Bronzed Albacore Tuna

June 30, 2012

Bronzed Albacore Tuna

Wine Varietal: Pinot Noir

Serves 4

Bronzing fish is a more gentle way of cooking the tender flesh than blackening, which many cooks remember from its heyday in the 1980s when Cajun cuisine was all the rage. According to cookbook author Carol Foster in her book, “Short Cuts to Great Cuisine,” from which this recipe originated, “Bronzing, as opposed to the blackening cooking method, allows the home cook to enjoy juicy, tender, spice-encrusted fish without an accompanying smoke alarm. Since blackening requires a cast-iron skillet to reach at least 500 degrees, it creates a blinding amount of smoke that only a commercial vent can handle. The tamer bronzing method requires only 350 degrees, a reasonable alternative. Another advantage to bronzing is that all the fillets can be cooked at once; blackening requires that one fillet be cooked at a time, wiping out the skillet in between.” Carol’s original recipe called for red snapper, but she suggests substituting any firm-fleshed fish, such as salmon or tuna. I have chosen the Northwest’s own albacore tuna, which has its annual run in the summer, and suggest pairing it with a good-quality Oregon Pinot Noir.

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 pounds tuna loin or steaks, 3/4-inch thick, rinsed, drained, patted dry, cut into four (6-ounce) pieces, and brought to room temperature before cooking, if time permits

1. In a small bowl, blend the paprika, thyme, oregano, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Melt the butter in a small skillet and keep over low heat.

2. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is very hot, dip the tuna pieces in the butter and sprinkle both sides evenly with the spice mixture. Place in skillet immediately (do not place on another surface or the spices will be lost) and cook about 3 minutes. Turn and cook another 2 minutes, depending upon the thickness and degree of doneness desired. Transfer the fish to a warmed serving plate.

3. Pour the remaining warm butter into the cast-iron skillet, scraping up any browned bits and spices that may have accumulated on the bottom. Pour over the fish and serve immediately.

Seattle Great Wheel and Cupcake Royale Arrive in Downtown Seattle!

June 29, 2012

We’re thrilled to welcome two new neighbors to the West Edge neighborhood: Cupcake Royale and the Seattle Great Wheel!

We’ve enjoyed watching the Wheel take its place on the Seattle Waterfront at Pier 57 and blogged about it on June 5 along with lots of photos. Even if you’re not a downtown dweller or visitor, you can watch the Wheel from the Puget Sound Cam. It is truly a magnificent sight!

The Wheel starts spinning and is open for rides today. Purchase your tickets here.

And ART Restaurant & Lounge, in the Four Seasons Seattle Hotel, has created a special dessert to welcome the Great Wheel.

The carnival-inspired “Ferris Wheel Cool Spin” has cinnamon-sugared elephant ears; a trio of housemade strawberry shortcake, raspberry scone, and deep-fried peanut butter ice cream; and is topped with truffle pops in cotton candy on a cool ice carving of the center ferris wheel. Man, it sure looks good!

Meanwhile, lots of news to report on tomorrow’s opening of Cupcake Royale’s sixth cafe, in the former Chocolate Box space at 108 Pine, just a block from the Pike Place Market.

Cupcake Royale’s new location is not only a cupcake bakery, but an ice creamery that will simultaneously launch Cupcake Royale Brand Ice Cream in all six cafes.

According to the company’s press release, “Cupcake Royale Brand Ice Cream, features a signature line of the original Cupcakes ‘n’ Cream ice cream as well as other amazing ice-cream flavor combinations that will have unique and delicious inclusions, all baked in-house.”

Our pal Jody Hall, whom we’ve profiled in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, is owner/founder of Cupcake Royale (the first cupcake bakery in Seattle, if you can imagine that!).

Jody says, “We’ve always wanted to offer ice cream for our customers. It’s just such a natural pairing with cake—add delicious artisan espresso to the mix and it’s an amazing trifecta.”

I can’t wait to try flavors such as Burnt Caramel with Sea Salt, Blueberry Lavender, and Bananza (roasted banana, homemade gooey brownie, caramel).

But I’ll take a pass on Whiskey Maple Bacon Crack (bacon brittle) made with locally produced Woodinville Whiskey and Zoe’s Meats bacon, thanks.

Other flavors in the Cupcakes ‘n’ Cream line are based on the company’s most beloved cupcake flavors–Red Velvet, Dance Party, Salted Caramel, Peppermint Party, and Triple Threat.

