Goldfinch cocktail.jpg

Just last year, a book called The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize. "The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate." In other words, no clue what it's about. But the signature cocktail at the new Goldfinch Tavern in the Four Seasons Hotel, well, that's another story.

Here's the recipe, according to bar manager Nathan Elliott: 1 oz Capitol Vodka, 1 oz Citizen Gin, 1 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco, half-oz Sibona Camomilla. Garnish with an expressed lemon peel. For my personal taste, squeeze more lemon; that Cocchi Americano is pretty sweet.

In case you were wondering where this whole Goldfinch thing came from, it's the state bird of Washington. The more you know.


Frozen & shaved

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Marc & Picha.jpg

For several years now, Mark and Picha Pinkaow have operated a popular lunch spot in the International District called Thai Curry Simple. My son, Dominic, wrote a glowing review in The Stranger back in 2010.

Now the Pinkaows are about to open a second location, called Wann Yen, at 1313 NE 43rd St. in the U District. The new spot will feature shaved ice desserts.

Cellphone.jpgAt a benefit pop-up over the weekend, Picha Pinkaow was showing off pictures taken on her cellphone of the build-out at the new spot, which once housed Jim's Cameras. Diners were treated to a preview of one of the ices, called Tub Tim Grob (literally "rubies in coconut milk"): pink water-chestnut shaved ice with fresh coconut and jackfruit.

The spot will be called Wann Yen, website wannyen.com, which means

means "slow life" or "shaved ice" in Thai. Says Picha: "Our concept is to introduce Thai gourmet shaved ice with housemade flavors." Among them: candy-covered red dates, ruby sweet water chestnuts, sweet potato jam, toddy palm (similar to coconut), and Thai agar-agar jelly topping.

Emirates w cherries.jpg

Last year at this time we were telling you about Ruby Red cherries from Orondo, developed by Marcus Griggs and his family. This year, an update.

Washington, it's worth repeating, grows two-thirds of the nation's sweet cherries on 35,000 acres of orchards, on the sunny hillsides of the Yakima Valley and overlooking the Columbia in the Wenatchee basin. The cherry season, now underway, generates enormous demand, especially in Asian countries. Freshly picked Washington cherries--airlifted to Japan and China--can sell for up to $40 a pound.

Here's the update: Washington cherry exports to China alone have tripled this year. The Port of Seattle recently paid $23 million to update two cargo terminals at SEATAC so that larger planes can load even more cargo. Cherries to China start moving through the new terminals tomorrow.

Yes, ocean traffic through the Port of Seattle slowed way down earlier this year. But fresh fruit doesn't travel by boat. And fully a third of all the air freight moving through SEATAC this year is international. That plane in the picture? Not headed to Japan or China, as it happens, but to Dubai. Fifty tons of Washington cherries on Emirates SkyCargo.

Is 520 the new 420?

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Bellevue Transit Center Dec 2013.JPG

Nine years is a long time, I guess. Back in June of 2006, Obama had not yet been elected President, but inside a non-descript building along Old Main Street in Bellevue there opened a restaurant with a point to prove: that you didn't have to serve tasty food or decent drinks to be successful.

It was called the 520 Bar & Grill, and we wrote one of our typically snarky reviews here on Cornichon. "A lapse of taste," we titled it. Even though most of the comments agreed the place needed some serious work, Bellevue's restaurant community seems to have rallied behind the business.

The owners, Joseph & Randi & Brazen, are real estate agents, owners of one of the local Sotheby's franchises. The executive chef is an unknown line cook. Yet without a lot of competition, their bar & grill has been voted "best casual meeting place" seven years in a row by the Bellevue Downtown Association. Bravo. Seriously.

But here's something to ponder: prices do not seem to have budged. Those coconut prawns, back in 2006, were $14. They're still $14. Back then, Cornichon complained about the lack of seasoning. Now I wonder what they've been smoking for the past decade. They've just announced that 520 will create a new restaurant for the upcoming expansion of Lincoln Square. In his marketing wisdom, Kemper Freeman seems to have determined that it's a good idea to create cookie-cutter dining opportunities to bring shoppers into his retail empire.

It's not going to be easy. Bellevue's food scene has undergone some trendy upgrades in recent years. You've now got Joey's, Equus, Pearl, Maggiano's, McCormick's, Daniel's and Palomino, among the high-ticket competitors. Not like sleepy Old Main. On the other hand, the Brazens are probably paying more attention to the peeps buying those multi-million-dollar listings. Seems like a good idea, dudes.

520 Bar & Grill, 10146 Main St., Bellevue 425-450-0520   

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