Thursday, April 9, 2009

The glass was more than half full - TASTE Washington

TASTE Washington last weekend exceeded my down-modified expectations this year–it was packed with 3,500 food and wine lovers, and full of wines (250 wineries) paired with food from over 60 restaurants. Scooting through the aisles I came upon a Mangalitsa pork tamale – delicate white corn masa and pork and spices tied into a corn husk – from Brix 25 in Gig Harbor. Many tamales are too corn-mealy, but this one made the wooly pig flavor hum. Although it’s unwise to form an opinion on small and very public samplings, it made me very very curious about the restaurant.

In a minute I had a yummy 2006 Sleight of Hand Spellbinder red blend in my glass and felt that Big Joy when you’ve found a really terrific every day wine. Trey Busch, their wine maker came from two of my other favorite wineries, Dunham and Basel Cellars after years as a Nordstrom buyer. Spellbinder is my new favorite wine at $19 and if you want to grab a bottle in the Northwest look to Esquin Wine Merchant, Top Foods, Whole Foods, QFC, and Haggen. Funny thing, my other go-to bottles of red wine right now are Basel Cellars Claret at $20 and good old Metropolitan Market Red # 5 for $10.

Nibbles here, mouthfuls there, and I nearly passed by the Bacon Brownies from The City Catering Company because I was sure this was pork huckstering. Whenever I think that, it’s my big red flag and I know that I have to actually try it. Flash judgments aren’t based on fact, so eat it and find out. It’s the only path to food truth.

The Bacon Brownies were delicious and all the flavors made a recombinant yum, for the same reasons that Vietnamese drunken chicken does. Salty, crispy, sweet, tender and in this case porky, all in a life-changing mouthful. The brownies were split horizontally (like a cake) with a layer of bacon spread across the center plus a cone of bacon on the top. Three days later and I still want more Bacon Brownies so soon I’ll be making some. Maybe every brownie I ever make again will sport a bacon hat instead of chocolate ganache.

ÁMaurice Cellars from Walla Walla poured the 2006 Syrah, again entirely delicious. I first had their wine at a white tablecloth luncheon in the middle of a vineyard at Vintage Walla Walla last year and everyone at the table, most of them distinguished palates, loved it. It’s not on the every day list only because it is $34.

You have to draw the line somewhere.

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