In total, Cupcake Royale will carry 14 flavors of ice cream, two flavors of homemade ice-cream sandwiches, and Cakeshakes and Babyshakes (which are blended with either a cupcake or a babycake-size cupcake).

Even better news? Ice Cream flavors will rotate based on seasonality. And, as with its cupcakes, Cupcake Royale will source local ingredients for their new ice-cream line.

During construction of the latest cafe, Cupcake Royale has been operating an ice-cream cart in front of the new location. Chocolate Box, which formerly occupied the space, has consolidated it operations into a smaller space next door at 106 Pine.

Photos courtesy of ART Restaurant & Lounge and Cupcake Royale

Culinary Adventuring Along the Olympic Peninsula

June 22, 2012

Wining and dining along the Olympic Peninsula is a rewarding adventure

Do you remember the stage play or movie, “A Trip to Bountiful,” which was based on the 1953 televised play by Albert Horton Foote, Jr.? It was about an elderly woman who yearns to return to her roots in the small town of Bountiful, Texas.

A recent press release reminded me of the movie version I saw years ago starring Geraldine Page, and pitched “a new kind of ‘trip to bountiful'”–the Olympic Culinary Adventure.

Winding through four Olympic Peninsula counties, the Olympic Culinary Adventure route leads foodies on “a trip to bountiful” in the true sense of the word–to a region alive with farms, produce stands, fisheries, creameries, bakeries, wineries, cideries, and authentic farm-to-table experiences.

I’ve written about my experiences wining and dining on the Olympic Peninsula for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, for the Northwest Notes blog, and profiled Camaraderie Cellars in Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining.

So I heartily recommend a visit to this unique region of Washington state. And with the weather warming (we hope–enough of “June-uary already!”) as we head into summer, now is a great time to take your taste buds on tour!

A project of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, the Jefferson County Tourism Coordinating Council, and the Olympic Culinary Loop Association, the Olympic Culinary Adventure is designed to put culinary travelers in touch with the people who grow, harvest, catch, and serve fresh Olympic-Coast cuisine.

With a rich Native-American heritage, pioneering farm families, and a new group of young farmers putting down roots, the Olympic Peninsula is a fascinating area to explore.

The cuisine reflects the diverse microclimates, coastal proximity, and history of the region. Farm-to-table experiences are everywhere offering sustainable locally-grown and foraged fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries; the freshest local seafood; artisan cheeses and breads; and handcrafted wines, beers, and hard ciders.

Each of 30 destinations along the self-guided Olympic Culinary Adventure tour route — from the Hama Hama Seafood Store in Lilliwaup to Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum; Mt. Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend to the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim; Harbinger Winery & Brew House in Port Angeles to the Olympic Peninsula Dining Room at historic Lake Crescent Lodge; and the Creekside Restaurant at Kalaloch Lodge to the Grays Harbor Farmers Market — offers a true “sense of place.”

Travelers can talk to producers and find out how they make their cheeses, wines, and other food products or ask a chef who creates delicious dishes from locally sourced ingredients about what’s in season. Stopping at a local festival while en route, such as Sequim’s upcoming Lavender Weekend, July 20-22, is an opportunity to learn about the history and heritage of the area.

The Olympic Peninsula is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Hood Canal, on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and is anchored by the Olympic Mountains. There is no other place in America that matches the diversity in terrain and weather in such a compact physical area. You’ll find lakes, waterfalls, rivers, valleys, mountains, beaches, and rainforest.

Exploring the Olympic Culinary Adventure route in several trips ensures the opportunity to enjoy a variety of foods in season, to try different kinds of outdoor excursions, to experience seasonal events and activities, and to absorb the natural scenic beauty in different light.

Download your Olympic Culinary Adventure route map and get started on your own trip to bountiful!

Photo courtesy of the Olympic Culinary Loop Association

Tamara Murphy’s Tantalizing Terra Plata

June 19, 2012

Although Spencer and I eat out quite a bit, with such a wide array of cuisines and restaurants outside our front door, we usually just stay within blocks of our condominium building in downtown Seattle.

So I am embarrassed to admit that, up until a few weeks ago, we hadn’t enjoyed the many tantalizing tastes at Tamara Murphy’s “new” (at least to us!) Terra Plata, just up the hill from our condo in the Melrose Market.

