Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Backstage Bistro

A few evenings ago, Margo and Tom Scribner invited me to join them for dinner. I felt quite honored as I believe this was their standing Tuesday date night that often happens at the Backstage Bistro.

The Backstage Bistro is a popular Walla Walla restaurant that sits on the corner of Main Street. The name "Bistro" lives up to its meaning with the stylish and intimate atmosphere. Their menu is as diverse as the customers who dine and frequent it for the occasional evenings of jazz. The menu features an assortment of salads, pasta, seafood and steaks, but the real star of this menu is the barbeque (ribs, chicken and brisket). The lunch menu features a fine assortment of sandwiches from a burger to a pannini. And then there is their wine list - which I will eventually get to.

While visiting with the Scribners, and trying to decide what I wanted from the menu, owner Bob Parrish came to our table to greet us. Of course, he is an old friend to Tom and Margo and happened to remember me as the "Wine Blogger" from the recent newspaper article. Whenever I have been in this restaurant I noticed that Bob finds his way to the tables to greet his guests.

After we placed our order, Bob motioned for me to join him. We took a walk through the kitchen and down the stairs - - I knew exactly where we were headed - - the wine cellar. It was a most impressive wine cellar with about 250-300 bottles at any given time. 80% of the wines are from the Walla Walla Valley. Bob has an impressive collection of Champagne and domestic sparklers on the menu and priced very affordable. I noticed that many of the wines in the cellar, as I perused down the extensive wine list, were tagged with affordable restaurant prices. One of the most impressive elements of this cellar was not just the prices or the vast assortment of valley wines, but the collections of specific wines.

The Quilceda Creek 02 and 03 Cabernet Sauvignon immediately caught my eye knowing that Harvey Steiman of the Wine Spectator recently gave the 2003 Cabernet a 95. This knowledge was fresh in my brain as Steve (my sweetie and journalist) had recently visited with Mr. Steiman on the phone and this world-class wine was one of the topics.

The cellar also held a fine collection of the Long Shadows Wines. It appeared to me that Bob held all of their current released wines, which are now sold-out at the Long Shadows winery. I recommend that if you are curious about these sought-after wines, go to the BackStage Bistro and check them out.

The biggest surprise of all was the complete verticle of Woodward Canyon's Artist series of Cabernet Sauvignon from 1992 to 2003. This is really a fine collection of wines and some of the vintages are no longer available through the winery. The complete verticle is offered for sale. I think this would make a wonderful evening tasting event amongst friends.

To start the evening, we were tempted with crispy little Thai spring rolls that held morsels of chicken, veggies, and cashews with a spicy dipping sauce. My dinner was a steak salad - 8 oz Angus flatiron steak slices over a mixture of fresh greens with a sweet spicy Asian style dressing and topped with sesame seeds. It was delicious and I have been smacking my lips ever since. It was a satisfying light meal that was full of flavors! As we were walking to the cellar, Bob said with a frown, he noticed I had ordered my steak well-done. I said, okay-okay leave some pink. The steak arrived pink and tasted perfect. To accompany my steak salad, I chose the Bee Keepers Blend. It is a red wine from Abeja Winery. The dark bright fruit with the light tannins and buttery finish really rounded out the spiciness of the salad dressing.

As I looked around at the plates of food coming from the kitchen, the first thing I noticed that everything looked so fresh. The Scribners dined on salmon and it looked perfectly prepared with the side of fresh asparagus (As I walked through the kitchen, on my way down to the cellar, I noticed the flat of fresh local asparagus ). Delicious breads are served fresh from the local and popular John's Wheatland Bakery. In fact, John happened to be dining at the restaurant and later joined us. A couple of generous slices of fresh ciabatta bread came with my meal. Okay, so if you ever want to know what is the baker's favorite bread, John mentioned the ciabatta was one of his favorites. How's that for a hint of what bread to buy when visiting his bakery? I really only needed one piece, so I shared the other slice of ciabatta bread with the baker of this fine chewy and crusty-topped creation.

In the evenings, on my way home from work, I drive by this popular bistro. It always looks busy! As a child I remember when this great old structure was Thrifty Drugstore. We would visit it on our way to the summer matinees. Later the building would hold several businesses - an office supply store, a gift boutique and later a gallery/frame shop. I like that the building now holds the Backstage Bistro and I hope Bob will be there for many years to come as this bistro is a great dining asset to the valley.

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