Sicily in PDX – Planeta Wine Dinner at Bellino Trattoria Siciliana

Locavores enjoy sampling the local, authentic cuisine of other regions. Bellino Trattoria Siciliana opened just weeks ago in the Pearl District. I had the chance to join in one of their wine dinners, pairing Sicilian wines from Planeta Winery with Sicilian dishes.

Planeta Wine Dinner at Bellino Trattoria Siciliana
Baked Eggplant Roll and Planeta La Segreta Bianco from Menfi.

Executive Chef Francesco Inguaggiato is from Palermo, Sicily, where he learned his craft in his family’s trattoria. With two successful restaurants in Texas, he has brought his skills to Portland. He sources both locally in the Northwest as well as authentic Mediterranean fish, seafood and olive oil. He sources from Corfini Gourmet, which specializes in local, sustainable and natural meat, and Newman’s Fish Company.

Penny Murray from Planeta Winery discussed the origin of each wine. They have wines from six regions of Sicily. It was my first introduction to Sicilian wine.

The antipasti course was paired with 2013 Planeta La Segreta Bianco from the Menfi region.  It’s a blend of ancient Grecian Grecanico, Chardonnay, Viognier and Fiano. It is a refreshing and amazingly balanced white.

The antipasti began with Involtini di Melanzana – baked eggplant rolls.  That was great and whetted our appetites for more. I loved the octopus with diced potatoes and parsley oil that came next. The octopus was tender and perfectly seasoned. Chef Francesco said it was critical to get Spanish octopus and cook it exactly. This was a big success.

Insalata di Polpo
Insalata di Polpo

The Primi course was a satisfying bowl of Pasta Norma – penne with eggplant and salted ricotta.

Pasta Norma
Pasta Norma

It was paired with 2011 Dorilli Cerasuolo Classico from Vittoria. The name means “cherry red” for the soils in the region, but also the cherry and strawberry notes. It is 70% Nero d’Avola, 30% Frappato. I was happy with it from the first taste.

Planeta Dorilli Cerasuolo Classico
Planeta Dorilli Cerasuolo Classico

The Secondi course was Spiedini di Pesce Spada – swordfish impaled on rosemary, surrounded by summer squash and other vegetables. The dish was beautiful and deceptively simple – perfectly prepared and seasoned swordfish.

Spiedini di Pesce Spada
Spiedini di Pesce Spada

I loved the 2013 Planeta Etna Rosso, it was surprisingly similar to an excellent Oregon Pinot Noir.  The grape is Nerello Mascalese, grown on the slopes near the famous volcano.

Planeta Etna Rosso
Planeta Etna Rosso

We segued to a Contorni of roasted potatoes and kale.

Roasted Potatoes and Kale
Roasted Potatoes and Kale

Now to Dolce – Torte di ciocollato i menta, a chocolate and mint torte. It was served with a sweet 2010 Planeta Passito di Noto, made with moscato bianco, from the Buonivini region.

Torte di Ciocollato i Menta and Planeta Passito di Noto
Torte di Ciocollato i Menta and Planeta Passito di Noto

The evening was very satisfying. The wine rep, Penny Murray and Chef mingled at each table to answer questions and discuss the wine and food. That’s an important part of a wine dinner experience for me.

I was delighted with the authentic Sicilian dishes and wines. Most of the offerings are available on Bellino’s regular menu, including two of the wines by the glass. I look forward to dining again at Bellino. They are open for lunch and dinner Tuesday  – Saturday.  We watched dishes going out to the regular diners and were impressed with how beautiful and delicious they looked.

Bellino Trattoria Siciliana
1230 NW Hoyt Street, Portland, OR 97209

Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

Back to Brewed

I’ve been using Keurig for several years, but it’s time to switch back to grinding beans and brewing drip coffee. The reasons for this switch:

  • Since retiring from the day job, I want 3 or more cups of coffee in the morning rather than two, so I could drink a full pot.
  • I’m bored with the flavor I can get from commercial K-cups. They cost more and give you less flavor than buying good beans.
  • Disposable K-cups create a lot of non-recyclable trash that I should feel guilty about.
  • I want to explore our local coffee roasters and try different beans.
  • I’ve been grinding beans and filling a refillable K-cup,  but my old Keurig machine doesn’t always like how I filled it. It would be less work to use a traditional drip brewer.

I made another search for my old coffee brewer and found it was still in working order. It’s an old Starbucks-branded coffeemaker with a thermal carafe. It has a permanent gold filter basket so I don’t have to bother with paper filters.

I wish I lived in walking distance of a coffeehouse other than Starbucks (there are three of them within a 30 minute walk of my house). I am not hostile to Starbucks, in fact I love them as I use them often for restroom stops during my walks. I just hate waiting in line for coffee. The only independent coffee shop in walking distance makes only espresso, and I find their Americano to be astringent and not very pleasant.

But I am now free to buy beans at local roasters such as Compass Coffee in downtown Vancouver, or pick them up on my excursions at places such as Long Beach Coffee Roasters.

