Wild Mushroom Butter with Crostini

September 30, 2011

Wild Mushroom Butter with Crostini

Wine Varietal: Pinot Noir

Makes 1 1/2 cups

In the spring and fall, Northwest forests burst into life with wild mushrooms sporting lyrical names—chanterelles, morels, hedgehogs, black trumpets. When paired with sweet butter, a touch of garlic, and a hint of Cognac, their musky flavor makes a distinctive appetizer dip.

1/2 pound fresh wild Northwest mushrooms, such as chanterelles, morels, black trumpets, hedgehogs, and/or porcini, or a mixture of several varieties

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thin slices

2 teaspoons minced fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons Cognac or dry Sherry (optional)

1. Wipe the mushrooms with a soft-bristled brush to remove any traces of dirt or pine needles, then chop them coarsely.

2. Melt 1/4 cup of the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms absorb the butter and begin to shrink, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the marjoram, salt, and pepper, stirring well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms shrink and the garlic is tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from heat and allow to cool.

4. Place the remaining 1/2 cup butter in a food processor or blender and pulse briefly. Add the mushrooms, pan juices, and Cognac and pulse until the mixture is well blended but the mushrooms still have a bit of texture. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

5. Scoop the mushroom butter into an attractive ramekin or bowl, smooth the surface, cover, and refrigerate 1 hour or, preferably, overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.

6.  Remove the mushroom butter from the refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving. Prepare the crostini. Place the ramekin in the center of a large plate or platter and surround with the crostini.

Cook’s Hint: Toss leftover butter with hot, cooked pasta; melt over cooked fish, pork, or chicken; or freeze for up to six months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.


1 narrow loaf French or Italian bread, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1. Preheat the broiler. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and place 3 to 4 inches from the heat source. Broil until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe from Braiden Rex-Johnson’s private collection.

Local 360

September 23, 2011

Local 360 is the still fairly new restaurant in the former Flying Fish space in Belltown. It has a rustic vibe and was packed with a good mixed crowd (young folks sipping cocktails at the bar, two guys taking sports next to us, a couple of families, and older folks like us).

Here are the gorgeous “Small Plate” Mediterranean mussels that Spencer and I shared (we were starving after a movie and small lunch, so quickly devoured them). A French Rosé was a good choice for wine pairing.

This is the intriguing Fried Albacore Tuna Collar that I enjoyed as my entrée. Plenty of meat and very nicely prepared. Something I’d love to eat again!

And Spencer’s more-then-ample “Large Plate” Pork Tenderloin with a hearty Mustard Sauce and plenty of green beans.

For further thoughts on 360 Local, read my colleague and friend at The Seattle Times, Providence Cicero’s, two-star review.

Rogue Creamery Does It Again

September 20, 2011

Our friends at the Rogue Creamery in southern Oregon have done it again!

The Gourmet Retailer magazine announced that, “At the 27th Annual American Cheese Society (ACS) Judging and Competition in Montreal, Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue was crowned Best in Show, beating out 1675 other entries. The ACS is the largest cheese competition in North America and often is referred to as the ‘Academy Awards of Cheese.'”

The Rogue Creamery and its luscious recipe for Broccoli and Oregonzola Soup is featured in Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining.

Heartiest congratulations to owners David Gremmels and Cary Bryant for keeping up their impressive winning streak!

This is the second time in three years that Rogue Creamery and its signature blue cheese, Rogue River Blue, have won this prestigious award. The creamery is owned by Cary Bryant and David Gremmels and located in Central Point, Oregon.

“We are honored by this recognition of Rogue River Blue, an American blue that represents the flavors of our region,” says Co–owner and Cheesemaker Bryant. “We enter the ACS Competition and Judging annually for the score sheets. Both technical and aesthetic cheese judges from around the world participate in this competition and provide invaluable feedback on the cheeses they score. The Best of Show for us not only celebrates Rogue River Blue as the finest cheese in North America, but it showcases our teams’ dedication to quality from the dairy, to the make room, aging caves and packaging.”

Co-owner and Cheesemaker Gremmels adds, “It takes a lot of hard work, planning and passion to make Rogue River the most distinctive blue cheese in the world. The recognition from ACS affirms this effort put forth to achieve the distinguishing flavor character, texture and quality inherent in a raw milk cheese.”

