Wine Feature of the Month – Trisaetum

Posted in Behind the Scenes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron
The Pinot Noir Grape

The “thin-skinned and tempermental” Pinot Noir Grape

In the 2004 movie Sideways, Paul Giamatti (Miles) delivers one of the best loved wine quotes of all time, describing his passion for Pinot Noir: “It’s uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and… ancient on the planet.”

We are lucky that one of those “tucked away corners of the world” is in our own backyard in the verdant Oregon wine region. Oregon’s cool, marginal climate, and abundant rainfall aid in creating the elegant character of Pinot Noir and its top wines.

Creating some of those incredible Pinots, as well as outstanding Rieslings, is one of El Gaucho’s great wine partners, Trisaetum. Located in the heart of Oregon’s Ribbon Ridge AVA, Trisaetum produces small lots of acclaimed Pinot Noir and Riesling from its three estate vineyards: Coast Range Vineyard, Wichmann Dundee, and a 28-acre vineyard that surrounds their winery near Newberg.


Trisaetum creates Pinot Noir and Riesling wines, which will be featured at the upcoming Triple Crown winemaker dinner at El Gaucho Portland on May 3rd.

Winemaker James Frey and his wife Andrea founded Trisaetum (named after their two children by combining their names, Tristen and Tatum) in 2003; their first vintage was distributed in 2007. Trisaetum now releases 10 different Pinot Noirs and up to 10 Rieslings every year.

“We love Trisaetum because they are a small, family-oriented and owned winery,” explains El Gaucho Portland wine captain, Corey Hightower. “The complexity of the wines allows us to recommend their Pinot Noir whether guests enjoy our Certified Angus Beef® brand Prime steaks or our fresh seafood.  The 2012 Trisaetum Pinot Noir we pour by the glass pairs perfectly with our Alaskan Halibut, as well as my favorite, the Steak El Gaucho.”

Trisaetum Winemaker James Frey is also an accomplished artist

Trisaetum Winemaker James Frey is also an accomplished artist

Trisaetum is also well known for their Riesling. We will be featuring the 2013 Coast Range Vineyard Riesling at the upcoming Triple Crown Wine Dinner,” Corey concluded. The Triple Crown Winemaker dinner also features Dobbes Family Estate and Raptor Ridge wines, held May 3rd at El Gaucho Portland. Seats are available for purchase – for more information visit the El Gaucho website.

“It’s going to be an incredible evening with a 5-course menu paired with wines from three brilliant local winemakers. Our Chef team has created an outstanding menu to highlight these great wines,” Corey exclaimed.

If the wine dinner doesn’t fit into your schedule, one thing you must add to your calendar is visiting the Trisaetum tasting room. Besides sampling their acclaimed wines, you can enjoy the beautiful art displayed. In addition to being a winemaker, James is also an accomplished artist with work sold and displayed throughout the world.  His paintings and photography fill the 1,500 sq. ft tasting room at the winery.

One of James' paintings that hangs in the Trisaetum Gallery and Tasting Room. Titled Willamette No. 13.

One of James’ paintings, titled Willamette No. 13, hangs in the Trisaetum Gallery and Tasting Room.

It brings to mind a quote from wine contemporary Robert Mondavi: “I’ve always wanted to improve on the idea of living well. In moderation, wine is good…even more importantly, it’s wine, food, and the arts. Incorporating those three enhances the quality of life.”

We couldn’t agree more! Enhance your life and live well by joining us.

El Gaucho Portland, 319 SW Broadway (503) 227-8794 starting at 4:30pm each day. Triple Crown Winemaker Dinner, May 3rd at 6:00pm. Call for reservations.

Trisaetum Winery and Tasting Room, 18401 Ribbon Ridge Road, Newberg, OR 97132 Wednesday-Mondays 11am – 4pm.

El Gaucho Beef and The Creation of an Exclusive Brand

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Nostalgia, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

This is part two in a four-part series detailing our beef program and what makes it so special.  Did you know the most elite, sought-after Angus beef there is came about through the vision of our founder and owner, Paul Mackay? Since the beginning, we wanted to offer our guests something so exclusive that they’d be hard-pressed to find anything like it anywhere in the world. And that still holds true today.

