Recipe of the Month: Tarte Tatin (Apple Tart) with Cider Cream

September 30, 2013

Lady alice apples rainier fruit photo

Tarte Tatin (Apple Tart) with Cider Cream

Varietal: Dessert Wines (Late-Harvest Riesling or Port)

Serves 6 to 8

The founder of Seattle’s venerable Grand Central Baking Company, Gwen Bassetti, is the grandmère of Northwest bakers, a cookbook author (“Cooking with Artisan Bread,” Sasquatch Books, 1998), and an accomplished farmer/rancher. She likes to pair her French apple-tart recipe with either “a bright Late-Harvest Riesling or (in wintertime) a nice slice of Cheddar and a little Port.”

1 sheet (half of a 17.3-ounce package) frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

2 3/4 pounds (about 8 medium, 2 1/2-inch diameter) Granny Smith, Newton, or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cider Cream (Recipe follows)

1. Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness and cut it into a 12-inch circle. Discard the scraps. Cover and chill the pastry dough until ready to use.

2. In a large bowl, toss the prepared apples with the lemon juice.

3. Melt the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (such as cast iron) over low heat. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the melted butter. Increase the heat to medium-low or medium and cook slowly, stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon or shaking the pan occasionally, until the mixture begins to turn a light golden color, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla.

4. Place a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.

5. Starting at the outside edge of the skillet, arrange the apple quarters on their sides, in two concentric circles so they fit in as tightly as possible. Return the skillet to the stove and cook over medium heat until the juices thicken and turn a light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Remove the prepared pastry circle from the refrigerator. Drape the pastry over the apples and tuck the edges around the edge of the skillet.

7. Place the skillet on the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the pastry is a rich, golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

8. Remove from the oven and let cool in the skillet for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen the pastry. Place a serving plate over the skillet and invert the tart onto the plate. If the apples stick to the pan, arrange them back on the tart.

9. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature with a dollop of the Cider Cream.

Cider Cream

1 cup good-quality apple cider or 1/4 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Bring the apple cider to a boil in a small saucepan. (If using apple juice concentrate, skip this step and begin with the next step.) Cook until the mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. In a chilled mixing bowl, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in the reduced cider (or the apple juice concentrate). Use immediately, or keep refrigerated until ready to use, up to three days.


Northwest Wining and Dining Confronts MIRROR

September 23, 2013

SAM MIRROR art installation

This is an open letter to MIRROR, a 120-food-wide LED installation by artist Doug Aitken that wraps around the northwest corner of the entrance to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), cater corner  from our condominium building, 98 Union. 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Dear Mirror,

I wanted to like you, I really, really wanted to like you.

For several months, I patiently endured the blasts of hammers and whining of saws while you were installed on the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) facade.

I looked on in wonder as the artist who created you and the technicians who made you possible tested your main LED panel and the flashing spikes that run vertically up the mullions on the north and west sides of SAM.

SAM MIRROR art installation

After many months of construction and testing, it was finally time for your grand unveiling in March. I stood on our tenth-floor balcony, which provided a bird’s-eye view of the crowds who gathered, members of the Seattle Symphony who serenaded your arrival, and even Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn who came to welcome you.

After a few tense moments when it seemed you might not light up correctly, your colorfully choreographed images finally started to move.

The crowd applauded. SAM big-wigs pontificated. The donor’s son waxed eloquent.

I snapped photos and put them on my blog.

A few hours later the stage and podium had been dismantled, the crowds had disbursed, the musicians were on to their next gig.

SAM MIRROR display

But the residents of 98 Union Condominiums were still there, just beginning to realize your unbelievably negative impact on our lives.

From the very first moment, your giant screen overtook our condominiums like an incessant, unwelcome distraction.

The jagged, ever-changing spikes of flashing light invaded our living spaces so much so that many of us have been forced to shut our blinds to keep out obsessive light pollution.

And your hours are extraordinarily long–from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. seven days a week. Unless we want to “live” from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. when you are dark, we can’t get away from you, as hard as we try.

Your reviews were mediocre at best. CityArts reviewer Erin King said, “Looking at Mirror for eight hours a day beats a plain gray wall. Its sleek sparkle hearkens back to a cheerier 2007, the year it was commissioned and the pinnacle of big shiny Aughties art. But as its light spills over the First Avenue sidewalk, Mirror already feels like a reflection of the past.”

In a review entitled, “Image Grab,” The Seattle Weekly’s Brian Miller says, “The mountains, greenery, orange Port of Seattle Cranes, silhouettes of pedestrians—these source images are too benign. They don’t grab your attention like the signage in Times Square, and they don’t seem grabbed from our immediate, lived world. . . .But that’s also why MIRROR is so boring: It just reflects an anodyne, outsider’s view of the Northwest. It’s tourist Seattle, not our Seattle, and even the tourists aren’t buying it.”

