Monday, May 15, 2006


Last night I tasted basil ice cream! It was hand-made by Pix Patisserie, some other choices were Habanero and Blueberry. It was tasty. I’ve come to love fresh herbs in sweet treats, for example, lavender-peach coffee cake, or mint lemonade. It’s such an unexpected twist. One summery night recently, my friend and I made greyhounds shaken with rosemary and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Mmmmm. Oh! And on my first visit to the Rogue brewery in the Pearl the other day, one of us ordered a beer sampler, among which was their “Chamomella,” brewed with chamomile flowers, and another made from soba (the plant used to make soba noodles in Japan, an apparent cousin to rhubarb, whatever that means).

So many of my relationships are formed around food. I have all of these experiences to write about, because I have so many friends to have them with, in different places and at different times, but strung together, all of these gastronomic moments weave a chain of daily taste delights, which I worry, paints me into a glutton. Are blogs a quest for empathy in our individual obsessions?

I’ll get back on track: as a last supper with my friend before she returned to New York, we walked up to Northwest 21st, to eat at Caffe Mingo. I’ve written about it before, and what I had there before was so good (the salsiccia and the gnocchi), that I planned on having the same thing again. At about 9:15 pm, we waited for a seat at the communal marble table that bordered the open kitchen, along with a regular customer, whom the staff each took turns personally appologizing to for not having a seat for. A server began to tell him the specials, but was cut off, because he came in for his favorite dish, and didn’t need to hear them. I asked what that was, and it was the Sugo di Carne, strings of beef braised in espresso and chianti (but tasted like neither), over penne pasta. I ordered it of course, and enjoyed every savory, mouthwatering bite. It was italian comfort food. We shared an amazingly fresh, red, caprese salad also, and mopped up that fabulous olive oil (which they take from a huge jar that the olives are sitting in, doubling the olive infusion) with fresh bread. I LOVE THAT PLACE!

With some time to myself on a sunny afternoon after work the next day, I rode my bike to Noble Rot to sit at the tables on the sidewalk, and have a glass of wine. One turned to two, since my friend was working there, and I ordered a plate of their gnocci—dotted with chives, pan fried and served with asparagus drizzled with truffle oil and a carrot reduction. It was really good, which I was a bit surprised about since I’m a purist when in comes to gnocchi. It was a lovely little dinner in the sun.

This past wednesday, cruising up I-5 to Seattle in my friend’s dad’s Oldsmobile Aurora, we laughed about how we were making a 24 hour trip to Seattle, and all we had on our agenda was a list of places to eat (far more than the mere 4 meals that our stomachs would have room for). This trip was completely typical for us, with our shared interest in enjoying food, but still, a little strange and we chuckled over our gluttonous tendencies. Our giggling was cut short by the car’s engine, which started to learch, as, we later found out, the transmission began to self-destruct. So, more than an hour outside of Seattle, we crept our way up the shoulder of the freeway to Ampco transmission specialists, on the outskirts of Olympia.

Upon our arrival, we entered the office and filled out a questionaire, with verbal questions by a technician, transcribed by the woman behind the counter—and they both nodded and concurred with recognition, like a doctor and nurse meeting with a patient. While waiting for the poor car’s diagnosis, we figured, we might as well try to find a snack, since our gourmet pilgrimage would have to be postponed. The mechanics suggested the bowling alley across the street, whose sign looked like it had last been painted in 1972. We decided to walk toward the shell station up ahead, which, we hoped, would be an oasis of truck stop food, and not a mirage. Walking up the highway amid the autobody shops in the mid-day heat, I began to crave a root-beer float, and that’s what we found.

We walked into the Rib Eye, a little diner packed with regulars and pull-tab machines. We sad amongst senior citizens (who got a special discount on the food there) and tradesmen on their lunch break. On the menu were things I hadn’t seen in a long time—pork cutlets, salisbury steak, and endless cups of coffee (at lunch). We split a BLT and each had a big root beer float. The waitress was sweet enough to bring our sandwich split on two plates with fries, without us even asking. And it was a great one too, with whole grain bread!

