Category Archives: Bar

An Evening With Stumptown Coffee (and Cocktails, and Wine)

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Stumptown provides a unique setting for dinner.

Two of the three tables, set and awaiting guests.

Reception in the Stumptown store before the start of the sit-down dinner.

Alex Negranza, producer of "An Evening With," welcomes guests.

Coffee and alcohol at the ready.

Staff checking out the food and drink pairings.

Part of the evening's fireworks.

More cocktail-making.

Drinks. Plenty of drinks.

Coffee scales and timers, ready for action.

Chemex preparation.

The Aeropress builds muscle tone.

The McCracken-Tough team prepares the first course.

First course, plated and ready to serve.

First course: Chevre custard, persimmon, sherry reduction, nasturtium. (Coffee pairing: Ethiopia Mordecofe Reserva)

Second course: Smoked salmon roe, confit duck gizzard, black garlic, pickled apple. (Coffee pairing: Kenya Gaturiri)

Third course: Smoked sweet potato agnolotti, treviso, pine nuts, smoked idiazabal, brown butter. (Coffee pairing: Guatemala Finca El Injerto-La Cima)

Fourth course: Coffee-rubbed venison loin, chanterelles, sunchoke, pluot, chrysanthemum bitterroot. (Coffee pairing: Honduras Finca El Puente)

Fifth course: Fernet ice cream, candied fennel, blood orange segments, lavender mint, saffron olive oil cake with a chocolate shell. (Coffee pairing: El Salvador Kilimanjaro Aida's Grande Reserve)

Through the looking glass.

Liquidation?

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Stumptown Coffee Roasters may not have been roasting green beans in Seattle last Sunday night, but its equipment made for a magnificent backdrop at a special pop-up dinner in the roasting facility—the first of its kind at the site. Despite the lack of roasting, there was plenty of coffee being produced in the basement of the 12th Avenue location that evening as An Evening With Stumptown Coffee Roasters meant a five-course dinner with coffee pairings and plenty of other libations.

With a particular interest in coffee, I was invited to attend, and I was mighty curious. Just how would they pair coffee with food? How much coffee could there possibly be, and how much would I dare consume? Will there be spit buckets? How late would a caffeine-heavy evening keep me awake?

Turns out I’d be drinking coffee until after 11pm, which is the time I left Stumptown (the event started at 6pm) with the party still going.

The setting at Stumptown was beautiful, with the space amazingly transformed. Three large tables, gorgeous lighting, fabulous ambient music loud enough to enjoy but quiet enough for comfortable conversation. (Restaurant owners, take note.) For his first production, “An Evening With” producer Alex Negranza got the pop-up setting as perfect as one could hope. Negranza (who has quickly accumulated extensive barista and bartending experience at places like Milstead & Co., Liberty, and Spur) is a motivator with boundless energy; his infectious exuberance was on display, spilling into friendly and efficient service from the teams of chefs, servers, sommeliers, baristas, and bartenders on hand for the evening.

Prepared by chefs from the McCracken-Tough team, the food was sure to be a winner, despite the inherent limitations of the Stumptown space. From the first (colorful) course of chèvre custard to the final lick of a spoon with Fernet ice cream, the food was fun and flavorful.

As for the coffee pairings? Unfortunately, a little unfocused. Coffee typically came too far ahead of the accompanying dish (on two occasions, servers picked up cups before the food even arrived), with small pours that quickly got cold and couldn’t be fairly “judged” against the paired food. I enjoyed sampling the varieties of coffee and watching the various preparation techniques (Chemex, Aeropress, etc.), but I didn’t become convinced that coffee could really pair well with the savory dishes served. For example, I found coffee to be jarring with the brininess of the salmon roe plated with confit duck gizzard. (The dish was initially envisioned with sea urchin, which might have been better with coffee.) And when dessert arrived, instead of the chance to drink coffee to counter the sweetness of the chocolate-covered olive oil cake, we were given a cupping experience. I watched as my tablemates took a slurp or two, and then quickly put their spoons down.

Part of the problem, I believe, was that the ambitious undertaking resulted in an overwhelming number of beverages. Each course came with coffee, a cocktail, and wine. (At one point, I remarked that beer might have been the best pairing for a particular course, inspiring some interesting discussion and debate.) As if there were not enough liquids, there was also consommé with a potential pairing of espresso (or punch) as an amuse-bouche, spruce granita with juniper berry DRY Soda as an intermezzo, and a Stumptown Gesha coffee as a going-away drink.

Still, a fun experience, and a building block for future “An Evening With” events. Given Negranza’s energy and enthusiasm, I expect future events to be equally exciting and even more polished. While there’s nothing solid on the schedule (you can follow “An Evening With” on Facebook), Negranza noted, with witty word choice, that he has a few ideas “brewing.”

 

What to Know Before Ordering at: Henry & Oscar’s

A "must have cocktail" according to Entertainment Weekly, The Bogart. Tanqueray with lime, Cointreau, and sage. Don't be shocked when you find you have a hole in your mouth.
A “must-have cocktail” according to Entertainment Weekly, The Bogart is Tanqueray with lime, Cointreau, and sage. Don’t be shocked when you find you have a hole in your mouth.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, I walk into Henry and Oscar’s. Although the 4th Ave. and Vine bar is more of an immersive lounge than it is a typical gin joint. Think fur-coated booths, engraved personalized glassware for regulars, and four walls of plasma screens for those lucky enough to be in the back room. It’s exactly what you’re thinking — dinner and a movie. Henry and Oscar’s is owned by the people behind Big Picture, and after drinking the Bogart, it’s one of my new favorite haunts.

It’s always nice having a friend on the inside give you the scoop, and I’ve always wanted to be that friend. So here are five things to know before ordering at Henry and Oscar’s: 

1. The bar feels made for the customer. In the front of the house, there are literally fireside couches. Forget the bar stool — why can’t I drink cocktails on couches more often? Mohair lines the high-backs for total cush, you’ll find privacy and expensive attention to detail at nearly any angle, and the cocktails are classic adaptations, stiff, and rarely exceed $10. It feels like, for once, the bar had the drinker in mind.

2. It’s $18 for a personalized, engraved glass of choice. Drink included. You know how only the classiest of places have the throw-back to old world dining with personal liquor cabinets? Well, I like the different angle Henry and Oscar’s took. Instead of a locker to store your booze, you can buy a personalized, engraved glass of your choice, kept in-house, and ready for your favorite drink whenever you dine. Best part? It’s only $18 to do so (I double-checked) and your first drink is included in that price. Glassware options are rocks, wine, or martini — per what you fancy most — and the cabinet is already getting full.

3. Forget the calories. Order the meat. In addition to the typical before and after happy hour times, they also feature a special, fresh-that-day option that unquestionably goes for $3.50. When I went, it was house-rolled lamb meatball sliders, with a fragrant mint jelly glaze and slaw. The offerings are always changing for the extremely happy hour feature, but ohmygod don’t miss the Chicago dog (6.25 during HH) of Vienna beef smoked in Mac & Jack’s beer, with all the Chicago spicy fixings. HH is all day on Sundays and game days.

4. Film screenings in back, bar in the front. The owner is a third generation theater owner, so you know his crew understands an audience and a movie. When there, ask to be seated in back room, where the lights are dim, the screens can be selected, and the bartender can tailor-make your cocktails for whatever is currently showing. The Breaking Bad finale next Sunday 29th? Meth-Tinis. (One can only wonder.) And on Wednesdays — in fact, it kicks off tonight — they host a sci-fi film series, led by science fiction authors.

