Archives for posts with tag: james beard

Even though Seattle is a fun, interesting, happening city, once you live somewhere it kinda becomes just where you live, where you get stuck in traffic and buy boring groceries and sleep. So you have to have your parents come visit every once in a while, so you can pretend that you’re on vacation in your very own city. M & D came over for the weekend and we went right into Larkwood travel mode. Aka: All meals out and much coffee drinking and pastry eating. Day One: obligatory Pike Place visit and lunch at Cafe Campagne. Much walking. Then. Dinner. It was tricky picking just two restaurants to take my beloved P’s to… pasta at a Stowell joint? Revel, my Korean favie? The winners: Walrus and the Carpenter and Sitka and Spruce. First up, Walrus. No rezzos, and I knew there’d be a wait. We showed up at 6. 2 hours they said. Not willing to give up the promise of a bowl of icy oysters, we waited it out at Bastille down the way, slowly slowly eating a little plate of rabbit pate and pretending that we were really still deciding if we’d stay for dinner. The call finally came for us and we scurried back to our hard-won table. First order of business, oysters. Yum. A dozen and a half, four different kinds. Yum. Briny bliss. Here we are, in blurry oyster-slurping form. (Are you supposed to use those dumb weensy forks? A good portion of the joy is the somewhat sandy shell slurp…)

And what else: bread and olive oil and butter and olives. A weensy wedge of Dinah’s cheese, which I have to say was good, but just in a regular ol’ buttery brie way. Then the real business: grilled sardines with a walnut gremolata kinda thang. Sheesh, sardines, where have you been hiding? Meaty and fishy in a good way. And I secretly love eating whole bony fish…something nice about that weird little calcium crunch. Speck with ricotta and candied pumpkin and balsamic. Candied as in pumpkin candy, not as in sweet-ish pumpkin. Awesome. A salad of watercress and lardons and fried egg. Egg yolk, extra points. My favorite dish: raw prawns with their roe alongside their deep-fried shells. Raw prawn? Yes. Fantastic. Snappy roe, just-tough-enough shrimp, ultra salty crunchy weird shell. Da bomb. And then, just for good measure, two more oysters each for Dad and I, just to make sure we really knew our favorite. (Treasure Coves from Case Inlet.) Then dessert, because, you know, we’re on vacation here. A cherry clafoutis, which was good, but erm… ours was better that one time we made it. Not quite custardy enough. But hey, covered in creme fraiche so pretty durn good. And roasted dates, which somehow remained about two trillion degrees for twenty minutes. Really yummy, once they cooled to the temp of just molten lava, roasted and caramely in salt and oil–definitely stealing that one. Walrus: worth the wait.

The next day: well, I’ll lay it out for you. Macrina for breakfast, Homegrown for lunch, Sitka for dinner. And Le Pichet for dessert. Ok, here we go. Macrina: I had a morning glory muffin and two perfect sunnyside up eggs. Dad had yogurt and fruit and granola. (He hadn’t realized that he was indeed, on vacation, and should take advantage by having french toast and bacon.) Mom got the salmon bialy, hands down the best thing on the brunch menu. We had a great waitress who kept getting cursed with whiny (“Are the eggs cooked with oil? Is the toast buttered? Is there sugar in the chocolate cake? Could you bring me just one slice of cucumber and an ice cube?”) tables and I tried my best to send her good vibes. After that we moved north to the Seattle Center for the King Tut exhibit which should in fact be re-named “The Exhibit of Egyptian Crap that does not include King Tut. Or his sarcophagus. Or his mask that is on every poster around the whole city.” Ok, there was some good stuff, but there were also a lot of brats running around and NO KING TUT. No mummy. Nothin. Some fans and wicker chairs from his crappy little cave-tomb. I might be bitter. But then we went to Homegrown for lunch and things looked up. Dad and I got turkey avocado bacons and mom got a killer Reuben. And we each got a really yummy pickle. And then I bought an old wood heating grate at the market, which is cooler than any dumb ol’ mummy anyway. Then we had to go home and take naps because we had a big dinner ahead of us.

