mussels bohemian 
There’s an undeniable connection between seafood and beer.  Whether it’s broiled salmon and an IPA, or barbequed shrimp and a Bohemia, the combination is satiating.  For this recipe, we’re using a bottle of Bohemia to poach our mussels.  Bohemia is a slightly sweet beer with just a hint of bitterness, and it balances perfectly with the bright, fresh aromatics that we add right before serving. 

Serves: 2 Hungry Beer Drinkers
Total Kitchen Time: 30 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. poblano pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 bottle Bohemia beer
  • 12-16 mussels, cleaned thoroughly
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 lb. cherry tomatoes, diced
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Combine the garlic, shallot, poblano and olive oil in a small food processor.  Blend until the mixture forms a coarse paste.
  2. Transfer the garlic paste to a small skillet and cook over low heat (until just sizzling) for 15 minutes to mellow the flavors.  Salt to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, bring the bottle of Bohemia to a boil in a medium-large pot.  The beer should come up about an inch or so in the pot.  Add the mussels and boil until the shells have opened and the meat is tender, about 4 minutes. 
  4. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and place them in a large bowl.  Add the garlic mixture, parsley, cilantro and tomatoes.  Toss gently until the mussels are coated.
  5. If the mussels released a lot of sediment into the beer, strain through a paper coffee filter.  Add the heavy cream to the beer and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve, divide the mussels between two bowls and add 1/2 cup of the beer mixture.  Add some toasted bread and enjoy!

You’ll want to make sure you’ve got plenty of good bread at the table.  I prefer a fresh sourdough, which goes hand in hand with (you guessed it) another beer!


Full disclosure: I got free stuff, but that doesn’t pay for my opinion.

Reading time: 1 min

murray (grainy) 
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from an evening called “Drinking Lessons”. I knew I signed up for a $50 “class” with 12 other people, I knew it took place at the bar in Sorrento’s Hunt Club restaurant, and I knew that on this evening we’d have the rare privilege of being students of Seattle’s most renowned bartender, Murray Stenson.  But that was about it. 

As it turns out, the details were missing intentionally.  This project, part of an ongoing series, was the brainchild of OnePot’s Michael Hebb, who has been working with the Sorrento Hotel to create a greater presence between the historic hotel and the community.  As Hebb introduced Murray, he told us that there was no syllabus, and that each evening would be left entirely up to the visiting bartender (/professor).  And so it was, and it was good. 

pouring vermouth

With little fanfare, but a deep respect from the dozen or so eager drinkers who lined the bar, Murray took center stage.  He, too, wasn’t quite sure how the evening would unfold, or what to expect from his “students” that night.  As we introduced ourselves to Murray and each other, one pattern emerged: we all had a good appreciation for a great drink. 

Murray began mixing the first round almost as if by instinct.  He narrated his actions, describing the character and tone of the liquors he poured.  He discussed the use of bitters and the spectrum of other aromatics that are rare on American bars.  He talked about his favorite Seattle bars, and recalled the best drink he’d ever had, and shared his thoughts on the classic Manhattan and Martini as the real test of a bartender.  The whole time his hands pouring, stirring, straining and serving, seemingly independent of the rest of his body. 

Foodista’s got a great writeup of the evening, complete with Murray’s recipes, so I’ll skip the details.  But, if you’re even a little curious about what you can learn from an experienced bartender in two hours in a historic hotel bar, I’d recommend you sign yourself up soon.  Here’s a hint: what’ you learn about liquor isn’t half the wisdom that someone like Murray has to share.

cin cin

Reading time: 1 min
View STIR Martini + Raw Bar

I know where I’ll be going for cocktails in Bellevue from now on.  Last week marked the opening of STIR Martini + Raw Bar, the newest venture between chef Dan Thiessen and business boss Matt Bomberger.  Located in the lobby of the Regency Hyatt Bellevue, this posh bar is a welcome respite from the tourist-trap-esque restaurants that line the four-story blocks surrounding Lincoln Square, and will soon be an “it spot” for conference-goers and cocktail-savvy tech workers looking for an upscale watering hole. 

