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Monthly Archives: February 2005

Monday, February 28th, 2005

Annapurna Cafe

Many thanks to Matt and Tamiko for suggesting the Annapurna Cafe during my “Oh, woe is me, where are all the good Indian restaurants on Capitol hill?“ phase. I had walked by the Annapurna Cafe before and had been curious because they advertise Nepali, Tibetan & Indian cuisine.

The Annapurna Cafe is a basement restaurant, so there is no natural light, but all in all it’s fairly cozy for being in a basement. Per Tamiko’s suggestion we started out with the Goan Style Mussels, “Fresh mussels sautéed in a white wine based coconut curry sauce with roasted garlic, fresh herbs and tomatoes served with naan” ($11.95). They were FANTASTIC; the mussels were plump and juicy and the broth was incredible. It was sweet yet spicy, and rich from the coconut milk but not overly-so. The naan that came with the mussels was crisp and dry, which at first I didn’t think I’d like, but it had such a nice texture and crunch that I enjoyed it—especially when dipped in the curry broth. There was a good three inches of broth in the bowl and we managed to eat it all. It was so good that once we ran out of naan I just started drinking it straight, like soup.

We also ordered the Crispy Lamb Rolls, “Crispy lamb rolls stuffed with ground lamb, onions, cabbage, carrots, yam noodles, garlic, ginger, basil and freshly ground masala and served with mango pineapple chutney” ($4.95). The rolls were an awful lot like a Taco Time crispy burrito. I’m not sure why my brain made this connection, and I’m not even saying that it’s a bad thing either. The rolls were a bit greasy and chewy on the outside and just a touch dry on the inside, but I liked the taste of the ground lamb mixture. I think if the frying oil had been slightly hotter, the rolls would have been perfect. The accompanying pineapple and mango chutney tasted like a slightly spicy sweet and sour sauce and was a perfect complement to the lamb.

The last thing we tried was the Himalayan Curry, “Sherpa’s favorite curry sauce cooked with Szechwan pepper, tomatoes, onions, sweet peas, potatoes and Tibetan herbs” ($8.95, with chicken). The waitress had told us that it was fairly tangy and tried to steer us towards the sweeter curries, but Zach was really curious about the Sherpa’s favorite. I didn’t like this curry very much, but not because it wasn’t prepared well—I just found the tangy flavor odd and not satisfying, but Zach enjoyed it. Next time I want to try some of the more Indian inspired curries because I’m betting they’re fantastic.

Thank you Matt and Tamiko! Your recommendations were right on.

Annapurna Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 27th, 2005

Oscar party

I was invited to my first ever Oscar party this Sunday and was very, very excited—not to watch the Oscars, but to go over to my friends’ house and eat really delicious food. My friends G & J are both great cooks with extreme opposite cooking styles. G is like me. He likes to cook by the book, or at least within the framework of some sort of recipe. But J… if you knew J, you’d know that his cooking style matches his personality; very creative. It’s great to watch them in the kitchen together. Their cooking styles really complement each other and they turn out some fantastic food.

I should take a moment to say that while I do see the occasional movie in the theater, I prefer Netflix. So before heading over, I decided to find out what movies and people were in the running so I didn’t sound like a total idiot. I was shocked to find that I had only seen two movies from the entire list—and they were nominated for something like sound mixing. Uhhh.

When we arrived at the party, the Oscars were already in full swing. I was only vaguely paying attention to the television—mostly to see when the commercials were on so I could get up and graze on the appetizers without blocking anyone’s view. I had brought some nice cheeses and smoked white King salmon. K had brought pita chips, which I found to be dangerously addictive. S had made a really delicious smoked salmon spread with cream cheese and green onions. Very simple, but very good.

I got in trouble for rooting against the Aviator. I don’t like Leonardo all that much and thought that the Titanic Oscar sweep a few years ago was ridiculous. So I was feeling bitter. And justified in my bitterness. But I finally had to shut up when S pointedly told me that I hadn’t even seen the Aviator.

