David & Goliath Inc.

Wall Street seems well embarked on another round of merger mania, and here in Northwest Foodland, too, there are some remarkable examples of . . . well, not mergers; call them marriages of convenience or strategic alliances between big, streamlined operations and small, artisanal producers. This week sees the debut of a collaboration between Matt Galvin's venerable and market-dominating Pagliacci Pizza and Armandino Batali's tiny sausage-making shop Salumi. Batali's superb finocchiona salami (flavoring: cracked fennel seed, black pepper, and a whisper of curry powder) will be featured on this month's Pagliacci "primo" pizza—the first new recipe to join that august seasonal lineup in four years. The Salumi primo also features roasted fennel bulb and another Northwest gourmet-grocery standby: hot peppers from Howard Lev's Mama Lil's. On a far vaster scale is Starbucks Coffee's bid to break into the fine-dining market for its coffees, using legendary Seattle white-tablecloth restaurant Canlis as its point of entry. Canlis, now well into its third generation of family ownership and management, had long been satisfied with the gourmet Illy brand of coffee, but agreed to coach Starbucks buyers and roasters in developing a blend that would suit its demanding clientele. They got what they asked for when Starbucks submitted a lightly roasted blend from four family-run plantations in Guatemala. Casi Cielo was barely through the grinder at Canlis before it was also on sale in Starbucks stores across the country and, through a collaboration with restaurant-supply giant Sysco, to institutional buyers as well. Casi Cielo ("almost heaven" in Spanish) is reported to be a huge hit, particularly with Starbucks baristas themselves. Canlis, who gave Starbucks the flavor key to the product, gets credit as well: The restaurant is mentioned in passing in the small print on the side of every metalized vacuum-sealed bag. State Champions Inside the winery at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville hang several sturdy cloth banners displaying the various accolades that our state's oldest winery has won over the years. There are awards for specific vintages and specific varietals, and awards for the entire winery. Where the winery has been awarded the same honor more than once, smaller banners displaying the repeat years are simply added on. It looks like a high-school basketball court in there—County Champs: 1987, 1993, 1999, 2001. . . . As of a few weeks ago, however, there was a new banner hanging over the huge steel tanks; Wine Enthusiast magazine named Chateau Ste. Michelle the American Winery of the Year for 2004. While some wine industry publications give similar awards to more than one winery, Wine Enthusiast's Star Awards are significant because they honor only one American winery per year. At a dinner in the banquet room last Friday night, CEO Ted Baseler noted that the award is meant to honor the whole winery team, and, speaking before the five-course meal, a couple of team leaders (house chef John Sarich and assistant winemaker Brennon Leighton) echoed Baseler's sentiments in sharing the award with the vineyard workers and kitchen crew. Leighton added that the award spoke to the great winemaking promise of the entire region. No argument there. The runner-up to industry giant Ste. Michelle for the Wine Enthusiast award was another Northwest winemaking pioneer: ultraboutique Leonetti Cellars of Walla Walla. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at food@seattleweekly.com.

 
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