Rogue River Blue is handmade using autumnal equinox milk from Brown Swiss and Holstein cows’ milk, certified sustainable by Food Alliance. The cows graze in 1,650-foot elevation pastures along the Rogue River and in 5,000-foot elevation pastures along the Klamath River, where they eat a variety of grasses, wild herbs, and wild flowers supplemented with grass hay, alfalfa and grain grown on the ranch. The 5-pound (2.2-kg) wheels are made by hand and aged in specially constructed caves. The cheese ripens from naturally occurring molds found in the Rogue River Valley and, therefore, reflects a deep connection to the land. After maturation, the cheese is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves from Carpenter Hill Vineyard, which have been macerated in Clear Creek Pear Brandy and tied to the wheel with raffia. The cheese is released annually starting in September.

Rogue River Blue was honored as World’s Best Blue at the 16th World Cheese Awards in London, beating out entries from all over the world. That was the first time that an American blue cheese has won the title. The creamery also made history in 2007 by becoming the first American exporter of raw milk cheese to the European Union; its cheese is carried in Whole Foods Market, Neal’s Yard Dairy, London and Fromagerie Laurent Dubois, Paris.

Rogue Creamery was founded in 1928. The Vella family from Sonoma, Calif., acquired it from a co-op in Southern Oregon in 1935. In the 1950s, it began making some of the country’s best blue cheese. In 2002, Ig Vella selected Cary Bryant and David Gremmels as the new owners, and it now produces a variety of award-winning cheeses. It offer the only vertically integrated third-party certified sustainable cheese in the U.S. Its local dairy, Rogue View, and creamery, Rogue Creamery, both are certified sustainable by Food Alliance and Steritech, and certified organic by Oregon Tilth.

Source: Rogue Creamery

Cactus Deserves This Dish of the Day

September 16, 2011

On one of the last sunny summer Saturdays in Seattle, Spencer and I decided to walk along Alki Beach to soak up a few rays and get our daily dose of Vitamin D.

But before setting out, we had lunch at Cactus restaurant, which faces the beach and is like a little mini-vacation in and of itself.

Here’s my gorgeous Mexican Chop-Chop Salad taken with my iPhone4 in “normal” mode. . .

And looking even more seductive, sexy, and sublime with the Hipstamatic app.

The satisfying salad is described on the menu as, “Chile–lime marinated grilled natural chicken breast, mixed greens, queso blanco, verduras, olives, pepitas, pico de gallo, roasted corn, and chipotle–balsamic vinaigrette.”

For it’s simple beauty and hearty taste, Cactus’s Chop-Chop Salad deserves my Dish of the Day.

Pink Door’s Mixed Berry Crostata

September 12, 2011

The Pink Door has created an authentic Italian dessert in honor of the bounty of the season, as well as the recent National-Can It-Forward Day at Pike Place Market.

Ball Canning Company’s Canning Across America event showcased some of Seattle’s favorite chefs demonstrating  popular summer canning recipes, including a mixed-berry jam, dill pickles, canned tomatoes, and more with viewers asking questions and sharing tips via live streaming video. An excerpt can be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/mRl3YT

The Pink  Door’s pastry chef (and Pike Place Market native) Kelsey Angell created a delicious Mixed Berry Crostata, inspired by freshly canned mixed berry jam, prepared by local canning expert and gluten-free baker Jeanne Sauvage.

“Crostata is a typical Italian dessert made with jam. The ‘pasta frolla’ or pie dough is spread with the jam and topped with a lattice crust. We are modifying it by adding Northwest blackberries, blueberries, and currants on top of the jam. So the final masterpiece is half Italian Crostata and half a traditional American Pie–just like me!” explains Jackie Roberts, founder of The Pink Door.

You can try your hand with the recipe below (courtesy of The Pink Door), or enjoy it at venerable Pike Place Market restaurant for $8.00.

Mixed Berry Crostata

One 9-inch Tart pan with a removable bottom

Pasta Frolla:

3 Cups All-Purpose flour, Unbleached

1 cup Super fine Sugar (Bakers sugar)

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1 Lemon, zest and chop or use a micro-plane

1/2 pound unsalted butter, diced

2 egg yolks

1 egg, whole


1 Jar Ball Canning Company Mixed berry Jam

2 baskets mixed berries, such as…currants, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries

Mix dry ingredients, cut in the butter until walnut pieces size.

Add the eggs, and mix just until incorporated.

Divide 2/3rds and 1/3rd . Form into a round flat disc shape between two pieces of wax paper or plastic. Let rest for 1 hour.

Roll each circle, The larger goes into the tart shell, the smaller gets cut into strips to form lattice over the top of the berries.