After the Oscars were over, we feasted. G had made a fantastic chicken saltimbocca. The chicken was perfectly cooked and napped in a rich and salty mushroom sauce. J had made a crazy cabbage, cauliflower and gorgonzola salad that was presented (beautifully) in a hollowed out Savoy cabbage. They had also made a zucchini dish, shredding the zucchini into thin strips with their new mandolin so it looked like spaghetti. I think that’s my favorite way to eat zucchini. There was also a really good spinach salad with some of the tastiest blood oranges I’ve had in a while.

I am hoping for many future invites to Oscar parties. Next time I might even see the movies.

Saturday, February 26th, 2005

The Hostess Project

The dinner party was a success! We had lots of great food, some stellar wines and wonderful company. The cat didn’t knock over any candles and no wine was spilt on the new carpet (okay, just a little).

Everything was well planned and I was able to enjoy myself and socialize, which is sometimes hard to do when serving a coursed dinner. I am busy writing it all up and will post a link to the article on the site when it goes live.

Thank you to all the guests for making it such an enjoyable evening!

Friday, February 25th, 2005

State of My Bacon…

A few weeks ago, Jessa Crispin of Bookslut fame contacted me about her latest venture: Saucy. Saucy will be an online magazine that focuses solely on food and will have a wide range of columns covering topics like food essays, cookbook reviews, chef interviews, drinks, etc.

Jessa asked if I would like to be a regular contributor. I had just written a post about how I was accepting the Dinner Party a Month challenge, so I decided that that would be the perfect theme. My column will be called “The Hostess Project”.

My first Saucy dinner party is tomorrow and I’m a little nervous because of the extra pressure. I’m hoping for no catastrophic failures, even though it would probably make my article more interesting.

Anyways, more to come… will launch on March 7th, so add that to you foodie calendars!

On a separate note, I have been struggling with content organization for my site. When I started blogging I never dreamed I would write so much—I’ve been averaging a post a day lately. So I’m trying to make things easier to find (mostly for me, but also for you). Here are the recent updates:

  • I wanted to make it easier to see specific restaurant information, so I have added a Restaurant Review section.
  • All recipes on the site (and more) can be found on my recipe site.
  • A new bacon side bar has been added for just bacon-related things. If I’m missing anything major, please leave me the URL in the comments. Thanks!
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

Seattle Food Blog Group: Malay Satay Hut

A while back, Molly from Orangette and I discussed getting together a group of Seattle Food Bloggers to talk about food, eating, cooking, and blogging. Our favorite topics.

After much planning, we finally met everyone last night:

Accidental Hedonist
Amuse Bouche
Culinary Fool
Tasting Menu

We had a delicious meal at Malay Satay Hut—everyone chose something from the menu and we ate family style:
Roti Canai – Flatbreads with a curry dipping sauce
Fish with Thai Sauce – A whole (delicious) fried Tilapia with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce
Mango Shrimp – A beautiful dish of sweet mango and shrimp served in hollowed out mango shells
Dried Curry Crab РA whole crab saut̩ed in curry sauce
Curry Beef – A spicy and rich beef curry
Nasi Lemak – Not quite sure what this was, but it was good—it came with rice, eggs, some sort of stewed meat and a chutney
String Beans РSpicy beans saut̩ed with shrimp
Noodles with Tofu – This was really good, but I didn’t get the name of the dish

The food was great, but I found it hard to concentrate on both the food and conversation at the same time, so out of politeness, I opted to concentrate on the conversation.

Actually it was great. We had such a varied mix of people in terms of how they approach blogging, how long they’ve been doing it and with what seriousness. It was a little odd at first because we all knew the intimate food-related details of each others’ lives, but had never met. The idea of being anonymous and not-so-anonymous at the same time is really interesting. I had a great time and enjoyed meeting everyone. I hope we can do it again soon…

Monday, February 21st, 2005

Iron Chef America: Rob Feenie vs. Masaharu Morimoto

Excuse me if this post is not accurate or complete. I was too enthralled to take notes.

After our hot-pot dinner, I made everyone watch Iron Chef America. There was some grumbling because Family Guy was on at the same time, but I didn’t really care because I was dying to see Rob Feenie beat Masaharu Morimoto. Not that I have anything against Morimoto, it’s just that I love Rob Feenie.

The last Iron Chef America I watched was hosted by the always lovely William Shatner. Whoever made that casting train wreck of a decision should be blackballed from Hollywood. After about two minutes of watching, I knew that the new version would be much, much better. They retained some of the campiness that made me love the original, but didn’t over-do it and they actually had commentators that knew something about food. What a brilliant concept.

