Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We Go Zengo

Whenever I need a pick-me-up, Zengo is the place to go. Every time I meet D, an old college friend who happens to work on the Hill, we have nothing short of an epic evening. Atmosphere is surprisingly clubby (given this is DC), but the Asian-fusion cuisine and sushi combinations are fun, the bartenders are fresh, and the clientele is -- well -- friendly. 

ACHIOTE-HOISIN PORK AREPAS
corn masa / avocado / crema fresca
THAI CHICKEN EMPANADAS
chile poblano / oaxaca cheese / mango-curry salsa
SHRIMP-SHIITAKE POTSTICKERS
won bok cabbage / chile serrano
VEGETARIANO
grilled asparagus / red pepper / avocado / mushroom / lemon~sake aioli
     

D & me in May 2008
Me & D in November 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What a welcome home: with wine!

I'm grateful for my building that offers a seasonal wine tasting, especially tonight. It was exactly what I needed after a long day at work. Now time for bed.

Tavolata

For some reason or another, I've never tried any of Ethan Stowell's restaurants. Ethan is one of Seattle's most renowned chefs and his restaurants, Union, TavolĂ ta, How to Cook a Wolf, and Anchovies & Olives are some of the hippest places to dine. Tonight, I finally got to try Tavolata, and in the kitchen was Ethan Stowell, the man himself. I had actually seen him speak on a panel a couple of nights prior at Foodportunity. I tried pork cheeks for the first time, and while I thought I loved pork belly, the tender richness and tastiness of the pork cheeks give the belly a run for my favorite pig-part. Dessert was a ginormous helping of homemade donuts with a hint of lemon. Between the pork and a few of the donuts, I was sent home with basically a full meal for the next day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ballard Bargain Happy Hour

It's no secret. I love happy hour.

I love being able to eat good food and sip good drinks at a bargain price. And one of the best places I've found is the Hi-Life in Ballard. In the effort of full disclosure, I will admit that what puts this place over the edge is its stumbling distance proximity to home in case happy hour escalates to downright jolly. And it's a little too easy at the Hi-Life, with their $3 specials, both for drinks and food, including full-size salads and pizza, tasty sliders, mac & cheese, and generous pours of wine and beer. I can easily get out of there fully satiated for $11, including tip.

Serendipity

This is when blogging every day can get real personal. Yesterday, I took a break from writing (and socializing and other activities) and really began cleaning and purging stuff that was no longer needed. I guess as you clear things out, you're also enabled to see things more clearly, and I ended up finding some unexpected details about a betrayal in my life. Of course, all sorts of emotional distress ensued, feelings that I thought I been getting over, and I was set back to where I was a year ago, remembering details, details that puzzled me but I hadn't give a second thought before, and realizing how blind I was at not seeing what was actually happening right under my nose. It was a tough night.

This morning I turned on the Today Show, despite wanting to cut down on television, something inside suggested this morning might be important to watch. And then they had a teaser about a woman they were going to interview, who had overcome the adversity of an abusive relationship, divorce and addiction to food, which hit close to home and they had my attention. I saw pictures of the woman's before pictures and holy cow, it was Amy Barnes, a former colleague. I'd always known her as a fit, confident woman (the after), but I recognized her pictures from the website of her new company, Inside & O.U.T. Fitness. I had no idea about her past, that she also came from an abusive relationship and suffered an addiction to food. We had some interesting parallels.

Did that include an addiction to food? Uh oh.

Well, I love food. I eat food, I have a food site, I write a food-based blog, I go to food-related events and my travels do tend to be based on finding the best food.

Really, an addiction? I kind of saw this as more of a celebration. More to explore.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yucatan Yumminess

I was really happy today to find out my dear friend, Julie, would be joining me for Christmas in Mexico this year, and even more excited to find out that we will be there for her birthday, too. Part of the time, we'll be in Playa del Carmen, and I can't wait to take her to my favorite empanada shack, Las Commerciales located on Calle 8 Norte and 26th Avenida Norte, maybe half a block from the Walmart (don't judge, that's where my shuttle would stop).

I was walking toward the beach and happened to see a neon orange sign:
Empanadas $5
And like a beacon, I found myself at the counter in less than a blink. These delectable yummy treats were hand-made to order, and at 5 pesos a piece (less than US$.50), I could "splurge" on 3 of them. They were wonderfully moist without being too greasy, and the homemade sauces that accompanied them (a tomato-based sauce, a tomatillo sauce and a crema) added just a hint of heat, color and delightful flavor that my tongue was nothing less than overjoyed whenever I took a bite.











