Happy All Hallows Eve

The big October question – what are you going to be for Halloween???

Back on Oct. 1, the answer was butterfly.

         …By mid-month, a witch…

                        …Somewhere about the 25th, it turned into a cow (cow stocking hat makes that one easy)…

And then yesterday, we were back to witch. It was a practical move – easier to wear more layers under the cape.

The one question never asked is where we go to T or T. Peyton’s house. The annual trick or treat event. {Although the girls were so busy playing a game we had to remind them twice to get their costumes on.}

We headed out into the night. Armed with flashlights and treat bags. And gloves.

And the treating began.

As did the tricks. I can’t help but wonder what happened to “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat”? The girls left slips of paper that said bacon for their trick. I was never prepared with a trick. Nor did I think of doing one after I got a treat. Guess they don’t get the meaning of “or”.

The night ended with lots of treats. Days worth of candy snacking will ensue.

Oh, Chocolate…Oh, Fabulous Chocolate

At Oh! Chocolates…

Somewhere near the top of my list is the desire to take a chocolate making class. I am now thinking it would be better to take more than one class. Of course, chocolate is FABULOUS! How can a class not be?

Michelle and I headed out Sunday evening for our chocolate making adventure. Class started with a family history lesson (one instructor is a fourth generation candy maker, the other his brother). Then we moved into a chocolate lesson, learning about how it is grown, harvested and turned into my favorite meal. We started by tasting:

  • Cacao Nibs – Smashed cacao beans. Purist form of chocolate, great for rubs, using like herbs, mole sauce
  • Bittersweet Chocolate – Coats your mouth, layers of flavor, very stable. Matches the notes in a Cab with chocolate tones (I finally get that now). Best for making chocolate mayonnaise. I know, sounds odd. Must be tried.
  • Semi-sweet Chocolate – Very clean, fast finish. Comes from the vanilla flavors that make it sweeter.
  • Milk Chocolate – I forgot it could be so good. More of a caramel finish. Instructor recommends keeping 60 lbs of milk chocolate instead of an earthquake kit.
  • White Chocolate – It is really cocoa butter, so it must be ivory in color (or don’t eat it). Also very creamy and delicious.
  • Oh, but first we drank hot chocolate. Not sure there was any milk in it. Thick and delicious.
Then we dipped. Played in chocolate puddles is more like it. Covering all kinds of cookies and snacks in dark chocolate. And I have the finger prints to prove it.
And, yes, Oh! Chocolate regularly hosts Chocolate Classes at our Madison Park Chocolate Shop for those who want to know more about their favorite indulgence and for those who just want to “play in the chocolate!” Invite me to go with you – I’d do it again!

John Howie Steak

I have been to John Howie several times for happy hour and once for lunch. It was time to go for dinner, partly because every day the smell of steak cooked to perfection permeates my workplace – the office, the elevator, the parking garage.

We started slowly, hoping to not over do it and be too full for dessert (as much as I enjoy all courses, a great dessert course seals the deal on a fabulous meal).

The first round…

  • The girl was very insistent on Tempura Fried Kurobuta Bacon, maple sambal ponzu sauce
  • We added Gala Apple with Preserved Apricot Vinaigrette, organic greens, baby arugula, frisée & watercress, charred purple onions, manchego cheese, dehydrated cranberries, candied walnuts

Bring on the main course, steaks and sides, of course…

  • The girl and I split a medium rare Filet Mignon. It was amazing how it just melted in your mouth. The center of each bite was like butter. The edge of the piece perfectly seared and just a bit crusty.
  • Bill had a Rib Eye Steak, also medium rare.
  • We couldn’t just eat steak. We added several sides starting with Five cheese Twice Baked Stuffed Potato, bacon, scallions, sour cream. Bailie’s pick, no doubt.
  • My pick: Mesquite Roasted Corn wth Honey-Chipotle Butter. I have to share that this ended up being Bailie’s favorite. The combination of roasted sweetness with chipotle: YUM.
  • Bill’s pick: Sauteed Spinach with Garlic and Preserved Lemon, one of his favorite ways to eat spinach I learned.
And finish with…
  • Flourless Semi–Sweet Chocolate Volcano Cake –Sweet Chocolate Volcano Cake, warm caramel, ganache, vanilla crème, shaved white chocolate. With enough left to take home and enjoy tomorrow.
  • The girl stuck with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. She would have taken some home if it wouldn’t melt.

