Your Canadian Junk Food Shopping List

I went to Canada and came back with....a craving for All Dressed Chips.


Good thing there's a border between me and those chips!

But first, the backstory.

Jeremy, Rebecca, and I had a layover at the airport in Victoria. They're both Canadian so I got the lay of the land, probing them about important stuff. No, not about their sexy President who, when asked why his Cabinet was 50 percent female, responded, "Because it's 2015." DUH! And no, we did not go into detail about Canada's universal health care, or the fact that women get A YEAR for maternity leave. I needed to know about important, "What's up with ketchup-flavored potato chips????"

At that very moment, another traveler chimed in, "They're addictive! And you can't get them in the States."

This is a man who knows things!

Meet Rob Scoundrel, who gave me the lowdown on Canadian junk food. "You gotta try Coffee Crisps." I made a note, and he scoffed,  "The Smarties you get in the States aren't the same--at all!"

Clearly we bonded. And by the time he left for his flight, we were Facebook friends, and snapping pictures. Junk food unites people. World peace, and Smarties.

A few minutes later, Rob came back and offered this Gift from the Gods. Cheers to the nearby airport kiosk! Sparkies are like M&Ms, with better chocolate. The Coffee Crisps are delicious with a nice hit of coffee flavor, and not overly sweet. When my buddy Lance comes to Canada, he confessed, they buy them by the case at Costco.

But wait, it gets better. 

I posted the photo on Facebook, and a flurry of responses came back. The love for Canadian junk food runs deep, y'all! The only problem? I didn't have a car. My trip was jam-packed and there wasn't a moment to spare, or so I thought. 

That night I was laughing about this entire exchange...meeting Rob at the airport, and the laundry list of Canadian junk food recommendations that followed. Well, let's just say, the Prince George Tourism folks did me a solid. After dinner one night, we pulled over at a 7-11. The neighborhood might have been questionable, but the goods inside were spot on! I grabbed nearly $30 worth of stuff, all in the name of 'research'. 

So, if you're headed over the border, first thing to look for is Old Dutch brand All Dressed Chips. Accept no substitutes. (Ruffles, WTF? No. No. No. Not even close.) Old Dutch? Hello, my lovelies! 

What makes these chips so great? First, they don't skimp on the seasoning. Each chip is amply covered, and licking it off your fingers merely extends the joy.... Second, the chip itself is the perfect ratio--not too thick, not too thin, not too crispy (looking at you Kettle Cooked), and definitely not wavy. Pure potato flavor and ideally executed. What flavor is "All Dressed"? Well, there we have a bit of a mystery. It's like an everything bagel, in chip form, blending salt, vinegar, BBQ, sour cream and onion. In other words, utterly crave-worthy. Thanks for the tip Miss 604 and Chris Hoffman!

Homesick Canadians can even order a carepage with all the goods! 

After we left the store, my buddy Lance came through with his must have Canadian junk food list. Clearly another trip to Canada is in order, right? Well, in case you're headed to Canada, spread the love, and grab some junk food. Specialties to look for:

- Dare Fudge Cookies
- Smartie McFlurry (at McDonalds)
- Aero Bars
- Crispy Crunch
- Mr. Yorkie
- Crunchie Bar
- Mak Toffee
- Ketchup Chips

Beguiling Delights at Northern Lights Estate Winery

On a trip to Prince Gorge, BC, top of the list for food lovers is a trip to Northern Lights Estate Winery. The newly constructed tasting room with lofted ceilings and wrap around windows, features an orchard and and an idyllic spot along the Nechako River. 

Wine tasting on beautiful grounds? I'm in! 

But there's a twist.

At this high latitude, grapes do not thrive. The focus at Northern Lights Estate is on fruit-based wines. In other words, anything but grapes. Blending fruits such as blueberry, strawberry, haksup, gooseberry, apple, cherry, raspberry, black currant, and raspberry, they achieve wines that are reminiscent of familiar favorites, like Gewurtztraminer. 

Take the adjectives that we normally use to describe wines, and put them in the bottle. Genius, no? 

I met up with Northern Lights partner, Doug Bell, for a deep dive into their process. 

