Thursday, September 27, 2007

Quiz: What’s Your Wine Personality? - Recipe of the Week

Happy Thursday!

This week I am using a quiz to assist you in finding your Wine Personality through Food and Wine Magazine.

Click on this link and take the 20 question quiz.

In the end you will be rewarded with 4 personal wine varieties and all sorts of YUMMY recipes for each variety.

No big suprise that I like:
Full-bodied Chardonnays
The Zippy Acidity of Sauvignon Blanc
Earthy, complex Pinot Noirs, and
The richness and power of Cabernet Sauvignon

Let me know what your personality is!!!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Weekend - Saturday, September 22nd

Saturday we took Sandra on a little tour of Gig Harbor, Washington over the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge it only takes us about 15 minutes to hit the heart of downtown. The sun was out and so were hundreds of dogs and their owners for the annual charity “doggie-dash”. We had a blast looking at all the dogs and picking out which ones we liked best.

Drinks at The Tides

View from the deck of The Tides

We finally got a spot out on the deck at The Tides. It was too wet the first time Brian and I came to Gig Harbor a couple of years ago and this past spring it was a beautiful day and all the tables were filled (with a waiting list). It was funny that they ran out of chardonnay (didn’t they know we were coming), but we stared out and the water, fantasized about the boats sailing by and the million dollar homes perched high above the water.

Beautiful homes in Gig Harbor
Brian loved the beautifully landscaped homes
Wildlife Festival at the Gig Harbor bird store

After an hour or so of window shopping and looking at all of the beautiful water-front homes we drove through Gig Harbor and down to Anthony’s were we sat out on their deck (we had the entire place to ourselves) and enjoyed a bottle of chardonnay and some yummy appetizers.

Stacy on the deck at Anthony's

We ended our Saturday afternoon with Deer Park Nachos (ala Brian, even better than the real thing) and a nice quiet evening back at Westridge.

Sandra had a great time in Tacoma and really wants to come back!


NY Times LOVES Portland!

The NY Times ran a very interesting article on the Portland Restaurant Scene this week bringing, yet again more exposure to our awesome gastronomical paradise!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Weekend – Friday, September 21st 2007

Sandra and I drove up to Tacoma last Thursday night for a long weekend with Brian. Sandra had never explored Tacoma before or been to Brian’s place at Westridge so we did as much as we could in three days.

Friday – Breakfast at University Place’s own Pine Cone Café. Nothing fancy — just down-home classic food with vinyl booths and a median age of 75. We ate breakfast at 11:00 AM when most of the “blue hairs” we sitting down for lunch.

We drove down to Tacoma and took the free link (train) that runs through the downtown area a few stops down to the old Union Station. Built in 1911 at the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Union Station is one of downtown Tacoma's shining jewels.

A magnificent example of the Beaux Arts style of architecture, the structure served train passengers into the 1980s but fell into disrepair as interest in railroad travel diminished. In the 1990s, the City of Tacoma bought the building for just one dollar and renovated the station into the lobby of a new federal courthouse.

Five site-specific glass installations by internationally acclaimed Tacoma native Dale Chihuly fill the station, a perfect place to start our tour.

We walked along the Foss Waterway, soaking up the last day of summer’s rays before heading into Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.

The museum’s current exhibitions include “Mining Glass”, a new exhibition that explores how the medium of glass has gained prominence in 21st century contemporary art. It features the installation and sculptural works of Wim Delvoye, Teresita Fernández, Mona Hatoum, Maya Lin, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Kiki Smith, Fred Wilson, and the late Chen Zhen.

It is the first major survey to examine how the rich and unparalleled material of glass has expanded beyond its traditional application in decorative and functional art in the early twenty-first century. The installations are organized around eight narratives that act as suggested passages to help viewers see beyond the technical matters associated with the medium. Glass may have been disregarded by twentieth century art as decorative, but today it is not simply a major medium in its own right, it is also one that opens new visions for the artists who are approaching and mining it.

One of the most incredible experiences was walking into the museum’s 90-foot steel cone called the “Hot Shop” which has become a Northwest landmark.

This state-of-the-art studio with several furnaces burning at over 2000°F allows artists to blow and shape hot glass objects, which was really amazing to watch.

