Sasha has joined Columbia Hospitality after more than 20 years delivering unprecedented levels of excellence at iconic Pacific Northwest brands - Starbucks Coffee Company and Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. Now her expertise in all things food, wine and travel will mean exceptional experiences for our guests. Sasha will be sharing insider tips and unusual finds with all of our Columbia Hospitality travelers.
Sasha attended the University of Washington and has called the Northwest home for more than 25 years. She lives in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle with her husband and daughter, and loves champagne, salted caramels and a great handbag.
Cooking with Love
Oh February, the month of all things romance, reminds me of how my life with my valentine began over food and the simple pleasure of preparing it together. Two independently planned trips to Europe resulted in our meeting up in the amazing country of Italy and falling in love with each other as well as the food that we discovered and shared. This ultimately led to our getting married and building a home filled with cookbooks, bottles of wine and hungry friends.
One of our favorite cookbooks is called, "Caprial and John’s Kitchen-Recipes for Cooking Together" by Caprial and John Pence. The chefs wrote this book to, "share our philosophy of celebrating at the table and spending time together creating in the kitchen." The hubs and I are both totally Type-A personalities so this book most certainly helps us to each have our "place" in the kitchen as the menus and recipes are divided between Cook One and Cook Two - perfect! One of our "go to" menus is the Pan-Fried Oysters with Spicy Pepper Relish, followed by Honey-Glazed Grilled Duck, Couscous with Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes and Grilled Zucchini with Sweet Soy Sauce followed by Chocolate Fondue. Add a bottle of your favorite red wine and this meal is simply divine. Not to mention aphrodisiac central!
Also high on our Valentine's Day celebrating list was a trip to the wine country in Sonoma County, California. Nothing says romance more than a weekend away at Kenwood Inn and Spa in Kenwood, California. Executive Chef Steven Snook heads up to kitchen in this intimate restaurant with tables for two in front of fireplaces and an always offered La Cena Con Amore menu specifically made for sharing with your partner. Here’s the amazing menu he’s offering up this Valentine’s Day. Last time we were there Chef Snook taught us how to make the most incredible pasta dish that I often find myself dreaming about and am happy to share the recipe.
No matter what you choose to do, whether it is "chefing" it up yourselves, or packing your bags and heading to the airport, may you enjoy the time rediscovering why you are together and what having a valentine is all about.
Homemade Linguini Pasta with Dungeness Crab and Roma Tomatoes
4 1/2 cups (550 grams) All-Purpose Flour
4 Whole Eggs
6 Egg Yolks
Pinch of Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mix the eggs and oil together and set aside, place the flour and salt in a mixer and mix, slowly add the egg mixture while spinning until the mixture is the texture of wet sand, turn out onto a hard surface and squeeze into a ball and kneed for 3 minutes until smooth all over.
Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes. Now using a pasta machine roll out dough to a nice thin linguini and set aside. If a pasta machine is not available, use a rolling pin to roll out dough until very thin and cut into ribbons by hand.
1/2 pound (250 grams) Freshly Picked Dungeness Crab
6 Roma Tomatoes
1/2 Bunch of Cilantro
4 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
1/2 cups (100 grams) Butter
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Seasoning to Taste
Cut your tomatoes into quarters, remove the seeds, cut into small diamonds and set into a pan with a little oil and half of the butter, soften the tomato and add the crab, thinly sliced scallions, and season to taste.
Drop your pasta into a pan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes (it won't take long because it is fresh pasta) bring your crab and tomato sauce back up to temperature and drop in the remaining butter. Add your pasta and toss until all the pasta is coated.
Present the pasta in a large bowl to share and finish with a little more extra virgin olive oil and your coarsely chopped cilantro.
It is hard to believe that we are rapidly approaching the holiday season... Where has this year gone? As I sit and think about the months to come, I am excited by the thoughts of all of the welcomed traditions that have become such an important part of my life, and those I surround myself with like:
- Thanksgiving morning bubbles + pastries with dear friends
- Gathering with my parents and longtime friends who have become family, to give thanks and share lots of laughs over a slice of homemade pie and a game or two
- Chinese food, more bubbles, and the movie, "Young Frankenstein" on Christmas Eve
- Early morning Christmas pictures of all of us walking down the stairs with our bedheads and holiday themed PJs. My mom says we will never be too old for this... Really???
- Sitting around the tree for hours as we take turns "opening" our stockings and creating mounds of ribbon and paper while sipping on coffee and listening to Barbra Streisand's 1967 release of "A Christmas Album"
What traditions come to mind for you? Kind of fun to stop and think about the memories you and yours share now isn't it?
