Showing posts with label Willows Lodge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Willows Lodge. Show all posts

Monday, June 16, 2014

FoodTrek: Iron Vintner V - The Final Saga

It's with some bittersweetness and an anticipatory rumble in my tummy that I say this is the fifth and final year for the Iron Vintner Challenge, put together by Willows Lodge in Woodinville. It always felt like a proper ringing-in of summer, when Chef Bobby Moore would kick the tires and light the fires on the gigantic Viking grills that transformed the Lodge's peaceful patio into a full-on, outdoor Northwest Kitchen Stadium-Thunderdome. Washington winemakers become chefs for a night, challenged with secret ingredients and an unrelenting timer ticking down the precious 60 minutes they have to produce an appetizer and entree to wow a panel of celeb/culinary judges. Just another quiet summer night in Woodinville, eh...?

Iron Vintner's Round 2 elimination round - Grand Slam Lamb! Dish by Team Covington Cellars - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

FoodTrek: In Search of the Elusive Golden Grape

Patience, Grasshopper... one food/wine event at a time. While I adhered to only 50% of the title at the Seattle Wine and Food Experience last weekend by sticking to food vs wine (blame a weak constitution that day), I made sure to make up for it this past Sunday at the 3rd Annual Golden Grape Awards at Willows Lodge, over in the wood-'hood of Woodinville. Plenty of local Washington wines to sip, with an award ceremony -- kind of like the Oscars... but way more fun.

Pour it on - sipping some winning wines at Golden Grape Awards - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

UnRecipe: Why I Hate(d) Hamburgers

Food Confession: I never liked hamburgers as a child. If we were at a fast food place or a carnival of junk food, I'd opt for a hot dog, corn dog, chicken or filet-o-fish type of sandwich, or just tuck into a side of fries. But absolutely no hamburger. What the hell was wrong with me? Clearly I was a Bad Seed in the making, an abomination set for global destruction. But somehow, the Good Burger Fairy intervened along the way, cast out whatever demon was possessing my unholy soul, and I not only crave hamburgers regularly, I'll periodically write about them like I somehow know what the hell I'm doing.

Craving avocado more than hamburgers - Photo by Wasabi Prime
When I have time, I still write burger pieces for Serious Eats' A Hamburger Today, but it always feels like a house of cards ready to crumble, knowing I really didn't grow up mainlining this classic Americana grub that so many others couldn't imagine life without. It's only been within the latter years of my life that I came to appreciate The Hamburger, which isn't a small amount of time, but compared to so many people whose first food memory likely came out of a Happy Meal coveted by the Hamburgler, I'm a Fresh-On-the-Burger "FOB" initiate. I was never much of a beef fan when I was little. I hated steak and I barely tolerated meat loaf. My only appreciation for cow-flesh was the salty-sweet teriyaki beef that my mother would make, with paper-thin sheets of beef marinated to the point where all you could taste was the seasoning (this is Hawaii-style teriyaki, mind you, much more salty), or the Korean-style marinated beef, dipped in an egg batter and pan-fried, sliced and served with rice. This is not Americana. Not even a little. And maybe this had something to do with why hamburgers never excited me, at least not ones from the burger chains. Quite frankly, I found them to be flavorless and boring, as most ten-gazillion-served fast food joints sling 'em out to the masses.  It's no wonder I reviled burgers, and frankly surprised those fast food hockey pucks were likely the first hit of burger-ecstasy that got so many others on the junk food junkie train. And you were wondering what was wrong with me??

My new(ish) love affair with real hamburgers - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Maybe if my first taste of a hamburger was like the fancy-schmancy gourmet style burgers you can get at restaurants, I'd have changed my tune about burgers at a much younger age. My current favorites include the lamb burger at Willows Lodge, anything that sounds dangerous from Lunchbox Lab and the sunrise/fried egg burger at our local place in Duvall, Pickle Time. I'll even hit up Red Robin now and then -- technically it's local, the first location was in Seattle. Granted, the point of burgers is that it's an inexpensive food, so why pay more than a few bucks? My reasoning is, the negative health benefits are bad all around, regardless of the pricetag, so I may as well enjoy myself in the First Class section of a one-way ticket to Heart Attack-opia. Pass the basket of Endless Fries, please.

