Braiden’s Favorite Thanksgiving Potatoes: Double Apricot Sweet Potatoes and Red Curry Mashers

November 30, 2014

Braiden’s Favorite Thanksgiving Potatoes

Tired of the same old side dishes at Thanksgiving? How about trying these favorites from the Rex-Johnson family?

Double Apricot Sweet Potatoes
Varietal: Riesling

Serves 4 to 6

Sweet potatoes get a double whammy of taste and texture when they are flavored with apricot nectar and topped with amaretti, Italian macaroon cookies baked with apricot-kernel paste. Amaretti are available at DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine in the Pike Place Market and at upscale grocery stores. Pair the sweets with a stone-fruit-rich wine, such as a Riesling. Its apricot and nectarine aromas and flavors, along with the classic kerosene (think new bike tires!) nose, work especially well with this side dish, as well as other tastes and textures on the Thanksgiving table, such as roasted turkey and oyster stuffing.

12 Amaretti di Saronno cookies (6 individually wrapped packages)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large, uniform-sized chunks
1/2 cup apricot nectar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons dark rum or apricot nectar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a medium baking dish or spray with nonstick spray. Unwrap the amaretti, place them in a small plastic bag, and crush with a meat mallet or rolling pin until medium crumbs form.
2. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by one inch, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
3. Drain the potatoes and put them through a ricer or food mill or mash with a potato masher or fork. Stir in the apricot nectar, orange zest, fresh ginger, and salt, then transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish.
4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the crushed cookies and rum, then spoon the crumbs over the potatoes, smoothing to the edges. Bake 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are heated through.

Red Curry Mashers
Varietal: Pinot Blanc

Serves 6 to 8

Mashed potatoes have become the ultimate adult comfort food. I like this Asian rendition in which the potatoes take on the tawny color and nutty flavor of toasted sesame oil, followed by the slow afterburn of red curry paste. Pair the potatoes with Pinot Blanc, a balanced/refreshing wine that displays delicate fruit aromas and flavors of apple, citrus, pear, and/or melon along with good acidity.

2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large, uniform-sized chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 cup regular or nonfat half-and-half
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (Note: Be sure to use toasted or Asian, not regular, sesame oil in this recipe.)
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste

1. Place the potatoes and the garlic in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by one inch and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain well, then shake the potatoes over medium heat until they become mealy and dry.
2. Put the potatoes and garlic through a ricer (preferred method) or food mill, beat with an electric mixer, or mash with a potato masher or fork. Do not use a food processor or the potatoes will become gluey.
3. In a small bowl mix the half-and-half, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and red curry paste until smooth. While whipping the potatoes with a fork, add this liquid, then whip an additional 30 seconds until the potatoes are fluffy. Serve immediately, or spoon into a lightly oiled baking dish and keep warm in a low oven (200 to 250 degrees) until ready to serve.

Recipe of the Month: Northwest Seafood with Simple Soy Glaze

June 30, 2014

Northwest Wild Salmon

Northwest Seafood with Simple Soy Glaze

Varietal: Off-Dry Riesling

Makes 1/4 cup

I have read that most people cook the same eight basic recipes over and over again. If that’s the case at your house, I hope this recipe will become one of your eight favorites because it’s so delicious, easy to make, and versatile that you can use it on almost any fish or shellfish you choose. Suggested seafood partners with the glaze include salmon, halibut, swordfish, black cod (sablefish), sea scallops, or sustainable shrimp (peeled and deveined). Don’t forget to open a bottle of off-dry Riesling from a top-quality producer, such as Long Shadows, Pacific Rim, or Poet’s Leap, all from Washington State.

1 tablespoon light cooking oil, such as canola or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce or low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

11/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, soy sauce, honey, and mustard. Add the horseradish and blend thoroughly.

2. Lightly oil a broiling pan with a rack or spray the rack with nonstick cooking spray. Place fish fillets or steaks or shellfish on the rack and lightly brush the seafood with the glaze. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat source for 3 minutes, then brush the fillets again. If the seafood starts to brown too much, move the pan 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. After 3 minutes, brush once more, then continue broiling until the salmon reaches desired doneness.

Cook’s Hints: Now comes the really fun, creative part of this recipe. If you don’t like horseradish, you can substitute freshly grated ginger, Chinese five-spice powder, Japanese seven-spice seasoning (shichimi togarashi), or hot chili oil for an Asian flair, or Cajun blackening mix for a Southwest touch. Add the alternative seasonings a little at a time, until you reach the level of spiciness or hotness you prefer.

