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Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Bad Day at Work = Happy Hour at Brasa

I’ve been trying to be good lately—save money, eat healthy, work out… but sometimes you have a day that’s so bad you just say screw it. I won’t go into detail because there’s a small chance my co-workers read my blog, but let’s just say work was hell and by the time I left I felt like I’d been run over by a semi-truck.

I called Zach and told him we were going to Brasa for happy hour. Brasa has carved out a special place in my heart—and it’s not even about the food. I love that it’s spacious and never feels crowded. At the same time, I love that it’s dark and warm, so it always feels cozy. I love sitting at the bar and watching the kick-ass, spiky-haired bartender do her thing. I also love that the bar is dark no matter how bright it is outside. I love walking in and being enveloped in the smell of the wood-fired oven. I love that every single time I’ve been to Brasa I’ve had a fantastic time. And last but not least, I love that everything on their bar menu is half price before 7pm.

We each ordered a vesper, which was perfectly made by the aforementioned kick-ass bartender. Usually, I order the steak frites with Cabrales butter (mmm… Cabrales butter) and Zach gets the clams with chorizo. But tonight we were feeling wild, adventurous, and reckless. I had the pork sandwich ($10 full-price / $5 happy hour) and Zach got the lamb burger ($11 full price / $5.50 happy hour).

The pork sandwich was good, but not stellar. The pork was wonderfully flavored, but a little dry. The mound of fries next to the pork sandwich were incredible. Thin, crisp, salty and addictive. Zach’s lamb burger was outstanding. I’m not sure what they put on it besides a whole head of garlic, but it was delicious and juicy.

After a drink, burger and more than my fair share of fries, I was stuffed. Unfortunately, the gentleman two seats down from us ordered the “Spanish Donuts” and I wasn’t able to run interference in time. Zach saw them and he practically gasped. Seconds later he was asking the waitress for an order of churros.

Waitress: “What are churros?”
Zach: “Uhhh… Spanish Donuts?”
Waitress (skeptically): “Oh…”
Me (in my head): “How can you not freaking know what churros are? Especially when they’re on your menu?”

We forgave her as soon as she brought out our dessert; two pale golden puffs of ridged dough, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. On the side was an espresso cup filled with deep, dark chocolate and whipped cream. The donut was still hot from the oil and fluffy and heavenly. I didn’t like it dipped into the chocolate because the delicate cinnamon flavor was overwhelmed. I decided that churros would be perfect served with cinnamon flavored whipped cream and nothing else.

By the time we left, I was happy and full. My bad day seemed like weeks ago.

Brasa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

An easy get-together

I’ve noticed that people have given Palermo Pizza and Pasta some fairly bad reviews, but I really love it. Sometimes pizza should be greasy and taste like junk food.

I guess that’s what I was craving because these pizzas hit the spot. Especially when topped with togarashi and katsuo furikake (a bonito flavored rice topping). We ordered a sausage, mushroom and red onion pizza and a second prosciutto and mushroom pizza (called the Quatro Stagoni), which was extra delicious and greasy.

B brought a crazy drink called “Sneaky Steve”. Apparently, he found it on by checking off ingredients he had on hand. This drink was made with sparkling apple cider, champagne and buffalo grass vodka. It was really good, but unusual, with hints of cinnamon.

Palermo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Dumb Ass

I didn’t want to be watching the first presidential debate alone, in case something went tragically wrong. So I decided to have a little dinner party with lots of alcohol—for either celebrating or dulling the pain.

I actually hadn’t heard Kerry speak before and was really impressed. Although, I do have to admit that Bush’s performance that night was so god-awful that he would have made a brick sound brilliant by comparison. I had so much fun screaming at the TV and debating whether it was possible for Bush to be more stupid.

This is what we drank:
Zach’s Margaritas

This is what we ate:
Queso Fundido con Chorizo – melted, gooey deliciousness
Carne Asada
Mashed Potatoes with Zucchini and Jack Cheese
Caesar Salad

Everything was delicious and we were so elated at the end of the debate that we went out to celebrate at Cafe Septieme and then decided to top the night off with some cards and more drinking.

