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Secrets from the kitchen of Mercer Island's Cellar 46º
Mercer Islanders have a wonderful opportunity to raise their glasses and celebrate. It’s called Cellar 46º, a wine shop, bar, storage facility and superb bistro located right here on the Island. Established in 2007, Cellar 46º is the Northwest’s premier destination for wine lovers.
I asked the owner and founder, Ryan Allison, about his incredible wine bar and he told me that he is truly dedicated to educating customers about Washington and Oregon wines.
“We are also proud to be part of the Mercer Island business community,” Allison said.
Cellar 46º is the brainchild of Allison, a Mercer Island native and a Northwest wine aficionado. Allison left a successful Internet start-up company to turn his passion for wine into a career. In 2002 he purchased an online wine retail site, Awinestore.com, which he runs today.
“It houses an extensive collection of Northwest wines and Old World favorites to please most everyone’s palates,” he said.
Head Chef Nalani Dias has worked together with Allison to produce a casual wine-friendly menu for dinner and happy hour.
“Ryan and I serve what we would want our friends to enjoy,” said Dias. Her background includes a mix of Hawaiian, Korean, Portuguese and German. “I grew up as part of a tight-knit family who instilled in me a passion for cooking and entertaining. My great-grandma taught me how to cook using all the senses.” In judging her menu, her grandmother was wise.
The bistro opens with a light menu that is served from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to closing, and offers 50 percent off during Happy Hour from the light menu. Beginning from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, the bistro offers 25 percent off wines available by the glass. If you are looking for something that is not on the wine list, feel free to shop from over 700 different wines in the retail section of the store ($15 corkage fee applies). Wines listed only by the bottle and featured wine selections from the shop include corkage.
The bistro menu starter section contains many tasty appetizers. I asked Dias to share the recipe of one of her favorites called Fig and Chevre Crostini, which consists of fruit/nut crostinis topped with chevre, basil and fig preserves for $7. Suggested wine pairing is a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t stop there, as many more delicious dishes can be found in the starter section of the menu. Soups and salads are also included. The Greek Salad has wonderful visual appeal and is well balanced. I also adored the Caprese Stack of fantastic fall tomatoes layered between mozzarella with basil oil and balsamic vinegar for $8. I couldn’t stop eating either of the appetizers or salads.
Entrée dishes come with field greens dressed in house vinaigrette. Also offered are two savory dinner crepes. The menu includes a flank steak that comes marinated in a blackberry chipotle sauce and is served with mashed potatoes for $18.50 and “Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf” with a red glaze that my guests tried. They said that it is the perfect fall comfort food dish for $15.
Save room for dessert and try a Baked Stuffed Pear. The menu also lists sweet crepes for dessert. They are made to order with a choice of fillings: nutella/strawberries/banana/coconut or almonds, selling for $6.
Cellar 46º has it all, with a wine shop, restaurant, wine bar, wine lockers and wine shipping services in one gorgeous facility. It offers a regular schedule of wine education opportunities with guest winemakers and live music events. In 2007, it was even voted by the Seattle Magazine Reader’s Poll as the “Best New Wine Bar to Try Washington Wine.”
I want to thank Chef Dias for her recipes. If you can’t make them at home, then do come in. It’s worth it — a great Mercer Island find!
Hours and information can be found on the Cellar 46º Web site, www.cellar46.com. It is located on the east side of the Mercer Building at 7650 S.E. 27th St., Suite 120, with a parking entrance on 27th. Call 407-3016 for reservations.
CELLAR 46º FIG / CHEVRE CROSTINI
Head Chef Nalani Dias says that she loves this dish for the simplicity of ingredients and the complexity of flavors. “The flavors work so well together and are an easy match with wine. This is definitely my got-to-have appetizer.”
Yields 6 servings.
6 fruit & nut crostini (buy at the grocery store or specialty shops)
1/2 cup chevre cheese
1/2 cup fig preserves
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
2 tsp. sea salt
Cover the crostini with a thin, even layer of chevre. Spread a spoonful of fig preserves. Top with basil chiffonade and a pinch of sea salt. Typical serving size is one crostini per person.