After we finished at the museum we walked down Pacific Avenue and to one of my favorite cocktails spots, The Pacific Grill.

Located in the heart of Tacoma's reborn downtown, Pacific Grill is an inviting living room, serving classic steaks, chops and succulent seafood, all in the inviting warmth of a gracefully restored turn-of-the-century building (and the wine is not too bad either). Our new favorite bartender, John was entertaining as were the other patrons enjoying an early Friday “Happy Hour”. I think the three of us could have stayed their all evening.

We finished up our Friday tour of Tacoma down on Ruston Way along the waterfront checking out Katie Downs Tavern and Eatery. We tried sitting out on the patio, but a cooler and wetter front was approaching so we relaxed inside (with views of the water) and enjoyed a great evening sipping on Duck Pond Chardonnay and talking up a storm!

What a great Friday!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

BYWAYS CAFE - Restaurant Review

Brian and I tried a new Sunday breakfast spot this past weekend after Brian saw a segment on the Food Network about the Byways Café in the Pearl District of Portland.

Located at 12th and Glisan in the trendy Pearl District this small café feels like a blast from the past with vinyl booths, friendly servers, an authentic soda fountain and food served on old non-matching chinaware. A travel theme plays out in an eclectic assortment of memorabilia, including collectible suitcases and Viewmasters, which you can use to check out a variety of tourist destinations while you wait for your meal. Tableside display cases hold old postcards, snow globes, cups and vacation photos, a plate collection lines the back wall and old state pennants hang from the ceiling. The crowd was mixed: 20-somethings nursing weekend hangovers, young families and Pearlites converging outside to wait for a hearty and satisfying breakfast.

Expect to wait….as the place couldn’t hold more than 30. We waited about 40 minutes for a table anywhere (they have about 10 places at the counter in addition to the several booths and a few small tables) and ended up settling for the lone picnic table outside. Not our first choice, but hunger won out! Lucky for us, it was a brisk, fall-like morning.

This “greasy spoon” improves on the classics. From old-fashioned hash, a mix-mash of potatoes, spicy corned beef, melted cheese and hot peppers to an Amaretto-infused French toast (allow an extra 15 minutes to prepare) to about 10 different and inventive omelets with home fries…it took me longer to make a breakfast decision than at any other restaurant I have been to in ages! Oh and their coffee ROCKS!!!!

Brian had the Seattle scramble a mix of “garden” sausage, spinach, onions and tomatoes and I had the Sunrise Special, an egg (cooked however you like it) two strips of thick sliced bacon and three fluffy blueberry pancakes infused with cinnamon. Yum! Next time we go back, we'll remember not to take anyone with us (we wouldn't want to wait any longer for a bigger table) and hope to sit inside to take in all the memorabilia.

• Tue.-Fri. 7AM-3PM
• Sat. 7:30AM-4PM
• Sun. 7:30AM-2PM – Breakfast Only

**** (4 out of 5 stars)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More San Diego Pictures!!!!!!!

To be honest....these are not all that good but more pictures of our wonderful trip to San Diego. Enjoy!

Brian on Coronado Ferry

Brian at Altitude Sky Bar

Brian at Bella Luna

Hotel Del Coronado

Our bicycle Taxi

Brian at Soleil Our Hotel Room

Fireworks after the game

Brian in the outfield

Friday, September 7, 2007

Recipe of the week – FRESH FIGS

I’ve been reading a lot lately about fresh figs. I can’t say I’ve ever eaten one and I certainly have never cooked with one. Intrigued, I set out to find a little bit more out about figs.

Figs are packed with heath benefits from high amounts of fiber, minerals and other nutrients and they provide 20 percent of the daily fiber recommendations per serving - more than any other common fresh or dried fruit.

Prime harvesting season for fresh figs is mid-June to mid-October. Snatch them up and use them as soon as you find them in the market as they will spoil within seven to ten days of harvesting. In most cases this means you have about 3 days at most to use them at home.

Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are the real fruit!

Here are two fig recipes I came across! Enjoy!

