Archives for posts with tag: oysters

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.

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I took another class, this one at pretty much the other end of the gory-lovely spectrum from my last class experience. …Flower arranging! At sweet Marigold & Mint in the Melrose Market, home to Sitka and Spruce (someone please take me there) and a cheese shop, meat shop, sandwich shop, and oyster bar. Aka: I could very happily live in there forever. Aka: the epicenter of Cap Hill cuteness.

Katherine, head flower honcho, started thing off by throwing together an arrangement as an example for us beginners. (And telling us about her flower farm out in the Snoqualmie Valley…can I live there? In a little tent made of petals?) Flower Arranging 101: Start with thick branchy things, then get progressively lighter. Make a little nest for the later, lighter flowers to snug into. Fellow florist Brita (name envy…pronounced all rolling R-y, not like the filter) showed us how to add just one orchid to an arrangement. Another florist, Ayako, told us about branches, spare little branches that can be so beautiful. (Reminded me of this.) Katherine talked about the current trend in the flower world of loose arrangements, kinda thrown-together looking bouquets with lots of airiness and gentleness and nonchalant-ines, as opposed to the 90s flower-ball style where blooms were squashed up against each other in tight little symmetrical bouquets.

Can’t help but make a correlation to food trends there, especially when I was looking over her shoulder at the Sitka chefs doing Sunday prep at the big long kitchen table the whole time. There’s definitely that same feeling in the (un-)composition of plates these days. Kind of, you know, rustic and simple and “Oh, it just happens to be lovely, I didn’t work too hard.” That look. You know. Anyway, turns out flower arranging is indeed hard work. Challenge #1: Starting. Choosing blooms from the dozens of vases set out for us. These bunchy little roses are nice… these big weepy purply ones are so very nice… these teeny waxflowers are so so very pleasing… oh, the teensier rice flowers though…. Then you have a colossal pile of branches and stems and leaves and blooms and an empty vase. Start shuffling them together, layering branches, weaving in little sprigs of whatnot. (All the while eating very many very good little slices of sesame seeded baguette with creamy cheese from the shop down the way and dreamy jam made by one of the sweet florist teachers.)

Then, challenge #2: Stopping. Cannot stop. One more daffodil? Oh sure. One more purply thing? Well of course. Little holes show up in our arrangement every time you look down at it and there is a compulsion to fill. them. immediately. The other five students allĀ  carefully made lovely arrangements with just one or two main colors, with a perfect little frond drooping over one side, a couple tall blooms reaching upward… Mine was an explosion of ruffage. Pinks of all shades. Big blotches of purple. Little spots of yellow. Thick branches reaching out in every direction. I love it. (It is filling my house with JOY, capital letters joy right now.)

Best part of all: carrying it next door to be my dinner companion for a half-dozen oysters at Taylor Shellfish. Not unlike flowers, oysters fill me with delight and love for the world at large. How could anything bad exist in the universe when something this good exists too? I think as I slurp a teeny Shigoku, grown north of here in bags slouching around at the bottom of the sea, attached to buoys, getting tumbled around with the tide. Two little ridge-less shigokus, two small Pacifics, and two something-or-others. Flowers and oysters, solid Sunday. (And did I have a Besalu brioche for breakfast too? And maybe wood fired pizza for dinner? And maybe a smidge of rice pudding for a midnight snack?)

 

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!

This past weekend I was lucky enough to get an all-expenses-paid (unless you are a foodie with awesome foodie friends) trip to Ottawa, Canadia’s lovely capitol, to hang out with a bunch of other college students who are odd enough to be doing a study abroad in our upstairs neighbor country. I somehow finagled myself a nice little fellowship from the Killam/Fulbright people to come hang out in Vancouver and “foster international understanding” along with a bunch of other students shuffling across the border to Montreal and Los Angeles and all over the place, and this was our orientation. Sadly, as it once and for all confirms my ultimate nerdiness, going to an academic conference was shockingly fun. It’s actually is pretty fascinating to compare the States to Canada, and living in a place that’s so similar to home while being so different at the same time (it’s a whole ‘nother country, as it turns out) makes you notice the differences all the more. Like… the Queen is still in charge of this place, technically. And… they call their money “Loonies” and “Toonies.” Anyways, so here I am in Ottawa. Long-time readers might remember Jackie-Bari-Chelsie, the Canadian trio I met in Bali, where we kinda built a house and ate some very good and some very bad food. We sadly sadly sadly parted ways in Bali, hoping to see each other again somewhere, sometime in the great big world. And somehow, we have! We’ve all ran into each other, in New York, in Miami, all over. And luckily enough, Jackie lives right there in Ottawa and Bari only a train ride away! And the best part of all: these two lovely, much-missed girls are huge foodies. Though they fed us at the conference (surprisingly good food too, thanks Fulbright folk) I held off at most of the dinners because I had a much better dinner coming my way each night. Friday night was Whalesbone Oyster Bar, the most popular little seafood restaurant in Ottawa right this second.

