Friday, March 28, 2008

Food News: Virginia Inn reopening in a week

Boy did I luck into this one. I got a nagging feeling, picked up the phone, called Virginia Inn and whattayaknow, somebody answered the phone (which, you know, they usually don't). Told me they're reopening April 5th (that'd be a week from tomorrow).

Read more about it on the Seattle Mag blog.

[where: 98101]

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eating Easter: Rosemary and lemon crusted leg of lamb

It's Easter! Lucky for us, the Easter bunny came yesterday, so we don't have to slog around in this drizzly weather looking for eggs.

Tonight we're having a family dinner and we're recreating the fantastic leg of lamb we cooked last October. So I'm lazily re-printing the recipe below. Enjoy.

What a beautiful piece of meat it was. I had to do a little trimming of silver skin, but not much. We left a good amount of fat on the meat (which we scored so that it'd render more easily) and did a very simple rosemary-lemon-garlic salt rub. We also threw a thick-sliced onion and some sliced fennel into the bottom of the roasting pan (to cook in the lamb juices). Yum.

Rosemary Crusted Leg of Lamb
1 6-7lb leg of lamb, bone-in
4 T rosemary needles
8 cloves garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
1 T kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced (optional)
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced (optional)

Prepare salt:
In a small food-processor, chop 6 cloves of garlic, all of the rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Process until rosemary is very fine and all garlic is chopped fine. Set aside.

Prepare lamb:
Score fat on lamb in a criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife, getting down to the meat level with your knife. This allows the fat to render, which marinates the meat and gives the finished roast a crispy thin crust (as opposed to a thick fatty crust).

Rub the lamb with the rosemary-lemon-garlic salt. Thinly slice the 2 remaining cloves of garlic and, using a long narrow knife, cut slits into the lamb, placing slices of garlic into the slits and pushing them in with your finger. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

Remove roast from refrigerator 1/2 hour before cooking, to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425. Place oven rack towards the bottom of the oven (you want the lamb to sit in the middle of the oven, not towards the top). Scatter onions and fennel in bottom of roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Remove plastic from meat and place lamb on a roasting rack. Place rack into the roasting pan (or you can place the roast directly onto the fennel and onions) and roast for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and roast for another hour to 75 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 130 in the thickest part of the roast. Remove from oven and allow meat to rest, tented with foil, for 20 minutes.

[where: 98118]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First day of spring, in pictures

We took a walk around the neighborhood this morning and it was just beautiful to see the earliest flowers beginning to bloom.
Daffodils everywhere

Not sure what this is, but it sure is pretty


will soon look like this:

this early clematis is fragrant and gorgeous

always a sucker for a tulip tree

pretty heliobore

callie, the good-looking dog

Cherry blossom trees are in full bloom

tulips are almost ready

callie's puppy-dog face

[where: 98118]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Food News: Mistral to close at end of month

Big news in restaurants today! First I read Nancy Leson's column on the new St. Clouds Cafe at the NW African American Museum--excellent news! And that the pair from Pair are opening another place. More good neighborhood is good.

But with the good news comes the sad news that Mistral, perhaps Seattle's most unique fine dining restaurant, is closing. Head over to for the scoop.

Also closed: The Wellington in Columbia City, which I never made it to. There's also papered-over windows one block south of the Wellington on Rainier. Anybody know what's moving into that space?

[where: 98118]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eating In: Macrina potato bread

We finally nailed it! My favorite loaf for years was the Macrina potato loaf, and since I have the Macrina Bakery Cookbook and the nearest Macrina is farther away than I'd like, I figured we should give it a shot.

So in the last, say, 4 weeks, Ed and I have made probably 5 loaves, and we finally got it just right. Below you'll find the recipe with my notes (**) and some things we learned along the way.

A couple quick things:
1) Do NOT be stingy with the salt. The loaf could actually use even more than this recipe calls for, I think.
2) Do not go to all the trouble of baking homemade bread and get to the end and realize your crappy store-brand flour has lost its umph. Yes, flour goes bad! I found this out the hard way when my homemade pizza crust under my homemade sauce (!!) tasted like cardboard. Just buy some good King Arthur Flour--it's worth the $3.
3) Do NOT be a wimp about the kneading. The loaf definitely needs a good long knead, so set the timer so you don't accidentallyonpurpose knead for too short a time.

