Kali and Kris Kelnero sat with Strom Peterson at a table outside the Vinbero wine bar in the former Cheesemonger’s Table space in downtown Edmonds. I noticed a sign that gave me hope they’d soon be open. I circled back and was able to speak with Kali on the forward momentum of this new venture.
The Kelneros, owner of craft cocktail bar Kelnero, took over the Cheesemonger’s Table space from Peterson and wife Maria Montalvo, and have been working to transform it into Vinbero.
Turns out they are “sort of open,” Kali Kelnero said. Limited hours and menu from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. for the time being.
A new sign was in place the very next day.
“A very soft, soft opening for the next several weeks,” Kali said cautiously. They want staff to be well trained and the operation running smoothly before the grand opening, currently planned for June 17.
Sustainability is the focus of Vinbero, just as it is at Kelnero. Reclaimed wood frames the wine maps, and the beautiful work of art displayed on the south wall of the indoor bar area was created out of repurposed wood from another building project.
Details matter — after 10 years, Kali says “it was time for a refresh.”
Interior changes include mellow-toned red leather stools surrounding the L-shaped bar, which allows patrons to see the kitchen action as well as what’s on tap.
Dinner plates and serveware will match this color tone. The care and selection of items add to the sophistication and ambience of the establishment.
Tables inside and out are well spaced; the outdoors area includes orange stools, tables and chairs in the courtyard.
I take a closer look at the maps as Kali explains, “The maps give a sense of place to various types of wine.” One can see from these well-annotated displays how Bordeaux grapes, grown in the south, are subject to Atlantic coastal conditions and would differ from a red wine grown in northern Burgundy regions.
“It’s the same with Scotch,” she notes — Highland or Lowland, both are called Scotch, yet the contents of the bottles vary greatly. She stated they’ll add additional map displays to aid and educate customers.
Kali and Kris are committed, not to just the day-to-day operation of two eateries, but to the future.
“Personally, I think every business should make decisions with the next few generations in mind so we do our best to do just that.” This statement from Kali arrived in a written communication, but I can sense her smile as she types. Our “in-person” portion of my visit included the presence of their soon-to-be-first born, due in July, currently hiding out under his Mom’s oversized tee.
Yes, I know — what about the food? Many Cheesemonger favorites are still on menu:
A few will change, for the good, of course. An example is the Reuben: featuring corned beef, Swiss cheese and dressings tucked into a Cottage Bakery pretzel roll:
A new version of the chicken club passed with flying colors — tasty as ever:
The Kelneros value their partnership with local producers, and especially with The Cottage Community Bakery baker Colin O’Neill. Both establishments utilize the Edmonds-based Cottage baked products. I was thrilled to purchase chocolate chunk rye cookies at Vinbero. This alone will encourage frequent visits, as I am hopelessly addicted.
Coming soon at Vinbero, Chefs Carlton and Morgan are developing a seasonal vegetarian sandwich that will feature grilled Yakima peaches with halloumi Greek cheese, arugula and balsamic.
Kali assures readers: “Given the popularity of existing Cheesemonger sandwiches, we won’t make the entire menu seasonal,” adding they will introduce more seasonally driven items as they become established. “Once the weather cools off there might even be some Dungeness crab mac and cheese on the menu,” she adds. Wow!
At the couple’s other restaurant, Kelnero, the menu’s emphasis on seasonality began at the start. Their aim is to launch a significant menu refresh once a quarter to ensure ingredients are as fresh, local, and delicious as possible. For example, the house-made sorbet recently changed from lemon (citrus is a great winter option) to rhubarb (a favorite part of spring).
“We always serve a salad and a few vegetable dishes that rotate seasonally,” Kali says. “We are currently serving a spring greens salad, cauliflower and carrots.” Stay tuned. The launch of a summer menu happens in a few weeks.
On the beverage side at Kelnero, Kali says they stay a little more consistent throughout the year.
“A Black Walnut Manhattan is good in every season, in our not-so-humble opinion,” she says.
She went on to describe the seasonal ingredients used behind the bar as well as in the kitchen.
