Northwest Niçoise Salad

June 30, 2011

Northwest Niçoise Salad

Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir

Serves 4

This hearty main-dish salad combines the best ingredients from Northwest shores and fields with a classic French dish to form an intriguing hybrid. Wine pairing is versatile, too!

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling pan

1 pound small new potatoes (1- to 1 1/2-inch diameter), scrubbed and cut in half

1/2 pound asparagus, hard ends removed, remaining portion rinsed, drained, and patted dry, OR 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry

1/2 pound baby carrots, peeled and patted dry, OR 1/2 pound regular carrots, peeled, patted dry, and cut lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into 2-inch lengths

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon dried tarragon, crumbled

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet, rinsed, drained, patted dry, and bones removed

1 tablespoon good-quality regular or lowfat mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 pound mixed salad greens, rinsed, drained, and well dried

1. Preheat the oven to 475°F.

2. To roast the vegetables, lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the potatoes, asparagus (or sugar snap peas), and carrots in a single layer without crowding.

3. Drizzle the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then with 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and slightly charred, turning the vegetables once or twice during cooking. Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet.

4. To poach the fish, bring the water, wine, and tarragon to a boil in a skillet large enough to hold the salmon without crowding. Remove from the heat, add the salmon fillets skin side down, reduce the heat to low, and return the skillet to the heat.

5. Partially cover (put a lid on the skillet slightly askew so that the steam can escape), and simmer very gently, until the salmon just turns opaque, 5 to 10 minutes (about 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness). Adjust the heat if the water simmers too fast or too slow. Do not allow the water to boil.

6. Remove the fish fillets and place on several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to drain well and pat dry. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and any remaining pin bones.

7. Just before serving, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and the mayonnaise and mustard to a large mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the salad greens to the bowl and toss gently.

8. To serve, place the dressed greens in the center of individual plates and place a salmon fillet in the middle of each bed of greens. Divide the potatoes, asparagus, and carrots around the edges of the plates in a pleasing pattern and serve immediately.

The Mighty Georgian

June 28, 2011

With just about every chef and restaurateur in Seattle opening second “small-bite/casual” restaurants and/or offering up killer deals for cheap eats during daily happy hours, sometimes I wonder if fine-dining is dead in our fair city.

So a couple of weeks ago, I made a Saturday-night-at-eight-p.m. reservation at The Georgian, the stunning main dining room in the venerable Fairmont Olympic Hotel to find out.

As we settled in with a glass of bubbly (me) and a gin martini (Spencer) and perused the menu, we were (frankly) amazed at the reasonable price points for such a glamorous setting, with soaring ceilings, a live-music duo of pan flute and upright bass, extensive wine list, etc.

We could have ordered à la carte or opted for the three-course prix-fixe dinner ($69 per person with wine pairings; $49 without), but decided to go all out.

We chose the five-course dinner (including a dessert soufflé!), plus wine pairings, for $99 per person ($69 sans vino).

Here’s the gorgeous bread-and-butter set-up–with four flavors of butter and spiky strips of crunchy lavash cracker–that set the tone for a tone-y meal to come.

After a bit of a wait, the lovely first course came out–Tempura Morel Mushrooms with Truffle Camembert and Morel Shooters (light and lovely mushroom juice in test-tube-like shooters!).

Toothsome and gooey-good, the tempura morels paired perfectly with Domaine Schönheitz 2008 Pinot Gris from Alsace.

Gotta love that sterling-silver skewer and swipe of mushroom dust that makes this plate presentation so pretty.

The second course was another visual knock-out and tasted just as good. Deadliest Catch included razor-thin shavings of the sweetest Alaskan King Crab along with Dungeness Crab Fritters, artistically topped with Arugula Salad. It also went well with the Alsatian Pinot Gris.


I adore beets in just about any form, so was super-pleased with the third course, Roasted Baby-Beet Salad with Candied Pecans (like the best fruit-and-nut bar I’ve ever tasted, probably due to lots of added butter), Goat Cheese, and Walnut Vinaigrette.