Saturday, November 7, 2009

City Where I Left My Stomach

A bunch of my Twitter friends are in San Francisco for the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival and reading their tweets is getting me nostalgic (and hungry) for my old home town. I'm planning on spending Thanksgiving week, which will be the first entire week I've spent there since I moved to Seattle over 5 years ago. Some people have asked me for suggestions on where to dine, and aside from some of the more famous and more obvious places (Tadich Grill, Top of the Mark, Slanted Door), I'd like to share a few of the establishments and dishes that I personally long for:
  • Tu Lan (Civic Center, 6th & Market) - I have such incredible memories of this dive Vietnamese Restaurant, from being a financially-challenged college student to breaking Imperial Rolls with a bunch of Secret Service agents. This is a place that is so good, that not only was it reputed to be Julia Child's favorite Vietnamese restaurant (before Slanted Door ever opened), but one time there was a fire in the adjacent apartment building and the last people to vacate the restaurant were the customers because they really wanted their food. They even ate heartily as firefighters put out the fire and sadly, hosed down the building and the restaurant had to close down for months. I don't know if this is the best venue or not to mention how much grease I saw swept out from the floor of the restaurant during news reports. That said, my typical order is shrimp fried rice and imperial rolls. And just FYI, those imperial rolls are so good, I've had requests to fly them with me across the country.
  • Ti Couz (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - I love the Brittany-style crepes, made with buckwheat that adds texture. My favorite is a dessert crepe with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and almonds.
  • Tartine Bakery (Mission, Guerrero & 18th) - It doesn't matter how long the line is (well, maybe in a rainstorm), all the pastries are worth it. I couldn't even begin to make a suggestion here, except to get one of everything.
  • Pancho Villa (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - Every SFer has a favorite burrito-shop and this one happens to be mine. Everything's fresh, in this assembly-line style eatery. Will probably be one of my first stops when I go back home.
  • Yum Yum Fish (Sunset, way out) - If you're willing to get on the MUNI streetcar for about as far west as you can go (or have a car, or better yet, a friend with a car), Yum Yum has quite possibly the freshest sushi possible this side of the Pacific. So fresh that it's actually a fish market that other restaurants order their sushi from. The market just has a few tables, I mean, most people don't want to dine in the middle of a fish market due to smell, but the freshness and the unbelievably cheap prices make it far worth it.
  • Pakwan (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - Best Pakistani/Indian food in town in this cheap and casual restaurant. My understanding is the owners are Muslim, so they don't sell alcohol, but that doesn't stop diners from byob'ing, and there's a liquor store across the street.
  • Shalimar (Tenderloin) - My other favorite Pakistani/Indian restaurant, although unless you're a local or have really good street smarts, you're just as well off going to Pakwan, in a better neighborhood.
  • City View (Financial District, Commercial & Kearny) - Something I miss from San Francisco is stellar dim sum, and at this place with stellar prices. More casual than Yank Sing at Rincon Center, but still appropriate for a special occasion.
  • R&G Lounge (Chinatown, Kearny & Commercial) - I'm grateful to Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show for reminding me about this, one of my favorite lunch places when I worked downtown. My personal favorite is the salted fish & chicken fried rice, but that's probably too funky for most. I can, in good faith, recommend everything here.
  • House of Nanking (Chinatown, Kearny & Columbus) - Be forewarned that the gentleman taking your order may tell you you're ordering the wrong thing and then make suggestions on what you should order. LET HIM! Think of it as going to a roadside diner with a snarky waitress bickering with the chef, it's part of the charm of this place and when you get your food, you'll be grateful. And who knows, when you walk out and look across the street to Cafe Niebaum-Coppola, you just may see a famous actor meeting with an even more famous movie producer, which I happened to last time I was there.
  • Caffe Greco (North Beach, Columbus & Vallejo) - The quintessential caffe in this Italianesque neighborhood.
  • Suppenkuche (Hayes Valley, Hayes & Laguna) - I used to work for a German company and this was by far the best to take my German colleagues. Get anything with the herb & cheese spaetzle, I would usually settle for the Jagerschnitzle.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Favorite Home-Cooked Meal

While I love any opportunity to hang out with friends, I feel grateful my happy hour was canceled with my fantasy football co-owners. Granted, we need to strategize our team for this weekend, it's been so nice to be able to enjoy a quiet evening home. However, because these evenings have been so few and far between, the culinary selection in my own kitchen is quite limited. Luckily, with a few staples, I was able to make one of my favorite meals: breakfast for dinner.


Clockwise from the right: Noelani Berkshire Bacon from Swinery Meats, organic eggs from Samish Bay Farms topped with Annie's Organic Ketchup and yes, a pre-formed hash brown patty (stop judging me).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You Get What You Pay For

I've dined at Dahlia Lounge and Tom Douglas' restaurants over the years and am always impressed. However, trying November's Dine Out Seattle menu was a good example that you get what you pay for. Not that I was necessarily expecting a typical $100+ meal for only $30, but I did get used to a certain standard from Mr. Douglas, whether it's a cookie from his bakery to his pizza to the fancier Palace Kitchen. I appreciate the opportunity for people to try the famous Dahlia Lounge for a bargain price of $30 for three courses, but unfortunately I have to say the food just was not up to par. We tried the "Through the Years" and "And Now..." menus, which while inventive, were disappointing. Although the starter of the "And Now" menu of Bill Taylor's mussel's were extraordinary, the rest of the dishes fell flat. If you want to experience the true glory of what made Tom Douglas famous, save up your money and enjoy the traditional Dahlia menu. And be sure to order the mussels.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Running Into Odd "Fellows" at Oddfellows Lodge

I had to run an errand at lunch today in Capitol Hill and coincidentally, my co-worker told me she was meeting a friend at a restaurant right where I had to run this errand, so we decided to carpool. I was thinking of just going to pick up some food after my errand (Rancho Bravo, Pike St. Fish Fry, Honeyhole), but I'd been wanting to try Oddfellows Lodge ever since it opened, so here was a great opportunity. Plus, I had signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I could use the time to myself to write my future best-selling novel without my usual distractions.

