Happy Hour at Purple Café and Wine Bar (Woodinville, WA)

Smack dab in the middle of Woodinville’s “wine country” is Purple, a wine bar and café that had its start here and since expanded into three other local venues (Seattle, Kirkland and Bellevue). The dining menus are not the same among all four locations, though a few items are shared. For instance, on Wednesday nights, only the Woodinville location has the buttermilk fried rosemary chicken. Within walking distance are over 30 wine tasting rooms, most of which have wineries in eastern Washington. Purple has a prime location.

We were in time for its popular happy hour (3-6pm, weekdays), which has more variety in its snack list than in beverages. Beer in a can, for example, consisted today only of Amstel Lite and Bitburger Pilsner. Selections under Wine are a daily red, wine and sparkling. A wine bar should have a more expansive beverage menu for happy hour, in my opinion.

Still, my wife and I didn’t come here for drinks but to have something to eat after a movie. The HH Snacks include some interesting items, like gorgonzola stuffed dates, house made spreads, bruschetta, crab cakes and a cheese flight. We decided to share grilled broccolini and two sliders (BLTA and burger, both with shoestring fries).

Burger sliders are tricky beasts. The smaller patties make it difficult to keep the ground beef moist, even harder if restaurants want to cook it past the e. coli threshold. Rarely, if ever, does one get a ‘medium’ burger, let alone a ‘medium-rare’ one, to one’s liking. In fact, the waitress didn’t give us a choice. Purple’s patty was almost vulcanized, an unfortunate end result for meat sourced from the much-ballyhooed beef consortium of eastern Oregon’s Painted Hills. Condiments of grilled red onions, lettuce, tomato, sherry vinaigrette and spicy aioli didn’t improve the situation (☆☆). It cost $5. Aah, but the shoestring fries! Those were divine (☆☆☆½), if a bit over-salted.

Painted Hills beef burger with shoestring potatoes

Painted Hills beef burger with shoestring fries

BLTA (BLT with the addition of avocado) fared better. The bacon was nicely crisped between small, seeded burger buns. Again, it’s difficult for a slider to have the same impact as a full-sized BLT between slices of toasted bread, which can support more lettuce and a thicker slice of tomato, even more mayo. Still, for what you get and the price ($4), it is a very good and tasty sandwich (☆☆☆), worthy of ordering again. It too was coupled with those fantastic fries.

BLTA with shoestring potatoes

BLTA with shoestring fries

Also very good (☆☆☆) was the grilled broccolini. It was served after the sliders were almost finished, a reflection of the generally slow and uneven service here. We had to remind them that the vegetables had not yet arrived and (earlier) that we needed catsup for the BLTA fries. The broccolini were perfectly cooked, dressed with olive oil, chile flakes and red onions brightened with vinegar.

Grilled broccolini

Grilled broccolini

Purple Café and Wine Bar
14459 Woodinville Redmond Rd. NE
Woodinville, WA 98072

Happy Hour at Taormina and Afterward (Honolulu, HI) **No Longer Observed**

An Italian restaurant doesn’t immediately come to mind when trying to decide where to have a happy hour drink in Honolulu. Along the short stretch of Lewers Street south of Kalakaua, several cafes, restaurants and bars compete for your happy dollar. We intended to get a drink at Yard House known for its plethora of cocktails, drinks and entertainment. But, today was Saturday when the happy hour menu is put away for the weekend. Minor disappointment. A sandwich board close by plugged Taormina, a Sicilian restaurant across the street. More than that, happy hour was happily being observed.

Taormina doesn’t have the flamboyance of Yard House or P. F. Chang where diners and imbibers are in full view from their huge open-air spaces. There is an immediate atmosphere of formality when you walk in: tablecloths, cloth napkins, dressy waiters. You wonder if you’re properly attired to dine here, but I figured that the restaurant wouldn’t be so naive not to expect shorts and sandals in Waikiki. Sure enough, the wait staff didn’t batt an eyelash when we asked to be seated.

Peach prosecco bellini and Limoncello thyme cocktails at Taormina

Peach prosecco bellini and Limoncello thyme cocktails at Taormina

Of the two cocktails we ordered, the other a peach prosecco bellini, the limoncello thyme was a standout, so much so that we ordered another round before leaving for dinner. A big sprig of thyme floated like kelp in a tall glass filled with limoncello, citron, squeeze of lemon, simple syrup, and a splash of Chartreuse to add to the herbal and citrus flavors. At $5, it’s a great bargain for something this good. Outside of happy hour, it is more than twice that much ($14). The bellini was disappointingly weak on peach flavor.

From Taormina, we walked a few blocks to Eggs ‘n Things to split an ahi steak that had a nice furikake-macadamia nut crust. Cut at 1/2″ thick, the cooked tuna was predictably dry, but it was really tasty, served with wasabi mayonnaise served on the side. To top off everything, we got seated almost immediately, which is an impossibility for breakfast!

Ahi steak with furikake-macadamia crust and wasabi mayonnaise

Ahi steak with furikake-macadamia crust and wasabi mayonnaise at Eggs ‘n Things

Note: We returned to Taormina for a full dinner on our last night on Oahu. I mention this because, not only did we have the limoncello cocktail again, but had their outstanding bolognese alla classica, a recommendation made by a couple sitting next to us at happy hour (see above). It was surprising to see this Northern Italian entrée on a Sicilian menu; Taormina distinguishes it from its bolognese alla Siciliana. Regardless, we’ve never had better freshly made pasta (pappardelle, in this case) nor a finer ragù (made with beef, pork, chicken and foie gras), a dish made in Hawaiian paradise.

Bolognese alla classica

Update (9-10-14): We discovered that Taormina’s no longer observes happy hour.

 Taormina Sicilian Cuisine
227 Lewers St.
Honolulu HI 96815