Match Maker: LuLu Craft Bar + Kitchen keeps it in the family with estate ingredients

March 13, 2017 

— Columbia Valley restaurateur Cindy Goulet can make a few claims that would resonate with the local wine industry she adores.

LuLu Craft Bar + Kitchen offers guests at her year-old restaurant on Richland’s Columbia Point a menu built upon estate beef, estate swine, estate potatoes and estate onions.

“I never thought of it that way, but that’s awesome,” Goulet beams. “It’s definitely farm-to-table. A lot of people say that, but we truly are. The beef and the pork, the potatoes and the onions all are from my family’s farm.”

Goulet herself is a product of Easterday Farms near Basin City, a graduate of Connell High School — Class of ‘86 — and a proud alumna of Washington State University. While the restaurant name is derived from Goulet’s middle name Lu, the concept of LuLu blends four generations of farming, her enjoyment of the Washington wine industry and her hospitality business management degree from WSU.

“I used to hate my middle name so much that I took it off my license when I got married,” Goulet said. “My mom couldn’t believe it when we decided to use it for the restaurant, so it’s come full circle. And at the end of the day, I think people can remember it.”

Both of her parents, Gale and Karen, take a proud interest in LuLu.

“We’re a pretty tight family, so it works pretty well,” she said. “When I went off to college, I wasn’t really interested in the farm, so it’s amazing to come back 25 years later and be using items from the farm. It’s a cool thing for me and my family.”

Her husband, Brian, served as the general contractor for LuLu, which seats 190 inside and 160 outside when weather permits. The footprint at Columbia Point is round, and she wanted to maximize the proximity to the river and the marina.

“It was a little bit tense at times,” she said with smile. “I didn’t make it easy for Brian, but I think we have the best view in the Tri-Cities. And the marina was a huge part of our success in the summer.”

LuLu opened April 4, 2016, and new development continues to swirl around her restaurant, but anyone using the Tri-Cities Airport would have walked past Goulet’s 3 Eyed Fish Wine Bar and one of her restaurants - Florentyna’s. The original opened in 1993 at the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland, a five-minute drive from Columbia Point, but there also was a second in Kennewick.

“I had spent a year in Italy so I decided I was going to open a quick-service Italian restaurant,” she said. “It was a tiny little place, but we’d have a line out the door for lunch.”

The airport terminal’s $42 million expansion, combined with the Port of Pasco’s agreement with an out-of-town concessionaire, led to a change of plans for Goulet. It meant closing both Florentyna’s and 3 Eyed Fish at the airport, ending an 18-year relationship. Goulet now operates 3 Eyed Fish in south Richland less than a mile from three wineries and a tasting room. Meanwhile, land became available at Columbia Point for her LuLu concept. Nearby, Kirkland-based Anthony’s Restaurants operates two locations.

“My dad has been my partner since I was 25 years old, but I really brought him back in on this,” she said. “You can see Anthony’s here, but for an independent to come in and do this, it’s a big deal.”

Years of menu development shows up at LuLu in different ways. Among the more notable items is the Caesar Salad, which includes Goulet’s own dressing, but there’s virtually something for anyone, including Hand-Cut Potato Crisps with three choices of dips, barbecued ribs, Fried Chicken & Waffle and Rigatoni Bolognese. That Italian dish, which she brought over from Florentyna’s, includes Easterday beef and pork.

The LuLu Reuben sandwich features “house corned beef,” while four of the five burgers come with patties that are ground fresh, in-house from Easterday Ranches beef. There also are Asian influences with two ahi dishes as well as a pair of steelhead entrees.

And Goulet’s servers help set the mood by wearing checkered flannel shirts for a farming theme.

“This is a pretty casual community, and some people may have thought that it would be more fine dining, but we already had Budd’s Broiler and Anthony’s so what would we do to complement those two?” Goulet said. “And I was really big on it being a light and fun atmosphere.”