The first thing you notice is that the fermentation tanks are much smaller than a typical grape winery. Why? Grape wines can be held up to a year. With fruit-based wines, the fermentation is a short 3-4 weeks. Then they pull out the fruit and press it. The advantage is that with fruit-based wines, they can produce three cycles a year. While the yield is small, this enables them to make wine year-round. 

But wait. Everything that goes into a bottle isn't in season at the same time. You guessed it. While they use fresh fruit whenever possible, key ingredients like rhubarb have a short season, so they rely on a cache of frozen fruit. 

 Cross the busy Prince George Pulpmill Road, and you'll find a lush garden showcasing the fruits featured in Northern Lights Wine. The first thing Doug will tell you, is that they are proud of their growing practices. "We feed the soil, not the plant." And from this vantage point, you can see they are situated in a valley, which gives them a competitive advantage. The breeze blows off mold, frost pockets, mildew, and pests. 

Here, you trade romantic rows of grape vines for rhubarb plots and berry bushes.

Just beyond the garden, in the summer, event spaces feature outdoor concerts, movie nights, and in the future, they hope to offer morning yoga classes. 

 Name that fruit.

Have you ever heard of a haskap? As Doug explained it, the elongated haskap berry it has a high level of tannin and the complex flavor is both tart and sweet. It's essential to their production, they've locked down the entire local inventory. 

 Back at the tasting room, we finally got a chance to taste their wines. While I expected a fruit-based wine to be sweet, the first whites we tried were quite dry. Moving into the 'reds' you find the expected attributes of cassis and cherry.

My favorite was a limited release called the Seduction. It may have had something to do with a sunny day, sipping wine on the patio....along the bank of a lazy river, but that's exactly what it was meant for. Well chilled, this blush wine made with rhubarb and strawberry was tart, with a hint of sweetness on the finish. Seduction? Perfectly named.


Though Northern Lights is a young winery, they're on to something special. Expansion projects are already under way and it will be exciting to see where they land in the years ahead. I suspect they will be a significant player shaping this emerging industry. 

Dare to Explore: Prince George, British Columbia

Dare to explore? Challenge offered, and accepted.


Where is Prince George????  C-A-N-A-D-A!

At the confluence of two glacier-fed rivers, Prince George is an idyllic spot north of Vancouver. For those exploring Northern British Columbia, summertime festivals keep a steady stream of visitors coming through. With a thriving arts scene, excellent food, and a warm welcome at every turn, by the time I left, Prince George had worked its charm on me. 

Seattle -> Vancouver --> Victoria --> Prince George

From Seattle, getting to Prince George is a bit of an adventure, but the flight provides plenty of eye candy.

Flying over the islands that dot the Inside Passage between the city of Vancouver (on the mainland) and nearby Victoria on Vancouver Island. Bit of trivia? Vancouver Island is the largest Pacific Island east of New Zealand. Getting here is a quick 15 minute flight from Vancouver.

Historically, this area was settled for resources, including fur and lumber. Today, forestry is still a key part of the economy. Along the shoreline, you can see commercial rafts of tree waiting for transport.

Crossing the Coast Mountain Range, we spent our time looking for glaciers and late spring avalanches. Fortunately my travel companion, Jeremy Derksen, is an ace mountaineer and gave me an impromptu lesson. "No, that's not an avalanche. See that spot over there? The side facing the sun? That's an avalanche."

Landing in Prince George, you're greeted by a mural featuring the town's mascot, Mr. PG. The original stands 24 feet high and is a tribute to the region's timber trade.

While in town, I got a chance to check out the local book store, Books & Company. The kids section captivated me with a large section with subjects dedicated to various native tribes, aboriginals, and lore. This far north, you can see the aurora borealis or "Painted Skies."

Quick. Who's the most famous Canadian chef? Michael Smith is a TV chef who has continuously been on the air since 1998. They had several of his books, but this chef-focused book caught my eye.

Understandably, True North is long on fish and seafood, but this dish stood out. Behold. Mortadella made with seal meat. The recipes headnote explains, seal hunting is highly regulated and there are quotas. White-furred baby seals are off limits. I wonder...if you don't hunt, is it possible to get seal meat through other channels? Ah well, I won't be making this anytime soon!