Having enjoyed many over-the-top hamburgers, seeking out ones that add different ingredients or meat patties for both writing and my personal belly-widening enjoyment, it really makes a burger worth savoring. I get just as excited when I make a burger at home, because the restaurants just inspire me to pile on the toppings, carte blanche. I've taken to grinding our own burger patty meat, combining different meats like pork, bacon and beef. Fresh-ground beef, as long as it's not formed too tightly into the burger shape, is extra-tender, plus you can cook it to a more rare state since you did the grind yourself. Pressing a well into the center of the patty before cooking keeps its shape when the meat shrinks up over the heat. For beef, I prefer several shakes of Worcestershire sauce into the beef mix, it gives it a little bit of a deeper, almost aged flavor.

Indy agrees, burger "research" from Red Robin is delicious - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I used to mix finely-ground garlic and rosemary into the meat, but the flavor just became too overpowering; those ingredients are better used in an aioli to spread on the bun. Flavor notes, not a sledgehammer to the face. My latest favorite topping is a chipotle "ketchup," which is soaked chipotle peppers stewed with a mix of way too many ingredients to list, and then blended into a sauce. Even without all the extra ingredients, chipotle peppers add a wonderful smoky sweetness and heat to a burger. It's not too overpowering, it just enhances that grilled, seared flavor on the meat. Soaking a small chipotle pepper and blending it down with mayonnaise would be a fantastic burger condiment. With slices of avocado and fresh cilantro piled on top, it makes for a fantastic Southwest-inspired burger.

Non-fried zucchini stick magic - Photos by Wasabi Prime
You can't have burgers without fries, but therein lies the rub: fried. I have no qualms about eating fried food, I relish every crispy moment where the roof of my mouth comes perilously close to being burned off with every impatient bite. I just don't like doing it at home, due to a mediocre vent that gums up every time I blink my eyes and the fact that I don't wish to release an airborne cloud of fry grease into our house that will likely permeate every nook and cranny until next Easter. I learned this early on when the Mister used to live in his Casa de Bachelor with several other dudes, and one of the dudes thought using a Fry Daddy indoors to make French fries was awfully wizard thing to do. The house never stopped smelling like a greasy, stale potato, and it served as yet another example of what happens when you rent a house to a bunch of dudes. Just remember: Knowing is half the battle.

My alternative to non-fried fries is baked zucchini fries. "But it's not a potato," you're saying, giving me that dirty look again that I'm completely missing the point. Listen here, Grumpypants, I cook for my needs, and one of my greatest needs is pandering to an immature lack of patience. Zucchini cooks a lot faster than potatoes, and when cut into narrow sticks, dipped in flour, then an egg wash, and a final roll in some panko crumbs and Parmesan shavings, it becomes the perfect trompe l'oeil baked fry. Shoved in a high-heat oven temperature of 420 degrees, the fast-cooking squash gets tender while the coating gets crisp and browned. Spuds take time, I don't care how quick and easy the oven potato fry recipes promise, and they wind up either soggy or burnt. While the zucchini won't be crispy and light like a golden potato fry, you've likely had fried zucchini before and your expectation levels are set for a crisp outer shell and a soft, roasted interior, which is exactly what the baked versions are.

Gourmet burger and fries done at home - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And so another childhood finicky food moment is laid to rest and all is right in the Hamburger Universe. Praise the Beef and pass the Fry Sauce!

Monday, August 6, 2012

FoodTrek: Thinking Outside the Happy Hour Box

You're familiar with this situation, no doubt, getting together with friends after a particularly rough day of work, wanting to reward yourself with something tasty and a frosty beverage (or several), but being faced with the same list of uninspired places you always wind up at every week. Throw down the gauntlet, have your Network moment and say you're mad-hungry/thirsty and you're not going to take it anymore!! How about being creative with your after work gatherings?

