Sweet Corn and Basil Bisque

August 31, 2010

Sweet Corn and Basil Bisque

Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc

Serves 6 as an appetizer

This summery corn soup comes from chef Big John Caudill, a bigger-than-life personality who’s cooked at wineries, charity events, and restaurants (and even owned one of his own) throughout Washington wine country since 1989 and now hosts lavish Sunday night dinners in the Yakima Valley. Big John likes to serve his dish with grilled bread and a chilled glass of Washington-state Sauvignon Blanc. Like the chef who created it, the soup boasts big flavors-sweet corn, salt, black pepper, and a piquant note of Tabasco. Meanwhile, the wine “is crisp and refreshing and balances out the creaminess of the soup very well,” according to John. Those with timid palates might cut back on the black pepper and Tabasco the first time they make the soup, although I found their presence agreeably tongue-tingling and throat-warming.

6 to 7 ears sweet corn, husks and strings removed and discarded, ears rinsed and patted dry

4 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup minced Walla Walla sweet onion or other variety of sweet onion

1/4 cup minced shallots

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup peeled and diced russet potatoes

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 tablespoons fresh minced basil, plus extra sprigs, for garnish

3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream

1. With a large, sharp kitchen knife, cut the kernels from the corn and save the cobs. Measure 4 cups of kernels and set aside. Save any remaining kernels for use in another recipe.

2. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, add the corn cobs (cut in half if needed to fit the pan), cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock is infused with the flavor of the corncobs, about 20 minutes. Strain the cobs and discard; keep the stock warm.

3. Melt the butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, shallot, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved corn kernels, the potatoes, 3 cups of the warm stock, the salt, and pepper, and stir well. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Add the cream and Tabasco and stir well. In a food processor or blender, pulse the soup in batches until very smooth, adding the batches back to the stockpot to re-warm. (An immersion blender also works well to purée the soup.)

5. If needed, add some or all of the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock to thin the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then gently stir in the basil.

6. Ladle the soup into 6 soup bowls, dollop with crème fraîche, and garnish with fresh basil sprigs.

Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

The Telling Detail

August 30, 2010

Six Seven Interior

In journalism, there’s something called the telling detail. It’s what professional journalists do when they observe the person they’re interviewing and writing about, or the place where a crime or fire has taken place, or a restaurant they are reviewing.

So if the person you are interviewing has a photo of President Obama in a frame on her desk, that might be a telling detail about the power and importance of the interviewee. Or if a 20-something sports an antique ring, that might be his or her telling detail. Or if a middle-aged man’s hair is dyed purple, that might be a clue as to their personality.

When we eat out at restaurants, I love to try to find the telling detail(s) that makes dining there a special experience.

Recently, while having a drink on the far edge of the bar at Six Seven in Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel, I noticed the ultra-cool tree branches sticking out of the log-like columns.

What makes the branches so weird and compelling are the metal brace-like pieces that hold them together.

Six Seven Tree

In their own unique, strange way those branches capture the zeitgeist of the place; they are the bar’s telling detail.

Why Do YOU Love the Pike Place Market?

August 26, 2010

People love the Market for myriad reasons: the farmers, musicians, restaurants, good smells. . .even the daily rummage sale.

And now the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), the organization that manages the Market, wants to learn all the wonderfully different reasons, from well-known to quirky, in prose or poetry. Creativity is encouraged.

Each week a new photo and caption will be featured with a link on www.pikeplacemarket.org and will be highlighted on social media sites.

It’s easy! Just take a photo of yourself at the Market and write a caption of up to 25 words that evokes your personality and why you love the Pike Place Market.

Love the Gum Wall, street performers, bakeries, the fishmongers, or mini-donuts? Other loves? Let the PDA know your confessions of true love for the Market.

Email your photo, caption, name, where you live, and phone number to ilovepikeplacemarket@pikeplacemarket.org. Write “Your Market, Your Story” in the subject line.

Bring on the photos.

Countdown to American Cheese Society Annual Conference

August 23, 2010

Kurt Beecher Dammeier, founder of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, at his shop in the Pike Place Market

Media types were invited to “Say cheese!” at the recent Cheeseup Tweetup held at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in the venerable Pike Place Market.

We were encouraged to tweet the news (hashtag #festivalofcheese) as founder/owner Kurt Beecher Dammeier sampled us through ACS award-winning cheeses from the Pacific Northwest and told us about the upcoming American Cheese Society (ACS) Annual Conference & Competition, aka Cheese-a-topia, which will be held in our fair city August 25-28.

Dammeier is co-chair of the conference, and was instrumental in convincing cheesemakers from around the world to convene in Seattle. The ACS Conference & Competition will feature more than 1,000 of the country’s best cheeses, in events such as the “Festival of Cheese” cheese extravaganza at Benaroya Hall.

The Festival of Cheese event is open to the public, and tickets ($85) are available through Brown Paper Tickets.

Beecher’s Flatiron Cheese, named for the historic Flatiron Building in New York City, which will be a signature offering the company’s new Big Apple store

A display of ACS cheeses (Photo Courtesy of the ACS)

Get Inspired!

August 19, 2010

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Toni Reece of the Get Inspired Project. We chatted a few minutes before the interview and immediately clicked. . .two professional women trying to grow new Web sites and businesses.

Her twist is that the Get Inspired Project has a fast-approaching deadline of one year. I feel very fortunate she chose me for Day 323.