Have you seen MIRROR? If so, what do you think about it?

If you come to look at Mirror, isn’t it better to simply turn around, walk to the dead end of Union Street by the Four Seasons Hotel, take a deep breath of sea air from Elliott Bay, and marvel at REAL-TIME views of the Seattle Great Wheel, ferry boats , and the Olympic Mountains beyond?


Four Seasons Seattle Gets Five Stars!

September 16, 2013

Four seasons hotel seattle infinity pool

It’s not every day that your next-door neighbor gets a five-star rating.

But that’s what happened last week when our neighbor just across the courtyard, the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, became the only hotel in Washington state to be awarded the coveted Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating for providing extraordinary experiences with flawless service and the finest amenities.

We’ve written about our own very special part of downtown Seattle, at the corner of First Avenue and Union Street, for The Seattle Times. And you can look at the Five-Star photo album on Facebook.

Four seasons hotel seattle lobby

And happy to report that the Four Seasons is going strong, happily celebrating its fifth anniversary on November 3, 2013.

The 147-room hotel was recognized in Forbes Travel Guide’s inaugural mid-year update to the official 2013 Star Rating announcement and is one of 83 five-star hotels, representing the very best of the best hotels in the world. The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle is also the only spa in Seattle to receive a Four-Star rating.

Four seasons hotel seattle room

“To be recognized as the best hotel in Washington for our service and amenities is such an honour, and everyone here at the Hotel contributed to our success,” says Ilse Harley, Four Seasons Hotel Seattle general manager. “We’ve been receiving similar feedback from our guests since opening, whether in person or on consumer-generated sites, and to have Forbes Travel Guide mirror what our guests are telling us is outstanding.”

Four Seasons Hotel Seattle will be showcased with all of the 2013 Star Rating recipients on the Forbes Travel Guide website. Since 1958, Forbes Travel Guide’s professional inspectors look for service that is intuitive, engaging, and passionate, and goes beyond expectations. In addition, the physical nature of the hotel is designed with comfort in mind, with particular attention paid to craftsmanship and quality of product, often making the property a destination unto itself. This includes service and amenities found at ART Restaurant & Lounge, The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle and the property’s unique outdoor infinity-edged pool.

“Our Star Ratings recognize the finest hotels, restaurants and spas in the world. These ratings serve as guideposts for consumers seeking exceptional travel experiences, and our primary mission is to serve the consumer,” said Michael Cascone, president of Forbes Travel Guide. “We’re proud to be associated with the new additions to our global list.”

“This is truly a celebration for our staff, as we mark our fifth anniversary with the Five-Star rating. Today, our guests will receive ‘Star Treatment’ with Champagne and treats in the lobby and restaurant,” continues Harley. “This award also puts Washington state on the map with other exceptional properties from destinations in the United States, China, and Europe. Out of the more than 187,000 hotels around the globe, only 83 properties are deemed worthy enough of the Five-Star recognition.”

Four Seasons Hotel Seattle continues to be recognized as the best hotel in Seattle, taking the #1 spot in the city on Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards for its outstanding service, downtown location, and sweeping views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Four Seasons is the only Seattle property in Robb Report’s World’s Top 100 Hotels 2013. While TripAdvisor’s 2013 Travelers’ Choice awards named it the #4 top overall hotel in the US, #4 top luxury hotel and #10 hotel for service.

Dynamic Dishes That Made My Day

September 9, 2013

In the movie “Dirty Harry,” beloved actor Clint Eastwood said, “Go ahead, make my day.”

Here are half a dozen dishes I’ve sampled in Seattle; on a car trip to Bow, Washington; and even as far afield as Winter Park, Florida, that have all “made my day.” Enjoy!

Andaluca eggplant appetizer


Beginning with appetizers, here is a beauty we enjoyed at Andaluca in the Mayflower Park Hotel in downtown Seattle: Grilled Petite Eggplant. Brushed with a light balsamic vinaigrette, grilled, and topped with alder-smoked tomatoes and fresh house-made ricotta, it was a soulful and hearty bite!

It paired perfectly with one of Andaluca’s by-the-glass pours–Fontaynes Argentinian Malbec Rosé.

Palace kitchen whole baked idaho trout

The Roasted Whole Idaho Trout at Palace Kitchen is always a winner, but tasted especially clean and fresh–perfectly cooked–on a recent visit. House pours of one of our favorite white blends from Washington State–Southard White–paired nicely with both the trout and the Fire-Roasted Mussels I enjoyed as my entrée.