A cute little slider that is delicious and all about the bun, at Pop Kitchen + Bar - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Summer is the perfect time to incorporate events with food and drink. Along with scheduled events all over the city, there's no reason not to wander about and enjoy the fact the sun doesn't set until after nine p.m. for a few precious Pacific Northwest months. I spent an early evening walking around Seattle Center, enjoying the fact that it wasn't pouring rain. The Needle is celebrating its golden anniversary this year and there's some new things like a glass sculpture garden by Chihuly set up around the base of the Needle. The inside food court also underwent a major facelift, with new places like Skillet Street Counter opening up, if you're meandering about and are suddenly struck with a deep desire for bacon jam. Hey, it happens. There's also Experience Music Project and the mini Science Fiction Museum that's also housed within. It's a pop culture extravaganza, and while I didn't feel like wandering through a museum, I was still hungry and glad to see that Pop Kitchen + Bar, located right in EMP, was open with tasty snacks on its menu. It's a full restaurant that serves everything from fresh-baked pastries at 10am, sandwiches for lunch, and a hearty happy hour menu -- you don't need to have visited EMP, they're just housed in the same building. Pop's happy hour runs from 4-7pm. The bar area itself is tiny, maybe ten seats, but they serve HH specials in the dining area as well, which is a nice thing -- so many other restaurants don't do this, which is disappointing when their bar seats maybe five people. Pop loves its hungry after work crowd.

Bar snacks against a backdrop of rock n' roll and aliens from outer space - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Their bar menu items range from $5 - $7, nothing outrageous considering the tourist-heavy area that the Seattle Center is. The hidden find aspect of Pop anything coming from their ovens, whether it's the bread used for their sandwiches, giant cookies or fruit-topped cupcakes. Chef Erin Cameron makes the goods from scratch; I was told she was at Macrina Bakery, which is a pretty nice pedigree, and the proof is on the plate. Sliders are always an easy thing to share with friends, but it's unusual to just focus on enjoying the bread, which I did for at least one of the little guys -- the buns have a lightly sourdough like bite, crisp outer shell, and spongey, tender crumb. I couldn't resist deep fried goodness with their thick-cut house made potato chips, with a Ranch dressing type seasoning and herbed dipping sauce. The killer dish was their fried pickles. I know this is popular in other regions, but you just don't see it everywhere here and more to the point, they're not always done well. It's hard to get the perfect balance of breading and the fry time to ensure that the outer layer is crisp, but the interior retains its briny flavor. I've had burned fried pickles more often than not, but these were crispy bites of heaven. I know it's an unusual place to just drop by -- I don't know a lot of offices close by to where you'd just happen to walk by Pop Kitchen +  Bar, but it's summertime, there are concerts at Key Arena, and there's nothing worse than being stuck with buying a soggy overpriced pretzel at the concession stand and corned with an $8 beer. If you're going to be at the Key, make time to hit Pop Kitchen + Bar during their happy hour before your date with the mosh pit.

Bright bites and don't forget the fried pickles - Photos by Wasabi Prime
When it comes to mixing business with pleasure, I can't think of a better event than Foodportunity. Keren Brown organizes these great mixers at Tom Douglas's Palace Ballroom a couple of times a year -- now in Portland, too -- where restaurants offer sample bites, there are often guest speakers, and it's just a good opportunity to meet new people or put a face to a Twitter name. It's primarily food/wine bloggers, but the event attracts so many people from different industries and it's open to everyone, so don't feel like you need a blog to go. I've gone to about three of these now, the last one in June being the third, and I can honestly say most, if not all of the different bloggers, writers, photographers, chefs and anyone I've been lucky to make a connection with on the food/wine scene, has been through Foodportunity. Chances are, you've probably Tweeted or become Facebook friends through a lot of the people prior to the event, and ignoring Mom's advice to never talk to strangers, the virtual connection becomes very real and wonderful as a result of these mixers.

It's OK to have dessert first at Foodportunity - Photos by Wasabi Prime
 Oh yes, and did I mention there's food?? For the price of an affordable meal (tickets are $25 when you buy them in advance, $35 at the door), you will sample savory and sweet bites from as many as over twenty different restaurants and bakeries in the area. It becomes your new list of must-go places, with samples to try so you're inspired to go to these restaurants. I keep telling friends they should buy tickets when the next Foodportunity is announced -- it's probably the most fun food party you can go. I tend to by myself, there's enough familiar faces to where it feels like a food high school reunion, but I encourage anyone to track down the next Foodportunity, grab a couple of friends, and buy tickets with the plan of eating very, very well for the night.

Savory bites of heaven on a platter - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Some of the restaurants in attendance at the last Foodportunity included Lark, RN74, Dinette, McCracken and Tough, Palisade, Tulalip Bay, Copperleaf and Ray's Boathouse. Plus bakeries like Trophy Cupcakes, Wheatless in Seattle and sweets from Chocolopolis. I loved being introduced to Tabby Cat Pickling Co. and meeting their cool owners and the notion of a pickled beet brine martini. It's better than professional networking events because it's not sales-y or full of douchey "that guy" personalities. People are sincere at this event. Most of the people there have day jobs that aren't in the food industry, so you're getting a crowd of people who truly love to be there, and the energy reflects that. Even if this isn't a weekly thing to hit when you're done with work, do a little planning and skip the tired sports bar hangout with your pals and suggest Foodportunity instead. Your tastebuds will thank you for it.

