As I mentioned at the end of my blog last week, my trip to Kent, WA was not just about attending Better Processing School and learning how to manufacture FDA-regulated low-acid and acidified canned foods. I also was able to squeeze in a day of culinary sightseeing in one of my favorite culinary cities: Seattle. I quickly rushed through some of the more famous spots like Pike Place Market and a Tom Douglas restaurant because I wanted to save room for a few new intrepid tastes that I had not tried before.

Even though I have been to Seattle many times, I never got to try Salumi, the retirement dream of Armandino Batali, Mario’s dad. I was excited to try the cured meat special of the day with fresh mozzarella cheese, especially after the 35-minute wait that snaked out the door as early as 11 A.M.! It was definitely worth it, and something all culinologists should experience while in Seattle. Moving on, for dessert we went to The Crumpet Shop in Pike Place. The concept is fairly simple, an English-style crumpet that you can top with whatever you want. I had mine with Nutella! I also visited Beecher’s Cheese, home of the Martha Stewart–approved “Worlds Best” mac-and-cheese. I was able to eat my truffled mac-and-cheese while watching the cheesemongers work behind a long viewing glass. The two most-unique culinary experiences I had, however, involved beverage tastings … neither of which were wine, and one that was not even alcohol.

My first tasting was at Sake Nomi, a tasting bar, shop, museum and overall shrine to high-quality, locally produced (local to Japan that is), premium Japanese sake. I walked in not knowing anything about sake and left with a plethora of knowledge on rice polishing (the more polished the rice, the more premium the sake), the steps in the brewing process, the major sake brewing regions and the health benefits. (It might prevent cancer and heart disease!) I also learned that premium sake really should be served chilled. Warming sake is only done to hide the flaws in lower-grade sakes. Sake Nomi really is a great place for a culinologist to visit, because it strives to educate the consumer on the technical and sensory attributes. I tasted all of the premium sakes on the tasting menu, and loved the way some had a rice flavor, some had a fruity flavor… and so on—just like wine!

My second beverage tasting was a nonalcoholic tasting. Dry Soda is a “modern alternative in refreshment.” Their all-natural sodas are flavored with fruit, flowers and herb extracts. I loved visiting their tasting room, which was set up just like a wine tasting room straight out of Napa Valley. Our drinks were even served in champagne glasses to complement the bubbly beverage. The “Dry” in the company name refers to the fact that the beverage is “less sweet,” but before I read that on their website, I actually thought they meant dry as in “alcohol-free,” since they market themselves as a modern alternative refreshment (I assumed an alternative to alcohol). I will now readily admit, I am not a person who likes to drink lots of alcohol (it’s really true, I don’t!), so I was very happy to discover this “dry beverage” that can be paired with food the same way wine can. I guess James Beard–nominated Chef David Kinch, owner of Manresa agrees, because he was selling them for $7 dollars each at the restaurant, paired with his California contemporary cuisine.

What non-wine, non-beer tastings have you experienced lately? It’s exciting to see the wine tasting trend extend into other beverages. Why should wine drinkers get to have all the fun?

About Rachel Zemser