Dish of the Day: BOKA Duck and Claret Cocktail

November 11, 2013

BOKA chef peter birk northwest wining and dining website

At a  press dinner last month to celebrate the new Fall menu at BOKA Kitchen + Bar in downtown Seattle’s Hotel 1000 (just a few blocks from our condo), executive chef Peter Birk (formerly with Ray’s Boathouse and McCormick & Schmick’s) wowed the crowd with many lovely courses.

BOKA duck breast northwest wining and dining website link

This is a lousy photo due to the ever-changing rainbow of colors glowing from the wall near our table, but among his best dishes that evening was Crispy Duck Breast with Black Tea Custard, Chanterelles, and Roasted Grapes.

BOKA tea-infused martini northwest wining and dining website link

It paired perfectly not only with a Matthews Cellars Claret, but with a Black Tea Martini with Matthews Claret Mousse created by BOKA’s new bar manager and chief mixologist Cory Duffy.

Cory, who also owns Rain City Spirits (“Seattle’s Craft Vodka”), is taking the BOKA bar menu in intriguing new directions with a carefully curated collection of handcrafted, culinary-inspired cocktails.

You’ll want to try Cory’s house-made tonic water (made with Pinot Gris!) that figures “big” in the House Made (Big) Gin & Tonic.

Cory, a self-avowed “big fan of punches,” wowed the crowd with his Dark Rum Punch. It’s made from roasted figs, orange peel, brandied cherries, Dark Rum, and VSOP Cognac, among other ingredients. Full of rich, spicy flavors, the media members at our table pronounced it, “Christmas in a glass.”

You’ll want to stop by BOKA for its upcoming seasonal events, which include chef Peter’s Thanksgiving Cooking Class on November 14, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner and three Holiday Hideout Pop-Up Boutiques in December.

BOKA chef peter birk northwest wining and dining website link

Here is chef Peter at evening’s end, relieved and proud after a job well done.


Chowing Down in Charleston, SC

August 19, 2013

On a recent visit to Charleston, South Carolina, in service to Les Dames d’Escoffier, International, we enjoyed several memorable meals when we weren’t cooped up in conference rooms during 12 hours of intense Board meetings.

Charleston Crab House Hush Puppies

Here are the gorgeous hush puppies served up at the Charleston Crab House, which has been family-owned for the past 20 years. There are two locations, with the one we tried conveniently located right across the street from the venerable Charleston City Market.

Charleston Crab House Seafood Sign

This sign at Charleston Crab House says it all!

Charleston Crab House Garlic Crabs

We wanted to try one of the local delicacies, Garlic Crab, although our server warned us there wasn’t much meat inside.

Charleston Crab House Garlic Crabs Eaten

Should have listened to her, for the shells were almost as hard as those on a stone crab, with very little meat exhumed for a lot of effort. Glad we just got a single order since we didn’t even finish that!

Charleston Crab House Seafood Platter

MUCH better was this sampler plate of a crab cake (made of blue crab and SPICY–not at all similar to Northwest crab cakes, but equally good), fried shrimp (a rare treat for us–we chowed down on them), and King crab claws (not nearly as satisfying as Dungeness).

Charleston Crab House Waffle Fries

Waffle fries and coleslaw served as hearty sides!

Bacon Soda, Charleston, SC

We walked the entire Market area after lunch to work off a few of those Southern-fried calories. Guess the bacon craze is ubiquitous throughout the United States. Not so sure about Buffalo Wing Soda, however. 🙂

Water Park, Charleston, SC

When we visited in mid-July, it was one of the hottest weekends on record on the East Coast. Here are some smart local kids cooling off in a fountain near the sprawling Waterfront Park.

Husk PIckled Shrimp Salad

For Spencer’s and my big night out alone (before the meetings started) we chose Husk, the newest offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group. Here’s the refreshing Pickled Shrimp with Arugula and Cantaloupe, Shaved Fennel, HUSK Ricotta, and Watermelon Vinaigrette that I enjoyed.

Husk Corn Soup

And Spencer’s Chilled Sweet Corn Soup with Virginia Blue Crab, Salad of Summer Courgettes, Fire-Roasted Fennel and Corn, and Crème Fraîche–talk about LOTS of cream.

Husk Grouper Entrée

This is the lovely NC Flounder with VA Blue Crab, Chanterelles and Wood-Fired Peaches, Fennel, and House-Made Vinegar.

Husk Peach Cobbler

And what would a summertime visit to the South be without a bite or three of Fresh Peach Cobbler with White Chocolate Ice Cream and Bourbon Butterscotch?!?!

Husk Dessert Menu

Here’s a photo of the dessert card for a little more vicarious pleasure.

My Summer Vacation, Part II: Favorite Market Shots

July 1, 2013

One of the joys of my life is visiting and taking food shots at farmers markets when we are traveling.

Below are the best of the best from our recent Seabourn cruise from Lisbon, Portugal, to London.

Look at the shots and read the captions and relive some of my favorite moments vicariously!

