Food Network’s daliance with Seattle

The Best Thing I Ever Ate photo courtesy of Hulu

This post originally appeared on Seattlest

In case you missed it, last Monday featured the Food Network crushing on Fremont’s Revel for the ‘Messy‘ episode of their series, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The premise of this show is the Food Network featuring various culinary dignitaries waxing poetic on what they think is the best thing they’ve ever ate. And this past Monday was Revel’s turn to be celebrated. But this restaurant gem isn’t the only place in Seattle that they’ve considered for the best thing ever eaten; there are a solid group of restaurants famously noted by people talking about their food, famously talking about our city’s food.

  • Revel’s Asparagus Pistachio Olive Chutney Radicchio Rice Bowl – This Fremont hotspot has packed the house since their opening last winter. That likely won’t change with the New York Times‘ Frank Bruni expressing his love for Revel’s Rice Bowl. If you recall, last summer, Bruni shared his recap of his time in the area and one of those loves was for Revel’s Rice Bowl, so much so, he thinks it’s one of the best things he ever ate.
  • Toulouse Petit’s Cured Pork Cheek Confit Hash – This episode featured Toulouse Petit’s breakfast happy hour by Melissa d’Arabian; Season Five winner of The Next Food Network Star. She particularly likes the ‘Bang for the Buck‘ that one gets from Toulouse Petit’s Pork Cheek Hash.
  • Dahlia Lounge’s Lemon Scallion Dungeness Crab Cakes – Once again, the Food Network gives some love to Tom Douglas for his crab cakes at Dahlia Lounge on the ‘Obsessions‘ episode. Giada De Laurentiis was smitten with these glorious hockey pucks of crab meat created by the TDR group. This Seattlest agrees; these crab cakes are delicious.
  • Cafe Juanita’s Fruit Sorbet – Another Eastside  entrant, this time they give kudos to Chef Holly Smith’s Poco Caretto Fruit Sorbet at Cafe Juanita. In this ‘With Fruit‘ episode, Melissa d’Arabian sings the praises of the Beard award-winning chef’s sorbetto.

Eight different dishes from Seattle-area restaurants that the folks at the Food Network consider some of the best food they’ve ever eaten. Always good for the area to get culinary street cred. Now I’m hungry.

*Note – Give the restaurant a call if you want any of these dishes specifically. Menus are subject to change and just because it was on television doesn’t mean it will be there when you go. 

My Fall 2011 cookbook wish list

Photo: Raphael Brion/Eater NY

The good folks at Eater recently posted a robust list of buzzy cookbooks coming out this fall and holiday season. It’s not just cookbooks; tomes on cocktails, food history, memoirs, miscellany and more dot the field. And this food nerd is particularly excited for most of them. With the rundown of cookbooks, Eater took a wide angle glance at the season’s books that dabble in the world of food and wine. I’m selfishly narrowing the list to the books that I want. Here they are:

Eleven Madison Park the Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara

In my trips to the Big Apple, three restaurants stood out to me; Fatty Crab, Le Bernardin, and Eleven Madison Park. Each had a uniquely wonderful experience. Particularly for Eleven Madison Park. Going there, I had high expectations, but I wasn’t prepared to be blown away by our meal. It was amazing. And knowing how Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Danny Meyer have evolved the restaurant, I’m anxiously awaiting this book.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts by David McMillan, Frederic Morin, and Meredith Erickson

When we visited Montreal last year we partook in some great meals. Au Pied du Cochon and Kitchen Galerie amongst those. However, the neglect of going to Joe Beef continues to eat away at me. So this new book from the folks in the Sud Ouest neighborhood will allow me to get a feel for the restaurant. And then I can plan another visit to Montreal to indulge in more of the city’s food. With Joe Beef atop the list.

-The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria by Ferran Adrià

Continuing Adria’s culinary domination is this latest book. Built on the notion of Family Meal; the dinner made by a restaurant’s staff before service starts. And when the inspiration and ideas come from his El Bulli, even more exciting. Another in the line of great Phaidon books that delve into Ferran Adria’s world.

Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

The march towards Momofuku world dominance continues. This time in the form of Chef Christina Tosi’s irreverent, creative, and tasty sweets and baked goods. If one ever goes to NYC’s Momofuku Milk Bar, one will find things like Crack Pie, Compost Cookies, Cereal Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream; hopefully all of these things make it to the book. I can’t wait to find out.

CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life by Jessie Oleson

Head Spy Jessie Oleson and her valiant Cuppie the Cupcake arrive via book form to share recipes and whimsy in this book. You should dabble into the world of CakeSpy for the subversively light-hearted look at baked goods. Plus, Jessie is rather awesome.

The Seasonal Cocktail Companion: Recipes and Projects for Four Seasons of Drinking by Maggie Savarino

If you’ve had a drink at Madison Park Conservatory or read her column in Seattle Weekly, you know that Maggie Savarino knows her way around liquor and spirits. This book adds a seasonal component to cocktails; taking a look at what’s fresh and applying them to libations.

There you have it; a half-dozen new cookbooks that I’m looking forward to. And if there are some others that make their way to me (Mario Batali’s new book, the cookbook from the Voltaggio brothers, Jacques Pepin’s latest), I won’t say no to them either.

Where should you get these new cookbooks? Amazon is of course the option, but why not support your local independent book store? Even better, go visit Seattle’s own Book Larder when it opens this October. It’ll be Seattle’s first culinary bookstore and all sorts of great events will happen there. See you around the reading room. And then the kitchen.

How to make your own granola

Some advice; don’t ever buy granola. Ever. Just make your own. It’s easy to make and you can cater the flavor to how you want. Au revoir, crappy nuts. Peace out, bits of old, tired fruit. Once you start making your own granola, feel free to laugh at those that put it in their shopping basket.

This recipe for granola is adapted from David Lebovitz. Who adapted it from Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook. Following along? It started with a British food goddess, who inspired an American in Paris, which further inspired a Filipino-American food nerd in Seattle.

We love granola in our cupboard. It’s a great snack throughout the day and a perfect addition to breakfast. Added to yogurt with a dollop of honey or as a cereal, it’s a great way to kickstart the morning.

As I started making it more and more, I took the recipe that Lebovitz/Lawson started with and added my own tweaks to it. The key is knowing the ratio of the dry goods to the wet; As long as you have 10 cups of the dried goods, you’re good to go. Because we are a nut-free kitchen, I would omit the nuts and start adding other stuff to balance out the volume. Like pumpkin seeds or shredded coconut. I also bumped up the volume of wet ingredients to create more chunky clumps that are so welcome in granola. Finally, we’ve landed at a good medium and now have granola on demand.

Without further ado, here’s how to do it: Continue reading

Shashlik – my take on Russian Lamb Kebabs


We often think of bands, athletes, and movies as underrated, we could also put some foods in this grouping. I’d say that most offal is underrated. Pudding definitely. It’s so underrated, restaurants are calling it budino to gussy it up. Lamb is undoubtedly underrated. In the US, it only gets mentioned after the Big Three of beef, pork, and chicken. Lamb should get a lot more meat-centric love than it does. It’s not one of the first animal proteins the average eater goes for, but they should. For lamb’s flavor is uniquely its own; rich, bold, and with a gaminess that is alluring and distinctive. Lamb is awesome.

Imagine my surprise and appreciation when the American Lamb Board came calling. They asked me if I’d like to have at a big hunk of lamb for a challenge to food bloggers. Sign me up. The challenge was this; take five pounds of leg of lamb, make kebabs of it, and tell the story. At stake; a whole lotta lamb. Next up for me; what recipe to make with it.

Kebabs. This was the mandate. Skewered meat with piercing flavor. My inspiration for preparations weren’t firing, so I asked around for ideas. The answer came from my SO’s family; ‘That’s easy. Why don’t you do shashlik?’ Sure! What’s shashlik? Their background is Russian, so they went into family dinners growing up and how shashlik was one of their favorite things. I’m intrigued, tell me more. They went into their Baba’s version of the recipe; how it could feed a crowd, that it’s a simple recipe that yields great results, so good that there are no leftovers. Sold. Shashlik it is.