“Earth to Plate” sums up the zeitgeist and ambience of this remarkable restaurant. Two long, hard years in the making (Tamara’s stories about landlord problems could curl your eyelashes!), the wait was well worth it.

Here’s the gorgeous Deviled Duck Egg with Salmon Roe that Tamara sent over as a pre-dinner surprise. Gamy, rich, and super-creamy, this perfect-for-sharing appetizer was the epitome of divine excess (in the very best of ways)!

We also ate way more than we should have (at least for our waistlines’ sake) of chef Tamara’s super-fun Blistered Shisito Peppers. Part of the Snacks and Small Plates offerings, the deep-fried peppers were accompanied by a super-smooth aïoli, and sprinkled with really good, crunchy sea salt. These things are addictive!

From the “Earth” section of the menu came a delicate Spring Mesclun Salad studded with tender baby radish slices, green-apple wedges, candied hazelnuts, Cabrales (Spanish blue) cheese, and Champagne vinaigrette.

From the “Sea” section of the menu came The perfectly cooked Mediterranean Mussels with Sofrito (“a sautéed mixture of seasonings and finely chopped vegetables, such as onions, garlic, and peppers, used as a base for many Spanish, Caribbean, and Latin American dishes, according to The Free Dictionary), Olives, Anchovy, Lemon, and Parsley.

Spencer’s Whole Fish–a black sea bass that evening–was annointed with lemon butter and served with a wild watercress-and-radish salad. This bad-boy bass was almost too good-looking to eat, but Spencer managed to devour every last bite.

We washed down this earth-to-ocean feast with a bottle of Barolo that played surprisingly well with both our entrées.

Terra Plata’s interior space is beautifully executed, with an open timbered ceilingk, hardwood floors, plenty of ambient light from the wrap-around windows, and an inviting bar that welcomes locals and regulars, many of whom seem to who know each other and the bartender.

A rooftop garden is opening this summer. . .if “summer” ever arrives this year, what with our especially long stretch of “June-uary” weather so far.

Here’s chef Tamara and crew working the line. . .keeping Terra Plata the earthy, homey, and comforting–yet tantalizing– culinary treasure, it is.

Travel Oregon Makes Summer Trip-Planning Easy

June 15, 2012

Travelers arranging their summer vacations have a new set of digital tools to make planning an Oregon getaway easier, according to a recent press release from the Oregon Tourism Commission (dba Travel Oregon).

Visitors can now access Travel Oregon’s new social-enabled website, online help, and trip planner, and/or enter to win an Oregon adventure.

“Knowing that online travel planning can be overwhelming, we combined the latest technology with an old-school human touch to meet our consumers’ evolving needs,” said Mo Sherifdeen, Travel Oregon Director of Integrated Marketing and Publishing. “By combining our digital offerings –tourism listings from partners, inspirational stories and videos, suggested itineraries–and adding ratings and blog posts from locals, we made it so travelers can count on personalized, inspirational and informative content to help them during every stage of the trip planning process.”

With a goal to be the trusted and authentic resource for exploring Oregon, Travel Oregon developed a digital platform that offers trip inspiration as well as on-the-go information for those already traveling in the state. Features include:

•Curated, collaborative, and integrated content: Research shows that website users are looking for inspirational material like videos, story-based narratives and itineraries, as well as trip-planning tools like hotel and restaurant listings.

The new groups this information, developed in partnership with community experts throughout the state, into user-friendly views based on travelers’ interests, whether that’s an activity like golf or  bird watching, or a town such as Bend.

•Tailored advice: In response to consumer demand for genuine personal advice, Travel Oregon incorporated Trip Advisor reviews, added the ability for visitors to rate Oregon places, and developed the “Ask Oregon” ambassador program. Volunteer ambassadors are passionate Oregonians who have deep knowledge about relevant destinations and/or niche activities like cycling, family travel, and wine. To receive personalized, unbiased recommendations, visitors can easily contact the Ask Oregon ambassadors by tagging questions with #AskOR on Twitter, inquiring on the Travel Oregon Facebook page (, or posting a question on

•Social media: Travel Oregon continues to integrate its content with popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Visitors can inspire friends, plan trips together, and engage with others for travel recommendations. Until June 17, thrill-seeking travelers can log on to to create their own “Oregon Bucket List,” enter to win an Adventurecation in Oregon, and see which of their friends’ adventurous affinities best matches theirs.