And because it is the season of giving, I thought I would share a fantastic "sip" that my friends at Glass Distillery came up with just in time for all of the festivities - The Holiday Halo. This cocktail is certain to cause quite the buzz (pun intended) as it combines two of my favorite things: Salish Lodge & Spa Honey Flavored Vodka and Salish Lodge & Spa Brut. Here's the recipe:
- 2 oz. Salish Lodge & Spa Brut
- 1/2 oz. Salish Honey Flavored Vodka
- Splash of Chambord (for color)
- Sugar for rim of glass
Shake vodka over ice, pour in sugar-rimmed flute, top with Brut, finish with a splash of Chambord and float a mint sprig on top. Delicious!
Wishing you much happiness and health this season, and in case you couldn't tell, perhaps a glass of bubbles - or two!
*Photo courtesy of Kip Beelman Photography 2013
How to Host a NW Wine Tasting With a Twist
If you've wanted to host a gathering, but simply can't fathom the thought of putting together a multi-course menu, a fantastic solution just might be a simple wine tasting with a bit of a twist.
Important to remember is to keep things informal, don't get too overly ambitious. Start with a simple email sent out to 6-8 guests, I have found that Thursday nights around 6:30 PM work great for most. Dependent upon your style, you can either ask that each guest bring a bottle (or two) of wine to share with the group, or you can simply arrange yourself. If you have a chance, stop by Pike and Western Wine Shop as they have some fantastic finds, not only from Washington and Oregon, but also from around the globe.
For this type of experience, I like to have 3-4 whites and an equal number of reds. If you happen to have any left at the end of the party you can always cork the bottles and send them home as "party favors." Right now I am a big fan of the following:
- Sparkman Cellars 2012 Pearl Sauvignon Blanc
- HKG 2012 Pinot Grigio
- Argyle NV Brut
- DeLille Cellars 2012 Chaleur Estate Blanc
- Dunham Cellars 2010 Trutina
- HKG 2011 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
- McCrea 2008 Syrah Boushey Grande Cote Vineyard
- Domanico Cellars 2008 Le Monstre
In terms of food, I would suggest that you focus on some key seasonal ingredients — your goal will be to assemble just the right components that allow you to introduce what are considered "bridge components" in a fun/more unique way to learn about wine. And just in case you are not sure what bridge components are, they are those ingredients that help to connect the food with the wine, hence the creation of the "perfect pairing."
As we move into fall I suggest things like:
- Fresh figs with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt and extra virgin olive oil
- Grilled plums
- Pears with roasted almonds or hazelnuts
- Smoked Morel mushrooms (like the ones on the menu at Salish Lodge & Spa right now-incredible! Visit www.salishlodge.com and check out their dinner menu for more information)
- Charcuterie platter-check out the great selection at Tom Douglas's new grocery
- Heirloom beets
- Honeycrisp Apples
- Granola made by Seattle-based company Marge
- Locally harvested Mediterranean mussels. Taylor Shellfish along Chuckanut Drive is an awesome source or perhaps surprise someone by booking a weekend at Friday Harbor House to enjoy these and many other incredible dishes
- And it goes without saying, a tasty selection of local artisanal cheeses
And as the picture reflects, I also am a fan of creating one big platter of all of the food and putting all of the wines out at once and encouraging your guests to pour and explore - allow folks to come up with their perfect pairings! If you want to be an overachiever, you can create wine tasting notebooks (the web has several options of downloadable templates) or you can simply take my suggestion and just encourage group conversation - so much more fun in my opinion!
Setting the table should be pretty basic. At each place setting have a small plate, a cloth napkin, two wine glasses, a water glass, a dump bucket and a pen/pencil if you are providing notebooks. That's it! Now have some fun.
*Photos courtesy of Kip Beelman Photography 2013
The Perfect Summer Picnic
When the days become longer and the temperatures climb, all I want to do is pack a picnic and get outside. Living in Seattle, where we are always surrounded by incredible farmer's markets, I am able to buy the freshest ingredients I can find while keeping things easy for on-the-go dining. Here are my three key ingredients to a successful summer picnic:
- A picnic blanket
- Salt and pepper shakers
- Paper napkins
- Biodegradable forks, knives, spoons (both for serving and for eating) and plates
- Plastic wine glasses
- Thermos® (to fill with warm water so that you have something to rinse your hands off post picnic)
- Mini-speakers that plug into your iPhone for great picnic tunes
- And perhaps most important, my 2013 Summer Picnic Playlist that includes some new tunes by The Maldives, Shelby Earl, Star Anna and Kris Orlowski. Getting ready for Music on The Green at Salish Lodge & Spa of course.