Here are three cool things about Shashlik and how to make it: Continue reading

Tako Truk returns for the summer

This post originally appeared on Seattlest

Tako Truk has led many lives. And Seattle eaters have benefited from all of them. The first came during the summer of 2009. This maiden voyage was a pop-up restaurant (before pop-ups were over-exposed) and was situated within Eastlake’s 14 Carrot Cafe. It was a summer party framed with delicious and fun food. Alas, Tako Truk only ran through the summer. The second life of Tako Truk was last spring when they partnered with SoDo’s Two Beers Brewing for a benefit collabo towards ShelterBox‘s relief efforts in Haiti. Just like the first life, it was tasty, yet even more fleeting with its one-time-only showing. Now we’re onto the third life of Tako Truk; it is kicking off its Sunday Social at the fresh digs of its big sister, Madison Park Conservatory. And just like the other two lives, we benefit from this one.

When Tako Truk’s facebook page let out a teaser last week, Seattlest’s ears were perked. Bryan Jarr and Cormac Mahoney’s summer experiment of 2009 was one of my favorite food memories that year. (Full disclosure; I went to high school with Bryan.) So when the facebook page was updated with more info, I had to know more.

Here are the broad details; this Sunday 6/26, from 4pm – 8pm-ish, the smoldering hot Madison Park Conservatory will host its first Tako Truk night. How on fire are they? If you haven’t heard, The New York Times‘ Frank Bruni was quite taken with his visit. Aside from the great plates the Conservatory team is doing most nights, we have another way to connect with them. And this Sunday we have the first opportunity with Tako Truk. The folks at the Conservatory will be creating a party on Sunday nights; a ‘Sunday Social’ different from their regular dinner service. For this first Social, they’re reviving the beloved Tako Truk and the good times that came of it before. They’ll also have a few more Sunday Socials throughout the summer with tentative plans for July 10th, 17th, and 24th for starters.

On the Conservatory events page, the menu mentions their tacos, guisos, fried things, raw things, and booze. But what I gleaned from my talk with Bryan, the menu will take inspiration cues from the original Tako Truk menu. Imagine variations on their chorizo tako, coco piggy (pork belly braised in coconut water), and chicken adobo tacos. Guiso is a type of stew and the fried things will be their bitty fries, their twist on shoestring fries. Prepare to eat these by the fistful.

The big difference from the original Tako Truk is that it will be framed by the devilish allure of booze. There will be Modelo drink specials and shots of tequila to go with your order. As an added bonus for old school Trukkers, Cormac will bring back his famed Green Drink, a variation on limeade with hits of lemongrass. And there will be a spiked version.

As for the flow of the evening, it won’t take on the traditional setting of Madison Park Conservatory – it’s a Sunday Social after all. They’ll use the open window to the kitchen at the entrance to take orders. And cash is encouraged. So bring a $20 and you should be rolling. Place your order and move your way into the dining room where there will be communal tables to grub. But don’t limit yourself to the dining room as you could also sit outdoors, or head across the street to the park and beach along Lake Washington.

Stay tuned to Tako Truk’s Twitter; they’ll provide updates leading up to the night and (if form holds) will call out when dishes are 86’d, so pay attention. Start planning out your summer because the good folks at Madison Park Conservatory have some fun Sunday Socials up their sleeve. Tako Truk starts it off this Sunday.

The myriad of questions with asparagus

Asparagus by outsideoslo from the Seattlest Flickr Pool

This post originally appeared on Seattlest.

As spring arrives in Seattle, there are a few things that are like clockwork with the season. There will be the lament of the weather (really, this is an every season thing), the underachieving debut of our home nine Mariners, and the arrival of asparagus. There are few foods that signal the arrival of spring like seeing asparagus at your local market. It’s a uniquely wonderful vegetable, but it always raises questions. As in, how do I prepare it? What wine goes with it? And the biggie, why does it make my pee smell? Well dear readers, join us as we try to find some answers.