Salmon sous vide and grilled toasts with a summer salad? This puts your happy hour to shame - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I had the opportunity to attend two of the Iron Vintner Challenge rounds this summer, which was redonkulous-fun. And yes, that's a real word. Put on by The Willows Lodge out in Woodinville -- The Wood-Hood as my goofy friends and I often call it -- it's like Iron Chef, but with winemakers cooking up secret ingredients in a set period of time. If you're going to be having wine and food after work, may as well make it dinner and a show, especially if you live out in that area, as I do. Three years and running, Iron Vintner Challenge is a popular event that sells out fast, so get your ticket buying skills ready for next year. The IVC winner of 2012 has been crowned -- Morgan Lee of Covington Cellars won, if you didn't already hear. I wasn't able to make it to the final winemaker dinner, but just seeing the preliminary rounds is fun enough, plus it's for charity, so not only is it a good cause, you can tell the government it owes you for drinking wine. I was able to capture many frantic photos of the bracket round when Morgan Lee of Covington went up against Ross Andrew Winery for an epic crab battle. In between all that, I managed to have some tasty wine and tasty bites from  Chef Bobby Moore's menu, which even when there's not a mad cooking battle going on, the Fireside Cellar at Willows is one of my favorite after work hangouts.

Food, wine, celebrities - just another day in the Wood-Hood - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Yes, you may indeed get a rare glimpse of celebrity! Actress Josie Bissett was there to cheer on the winemakers and was kind enough to pose for a photo with Chef Moore. This is why famous people are famous -- they are uncommonly good looking, no? And when you have a professional looking camera, you feel a little less weird about taking people's photos since it's large enough to hide behind. But of course, the real star is the food, which was expertly prepared and a panel of judges had the tough task of picking a winner among dishes that ranged from giant crab ravioli to a crab salad in cucumber rolls. It's not a typical way to spend an evening after work, but if you get together with friends to watch a game, there's no reason not to shout and holler it up at a wine event, especially when rabble-rousing is encouraged.

Crabby crustaceans, to those about to be eaten, we salute you - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I hope this post has inspired you to think outside of the typical happy hour box, seeking out new places and things to do, as you raise your glass to the workday coming to a merciful end. Trek onward, Happy Hour Explorers, and discover new paths the celebrate the fact you're not sitting in a cubicle anymore!

Monday, June 11, 2012

FoodTrek: Iron Vintner Challenge 3 - The Vine Strikes Back!

Put on your best Chairman Kaga outfit, it's that time of year again! If you haven't already checked out the annual Iron Vintner Challenge that The Willows Lodge hosts every summer, you're missing out. So many people watch shows like Iron Chef or Chopped, getting swept up in the throes of a cooking battle with secret ingredients, pitted against a cooking competitor as well as the pressure of a ticking clock. It's nerve-wracking, it's stress-inducing and we can't get enough of it. So who wouldn't want to see all this reality drama in actual reality, in a garden patio with the comfort of food straight off the grill and a whole lotta tasty wine? This is not a trick question. You should just be nodding your head and checking your schedule to get tickets to the next Iron Vintner Challenge.

The secret ingredient is... NEMO! - Photo by Wasabi Prime
So what if you don't watch reality TV and all this sounds like crazy moon language? Well here's the breakdown behind Iron Vintner: two culinary-wise winemakers are pitted against one another in the Willows Lodge outdoor grilling arena, they are tasked with preparing an appetizer and entree featuring a secret ingredient that's revealed moments before the clock starts, all under an hour. It sounds simple enough, Ritz Crackers and some beans in a can -- easy, right? No, you fool! The Culinary Grill-Octagon Arena requires more of its vintner warriors, they have to impress a panel of judges, generally a mix of food experts and award winning chefs. And if that's not pressure enough, there's a live audience of boisterous wine-loving attendees that they must impress and entertain while trying not to burn the food or lop off a hand. It's like Gladiator, but minus the tiger.