We returned to Ampco to find out that the entire transmission would need to be replaced, and that we were basically stranded. Fortunately, the friend that we were headed up to stay with was nice enough to drive the hour down to pick us up. And we were on our way again, to Seattle—land of many gastronomic memories...

That afternooon, we walked straight to Pike Place Market (of course), picked up a bag of hot, fresh mini-donuts (you just cannot go there without eating a few of those), watched the ferries take off for the islands, wandered past the screaming fish throwers, and around the stalls and shops. It was the end of the day, but the flower sellers were still out, with buckets full of tulips, lilacs and peonies. We sampled some Washington wines at the Tasting Room before a sushi dinner at Chinoise. Chinoise on Queen Anne was always our favorite sushi spot, a neighborhood place with fresh fish and delicious wok dishes. They make a seattle roll with smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese (somehow a little cube of cream cheese is so good in sushi). And you can’t get good sushi in Portland. The fish isn’t fresh—the Ahi is light pink, when it should be red. At Chinoise, it was red. I got my fix.

The next day, before our 1:45 train, we had 3 distinct things on our agenda: 1. revisit our college campus 2. have coffee at Vivace Espresso off of Broadway (where their cappuccinos are amazing and so are the roasted beans. the foam on their drinks are always graced with a little design, like a fern leaf) 3. eat lunch at Salumi. Since we had our friend’s enormous SUV, we could accomplish these things within a couple of hours [and have time to drive to Alki beach to take in the view of Seattle’s rabidly (yes rabidly, and rapidly) growing skyline]. We swung by Coastal Kitchen (the best breakfast in Seattle, I’ll expound on that later) for two pieces of their daily changing coffee cake. That day it was peach-pecan, held together with enough butter to clog a sink. But delicious, of course, and we ate it at Vivace with our coffee.

With some time to spare between breakfast and lunch, we zipped in to Uwajimaya asian supermarketplace, a bustling, fluorescent flagship of far-eastern delights. We had to hold ourselves back from eating there since we were determined to reach Salumi, so we settled on a couple of bubble teas instead (black tea with milk & tapioca is my favorite).

Salumi, located on 2nd avenue, just (conveniently) one block north of the train station, is a tiny salumeria and lunch counter owned by Mario Batali’s (“Molto Mario” foodnetwork personality/ famous chef of Babbo in New York) father. There were cured pork legs hanging behind glass and a line out the door. They have hot and cold sandwiches, but we were there for the salami. Our choices were the classic “salumi” (infused with garlic), finnochiona (with fennel, peppercorns, and white wine), or oregano. I got the latter, piled thick on a fresh baked roll, and slathered with two spreads, the first a parsley-caper-garlic pesto, and the second, some sort of garlic-olive oil white spread. Garlic city. We enjoyed our intensely potent sandwiches in the dining car of the train, accompanied by Chateau St. Michelle chardonnay, and watched the trees and the puget sound pass into our past. Mission Accomplished.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Have you ever had one of those dining experiences where you taste something that is so delicious that you cannot help smiling ecstatically as you struggle to chew each bite? Well, I've had two of those experiences in two days! Despite all of my eating escapades, these moments are rare. Two old friends came into town this weekend from NY and LA. The three of us met in college in seattle, and bonded over saturday night dinners on the floor of our dorm rooms. As I recall, fresh salmon and asparagus were regular menu items (how very northwest, no?).

This past friday, we strolled the sunny streets of portland, up to NW 23rd's tree-lined sidewalks and had a seat at the cafe tables outside of Papa Haydn's famous dessert shop. We pretended to be there for coffee, but couldn't resist their confections. Sharing one thing turned into two, and we had a deuce of key-lime cheesecake (perfectly tart with clusters of key-lime curd) and a german-chocolate cake layered with coconut and pecan praline. Soooooooo heavenly.

