I was still eating like a Midwesterner when I moved across the country to Seattle nearly fifteen years ago. Fresh from college – and college fare – I was fierce about my love of chain restaurants and comfort foods. Even in a culinary mecca like the Emerald City, I still clung to my fried mozzarella, my uninspired food service salads, my burgers of questionable meat. A food and wine event, with bites like lamb meatballs, foie gras, and duck sliders, would’ve made my skin crawl. I was the epitome of a picky eater.
Luckily, a food-savvy boyfriend showed me the error of my ways, regulating our dining options by suggesting we eat only at mom-and-pop restaurants, eateries more off the beaten path, exploring everything from Ethopian cooked by a family of five to Italian that wasn’t manufactured by a corporate overlord.
Then Daily Blender happened and I was thrust into the old adage of politely eating whatever was placed in front of me, by an eager-to-please chef or a pleasant public relations person. Along the winding food road, I’ve developed a love of the different flavors and textures of culinary creativity. I’ve found the joys in nosh non-conformity. I’ve discovered that a room full of bites and imbiberies of every shape and size – savory, sweet, or spicy – is a room of great palate potential.
And for a room of great palate potential, the Seattle Wine and Food Experience always dresses to impress.
When I returned to cover the event this past Sunday, after making my first visit in 2010, I found it to be just as pleasurable as I remembered – busy, but not over-crowded; popular but not stifling. The sold-out event doesn’t just offer guests the opportunity to sample from restaurants, food purveyors, wineries, and distilleries from around the region, it allows for folks to actually enjoy the experience along the way, with plenty of room to move, dine, or pause for a sip or two.
During Sunday’s event, I had a chance to sit in on a culinary demo by award-winning chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough of Spur, Tavern Law, and The Coterie Room in addition to taking the time to taste my way through the Seattle Exhibition Hall. Standouts of the afternoon included McCracken and Tough’s black tea custard with candied Meyer lemon and nitro poached honey seafoam (awesome!), Alaskan king crab and rock shrimp fritters from Ray’s Boathouse, filet mignon from Tulalip Resort Casino’s Blackfish, duck sliders from Wild Ginger, doughnuts from Frost, and lamb meatballs with cipollini onion relish from chef Tom Douglas’s Lola. Aside from my beeline to the Honest Tea table, dare I say I made more than a few visits to the Crispin Cider corner of the room, where I enjoyed my first (and second, and third…) pour of Fox Barrel’s Pacific Pear Cider – highly recommended!
But the big winners, folks, the favorite of this year’s SWFE, were the absinthe and black salt caramels from Jonboy Caramels. Get yourselves some!
A marvelous event indeed!
Next up on the Daily Blender docket? On April 1st, I’ll be running and eating at the Eat.Run.Hope. event presented by Seattle’s Ethan Stowell Restaurants to benefit the Fetal Hope Foundation. With a bevy of top Seattle chefs collaborating for a good cause, you catch my post-run coverage of the event here on DB – or register to attend yourself.
Other travel and tastes on the schedule include a dining tour of Indianapolis, home of the 2012 Super Bowl, as well as a return to Maui, where I’ll be a guest judge at the Maui County Agricultural Festival in early April. Wheeeee!
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender