Monday, January 31, 2011

West Seattle Farmers Market - Winter




West Seattle Farmers Market is a small, intimate dinner party with beautiful food and friendly company. We stopped by and picked up beets, potatoes, carrots, bread, apples, pears and smoked salmon. The vendors offer up helpful advice on their wares and friendly service. It was suggested to throw a few pears in the fridge since they would most likely all come ripe at once. And for determining when they are ripe, he said instead of watching for a color change like with some varieties we should press gently on the top. When it is soft, they are ready for consumption. We will probably ignore the storage advice since pears are consumed at an amazing rate in our house. 

The Amish Bay Meat vendor tried to make our kids laugh and everyone offered us up samples which provided entertainment for the tots and let us try the offerings. It makes a nice Sunday morning activity that results in a bounty of local food. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Baguette Box in Capitol Hill
























Baguette Box in Capitol Hill served us up a chorizo sandwich, an eggplant and feta sandwich, french fries and potato salad. I shouldn't have ordered an eggplant sandwich in January in Seattle. Why are they serving eggplant in January and more importantly, why am I ordering such a thing? I wonder where it is from? Despite the origins, the sandwich was great. It was a soft and tangy sandwich with grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, soft feta cheese and caramelized onions. The chickpea spread helped keep the baguette moist and softly chewy. The sandwich could have handled a more intense or flavorful cheese than feta but it still worked as served.

The chorizo sandwich was so exciting! Making a good chorizo sandwich that does not leave you feeling like you are going to immediately drop dead with a coronary is a complex undertaking. One long, skinny, dry (in a dense, intense way) chorizo sausage was a good start. The chorizo was slightly charred, some may have said overcooked but it somehow worked. It was also wrapped in a sourdough baguette with caramelized onions, cilantro, aioli and harissa oil. In all honesty I could not taste all the subtleties that were described on the menu. But they did all come together to create this delicious chorizo-esque sandwich that did not overwhelm and was flavorful beyond the chorizo with the taste of caramelized onions and complex flavors.

The french fries were sprinkled with large granules of salt. The salt was visible and delicious in each and every slightly over-cooked but still somehow perfect fat saturated bite. The potato salad was a discussion in contradictions. It was amazingly light, there was no thick coating just a light handed application of dressing. The dressing did not overwhelm, the taste of perfectly cooked potatoes shined through followed by a surprising bite of spice. The creamy, slightly spicy potato salad came together nicely for a slightly different twist on an old classic.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Homegrown


Delicious menu with sandwiches to suite any taste except the generic. After ordering you sit down or wander around Melrose Market until your sandwich is ready. You can buy some cheese, meat, flowers or stare at the menu for Sitka & Spruce longingly. Suddenly your sandwich is ready, fresh and there isn't a guilty bite present because the ingredients are all from local and sustainable sources. Pictured from top to bottom; the "Reuben Redefined" came on  rye bread with tangy sauerkraut, a pungent cheese and melt in your mouth pastrami. It is a solid and subtle reuben, not overwhelming but still fulfilling. With a nice bottle of cold beer, it will provide a happy sandwich moment in your hectic life.

The crab cake BLT came on a gorgeous brown bun sprinkled with sesame seeds. A large crab cake sat in the middle with a couple of strips of delicious bacon, slices of avocado, some mixed greens and two spreads. This sandwich is decadent but down to earth at the same time. The crab cake was delicious, golden on the outside with moist crab filling inside. The bacon and avocado added a lot of intensity to the sandwich. Upon finishing the sandwich I felt totally stuffed, it is that kind of sandwich and almost a little too heavy. The bun was beautiful and delicious but I felt like it overwhelmed the sandwich a little bit because of its size. The spreads on the sandwich, chimichurri and hazelnut romesco gave the sandwich a complicated but interesting spin making it a little spicy and extra tasty. 

The Meatloaf BLT is one of the most delicious sandwiches I have ever eaten. It is perfectly constructed with soft and slightly spicy meatloaf, cheese, tomatoes, more hazelnut romesco, horseradish dijon, lots of lettuce and white cheddar. The meatloaf is listed as jalapeno meatloaf but it was just mildly spicy. Bite into chewy bread, partially melted cheddar, succulent meatloaf, a pile of delicious fresh lettuce and soft tomatoes. The texture, taste and balance of this sandwich is exquisite. 

Last but possibly least was a spicy pork sandwich which was a daily special. It had more of a bite to it than any of the other sandwiches and that helped but this sandwich had a couple of problems. The meat didn't really shine through and the arugula created stringy bites. I hate biting into a sandwich and having to pull out shreds of any substance, it creates kind of an unpleasant chewing sensation. Bear in mind, this sandwich is still a hundred times better than sandwiches at husky deli in west seattle if you want a comparison but compared to the meatloaf it fades a bit.

Homegrown on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kate's Greek & American Deli




Lunch at Kate's was a falafel gyro and a meat gyro with greek fries. The greek fries were perfectly cooked, super hot thin fries smothered in a chunky feta dressing. The dressing tasted like it contained some mix of olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper and feta. Each bite provided a salty, cheesy coated french fry heaven. The falafel and meat gyros both came on top of a big soft pita, romaine lettuce and chunks of tomato. The meat in the gyro was thinly sliced and a mix (it seemed) of lamb and beef. The meat was flavorful but a touch dry and not as sizzling hot as a meat gyro should be but still a good sandwich. The falafels were flat and bigger than a ping pong ball.  The falafels had excellent texture, moist inside, chewable and crispy on the outside with nice falafel flavor. The gyros were huge, smothered in tzaziki sauce and very satisfying.

Our kids had a grilled cheese sandwich and chicken fingers, both with fries. The cheese sandwich was a classic grilled cheese without any frills and without any problems. The chicken fingers were deep fried with a lot of breaded coating, maybe a little too much. The fries were the same fries that came with the greek order minus the extras and the kids seemed happy with everything, including the bright, cheery atmosphere and friendly waitresses.

Kate's Greek & American Deli on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rain Shadow Meats























Rain Shadow Meats is located in Melrose Market in Capitol Hill. It shares a space with Homegrown (sandwiches), Marigold & Mint (flora and edibles), the Calf & Kid (artisan cheese), Bar Ferd'nand (drinks), Sitka and Spruce and a few other shops. Each item in the butcher case has a clear label where the goods originated from and their cost. They make sausages in-house. The bacon (pictured above) was as advertised, smokey with apple/maple flavor. The butchers are friendly and provide happy, competent service. While I was being helped a group of women stood with a cookbook open talking with another butcher about recipes. With three butchers working behind the counter this didn't cause a delay, just demonstrated more good service from Rain Shadow. They have whole chickens, eggs, rabbit, sausages, breakfast meat, lamb, a variety of ribs; anything that you might expect to find in a well-stocked butcher shop. My favorite butcher in Seattle.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dan Sung Sa - Vancouver

We picked up takeout from Dan Sung Sa while we were in Vancouver over New Years. We ordered Bulgogi (beef), a bbq chicken with vegetables and gyoza. It was a 20 minute wait for take-out which is reasonable and it was ready when we got there.

The gyoza pastry were burnt on one side and somehow slightly uncooked on the other. They also seem like they could have come frozen from trader joe's. The filling was indiscernible due to the disaster that was wrapped around it. The sauce that it came with didn't seem to have vinegar in it so essentially this dish had no redeeming qualities. The rice that came with the two entrees was perfectly cooked. Moist but but not soggy, sticky but not gluey. The bulgogi was a little bland and the meat was kind of gristly. It could have been improved with higher quality meat and a stronger marinade. Also, this was very wet bulgogi. It must have been cooked in a skillet in the marinade instead of marinated and then grilled. So depending on your preference you may or may not like this style. The bbq chicken was the best dish (outside of the rice). The sauce was flavorful, the chicken a mixture of dark and white meat with perfectly cooked vegetables mixed in.