Grecian Fig Chicken Salad

1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon plain nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed with a garlic press
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups (1 pound) cooked, diced chicken breast meat
1 1/2 cups (15.5 ounces) canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch-thick
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup (about 10) California figs, diced
3 cups (4 ounces) mixed salad greens
6 tablespoons (1 ounce) chopped fresh mint

In a large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until well blended.

Add the chicken, chickpeas, cucumber, onion and figs; stir and toss to coat well. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

To serve, divide the salad greens among 6 individual plates. Top each with an equal amount of the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with the mint.

Serves 6

Crostini With Figs And Nuts

1 package (8 oz) California dried figs
¾ cup nuts, very coarsely chopped
1 carton (12 oz) soft cream cheese

Snip stems from figs and cut figs into small pieces.

Toast nuts in 300-degree oven for 5 to 6 minutes, just until fragrant but not browned.

Combine figs, nuts and cheese in food processor or mixer and process just until blended.

Heat baguette to freshen.

Cut crosswise into small slices. Spread each slice with fig mixture.

Serve at room temperature. Makes 2 cups spread (about 36 appetizers).


San Diego, California

Brian and I had a fantastic time in San Diego celebrating Brian’s birthday!

Our trip started off with an unbelievable – once in a lifetime experience. Our Horizon flight on route from Seattle to Portland was due to arrive early. Since our gate in PDX was not vacant, the pilot had time to kill….so we “buzzed” Mount Saint Helens. When I say we buzzed the mountain, you really have no idea how close we came…flying a figure eight (so that both sides of the plane got a great view of the crater). I managed to snap one picture, although not quite doing it justice. Brian was thrilled…..I was a bit nervous flying so close but our vacation got off to a great start.


We arrived in San Diego around 2PM on Friday to find the temperatures in the mid 80’s which is very unusual for the San Diego area. We took a cab to the Gaslamp Quarter and found the Horton Grand Hotel – our home away from home for the next 48 hours. The Gaslamp Quarter is a neighborhood close to downtown, named for the gas lamps that line the streets. The historic district includes 94 historic buildings in the 16 and one-half block area. Many buildings are Victorian Era-themed, including our hotel. There are 100 places to eat, 100 shops and 35 nightclubs. The Quarter is home to many popular events throughout the year including a Mardi Gras celebration, The Taste of Gaslamp and ShamROCK on St. Patrick’s Day. PETCO Park is located one block away in downtown San Diego's East Village.


After checking into our hotel we began exploring the area on foot finding sidewalk cafes and open air restaurants, jazz clubs, late night dancing spots, resident artists and micro breweries - all which contribute to the spirit of the area. We found a cute little Italian restaurant named Bella Luna and enjoyed out first glass of wine in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Next we headed to the Altitude Sky Bar and Garden Lounge located a few blocks away from PETCO Park’s front entrance at the Marriott Hotel. Since the Sky Bar didn’t open until 5PM, Brian and I enjoyed “happy hour” at Soleil – my favorite place we visited in San Diego. With a huge chalk board wine list, comfortable couches and an open air feel – Brian and I found it to be the perfect place to “people watch” especially all the fans headed to the ball park. The Artisan Flatbread with basil pesto, fresh mozzarella and parmesan was the perfect appetizer. Good fun!


After 5PM, we took the express elevator up to the Altitude Sky Bar. Incredible! Located on the 22nd floor of the Marriott we took in the sights of the harbor and downtown skyline with the best view of all - neighboring PETCO Park. We struck up a conversation with a local couple who suggested we spend Saturday taking a ferry over and exploring the city/island of Coronado. What a great idea!

After enjoying the views from the Sky Bar, Brian and I wandered back to the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter and had a wonderful dinner at Trattoria La Strada Restaurant.

La Strada’s prime location makes it a place to see and be seen, with patio dining and walls of windows facing the hippest corner in the Gaslamp. We shared an appetizer salad and Brian had chicken parmesan and I had spinach ravioli. Yum! They even treated Brian to a birthday cheesecake with a candle.

Saturday was a glorious day! Not only was it Brian’s birthday but the San Diego weather was warmer than Friday – clear and sunny and perfect for a ferry ride to Coronado.


