Events

Tips for Attending the Sundance Film Festival

Tips for Attending the Sundance Film Festival

This year, I had the opportunity to attend the Sundance Film Festival and it was easily one of the most fun trips I've had. If you're planning to attend Sundance, here are some tips on how to have the best experience possible. 

Holidays in Seattle - Gingerbread Village and Teddy Bear Suite

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When winter hits the Pacific Northwest, we tend to scatter out to the mountains of Leavenworth to get that real Christmas feel. However, winter in Seattle is also an enchanting time thanks to two annual traditions that take place downtown: Sheraton Seattle's Gingerbread Village, and the Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympic. Both hotels have been carrying on these traditions for over two decades. Even if you've seen them once before, a return visit is due as the designs vary by the year. But first, let's go into detail about each of these holiday spectacles.

Gingerbread Village

Every year, the Sheraton Seattle invites some of the top architects, master builders, and culinary teams to create the most inventive gingerbread houses they can imagine. The theme changes each year. One year it was Star Wars, and yet another was Harry Potter. This year, the 25th anniversary, the theme encourages a celebration of Seattle. The results have been jaw-dropping. Some gingerbread houses pay homage to historic Seattle, while others imagine a sci-fi version that probably isn't far from reality.

Gingerbread Village typically takes place in the Sheraton's main lobby. This year it temporarily relocated across the street at City Centre. Entry is free, but donations are encouraged as proceeds benefit JDRF Northwest.

Location: City Centre (new location) 1420 Fifth Ave. Ste 450 Seattle, WA 98101

Dates: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - Monday, January 1, 2018

Viewing Hours:

Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Teddy Bear Suite

A few blocks away, another grand Seattle hotel encourages you to swing by for holiday cheer. Every winter, the Fairmont Olympic takes one of its corner suites and fills it with teddy bears. The exact configuration changes every few years; the current iteration is a warm, cozy suite that's perfect for any teddy bear lover. Donations are encouraged as they benefit Seattle Children's Hospital.

After visiting the Teddy Bear Suite, head down to The Georgian restaurant and enjoy Holiday Tea. Or go down to the main lobby and enjoy the Fairmont's grand Christmas tree displays. Meanwhile, the ground floor has a new addition: a huge life-sized gingerbread house that you can actually walk through!

November 23 – December 26 Daily from 10am to 6pm Open on Christmas Day & Thanksgiving Day

How Google Photos Made Us a Free Wedding Video

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One of our favorite photography apps just became our all-time favorite. Google Photos is a free photo sharing and backup service that we've been using ever since its inception in May 2015. Besides giving us free, unlimited storage of images and videos, Google Photos has some amazing artificial intelligence that analyzes photos. It will automatically pick out and edit your best photo from an album (and it's often right at picking out the best), and it will even create short movies or GIFs of images that it detects are part of a series. This latter feature has always been a fun feature that recently came in super helpful when Google Photos essentially created a wedding video for us. Seriously--the video is below. Here's how it came together.

What is Google Photos?

When installed as a smartphone app or desktop app, Google Photos can be set to automatically backup photos or videos to the cloud. Every account has free, unlimited storage of media. But there's a catch. Google Photos only keeps photos up to 16 megapixels and videos up to 1080p resolution. If you want to store higher resolution photos or even RAW files, you'll have to pay a monthly fee to do so. Still, Google Photos offers a pretty neat photo backup alternative.

We have Google Photos installed and active on our Android phones and Mac computers. It's astonishingly fast at uploading new content to the cloud. Once on the cloud, that content can be accessed across all of our devices. We also take advantage of shared albums so that we can contribute to the same album.

Google Photos

Google Photos

How Google Photos made us a wedding video

Our wedding photographer in Tuscany did the unexpected and sent us not only his edited image selects. He also sent us the full take of unedited images shot during our wedding, along with permission to choose and edit our own images to our liking. I'm not sure if he does that for all clients, or because he knew that both Martin and I are photographers. Either way, it's very special to be able to go through the extra images and make our own edits.

While copying the full take of photos to our hard drives, Google Photos automatically backed up all of those images to the cloud. It then started automatically generating GIFs for us. The first few were cute and entertaining, but before long, we had a total of 60 GIFs from Google. When going through the full take, it was easy to see how those GIFs got generated. Many photographers, myself included, will often take a series of 3-5 images at a time, just to make sure we capture the key moment as it unfolds. Our wedding photographer did this during our entire wedding ceremony, and thanks to Google Photos, we have a whole series of GIFs that recreate the whole evening.