The concept behind STIR is a mixology-focused bar in a comfortable, contemporary setting with a menu of creatively-styled small plates and entrees.  And although the food stands out, you won’t mistake this place for a restaurant.  According to Bomberger, maintaining the bar atmosphere was critical to fill the martini-equivalent niche in Bellevue that Twisted Cork did for wine lovers a few years earlier.  Walking in, you’ll immediately notice the LED-backlit bar and light blue “beams” that span the ceiling of the interior.  As a nod to the northwest surroundings, the walls are studded with reclaimed wood planks (tragically, from the East coast).  And although you’d blend in perfectly with a well-tailored sport coat, they’ve managed to avoid the “cliff of pretention”, which means you don’t have to change out of your jeans to get served a beer. 

deconstructed martini 
One of STIR’s signature creations is the “deconstructed martini”.  This drink is to a martini as fondue is to Benihana: rather than sitting back as your bartender does the two-handed-over-the-shoulder-shaker-shimmy, assembling this drink is up to you.  A premium gin or vodka is served at 5°F (just above freezing) alongside a chilled martini glass and two small vessels.  The gin martini (left) is accompanied by vermouth and a bowl of bleu cheese-stuffed and anchovy-stuffed olives.  The strawberry martini (right) is served alongside a strawberry puree and fresh berries.  The herbal martini (top) gets its flavor from a slush of cucumber and fresh herbs, and is finished with sugared lime wedges and cucumber slices.  The herbal martini was my personal favorite – refreshing and fragrant without overpowering the taste of the gin.

If I had been served one of these drinks out of context, I might have panicked, not knowing the proper protocol.  Luckily, everything we were served was complimented by thoughtful explanations and, in some cases, instructions on how it should be consumed.  Although I was still wary of looking a little foolish playing with my cocktail chemistry set, I have to admit I enjoyed the experience of making and drinking these martinis.  As someone who is fascinated by the etiquette of eating and drinking, this put me out of my comfort zone in the most delightful way – as a tableside “deputy mixologist” I was more invested in my drink and, perhaps as a result, savored it all the more. 

Even though the emphasis at STIR is clearly on the drinks, there’s a lot to be said for their food menu as well.  We started with the Ahi Tuna Poke ($10), which was slightly sweet, spicy and very delicious.  Although these flavors were a perfect accompaniment to a classic cocktail, the presentation made it a little tough to look cool and eat at the same time.  There was too much poke piled on the spoon to eat in one bight, but attacking the spoon mid-air with a fork left casualties on the plate.  Had I brought a funnel or a bib, I make have had more success.

Next up was a delicious, rich, thick lobster bisque topped with a dollop of tarragon crème fraiche ($6).  I’m a sucker for bisques in general, but this one was “bring me a bowl of croutons and leave me alone” good.  We also enjoyed the tempura fried king crab roll ($9) which was extremely light and fluffy, particularly for cooked maki.  We also loved the beef udon ($8) and I was impressed with the quality of their oysters on the half shell.  Again, not every dish was suitable for suave consumption (“Do you come here often?” doesn’t work so well with broth speckles on your shirt), so first-daters choose your dishes carefully. 

A few of the other dishes had mixed success, which I’ll largely attribute to attending on the first day of full menu service at STIR.  The beef tartar ($9) was presented beautifully, though the flavor of the steak was muted.  The meat was also cut so finely that it nearly felt like ground beef, which is contrary to my personal preference (I prefer springy little cubes).  However, the dish was saved by strips of fried brioche which were wonderfully salty and crisp and succeeded in balancing out the otherwise dim flavors.  Another dish with a lot of promise was the coconut vanilla prawns ($12).  This dish lacked punch (neither coconut nor vanilla were discernable) and the bed of rice was severely under salted.  However, I was very impressed with the single leaf of crispy kale, fried in clarified butter, that completely stole the show.  I’d actually order a side of that fried kale all on its own.

Are these problems symptomatic of anything serious?  Absolutely not – just first day kinks.  And given the success of neighboring 0/8, I’m confident that they’ll have the menu polished in no time.  Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see just how the downtown Bellevue crowd embraces STIR.  With the rapid expansion and new high-end neighbors moving in soon, I imagine STIR will grow to be the perfect place to relax after a romp through Niemen’s or an hour of sexy cardio at DavidBartonGym.  As a Seattelite, it’s great to watch Bellevue grow up, especially knowing that one day I’ll probably have to move to the East side to raise kids.  Let’s just say it’ll be good to have a martini bar nearby.

STIR Martini + Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

Full disclosure: I got free stuff, but that doesn’t pay for my opinion.

Reading time: 4 min
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