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Monthly Archives: June 2005

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

And the DMBLGiT? winner is…

Il Cavoletto di Bruxelles wins all with her chocolate decadence:

Mmmm. Congrats!

In individual categories, Brownie Points was rated the most original with that crazy, carbonated fruit!

For aesthetics, Nosheteria takes top honors with a beautiful lemon curd:

And Il Cavoletto di Bruxelles wins again in the eatability category.

Thanks again to all the judges (Accidental Hedonist, Arthur Hungry, MeatHenge and The Food Section) and everyone who submitted an entry! Stay tuned to IMBB for the location of the next DMBLGiT? contest.

To view all the pics again and see the scores go to:

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Seattle Food Blog Group: La Carta de Oaxaca

The fourth Seattle Food Blog get-together was hosted by Molly from Orangette and she chose La Carta de Oaxaca for a meeting place. In attendance were:

Accidental Hedonist
Amuse Bouche
Culinary Fool
Tasting Menu

We all started out with tortilla chips and guacamole ($3). The tortilla chips were light, airy and full of crunch. Dusted with salt, they were highly addictive, especially when dipped in the silky guacamole. I think they must add cream and/or whip it because it’s a surprising texture, but has lots of good avocado flavor.

I ordered my favorite dish of Mole Negro Oaxaqueno with chicken ($8). The mole is so dark it’s almost black and coats a falling-apart tender chicken leg. Some people complain that the mole is too sweet, but I think it’s absolutely heaven and hands down the best mole I’ve ever tasted.

I also split an order of Entomatadas ($9), which is now my new favorite dish. It was a thin cut of beef that was marinated and grilled to perfection. It came with two fried tortillas topped with wonderfully salty Oaxaqueno cheese and a choice of sauces. You could choose between red and green, but our waiter highly recommended the red. It was tomato-y-delicious and soaked into the tortillas in the most wonderful way.

I also tried a tortilla topped with shrimp (can’t remember the name of it), which was the only dish I disliked. The shrimp were hard and rubbery from soaking a little too long in a citrus marinade. Plus they had a sour acidic taste that overwhelmed any other flavor that may have been present.

Lastly, I had a bite of a Tamale de Mole Negro with chicken ($6). For some reason I thought I had already tried the tamales here, but then I realized I hadn’t. I kicked myself for missing out on them on all my prior visits. The tamale had the same delicious mole sauce as the chicken I ordered, but it was mixed in with chicken and tender and fluffy masa and then formed into a giant square tamale. It was wrapped in a banana leaf, which imparted amazing fragrance and sweetness. Come to think of it, this may actually be my new favorite dish at La Carta de Oaxaca. I’m already dreaming of my next visit.

La Carta de Oaxaca on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Meme: The Cook Next Door

Okay, I got tagged twice on this one because I took so long to post (sorry)! This time I was passed the torch by Melissa over at The Traveler’s Lunchbox and then Fatemeh at Gastronomie. Here goes…

  1. What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?

    I think I was about eight and I convinced my best friend to help me cook a coursed dinner for our parents. I remember little about the night except that I came down with the chicken pox. Oh, and a vague memory about making pudding from “scratch” (which meant from a box, but not the instant kind). I covered the hot pan with plastic wrap and it melted into the pudding.

  2. Who had the most influence on your cooking?

    Definitely my parents. They were always entertaining and throwing elaborate themed parties… so I inherited the bug.

  3. Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world?

    I laughed when I saw Melissa’s photo because I have a similar one with me stuffing my face with spaghetti, but I couldn’t find it. What I did end up finding was equally funny. Obviously, I didn’t like greens at a young age, but I loved the drink. I guess some things never change.

  4. Mageiricophobia – do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

    I’m a very bad baker.

  5. What are your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?

    I know this is uninspired and tame, but it really is a toss up between my chef’s knife and my cuisinart. I like to chop.

  6. Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like – and probably no one else does!?

    How about tempura bacon? I also really like ground beef and oyster sauce wrapped in a tortilla. Hey that’s FUSION!

  7. What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?

    Bacon, prosciutto and duck confit

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer? Well then, feel free to add one!

  • Your favorite ice-cream… Homemade mango ice cream that’s fresh out of the ice cream maker
  • You will-probably-definitely never eat… Balut
  • Any signs that this passion is going slightly over the edge and may need intervention? I have fantasies about getting fired from my job so I can spend more time eating and cooking. But that’s not really obsessive. Is it?
  • What’s on your all-time foodie dream list? (gadgets, destinations, restaurants, dishes to try…) This changes a lot, but this month it’s: a doufeu, a thermapen and a dinner at French Laundry.
  • I tag: Uh, no one. I’m so late on this I think everyone I know has already been tagged. However, if you would like to be tagged, let me know and I will happily oblige.

    UPDATE: I have tagged Kevin over at Bacon Press. You’re it!

