Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eating In: Apple pancakes with maple butter

Maybe it's the local in me, but this rainy weather is making me secretly happy. Happy that the leaves are turning orange and red. Happy that it's almost time to carve pumpkins. And happy that my cook-all-day and make-the-house-smell-wonderful recipes get to come out of hiding.

It's also causing me crave pancakes day and night. Luckily I've been able to keep the actual eating of pancakes to just once a week, last week's being the really really good pumpkin ones at Geraldine's. And today, oh boy, homemade apple pancakes with maple butter.

Thanks goes to Jennifer Donovan's Brunch cookbook, which inspired me this morning. Take a look; the book is full of pretty photos and tasty morning recipes. I made a few personal tweaks. These were heaven.

Apple Pancakes with Maple Butter
2 apples (Fuji or similar works well)
1 1/2 c self-rising flour**
1/2 c confectioners sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger (or the same amount of finely grated fresh ginger)
1 egg
1 c milk
1 tsp butter

3 T butter
4 T maple syrup

Peel and grate the apples and set aside.

Mix flour, sugar and spices together. Whisk milk and egg together and add to dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. The mix in grated apple.

Preheat oven to 200F, and place a plate in the oven to warm.

Mix butter and syrup in a small oven-proof bowl or small saucepan. Place in warm oven to melt, stirring occasionally while making pancakes.

Heat nonstick skillet over medium-low and add butter to melt. Add 1/4 batter to pan and spread out batter as much as you can (this batter makes pretty thick pancakes, so this helps keep them from being really thick). Cook until the bottom is nicely browned, about 1 or 1 1/2 minutes. Flip pancakes and continue until second side is golden. Remove and place in a single layer on warmed plate in oven. Continue with all batter.

Serve pancakes warm from the oven with the maple butter and extra maple syrup.

We had our pancakes with hot coffee, a little chicken sausage and fresh cantaloupe on the side. Ruby seemed to like the spatula more than the pancakes.

Oh well, more for us big people. And bonus! It's been two hours since I made 'em and the house still smells like apple pie.

**You can make self-rising flour by adding 1 1/2 tsps baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to each cup of all-purpose flour. For this recipe you'd need 2 1/4 tsps baking powder and 3/4 tsps salt for the 1 1/2 cups flour. Yeah, you could've figured that our yourself, but I thought I'd just do the math for you.

[where: 98118]

Friday, September 28, 2007

Eating Seattle: Crush

It was a long time coming. Crush has been at the top of my must-go-to list for years, and with chef/owner Jason Wilson's recent accolades (especially the biggie: he was named best new chef 2006 by Food & Wine), well, it was obvious we needed to see (and taste) what we'd been missing.

And what's better than a surprise? Ed had not only made reservations without telling me, he also landed us two seats at the bar. We both love sitting at the bar (and with a baby that's not happening anymore), but it's even more fun to sit at the bar when the seats offer a view into a busy working kitchen, which these do. Great husband, great surprise.

So we toasted. I had a perfectly crisp, sparkling Cremant D'Alsace and Ed had a gibson. Off to a great start, we picked up our menus. So many things were calling our names: sweetbreads, foie, heirloom tomato salad (the last of the year probably), braised octopus, and that's just from the appetizer menu.

We knew we needed a plan. Luckily we were in no rush, so we decided to make our own tasting, just like we did at Matt's. Four dishes (three apps, one entree), each served as a course. We'd ask the bartender to suggest wines along the way. And we were off!

A trio of tartares arrived first. Sweet, sweet scallop in a barely-there ginger sauce atop tiny shreds of carrot; a more traditional tartare of tuna with pickled olives--a fascinating take. But the killer was the hamachi: slices of the raw fish with itty specs of crispy bacon. Wow. We continued with the Cremant, which was outstanding with the tartares.

Next up: Buttermilk fried sweetbreads on a bacony celery root slaw, with honey mustard. It's funny they're serving them like this because, once, when I was trying to talk a friend into trying sweetbreads I told her to pretend it was fried chicken. Crush is riffing on that here, but while we both enjoyed this dish, the bacon flavor in the slaw was just too much for the sweetbreads; we couldn't taste them. We shared a glass of J. Rijckaert Chardonnay with this. Good enough pairing, but Ed's glass of French pinot noir was actually better with the bacony flavor of the dish.

Next came the braised-then-grilled octopus tangled with hunks of merguez sausage, drizzled with chorizo oil and tossed with a bit of gremolata. I was really looking forward to trying this combo, so it was a bummer when it just wasn't very good. The major problem was that the octopus had an unpleasant, thick texture, similar to well-done liver. And the rest of the dish was all smoky meaty-ness. It lacked contrast. Perhaps more gremolata could've given our palates a break from all the meat and smokey oil; as it was, the dish was very one-note. We had a glass of barbera with this, which was good with all the smokiness.

Next we had the duck, seared with aromatic spices (lavender, clove, fennel and a bunch more that I can't remember), with braised onion and topped with little chunks of sweet fresh peaches. They really hit this one out of the park. We loved the perfect crackling layer of skin, and the meat was tender and gorgeously rosy. I want to go back for this dish. We both had glasses of the fantastic Sheridan cab Franc from the Yakima Valley. By far our favorite wine of the night (ok, maybe not by far, since that Cremant was such a perfect brut).

Of course we had to have cheese (maybe just an excuse to drink more wine?). We had Sally Jackson sheep's milk cheese, served with a plum sauce; Delice's cow's milk brie served with violet jam, and my favorite, the Cana de Cabra goat cheese, a nicely chalky goat served with quince syrup. We stayed with our Sheridan cab Franc for this course. Lordy, I do love cheese.

We ended with a surprise gift from the kitchen: five homemade chocolates, my favorite being the rosemary. A fitting ending to a wonderful evening.

Service was flawless, pacing was nice--I hate being rushed through dinner, and they must've sensed we weren't in a hurry. The restaurant's location (a pretty house on a hill) affords for personal spaces; tables aren't lost in a cavernous dining room but rather tucked into the corners of what would've been a living room, or a sitting room. And though I'm not a fan of the Jetsons-ish furniture, the low, soft lighting helps to create a warm, inviting air. We will be back.

Crush in Seattle

[where: 98112]

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Good Read: Is food love genetic?

Guess I'm a little late noticing this great post on Tea & Cookies about becoming a "food person", but it's something I can definitely relate to.

The author, Tea Austen Weaver, asks:

If the debate on nature vs. nurture were to apply here, it’s clear to me that I don’t come by my love of cooking from environment (nurture). Our kitchen was not filled with baking aromas; no one took me in hand and showed me the way; and I never had much example of cooking beyond the basics. Any skills I have come from the books that I sought out—or TV cooking shows, and now blogs—but I had the urge, the interest already in me. Where did it come from?

I grew up in a potatoes-out-of-a-box household.

I think my mother saw cooking as a means to an end, a way of getting my sisters and me fed as quickly as possible. And hell, there's no rule saying you have to actually enjoy cooking any more than you have to enjoy folding clothes; it's part of life, and even if you don't like it, you still have to do it.

I do have one early memory of coming home from preschool and baking yellow-package-chocolate-chip-cookies with my mom. I remember watching her cream the butter and sugar by hand in a bowl (no KitchenAids in our house), and then beat the eggs in one at a time. I also remember the wonderful smell of cookies baking, which is the smell of home.

Have you ever cooked oatmeal cookies just so your home will smell cozy? Me too. In fact, I've roasted chickens for the same reason, or made a batch of cinnamony apple sauce.

But it's not how I was raised.

In fact, there's a funny story about how my parents cook Thanksgiving dinner every year. I noticed a few years back that, although my parents have been married 37 years and have cooked Thanksgiving dinner together all but maybe three of those years, every Thanksgiving they have the same exact argument. Nope, not about how much my mom spent on her latest set of "Thanksgiving-ish" napkins. No, not that someone forgot to buy extra cans of the jumbo black olives.

No, friends, they argue about how to cook the turkey.

Now, that's probably funny to you. I mean, it's funny to me, but somehow, when it's Thanksgiving morning and tensions are high, it's not funny to anyone else. And, granted, this is a high-stakes situation; you screw up the turkey and you get a beat-down, right? So you know, it's kinda important to get it right.

But that's the kicker: The turkey is always great! There's never been an instance of a real crapola bird being served at the Austin house.
And yet, no one can remember how it got that way the year before.

image via salon

The argument goes something like this: Dad, fresh from reading one of those annoying "Effortless Thanksgiving" issues every food magazine publishes in November, says he thinks they should start the oven hot, then turn it down. Mom'll beg him not to do it, saying the skin'll get too dark too fast. Then they argue about aluminum foil (now? later?). This is all followed by five+ hours of people (me, I'll admit) popping into the kitchen to turn the oven up/down. Oh right, I forgot to tell you: The meat thermometers at our house never work. They might've been broken when they were bought.

And yet, somehow, the turkey always comes out exactly perfect: juicy, not-dry/not-raw. Two hours later than we thought it would.

