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Saturday, October 30th, 2004

Caramel Apples

I’ve always wanted to make real caramel apples and decided that this was the year. I was worried about the recipe I had found, only because it had so many ingredients, but it turned out great. It was fun, slightly dangerous, very sticky and way easier than I thought it would be.

We had some leftover caramel after dipping our apples, so we ate it like fondue—dipping in sliced apples and sprinkling them with nuts and fleur de sel. I think the sugar made me hyper because all of a sudden I was scouring the kitchen looking for other things to dip. Let’s just say that I don’t recommend the caramel cheese.

But the caramel was the best I’ve ever tasted. Seriously.

Sunday, October 17th, 2004

What is Celeriac?

Many people asked at the dinner last night, what is celeriac? and I didn’t really know. I mean I knew it was delicious and related to celery, but I didn’t think it WAS celery.

It looks like it’s in the celery family, but grown especially for the root and not the stalks or leaves. Prove me wrong.

Saturday, October 16th, 2004

Friends of Freeland

Mom recruited me to help her with an 8-course fundraising dinner for 20 people to benefit Friends of Freeland.

This was the menu:
Smoked Trout Rillettes
Duck Rillettes
Mini Cheese Palmiers
Crab & Dill Toasts
Celeriac Soup
Sweet-potato Ravioli with Sage & Pecans and Green Pea Ravioli with Truffle Butter Sauce
Avocado & Pear Sorbet
Boeuf a la Ficelle with Horseradish Cream or Grilled Halibut with Cilantro Lime Butter
Fig, Prosciutto and Arugula Salad
Cheese Course (Truffle Cheese from Whole Foods—very expensive and very delicious)
French Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Everything turned out great and tasted amazing. Yes, it was exhausting, but for a good cause.




Saturday, October 9th, 2004

Le Pichet

While I’ve never been to France, Le Pichet is the picture I have in my head of what a French cafe looks like. I love that it’s warm and sterile at the same time, that the table tops are made out of slate and that they smoke and play loud accordion music on Sunday afternoons. I had been hearing about the roast chicken for two, so this outing was specifically to try this dish.

Since the chicken takes almost an hour to cook, we started out with the charcuterie plate. The charcuterie was fantastic with great country-style (i.e. chunky) pork rillettes and marinated beef tongue. I haven’t ever (knowingly) had beef tongue before, so I was a little wary. Here’s my verdict: Beef tongue is good! It’s kind of like eating foie gras though—it’s so rich and fatty tasting that I can only handle it in small amounts.

Then we moved on the salad verte, which always amazes me in its simplicity and deliciousness. I want to figure out what they put in that dressing that makes it so good.

Then on to the chicken! At first, I was a little disappointed that the chicken didn’t come with pommes frites, but once I tasted the macaroni broth and bed of braised leeks that it came with, I was sold. It was an amazing and perfect roast chicken. The waitress recommended a great table wine, Domaine des Rozets Coteaux du Tricastin 2001, which we drank with the meal.

We were too stuffed for dessert, so we moved on and had drinks at Zig Zag. I had a Vesper (mmm) and Zach had something with Brandy that he really enjoyed, and I didn’t enjoy as much—which is weird because I really love single-malt Scotches, but I haven’t acquired a taste for Brandy yet. I do have to say that I would never recommend Zig Zag on a weekend night-it’s just too crowded and too insincere, but definitely worth it on a weekday night for a delicious drink.

Le Pichet on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004

Garden Party

G & C graciously offered to let me host a party at their beautiful home at the Dunn Gardens. I was really excited but also a little nervous about cooking in a kitchen that’s not my own.

I decided on a seafood menu, so I picked up some gorgeous salmon and prawns at mutual fish (my favorite fish monger) and headed north. There was a scheduling glitch and I was locked out of the kitchen until an hour before the party started! I was panicked and wandering about the garden trying to reach someone on the phone. Finally I just started de-veining shrimp on the gardening bench outside.

Once we got in, it was a mad rush, but I had a few friends helping, so we managed to get everything prepared just as the last guest arrived. G & C were pouring their famous lemon drops, which they spent months taste-testing and perfecting, and the guests brought some great wine.

Food seems to taste better when it’s not prepared in a rush, so I was a little disappointed with the results, but everyone had a good time.

Chile-Lime Shrimp with Avocado
Figs of the Gods (port stewed figs served on gorgonzola toasts)
Sauteed Mushrooms on Toast
Sweet-potato Ravioli with Sage & Pecans
Horseradish Crusted Salmon with Beet Sauce & Mashed Potatoes
Soft Chocolate Cakes

I totally forgot to take pictures of the food and I didn’t realize my camera was set to the red-eye double flash setting, so it looks like we had dinner at Glamor Shots…

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
Flan

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

Hendrick’s

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