Oddfellows promotes the communal atmosphere with long tables throughout the center (and individual 2-4 top tables against the walls if you'd like to keep your party more private) and it didn't take long for their plan to work. Shortly after getting in line, the gentleman behind me and I struck a conversation since it was both of our first times at the restaurant and we sat together while he waited for his order to-go. As I was trying to decide where to sit, in walked Sarah, a fellow foodie friend I recently met (assuring me this was a good place). Shortly after that, Jeanie, a very dear friend from years ago appeared. I really appreciated the idea of having community and at this particular hour on this particular day, I could turn any corner and find a friend, new and old.

In case you're wondering about the food (oh, that!), it was wonderfully fresh, but the sandwich was a little dry and the salad a bit skimpy. I would still go back in a flash, however, with friends, or meet friends.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Foodportunity vs. Football

Obviously, I love food. But did you know I also like football? It's been a long-standing love, started by growing up in San Francisco during the hey-day of the 49ers from the Joe Montana/Bill Walsh/Jerry Rice years through the Steve Young/Steve Marriucci/Jerry Rice years. I was absolutely thrilled when Jerry Rice moved up to Seattle shortly after I did, unfortunately that didn't last too long.

Living in Seattle the past 5 years, I rarely get to see my hometown team play, even on TV. (Although, probably not a bad thing given the 49ers' record.) I needed a reason to look forward to Sundays. So I was thrilled with the opportunity to join a fantasy football league at work. We hadn't been together as a group since Draft Day and I was looking forward to the opportunity to watch Monday Night Football together.


However, one of the eminent foodie events was happening, Foodportunity. For some reason, I was torn.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaBloPoMo

I seem to be getting a message from above that it's time for me to hanker down on my writing. Not only did I sign up for NaNoWriMo and was invited to sign up as a writer laureate at Hugo House, but now I've sined up for NaBloPoMo, in which I am pledging to write a blog post EVERY day for a month. So, here it is, my first blog post for the month of November. Luckily there is no theme, but anyone have any guesses on what I'll be writing about?

After a fun Halloween of tarot card reading at BonzaBash in the W Hotel, my colleague Julie and I decided to spend our tips on a fun breakfast at Hurricane. It was my first time and while very crowded, got great service from the waitstaff who were kind enough to alert us that our special requests (hashbrowns well done and a drink from the bar) would cause us to have to wait even longer. Food was good, otherwise, and I'm glad to know of a late-night place close to home besides Beth's Cafe which seems to always be cleaning whenever I come in. I don't know about you, but I really don't find the smell of ammonia very appetizing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bravo for Rancho Bravos

As a member of the jury for Three Dollar Bill Cinema's Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, my weeknights are filled with running from theater to theater to reception to theater. In between, I've had to find someplace quick to grab a bite and I am so grateful to Rancho Bravo (1001 E. Pike St.) for making good food fast. I highly recommend the tamales. Heavenly.

File under "cheap & good."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor(less) Day in Seattle for @DaveIDFX

I'm so excited that one of my DC playmates, DaveIDFX is in town this weekend to attend the PAX Conference, which I think is quite appropriate that he'd be here for one of the ultimate gaming experiences.

But now that it's over, and he's got a free day today for the ultimate Seattle experience. To help focus his day towards his tastes and weather issues, here are some suggestions:
  • Leisurely morning at his hotel (his request)
  • Breakfast at either Lola or Dahlia Bakery (both across the street from each other on 4th & Virginia), or if REALLY leisurely morning, pizza at Serious Pie, just around the corner from Dahlia Bakery
  • Walk to Westlake Center and take the Monorail to Seattle Center
  • Visit the Science Fiction Museum (with optional time at Experience Music Project) - Dave's got his priorities!
  • Walk across 5th to see the construction project for the new Gates Foundation offices. Walk along 5th another block towards downtown, and there is the almost completed Visitors Center with the green rooftop (yay Green Group!)
  • If the weather is nice (unfortunately not, at time of this writing), consider going to Bumbershoot, right there at the Seattle Center
  • Post-museum lunch/snack at Dick's Drive In (not quite Ben's Chili Bowl or Five Guys Burger, but it is Seattle's burger)
  • Perhaps a walk around the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, good place for record shopping
  • Leisurely walk back towards downtown or Pioneer Square

If Dick's doesn't fill Dave up and he wants to taste his way downtown, then here are a few spots along the route, kind of in order going south:

  • Uptown Espresso (4th & Wall) - Dave wanted good coffee, and this is a good place along the way
  • Macrina Bakery (1st & Battery) - good baked goods
  • Bedlam Coffee (2nd & Bell) - I haven't tried their coffee, but I think Dave'll like the scenery
  • Via Tribunali Pizza @ Crocodile Cafe (2nd & Blanchard) - good pizza in a historic Seattle music spot
  • Top Pot Donuts (5th & Lenora) - this is where @DCDavidG and I will usually meet for breakfast whenever he's in town
  • Dahlia Bakery (4th & Virginia) - be sure to get their coconut creme pie bites

Optional: if feeling artsy, there is the Olympic Sculpture Park. Once at Broad St., turn right towards the Sound and there will be the park.