Asparagus is a great vegetable to work with as it is amenable to several different cooking techniques. Shave it raw as a salad. Toss it in olive oil, salt, and pepper and throw it on the grill. Do the same treatment and place it in a skillet. Heck, put a fried egg on top. Take a big batch and roast it. Drench it in a hollandaise or another rich sauce. The folks at Gilt Taste launched their new website with a recipe for salt & sugar cured asparagus poached in butter. It’s a versatile vegetable; steamed, boiled, pickled; asparagus can do it all.

But first things first, you’ll need to pick it out. You’ll find spears of pencil-width or those of finger-width. Some people say that the thinner ones will be more tender, while some find the thicker spears more flavorful. Next, you’ll need to take off the base of the spear. This is often woody, fibrous, and not tasty. Don’t eat this. Break it off by holding the base and the body of the stalk; it’ll snap at its natural breaking point. Now you can get cooking.

Ask any wine guy/girl a good wine pairing with asparagus and be prepared for some hemming and hawing. Why? Because of those green bitter flavors that are so prevalent. Couple this with their strong scent and you have a food that makes wine people freak out. In trying a wine with asparagus, look for something that can match the green herbal notes, something like Sauvignon Blanc or a bright Gruner Veltliner would step up to the challenge. Riesling or a Spanish Albarino would be good too. Or don’t try to get cute with wine and just have beer with it.

Ultimately, when the subject of asparagus comes up, the conversation will inevitably turn to why it makes your pee smell. When the mega-food guy Mark Bittman was on the Today show recently, Matt Lauer couldn’t resist and asked why it makes your pee smell. Basically, it comes down to some chemical compounds that are present in asparagus. Here is where it gets tricky; not all people will create the smelly pee. In studies, the ratios of smelly versus not varies. And it gets even trickier; in studies, some people can’t even smell the nastiness. Lucky them. If you’re in doubt, try some asparagus and get thee to the water closet. Asparagus has been known to make things stinky in 15 minutes.

There you have it. You now have ideas of what to eat with asparagus, what to drink with asparagus, and what your body does with asparagus. So head on out to your local farmer’s market and take in spring. Get some asparagus, grab a coat, and hope for the best with the Mariners.

The ‘Pen at Safeco Field

If you’re under 36 and have been to any Seattle Mariners game at Safeco Field over the last dozen years or so, you’d know that the Centerfield Meat Market is its own epicenter of action. A big open area with easy access to beer, digits and food; a great place to mix socializing with baseball. But as my desire to kick some game lessens over the years, so has my desire to go back to the Bullpen Market. That all changed with the introduction of The ‘Pen. I want to go back to that area to get full on baseball, drinks and food.

Last week, I was invited to a media tasting of The ‘Pen (the new moniker for the Bullpen Market) and its new food offering. These aren’t just food stands. They are new food concepts from an esteemed trio of chefs/restaurateurs; Ethan Stowell, Bill Pustari, and Roberto Santibanéz. As a baseball fan, I was excited for the changes to this area. As a food nerd, I was excited to try some good food. Combining the two, I’m giddy that the concept of ballpark food had been elevated. Peace out peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Here are the three cool things about The ‘Pen: Continue reading

McVitie’s S’mores

In the world of ingenuity, this doesn’t exactly push sliced bread out of the way, but it is pretty great; McVitie’s S’mores. That’s correct, a simple little British biscuit with a toasted marshmallow. First, I’ll have to give credit to my friend Tea for coming up with it. Last summer, in a moment of craving, she yearned for a McVitie via Twitter. And not just any McVitie; the chocolate dipped one. And what is a McVitie you ask? It’s a biscuit (what the Brits call cookies), that’s sorta similar to a Marie Lu cookie, but so much better. For McVitie’s have their own unique crumb. And they are delicious in a way that you have a craving that needs to the satisfied now. Which explains Tea’s wants. Then in a moment of ingenious innovation she mentioned that she likes to make s’mores with them.  Here’s how:

First, you get yourself a McVitie. They’re not exactly easy to find; in Seattle, you can find them in the British section at Metropolitan Market. If you’re not in Seattle, good luck. There are two different types of McVitie’s. One is the standard biscuit. It’s okay, but when you have the other option you must go with it; Milk Chocolate. It’s the standard and it has been augmented with one side of the biscuit coated in chocolate. It is awesome.