Taking in Prince George's finest bites means a mandatory stop at Ohh Chocolat Cafe. Owner Caroline Longhurst indulged us in an after-hours chocolate dipping class, while we talked about her growing business. "We're perfectly imperfect in everything we do."  Cases are lined with rustic cakes, over-sized confections and truffles, bolstered by hearty lunch and brunch offerings. "We're in a community that cares about taste and value" and she delivers on both.

The bite that haunts me still is this lovely morsel, affectionately known as an Oopsie. A deluxe version of Rice Crispy Treat, Ohh Chocolat's Oopsie begins with honey, white chocolate, peanut butter, and Rice Crispies. Palm-sized portions are cut into bars, then dipped in chocolate. It's a glorious creation and if mail order was an option, it would be on my regular rotation.

Between the flight and a bit of sight seeing, it was time to grab a glass of wine and relax. Fortunately,  we nabbed a reservation at Cimo Mediterranean Grill. Their mezze shared plate is perfect for noshing. Turn your gaze to the lower left hand corner of the photo and you'll see the most delicious lemon-infused risotto cakes. A creamy, feather light interior, played against a crispy pan fried exterior, and with that, chef set a new benchmark.

The beauty in Mediterranean food is that it can be so simple, and yet, extraordinary. At Cimo's, Salt Spring Island mussels were quickly simmered in a beguiling mix of basil, almond pesto, and cream, and I was swiping every last drop from the bowl.


Cheers to exploring a destination! More to come tomorrow....

Have Bar, Will Travel

Does my life look dreamy to you?

Because it is.

Some days, I can't wrap my brain around it. Dinner with Tony Bourdain, lunch with Mark Bittman, brunch with Joel Salatin. It boggles my mind.

And last week, I managed to hit a new high.

I had a meeting with an entrepreneur, and scheduled a rendezvous at my local coffee shop. Picture a Jerry Garcia-themed place with heavy wood tables. The bread is organic and made in-house. A reader board outside begs, "Save the Butterflies!" You get the idea....

I breezed through the door, and stopped dead in my tracks. A shaft of light illuminated a stylish travel bag perched on a table. I glanced toward the owner. He looked straight out of a magazine. Tall, blonde, and a presence that was unmistakable. I pictured him stepping off a private jet, flying direct from Tokyo or Milan.

"Hi! Are you Craig?"

Yep. That's him. My one o'clock.

Minutes into our conversation, I'm relieved to discover, Craig Krueger's more substance than style. He may be easy on the eyes, but Craig leads with impressive drive and business acumen.

I'm intrigued. How did he go from a small town, population 1,500, to inventor and entrepreneur, with a product sold in over 20 countries? It's often said that the puzzle pieces of life fit together best, when looking in the rear view mirror.

A small town Midwestern boy, Craig was no stranger to hard work. "I started declaring income when I was fifteen." He and his twin brother harvested ginseng fields in Wisconsin from sun up until three. After work, they went to their grandparent's house and bailed hay until dark. Farm work waits for no one.

College was looming, and to pay for it, they enlisted in the Army reserves. Still in high school, summer their junior year...was spent at boot camp. The brothers returned home for senior year, and shortly after graduation, Army training beckoned. A mind for detail became evident. In college, Craig studied anesthesiology, and trained as a combat medic in the reserves.

Plot twist.

On a whim, he submitted photos to a model search website. A scout signed him on the spot. First gig? Fly to LA for an Ambercrombie & Fitch campaign.

Between modeling jobs, he worked as a bartender, specializing in off-site events. Eventually he owned his own business, hiring out bartenders for private events and corporate gigs. Sold that. Pursued something else. It wasn't the right fit and a moment of crisis hit. What's next? "I was at the end of my rope."

After some soul searching, he remembered those years, traveling to various events. Bartenders would show up with their kit in a suit case, a shopping bag, or a box. "It was nuts!"

The wheels were in motion. "What if...I designed a bag to make it easier? A mobile a bag?"

Diving into an industry you know nothing about? How do you go from idea to innovation? That can be intimidating. Fortunately, he was in the right place. "I found resources that were plugged into the old sewing community in Seattle." JanSport, Filson, and Eddie Bauer all had their start in Seattle.