[where: 98118]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Good Read: Asimov raves about Portland

Eric Asimov is such an entertaining writer. This week he takes a break from writing solely about wine for the NY Times and, instead, does our fair neighbors to the south a favor by eating his way through their city. Great piece.

image via 43 places

Portland's food scene is exactly as he says: an ever-improving mix of groovy ideas (Cap'n Crunch doughnuts til 2am), neighborhood foodie destinations (Navarre) and solid, special occasion restaurants (Paley's Place), where trained chefs are able to live the good life in a city that offers much within its near vicinity.

It's about time someone noticed.

Food Events: Dine out for kiddos

Hopefully you already know this and you've got resies and whatnot, but just in case, tomorrow is Dish Up Literacy. Pretty simple: You eat out at any of these loverly restaurants, the money goes to literacy programs for at-risk youth.

And you know, it doesn't have to be dinner. I'm thinking the Rubester and I might head to Macrina for a buttermilk biscuit with jam.

Or maybe Geraldine's for breakfast (they had dreamy pumpkin pancakes this past Sunday). You could grab a slice at Garlic Jim's in West Seattle, or a burger at Bing's. It doesn't have to be a big night out at Matt's in the Market (though that'd do the job too, and nicely!) So lots of options and, really, no excuses.

PS: Sign up for my food texts at and, next time, you'll have all this info on your phone as we speak! And you'll be so ahead of the game.

[where: 98101]

Monday, September 24, 2007

Eating In: Late-summer caprese

I'm going to ask you a serious question. Ready? Here it comes.

What could possibly be better than this?

I'm looking forward to hearing your ideas. Really.

There should be a law stating you cannot eat tomatoes, basil and mozzarella unless you grow the tomatoes and basil yourself and are eating them within seconds of pulling them off their stems. Or maybe it'd be ok to buy heirlooms from the farmers and maybe basil too. But you've gotta have the fresh mozz, and you've gotta let it come to room temp and then sprinkle it with enough salt to bring out the goodness, and respect it enough to use good olive oil.

I'm working on the mozzarella-made-at-home thing, btw. You see, my birthday's coming up. I'm dropping hints. I think cheese-making is in my future, people. I can feel it.

[where: 98118]

Eating In: Seared scallops with sweet corn hash

On Friday we decided it was time. Time to finally, finally harvest some of our corn.

While we were in the garden we grabbed some other goodies: golden tomatoes, carrots, celery, green onions, squash, some herbs. I was all set to make corn hash, which would accompany the beautiful sea scallops I'd bought earlier in the day.

The only bummer is, we didn't have any bacon. I wanted meaty flavor in the hash, and bacon and scallops are such a great combo, but we didn't have bacon (I know! sinful) so I used some chicken sausage we had in the freezer. After it was made I realized this hash would've been awesome on its own (sans meat of any kind). But it really would've been nice to have bacon, so I'm including that in the recipe below.

And by the way, scallops are one of the easiest, most delicious and most impressive things you can cook at home. I think many people only eat scallops at restaurants, but cooking them at home takes about six or seven minutes, and all you need for awesome scallops are butter, salt, pepper, a good pan and some scallops. Seriously, try it.

Seared Scallops with Sweet Corn Hash

3 strips bacon
1 red onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced, tops roughly chopped and reserved
2 summer squash (patty pan or zucchini), diced
small handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
8 chives or 3 green onions, chopped or sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, left whole, or 1 large tomato, chopped into large chunks
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 c (or a touch more) beer or dry white wine
4 medium or 3 large ears corn, cut from the cob
4 T butter
8-10 large scallops (about 1lb), muscle removed** and seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides

Make Hash:
In a large skillet, brown bacon over medium heat. Remove bacon and fat, reserving 1-2 tsps of fat in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside.
Saute onions, carrots and celery over medium-high heat in the bacon fat, allowing vegetables to brown in places, about 5 minutes. Add squash, coriander and cumin, and continue to cook for 3 more minutes.

Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup wine or beer, scraping browned bits off the pan as you go. Use more liquid if you need to, but you want all the liquid to evaporate from the pan (a soupy consistency is not what you want here). Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, then turn off heat and add herbs and celery tops. Add 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, and immediately remove vegetables mixture from pan, reserving in a bowl.

Using the same pan, brown 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once butter is brown, add corn, season with salt and pepper and stir, cooking, for 3 minutes (for white corn) or 5 minutes (for yellow corn). Remove pan from heat, then add in the vegetable mixture. Set pan aside, or into a warm (200 degree) oven.

