Archives for posts with tag: cake

I have been dreaming of Revel for a long, long time. I read about it in my usual pre-move restaurant lurk session; I read about it almost every day in my perusing of all things Seattle food while being an intern. Best Restaurant, Best New Restaurant, Best Dish. I wanted it. Dumplings, rice bowls, noodles, savory pancakes, KIMCHI. Yes. I needed it. I finally had it. Genia (my foodie sidekick) very sweetly took me out for a night-before-birthday dinner. (Food is the best gift.) Too scared of the icy hills to drive, we bus-trekked from our respective neighborhoods through the snowy “wonderland” that is slush-and-ice-plagued Seattle all the way to Fremont to get ourselves some Korean fusion.

First off: the corned lamb salad, which I never would have normally ordered (especially when there’s salad nicoise up for grabs…) but I saw about ten go out while I read the menu, and they looked dang good. Leftover steak salad’s swanky cousin. Mizuna, see-through thin radishes, falling-apart-tender salty corned lamb, and really really spicy hot dressing. By really spicy hot I mean straight chopped little green chilies hot. By really hot I mean G had to ask for a glass of milk hot. By really hot I mean my Sriracha-loving self was feeling the burn hot. Hot. (But in a good way.)

Then the shrimp and bacon dumplings, which I had dreamed of most (shrimp dumplings are my number one favorite dim sum item) were sadly the least interesting. Just dumplings. Good, not great, Genia and I decided. But next up the mussel pancake, with fennel and coconut. Sounds funky, was delicious. Salty, crispy, sea-y. With the tangy pickled fennel, yeah.

Then the rice bowl: white rice topped with spicy kimchi-ed daikon, lemony greens, and heaven-sent short ribs. Genia and I agreed white rice is such a simple, delicious treat (since we force ourselves to love brown rice the rest of the time.) The daikon was cruncy, the short ribs were killer, the greens were a welcome change from the fried goodness. Topped with little spoonfuls of all the condiments–ginger soy sauce, spicy fish sauce, chili sauce, red bean paste.

Then, stuffed, we debated dessert, coming to the obvious conclusion: Yes. And soon a sweet little bell jar was in our lives: red velvet cheese cake, made pink and earthy with beets, nestled in a crumbly walnut crust. “Really too full for dessert” thoughts faded away quickly. Sweetness. I am developing a terrible sweet tooth. Last weekend I had a cinnamon roll and a waffle for brunch. I cannot stop buying Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I walk by the Pike Place muffin guy every morning on the way to work and just “have” to buy a muffin. And to top off all this sweetness in my world, Genia gave me a packet of dark chocolate Tim Tams, sweet sweet Aussie gold. And just a little more sweetness, my sweet new roommate Laura baked me a carrot cake birthday cake, topped with almond flowers. Sweetness abounds.

Since Seattle has pretty much stopped functioning with the snow, I was misled by bus schedules and after dinner I found myself waiting for a bus that would never come. So I tromped on home, over the river and through the woods, up a lot of hills and through a lot of slush puddles, thankful for my Idahoan blood. The walk was sweet in its own way–there’s that weird lovely pink snow-glow outside and everyone has their makeshift sleds out, careening down the closed streets. And pretty train track shadows:

Street food mecca! Empanadas…my favorite. Must figure out how to recreate. The crust remains a little doughy, by some magic bakers trick…or maybe because they sit on a hot plate all day until getting popped in the microwave before consumption. Either way, perfection. Available with all kinds of fillings, most commonly, as one empanada-hawker put it in English for me: chicken, vegetables, or meat. Go for meat. Chopped beef (not ground, usually) with onions, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. Mmmm. Also in the parade of street food: choripan (chorizo + pan…sausage n’ bread. I never had one, but Momma was a big fan), steak sammiches (of course), fresh OJ (which they had everywhere, for less than a glass of crap reconstituted OJ here…I drank A LOT of juice…), mega-sweet, mega-good fruit salads, popcorn, caramelized nuts (peanuts and/or almonds made on the spot, a hot copper pot swirled with sugar and vanilla and a splash of water to coat the nuts in crystal sweetness…you get drawn in by the burnt sugar smell and next thing you know you’re all hypnotized, handing over crumpled pesos for a little plastic bag of nuts…), cake (food stand, with stacks and stacks of decadently decorated cakes…tres leches, towering chocolate cakes, cakes coated in sliced strawberries…and hordes of people standing around the stand, shoving bites of cake into their happy mouths while they balance the enormous slice on a wobbly paper plate), and these awesome little grilled tortillas, still doughy inside, charred on the outside.

Mate, it’s for reals. It’s not just for the sweet oldies clinging onto the way it was, not at all. Everyone, all mate, all the time. (Supplemented by a hearty number of cafe cortados though, of course.) Mate cup/gourd, bombilla, thermos of hot water, pack of mate- necessary at all times. Packed into specially designed mate packs, or minimalist-style thermos tucked under the arm, mate in hand, or even jammed in the baby stroller cup holder. There are ultra-fancy gilded, hammered silver gourds, campy little painted ones, pretty little wooden ones, hip little silicone ones. Mate tradition seems strangely a  bit similar to the call to prayer–albeit sans-religion–a little break from the day’s work to reunite with your friends, maybe have a small snack, chat, sit on the curb, you know. Though we had the burnt-sugar mate at Casa Feliz, we never took part in the full on mate sipping deal. It felt a little…intrusive, tourist-posing-as-mega-cultural-traveler, Lonely Planet momenty to buy ourselves a mate set up and mimic all the cool Argentinians.

