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Winemaker's Journal — Smokeblossom smokin' hot

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Prosciutto bound melon pucks at Smokeblossom



Tim Putnam has his own ideas about how to operate a restaurant. They've turned out to be a lot of delicious fun, if you're lucky enough to be invited.

Putnam, owner of the former Smokeblossom restaurant in Wenatchee and Smokeblossom Catering, has reinvented his restaurant in Cashmere as a pop-up, tapas-style dinner event one night a week. Or not at all. 

"I like this because I can come in and create something when I feel like it and use social media to invite a limited number of people," Putnam said after hosting a meal last Friday.

Here's how it works. Putnam posts a weekly menu on the Smokeblossom Facebook site and starts extending invitations to the restaurant's FB friends the week before each event, usually every Friday. FB friends can join the dinner event or say maybe. When he gets 50 or so sure customers, that's it, unless there are cancellations. He sends a FB message to those who have been accepted and gives them a preferred time between 6 and 9 p.m. His open kitchen and rustic dining room in Cashmere's Mission District is informal and a fun place to hang out. After all, you'll probably know most of the others invited that night from Facebook.

And don't count on him being open every week. He has other commitments, like other catering jobs, private dinners, kid's stuff and 49er football games.

So, why does Putnam get to call all the shots in a business where the customer is supposed to be always right? Well, mainly because he serves great, very creative food. Maybe not to the liking of everyone, but if that includes you, then you're probably not invited. There's often a band, which may be to your liking, or not. I thought Velvet Elvis was too loud Friday.

I started dinner off with prosciutto bound melon pucks, followed by a crabcake po'boy and morel studded risotto. All delicious and beautifully presented. That was off one of his more simple menus.

Another recent menu featured tangerine ginger chicken dumplings with green tea smoked creminis and citrus habanero pan sauce. Now there's dish that takes longer to say than to eat. 

Some items are more simple, like the pork belly sliders, planked salmon spears or tenderloin tacos. But Putnam clearly takes great steps to always be creative and use fresh, local and often unusual ingredients. Menus usually follow a theme thought out weeks in advance. The guy must stay up nights just thinking of items like Naan Compliant: green apple smoked chicken on grilled flatbread with curried mascarpone, apricot chutney and Thai basil. 

Wine buffs may know Putnam from the tapas-style dinners he prepared for Martin-Scott Winery's summer patio series the past few years. He's taken a break from that — Ravenous Catering of Cashmere has taken over that job — to concentrate on his own freelance catering and his own restaurant venture.

Ala carte items are usually priced at $5 or $10, sometimes more. This is a great place to share a few items. Local wines are sold by the bottle only, but at reasonable prices. Great wines from Crayelle Cellars and Dutch John's Wines, which both have tasting rooms in the same building, are almost always on the menu. Growlers or glasses can be filled with microbrew beers at the adjacent Dry Gulch Brewery. Cash or check only.

Smokeblossom is located at 215 Mission Ave., Cashmere. Find it on Facebook and see if you can wrangle an invite.