Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake

November 30, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake

Wine Varietal or Liqueur Pairing: Raspberry Dessert Wine, Kahlua, or Amaretto

Serves 8 to 12

Thanks to Nancy Nipples, proprietor of The Pike Place Market Creamery, for this recipe, which was printed in the second edition of the “Pike Place Market Cookbook.” Dense cheesecake fortified with espresso and chocolate and paired with a chocolate cookie-crumb crust is a sensuous experience to make and a celestial experience to eat—the perfect decadent dessert to enjoy over the holidays and also a great addition to the holiday buffet table.

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

26 chocolate wafer cookies, crushed

2 tablespoons plus 1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon finely ground espresso coffee (do not use liquid espresso or instant espresso powder)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 packages (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1/4 cup hot espresso or extra-strength coffee

1 cup whipping cream

36 dark-chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional)

Whipped cream (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.

2. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave or the top of a double boiler (see Cook’s Hint below), being careful not to scorch the chocolate or let it contact the water. Pour into a bowl and reserve.

3. To make the crust, place the cookies, the 2 tablespoons sugar, ground coffee, and butter in a medium mixing bowl. Blend thoroughly and pour into the prepared springform pan. Pat the crumb mixture on the bottom of the pan and up the sides if enough remains. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

4. To make the filling, place the softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer at low to medium speed until creamy. Add the 1 cup sugar to the cream cheese and beat on medium speed until fluffy. Sprinkle the flour over the cream-cheese mixture and blend thoroughly. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, being sure each is thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the reserved melted chocolate, hot espresso, and whipping cream at low speed.

5. Pour the batter over the crust and bake for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and leave the cake in the oven an additional 40 minutes without opening the door. Place the cheesecake on a wire rack and cool completely, then garnish the edges of the cheesecake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, if desired.

6. Refrigerate at least overnight, or preferably for 1 or 2 days to let the flavors meld. Slice and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Cook’s Hint: To melt chocolate, first chop it into small pieces. Pour water into the bottom pot of a double boiler, bring the water barely to a simmer (do not boil!), then put the chocolate in the top of the double boiler and place it over the warm water. Slowly melt the chocolate while stirring constantly. Make sure that no steam or condensation from the spoon comes in contact with the chocolate at any point. If the natural starch in the chocolate combines with water, the mass will thicken or “seize,” making it lumpy and unusable. When the chocolate is about halfway melted, remove the top pot and continue stirring until the chocolate is completely melted. Alternatively, to melt chocolate in a microwave, put it into a microwave-safe dish and microwave on LOW for 30 seconds, then stir. Microwave on LOW another 30 seconds and stir again. If big lumps of chocolate still remain, microwave another 30 seconds. Continue this process until only small lumps remain, then stir to finish melting.


Dish of the Day: Tango’s Gambas Picantes

November 27, 2012

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reprinting some of our favorite Dishes of the Day from the last year or so while we enjoy some time out of the office.

Here are the Gambas Picantes (Spicy Shrimp) from Seattle’s Tango Restaurant & Lounge. 

We enjoyed our entire recent meal at Tango Restaurant & Lounge, so it’s really unfair to single out one dish as the Dish of the Day.

But the Gambas Picantes (Spicy Shrimp) were truly outstanding. . .my small-plate portion a steal at $7.00.

The Spicy Shrimp actually served as my entrée after our appetizers that included Piquillo Rellenos (albacore tuna-stuffed red–piquillo–peppers). The piquillo peppers are smoked over oak, which imparts a lovely mild flavor.

Sautéed Calamari with fire-roasted tomatoes, poblanos, red peppers, cilantro, and lime juice was super succulent and full of flavor from the variety of peppers.

Instead of salad (gotta get those greens among all this protein!), we opted for a small order of Tango’s toothsome Green Beans & Harissa, pan-roasted  with tomatoes, pinenuts, and harissa, a soulful Moroccan spice mix.

A bottle of Viña Ardanza Reserve Rioja–old stuff from 2001!–was well worth every penny of its $80 price tag. We liked the wine so much, we ordered a case for future drinking pleasure.

Dish of the Day: RN74’s Ahi Tuna Tartare

November 23, 2012

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reprinting some of our favorite Dishes of the Day from the last year or so while we enjoy some time out of the office.

Here is an amazing dish from our neighbor, RN74.

I’ve been having a ball researching an article on Michael Mina’s RN74 downtown Seattle restaurant for Wine Press Northwest’s Spring issue. The restaurant opened last June, and is the sister restaurant to the first RN74 in San Francisco.

The Ahi Tuna Tartare is one of Michael Mina’s signature dishes among his 19 restaurants in major cities spread across the country–Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., Miami, and Detroit, among others.

