Broccoli and Oregonzola Soup

January 31, 2011

Varietal: Syrah

Serves 8

This warm and filling vegetarian soup comes from the award-winning Rogue Creamery in southern Oregon. It uses Oregonzola, a Gorgonzola-style cheese, to add a creamy texture (much like heavy cream or half-and-half in more traditional soup recipes) as well as a distinct salty/tart taste. Oregonzola is aged a minimum of 120 days in the creamery’s caves, which results in a sharp, Old World-Italian flavor and a velvet-like texture. When paired with a simple green salad, crusty bread, and a bottle of hearty Syrah, it’s the perfect wintertime–or any time–repast.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup chopped white or yellow onion

1 cup peeled, chopped russet potato

1 1/2 pounds trimmed broccoli, coarsely chopped (about 7 1/2 cups)

2 cups vegetable stock plus 2 cups water, or 4 cups water

4 ounces Oregonzola blue cheese or other high-quality blue cheese, crumbled

Freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Walnut oil, for drizzling

1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and potato, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is slightly softened but not browned, 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the 2 cups of stock and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 15 minutes.

2. Strain the vegetables, reserving the cooking liquid. Put the cooked vegetables in a food processor and moisten with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Pulse until very smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the rest of the cooking liquid. Work in batches as needed.

3. Transfer the soup back to the saucepan. Reheat until almost boiling, then remove from the heat.

4. Stir in the blue cheese. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.

5. Ladle the soup into 8 warm soup bowls and drizzle with the walnut oil.

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.

Downtown Seattle’s Most Soothing Soups

January 30, 2011

It’s that sick and sickening time of year again. . .cold and flu season. And when coughs, sniffles, and sneezing season is rife, nothing beats a big bowl of soup to loosen the phlegm and raise the spirits.

Here are three soups that truly reign supreme in the downtown-Seattle soup universe.

Chicken Pho at Bambuza Vietnamese Cuisine

Matzoh Ball Soup has long been known as a cure-all for seasonal sickness. But I’d like to nominate the Chicken Pho at Bambuza Vietnamese Cuisine as a strong contender. Warm chicken broth, redolent with fresh coriander and green chiles, and swimming with noodles and white-meat chicken chunks is as much fun to “doctor” up (so to speak) with Thai Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, and a few drops of fresh lime juice, as it is to eat (with chopsticks and a deep spoon).

The venerable Seven Elements Soup at Wild Ginger

For years, I’ve been ordering and enjoying a venerable signature dish at Wild Ginger–Seven Elements Soup–but only at lunch (sadly, it’s not available on the dinner menu). Its coconut-curry stock is thick with three kinds of noodles, the most tender white chicken breast chunks, fresh coriander, and dried chiles. To gild the lily (as if it needed it), coconut cream and thin slices of red onion adorn the top.

Spicy King Crab Soup at Japonessa Sushi Cocina

A newcomer in the sphere of outstanding Seattle soups–Spicy King Crab Soup–comes from  Japonessa Sushi Cocina, which is conveniently located just across the street from our condo. The slightly sweet seafood stock boasts a bit of a back-throat burn, but in a good and addictive way. A generous number of king-crab claws are perfectly sliced up the back so the meat is easy to remove and toss with the soup.

So whether you are hail or hearty, these three Seattle soups are worthy of  your slurping pleasure.

New Pike Place Market Scavenger Hunt

January 27, 2011

A January snow in the Pike Place Market

The good folks at the Pike Place Market sent out word of a new scavenger hunt that starts January 30, with other hunts continuing through June. According to the press release:

“Around the Market in 80 Minutes” takes game players around the Market in a timed and scored contest for prizes. Team up or go solo in the newest game in town, which takes place one Sunday each month through June from  11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Players will search high and low for 10 Market destinations based on clues in the “Passport” they receive at the beginning of the game. Passports are free, available on each game day starting at 11 a.m. at the check-in tent near Rachel, the bronze piggybank.

Each player needs to go to at least five of the destinations to qualify. When players arrive at each correct destination, a “Customs Agent” will stamp their “Passport” and give them a randomly chosen sticker that goes on the “Passport.” The stickers play a role in helping participants get the lowest score possible.

That’s right—the person with the lowest score wins a prize!

Each participant turns in his or her “Passport” upon completion. Any tie is broken by the fastest completed “Passport.”

The dates for the other “Around the Market in 80 Minutes” are as follows:

February 27

March 27

April 17

May 29

June 26 – the Championship, with previous winners invited to vie for the Grand Prize.

“With all the renovation work happening this winter and spring, we wanted to have fun in spite of the dust,” said James Haydu, Director of Marketing and Programs for the Pike Place Market PDA. “The Market is open during all construction work happening during the renovation. That’s why every participant gets a yellow construction hat when they start the game, while supplies last.”

