Halibut with Sundried Tomato Tapenade

April 29, 2012

Halibut with Sundried-Tomato Tapenade

Wine Varietal: Lemberger

Tapenade, a thick paste used as a condiment in the Provence region of France, is traditionally made of capers, anchovies, ripe olives, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. My bright, lemony version offers a bold contrast in color, taste, and texture to mild-flavored, simply-broiled halibut. A mini-food processor helps cut down on preparation time, although the ingredients can also be minced by hand. Any leftover tapenade can be served with other finfish, vegetables, or chicken.

1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon capers

1 clove garlic, halved

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed


1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets, 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick, skin and bones removed, rinsed, drained, patted dry, and cut into four 6-ounce fillets

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat the broiler. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place the sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, and lemon zest in a mini food processor and pulse until minced. Alternately, mince the ingredients by hand.

3. Place the minced vegetables and lemon juice in a small nonreactive mixing bowl and stir well. Season to taste with Tabasco. Cover and set aside at room temperature while preparing the fish.

4. Sprinkle the cod fillets lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the fillets on the prepared baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil.

5. Place the fish under the broiler 3 to 4 inches from the heat source. Broil 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of  the fillets, which should just turn opaque.

6. Divide the fish fillets among 4 dinner plates. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the tapenade beside each fillet.

Recipe reprinted from the “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook, Gift Edition and e-Edition,” copyright 2005 and 2012, by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

30 Years of Wonderful Memories: RIP Chez Shea

April 24, 2012

It seems almost surreal that I am writing this Ode to Chez Shea, the über-romantic and sexy restaurant in the Pike Place Market, rather than the totally glowing Resto Review entitled, Chez Shea Shines Anew, that I had originally intended.

When SeattlePI.com announced last Wednesday, April 18, that the 30-year-old stalwart in the Market was closing its doors. . .to be replaced by a coffee company, no less (just what Seattle needs is another coffee shop. . .not!), I was heartbroken.

For over the 22 years we’ve lived in Seattle, we’ve dined there many times. Original owner Sandy Shea gave me a recipe for my very first Pike Place Market Cookbook. And then-chef Peter Morrison shared his Oysters Chez Shea recipe for my original Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook. We had our favorite oh-so-French female server there and have known Lotta Hashimura, the general manager, for years.

If I had been able to write my review, I would have raved about the classically prepared Escargots, pictured above. Pure garlicky, buttery bliss in a single bite.

Or the absolutely decadent Prawns Barcelona. More garlic, crispy kale, sherry, and more butter. . .but also crunchy toasted almond flakes. And such a generous serving!

A lovely bottle of Meursault (French Chardonnay) paired perfectly with both dishes and was served at exactly the right temperature (not too cold, as is often the case with white wines in restaurants).

A bite of salad to pep up the taste buds again. This one included Anjou pear, orange segments, toasted Marcona almonds, and a sprinkling of fresh goat cheese for saltiness and tang. Don’t forget the Tangerine Vinaigrette!

This Dungeness Crab Salad is one of the most simply perfect things I’ve tasted in months–the freshest crab meat interspersed with green mango, wild watercress, paper-thin radishes, citrus segments, kaffir lime leaf, and Asian herbs, including cilantro and the magic ingredient–shiso–a Japanese leaf that has minty/menthol-y/astringent flavors, and that I love. This one was lightly tossed with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette. Perfect!

Chilean Sea Bass with darling baby zucchini and just the right amount of Saffron-Tomato Sauce. . and a beguiling ring of Parsley Oil.

Spencer’s Rack of Lamb Persillade aligned with military precision and sauced in a Rosemary Jus. . .

RIP and thanks for the memories, Chez Shea.

Welcome Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook E-Edition

April 20, 2012

It was both a happy moment and a sad moment, the best of times and worst of times, when Spencer came back from his morning coffee and workout session in the Pike Place Market a few weeks ago and showed me the photo above on his cellphone.

As he’d been wandering the Market’s nooks and crannies, he discovered my “Pike Place Market Cookbook” on the shelves at Metsker Maps along First Avenue.

Sad because the book was recently declared out of print; I bought 30 of the last 60 copies available; a new book entitled “Pike Place Market Recipes” will be published by Sasquatch Books next month. . .and I am not the author!

But out with the old and in with the (very) new as my “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” which was published in 2005 by Ten Speed Press in a hardcover gift edition that remains in print, has just been released in an e-edition!

The electronic version of the seafood book, complete with gorgeous four-color photos, Fun Facts, and a How to Buy Seafood section (all part of the hardcover original), can be viewed on a Kindle.

IPhone and iPad users (such as myself) don’t despair! Simply download the free Kindle Reading App and you’ll soon be on your merry way.


RN74’s Somm Saturdays

April 17, 2012

One of our favorite new restaurants about town–RN74–has announced the dates for its Spring winemaker dinners.

The popular (often sold-out) dinners begin on April 24 with Piedmontese vintner La Spinetta attended by none other than owner Giorgio Rivetti.

And more good news. This season’s wine events are highlighted by a new feature, Saturday with the Somms (as in sommeliers), kicking off on April 21.

This informative and fun series features guided and focused regional tastings lead by RN74 Seattle wine team Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, Chris Tanghe, and Luke Wohlers.

Offered on three Saturdays (one in April, May, and June), these two-hour oenophilic excursions from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. take attendees on a tour of the wines of Burgundy and Champagne, paired with light, traditional appetizers along the lines of cheese and charcuterie. Saturdays with the Somms are $45 per class or $105 for all three.

RN74 is named after Route National 74, the major thoroughfare passing through the heart of France’s Burgundy region. With cellar access to more than 10,000 bottles, the restaurant’s wine list features international selections from Burgundy and throughout Europe to regional finds from the Pacific Northwest.

The wine bar and restaurant showcases roughly 80 wines on wall-mounted menu boards–the “Market Board” and the “Last Bottle Board”–which highlight special, limited wine offerings that change with each last bottle sold via Italian-made train station boards with plaques that flip over when a bottle is no longer available.

Here’s the complete list of upcoming RN74 Seattle Behind the Bottle Dinners: 


La Spinetta with Owner Giorgio Rivetti – 7 PM at the Chef’s Table


Pierre De Benoist From A. Et P. Villaine &  Anne Charlotte Genet

From Domaine Charles Joguet – 7 PM at the Chef’s Table


Nicholas Potel and the Wines of Domaine De Bellenen – 7 PM at the Chef’s Table



Here are upcoming Saturday with the Somms dates and details:

April 21 – COTE DE NUITS

Its Grand Cru Vineyards date to the 1100’s, its wines are the pinnacle expression of pinot noir. Stylistically the wines span the grapes tremendous range from the delicate Chambolle-Musigny, the sturdy wines of Gevrey-Chambertin, the rustic Nuit Saint Georges, and the power and grace of Vosne-Romanee. Immerse yourself in the extraordinary wines of the Cote de Nuits with Sommelier Chris Tanghe.


Puligny-Montrachet is the greatest white wine-producing commune in the world. The wines of Pommard are earthy and minerally, Beaune shows pinot noirs purity and expresses the grapes’ elegance even in its youth, Volnay is the most charming and delightful commune in the Cote d’Or. The wines of Corton are explosive and bold. Smell, sip and swirl the intricate expressions of chardonnay and pinot noir from their homeland with Lead Sommelier Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen.


Literally translated as ‘open landscape’, Champagne is not just any sparkling wine. It is a wine produced from three specific grape varieties: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier using the ‘Champagne method’ from the province of the same name. Although sparkling wine is produced all over the world, it can only be called ‘Champagne’ in this heavily regulated wine district.  Explore Champagne and the wines of Chablis through the eyes of Sommelier Luke Wohlers.

