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Monthly Archives: December 2004

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

Union

My Dad is still in town and he took my mom and me out for our customary fancy dinner. The last one wasn’t so great, so he let me choose this time. I had been wanting to go to Union since last Christmas, when I read the absolutely glowing review by Nancy Leson, whom I trust explicitly with my taste buds.

I used to work in the building above the restaurant and have seen the space in its many incarnations, so I was shocked and pleased that they managed to create such an inviting atmosphere. It was actually warm and dining companions were audible, despite the 30 foot high ceilings.

There were many, many delicious sounding items on the menu, but I figured the best way to get most of them into my mouth would be via the tasting menu. And a tasting menu wouldn’t be complete without an accompanying drinking menu (a.k.a. paired wines), so we ordered both. This was what we were served:

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Butter (amuse bouche #1) –

Very good with a strong artichoke flavor cut with cream and butter. It was oh, so very smooth; just the way I like my soup. This was served in a dainty espresso cup, but I wanted a vat of it.

Smoked Salmon & Grilled Shitake with Leek Vinaigrette (amuse bouche #2) –

The salmon was really moist and succulent—almost like gravlax. The initial taste of cold salmon and warm, grilled shitake was a little strange, but the aftertaste mellowed out.

NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs, New Mexico

Oysters with Cucumber, Caviar and Chive Mignonette

This was FANTASTIC. I can’t remember the name of the oysters but they are transplanted from elsewhere (Japan?) and raised in Shelton, Washington. The first taste is the salt of the oyster, which turns creamy as you bite into it and then finishes with a fresh, clean taste from the mignonette. I am convinced now that oysters and cucumbers were separated at birth. They are so wonderful together, yet I would have never thought of pairing them. This dish was served with a sweet Riesling which was another unusual pairing, but it was perfect. Mom doesn’t eat oysters so she requested an alternate dish, which was a beautiful tower of salad and parmesan cheese sitting on oddly delicious and spicy ginger salami.

2002 Carl Graff Riesling Spatlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Poached Duck Egg with Baby Turnip Soup

The waiter brought out bowls, each with a perfectly poached egg sprinkled with a little red salt. Then a gravy boat is used to pour in the soup, around the egg. The duck egg was runny and when you cut into it, the orange yolk blended into the soup. It was heavenly. I tend to love things with turnips in them, but for some reason I can’t pin down exactly what turnips taste like. This particular soup tasted a lot like an excellent vichyssoise.

2003 Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley

Roasted Sturgeon with Braised Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Basil Oil

This was my favorite dish—surprising, since my last experience with Sturgeon was not so great. I think the fish may have been bad or farm-raised (if that’s even possible with Sturgeon) because it tasted dirty, like catfish sometimes does. This Sturgeon was not like that at all. It was perfectly cooked with a flaky inside and a crisp seared crust. The Sturgeon came on a bed of black trumpet mushrooms, which I’ve never had before. They are now my favorite mushroom.

2001 Belles Soeures Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

Seared Muscovy Duck Breast on Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

I was really excited to try this because I had been eying a similar recipe in my new Bouchon cookbook which paired duck and Brussels sprouts. The combination is amazing. I can’t even tell you why, but it’s delicious. The duck was beautifully sliced and fanned, so you could see the rare meat and the crunchy layer of perfect, crisp fat.

2000 Ryan Patrick Vineyards Meritage, Columbia Valley

Chimay Grand Cru

An ale-washed cow’s milk cheese from Belgium, served with a frisee salad and toasted walnuts. A wonderful, mild and creamy soft cheese.

2003 Mas de Guiot Grenache / Syrah, Vin de Pays du Gard

Mango Sorbet with Vanilla Oil

This was a palate cleanser and even though I love mango, I really didn’t like this. The combo of mango and vanilla was altogether too floral—a lot like eating your grandmother’s hand cream, except that it was cold. Mom loved this, so she ate all of mine.

Espresso Pot de Creme

Here is a list of exclamations at the table after the first bite: Ohhhh! Amazing! Decadent! Luxuriant! Silken! Rich! Mmmmmm.

2002 Bodegas Ochoa Moscatel, Navarra

The tasting menu was $48 per person, plus an additional $40 with the accompanying wines. I can’t wait to go back as soon as the tasting menu changes so I can try more of Ethan Stowell’s amazing food…

Union on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 27th, 2004

Dad’s Jook Recipe

Dad made jook from the Christmas turkey carcass and I finally got the recipe!

1. Take turkey carcass and pull off only the meat that comes off easily. Place in a large pot, cover completely with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the meat is falling off the bone, about 30-45 minutes.

2. Add 1 stick of celery, 1 small whole onion (if making jook from ham, stick one clove into the onion), 1 bay leaf, 2-3 teaspoons salt and 4 peppercorns. Continue simmering until the onion is very soft, another 45-60 minutes.

3. Remove celery, onion, bay leaf and all bones, fat and if desired, skin. Spoon off all fat/grease that rises to the top.

4. Add 1 to 2 cups of rice, depending on how thick you want your jook. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, for at LEAST four hours but preferably overnight (we left it on the stove overnight on the lowest heat). The jook is done when the rice ‘melts’. If soup is too thick, add water until it reaches the desired consistency.