Top 11 Food Trends for 2011

January 24, 2011

“Home is where the food is” is one top trend for 2011 bills itself as the world’s #1 food site since it reportedly receives 515 million annual visits from home cooks who discover and share food experiences through recipes, reviews, photos, profiles, and blog posts.

So I was intrigued when I received the company’s predictions for the hottest 100 food trends for 2011.

Among the hot topics?

#1 Going Mobile

Mobile devices and wireless computing are serving up newfound meal planning freedom. Cooks of all ages are using laptops, smartphones and tablet devices to find recipes, check competitive pricing and make grocery lists whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. In 2010, page views from mobile devices surged 340 percent; top food activities among smartphone equipped cooks were finding recipes (63 percent) and creating shopping lists (60 percent).

#2 Shrinking World, Expanding Kitchen

Just a few years ago ethnic cuisine typically involved a night of eating out or ordering in. In a likely effort to save money without compromising variety, cooks are increasingly taking a DIY approach toward satisfying their cravings for favorite ethnic dishes. Consumption of ethnic dishes increased 29 percent in 2010 with the fastest growing cuisines coming from South America, Japan and Korea.

#3 Where the Drinks Are

It can be safely said, the economy is driving consumers to drink–at home. Wine, beer, and cocktails have become part of the make-it-yourself mix. More than half of consumers surveyed are drinking more at home vs. a year ago–top motivations include cost savings, entertaining more at home, and the enjoyment of creating signature cocktails. The fastest growing spirit? Tequila.

#4 Farewell to Fad Diets

Dieting is so 2009. This year, healthy eating is the focus, and the road to health is paved with good eating intentions rather than bizarre diet interventions. Long gone are the days of carb-free, grapefruit only, diet fads. Now “healthy” is considered eating a well-balanced meal with lots of fruits and vegetables, and a limited amount of sugars and processed foods. According to a recent Allrecipes survey, 75 percent of cooks feel they are eating more healthfully today.

The following is a brief overview of the remaining trends Allrecipes has identified for the coming year:

# 5 Local Artisan Shops

Seeking quality, community and variety, everyday folk are increasingly gravitating to locally-owned specialty shops and markets for everyday food items including meat, breads and vegetables.

#6 Pies Take the Cake

Pies of all types–hot and cold, sweet and savory–are picking up in popularity. In 2010, slices of savory pie were as often a part of dinner as sweet pie was the star of dessert. Bucking tradition, ice cream pie was 2010’s fastest growing pie type.

#7 Pre-made Ingredients

Cooks are taking a ‘can-do’ approach for getting favorite dishes on the table in record time. Mixes, cans and refrigerated dough are making supper time a snap.

#8 Small Kitchen Tools Rule

Since a full blown kitchen makeover is likely not in the budget, cooks are snatching up colorful silicone kitchen tools and fun kitchen gadgets to make meal prep more festive and fun.

#9 Countertop Appliances

Adequate storage is always a struggle, but it’s clear that countertop appliances, with their ease of use, are overtaking the stove inch-by-inch.

#10 Men in the Kitchen

More men are cooking, and appear to be the primary cook when the family hosts a crowd. Male cooks are feeling just as comfortable in the kitchen as behind the barbeque–particularly the 20-somethings.

#11 Home is Where the Food is

While potluck dinners and formal sit down dinners have traditionally been the most popular forms of entertaining, the casual sit-down dinner – a mash-up of the two – will be the entertaining format of choice in 2011.

Allrecipes Measuring Cup Reports are derived by analyzing the site behaviors, and search data from over 515 million annual visits to, along with survey data from dozens of surveys conducted throughout the year.

Wild Alaska Fish Taco Contest

January 20, 2011

Good news! There’s still time to enter what’s being billed as the first-ever Wild Alaska Fish Taco Contest sponsored by (as you might expect) by the good folks at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The contest runs until midnight on Monday, January 31st. So put on your thinking caps, fire up the grill, and figure out a recipe for your favorite fish taco made with fabu Alaska seafood!

Grand prize is a three-day/two-night trip to sunny Santa Monica, California. The lucky winner gets lots of other bells and whistles as part of the package, but perhaps coolest among them is that he or she gets to ride along and serve the winning taco from the Border Grill Taco Truck with Food Network stars Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger!

Here are some recipes from the contest Web site to get those creative juices flowing. Alaska Crab and Zucchini Quesadillas, anyone?

California Dreamin’

January 17, 2011

Before we get much further along in the New Year, I wanted to post a few photos of the outstanding places and plates we enjoyed during our nine-day California odyssey. They’ll be sure to stick around long after short-term memory fades and the stresses of the workaday world encroach.

During a hilly walk from our Union Square hotel to North Beach, we ran across Coit Tower. Its base and the surrounding buildings were shrouded in fog, which made for a rather moody shot.