If there is time for more touristy activities, hop on a bus to 1st & Yesler (will pass most of downtown) to the Underground Tour. It starts inside a bar called Doc Maynard's, and sure, have a beer while waiting for the tour to start. Although I highly suggest calling and get a reservation first, or at least get on the waitlist.

Have fun, Dave! Hopefully I'll get to see you at some point today, and if not tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mountain of Merriment


IMG_1968
Originally uploaded by GoGastronomy
Tier 1: scone, English crumpet, Chocolate scotch bar
Tier 2: Lemon blueberry tea bread, Cranberry orange Meringue star, Lemon curd tart, London sugar cookie, Assorted fresh fruit
Tier 3: Honey mustard potato salad, Bacon and onion savory cheesecake, English cucumber with mint chèvre cheese tea sandwich, Chicken almond with mustard butter tea sandwich, Smoked salmon cream cheese tea sandwich

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From Gastropub to Gastroclub, SeeSound Lounge Launches a New Concept to Seattle's Culinary Scene

I was stunned last year to hear the word gastropub for the first time after Spur opened its doors in Seattle last year. Perhaps this outs my culinary ignorance, or perhaps my age and lack of hip-ness to the "scene," but I was quite fascinated by this idea of a pub or bar that also puts a premium focus on its food.

It's not that I never associated good food with a pub. In fact, the very first pub I went to (at least legally) was the Pig & Whistle, strategically located over the hill from my dorm at the University of San Francisco. The food was always decent, but what did I know back then, especially when I lived by the saying, "Guiness is food." Over the (many many) years and multitude of bars and restaurants I've been to since then, the idea of a gastronomically focused pub or bar just eluded me. Sure I've been to bars with great food, but primarily because of the restaurant it would supplement while people either waited for their tables, dined alone, or skirted the reservation idea. Even now, my mind still grapples with this idea of a destination bar with a restaurant to supplement.
And now, I have come to experience not a gastropub, but a gastroCLUB.
Say whaaaaaaat???

Yes my friends, a gastroclub! Belltown's See Sound Lounge is altering its status from one of Seattle's hottest nightclubs to Seattle's first gastroclub. Robin Leventhal, formerly of Capitol Hill's Crave Restaurant and now a contestant on this season's Top Chef Las Vegas, is bursting both Seattle's food scene and club scene with her artistically delicious creations.

I was immediately turned on to trying out the place (besides knowing that she'd be cooking there) as soon as I heard Robin would be doing her own twist on "pigs in a blanket" called piggies en croute, using hot Calebrese sausage surrounded by puff pastry. Perhaps doesn't sound so extraordinary but the taste certainly is, especially when accompanied with an apricot mustard. (pictured below)

While popcorn is a general staple at bars, and See Sound offers Truffled Popcorn. And perhaps not a typical club dish, the goat cheese and fig tart with its port gastrique offered a perfect balance of flavors and textures.

The Ahi Tuna Tartare came highly recommended by another patron and while the tuna itself was impressive, my dining companion and I were enthralled with its fennel and orange salad with miso-tobiko vinagrette.


My personal favorite, however, had to be the Panzanella. While a simple sourdough bread salad with fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic, it was the seasonal heirloom tomatoes really that really made this stand out, so much so that I had considered returning the next night on my way to a barbecue just get my fix.


Of course, we couldn't end the evening without dessert, and on a hot evening what could be better than an ice cream sandwich? Two ice cream sandwiches! Pictured below on the left is Orange Cream Ice Cream on Almond Shortbread, with one of Robin's signature caramel sauces and on the right is a Triple Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwich. And while I have no idea what that saucebed was made from (white chocolate and ???), it was so good that I actually drank it from the plate. And okay, since I've gone so far to admit that, I may as well confess that I did finger-lick the caramel from the first sandwich, too.


This is all not to neglect the signature cocktails and the highly "skilled" bartenders that See Sound Lounge is known for. It's a known fact that I would happily surrender myself to any of the bartenders' whims -- I mean for drinks of course. As for price, See Sound offers $3 happy hour specials 6-9pm. A new definition of cheap n good.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

3 Months, 7 States, 1 District, 1000s of Miles

Is it August already? Seriously? Where has the time flown?

There's no way to fully write out my full experience the last few months in one blog post, so here is a brief synposis:

May:

  • Birthday weekend visit by my sister who was giving a talk at the University of Washington. First opportunity to buy her a drink since she turned 21 in March.
  • Surprise trip to DC for work. Even got to do a school visit in Maryland.
  • My first (and possibly last) attempt to drive in Washington, DC, including conquering my worst vehicular fear -- Dupont Circle. And THREE times no less.

  • Scoring a seat at Jose Andres' Minibar in DC, apparently one of the hardest reservations to get considering there are only 6 seats. Incredible 30+ course dinner. Molecular gastronomy just fascinates me.
  • Other DC culinary highlights: Ben's Chili Bowl, Cafe Atlantico, Penn Quarter Farmers Market, and Tangy Sweet (frozen yogurt)

  • Inventively convenient, and delicious dinner with the Spence ladies (paella and smores to be written in a future post some day)

  • Northwest Totem Cellars Vintners Dinner - an all-vegan affair at Russell Dean Lowell Catering.

  • Brunch at the Brown Bag in Kirkland. Worth the drive to the Eastside, especially for Yonatan, the most affable waiter ever.