So Sitka and Spruce. I have been dying to go for, oh, like, a year. And Matt Dillon, the chef, just won a James Beard. (He also has The Corson Building, my number one dream must go to resto at the moment, and a farm and a cute little bar. And everything good.) I was not on top of things and by the time I called, we could only get in at 6. Which was fine. Because the light is better at 6.

S&S has probably the most open kitchen on earth. I literally could’ve reached over and snacked on their mise en place. And I was tempted. The two chefs have a big deep sink where the cold ingredients are iced down and a nice big workspace, which is just a continuation of the long table we were sitting at. And a big wood fire. As you do. We kicked it off with bread (thanks to them, foccacia has a new place in my heart) and salami and olives. Shortly thereafter a salad of bright little lettuces and shaved asparagus and carrots and the best sheep’s cheese I’ve ever had. Ever. See ya Manchego, I have a new best friend. And farm-to-table, fresh, blah blah; that salad seriously had that magic taste that only things from your own garden has. (The Dillon farm/resto family is in fact the creator of the best CSA ever created…and the most expensive, but now I’m thinking it might be worth it…)

Then the mains. Rabbit leg, roasted on that fire, and sturgeon. Both with emmer (a grain…I didn’t know either) and turnip greens and yogurt and maybe a little hit of mustard with the rabbit and paprika with the fish. So simple and SO perfect. Lord. Thoughtful and homey and good. Nothing out of place or over-reaching. Everything all nested together and good. Didn’t even cross my mind that maybe it was sad that the dishes had the same sides. Cause there’s the cook, right there, making it for you. Keeping it as simple and just right as they would in their own kitchen, cooking for their friends. Then, lord almighty, the desserts. I’ll ease you into it. A simple little Basque gateau. Almond crust, pastry cream, Drizzled with caramel and salty (the salty was the crucial kicker) almonds. Good, lovely, yummy, great. Then. THEN. Wild ginger ice cream with honey. Ginger but not even ginger. It sung of ginseng and brightness and earthiness and sunlight all at once. Drizzled with honey and a handful of slivered almonds. The best thing I’ve tasted in a while.

Then a walk up to the Elysian Brewing Co, then a trip downtown in search of a view, settling (“settling”) for Le Pichet on First where we drank cider and ate delicious cheese at 11 pm. Because we were on vacation.

Did you think that was all? Then we went to Cafe Presse in the morning with Logie, where we all ate variations on the omelette and pastries and delicious housemade yogurt. And I ate almost an entire baguette with butter and rhubarb-vanilla jam. Because….I was on vacation! Stay-cation. Then we popped up to Taylor Shellfish where mom packed up a few pounds of clams and oysters to take home and we went for a walk at the beach at Discovery Park then they had to go home before the oysters got tired and next thing I knew the vacation was over, dangit. But how lucky am I, to have these parents who’ll take me out to dinner (around the world) and put up with my food rambling and even join in the rambling with me, wondering how, how!? does a raw prawn taste so dang good.

My weekend: homemade cinnamon rolls, shooting off rockets, salmon, clams, risotto, Powells, chocolate chip cookies, foie gras. All these good things, all with beloved folk. Joy and sweetness and over-eating-ness. My M and D and I converged upon the Redmonds in Portland for the weekend, where we ate and laughed and ate some more. We love the Redmonds and they love us and we all love to eat and when we’re all together it’s pretty dang joyful. The first night we were there we had pasta with clams and about eight chocolate bars between the seven of us. The next day we “hiked” Mt. Tabor and did the requisite Powells Pilgrimage, where I got a bunch of food-lit books.