Fog continued once we made our way down to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. If you look real closely, you can see a few girders from the Golden Gate Bridge on the left-hand side of the photo in the distance!

Of course, northern California is as well known for its trademark brand of West Coast cuisine as for its glorious views. Here are two fabulous dishes from Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine, a venerable restaurant in Carmel owned by chef Kurt Grasing. Another plus is its Wine Spectator award-winning wine list.

We go to Grasing’s for Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner whenever we are in that magical town. Here’s the Grilled  Artichoke with Blue Crab and Bay Shrimp that’s been on the menu there as long as I can remember. It’s served with a Lemon-Thyme Aïoli sauce, but really doesn’t need it, it’s so fresh and flavorful on its own.

And another dish from Grasing’s–Farm-Raised Monterey Bay Red Abalone done doré style–pan seared after being dusted in egg wash and flour. Divine, and unique to California, as we rarely see abalone offered on Seattle-area menus!

On Christmas day we decided to take an early-morning beach walk, even though the local weathermen kept warning about the high winds and rain that were threatening to hit.

Things looked okay when we left the hotel, but by the time we walked down Ocean Avenue to the beach, things had turned ugly. It was so windy that sand was blowing up onto the path above the beach where we were walking. And the pelting rain obscured our glasses.

Undaunted, we plowed through to the end of the beach. Once we gazed back toward Pebble Beach Golf Club, we were rewarded with this: a rainbow!

A Gorgeous Edible Diorama

January 13, 2011

On a recent visit to South Seattle Community College for lunch at the Alhadeff Grill and a tour of the culinary, baking and pastry, and wine facilities, I happened upon this incredible Washington-themed diorama made by one of the college’s talented pastry students.

As someone who’s terrible at baking and crafting, not to mention working with chocolate and marzipan, it really spoke to me with its whimsy and utter charm.

Blast-from-the-Past Dining in Downtown San Francisco

January 10, 2011

Here is a shot of a fun place we had breakfast while in San Francisco over the holidays. Sears Fine Food is right across the street from our hotel, The Sir Francis Drake (a.k.a., The Drake).

In business since 1938, it’s history is lengthy and interesting. In keeping with its earliest roots, it’s  best known for its breakfast special: 18 Swedish silver-dollar-sized pancakes. Spencer enjoyed his with crispy bacon; the other option was sausage links.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed something I haven’t ordered in years and years. . .a pecan waffle and a scrambled egg.

There seemed to be lots of regulars sharing the counter stools with us. Many customers called our waitress (Carol) by name.

Old-timey music was playing, and the decor was straight out of WWII. The food wasn’t great. . .the coffee was bitter. . .we never need to go back. But all in all, definitely a San Francisco sort of experience.

A Fun Culinary Discovery for the New Year

January 6, 2011

Right before we left on our nine-day odyssey through Carmel and San Francisco, I made a pilgrimage to Pacific Place shopping center in downtown Seattle–specifically the Williams Sonoma store there–to look at some interesting items I’d marked in the venerable company’s December (holiday) catalog.

Now Spencer and I have a weakness for fried-egg sandwiches. And so here are the Heart-Shaped Egg Fry Rings (nonstick, no less!) that I just couldn’t resist. Of course, being married (for 29 years!) to a great guy like Spencer, I love anything romantic, especially when it perks up breakfast.

Here’s what the eggs looked like once I’d lightly buttered the inside of the rings and broken the eggs into them. (Love the little wood-tipped handles that stay cool for easy handling!)

And here’s what the heart-shaped eggs looked like once released from their holders. A little rough around the edges–I’ll use this as an excuse to use more butter next time.

Since I didn’t have any English muffins on hand, I placed the eggs atop leftover latkes, topped them with chunks of Pure Food Fish’s  smoked salmon (best in the Pike Place Market!), and made a “heart”-y salad of assorted bibb lettuce, carrot coins, and Thompson pears.

A bottle of Champagne, and we were good to go for Sunday brunch!

Lake Quinault Lodge Celebrates 85 Years with Special Offers

January 3, 2011

To celebrate its 85th anniversary, Lake Quinault Lodge in Washington’s Olympic National Forest will be offering a three-course, pre-fixe menu for two for $85. The meal includes an appetizer to share, two entrées, a dessert to share, and a bottle of Lake Quinault Lodge’s signature red or white house wine by Maryhill Winery. Diners can choose among several entrée options, including a vegetarian dish, created by executive chef Patrick Norris, who sources local ingredients to create innovative Northwest cuisine.

Additionally, the Lodge will offer $85 room rates to celebrate the lodge’s rich history, which includes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visiting in 1937 before officially proclaiming Olympic a National Park. The Roosevelt Dining Room stands today to commemorate this honor.

The anniversary promotion is available from January 2nd through March 12th, and some blackout dates apply to room rates.