After organizing the GIFs, it just took an hour of video editing in Final Cut Pro to make a full video. We also decided to meld some drone footage that we had captured ourselves during the ceremony.

Google Photos

Google Photos

Here's the video

This is the final video that we made. Due to the choppy nature of GIFs, it isn't completely smooth. But it does an excellent job of showcasing the day almost exactly as it happened.

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Google wedding video

Google wedding video

Our Destination Wedding in Tuscany

Many brides have the lifelong dream to get married in the fairytale setting of Tuscany, Italy. While it wasn't exactly a lifelong dream of ours, we jumped at the idea when it presented itself. So a week after our courthouse wedding in Seattle, we packed our bags and found ourselves on the other side of the world in Italy. This was where our more ceremonial wedding would take place. All photos below were taken by Studio Bastianoni. Neither Martin nor I are "wedding people." In our eyes, a wedding is to celebrate the unification of families, so that was the only audience we wished to have. The mere idea of a having a large wedding with lots of people made us want to elope. Not to mention, this would be the first time that our immediate family met in person, so we wanted it to happen in an enchanting place that was new to everyone in our family.

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Planning a Wedding Italy

As you might imagine, planning a destination wedding in a foreign country has its challenges. We found it hard enough to plan for a wedding of 7 people and don't even want to think about how a larger wedding would fare. In terms of wedding planning, we did a fair amount of it ourselves. Thus, it was hard to justify hiring a wedding planner as many in Italy insist on planning your entire wedding, from transportation and accommodations to the whole ceremony and reception. To us, a wedding planner is ideal for large destination weddings, but not for small, intimate weddings.

Our Wedding Villa in Tuscany

Tuscany itself is a large region of Italy, and there are many towns to make your home base. After some online research, we chose the town of Cortona as our wedding home base. The main reason was proximity to other major towns in Tuscany that we wanted to visit. It wasn't until much later that we realized Cortona was of Under the Tuscan Sun fame. Our villa in Creti (a town just outside of Cortona) was found on Airbnb. We rented out this beautiful villa that was modern with classic designs. Our particular unit offered 4 bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, and many gathering spaces. There were nearby villas in the complex that had more rooms for bigger parties. In fact, we spied at least one other wedding taking place in the villa while we were there.

Tuscany Wedding Photographer

Tuscany Wedding Photographer

Renting a Car in Italy

Since we all landed and met at Rome's Fiumicino Airport, we simply picked up our rental cars there and drove about two hours directly to our villa in Creti. We used an American car company, Hertz, to rent our car and made reservations online. It was reasonably easy to locate the car rental area in Fiumicino Airport. A few things to note about renting a car in Italy online:

  • Note whether the car you're looking at is a Manual or Automatic. We were initially going to rent a Fiat and quickly discovered it was a Manual. Needing an Automatic transmission (and deciding to treat ourselves), we rented a 4-door Mercedes Benz C-Class Sedan. That ended up having its own challenges (see the suitcase problem below!).

  • Legally, you need an international driving permit to operate a vehicle abroad. These permits can be very easily and quickly obtained in the United States for a reasonable fee. Both Martin and I got our driving permits, but never once had to show them to anyone while in Italy. We still recommend getting one anyway, just in case.

  • Many car brands and styles offered in Europe differ from those in America. For one, many take diesel rather than gasoline. Also, luxury vehicles like our Mercedes Benz operate very differently from our Subaru Impreza. It took a few days to figure out where all the buttons were.

  • Finally, be sure to choose a vehicle with large enough storage space. For the first time in our travels together, Martin and I each brought large luggage . We had much more clothing and gifts to pack and couldn't just bring carry-ons as we did in Hong Kong and Belize. The problem was that these suitcases barely fit into the trunk of our Mercedes-Benz rental car, especially when we had to fit similarly sized luggage from our parents. We barely made everything fit by sharing trunk space with Martin's brother's car rental (a Fiat).

Finding Wedding Vendors in Italy: the Officiant

Even though we decided to forgo a wedding planner, we still needed to hire two vendors. The first was an officiant to conduct our wedding ceremony. After much research, we chose to hold our legal wedding ceremony in Seattle. There were too many horror stories online about trying to coordinate legal wedding paperwork abroad. But we still needed someone to lead our formal wedding ceremony. We ended up working with Jo and Sofia of Tuscan Pledges and highly recommend them. They did a wonderful job leading our symbolic wedding ceremony, and we appreciated their quick communication via email and Skype.