Then Pearl Bakery for sandwiches and cookies, before another beautiful dinner of asparagus risotto and salmon and roasted cauliflower. Kate knows how to do a dinner. Plus Craig and Dad’s “bad things I did with/to my brothers when I was little” stories and Dawson’s film ideas and Gabey’s cleverness. Good times around the Redmond table. Then Sunday. Began the day with a Reed campus walkabout, in preparation for the brunchy feast to come. Homemade cinnamon rolls, the dough made the night before to maximize both goodness and anticipation. Salmon scrambled eggs, the real reason you make salmon for dinner. And sweet spicy bacon. I ate three cinnamon rolls, I am proud/ashamed to say.

Then a walk to the park for the most thrilling hobby ever that I really am desperate to take up (and have lots of friends who excitedly take it up with me): model rockets. You go to the park, and you shoot off a rocket. And it flies a bazillion feet up into the sky and you frantically run around underneath to catch it. So thrilling! I want to have rocket launching picnics! Then after all that excitement died down, more excitement right away, with a dinner at Little Bird, the new restaurant by the Le Pigeon crew. the chef just crowned by the James Beard Foundation as Rising Star Chef, the beautiful bistro lived up to the expectations.

We started off with oysters… (“nietard” oysters? We couldn’t hear our shockingly hip waitress so well in the bustly restaurant… we made a lot of borderline jokes and laughed real, real hard.) Then we ate the most perfect little oysters ever, the sea-blessed goodness nestled into tiny little shells, just the right size. After the oysters, the charcuterie. Which involved: pickled fennel, something kind of spam-colored and textured, but incredibly un-spam like in all other ways. Deep-fried duck. Clearly awesome. Some other little tidbits that I can’t remember because included in this particular charcuterie plate was: foie gras brulee. Goodness on top of goodness. I… I don’t know what to say about it. Just think about it. Caramelized sugar crust (best thing ever) on top of creamy foie gras. Spread on toast-lets with a bright little daub of apricot jam. If foie gras ever gets banned nation-wide, I will have to move because I will die of sadness otherwise.

Moving on. (Gabriel has awesome hair.) After the charcuterie: crab and celery root remoulade, a tangy cilantro-tinged heap of crunchy celeriac and carrot with salty crab. Butter lettuce with more carrots and “saffron-infused garlic.” This was the one thing that was an eensy bit of a letdown. The menu said “carrot dressing” so I was imagining the roots made liquid, a light orange dressing for the best lettuce ever. Instead, carrots and lettuce, both still in their regular ol’ solid form. But still good (and now I have an idea for dressing and all the carrots I’ve been hoarding in the crisper.) Then on to the main courses. Get excited. Hanger steaks for Kate and Dad (with perky watercress perched in the plates), salty pork shoulder for Craig, the famous square Le Pigeon burgers (with killer fries and perhaps-maybe-housemade ketchup, the origin of which called for much taste-testing and speculation) for Dawson and Gabriel, lamb navarin with goat cheese gnocci for Mama (I need goat cheese gnocci in my life, stat), and beef tongue for moi.

Usually tongue is all chopped up beyond recognition, looking more like pulled pork than ex-taster. Not here. a generous hunk of tongue, with crispy roast broccoli and topped with teensy potato chips. I had a big pang of hanger steak order envy when they brought the plates, but that vanished instantaneously with my first bite. Tongue rocks. I’d love to learn to cook intimidating things like tongue and liver and sweetbreads…partly because I love them and partly because I’d feel so incredibly cool buying them at the butcher. After all this deliciousness, dessert. Of course. Coconut cake with passion fruit sorbet (I remembered having my first actual passion fruit in the Redmond’s Jakarta kitchen after years of having passion fruit flavored things and being shocked by the weird shell-like fruit, filled with seeds and slime), creme caramel with raspberry sorbet, and a butterschotch pot de creme, shockingly ordered at the last minute by non-dessert-Dad and shockingly my favorite one of the desserts. All beautiful and delicious, followed up with the good bitter ao a tiny cup of coffee in a beautiful little cup. And with the bill: tiny (teensy tiny) darling little oatmeal macarons.

Love to Little Bird, love to family, love to Redmonds, love to Portland!