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For those of you who are wine drinkers, have you ever thought about the glassware you use?

Recently our PR Manager attended a Riedel Wine Glass Tasting while cruising up to Alaska. Prior to the class she didn’t think much about the glassware from which she drank her wine. She believed it was a gimmick – a marketing strategy to buy a specific type of stemware just because a company claims it is the best. She was in for a surprise.

At the table there was a placemat with 5 different wine glasses laid out. The stemware included: “Joker”, Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc *Kendall Jackson Sauv Blanc, Oaked Chardonnay *Cambria, Pinot Noir (Burgundy) *Domaine Carneros, and finally a Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux)*Atalon. All but the Joker glass contained the correct style of wine, all poured after arrival so the sommeliers could prove there was nothing added to the stemware.

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The whole idea behind the class was to try each wine in each glass. The Sauvignon Blanc was sipped, then poured into the Joker glass. Once sipped from that glass, most people in the class gave that “eww” sound, wondering why and how there was such a different taste and feel to the wine. Next, a sip from the Oaked Chardonnay (which surprised most people just based on the balloon shape). The rest was poured into the Sauvignon Blanc glass, and the Joker was then poured into the Oaked Chardonnay, and so on. The interesting thing is you could pour the Sauvignon Blanc back into the correct glass at any time, and it would taste “normal” again.

One of the main tricks with Riedel is the glass is laser cut from where you drink. Most glassware in restaurants and many homes have a rounded edge, so they have a smoother feel. The reason this is bad and makes the wine taste different is because the wine rounds out that corner and enters your mouth different (who knew?).

That night at dinner I immediately felt the top of my glass, and said “This is not laser cut like the Riedel stemware. The wine won’t taste right!” The sommelier behind me responded, “Someone took the Riedel class today!”.

I am a believer. I have transitioned all my stemware in my home to Riedel glassware. For those who still think it’s a marketing gimmick, I say TRY IT.

There is a Riedel Wine Glass Tasting on July 17th at the MIELE Gallery in Bellevue. It’s at 6:30pm, $55 per person, and you get to take home the 4 glasses!

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Comida en España

Our PR Manager, Kelly, recently spent two weeks traveling around Spain. Last week she focused a blog post on the Rioja wine region. This week she will focus a little bit on the food, mainly on the concept of the tapas she encountered!

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Our trip began in Barcelona. The day we arrived we immediately went to the hotel and slept. We woke up to get ready for dinner, and utilized either Frommers or Fodors for our restaurant selections. They are wonderful guide books, and have their selected choices for food, and it was very beneficial for us tourists.

The first night we decided on Quimet & Quimet. They are known for their tapas, and the location gets packed! To inform if you didn’t know already, restaurants in Spain don’t tend to open until around 8pm, and typically serve until well after midnight. We arrived around 8:30 and there were two other parties there. It’s standing room only, with a bar top, a counter on the back wall, and a few tables in the middle of the room. The bar top reminded me a of a sushi restaurant, with all the items placed inside a glass compartment. All the items were fresh, raw, and available. This place was tiny, so it makes sense when people say get there early because it gets packed.

Do a Google image search to check out the inside. Instead of “walls” and wallpaper, it’s all wine bottles…everywhere. And they make their own beer!

They offered us a menu in English, and most of the tapas we ordered we saw other people get, and asked them to make it for us, too. I had white asparagus topped with salmon and drizzled with balsamic. I got a little sandwich (slider size) with goat cheese and tomato. Most, if not all of them items contained a balsamic glaze, so I knew it would all taste fantastic. The owner was pleasant and you could tell he was excited about work. He had an amazing ability with multitasking and keeping everyones bill separate while also making all the tapas.

Our biggest splurge on the trip was at Hotel Omm. Their restaurant is called Roca Moo, and contains a few different tasting menus to choose from. We also sat with a view of the team of chefs preparing all the meals for the evening. It was an intense 8 course meal, and although the portions were small, I couldn’t believe it when they kept bringing more and more out! My favorite was the mushroom omelette, but they were all so unique! I almost needed to be wheeled out it was so filling!

Joan Roca’s Tasting Menu: 1) Carrot cream with cardamom and foie 2) Mushroom omelette with white catalan sausage 3) Meat cannelloni with milk skin 4) Sea bass with artichokes and truffle 5) Suckling pig with sweet potato and mandarin or Royal hare 6) Cheese *with some type of yogurt foam 7)Tarragon and lemon *sorbet style 8) Mandarin *filled with chocolate

La Vinya del Senyor was another location, next to a church in a cute little picturesque square. Inside the tiny restaurant was a bar and two tables, plus one table upstairs against the window. We ordered Jamón Ibérico, which was a slider with ham slices, a plate of Chorizo, Roasted Vegetables (drizzled with olive oil), and thinly sliced tuna with almonds. Small dishes but packed with flavor. The chorizo and ham seem to be staples at every location, whether it’s alone or in a croquette or on bread. The owner of this location also has a wine shop on the next street. It was like wine heaven, and extremely overwhelming, but we took advantage and got some Spanish wine unavailable to us in the US, then drank it that night.

Bar del Pla was one of my favorites. Neat decorations with wine and lighting, their menu plastered all over the walls, whether it being the actual menu, or written on blackboard wallpaper. We ordered the basic cheese dish and the tomato rubbed flatbread (very simple, but extremely popular in Spain). We went for the ham croquettes, which tasted pretty much like all the others we had *I think we tried them in every restaurant that had them on the menu*, and went a different route with the other dishes. We ordered Duck Canneloni, and ended up getting a second order it was that amazing. It was topped with sliced almonds which added to the flavor! The other item that caught my eye was foie with strawberries. It was drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, and who knew the two would pair so well? I was very surprised by everything in those dishes – major compliments to the chef.

Casa Montaña was interesting because it was founded in 1836. The location holds many antique items on the walls, and huge wine barrels in the dining room. Our server, also a sommelier, added a bonus trip to their wine cellar, which was like a little cave that had some outstanding wines. That made us enjoy the place even more, and it was really neat taking in all the history of this location. This is where we had our first cooked meat dish, and asked for it medium rare. This is where we also learned that medium rare in Spain meant the cow was still mooing. Luckily we prefer our meats on the “rarer” side, so we went for it, and with the olive oil and seasonings, we weren’t disappointed.

I won’t bore you with details from every restaurant, but I must end with Arzábal in Madrid. I picked it out of the Fodors choices, and they are so popular they actually have another restaurant by the same name less than 50 feet away. We loved it so much we ended up going back the next night, too. We even got the same table and the same server. The second night we made friends with the table next to us which was a Spanish family with a daughter who now lives in New York. We shared wine stories and talked about cellars, and the father even bought us each a glass of cognac, which made us love the place even more!

The first part that caught my attention and confusion at the same time is that they bring you a basket of mixed breads, then a huge barrel of homemade butter. They leave it at your table for about 10 minutes with a few bread knives, then take it away when you’re through with it. I thought it was hilarious because it took up a good chunk of our table.

All I wanted to go back for was the “Salteados de Arroz con Trufa y Setas”. It’s a fried rice (black rice) with truffles and mushrooms. It was one of the greatest dishes I have ever eaten, and I couldn’t wait to take it back to Chef Oscar to see if it can be added to the menu at Emory’s. I would eat it every day! We also ordered an assorted cheese plate which came with different breads/breadsticks, a cheeseburger which was even unique for being something so simple, and steak tartare.

We were next to a glass wall full of wine bottles, so even the atmosphere was enjoyable. It was quite loud, but that just confirmed the popularity of the place. The other thing we appreciated is that it was full of locals, not tourists, and it was a place everyone was able to enjoy.

Our next journey took us to Bilbao, where the tapas are called pinxtos because of the Basque country influence. Here we visited the Gugenheim Museum and also witnessed a huge bicycling race in progress. They also had Guinness Official Irish Pub that we stopped in on St. Patrick’s Day. They gave us awesome Guinness hats, the owner swirled a shamrock into the Guinness foam, and played great Irish music that made me want to dance. Unfortunately St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday, so although the bar was kind enough to open for those wanting to celebrate, they didn’t open their kitchen for food!

I found another location for dinner in Bilbao, Bar El Globo. The bar top was overflowing with people, and luckily we had reservations and were seated by the window. But since we didn’t really want to join the craziness and look through all the pinxtos, we had our server pick her top 3 and bring them to us. I also ordered what I read online as their most popular dish. And although I don’t speak Basque and had no clue what it was, I ordered it anyway. Txipirones Encebollados – Calamari with onions and some olive oil. Phew! I was thankful for this because another location I ordered what I thought was ham with salsa and it ended up being pig cheek and the texture got to me a little. In addition to the calamari, we had thinly sliced salmon with capers and a dijon sauce. Back to those 3 pinxtos: They were all placed on sliced, baked french bread. The first was topped with grilled crab, the second Bull Ox Tail *didn’t know until I found the photo on their website*, and the third with mushrooms and tomatoes. So small, so simple, yet so tasty!