CHEF NALANI DIAS’ “NOT YOUR MAMA’S MEATLOAF”
For best results, let the meatloaf rest before serving.
“I like to serve a thick slice resting on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes with a simple field green salad,” said Dias. “As you’d suspect, the meatloaf is an incredible match with a glass of the wine you used to make it.”
3 slices of white bread, finely diced or torn
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
3 TBS. parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp. sage, finely chopped
1 tsp. thyme, finely chopped
1 TBS. kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
2 TBS. unsalted butter
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground lamb or veal
1 pound ground pork
2 pounds ground beef
1/4 pound of cherry tomatoes (grape tomatoes or romas are fine, too, as long as they are fresh and tasty). Simply squeeze them for a more “rustic” feel, but a coarse chop here works as well. Use vegetable oil to grease the pan or baking dish that you use.
2 cups red wine (choose a full bodied red)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar (choose wisely here, too; nothing too extravagant, but do not cut corners)
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp. unsulfured molasses
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 350°. In a mixing bowl, combine the bread pieces with the milk until the liquid is almost fully absorbed. Add the eggs, parsley, sage, thyme, salt, black pepper, nutmeg and cayenne, until evenly blended. Incorporate the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir until thoroughly combined.
In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and soften over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute or so — just long enough for the flavors to blend together. Cool well before adding to your bread mixture. Add the lamb/veal, pork and beef to your bread and herbs until evenly combined. Add 1/2 of the cherry tomatoes to the meat and mix evenly. Transfer the meatloaf mixture to a loaf pan or any baking dish to form your loaf or two loaves.
In your saucepan, combine the red wine with the sugar, balsamic vinegar, remaining tomatoes, molasses, cinnamon and allspice, and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Boil until the glaze is reduced by half. Ideally, the glaze should cling to the back of a spoon for a bit. Pour half of the glaze over the meatloaf to coat. Bake for approximately 1 hour, uncovered. This will allow the glaze to really take hold.
“For you meatloaf traditionalists, this is where ketchup would otherwise come into play,” said Dias. “Basically, I like to be sure it’s almost done, not cooked all the way through — with the temperature at 150-155 degrees. This allows me to make the meatloaf earlier in the day and finish just before dinner.”
Yields 2 substantial loaves.
CELLAR 46º BAKED STUFFED PEARS
“This recipe was given to us by a most gracious friend of the Cellar. I first tasted it in our test kitchen a month before we opened, and it’s been on our menu ever since,” said Dias. Bartlett, Bosc and Concorde are the pear varieties that will work best in this dessert. “For home convenience, feel free to use canned pears. However, you will want to adjust the recipe by not cooking the pear,” said Dias. Yields one serving.
1 whole ripe pear — cored and halved vertically
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/2 cup fig preserves
1 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a dollop of fig preserves in the bottom of your individual baking dish. Place pear halves, cut side up, on top of your fig preserves. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until soft enough to pierce easily with a fork. Stuff pear halves with a spoonful of goat cheese. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes or until cheese begins to soften. Remove baking dish from oven and top with a spoonful of fig preserves. Place baking dish back into oven for 5 minutes or until fig starts to bubble on top. Remove from oven and finish with a light sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately.
WASHINGTON FRUIT NECTARINE — CHICKEN SALAD
Yields 8 servings.
4 cups Washington nectarines, sliced
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed or slivered
1 1/2 cups celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted almonds, thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Combine all ingredients except dressing; pour dressing over the fruit mixture and toss gently. Refrigerate 1 hour or longer, allowing the flavors to blend.
Combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 TBS. each of vinegar and honey, 1/2 tsp. curry powder and 1/8 tsp. each of salt and ground ginger; mix well.
For all of the recipes feaured in this story and more go to our Web site at www.mi-reporter.com. Eileen Mintz has been a restaurant consultant for over 18 years. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 232-1984.