  • Ice cream at Theno's Dairy in Redmond. Who needs a 45+minute wait for ice cream in Seattle when you can drive 30 minutes to Redmond.
  • Amma's visit
  • Anthony Bourdain & Mario Battali show and after-party. Actually favorite part was partying til close with Armandino & Marilyn Battali. No, make that reuniting with Tracey, an old high school friend and fellow foodie whom I hadn't seen in -- well, since high school.

June:

  • Month-long personal sabbatical including solo retreat and caretaking opportunity at a retreat center in Idaho. My duties: creation, meditation and prayer. My hobbies: cooking, cooking and more cooking.
  • Hour-long drive to farmers markets in Lewiston and/or Moscow were bliss
  • Cougar Creamery/Ferdinand's Ice Cream at Washington State University
  • Dinner at the Corson Building (back in Seattle)
  • Trip to Southern California for brother's graduation. With pit-stops in West Hollywood (lunch at Tender Greens) and Malibu (dinner at Nobu)

July:

  • Back to DC including 4th of July on the National Mall

  • Dinner at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA (so worth the commute)

  • Announcement of Top Chef Season 6 contestants, including Robin Leventhal from Seattle. The combination of one of my most favorite people on my most favorite show was just so incredible to bear.

  • Since I was in DC during the day of the announcement, had dinner at Zaytinya where fellow contestant, Mike Isabella serves as chef. Food was extraordinary, especially the Seasonal Mushroom dish which brought me to ecstasy.

  • Dinner at Sonoma in Capitol Hill, great way to spend a beautifully warm summer's evening

  • Back to Seattle and Burning Beast. Sorry, but what happened at Burning Beast should stay at Burning Beast. You'll just have to go next year.

  • Dinner at Branzino to check out Seattle's other Top Chef Season 6 contestant, Ashley Merriman.
  • Not just one, but TWO Outstanding in the Field Dinners. Chef Seth Caswell at Full Circle Farm and Chef Matt Dillon at UW Botanic Gardens (benefitting Seattle Youth Garden Works). Great food, great friends, great chefs in great settings. Full Circle Farm offered the most unique experience with the scratch & sniff field trip through their herb garden and giveaway bags of super-fresh produce we could pack up.

  • Weekend in New York and picnic in Central Park with H&H Bagels and whitefish salad from Zabar's Deli.

  • Back to DC and casual dinner at Himalayan Heritage. Preceded by drinks at Tabard Inn.

  • Ballard Seafood Festival and bacon-wrapped scallops sales guy.
  • Back home and back to yoga. Had to work off all the food from the past few months!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Food for the Soul

I read this poem/prayer this morning here in DC and wanted to share this with all of you:

A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcomes the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Waves of desire I am shore to
And all beauty dawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

-- John O'Donahue, To Bless the Space Between Us

Friday, July 3, 2009

Down for DC

After a month of being offline in my own private Idaho (more details in a future post), I'm thrilled to not only wake to a weekend with wireless internet, but in of all places, Washington, DC. Long-term readers may recall my love for this city, only exacerbated by my surprise trip last May ominously timed as a great birthday present, and during the weekend of the event that has topped my Bucket List, the White House Correspondent's Dinner. Even though I was not able to score a last-minute ticket seat to the event, I still had an incredible time in DC and am honored it has welcomed me back so soon.


Culinary highlights so far include a newly "discovered" weekday breakfast & lunch spot called Port of Piraeus which offers Greek food. I had to have the Delaware Destroyer, a unique take on a breakfast sandwich which included a 3-egg omelett with lettuce, tomato and pickle on a sub. I was about to grab a small fruit platter to help healthify my breakfast, but as my companion warned me, the sandwich was about the size of my arm. And, I must admit, much tastier. The only thing missing was some scrapple or better yet, some Spam. My savior ordered the Miami Hammy which was a toasted bagel with ham, cream cheese, and sweet pepper strips. I have to say that bagels will no longer be the same again. I can forgo the ham, but sweet pepper strips are now mandatory for my bagels and cream cheese. And I am so excited to learn that their daily special on Thursday will be Pastitsio. I am SO there next week!

Thursdays also mean Penn Quarter Farmers Market, and this week's did not disappoint. Now that things are coming into season, there was a plethora of yumminess. Food writer, Monica Bhide, was there promoting her latest book, Modern Spice, and offering tasty samples of her roasted beet salad and yogurt dressing. And I was thrilled to find white and yellow peaches make their season premier. It's their first weekend and although the white peaches still needed a touch of ripening, I can't wait to grill them this afternoon at a friend's barbeque and drizzle them with the raw honey I also purchased at the market.


Afterwards, I took the Metro to Alexandria, VA and met with a couple of friends at La Tasca for a quick drink. I couldn't help but notice some beautiful jars of liquid yumminess at the bar that turned out to be sangria. You didn't have to blink to hear me quickly order a pitcher. Our only debate was the red, white or rose. We chose the rose which included beautifully marinated blueberries, what an appropriate way to kick-start the 4th of July weekend. I could have drowned in a happy death drinking that entire pitcher, but alas I had another stop that evening.