Tucked into a long long skinny little space, the restaurant was jam packed with Ottawa-ites, chowing down on oysters. Seated right next to the open kitchen, our mouths kind of might have started watering right away. Then they brought us the best bread ever with (get this) brown butter. A big ol’ serving of nutty, caramely, brown butter. This may have rivaled the Campagnolo bread experience last week. This butter…. this butter. I can’t say anything else. If there is heaven, it is made out of brown butter. We finally narrowed down our order and got: chefs choice of 4 oysters, octopus, calamari, and sea bass. First the oysters, two simply raw and simply perfect, two poached in butter, nestled in a big hot pan of corn and prosciutto and… butter. Goodness.

Then the octopus, grilled with big hunks of melon and prosciutto. I’m a sucker for octopus (get it? ha. ha.) so I loved it. Cause I love everything. But good, and especially good with the sweet-salty melon-ham classic alongside. Then the calamari, old-school crispy with tart marinated zucchini and a crazy-good curry sauce. Mmm. And lastly the bass, with a big ol’ buttery braised leek, a pile of sweet corn, and a handful of salty chantrelles. My god, I love Ottawa. Eating really good food rocks. Eating really good food and talking about really good food while you’re eating the really good food? Aw yeah. So full and happy, we all made our way home, Bari anxious to get online and scope us out another restaurant.

The next day: Play, a rad little small-plates spot right next to Jackie’s apartment. After a painful deliberation process, we finally settled on the arctic char gravalax, bean and potato salad, zucchini gratin, rainbow trout, and meatball sub. Gravalax goodness, especially with the kickin’ little apple-ginger slaw and wasabi dressing. Purple potatoes and snappy beans plus bacon equals warmth and delight and yum. The zucchini tomato gratin, as simple as it was, might have been my favorite. I’m a major zucchini fan, and it was pretty perfect. (And served in a tiny little American Girl doll-sized cast iron pan…!!) The rainbow trout… I have a weird relationship with trout, post-trout-murdering. It was good, for being trout, but the caramelized carrots along with it were the stars. Meatball sub, mmm. Bread, eggplant, meatballs, barbecue chip bits. Then to top it all off: gelato. Ginger, raspberry, and oreo gelato. Delicious, heavenly, creamy gelato.

The next day, if you can believe it, we managed to squeeze in one more: Benny’s Bistro, touted as Ottawa’s best brunch. You walk in through a beautiful, aromatic little French bakery and your stomach instantly starts growling. Another good thing about Jackie and Bari: they are share-ers. I hate eating just my own dish. I am plagued with the worst order envy on earth. Sharing means: not having to decide on one dish, not coveting thy neighbor, and being able to all gush about how good every single little thing is. And: it lets you get french toast annnnd salmon for breakfast. French bread, French restaurant, all signs pointed toward The Best French Toast Ever. True. Topped with a little cinnamony cream, peach compote, and tiny little blueberries. Alongside our other bfast: fingerling potato salad, arugula, salmon gravlax, sunnyside-up egg. Sweet joy, salty joy. Then we walked it off in the the Byway Market (Ottawa’s less nuthouse-y Pike Place) and kept right on talking about food.

There was one more food experience of note (yes, really.) Another perk of the smart-kids-go-to-Canada deal: cocktail party at the American ambassador’s (gigantic) house. We all dressed ourselves up and went out to the fancy diplomat ‘hood. Everyone filed in and shook Mr. Jacobson’s (that’s Mr. Ambassador to you) hand, and I think I might have gotten a tiny bit nervous and thus a tiny bit ultra perky and said something like “Potato state!”

(Of course I saved my invite, I’m treasuring it forever.) Aside from the interesting conversation and awesome house gawking, there were some stellar hors d’oeuveres. (I definitely just had to google that spelling….) A few other ultra-clever girls and I camped out all nonchalantly beside the kitchen doors, assuring our first pick of the snick snacks. One of the best: Jack Daniels shrimp. Sounds so weird, was so good. Spicy, sweet, roasty, creamy shrimp. Probably the Americans’ signature thang for all the cool Ambassador shin-digs I’m sure they have. “Invite the Americans, they always bring those awesome shrimp.” Also: salmon atop petite little purple potatoes, crab cakes perched on cucumber rounds with tiny basil leaf hats, surprising salt and pepper tofu, and perfect little steak cubes wedged between bright onion. The perks of nerdiness. Ottawa: A plus all-round.