Place pigalle oysters on the half shell

I downed my first-of-the-season raw oysters on the half shell at Place Pigalle in the heart of the Pike Place Market. They were Stellar Bay beauties from British Columbia waters, grown in the same bay as another one of my favorite oyster varieties–Kusshi. Our pairing that evening was a bottle of DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc, as good (and consistent) as ever. Thanks to our friend and winemaker Chris Upchurch!

Rhodendron cafe fried oyster caesar salad

The next day, still jones-ing for oysters, we drove to Bow, Washington and the venerable Rhododendron Cafe for a Fried Oyster Caesar Salad. It was a dish I’d enjoyed there several years ago and never forgotten. And even though it was no longer on the menu, Fried Oysters still were, so the chef was kind enough to accommodate my special request.

It was a fortuitous trip (very impromptu!) as the Rhododendron will close end of the month as the owners retire after 30 years!!! A few down days, then the young owners of the Farm to Market Bakery in Edison, Washington, will take over and make the Rhody Too Gallery (right next door) into a bakery and reopen the restaurant. So stay tuned!

And, as you can see, at lunch we stick to Iced Tea for our beverage pairing.  🙂

Cask & Larder ribeye hotdog

Late last month, we were in Winter Park, Florida, to help my father celebrate his 91st birthday. Although Dad doesn’t get out much any more, my brother, sister-in-law, Spencer, and I made our way to Cask & Larder: Southern Public House, a recently opened, very-popular gastropub and craft brewery in Winter Park, the sister restaurant to award-winning The Ravenous Pig, where we’ve enjoyed many a meal over the years.

Here is the Ribeye Hotdog with sweet Vidalia onion relish, Cask & Larder ketchup, and beer mustard on a celery-seed bun my brother enjoyed along with a house-made Whiskey Stout (which was cask-conditioned in a Jack Daniel’s barrel, aged for five months, and tasted of coffee and chocolate!).

Cask & Larder fried chicken bibb lettuce salad

Spencer enjoyed the Bibb Lettuce Salad with Pickled Watermelon Radish, Candied Squash, Spiced Pecans, and Buttermilk Dressing with an extra side of Southern Fried Chicken (spicy and good). The ladies had the same salad, but with an extraordinary side of smoked chicken. It was so good, the next day for lunch at Dad’s condo, we ordered in the very same salads!

New Flavors and Cans for DRY Soda

September 2, 2013

Dry soda can shot

Feeling a little parched after the long, hot summer?

Then how about popping open a can of DRY Soda?

The company, which I have written about for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, is excited to announce its biggest product line extension to date with the launch of new packaging and flavors.

In July, DRY began offering a new 12-ounce, slim aluminum can and introduced two new flavors this summer: Apple DRY and Ginger DRY. As consumers continue to demand real ingredients in their beverages and seek out all-natural and lower sugar soda options, DRY Soda is making its unique sodas more accessible to customers.

DRY Soda’s launch of slim cans (which will be sold individually at retailers for $1.29) and introduction of new flavors means that DRY customers can enjoy DRY in more places–on the go, poolside, cocktails, lunches, and entertaining at home. In addition to new Apple and Ginger, DRY will also offer three current flavors in cans: Vanilla Bean, Blood Orange, and Cucumber DRY.

Seven DRY flavors are available in 12-ounce glass bottles: Vanilla Bean, Wild Lime, Lavender, Blood Orange, Cucumber, Rhubarb, and Juniper Berry.

In 2005, well before low sugar products were part of the national conversation, DRY Soda CEO and Founder Sharelle Klaus saw the need for a less sweet, all-natural soda and created the first soda line with significantly less sugar and made with just four ingredients. DRY, the “better-for-you soda”, contains one-quarter to one-third the sugar and calories of traditional sodas, and contais only 45 to 70 calories per 12-ounce bottle or can.

“I am so excited for the launch of the cans and new flavors and the opportunity for DRY to be more accessible to people looking for a better soda,” said DRY Soda CEO Sharelle Klaus. “We continue to see consumers and policymakers getting more involved and educated about what ingredients are in food and beverage products. I developed DRY because I believe in offering a better soda option to consumers and am thrilled that DRY has been available for the growing group of customers seeking a low-sugar soda.”

The development of the new Apple and Ginger DRY flavors was led by Chef Richard Blais, television personality, restaurateur and author, and DRY’s creative director.

DRY Soda cans will be available throughout the United States in traditional and specialty retail stores, restaurants, cafes, and online, beginning July 2013.