Search & Distill: Walking the Walk on Water

It’ll make your wine taste better.

All the effort restaurants put into buying local, farm-fresh, and sustainable food comes undone when weighed against the giant carbonic foot of the world's most ridiculous product, bottled water. Price it by the gallon, and many bottled waters cost more than gasoline. Whether it's the tragically posh Voss or the omnipresent Pellegrino, the fossil fuels spent just trafficking bottled water around the world boggle the mind, not to mention the effort of bottling and recycling. Nordaq Fresh, a Swedish company (of course), combats this vicious cycle one filtration system at a time. Crush (2319 E. Madison St.) just installed the first Nordaq Fresh filtration system in the Northwest, and now offers cold filtered water, sparkling and still, on tap.In a nutshell, the Nordaq Fresh system filters out all the crap added to tap water (fluoride, chlorine, pipe schmutz, and other strange tastes) and leaves the natural salts and minerals. For a restaurant that wants to walk the local, sustainable food line, it only makes sense to stop importing large glass bottles of water from halfway around the world. But the Nordaq system claims more than just sustainability, hence its heavy-hitter client list and proponents like Thomas Keller (Café Juanita will install a system next). They claim that when you drink water filtered through their system with your meal and your wine, said food and wine will taste better. Uh-huh, right. So just after the system was up and running at Crush, I ran through a quick Pepsi Challenge there.I got a glass of the filtered water, a glass of wine, and a glass of tap water. I tasted the filtered water before tasting the wine. Cold and delicious, yep, water. The wine, from Saviah Cellars, I'd had before, remembering it to be a little heavy for my tastes with a pretty noticeable drying finish. But trying the wine after the filtered water, I found it soft and juicy with a very moderate and smooth finish, almost as if it had age on it. Weird. Then I tried the tap water—Seattle's finest, and not nearly as chlorinated or funktastic as most other cities—followed by the wine again. You've got to be shitting me—this was the slightly unremarkable wine I remembered, and it had a definite mouth-drying finish from the tannin that was not there in the first sips. Experiment repeated, results the same (though slightly muted).Keep in mind I taste thousands of wines each year. I'm a human beagle, but I still couldn't shake the possibility of a placebo effect. So I took some Nordaq-filtered water home from the restaurant for further experiments. I tested it with the following: cherry tomatoes, raspberries, triple crème cheese, and dark chocolate. I wanted to see if the water could either enhance flavor or equalize it, as it had in the wine, and I blindly introduced filtered water from my own very old pipes for each challenge. I repeated the experiment over the course of a day to keep my palate clean.With the raspberries, the Nordaq water had an effect much like it had on the wine; the flavor was rounder and brought the sweetness forward while toning down the acidity just a bit. They didn't taste like trucked-in winter berries. (Yes, I realize the hypocrisy of buying them in the first place!) The cherry tomatoes tested similarly, really driving home that intense garden-sweet flavor. With dark chocolate (Theo's Madagascar), I got a boost in the initial flavors of the bite, while it took on even more depth once I'd crammed it all together in my mouth. The water had an unwanted effect on the triple crème; I eat St. Andre because it's the vanilla ice cream of gooey cheese, and the water brought out an earthiness that was pleasant, just not preferred by me. After three trials for each food, the results were conclusive for me; this water somehow created a tabula rasa on my tongue.This filtration system isn't cheap, which means you're still stuck with Brita at home. But for restaurants, the system will be cost-effective in the long run. Crush will sell carafes of the sparkling and still filtered water for a price similar to that of bottled water. I wonder if a grocery store could afford one of these systems, allowing customers to use their own containers and charging a price that undercuts the yuppie shit on the shelves. I realize I still have Belgian beer and French wine in my refrigerator, but chucking our bottled-water habit counts as one step in our lives that has an immediate and huge impact on the

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