Tri-City winemaker Palencia partners on Culture Shock mobile catering

By on November 17, 2020
Nena Cosic, a chef from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Columbia Valley winemaker Victor Palencia who was born in Mexico, are taking their delectable talents and creating a mobile catering business called Culture Shock. (Photo courtesy of Palencia Wine Co.)

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Pair one of Washington’s top winemakers with a well-known Tri-City caterer and the result is Culture Shock Bistro — a food truck specializing in catering to wine-loving foodies.

Victor Palencia, owner of Monarcha Winery in Kennewick and Palencia Wine Co. in West Richland, and chef Nena Cosic have scheduled a soft launch for their new venture on Friday, Nov. 20 at the Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village in Kennewick.

They have not been discouraged by the challenges of dealing with the food and wine service protocols required by COVID-19.

“It makes sense now more than ever,” Palencia said.

The new truck will be at the northwest corner of the Monarcha building, near other food trucks at Columbia Gardens just off Columbia Drive in Kennewick’s historic downtown area.

Culture Shock is a reference to their somewhat surprising idea to blend the cuisine of their two home countries, Mexico and Bosnia, to create a food and wine experience they believe will be unlike any other they’ve encountered.

Cosic and Palencia met at a wine event she was catering and soon found they shared some common interests and ambitions, plus a similar background story. Both are first-generation immigrants who found a new home in the Tri-City area and turned their love for fine wine and food into thriving businesses.

Palencia ranks among Northwest’s best winemakers

Victor Palencia makes Vino La Monarcha wines.
Victor Palencia’s Vino la Monarcha wines tell the story of the monarch butterfly and its migration north from Mexico. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Palencia, whose family roots and love of farming extend deep into the soils of the Yakima Valley and Michoacán state in Mexico, came to the United States as a child. Following his father, he began working in Yakima Valley vineyards while still a boy, moved into the cellar at Willow Crest Winery and graduated from the winemaking program at Walla Walla Community College.

The award-winning wines he made for the Jones family in the Columbia Basin prompted Wine Press Northwest to name Jones of Washington as the Washington Winery of the Year in 2012. Palencia continues to oversee that program, and last year his own operation — Palencia Wine Co. — was selected as the magazine’s 2019 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.

Cosic left her native land and then moved to the Tri-Cities in 1999, fleeing ethnic strife that ravaged the Balkan Peninsula. She turned to cooking skills learned in her native Bosnia-Herzegovina after leaving a full-time job to build her catering business. Her team involving Culture Shock now includes one of her sons and her daughter-in-law.

The Tri-Cities, the largest metro area in Southeast Washington, is centered in a region where hundreds of crops are grown, including thousands of acres of premium wine grapes, making it a logical place for Culture Shock.

“I talked about the food culture with Victor,” Cosic said, “and I decided to become his business partner.”

4 wineries create customers for Culture Shock

Culture Shock Bistro’s mobile catering kitchen is staged outside of Monarcha Winery near the Columbia River at the Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village. (Nena Cosic photo on Facebook)

Culture Shock aims to serve both walk-up customers and other businesses, including the three nearby winery tasting rooms, Bartholomew, Cave B Estate Winery and Gordon Estate, all within a stone’s throw of the doors for Monarcha.

For winery and other business customers, Culture Shock plans to present such simple fare as premium cured meat and cheese plates, which can be customized for wineries that want to offer tasting room visitors some food to sample with their wines.

The 24-foot truck will be “absolutely mobile,” Palencia said, and offer a variety of menu choices focused on tapas-style plates, plus packages that can pair both a dinner and a bottle of wine.

Cosic describes her homeland’s food scene as “a fusion of Mediterranean cuisine from Turkey to Spain,” and Culture Shock will offer elements that honor that tradition, including Turkish coffee.

Her Mediterranean-style tapas will use dishes from “both our cultures,” plus flatbreads. When appropriate, Culture Shock will create Spanish-style breakfasts featuring tortillas and crepes made with charcuterie.

Among the menu items they’ve discussed, Palencia said, are steamer clams and mussels “with an Albariño sauce. We’ll be trying something new, something unique,” including a Chardonnay salsa.

Cosic also plans to offer her trademark tiramisu and baklava desserts via Culture Shock.

Columbia Gardens adds 5th food truck in Culture Shock

Culture Shock Bistro’s mobile catering operation will become the fifth food truck operating at Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village near the Columbia River in downtown Kennewick, Wash. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village)

As their idea began to take shape, Palencia approached his landlord, the Port of Kennewick, about what was needed to make their concept a reality.

“We were very supportive,” said Amber Hanchette, the port’s director of real estate and operations. “So we talked about what would be a good location.”

After they settled on the site, the port agreed to add a pedestal to the parking lot area to provide electrical power and to avoid the need for the generators commonly used to support food trucks.

Making the infrastructure investment was an easy decision, she said, because it adds value for other nearby port tenants who can benefit from the food service offered.

“It’s a handy site for Cave B, Gordon, Bartholomew and Monarcha,” Hanchette said, and an added attraction for their customers.

The port also is building a restroom and a potable water outlet, and the Culture Shock truck can use the same system for handling “gray water” used by the other food trucks.

Hanchette and Palencia agree the new venture will supplement and augment the four food trucks already assembled there: Swampy’s BBQ Sauce & Eatery; Ninja Bistro, with Asian fusion; Don Taco, with Mexican; and Ann’s Best Creole and Soul Food Cafe.

Across Duffy’s Pond on Clover Island is Cedars at Pier One, the pub for Ice Harbor Brewing at the Marina, The Crow’s Nest Bar & Grill atop the locally owned Clover Island Inn and Rollin’ Fresh Ice Cream near the Port of Kennewick headquarters. Just west on Columbia Drive is Chapala Express II Mexican Restaurant. And across the street is Zip’s By the Cable Bridge, a drive-in that opened in 1953.

“Everything adds something different in terms of our Tri-City food culture,” Hanchette said. “We want something to do seven days a week until we can get back to our every-day normalcy.”

About Ken Robertson

Ken Robertson, associate editor of Great Northwest Wine magazine, is the retired editor of the Tri-City Herald. He has been sipping Northwest wines and writing about them since 1976.

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