An avid learner, Craig explored all aspects of the business--from the prototype to patterning, and making markers. (Markers are made so you know what your yields are when the design is laid out on fabric. Maximize the layout for minimum loss--which becomes key, especially with an expensive fabric. Leave as little as possible on the cutting room floor.)

Finding players with a legacy was key. He tapped into a bag consultant with 20 years experience, a pattern maker that's been in business for 30 years, and a manufacturer who specializes in American-made products. "You know the Crawfish House in White Center? My stitcher is near there."

At the cafe, we opened the bag, and people immediately stopped to ask about it.

"I created the bag I wanted to carry."

Craig drew inspiration from medical bags used in combat, and he adapted it for bartenders. Thoughtful features include a neon orange interior that's visible in low light conditions. The steel grey exterior is made with a high-grade waterproof material, and it's lined with a durable cloth used for sailing. The sexy design screams Porsche and Rodeo Drive-style, with rugged function. Multiple strap options are built in (messenger, backpack and handle), and made for an urban environment. "Bartenders ride the train, bike, or motorcycle to work. They need flexible options."

While the bag is designed with bartenders and brand ambassadors in mind, immediately I thought of camping, boating, or weekend getaways with friends. It may be designed for pros, but I'd get some serious use out of it.

BYOB--Bring Your Own Bar?

I'm on it!

Looks like a typical carry on bag, yes? The magic is inside....


What's your preference? Stirred or shaken? Notice how the bag completely opens from the top and both sides? The open panel tucks into a pocket, allowing easy access to the contents inside.

A side panel opens to hold your bar kit and stirrer. A deep pocket runs the length of the bag and easily fits a laptop.

Pocket detail. Customize your kit anyway you want, but Craig's looked like this. L-R, Top to Bottom: Muddler, bottle key, peeler, cocktail strainer, jigger, knife, ice scoop, Microplane, and julep strainer.

Long on style and function, his bags are all handcrafted and made in the USA.

UPDATE 2/24: It's HERE! The Kickstarter is live. Get your very own bar in a bag.

Update: You want one. I know you do. Sorry. This is just a preview. It's not available for sale yet. Craig's Kickstarter launches 2/15. I'll get you a link when it's live.

In the meantime, check out the 1.0 version of the bag.

Anar: The Taste of Memory

                                                                                                           photo source

My first thought of Wassef Haroun? I want to be in his orbit. Kind and rooted in amiable, effortless hospitality. He is a high tech executive turned restaurateur, and those skills honed in tech have served him well. Systematic testing, calling in the best and the brightest to launch your project, and applying that to food? The results are transformative.

Syrian born, with a large portion of time spent in Lebanon, Haroun was raised on vivid flavors of the spice route. A cultural mingling that's been going on for centuries, the recipes can vary from city to city, house to house. But the arsenal of flavors--heat relieving souring agents, earthy caramelized vegetables, pops of freshness punctuated by raw or pickled vegetables. It's a beguiling, crave-worth mix, not easily satisfied in the Pacific Northwest.

Food like that is deeply personal and imbued with a sense of place. How do you recreate that in a new culture? With Haroun's first restaurant venture, the highly lauded Mamnoon, he tapped the sources he knows best, his mother and mother in law. The dream team was rounded out with a consultant from Beirut, cookbook author, Barbara Massaad. Using an approach from his high tech days, each dish underwent meticulous testing until finally, they narrowed down the best version. Before the restaurant launched, they created a binder full of curated recipes. And it worked, sort of.

The thing is, how do you develop a staff who understands food from a deeply rooted culture, one that is not their own? Sure, they can follow the recipe, but cooking, is also an art. So the tactic changed. Every new employee is encouraged to taste. The goal? Develop a food memory.

And taste.

Taste everything.

Once cooks understand the flavors they're aiming for, Haroun discovered, it's best to get out of the way. The creative process unfolds, and constraints are lifted. "They'll figure out how to get there."

And it is exactly those taste memories, formed years ago in Syria and Lebanon, that Haroun is chasing. His latest venture, anar, at the base of a new Amazon high rise, heralds another chapter. The all vegetarian menu is crafted by Shannon Smith, a former baker, who was so determined to work with Haroun, she originally took a job as a busboy. Baker. Busboy. Executive Chef. The trajectory may take a meandering curve, but Haroun's keen eye for attracting talent was not overlooked. Before long, she was embarking on a deeply nuanced journey of sumac, tahini, and pomegranate molasses.