Make Scallops:
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium. Working quickly, add 1 tablespoon butter to pan, allow to brown slightly, then add seasoned scallops to the pan. Allow scallops to sear and brown (that means you have to leave them alone and not move them) for 2-3 minutes. Once brown, turn scallops and brown the other side, again for 2-3 minutes (or longer if necessary). Don't worry: Cooking for this amount of time (or slightly longer) will not overcook your scallops; in fact, they'll be warm but rare in their middles.

Spoon corn mixture into shallow bowls and top with scallops. We drank a nice Chardonnay with this and it was great, but a good hoppy beer would work too.

**Scallops are often sold with the tough muscle (which held them to their shells) still attached. It's quite easy to spot these; they're a piece of scallop that looks almost like a scallop Band-Aid on the side. These are easily removed by pulling them off.

[where: 98118]

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eating Seattle: Skillet Street Food open again

Skillet opened with a bang (and a big Daily Candy email blast) and pretty much everyone's been loving on their bacon jam-topped burgers and fancied-up lunch chow ever since.

image via Fifth Flavor

Then: duh duh DUH, they're shut down by the health department! It's a huge bummer, especially since most of us can name 10 restaurants that are totally gross and definitely should've been shut down before Skillet.

Now, after a couple of emails with co-owner Danny Sizemore to clarify what exactly was going on, I can tell you this: Skillet's back open, operating as a "members-only private food club" (which is what they've been all along). That's until they can get different permits worked out.

Bottom line? Yes, you can look at Skillet Street's website to find their locations (via their GPS), and then you can walk, bike, skip, or roller skate right up to Danny and place your order.

But you can't do it this coming week because they're booked with private events.

Phew. I'm glad they're back, but man, this was exhausting.

[where: 98101]

Friday, September 21, 2007

Killing Chickens: Where food comes from

My first editor, Steven, once told me he'd killed a chicken. He said he'd done some soul searching and had decided that if he was going to eat chicken flesh, he should have the huevos to actually kill one. So I guess he went to a farm and killed a chicken. Yeah, Steven has an extreme side to him.

But he also has a point. The first time I went elk hunting with Ed in Jackson I wasn't prepared to actually kill an elk myself, but I knew I liked to eat elk meat and I knew Ed was an ethical hunter. So when Ed shot an elk the next day (I'd opted out of the hunt that day), I decided I'd help him pack it out.

We hiked into the forest, where Ed had field-dressed the beautiful animal. I was afraid to go near it at first; I could smell the blood, see the insides of the elk, and I just really didn't know how to handle it.

I finally walked over to the elk, I bent down, and I pet the soft fur on its cheek. Of course tears ran into my eyes, but I also had an immense feeling of gratitude toward this animal. Maybe it sounds hokey, but I made a promise to myself that I would eat every last piece of meat that the elk provided. I don't think I understood that there's an unspoken agreement between predator and prey until it hit me like a ton of bricks: If you take an animal to eat, you are obligated to waste nothing.

And then I packed an 80lb hind quarter out of the woods, which was hard as all hell.

It sounds like Elise Bauer, the author of my favorite recipe site, Simply Recipes, had a similarly powerful experience recently, when she traveled all the way to Iowa for no other reason than to visit a pig farm. Read about her amazing trip hanging out with the piglets (and seeing what pork looks like before it's bacon) here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Food News: new Mee Sum coming soon, plus trivia

Just back from the U-District, where I saw a sign in the space just south of the American Apparel store (southwest corner of University and 45th) that said:
Coming Soon

Mee Sum Pastry

Man, college students at the U just got seriously lucky. I've been eating hom bows (aka char siu bao) from Mee Sum since I was 10 years old, when my mom would drive us up to Seattle to have a "city experience." I love the baked bbq pork and the curry beef, but I won't turn down a steamed bbq pork. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm not turning down anything from Mee Sum.

And now for the trivia:
I stopped into Allegro for old-times-sake. I hadn't been there in probably a dozen years, but when I was in college at UW I would go to Allegro almost every day for an Americano, enjoyed while sitting up on the deck, smoking cigarettes. If, by chance, you happen to have similar memories of the place, I think you'll be happy to hear that Allegro's still home to people who look like they're trying to look like professors, (mostly men) with hair so un-washed you can smell it. Twenty-first century hippies, keeping the dream alive.

Anyhoo, I explain my wistful smoking-upstairs memories (for the record, I quit years ago) to the barista who said, in a bummed-out tone, that they had to stop the smoking two years ago. We chat for a few minutes more and I find out that (and here's the trivia part): Allegro was Starbucks' first corporate customer, way back in 1975!

Unbelievable. If you're hungry for a taste of what Seattle coffee bars were like before the Starbucks-on-every-corner phenom, Allegro'd be a good place to start.