Finding Wedding Vendors in Italy: the Photographer

The final piece of the puzzle was finding an Italian wedding photographer. Since we are photographers, this was an easy process. Essentially, we wanted a local Italian photographer since they would be familiar with the area and style of "Tuscan wedding photography" that we were seeking. From there, it was a matter of doing a Google search for "Tuscany wedding photographer" and clicking through as many online portfolios as we could. After evaluating and eliminating about 20 photographers, we chose Studio Bastianoni. We loved David Bastianoni's use of light and his overall style of wedding photography, and his WPPI accolades certainly helped. David himself was unavailable, but we worked with one of his associates (for a lower price!) and love the results. Looking at our wedding photos evokes the feeling and memory of the day as it unfolded, and that was exactly what we were hoping to achieve.

Beautiful DIY floral arrangements, done by my mom!

Beautiful DIY floral arrangements, done by my mom!

DIY Wedding

Beyond the two wedding vendors we hired, the rest was DIY. I bought my dress and shoes on Amazon, and Martin got his suit and accessories at Nordstrom. We purchased wedding flowers at a local market and our parents handled the lovely floral arrangements. The wedding venue was our own villa. Pro tip, be sure to check with your host before planning a wedding on private property. Finally, our reception was held in the nearby town of Cortona at Osteria del Teatro restaurant. We simply took a walking tour of the town earlier in the week and made in-person dinner reservations at the restaurant we liked the most. The wedding dinner was delicious, and we were even seated in a nice semi-private dining area.

In the End

At the end of the day, our special wedding day of September 7, 2017 was flawless. We were surrounded by some (but not all) of the most important people in the world to us and we were able to happily celebrate the unification of our families. And to our delight, our wedding photos beautifully capture the magic of our fairytale day. Want to see more from our trip to Italy? Check out our travel photos from Italy, or see our honeymoon photos from Milan.

Are you or someone you know planning a Tuscany wedding? Hopefully, you found this post helpful. Feel free to contact us with questions! We're happy to help however we can.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

Wedding in tuscany italy photos

Wedding in tuscany italy photos

Tuscany Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Wedding Photos_003

Wedding in tuscany italy photos

Wedding in tuscany italy photos

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

Tuscany Villa Wedding Photos_003

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Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of Italy Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Tuscany Destination Wedding

Tuscany Destination Wedding

Courthouse Wedding in Seattle

With its moderate climate and unique positioning between mountains and sea, it's no surprise that Seattle is a wedding hotspot. There are venues all around trendy Seattle and Bellevue, or even in the nearby wine country of Woodinville. For those considering a quick, simple wedding, there's also the Courthouse. Doesn't sound too romantic, does it? However, a courthouse wedding isn't as bad as it sounds. That's what we discovered after our August wedding at the King County courthouse in Washington State, which is actually a very beautiful building. The point of this wedding wasn't fanfare, it was getting the legal ceremony done so we could conduct our destination wedding in Italy with peace of mind.

How to do a Courthouse Wedding in Seattle

For those considering a courthouse wedding in Seattle, here's how to do it. First, visit the Marriage Licensing department to pay for and pick up your marriage certificate. After that is finalized, you must perform your legal wedding ceremony within the specified timeframe. You can have an officiant conduct your ceremony, or you can schedule a wedding with a judge.

There's a long list of King County judges who perform weddings. The list also provides a flat fee that the judge charges for the wedding. Most importantly, note that a majority of judges will only conduct weddings on certain dates at certain times. There are some judges who offer to travel to a chosen venue per your arranged date and time. But not all judges offer this flexibility, so be sure to check on that.

Not much information is given about each judge (not even a photo!), so there’s not much incentive to choose one over another. I literally closed my eyes and pointed to a random name on the list. Within minutes, I sent a quick email inquiry to the judge and quickly heard back from his bailiff who gave us instructions. A couple weeks later, Martin and I met our two witnesses (you can also buy witnesses through judges!) at the courthouse and were legally married.