Produce in Argentina is muy fascinante. As far as I could tell, it comes from like, you know, farms. Farm-wooden crate-truck-bodega. And while big ol’ supermarkets are scanty, specific shops (carnecerias, fruterias, etc.) litter the city along with a mass of bodegas. But whereas an American bodega would have maybe a couple unripe bananas and some carrot sticks packaged with ranch, every bodega has a substansial little produce corner, run by someone entirely different than the shop a lot of the times. Buy your Quilmes and soap at the register, then cross the store to pick out some slightly dented duranzos and bunched arugula, a couple shining eggplants and a bag of oranges for juicing from the produce man hunched over a mini tv behind his wares, yelling at the Boca Juniors. Who knows if it was organic or sustainable or whatever–it’s accessible and plentiful, real vegetables and beautiful fruits available on every street corner! (And how badly did I want a battered old produce crate? Very, very, very badly. And the one place I documented they had plastic ones, of course)

And…tango. It’s delightful. And legit, everyone seems to know at least a little tango. We happened to be in Buenos Aires for “Noche en Vela” or Sleepless Night, a big big night of hundreds of art/music/cultural events all across the city. Cafes filled to the brim with people pressing their ears against stone walls in an attempt to hear the strains of a famous flamenco band, the giant obelisk in the center of town became a massive canvas for a flashy light show, and a whole busy street was blocked off, crowned with a stage for a tango band, the street itself full of swaying couples, some impressively talented, sweeping each other around amongst the gawkers, some just sweetly fumbling through the steps before taking a break for a small sip of mate.

 

My birthday was an appropriately food-heavy day. Began at 7:30 with waffles, the only breakfast appropriate for such an occasion. Big belgian waffles with slabs of butter and lakes of syrup. Then yoga, not food related, but beloved by moi. Then a big car trek out to an excellently funky little Russian grocery, in search of pilmini, porky little dumplings. Met with a heartbreakingly empty pilmini freezer, we purchased a big loaf of dark, fragrant rye bread, chewy kielbasa lovingly renamed “bear meat,” a giant bunch of dill, a mushroom salad, a jar of eggplant caviar, and a tin of “sprats.” Not willing to give up on the pilmini, we forged onward, way out of familiar hip Portlandia, to Roman Russian Market, a bigger shop packed full of exhilaratingly strange Russian goods. Herbal teas meant to remedy any ill, jars upon jars of pickles, packets of colorfully labeled barley, cases of decadent cakes and hearty sausages. Pilimini acquired, we headed home for our giant lunch.Rye bread slathered with butter, dipped in the eggplant caviar. Slices of kielbasa alongside glasses of Kvass. And finally, doughy pilmini topped with salted dill, vinegar, and sour cream. Hearty, hearty heaven.

Then a downtown walkabout, hoping to burn enough calories before our five o’clock dinner at Toro Bravo, brother of Tasty & Sons. The uncharacteristically early dinner was just as delightful as expected, based on reviews, recommends, and the Tasty & Sons experience. A cozy little tapas place, Toro Bravo was packed at 5 PM with pre-gaming Portlanders, out for Spanish food before a game, as you do in Portland, OR. We hungrily ordered the chicken liver mousse, “singing pig” greens, oxtail croquetas, papas bravas, meatballs, cauliflower, scallops, and a big ol’ paella. The mousse, light and just salty enough, spread on soft bread as we waited for the feast to arrive. The pig greens, in a light dressing with almonds and grapefruit and a bit of blue cheese and sparky pickled onions, all good things.

Croquetas, fried dough with meat, always a winner. Strangely, wonderfully cinnamon-tinged, many pieces of bread were sacrificed to swab the croqueta plate for the last lingering bits of spicy strings of oxtail. The papas, crunchier than usual and the potatoes themselves spiced rather than beside a spicy sauce–good, but not as good as home made. Meatballs, served in a quiet tomato sauce with soft white beans, loved by all, but especially by two small hungry boys. Cauliflower, browned perfectly, crunchy, very tasty. Scallops, perfectly caramelized, atop a just spicy enough to be interesting harissa cream. The clear centerpiece of the meal, the paella, perfectly spiced, all the ratios of meat spot on, big hunks of chorizo mingling with steamy mussels.

Left very full and very pleased to go home for cake. Redmonds have a happy tradition of double birthday cakes, one chocolate and one lemon. And once you think about having two cakes–once you experience having two cakes–there’s really no going back. Still full of tapas, still full of pilmini, still full of waffles, I managed to eat a generous slice each of Kate’s two perfect cakes. Both bundt cakes, the lemon is just lemony enough, lighter than poundcake, denser than a regular ol’ cake, glazed with a thin sheer of sugar and lemon zest. The chocolate cake is simultaneously dense and moist, encased in a perfect crust, being a bundt cake and all. Frosted with Cowgirl Chocolate spicy sauce, a slight deviation from tradtition–perfection. A wonderful, 3,500 calorie, birthday.