[where: 98105]

Eating Seattle: Skillet Street Food CLOSED

It's sad but true: Due to a recent King County Dept. of Health inspection, Skillet Street Food is currently closed for the following violations:

Operating without a valid permit
Operating without approved food business plans
Handwashing facility not working
Excessive red critical violations

Find the whole report here.
Huge thanks to reader Nikchick for the tip!

RELATED: Skillet Street Food

[where: 98101]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Eating Seattle: Stumptown Coffee

One of the benefits of my current stay-at-home-mom gig is the freedom to check out new places as soon as I can squeeze a trip in between Ruby's naps. So, as soon as Ruby'd had a little something to eat, we packed Callie into the car and took a trip to the brand-new Stumptown Coffee shop on 12th.

Stumptown's a coffee roaster and espresso shop out of Portland. They won the Roaster of the Year award last year from Roast Magazine, and they've been featured in the NY Times, Food & Wine, the list goes on. What you need to know (aside from whether their coffee is any good) is that the owner, Duane Sorenson, flies all over the world to source beans, and then buys them direct. And when you buy coffee from Stumptown, more money goes to the farmers growing the beans than at just about any other coffee shop around.

But you can't taste it if you can't find it. It took me a little bit to figure out where Stumptown was, since I didn't have an address, just a vague memory of reading something about it being "on the stretch of 12th where Lark and Presse are." They don't have a sign up yet, so in case you're doing the back-and-forth, illegal u-turn thing I did this morning, it's right next to Presse.

We walked into the space and were given a really warm welcome, which is sort of refreshing in a place that attracts hipsters in hipster uniforms (a girl in black stirrup legwarmers!!! with red flats. come on.) The barristas even flirted with Ruby to keep her occupied when I had to plant her on the floor to grab my coffee and scone. Cute guys too, btw. Cute with a capital "c".

I ordered an Americano and one of the barristas said, "a lot of Americanos in Seattle, huh" to the other guy, who then said, "I think that shows that people here like the taste of coffee." So I'm thinking these guys are Portland Stumptowners up in Seattle for the launch? If so, I'm impressed.

We also got a cheddar-dill scone, cut and filled with cream cheese. They're getting pastries from Macrina, which I love; it's a nice nod to a bakery that many pass up in the search for Seattle's newest, hottest, trendiest. Doughnuts are from Mighty-O, which, well, let's just say I think they makes the third best doughnuts in Seattle (after Dunkin'). Sorry, Mighty-O!

That scone! Why haven't I had a scone filled with cream cheese before? After all, some scones (like this one) are biscuits' cousins. Even Ruby loved it.

But you're not coming for the scones. The coffee was really smooth, and not hit-you-over-the-head strong. The closest comparison would be Vivace, but this coffee is just a very pleasant, balanced taste. I really liked my coffee.

You'll also want to spend a little time in the space, which is refreshingly un-grungy. We've got enough Friends-type slumpy-couched coffee shops, right? Gorgeous white leather sofas (these might even be considered Davenports, people!), an exposed brick wall, wood floors, and tons of that bright-grey light we all get for free nine months a year, streaming through a wall of windows. We sat, we people-watched, and we wished we could've stayed longer.

Stumptown Coffee in Seattle

[where: 98122]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: An excerpt

As I mentioned earlier, I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about the year she and her family spent eating food raised and grown themselves, or by farmers very near their home in Virginia.

This passage--on why eating what you cook is such a different (and better) experience than eating pre-made food--struck me on many levels, so I thought I'd share.
A lot of human hobbies, from knitting sweaters to building model airplanes, are probably rooted in the same human desire to control an entire process of manufacture. Karl Marx called it the antidote to alienation. Modern business psychologists generally agree, noting that workers will build a better car when they participate in the whole assembly rather than just slapping on one bold, over and over, all the tedious livelong day. In the case of modern food, our single-bolt job has become the boring act of poking the thing in our mouths, with no feeling for any other stage in the process. It's a pretty obvious consequence that one should care little about the product. When I ponder the question of why Americans eat so much bad food on purpose, this is my best guess: alimentary alienation. We can't feel how or why it hurts. We're dying for an antidote.

It's why eating the tomatoes on my plants is cause for celebration. I mean, we seriously treat them like pieces of gold. We don't want to "waste them" on just any old salad (or person, truth-be-told). They deserve fresh mozzarella and beautiful basil, also plucked from the tomato pots. We eat them with reverence.

It's why, when someone actually bakes you a cake for your birthday, instead of grabbing one from QFC, it almost makes you cry.

We're losing this. It's no wonder we stuff our mouths without taking time to taste. We have no connection to our food.