Wedding Photo Spots in Seattle

As you'll see in the photos below, the King County Courthouse has quite nice architecture. It's a great backdrop for photos. Also, note that dressing up for your wedding is completely optional! At the time, there were four other weddings going on in nearby courtrooms. We were by far the nicest dressed out the other couples there. After the wedding, we walked a few blocks away to a celebratory dinner at Heartwood Provisions. The night was topped off by watching the sunset on the pier by the Seattle Great Wheel. All of these locations were very picturesque for wedding photos.

Below are photos from our courthouse wedding in Seattle. All photos were taken by our good friend Alan Alabastro. The flower leis were fresh and real, thanks to Hawaii General Store in Fremont. I was so happy to find a fragrant lei of my mother's favorite flower, the white tuberose, and a maile lei for Martin. This was our floral contribution and nod to our love of Hawaii.

After our wedding in Seattle, we then jetted off to Italy for our formal, celebratory wedding. See our destination wedding story and photos here.

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

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Seattle Courthouse Wedding Photos

Seattle Courthouse Wedding Photos

Honeymoon Photos in Milan with Flytographer

Have you ever wished you had picture perfect vacation photos? Even if you know your way around a camera like we do, it's still a challenge getting actual photos of yourself without using a selfie stick. Thankfully, there's a service for that, and it's called Flytographer. I first heard about it through a friend who is a Flytographer in Seattle and Hawaii (her name is Erin Lodi, and I highly recommend her!). The service is pretty genius: Flytographer hooks you up with the perfect vacation photographer in 200 cities worldwide. This sounded like the perfect treat after our destination wedding in Tuscany.

How to Use Flytographer

Booking a photographer is pretty straightforward. Simply go to the Flytographer website and search by destination for a photographer. You can view their profile and portfolio of images, and also inquire about availability. Photographers are available for casual or formal vacation photo shoots, and some will even do wedding proposal photos. Prices vary depending on the photographer you choose and the length of the session.

In our case, we booked a 90-minute photo session in Milan with photographer Marta G. We met early in the morning in front of Milan's famous Duomo, hoping to capture images before the swarms of tourists showed up. Our session was wonderful and we took photos in a bunch of iconic spots including The Galleria and a local coffee shop. Photos were edited quite quickly and we received an online gallery within a week of the session.

Honeymoon Photos in Milan

What follows are photos from our honeymoon photo shoot in Milan. All photos are by Marta G for Flytographer; note Martin's awesome vintage-looking Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera, which makes an appearance in some photos!

Want to see more from our month-long trip to Italy? Check out our YouTube travel vlogs!

Milan honeymoon wedding photos

Milan honeymoon wedding photos

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Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of Italy Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Milan Flytographer Photos

Milan Flytographer Photos

PNW Cider Awards 2015 at The Woods

Last weekend, the Pacific Northwest Cider Awards (PNWCA) Festival brought out droves of Seattleites eager to sample and vote for some of the Pacific Northwest's best ciders. Held at The Woods tasting room in the SoDo area of Seattle, this was also an opportunity to get a sneak peek at the tasting room that recently opened to the public. Rustic, industrial, and laid back, The Woods is the official tasting room of Seattle Cider Company, the city's first cidery since Prohibition.

PNWCA 2015 By the Numbers

  • 2 Years of PNWCA
  • 145 Entrants
  • 14 Categories of Cider
  • 3 Winners for each Category
  • 30 Ciders on Tap at PNWCA 2015

The Woods cider tasting room Seattle

The second annual PNWCA saw 145 entrants divided into 14 different categories, with gold, bronze, and silver medals for each category. Winners are listed below. Our personal favorites were definitely Schilling Cider's Grapefruit cider (light, mellow, and not too sweet) and D's Wicked Green Apple Cider (robust, natural apple flavors).

This is one of many cider events we have had the privilege of attending since the beverage began to popularize in Seattle. Other notable events in the Seattle area include Capitol Cider pairing dinners in Capitol Hill, as well as the Taste Washington event.

