Sichuan Pepper-Glazed Halibut Cheeks

July 31, 2012

Sichuan Pepper-Glazed Halibut Cheeks

Wine Varietal: Dry Riesling

Serves 4

Halibut cheeks are considered a delicacy by West Coast gourmets because of their crab-like taste and consistency. This easy, yet exotic recipe uses Asian spices, including five-spice and Sichuan peppercorns, to subtly enhance the natural flavor and texture of this rare and expensive cut of fish. Serve with steamed brown rice and sautéed baby bok choy.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons sodium-reduced soy sauce (or 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce plus 1 tablespoon water)

1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and finely ground in a spice mill or electric coffee grinder (See Cook’s Hint, below)

1 1/2 pounds halibut cheeks, rinsed, drained, and patted dry

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

2. In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the maple syrup, soy sauce, and five-spice and stir well. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally until the glaze thickens. Remove from the heat.

3. Place the fish fillets on the prepared baking sheet and brush lightly with the glaze. Place the fish under the broiler 3 to 4 inches from the heat source. Broil for 2 minutes, then remove from oven and brush lightly with the glaze. Broil 2 minutes more, then brush lightly with the glaze. Broil 2 to 3 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the cheeks, which should just turn opaque.

4. Remove the fish from the broiler and sprinkle heavily with the ground Sichuan peppercorns. Divide the cheeks among 4 dinner plates.

Cook’s Hint: World Spice Merchants, just below the main part of the Pike Place Market along Western Avenue, is an amazing resource for chefs and home cooks alike. According to the company’s website, “Sichuan Pepper is not an actual pepper, but the dried berry from the Chinese prickly ash bush. Also known as Fagara this spice has a tingly flavor that zaps the tongue like an electrical current. Use like pepper for a tasty change of pace. Excellent with duck and chicken and in five-spice blends. Make sure to try it the next time you cook salmon, too.” The berries are sold by the ounce, which is equal to about half a cup and costs just $2.00, a very worthwhile addition to any adventurous cook’s spice rack.

Photo of Sichuan peppercorns courtesy of World Spice Merchants

Outstanding Chef Demos at Pike Place Market

July 27, 2012

The Pike Place Market’s Sunday chef’s demo line-up is one of the strongest I’ve seen in recent years, with such Seattle icons as Ethan Stowell (Staple & Fancy Mercantile), Melissa Nyfeller (Dinette), and Nathan Lockwood (Altura) all cookin’ along the cobblestones Sunday at noon or 2 p.m. during the months of August and September.

On Sundays, Pike Place is closed to car traffic from Stewart to Virginia to create a lively pedestrian plaza of shoppers, farmers, and chefs. It’s a fun time for both locals and tourists to get a real “taste” of the granddaddy of all farmers’ markets.

Open up your calendar and mark the following dates for an unforgettable way to meet the chefs and pick up helpful shopping, cooking, and plating techniques.

Here’s the complete chef-demo line-up through the end of September: 


Aug. 5 Anthony Polizzi – Steelhead Diner Noon

Aug. 5 Nathan Lockwood – Altura 2 p.m.

Aug. 12 TBA* Noon

Aug. 12 David Sanford – Belle Clementine 2 p.m.

Aug. 19 Brent Harding – Le Pichet Noon

Aug. 19 Melissa Nyffeler – Dinette 2 p.m.

Aug. 26 Ethan Stowell – Staple & Fancy Mercantile Noon

Aug. 26 Jacob Wiegner – Blackboard Bistro 2 p.m.


Sept. 9 Pranee Kruasanit Halvorsen – I Love Thai Cooking Noon

Sept. 9 Seth Caswell – emmer & rye 2 p.m.

Sept. 23 Simon Zatyrka – Cutter’s Crabhouse Noon

Sept. 23 Jeff Maxfield & Ivan Szilak, Collections Café 2 p.m.

Sept. 30 Phyllis Rosen – Catering by Phyllis Noon

Sept. 30 TBA*


The Latest Pike Place Market Bouquets and a Costco Orchid

July 24, 2012

Spencer and I have been busy lately, with me buying beautiful blossoms at the Pike Place Market, bringing them home and arranging them in a variety of suitable vases, then him photographing them in his studio/office.

He uses natural light, and positions each bouquet atop a velvet-draped stand. The dramatic black background really shows off every petal, leaf, and shimmering angle of glass.

I love the simple arrangement of Asian lilies and spiky bear grass, above, the stems angled over black pebbles just so.

And one of my prize new possessions–this happy yellow sunburst vase–spilling over with a rosy Asian lily that contrasts so perfectly.

Pink Asian lilies with a muff of greenery and languid spears of bear grass. . .

And the simple beauty of a white Phalaenopsis orchid I bought at Costco. . .a veritable steal for $15 (and that included the pretty marble-like, kelly-green pot!