The goat cheese is the white blob on the right-hand side and was done molecular gastronomy-style–it was light and fluffy in texture and simply the essence of chèvre.

Unlike me, hubby hates beets, so our server graciously substituted the Olympic Caesar Salad from the three-course prix-fixe dinner and didn’t even charge anything extra.

Both salads were paired with Poet’s Leap Winery 2008 Riesling, one of our all-time fave off-dry Rieslings, and another thoughtful pairing from The Georgian’s long-time (seven years) sommelier–Joseph Linder.

After so much good food, we could hardly believe that entrées were yet to come!

Here’s my gorgeous Smoked Alaskan Wild King Salmon. It was served with Shaved Granny-Smith Apples, Locally Foraged Morel Mushrooms, Yukon-Gold Potato Balls (fun to eat!), and a rather sweetish-sauve containing Olympic Rooftop Honey.

Rex Hill 2008 Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley was a truly wonderful wine for this perfect pairing.

We both gasped in wonder when we saw the artistic shapes, dots, and lattice-work on Spencer’s gorgeously plated Roasted Rack of Lamb with Tomato Crust, Kalamata Olives, Sweet-Pea Quinoa, and Grilled Spring Onion.

The lamb was flavorful without being too gamey; the pea quinoa is something I’d like to make at home; and the lattice work grating is something I’ll gladly leave to Georgian Executive Chef Gavin Stephenson to prepare.

Spencer was more than happy with his entrée’s wine pairing: Château de Clairvoy 2005 Côtes de Bourg from Bordeaux.

Sad to say, but because they are labor-intensive and temperamental to cook, few restaurants bother with making soufflés any more. Lucky for us, The Georgian still turns out a stellar daily-changing version.

Ours was called the “Black and White,” served with Crème Anglaise and a chocolate-covered strawberry, but they also offered up Chocolate Mint. Hard to go wrong with either one!

Although there were occasional service gaffes (a long delay between aperitifs/cocktails and the first course, being seated at a table facing away from the musical duo, the hostess setting up our table after we had been seated), we left thinking that, at least when it comes to its food-and-wine offerings, The Georgian still offers up very fine dining in Seattle.

Semiahmoo Grilled Oysters So Good!

June 24, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, over Mother’s Day weekend, with 400 e-mails staring me in the face, I told Spencer I needed to get away, even if just for one single Saturday night.

Unsure of where to go, we settled upon Semiahmoo Resort, on the north edge of Washington State. It’s so close to the Canadian border you can see White Rock, British Columbia, across Semiahmoo Bay.

Since it was a few weeks before Memorial Day, when the resort’s “high” season begins, it was easy to secure a reasonable overnight room rate complete with dining voucher, part of a bed-and-dining package.

The fine-dining restaurant, Stars, wasn’t yet open, so we ate lunch in Packers Lounge and Oyster Bar and dinner at Pierside Restaurant. Funny thing was, both places featured the same menu–simple items such as fish-and-chips, salads, and grilled fish and meats–and that was just fine.

For once, I wouldn’t have to think about everything sip and sup I put into my mouth!

Here are the lovely Flame-Grilled Oysters that I spotted while we had a pre-dinner drink in the bar, then later ordered in the dining room as my starter course.

Perfectly broiled so the oysters were still tender and moist, but the garlic butter and Parmesan cheese topping was hot and bubbly, these beauties were eclipsed only by the view of Semiahmoo Bay outside.

Grilled Oysters à la Semiahmoo before. . .

Grilled Oysters à la Semiahmoo adieu!

A Pinnacle Experience at The Oyster Bar

June 21, 2011

Every now and then, a meal’s setting and the meal itself sync so perfectly that they form an unforgettable dining experience.

That happened to us recently at The Oyster Bar on the Chuckanut Drive, about a two hours drive from downtown Seattle.

With views like the one above, it’s hard not to be inspired. . .

But when dishes such as a lovely this Belgian Endive/Gorgonzola Salad begin to arrive. . .