Photo Courtesy of RN74

Sunday Suppers Around the Communal Table

April 10, 2012

Volunteer Park Cafe Interior

Volunteer Park Cafe on Capitol Hill offers Sunday suppers once a month

My latest article for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, Family-Style Supper’s On at Seattle Restaurants,  featured my reflections on several Seattle-area restaurants that offer Sunday suppers around the communal table to their guests.

It makes me hungry just thinking about the good food and wine we had researching the article. Standouts include Tavolàta’s Roasted Chicken and Pear Bread Pudding during it’s Roman Feast in December and Volunteer Park Cafe’s flatbread with a luscious Lebanese roasted-red-pepper/walnut/pomegranate-molasses spread followed by Chicken Tagine.

The comments on this one were really interesting. . .lots of _itching and moaning about this form of dining being similar to a commune or cafeteria. Think they kind of missed the point!

I was thrilled that the article was picked up by RestaurantSmartBrief, a daily email service that aggregates interesting articles for its nationwide audience.

Photo by Spencer Johnson




Oyster Wines Revisited

April 6, 2012

Oysters on the half shell from Shuckers in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel Seattle before. . .

Sad to say, but the arrival of the first wave of fresh halibut last week at Pike Place Market fish stands, signals that we are nearing the end of raw oyster season here in the Northwest.

Now I know oysters are available year-round, and that the age-old advice about eating them only in “r”months may no longer be true.

But I simply don’t feel like eating raw oysters on the half shell in the summer months. . .they seem more like a fall and winter food to me and my palate.

With that in mind, here are some last thoughts on oysters on the half shell and which wines pair well with them. This list thanks to a seminar that examined the ins and outs of pairing wines from across the world with raw, local oysters.

The afternoon session featured Lissa James of the Hama Hama Oyster Company and winemakers from Girard Napa Valley, the Crossings winery in New Zealand, and Barone Fini from Italy. And even though I was unable to attend the seminar and sample the wines and oysters personally, the organizers were nice enough to share the results, which I find fascinating.

And for additional suggestions on pairing Pacific Coast wines with raw oysters, here’s an article I wrote last year for Wine Press Northwest. The link takes you to an e-edition of the magazine which requires a few extra moments to download due to all the text and graphics, so be patient. You’ll find my article if you flip to page 10.

Featured wines, and their suggested oyster pairings:

  1. Girard Sauvignon Blanc 2010 & Kumamoto Oyster
  2. Barone Fini Valdadige Pinot Grigio 2010 & Olympia Oyster
  3. The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc 2011 & Hama Hama Oyster
  4. Girard Chardonnay 2009 & Point aux Pins Oyster
  5. Barone Fini Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2010 & Blue Pool Oyster
  6. The Crossings Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 & Totten Inlet Pacific Oyster

Oysters on the half shell from Shuckers in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel Seattle after!
Photos by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Another Lady Alice Apple Recipe

April 3, 2012

Last month we wrote a post about a new apple variety–the Lady Alice–along with a recipe for Roasted Halibut with Lady Alice Apple Chutney.

Here’s another recipe using the elegant Lady Alice Apple.

Lady Alice Apple Pancakes with Apple Cider Syrup

For the Pancakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ to 1 ¾ cup buttermilk

1 cup grated Lady Alice apple, peeled and cored (1 medium apple)

2 eggs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the Apple Cider Syrup:

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup apple cider

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup finely chopped Lady Alice apple

In large bowl combine the flour,  sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Mix well; set aside.

In a medium size bowl stir together the buttermilk, grated apple, eggs, and vegetable oil. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir together until well-mixed (1 minute).

On a pre-heated, nonstick, 10-inch skillet or griddle, place about ¼ cup pancake mixture for each pancake.

Heat on the first side until golden brown (2 to 3 minutes). Using a spatula, turn the pancakes over and continue cooking on the second side until cooked through (1 to 2 minutes). Repeat with the remaining batter. Set aside.

Meanwhile in a 2-quart saucepan, place all the Apple Cider Syrup ingredients, except the butter. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil (3 to 4 minutes). Continue cooking until the cider has thickened slightly (6 to 8 minutes).

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Serve with the  pancakes.