At LuLu, the craft bar offers signature barrel-aged martinis, a dozen beers on tap and more than 80 regional wines. Many of the wineries she supports on the list she oversees also are operated by families of farmers throughout the Columbia Valley. Her by-the-glass offerings include Kiona Vineyards Winery, with three generations of the Williams clan behind it, and Mercer Estates, another historic farming family.

“I’m pretty passionate about it, so we have a nice glass-pour list and represent some wineries that others around us are not,” Goulet said. “And there are some of my favorites.”

Only regional wines are featured by the glass, which includes some longtime friends in the industry such Fidelitas’ Charlie Hoppes and Gordy Venneri of Walla Walla Vintners.

“I’m a huge consumer of wine,” Goulet chuckled. “I love being around those people and a part of their industry.”

By the bottle, there are more multi-generation wineries represented, including Duck Pond Cellars in Oregon, Gamache in Basin City, Goose Ridge near Candy Mountain, Hedges on Red Mountain, Jones of Washington on the Wahluke Slope, Martinez & Martinez in the Horse Heaven Hills, Treveri in the Yakima Valley, Upland on Snipes Mountain and Woodward Canyon in the Walla Walla Valley.

Goulet’s family, the Easterdays, moved into Washington state in 1958 from what is now Idaho wine country — the Snake River Valley — attracted by the Columbia Basin Reclamation Irrigation Project. Her grandfather, Ervin Easterday, began with 300 acres in the shrub-steppe.

Five decades later, his son, Gale, and Goulet’s siblings have grown the family holdings to 18,000 acres. Those operations include their cousins, the Weyns family, who farm onions and potatoes near Royal City. The Easterday cattle downstream near McNary Dam are finished on wheat and corn grown by the family. Pork comes off the family homestead, Block 20.

In theory, LuLu could stage a rather unique 30-mile dinner with ingredients, wine and guests arriving by boat.

“We want to be a trendsetter down here,” Goulet said. “October would be great time for something like that with it being during harvest.”

Goulet’s decades of travel to Italy, Napa and the Northwest are reflected on her menus. She worked with Seattle-based Gilkey Restaurant Consulting Group for LuLu, and its execution is overseen by general manager Paul Robinson and executive chef Gregorio Rivera. Goulet recruited Robinson, a longtime culinary leader in the Tri-Cities, from the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore., where he played the key role in reviving that historic property.

“We’re both strong-minded,” Robinson said with a hearty laugh. “But because of her 25 years of experience and mine, we find a common ground.”

Rivera, born in Fresno, Calif., started off at the Stagecoach Hotel and Casino in Nevada, where he spent several years before helping to open the Texas Roadhouse in Richland. Robinson brought Rivera in from Kadlec Regional Medical Center, where he oversaw the food service operation. One of Robinson’s longtime signature dishes - Chicken Chardonnay - has not made it to LuLu, but one can hope.

Goulet, Robinson and Rivera collaborated on a straightforward approach to the meat-and-potatoes portion of the Match Maker project. The red wine came off her bottle sheet - the Kiona Vineyards Winery 2013 Reserve, and what’s better/easier than a la plancha 14-ounce ribeye that can serve two?

Indeed, it’s an estate steak, beef raised on Easterday Ranches and cooked a la plancha — prepared on an iron or slate plate so that the steak heats faster and more evenly than using a grill. It conducts enough heat to cook rapidly, leading to a good char on the outside with the inside tender and juicy. The ribeye comes with seasoning salt, steakhouse butter and a nice finishing touch of house au jus. It is surrounded by smashed Easterday potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

“It is lovely with the Kiona Reserve,” Goulet said. “It’s a great combination, and we sell a lot of steak.”

As for the white side, LuLu selected a picturesque and delicious approach to roasted carrots, a dish so versatile that it serves as an appetizer, a shareable side or an alternative to the salad course. When in season, the carrots come from friends farming in North Franklin County.