I squealed when they revealed the secret ingredient: crab. There were all kinds of crab, but I think the main ones were Dungeness Crab, Blue Crab, Peekytoe Crab, and some sort of unfortunate small Japanese crab that Morimoto tossed into the deep-fat-fryer while still alive. It was exciting and stressful watching the chefs pull their pinching crabs from the pile and chop them up (again, while still alive) with parts flying everywhere. After an hour, this is what they had made:

Rob Feenie
Two kinds of crab maki – This looked incredibly good and I’d like to try making it at home. The crab was mixed with something creamy (mayo?) and then spread onto the seaweed, then the outside of the rolls had a very thin layer of salmon lox and raw tuna.

Sablefish with crab in tom yum broth – While this looked delicious, I don’t know if I’d like it all that much. I think I OD’d on sablefish the last time I was in Canada.

Crab ravioli with truffle beurre blanc – This looked amazing and when he added the truffles to the beurre blanc I wanted to cry.

Veal loin with hollandaise and crab – A beautiful roast of veal on a bed of mushrooms, with a creamy crab sauce. How could this not be good?

Peekytoe crab panna cotta with pineapple jelly – This was the one thing that didn’t quite turn out right. Something about the freezers not working. It sounds so weird, but I’d love to try it.

Masaharu Morimoto
Okay, so to be completely honest… I wasn’t really paying much attention to what Morimoto was making, so the descriptions are kinda vague.

Crab consommé – I think this was served in some sort of melon bowl with the little fried crabs as garnish.

Buttermilk crab croquette – Uh? No clue. Something deep-fried.

Crab on a paddle with crab fondue – I liked the crab on a paddle idea until he started blackening it on an open flame. It just seemed weird. The judges thought the cheese fondue overpowered the crab.

Black pepper Dungeness crab – Okay, this looked really good.

Crab rice with baked miso paste – This seemed boring.

Before the final score was revealed I asked everyone who they thought would win. I was the only one who thought Rob Feenie would win—and he won with 45 points to Morimoto’s 39! The weird thing is that Feenie won most of his points in the Creativity category, but it seemed like Morimoto was more creative. Just less successfully creative. Good thing I’m not a food critic.

So despite all the grumbling before the show, everyone was into it by the end and said it was way more exciting than they thought it would be. I was tense during the whole show and started screaming when Feenie won. Is this what it’s like for football fans? I may have just found my new sport…

Monday, February 21st, 2005

Hot-pot entertaining

After my first experience eating hot-pot, I was hooked. I wanted to see how difficult it would be to make it at home. I ordered a portable butane burner on eBay for $10 (!), then set about trying to locate a good recipe.

My brother had recently sent me a Sichuan cookbook and real Sichuan peppers from China, and the cookbook happened to have a hot-pot recipe. It sounded a little more involved than the other recipes I’d seen, but it also sounded delicious. I modified the recipe quite a bit as some of the ingredients were hard to find. I also didn’t want a searing hot broth that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy, so I toned down the heat a little.

I also wanted to make an accompanying sauce, since the sauce seems to play a major role in the meal. The recipe in my book called for a simple garlic and oil sauce, but I really wanted a peanut sauce, so I ended up making one from peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, tomato paste and water. I also made a soy-ginger and a soy-mustard sauce.

I made the broth up to the last step and then brought it over to Zach’s place for the final simmering. I wanted to know how much flavor the Sichuan pepper would add, so I scooped out a cup of broth for comparison before adding the final two ingredients; Sichuan peppers and chili peppers. The broth simmered for another 30 minutes and the difference was amazing. The peppers really balanced out the flavors and helped meld everything together.

When our guests arrived, we turned on the butane burner and set the pot of broth in the middle of the table. Then we brought out two platters of fresh udon noodles, rice stick noodles (soaked in water until soft), fresh shitake mushrooms and chopped napa cabbage. It was pretty impressive already, but then we brought out the platters of raw meat. Oooh! Ahhh! We had Snake River Farms Kurobuta pork belly (yes, I bought it because it looked like bacon), short rib beef, regular beef and lamb. With all that, plus the sauces, we didn’t enough have room on the table so we had to downgrade to smaller dinner plates.