El Gaucho founder Paul Mackay helped create the Certified Angus Beef Prime brand. Photo courtesy Fred Minnick

El Gaucho founder Paul Mackay helped create the Certified Angus Beef Prime brand. Photo courtesy Fred Minnick

It started with a cigar and a casual chat one evening in Whistler, B.C. Two men, though different in their chosen career paths, shared a common vision on how to set themselves apart from competitors: Quality.

Those men were Paul Mackay, who, just four years earlier, opened El Gaucho Seattle in the model of its iconic namesake, and John Tarpoff, a meat packer from Rapid City, S.D., who was producing beef that was far exceeding the quality measures in place for both the Certified Angus Beef ® brand and USDA Prime.

John Tarpoff collaborated with Paul Mackay to create the Certified Angus Beef Prime brand.

John Tarpoff collaborated with Paul Mackay to create the Certified Angus Beef Prime brand.

What’s the difference between the two?

  • USDA Prime requires a greater amount of marbling (those white flecks within the red meat) than Certified Angus Beef ® brand cuts. Those flecks melt upon cooking, resulting in a juicy, flavorful eating experience.
  • Certified Angus Beef ® brand cuts must meet 10 quality standards, including having a high degree of marbling, in order to qualify for the brand. These uncompromising standards promise to deliver a consistent, tender, juicy eating experience – every time.

But what about beef that hit both the Certified Angus Beef ® brand’s requirements AND had the marbling to qualify for Prime?

At the time there was no such thing. Sure, there may have been some beef that qualified for both, but there was no way a restaurant could specify that as the only beef they offered. So, Mackay and Tarpoff struck up an agreement: Tarpoff would supply Mackay with only beef that qualified for the Certified Angus Beef ® brand and USDA Prime, and Mackay, so certain it would be a boon for his guests, would pay a premium for the product.

USDA Beef Grade Chart

USDA Beef Grade Chart

“When I tasted it, I said ‘Wow!’” Mackay recalls. “Immediately, I got on the phone with Bob LaGassey from (distributor) SmithCo Meats and said I wanted an exclusive on it. We carved out a niche with it.”

Not long after he got his first taste, Mackay rolled out the product, which was also 28-day, dry-aged for additional flavor and tenderness, to his customers. What ensued, as they say, is history.

The product was such a success with Gaucho guests that it spurred a revolution. After Mackay and Tarpoff launched their experiment, the brand officially unveiled “Certified Angus Beef ® brand Prime.” Soon after, Gaucho would be joined by a few others in an elite group of restaurants offering the top 1.5 percent of all beef – Certified Angus Beef ® brand Prime.

The Certified Angus Beef brand Prime logo - the stamp of quality!

The Certified Angus Beef brand Prime logo

Artist Feature of the Month – Meet Mariano de Orbegoso, Guitarist at El Gaucho Portland

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

If music be the food of love, play on. ~William Shakespeare

Mariano de Orbegoso plays at El Gaucho Portland 5 nights a week

Mariano de Orbegoso plays at El Gaucho Portland 5 nights a week

Ambiance is a key part of the El Gaucho experience, and music plays an important role in setting the stage at our restaurants, which is why we are proud to offer live music, 7 nights a week. We introduce you to the talented and passionate musicians who share their gift with us.

“The meaning of your life is to find your gift. The purpose of your life is to give it away,” Pablo Picasso is credited with once saying. Thankfully, that gift can be received five nights a week for those lucky enough to hear Mariano de Orbegoso, Latin guitarist at El Gaucho Portland.

Mariano was born in Lima, Peru and grew up in a very musical family. His mom, Carmela Russell, is a very well known composer in Latin America. Her songs have been recorded by some of the most popular singers, such as Celia Cruz y la Sonoroa Mantancera; Pepe Jara, in Mexico; Betty Misiego in Spain, plus more.

While music is his passion, he studied law in Peru and became an attorney. He found his way to Oregon after political turmoil in Peru in the late 60’s, when he was offered a job to manage a ranch in Sheridan, Oregon. He jumped at the opportunity, even though it meant giving up his legal career. It was actually here he met his wife, Connie Bieberach, also a Peruvian, who is a well-known musician in her own right, performing with great tenors like Diego Flores and Jose Feliciano, at concerts around the world, and winning singing competitions at major music festivals. Both have become fixtures in the Latin scene in the Portland area for many years. Two of their children live close by – son Masud also plays guitar at El Gaucho Portland, with whom he recorded a CD a few years ago titled “Quiet Nights.”