This is not your typical backyard barbecue - Photos by Wasabi Prime
There are two bracket rounds that narrow the winemaker-chef finalists, and they compete in one last championship round to name the year's Iron Vintner Champion. The month-long event culminates in a Championship Dinner at The Barking Frog, with a four-course meal paired with wine, a live auction and a chance to see all the winemakers, as well as have some of their winning dishes. What it's all really about is raising money for Little Bit Theraputic Riding Center, a local group that uses equine therapy for children and adults with disabilities, a gentle method of healing that has changed the lives of many in the greater Seattle area. Each challenge round has a live auction to build donations and momentum for the Championship Dinner, and I have to say, this is the one auction that puts all those rubber chicken charity dinners to shame -- it's seriously fun. Blame the wine, but people get loopy, enthusiasm hits a fever pitch, and crazy stuff gets auctioned: early tastes of what the winemakers are cooking, random bottles of wine appear from neighboring winemakers which are signed while the bids fly, and items on the original auction list get modified every which way and the people who win the bids often walk away with a lot of extras. Little Bit gets all the proceeds, lucky guests have personalized dinners and tastings -- everyone wins. This makes for a very good day.

Guardian vs Barrage - it sounds like an epic battle, doesn't it? - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Iron Vintner Year 3 kicked off with a bang. This first round had Guardian Cellars versus Barrage Cellars, two local winemakers showing they can make more than a tasty glass of vino, given the delicious challenge of working with the incredible secret ingredient: Copper River King Salmon. That salmon was huge, the color was gorgeous and if the head wasn't already lopped off, you'd think it was fresh enough to jump off the ice and make a break for it. The judges for this round were superstar local chefs and restauranteurs Tom Douglas and Theirry Rautureau, and Maxime Bilet, one of the rockstar chef/authors behind the awe-inspiring Modernist Cuisine collection. Oh sure, cooking for these guys -- no pressure or anything, right??

Celebrity judges, wild ingredients and an auction that will make your head spin - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I was fortunate to be invited to join the Twitter brigade for one of last year's Iron Vintner Challenge rounds, as well as this year's first round. I was lucky to see Chris Gorman's team win last year's championship round, and this year was a great opportunity to see it from the beginning, since I can actually share the post early enough to where you can get tickets to attend either the next two rounds (June 13th and June 20th) or just go for the gusto and get tickets for the Championship Dinner on June 27th at Barking Frog. If you're considering the dinner, just get the tickets -- they sell out fast, even before an Iron Vintner Champion is named. I enjoy the challenge rounds because it's an adventure waiting to unfold -- there's drama at every turn if something doesn't turn out right, a scramble for ingredients, that ever-present ticking clock, and even a bit of pathos -- those knives are sharp and challengers have spilled blood in the name of Iron Vintner! But this year has been thankfully injury-free, so far.

The sound, the fury and the flavor of Iron Vintner Round 1 in action - Photos by Wasabi Prime
All this talk of culinary skills -- what about the food? I have to say, winemakers place as much attention upon what goes on the plate as they do in the glass. Granted not all winemakers are skilled in the kitchen, but the ones chosen for the Iron Vintner Challenge have the heart of a chef, and you realize why they became winemakers. They are gourmands, they appreciate the value of good ingredients and learn to present them in a respectful way, like a refreshing salmon tartare, savory salmon crepes with a buttery wine sauce, or cedar smoked salmon with spaetzle and tomato jam. I kept my hunger at bay with the pulled pork slider and kobe beef slider from the Willows Lodge special event menu, but I was still able to sample the vintner-created dishes and they were a delight. The savory crepe celebrated the fatty richness of the salmon with the equally rich sauce. The salmon grilled on a sheet of cedar, served with the tomato jam was one of my favorites, it was spicy and well-seasoned, and I have a weakness for buttery-rich spaetzle.  

Vintner creations and Willows Lodge bites to feed a hungry crowd - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Of course these dishes charmed the judges as well -- the winner of Iron Vintner Challege Round 1 was Team Guardian Cellars, who really went the extra mile and showed some great handcrafted skills while infusing the fish with extra flavor. It's all friendly competition, of course -- this is the event series where you can hang out with the Cool Wine Kids for a night and do something to support the community. So yes, I'm totally plugging the Iron Vintner Challenge, because it's in the wood-hood of Woodinville, close to where I live, I'm often at Willows Lodge because I dig their Happier Hour, and the local winemakers are super-duper cool for coming together every year to help make this happen. This is what summers in Washington were made for, and I walk away from an event like this wondering why I'd ever want to live anywhere else. And P.S. - I love you iPhone and Instagram yet again, for being such a great on-the-spot camera, since I couldn't operate my big ol' Canon and Tweet at the same time. I still can't believe I got all these photos using my phone!!