I had the honor of dining with a lovely couple I will refer to as the JWs at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA. We met last May at Minibar and their glowing recommendations about this restaurant left me intrigued. Upon walking in, the place did not disappoint. In fact, I even remember being curious about this place when I had shopped at the consignment store next door when I was here last May. Perhaps it was meant to be and I am so grateful. We started with small and powerful Maryland Blue Crabcakes surrounded by a tangy slaw that enhanced their flavor. I'm grateful we ordered a second plate because they were so good. Our entrees included the two specials, hanger steak and king salmon from the Quiet River in Washington state. I've never heard of the Quiet River, but I'll have to find it because the salmon was so good. I ordered the pork belly (shock) which was artfully braised and confit'ed. One of the (many) things I really enjoy about dining with the JWs is together, we are not shy about ordering each of our own desserts. My friends back west and I are notorious for sharing one dessert (usually due to my insistence) and then leaving just that little tiny last bite to help alleviate their semblance of guilt for indulging. Oh heck no, not last night. We got the creme brulee, tart, and "Butterfinger" style napoleon with 2 of my favorite flavors, dark chocolate and peanut butter. Happy endings indeed!



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ah, My Beloved Ballard - Sunday Farmers Market

(A weekly progress)

I've been back in Ballard almost 3 months now and I am even more enamoured with the Seattle neighborhood as ever. And what's better is it's not even yet summer yet when everyone unsheds their winter coats, music fills the streets, and children dance around (and through) the water fountains at the park by the library.

One of the first things I looked forward to most was the year-round Sunday Farmers Market. Not only is it an opportunity to taste culinary creations from Mother Earth and innovative cooks, it's a great way to socialize. I've been blessed with running into friends old and new, and have found myself developing a bit of a ritual on how I spend my Sundays lately. Or at least like to.

It starts with setting up my victim -- er, my date -- for the day. One was a friend who was taking a rare Sunday off from her practice to celebrate her birthday, one was a client while we made it a walk-and-talk-and-taste session, and others have been dear friends that have been curious about learning about the neighborhood I love so much and this quintissential event that helps make this my foodie paradise. That, or it's the only time we happen to both be available. Or, sometimes, I just go on my own.

We meet for coffee (not too early) at Nervous Nellie's, a great cafe that is ideally located practically rolling distance from my bed. Depending on how awake we are, we may even sit down and chat while the caffeine courses through our veins. They use Lighthouse Coffee, a nearby roaster that I find makes the best coffee next to my beloved Peet's. If we're super-hungry already, Nervous Nellie's is known for their Swedish-style toast. My favorite combination is the butter, jam and cheese, but if you're really adventurous, go for the tracitional hard-boiled egg and caviar. Swedish caviar isn't the straight-up fish eggs that one would be used to, but is smashed and smoked and then comes out of a tube. Since I am such a lover of taramasolata (Greek style caviar), I was hoping it might be similar. It wasn't. Again, I stress that this might appeal to you if you are adventurous. But this does remind me, I should add taramasolata to my Last Supper Buffet, especially the one from Kokkari in San Francisco. And their vegetarian pastitsio while I'm at it.

Back to Ballard. Off we walk, west on Market and then down south on some random street to hit the Farmers Market. If we want something eggy for breakfast, we may go down 20th Ave. and stop in at GreenGo Food for their organic, locally made breakfast sandwiches. Otherwise, it's easy enough to walk around the market and eat our way around. While the samples from the vendors tend to be generous, I do need more food for the day. If I want to eat healthy, I get Patty Pan Grill's side of veggies with lots of Zane & Zack's honey chipotle hot sauce on top. If I want pizza, Veraci is there with it's wood burning oven (yes, the oven is there, too). And there are innumberable storefronts to get my nosh on, too.

Aside from the food stuff, there are great stalls and storefronts to pop into, handmade jewelry, books, Asian decor, herbs, etc. But usually after a round or two around the market and a hearty brunch, it's off to home to unload my bags and cook up or better yet, take a nap.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

If You Build It, They Will Come

It's been about a week since I sent out invitations for the Saints & Sinners Feast and I can't believe how many souls are selling themselves -- I mean how many guests are coming. Some of the tithings a few are bringing:

Humble Hummus and The World is Flatbread
Virginal Veggie Plate
Nona's Main Squeeze and some kind of Main Dish
Potatoes O'Grateful
Daniel's Devilish Dessert

Need to confess your sins and get some ideas of what to bring for your penance? Drop me a line @ yum at gogastronomy dot com.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Heads up for Foodie Fans in Seattle

Attention GoGastronomy fans! I have to give you the heads up that pre-sale internet tickets have gone on sale for Anthony Bourdain and Mario Battali on stage at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on May 30. Even though I don't exactly agree with their marketing as the "bad boys of cuisine," it'll definitely be a lively discussion, moderated by KIRO Radio's Luke Burbank from "Too Beautiful to Live." I'm a big fan of KIRO Radio and grateful to them for interviewing me for not just one, but two of their shows.

You can get tickets and more info at: http://www.stgpresents.org/artists/?artist=975. I'm sorry I didn't send this message out earlier, but I'd been focused on another event as well as my day job.

But I'm telling you now, isn't that worth something?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Easter Supper Menu Planning

As much as I'd like to make this event a "Best of" some of my specialty dishes, I've got to think practically. Unlike the smaller venues I've hosted, a bigger event requires even more strategy and provides for less forgiveness. But one nice thing I've learned is a key step is to take advantage of the situation and more hands mean more labor, so I'll figure out ways to delegate.