Mariano has performed for a wide variety of audiences, from government dinners to Portland Rose Festival, where he served as the Spanish Host for five years. Mariano also plays percussion and sings, and he enjoys performing with his wife. He has also shared the stage with Alfredo Muro, Jose Luis Perales, LaSole Susana Baca, and Roberta. Lucky for us, he started with El Gaucho Portland the day it opened – March 17, 2000.

We are honored that Mariano shares his musical talents at El Gaucho Portland.

When asked his favorite part of working (playing) at El Gaucho, he mentions the camaraderie, the management, the atmosphere, and the food – but most of all, “being able to share my music. It’s such a great place.”

He enjoys his solitude as much he enjoys being with others. His hobbies include music, and collecting it – he boasts a collection of over 4,500 original CDs. Some of his favorites include The Beatles, The Police, Pink Floyd, Antonio Jovim, and Spanish, Cuban, and Brazilian music that incorporate Flamenco tangos, etc.

Mariano is most known for his good disposition, being positive, his flexibility, and the great respect he has for others at all times. His most important accomplishments are his spiritual gain to be happy, and to make other happy through his enthusiasm and music. His favorite song to play? “The one that will bring my audience the most joy,” he exclaims.

“Music blends cultures, builds bridges. It instantly can make people happy. If they’re happy, I’m happy,” he explains.

Receive that  gift of happiness from Mariano at El Gaucho Portland, five nights a week, beginning at 7pm.

Join us and Taylor Shellfish at Taste Washington!

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Signature Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron
Our booth at Taste of Washington - come by for some savory seafood chowder!

Our booth at Taste of Washington – come by for some savory seafood chowder!

Come Sip Savor and Swirl with us this weekend at one of our favorite events – Taste Washington.  We will be there in full force with Taylor Shellfish, shucking over 10,000 oysters and ladling over 100 gallons of savory seafood chowder in our booth throughout the weekend.

Taste Washington truly is a celebration of our favorite things – wine and food, with over 226 wineries and 68 restaurants participating. The event has grown right along with the burgeoning Washington state wine industry, which currently boasts over 780 wineries, producing over 12 million cases annually, and is the 2nd largest premium wine producer in the United States. Total economic impact to Washington state is $8.6 billion and to the U.S. is $14.9 billion, employing over 30,000 people statewide and 70,000 nationally. There are over 30 varietals produced, almost an even split between red and white wines.

We will shuck 10,000 oysters with Taylor Shellfish this weekend at Taste Washington!

We will shuck 10,000 oysters with Taylor Shellfish this weekend at Taste Washington!

Other fun highlights at this year’s event include a dessert bar, coffee lounge, food trucks, and an area devoted to the cider makers of Washington state. New this year is a Vineyard tasting area: the wines are organized by vineyard, so you can taste a variety of wines side-by-side, crafted by different winemakers, but produced from a single source.

Of course, there are a ton of educational opportunities, and you don’t want to miss our own Chef Matt Brandsey and Chef Steve Cain at 3:00 pm Saturday on the Alaska Airlines stage. They’ll be demonstrating how to make our popular Oscars Medallion. Recipe hand-outs will be included!TASTEWA2013 3

Don’t have your tickets yet? Hurry! Hours are Saturday and Sunday, from 2-5pm for general admission, or you can purchase a VIP pass which will gain you entrance an hour earlier.

For more information, visit their website:

We hope to see you there!TasteWA2013

El Gaucho and Beef – A Legacy of Quality

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

This is part 1 in a 4-part series to detail our beef program and what makes it so special.  We start at the beginning – why since opening our doors, relationships with our partners are paramount, and we will not settle for anything less than the best.

El Gaucho founder Paul Mackay grilling a Certified Angus Beef steak in one of our exhibition-style kitchens

El Gaucho founder Paul Mackay grilling a Certified Angus Beef steak over charcoal in one of our exhibition-style kitchens

Since Paul Mackay opened El Gaucho in 1996 in Seattle, steak has been the centerpiece on our menu, and from the beginning, our sourcing philosophy has been to offer the best product for our guests.  You could say that comes with a little bit of pride, but also with a lot of experience; with over 40 years in the restaurant business, Mr. Mackay recalls that in the 1970s and 1980s, close to 1 in 8 steaks were sent back from customers, which certainly doesn’t lend itself to a quality eating experience.  Plus, with stats like that, you can’t keep your doors open for long.