Historic Yakima Valley B&B for Sale

July 20, 2012

A Touch of Europe Bed & Breakfast and Fine Dining Establishment in the Yakima Valley 

Ever dreamed of owning and operating a bed-and-breakfast inn?

Our friends Erika and Jim Cenci are approaching retirement. And just last week they sent me an email with details of their gorgeous property–an historic bed-and-breakfast inn and restaurant located in the heart of downtown Yakima’s Mansion District–that they have put up for sale.

You may remember the Cencis, as they are prominently featured in my book, “Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia.” (PNWD).

I adored Erika’s recipe for Chilled Yellow Watermelon Soup with Dungeness Crab and Watercress Coulis when I dined at the inn while doing research for PNWD, and reprinted in in my book.

And I enjoyed writing a profile of A Touch of Europe Bed & Breakfast and Fine Dining Establishment. This property dates back to 1889, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Erika and Jim have operated the property since 1995.

In their email, they said, “It is hard to believe that we now have entered our 18th year as a successful B&B in Yakima. And, with our ages nearing 75, it verifies that time really does fly by quickly. So now we’re looking forward to moving on, perhaps to Arizona.”

The Cencis will continue to operate their business as usual until they find a suitable buyer. The buyer can purchase it for use in the following three ways: as a turn-key, active, fully furnished/equipped-throughout bed-and-breakfast inn; as a vacation rental; or as an unfurnished residence (some furnishings could possibly stay if sold as a residence).

If this sounds like your dream come true, please contact the Cencis for further information and/or a tour of the property at:

1-509-454-9775/888-438-7073 or

Help Save Bristol Bay Salmon!

July 17, 2012

Brennon Leighton, Efesté winemaker at The Last Salmon Dinner at Blueacre Seafood

On July 11, Spencer and I were lucky enough to attend a dinner that every Northwestern resident–heck, every American–should know about.

Held at Blueacre Seafood in downtown Seattle, The Last Salmon Dinner was hosted by chef/owner Kevin Davis and his wife and owner Terresa Davis. The couple’s aim, in addition to feeding a five-course, salmon-centric meal to an enthusiastic crowd of 70 people, was to expose the proposal by Pebble Limited Partnership, a consortium of the world’s second largest multinational mining corporation, to build an open-pit mining complex at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, one of our nation’s last great salmon fisheries.

The proposed mine will span 20 square miles, with containment ponds that will hold between 2.5-billion and 10-billion tons of toxic mine waste.

Needless to say, the environmental impact of the proposed Pebble Mine on the surrounding waters of Bristol Bay would be immeasurable, and irreversible.

So much so that chef Davis, a life-long fisher, posed the question: Will the last wild salmon to leave Bristol Bay please remember to turn off the lights?

Efesté (pronounced F-S-T), was the wine partner, and winemaker Brennon Leighton said he was honored when chef Davis chose his wines to represent this event.

But the dinner was not all environmental hand-wringing and finger-pointing. Chef Davis outdid himself with cooking and presenting Bristol Bay salmon at its finest.

Chef Davis’s Assorted Delicacies of The Sea included crispy smelt, albacore tuna poke, chilled oysters, and geoduck ceviche, paired with Efeste Feral 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is special because it’s fermented using native, wild yeast–no commercial yeast is added–then it’s aged in two-year-old French Oak barrels.

I’ve rarely had such a creative (and beautiful) rendition of gravlax as Davis’s Horseradish-Cured Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon with lovage salad (its lively notes of anise reminded me of fresh shiso leaf), pickled rhubarb, baby yellow and pink beets, and Austrian pumpkin seed oil paired with Lola 2010 Chardonnay, made from 100% Chardonnay and also fermented with native yeast and (refreshingly) not heavily oaked.

A zippy cup of Rainier Cherry Gazpacho with balsamic croutons, lavender goat cheese, and a flurry of edible flowers made a perfect (summery!) pairing with Babbitt 2011 Rosé, made from 71% Syrah and 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, and normally available only at the winery.

A Roulade of Bristol Bay Salmon, morel mushrooms, summer truffles, and sauce cardinal was a mellifluous melding of earth and ocean. It went “swimmingly” with Ceidleigh (pronounced Kay-Lee) 2009 Syrah, a rich, ripe Syrah rife with dried cherries and plum notes.

Vanilla Pound Cake with the season’s best Skagit Valley strawberries and raspberries, mint syrup, and house-made “cool whip” pulled up the rear in grand style.

I left with pages of notes and much to think about, both in regards to the proposed Pebble Limited Partnership Mine, Davis’s culinary prowess with prized Bristol Bay salmon, and winemaker Leighton’s outstanding wine pairings.

Even if you weren’t able to attend The Last Salmon Dinner, YOU CAN HELP!

