When I told friends and colleagues I was off to judge a cook-off with a nod and a stern, “off to work,” a chorus of moans bellowed. Some chimed in via social media (@chrisnishiwaki on Twitter).
The cook-off pitted Emran Chowdhury from in Bellevue and Seattle’s Wallingford District against Maurizio Milazzo of Barolo in Downtown Seattle and Sabrina Tinsley of La Spiga on Capitol Hill. The competition, held at Tinsley’s La Spiga, called for the chefs to prepare a dish paired with Allegrini’s 2007 Palazzo Della Torre, a red blend made of 70 percent Corvina, 25 percent Rondinella and 5 percent Sangiovese from Valpolicella in Italy’s Veneto region. The chefs competed for a non-profit of their choice with the winner designating $5,000 to their cause, runner-up earning $2,500 for their non-profit and third place allocating $1,000 (more on the results later).
I am here to tell you that I am a desk jockey much like the many desk jockeys you know, perhaps, even you. Now, I don’t expect much sympathy from friends, colleagues and readers when I explain that my latest assignment entails eating Italian food with Italian wine. Furthermore, this time our hostess was the charming and stylish Marlisa Allegrini, the matriarch of the Allegrini estate.
But the perception of the life of a food and wine writer is of a charmed one. Yes, it has its benefits but not without its responsibilities. Know as you read my column on Patch, I labor each week to deliver accurate and pertinent information to you. I am sensitive to how hard you work for your money, and the importance of delivering information to help you make decisions on how to spend your hard-earned dollars.
The job requires tedious homework and advance work. It also requires a lot of discipline -- even though my doctor questions exactly how disciplined I am about my diet. I don’t eat what I want when I want. When dining, out I order, what I think readers will want to try.
The job requires a lot of late nights followed by early mornings, sometimes six days in a row (the art of the mid-afternoon 15-minute nap should be taught in journalism school). It is 3:33 a.m. as I write this and I have to be up in three hours for a meeting. Self-defense is an important skill, too -- one that wasn't taught in journalism school, either. I didn’t think I would be challenged to fist fights so many times during my writing career. That’s what happens when covering an industry often fueled by booze and other chemicals.
I invite you to comment in the section below. I want to hear what you are looking for in our coverage of the local restaurant, food and wine scene. I want to hear if I am missing a restaurant that that has been a favorite of yours for years. Tell me of a specific dish. I also want to hear about personalities. I’ve found that some of the best food comes from the heart, the heart of passionate practitioners of the culinary arts.
As for the cook-off, the dishes were judged on flavor, originality and how it paired with the wine, the 2007 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre. The wine is balanced, sophisticated, stylish and elegant, much like Mrs. Allegrini. Currants, black cherries and powdered milk chocolate dominate the palate of this red wine. A touch of earth nods to its Old World roots. Fine-grained tannins lead to the food-friendly acids and strawberry finish that lingers.
In the end, evaluating the dish on its own as well as how it married with the wine, the rabbit meatballs braised in red wine by Barolo’s Milazzo was the winner. The duck breast rolled in prosciutto and parmigiano by La Spiga’s Tinsley was the runner-up, followed by the ricotta gnudi with braised oxtail by Cantinetta’s Chowdhury.
Milazzo designated his prize to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Tinsley designated her winnings to One World Now. Chowdhury dedicated his prize to Treehouse.
So after an afternoon of fine food, fine wine and feel-good charitable contributions, I am burying my nose in my laptop and working on next week’s column. Stay tuned loyal readers.