Food from around the Puget Sound. It is about good sources, great eating and unusual foods.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lead off dinner for youngest

Sending a child off to school is never easy, I remember asking my mother to cook certain specials before the summer was done. Of course you have the last big meal, all the things you might have forgotten to ask for, or repeats of the best of, maybe things that you know you can't cook yourself at school. Well this is the lead up to the last meal......for my youngest.

We had to cover the right products and have the combination work. We knew what was going to be the kick off meal, Tri-tip, risotto and green beans. So this is the catch meal that covered all the things that might not be enjoyed for the next couple of months or years.

Chicken Wings, baked crisp with a salt rub that we mixed ourselves, 400 degrees to crisp them up.


Beet and yellow tomato salad with goat cheese, and caramelize carrots. The starch was mashed potatoes and for the vegetarian, a roasted tomato, garlic and herb dish.

This was your basic, lets eat and be happy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer BBQ in Seattle

Rain in the forecast, cloudy and cool. I am flying back from a hot and dry Los Altos summer, thank goodness I was only there over night, I might have had to ask to stay. Thinking about coming back to Seattle's weather sounded dreadful, on top of that I am going to a BBQ that I was really looking forward to and I couldn't imagine eating BBQ "indoors".

My wife picks me up at Seatac and we head North under a mid-day hazy sky, seems to be the norm here this summer. As we get closer to our friend's house, lo and behold there is sunshine. We find ourselves in a warm lull before the rain we get later in the evening and through the next day, so enjoy it while you can.

We knock on the door and we walk into paradise, a beautiful back yard set up for the BBQ of the summer. We could have not dreamed, bought or stole a better afternoon. The sun was up and the the shade of the beautiful landscape was welcomed as the temperature was perfect and the sun was out. We walk in and what do we have but White Sangria, I haven't had a great White Sangria since NYC. I won't tell you how long that was, but one I am too lazy to make them, two I was always afraid I couldn't do it justice. These were great, sorry no Pic's. Less tropical, more seasonal, Muy bueno. Thank you to our hostesses for a fantastic call, couldn't have matched the weather and drink better.

As we were introduced to the rest of the benefactors of this BBQ, I noticed that the Big Green Egg was not smoking. This was one of the focus' for the BBQ? As it turns out our host spent the last 5 hours doing the ribs and he was ready to finish the meal off. In great anticipation I looked around to see if there were loose ends that needed to be picked up, there by making my invitation to the party valid, but to no avail everything was relaxed and taken care of. The theme of the BBQ was not just great food, but the summer and for me the Big Green Egg. We had talked about it during one of our lunch/food functions and the fact that our host was the proud owner of an Egg brought the conversation around to "how good", "how does it work" and when can we taste the results? And it true Hospitality, we got an invitation!!!!!! But isn't any excuse a reason to BBQ/smoke/grill and eat?

Well our host went all out, he smoked, grilled and put the spread out that was picture perfect. As you can see there wasn't the last minute rush from the grill, I would have taken pictures but only the last details and the assessment were necessary before we all jumped in. (Just to let you know he did grill off the links on the Weber to make sure they were hot and ready).

Here is the Grill Master making sure everything is perfect.
This is our host placing his homemade Carolina style BBQ sauce in place, vinegary with the spiciness that added to the smokiness of the pork. He just was in KC doing a BBQ recon earlier this year and by his own admission tried as much BBQ that was humanly possible.

Here is Bruce giving us the details on his side dish of eggs and multi-pepper dish, very good, balanced spicy and savory. It was enjoyed by everyone there even though it seemed like a dish that you wouldn't bring to a BBQ but it was perfect. The softness in texture made the meat seem like it had crunch even though is was so soft and tender.

Next was the spread, looking at all the beautifully laid out dishes, corn bread muffins, salads, green and potato, relishes and of course more meat than you can imagine.

Two kinds of Links, spicy and not. Some grilled pork tenderloin? waiting for some condiments or sauce. Egg and pepper casserole, with Corn Muffins.

Green Salad, mustn't forget our greens with a French Vinaigrette. The potato salad that had the right "bite" to the potato, dressing was creamy but not heavy.  And a spinach salad to give depth to all the wonderful meat.
Needless to say there were great condiments to pair with the meats and balance the other dishes, pickled red and yellow pickles being one my favorites. Pretty and tasty with a crisp crunch of season freshness.

Notice the KC BBQ sauce, it had a bite that made the ribs something special and worked great on the hot links. 

Looks like the Ribs took a beating and seconds aren't even up. 

Desert was a hostess special she did a  Momofuku's Crack Pie, she put a Northwest spin on it and I tell you just sealed the deal! It would have been trouble if we started with it. Might have passed on the BBQ, well maybe not.

Outdoors, great weather and even better company. What's left, oh! Great BBQ! And Food, love it! Isn't summer Wonderful? Let's hope it isn't over.

