to make the spontaneous cocktail. Glassware and the proper tools were also pointed out as a necessity to have on hand such as a jigger, shaker, strainer, muddler and more; including a bar book. After Silas discussed types of drinks (neat, rocks, etc), flavors, and styles; the end result was a "chocolatini" that the class imbibed in. This chocolate "martini" included many different chocolate flavored liquors and cream. Silas also included some of the favorite drinks recipes from the Marcus Whitman's Vineyard Lounge.

Sacher Torte
A generous buffet lunch was served before we went onto the other two cooking sessions - - even the tasty and tender tri-tip-style beef  was marinaded and prepared with a savory chocolate sauce. Tim Donahue, instructor from the WWCC Enology/Viticulture program was on hand to pour the wines produced by the students at College Cellars. Take it from me, the College Cellars Malbec was so well done and such a great pairing with the beef (those Agentinian cowboys know what they are talking about when pairing beef with their native Malbecs). Sacher Torte was served for dessert, which reminds me - -

Torte! Chocolate Torte! Chocolate Sacher Torte! Pastry Chef Greg Schnorr from the WWCC Culinary Arts program shared with us the story of this rich chocolate cake with roots from Vienna as far back as 1832. He demonstrated for us how this cake can be made so easily by using a basic cake mix, apricot jam, a bottle of rum, dark chocolate and a pint of whipping cream. He made it look so easy - - but tasted as if it came from the Vienna Hotel Sacher itself. Perfect with a cup of coffee which is traditional in Vienna. However, I broke tradition and enjoyed a glass of wine with mine.

In fact, Jaime Chalk from L'Ecole No. 41 joined us at this foodie experience to pour for us L'Ecole No. 41's 2009 Estate Syrah from the Seven Hills Vineyards. It was a dark inky wine with earthy aromas of cigar box and spice. Flavors of dark concentrated fruits such as plums and blackberry was so perfect - - so perfect paired with the heavy dark chocolate cake.
A Girl's Favorite: Roses, Wine, and Chocolate!

Pastry Chef Mandi Konen from the Marcus Whitman demonstrated for us chocolate truffles filled with a salted-caramel center. Of course we were the beneficiary of the samples! She displayed for us an assortment of various chocolates from unsweetened to white chocolate that can be used in preparing confections. She showed us tips on how to temper chocolates from the melting and cooling stages, as well as molding them into their perfect shapes. Once again, Chef Mandi made the production of these beautiful chocolate squares look so easy.

What? There was more? Yes, there was a treat in store for us. The Four Tenors arrived! This talented quartet not only sang to us, but also gave red roses to all of the women. Chocolate, flowers, wine and tenors! What more could we want for Valentine's Day? At this time the Four Tenors are performing at the Power House Theatre and this is their last week. They sing a variety of music from Pop, Country, Broadway, and Classical (okay, yeah that is me posed with them below - they visited me at the wine shop).

Chocolate Truffles by Chef Mandi
Yes and there is more! Last but not least, Chef Antonio from the Marcus Whitman Restaurant and the students from the Titus Cafe served us up a platter of morsels to be paired with the Syrah from L'Ecole No. 41. However, this wasn't just a little sampling of cheese and crackers - - it was another meal! Our wine pairing food was not only a plate of charcuterie and cheese, but also a lamb-sicle layered on top of a tomato/olive/caper relish and a layer, of what I thought was possibly creamy polenta, was actually creamed parsnips prepared with white chocolate. Yes, I would have originally turned my nose at it, but so happy I sampled before I knew what it was - - it was remarkably - - delicious!

Four Tenors and Moi!
This session may have stopped at the WWCC Titus Creek Cafe, but it continued later with a Happy Hour session of "Wine and Bites" at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. Once again, there is one more Saturday session and if they aren't already sold out, this is so well worth the time and the affordable dollars to attend. Many thanks to everyone who prepared these wonderful Saturday events - - whomever says, "There is nothing to do in Walla Walla" must not venture far from their couch.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

World Class Winemaking at Gramercy Cellars - It's Hunny Boo-Boo Go-Go Juice

The name of this Walla Walla winery is distinguished. The label is tasteful and distinguished. The founder has a distinguished past in the world of wine - - and now their style of winemaking is - - well - -

It's honey boo-boo go-go juice!

My sincere apologies to: TLC (aka The Low Class) TV program "Toddlers & Tiaras," the toddler, Miss Honey Boo-Boo Child and her mother, Jaba the Hut.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

February is for Foodies in Walla Walla!