Kingsolver's daughter writes short pieces in the book, and one of her most startling perspectives is a true, honest and tangible appreciation of the foods she eats. It's a result of working the fields, staying up all night picking cherries (before the birds get them), watching how bread gets made.

My mom told me today she thought that my feeding Ruby from the table "seemed like too much work." It makes her uncomfortable to think I've yet to open a jar of "baby food." I tried to explain that the idea of "baby food" is rather new, and mostly a product of big-budget marketing. I said I didn't think Ruby should learn that chicken noodle soup has the same texture (and smell) as yams. It doesn't, and it shouldn't.

But I understand where she's coming from because I grew up in her home. This is how she thinks. And, hey, it's not like this isn't how most of my neighbors think about cooking nowadays too. Why bother with all that cutting? Stir-fry comes in a bag in the freezer section! But for me, cooking is a pleasure, and cooking for Ruby and Ed and myself is something I take pride in.

Kingsolver says it better:
"Cooking without remuneration" and "slaving over a hot stove" are activities separated mostly by frame of mind. ...Approaching mealtimes as a creative opportunity, rather than a chore, is an option.

RELATED: Good read on Ruhlman

PNW Roadshow: Wild Salmon (the restaurant) part deux

Another write-up (note: not a restaurant review) of former Ray's chef Charlie Ramseyer's and Jeffrey Chodorow's new NYC seafood palace, Wild Salmon, in USA Today.

What's interesting here is that the writer interviewed several Northwest chefs, who comment on the idea of a "Northest concept restaurant" and how that would translate to cities not in the Northwest.

When you discuss Pacific Northwest food with Tom Douglas, beloved Seattle chef and restaurateur, one word keeps popping up — pristine. If it's fish, where was it caught exactly? By what method? How do the fishermen handle it when it comes aboard? And how does the purveyor handle it once it hits dry land?

Then, Douglas says, you take that pristine ingredient and get out of the way. He points out that when he was on Iron Chef, he beat Masaharu Morimoto using a simple recipe of salmon poached in butter.

Cory Schreiber, whose Wildwood restaurant in Portland, Ore., was one of the first to focus on Pacific Northwest cuisine, is less smitten with the concept. "You can't transpose it," he says. And he doesn't understand why anyone would try.

"Part of it is that the product doesn't transport well. Most of it is very perishable. The mushrooms, the fish — the obvious ones — aren't really meant to transport," says Schreiber, whose family has been in the Pacific Northwest oyster business since the mid-1800s and ran a cherished roll-up-your-sleeves restaurant in Portland called Dan & Louis Oyster Bar.

"And it's a non-transferrable experience," he adds.

Check out the entire article here.

RELATED: Bruni reviews Wild Salmon

[where: 98101]

Eating Seattle: Buckley's

It was suddenly fall in Seattle this weekend, and Ed and I were craving afternoon beers. And since the Seachickens were playing we had the perfect excuse to stop into a pub to watch the game, nosh on some bar chow and sip a couple of local brews.

We found our way to Buckley's, a much-loved pub on a quiet corner of Lower Queen Anne. Until 2004, the space that Buckley's now occupies was one of those constant-rotation restaurant locations--you know, like the space that Mioposto now occupies. There's something about certain spaces when combined with certain concepts, I guess, that makes it tough to keep steady business. Anyways, Buckley's seems to have figured out what the neighborhood was after: this fun, raucous neighborhood pub was packed.

And not just with forty-year-old dudes in Seahawks jerseys, either. There were groups of women, a family of five, young 30-something guys with dates, and us, a couple with an eight-month-old baby. Ed and I were happy to be in a real (read: not "baby-friendly") pub with real sports fans watching a really good football game.

We ordered a plate of wings and a bacon-cheeseburger to share. Ed's obsessed with finding good wings in Seattle (got ideas? post in comments) and so far, well, we're still looking. These were fine, but the skin was a little flabby. And let's be honest, when you've decided to eat wings you don't need an obvious reminder that you are, in fact, eating the skin of a chicken. Gross.

The burger, however, rocked. Have you noticed how many restaurants fail to season their burger meat? I don't get it--there's nothing more disappointing than an undersalted piece of beef. Buckley's doesn't make this mistake: Their burgers--8oz of nicely seasoned beef cooked medium--rock. The bacon was great too, and the brioche bun doesn't hurt matters either.

We also had a couple of pints of a great German beer, Hacker-Pschorr weisse, which they've got on tap right now. It's got a great bright flavor and a real fresh hoppy taste. Get your butt in there and try one.