Write to your local congressman to STOP the building of the Pebble Mine at the mouth of Bristol Bay. And visit the Save Bristol Bay and Bristol Bay Sockeye websites for more information.

James Beard Foundation’s Top-14 Summer Reads

July 13, 2012

Our friends at the James Beard Foundation recommended the “Best Books for the 14 Weeks of Summer,” (ranging from Memorial Day to Labor Day) in the July/August 2012 edition of JBF Events.

The 14 great reads designed for foodies run the gamut from memoirs to fiction, and even natural history. Writers are as current as Gabrielle Hamilton, or as venerated as A.J. Liebling and M.F.K. Fisher.

Selected by an array of culinary experts from the James Beard Foundation Book Awards Committee, this essential list was inspired by the popularity of the Book Committee’s 2010 “The Baker’s Dozen” list, a compilation of 13 essential baking books that spanned almost four decades, from 1973 to 2010.

Here are the 14 selected tomes:

1. The Art of Eating by M. F. K. Fisher (John Wiley & Sons)

2. Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris by A.J. Liebling (North Point Press)

3. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House)

4. Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo (Free Press)

5. A Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester (Picador)

6. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler (Scribner)

7. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee (Twelve)

8. Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford (Vintage)

9. Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin (Vintage)

10. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (Vintage)

11. Oranges by John McPhee (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

12. The Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark (Ecco Press)

13. Simple Cooking by John Thorne (North Point Press)

14. The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux)

And please don’t forget to tuck a copy of my very own “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” into your beach bag, or read the new e-edition on your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

Gorgeous Shots from the Puget Sound Cam

July 10, 2012


Since its inception on April 1, 2009, we’ve been very proud of the reliable performance and sheer usefulness of the Puget Sound Cam.

The PSCam documents the activity in Seattle’s Elliott Bay, which is part of Puget Sound. Through an intricate set of waterways, this “inland sea” runs about 50 miles to the Washington coast and the Pacific Ocean.

The PSCam is located in Spencer’s studio/office just five floors from the condo in which we have lived for the past 20 years. We’ve watched the landscape along the Waterfront change over the years, but never as dramatically as recently thanks to building of the Seattle Great Wheel.

We’ve been watching with bated breath as the Wheel takes shape, and welcomed it once it was spinning.

The Wheel is so pretty at twilight. . .

And dramatic at night.

I love this shot with the ferry boat heading toward its berth in the background. . .

Getting closer. . .

The Wheel almost looks like a band of sapphires in the nighttime sky. . .

Fiery and dramatic here!

All dressed up for a special light show to celebrate July 4 in this one! (Photo courtesy of Seattle’s KIRO, Channel 7, website.)

One final spin before the Wheel says “goodnight!”

Oysters, Oysters, Oysters!

July 6, 2012

I know many people think it isn’t safe to eat oysters in months that don’t contain the letter “r,” but I am here to share with you some pretty compelling evidence to the contrary.

Above is a gorgeous trio of bivalves I enjoyed a few weeks ago at ART Restaurant & Lounge in the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle.

And another glorious trio from Etta’s, Tom Douglas’s seafood restaurant just north of the Pike Place Market. The oyster in the middle was particularly delicious and had a gorgeous white shell with tan zebra stripes. It was called a Malaspina and hailed from Malaspina Inlet on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, according to our very knowledgeable server that evening.

In this shot you can see the Malaspina’s beauteous shell. I saved it for my “Found Objects” bowl!

By now any of you who read my “Northwest Notes” blog know that I love to take photos with my Hipstamatic iPhone4 app. And one of my favorite subjects is “Remains,” a collection of empty dinner plates of food.

Above is a “Hip” shot of the leftover shells from Etta’s.

And here are remainders of half a dozen raw oysters enjoyed at Crow Restaurant.

My all-time favorite “Remains” shot, however, “remains” this one of an empty dish of crème brûlée, taken at my father’s 89th birthday celebration last August.

He will celebrate number 90 this year, and I’ll be there to capture another “Remains” shot to share with you.

Go, Dad!


Yakima Valley Summer Vineyard Tour Series

July 3, 2012

Winegrower Hugh Shiels of DuBrul Vineyard/Côte Bonneville winery

Red Willow, DuBrul, Upland, Boushey are the names of some of the best vineyards in the entire state of Washington, rarely visited by anyone other then winery owners and vineyard managers.

But beginning on July 7, and running every Saturday thereafter throughout the month of July, Wine Yakima Valley pulls back the veil to reveal the inner workings of these magnificent grape-growing areas.

The Vineyard Tour Series gives consumers insider access to some of the best grape growers in the state through wine tastings, light hors d’oeuvres, a grower education tour, and breathtaking views of the Yakima Valley.

Tickets are available online, and, for just $75 per person, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet the growers and learn about the vineyards up close and personal.

Photo courtesy of Wine Yakima Valley