Willows Inn Dining Room Reopens

March 31, 2014

The willows inn on lummi island dining room northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The Dining Room at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island reopened on Thursday, March 13, after a two-month recess.

The willows inn smoked salmon appetizer northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

You may remember I gave the property and restaurant a rave review in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine back in 2011.

The willows inn oysters appetizer northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

During his two-month break, Head Chef Blaine Wetzel was named a semifinalist for the fourth straight year for the James Beard Rising Star Award (chefs under age 30). The nomination is well deserved for the beautiful and delicious dishes he prepares day in and day out. (Photos throughout this blog post were taken during our 2011 visit.)

The willows inn on lummi island soup northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Blaine also made a visit to Europe that included stops in Copenhagen and participation in a major food event in Italy. You can read more on the chef’s blog.

The willows inn mushrooms  northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The Willows Inn is also offering a 2-for-1 Spring Special on select dates now through the end of April.  When you reserve an on-site room during March or April you can add a second night for FREE. During your stay you can indulge in spa-therapy treatments, walk and rock-hunt along Sunset Beach, take a bicycle ride, hike the island’s wilderness preserves, or simply relax with a good book (in the hot tub, perhaps). The offer is valid until April 31, 2014, and cannot include a Saturday night.

There is even a two-day Author Series Getaway with Nancy Pearl scheduled from Wednesday, March 19 to Friday, March 21, when you are encouraged to immerse yourself in two books recommended by Nancy. Enjoy book discussions in the cozy atmosphere of Loganita, a specially-prepared dinner with Nancy by the Willows Inn sous chef at the Beach Store Cafe, and a hearty breakfast followed by a second book-club session in the Willows Inn main dining room.

Nancy is the author of the bestselling “Book Lust” and, in 2004, earned the Women’s National Book Association Award for her extraordinary contribution to the world of books. She has become a rock star among readers—the tastemaker who people turn to when deciding what to read next.

The Author Series Getaways continues in April with New York Times bestselling author Jamie Ford appearing on Wednesday, April 23. Guests will enjoy a book discussion with Jamie over his new book, “Songs of Willow Frost,” followed by a private dinner.

To register for either of the Author Series Getaway events, call the inn at 360.758.2620.

Photos by Braiden Rex-Johnson

Tavolàta Sunday Feast: Wagyu Beef

January 1, 2014

Volunteer Park Cafe Beef Stew northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Want to start the New Year off with a unique dinner treat?

Then how about signing up for Tavolàta’s first Sunday Feast of 2014?

Chef Brian Clevenger has planned a robust meal of Wagyu beef for the first Sunday Feast of 2014 on January 5.

The meal begins with Beef Tartare and moves through three more preparations of the sumptuous beef.

Dinner is $90 per person and, as the Sunday Feasts often sell out, reservations are highly recommended.

So here’s the beef. . .it’s what’s for dinner!


Beef  Tartare with white anchovy, radish, and champagne vinegar

Veal Consommé with baby turnips, carrots, and celeriac

Mixed Greens with chioggia beets, hazelnuts, and ricotta salata


Strozzapreti with beef cheeks, red wine, and oregano


Roasted Kobe Coullote Steak with wild mushroom, Brussels sprouts, and croutons


Bay Leaf Panna Cotta with winter fruit compote and orange tuile

I’ve written about Sunday Suppers for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine in an article entitled, “Family-Style Supper’s on at Seattle Restaurants.”

At Tavolàta’s Sunday Supper in January, dinner will be served family style at the communal table (tavolàta) where seating is limited to just 26 guests.

Dinner begins at 6:00 p.m., and the cost is $90 per person.

Reservations are required. Please call 206.838.8008 to reserve your spot.

And if (like me) beef isn’t our thing, here are other options for Sunday Feasts in 2014.

2014 Sunday Feasts – SAVE THE DATE!!!

February 9 – Roasted Duck

March 9 –Strictly Seafood

April 6 – Cuisine of the Mediterranean

May 4 – Suckling Pig

June 1 – Wild Mushrooms & Garden Vegetables (Vegetarian)

Here’s the “Scoop!” from Northwest Wining and Dining

July 15, 2013

Cupcake Royale ice cream scoop

There’s still time to take advantage of a great summertime deal: Two Dollar Tuesdays offered up by our friends at Cupcake Royale.

July is National Ice Cream Month (who knew?!?!) and so Cupcake Royale is celebrating in grand style, and passing along a screaming-hot (or cool!) deal to their customers; $2 ice-cream scoops on Tuesdays.

So stop by tomorrow, or any Tuesday this month (the offer is good any time of the day) and get a scoop of premium, hand-churned ice cream for just $2 a scoop.

Churning 14 flavors in their downtown ice creamery, you can try one of the newest flavors including Orange Hibiscus sorbet, Honey + Snickerdoodle, Theo Malted Milk Chocolate, or Peppermint + Fudge Ribbon.

More traditional ice-cream lovers can opt for one of Cupcake Royale’s classic flavors–Burnt Caramel with Smoked Sea Salt or Stumptown Coffee with Fudge Ribbon.

And don’t forget about cupcakes! July kicks off the Washington blueberry season, and the Blueberry Brown Betty cupcake is Cupcake Royale’s featured Cupcake of the Month.

This adaptation of the American classic features vanilla and blueberry cake with a brown sugar-cream cheese top, finished with  buttermilk cake crumbs and a single dried blueberry. .

Which just goes to show (borrowing from the famous words of Marie Antoinette), Cupcake Royale is the kind of place where you can have your cake (and ice cream) and eat it, too!



Annual Sisters Holiday Lunch at icon Grill

December 11, 2012

Every holiday season, my two honorary sises and I have lunch at icon Grill in downtown Seattle. I’ve written about these get-togethers for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine in an article about holiday traditions.

