Monday, February 20, 2012

Eat Something...Our Restaurant Awards

Here at the Northwest Wine Anthem there are a few things that we want to make clear.  We aren't all hoity-toity, while we may be abnormally attractive we're not into the trendy shit.  For us a restaurant needs a few things to make this list, it's not really an "awards", but people love that when you say "awards" or "top 10" so I tricked you.  What this is is a short list of places we love to eat for the following reasons: 1: They show love to Northwest wine, this means that their wine list puts the emPhasis on the right sylLable.  There are far too many restaurants here in the Northwest that aren't showing love to the real local wine scene.  California doesn't need their assistance but yet they've seemed to turn up their noses to the beautiful wines that are being made right here. 2: The wine list is thoughtful and well chosen. 3:  There are a variety of price-points, producers and varietals.  Sometimes the wine lists go a step further, they're organized by AVA or style of wine.  They might even take a moment to educate their customers on Northwest wine. 4: They have a corkage fee that is under $20.  This is huge. 5: Finally, and perhaps obviously they're serving great food, but here's our twist, it doesn't cost and arm and a leg.  It's simple, the Anthem is a blog, we're not an austere magazine that charges a $450 annual subscription for information you could find on the internet for free.  Our readers are trying to learn about and explore Northwest wines on a budget, this restaurant list should reflect that, and it does.

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.

Russell's Dining
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.

Head down toward Seattle's Lake Union on Wallingford Avenue and you'll eventually come across 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.

Bar Avignon
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!

Bonus points: the Bar Avignon staff is knowledgeable and poised to help you select the best glass or bottle of wine for you! If you’d prefer to bring your own bottle, their corkage stands reasonably at $20.

Do you have restaurant recommendations?  Let us know.


Nice nod to Frank and Picasso.

Another one of my favorites is Dundee Bistro. Excellent OR pinot list (obviously) but also a very nice selection of WA wines at a range of price points.

We loved Frank's place, even more so when it was in Prosser near us -- always hard for the industry to lose one of our local stars.

We'd love for you to come by and see us at Wine o'Clock. I know we only carry our own wine, but we have LOTS of small lot (50-100 case) varietals, and 9 or 10 different flight on the list. Everything is priced at straight retail, no restaurant mark-up. Even though we are a winery we allow outside wine for industry or special occasions, as long as arrangements are made in advance. No corkage fee, just buy a matched bottle from us and $5 to the server.

@WineOclock I've been meaning to get in there, not sure how that's not happened. I love the Bunnell wines and the 06 Boushey-McPherson Syrah is one of those always in my memory wines, perhaps forever. Sounds like a great spot.

Such a nice blog. I really enjoyed reading it.

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