5. Reserve the “Director’s Chair.” Forget communal dining. Here it’s all about the lounge, and PRIVACY. Especially if you’re fortunate enough to snag the rumored best seat in the house, “The Director’s Table.” And at the “Love Booth,” lovers sit side-by-side, and the high-backs are high enough for no one to bother you (or see what you’re up to). Those are the only two themed seatings, but the lounge is armored with the recipe for a perfect date: dim lighting, the feeling of ultra privacy, and a sprawling, plush sectional in the center.

Henry and Oscar’s is located at 4th Avenue and Vine, and is open every day at 4.

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Will Canon’s Sean Michael Johnson be the Nation’s “Most Imaginative Bartender”?

Sean Michael Johnson
Sean Michael Johnson

A few weeks ago, just before mixologist Sean Michael Johnson was selected as the Seattle finalist for Bombay Sapphire’s Search for the Most Imaginative Bartender, I was in Canon trying to decide what to have besides a Toronto. Nothing jumped to mind, so I punted to the bartender, which happened to be Johnson.

Fernet Branca, meet apple cognac. (Photo: MvB)
Fernet Branca, meet apple cognac. (Photo: MvB)

“What’s a good Fernet drink for someone who likes a Toronto?” I asked. A little while later, Johnson reappeared with a drink containing Fernet Branca, apple cognac, chocolate bitters, and a “little bit of simple.”

A savvy bartender, wary of Fernet Branca’s tendency to overpower a drink, will try to dial it back into balance, or match it with a bearded, barrel-chested alcohol that can go a few rounds.

But Johnson had doubled down on the low notes in the drink with his chocolate bitters, while the apple cognac felt light as a hummingbird in this context. In musical terms, it was a bit like pairing a double bass with a piccolo; my tastebuds were jostling themselves trying to shout out the flavors.

That’s the kind of thing that’ll get you noticed by a jaded U.S. Bartender’s Guild judge, so it’s not surprising that Johnson’s heading to Vegas for a September 8 bid at a national title. The winner gets, among other things, a cover feature in the December 2013 GQ magazine “Men of The Year” issue, and a shot at the Global Finals in 2014.

Here’s the drink Johnson poured that won him his Vegas title shot.

The Julius Henry
The Julius Henry

Julius Henry

1 1/2 ounce Bombay Sapphire Gin

1/2 ounce Aperol

2 dashes lime bitters

Cognac/Coriander Whip Cream Float*

-Combine Bombay, Aperol and lime bitters in a mixing glass, add ice and stir until cold. Strain into a cocktail/couple glass and top with Cognac/Coriander Whip Cream

*Cognac/Coriander Whip Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup powered sugar

3 ounces coriander infused cognac*

-Hand whip to desired consistency

*Coriander Infused Cognac

2 ounce (1/4 cup) – whole coriander seeds, lightly crushed

10 ounces cognac

-Let sit together in a mason jar for approximately two days

Cyclists! Redhook Brewery’s Forecasters Pub Welcomes You Once More

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Redhook Forecaster's Pub, interior, day (Photo: MvB)

An enthusiastic Redhook drinker (Photo: MvB)

The German-style tables (Photo: MvB)

The new Redhook horseshoe bar (Photo: MvB)

The patio tent. We vote no. (Photo: MvB)

Redhook's patio seating (Photo: MvB)

You can win this Redhook Mancave trailer by Liking the Mancave page on Facebook. (Photo: MvB)

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Tuesday night, Redhook Brewery had the SunBreak’s Beer & Cycling Team up to Woodinville for a reopening party at their Forecaster’s Pub. It’s been getting a major renovation over the past few months. First there was a pop-up pub upstairs, then they got the patio reopened, and now the pub itself. The big change is a large horseshoe bar with an interior row of seats, encircled by a thinner counter area where people can stand and rest their drinks. It should prevent people from climbing over your back if you’re seated at the bar.

Then there’s a section of long, wooden tables for German-style beer drinking, while the rest of the restaurant is filled with the same shiny metal-topped tables found out on the patio. (Beware: On sunny days these act as both sun reflectors and heat sinks. Set your iPhone down on one for a few minutes, and it’ll quickly become too hot to function. We’ve seen people try to wallpaper their table with menus to cut down on the glare.)