At the root of it all, taste.

Taste everything.

With the launch of anar, there is no dumbing down the menu for a Western audience. A mezze plate of carrot bi tahini and muhammara, also includes a Persian hummus laden with herbs including anisey tarragon. And a sour juice with a decided funk is an acquired taste, blending tomato, bell pepper, cantaloupe, ginger, tarragon, and aleppo pepper.

My perfect meal at anar? Grab some friends and try fatteh (a yogurt based dish topped with a 'salad' of fresh & roasted vegetables--photo below), balila (a warm chickpea soup with cumin and lemon that had me swooning in my seat. Sadly, no photo.), mujadara (a lentil & rice based dish that is the backbone of Middle Eastern comfort food--photo below), a salad, and sesame honey bars.

Exciting and intriguing, it's a taste adventure. No passport required.

In an attempt to decode the depth of flavors at anar, I went home and laid out all my Middle Eastern cookbooks. I launched into a DYI bootcamp, sussing out techniques, ingredients, and culture by culture comparisons. In the warm, yogurt-based fatteh, for example, was it enriched with an egg? Or a roux? No. Haroun tells me, it's completely vegetarian and gluten-free.

I may never crack the code behind anar's most exquisite dishes, but my appreciation runs deep. More than a week later, the flavors haunt me still. I sincerely hope every meal lingers long in my mind, but they rarely do. At anar, I nearly wept, knowing I'll never be able to recreate that food. And really, isn't that the point? I'd gladly give them the reins.


Taste everything.

Will Moseley preparing a sample of house-blended juices. Take your juice straight up, or enrich it with yogurt or cashew milk.

For the preview, we sampled nearly everything. Turning the spotlight on juices, we have:

(Clockwise, starting at the top)
Refresh: cocnut water, carrot, ginger, orange, and orange blossom
"Red" is at 3 pm (and begging for a rename): roma tomato, red bell pepper, cantaloupe, ginger, tarragon, and aleppo
Green: lacinato kale, romaine, celery, fuji apple, lemon and parsley
Yellow Number 5: pineapple, yellow sweet pepper, lemon, and rosewater
In the center, is the anar signature drink: red beets, orange, and pomegranate

Quinoa and arugula salad with shamandar (the magenta-colored dip, made with beets), avocado, and an apple cider vinaigrette. The house made cracker is gluten-free and topped with a thyme-based Middle Eastern spice blend called za'atar.

The anar Mezze: (clockwise) Fresh vegetables, gluten-free housemade cracker topped with za'atar, a roasted pepper dip called muhammara, carrot bi tahini, and Persian green hummus made with blanched tarragon, cilantro, and parsley. PRO TIP: Chef Shannon Smith blanches the herbs to lock in the herbs vibrant colors.

Be still my heart! This dish will find me illegally parking, and is destination-worthy. Behold:  Fatteh. A garlic-infused yogurt base served warm (yes, warm!) topped with a 'salad' of caramelized cauliflower, creamy garbanzo beans, and finely sliced fresh cucumber.

Kale Avocado Salad with roasted sweet potato, sumac, and radish, served on top of a raw sunflower seed puree and dressed with a nutritional yeast vinaigrette (think: umami)

Mujadara is comfort food, and anar's version is the best I've had. Green lentils and brown rice, garnished with pickled turnips (pickled in beet juice for color), a dollop of Ellenos yogurt, cilantro, aleppo pepper, and spiced pepitas.

A breakfast options include sublimely rich Ellenos yogurt, with a variety of topping options. This is pistachio and date granola with fresh fruit.

Lebanese Sesame Seed Bars. I've had versions of this dish before, but in the hands of a well crafted chef determined to test until it's absolutely right? Anar's version is a game changer. Light and almost fluffy, sesame and honey are blended together for a snack that, honestly, if they could support the volume, I'd buy them by the box.