Served tableside, the waiter gently massages a quail egg yolk into a mass of the most perfect Ahi tuna chunks studded with toasted pine nuts, very finely diced Scotch Bonnet peppers and Asian pear, a hint of fresh mint, and the dense, unmistakable aroma and flavor of Asian sesame oil.

As chef Mina says, “The right tableside preparation creates a memory. For example, we deconstructed the Ahi Tuna Tartare years ago, and it has become one of our signature dishes. We mix the tuna, pear, Scotch bonnet peppers, sesame oil, and a quail’s egg yolk tableside. However, you can’t overdo this–you can’t do too many things tableside if it means other guests’ food is getting cold or if it interferes with the larger experience. Remember, it’s all about balance.”

“Balance” is important as Mina devises his dishes with “four basic elements: spice, sweetness, acidity, and richness.”

For creating such a perfect balance, and such a memorable appetizer, RN74’s Ahi Tuna Tartare more than deserves our Dish of the Day.

Dishes of the Day–Six Top Picks

November 20, 2012

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reprinting some of our favorite Dishes of the Day from the last year or so while we enjoy some time out of the office.

Here you’ll enjoy not one, but SIX, Dishes of the Day and gorgeous photos from all over our fair city. 

Due to a bunch of social and professional commitments, we’ve been eating out even more often than usual the past few weeks.

The idea of writing individual restaurant reviews on each place is so daunting–and we’ve had so many outstanding and memorable single dishes at various places–that I decided to choose six of my favorite dishes, merge them into one list, and declare them Dishes of the Day (DoD).

Three of my six recent best-of-the-best dishes came from one restaurant alone–Cicchetti kitchen & bar–which is located in the Eastlake neighborhood just north of downtown Seattle.

This is one of Cicchetti’s amazing “small plates,” which was actually pretty generous–I managed to consume every last crunchy bite. It’s called Fattoush Salad, a medley of diced red and yellow bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, romaine lettuce, olives, and a few fried flat-bread strips accented with fresh herbs (lots of mint, which I adore!) and dusted with sumac powder. Superbly tasty and even relatively healthy at the same time (eat your veggies!)!

We also loved Cicchetti’s “Cicchettti” (small bites) appetizer platter, in which you get to choose among a long list of possibilities to custom-craft your desired nibbles.

We opted for the Fried Almonds drizzled with honey and Turkish spices (addictive!), the Mahon Riserva (Spanish) cheese with quince paste, and the Housemade Yogurt with brown butter, all accompanied by homemade flat bread (which we, sadly, couldn’t eat due to our low-carb diet).

My third Dish of the Day–another gorgeous “small” plate from Cicchetti–is the Charred Octopus with Chickpeas, Salsa Verde, Taggiasca Olives, and Caramelized Cauliflower. Who ever thought all those divergent ingredients could be so tasty when cooked together?!?!

This octopus cooked just so–tender and not-at-all chewy–rivals another preparation I count among my all-time favorite octopus dishes. It hails from Lecosho, but, sadly, is off the menu there right now. The lighter, more seasonal substitution features grilled octopus with green beans, smashed fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, chermoula, and baby herb salad.

The Baby Artichoke Salad at Barolo Ristorante in downtown Seattle is one of my perennial favorites, and one I’ve written about before here on my Northwest Notes blog. Once again, it is more than deserving of being named Dish of the Day, and I order it every time we eat at Barolo.

And although I don’t eat pork, so didn’t actually taste these Uli’s Merguez Sausage Soft Tacos with Cucumber Raita and Crispy Shallots that Debra Prinzing, a Seattle- and Los Angeles-based outdoor design expert and dear friend of mine ordered when we celebrated Happy Hour at ART Restaurant & Lounge in the Four Seasons Seattle Hotel a few weeks ago, they deserve a Dish of the Day award for creativity, presention, and the fact that they feature Uli’s Famous Sausage, which is located in the bustling heart of the Pike Place Market.

While sipping, supping, and chatting, Deb gave me a copy of her latest book, “The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local, and Sustainable Flowers,” and I liked this smart, important, well-written tome so much that I chose to review it for my monthly Amazon Al Dente blog post. I

f you’ve ever wondered about the new “slow flower” movement. . .where the flowers that grace your table come from. . .how they’re grown. . .their carbon footprint. . .and how to design your own bouquets at home. . .this book’s for you.

Meanwhile, congratulations to all six of our Dish of the Day winners!

Dish of the Day: Place Pigalle Salmon Gravlax

November 16, 2012

Salmon Gravlax from Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reprinting some of our favorite Dishes of the Day from the last year or so while we enjoy some time out of the office.

I adore the Salmon Gravlax from Place Pigalle. 