It's February and this month has never been known to be filled with warm and sunny days. Many of us are still in hiberation and looking for something to do. We are often looking for something to keep us entertained, possibly educational, affordable and a plus if it is tasty, too!

February for Foodies is a month-long promotion driven by "Experience Walla Walla," a campaign organized by the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center and promoted by other area businesses. This five-month marketing campaign is to assist in building off-season tourism into "year-long tourist season," especially during the slower months of November through March.  The ultimate goal is to fill more rooms. More accomodations booked means more the Walla Walla Valley benefits - not only from winery tourism and accomodations, but restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and other retail businesses benefit - - in fact, we all benefit!

Each Saturday is a full day filled with food and fun at an affordable price of only $20! Last Saturday (February 4) was a theme around the Super Bowl!
February 11 - Chocolate is for Lovers: You can guess how you will spend your day.
February 18 - Rivers, Oceans, Field and Farm Proteins: Grilling, roasting BBQ'ing, the perfect sear and even smoking.
February 25 - Classical and Modern Cookery: Fresh pasta, Mother sauces, soup making and the art of the perfect souffle'.

These culinary experiences also conclude with "Wines and Bites" from 4:30 - 6:00 pm hosted by the Marcus Whitman, where guests may sample local wines and appetizers made by Chef Antonio of the Marcus Whitman Restaurant.
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Brenda Mussman making bratswurst with Chef Jay
This last Saturday I had an opportunity to attend the first of the February is for Foodies Culinary Experience. The theme was Super Bowl and what a day! It was a full-day of eating and learning and even  drinking wine. I am excited to share my first-hand experience with all of you.

The day started at 11:00 am at the Titus Creek Cafe at WWCC. We were welcomed with introductions from the chefs, along with coffee, tea and fresh breakfast rolls.  Onto the first sessions of cooking. The morning classes included how to make naan (a South Asian flatbread) taught by Chef Greg Schnorr, instructor at WWCC Culinary Arts program. Delicious! The art of making German bratswurst by Chef Jay Entrikin, also instructor at WWCC Culinary Arts program. He made it look so easy!

Not only were we given an opportunity to have hands on cooking experience, but we were also given the recipes and generous samples to nosh on throughout the day. Lunch was provided with salads along with the samples from the demonstrations including naan made into pizza topped with freshly made mozzarella.

Chef Antonio making fresh mozzarella
Wine pairing was also available throughout the day by Tim Donohue, instructor at WWCC College Cellars and Shari Brumbach of Woodward Canyon, along with coffee, tea, pop, and water for those non-wine drinkers.

The afternoon brought us more cooking experiences! Chef Antonio Campolio from the Marcus Whitman demonstrated the art to fresh mozzarella cheese from start to finish. Oh my! The cheese was silky and so fresh. And last but not least, Chef Dan Thiessen, Director of WWCC Culinary Arts program produced for the class a venison stew. The tips for seasoning, making stock, using tomato paste and wine to break down and soften proteins, carmelizing vegetables and browning meats were endless and not just for this particular recipe, but so valuable for every day cooking.

Kobe beef with coffee rub

The full day came to an exciting conclusion with an Iron Chef Cook-Off with Chef Antonio and Chef Dan. The subject was Kobe beef. We all had the best seats in the house as we were invited back into the kitchen to watch it all happen. Each chef had a team of two culinary students to assist and a table full of ingredients to choose from.

We watched knives fly and pans flame. Chef Antonio prepared the beef into Asian-inspired shish-ka-bobs on top of a colorful cabbage slaw accented with two very flavorful sauces. I wanted to keep licking the plate. Chef Dan rubbed fresh coffee grounds and spices on the meat and served the bite size morsels with a fresh cilantro sauce and freshly-made pickled ginger. I loved the smoky flavor from the coffee. And the winner? It was a very deserving tie! Both chefs had components that made each dish a winner.

So, see what you missed out on?  A day of food, fun and to hang with the chefs. Don't miss out on next week's addition - - Chocolate! I understand there will be chocolate goodies taught and prepared, another Iron Chef cook-off and even a Happy Hour Mixology 101. Wine tasting by L'Ecole No #41 and WWCC College Cellars. For more information contact the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center or call  509-524-5110.
Chef Antonio and Chef Dan with WWCC Culinary Arts Crew