Here’s the link to the resulting transcript and audio of the interview in which she picked up on these key words as far as inspiration in my life: “Be aware. I think that that’s really important. Live in the moment. Don’t be thinking about the past or the future too much. Live in that moment and savor it, and then you can communicate your joy to others.”

Celebrating Washington’s Small Dairy Farmers

August 16, 2010

A blind comparative tasting during “Dairy 101″ at Darigold

Yesterday, one of my articles entitled, “Strength in Numbers,” ran in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine. It featured Darigold, a Seattle-based dairy co-operative that is made up of more than 500 regional farmers and has been in business since 1918.

“Dairy 101″ class at Darigold

There is also a recipe for Dill Compound Butter that is really worth trying, and a gorgeous photo of compound butters by award-winning local photograph E. Jane Armstrong.

Cottage cheese is the most artisan product made in the dairy

Lidia Bastianich Meets Pike Place Market

August 13, 2010

Just got the good word that Pike Place Market’s venerable Pike and Western Wine Shop will expand its usual free Friday tasting on August 20, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., to welcome best-selling cookbook author, award-winning television cooking show personality, chef, and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich.

Bastianich will sign copies of “Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy,” while guests sip complimentary tastes from Lidia’s own winery: Bastianich Vineyards. Bastianich Vineyards, which Lidia opened with her son, Joseph, is located in the Colli Orientali region of Friuli in Northwestern Italy, an area widely known for its wine production, terroir, and grape varieties such as Tocai Friulano, Schiopettino, and Refosco.

A limited number of cookbooks will be available for sale for $35, and a selection of wines from Bastianich Vineyards will also be available. The event is free and open to the public.

The book signing is in conjunction with Pike and Western’s weekly Friday tasting, usually held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wine-shop owner Michael Teer will be pouring tastes from Bastianich Vineyards, and Pike and Western’s knowledgeable staff will guide guests through the unique and informal tasting.

Lidia’s latest cookbook, “Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy” (Knopf, 2009), profiles 175 regional recipes from 12 regions of Italy. The featured regions include many lesser known parts of Italy including Molise, Liguria, Umbria, Abruzzo, Calabria, Valle d’Aosta, Le Marche, Trentino Alto Adige, Basilicata, and Sardinia as well as the famed Lombardy and Emilia Romagna.

Lidia herself has garnered much acclaim for the past two decades for her best-selling Italian cookbooks, six restaurants, entertainment company (Tavola Productions), and various cooking shows, including the Emmy-nominated “Lidia’s Italy” series. She also founded a second winery, La Mozza, with Joseph Bastianich and Mario Batali. Other cookbooks include “Lidia’s Family Table,” “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen,” “Lidia’s Italian Table,” and “La Cucina di Lidia.”

For more information on Lidia Bastianich, please visit www.lidiasitaly.com.

Located in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, Pike and Western Wine Shop has been pairing customers with the perfect bottle of wine since 1975. A local wine shop with a world view, Pike and Western has supported the local wine industry since its inception and also stocks an extensive selection of wines from around the world. In-store wine tastings are offered every Wednesday, 4-6 p.m. ($5) and every Friday, 3-6 p.m. (free). Visit online at www.PikeandWestern.com, follow on Twitter @PikeWesternWine or phone (206) 441-1307.

Tulio’s Tantalizing Sorbets

August 12, 2010

Now that summer has finally arrived in Seattle, it’s time to try Tulio Ristorante chef Walter Pisano’s summer-dessert menu for grownups: housemade gelato and sorbetto imbued with Italian spirits such as Prosecco, Sambuca, and Limoncello (my fave).

The special dessert treats are available through Labor Day, so don’t delay!

To whet your appetite, here are some details of what chef Walter is dishing up:

Prosecco float: honey gelato, Italian honey cream, prosecco

Sambuca sundae: vanilla gelato, sambuca, toasted fennel praline

Lemon on lemon: limoncello over lemon sorbet, fresh mint

Amaretto split: vanilla gelato, amaretto, spiced candied marcona

Espresso grappa: espresso-infused grappa over triple chocolate gelato, chocolate covered espresso bean

Joule is a Jewel

August 9, 2010

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. You just can’t beat the little “jewel/joule” box of a restaurant in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle–Joule.

Joule Chicken Salad

Here are some shots from a dinner we had there this spring. Pictured above is the Chicken Salad–light and lovely pieces of chicken breast mixed with Bibb lettuce, grapefruit segments, and a spicy dressing. This would have made the perfect entrée.

Joule Shrimp Crepe

But we’re glad we didn’t stop there, for the Zucchini Basil Pancake with Shrimp and Soy Mustard Sauce was a revelation. . .similar to a Vietnamese Crepe but more dense and eggy.

Joule Sea Bass

Whenever we eat at Joule and it’s available, Spencer has the Whole Branzino with Zucchini + Salted Shrimp Fricasse.

Joule Octopus

While I almost always opt for the Octopus with Fingerling Potatoes, Roasted Lemon, and Chili Broth.

I’ll post an update later on next week of our latest find there. . .

Helsinki is Eclipsed

August 6, 2010

Just to prove that the Twilight phenomenon has struck (so to speak) worldwide, here’s a bus billboard I snapped in downtown Helsinki with the cast members’ photos and the title in Finnish: Epäilys, which really translates as doubt or suspicion, so go figure.

Here are more Eclipse posters from foreign countries.

Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?!?!

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