“It’s very unique,” she said. “You want to put something different on the menu so people can remember you.”

Roasted Carrots appear as a season special. Colorful carrots are roasted and presented with fried chickpeas, harissa, Greek yogurt and carrot chips. It is complemented by the Naches Heights Pinot Gris from west of Yakima, and the dish’s touch of heat also would go nicely with an off-dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer.

“The carrots have a little spice to them, so it works with a crisp white that might have a little bit of sweetness,” Goulet said. “The carrots are roasted, but they are naturally sweeter, too.”

On the horizon is development required by the City of Richland for the gravel lot Goulet controls adjacent to LuLu. In the meantime, there soon could be another generation involved at LuLu with Cindy’s daughter, Paige, on target to graduate this spring from WSU with a degree in hospitality.

“We’ll see where that goes,” Goulet said. “She was waiting tables at the airport when she was 13.”

LuLu Craft Bar + Kitchen, 606 Columbia Point Drive, Richland, WA 99352, lulucraftbar.com, (509) 713-7880.

Wine:

NHV Wines 2015 Strand Vineyard Pinot Gris, Naches Heights - $15
400 cases, 13% alcohol

There are less than 40 acres planted in the Naches Heights American Viticultural Area, making it Washington’s least explored appellation, but 12-acre Strand Vineyard ranks among the highest elevation sites in the state at 1,900 feet.

That aspect, the soils of wind-blown loess, surrounding shrub-steppe habitat and highly sensitive viticultural practices make wines from this region especially fascinating. It’s a particularly beautiful and serene AVA, established in 2012 as the 12th in the state, and offers views of Mount Adams and the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy. The appellation reaches to 2,100 feet.

Vintner/viticulturist Phil Cline, who played basketball at Central Washington University for coaching great Dean Nicholson, grew up in the Naches Heights and spearheads the vineyard programs throughout the AVA. Strand Vineyard carries the Certified Sustainable L.I.V.E. logo as well as that of the Salmon Safe program. In fact, Cline farms all seven vineyards in the AVA using either biodynamic or sustainable practices.

Strand Vineyard earned headlines in 2015 after Yakima Valley College students won a gold medal with its Tempranillo at the Tri-Cities Wine Festival. Nearly a year later, that same wine finished as the highest-rated red wine at the 2016 Best of the Best judging for Wine Press Northwest magazine, meriting a Double Platinum. Strand also grows Cinsault, Graciano, Malbec and Syrah, as well as aromatic whites Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris.

As a result, Cline works with several vintners for his brand. In the case of the 2015 Strand Vineyard Pinot Gris, it was Mark Wysling at Parejas Cellars in Grandview.

It carries a similar profile to Cline’s 2014 Pinot Gris, which earned a double gold medal at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. A touch of skin contact gives it a slight peachy tinge with a nose of orchard fruit, starfruit and jasmine. It is backed by brisk flavors of Bosc pear, melon and Golden Delicious apple peel bite.

And while NHV shines with aromatic whites, don’t overlook the Syrah, which won a double gold medal at the 2017 Chronicle judging.

Federal regulations led Cline to develop his winery brand as NHV because not all of his wines are made from his Naches Heights Vineyard or grapes grown inside the AVA. Among the vineyards that Cline farms is Two Coyote in the Rattlesnake Hills.

His NHV wines are widely available, thanks to the promotion of the well-spoken Cline, who looms as a tall yet friendly figure behind rose-colored lenses pouring his wines at festivals throughout the Northwest. However, they are best appreciated at his countryside tasting cottage in the heart of the Naches Heights AVA. It is a stone’s throw from Wilridge Winery’s The Tasting Room Yakima, just five minutes uphill from Highway 12. Bring hiking boots for the trails and a blanket to toss across the lawn for a picnic.

NHV Wines, 250 Ehler Road, Yakima, WA 98908, nhvwines.com, (509) 966-4355.