We ended our trip in Rioja wine region, which was the topic of last week’s blog on the wine. They have a street called Calle Laurel, which is pedestrian only, and FULL of restaurants. We bounced around to a few different tapas restaurants. I got my artichoke fix at one place, and the D.O. Laurel we ended up having dinner and lunch the next day. They have this weird dish which is a twist on the Spanish omelette. It’s yolk based, covered with egg white foam. I got one with ham, and it was definitely surprising, yet delicious at the same time. The menu almost dares you to try it and do something new, so I went along and wondered how they came up with the concept. Their house specialty is a sirloin served with a small salad and peppers. For 3,50€ we think it was a steal!

Although we ate so much more than described here, it opened me up to a new style of food as well as bring back some great ideas for myself to try as well as attempt some on the menu at Emory’s in the future. When I think of Spanish food, I think of croquettes (we had chicken, ham, mushroom, and even calamari), and they to do well with tapas. The portion sizes are what people tend to look for rather than large meals, plus it allows them to try many different little things rather than settle on one large thing!

Enjoy the photos – I’m sorry if you start drooling!

Rioja, Spain Wineries

At Emory’s on Silver Lake, we focus our wine list on the Pacific Northwest because of amazing “juice” that comes from the region. It allows those who visit from out of the area to try what we have to offer, and it affords locals the ability to learn and visit the wineries.

Kelly, our Public Relations Manager, went a little beyond our wine bubble, all the way to the Rioja wine region of Spain. Maybe you’re familiar with it, maybe you’re not, but her review can broaden your horizon to try something different!

Below is the information she took from the tours and tastings. ¡Salud!

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I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take two weeks off with my boyfriend and travel to Spain, which was a really big deal for me since I have never traveled internationally. Our travels began in Barcelona, where we then rented a car and drove to Valencia, Alicante, Madrid, Bilbao, Logroño (Rioja wine area), and finally back to Barcelona to prepare for the long flight home.

Because so much happened in two weeks, I want to focus this blog post on the wines of Rioja, specifically those we toured and tasted, and how different the experience is. Next week I will showcase all the food (tapas/pinxtos and full meals), and perhaps it will intrigue Chef Oscar enough to bring the trend to Emory’s!

Monday, March 18 we arrived in the small town of Logroño, which is also the capital of Rioja. It is merely a small portion of Rioja, as you can see from the image. We visited Fuenmayor, Haro, and Cenicero for our tastings.

I’d like to offer a little preview and how they are different from tasting in Washington. First, you have to have a reservation set up in advance. Our hotel in Madrid was amazing and they kindly arranged our appointments which was very helpful.

Bodega LAN

Our handy GPS was first set to Bodega LAN (Logroño, Álava, Navarra) in Fuenmayor. We probably passed one or two other wineries, but it’s a relatively deserted area with some industrial buildings. We ended up being late because the directions don’t take you far enough, and there is absolutely no signage for wineries. They weren’t very thrilled with us being late, because the tour had already started. We met up with the other couple, and joined the remainder of the tour (all in Spanish – I did my best to translate, but mainly just took photos and looked around in awe). Needless to say, our first tasting in Spain wasn’t as inviting as what I have experienced tasting in Washington.

The tour was approximately 45 minutes, with little to no time to stop and take photos or really see what is happening. We walk through a final door outside and the tour guide says “thanks for coming” and just walks away. It was the most interesting wine experience I have ever had. No fee for the tour which was handy, but no tasting either. We stood around for a minute, then went to the office to inquire about purchasing wine, which was also a fairly quick process.

Other than the intense wine tour and not a whole lot of time to really let the information soak in, it’s a winery that produces some great wines. Before our trip I picked up the Reserva at QFC for about $15 or so. So it was really neat to visit the actual winery, but it would have been amazing to taste their Gran Reserva, or something from their single vineyard line! *I was lucky enough to taste it later at dinner*

Marques de Riscal

Our next stop was later in the afternoon in Elciego (Álava) at Marques de Riscal. Another impossible winery to locate, even though you can see the amazing hotel from the highway. It’s off the road a different way than our GPS wanted us to go, so we were once again late, but thankfully they didn’t mind. There were 5 other people on this tour: two from Alicante, one from Houston, and two on their honeymoon from Phoenix. This tour was all in English, and we were able to take photos, ask questions, and really get the most out of the 10,25€, which included two tastings.

They have an amazing place called “The Cathedral” (it’s called this at most wineries), where they have their oldest wines stored. Marques de Riscal constructed this cellar in 1860, and contains bottles from every vintage produced by the winery since their first harvest in 1862!

We tasted the 2012 Marques de Riscal Rueda Blanco, and the 2007 Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva. I enjoyed the white because it was very easy to drink and refreshing since the room was warm. Light citrus fruits, but fairly watery. The red was balanced well, with red cherry, strawberry, and even some skunky or mushroom flavors on the palate. Not the best vintage, but drinkable! Both wines are readily available at Costco and most wine shops.