Fill the unbaked shell w/ 1 jar of mixed berry jam and cover w/ berries mixture.

Lattice over top. Brush w/ egg wash. Sprinkle w/ turbanato sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly.

Let rest to room temp. serve!

Keep On Taco Trucking!

September 9, 2011

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I wrote a blog post about the launch of a tasty new brand of tequila–Familia Camarena Tequila–in Washington State.

And now the 100-percent Blue Agave tequila is back–taking the taste of Mexico to the streets with a mobile taco truck blitz across Seattle!

Featuring a free Familia Camarena Tequila-infused gourmet menu created by Seattle-based Chef Yajaira Carreon, the Camarena Taco Truck will spend one month in Seattle, making stops at the city’s hottest venues, events, and street corners.

The Taco Truck has already enjoyed successful runs in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Chicago, and Austin. Seattle is the latest stop on the Camarena Taco Truck’s national tour.

In each city, a local chef has been chosen to execute an authentic menu of Latin street fare, utilizing Familia Camarena Tequila. In Seattle, Chef Yajaira Carreon, resident chef at one of the Maple Leaf neighborhood’s hottest new Mexican eateries, was up to the task. Born in Durango, Mexico, Chef Yajaira Carreon credits her creativity and inspiration in the kitchen to her family’s enthusiasm for preparing, sharing and enjoying delicious food.

For the latest Camarena Taco Truck updates, visit Familia Camarena Tequila on Facebook or on Twitter.

Compelling Cupcakes!

September 6, 2011

Huckleberry Cupcakes

Just before the Labor Day weekend began, I got a call from our doorman that a delivery had arrived.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Cupcakes,” Nick replied. “Do you want me to send the delivery man up with them?”

“If it’s cupcakes, then you bet,” I replied.

Turns our our good friends at Cupcake Royale had sent over samples of their September flavors–Huckleberry and (just in time for the start of school) Peanut Butter & Jam Cupcakes. (We wrote a Taste column about this fine company and visionary owner/founder Jody Hall for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine in February 2010.)

Resisting the mightiest temptation, I didn’t dive in immediately, but gave Spencer a call with the good news.

“I’ll be right up,” he said.

Somehow, I managed to deter his visit to my office and we both held of on sampling the compelling cakes until after dinner.

I must admit, the Huckleberry Cupcake, with its silky white body studded with berries and its icing so very, very huckleberry good, hit the spot when paired with a nightcap (just a wee glass!) of Australian Shiraz-Viognier we had left over from the evening before.

The Peanut Butter and Jam Cupcake

The PB and J went down nicely with a more “normal” accompaniment–a glass of cold milk. Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods in the world, and I go “nuts” for anything that’s salted caramel, so this cupcake flavor combo really rang my chimes.

You might have seen Cupcake Royale on a recent episode of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Here are more details on the company’s September offerings.

Huckleberry Cupcake

Say goodbye to summer and hello to huckleberries. It’s a fair trade-off in our book and we always celebrate September with our Huckleberry Cupcake (aka “the Huck”). We fold in fresh, local huckleberries (fresh, as in they were picked for us this past weekend) into our vanilla cupcake and top it with a huckleberry buttercream frosting. This cupcake brings all the bears to the yard. We have partnered with local farm Foraged & Found Edibles to provide us with our huckleberry crop this year. In case you don’t know what a huckleberry is, think of it as the little brother to a blueberry but with even more flavor.

Peanut Butter and Jam Cupcake

Peanut Butter and Jam, sitting in a tree. This classic combo has our vanilla cupcake, filled with fresh local strawberry jam (fresh, as in they made it last week) topped with a super fluffy, salty peanut butter buttercream. Sprinkled with chopped peanuts and a coarse sugar and sea salt mix.

Wine Tasting in the Pike Place Market

September 2, 2011

I was recently interviewed by Big Bob Woehler, a friend and long-time wine writer for the Tri-Cities Herald and a magazine I’ve been writing for for the past 11 years, Wine Press Northwest.

Bob and I chatted during one of his weekly Bobcasts (audio podcasts) about a column I’d written for the magazine’s Spring issue on wine-tasting opportunities in and around my beloved Pike Place Market.

I’ve lived in the Market neighborhood for 21 years and seen its ups, downs, and all arounds. Glad to report it’s been very much on an upswing lately.

And nothing points to that as much as the almost dozen or so places to sip wine in the ‘hood.

Listen to my favorites here, and here’s hoping you’ll be able to journey to the Market soon for your very own bit of wine tasting.