When reopening El Gaucho Seattle in the mid-90s, Mr. Mackay had no interest in experiencing the unreliability he encountered earlier in his career, so he sought to partner with a company that could deliver a high-quality and consistent product; one he could hang his hat on and build a menu.

An El Gaucho Classic - Chateaubriand, carved tableside and served for 2.

An El Gaucho Classic – Chateaubriand, carved tableside and served for 2.

Since that first day, Mackay has served only Certified Angus Beef® brand steaks, becoming the first restaurant to offer the 28-day dry-aged* premium beef in the Pacific Northwest.

The Certified Angus Beef ® brand is made up of generations of farmers and ranchers who are dedicated to raising the best Angus beef. Inspired by their passion and family traditions, the brand is made possible through the American Angus Association®, with rancher members in every state including Washington and Oregon. Known for its exceptional flavor, tenderness and juiciness, the Certified Angus Beef ® brand is offered by the finest restaurants and retailers around the globe.  We’re in good company.

USDA Beef Grade Chart

USDA Beef Grade Chart

To fully understand why this is important, and what makes Certified Angus Beef ® special, we need to take a step back and look at how beef is graded.  The USDA created a grading scale to determine commodity beef as Prime, Choice, Select, or one of several lower grades (there are seven in total).  The USDA grades only on marbling, or fat content, and maturity. Even in the commodity world, only the top 3% of meat produced is considered good enough to receive the USDA Prime grade.

CAB Grading ChartCertified Angus Beef ® takes it a step further by adding 10 more stringent quality specifications, which is a premium differential from the USDA standards.  The end result ensures a more reliable product, including tenderness, juiciness, and flavor, to earn the brand’s mark. Plus, by purchasing the Certified Angus Beef ® brand, you’re helping support a network of family farmers committed to raising high-quality beef. Quite simply, higher graded beef receives a premium price, which is why farmers and ranchers work hard to produce a premium product.

When you dine at El Gaucho, you are receiving not only an exceptional product, but one that has been 28-day dry-aged* and grilled over live fuel and charcoal in our open-exhibition style kitchens. It’s the hardest way to cook a steak, but is hands-down the best, and we can assure you that our steak is in expert hands with our chefs, who are true grill-masters.

Our Chefs are expert grillers and cooking over charcoal

Our Chefs are expert grillers and cooking over charcoal

In Part 2 of our series, we’ll share with you how Mr. Mackay helped to create the Certified Angus Beef® Prime program – the highest level of steak in the country.

*To learn more about the significance of dry-aging, and why El Gaucho chooses this method, click here)

Sivi Mennen, AQUA by El Gaucho General Manager, Named a 2014 Seattle Tourism Ambassador

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Community, Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron
Sivi Mennen, AQUA by El Gaucho General Manager

Sivi Mennen, AQUA by El Gaucho General Manager. Photo Credit: Amos Morgan

We are thrilled to announce that Sivi Mennen, AQUA by El Gaucho’s General Manager, was named one of four Tourism Ambassadors at the Visit Seattle Annual Meeting and Luncheon, held on Tuesday March 18th at the Sheraton Hotel.

The Tourism Ambassador award recognizes those who uphold the highest service standards, and regularly go above and beyond to serve and assist visitors, promoting the industry and city.

According to the most recent data (2012), the tourism industry in Washington State employs 153,300 people, creates $4.7 billion in earnings, generates $16.9 billion in visitor spending, and produces $1 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Sivi touches many visitors, influencing not only their dining experience, but overall impression of Seattle,” said Chad Mackay, President and COO of El Gaucho Hospitality. With AQUA’s incredible location (on pier 70), on the water, and terrific views of Elliot Bay, Mt. Rainier, and the Space Needle, it’s a magnificent place to showcase much of what Seattle has to offer.  AQUA by El Gaucho was also named a Top 10 Seafood Restaurant in the United States by Gayout in 2012.

Why Tourism Matters is a promotional campaign developed by Visit Seattle, a private nonprofit destination marketing organization, which is responsible for promoting Seattle as a travel destination. The campaign is run on behalf of Washington State’s core of private sector destination marketing organizations (DMOs). These convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, ports and other organizations work in tandem with the Washington State Tourism Alliance to jointly position the state as a premier travel destination.  To see the full video of the 2014 Tourism Ambassadors, click here:

Other 2014 ambassadors introduced include Tyler Davis, a Program Director at EverGreen Escapes, Richard Powell, Lead Concierge at the Westin Hotel, and David Snead, Lead Admissions Representative at Seattle Art Museum, was named the 2014 Tourism Ambassador of the Year.