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France


Pheasant salami and other charcuterie at Bordeaux, France farmers market

Pheasant salami and other charcuterie at Bordeaux, France farmers market

Tomatoes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Tomatoes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Giant artichokes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Giant artichokes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, france

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, france

White asparagus at the farmers market in Bordeaux, France

White asparagus at the farmers market in Bordeaux, France

My Summer Vacation: Best Dishes Lisbon to London

June 24, 2013


Shrimp cocktail on the seabourn quest

In May, we enjoyed 18 days out of the office taking a Lisbon to London cruise aboard the Seabourn Sojourn. Here are a few of my favorite dishes we discovered along the way, beginning with this Shrimp Cocktail from the Sojourn’s Restaurant 1 (main) dining room. Gorgeous presentation on Rosenthal china.

Fried soft-shelled crabs on the seabourn quest

Also aboard the Sojourn, Soft-shelled Crab, better than my mother used to make (sorry, Mom!).

Tofu chow mein on the seabourn quest

A vegetarian entrée aboard the Sojourn–Tofu with Chow Mein–light and full of interesting Asian spices.

Asturian bean and meat stew

During our first port call, in Gijon, Spain, we tried the traditional Asturian bean and meat stew offered to us for lunch at a traditional Sidre (hard- cider) factory.

Raw oysters on the half shell in bordeaux

Fresh oysters at Le Noailles, a restaurant we chose for our one dinner in Bordeaux (a beautiful city where we enjoyed an overnight port call).

Sole meuniere in bordeaux

Sole Meuniére at Le Noailles, our dinner restaurant in Bordeaux. One of the best (if not THE BEST) version of this dish we’ve ever had.

Steamed artichoke in bordeaux

The giant “artichoke salad” I ordered at Le Noailles in Bordeaux. Big as your head! Served with traditional aïoli sauce.

Bouillabaisse aboard seabourn quest ship

Back aboard the Sojourn, I dove into this beautiful Bouillabaisse, made from the local fish we bought during our Market Tour with Seabourn chef Martin.

Three-minute boiled egg aboard seabourn quest ship

A gorgeous three-minute egg I enjoyed aboard the Sojourn during a sunny morning in Bordeaux. Look at that gorgeous saffron-colored yolk!

Fruit plate aboard seabourn quest ship

My fruit salad made a colorful photographic study when taken with my favorite Hipstamatic iPhone4 app.

Giant meringues in St. Malo


Giant meringues in a bakery window in St. Malo, France–the “Buccaneer City!”

Fresh seafood display in St. Malo

Gorgeous seafood displays at a restaurant in St. Malo.

Fresh lobster in Guernsey

Grilled lobster and boiled potatoes (local specialties) in Guernsey, England.

Macaron ice-cream sandwiches in Rouen, France

Macaron “ice-cream sandwiches” in Rouen, France.

French fries in Bruges, Belgium

Frites with mayonnaise, our well-deserved lunch after a busy day of sightseeing in Bruges, Belgium.

Steamed mussels in London, England

Back on shore during our three days in London post-cruise, we enjoyed steamed mussels at Wright Brothers, a well-known seafood restaurant in London.

Spinach soufflé at Langans Brasserie, London, England

The beautiful Spinach Soufflé I enjoyed during our last dinner of the 18-day trip. . .at Langan’s Brasserie, partly owned by actor Michael Caine, in the Mayfair section of London.


Dish of the Day: Capital Grille’s Shellfish Tower

April 8, 2013

Capital Grille Shellfish Platter photo

One of my favorite meals is a good shellfish platter. I still miss the ones at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, which came with lots of pomp and circumstance as the server placed metal stand underneath the metal tray mounded with shaved ice and studded with all sorts of fresh and cooked shellfish–steamed mussels and clams, oysters on the half shell, steamed lobster, and three kinds of delectable sauces.

Luckily, downtown Seattle’s Capital Grille serves up a shellfish platter almost as grand. Although this photo doesn’t do it justice, it contains steamed baby lobster, cooked shrimp, and half a dozen raw oysters, plus two sauces (classic Mignonette and cocktail sauce). Be sure to ask for the rich mustard-mayonnaise, which goes perfectly with the shrimp and lobster.


Dish of the Day: Artful Mini Burgers

December 4, 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 Mini Burgers from ART Restaurant & Lounge.

Last week I met a local marketing expert/publicist to talk about some possible freelance work. We met at ART Restaurant & Lounge, not only because it’s one of my favorite places in Seattle, but because it’s also very conveniently located right across the courtyard from our downtown condo.

I’d just gulped down a Balance Bar, half a big Fuji apple, and glass of low-fat milk, so didn’t want anything to eat.

The young publicist, however, had skipped lunch due to her heavy workload. So I suggested she try chef Kerry Sear’s legendary mini burgers.

She chose both salmon and veggie, and raved about the curry and cumin spices in the latter.

I loved the whimsical long plate the burgers were served on–printed with a french fry background. Adorable!

Even more adorable was the mini bottle of ketchup that accompanied the burgers.

For both taste and presentation, ART’s mini burgers deserve our Dish of the Day.

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

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

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