Along with Nettle Wild Nettle and Artichoke Soup, made with a base of vegetarian consommé and locally gathered nettles, Yukon gold potatoes, fresh artichokes, and hint of dry Vermouth, this food writer’s heart leaps up!

California Red Abalone, farm-raised along California’s Central Coast, is seldom seen on menus in the Northwest.

So although pricey (at $65 per serving), we ordered it and weren’t disappointed.

Flash-sautéed doré-style and drizzled with hazelnut lime butter, The Oyster Bar’s rendition was more tender, flavorful, and downright delectable than ones we’ve had while visiting our neighbor to the south. (I took the shells home as souvenirs!)

Spring sturgeon from nearby Willapa Bay was fresh and clean tasting, not muddy as oftentime (lamentably) happens with this fish.

The dish was lavishly sauced with blueberries and topped with fresh raspberries, and encircled by reduced balsamic vinegar and basil oil. Yum!

We enjoyed our last sips of wine and morsels of food. . .and mentally prepared ourselves for the long journey home. . .the sun set. . .

And finally dove behind the distant mountains.

Dish of the Day: Pink Door’s Everything Green Salad

June 17, 2011

It’s a rite of passage in the Northwest. . .and a sign of spring and summer soon to come. . . when the Pike Place Market’s famous Pink Door Restaurant offers up its Everything Green Salad.

It’s a tasty combo of fava beans, English peas, asparagus, pistachios, and bibb lettuce served with creamy tarragon dressing.

I order a side of Dungeness Crab meat and–whoosh–this becomes a main-dish salad.

Just for good measure, here’s a shot of PD’s Antipasti Platter, one of the most colorful and beautiful about town.

The platter includes prosciutto, tuscan bean salad, mozzarella, tapanada, grilled seasonal vegetables, salami, and more.

But since I don’t do the charcuterie thing, I order mine with extra veggies and cheese. Delish!

Either of these treats more than deserve being crowned with today’s Dish of the Day.

It’s a Wonderful Wine World

June 14, 2011

We were very remiss on making a visit to our buddy David LeClaire’s wonderful new Wine World warehouse, a whopping 23,000-square-feet of everything wine and wine-related that opened last December after a whirlwind six weeks of renovation and remodeling.

Wine World boasts 500 Washington labels alone!

Not to mention Oregon wines. . .

Even Idaho!

Of course, foreign wines are widely available. . .

As is a whole section of Sustainable/Earth Friendly vino.

The massive space is centered by two spacious tasting bars with plenty of room to spread out, sip, and savor during one of the DAILY wine tastings!

There’s a big specialty-food section with cheeses, crackers, chocolates. charcuterie. . .

Such as these beauties.

There’s plenty of cold bubbly and white wine. . .

And microbrews from local favorites such as our good buddies Rose Ann and Charles Finkel of  The Pike Brewing Co.

There are wine-lovers’ gifts galore. . .

Including the latest and greatest books. . .

And magazines including Wine Press Northwest, where I’ve been a columnist the past 11 years (!). J

You can build your own basket. . .

Choose wines that have received ratings of 90 points or higher from leading publications, yet still cost less than $20!

Towards the back of the shop, along long the rear wall, you’ll find Wine World’s Staff Picks. . .

And a lovely seating area with recipe from the Celebrated Chefs Cookbook conveniently paired with reasonably priced wines.

Recipes are ready for the taking!

Two gorgeous event spaces have views of downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier, and Interstate 5, which David told me looks like a sea of lights come nightfall.

A serving bar and changing artwork displays make for a sophisticated and welcoming place for a glass of wine or three!

Special events and classes are offered frequently. . .

Heck, even the ladies’ restroom is pretty!

Wine World’s Explorers Club offers great discounts and Explorers-Club-member-only events. And there are always Hot Buys just waiting to be snapped up. And most recent news on Wine World’s blog.

So don’t wait another minute. . .Wine World is like nirvana for oenophiles serious and casual.

Bravo, David and team!

Out and About with Dry Soda’s Tasting Truck

June 10, 2011

Be on the look out for DRY Soda’s jaunty new “tasting truck” at your local supermarket and around the Northwest.