Next, get some marshmallows. Self explanatory in making s’mores really. Now if you can get your hands on homemade marshmallows even better. The wonderful Ashley Rodriguez shows how to make them yourself. As for the chocolate, the McVitie already has chocolate so you can skip this step of s’more building.

I think at this point, you should have an idea of how to make s’mores. But if you’re not near a campfire, you can toast it over the burner on your range. If you don’t have a gas range, you can use your imagination. Be safe. At the very least, you have a chocolate dipped cookie.

There you have it. A quick way to enjoy a time-honored snack in a clever new way. And we have our friend Tea to thank. (Thanks!)

Update – For a more formal recipe format, here you go:

McVitie’s S’mores

Ingredients:

  • 2 McVitie’s – Milk Chocolate version
  • 3 Marshmallows

Directions

  1. Take one McVities and place chocolate side up on a plate
  2. Place marshmallows onto fork or other lenghty device, a skewer would be swell
  3. Over open flame (goes without saying to be careful), toast marshmallow to preferred doneness
  4. Remove from flame (extinguish flame if need be) and place newly toasted marshmallows onto McVitie
  5. Take other McVitie with chocolate side down and squeeze marshmallows and remove fork
  6. Enjoy

Note – This recipe can be scaled up.

 

Cochon 555 – Seattle’s Pork Party, 2/20

The past few days I’ve been increasing my intake of fiber; loads of dark, leafy greens and whole grains. Why? Because my cholesterol and arteries are going to take a hit this weekend. And I can’t wait to do so. This Sunday is Cochon 555, an event centered around pork and all the goodness that comes from it. It should be deliciously decadent.

Here is how Cochon 555 breaks down. The “555” stands for five chefs from different restaurants, five different types of heritage pork (PDF), and five different wineries. It’s a rollicking party spun into a tizzy by pork fat and wine-stained teeth; it’s very fun. There will be butchering and if you want to be a VIP, oysters, beer, and a few other things can be yours. And at the end of the eating, a Prince or Princess of Porc will be crowned. Eating great food and a chance to witness royalty? Surely you should go!

I went last year as a guest of my friend Lorraine and it was quite the eating extravaganza. I’m expecting the same this year. Each chef gets one of the five different breeds of pig and can create whatever they wish from the animal on a whim. Don’t be surprised to see an assortment of things from the pig that you may not normally eat. Think trotters, brains, or cheeks. I’m looking forward to seeing what this batch of chefs have in store for us. Here is the roster the chefs, breeds, and wineries for this year’s Cochon 555:

The five chefs:

The five types of pork:

  • Berkshire from Newman Farms
  • Hampshire from Jones Family Farms
  • Old Spot/Poland/Duroc from The Collective
  • Red Wattle from Mosaic Farm
  • Tamworth from Zorn Family Farms

The five wineries:

Cochon 555 is this Sunday (2/20) from 5pm till 7pm (opens at 3:30pm for VIP guests). Get your tickets now and be sure to visit the Seattle page for more info. I will be there and will report back from my pork-filled findings. See you around the table. I’ll be the one with a fork ready to attack all the pork cheeks I can stab into.

(If you want to follow along more pork fun, I’ll be posting updates to my twitter with the hashtag #cochonsea and be sure to follow @COCHON555’s Twitter feed. )

Ping’s Lemon Cookies; my contribution to Will Bake For Food

If you had an ear to the food blogging streets of Seattle, you may have heard about Will Bake For Food this past weekend; a benevolent event brought to us by the Two Jennys (Jenny Richards and Jenny Miller)  to support Northwest Harvest. If you were there, you were able to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of a room full of delicious baked goods. All created by your friendly neighborhood food bloggers. On behalf of all of us, thank you for your support and I hope you enjoyed your treats. As promised during this weekend’s Will Bake For Food, here is my recipe for the Meyer Lemon Cookies that I brought. Continue reading