2014 Seattle Tourism Ambassadors: David Snead, Tyler Davis, Sivi Mennen, Richard Powell. Photo Credit: Mark Plampin, Seattle Photography, Inc.

2014 Seattle Tourism Ambassadors: David Snead, Tyler Davis, Sivi Mennen, Richard Powell. Photo Credit: Mark Plampin, Seattle Photography, Inc.

Congratulations to all of the 2014 Ambassadors, and thank you for all you do for our beautiful city!

Employee Highlight – Meet Alicia Klein, Evolving from El Gaucho Hostess to Pastry Student in France

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron


Alicia started with El Gaucho as a hostess, and is now a full-time baker at AQUA by El Gaucho. She will be studying pastry in France for three months starting in April.

“At some point you have to accept a certain level of imperfection,” is one of Alicia’s favorite quotes; it’s what her pastry chef at school says regarding cake decorating.  Alicia notes, it can certainly be applied to other areas of life, too.

Alicia Klein, aka “Lish” or “Cookie,” didn’t always like baking. In fact, she stayed away because she lacked the precision and patience it requires.  About five years ago she had a change of heart. Her co-worker at El Gaucho Tacoma, Julena (current guest relations manager), would bring in homemade cupcakes to share with the crew.  Intrigued, Alicia gave it a try.  She recalls her first attempt at cupcakes came out a grayish color and the frosting was curdled – a far cry from her intended lavender color with creamy frosting.  However, she tried again, and continued to improve with each batch, until she became hooked.  It quickly became a hobby, and she, like Julena, would bake and give away her tasty treats to anyone who requested them. One day a lightning bolt struck her: “I can get paid to do this!”


Alicia plating just a few desserts at an AQUA by El Gaucho event

She sought out formal education and is now pursuing her Associates Degree in Baking and Pastry from the Art Institute of Seattle, with her goal to become a pastry chef.  Even though she’s a full-time student, she bakes full-time for AQUA by El Gaucho, and even helps with administrative duties in the corporate office.  Alicia has spent her entire career with El Gaucho Hospitality, starting at El Gaucho Tacoma nearly seven years ago as a part-time hostess at the ripe age of 20, and has worked her way through a variety of positions within the company, including bookkeeper and private dining manager.


Alicia recently discovered another passion in the arts – Flying Trapeze!

Baking is not the only arts hobby she has recently discovered, however – she also takes weekly classes at Emerald City Trapeze Arts. Known for her love for sugar and desserts, her trapeze nickname is “Cookie.”

Through school, Alicia was offered the opportunity for an exchange program to study abroad. She applied as soon as she heard, and out of all applicants, was the one accepted.  On March 29th, she will travel to Nantes, France to further her studies in baking. “It’s hard to describe how much this exchange program means to me!” Alicia exclaims.  “The knowledge, skills, cultural enrichment, and experience I will gain are absolutely priceless! I have always had a strong interest in France and learning the language.  In my quest to become a pastry chef, this exchange program is an invaluable step on that journey. I want to learn anything and everything I can about baking and pastry!”

Alicia will live for three months with a host family while studying. She’ll return on June 20th to  share much of her new-found knowledge with guests and teammates at AQUA by El Gaucho.

How you can help Alicia and her continuing education:


One of Alicia’s beautiful cakes. You might find something like this at her bake sale on March 27th in Tacoma.

Since school is not financially helping for her trip, Alicia is trying to raise money to help with expenses. She has set up a fundraising website page where people can donate to help her with this exciting education experience:  

Additionally, Alicia is hosting a bake sale on Thursday, March 27th beginning at 5pm at Gingko Forest Winery, 2221 North 30th St in Tacoma.  She will be selling a variety of items like granola, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and in preparation for her travels, quite possibly croissants and French macaroons.

More of Alicia’s Favorite Things:

  • Food – Anything that has sugar in it. No surprise that dessert in general is her favorite.
  • Drink- Sangria & Mojito
  • Book- Man, Interrupted
  • Quote or Mantra- “You always make time for what’s important.” (Alicia’s mom always told her this while growing up).

    Gumpaste roses, both Alicia creations, and completely edible!


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