I reported the collaboration of a Mediterranean-influenced menu, between James Beard Award-nominated chef Chad White of Spokane and Arbor Crest Wine Cellars in Spokane Valley, in May, and Thursday and Friday were a last-minute opportunity for a sneak peek of the new culinary experience.
I jumped at the opportunity on Friday afternoon to end the workweek and begin the Fourth of July weekend. It also was a chance to check out Arbor Crest Wine Cellars atop North Fruit Hill Road for the first time. Let me say unequivocally that neither White’s new offerings nor the gorgeous grounds disappointed, as both were exquisite.
For the uninitiated, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, atop a 450-foot cliff, includes a three-story Florentine-style mansion used as the signature tasting area; a life-sized, 16-foot checker board, croquet court and 6,000-gallon swimming pool; a workshop, the Gate House guesthouse and red-roofed basalt Eagles Nest; grape vineyards overlooking the Spokane Valley; covered tents and gazebos for large and intimate gatherings; and more.
On this Friday amid the coronavirus pandemic, the former small tasting room in the garage served as the check-in for dinner while the Cliff House Estate was shuttered. Tables for the new dinner service were set up outside the tasting room on the patio, in the courtyard and on the surrounding lawn while casual, non-dining visitors still had ample seating for sipping elsewhere on the well-manicured property.
“Arbor Crest is a really beautiful property offering world-class wines, and I am hoping to complement that by offering world-class cuisine,” White said in May. He has done so based on my dinner with my sister, Michelle Harmon, on a warm Friday with only a slight breeze.
Our dinner: hummus and lamb, salmon crudo, broccoli salad, apricot salad, roasted Idaho trout and lamb and pork albondigas. The salmon, apricot and trout were the standouts in an overall stellar dinner, with dill and oregano adding a fabulous flavor punch to the salmon; the apricots a perfect duet with Serrano ham; and I’ll never turn down fish from the Pacific and Inland Northwest. The white tarator, lemon-pine nut salsa and pickled grapes were an intense flavor in the broccoli salad, and the albondigas had a spicy kick atop lentils and sherry raisins.
The dishes were so colorful and beautiful with the addition of apricots, radicchio and Chioggia, aka candy cane or striped, beets! Our lovely wines included the premium-label Bona Dea, which is an elegantly rich red, and the crisp Dionysus Riesling and Bacchus Sauvignon Blanc. I love that White’s menu complements both red and white wines. Also of note: Much of the menu is gluten-free.
“Look at this place – you really can’t go wrong here,” White said Friday of Arbor Crest Wine Cellars while making the rounds. White, who continues to run Zona Blanca (and hinted at upcoming news about his James Beard Award-nominated locale), two High Tide Lobster Bar locations and TT’s Old Iron Brewery and Barbecue, also talked about his evolving Mediterranean menu and future plans in Spokane.
With the beautiful views, lush grounds, reasonably priced and accessible wines and great and friendly customer service, it is no surprise that Arbor Crest Wine Cellars is a popular weekend wedding and reception venue. White’s new menu complements Arbor Crest Wine Cellars like a perfect dinner and wine pairing – well, that is the goal here, and it has already been achieved.
General manager Shelby Enevold, who attended Central Valley High School with White, spoke of the new partnership in May and was on-site Friday for the new menu service. Enevold had nothing but praise for White and the menu and said sneak-peek patrons had expressed the same. So have Arbor Crest Wine Cellars’ purveyors.
“Kristina and I have always wanted to gear up the culinary experiences to match with her wines, and now we have the opportunity,” said Arbor Crest Wine Cellars principle, brand manager and viticulturalist Jim van Loben Sels of his wife, Kristina Mielke-van Loben Sels, whose family purchased Arbor Crest in 1984.
“It’s interesting that during this down, we will ramp up and get ready for the next chapter.”
Who knows what the future holds as Spokane County is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Will venues such as the magnificent Arbor Crest Wine Cellars be able to remain open for business? Let us hope so, but for now I will savor the memory and vibrancy of White’s cuisine and Arbor Crest Wine Cellars’ clifftop estate – and hold out hope to be able to return soon.
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, which continues to offer curbside pickup of wine during the pandemic, is located at 4705 N. Fruit Hill Road. For more information, visit arborcrest.com.
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