After a brief intro of how to eat hot-pot, everyone dug in. The broth was so rich and good. I could have just drank it for dinner, but with the meats, veggies and noodles it was perfect. Occasionally I’d bite into a Sichuan pepper and the salivating and numbness would set in, but it was definitely better with food than without. By the end of the night my lips and tongue were pleasantly numb.

The sauces were great as well and I liked having a variety. The peanut sauce was rich and luscious, the soy-mustard sauce was spicy and hot and the soy-ginger was light and refreshing—and surprisingly good with the lamb. We bought way too much meat, but no one stopped eating until the last morsel was gone.

For dessert, we had mango jello from a box. We found it at Uwajimaya and it looked interesting. And it tasted interesting—a cross between pudding and Jell-O. I didn’t care for the texture or the fruity and fragrant taste, but some people claimed it was “odd, yet delicious”.

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

Spinach Gnudi with Tomato Vodka Sauce

For lunch, Zach and I finally got around to making the gnudi (pronounced nude-y) recipe we didn’t quite get to on Friday. We were both surprised at how easy it was to make once the ricotta was ready.

We steamed some spinach and ran it through the ricer with the ricotta. Then we added a fancy green egg*, grated parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then we mixed in enough flour until it was a consistency we could work with. We formed it into little gnocchi-sized logs, which were then gently poached.

I made a tomato vodka sauce with pancetta to accompany the gnudi. It was ridiculously good and not all that difficult, compared to making ravioli or gnocchi.

Here is the recipe: Spinach Gnudi with Tomato Vodka Sauce

*Zach bought these beautiful green-blue Araucana eggs when he was at the Creamery in the market.

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Kolbeh: Not as planned

Tonight Zach and I made plans to check out the Art of Modern Rock poster show at Elliott Bay Books, grab dinner at Takohachi and then do some grocery shopping at Uwajimaya.

The “exhibit” at Elliott Bay turned out to be a few laminated posters tacked up on the walls, but we still had fun browsing through all the books. I managed to make it out, buying only one book. We headed to Takohachi, only to find that they had closed at 8pm. I knew they closed early, but 8pm on a Saturday night? Come on! I was being moody and refused to eat anywhere else in Chinatown, but since we were in the area, we stopped at Uwajimaya to buy meats, noodles and veggies for our hot-pot party on Sunday.

After leaving Uwajimaya, Zach suggested we eat at Jones Barbeque in the new location we spotted last weekend (Second Avenue and Lander, near Sears). Of course, when we arrived it was closed as well. Then I suggested Kolbeh, a nearby Persian restaurant on First Avenue. I used to go there quite a bit, but that was about five years ago. As we approached the building, something looked different.

What used to be a cute and cozy space has now been transformed into a sprawling restaurant with an enormous stage and walls that appeared to be covered with velvet paintings. When we entered we were asked if we were there for the show. We shrugged and said we were hungry, so they seated us in the back area, away from the dance floor.

I remembered the Lamb Kabob from prior visits, so I ordered that to share: “One lb. of Lamb Tenderloin Marinated in Lemon, Saffron & Onion” ($21.99). Zach loves okra so he ordered a side of Khoresht Bomeyeh “Stewed Okra in Spicy Tomato Sauce” ($5 ala carte). I’m not a huge okra fan but the menu said “Maybe the Best Way of Cooking Okra”, so I was naturally curious.

We started off with a bad dinner salad, which was iceberg lettuce, a few carrot shreds and way too much red vinegar dressing. Next came our lamb; a beautiful, foot and half long shish kabob that had some of the most flavorful and tender lamb I’ve ever eaten. I have no idea what they do to it that makes it so good, but I want the recipe. It was garnished simply with basil leaves and chunks of raw onions. The basmati that came with the lamb was luscious, fragrant and sweet—it had been simmered in coconut milk. True to the menu, the okra was the best I’ve ever had. It was stewed in a rich tomato sauce, which lent itself well to the normally slimy texture of okra. We finished with a perfect triangle of honeyed baklava.