This recipe can be used to make jook from just about anything—I want to try it with a ham or chicken next…

Serve with potato chips, preserved Chinese turnip, sliced green onions and soy sauce. Dad said you can also serve it with sliced 1,000 year old eggs or hard boiled duck eggs.

It was so delicious!

Sunday, December 26th, 2004

Christmas Feast

The family all came up to my Mom’s house on Whidbey island for Christmas day. We cooked up an amazing feast—everyone agreed that it was the best Christmas dinner yet.

Salumi salami – four of kinds of salami: mole, finoccio (fennel), sopressata and regular
Cold smoked salmon with capers, red onion and creme fraiche
Crab and dill toasts

Kosher turkey – slow grilled (indirect method) for 5 1/2 hours on the weber with mesquite (adding 5 coals to each side every half hour)
Oyster bread stuffing
Amazing gravy
Dill brined and grilled salmon
Cipollini onion relish
Savory clafoutis with chanterelles and spinach
Spinach Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Grapefruit
Steamed Romanesca cauliflower, drizzled with butter

Huckleberry pie from Whidbey Pies
Pumpkin-bay tart (from The Herb Farm cookbook)

After dinner we all jumped in the car and went on a Christmas light tour…

Saturday, December 25th, 2004

Christmas Eve

Let me start off by saying that I do not have a religious family. Christmas and all other major holidays have always just meant family, friends and food. I love the idea of holiday rituals, and even though we’re not religious, we still have rituals—but I have come to realize that they are somewhat… unique. For instance, when I was a kid our Christmas eve get together always had a theme.

The Cowboy Christmas started it off. Dad wanted cowboy boots, so my mom got him a pair. His brother bought him a cowboy hat. I got him a black satin shirt with embroidered red and white cards on the front. I was really young at the time and was so excited about picking that particular shirt out, thinking he’d actually wear it out of the house (I was wrong). Someone else brought bandana party favors for all the guests and from there it quickly grew out of control.

For the Miami Vice Christmas (yes, I’m so lucky to have grown up in the 80’s) everyone wore pastel T-shirts with white blazers and no socks. Mom found a shiny, baby-blue plastic palm tree that we decorated with pink lights for our Christmas tree. There were pink flamingos in our front yard.

Then there was the Russian Christmas where mom made borscht, homemade blinis with caviar and flavored infused vodkas—this was before you could just buy them at the liquor store. Dad made a gorgeous salmon en croute and painted St. Basil’s Cathedral with a Van Gogh Starry Night background on the dining room windows. My uncle dressed up as a Russian Cossack and threatened to make us wait in line for squares of toilet paper. From what I can remember, the night ended in my dad chasing my uncle around the dinning room table because he was after the last of the pepper vodka.

Next came a Dickens’ Christmas, which was an old fashioned English Christmas. My parents made a beautiful roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and my brother made an incredible gingerbread Big Ben—it was so amazing.

One of my favorite themes was the Hoo-Hung-Wu Christmas (our last name is Woo, so it was perfect). It was at the height of the murder mystery game craze and we did it up right. One of our guests that night was a Chinese seamstress and she brought robes, Chinese hats and fans for everyone. We even had dry ice going to lend an air of mystery. I was in charge of fanning the ice to make it wispy and I accidentally tipped the bucket off the railing and it landed on a guest…

Now that most of the children in the family are grown, we’ve moved on to more tame celebrations that involve a lot of singing. We mostly stick to Christmas carols, but we always sing a round of “No Woman No Cry” at the insistence of my uncle. Unfortunately, the majority of us are awful singers and have no memory for lyrics. A few years back, we played Christmas charades and the losers had to go outside and carol to the neighbors. About thirty seconds into the first song you could see porch lights going out all over the block. It was unbelievably hilarious and sad at the same time.

This year I was a little subdued because I still had a cold, but it was great to spend time with family and friends—talking, singing and enjoying the white elephant gift exchange. We had an appetizer party and everyone brought something. I couldn’t taste much because I was stuffed up, but what I could taste was great: shrimp fried rice, delicious marinated ribs, Asian-style chicken wings, cheese fondue, bagna cauda, artichoke dips, bacon wrapped dates, queso fundido and more.

It was a lot of fun, but a few people in the family are thinking we should bring back the theme Christmas. We’ll see what happens next year…


Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004

The last holiday party!

I have done too much this holiday season and have been rewarded with a full-blown cold. I really want to see a small group of my friends though, so I invite them over for one last holiday get together. As I am sick, I can’t manage anything more than vacuuming my apartment, so I opt for a pizza party.

I’m trying to decide between Piecora’s and Hot Moma’s because Pagliacci won’t deliver to my house, because I’m something like one block outside their delivery area. Grrrr. So I’m whining about the lack of good delivery options when Zach suggests I order from Palermo Pizza.

