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“Chef in the Vineyard”: fresh and simple recipes from great wine estates

Chef in the Vineyard by John SarichAt yesterday’s IFBC kick-off event at Ste. Michelle, we were each given a copy of John Sarich’s fifth book “Chef in the Vineyard”.  Beautifully photographed, the book is a visual tour through Sarich’s ten favorite wineries.  With over 140 recipes, each is complemented with the author’s wine recommendations.  The recipes are easy and make great use of Pacific Northwest ingredients.  On first go through, I loved the history and information that John shared about each winery.  This is a man who clearly loves what he does and his passion is evident through his writing.  I can’t wait to immerse myself in his recipes and pairings.  From experience (I have John’s other four books), his recipes are easy to make, use readily available ingredients, are extremely flavorful and great to share with family and friends.  His pairings are usually spot on for my palate.  With more cookbooks on my shelves than I like to admit to, this is a welcome addition and I suspect will become a cooking staple.

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Helping the Hands That Feed Us: Volunteer Park Cafe

Fellow blogger Seattle Tall Poppy has shared news about one of my favorite places, Seattle’s Volunteer Park Cafe, which is tucked away on Capitol Hill.   This sustainable, enviro-friendly restaurant has been a neighborhood staple for over 3 years.

According to Seattle Tall Poppy, a dispute has arisen with the next door neighbor who has been fighting the instillation of the Cafe’s outdoor garden and patio. During the battle, he discovered the original use of the property was never converted from a market to a cafe, so he’s attempting to shut them down.

When the owners of Volunteer Park Cafe signed the lease, they signed with full intention of operating a restaurant and never looked into the land use designation.  As small business owners in a tough economy, this battle has resulted in mounting legal fees and at this point, the city has not scheduled a critical land use hearing.

Here’s where you can help in getting the city to schedule a hearing.  You just need to take two quick action steps:

1.        Comment ONLINE – click on link below

Then click on “comment on Application”

REQUEST a formal public hearing

Let them know you’re a friend or neighbor and how much you love the café

Let them know you are in support of the zoning change to a Restaurant

If you have issues with the website link, email  Refer to Zoning

Project  #3011437

2.      CALL  CITY PLANNER SCOTT KEMP  206/233-3866

Refer to Zoning Project #3011437-Volunteer Park Cafe

REQUEST a formal public hearing

LET SCOTT  KNOW you’re a friend or neighbor and how much you love the café

LET SCOTT KNOW you support the zoning change to a Restaurant

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When Culinary Insanity Meets the Menu at John Howie Steak



Menu tasting is part of the job description when you work in the hospitality world.  Today I joined two other food bloggers at client John Howie Steak during lunch to try Executive Chef Mark Hipkiss’ outrageous duo of new additions to the menu.  How do you top sandwiches which already live up to their names such as “The Ultimate BLT” or “Peppercorn Crusted Wagyu Beef Burger” with a ½ pound of ground American Wagyu red meat, tons of Roquefort cheese and all the fixings in a house baked bun?  Well – you ain’t seen anything yet – let me introduce you to the “Three Little Pigs” and the gi-normous “Triple Bypass”.

When Chef Hipkiss brought his creations to our table in the bar, every head in the place swiveled.  There was a collective intake of breath and dead silence, followed by a babble of voices asking “WHAT ARE THOSE????!!”  You could hardly miss these two towering dishes as the shear size of them was both awe-inspiring and yet, absolutely seductive.


The “Three Little Pigs” consists of three pork cuts:  a tempura Kurobuta pork loin, Black Forest ham and Kurobuta bacon.  This mountain of oink is topped with two eggs over easy, a Chipotle Ranch dressing, and enclosed in a bun.  Oh yes – and it is also accompanied by a generous portion of crispy French fries.  Once I got my lips around it, the burger was astonishing!  Spicy sweet dressing was a perfect playmate for the salty ham and bacon.  The texture of the crunchy tempura fried Kurobuta danced around the smoothness of the eggs.