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

Weekend on Whidbey

I’d been long overdue for a trip up to Whidbey Island to see my mom. These were a few of the highlights from my weekend:

Stopping at a roadside stand to pick up live Dungeness crab and spot prawns. I steamed the prawns whole with garlic and soy sauce and the crabs were boiled in spices and eaten with melted butter. The crab meat was incredibly sweet, meaty and delicious.

Visiting friends and seeing their cool silver and golden sebright chickens (pets, not for eating) and picking fresh arugula and nasturtiums from their garden for a bright summer salad.

Eating mom’s incredible chocolate shortbread cookies made with Scharffen Berger chocolate and cacao nibs. The lavender shortbread cookies looked great, but I have this weird thing with lavender where I can’t disassociate the flavor from hand lotion.

UPDATE: Here are the recipes!

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

The Hostess Project #4: Garden Party

One of the most difficult tasks of entertaining is figuring out where to put all the guests. This can be especially daunting when you have a small apartment and a kitchen nook the size of a breadbox. Over the years, I’ve learned to be creative and started asking friends to host shared parties—I do all the cooking, they provide the venue and we split the guest list and food costs. It’s not only a great way to have a change of scenery, but it also results in meeting quite a few new people, which is excellent for my pyramid dining scheme master plan.

My friends Glenn Withey and Charles Price are the curators of the Dunn Gardens located in North Seattle. They live in a converted carriage house situated in a historic, residential Olmsted garden. I love co-hosting parties with them not only because it’s such an idyllic setting, but also because I get to meet their interesting friends. The only downside is that Charles is a demi-vegetarian and doesn’t do garlic. This can make menu planning a bit of a challenge.

My parties at Glenn and Charles’ place always revolve around seafood. Recently, I had been craving Halibut Cheeks with Tarragon Beurre Blanc, which calls for garlic but I figured it would be okay to omit it. I had also been seeing a lot of pea-shoots on seasonal menus around town and thought they would be a perfect accompaniment, if I could find them. I also decided to make my mother’s delicious Zucchini Bisque, which is elegant and easy to make.

I noticed a green/herb motif starting to emerge, so I continued the theme into the appetizers—although my theme could just as easily have been butter, as almost every recipe contained copious amounts. Case in point: Smoked Trout Rillettes, made with smoked trout and lots of butter. It wasn’t green or herby, but I figured I could add some chopped watercress for color. For the second appetizer, Glenn and Charles had been given three pounds of flash frozen spot prawns from Alaska and asked me to use them. This was the hardest recipe to pin down because prawns and garlic have a natural affinity for each other, but I concocted a decent sounding Shrimp Salad in Endive recipe from a few different sources. For dessert I wanted something I could make entirely ahead, so I picked a Marionberry Semifreddo Torte, which is very refreshing and delicious. After looking over the whole menu, I was concerned that it would be a little light and added in a cheese course between the entrée and dessert.

The morning of the party I headed down to the Pike Place Market to pick up ingredients. I started at Pure Food Fish Market to get my halibut cheeks, but was told that no one had halibut cheeks this week. Saddened, I begrudgingly bought orange roughy and hoped that nothing else would go wrong. I stopped at Sosio’s (my favorite produce stand) and they told me that they didn’t sell pea-shoots. The woman saw the look of panic creeping across my face and quickly pointed across the way, saying "Mr. Lee will have pea-shoots". I scurried across and sure enough, Mr. Lee had lots of pea-shoots. I told him I needed enough for twelve people and he suggested I get six bundles. They were giant, whole-head-of-lettuce-sized bundles and I protested that it was too much, but he adamantly told me I needed that many. I acquiesced and headed towards DeLaurenti lugging what felt like eight pounds of greens.

As I passed by Pike Place Fish Market I saw that they had an entire case filled with halibut cheeks! Usually I’m timid when it comes to stuff like this, but I was determined to have perfection and I went back to Pure Food Fish to try and return my fish. I asked one of the guys standing out in front and, avoiding all eye contact, he told me there was no way I could return the $60 worth of fish I just purchased. Frustrated, I walked past him and up to the counter and spoke to the guy who told me there were no halibut cheeks in the market. When I told him Pike Place Fish had lots of cheeks, he rolled his eyes at me. Undaunted, I asked again if I could return the roughy but he refused to answer me. I kept asking and finally he slammed my money down on the counter and I gave him back the fish. I figured he wanted me to feel guilty, but I was just relieved that I could get the ingredients I really wanted.

Normally I avoid Pike Place Fish like the plague, as I’m not a tourist and am not thrilled about having the fish I plan to eat hurled through the air, manhandled and bruised. I had to push through the circle of onlookers that always surround the perimeter of the store and it felt like I was walking up on stage. I asked for six pounds of halibut cheeks. Next thing I know the guy’s yelling "BUTT CHEEKS FOR THE LADY," and then I hear it being echoed from all corners of the store as each employee yells out "BUTT CHEEKS". I’m shrinking away from the counter, feeling like every tourist has their camcorder pointed at me, whispering lewd comments about butt cheeks into their microphones. Sensing my embarrassment, the man at the counter gently handed me my package of halibut, thankfully relieving me from another round of yelling and the tossing of my cheeks from employee to employee, like a dreaded game of keep-away.

