Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hop Scotch Spring Beer & Scotch Festival

At this year's Hop Scotch Spring Beer & Scotch Festival, I only tried cider and whiskey! I passed on beer as I wanted some new experiences in my overly satisfied palate from IPAs and Ales. So I tried all Ciders starting from the new Stella Cider made from the well-known Belgian beer company. The cider was crisp and refreshing made from hand-picked apples. Very pleasant to drink and definitely a good start for the cider drinking. 

I then tried the Crisp Apple Cider from the Angry Orchard Hard Cider. This very apple-y cider had sweet notes but finished with a balanced taste. Fresh Fuji apple aromas added to the ripe flavor.

Seattle Cider’s Gin Botanical was very different and proved to be my favorite. As its name witnesses, it was fermented with gin botanicals and was semi-dry featuring lemon, juniper and orange. Yes, it was very complex but all the same refreshing.

Crispin Cidery’s Foxbarrel Blackberry Pear Cider had strong pear aromas and flavors as it was fermented using 100% pear juice. It was also infused with natural blackberry juice and indeed was a very unique cider.

Strongbow’s Strongbow Golden Cider was light and surprisingly sweet made with a blend of bittersweet cider and culinary apples. Well-balanced and easy to drink and naturally gluten-free!

The BlackThorn cider from BlackThorn Cider is one of the UK’s best known and widely drunk ciders. It was dry, crispy, refreshing, balanced and very British indeed.

The Dark and Dry cider from Spire Mountain Draft Cider was actually a dark cider with a pleasant tart flavor and hits of caramel and brown sugar.

The Vermont Hard Cider Company offered the Limited Release Summer cider that was slightly tart with a nice apple aroma and sweetness.

I also sat at the Northwest Whiskeys Flight. That was interesting to see a new whiskey industry being born in the region. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Best of Taste Washington

Long due my piece for Taste Washington 2014. This year I decided to go for Washington State white blends and other interesting varieties. Here are my discoveries.

AniChe Cellars
The 2011 Lizzy White Rhône Blend from Columbia Valley ($22) was a nice marriage of the Marsanne and Roussanne varieties. I loved the earthy minerality of this combination with a pleasant nose and satisfying palate.

Maryhill Winery
The 2011 Aurelia White Rhône Blend, Horse Heaven Hills ($20) was another discovery. I am not sure for the grape blend but it had strong aromas of melon and pear and a fruity medium body. This elegant wine is  good choice for seafood and grilled poultry.

Cave B Estate Winery
The 2012 Cuvee Blanc White Bordeaux Blend ($25) was a wonderful blend of 79% Semillon and 21% Sauvignon Blanc. It gave aromas of kiwi in the first sip mixed with those of rich lemon and ripe nectarines. The wine was perfectly balanced and I would pair it with seared seafood and maybe with a risotto. 

Mellissoni Vineyards
The 2012 Pinot Gris from Lake Chelan ($35) was pleasant and refreshing. Great for a summer aperitif. 

The Tamarack Cellars Viognier, Columbia Valley ($24) has strong aromas of fresh peaches and nectarines and an amazing bright finish. Well done Tamarack Cellars.

Array Cellars
The 2011 Chardonnay Dijon Clone, Yakima Valley ($32) was also a wonderful surprise from the State that can produce some decent Chardonnays.

Laurelhurst Cellars
The Late Harvest 2012 White Rhône Blend ($28) was a perfectly balanced Viognier and Roussanne. The wine had a honey color and aromas of dried apricot, pear and honeysuckle.  

With over 200 wineries exhibiting their wines, my selection is really small. But I can guarantee the quality and the elegance of those wines so whenever you have the chance, buy a bottle. 

I was conservative with food. I only did seafood and some tasty meats including Hook & Plow’s house-cured pork pastrami, the whiskey-glazed smoked salmon with arugula salad from Ivar’s and Uli’s Famous Sausage gourmet sausage. I also had the house-made citrus gravlax with herb-cucumber salad from Urbane.  I dared to take a sip from the spicy nettle soup with crispy razor clams courtesy of the SkyCity at the Needle.  And the roasted pork belly with seasonal vegetable from Outside the Box Food Truck was delightful. 

The Taste Washington event is a must-do every year. If you are in the Seattle area, don't miss it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Vegfest Seattle 2014

Although I never claimed to be a vegetarian and I am not sure that I would like to become one, the recent Vegfest in Seattle was an interesting experience. As a new product scouter and trends spotter, I am always open to food shows and events. Here are the highlights of the Vegfest:

1. Earth Balance launches their new potato chip line and they are super tasty! Soon available in the market, they come in three distinctive flavors. The Sour Cream & Onion Flavor Kettle Chips, the Cheddar Flavor Kettle Chips and the Sea Salt Flavor Kettle Chips. They are all vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO. I am curious to see the nutrition facts on the package when available.

2. The Lisanatti Cheese Alternative made with Almonds. I have tried rice cheese before but never a cheese made from almonds. The Almond Cheese comes in its Cheddar, Mozzarella, Garlic Herb and Jalapeno Jack flavors. I would describe it as light and tasteful but nothing like real cheese!

3. The Soy Yogurt is back! After a few disappointed years for soy and soy yogurt in particular, consumers seem to return to the previously loved dairy alternative. The WholeSoy & Co yogurt showcased all of their fruit flavored yogurts included blueberry, vanilla and lemon -my favorite!

4. I was surprised to see all the major national snack and energy brands to be there. From Way Better Snacks to Pop Chips, Beanfields Chips, Beanitos, SeaSnax to Kind Bars, Odwalla, Larabar and Probar. So Delicious, Silk, Coconut Bliss, Honest Tea, Tumeric and GoodBelly had also a strong presence. On the cheese and meat alternative front, there were Daiya, Gardein, Wildwood and Vegenaise Original. It seems that food manufacturers target the large food trade shows but also smaller regional ones open to consumers.