Underground Dinner Clubs


I'm not sure if you've ever heard of or been to an Underground Dinner Club (UDC) but if you get the chance, don't miss it!  In case you don't know what a UDC is, it's a series of dinner events run by a chef or chefs which operate out of their own or a client's home.  A select group of friends or acquaintances are invited and get on the mailing list, which grows over time as the original clients are allowed to invite their friends and their friends and so on.  The chefs feature their personal recipes and style along with local produce, and since seating is very limited, you get the best of what they have to offer.

My wife and I were invited and went to one last night.  One of the best things about these events is they are BYOB, so you can bring whatever tasty beverage you'd like.  I knew we were having gourmet burgers, so I brought a bottle of 2008 Shining Hill red blend made by Col Solare, which is made up of about two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon.  The weight and tannins would work well with the meat.  I heard the staff doesn't accept tips, so I brought an extra bottle for them to enjoy.

We arrived at the UDC party home and grabbed a seat at one of the three tables in the apartment's living room.  It was nice to talk with people we've never met and were really excited for the food that was about to come.  We started with a chopped salad made of spring peas, breakfast radish, farm eggs, pumpernickle croutons and buttermilk blue cheese.  It was very fresh and light, and the cheese was soft and creamy with a delicious saltiness.

When the burgers came, I was ready to devour!  The meat was made of sirloin, chuck and short rib, grilled and served on a Red Hen pretzel bun with spring onion remoulade, arugula, cherrywood bacon and Prairie Fruits Farm Angel Food Cheese.  The combination of the rich meat (that did melt in your mouth), the salty bacon, fresh ingredients and the melting creamy cheese was almost heavenly!  This is on my short list of best burgers ever.  There was even buttermilk beer-battered onion rings served with sriracha aioli for more artery busting action.  This was awesome and made better with my wine, which had bright acidity and tannins to fit with both the meat and fat content of the dish.  The dark fruit and length of the wine only helped matters more.

We were finished off with an oatmeal cookie and vanilla bean ice cream sandwich dessert which was just the right size to make sure I didn't need a stretcher to carry me out.  The experience couldn't have gone better and I can't wait 'til the next one.  Make sure to seek out an Underground Dinner in your area and let me know how you liked it!

Wine in Woodinville and Chateau Ste. Michelle


Before our WBC or Bust group was to set off east from Seattle to Walla Walla, we had a chance to break in the bus on a short trip to Woodinville, a former suburb of Seattle.  There are over 50 wineries in Woodinville and we were on our way to its most famous, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which has been around since the repeal of prohibition, when it was known as Pommerelle Wine Company.  Now it is nothing short of ginormous, with a large number of lines: Columbia Valley wines which bring out regional and varietal character, Indian Wells brings out new world nuances, Single Vineyard, Ethos Reserve with old world style, Artist series Meritage blend, Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling wines, Eroica Riesling collaboration with German winemaker Ernst Loosen, Limited Release wines for club members and Col Solare, a red wine collaboration with Tuscan winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori.


We embarked on a tour of the winery led by Lynda Eller (Director of Communications) and winemaker Wendy Stuckey.  We went through the winery's long history and partnerships, and saw their large fermentation tanks and multiple storage barrels.  Later, we were treated to a wine tasting and food pairing conducted by John Sarich, winery Culinary Director.  We tasted four different Rieslings: 2007 & 2008 Eroica ($24), 2009 Columbia Valley Riesling ($9) and 2009 Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling ($15), Spiced Dishes & Rieslingpaired with three spicy samples: Indian Spiced Prawns & Tomato Chutney, Sesame Seared Halibut with Orange-Basil Thai Curry, and Currywurst.  I always love comparing different vineyards and vintages against eachother, as this is the best way to catch subtle and interesting differences.  Also, Rieslings pair very well with both exotic and inflamingDuck & Red Wine spice because of the grape's high acidity, citrus fruit profile and varying degree of sweetness.  We were then offered up Roasted Duck with Cherry Merlot Sauce, Sweet Potato Cake and Manchego Cheese paired with three reds: 2007 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot ($22), 2006 Cold Creek Vineyard Merlot ($28) and 2006 Artist Series Meritage ($50), a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Merlot and Meritage wines are a great pairing for rich duck dishes while Manchego, a rich sheep milk cheese, blends greatly with Merlot's silky tannins.  We finished off with 2005 Ethos Late Harvest Riesling ($35) with a lemon cookie and berries.  This fantastic dessert wine meshed well with the citrusy, butter cookie flavor.


Northwest Totem WinesAfterward, we met a slew of Woodinville winemakers at Willows Lodge: Northwest Totem Cellars, BetzBetz Family Family Winery, DeLille Cellars, DiStefano Winery, William Church Winery, Hollywood Hill Vineyards, Brian Carter Cellars, Novelty Hill/Januik Winery, Sparkman Cellars, Cuillin Hills Winery, Baer Winery, Des Voigne Cellars and Barrage Cellars.  There I met Bob Betz and his daughter Carmen, and tasted the best wine of the entire trip, 2008 Betz Family La Côte Patriarche Syrah ($55) from Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima.  An inky, black/dark purple color, with deeply spicey, floral, smokey aromas and deep dark fruit, black pepper and a touch of dried, cured meat on what seemed to be an endless palate.  This wine was so complex and lasting that I couldn't stop thinking about it!  I tasted so many good wines that it's hard to mention them all, but Hollywood Hill Vineyard Malbec, DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel and Northwest Totem Cellars Cabernet Franc were a few standouts.


The Barking FrogIt was a small walk to the other side of the lodge to The Barking Frog, where we were in for a killer lunch prepared by Chef Bobby Moore paired with more DeLille Cellars wines.  It kicked off with Grand Marnier Prawns and led to Seared Sea Scallops.  We finished with Dark Chocolate Coffee Ganache.  I would have been happy to call it a day after that perfect lunch on their outdoor patio, but we were in for more tastings and fun back in Seattle.  More on that in the next post!