Recipe:

Roasted Carrots

Serves 2

Ingredients

5 ounces roasted baby carrots
1/2 ounce fried chickpeas
1 tablespoon harissa
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon mint, chopped
1/4 teaspoon chives, minced
1/4 teaspoon parsley, chopped
5 carrot chips

Directions

1. Warm roasted carrots in 500-degree oven until heated through.

2. At the same time, blend together the harissa and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a stainless steel bowl.

3. Drop portioned chickpeas into a 350-degree deep fryer until crisp and crunchy.

4. Remove carrots and toss with harissa/olive oil blend.

5. Spread yogurt onto a serving dish.

6. Place carrots on top of yogurt, lined up facing one direction with empty space on either side of the plate. Drizzle carrots with excess harissa from stainless bowl.

7. Scatter herbs and chickpeas onto the dish and over the carrots throughout the plate but within the rim.

8. Drizzle remaining tablespoon of olive oil on the negative space of the plate, to either side of the carrots.

9. Top with carrot chips and serve.

Wine:

Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2013 Reserve Estate Red Wine, Red Mountain - $42
1,020 cases, 14.5% alcohol

Red Mountain’s trailblazing Williams family spans three generations, and their decades of visionary growing and winemaking afford them the luxury of working with the six classic Bordeaux varieties.

All six come together for this Meritage-style effort, a high-end blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (52%), Merlot (35%), Petit Verdot (3%), Cabernet Franc (2%) and Carménère. It’s among the most stately and suave reds to come off Red Mountain.

John Williams and friend Jim Holmes established the first vines on Red Mountain in 1975. What started with 12 acres has grown to 240 acres of Williams vineyards. John’s son, Scott, makes the wines and manages the vines. The third generation, Scott’s son, JJ, is the sales manager.

They launched the Reserve with the classic 2012 vintage, and they now view this as their flagship bottling, the wine that best reflects their history and their achievements. This 2013 vintage signals the introduction of Carménère — the once-lost Bordeaux variety. It also more than doubles the influence of Merlot, which made up just 15 percent of the 2012.

This is a product from Heart of the Hill and Kiona Estate, and it should be an easy sell for JJ. Scott and his team selected their favorite barrels for this blend, and it’s a 22-month program of 80 percent new oak, a 50/50 split of French and American. Their influence creates aromas of light toast with black currant, blackberry, rose petal and fresh-cut cedar. There’s sweetness to the ripe fruit that leads with plum and blackberry in front of substantial yet smooth tannins. Red currant acidity, baking spices and savory notes of porcini mushroom are capped by the finish of Chukar Cherry.

Kiona traditionally does not rush their red wines to market or into competitions, preferring to give them a bit more time in the cellar and the bottle. This Reserve spent four more months in barrel than the 2012 vintage.

Over the four decades, Kiona has developed a reputation for producing some of Washington’s longest-lived reds, and this latest Reserve seems poised to carry on that legacy.

John Williams was an engineer for Westinghouse when he adopted for his winery the Yakama Nation’s name for Red Mountain. The family points out that that the first syllable of Kiona rhymes with ‘pie,’ and it means “brown hills.” Wines from the region are far from drab.

The family’s wines have earned a presence in more than 40 states, China and Denmark, and they rank as a bargain alongside many Red Mountain producers. Fortunately, Scott doubled production of his Reserve from the previous vintage.

Kiona Vineyards, 44612 N. Sunset Road, Benton City, WA 99320, kionawine.com, (509) 588-6716.

Recipe:

LuLu Craft Bar + Kitchen steak butter

Yields ½ pound

Ingredients

1 pound whole butter
1/2 tablespoon of dry mustard
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Directions

1. In a Hobart mixer, whip butter on speed 3 until creamy.

2. Add all other ingredients, combine thoroughly and store refrigerated for use.

3. Top with a little frisee to finish.

Wine Press Northwest is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service