•Responsive design: The new displays on any device, so it’s easy to read and navigate on the road or at home. Whether it’s displayed on a computer, smartphone, or tablet screen, the layout evolves to give readers an easy and efficient way to find the content they care about. Location-based information allows visitors to find nearby attractions while on their trip.

•Robust search: Smart search functionality returns options that build on users’ interests, helping travelers round out itineraries with ideas they may not have considered in addition to their specific query results. A search on an experience– for example, cycling, fly fishing, or wine tasting–results in a combination of stories, blog posts, events, suggested itineraries, outfitters, retail establishments, deals, and answers to questions asked by others, all in one place. Additionally, the search bar auto-suggests other terms as the user types, making it easier to explore the vast wealth of material on the site.

“We’re using technology and the digital medium to bring the Oregon story to life,” noted Sherifdeen.

Photograph Courtesy of Spencer Johnson

The Latest Formal Flower Arrangements

June 12, 2012

It’s been quite some time since I last posted some of my flower arrangements, so expertly and beautifully photographed by Spencer.

It always surprised me that some of the first posts of this sort, which began in September 2009,  continued in November 2009, and concluded in September 2010, solicited lots of interest and feedback.

But you can see for yourself what three fresh Asian lilies from a flower vendor in the Pike Place Market, plus a bit of bear grass, are capable of producing.

Here is a gorgeous yellow orchid from Molbak’s Garden + Home shop, located in Woodinville, Washington, that really looked at home in this simple purple pot I had on hand at home.

Hip, Hip, Hooray as Victoria, BC, Celebrates 150 Years

June 8, 2012

I’ve written a lot about  Victoria, British Columbia, The Fairmont Empress Hotel, and our favorite restaurants there, both for this Northwest Notes blog and in my NW Edge column for Wine Press Northwest, because it’s simply one of the most fun-to-visit cities in the entire Pacific Northwest.

Now it’s time to give a “hip, hip, hooray” to Victoria as the grand old Dame celebrates her 150th anniversary!

As you might expect, there are lots of events and activities planned to help Victoria–a city that’s such a delightful blend of Old-World charm and New-World experiences–celebrate such a happy and important milestone.

Here are some tips touted in a recent press release sent out by our friends at Tourism British Columbia. There’s also a complete list of 150-anniversary events on the Tourism Victoria website.

Eat and Drink: This is a city of food fests, and yearly gatherings, including Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food and Wine, prove delectable showcases for local nibbles and vintage pours. On the flip side, street eats are no less appealing, thanks to tasty fish tacones and crispy tempura pickles at Red Fish Blue Fish and spicy prawns and Baja-style fish tacos at Puerto Vallarta Amigos.

Taking Tea: For classic pours, Victoria is the place to take tea. While teahouses are sprinkled throughout the city’s neighbourhoods, an iconic cuppa is a certainty paired with signature scones and sweet treats in The Fairmont Empress’s own tea lobby. For something a tad bit stronger, savour a classic tea cocktail on the Empress veranda, cool your heels over a cold one at Canada’s oldest brewpub, Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, or take it a little bit further afield for premier gin sips at Victoria Spirits and robust apple pours at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse.

Sleeping Well: Sweet slumber is your reward after a day’s celebration. Start with cosy quarters at Fairholme Manor and count sheep in one of six elegantly appointed rooms. For an even bigger suite selection, the Inn at Laurel Point promises waterfront views and luxurious Silk Road amenities, while the grand, yet-to-be-unveiled Oak Bay Beach Hotel, near Oak Bay Village, has locals and visitors alike counting the sleeps until its summer debut. Back at the harbour, The Fairmont Empress beckons with an overnight that is at once thoroughly modern and distinctly reminiscent of the city’s historic beginnings. Like Victoria itself.

Daring Do: Pedal by pedal, Victoria has earned its moniker as the “Cycling Capital of Canada.” See for yourself why more people two-wheel here than anywhere else in the country with a cycle along the famed Galloping Goose Trail, or log a few miles, and seek like-minded souls, at the Victoria International Cycling Festival. Prefer water sports? Cruise in a kayak along the city’s Inner Harbour (tip: Grilligan’s BBQ “paddle through” serves up local handmade sausages), try your hand at stand up paddling among the Harbour Ferries or take a guided sunset tour with Ocean River Adventures.