Spanish for 'the crowned one", it is nicknamed The Crown City. It is also nicknamed The Tent City, referring to tourists' tents that once lined Coronado Beach during the summer-vacation season.


Coronado is home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, built in 1888 and long considered one of the world's top resorts. Brian and I took a city bus from the ferry dock through the heart of town to the hotel for a look around. The Hotel del Coronado It is listed as a National Historic Landmark and appeared in the film, “Some Like it Hot” with Marilyn Monroe. The Del has had many American heroes come to visit, such as Charles Lindbergh and Thomas Edison and legendary sports figures such as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Willie Mays, and Muhammad Ali. Many presidents have also visited the historic hotel, such as Taft, Roosevelt (FDR), Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. Many suspect that it was here that England’s Prince of Wales met Coronado divorcee Wallis Simpson, eventually leading to his abdication in 1936.

Brian and I toured the hotel a bit – amazed by the architecture and history. We soon found our way to the beach and walked barefoot along the shore enjoying the views of the hotel from the beach. After a good stroll we wandered through the beachside neighborhood and found our way back to main street.

I heard music playing from an Irish pub and decided that it was time for our mid-day cocktail and we found it has a cool patio. Mc P’s Irish Pub – Brian and I suspected it is where all the locals call home (including their dogs). We hung out at Mc P’s and people watched (I put $10 in their jukebox) and enjoyed the cool ocean breeze. We left Coronado mid-afternoon and took the ferry back to San Diego. The sun was beating down on us and instead of walking back to the hotel, we decided to take one of the many bicycle taxis that our quite popular with the tourists. It was a fun ride back to the hotel!

It was now game time! The San Diego Padres vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers at PETCO Park. Normally I root for the home team, but with my Dodgers fighting for a wild card spot – I just had to wear my Dodger T-shirt and scream………..GO BLUE!! We found a lot of people headed to PETCO wearing Dodger Blue! Brian and I stopped in at Soleil again for another glass of that buttery Robert Mondavi Chardonnay and I met some “new friends”.

PETCO Park differentiates itself from many other ballparks built in the same era by eschewing "retro"-style brick. The stadium is clad in Indian sandstone and stucco, both of which I thought looked cheap and drab. Its exposed steel is painted white and the 42,445 fixed seats are dark blue. The design is meant to evoke the sandy color of San Diego cliffs and beaches, the blue of the ocean, and the white sails of the boats on the nearby bay.

I found it to be an intimate setting, much more so than Citizen’s Bank ballpark in Philly, but the architects design pulled restaurants and other amenities away from the seating bowl itself into other buildings surrounding the bowl. As a result, the ballpark's concourses are open to the surrounding city and not to the playing field like SAFECO Field or Camden Yards. Unlike most outdoor ballparks, in which the batter faces in a northeasterly direction, in this ballpark the batter faces due north, and fans in the grandstands are treated to a view of the San Diego Bay and the skyline beyond the left field seats with a view of Balboa Park beyond center field.

An excellent example of adaptive reuse (as seen at Camden Yards) is the Western Metal Supply Company building, a hundred-year old structure that had been scheduled for demolition to make way for PETCO Park. The building was renovated and contains the team store, private suites, a restaurant and rooftop seating. The corner of the building serves as the left field foul-pole. The “Park at the Park”, a grassy berm sloping above the outfield fence, is open during game time, allowing fans to sit and watch games for a small price. When no games are being played, the Park at the Park serves as a free local park for area residents.

Our seats were good and the game was even better….just being in a new ballpark was the highlight of our trip. The home team won, 7-0 (Peavy outdualed Lowe) and I got razzed a bit for wearing my Dodger t-shirt, but we had an amazing evening. To our surprise, after the game ended they had a 10 minute fireworks show, choreographed to Elvis music (30th anniversary of his death this summer).

Brian’s never had fireworks on his birthday and it was a perfect end to a fantastic day!

All too soon our adventures in San Diego were over. We had a great breakfast at an Irish Pub on Sunday morning and flew home on Sunday afternoon - with temps hovering around 90 degrees. We tried to walk around the Marina and Gaslamp areas (even road their version of the MAX train) but we were both grateful to get to the airport and head back to the Pacific Northwest with many wonderful memories of San Diego!