I know I should probably remain impartial and not go on the record as saying that salmon is my favorite fish. And, to go even one step farther–that salmon is one of my favorite foods.

I take my salmon in any form, be it grilled, smoked, en rillette, or gravlax-style. Sometimes I’ll even have a Salmon Niçoise Salad for lunch, then salmon as my entrée at dinner!

I had the salmon gravlax for lunch at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market a couple of weeks ago, and loved it. I was dining with two of my favorite people in the world–Lorelle Del Matto and Martha Marino–whom I refer to as my two sisters or “sises.”

Both my sises are registered dietitians. Closet nutritionist that I am (I’ve known calorie counts of many food since my teenage years), I love to hear them talk about their profession.

Lorelle is also a recipe developer extraordinaire (who’s helped test recipes for several of my books over the years), owner of Food Savvy with Lorelle Del Matto, and blogger. Martha is Director of Nutrition Affairs at the Washington State Dairy Council.

I am so proud of my two sises and documented our long-standing friendship for The Seattle Times in an article entitled, Holiday Food Traditions in the Heart of Seattle, last December. Our lunches (scheduled every two months or so) serve as a cheap form of therapy for the three of us.

Anyway, back to the salmon gravlax above which had been lightly cured and thick-cut. I asked for it to be served on a bed of greens so it could work like a main-dish salad; accompaniments included large caper berries, baby gherkins, and whipped cream cheese.

All of which more than qualifies Place Pigalle’s Salmon Gravlax for our our Dish of the Day award.

Editor’s Note: Turns out our very pleasant and knowledgeable server was herself a well-known blogger–Kelly Doscher–or The Food-Minded Mama. Kelly won blog-of-the-month award from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution last October. Gotta love the Seattle food world!

Photograph by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Dish of the Day: Mexico Cantina’s Butter Lettuce Wraps

November 13, 2012

Mexico Restaurant’s Butter Lettuce Wraps with Chicken

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reprinting some of our favorite Dishes of the Day from the last year or so while we enjoy some time out of the office.

Here’s a dish I order often at Mexico Cantina y Cocina–Butter Lettuce Wraps. 

After a busy morning of shopping or before an early-afternoon movie, one of our favorite places for a Saturday or Sunday lunch is at Mexico Cantina y Cocina in downtown Seattle’s Pacific Place shopping center.

I almost always order the low-carb, high-protein appetizer–Butter Lettuce Wraps with Chicken. You can also get them with shrimp, Ahi tuna, or salmon, but the perfectly grilled chicken continues to call me like a siren’s song.

It’s served with a plethora of fresh, raw vegetables, including jicama sticks (yummy crunch!), carrot slivers, cucumber slices, watercress leaves (with their peppery bite!), and bean sprouts (which I don’t eat because I’m scared of possible contamination no matter how much the kitchen rinses them!).

And don’t forget the smooth and oh-so-satisfying guacamole, the fresh and bracing salsa verde, plus the two dipping sauces–tomatillo and mango!

There’s also a slightly thick in texture, dense in flavor salsa that is served with the complimentary basket of chips. Although we now forego chips and tortillas due to our low-carb/high-protein lifestyle, Spencer still asks for the salsa and pours a hefty amount onto whatever he’s having (often the Tijuana Chicken Caesar).

I’ve written about other favorites on Mexico’s menu in my Northwest Notes blog. In fact, the restaurant’s Ensalada à la Evelyne–fresh organic greens with pepita-crusted provolone, roasted artichoke hearts , fire-grilled chicken, sliced plum tomatoes, cotija cheese, and sliced avocado–won Dish of the Day in 2009.

For continuing to offer fresh, clean, well-prepared food, especially my current favorite–Butter Lettuce Wraps–I award Mexico Cantina y Cocina my Dish of the Day.

My Favorite Dishes 2011

November 8, 2012

Here is a look back at some of our favorite dishes from last year. We are posting a series of Dishes of the Day the next couple of weeks as we take some time away from the office and computer to refresh and relax (our very belated “summer vacation”). 

It has been another great year of wining and dining both around the Pacific Northwest, but in other parts of the United States and Canada.

So I thought it’d be fun to throw up photos of some of my favorite dishes from 2011. Herein are the “winners” on that list in no particular order.

The Seafood Skewer served tableside on Holland America’s m.s. Eurodam.

