Eat, drink, repeat. With its over 50 bites and 600 beverages, the annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience has come and gone again, packing Seattle Center's Exhibition Hall this past Sunday, February 22, and replacing both lunch and dinner for attendees--and for some of us gluttons, another day's meals, too.
Couldn't make it this year? No problem. Below find our picks from the event for best eats, sweets, libations and even a local cooking school to follow up with. Since much of the pre-event coverage of cuisine focused on heavy hitters Terra Plata, Restaurant Zoe and more, we searched for some lesser known spots also worth your while. Bon appetit!
1. Bell + Whete: Caramelized pork belly with sour beer braised cabbage and pickled mustard seeds
A six-month-old outpost from the Local 360 crew, this European kitchen and lounge in Belltown shined for its pork belly preparation this weekend, well rounded in flavors (sweet, tangy, spicy, rich) and textures (tender pork belly; crunchy rye cracker; bubbly mustard seeds; soft, shredded braised cabbage). Find it among its small plates ($6) on the dinner menu.
2. Mama Stortini's: Tuscan Meatballs
The slightly spicy, juicy meatballs from this Italian chain in Seattle, Kent and Puyallap were nicely balanced and a surprising flavor bomb well worth revisiting. They were served solo at the event with minimal sauce that didn't overwhelm; on the Northgate branch menu, they're featured with spaghetti and "Mama's slow-roasted meat sauce" ($12.95-$14.95).
3. Biscuit Box: Ham and Cheese Biscuit
A member of the Mobile Mavens team of traveling food venues, the Biscuit Box served up a memorable biscuit with trotters, rosemary and Beecher's fondue on Sunday. Rich as expected, the smothered plate could have used more of the radish-celery-pea tendril-lemon viniagrette salad for balance, but as was, produced a comforting, creamy, not-overly-sharp (as one might imagine from a Beecher's fondue) addition to Seattle's biscuit scene. Find the food truck's regular lunch time stops on its website (biscuits $5 to $8).
4. The Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel: Signature Georgian Truffle Foie Gras Macaroon
The brainchild of sous chef Isabel Chung, the Fairmont's Georgian restaurant served up an unexpected savory macaroon that isn't on its regular menu yet, but has been known to pass it around in the Terrace Lounge on occasion or add it to an evening's dessert offerings. What makes it special? The subtle filling features both shaved black truffle and fois gras, which marries surprisingly well to the delicate, traditional cookie outer layers that are dusted with chips of smoky black lava salt. One more, please--and Georgian, we request that you add it to your menu!
5. Jonboy Caramels: Ceylon Cinnamon
I have long been smitten with Jonboy Caramels, and was thrilled to find this warming, seasonal addition to its offerings on Sunday. With a just-enough kick of cayenne, the ceylon cinnamon caramel balances a spicy/hot/sweet/rich ratio to perfection. Hurry, though: the cinnamon ($9.99/box) will only be available on Jonboy's website, at farmers markets and in select stores as long as winter lasts--which, with cherry blossoms abloom, could go any time.
Adore sweets though I do, truffles are usually an exception. The six I sampled from this Bellingham-based chocolatier were an exception to the exception, though, with their thoughtful, balanced, multi-layered flavors that did, genuinely, evolve in the mouth. Think 1, 2, 3... pop!, with a finish of sparkling wine or wasabi or citrus. Not overly sweet (there is enough going on), flavors range from antique rose (made with rosewater) to apricot saffron to wasabi star anise to ghost pepper and lime. Find them online or at Woodinville's Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery.
7. 44 Degree North Vodka: Sunnyslope Nectarine
This Idaho-based vodka distillery poured four varieties on Sunday: Its classic Idaho potato, mountain huckleberry, Rainier cherry and Sunnyslope nectarine. While all four are smooth, interesting and well-rounded, the berry and cherry have a medicinal hint that is hard to ignore, but the nectarine offers a lovely, light, here-comes-spring refreshment with just the right twist of citrus.
8. Rombauer Vineyards: Chardonnay 2013, Carneros
With "the joy of wine" as its philosophy, this Napa Valley-based winery is celebrated for its link to Irma Rombauer, author of The Joy of Cooking and the great aunt of the founder of the vineyard. Its smooth, balanced 2013 Chardonnay sparkled most this weekend with its notes of butterscotch and tropical fruit. According to the pourer, the already luscious flavor is expected to peak around May, so best stock up now.
9. Diane LaVonne of Diane's Market Kitchen: Braised Shortribs featuring Stella Artois Leffe Brune
In her Sunday demo, downtown-based cooking instructor Diane LaVonne offered onlookers a sample of her braised shortribs and her teaching technique: both skilled endeavors. From passing onions around to taste (enhanced by first crumbling Turkish bay leaves in one's fingers) to explaining the benefits of her preferred, high-smoke-point cooking oil (a Reisling grapeseed variety), LaVonne delivered an informative, easy-to-follow, entertaining lesson, with memorable one-liners including "Roll the shortrib in flour and kind of spank it." In her Post Alley kitchen outside of Pike Place Market, LaVonne regularly teaches cooking classes on various topics from seasonal pasta to satisfying soups and stews to ("simply") salmon. Find her current schedule here.