MadWine goes where Amazon fears to tread.
on-line wine shop, has rolled out its new website just days after Amazon.combailed out on the whole concept of selling wine on the Internet.
MadWine (no relation to MadPizza, nor to “Mad Men,” for that matter) was taken over earlier this year by TMSA Holdings, a family enterprise that got into the wine biz by purchasing SODO’s Esquin Wine Cellars back in 1997. Chuck LeFevre, who heads the company, installed his daughter Alisha Gosline (at the left in the family photo, taken by Jeff Hobson at Esquin), to manage the retail wine shop. Another daughter, Stephanie Burkhart, will now run the on-line business.
Esquin has grown tenfold since LeFevre took over; it claims a customer base of 22,000 today. TMSA is hoping for similar growth in its on-line business. It’s also hoping to offer more Washington wines than any other retailer. They’re already at 73 web pages and counting.
Amazon said it was discouraged by the regulatory and logistical hurdles of selling wine on-line and distributing it in the real world. MadWine doesn’t seem to have the same qualms, although (for the time being) it’s only shipping, via FedEx, to the two dozen or so “reciprocal states” that permit delivery of wine shipped from outside their borders. No such issues for local delivery, on the other hand.
Right now, the hitches and glitches are all technical: The site works properly with Internet Explorer but not Firefox, for example. And a search for red Burgundies gets you white Burgundies. And the larger categories alphabetize wines by specific price point, so you can’t easily compare $8 and $12 bottles. One assumes this, too, shall pass.
Now open at First Avenue and Battery Street is Ventana, with Joseph Conrad at the stoves and longtime Belltown barman Armin Moloudzadeh mixing drinks. Last we saw of Chef Joseph, he and business partner Janna Wemmer were selling Secret Stash salts at local markets and, before it closed, Qube. Last we saw of Armin, he was behind the bar at Bastille, though Belltowners know him from Black Bottle.
The triangular space is lovely, overlooking Elliott Bay and the Olympics thanks to the “cut” of the Battery Streeet Tunnel. It’s in the former antique shop next to Twist and shares the Twist kitchen. Lots of windows (Ventana means “window” in Spanish) and a menu of small plates. I’ve tried the oxtail with sunchoke purée (too much bacon for my taste) but look forward to the beef tongue raviolo next visit.
Now open on Capitol Hill is Tavern Law, an old-fashioned speakeasy. From the street, nothing. Inside, it looks like a conventional, brightly-lit cafe with a serious bar and a short menu. (We had the arancini, fried rice balls filled with cheese — delicious.) But what’s that safe doing over against the wall? Pick up the phone to find out and you hear a click. The safe opens to reveal a staircase, at the top of which is another lounge — cocktails only. How long until this, too, proves tiresome?
A couple of blocks away, Anchovies & Olives has launched Power Hour, from 10 p. m. to midnight. Oysters for a buck, Peroni for 2 bucks, and a take on fishand-chips that’s kinda fun: not fish sticks but a real fillet; not fries but homemade gaufrettes.
Txori, the darling Basque pintxos bar on Second Avenue, is going through some convulsions, it seems. Chef Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez, who’s divorcing business partner Carolin Mercier, is no longer the owner but “consulting chef.” He’s doing “guest dinners” around town (Olivar, this week), teaching classes the first Saturday of the month at Txori and hosting a Sunday brunch on Nov. 22.
But he hasn’t taught his apprentice bartenders the difference between red and white Cinzano; we ordered a classic Negroni the other night only to have it mixed with dry (white) vermouth by a frazzled young server. Gulp!
It’s hog heaven out at The Herbfarm in Woodinville this month, as chef Keith Luce launches a new nose-to-tail dinner menu, Makin’ Bacon. It’s not about “the other white meat,” that bland industrial pork we’ve come to disdain, but heritage pigs and old-time curing skills.
In the nine-course dinner, pork will come in many guises, both fresh and cured, from hand-tended heritage hogs, including The Herbfarm’s own Mangalitsas, an old, central European breed known as “Wooly Pigs.”
“This is some of the finest pork ever,” Luce said. The pigs are fed a diet of hazelnuts and native acorns, which gives them the depth of flavor that you find in places like Spain.
“The meat is remarkable,” agrees Herbfarm’s owner Ron Zimmerman.
The Makin’ Bacon menu runs through Sunday, Nov. 15.
Meantime, along the Ship Canal in Queen Anne, chef Alvin Binuya is beginning the transformation of the menu at Ponti with a few new items for this month’s Dine Around Seattle.
For Lamb Jam last month, Binuya was designated a “leg man” and cooked up Oregon lamb-water chestnut pot stickers with a black vinegar-scallion dipping sauce.
That cavernous space in Fremont where Circus Contraption performed? Part of the old Red Hook brewery, adjacent to Theo’s chocolate factory? Well, there’s good news: The space is alive and well and once again in use as an entertainment venue.
The current show (running tonight through Nov. 21; call 790-5166 for ticket information) is a spin on Teatro Zinzanni’s dinner-as-theater shtick; here, it’s called Cafe Nordo, a floating restaurant run by a fictional martinet chef named Nordo Lefeszki.
In actuality, the project was created by Terry Podgorski and is performed by a cast of semi-professional entertainers. In a tent-like setting (the tent being suggested by strings of lights and translucent panels hanging from the ceiling), the tuxedoedand-feathered cast performs “Henrietta,” the saga of a hapless, happy hen.
“A hen is the egg’s way of making another egg,” says one character, energetically whipping egg whites. “And what makes a good egg? A good hen.”
One could be critical and complain that it’s all a bit self-conscious and pretentious, but that would miss the point. This is about self-conscious and pretentious attitudes toward food and drink.
Podgorski was the only non-performing member of the old Circus Contraption troupe; his wife, Kari, was one of the troupe’s trapeze artists (sorry, aerialists). A young woman named Annastasia Workman does double-duty on piano and accordion to provide an appropriate and most welcome musical atmosphere, while the cast lays an unending series of egg jokes, chicken jokes, “drunken” monologues and heartfelt tributes to
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