Washington (Really just Seattle...)
Posthumously... Picazo 717
When I began the concept of writing this post, Picazo was still open in Kennewick, Washington. Perhaps no restaurant embodied what we would have been looking for in our "awards" here on the Anthem, quite like Picazo. That, my personal friendship with Chef Frank and Trina make it more and more difficult to process that Picazo closed it's doors. With perhaps the state's most educational wine list, a paltry corkage fee that charged more for wine from California and a fresh approach to wine for a younger demographic, not to mention Frank's excellent reputation for his cooking made them both a natural for the Vintner's Choice Award, which they received from the Washington Wine Commission in 2011 and this list. All the more the loss for those of us who enjoyed a real wine country dining option. Frank has come back with his catering business and so there is still hope for those of us who love that part of Washington.
Minutes from the Woodinville Warehouse District is Bothell's Russell's in what may be one of the strangest locations possible for a city dweller like me. Tucked away in what is essentially an office park in an old barn you'll find Russell's. The ethos, simple done well is well, and understatement. Rustic American bistro style fare with fresh seafood and some of the best pan seared gnocchi to ever touch human lips. Russell's has really tapped into the local wine scene in Woodinville, choosing even more specifically to honor those warehouse establishments. Winemaker dinner's and winery tours as well as corkage fees aimed to support the local businesses and a wine list that tips the scales at somewhere around 90% Northwest is right up our alley. The air is classic yet casual the food is dynamite and the place screams local wine.
Cantinetta. The rustic Italian bistro delivers the goods with an incredibly affordable menu, and they only serve Italian and Washington wines. We love this. The wine list tips with impressive giants like Quilceda Creek, Betz Family and Owen Roe's Dubrul Vineyard Cabernet. It's clear though that they're hip to the scene with names like Reynvaan and Cedargreen making appearances. The food is outstanding and I once again will give a nod to the gnocchi (no it's not the only thing I eat). If there's a restaurant on this list that you may want to think about just skipping straight to dessert for it's here. Hit the Nutella Zeppole like a ton of bricks and thank me later. Corkage is $18,
Eva Wine Bar
Eva has long been our favorite for dining out here in Seattle and as it happens they also meet all of our fake awards criteria. The wine list is basically a split between European and Washington wines and a gang of Oregon Pinot Noir (not one California Pinot makes the list). On the Washington side they're showing love to small producers like an Anthem favorite Domaine Pouillon of the Columbia Gorge AVA. They even have half bottles of cool climate Syrah from Oregon's Cristom. The ambiance is fantastic but we recommend sitting at the bar when you go. The service is a bit slower but you get access to two different menu options. The corkage fee is under $20 and Amy McCray can tear it up in the kitchen. The menus change monthly with everything being seasonal and fresh. While you don't often take this approach when you go out to eat, if you're going to Eva order the chicken.
Oregon (Really just PDX)
Located off NW Vaughn Street, Meriwether’s is a quaint, cottage-like venue situated in Northwest Portland between the trendy Nob Hill/Alphabet District and the Industrial area. Its seemingly miniature exterior does well at keeping Meriwether’s inventive, hearty and flavorful menu one of Portland’s best-kept secrets (or so I like to think). The spread is so completely Pacific Northwest featuring various renditions on sea-fare, lamb, duck, chicken, and fresh vegetables with a farm-to-table approach; most all of their ingredients locally sourced from their very own Skyline Farms, right here in Portland! According to their website, in 2011, Meriwether’s served over 15,000 pounds of produce directly from Skyline. Meriwether’s also features a fantastic happy hour menu in their bar from 3-6pm daily and keeps a well-rounded local wine selection on-hand. If you have a special bottle of your own in mind, their corkage is only $20.
Located close-in on SE Division, Bar Avignon is a gem among the many restaurants and bars that sprinkle this up-and-coming thoroughfare; a great place to steal away from the bustle and pace of the city. Both hangout and date-worthy, Bar Avignon serves up some creative cocktails and offers a collection of both local and non-local wines amidst an intimate, mellow backdrop. Their menu is adjusted weekly with eclectic new and delicious items (a variety perfect for pairing and tasting), except for the oysters and a few other regulars. My last visit fave? The roasted garlic and potato soup with thyme and crunchy croutons hit the spot for this always-cold girl in mid-winter PDX!
Do you have restaurant recommendations? Let us know.