All enjoyed with a bottle of I/2 Ass from our Woodinville Wine adventure last weekend.

The Location:

John Howie Steak | 11111 Northeast 8th St, Suite 125 | Bellevue, WA | 425.440.0880  | www.johnhowiesteak.com |

2007 Trutina, Dunham Cellars

Another fabulous bottle from the winemaker at Dunham. (Just realized that I didn’t blog about the last one drank earlier this month. Oops!)

This blend – almost a traditional bordeaux blend – combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Yes, Syrah. A beautiful red color filled my glass. Lots of fruity flavors filled my nose. Then layered on the smokiness that blended well with dinner. And, that included pork chops, mashed potatoes and kale.

The winemaker says:
2 0 0 7 T R U T I N A | Reminiscent of all the best memories under the Big Top…lush cherry cola and caramel apples greet you at the door, and just inside, the flower girl peddles violets along with fresh vanilla bean and mocha shakes! Truly one of Washington State’s best vintages to date, and the first dual effort of Dan Wampfler and Eric Dunham…step right up!

Marketing Memories

What a trip down memory lane today was…I attended a marketing class on value propositions and storytelling. It was fun to think about the brand management days of my past. Complete with discussions about company tattoos on backsides.

We talked about value. Value is different to each and every one of us, for each product and service. We are all unique in the value we choose to place on something.

We talked about propositions. The offer of an experience (products, services) along with their benefits (such as convenience, ease of use, etc).

Then we put the value and proposition together. And the three pillars of strong value propositions. Resonate. Differentiate. Substantiate. I thought of thirteen years ago when meetings went on for days to discover what really differentiated my company in the eyes of our clients (and non-clients). Those were also the days were I learned PowerPoint.  How would I function today without my PP skills?

We talked about perceptions. Oh, yes, this was my favorite. Rattling in the back of my head was the wisdom of a former CMO. “First rule of marketing: perception is reality. Second rule of marketing: frogs sell beer.”

Then we moved on to storytelling. And talked about brands, like Harley Davidson and Nike, that are great storytellers. (And that brought back memories of late nights at the Capital City Riders Clubhouse). We talked about brands that have created personas to humanize their brands (or that their competition has created humanized versions for them).

What a fabulous day to reflect upon the marketing knowledge of my past and refresh it for the future. We learn so much that we forget! But it all comes out of the vault.

40 Tips for an Extraordinary Life

[Long hours at work lead to another missed day posting. Two days now to tack onto the end of this journey.]

Today was a tricky day. I thought about not posting because I wasn’t sure I could say anything nice. All because someone in my world was stressed today and took their stress out on me. I didn’t want to pass that on. I wanted to just let it go. I almost did. But, I found the ability to smile again before blogging. Where?

I read a blog post from Stratejoy that I love – and go back to once in awhile: 30 Tips for an Extraordinary Life. The two that I lived when I walked out the office doors today:

16. Go outside and play. While Bailie was in the pool, I took a nice brisk walk and enjoyed stomping through the autumn leaves.

17. Ignore the haters. It’s your life, your legacy, your choice. I let go of the spiteful words spoken today. 

I am really thinking of adding 10 more tips to the list! Let’s see how many I can add right now:

31. Smile. Simply smile.

32. Breathe.

33. Experiment more.

34. Take time to stay connected with high energy people when our lives go in different directions.

35. Journal (or blog). Reflecting on the past is reinvigorating.

36. Make creativity a priority.

37. Practice perfect posture.

38. Practice patience.

39. Never settle.

40. Eat dark chocolate in moderation.

Chef Bailie

The finished plate.