Doug Adams and Katsuji Tanabe – Top Chef Cinco de Mayo at Imperial

Douggie Adams
Douggie Adams

Top Chef alumni Doug Adams of Imperial in Portland and Katsuji Tanabe of Mexikosher in LA reunited for a fantastic Cinco de Mayo dinner at Imperial May 5, 2015.

My foodie friends Erin and Terri heard about before I did and were gracious to include me in the reservations, which quickly booked up.  The problem with being a Top Chef fan is that you never really know what the chef’s creations taste like unless you’ve dined at their restaurant. We had a great dinner from Doug Adams at Imperial back in January, and I’ve eaten several times at Gregory Gourdet’s Departure. Both are fantastic. It would be a great chance to try Katsuji’s cuisine, which appeared to be complex and fun on Top Chef.

Katsuji Tanabe
Katsuji Tanabe

The prix fixe menu for the evening was $125, which included libations with each course. As expected at Imperial and Paley’s Place, the service was impeccable. Our waiter was friendly and happy to chat, knew the dishes and drink, plates and cutlery were quickly whisked away at the end of each course.

There are always two questions I wonder at celebrity chef dinners.

  • Is the chef actually doing any of the cooking for the meal? Yes, you could see Douggie and Katsuji at work in the kitchen in the back of the house.
  • Will I be able to talk to the chef and get a photo? We were delighted to have Katsuji and Douggie come to each table and spend time chatting with us and taking photos. It was Katsuji’s first time in Portland and we’ve been following his Twitters and Instagrams as he hangs with Douggie. @katsujitanabe @douggieadams
Tostada - Katsuji Tanabe

Tostada – Katsuji Tanabe

The menu started with Chef Katsuji’s Tostada. It showcased his “more is better” style that he got flack for on Top Chef. In person. This was a my favorite of the evening. It had salted cod, scallop, uni, toasted tomato salsa and fresh lime. The tortilla was crisp and thick enough to hold up to the mounds of goodness on top.  Katsuji explained that he intended it to be salty like the sea, plus a balance of heat and savory and acid. I loved every bite. It was too salty for Darlene, which meant more for the rest of us from her plate.

It was paired with a shot of Pueblo Viejo 104 Blanco and a shot of Verdita mango/lime – “to heat you up and cool you down” from bar man Tony Guardian.

Chile en Nogada - Vitaly Paley

Chile en Nogada – Vitaly Paley

Imperial Chef/Owner Vitaly Paley created this Chile en Nogada with the colors of the Mexican flag. It was stuffed with a potlatch pilaf and strawberry salsa. This displayed Vitaly’s expertise with local, seasonal Northwest ingredients. Katsuji took credit for the white sauce, and noted that the peppers varied quite a bit in heat. It was paired with a ’13 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren “Rose” Cotes de Provence. Our waiter noted it was a varietal that was rare, from the region where Vitaly honed his culinary chops.

Camarones al Petroleo - Katsuji Tanabe

Camarones al Petroleo – Katsuji Tanabe

Katsuji’s second dish was the Camarones al Petroleo. He took fire in the first episode of Top Chef for this dish, first from Tom Colicchio who didn’t like the name, and second from Padma who didn’t find it very attractive. But this shrimp in squid ink fondue with chipotles and serrano aioli and saffron rice was sumptuous. Yes, not much in the photo, but each bite was deeply complex, flavorful and satisfying. I was happy to have the rice and tortilla to catch every drop of the fondue.

The dish was paired with a grapefruit-based Roadside Attraction cocktail.

Spit Roasted Goat Tamale - Douggie Adams
Spit Roasted Goat Tamale – Douggie Adams

Now for Douggie’s contribution – spit roasted goat tamale with mole and cotija. The mole was deeply complex, the cotija added salty punch and the goat was savory. By this course, we were very full. At every event at Imperial, you get a lot of food rather than a 3-bite tasting portion. It came with a potent margarita.

Tres Leche - Michelle Vernier
Tres Leche – Michelle Vernier

Pastry Chef Michelle Vernier whipped up the dessert – tres leche with grilled strawberries and lime bar. I liked the hint of smoke in the strawberries. It was a lovely dessert.

The chefs launched an after party next door at Portland Penny Diner, but of course we were too full to join in.  It was a great evening and we had multiple rounds of face time with the two featured chefs. Vitaly Paley was also making the rounds and everyone appeared to be having a fun time.

Katsuji Tanabe with our table
Katsuji Tanabe with our table
Imperial Cinco de Mayo Menu
Imperial Cinco de Mayo Menu


 

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Taste Dundee Kicks Off Oregon Wine Month

May is Oregon Wine Month and 15 Dundee wineries and six local restaurants got together to showcase their food and drink on May 2. The Taste Dundee Block Party had perfect weather as everyone gathered in the parking lot of Chapter 24 Vineyards, just off Hwy 99W in Dundee (at the corner with the only stoplight in town).

Panther Creek Cellars
Panther Creek Cellars

The event was a great deal, $20 general admission and only $10 for people who belonged to a wine club of any of the participating wineries. The food was enough for a meal and you could taste over 30 wines. You could also take home wine with 15% off a half case and 20% off a full case.

