Have you ever had one of those "grab on to the headboard and hang on for the ride" types of culinary experiences? You know...the kind where you wake up the next morning, still in a coma of epicurean delight, and your body is almost worn out from digesting so much amazing food? The staff of The Oregon Wine Blog had precisely that experience last week at a classy joint in the heart of Yakima Valley wine country: Picazo 7Seventeen in Prosser, Washington. I can't possibly do our experience justice in one post, therefore this will be the first in a 2-part series. First up, the story behind the story -- the chef, the restaurant, and the philosophy.
It all started one gorgeous August day on top of Red Mountain. Rick, Chris, and I had just completed a wonderful tour and tasting at Col Solare, and even though I grew up in Richland, it has been years since I have lived there so I was wholly incompetent in making a dinner recommendation for our group. We asked Wendi Warner, the Tasting Room Manager, for a few suggestions and the first words out of her mouth were "Picazo 7Seventeen in Prosser". For a variety of reasons, Prosser was not in the cards for that trip, although we filed the suggestion away for future reference.
Frequent readers of the Blog know that our day jobs involve student services work at colleges and universities throughout the Northwest, and a conference in Yakima brought Rick, Clive, Micheal, and myself together in the same place at the same time, for the first time in Blog history. We were excited to spend some post-conference time exploring the Yakima Valley wine region. Knowing that "the company" was covering finances for the non-wine portion of the trip prompted a desire for a nice dinner at the end of the trip; we need to pay attention to those things as the Blog doesn't come with an expense account! While driving past fields of grazing sheep on OR34, Picazo popped into my head so Rick tweeted Trina Cortez, Picazo's General Manager and Wine Goddess, and a few tweets later we were on with a reservation for the following Wednesday. For the record, the sheep were adorable.
Chef Frank Magana. Haven't heard of him? You will. We've collectively eaten a lot of great food in our days as Bloggers, and never have I met a young chef with such a dynamic combination of vision, talent, personality, and humbleness. Trained at the culinary school of South Seattle College, Chef Magana has over 17 years of industry experience in high end restaurants and catering establishments. His dream and passion come through in his cooking and the realization of his vision -- Picazo 7Seventeen.
Throughout the evening, one of the burning questions on my mind was "Why Prosser?" After all, we were having a world class dining experience in rural Eastern Washington - who would have expected it? I posed that question to Chef after he served one of our courses (I know, you're interested in the food...but that will just have to wait). His answer was simple and indicative of the attitude that has driven him to success. A Seattle transplant, Frank shared his story of coming to Prosser one weekend to enjoy the wine scene, and looking for a good place to eat. Tumbleweeds....there wasn't anything. In his mind the answer was simple, so to Prosser he moved with his wife and from that came Picazo 7Seventeen.
The Restaurant and Philosophy
As you walk through the doors and enter the restaurant, you're immediately struck by a gorgeous yet somewhat trendy bar area, with a wine rack to die for. Eclectic art and vibrant colors adorn the walls, and the restaurant is large enough to serve groups but small enough to keep an intimate setting. A comfortable feel conveys an unpretentious attitude, and as we looked around we noticed very pleased patrons and quite attentive service. Again, you'll ask yourself, "I'm in Prosser, right?" All kidding aside, the wine industry is booming there and we're glad to see the culinary world catch up.
Awarded "Outstanding Wine List" by Wine Press Northwest, the essence of Picazo is truly the bounty of the local land. Frank focuses on local, fresh ingredients at a reasonable price point...meeting the needs of both locals and tourists alike. A rotating seasonal menu with unassuming food and a local winery of emphasis each month, seafood is prominent and Frank spent ample time describing the farm fresh philosophy that drives their sourcing partnerships. In fact, 90% of the ingredients are sourced from the Valley. Monthly winemakers dinners feature wineries from the Yakima Valley in a prix fixe fashion. Franks mission with Picazo is to showcase the fruit of the valley, where at one dinner you can eat produce grown across the street from the winery that produced the beverage in your glass.
Not yet. Fortunately for you and us, this is only half of what we have to say about Picazo 7Seventeen. Picazo is one of those few places in the industry where you see a true connection between passion, vision, wine and plate - and we want to spend the time to do it right.
Next up, we'll bring you a review of our dinner specifically: 7 courses of heaven with 8 amazing local wines. Pictures and all. In the meantime, if you are within driving distance of Prosser, get over to Picazo while you still can. We predict at some point in the future if you don't have a reservation, you're out of luck.