ART Shrimp Cocktail in downtown Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel

Shuckers Crab Louie in the Fairmont Hotel in Seattle

Antipasti Plate at The Pink Door in the Pike Place Market

Roasted Beet Salad with Grilled Salmon at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar in Woodinville, Washington

Vietnamese Crepe at Bambuza Vietnamese Cuisine in downtown Seattle (now under new ownership with a new name–920 Pike)

Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad with Cheddar Dressing at Dominion Square Taverne in downtown Montreal, Canada

Crab Tails at Elliott’s’ Oyster Bar and Restaurant in downtown Seattle

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market

The Abalone Appetizer at The Oyster Bar along the Chuckanut Drive north of Seattle

The Everything Green Salad with Dungeness Crab at The Pink Door in the Pike Place Market

Grilled Oysters with Cheese at The Inn at Semiahmoo in Blaine, Washington

Octopus and Beans at Lecosho on the Harbor Steps in downtown Seattle

Smoked Salmon Appetizer and Side Salad at Luc in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood

Shrimp and Grits at Joule in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood

Tuna Bowl at Revel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood

And, just for a bit of final fun:

The Fried Mars Bar with Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream at Garde Manger in the Old City section of Montreal, Canada

A Merry Olde Victoria (BC) Holiday

November 6, 2012

Every year during the holiday season, Victoria, B.C. is lit up with festive décor and a magical ambience that can be felt floating through the air. From November 20, 2012 to January 3, 2013, the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel encourages visitors to stroll their hallways and take in The Festival of Trees.

An annual fundraiser for BC Children’s Hospital, The Festival of Trees invites local businesses, organizations and individuals to sponsor and decorate dozens of Christmas trees that deck the halls of the hotel.

From November 24 to January 1, 2013, visitors will feast their eyes and noses on creative gingerbread inspirations at the 2012 National Gingerbread House Showcase at the Inn at Laurel Point. Professionals and amateurs will vie to produce the most elaborate, decorative gingerbread creations using 100 per cent edible ingredients. Following the competition, these creations will be on display at the Inn.

Finally, The Butchart Gardens presents its 25th season of The Magic of Christmas from December 1, 2012 to January 6, 2013. Amongst the tens of thousands of twinkling lights throughout the gardens, visitors can take in the delights of the season through various displays and activities.

Whether searching for the scenes depicting The Twelve Days of Christmas that are hidden throughout the gardens, or donning a pair of skates and taking a spin on the outdoor skating rink, there is something for both the young and the young at heart.

Stoller Family Estate New Tasting Room

November 2, 2012

Oregon wine pioneer Bill Stoller’s 20-year vision is coming to fruition (so to speak) this fall, as Stoller Family Estate celebrated three big milestones including a new name, expansion of its wine-growing team, and a new state-of-the-art tasting room which opened last month.

The company’s new name reflects the evolution of the vineyard and entire property over the last 20 years, and maturation of the winemaking team over the last decade.

The just-released 2010 Reserve Chardonnay ($28 SRP) is the first wine displaying the new name and labels; 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir will be introduced in fall 2013.

Founder, Bill Stoller, purchased his family’s 373-acre farm in 1993 and has since transformed it into the largest contiguous vineyard in Oregon’s Dundee Hills, with nearly 200 acres under vine.

He comments, “We knew that this project would require a long-term vision, the right people to achieve it, and a lot of patience. From the beginning, I envisioned building a legacy beyond that of our family — a vineyard demonstrating the top quality of wine being made in Oregon and a property preserving the natural beauty of this agricultural land for generations to come.

“Our winemaker, Melissa Burr, who is this year celebrating her tenth vintage, has been instrumental in achieving this vision with our expanding wine-growing team.”

Stoller Family Estate is a source for several prominent Oregon wineries including Adelsheim, Chehalem, and Argyle.

Stoller continues, “Our new tasting room will allow our guests to learn about wine while enjoying expansive views of the vineyard, which is of course the focal point of our work here at Stoller. Those who want the opportunity to visit surrounding wineries, restaurants and other businesses in Yamhill County can stay at one of our three recently renovated guest homes.”

More about Stoller Family Estate’s new tasting room:

The building integrates environmental sustainability with high efficiency design and will harvest at least 100-percent of its energy with a 236-panel solar panel installation. A few notable design features include a green roof, skylights, salvaged timbers, and plans for an electric-vehicle charging station.

More about Stoller Family Estate:

Stoller Family Estate is one of Oregon’s most highly regarded vineyards and wineries. Pioneering Oregonian and Founder, Bill Stoller, purchased his family’s second-generation farm in 1993 with the vision of cultivating an enduring legacy for the land and Oregon wine industry. Over the last 20 years, he has patiently transformed the 373-acre property into the largest contiguous vineyard in the Dundee Hills and a sought after source of fruit for premier producers. Longtime Winemaker, Melissa Burr, works in concert with Vineyard Manager, Robert Schultz, to oversee the site’s continued refinement and steward Stoller’s legacy of growing exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Stoller Family Estate features North America’s first LEED® Gold certified winery, three guest homes and a new state-of-the-art tasting room with panoramic vineyard views.