Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meet our Sommeliers ~ Cortney

In 2004, while Cortney Lease was working towards her Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry at the University of Washington, she began her adventure with Wild Ginger as a server assistant for The Triple Door. Upon graduation, Cortney moved to England to pursue an education with the Wine Spirits Education Trust in London and found a job working at a wine shop called Odd Bins. In London, her love for wine took on a whole new meaning.

It was at Odd Bins where an unexpected act of benevolence introduced Cortney to her all time favorite bottle of wine- 2001 Château de Beaucastel. One night, while in the midst of recently discovering the Grenache/Syrah blends of Southern Rhône, Cortney raved on about Beaucastel, and the history of Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, to a costumer interested in purchasing a bottle of wine. She began to recommend the 2001 Château de Beaucastel vintage, but when the costumer asked if she tried the wine, Cortney admittedly replied she had never been able to afford it. He smiled and asked to purchase two bottles, one for himself, and one for her.

"It was that act of generosity that introduced me to one of my favorite producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, and made me want to share wine with others for a living," says Cortney.

Cortney's fondness for Rhône wines doesn't stop there. She notes, without hesitation, that her favorite variety is Syrah from Northern Rhône and says she appreciates that her current backyard, Washington state, has a rapidly increasing market for this varietal. However, when asked to compare herself to a wine variety, she finds her alter ego is best represented in a Burgundy wine, but jokingly admits she thinks a Loire Valley wine fits her personality best.

"If I flattered myself, I'd say I'm like Pinot Noir because it's smooth, delicate, cerebral yet approachable and loved by all," says Cortney. "However, in reality, I'm more like Chenin Blanc- good structure and complexity, but a little weird and tends to show more immature characteristics with age."

In January, Cortney was named Company Wine Director and oversees the wine departments for The Triple Door as well as both Wild Gingers. The occasional kitchen smells, of cilantro and Sambal sauce, lingering on her clothes when she gets home doesn't stop Cortney from enjoying her job.

"It's always a fun challenge to show our customers how well Asian food can pair with wine," says Cortney. "We have some of the most adventurous diners in that regard."

Her immediate goal is to work her way through the Court of Master Sommeliers to eventually become a Master Sommelier. As of 2011, there are 118 Master Sommeliers in North America; it's not an easy endeavor, however, Cortney is currently a candidate for her Advanced certifiation. As Wine Director, Cortney continues to foster numerous educational opportunities for wine staff and states she's grateful for the focus and long-sightedness Wild Ginger has shown towards its Wine Program over the years.

"Our wine list is constantly evolving and every chance we get we showcase our wine collection with events like the Summer of Riesling," says Cortney.

Yet, working in the restaurant industry isn't the end for Cortney and she says, "down the road, I would love to use my degree in Chemistry to make wine of my own."

What do you think? Years from now, will Cortney end up making a Rhône, Burgundy or Loire Valley inspired wine?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gauguin on the Rocks with Wings

In honor of the upcoming Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, Wild Ginger's Executive Chef Jacky Lo has created two island inspired items available February 9 through April 29, 2012.

Spicy and sweet Indonesian Twice-Cooked Chicken Wings, simmered in ginger, lemongrass, coconut and sweet soy sauce, and then deep fried and tossed in hoisin barbeque sauce ($6 for 8 wings).

Refreshingly delicious Malay Mama, a tropical concoction of guava and banana rum mixed with tropical juices and a splash of grenadine, served on the rocks with a toasted coconut and sugar rim and a wedge of grilled pineapple ($6 each).

Purchase your tickets for the Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise exhibit in advance here>>

Friday, February 3, 2012

Curry ~ A Journey: Thailand

A landed in stunning Thailand, gives vantage to mountainous, lush green landscapes, and cool-blue beaches as well as hectic and chaotic metropolitan cities with street market scents of luxurious spices filling the air and vibrant culture saturating every corner. In these rural areas, beach towns, and cities, curry is everywhere; with the culinary characteristics varying from region to region, most curry is presented wet, as opposed to the dry spice combinations we explored while in India.

One of the most distinctive ingredients in Thai curry is fragrant basil. Several varieties of basil grow in Thailand, but the most widely used is sweet basil. Raw leaves of sweet basil, an annual herbaceous plant, are scattered into each dish to create a fresh, sweetly spicy flavor that entices the senses. Another integral ingredient in Thai curry are chilies- red, green, or yellow, chilies are used to add varying amounts of heat and vibrant color to the presentation of a dish.

A trek through the regions of Thailand will showcase each area's own unique alteration to the curry concept. Since coconut palms thrive in Southern Thailand, coconut cream and milk are prominent in local curries. Coconut milk creates a luxurious creamy texture and adds a satisfying nourishing element in Thai curry. With fishing being an important part of the economy, fresh seafood is abundant in Southern Thai dishes and the heat scale is tantalizingly hot with the use of yellow chilies and fiery bird’s eye chilies (prik kee noo).

A jaunt on a motorbike to Northern Thailand and the coconut palm layered landscape transforms into a jungle rain forest. Northern Thailand’s climate is too cool for coconut palms to thrive in abundance, so unlike the rest of Thailand, coconut isn’t as dominate in curry dishes. The northeast region developed a hotter spice palate; since food was often sparse, the spicier it was, the longer it was edible. Other variations, to the curry concept, include the use of glutinous (rather than long-grain) rice, small dried red chilies, and fermented fish (plaa raa) as a seasoning.

The cooking of the far south has a strong Malay influence, which leads us to the next stop on our curry journey: Malaysia!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snazzy Seattle Mixologists Cheers to 2012!

Wild Ginger mixed, mingled, and toasted with some of Seattle's top mixologists at Seattleite and Google Places' New Year Libations event on Thurs., Jan. 19 at Pravda Studios in Capitol Hill. To compliment some of 2012's hottest libations, Wild Ginger showcased some savory Dim Sum favorites, BBQ Pork Bao and pan-fried beef dumplings. Enjoy this awesome recap video of the event created by Seattleite- cheers!

Dim Sum is available at Wild Ginger at The Bravern during the weekends, Saturday, 11:30am-3pm, and Sunday, 12-3pm. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling 425.495.8889.