Regardless, I've got to put a few familiar favorites on the menu, with a twist on the theme to express my saintly -- ok, more likely sinful -- self:

Bubble Bubble Toil in Troublesome Devilish Ham
ham braised in a caramelly fizz
Goodie Goodie Green Beans
my not-so traditional take on the traditional casserole
Copycat Coconut Sumtangurrudder
perhaps my rendition of a beloved coconut cream pie or my friend's mother's southern-style coconut cake
And I'm so excited, friends are already responding and people are actually coming! One friend is bringing "A Virginal Veggie Plate."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Springtime Celebration for the Saints and Sinners

On a whim during a conversation with a friend this evening, I've decided to invite people over for Easter Sunday. I've had a few practice runs with hosting people, and figure I might as well really go for it. Right now the invitation list is limited to a few close friends I've been intending to have over and I have no idea whether or not any of them can make it. But what the heck. It's my mission to make space and create community. And it's my joy to cook and entertain.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Day's Mix of Joy and Pain in Seattle's Culinary World

Joy:

This morning I was greeted with a reminder on my calendar that Outstanding in the Field tickets were on sale today. I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the dinner last year featuring the culinary exptertise of Matt Dillon, then recently rated by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the Top 10 New Chefs.

When I saw the schedule last week, the only info was one date and TBDs for the location and the guest chef. I have to admit that this morning I didn't even look, I just bought tickets for the first Seattle location I saw. I decided to contact this great couple I met at last year's event to see if they were going and they asked which one I was going to. Which one? And I looked at the site a little closer and was amazed to find that there were actually THREE dinners scheduled.

I looked at the one I had purchased and I was so happy to find that the guest chef was Seth Caswell, formerly of Stumbling Goat Bistro. I'd been a long-time fan of his food and even had an opportunity to dine with him a few months ago (see Last Dance Gypsy Dinner post from November). Now that I recall, I did mention last year's Outstanding in the Field dinner at the table and his ears had perked up because he had done one years prior when he was living in the East Coast. He didn't know that it came here to Seattle, too. Dare I wonder if I could be indirectly responsible for his participation at this dinner? Hmmmm . . . Regardless, I have to find this set of coincidences a bit remarkable and I'm really looking forward to this dinner, even though it's not until July.


Pain:

I received an email later today that Culinary Communion has closed. I've had some amazing meals there, as part of a dining club I belonged to. It was possibly the closest thing to fulfilling my fantasy of being a judge on Iron Chef. It's not that I like to be judgmental about the food, but I loved watching chefs experiment with great food and having the opportunity to taste their incredible creations. This was the kind of venue where I got to try Josh Henderson's (Skillet) ranch ice cream and his version of bacon & eggs with maple-braised pork belly, a poached egg and coffee syrup -- breakfast for dinner never tasted so good. Another evening, Brian O'Connor (then from Laurel in San Diego and now The Cliff House in San Francisco) made a delicious salmon topped with crispy salmon bits. A great way to try the versatility of salmon two ways in the same bite.

I'll really miss CC, but the location still hosts The Lunch Counter and I hope soon, The Swinery.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Manifesting Yumminess

Last night as I was walking my dog, I was pondering what to do for dinner. I evaluated what I had in my fridge and the condition of my kitchen and decided it would be best to pick up something. I am blessed to live in a commercial area that is abundant with gourmet delights to fit just about any craving and budget, so I thought about what I wanted. First of all, I didn't want to walk too far. I just got home from work, so was still in heels (lesson: change shoes when walking dog) and it was friggin cold. I wanted something quick, healthy-ish, yummy and cheap.



It was as if the clouds parted and the sun beamed on the corner of NW Market and 20th. There was this sandwich board that called out to me. Needless to say, I was intrigued. In the old Patty Pan Grill space is now GreenGo Food, a quick-food takeout place for those who support the slow food, buy local, and organic/natural movements.


Behind the counter was Dylan Stockman, a friendly host who happily shared the story of his new storefront and its food philosophy. All ingredients are organic and local, whenever possible, and use compostable items. They have a relationship with the farms they buy from and even list them on a sheet of paper just below their menu. I settled on the cheeseburger and non-fries, and for next time, I really want to try their polenta or all-day breakfast. Dylan and his family are a very welcome addition to the magic that is Ballard. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Progressing in My Planning

I have a few strategies when it comes to menu planning, which I follow (or don't) according to my whim at the time.
  1. what's in season
  2. ingredient/s that I have in abundance
  3. special ingredients I'd like to share, especially from my travels
  4. occasion or theme I'd like to celebrate
  5. what's on sale

This time, however, I'm thinking of convenience. This dinner is on a Friday night which means I won't have time to do much prepping before, and the way my work has been going, it may feel like a long week. We'll be taking advantage of the hot tubs at my place, and I may take advantage of not having to drive home.