Yo Adriaaaaaan!!! Guardian Cellars wins Round 1 and moves into the Championship Round - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mixed Plate: I'm Just a Love Machine

The Prime has never been one to fully embrace Valentine's Day as a full-on holiday, but maybe being around a lot of restaurants and food-related work, it's hard not to get swept up in the lace-trimmed, pink hearted wonderland of L-O-V-E. This year, I found myself making homemade sweets for friends using a recipe from Alexandra Hedin's sweetheart of a book, Entertaining at Home,  and trekking around Woodinville, to get some sweet and savory inspiration at the seasonal chef's demos at Willows Lodge.

These peanut butter and chocolate treats should come with a warning: Highly Addictive - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Getting straight to dessert first, Alexandra's book is a great mix of both lifestyle and recipes, which I think they should almost have a new category for books simply called Hostessing with the Mostessing. Is it grammatically correct? Heck no, but it kind of covers it all, as her book, Entertaining at Home, is one of those where you really take in the full experience of each meal, not just the individual dishes. You look at where a meal is held, how the food is presented, and the little decorative details that aren't necessarily edible, but provide a satisfying experience for the whole occasion. I have to give mad props to a local food and lifestyle talent having a book published and much mad propitude to her peanut butter and chocolate squares recipe, which I made a double-batch of. When I was done stuffing my face with the irregular-shaped end pieces, I cut everything down into little bite-sized rectangles and put into Valentine-themed candy cups, stacked in celo bags and decorated with a strip of red and white polka dot fabric. It's not the typical heart-shaped box of chocolates, but it was a little sweet thing to give to friends to let them know how sweet they are. The book is available at bookstores, or you can order directly through Alexandra's site - I'm sure she'd love to hear from you!

Barking Frog's Chef Bobby Moore cooking up savory dishes at Willows Lodge chef demos - Photos by Wasabi Prime

You know what goes really well with peanut butter and chocolate squares? Sea bass with carrot ginger beurre blanc and oysters! Maybe not. But switching gears and puttering over to the Willows Lodge hotel in nearby Woodinville, there are chef demos the hotel graciously hosts at seasonal times of the year. I went to the holiday demos, which included presentations on cocktails, appetizers and desserts. They hold these events midweek, right in the Willows Lodge lounge area, past their big fireplace as you walk into the main entrance. They usually start around 5 or 5:30, but you really have to get there as early as possible -- 4:30 is adviseable, as the lounge area becomes standing room only. It's like the best kept secret in sleepy Woodinville-town... and I just let the cat out of the bag!!

Flourless chocolate cake, flavored with raspberry by Pastry Chef Matt Kelley - Photos by Wasabi Prime 

It's a really nice treat, as you're sitting there with a happy hour glass of wine, maybe one of their tasty appetizers (I love their lamb burger with sweet potato fries), while Chef Bobby Moore or Pastry Chef Matt Kelley at the neighboring restaurant, the Barking Frog, prepare something right in front of you, recipe cards are passed out, and you get to sample everything they make. For the Valentine-themed presentations, Chef Moore prepared an appetizer of oysters topped with an herbed mascarpone and brioche crumbs, a lighter twist on the typical Oysters Rockefeller, and then seared bass with a sweet carrot ginger sauce over a fennel risotto. Pastry Chef Matt Kelley made a rich flourless chocolate cake with a raspberry truffle center, topped with raspberry chantilly cream -- divine, no? On the night of Chef Moore's savory demo, there was the added treat of sampling wines from Dusted Valley Winery, who co-hosted the presentation. While they don't have these every week, they generally hold these special cooking demos around holidays, and I believe there's another one coming up in March - check the Willows Lodge events page for updates.

Whatever you decide to do for Valentine's Day, whether it's going out for a special dinner, staying in and making a special meal, or getting one of those heart-shaped pizzas from Papa Murphys, have a heart-shaped day, and hugs n' kisses to all!

Sweet and Savory Valentine Wishes to ALL - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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