Tonight, the tables turned: Bailie prepared dinner for me.

She made a simple tortilla soup recipe. She liked that I was in the kitchen to help her:

  • Figure out how much taco seasoning (we mix our own instead of buying the mix),
  • Determine how to convert ounces to cups,
  • Weigh in on how much cheddar cheese to grate
I was kicked out and sent to the table while she plated. She carefully crunched the tortillas to layer on top of the soup, followed by the cheese, then a drop of sour cream and a cilantro (Italian parsley) garnish. YUM! And fabulous not to cook dinner on a Monday night.

Washington Wine Tasting

Yesterday afternoon we headed to Woodinville to try a few local wines. One strip of wineries was promoting a “crush” event. Sounds like a good reason to check things out.

We made four stops — and loved them all!

Stop 1: Woodhouse Wine Estates. Five solid labels in one family. My favorites:

  • La Vie en Rouge, 2006 Reserve, Rattlesnake Hills, Kennedy Shaw
  • Syrah, 2008, Rattlesnake Hills, Dussek

Stop 2: Smasne Cellars (share the space with Gard). It was release day. Plus they had several varieties of freshly picked grapes to try. And although you get to pick six to taste, plan to taste more.

  • Farm Girl, 2010, Columbia Valley
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Columbia Valley, Smasne Cellars
  • 1/2 Ass Limited Release #1, 2007 – We did taste this one, but the name alone sold the bottle. A combination of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Carmenere. The names comes from the winemakers father telling him never to do anything half ass.

Stop 3: Sparkman. Maybe my overall favorite. Maybe because it was three stops in. We came home with:

  • Lumiere, 2010 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Sparkman
  • Wilderness, 2008 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Sparkman

Sopt 4: Pondera. Toured the back room and got to see the Merlot grapes starting to simmer in a big vat. My favorite comment of the day is from the winemaker Shane: “Never trust a winery with clean barrels”.

  • Consensio, 2008 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Pondera. A blend of Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc and Malbec
  • Malbec, 2008 Reserve, Columbia Valley, Pondera
The best part: Determining what FABULOUS recipes to pair each bottle with.

Serious Pie (Seriously)

Yukon Gold Pizza. Seriously. Been on my list to taste since Tyler Florence featured it on “Best Thing I Ever Ate” a few months ago.

Tonight I got the opportunity to try a pie covered in thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes. Plus a good sprinkling of pecorino cheese. Yum. The best part was the curled up edges of the potatoes that were “crispified” in the brick oven.

It’s seriously good. Maybe even FABULOUS. But not the best pizza I ever ate.

The dining experience also included:

  • A glass of chianti
  • White bean and celery salad…largest white beans I have ever eaten
  • A slice of roasted chanterelle mushrooms amd truffle cheese pizza
  • Coconut cream pie (a Dahlia Lounge favorite)…best coconut cream pie I ever ate

The Location:

Serious Pie | 316 Virginia St | Seattle, WA | 206.838-7388 | www.tomdouglas.com

2006 Frog’s Leap Merlot

Last week, I missed an important birthday party while I was relaxing in Hawaii. Tonight, I got to celebrate that milestone birthday with the birthday boy. Over a great bottle of wine. A bottle of Frog’s Leap Merlot. Dark red liquid goodness. Complex and yummy.

The winemaker’s tasting notes:  Our 2006 Merlot radiates bright aromatics of ripe plum underscored by notes of cocoa. Mouth-filling flavors of cherry and currants are laced with hints of cigar box and dried herbs. Medium bodied and smooth in texture, the succulent fruit core is balanced by delicate acidity and plush tannins that offer a lingering finish.

My next Napa area trip will include Frog’s Leap. Not only I have enjoyed more than one bottle, months ago in Vegas, I met a wine distributor who had great stories of drinking in the Frog’s Leap cellar. That would be so amazing! (In case you are wondering, I am not counting on getting that kind of experience).