I have found that there are three types of picnics: the everyday picnic that works for all occasions; the gourmet picnic that your friends will think you hired a caterer to make; and the ready-made option perfect when you don't have the time (or desire) to make your own. You decide which is right for your picnic plans!
Everyday Picnic Menu
- Chilled bottle of 2011 Terra Blanca "Arch Terrace" Rose
- Macaroni Salad with Cured Ham and Green Peas
- Yukon Gold Potato Salad with Smoked Bacon
- Grilled Corn with Chili Mayonnaise
- Rosemary-Brined Fried Chicken (Take the time to make this — you will not regret it!)
- Mixed Berry Shortcake with Vanilla Whipped Cream
Picnic Gourmet Menu
- Chilled bottle of Treveri Cellars Brut
- Olive Oil Marinated Albacore Tuna Salad with River Rock Creamery Feta and Ligurian Olives with Fresh Seasonal Greens
- Heirloom Tomato and Fried Cheese Curd Sandwich on a rustic baguette with a side of Tilden Farms Pickled Beans
- Grilled Peaches with Smoked Ham Shank and Goat Cheese
- Cherry Clafouti (Yakima cherries make this dessert a true show stopper)
Grab your picnic essentials kit and pop into Picnic for a complete meal to go. This Seattle food and wine boutique offers all your picnic needs, including cheese, charcuterie, salads packed with locally grown veggies, fruits at the peak of the season and more. The best part: enjoy a glass of wine while you wait.
- Ebey's Landing Historical Reserve (Coupeville, WA)
- Olympic Sculpture Park (Seattle, WA)
- Lincoln Park (West Seattle, WA)
- Bellevue Botanical Garden (Bellevue, WA)
- Luther Burbank Park (Mercer Island, WA)
- And for something completely different, rent a boat from Seattle Electric Boat Company on Lake Union and take a spin around the water amidst sea planes, kayaks and houseboats.
Cheers to summer,
Getting Spring Ready
I don't know about you but "springing forward" has delivered those much anticipated longer days and reignited my desire to get out and explore a bit. Not having much time for an extended trip, I have found myself looking for closer getaways; places I can easily get to after work on Friday. Here are a few enticing ideas I stumbled upon:
For a trip just 30 minutes away from Seattle, head east to the quaint town of Snoqualmie and plan on spending the weekend checking out the area (and Salish Lodge & Spa's Rainy Day Retreat package offers a one-night stay, bottle of wine and $50 dining credit starting at $219 per night. It's a great deal!).
Explore a cheese making class at local favorite River Valley Cheese. Spring is my favorite time of year to visit this creamery as spring goat's milk makes the best cheese — and River Valley Cheese has a ton. Right now, if I had to pick one, it would be the Goat Cheese with Fig and Almond.
Sip your way through nearby Woodinville Wine Country and experience a taste of Washington's finest, including my two favorites tasting rooms conveniently located within walking distance of each other:
- Family owned and operated JM Cellars where you must grab a bottle of their 2011 Bramble Bump White which was recognized by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as "Editor's Choice." A perfect match with the "Valley Girl" grilled cheese sandwich that you are certain to make after you visit Julie at River Valley Cheese.
- Then head over to Mark Ryan Winery (2011 Winemaker of the Year) where you won't be disappointed with a bottle of his 2011 Viognier that is certain to deliver notes of orange blossom, Meyer Lemon, subtle banana and buttered bread. A must have with Dungeness Crab!
And if you can find a little extra time don't forget San Juan Island, just named as top island in the United States by TripAdvisor's Traveler's Choice Top 10 Islands Awards and christened as a national monument by President Obama! Grab a ferry in Anacortes and head to Friday Harbor House. Stay in April and your ferry fee is discounted from your room rate! Details:
Arrive to graciously appointed Friday Harbor House after smartly booking the Ferry for Free package!
Set sail with Schooner's North to delight in the whales returning to the San Juans and be sure to stop by Market Chef for a picnic basket full of locally made favorites for the voyage. I can't say enough about their White Prawn Tacos with chili lime slaw, tomato orange salsa and house "special sauce" with a bottle of Mountain Dome Sparkling Wine and the to die for Key Lime Cookies.
Unwind with a luminous "C" and Sea Facial at Spa d'Bune which combines a proverbial blend of refreshing Vitamin C with repairing freeze dried seaweed. A perfect treatment to get your skin summer-ready.
Top the weekend off with a fabulous breakfast at Friday Harbor House especially their signature house made granola — so delicious you'll need the recipe so you can recreate the experience at home.