And now...drum roll.....taDA!

Here she is. A beauty, no?

Macrina Potato Loaf
1 1/4 lbs russet potatoes
1 T kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
ice cubes

Scrub potatoes, leave skins on, and cut into 1 inch chunks (**the chunks don't need to be perfect). Place potatoes and 1 tsp of the kosher salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Measure out 1/2 cup of potato water and set aside. Drain potatoes in colander and leave them to dry for 20 minutes.

Pour the lukewarm potato water into a small bowl and sprinkle yeast over the top. Stir together well and then leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Place drained, cooled potatoes in bowl of stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mis on low for a minute to roughly mash. Add olive oil and mix another minute. Add potato water/yeast mixture and mix until combined (**scraping the bowl once or twice) for about 1-2 minutes. (If mixing by hand, place potatoes and olive oil in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Add potato water/yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.) Switch to hook attachment and add flour and remaining 2 tsp salt. Mix briefly on low spead to start bringing ingredients together (**use spatula to push flour into bottom of mixer), then increase speed to medium (**4 on KitchenAide) and mix for 11 minutes. (If mixing by hand, add flour and 2 tsp salt and mix with wooden spoon. Knead with your hands for 10-15 minutes.) **Dough will appear to not be binding at first, it'll look dry and like it's not coming together, but it will become moist as kneading continues. Check for elasticity by pulling the dough; finished dough should stretch about 2 inches without breaking.

Pull dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let proof for about 45 minutes in a warm 70F room. Dough will almost double in size.

Place dough on a floured surface and flatten it into a rectangle with your hands (**rectangle should be slightly wider left-to-right than long top-to-bottom). Starting with the end closest to you, roll dough away from you into a tight log. Stop rolling just before you get to the end, and then flatten the last 1/2 inch of the dough and flour this 1/2 inch section. This will prevent the loaf from fully sealing and will cause the seam to open slightly during baking. Wrap loaf--seam side down--in a floured dishtowel and let proof at room temp for 45 minutes. Dough will rise slightly and feel spongy to the touch.

Place baking stone on center rack of oven and preheat to 400F. Place a small oven-proof pan under the baking stone--**we use our tiniest cast iron pan, which is about 6" across. (**A baking stone REALLY helps the loaf bake evenly. Our first attempts--before we replaced the baking stone I so dumbly left in our oven in Jackson--were not nearly as good as the baking stone ones. Just so you know. If you don't have one, pre-heating a cookie sheet might work, but I'm not taking the blame if it doesn't.)

Working quickly: Get about 3 ice cubes from the freezer. Get your loaf mostly unwrapped from the towel. Open oven, place loaf seam side up on baking stone, and place 2 ice cubes into the pan beneath the stone. Close door and do NOT open it for at least 5 minutes (**this is when the crust gets all steamed and chewy). After 5 minutes, add the last ice cube and close door again. Bake for 40 more minutes, or until loaf is registering about 205F (**for those of you baking at altitude, your cooking time may be MUCH shorter--we noticed ours was when we lived in Jackson). Let cool for 30 minutes.

After admiring you loaf for those 30 minutes, slice off a hunk, slather with butter and sprinkle a little salt on top for a piece that basically tastes like potato chips in warm bread form.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Food Tube: Ripert and Bourdain under fire at Les Halles

I'm not a huge Bourdain fan. His schtick is wearing pretty thin on me, and it's always bugged me that Kitchen Confidential was written by a tall white guy. Seriously, his book would've been seventeen times better if it'd been written by a woman chef. He thinks the kitchen's hard on men? Ugh.

But one thing I do like about him is his perennial insistence that the James Beard Awards are a bunch of poppycock, because the guys who are really cooking your meals are not the chefs whose names are on the menus. Nope, they're--lots of the time--illegal Mexican cooks who work 16 hour days and get paid like shit.

So that's the saving grace of this episode of No Reservations

Bourdain talks Eric Ripert (of Le Bernardin) into coming down to Union Square and working the non-stop steak-charring grills at Les Halles, a mid-range French-ish spot that really isn't aiming to be anything but a mid-range French-ish spot. Anyhoo, long story short, before you know it the actual chef--a Mexican guy--gets pretty damned irritated with the antics of Ripert and Bourdain. Just imagine--a couple of big-timers semi-mockingly come into your workplace and basically F around. Sweet idea, Bourdain.