PNW Cider Awards Seattle photography

2nd Annual PNW Cider Awards 2015 Winners

Modern Dry Gold: 2 Towns Ciderhouse Bright Cider Silver: Cascadia Ciderworkers United Dry Bronze: Grizzly Ciderworks The Ridge

Modern Sweet Gold: Cockrell Hard Cider Original Silver: Anthem Cider Bronze: Spire Mountain Cider Red Apple

Traditional Dry Gold: Left Field Cider Co Little Dry Silver: Twisted Hills Craft Cider Kingston’s Fate Bronze: Seattle Cider Company Washington Heirloom 2014 Bronze: Sea Cider Ciderhouse Kings & Spies

Traditional Sweet Gold: Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Bloom Silver: Twisted Hills Craft Cider Calville’s Winter Bronze: 2 Towns Ciderhouse 2013 Riverwood

Modern Perry Gold: Left Field Cider Co Pear Dry Silver: Nashi Orchards Chojuro Asian Pear Perry Bronze: Spire Mountain Ciders Sparkling Pear

Traditional Perry (only 3 entrants) Gold: Tieton Cider Works Sparkling Perry

Old World  Gold: Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Lorrie’s Gold Silver: Sea Cider Ciderhouse Bittersweet Silver: Liberty Ciderworks English Style

Ginger Gold: Apple Outlaw Ginger Bite Silver: Sixknot Cider Gingerella Bronze: 2 Towns Ciderhouse Ginja Ninja

Wood Aged Gold: Finnriver Farm & Ciderhouse Fire Barrel Gold: Sea Cider Ciderhouse Prohibition Bronze: Tieton Cider Works Cidermaker’s Reserve

Fruit Gold: Blue Mountain Cider Company Peach Hard Apple Cider Silver: Honey Moon Raspberry CiderHead Bronze: Sea Cider Ciderhouse Bramble Bubbly

Spice/Herb Gold: Honey Moon Rhubarb CiderHead Silver: Seattle Cider Company Three Pepper Bronze: 2 Towns Ciderhouse Cherried Away

Hopped Gold: Square Mile Cider Co. Spur and Vine Hopped Silver: Finnriver Farm & Ciderhouse Dry Hopped Silver: Swift Cider Dank Hop

Single Varietal  Gold: Nashi Orchards Mountain Rose Gold: Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse Pippins Bronze: Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Revelation Newtown Pippin

Specialty  Gold: Spire Mountain Ciders Dark and Dry Apple Silver: Red Tank CHOPS! Bronze: Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse Wild English

Best in Show Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Bloom

Taste Washington 2015

The 18th annual Taste Washington event was held at Century Link Event Center during the weekend of March 26-28, and it drew its highest overall attendance over the course of 4 days. Featuring an impressive line up of 225 wineries, 70 restaurants and 60 culinary exhibitors, it is the the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event. As the numbers indicate, Taste of Washington is first and foremost a wine event put on by Visit Seattle and the Washington State Wine Commission. Indeed while a somewhat recent arrival from a global perspective, with its over 700 wineries, Washington’s wine industry is established and its reputation as a wine growing region is well known. With its similar to Mediterranean climate on the East side of the cascades, it’s a fertile land for growing grapes, the wine-making industry is thriving and so is the tourism around it. Taste Washington 2015

Taste Washington 2015 By the Numbers

  • 6,307 Overall attendance
  • 4,991 Grand Tasting attendance
  • 234 Wineries at Grand Tasting
  • 800 Wines poured
  • 200,000 Number of pours

The food at Taste Washington featured all the representatives of the local favorites and the latest trends along with some rarities. Just to name a few, our standout favorites were:

  • rabbit terrine with fennel
  • foie gras
  • german style cured meats from Leavenworth
  • more types of cheese than wise to consume including one with coconut
  • top grade ahi served skewered on a straw full of lemon juice
  • clam chowder and oysters (due to popularity had to be rationed)
  • pannacotta with sweet peas and cod
  • marinated octopus
  • buckwheat blini filled with ricotta served with pickled rhubarb and pea shoots

Taste 08

The displays by the vendors were also artistic and attractive. The VIP room was fully decorated to feel like a rustic winery with barrels lining the back and a large table abundantly covered with bread, cheese, and flowers to go with the wine being served. There were also live demonstrations on stage including one of how to skillfully prepare morels which the audience got to enjoy as well. Ice-cream was being made live with liquid nitrogen by Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt, which was quite the spectacle due to rapid evaporation caused steam. There were crafts and artists present too like the custom wine bottle and accessory maker Fresh Northwest Design.

Taste Washington 2015 event photography

The Rising Popularity of Cider

All this accurately reflects the abundance of Washington’s food and wine, however, there was one category featured which may be the most uniquely Washingtonian - the cider. While it may seem that cider is a recent trend, it is in fact, a very historical beverage that has been enjoyed for nearly 250 years. Even some of our Founding Fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were cider drinkers! If you haven't already noticed, we are BIG fans of cider here at Gemini Connect, as indicated by our frequent visits to Capitol Cider, and we were delighted to see the relative abundance of cider at Taste Washington.