Dan Sung Sa (Vancouver) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Shanghai Garden


We picked up Dry Sauteed Strings Beans with Chicken, Szechuan Eggplant in Hot Garlic Sauce, Chicken Fried Rice and Mongolian Beef as take-out. The sauteed string beans were excellent. They were still crunchy but fully cooked with the right amount of minced chicken and sauce. The beans tasted good if you ate one individually and even better with some of the ground up chicken mixed into the bite. We've had them before and they have always been good. The Chicken Fried Rice had egg, green onion, chicken, corn and peas. The green onions and egg were delicious and the mildness of the dish allowed you to really taste each of the items that were mixed in. The chicken was soft, stringy and tender. The Mongolian Beef was not bad but it was served with the beef mix dumped over the noodles. This made them soggy and it would be so easy to serve the noodles on one side of the platter and the beef on the other, particularly for take-out where it takes a bit longer for items to get consumed. It was laden with long strips of green onions which were great, red peppers and the beef. The beef was sliced very thin, possibly too thin. It had a good flavor but the thin beef and soggy noodles didn't help the dish. It might be better eaten in the restaurant. The szechuan eggplant was just bad. It was about 1/3 water chestnuts, 1/3 eggplant and 1/3 heavy, gooey sauce. Sticking a fork in and picking out an individual piece of eggplant after letting some sauce drip off it were the only edible bites in the dish. The water chestnuts dominated the dish when they should have been a small component.  Then there is the sauce. It was very cloying. It overwhelmed everything else in the dish except for the water chestnuts.

On other visits we've had the Mu Shu Pork and Meat Dumplings, both excellent. Bite into soft vegetable and juicy pork mixture dripping with tangy plum sauce in a soft pancake and your taste buds will hum. The dumplings, that we have ordered fried and steamed, were both great. The steamed dumplings have their own appeal, they are so soothing and filling. The fried dumplings make more of a statement and are classic, delicious fried meat dumplings served just the way they should be.

Shanghai Garden on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bacon and Black Bean Soup

I spent the day making cinnamon swirl bread, using a recipe from The New Best Recipe. Cinnamon swirl bread is kind of magical. My son, who is not normally a big carb advocate wanted an endless supply of this bread.

Dinner was a new recipe that I made up as I went along. I had a big pile of black beans I wanted to use up so that is where I started and this is where I ended up:

Bacon and Black Bean Soup

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
5 pieces of bacon, diced
4 cups cooked black beans
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 stocks of celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 cups stock
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp pepper
Tabasco
salt

Sour Cream

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet shaking the skillet frequently. You can tell the cumin is done by smell. Bend your head down over the skillet and when the smell of toasted cumin fills your nose (but before the cumin seeds turn dark), they are done. Grind in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle.

In a large heavy pot over medium heat, saute the bacon until most of the fat renders and it starts to turn golden. Add the carrots and celery and stir to mix. Saute until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the shallot and garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.

Add the beans, stock, pepper, 3 dashes of Tabasco and cumin. Bring to a boil, stir and lower the heat to a simmer. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

If the soup needs thinning, add more water or stock and bring back to a simmer. Put about 1/3 of the total contents in a blender and puree. Add it back to the pot and stir to blend. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream on top.



Friday, January 7, 2011

Tomatoes, Corn and Pasta





















My mom was always really good at whipping up dinner with (as far as I could tell) nothing to cook in the kitchen. It is not something I excel at but I have found this getting easier as the meals go by. This is a meal I make when my kitchen is relatively devoid of groceries. A between shopping trips meal.

This recipe doesn't have to be corn, tomatoes and a half a red pepper. Corn, tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, black olives, green beans, peas, bacon, red onions. What do you have in the fridge, freezer or pantry? Use approximately a cup to a cup and a half of each item (maybe 1/2 cup for something as strong as bacon) to about a pound of pasta. This kind of dish works better with shaped pasta like Orecciette, Cavatelli or Farfalle than long pasta like vermicelli or spaghetti. If you have a few symbiotic vegetables, some non-stringy dry cheese (like parmesan) and pasta you are good to make dinner. If you are using a vegetable like asparagus or green beans, cut it into 3/4 inch pieces and blanch. If you want to keep them bright green, drop it in a bath of ice water after blanching and then drain. Thyme doesn't go with everything so you might consider replacing the herb with something that goes with the adornments you are adding to your pasta. If you have nothing to saute and want to cook your garlic you can drain your pasta and then add it to a pan that you have cooked the olive oil and garlic in for a minute or two. Mix well and proceed.