Getting Around: Hop along the harbour and let an H20 Taxi take you there; call ahead and these alternative-transport captains will pick you up. For land-locked travel, choose instead to wander through Canada’s oldest Chinatown, peeking in at quaint Fan Tan Alley shops or stopping for a sip of Dragon Tears green or the limited-edition Victoria 150 Tribute Tea at Silk Road’s Tasting Bar.

Perky Performances: This summer season is sure to be a blast — from a performance point of view. Actors, acrobats and all-around entertainers will bring their best during the Victoria International Buskers Festival, while the annual Victoria Symphony Splash, with its orchestra suspended on a floating barge in the Inner Harbour, will have you swaying to the sweet sounds of Sondheim. If birthday bashes are more your style, there are plenty of 150th-themed festivities on the roster throughout the year: 57, to be exact.

Walk the Walk: Beyond the celebration, you can take to the streets in this infinitely walkable city, and duck into Victoria’s nooks and crannies with Discover the Past’s guided historical tours. Wanna go it alone? Explore neighbourhoods under your own steam and wander through favourites that include the newly revitalized Cook Street Village, a tantalizing must-visit for foodies, and Lower Johnson Street (LoJo, to the locals), a stretch of cute cubbies and savvy shops boasting local, independent designers.


The Fairest of Ferris Wheels

June 5, 2012

We have watched with bated breath as the new Seattle Great Wheel has risen from the pylons at Pier 57 directly in front of our condominium building.

And after months of concrete pouring and support-beam laying, all 21 spokes of the wheel are finally up.

All that remains is placing of the 44 enclosed air-conditoined or heated gondolas (which hold from six to eight people each) until the wheel starts spinning in earnest on June 28, according to reports in The Seattle Times.

Here are some shots I snapped over the Memorial Day weekend both on foot and when some friends of ours visiting from California took us out for a spin in their new boat.

The wheel will be between 175 and 185 feet high. Riders will descend over water at one point during the ride.

Each ride will be 12 to 15 minutes. . .and comprise three revolutions.

Here is a series of Wheel shots taken with my beloved Hipstamatic iPhone4 app.

The wheel will be open year-round. . .from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

To conclude, here’s a cool Hipstamatic double image in black and white. . .


Save the Date: Strawberry Fest Coming June 16 and 17

June 1, 2012

It’s once again time to celebrate the season–and Father’s Day weekend–at Biringer Farm’s Strawberry Festival on the Red Rooster Route.

According to a recent press release, “The juiciest and most deliciously sweet local strawberries are in season this month and will be celebrated on June 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Biringer Farm’s fourth annual Strawberry Festival.

“This fourth annual Strawberry Festival is hosted by Biringer Farm, which will welcome savvy shoppers interested in buying local and picking berries fresh from the fields.

“Come bring fathers and grandfathers out for family fun this Father’s Day at the Red Rooster Route Strawberry Festival!”

Biringer Farm anticipates strawberries will be ready from mid to late June, and will have u-pick and we-pick strawberries and their legendary strawberry shortcake for sale.

This year’s theme is “Fun in Farmland.”

Kids’ activities include a giant strawberry ride, kites, animals, face paint, giant strawberry  and castle-maze inflatables, pennies in the hay, kites, kiddy slides, pig-butt bowling, fun interactive strawberry story time, riding the jolly trolley and plucking strawberries right from the vines.

Picnic on the covered wagon next to the old historic barn and stop by the Farm Market for pre-picked strawberries and strawberry shortcake, local honey, gourmet packaged shortcakes, cold drinks, and sliced-and-sugared strawberries ready to eat and freeze.

Mike Biringer, farmer and co-owner of Biringer Farms says, “The strawberry festival is a great opportunity to see a real working farm up close and support local agriculture.”

Wife and co-owner, Dianna Biringer, adds, “Sign up to enter the second annual Tasty Jam Party! When you bring your own homemade jam made entirely or in part with Biringer Farm strawberries or raspberries, you will get one FREE six-box flat of our strawberries or raspberries.”

The tasting will be held on July 21st from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., with the winner announced on the Biringer Farm website.

Biringer Farm is part of  The Red Rooster Route, a non-profit association of small, family-friendly farms in the Arlington, Washington, area of Snohomish County, which are open to the public during the harvest season.