Anar's key players: Wassef Haroun (owner), Shannon Smith (Executive Chef), Racha Haroun (owner), and Will Moseley (Project Manager/Right Hand Man)

2040 6th Avenue*
Seattle, WA 98122

* In Amazon's new Doppler campus, next to the Denny Triangle

When the Stars Align - Inside the StarChefs Gala

In December, New York based StarChefs shined the spotlight on Seattle's Rising Stars. But first, you need to know this: selection for the awards is a grueling process. Over the course of three trips (averaging 7-8 days each), StarChefs teams photographed and interviewed over 100 chefs and food artisans.  (Full list of the Seattle Rising Stars is here.) 

Earlier this summer, I had a rare opportunity to sit in on one of those interviews. Chefs are asked to prepare four dishes -- three that are currently on the menu and one chef's choice. That single chef's choice dish says a lot. For the interview I attended, chef Katie Gallego prepared a consume with a whimsical house-extruded alphabet pasta, strewn with fresh flowers. Why this dish? For her, soup holds a special reverence. It's the mark of simple ingredients, executed well. Honing her technique, perfecting consume took several months. The pasta extruder was new to the restaurant, and getting the dough just right took some trial and error. Using the alphabet die for her pasta shape reflects both nostalgia and her tongue-in-cheek humor, while delicate blossoms added a feminine touch. (Lady chef in the house!) Looking into the depths of her soup, I was reminded...if you ask, there's a story behind everything. 

On to the event! At the awards gala, I had an all access pass. Wine in one hand, camera in the other, let's go find some trouble....

Heading into the awards ceremony are Canon's Director of Hospitality Charles Veitch III, Stoneburner and Bastille's sommelier James Lechner, and Rocky Yeh, spirits portfolio ambassador for Vinim Wine and Importing (aka Camp Runamok's Benevolent Dictator.) 

Getting ready to take the stage are Rising Stars (L-R) Travis Kukull of Mollusk, Brandon Pettit of Delancey, and Edouardo Jordan of Salare.

Well, hello there! More Rising Stars. (L-R) Brendan McGill of Hitchcock, Heong Soon Park of Tray Kitchen, and Joe Ritchie from Goldfinch Tavern at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Winners row. All the StarChefs award recipients were seated in the back row of the theater. A proverbial who's who in Seattle food and drink.

A packed theater for the awards ceremony.

Goldfinch Tavern chef, Joe Ritchie with his award. "Hi Mom, I won!" 

While Joe was on stage getting another award for best plating (and a $5,000 check), I got a closer look at his RisingStars award. Nice, eh?

Coming off the stage, I caught up with the boys of McCrackenTough restaurant group. (L-R) Are Rising Stars Jeff Vance, executive chef of SPUR Gastropub and Cameron Hanin executive chef of Tavern Law. Lending a hand for the night is Chris Morgan.


After the awards, the recipients raced back to the main gala, gearing up the crush of people. Here Revel chef-owner Seif Chirchi (left) puts the finishing touches on his dish of seared wagyu, cucumber laarb, sorrel, and shrimp. 

StarChefs honed in on Seattle's small distillery movement. Nabbing an artisan Rising Star award is Westland Distillery, pouring American Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. That's Westland's Sales Manager Matt Freerks on the left and Whiskey Ambassador Drew Haugstad on the right.

Have waffle iron, will travel.

Mollusk chef Travis Kukull created a an okonomiyaki for his restaurant's menu. He was looking for street-style bar food that was international, but adaptable to a Northwest spin. Breaking with tradition, he wanted to use Northwest ingredients inside and on top. Admittedly, he has a "very active mind" and says he's cooked over 500 versions, sometimes changing it every day. For the event, his okonomiyaki featured pickled local giant octopus (whole octopus ranging 20-30 pounds), kewpie mayonnaise, and bonito flakes.

"Hey Chef! Can I get a photo?" "Sure! Can my wife be in it?" Mollusk chef Travis Kukull and his wife, Rachel.

I've been following this woman on Twitter for years. A highlight of the night was meeting Antoinette Bruno (@Antoinette_b), StarChef's CEO and Editor-in-Chief. Oh, the stories this woman could tell! Hero worship got the best of me and all I managed to eek out was something like, "I'm a huge fan of your work." 

Plating in action, thanks to students from Seattle Central Culinary Academy. 