On the Road to California

Just a quick drive to the Bay area and fly back out. My youngest and I took the "green machine" Aka van who has seen many states and about to see more, down to the start of a wonderful road trip to the East Coast. Unfortunately it was so quick that we did not have a lot of time to pursue the usual try and eat everything you can possibly find on the way to where you are going. We did manage to find some interesting things and have a wonderful two day drive down talking, laughing and enjoying the beautiful sights.

On 5 leaving Seattle on a Summer day? Ominous clouds and drizzle helped push us out of the Emerald City, no hope of any sunshine soon. Better off moving south as fast as possible. Guess that is why it's so green?

This has not been a great summer weather wise, although this is the first one I've experienced in Seattle. I know that there must be something better? Of course I've been told last summer was epic, I always seem ahead or behind the curve; and there might be a chance of a Good September? I'll get back to you on that one.

Crossing the bridge into Portland Oregon, looks like sunshine breaking through the clouds? Nope, didn't happen, we didn't make a stop in the Food Cart Capitol. We were on a roll and it just made sense to keep on rolling, we hoped to get 10 hours of driving in today and make it to Redding CA tonight.

Finally some sunshine and lunch at Cow Creek rest area just outside of Glendale, not California. Just north of Grants Pass we decide to eat at this great little rest stop where the trees and picnic tables were inviting. Notice all that sun, it was also hot, in the 80's but with a nice breeze to accompany our left over tri-tip that we made into sandwiches with some very sharp cheddar cheese. Next time I come through, I will do the Cow Creek loop, about 21 miles they say.

For those of you that have followed me through Oregon before, we passed on Grants Pass to make time, Aja doesn't open for lunch anyway. Coming up on Ashland, we took the scenic route (some advice, don't take the first off ramp to a town that has multiple options.) and  after seeing most of the north end of town and it's neighborhoods. We stumbled onto this great market that is a part of a 7 store family owned chain based in Oregon called Market of Choice. The food was wonderfully displayed, with fresh local produce, wonderfully smelling deli, great selection and really good prices. Of course this is in comparison to Washington, but it was considerably lower in everything I looked at. 

Then it was off to the Oregon/California border, the miles clicked by and soon we were seeing Mount Shasta, in awe of how pretty it is with it's majestic location with views that rival Rainier's. Once through the mountains we proceeded into the flats of Redding, don't miss checking out architect Santiago Calatrava's Sundial Bridge and the Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

Just south of Redding in Anderson we spent the night at a cool little place that we can recommend called Gaia Hotel & Spa Shasta, eco-friendly and very new, it is pet friendly also. We checked in and dashed off to the Woodside Grill which is part of the Hotel and from what we were told might be the only place eat that you don't have to drive to. The food was ok but the service warm and friendly, we did see their organic heirloom tomatoes and panko encrusted eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil from our herb garden appetizer that made us wish we had ordered. The tomato slices were thick and look juicy and fresh. I think if you stuck to the down home selections you couldn't go wrong for an affordable dinner in a nice location.

The next morning we checked out fired up and ready to go, I think we were the last ones out on the road, but better late than never right? We decided to put some miles on before breakfast and made it only 20 miles before we decided it was time to look for food. So we headed off 5 at Redbluff not knowing what to look for, we found the usual suspects Mexican, fast order coffee and a couple of dive bars that were probably good in the evening but closed for breakfast. We stumbled on to Tremont Cafe & Creamery on Main Street, looked clean and crowded and sure enough we had our basic breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and choice of bread. Well done and good ingredients, my Hot Cakes were great. It brought up the question about why are they are called Hot Cakes not Pan Cakes? And I am sure there are other names out there for the same thing?

After missing the 505 cut off to San Francisco, we cruised through Sacramento and got gas in Davis, right next door was an In-N-Out, we were officially in California. As we ran into unbelievable traffic our goal of making SF Chinatown for lunch seemed to be fading as the miles creeped by. But as we got into stop and go traffic just before the toll booth for the bridge, we found the HOV lane wide open and took the loop to the left up and over all the traffic that made up for a lot of time. 

Once in the city we had food and things we needed to buy, no stop in SF  Chinatown is complete without a stop to buy Golden Gate Fortune cookies. The best I have every had, biased sure, wrong not! If you ever get there, I buy the broken small bulk bags, $3.50 ea. you can get the others also and usually if the old man is there he always gives you samples of some hot ones if the machines are running. Open late hours, well worth stopping for and they have been there since I was a kid.

Now it was time for some serious food, my cousin had said that she and her family go into town and enjoyed Hing Lung Restaurant on Broadway, last time I was in SF I had one of my best Chinese meals in a long time. Hard decision, what swayed me was an article my other cousin sent me about their Lobster Congee (Jook), I was determined to try it. So off we went, as it turned out I have eaten there in the past, we get there well after lunch and it still has a crowd and during the course of the meal a steady stream of take out customers. We over ordered, starting with pot stickers, chicken wings in cola sauce, fried noodles and of course my bowl of lobster jook. 