I call up Palermo and order two medium pizzas, one with pepperoni and olives and the other a “Classico Meat” (pepperoni, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage and salami). They arrive and are greasy and absolutely delicious—especially the one with the sausage. I had just purchased a bunch of furikake rice seasonings and have been dying to try them out, so I set them on the table. I have three flavors: wasabi (horseradish, bonito and wasabi), nori (seaweed) and katsuo (bonito). It turns out that katsuo fumi furikake is fabulous on pizza. It has a great salty and slightly fishy taste (think anchovy) and it has an unexpected and wonderful crunch.

Bob has brought his crazy and delicious chop salad which generally contains whatever he has in his fridge at the moment. This time it happened to be tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, celery, carrots, green onions, pickles and imitation crab meat with a vinaigrette dressing. I took one look at it and thought, hey, I should toss my sea beans in there before they go bad. It was so, so good—the sea beans lending a briny crunch to an already great salad.

I wanted to try out Zach’s octodog as well, so I asked Kait to bring some sausages. She picked up some great bratwurst from Uli’s Sausage in the Market. The octodog came with cute little instructions, but I somehow thought that when it said “hotdog”, it meant anything hotdog-like. Please note that sausages are not meant to be used in the octodog. It mangled our poor little test sausage. Next time we will get bona-fide hotdogs.

Everyone forgot to bring drinks so we scavenged through my fridge and liquor cabinet and invented a new drink: non-alcoholic apple cider with a little amaretto. It was so delicious and comforting that we named it “The Nuzzler”.

For dessert, Zach brought gelato from Gelatiamo. For some reason, I didn’t care for the pistachio flavor, but the crème caramel was heavenly!

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004

Date Night #2: Takohachi

It’s Zach’s turn to choose a new restaurant for us to try and he picks Takohachi in the International District. Mostly because it has the best sign ever; a bright red octopus wearing a bandana. As we pull up to the restaurant I notice the octopus has a tubular nose that seems oddly familiar. Zach points out that it looks like Q*Bert and it does!

We get inside and it’s a teeny, tiny restaurant that isn’t too clean, but something smells delicious so we sit down. The menu has mostly hot-pot noodles, with a few katsu-type dishes, teriyaki, curries and two types of sushi rolls. In addition to the items listed on the menu they have really cute hand-drawn pictures of the Winter specials.

Zach orders one of the Winter specials, Chiri-Nabe, which is described as a tofu and noodle hot-pot with chili vinegar sauce and your choice of fish or chicken or both. I chose the Tonkatsu with curry.

Zach’s hot pot comes out and it’s beautiful in its blazing hot iron pot. It looks deceptively simple and plain until you taste the broth. The broth is amazing with a slightly sour taste from the vinegar. The noodles seem like they must have been marinated in something or cooked in the broth because they’re so flavorful.

My katsu plate is gigantic. It looks like there might be a pound of beautifully breaded pork. The curry sauce is good as well, not too spicy or interesting on its own, but great with the crisp and juicy pork.

Halfway through our meal I notice a sign advertising homemade furikake (my new favorite condiment), so we order a dish to sprinkle over our rice. Granted, I haven’t had many experiences with furikake, but this one is the best I’ve had. Nice and salty because of something that looks and tastes like salmon jerky. I try and order some to go but then decide to head over to Uwajimaya and see what kind of furikake selection they have.

Our entire bill was under $17 and the lunch prices are even cheaper. They also do take out, so I’m thinking I’ll be frequenting this place.


Monday, December 20th, 2004

English Breakfast in Seattle

After finding Heinz baked beans at PFI, I was excited to cook my first traditional English breakfast. I learned a few days ago that in England you can order the breakfast as a 3, 5 or 7, which denotes how many different items are on the plate. I opted for the full seven, which included:

Fried eggs
Sausage
Bacon
Sauteed mushrooms with garlic and dried oregano
Fried tomatoes with parsley and parmesan
Heinz baked beans
Toast

It was delicious and now I’m officially addicted to those beans. They are so subtle yet flavorful with a light sweetness that is perfect on buttered toast. I wonder if I can order them by the case at PFI?

Sunday, December 19th, 2004

X-mas Party No. 3

I’m coming down with a cold and have already been to too many holiday parties, but my friends are throwing a Russian-themed holiday party. So off I go!

When I’m tired and sick I tend to crave junk food, so I convince Zach to stop at Dick’s before we go to the party. When you’re in the right mood, Dick’s burgers can be incredibly satisfying.

We arrive at the party and they have a nice assortment of fancy appetizers, but the only thing that seems to be Russian is the bottle of vodka I brought. But the appetizers are delicious (and all from the Epicurious website, so I’m told):

Rosemary tartletts with onions and walnuts
Goat cheese, lettuce and roast beef on crostini topped with roasted peppers
Stuffed mushrooms

After the party, we drive through Ballard and Zach gets nostalgic—so we stop at one of his favorite bars: the Tin Hat. It’s a smoky, casual bar that has lots of board games and I immediately like it. We end up playing cribbage and scrabble for several hours, so of course I get hungry again. Zach says the food is good, but I’m skeptical (by nature). I order a grilled cheese thinking that’s a fairly safe bet. It’s made with American cheese and it’s delicious; made with just the right amount of butter and seasoned with dried oregano and served with good hand-cut fries. Nothing I’d drive across town for, but… okay, maybe I would.