The cider revolution has hit the Inland Northwest in full force, and Spokane's Liberty Ciderworks is undoubtedly leading the charge.
Nearly a full year after the two-man cidery opened its downtown tasting room, owners Rick Hastings and Austin Dickey have taken home their biggest accolade to date: Best in Class honors for Liberty's Stonewall cider at the 10th annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP). Held earlier this month, April 10-12, the international competition received 480 entries of cider and perry (pear cider) from around the world. Liberty's Stonewall, aged in the whiskey barrels of another Northwest booze purveyor, Dry Fly Distilling, was one of just three ciders to earn the Best in Class distinction at the event, as well as a gold medal in a category with nearly 200 other entries.
"We were floored when we saw the results for Stonewall," says Hastings, Liberty's head cidermaker. "We've had great feedback from customers and our peers, but this is about as big an honor as anyone gets in the cider business. It's a big-league win for us."
This isn't Liberty's first time at GLINTCAP, as the cidery has taken home multiple awards in recent years for several of its other cider varieties. In 2013, the New World cider took home a silver medal. Last year, its English Style cider nabbed a gold medal while the limited-release Jonathan single-varietal (SV) and New World both took home bronze awards.
Aside from Stonewall's big win this year, four other varieties of Liberty's cider won silver medals: the Kingston Black SV, Macintosh SV, the dry-hopped Turncoat and the port-style Manchurian Crabapple cider.
It's also worth mentioning here that Inlander readers already know Liberty's ciders are tops, voting the cider maker as producing the best local cider in the region for this year's Best Of readers poll.
Social media was abuzz yesterday with the hashtag #ABRoadEatsSpokane as chef and Food Network personality Alton Brown made his way around Spokane, sampling local offerings from coffee to waffles and banh mi sandwiches.
Brown tweeted, Facebook-ed and Instagram-ed his Spokane eating experiences, stopping at Coeur Coffeehouse, The Scoop, Indaba Coffee and Stella's Cafe before heading to the INB Performing Arts Center for his Alton Brown Live! show that evening.
Indaba manager Evan Lovell wasn't working yesterday morning, but his coworkers tell him Brown ordered a traditional flat white around 10 am.
"He was glad it was a real flat white," Lovell says, adding that some coffee connoisseurs — Brown posts online often about his love of coffee — disagree on the true characteristics of the drink, made from espresso and steamed milk.
After his coffee stop, Brown headed up to The Scoop on the South Hill for breakfast. Scoop owner Jennifer Davis — a huge fan of Brown's work — was doubtful he'd make it to her ice creamery and cafe, but says she planned to be there all day just in case.
"I was just like, you know, this is kind of the place [he'd like]; we have different food, we're off the beaten path and so he could probably check us out."
Shortly after learning of Brown's stop at Indaba, Davis says a woman stopped in to ask if they served breakfast, to which Davis replied that the Scoop is locally known for its liege waffles. She adds, "then I looked out the window and there he was!"
Lucky for Brown and his crew of two, Davis says foot traffic at the cafe was unusually slow that morning, and as such they were able to enjoy the Scoop's bacon nut, breakfast and minimalist waffles in relative peace.
"He took a super awesome Instagram picture and was able to take pictures of everything for Facebook and was asking about the neighborhood," Davis says.
Later that day, Brown showed off two mouthwatering sandwiches from Stella's Cafe — a classic banh mi and roast beef with provolone, kale and hot peppers.
At some point earlier, Brown also hit up Coeur Coffee just north of the Monroe Street Bridge for an Americano.
To end the day's eating, Brown ordered a long list of items from the Wandering Table in Kendall Yards, and had the food delivered because after his show ended around 9 pm, the restaurant was getting ready to close. Sous Chef Kyle Bowlby says a courier picked up an order of the restaurant's roasted brussels sprouts, crispy cauliflower, spaghetti stuffed meatballs, gnocchi gratin, bacon-wrapped bacon sliders, roast chicken wings, umami burgers and pepper spiced chips.
Since Bowlby had to work the evening shift and thus missed Brown's show, he asked if the celebrity chef would sign an epicurean cutting board and spoon, which the courier delivered back to the restaurant.
I grew up loving everything they put in front of me. There’s not a lot that I don’t like. I like good ethnic food. I like comfort food, too. It’s a big variety.[Editor's note: Bloem's comments compiled from an interview transcription, and lightly edited for length]
I took three people with me [to Satay Bistro] and we tried several things. I had the chicken dish. And the filet mignon is well known at that restaurant, so we had that, too. And my daughter had the sea bass. So we had a great variety.
We all had a chance to taste each dish, and all three were fabulous. There’s a sauce they’re making [a smoked tomato vinaigrette], it was on the chicken dish and on the sea bass dish. The flavor was spectacular. It was THE best chicken dish I’ve ever had. It was tremendous. I liked it because it was very unusual in flavor. It really was spectacular.
The ambience in Satay is very pleasant. The way it’s put together, it’s a very special place. Our service was top-notch, and it has been when I’ve been there before. They have a really nice wine list, and their own wine cellar. They do some things that just add a lot of flavor to the experience. They serve a small loaf of bread fresh out of the oven, warm, with butter and fresh dill all over it. That can be a meal in itself. It’s a very special place to go.