My final stop was DeLaurenti where I sampled a few cheeses for my cheese plate and settled on a creamy French Comte, a tangy Mirableu blue cheese and an earthy Brie de Meaux. I also picked up a loaf of Macrina walnut herb bread and a package of Gerard & Dominique smoked trout.

When I got to the Dunn Gardens a few hours later, Glenn handed me a simple white box containing the defrosted prawns. I opened it up and nearly cried because they were so beautiful. The prawns were a perfect pink color and were very plump—the kind of plump that comes from high quality, not preservatives. I poached the prawns in a rich broth made from the shells and created a salad that was spooned into the end of the endive leaves. The prawns were sweet and briny and by far the best I’ve ever eaten.

Around 5pm, the guests started showing up with wine and cocktails. It was starting to rain, but we pretended it was warm and sunny and made gin & tonics using the Hendricks’s Gin that J brought. After a few drinks we decided to go on a garden tour, even though by now it was pouring down rain. Luckily, the Dunn Gardens are equipped with a selection of umbrellas for such occasions. The walk through the garden was stunningly beautiful and the greens were bursting with color. When we got back we sat in the "sun" room for appetizers and more cocktails. The rillettes was the perfect temperature—still cold, but soft enough to spread on the accompanying nutty Ak-Mak crackers. The shrimp salad in endive was gorgeous and tasted heavenly with the sweet shrimp contrasting nicely with the light artichoke-like flavor of the endive.

My original (sunny day) plan had been to serve the zucchini bisque cold like a vichyssoise, but the nice thing about this soup is that it’s equally good served hot. I heated it up, added the final touch of cream and a pinch of truffle salt and served it in warmed, shallow bowls. Everyone (including myself) was stunned that vegetarian zucchini soup could taste that good—it was creamy and rich without being heavy and the onion and zucchini flavors shone through.

Halfway through the soup course, I excused myself to start on the fish. Earlier in the night a guest had commented on how brave I was to be serving fish since it’s so hard to cook perfectly. This made me a little bit nervous—in addition to the little bit tipsy I already felt after all the gin and tonics, but it seemed hard to screw up halibut cheeks, as they are somewhat forgiving and their natural stringy texture can obscure small missteps in cooking. As I was cooking the fish, I also started sautéing the pea-shoots. I laughed as I watched them shrink from a pile of leaves spilling out of the top of my largest stock-pot to about three inches of greens. I silently said a thank you to Mr. Lee for his sage advice.

I plated the fish, which looked gorgeous perched atop the bright green pea-shoots on Glenn and Charles’ lovely blue stoneware. It wasn’t until I started eating that I realized I had forgotten to salt the pea-shoots. They were still good, but not nearly as good as they would have been with a sprinkle of salt (or cooked in chicken broth!). The halibut was thinly breaded and perfectly cooked and the buttery tarragon sauce was an amazing pairing. Even J, who swears she hates tarragon, was raving about the dish.

My friend R is a wine enthusiast, so I had asked him to bring some wines that would pair well with halibut… and tarragon—a little tricky since tarragon is such a strong and distinct flavor. R said he simply went to, typed in tarragon and got a recommendation for Viognier. R picked out a "New World" Viu Manet Secreto 2003 Viognier from Chile and an "Old World" 2003 Texier Côtes du Rhone Viognier from Esquin Wines, which were both fantastic with the fish and sauce.

After dinner we retired to the sun room where I served the cheese course. I had let the cheeses sit out for about an hour and a half so they were the perfect temperature. I’ve always been a huge fan of Brie de Meaux so I eat a lot of it. I think this was what made me feel like it was a bit of a boring and mundane choice—even though it was delicious and mushroom-y. My favorite was the French Comte which was unbelievably rich and complex. My least favorite was the Mirableu, but only because it seemed a tad too overpowering with the rest of the selection.

Last came the Marionberry Semifreddo Torte. Once it was served there was silence and all I could hear was the scraping of forks against plates. The semi-frozen marionberry custard was creamy, yet light in texture and was divine with the rich and buttery shortbread crust. I had made a 9 inch tart, which seemed like enough for 12 people, but we seriously could have gone through an entire second one; there were fights over who got the last piece.

I was exhausted and had to say my goodbyes shortly after dessert, but even still, I felt that this was one of the most successful parties yet. Almost everything was made ahead of time, so I got to spend a lot of time with the guests and all the courses were delicious and went extremely well with one another. There were many raves and exclamations over the food, so I’m hoping this means there will be return dinner invites extended soon.

Monday, June 20th, 2005

Does My Blog Look Good in This? – Sixth Edition

I have to say that I am impressed by the quantity and quality of the many entries we received. In fact, we received so many entries, that I had to give “Does My Blog Look Good in This?” its own page.

You can find it here:

The contest is now closed, but thank you to ALL who participated. The judges are busy tallying the scores and I’ll have the final results posted by the end of the month!