This year, there were over 20 top quality cider makers present, representing a growing and thriving cider industry in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the traditional orchard growing areas of Wenatchee and Yakima, it turns out that cider producing apple grow very well in Western Washington’s cooler marine climate which resembles that of Northwestern France, Germany and England - historically the areas where cider has been popular.

Taste Washington 2015 event photography

Favorite Ciders at This Year's Event

  • Alpenfire Calypso
  • Aspall English Dry (England)
  • Dragon’s Head Pippin
  • Finnriver Dry-Hopped
  • Sarasola Sidra (Basque Region of Spain)
  • Seattle Cider Co. Dry
  • Snowdrift Seckel Perry
  • Tieton Frost
  • Whitewood South Sounder

The Northwest Cider Association is the biggest of cider association, and it features producers from Oregon, Montana and British Columbia. They estimate that local cider production has gone from 250 gallons a year to as much as 45,000 gallons annually. That is a staggering 17,900 percent increase in the past few years. For the US as a whole in 2014 cider was a nearly $1.32 billion industry, up 46 percent from the previous year. As as the undisputed leader - 70% - of the USA’s $225 billion apple industry, Washington state is positioned perfectly to lead the booming new cider industry too. Many of these cideries are outfitted with showrooms and an increasing number of accommodations for the sake of tourism. This is very good news for the state’s agriculture and economy. Overall, Taste Washington was a success that showcased our state’s amazing offerings and make us appreciate living here.

Taste Washington 2015 Photos

Apples Get Paired Dinner #4 at Capitol Cider

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Capitol Cider Seattle restaurant dinner

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Capitol Cider Pairing Dinner

Apples Get Paired is a monthly dinner held at Capitol Cider. Hosted by 6 chefs, each prepares one of six dishes and pairs it with a glass of cider. This was the fourth iteration of the dinner. The featured local cider maker was Alpenfire Cider, and the six featured chefs included Aaron Wilcenski (of Zig Zag Cafe), Autumn Swenson (of Capitol Cider), Jason Scherer (of Rock Creek), Erik Jackson (of Chop Shop), Josh Nebe (of Radiator Whiskey) and Matthew Woolen (of The Old Sage). The dinner courses, all gluten-free, included a couple of unique items including oyster leaf, a green with the flavorful essence of oyster, and duck nuts (as in the testicles of ducks).

Check out select photos from the evening below!

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Apples Get Paired Dinner @ Capitol Cider Restaurant in Seattle,

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2005

The year Aplenfire hard ciders became certified organic [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

1

Amount of duck "nuts" served to each guest [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

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Production years for Alpenfire Cider [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

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Varieties of apples grown by Alpenfire Cider [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth" position="last"]

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Chefs and courses at dinner. [/tw-column]

Apples Get Paired Dinner @ Capitol Cider Restaurant in Seattle,

Curious items on the menu: oyster leaf and duck nuts. The first, oyster leaf, is a smooth, green leaf small in size that has the distinct, natural flavor of tasting exactly like oyster. For a long time, this curious, foraged plant was highly sought after as it only grew wild on the coast of Scotland. However, oyster leaves are now cultivated and are beginning to find their ways onto restaurant menus from time to time. The second oddity were what the menu called duck nuts, which ended up being duck testicles. Unlike the testicles of mammals, duck nuts are internal organs and they are commonly referred to as white kidneys. They're rather small in size and to me had the texture of liver, with a more delicate flavor.

Comic Con Weekend in Portland

With Portland being a hop away from Seattle, it's a fun city to escape to for a quick weekend trip. This trip in particular was aimed at mixing work and tourism, and we were lucky to score a super central Airbnb studio apartment rental to facilitate our experience. While I photographed and absorbed the third annual Wizard World Comic Con at the Oregon Convention Center (a mere block away from our Airbnb place!), Martin was even LUCKIER to spend the day in Portland during their warmest day of the winter. With temperatures reaching 60+ degrees, he wandered around the Lloyd district and Burnside, discovering a plethora of Portland eateries that even Yelp wasn't diligent enough to thoroughly document. This served as the perfect reminder that exploring a city by foot is definitely the best way to stumble upon treasures that the Internet may not have covered yet.

