For Tacoma Aroma: Savor the Flavor, I wanted to capture beautiful images of the recipes and the recipe contributors — so I was fortunate to connect with Genevieve Denise. It would have been enough for Genevieve to be a talented photographer and creative partner, which she is. But Genevieve is also an enthusiastic supporter of the project, and a terrific friend to share a cocktail with after the photo shoot!
Below are a few of the photos that Genevieve has captured for the book. Get ready to salivate.
Autumn in the 253 arrives with a fresh set of sensory inputs… scents of wild mushrooms in the forest and pumpkin spice in the cafes, flavors of new seasonal menu items in farm-to-table eateries/imbiberies, calls of fog horns and geese, plus the sights and sounds of Tacoma Arts Month.
In 2019, in addition to being an audience member, I offered up some art — Tacoma Aroma Flavor’s own Visual Feast. Here’s a selection of Genevieve Denise’s photos that were displayed outside of my favorite cocktail bar, en Rama, at Court House Square.
Which images appeal most to your eye? Which ones make you the hungriest/thristiest? #ThePowerOfArt
All food and beverage photos taken by Genevieve Denise. Image of Kris with the exhibit taken by buddy, installation assistant/supervisor, and macrame advisor, Kim McDowell.
Our first photography session was at Pimienta Bistro, located where the boundaries between NE Tacoma and Federal Way blur.
Known for its fusion of European cuisine with Latin American flare, for monthly themed meal events, and for being tucked in behind a Brown Bear Car Wash, Pimienta lends truth to TNT Food Journalist Sue Kidd’s assertion that “…strip malls hold the region’s dining gems.”
Owner/Chef Blanca Rodriguez and Chef de Cocina Dennis Espinoza invited us into the kitchen while Chef Dennis prepared Mesquite Scallops & Prawns. Rounding out the meal were a vibrant Beet Salad and Basil Martini.
After the photo shoot, Genevieve and I eagerly sampled the food, which was stone cold but still delicious!
The restaurants in Tacoma Aroma: Savor the Flavor are some of my personal favorites, but I’m not the only one who’s noticed these talented chefs and mixologists.
For example, Pimienta’s Chef Blanca Rodriguez was recently tapped to appear as a guest on a Food Network program. Over the Moon and Primo Grill regularly top the charts in Open Table’s Diner’s Choice Awards. Sue Kidd praised most of these restaurants and chefs during her 15 years as a reviewer — including in her final Best New Restaurants article, where she selected Devil’s Reef and Moshi Moshi. And on the annual lists of South Sound Magazine’s Best of the Sound you’ll find Asado, En Rama, Marzanos, and Tibbitts@Fernhill. …Just to name a few of the accolades represented by this talented group.
For 2019, De la Terre joined South Sound’s honor roll in the category of Best Chef + Bartender. Blake Lord-Wittig and Alex Russo shared the news with us on the day of the photo shoot — swearing us to secrecy since it wasn’t yet public knowledge — which added an extra level of excitement to the photography session.
Between Blake’s Grilled Octopus with Eggplant Chutney and his Baked Lilliwaup Oysters, we were in seafood heaven. Then Alex’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 cocktail creations had us all in a party mood!
Chef Blake has since closed De la Terre, but you can still taste his delicious creations when you hire him to cater your next event.
Beyond running establishments that are considered to be neighborhood gems, Tacoma Aroma: Savor the Flavor contributors share other commonalities…
Most are hard-working owner/operators of small local businesses who juggle myriad responsibilities. They all embrace aspects of farm-to-table (Fresh Local Organic Seasonal Sustainable) to create their signature food and beverages. And they all share a strong commitment to customer service and hospitality.
The mother/son team of Elisa and Brian Marzano epitomizes that description. They welcomed us warmly into their second home (Marzano Italian Restaurant, near Pacific Lutheran University) with gifts of eggs from Elisa’s hens, offers of freshly-brewed coffee and snacks, and concern for our comfort.
This generous spirit remained evident as Elisa took us through the process of making gnocchi — not just demonstrating, but getting us involved — sharing stories about how her mother made gnocchi in Italy, and how she wants to pass the tradition along to her grandchildren.
Genevieve and I left Marzano feeling like honored guests — not only with full bellies, but with full hearts.
“Farm-to-Table” describes all of the restaurants contributing recipes to Tacoma Aroma: Savor the Flavor to some extent. Many of these eateries are also implementing “Ocean-Friendly” practices like eliminating their use of plastic straws, disposable utensils, or styrofoam to-go containers… doing their part to become “plastic-free to save our sea.”
In both categories, Primo Grill’s Chef Charlie McManus and Jacqueline Plattner are leaders in our community. They’ve been incorporating fresh, local, seasonal food into their menus since before most of us had even heard of “farm-to-table.” And Primo was one of the first local restaurants to partner with Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium to receive certification from the Surfrider Foundation as an ocean-friendly restaurant.
So it was an honor to step into the kitchen at Primo. Charlie shared tips and tricks with us as he prepared Crostini with Melted Brie & Ramps, Burrata with Pan-Roasted Sweet Peppers and Tapenade, and Porcini-crusted Halibut and Asparagus with Citrus Beurre Blanc.
Versions of these dishes regularly appear on the menu at Primo Grill. Snag a seat at the kitchen bar and watch as your meal is prepared!