Tuesday, September 7th, 2004


Every now and then, we make the pilgrimage from Capitol Hill to Ballard specifically so we can eat fantastic Mexican food at La Carta De Oaxaca. I’ve been to Oaxaca, and this is the closest I’ve come to that kind of food in the states.

We ordered Birria (lamb stew), which is my favorite dish there, plus we got every plate that contained mole. Now normally I’m not a huge mole fan, but their mole is fantastic. The only problem with ordering all the mole dishes is that at some point they all start to taste the same, but it was so good that I didn’t care.

After dinner we were craving fancy drinks, so I suggested Sambar—the bar opened by Le Gourmand’s Bruce Naftaly. It’s a great, tiny bar, especially in warm weather when you can sit outside on the enclosed patio and feel like you’re in a different country. And they serve really good drinks.

I always order the Meli-Melo (vodka, cassis, grapefruit juice & an orange twist) because it’s delicious and because I’ve been trying to re-create the drink all summer, without much success. They have quite a well-stocked bar with lots of really unusual liquors and drink combinations. On our way out, we stopped and chatted with the super-friendly bartender. He told us about a bunch of drinks we should try (which I forget the names of now), but he gave us a sample of this cucumber gin. It was love at first sip.

As soon as I got home I looked up Hendrick’s Gin on the web. Not only do they produce a fantastic gin, but they have the cutest cucumber flash intro ever.

I have since scoured the liquor stores in the Seattle area—the only place I found Hendrick’s was at the Capitol Hill location, which just happened to have some in the back room because it had been special ordered by a customer. I bought the last two bottles they had left.

Now I have two reasons to visit Ballard.

Sambar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

In the kitchen with Bruce

Simple food is good when you have outstanding, fresh ingredients, but it’s even better when you take those ingredients and combine them to make something more complex with layers of flavor. This is why I love French sauces. And this is how I found myself taking cooking classes at Le Gourmand with Bruce Naftaly.

I really appreciate Bruce’s approach to cooking—everything should be made with the freshest local ingredients, using only what is in season. People know and love him for this, which is why his customers are always approaching him with extra produce from their gardens.

So the class works like this: We all squeeze into the kitchen in the back of the restaurant. Chairs are lined up in a row in front of the counter, so there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Bruce talks about what’s in season and outlines the menu. Then he starts making the dishes, while everyone takes notes and tries to keep up. My technique involves having a large notebook and starting every recipe on a different page and then flipping back and forth through the pages as Bruce goes back and forth between the dishes.

About halfway through the class, the regulars hand out bread and open several bottles of wine. In this class, we drank an Argi d’Ansa i Rouleguy 2003, which Bruce said was a rose cabernet made with Tannat grapes. It was a beautiful color, like cranberry juice, and was light and refreshing.

Then as the courses finish cooking, they are served. This was the menu:

Garlic & Apple Soup – Good and very thick; slightly tart.

Halibut with Fennel & Chanterelle Sauce – This was my favorite. The sauce was HEAVENLY paired with a simple poached halibut.

Roast Pork Loin with Huckleberry & Lavender and Plum, Dill & Garlic Sauces – The pork loin was fantastic, but I wasn’t wild about the two sauces; they somehow tasted raw to me. Bruce said that when cooking sauces for the restaurant they have a longer chance to reduce and become more melded.

Peach, Basil and Mint Sorbet – Nice flavor combination, but I would have added way more sugar. It was more like a palate cleanser than a dessert sorbet.

I must say that Bruce loves his Cognac. It actually went into every single dish. By the end of the night I figured he went through about a bottle and a half. Every time he paused and said ‘I think this needs something’, the class would shout ‘More Cognac!’. It was a slightly raucous crowd and so much fun!

I think the food quality in the classes isn’t as good as if you ate in the restaurant, but it’s such an enjoyable experience being nestled in his kitchen, learning, laughing and eating great food.

Le Gourmand Restaurant on Urbanspoon