For the most part the first items were pretty generic, portions large the most important thing was the jook. It had a whole lobster broken down in this bowl, it was very good sweet and tender, the rice creamy with texture and well worth the $9.95. If you go, all the types of Congee looked good, it seemed that was what most of the take out customers were walking with, that and a vegetable dish would be the way to go.

San Jose Airport
Well it was short but sweet, stayed over night and said good bye to my youngest, heading east for a road trip through 11 states and me back to hopefully a sunny BBQ in Seattle. That's next.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sometimes it's not just about the food

Having just started my first summer up here in Seattle, it has been less about the food and more about the experience for me. I find that there is so much going on that it would take a small army to keep up with all the food and fun things going on. So here is just a little of the fun things that I have been doing and of course with what food I ran across thrown in. I had the great fortune of going up and seeing some friends that have a cabin up by Cle Elem Lake, this was the creek that went by their cabin and rustic as it was, it was paradise. The real find was the small towns and communities that give these areas the charm that keep us in the NW.

On the way out we had a good meal at the Roslyn Cafe, a newly updated little place that was clean and not what you might expect in such a tourist driven area. We were fortunate that we came late and most of the car and bike people that came out for a car show had moved on for the day.

Earlier in the day we needed some treats and were directed to Cle Elem Bakery, they had a good selection of cookies and were very honest about the age of the other products in the case. All in all it was worth the stop and it is nice to see local businesses making a go of it. The main drag was to say the least wide and long, too much space and too little business. Let's hope they all survive?

Next on the fun things for summer, we went to Kooza the Cirque Du Soleil show at Marymoor Park, I have to say it was a chore trying to find food before the show in the surrounding neighborhood. If there are any suggestions out there let me know, it would be greatly appreciated for future forays into that area. By the way the show was fantastic, great performers and wonderful story.

Then there was the ZOO and Jimmy, I have never seen a concert at the zoo and never seen so many AB's and LP's at a concert, especially a Reggae concert. Well let's just say it wasn't what I was expecting in a  REGGAE concert, but Jimmy had his groove on and it was a great show and venue. We took a picnic and I think I would consider the food next time, some of the things we saw looked pretty good and it would be nice to graze and check out everyone else.

Then there are friends, we have had some great meals at friends house's and to be honest I felt self conscious taking pictures of peoples grills and food. Just suffice to say I have been enjoying the food and company. Nothing like fresh food prepared with love.  And the views have been wonderful.

What have I been doing?

I have been busy doing a lot and not doing enough, summer is here and I know that a little effort would put more print on-line, but I am finally enjoying the weather.  Before I move on, I would like to mention something I just had a moment to reflect on, when I was young I remember my parents doing some things with food that I thought was odd then and even odder as I grew older and had the opportunity to live in other areas of the US. This has to do with the last Post that I put up about how some things need to travel to get something worth eating.

One such thing was my mother eating and introducing to us kids, avocados by serving it with sugar sprinkled over it. My father I remember eating them with soy sauce. Now I know that even as a kid I thought it was odd. Not only did it not taste of anything I could relate to except the sweet of the sugar and the saltiness of the soy sauce, the texture was not all that appealing. Mind you this was in the Washington D.C. area in the early 60's. Another odd "treat" was a cantaloupe with vanilla ice cream in the center where the seeds where removed. Now that I have the perspective of time and experience, I know that my parents were looking to capture the tastes of food they loved but had to settle on what was available to them in the area we lived in. Both of them grew up in Hawaii and as you can imagine avocados and cantaloupes were picked and eaten when they were ready, ripe and flavorful. Which was not the case in DC in the 60's, which came to use hard as rocks and without any trace of flavor or sweetness (melons).

As you can imagine the up side, was we learned what was in season and available to us in that part the country it opened up a whole new world of tastes and foods for all of us.

Top Banana is just that

Since moving into the Seattle area, I have missed the variety of produce that is available in Southern California. I know that all the issues surrounding sustainable concerns should effect our buying, but sometimes you have to expand the limits in order to put some variety into your  meal plans. Yes I know creativity can go a long way, but sometimes you just want certain things to go with your meals. I find that out of season produce from south of equator too extreme, but to stay within the a reasonable transportation radius opens up a larger choice for your meal plans. This is how I found Top Banana, Eric the owner is a knowledgeable purveyor, sourcing locally when he feels that it works, but looking to provide quality fresh produce to his clients. Looking at the his produce is motivating, I find myself still shopping with a concern for the environment but making some choice that give my family more rounded creative meals. Not that Eric doesn't have organic and locally sourced produce, it is there available when he feels it fits his market.

Eric and his staff care about their products and service is vital to his business. I shows in the presentation and knowledge of the produce. As you can see from the pictures their are things that just can't grow in the NW and some of those items can be used by the cook to enhance any meal.