This was a tower of goodness, but I tilted the top back so you could see the layers. Canlis is a legendary fine dining restaurant, often on the James Beard short list for best restaurant in America. Here, their pastry chef has prepared "Banana Brains" with chocolate, banana, miso, and peanuts.

Rising Star pastry chef, Baruch Ellsworth, from Canlis. 

Look at this beautiful dessert! My camera doesn't do it justice. Pastry chef Junko Mine is at Cafe Juanita, a highly regarded upscale Italian restaurant. The official description is woefully short: Chocolate Bread, Ricotta, Fruit, and Nuts. I tracked back with the owner, Holly Smith, for more information. Bread, really? "Her bread is amazing and it's great as a loaf...for this dish, turning it into a crostini gave great texture and allowed us to use the bread in a dessert in an unexpected way. Gianduja, house made is on top, ricotta, house made and flavored with orange zest and a great local honey below." How do they achieve those otherworldly shapes? Thin slices of bread are draped over foil cylinders and baked until crisp.

The chefs of Cafe Juanita. Meet James Beard Award Winner and chef-owner Holly Smith with Rising Star pastry chef, Junko Mine.

If anyone's counting, the boys from the McCrackenTough restaurant group picked up four Rising Star awards. SPUR's bartender, Seth Sempere, prepared a beguiling cocktail called the Mambo Sun.

What's in Sempere's Mambo Sun? Here you go....

Without a witness, I could have done some serious damage here. Behold...Clare Gordon and General Porpoise's warm apple galettes topped with melting camembert. The crust was absolute perfection. Dear Clare, what's the secret behind your crust? She tells me it's all butter "and I use a robot coupe. It's fast, which helps keep the ingredients super cold." 

Crew for the gala: Joshua Hart of Monsoon, Rising Star Clair Gordon of General Porpoise, and her pastry cook, David Casler.

Each dish of the night was paired with a beverage, and several people pointed me here. "Have you tried The Pundit?" A notable stop, for sure. This is the 2013 Syrah from Tenet Wines, based in the Columbia Valley, WA.

This dish stopped me in my tracks. Cameron Hanin of Tavern Law presented foie gras paired with freshly shaved mushrooms and Saskatoon berries. Fortunately, the evening was winding down and we had time to talk. The pairing caught me off guard, so I asked him about the thought process behind his dish. In my notebook, he drew a diagram. First, he starts by asking himself, "What's special?" Saskatoon berries have a very short season (three weeks) and he had a stash of them frozen. Next, what's the flavor profile? Raisins and vanilla. What goes with that? Foie. How do I want to serve that? In a mousse? Terrine? Torchon? The torchon won. Next, what goes with offal and game meats? Juniper, red wine, and mushroom. All flavors he worked into the dish. Why raw mushrooms? For earthiness and texture. Dressed in a light vinaigrette, the mushrooms softened some, but still retained freshness and texture, adding a nice contrast to the berries. The berries are pickled in champagne vinegar and simple syrup, then tossed with a puree of juniper, more Saskatoon berries, and red wine.

Want a drink? Bastille and Stoneburner sommelier, James Lechner. Notice the pin on his lapel? Court of Masters Sommeliers. 

At the tail end of the event, I met Canlis chef Brady Williams. While I neglected to get a photo of his dish, it was the essence of simplicity. The brief description of his dish says, "Spot prawns, Vermouth, and Espelette." Scrawled in my notebook is this entry, "Most tender, delicious prawn I've ever had. He cooked it for just 3 minutes." What's the secret? Sous vide shimp and outstanding sourcing. The spot prawns came from a fisherman in Alaska. He says, "I bought his entire quota--1,400 pounds." 

Packing up for the night. Here's the Canlis gear. Sansaire sous vide, natch.

And finally, the after party at the Coterie Room. Pictured here is Sean Kenniff from StarChefs' NYC office, who introduced me to Mack McLaughlin of Greenman farm. Everyone has a story, right? According to Sean, Mack "transitioned late in life from furniture making and repair to raising microgreens because he thought there's gotta be a way he could make money from farming. He delivers his microgreens to restaurants alive, in dirt, still growing."

Cheers! To Seattle's Rising Stars. (Photo credit: Star Chefs)