Monday, September 23, 2013

FoodTrek: Treat Yo Self! Brunch and Wine Tasting

Summer may have waned, but you can also count the summer rush of visitors mellowing as well, which makes it all the more reason to be a leisurely tourist in your own town. Less traffic, less hassle, more fun times to be had, even for the rainy days ahead, because there is no rain on your parade when you do brunch and wine tasting in the Wood-Hood, aka Woodinville.

Breakfast Sandwich of GIBRALTAR at The Commons Cafe in Woodinville - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I made a brunch date with my good friend and forever brunch-buddy, Sassy Susan. She and I have been longtime friends for well over ten years -- we used to work together and have stayed close over the years, remaining close confidantes over boys, bosses and general misadventures that life throws us into. She's always a happy cohort when there's something new to explore, or just revisiting a favorite cocktail bar after work. She was game to do a Sunday of brunchery in Woodinville at The Commons Cafe, and then a wander through the neighboring wineries that have flourished like a garden throughout that whole Tourist District area, near what I like to call the Roundabout Zoo (extra points if you ever used to watch the British series The League of Gentlemen and get that reference). Seriously,  it's like a carnival ride, going round n' round through the multiple roundabouts, to loop to the street you want to get to. But it keeps the quaintness of that part of the city intact, keeping it from being one massive stoplight intersection, which is pretty much the opposite of quaint. And that's the point of this part of Woodinville, making the Tourist District a nice, walkable area that you can eat and drink your merry way through a leisurely weekend

The fuel-up before a full day of walking and wine-sipping - hitting up The Commons - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The Commons Cafe had opened up earlier in the year, and from the look of it, you'd think it was around for a while -- it showed up and was an instant favorite of the locals. It's a relaxed coffee and pastry hangout on weekday afternoons, a great post-work neighborhood spot for happy hour, and on weekends, it's full-on breakfast/brunch-land. The menu is familiar comfort foods like burgers, hot sandwiches, and rich nibbles like roasted cauliflower and pastry stuffed with pork belly. The coffee is from San Francisco, a company called Sightglass, which is a nice, flavorful coffee that isn't as roasted as the typical French Roast, at least not that I could tell. It had a little more acidity than the typical Starbucks or mega-roaster blend. I went to the Commons on a Saturday, and by 10am, the place was already buzzing. If it's just me and one other person, I prefer barside seating. You get to see all the tasty dishes that are rolling out, and get a first-row view of the brunch cocktails getting mixed up. Since we were wine tasting, I reluctantly abstained, but gave the meal-like Bloody Mary, topped with a salad's worth of pickled veggies a raincheck for another visit. The cocktails are not to be missed -- since Commons is part of the Heavy Restaurant Group who also has Lot No. 3, they had a great cocktail braintrust when designing the Commons' drink menu. They have classics like a good, sturdy Manhattan, and unique drinks like the Ambassador's Daughter, a fragrant twist on a typical margarita. 

I had my eye on the maple-glazed pork belly breakfast biscuit, a massive sandwich filled with sweet-savory pork belly chunks, wilted spinach and a fried egg. Suck it, Egg McMuffin, consider yourself schooled. This breakfast biscuit sandwich was quite a magnificent beast. It's the only thing on a plate for a reason, since you're basically having a main course and a side, all wrapped into one brunchy sandwich. I admit, I couldn't even finish all the biscuit, but savored all the great fillings. Sassy Susan got the scramble, which was full of good stuff, and for all my protein-hungry friends, the scrambles are probably the best thing to get, as you can always add extra toppings like meats and veggies, if you're trying to resist the temptation of the thin, fried potato slices served with the scramble. They do a housemade breakfast sausage which sells out quick, so consider going early if you want to get the popular eats. 

Sips at Lachini, enjoying their Rose and definitely La Bestia - Photos by Wasabi Prime
This was a more than ample food-base to fuel us on our wine tasting day. We just walked to the places really close by, no street-crossing necessary. We went to Lachini Vineyards' tasting room, who have a prime corner spot a few tasting room doors down from the Commons, and ample seating area with comfy chairs. Sassy Susan has known the winemakers for a few years, and wanted to revisit the wines and see what good things are being poured. We shared a tasting, which is a great idea if you're wanting to explore multiple wineries in a single day, still be able to enjoy the wines, but still be able to get home safely. Our tasting flight had a mix of California and Oregon grapes; they had some really nice, complex wines like their Cabernet Sauvignon La Bestia, and I picked up a bottle of their Rosé using Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley -- a crisp, bold flavor that belies the sweet pinkish hue. Something to note for Lachini's tasting room, if you're enjoying a full glass or two, and want to lounge, you can order food from the nearby La Petit Terroir around the corner, and Purple Cafe, right next door. And I'm sure you could order a sandwich to-go from the Commons and have it with your glass of wine.

We headed to DeLille's Carriage House tasting room, which I very happily tasted favorites like their Doyenne Rousanne and Aix blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre. The day we were sampling was one of those oddball warm, slightly humid days of late summer, so standing outside at the Carriage House, sipping wine and catching the odd breeze was relaxing. I've been to DeLille's winery several times for events, but the Carriage House is great for everyday tasting visits, since you typically have to schedule a tasting at the winery itself. It's a casual, easygoing tasting experience and you can buy wines on the spot, as you continue along your merry wine-tasting way.

The Wall of Wine at Fidelitas Wines' tasting room - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I managed to hit a few other tasting rooms, just for shopping more than tasting -- Dusted Valley has always been one of my personal favorites; I picked up a bottle of their Ramblin' Rosé, while the summer gettin' was good. And I stopped by Fidelitas Wines to admire their impressive wine-wall storage and pick up a bottle of their Columbia Valley Malbec, a nice treat to save for a cold autumn day. Or any day, really. I'm not picky.

It felt like such a treat to spend a day leisurely brunching and then sipping such good wine in easy walking distance. The waning days of summer may have prompted it, but it's something that could be done in rain or shine. It was an absolute Treat Yo Self kind of weekend, but with an extra feel-good knowledge that it's an experience that can be done any time, since it's so close to home. I'm looking forward to doing this again and not needing to have a special occasion beyond it just being a Saturday or a Sunday.

Viva la Northwest Autumn -- bring it on - Photo by Wasabi Prime

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