So, let's work backwards. At the end of the night, I'll want a dessert that can be done ahead of time. Something light and cool to enjoy after or during hot tubbing. After tweaking on my friend's special brownies technique last weekend (no, not THAT kind of "special!"), I really like the combination of chocolate and salt. Since I'll want something light, I'm thinking of mocking Josh Henderson's mother's deconstructed chocolate cream pie. I was craving more almost immediately after I tried it the first time and I think it's been almost a year since it's been on Skillet's menu. If he won't bring it back (hint! hint!), then I will do what I can to resurrect it. He did give me a couple of tips on how to make it back when I came crawling to him begging him to do it again. OK, it was just an email, but in my mind, I felt like a crackhead itching for his fix.

Great, dessert done.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Happy Munday . . . at Skillet

Yes, Monday's can be so mundane, and what better way to break up the day than with a fun lunch hunting for my favorite food truck, Skillet, in Capitol Hill with some of my favorite ladies.


Chef Josh Henderson peeks out to take C's order
  
Skillet's famous wagyu burgers with their delectable bacon jam

Cardamom rice pudding -- with three spooons to share, of course

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Inaugural Dinner Party

One of the best ways I've found to christen a new home is to have friends over for dinner. However, given my schedule and commitments, I haven't really had time to unpack, let alone had the opportunity host. But I've made a pledge and am taking the steps for my first (of many, I hope) dinner party in my new home:

  1. Figure out guest list - check
    I've chosen group of amazing colleagues that I've been working closely with for several months, yet not had the opportunity to get to know. Figure it's time for us to bond personally.

  2. Set a date - check
    With my own schedule and everyone else's, working something out with this group was akin to herding cats. Just when we thought we had a date set, we had to reschedule. Hopefully it is just this once.
    TIP: MeetingWizard.com - a great site that helps with finding mutually available times with a group of people, and requires no downloads and no cost.

OK, this is as far as I've gone so far. Quite frankly I'm impressed to finally have #2 taken care of. Now, next steps:

  • menu planning
  • shopping
  • cooking plan

Luckily, I won't have to tackle them alone. One of my colleagues is interested in cooking with me, and I'm just thrilled. Talk about a great bonding experience. If Anthony Bourdain is right, and “cooking for someone is maybe the most selfless thing - short of oral sex - you can do for somebody,” I wonder what cooking together means.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sundays in the Market w/ Daphne

Now that I'm back in Ballard, I look forward to spending Sundays, after my pundit shows, at the Ballard Sunday Farmers Market. Today, I was lucky enough to spend it with a dear friend who normally works on Sundays as a nutritionist near University Village, and it was a very special day -- her birthday -- and I'm so touched she decided to spend it with me. We got to browse and taste through some wonderful vendors who make my weekly trips so worthwhile.

One of my favorite stops every week, Taylor Shellfish. This week,
looks like Bill's got geoduck. Sigh, if only I knew how to cook it.

As always, a long line for Veraci Pizza.
It's amazing to me that they bring their stone oven with them every week

Artisan-made bowls for the Empty Bowls Fundraiser to benefit the Ballard Food Bank

Of course a nutritionist would be looking at the fresh produce

Tasting some seasoned nuts
Yes, this guy gives architectural advice for 5 cents.
A great way to spend an afternoon, tasting wines at Portalis



Sunday, February 1, 2009

Back in Ballard!

I'm now officially out of Queen Anne and back in Ballard, the place I dare call a Foodie Paradise. We've got an excellent Sunday Farmer's Market, the Ballard Market, and delicious restaurants galore to fit almost any palate and budget. I look forward to re-frequenting some old haunts like Thaiku (my most favorite bar design ever) and Snoose Junction Pizza while checking out some of new ones.

I did try Ocho last week and was pleasantly surprised how some elbow grease and grand imagination could convert Matt's Hot Dogs into such a wonderful hideaway from the world. Tapas and wine galore, I already feel nostalgic for the pan con chocolate which combined chocolate, toast, almonds, sea salt and truffle oil. Believe it or not, it was amazing. Hmmm, maybe I'll stop by there after my walk through the Market this afternoon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Living it Up at Voula's

Last night, I stayed up to watch Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah and I didn't realize how inspiring the film could really be. A lot of us withhold ourselves from dream experiences, whether it's a vacation (because we need to save money), telling a person how we feel (because we're shy), or not eating certain foods (because we think we need to watch our weight). Queen Latifah's character would cook amazing meals for her neighbor, but would stick to her Lean Cuisine until her doctor told her she only had 3 weeks to live. And live, she decided to do.

The restaurant scene was priceless. After being told the chef did not repeat the long list of mouth-watering specials twice, she decided to order one of each. No restrictions or substitions, just full fat and full force.


So today, I decided to go to one of my favorite breakfast spots, Voula's Offshore Cafe. I hadn't been there in weeks, not since my cousin was in town, mainly because of the "watch-my-weight" excuse. I enjoy Voula's for the down-home family atmosphere, but I truly love it for Niko's magical hash browns. And at this place, hash browns aren't a side dish, they practically are the dish, covering the plate in their golden majesty.

They had a special, the "Irish I had a hobo" which combined two indulgences for me, 1) their hobo which combines a lot of things I love for breakfast:
eggs, hashbrowns, mushrooms, onions, cheese and 2) corned beef. What the hell, I'm living it up, right? And I'm glad I did. It's always nice to reconnect with people you enjoy and the special bonus is Bryan, their long-time employee, came back from Southern California and is cooking up a storm again behind my favorite counter. I'd forgotten how much the people at this place make you feel at home so I'll be coming back more often.