It was an unexpected and fantastic meal. Plus I was really enthralled with the other diners. There were tables of families who all seemed to know each other and the staff. They were eating apricot paste and drinking a beautiful cinnamon tea. People of all ages were taking turns smoking from the hookah while waiting for the show to begin. The belly dancers were getting ready for the show, walking by our table with their rolling suitcases.

We didn’t stay for the performance because we were both dead-tired, but we agreed that we’d come back soon with a group of friends to check it out. As we were leaving, we walked by the largest bouncer I’ve ever seen. He was about the size of four of me, maybe even five. We left wondering if the crowd gets rowdy later in the evening, as it seemed like overkill for the family-oriented and blue-haired, tiara-wearing crowd we saw inside.
Kolbeh on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Making Mozzarella

After reading Adam’s post about The Spotted Pig, I rearranged my plans for the evening so that I could make gnudi. I found a recipe that sounded good and called for spinach and ricotta as the main ingredients. As a very happy coincidence, my Leener’s Mozzarella Cheese Kit arrived today—and it also makes ricotta! I decided to dress the gnudi in a tomato vodka sauce with pancetta, because I was raised in a home where meat took part in practically every meal and I am left with a residual feeling that a vegetarian main dish just isn’t right.

Zach stopped at the market on his way home to get fresh whole milk and eggs from the Creamery and pancetta from DeLaurenti’s. Then we went to the liquor store to get vodka for the sauce. We were shocked at how many new vodkas were available—the selection had expanded from one shelf unit to FIVE since the last time I was there. We chose the Crater Lake vodka because Zach had read a favorable review in The Weekly.

We were then ready to make cheese. I started by gently heating a gallon of milk, while Zach pre-measured out all the chemicals and flavorings needed: vegetable rennet, mild lipase powder, citric acid, calcium chloride and cheese salt. I can see why this is billed as a popular kid’s activity, because it’s somehow amazing to watch the cheese curd separate from the whey—like food magic. Zach and I were both standing at the stove peering into the pot saying “Oh my god! Oh my god! We’re making CHEESE! It’s really CHEESE! Look! CHEESE!”.

Once the cheese rested and started to really look like cheese, we scooped it out of the whey and kneaded it until soft. Then it went into the microwave for a heat blast until it was about 130 degrees and turned really shiny and stretchy like taffy. Then Zach donned plastic kitchen gloves and started stretching the mozzarella. He was really quiet so I asked him if he was having fun and he told me that it was the best thing he’s ever done with food. In the meantime, I added another 1/2 gallon of milk to the leftover whey to make the ricotta.

I sometimes experience a turning point during cooking where I start to get tired and disinterested. Strangely enough, this usually coincides with when I start drinking. Stranger still, I know this about myself but conveniently “forget” every time. To make matters even worse this evening, the vodka was delicious. So delicious that we were just drinking it on the rocks with no mixer, which is always a bad idea.

The mozzarella was finished around 9pm and we were ravenous and tipsy. We got out the good olive oil, balsamic and five different kinds of salt (red salt from Hawaii, fine sea salt from Italy, gray salt, Maldon salt and truffle salt) and we devoured the still warm mozzarella. It was fantastic with just olive oil, but it was sublime with a pinch of truffle salt.

I checked the timer on the ricotta and realized it still needed to sit for another half hour before we could even start making the gnudi. We were still hungry and I was starting to get drunk, so we decided to save the gnudi for another night and headed out to Dick’s for dinner. I had a cheeseburger and it was so, so good.

Then we went to check out the new Jules Maes, which I had just read about in Laura Cassidy’s blurb in the weekly. My brother used to love the old Jules Maes and was really upset when it closed down several years ago. Oddly enough, a friend of a friend had bought the building to use as a woodworking shop, so I asked if I could throw a little reunion party when my brother came to town. I made all sorts of delicious and fancy bar snacks (like frico and sopressata chips) and the party split up with half of us sitting on the bar stools and the other half playing bartender behind the bar.

Remembering the space as a wood working shop and walking into the new Jules Maes was a little odd. The beautiful bar was still there but almost everything else had changed. There were a bunch of booths lining one wall, a new pool table and the entire back room was filled with video games and pinball machines. It also seemed oddly clean. We played a few, sad, rounds of pinball (we both suck) and then headed next door to the 9# Hammer for some pool.