You can avoid glare entirely by sitting in the tented area on the patio, which — yes, mushroom people, we know you dry and flake in direct sunlight — just seems silly. You should only come out at night. Accept it.

The beer selection is still Redhook-heavy, naturally, although they’re pouring more guest beers, and they also have gluten-free beers and ciders. Apparently the rest of you didn’t drink enough Copperhook, so they killed it. Their newer Audible Ale is sort of an IPA for people who don’t like IPAs: tart and flavorful, but not bitter. The SunBreak Beer & Cycling Team is fond of their take on a Belgian, the Wit. Light and crisp, thanks to a touch of ginger. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Pilsner!

A new food menu (New Menu PDF) includes fried cheese curds, and chips and gravy for appetizers. Your choice of six burgers (one is a black-bean veggie burger). The steak and spinach salad — a classic — remains, as does the BBQ pulled pork sandwich. A new smoker calls for a smoked meats section: smoked turkey leg and a variety of smoked pork. Are the Mahi Mahi fish tacos new? We haven’t had a chance to taste the new menu yet, but we’ve been pretty pleased with Redhook’s work in the kitchen thus far, so far as pub food goes.

If you haven’t ridden the Burke-Gilman Trail (to the Sammamish River Trail and thence) to the Brewery, let us encourage you to give it a try. (Here’s a more detailed description of the ride.) If you take your time and stop to rest, it may take about two and half hours to get there from Seattle. If you keep a steady 14 mph, you’ll probably be there in 90 minutes. (Ironically, we drove up in rush-hour Tuesday night, and it also took 90 minutes.) Redhook, you’ll notice, has been expecting you: There’s an assortment of bike racks to choose from, and on nice days, several hundred bikers will roll up.

Pig’s Head, Moonshine, and More Now Warming Diners at Radiator Whiskey

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7-foot tall wooden barrel which houses seven separate barrels dispensing different spirits.

The meaning of moonshine.

Cornflake-crusted chicken livers, Frank's RedHot, and green onions. Unfortunately, the liver flavor gets lost, but still lots of fun.

Deep-fried beef lips with Dijonnaise. Delightful!

Opal apple salad with celery, pickled golden raisins, and sherry vinaigrette. Nice flavor and texture; great counterpoint to the meaty dishes.

Sauteed asparagus with house Canadian bacon and Hollandaise. Spring has sprung.

Chefs Charlie Garrison (left) and Tyler Palagi in the open kitchen.

Pig heads, pig heads, roly-poly pig heads?

Pork-a-plenty.

Platter of smoked half pig head with fritto misto, onions, brains, ears, tongue, loin, and coppa.

The aftermath: pigged out.

The evening's menu.

Willie Nelson presides over the kitchen.

A room with a carnal view.

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If Matt’s in the Market is one of the most romantic restaurants in Seattle, its new sister Radiator Whiskey is one of the most carnal.

When you walk into Radiator, across the hall from Matt’s at Pike Place Market, you get a Prohibition-Era feel. Belly up to the bar and you’ll immediately notice a 7-foot high wooden barrel that dispenses a changing selection of spirits from seven smaller, separate barrels. There are over 100 kinds of whiskeys available, including a Radiator Whiskey-branded moonshine from 2Bar Spirits that is 100 proof (a few drops of water lets the flavor open up). If you go bonkers over brown drinks, you can even join the Radiator Whiskey Flask Club. For $500, you get a personalized flask filled with the spirit of your choice, specially stored in a hollowed-out book. (There will be other special benefits.)