The one good take-away is that anyone who imagines a pretty Monica Geller chef cracking actual crab claws to make your "crab Louie" or what-have-you, might now realize that it's more than likely a 19-year-old high school drop-out opening a plastic container and scooping crab out with a questionably clean spoon. So there's that. Happy weekend!

[where: 10016]

Eating Portland: Lorna Yee on P-town

Head over to the Seattle Mag blog to read Lorna Yee's (of Cache fame) inside scoop on her upcoming Portland article.

We sent Lorna to Portland because we wanted to know if that city lives up to all the NYTimes hype its gotten of late. Lorna's a big-time foodie--the girl won a charcuterie competition the first time she made it, fer christsakes--so her insights are incomparable. Check it out.

And keep an eye out for the Best Restaurants issue, which will be on newsstands in about a week!! I worked my tail off on that thing--I think our first meeting was way back in mid-October--and I'm really happy with it. So don't miss it.

Oh, and one last thing: Stalkerish types should read my drive-by Corson Building update. It's getting a little ridiculous, I know, but it's fun (literally) watching the progress.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Food News: 4 restaurants open in Ballard in 2 months

What's going on over in Ballard? Seems like anyone and everyone with an itch to open their own restaurant has decided Ballard is the place. Unless I'm missing one (which, hey, it's possible), there have been four new, interesting restaurant openings since the new year. Curious?'re gonna have to click here (I wrote about it over on

[where: 98107]

Monday, March 3, 2008

Food Event: Dine for Darfur tomorrow, March 4

Here's my plan: I'm going to wake up, get Ruby dressed, get me dressed, and head to the new Caffe Vita down by the PCC near Seward Park for my morning coffee.

We're meeting Ruby's friend Leo (a younger man! He's only 13 1/2 months; Ruby's 14 months) and his mom at the zoo, so I'm thinking lunch'll be at Irwin's, the hippity-dippity place on 40th with the Adirondack chairs out front. We used to live in Wallingford, and we'd trek down to Irwin's for bagels on weekends, so it'll be an old-times-sake thing for me.

We've got a family dinner planned at our house, so I won't make it out for dinner, but I think two DFD meals is pretty good, dontcha think?

But if I had my way, I'd go to Serafina for dinner (I've been hearing really good things the last several months), or order a pizza from Pagiacci, or--lordy me--have a beer and an oyster po'boy at the Jolly Roger.

Where are you going for DFD?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Not about eating or Seattle: Iditarod 2008

I am obsessed with the Iditarod, which just started this weekend up in AK. But, as much as I appreciate the mushers' amazing journey, for me it's a dog thing. I imagine that, someday, I'll quit doing what I do now and I'll move to the country, have a giant garden and raise dogs. I've been a dog person my whole life; I used to volunteer for the dog shelter on 15th because I wasn't allowed to have a dog in my apartment. The other day, I tied Callie (our black lab mutt) to a table outside Columbia City Bakery while I pushed Ruby in her stroller into the bakery. Then, as I was coming back out, a guy said to me, "don't forget your dog." And it just completely pissed me off. Um, because I have a stroller I'm going to forget my dog? Dick!

But clearly I'm getting off topic here. The point is, as much as I can get into the people stories, it's the dogs that amaze me.

Lance Mackey and Larry the dog, both of whom won the Iditarod last year

But I also imagine being there for what's surely an awesome, snowy, crazy-drunk celebration at the finish line in Nome, Alaska when, after 1,150 miles and 14 days of arctic winds, frozen paws, facial frostbite and sleep deprivation (yes, they sleep OUT IN THAT COLD!), the racers cross the finish line and finally take a rest. Oh, and they probably party their asses off. I mean, I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing Alaskans know how to get down, beer-drinking-wise.

So anyhoo, it's on my life-list. To scream from the bitterly cold sidelines, to hug one of those exhausted dogs, and then to drink 17 beers in a smokey tavern warmed by a real wood fireplace.

But for now, I'll be watching and reading, and maybe daydreaming just a little that this

is me.*

(it's actually Melanie Gould, one of the amazing women that go out and, you know, sometimes win the "last great race on earth")