Sunday, August 15, 2010

FoodTrek: Sun-Tannin at Pour on the Plaza

I think the weather gods were making up for last year's Pour on the Plaza wine event, where the skies were cloudy and threatened rain, by moving the sun just a smidge closer to Earth's orbit, creating perfectly sparkling blue skies and casting the Heat of Gibraltar on the crowds of Bellevue's annual outdoor wine soiree. But hey, we Pacific Northwesterners are used to gilding dark clouds with precious-metal linings -- it was hot, we pushed our sunblocked-slathered skin to the limit, but we praised the good weather and it just gave everyone an excuse to try more white wines versus our typical leanings towards reds. Take that, record-breaking heatwave! Now, hold on while I go sit in a bath of icewater.

Pour on the Plaza: The Sequel - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I ain't gonna lie, it was damn hot. I feel the need to raise a virtual glass to the fine people at Neutrogena for making their Helioplex super-sunblock, SPF Hojillion, for letting my limbs escape un-scorched from hours' spent in the direct sunlight, sans re-application, despite all my mother's mindful warnings. It was one less thing to worry about as I wandered about with my co-pilot, Ms. StyleJustBe who joined me on this mystical magical wine tour. Hosted again by the Masters of the Steak Universe, El Gaucho, they took advantage of the incredibly pristine grassy lawn that's outside their Bellevue restaurant location and set up long rows of tents that housed over twenty different local winemakers, offering up samples of their signature vintages.

We got there when it first opened - the early bird gets the vino! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

An event like Pour on the Plaza is especially nice because several of the wines offered are ones that are often only available at restaurants. And since so many wineries are located across the state, along with their tasting rooms, it's a rare opportunity to sample them and discover new favorites. I enjoyed a mix of wines made from both sides of the state, including creations by Dunham Cellars in Walla Walla, Fidelitas from Benton City, Darby Winery from Woodinville, Woodhouse Family Cellars in Woodinville, Sparkman Cellars in Woodinville, Efeste in Woodinville, and Corliss Estates from Walla Walla. There were of course several more wineries, which you can see the full list on El Gaucho's event page here, but those were just some of the wineries I particularly liked and had been meaning to sample outside of my usual favorites.

I'll drink to that... and that... and that! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Hey, Wasabi, this is a food blog! Don't get all wine-o on us! What was the food like? To help balance the many samplings of buttery chardonnays and sweetly floral ros├ęs, the event provides a hearty sampling of appetizers. El Gaucho of course had platters of meaty offerings, including skewers of steak with an herbed chimichurri style sauce, seasoned prawns, roasted pepper salad bites and mushroom tartlets. Waterfront Seafood Grill had taro chips with cool bites of tuna tartare. Wild Ginger had these lovely and addictive fried shrimp dumplings that were cooked in a giant wok, served with a sweet and sour sauce. Palomino went Italiano-style to go with the red wines, offering spicy meatballs as well as elegant little carrot and hummus bites. Neiman Marcus' Mariposa took care of dessert with their rich bread pudding, creamy mini key lime pies, and their signature chocolate chip cookies (with recipe, of course). Wine bar Grand Cru offered up a signature wine cocktail of bubbly fresh peach Bellinis, which were very popular in the summer heat.

That's a real spicy meat-a-ball! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I forgot to take a photo, but kudos to the genius decision of using recycle-friendly appetizer plates that had a little circular cut-out that's meant to insert one's wine glass. They basically looked like these wineglass holder plates. It was a great and thoughtful idea that deserves noting and a head's up to anyone planning a big wine-themed event.

Overall, the different food pairings were a lovely and diverse mix that went well with the different wines. There was something for everyone to snack on in between sips and I especially liked the addition of more restaurants to go with the return of last year's great choices. Kudos to the musical talents of Brian Nova for performing for a second year and giving the crowd cool sounds to beat the heat.

Sweet and savory bites to cushion the many glasses of vino - Photos by Wasabi Prime

This year's event supported the charity Room to Read, so proceeds from the event went towards the cause of education for children in developing countries. It always feels extra good to know you're raising a glass for a good cause. Another nice thing about the event, was the chance to run into so many fellow foodie-fans. It was great to see the gang of 425 Magazine there, Bellevue Local Table, the busy folks of Bellevue Wine Storage, and the chef and blog talents of Eric Rivera as well as his lovely wife, Mindy, who I was glad to finally meet in person! I'm sorry if I missed seeing any other foodie folks there; it was a busy afternoon and I think we were all hopping from one shady spot to another!

Musical guest, Brian Nova, and hot Harleys for a hot day - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Much Wasabi Thanks to El Gaucho of Bellevue for making Pour on the Plaza happen for a second year in a row, all the amazing winemakers, the delicious restaurants and of course the crowds who braved the heat for a good cause. *Cheers*

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  1. Looks like a great time (even in the heat)! *Cheers!

  2. With a few peach belliniis and fried shrimp dumplings, who wold notice the heat?


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