If, like me, you’re a fan of what David Letterman loved to call the “variety meats,” you’ll love Radiator Whiskey. As with Matt’s, ingredients are seasonal and locally sourced. (Read: from just downstairs at the market.) Owner Dan Bugge and chef Tyler Palagi (who you can see next week with Gordon Ramsay–and me!–in the Kitchen Nightmares episode shot at Prohibition Grille turned Prohibition Gastropub in Everett) like to joke that the liberal use of organ meats is an attempt to be fancy, but an act of frugality. (Note: Charlie Garrison works with Palagi as part of the chef team.)

Frugal’s fine by me. At a media preview, I sampled deep-fried beef lips, Buffalo-style chicken livers, and half of a smoked pig head served with brains and tongue. Don’t worry: The smoked pig heads weren’t just for the journalists. They’ll be on the menu most every night, though due to limited space (it’s a very tiny kitchen), only be a handful will be available. Order yours early. I promise you that the pig is delicious. Actually, the whole meal was great…an orgy of flesh, fat, muscle, and more.

And if that’s not carnal enough, get a seat by the window where you can get a view of the Deja Vu marque while enjoying a cocktail called The Showgirl, with bourbon, Ramazotti Amaro, and rhubarb bitters. It’ll get your blood flowing.

Keep Clam! Ivar’s Whalemaker Lounge Reopens After Makeover

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The Whalemaker's copper-topped bar (Photo: MvB)

The new Whalemaker's look (Photo: Ivar's)

The Whalemaker's central fireplace, created by Alexander Lang (Photo: MvB)

One of the best bar views in town: the game or boat traffic in the Cut (Photo: Ivar's)

The lounge in its earlier incarnation (Photo: MvB)

The guest schedule for its grand reopening -- drop in 5-8 p.m. on the days listed. (Photo: MvB)

(Photo: MvB)

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Seattle’s seafaring cognoscenti of the imbibing kind (i.e., all of them) have long held a special place in their hearts for the Whalemaker Lounge at Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union. Of the bars you could tie up to after a hard day of boating, bailing, and Buffett, it was the most homey, the most old-Seattle, and the most likely to have a whale’s oosik on display for you to admire or gawk at. This winter’s renovation, then, representing uncertain change as it did, was worrisome.

Thank Neptune or Poseidon (we’re agnostic), but the renovation looks good. CB Anderson Architects has refashioned the layout in the longhouse-style it was supposed to have. A long, copper-topped bar stretches out to your left as you enter, with a row of bar stools facing the bar itself, and another row facing a counter and looking out on the Montlake Cut. Just past the entrance is a river-rocked central fireplace, heating a much more open area of copper-topped tables and rewarding the sharp-eyed with etched instructions to KEEP CLAM.

The views of the Cut and Lake Union were always good if you staked out a window table, but now they’re the centerpiece of most everyone’s experience, along with the art of David Robert Boxley. Discreetly-placed flatscreens, tuned to sports, hang in the room’s corners.

The legendary happy hour (3 p.m. until close, which is 10 or 11 p.m. depending on if it’s a school night, seven days a week) remains: $1 off draft beer (all local) and well drinks, $2 off cocktails and glasses of wine. Fish & chips, regularly $12, goes for $9, a bowl of wild Alaska smoked salmon chowder, $5.50. Here’s the menu pdf. For lunch today, with no special pricing, a roasted beet salad with Humboldt Fog cheese and pine nuts was $8.50.

As part of a grand reopening, Ivar’s is also hosting Spring Cheers, every Tuesday through Thursday, through May 16. Tuesdays they’ve invited brewers (Odin, Georgetown, Elysian, and more), Wednesdays winemakers (Hogue, Villa Maria, Kendall Jackson, and more), and Thursdays are for high spirits (Jameson, Woodinville, Beefeater, and more). Woodinville Whiskey has an ongoing collaboration with the Whalemaker, with their spirits forming the basis of six different drinks. You don’t have to be on the wagon, either, to be intrigued by a non-alcoholic Pom-berry Soda (pomegranate syrup, cranberry juice, mint leaves, lime, mandarin pieces, and lemon-lime soda).