Tomatoes, Corn and Pasta

2 T Olive Oil
1 cup fresh corn scraped from the cob or frozen
3 cloves of garlic, minced
half of a red pepper cut into 1/3 inch cubes
pint of cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 lb of shaped pasta
3/4 - 1 cup grated parrmesan
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-low. Add the corn. For fresh corn cook for just 1 - 2 minutes, with frozen corn, 4 - 5 minutes. Add the thyme and the garlic and cook for 1 - 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat. Cook the pasta but before draining scoop a 1/2 a cup of the pasta water and set aside. In a large serving bowl mix together the pasta, corn, peppers and tomatoes. Add the cheese and mix everything together. If it seems too dry, add a little of the pasta water.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Art's Place


Art's Place is a serious throwback to the past. Vinyl seats, flowered wallpaper on the wall, fringed lamps hanging from the ceiling. Most of the other customers were over the age of 60. We were there at 12:30 on Sunday and there was a lot of discussion on what had happened at church that morning. There was also this odd conversation occurring behind us where the people kept using the phrases 'shut up' and 'stupid'. It was such a funny dichotomy with the rest of the setting.

The menu is covered with predictable kid-friendly food. On the table were napkin dispensers, the menus, cream, salt and pepper along with refilled bottles of ketchup that have been refilled so many times they no longer have the labels and the caps were slightly rusty. The service was pretty attentive. Our coffee cups filled repeatedly, so often that even Mr. Pink would be satisfied. We ordered a club, a Mexican burger, a vegie sandwich and a turkey and cheese sandwich, all on white bread. The sandwiches were served on something similar to wonder bread. The bread was lightly toasted. The vegie sandwich was decorated with two slices of cheese which seemed like kraft singles. The vegies on it, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and onions were all super fresh and crisp. My two year old daughter loved her vegie sandwich and fries. The club was piled with turkey and bacon but was pretty bland. My husband described the Mexican burger as 'just okay'. This is very predictable, straight-forward food. The side salads were the vegies found on my daughters sandwich in larger quantity placed in a bowl. The salad dressing served with the side salads was Kraft packets. I think this might be a good place to eat breakfast and I wish we could try it. I would return here for lunch if I had something specific on the menu that I wanted or if I wanted to get my daughter that vegie sandwich again or if I was taking someone out who wanted quiet food.

My head spun just a little bit at how easy it would be to turn this place into a line out the door diner. But then where would everyone go after church?

Art's Place on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Templeton

















For New Years Eve we were at a great diner in downtown Vancouver called Templeton. The place feels like a classic diner with black and white booths and a row of stools at the soda bar. They have beer and wine, burgers, fish and chips and fries. They also have a lot of items that you wouldn't normally see on a diner menu like veggie lasagna and a quesadilla with artichoke hearts in it. The waitress was attentive and friendly to our children.

We had fantastic burgers, blue cheese on mine and Gruyere on my husbands. The bun was big and chewy (in a good way), the cheese strong and tasty, the adornments on the burger fresh and crisp. The meat was delicious and moist. I am not a big bread person. I like bread but I don't usually swoon over it like my husband does but this was an outstanding bun. It was soft and big with a smooth, thin chewy exterior. One of the best hamburger buns I have ever eaten. They didn't ask how we wanted the burger cooked but it essentially stood up to a fancy gourmet burger outside of being asked the question, 'how do you like it done?' A side salad next to the burgers that was mixed greens, carrots, red peppers, cucumbers and dressed with a tangy salad dressing. The lettuce used in the salad was a different kind of lettuce than what was found on the burger. I hate it when your whole meal starts feeling homogeneous like when you eat at a salad bar in a pizza joint and the topping are the same thing as what you ordered on your pizza. Two glasses of delicious Russell cream ale served cold in a large pint glass was perfect with the burger and salad.  Ours kids shared a fish and chips plate which was more than enough food for two kids.

We followed up with dessert, splitting a milkshake for our kids and sharing an ice cream sundae between the two of us. The dessert was a little bit of a letdown after the great dinner. The milkshake was too thin, the quality of the ice cream wasn't as great as it should have been. The dessert looked delightful but didn't follow through on taste.

Overall I love this little diner. They kept a lot of the things about diners that people love, added some new things to make it better and threw the rest out.

The Templeton on Urbanspoon