The truck debuted at DRY’s Pioneer Square headquarters early last month with a lively Kick-off Party in honor of its upcoming Savor-the-Flavor Tour.

First stop? Portland, with other West Coast cities soon t0 follow.

You can savor DRY Soda in six flavors: Lavender, Lemongrass, Blood Orange, Rhubarb, Cucumber, and Juniper Berry. It’s available in grocery stores, restaurants, luxury hotels, and boutiques in the United States and Canada and even in select international locations.

And, of course, from the tasting truck!

ART’s Dish of the Day

June 7, 2011

One of our favorite places to pop in for a late-afternoon, after-work glass of wine and appetizers is our neighbor just across the courtyard, ART Restaurant & Lounge in the Four Seasons Hotel.

We’ve long been fans of Chef Kerry Sear’s amazing sliders–available in salmon, veggie, and beef iterations. We’ve also loved his shrimp appetizer, which featured perfectly cooked chunks of shrimp with a shooter glass full of spicy tomato juice. Eat a bite of shrimp, sip the juice, and you had a cool-tasting treat.

After a recent menu change, we were heartsick to find out the former shrimp app had disappeared, replaced with a new version–Poached Blue Shrimp with Lemon-Cilantro Aïoli and Chili Olive Oil.

But not to worry. It’s a gorgeous dish, served in a clear cup over dry ice, so that it leaves a trail of “smoke” as it passes through the dining room.

Which more than qualifies ART’s Poached Blue Shrimp as our Dish of the Day.

Cooking-Class Getaways at Friday Harbor House

June 4, 2011

I count myself among the luckiest people on earth because I live in the Pacific Northwest.

Apparently, even The New York Times agrees, since recently it listed the San Juan Islands as the #2 place to see in its list of “41 Places To Go in 2011.”

And this spring and fall, Friday Harbor House invites guests to the island for a new series of cooking-class getaways that take advantage of the culinary bounty of San Juan Islands–both by land and by sea.

The Couples Kitchen Mixers (designed for two) will be held at The Bluff Restaurant/Bar/Terrace and led by Chef Kyle Nicholson.

Each two-night getaway includes a cooking class hosted by Chef Kyle, a special welcome amenity from The Bluff, and lunch for two with wine featuring the ingredient or technique learned in class.

The culinary adventure begins on Friday evening with a relaxing overnight stay, followed by a signature continental breakfast on Saturday morning. The kitchen gets mixing at 11:00 a.m. when Chef Kyle introduces the recipes and begins the hands-on instruction. At 2 p.m. students will toast to their hard work with wine and a specially prepared lunch featuring the ingredient or technique learned in class.

Upcoming classes are as follows:

June 10-11, 2011--Chef Kyle will guide the class through “Handling Fin Fish Swimmingly,” instructing on topics ranging from buying to butchering and storing seafood with a professional touch. Students will learn how to fillet like a pro with techniques and tools that aid preparation such as fish spatulas, needle nose pliers, sharp and flexible knives, and more.

September 9-10, 2011–The “Spring into Late Summer Salads” class will have students whipping up light, yet filling, entrée salads bursting with seasonal delights such as heirloom tomatoes, pole beans, huckleberries, gooseberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Discover easy tips on creating the perfect dressings and garnishes to highlight the fresh, seasonal ingredients discovered and discussed.

October 7-8, 2011–During “Entertaining Autumn Cuisine,” Chef Kyle teaches how to entertain with ingredients such as eggplant, chanterelle mushrooms, red torpedo onions, and a variety of peppers such as sweet, banana. and bell guaranteed to make guests swoon.

November 10-11, 2011–Celebrate “A True Fall Harvest” with a tutorial on the freshest harvest items from the islands and beyond, using ingredients such as hedgehog mushrooms, golden and red beets, Hubbard squash, leeks, kale. and potatoes.

Friday Harbor House is located at 130 West Street, Friday Harbor, Washington 98250. Phone 866.722.7356 for reservations.