I think this opportunity offered during these couple of weeks gets people excited, gets people out to these restaurants to see different places. I talked to a friend of mine, and they’d already been out four times and were going for a fifth time this Saturday. Satay was full the night we were there. It brings the Coeur d’Alene, Liberty Lake and Spokane communities together, and that’s not always easy to do. This shows you can be very successful doing that.
This past Saturday, my wife Amber and I went to Wild Sage for dinner with our friends as part of Inlander Restaurant Week. It was, to say the least, an outstanding dining experience.
We each chose from the prix fixe menu and began with a flight of red wine. Among the four of us, one chose the steelhead and clam chowder, one the wild sage salad, and two of us selected the crisp bacon and blue salad. We were all very happy with our selections. They were very well presented, sized appropriately and delicious.
For the main course, two of us selected the steelhead; the other two chose the Korean-style pork shank. I am particularly fond of pork shank and found Wild Sage’s to be exceptional. The steelhead was also well prepared and served on the plank it was cooked on. The waiter, who was excellent, made a point, in a humorous way, of telling us the plank, although it looked inviting, probably would not taste very good. We sampled all three of the desserts — coconut cream cake, vanilla crème brulee and chocolate pot de crème. The coconut cream cake with its lillikoi (Hawaiian passion fruit) sauce was incredible.
I’ve had the opportunity since I was young to experience a wide variety of foods at home and in restaurants in New York and other large cities. As an adult, I have had the good fortune to travel throughout the world, particularly during my time with the U.S. State Department. Despite having a one-year-old, Amber and I have had the opportunity to eat at many of Spokane’s restaurants; we thoroughly enjoyed Wild Sage and would put it at the top end of the list.
Restaurant Week is a great idea. It’s an opportunity to show off our great and growing selection of restaurants, as well as to encourage folks to enjoy good company and outstanding meals. Wild Sage will be just one of the restaurants Amber, Ava and I visit this week.
As a kid, ribs were my favorite food. No kidding. I loved them all: beef ribs, pork ribs, but most of all, lamb ribs. My parents raised sheep, and the lamb we ate was our own. Today, I’m extremely health conscious. I try to eat nine cups of vegetables or fruits per day, so I drink a lot of smoothies and eat a lot of salads. I have multiple sclerosis and am controlling it not only with medication, but with diet and exercise. I’ve lost a lot of weight and feel more fit than I have in years.
I went to dinner at Central Food with my husband, the handsome, brilliant hunk, Simeon (Sam) Mills. I stuck to the vegetarian menu, while Sam eyeballed all things meat-and-potatoes. I was glad for this, because then I could sneak bites of his meal, too.
I was delighted to find that most of the items on the vegetarian menu were vegan. Right on! Usually I have to tweak an order to render it dairy-free, but I didn’t have to do that in the slightest here. I almost felt like the meal was designed for me personally.
Sam and I have been blown away by Central Food for a couple of years now — the Kendall Yards location can’t be beat. We were given a table alongside the row of windows facing south, and despite the inky, cloudy night, the view was as tantalizing as ever. My eyes kept returning to the river, where it lay twitching and curling and slithering darkly westward, a muscular, glittering serpent. There is a lot of power in that river, and it’s a feast of its own to witness.
I ordered the Sriracha baked cauliflower, the broccoli spinach bowl and the rhubarb sorbet. The first two choices were easy: I salivate over anything drenched in Sriracha, and the spinach bowl promised fresh carrots, beets and sunflower seeds in a gingery sauce. Say the word “ginger,” and I’m there.
Sam ordered the mushroom mousse terrine, the Woods Ranch beef cheek Bourguignon and the pineapple upside-down cake. Sam loves mushrooms and eggs, and while he wasn’t sure what Bourguignon was, I promised him the meat would be tender beyond belief. That was enough. He also ordered a Jam Session IPA, from local brewery 12 String.
My Sriracha-baked cauliflower was the star of my evening, with a depth of flavor that kept expanding in my mouth long after I had swallowed. Sam’s appetizer, the terrine, was equally delicious, a heavenly texture of poached egg and mushroom mousse that Sam said he wanted to eat for breakfast every day of his life.
My second course was as fresh and colorful as I’d hoped, with the beets and carrots carved into whimsical, graceful curlicues in my bowl. Sam and I both loved his second course: The beef cheeks sent us back to childhood, where he recalled a similar dish from his mom (an excellent cook, herself), and I was reminded of my Grandma Kay’s melt-in-your-mouth roasts, meat so succulent and tender that the knife becomes completely superfluous. This, to me, is such a beautiful aspect of food — the nostalgia it can introduce, the long-dormant memories it can rouse and refresh. It not only sparks memories but also conversation, inviting intimacy and affection. The ability to bring people together through taste alone is a sign of a great chef — and a great restaurant. Chef David Blaine and Central Food do this for us over and over again.
I loved the unexpected freshness and sweetness of the rhubarb sorbet; I also broke my no-dairy rule to enjoy some of Sam’s pineapple-tinged ice cream, which was so delicious that I laughed out loud. I hadn’t had ice cream in a long time, and I’d forgotten how frickin’ good it could taste.
As we finished our meal, Sam and I spoke of how happy we are to live in Spokane. Out in the dark night, the cathedral towers of Our Lady of Lourdes shone with a light that reminded me of the lit-up architecture in Europe. We might as well have been sitting on the banks of the Guadalquivir in Spain. Spokane has become its own lovely city of light, and Central Food is one of its gems.
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