1 We’re in for Another La Niña Year
BLAME THE TRADE WINDS. THEY’RE WHY THE NORTHWEST IS IN FOR another cold, snowy La Niña winter.
Of course, for those of us who live to hit the slopes, hunker down by the fire, and model hats with earflaps, that sounds a little different: another cold, snowy winter!
Last year’s snowfalls were so heavy that Crystal Mountain was open for skiing through July 16. But it also meant a pre-Thanksgiving blizzard that trapped Seattleites in their homes or, worse, on the viaduct for hours on end. Why the endless winter? Brad Colman, the meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service local office, broke it down for us.
There’s a pool of warm ocean water that floats somewhere between Indonesia and South America. When the trade winds scoot it west, it starts a chain of events between the ocean, jet stream, and atmosphere: “There’s a feedback loop,” says Colman. “The winds get stronger, the water gets colder, the winds get stronger.” It all leads to chillier-than-normal temps in the Pacific Northwest. The phenomenon is known as La Niña—it occurs naturally in oscillation with El Niño, its opposite—and it was in full force last year.
“About 40 percent of the time, a La Niña year is followed by a second La Niña,” says Colman. “The pattern that we had last year, cool spring into cool summer, is what we see historically with La Niña.” Of course, predicting the weather is about as certain as, well, the weather; still, Colman would put his money where his meteorology is: “If you were a betting person, you’d bet for cool and wet.” We might as well embrace it: Winter is coming.
So that’s why we’re breaking out the long underwear and celebrating the bright side of winter in Seattle. “It’s probably a good year to buy a season ski ticket,” Colman says. “I’m a gardener—it’s a good winter to dig bulbs.”
FILLING, FATTY, AND DRIPPING with cheese, poutine is the ultimate winter comfort food splurge. Lucky for us, it’s an obsession here in Seattle—we’re overrun with the curious Canadian concoction of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Traditionalists will find a standard preparation at plenty of places—we’re big fans of Smith and Skillet’s—while nouveau noshers can fork newfangled approaches just as easily.
One of our favorites comes out of the kitchen of the recently opened Coterie Room (thecoterieroom.com). Here, poutine is anything but routine: The typically unrefined artery clogger is a downright haute affair. To create this perfect plate, chef-owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough blanch steak fries (they stay crisper than regular frites), then toss them in chives, salt, and rosemary oil, which lends “an herbaceous note to the potato,” McCracken explains. Next, a pork trotter gravy rich with braised porcine shoulder is reduced to a consistency so exact it took them a week to perfect. Equally exacting is the amount you get—enough to coat the fries, not enough to drown ’em. On top come Beecher’s cheese curds—fried and salted just so—then a fragrant dressing of herbs, spices, oil, and lemon juice. The result: “It hits the soul.”
Why are McCracken and Tough, noted molecular gastronomists, messing with Canada’s messiest dish? On a menu built around food people crave, poutine is a no-brainer. Says Tough, “A soulful, hearty, cold-weather dish, poutine fits the bill.” We couldn’t agree more.—Christopher Werner
3On New Year’s Day, 1,500 people take the Polar Bear Plunge at Matthews Beach Park.
TEN YEARS AGO, BRYCE PHILLIPS of Evo was a pro skier with a dream of not only selling ski gear but bringing snow fanatics together. He got his start by hawking skis out of his garage and in 2001, he launched the gear website evo.com. By 2005, he’d opened a 10,000-square-foot flagship store in Fremont.
Today, his company has become one of the biggest online retailers in the action sports market. “Simply buying and selling gear has never been the sole focus at Evo,” says Phillips. “We are as passionate about the lifestyle as we are about music, art, engaging the community, and giving back.” That means an art gallery in the Fremont building, where they host movie premieres and other events, and a commitment to children’s charities and environmental causes. “The minute that the experience at Evo is one you’d expect from an average ski and snowboard shop, we’ll have lost what has made this business succeed,” he says.
Phillips still travels the world and films as a pro skier, which gives his store—and the products he sells—an authenticity that few gear shops can boast. Which is why Seattleites are lucky to have Evo in their city: You’ll get outfitted by experts who ski and ride 80-plus days a year (try not to envy the salespeople).
There’s talk of Evo opening shops in other cities in the future, but for now, Seattle is the only spot with personal service to match the online inventory. “We can’t wait to build on what we’ve established,” Phillips says. “Even 10 years in, we feel like we are just getting into a nice groove knowing so much is to come in the next 10.” —Megan Michelson
5It takes an hour to be served the whole roast chicken at Cafe Presse—a full, cozy, wine-filled hour.