On saturday morning we made a pilgrimage to the Portland farmers market. Carlo Petrini, founder of the slow food movement, supposedly said "there are farmers markets, and then there's the Portland farmers market." It was a colorful festival of prepared foods and raw ones--farmers, bakers, cheesemakers and lunch vendors. Musicians played and kids danced and people ate under leafy trees. We shared a homemade sweet northern sausage (white wine and spices), grilled and served on a fresh-baked bun with sauteed onions and peppers, AND a pita sandwich. The latter was made of a pita stuffed with organic lettuce tossed in a balsamic vinagrette, goat cheese, and asparagus grilled in a stone oven that they had right there at the market on a trailer! so fresh and amazing! oh, and to wash it down, we had raspberry-lemon-sodas, with real raspberries floating in it, lemon juice and mineral water. needless to say, i'll be returning to the market for lunch every saturday when i finish working the breakfast shift.

Saturday night was crowned by a dinner at Andina, a peruvian restaurant in the pearl. They have an eclectic list of house cocktails, made with infused vodkas (banana, coconut, honey) that sit on shelves above the bar. I had one of the best drinks of all time--the Atardecer Porteno ("sunset on the port"). Guava nectar, lime juice, honey vodka and ice were shaken and poured in to a martini glass with a fine sugar/anise coated rim, and topped with a floater of port and dusted with lime zest. I don't think I've sipped anything tastier (well, wine excluded).

Bread was brought to us accompanied by a trio of sauces: peanut garlic, a peppery one and jalapeno-lime paste. All fresh made. We started with ceviche mixto (they have at least 5 ceviches), which was super-fresh mussels, fish, baby scallops (melt in your mouth fresh), and shrimp cooked in lime juice, herbs and a hunk of yam on the side. Then we had a lightly smoked white fish (trout?) sliced 'sashimi-style' with yellow pepper sauce over it and a long strip of an accompanying salad comprised of red onions, white corn and other goodies. We shared an entree of halibut filet crusted with ginger then steamed and served in a broth full of shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy. The fish was fork-split moist. It came with a little mound of white rice dotted with toasted quinoa and chopped asparagus. Que bueno!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Don't stop reading my blog, i promise i'll write more good stuff soon!
Oh! I never have enought time to elaborate on these things lately. those vegan muffins are from The Daily Grind health food store on hawthorne, and they're addictive. i'm determined to figure out the recipe for their blueberry ones. anyway, I made an AWESOME quiche the other day, and here's how i did it:

Preheat oven to 400. sautee 1 sliced leek in melted butter in skillet. add a thinly sliced (and in half, to 1/2” or smaller pieces) of mushroom, pref. crimini, i used shiitake (fresh). sautee w/ a little cracked pepper until it is browning & almost sticking to the pan, then splash a little water in there, and stir fast to steam them. meanwhile, take 1/2 bag of baby spinach (you can use frozen, well drained, and skip this step), and put into boiling water. boil until soft, then strain and press water out. sprinkle spinach on the bottom of a pie crust (marie calendars in the frozen section, uses vegetable shortening, whereas the pilsbury i used before aka mrs.p’s has hydrogenated lard in it! i just discovered this, sorry former eaters of my pies). sprinkle leek mixture on top of spinach/evenly distribute. since i’m on the cheap these days and didn’t need surplus cheese sitting around in my fridge, i got a string cheese, and stripped it, then chopped it into little strips, and sprinkled that on the veggies. it was just enough mozzarella. grate some parmigiano-reggiano on top too. in a separate bowl, beat 6 eggs and about 1/2 cup or so of milk. (at this point i’d add a little freshly grated nutmeg, but i didn’t have it, and it was great without it. but nutmeg is classically delicious in egg dishes). pour over filling into pie crust, and sprinkle with more parmesan on top. place on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes, until the middle is fully set & doesn’t jiggle. it’ll have a little puff to it, but set it out for at least 10 minutes to deflate and be cool enough to cut (traditionally served at room temperature).
Note: in Portland, Ken’s Artisan Bakery makes killer quiches, always with a veggie or meat choice, rich, savory and baked to browned perfection. That’s where I got the leek idea. I think there’s had some chili pepper and bacon or prosciutto in it too. They do everything right there.