Buckley's on Queen Anne in Seattle
[where: 98119]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Eating Seattle: Lark

I almost felt like, why bother? Lark opened when I was living in NYC, so I missed the first-year, just-opened excitement. Now the restaurants is, what, four years old? Why pick Lark over, say, a newer place like Veil? Would it really be as good as I hoped?

The chef, Johnathan Sundstrom, just won the James Beard Best Northwest Chef award. And although I'm not convinced the Beard committee members know much about chefs outside their home town of NYC, there's no question: it's a huge accolade.

And I've loved Johnathan Sundstrom's food for a long time. I reviewed Earth & Ocean when Sundstrom was the debut chef there, when his (great) food took second billing to the ultra-trendy scene in the bar. He wasn't a foodie household name back then.

But Sundstrom's cooking has long shown that rare touch, part instinct and partly an ability to get out of the way of carefully chosen ingredients. I still remember (seven years later?) his roasted asparagus with just a hint of truffle oil (back when truffle oil wasn't the ubiquitous ingredient it is now). It was simple, it was like tasting asparagus again for the first time. It was perfect.

Several years later I was writing this article on stew for Restaurants & Institutions. It was a great excuse to call Johnathan up and give him some much-deserved press. He'd just opened Lark, so it was timely. And it turned out, he's a really nice guy.

And yet, despite coming home to Seattle for holidays and family visits, I never managed to make it into the restaurant. For four years.

Which is the long-winded version of how we ended up at Lark this past Friday night for our much-anticipated first dinner.

The room is lovely at night. Candles flicker, there's a nice hum, and when you look up, the warm rough-hewn wood ceiling just adds to the sophisticated charm of the space. There were four of us--including my oldest friend, Clare, and her husband Matt--so we decided to all pick one thing from the menu and go from there. Matt ordered a great bottle of Sancerre and we were well on our way.

Ed and I share a lack of control when faced with chicken liver pate, so when the dish arrived we went right for it. The pate (called parfait on the menu) was smooth, rich and fantastic with a smattering of the huckleberries served alongside.

Next up: sweet corn soup with gulf prawns. Have you had a prawn that tasted like a prawn lately? Probably not. The soup was just gorgeous corn through-and-through, but those prawns that tasted like prawns are what I keep thinking about.

Then came the burrata. If it's possible to be the new "it" cheese, burrata is it. No, seriously: Mozza (you know, Nancy Silverton + Mario Batali = busy as hell Italian in LA) orders their burrata from a cheese maker who delivers it the day its made.

I first tasted burrata many years ago when I wrote a review of Valentino for the Citysearch office in LA. I remember being stopped in my tracks by the warm, oozing cream center. It's a truly fantastic experience, and Lark's version--with perfect tomatoes and just a hint of basil oil--rightly accessorized the cheese without doing much to divert attention elsewhere.

Yellowtail carpaccio was next, wearing just a drizzle of lemon oil and slices of green olives. Nice.

Local squab (breast and leg) arrived tasting amazingly flavorful in its rare glory, accompanied by a house cured bacon-wrapped fig. Why aren't bacon-wrapped figs on every menu in town? They're amazing.

Last, the striped bass with taragon and tomatoes. Very good, but a little "eh" after everything else we'd tasted. This was the "safe dish," the dish you'd order if you were on a diet. Don't get me wrong: They nailed this one too, it just wasn't as inspired as the rest.

Four years into it, Lark is still at the top of its game. Every bite, every taste was excellent. How many restaurants can you say that about?

It's surprising and yet not, especially after noticing that chef Sundstrom himself was expediting that night, wiping plates and watching to make sure everything leaving the kitchen was just as it should be.

NOTE: Sorry for the lack of photos. I don't like to take pictures when I'm dining out (especially in nicer restaurants). I think it takes away from the experience and draws attention to my table, neither of which is something I want to do.

Lark in Seattle
[where: 98122]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Eating Seattle: Green Leaf

Expectations are a bitch. You read raves ("oh, the lemongrass eggplant!" "ooh la la the pho"), you get hungry just thinking about noodles and meat and the spring rolls you've read are "ethereal" and "perfect." And then you go.

This is what happened to me last night. I'd read nothing but "my God this is the best food!" reviews about this place, so I walked into Green Leaf with lofty expectations. And you know what? I just don't get it.