Now let’s talk about the “Triple Bypass”.  Close to five inches tall, you really do have to stand back a foot or two just to take it all in.  Hipkiss, in perhaps a supreme moment of culinary insanity, has sandwiched a 12-ounce prime chuck burger, tempura fried Kurobuta bacon and – get this – ONION RINGS between two grilled cheese sandwiches oozing with swiss and Tillamook cheddar cheese.  This also comes with fries.

His inspiration?  “I was just trying to make burgers that were a little different.  You can always get the basics.  In the past I’ve played with deep fried mozzarella and even a chili relleno burger, but I thought this would bring some real energy into the room”.

Of course, no meal – even lunch – is complete without dessert.  I could only pray that my HDL good cholesterol would some how come through and save the day for me as we decided to split the Tempura Fried Limoncello Scented Pound Cake with sides of warm chocolate ganache, Mt. Rainier huckleberry topping and lemon mascarpone.  The Puyallup Fair, where you can purchase just about everything and anything fried, has never even conceived of anything this yummy.  We were served golden slices of pound cake the size of butter cubes, surprisingly light and encased in a thin layer of crispness.  I sliced off tablespoon sized portions and tried each sauce.  The chocolate was thick, dark, and after dipping reminded me of a churro.  Lemon mascarpone was rich and tart and the huckleberries were bursting with flavor.  My favorite?  Try double-dipping in the nicest sense and coat a piece of cake with both the lemon and berry sauces.

The “Three Little Pigs” is priced at $14 and will easily satisfy a linebacker.  For $16 you can get a “Triple Bypass” (no pun intended).  Right now both are available at lunch and are not nearly as dangerous when shared.  Limoncello Scented Poundcake is a good value at $8. Worth trying – absolutely – followed by a vigorous week of workouts at the gym and dining on air. ~ Norma

John Howie Steak, 11111 N.E. 8th St., Suite 125, The Shops at The Bravern, Bellevue, Washington  98004

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A “Sideways” Glance

I just returned from a trip to the Los Angeles area with my husband (my “foodie” soul mate) to visit family.  Whenever we get a chance, we slip away to the nearby Santa Ynez  Valley wine country (immortalized in the 2004 movie “Sideways”)  for a day of tasting as well as enjoying the gorgeous scenery on our drive up the coast.  Rather than talking about wine today,  which could fill many blogs, I have to share a terrific restaurant find.  We were in the town of Los Olivos around noon and feeling the need for something solid, when we caught sight of a beautiful vine draped porch set up for outdoor dining.


Run…don’t even hesitate – to dine at the Los Olivos Cafe!  Besides a setting right out of a painting, this charming restaurant earns raves for service, food and an award-winning wine list.  Indoor dining looked just as inviting but with sunny, warm weather (and being from Seattle), the outdoor option was just too great to refuse.

We are “grazers” in order to try a wide variety of dishes.  Our server was thoughtful in his recommendations for both food and wine pairing, returning to check on us often – but was never obtrusive.   Alert – we almost filled up on their incredible bread and house-made olive oil, so do not let yourself be tempted beyond one basket full!  Starters worth trying – definitely the Rustic Spreads which include generous portions of the Cafe’s signature tapenade muffaletta (took us back to New Orleans) and hummus.  Great flavor in both and the hummus didn’t overwhelm your palate with garlic, as so often is the case.  The Artisan Cheese Plate had three extremely good sized portions of cow, goat and milk cheese – again, selected with great attention to quality, freshness and taste.


The indoor “wall of wines” made famous in the aforementioned movie is a guarantee that you won’t go thirsty.   Again, based on our dining choices, our server guided us, providing some sample tastes along the way.

A few more thoughts – I am sure I was a bunny in a former life (not Playboy, as in rabbit!) and the salads were .   The Cafe Nicoise featured an entree size portion of fish along with egg, olives, green beans, new potatoes , cherry tomatoes and greens, and a light vinaigrette.  We ogled another table’s entrees of Cafe Salmon and an immense 8 ounce grilled Angus burger, but couldn’t squeeze in another bite.

We would return in a heartbeat – and will!   Next time we intend to end a day of wine tasting with dinner there and perhaps an overnight at the Fess Parker Inn, which is just across the street.  Here’s the info:

Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe:  2879 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA.    Phone:  805-688-7265

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