Mission: Experience Wizard World Comic Con in Portland and EAT!

Seattle to Portland map

Our Trip By the Numbers

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2

Days (1 full, 2 halves) [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

198

Miles one-way from Seattle to Portland [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

1

Time we got pulled over by a cop [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

11.25

Miles walked [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth" position="last"]

5

Eateries we visited [/tw-column]

Portland Oregon lifestyle travel photography

Accommodations

We truly lucked out with accommodations thanks to Airbnb. I found a rental for $80/night. A studio, it was located in a modern apartment complex right across the street from the venue where Comic Con was held. Syncing up with our host was simple, and we easily parked our vehicle and then traveled by foot for the rest of the weekend. Above is a snapshot of our industrial view from the rental.

Portland Oregon lifestyle travel photography

Dining Around Portland

Both Pok Pok and Salt and Straw are longtime favorites in the Portland dining scene, but oddly enough neither of us were totally familiar with them. Thus, this was a great trip to sample two of Portland's very best. Unfortunately, we lacked the time to stop and dine at one of Portland's famed food trucks.

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Pok Pok

A Thai restaurant with locations in both Portland and New York City, Andy Ricker is the head chef and founder of this popular Thai eatery that opened in the Northwest in 2008. His extremely refined technique toward Thai cooking, he serves incredibly flavorful dishes. The menu includes delectable items including muu paa kham waan (boar collar meat grilled with garlic, coridander, root and black pepper) and Vietnamese fish sauce wings. The meal and atmosphere here were inspiring, and we would definitely return on another trip.  [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-half" position="last"]

Salt and Straw

I always think of Salt and Straw as the equivalent of Seattle's Molly Moon's ice cream. It's rich, creamy stuff that comes in pretty luxurious flavors, and it's served in a freshly made waffle cone. Flavor varieties here can seem mind-boggling. Avocado and strawberry sherbet, black olive brittle and goat cheese, almond brittle with salted ganache...these are some sophisticated, yet extremely likable flavors for the adventurous. Each bite is sweet, creamy, and full of natural ingredients and flavors. Highly HIGHLY recommend.

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Wizard World Comicon 2015 in Portland, Oregon

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Wizard World held its third annual Comic Con in Portland during the weekend of January 23, 2015, attracting fans from all over the Pacific Northwest. Thousands flocked to the Oregon Convention Center for three days of cosplay and celebration of pop culture.

Learn more: http://www.wizardworld.com

For those who have never been to a Comic Con, it can be a bit like a mix of a circus and Halloween. Nearly every attendee dresses in costume, many of them elaborate and creative, and there is a huge room of vendors offering everything from on-site tattooing and rare comic books to artistic weaponry and comic book art. Throughout the day, there are also panels with celebrities, many of whom are of sci-fi TV shows or movies. This year's Portland Comic Con featured the talents of Michael Rooker, Eliza Dushku, Alan Tudyk, Karl Urban, Stephen Amell, Tyler Posey, WWE's Daniel Bryan and The Bella Twins, blast from the past Jason David Frank (go go Power Rangers!), and many more. Check out some photos from the event below, as well as a short video interview with Giancarlo Esposito.

Wizard World Portland Comic Con

  • 3 Years since the event debuted in Portland.
  • 80+ Panels occurred over the weekend.
  • 45 Minutes each celebrity panel lasted.
  • 3 Full days of Comic Con.
  • $75 Price for  3-day admission

Wizard World Portland Comic ConWizard World Comic Con is organized by a Las-Vegas based entertainment company that specializes in producing conventions aimed at pop culture all around the country. Portland's Comic Con was second of 24 events planned by the company for this year. Today, Wizard World Comic Con in Chicago has the second highest overall attendance of any comic book convention in the United States, falling just behind San Diego Comic-Con.

Actor Giancarlo Esposito speaks at Portland Comic Con

Cider Pairing Dinner at Capitol Cider

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Capitol Cider Seattle restaurant dinner

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6 Chefs, 6 Courses, 6 Ciders

Two culinary trends in Seattle right now have to do with gluten-free and hard cider. One restaurant that embodies both of these trends is Capitol Cider. The full bar and restaurant is currently led by Chef Erik Jackson. Each month, Jackson holds a Cider Pairing dinner in which he invites five other up-and-coming young Seattle chefs to cook with him to each prepare one of six courses. The dinner is paired with all local ciders, with one of the purveyors in attendance to introduce each libation.