It was fun to meet the winemakers, especially smaller producers we hadn’t yet visited. I was impressed with Aubichon Cellars 2012 Vista Hills Pinot Noir.  This is a second brand for Le Cadeau, another we hadn’t tasted before despite them producing since 2002.

Le Cadeau and Aubichon Cellars
Le Cadeau and Aubichon Cellars

As my husband was driving, I screened wines for him to sip so he would only taste the best. Luckily, we have the same taste in wine.  We only sampled reds, while most winemakers were also offering a white for tasting.

He agreed that Angela Estate‘s pinot noirs are excellent. They have a deep, complex flavor and should cellar well. I first tasted them at the Truffle Market Place this winter.

Angela Estate
Angela Estate

Likewise, the Panther Creek Cellars Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir is very pleasing.  I went straight to the Chapter 24 Vineyards Fire Pinot Noir. I prefer it over their Flood pinot.

Chapter 24 Vineyards
Chapter 24 Vineyards

It wasn’t all pinot noir, there were several vineyards pouring syrah and other varietals. I loved the Cathedral Ridge Bordheauxd Red, it would be a crowd-pleaser at any party.

Cathedral Ridge Wines
Cathedral Ridge Wines

The food bites were great and a nice introduction to where to eat when visiting Dundee.

Red Hills Market had a wood-fired oven truck and served up a killer Morel, spring onion and lardon mac and cheese.

Bert's Chuckwagon Pork Slider
Bert’s Chuckwagon Pork Slider

Bert’s Chuckwagon offered pork sliders that were delicious.

Tina’s had the first bite I grabbed, a tostada with bay shrimp and green salsa, blue a boccone dolce (meringue with passion fruit puree and strawberries).

Tina's
Tina’s

Red Hills Provincial Dining went elegant with a mushroom pate and pork.

Red Hills Provincial Dining
Red Hills Provincial Dining

Babica Hen Cafe had a great bite that I believe is their crispy chicken and dumpling bite with sweet pea sauce. They also had very tall sandwiches and great cookies.

Babica Hen Cafe Booth
Babica Hen Cafe Booth

Dundee Bistro served up bites bites that didn’t list ingredients but were excellent, plus a dish of olive oil and great bread for dipping.

Dundee Bistro Bite
Dundee Bistro Bite

The event is definitely worth enjoying in coming years. One drawback is that there were no tables or places to sit. That may serve to keep the crowd moving, but it makes it harder to juggle food, wine and cell phone/camera. Porta johns were provided and there was parking nearby in the neighborhood.


 

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Fortside Brewing Company opens Vancouver tasting room

Fortside Brewing Tap Room
Fortside Brewing Tap Room

Brewers are setting up shop in the ‘Couve. The newest brewery, Fortside Brewing Company, is located in an industrial warehouse space on Andresen, across from a Winco. They share a signpost on Andresen, and the storefront has good signage, but it still feels a little like a speakeasy.

I previously peeped in the windows of the roll-up garage door and saw a typical Northwest tap room with wood/industrial decor. Rough wooden board paneling and custom high tables and high benches provide seating, as does a a bar.  You can see the brewing equipment through the glass at the back of the taproom.

Fortside Brewing Tap Room Tables
Fortside Brewing Tap Room Tables

They soft-opened the last week of April, 2015 and we dropped by on Thursday. They are open 4 pm – 10 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  They host private events M-T-W.

As Fortside ramps up production, they were pouring just two of their beers, plus their root beer. We sampled a pint of each.  The Zythological Pale Ale pleased us, even though we are avowed IPA fans. It has a great snap from the Zythos hops.  Hopunion describes these as having pineapple, citrus and pine notes. The Couve A’Licious Brown Ale was also very pleasant.

Fortside Brewing Tap List
Fortside Brewing Tap List

This allayed our fears that they might be close to home, but we wouldn’t care for their beer. I’d happily enjoy the Zythological Pale Ale any time. The friendly bar man also gives small tasters if you’d like to sample before getting a pint.

Owners Michael Difabio and Mark Doleski started as home brewers. They love to experiment and will be brewing a variety of beers. It’s good that their tastes seem to match ours! I enjoyed the small swig of root beer as well.

They have guest taps, which on this afternoon were Wild Ride Brew Hopperhead IPA (from Redmond, Oregon), Upright Brewing Redwing Lager (Portland) and Heathen Brewing Promiscuous Blonde (Vancouver, WA). Pints cost $4.50 for Fortside, $5 for guest taps, with growlers for $12.

Fortside Brewing Tap Room Bar
Fortside Brewing Tap Room Bar

Fortside has no food service, although they promise you can bring or order in food from nearby establishments.

The tap room was comfortable and it felt like a place we could return to for an afternoon pint often. The music wasn’t loud. They plan to install some TV screens for sports.  As we quaffed, more patrons arrived to sample and it looks like they are off to a good start.

Fortside Brewing Company
2200 NE Andresen, Vancouver, WA 98661
(360) 524-4692