 

Marques de Riscal Hotel

A big focus of this winery is the hotel, and when we first saw it, I was reminded of the EMP structure. It’s designed and built by the same person, Frank Gehry, and resembles elements of wine.

Viña Tondonia

The following day we had an early start, 10:15, at Tondonia in Haro. We went on the tour with a girl who works at The Farmhouse Restaurant in Sonoma, and is working at becoming an advanced sommelier. This was my favorite place to visit because of the history, decorations, and how they do things.

There’s no new technology, and everything is done naturally. They even make their barrels by hand (they have the wood shipped from the US). Their fermentation room (where the sign is in the photo) has original large barrels, and the room stays about 12ºC throughout the year, regardless of outside temperature. Their old room (Cemetario) is from 1890.

It’s a really neat place to walk through. You envision yourself in the past while looking at all these amazing contraptions, then become shocked to learn they aren’t for show and that they still use the “original way” that has been passed down by each generation. Groups of men work together to stack the barrels for aging, and even use an original pulley system to make it happen.

Here we tasted the 2003 Viña Gravonia (what area the grapes were picked from) Rioja Blanco. To me it has a lot of minerality and almost tasted like a penny (copper). The 2001 Viña Tondonia Reserva had more red cherry and raspberry notes, and it smelled pretty musty. Perhaps it was from all the must down in the tunnels and the Cemetario, but it seemed to lead a little into their wine as well.

Bodegas Roda

Immediately following Tondonia, we drove around the train station looking for Bodega Roda (directions stated it was there). We then drove back up the hill beyond Tondonia to find Bodega Roda as the next winery. Back to the no signage…

It was an amazing tour because we were the only two in attendance. We were guided throughout the entire place except for the bottling area, which I would have enjoyed seeing. Roda only stacks their barrels during the aging process 2 rows (8 stacks high at LAN for instance). Everything looks very organized and extremely clean. They paint the middle of the barrel and purple color to hide the wine stains and keep it looking nicer.

They have a room with 17 vats, all French Oak. They don’t use any stainless steel, and that’s one uniqueness to their wine. The building of the bodega was completed in 2001, so it’s quite opposite from somewhere like Tondonia. On the lower levels they have newer concrete, and they kept the original rocks on the walls (a very neat sight).

During the tour, they introduce a photography exhibit featuring two artists, and let you enjoy that for about 10-15 minutes. They have this concept of “Marriage”, marrying the grapes for the wine, two photographers for an exhibit, and they also dabble in olive oil. We ended with a neat tasting of two red wines and two olive oils!

The 2009 Bodega Roda Sela is very similar to Crianza (popular for the region). It reminded me of darker/dried fruits, and fruit leather. Contains a little spice as well as some citrus. The 2008 Roda Reserva had good acid, and I tasted cranberry with a little smokiness. We added a glass of the 2006 Roda I Reserva, and it had a little more earthiness to it, with some blackberry and cherry flavors. We had previously tasted the 2004, so it was great to try a different vintage, although it needed more time than we had to breathe.

Bodega Marqués de Cáceres

Our final destination was Bodega Marqués de Cáceres in Cenicero. Although we had reservations, they didn’t really know we were coming. We were welcomed in by a British woman who moved back to Rioja and has worked at the winery for 15 years. She mentioned they are under construction to create areas to hold tours, and that they don’t do tours right now. I guess it was our lucky day, because she showed us around the entire winery, taught us about it, and even gave us a small bottle to take home with us. She mentioned that we took the time to go visit them, so it was their way of saying thanks!

It was amazing to see the buildings of pallets full of wine and where it was going to be shipped to (Brazil, Dubai, places I had never heard of, etc).

They don’t own any vineyards, as they work with different farmers in the area, and have long-term contracts. The region standards in Rioja are very strict about the grapes, and they have to pass a checkpoint at Marqués de Cáceres before they even get through the gates. This place has about 70 employees, so most of it is completed by huge machines.

Although we didn’t get to taste any wine while here, it was a great tour! They have some wines unavailable in the US, so I would have enjoyed tasting or buying those.

Visiting wineries in an amazing wine region such as Rioja was a great experience. It’s difficult to taste at a lot of places simply because you need reservations, and some are pretty far away. Luckily the restaurants and tapas bars had amazing wine lists with unbelievable prices, so we were able to try a lot of Rioja wine, and some unavailable to us in the US. It was extremely stressful trying to locate some of the wineries, but luckily all the locals were very helpful and knew the winery locations. Tasting in Rioja is such a different experience from places like Woodinville or Napa Valley, but a fantastic experience nonetheless! Enjoy the photos!