retail news in context, analysis with attitude

One of the great pleasures of what I do is having the opportunity to, while on the road, eat and drink in places that I’d never experience if I just sat in an office back in Connecticut. Not fancy places, generally, but just cool joints that I find myself wishing were around the corner from my home and office.

For example, during a recent trip to Cincinnati for a speech, I found myself enjoying lunch at a downtown place called Nicholson’s Gastropub, where they had these amazing lamb sliders, served with tzatziki and fontina cheese, as well as some of the best corned beef hash I’ve ever eaten. It was rather warm out, so I washed it down with a Hoegaarden White...which is lighter than I’d usually go, but it seemed right.

I also was in Chicago earlier this week, and my son who lives there took me to a joint he frequents in the lower west side Pilsen neighborhood called Simone’s, where we had the most extraordinary Chipotle Burger, thick and juicy with cheddar cheese and spicy barbecue sauce. This called for something a little richer on the beverage side, so I tried a couple - a Finch’s Golden Wing, a local brew that is medium bodied and golden colored, and a Founder’s Red IPA, from Michigan, which had some serious hops going for it. Both were excellent.

And now, I’m in Seattle and had a chance to visit a new Tom Douglas place called the Brave Horse Tavern in the blooming South Lake Union neighborhood, where they make their own handmade pretzels that are almost unbelievably good, and serve them with fascinating sides - I enjoyed mine with Penn Cove clams that had been steamed in Old Seattle Lager, and dipped the pretzel in the broth. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven. And then I enjoyed a wonderful cheeseburger served with caramelized onion and a slice of heirloom tomato, which was just perfect for the space - which is all tall ceilings and exposed brick and features a bustling, hip clientele, it seemed, and yet was totally accepting of un-hip people like me. And I loved the beers I tried - the Double Mountain India Red Ale, and especially the Big Al Brewing Smoked Porter, which was almost mind-blowing.

Been a good week.

I also hope that this goes a long way toward satisfying the MNB users who occasionally complain that I spend too much time writing about wine and not enough writing about beer. I’m doing my best here ...

That said, I do have a couple of wines to recommend to you...

I really enjoyed the Vina Tabali “reserve” 2010 Viognier, from the Limari Valley in Chile, which I had during a brief stop at Bin 36 in Chicago, and which the notes say features a ”lively acidity and a sexy, silky finish.” Whatever. It was really good, though I felt neither sexy nor silky when I drained my glass.

And then, my friend Morgan at Etta’s in Seattle - whom I have celebrated here and elsewhere as being one of the best bartenders I’ve ever met, working in one of my favorite places - served me up a glass or two of the 2009 Fedelitas M100 red - a blend of 48% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot - which was just rich and smooth and wonderful. (Fedelitas is a small boutique winery located on the slopes of the Red Mountain AVA - American Viticultural Area - in the Columbia Valley.)

The tasting notes say that the M100 has “vibrant fruit notes” that “are a great match for tomato-based dishes, like pizza or pasta marina, while the richer tones help this wine stand up to more intense dishes like steak or pork. Try bringing out the smoky tones in the wine with barbecued ribs or spice rubbed pork tenderloin.” Sounds good to me. All I know is that I have to find a way for them to sell their wines back home, and if not, I’m joining their wine club. (If Mrs. Content Guy lets me. Which she may not. I’ll just have to bring her with me to Seattle next time, or get her to move here...)

So there you go. Food and drink that I can recommend without hesitation.

Have a great weekend. I’m going to.

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