We started our meal with the shrimp and pork-filled spring rolls. They had a straw of fried dough in them that gave the rolls an awesome crunch. There was a hint of herb but not enough. And maybe they were out of pork? Nowhere in sight or in taste. Pretty good spring rolls, but nobody was making any When Harry Met Sally noises.
image via 43 places

The vermicelli combo arrived next, thin rice noodles topped with grilled pork, chicken, a fried egg roll and some herbs and lettuce. We doctored the vermicelli with some sambal (chili sauce) and the sweetened fish sauce (delivered with tiny shavings of carrot). The meat was great--dark from a good, hot grill fire. We were sharing this dish and we didn't get quite enough so we ordered another one, this time with all grilled chicken. We raced for the hunks of meat. They should just sell a huge plate of the chicken. It's great.
image via 43 places

Then the lemongrass shrimp arrived. I was worried when I could see the twiggy lemongrass puree coating the shrimp, and I was right: it was over-the-top with that soapy lemongrass flavor. Ed said it tasted like Pledge. And it was served with undercooked hunks of onion. Really, not very good.

We left satisfied but somewhat bewildered. It was good, but not so good that we were wowed. I'll probably go back to try the pho (I just can't order hot soup on a warm summer evening), but I can't help but wonder: Am I missing something? Or are there are others out there, secretly thinking to themselves when they hear the endless Green Leaf raves, "I just don't get it."

Green Leaf in Seattle
[where: 98101]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Advice on big noses

I love stats. I'm kind of obsessed with them, actually.
And today, I got rewarded for it.

TODAY, dear Eating Seattle readers, today someone in the UK googled the phrase "advice on big noses" and this link on my blog was the third search result!

Me so proud.

Eating In: You say Eggs in a Nest, I say Toad in a Hole

I'll just start off by admitting that I have been calling what I made for Saturday morning breakfast "Toad in a Hole" for, well, since birth I guess. So imagine my surprise when, just now, as I was getting ready to post this recipe, I decide to look up a recipe to see if my winging-it Toad in the Hole was anything like what you're supposed to do when making Toad in the Hole.

Well, lordy me, guess what? Toad in the Hole apparently looks like this:

I can assure you: I did not make Toad in the Hole. But hey, sausage, eggs, puff pastry? YUM. Maybe I'll try that sometime.

What I did make was Eggs in a Nest. You know, when you punch a whole in a slice of Columbia City Campagne bread, butter it, then put the bread into a pan to toast on one side while you get the eggs out of the fridge and, hmm, maybe crumble up some Beecher's cheese and maybe cut up a few scallions.

And then, once the bread is toasted, you flip the bread over and carefully place an egg in the hole and toss on some cheese and scallions and hope your pan isn't too hot because then the egg cooks too fast (you want runny eggs).

And then one last quick flip and voila!
Toad in the Eggs in a Nest. And it was yummy.

[where: 98118]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Increased child hyperactivity linked to food additives

Turns out that that awesome "cheese" that doesn't need refrigeration and those yummy-as-hell "cakes" that don't get hard or dry even after two years on the grocery store shelf probably aren't that good for you.
I know! I'm pissed off and shocked, too.

According to a study conducted at the University of Southampton (linked to on Grinder)

We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children. There is some previous evidence that some children with behavioural disorders could benefit from the removal of certain food colours from their diet. We have now shown that for a large group of children in the general population, consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colours and benzoate preservative can influence their hyperactive behaviour.

Sorry, I know that's a real downer. But hey, at least no one's saying babies shouldn't watch TV, right?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eating In: Fresh Summer Corn Fritters

Local corn was at its absolute peak last week, so I had to get some at the Columbia City Farmers Market. But then what?

I went to my favorite recipe site, Simply Recipes, to see what Elise had in her archives. And I found this recipe for corn fritters. I'm not sure I've ever fritted before, but one look at that recipe (and the pictures) and I knew I was the fritten kind.

I cut the recipe in half since it was just for Ed and me, but after making the fritters and the dipping sauce, we decided that the dipping sauce sucked and that it took away from the pure corn taste. So I made some changes to the recipe. Here's my version.

Fresh Summer Corn Fritters

2/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp dried chili flakes

1 egg
juice of 1 lime
1/4 c water
3 scallions, thinly sliced white and green parts
2 large or 3 medium kernels of white corn, cut off the cob
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, or more to taste
Vegetable or corn oil for frying.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and spices together in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl beat egg slightly, then add lime juice and water. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth.

Mix scallions, cilantro and corn in third bowl, then add to the flour-egg mixture. Stir to coat.

In a wide frying pan or saute pan, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan liberally. Heat over medium-high until oil is shimmering. Drop batter in 2 tablespoon portions and press down to flatten, leaving a little room between fritters.

Fry for 2-3 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Serve immediately with a little sour cream mixted with lime juice and cilantro.

Or do what we did and dig into some of the best tomatoes of our lives (from our garden!!) alongside the fritters.

Awesome summer dinner.