And I’m happy to report that last Friday we again partook of icon’s fun seasonal offerings while we basked in the holiday spirit amid a plethora of colorfully decorated Christmas trees and holiday tchotches.

As usual, I enjoyed the Butternut Squash Bisque and Grilled Pear Salad. Sis and Sis shared the Holiday Wreath Salad and Candy Cane Beet Salad.

We talked so much, and all had to get back to work or appointments, that we didn’t have time for dessert this year, sigh.

But if time had allowed, we would have tried a brand-new item that sounds decadently delish–Eggnog Pudding and Italian Rum Cake.

We were happy to see that, once again, chef Nick Musser and crew are offering a program featuring five Chateau Ste. Michelle wines by the glass or bottle  in which a portion of the proceeds benefit colleges and universities in our region that offer vitculture and enology programs.

The Grill’s popular Santa Brunches run Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., through December 23.

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

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




Mary Karlin Top-10 Cheese-Making Tips

March 2, 2012

Several Sundays ago, my article on Mary Karlin, a Sonoma, California-based cheese maker, ran in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine.

Although I prepared a sidebar containing Mary’s top-10 cheese-making tips, it was too long to print with the article. So here is that list, along with some additional photos, for all you do-it-yourselfers who want to try cheese-making at home.

Mary Karlin’s Top-10 Cheese-Making Tips

1. Everything in cheese making is gentle. Don’t dump or pour or shake the milk.

2. Use a whisk with a specific up and down motion.

3. Raise the temperature of the milk gently because slower is better.

4. Ladle the curds gently.

5. Use a gentle pressure when pressing the curds.

6. Use the highest-quality milk you can find for cheese. Raw milk—the closest to the animal—is best. Reliable local sources for milk include Puget Consumers Co-op, Whole Foods Market, Central Market and Ballard Market.

7. Let the milk sit out for at least one hour, and preferably a few hours, before making cheese.

8. Cookware is very important, including non-reactive pots that don’t react to acid. Stainless-steel or ceramic pots with heavy-core bottoms and heavy walls are good; don’t use nonstick, cast iron or copper. A six-quart Le Creuset stockpot is a good choice. A flame-tamer or heat disburser is good for pans with less heavy bottoms and sides.

9. The longer the curds stay in the whey, the more firm and dry, with less moisture, they become. Drainage accomplishes the same thing.

10. For specialized cheese-making products, Karlin recommends two Seattle-based companies: The Cellar Homebrew (located at 14320 Greenwood Avenue North or online at http://www.cellar-homebrew.com/) and The Cheese Connection (online at www.cheeseconnection.net).

Artisan cheese maker Mary Karlin, left

Cheese curds ready for draining and pressing

Artisan cheese-making class

Hard at work making cheese

Mary Karlin assesses and pulls the curds to make cheese

Photos Courtesy of Spencer Johnson



A Look Back at 2011

December 30, 2011

This time of year, it seems like just about every newspaper and magazine publishes their Top-10 lists of what’s been good or memorable or horrible during the past year.

So in that vein, I’d like to offer up links to the nine Taste columns I’ve penned for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine in 2011.

Many of the columns contain recipes you might find useful and inspiring now or in the future. And, in a weird way, looking over the past year is a good way to understand what’s happening in the Seattle, and greater global, food scene.

So here goes, from December back to Valentine’s Day 2011:

A Christmas Wrap

Downtown in December

Spinasse’s chef shares secrets for roasting vegetables

Dinner is superbly home grown, served at the Willows Inn

Chuckanut Shellfish farm rises when the tide goes out

A gorgeous photo from “Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral”

Cooking with salt blocks and bowls is hot — and cold

Clearing up the stir-fry misunderstanding

Graham Kerr at a media interview at the Northwest Garden Show

Chef Graham Kerr gallops into edible gardening

For the love of cocktails

Salted photo by Jennifer Martiné

Last-Minute Gift Ideas

December 23, 2011

Once a month I write a book review of a favorite cookbook, wine, or cocktail book that posts on Amazon.com’s Al Dente blog.

These are books I really like to read and cook from, with doable recipes and (often) great wine- and beverage-pairing suggestions. In other words, I really recommend these tomes!

Just in case you’re still in need of practical and useful gift ideas for family and friends, here’s a listing of those dozen books (and accompanying recipes and reviews) that made the cut in 2012.

AND you can purchase the books directly from Amazon by following the links.

Talk about easy gift-giving!

Candle 79 Cookbook

Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz

Kitchen Simple

Food Lover’s Guide to Seattle

Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It

Super Natural Every Day

100 Perfect Pairings

Grilled Cheese, Please!

Fried Chicken & Champagne

Gifts Cooks Love: Recipes for Giving

Double Take: One Fabulous Recipe, Two Finished Dishes

Authentic Panettone in Downtown Seattle

December 20, 2011

My last Taste column of 2011 for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine focuses on Maria Coassin, the owner and founder of Gelatiamo, the popular gelato and pastry shop in downtown Seattle, just a few blocks up the street from our condo.

I enjoyed interviewing and writing about the stylish Italian beauty (who cooks in high heels!), and who started at the “corner of First and Hell” (Union Street) in 1996. It was the same year she introduced fresh panettone, the traditional sweet bread of Italy made during the holiday season, to Seattle.

Maria Coassin of Gelatiamo with her famous panettone

Here’s a photo of her proudly holding one of her “babies”–her 27-hours-in-the-making panettone.

The crumb 0f the bread is so fragile, the loaves must hang upside down for several hours lest they collapse under their own weight. They remind me of bats in a cave!

Panettone leftovers (if there are any!) are great in bread pudding or French toast.

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