Sunday, August 9, 2009

FoodTrek: Pour on the Plaza, Hold the Rain!

The Fellowship of the Foodies weekend that started off with a viewing of Julie & Julia and cocktails at Naga, reached an edible apex on Saturday, for the first and soon-to-be-annual Pour on the Plaza, a food and wine celebration highlighting vendors from around the Pacific Northwest and abroad. Mercifully, the gray skies above kept mum, and the only pouring that day was wine from a bottle to our eagerly awaiting glass.

Pour on the Plaza, a playground for wine fans - Photo by Wasabi Prime

El Gaucho Bellevue was the ringleader for this event, gathering the local likes of DeLille Cellars, Novelty Hill, and many other fine wineries, as well as edible samplings from El Gaucho's own menu, Wild Ginger, and the Melting Pot. On a personal note, Jodi Brothers, a morning host of one of my favorite local radio stations, The Mountain, was also there as a presenter. On an even more personal note, I was too much of a shy mouse to walk up and say "Hello, I've been a fan since you were on The End," so this virtual greeting will have to do.

I'm the last person to admit to any vino expertise, but I'm a dilligent student with a liver that is both willing and able. I was introduced to wineries new to my palate, including, the Darby Winery, Northstar, and Cadence, offering a lovely array of merlots, pinots, and cabernets. I kept to reds, as it is my preference, and I enjoyed a judger-free day with my purple-stained teeth. I tend to think of wine as how they will pair with food, and the ones I sampled were lovely selections that made me long for autumn days, and the heartier foods in the season ahead.

Because I'm not so well-heeled in the menagerie of wine, it was enjoyable to talk with other attendees of the event, having them name their favorites and hearing their recommendations of the next wine to taste. The event wasn't so crowded that casual conversation was drowned out, and people were both kind and gracious with their knowledge. As an extra bonus, I ran into fellow Tweeter and social media gal-about-town, Danielle Morrill, whom I was fortunate to meet at a previous Taste and Tweet event, and got a chance to say hello to El Gaucho General Manager, David Scherling, thanking him and the El Gaucho team for putting together such a successful event.

Otak Otak, so delicious, you say it twice - Photos by Wasabi Prime

We were treated to a sampling from Wild Ginger, whose kitchen also pulls double duty for The Triple Door, a neighboring music venue and bar/restaurant that is a personal favorite of the Prime's. They were serving up Otak Otak, fragrant little parcels of fish and red curry, wrapped in banana leaves, cooking over the grill, along with spiced grilled toast wedges to soak up all the lovely curry sauce. I've had this at the Triple Door before, and it's a really keen way to prepare fish without worrying about it sticking to the grill while keeping it both flavorful and moist, since the banana leaves provide an enclosure that steams everything inside it. I chatted a little with Tim Baker, director of sales and marketing for Wild Ginger and Triple Door, discussing the new opening of a Wild Ginger in Bellevue, over at the new Bravern megalopolis ready to open in September. They're planning on having an Enomatic Wine Serving System installed in the new Eastside location; they're quite impressive. Imagine a HAL 2000 of vino. Admittedly, I rather look forward to having Wild Ginger on this side of the pond so I don't have to wrestle with bridge traffic to indulge in spicy/sweet nomz from the Wild-G.

El Gaucho's edible offerings included glazed sweet scallops, tomato flatbread, brochettes in an herbed sauce, endive salad, and a bite of tenderloin on toast. These were nibbles compared to their full menu, and I've been spoiled by several proper visits to the restaurant to know that it was only a hint of what Chef Steve Cain can do. I won't wax poetic over the samplings other than to say, get thee to the restaurant and order a proper meal to really appreciate the good work they do.

The Prime & the Peanut, El Gaucho snacks, fondue madness, and music by Brian Nova - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Despite the shortage of disposeable plates, dessert waits for no one! I collected a small army of dessert items from the Melting Pot table to share with my partners in crime. Everything tastes good with a drizzle of melted chocolate, but they had me at "Oreo-covered marshmallow."

For a first-time event, I think Pour on the Plaza has great potential. The grassy lawn area of the City Center Plaza building is a cozy spot for a small to medium-sized crowd; they limited the number of tickets to this event, and while they could have opened it up to more people, the attendance on Saturday was quite near the porridge that was just right. Having a select number of wineries and restaurants participating in the event allowed the guests to really savor the offerings and talk with the winemakers. More food and drink festivals are popping up around the Seattle area, feeding a local hunger to be introduced to new things, and smaller, more intimate affairs like this one was a relaxed, unhurried way to appreciate the samplings the way they were meant to be enjoyed.

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  1. Looks like you had a killer time!

  2. That food looks great, so much more appetizing that most of the festival food I've seen.

  3. wow! sounds like such an amazing event!

  4. This looks like a wonderful venue and a great time! Glad it did not rain.

  5. I wanna try the otak-otak. It is supposed to be in coconut leaf instead of banana leaf, which is why it sounds interesting.

  6. I wonder if they just use the banana leaf because it might be easier to get than coconut leaf? I've seen banana leaves sold in some stores but have never seen coconut. I'm sure they both impart different flavors to the food that's cooked within. Love the idea as I hate cleaning a food-sticky grill!


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