“We always have at least one, usually two, shrubs on the menu. Shrubs are a great way to capture the flavors of a fruit or vegetable in the height of the season and preserve it for the next few months in vinegar and sugar.” (Read more about shrubs here.)
The current offering is a rhubarb shrub, and up next — a sugar snap pea shrub.
There is a plan to bring back their “craft slushy” program at Kelnero. Boozy slushies were the “comfort food” beverage option and so popular they will return! Farm-fresh ingredients are the key to optimal slushies. Staff juices the fruits themselves to get the freshest flavors possible. “Pair this with delightful, high-quality spirits and we’ve got a banger summer drink special.”
To Kali and Kris, I say “Cheers!”
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Beer and pizza, anyone?
Beer and pizza are partnered in various manner of cuisine. We are fortunate to have great pizza parlors in our area, and clientele are offered robust selections of bottled beer and local taps as well.
Meanwhile, our fine local brew pubs have found creative ways to offer pizza to enjoy along with that glass of beer.
Hemlock State Brewing in Mountlake Terrace has been extremely creative since it opened in 2019. The owners have encouraged patrons to bring in outside food to enjoy with their beer. COVID upped the ante: Hemlock responded by offering food trucks a spot at the curb. Now a regular part of the food scene at this thriving Mountlake Terrace establishment, pizza’s a successful repeat visitor.
I want to put in a disclaimer here: Pizza is best produced in an establishment that is dedicated to its proper production. Mobile units, like food trucks, offer us tasty disks of dough topped with various sauces, cheeses etc., but simply cannot replicate the level of sophistication when dough hits hot stone. Similar to ready-to-bake pies, home ovens can’t replicate the exact output of commercial restaurant equipment.
That being said, I recently tucked into Delfino’s Pizza deep dish Chicago -style pizza, obtained at the curb outside Hemlock. The food truck serves up a variety of authentic Chicago-style 6-inch personal pizzas, a wonderful Caesar salad and fresh-baked cookies — what’s not to like here?
Offerings include several choices from a plain cheese or simple pepperoni to a more-complex meat and cheese, and a very tasty vegetarian option. Caesar-style salad in a shareable size with lemony dressing is a great supporting dish.
Pay attention to the box labels, because once you open the top it’s tricky to distinguish between the different recipes. This is due to the fact that Delfino’s bakes their ingredients into the pie, so the top of each is a thick layer of pizza sauce and the ingredients are in embedded below supported by the robust crust.
This preparation method rated thumbs up from all of us. It was enjoyable to have melted cheese beneath the sauce and the interior filled with ingredients, nice and moist.
Patrons at Hemlock must agree because this truck is popular. Delfino’s will be back at Hemlock Brewing, 23601 56th Ave. W., in Mountlake Terrace on Saturday. June 12 and Thursday. June 17.
Another creative solution in kitchens sans pizza oven is to obtain par-baked crusts and components, assemble and finish in an existing standard oven on the premises. The folks at Salish Sea Brewing offer on their menu delicious 12-inch-size, shareable pies using this method.
Listed are a traditional cheese, pepperoni and margarita pizza, but an arugula version caught my eye and I believe I found a new favorite. Fresh green arugula tops off an extra virgin olive oil-base crust, dressed with house-made garlic spread, honey, pickled peppers, fresh ricotta cheese and sliced dates.
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Plants on a bun
The folks at 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe, with locations in Edmonds and Lynnwood, have joined the plant-based proteins movement. Check out the new Impossible BBQ Bun.
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Transformed in nearby Kenmore
The partnership of Seattle restaurateur Jason Stoneburner and Stoup Brewing expanded into a spacious taproom for Stoup. Worth the wait — they’ve finally actualized the combination with Chef Stoneburner’s culinary talents and great brew on tap.
The recently opened Stoup Brewing Kenmore, located at 6704 N.E. 181st St., celebrates the craftsmanship of Stoup’s beers with perfectly paired bites of burgers, pizzas, and wings.
With gratitude for the multitude of choices and opportunities, I say let’s strive to support the diverse group of entrepreneurs that in turn keep our community vibrant and thriving.
— By Kathy Passage
A specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the food and restaurant scene in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.