During this particular iteration of the dinner, held in September 2014, courses were prepared by Erik Jackson (Capitol Cider), Aaron Wilcenski (Zig Zag), Matthew Woolen (The Old Sage), Dezi Bonow (Palace Kitchen), Jeffrey Vance (Spur Gastropub), and Rye Crofter (Canlis). Featured local ciders were sourced from nearby Vashon Island and included Dragon’s Head Cider, Seattle Distilling Company, Island Meadow Farm, and Sea Breeze Farm.

 

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Capitol Cider Seattle Chefs Collaborative Dinner Photography

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That's right, ALL of the food items are gluten-free. [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

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Six courses, six chefs, and six ciders. That was on the menu! [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

20

Number of guests who attended. The event is limited to 20 people. [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth"]

$85

Cost per person for this decadent meal. [/tw-column] [tw-column width="one-fifth" position="last"]

100

Amount of bottled ciders available. [/tw-column]

Capitol Cider Seattle Chefs Collaborative Dinner Photography

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Located in the heart of Capitol Hill, this unique bar and eatery strives to be a central place of public gathering. With eye-catching architecture in the style of "Old World meets New," Capitol Cider occupies two floors--the first is the main dining room and the bottom floor, dubbed Ballast Bar, is a place for playing shuffleboard, board games, or convening around the cozy fire.

True to its name, Capitol Cider has LOTS of hard cider available, in addition to a full bar. There are 30 taps, 20 of which are dedicated to a curated, rotating list of specialty ciders; the other 10 taps serve craft beers. In the bottleshop, there are over 100 different kinds of cider that can be enjoyed on-site or taken to go.

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Capitol Cider

818 East Pike Street Seattle, WA 98122

Phone: 206-397-3564 Email: info@capitolcider.com Website: www.capitolcider.com

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Dining with Caprial and John Pence at The VUDE

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This past weekend, The Velvet Underground Dining Experience (VUDE) featured a rare dinner by chefs Caprial and John Pence. The cooking duo has ties with Washington, with Caprial once working at Fullers and even winning a James Beard Award for Best Chef, Pacific Northwest during her time there. Over the years, the Pences have made their mark on the Portland dining scene with restaurants such as Caprial's and Basa Basa. They have also written a number of cookbooks and have made television appearances. Currently, the pair run Caprial and John's Kitchen in Portland where they host cooking classes and supper club events. Porklandia at The Vude with Chef Caprial Pence and John Pence

Caprial and John's dinner at The VUDE was a pork-themed ensemble dubbed "Porklandia." The multi-course meal featured some form of pork in every dish. We were particularly enticed by the roasted tomato soup with pork belly confit and arugula oil--so delicious!

Porklandia Dinner Menu

Appetizers

Porklandia at The Vude with Chef Caprial Pence and John Pence

Ricotta prosciutto cakes served with herb pate au choux filled with braised mushrooms and garlic.

Fish

John's smoked salmon on fried corn and pancetta pancakes with house-made mascarpone cheese and basil syrup. salmon_vude

Soup

Roasted tomato soup with pork belly confit and arugula oil.

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Salad

Seared radicchio with bagna cauda dressing and crispy copa.

Porklandia at The Vude with Chef Caprial Pence and John Pence

Entree

Pork brisket cooked Pastrami Style with cream braised leeks, slow roasted peppers, and jus. porpastrami_vude

Dessert

Cinnamon encrusted bacon cakes with seared Apples in caramel sauce topped with house-made Greek yogurt and candied hazelnuts. Vude-7044

This was not only our first time dining on tasty meals prepared by Caprial and John, but it was also our first visit to The VUDE. It's easy to say that we may have experienced among our best dining experiences here! First, The VUDE's convenient location in South Lake Union is relatively close to downtown and has ample parking spaces. Second, the venue's spacious yet intimate interior consists of two long communal dining tables with assigned seats, making it very easy to meet and greet with other fellow diners.

Porklandia at The Vude with Chef Caprial Pence and John Pence

Now on to our favorite part: the huge open kitchen at The VUDE! The open kitchen faces the dining room, making it viewable from every seat. Guests are encouraged to venture into the kitchen and snap some photos or chat with the chefs. It's this unique ability to watch your meal get prepared that really makes The VUDE a particularly special place.