Simple Soy Glaze works well with vegetables, especially asparagus. To prepare fresh asparagus, snap the tough, “woody” white ends off each spear by holding the top half of an asparagus spear in one hand, the bottom half with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Bend the spear until it snaps. This will occur naturally where the tough and tender parts meet. Use the bottoms of the stalks to make asparagus stock for soup. Cook the remaining portion as desired. Or, for a more elegant preparation, using a clean, sharp vegetable peeler, peel down from about 2 inches from the ends of the asparagus. Peel all around, then cut off the very end with a small, sharp paring knife.

Fresh asparagus also makes a lovely summer salad when simply grilled with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Cook 8 to 12 minutes, or until just tender. Then transfer to salad plates, drizzle with good-quality balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts (or walnuts) and plumped dried cherries or cranberries.

To toast small quantities of nuts, heat them in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to turn light brown and/or give off their aroma (mustard seeds begin to pop), shaking the pan back and forth often so the ingredients do not burn. Remove from heat, cool, and add to your recipe, or grind as directed.

To plump dried fruits, add the fruits to a small saucepan and cover with water, stock, or liqueur (such as Madeira, Port, or cream-style Sherry). Bring to a boil, cover, and remove the pan from the heat. Allow to stand 10 to 20 minutes, or until the fruit is plumped.

To speed the plumping process, put 1/2 cup water into a microwave-safe glass dish. Add the fruit and microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat. When the fruit begins to plump, remove from the microwave and cover. Let rest for 5 minutes, drain water, and use the fruit as directed.

Recipe reprinted from the “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” gift edition and e-edition, by Braiden Rex-Johnson, copyright 2005 (print edition) and 2012 (e-edition). Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Photo by Spencer Johnson 

Recipe of the Month: Alaskan Salmon with Warm Blackberry-and-Shallot Compote

May 31, 2014

Berries photo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Alaskan Salmon with Warm Blackberry-and-Shallot Compote

Wine Varietal: Merlot

Serves 4

Years ago, when I attended a class entitled “Cooking with Great Seafood Chefs” and watched a former executive chef from a well-known Seattle seafood restaurant prepare this dish, I was instantly impressed with his use of seasonal ingredients in a simple, yet tasty way. This would be the perfect dish to make right now—at the height of summer—when blackberries are prime and Alaskan king or sockeye salmon are running strong. And after the recipe was published in my seafood cookbook, it was chosen a Recipe-of-the-Year by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer!

3 to 4 shallots, peeled

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups fresh blackberries, gently rinsed, drained, and patted dry

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Pinch of kosher salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, skin and bones removed, rinsed, drained, patted dry, and cut into 4 (6-ounce) pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. In a mixing bowl, toss the shallots, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and the sugar. Spread in a baking pan and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shallots are lightly browned and soft. Remove from the oven and spoon the shallots and syrup into a nonreactive mixing bowl with a lid. Add the blackberries and raspberry vinegar and toss gently to mix the ingredients, being careful not to break up the berries. Cover the bowl and set aside.

3. Heat a nonstick skillet large enough to hold the salmon fillets without crowding over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. While the oil is heating, mix together the flour, chervil, parsley, salt, and pepper on a plate or a piece of waxed paper. Pat both sides of the salmon fillets in the flour mixture, then shake off the excess.

4. When the oil is hot, add the salmon fillets and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook 3 to 5 minutes more, or until the fish just turns opaque.

5. To serve, transfer the salmon fillets to individual plates and spoon the compote over the top of the fish.

Recipe reprinted from the “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” gift edition and e-edition, by Braiden Rex-Johnson, copyright 2005 (print edition) and 2012 (e-edition). Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Photo by Spencer Johnson 

Finding Your “Soil Mate”

April 21, 2014

Victoria, BC, farmers market photo northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

For the past 35 years, my colleague and friend, Vance Corum, has been committed to helping farmers market their products. He’s also the co-author of “The New Farmers’ Market.”

In a recent email, he said that a few weeks ago, while working in British Columbia, he heard about a new website that comes online for consumers next month.

“It’s called SOIL MATE,” Vance says, “like finding your soul mate in the person of a local farmer, anywhere in North America.”

His note went on to say that SOIL MATE’s goal is to connect people to their local food sources within 100 miles. Vance decided to help spread the word because the website seems straight-forward and easy to use. Every farmer, farmers’ market, and winery can list itself for FREE, so it’s a win/win/win for your farm, your markets, and consumers.

You can check out the short YouTube video on Soil Mate.

Farmers, farmers’ markets, and wineries can list their products, selling locations, and hours. They are invited to post photos, videos, a blog, and/or a website. The companies can can also sell products directly online.

Customers can filter by product category, specific items, growing practices, and services (U-Pick, CSA, and online sales).

SOIL MATE’s founder, Matt Gomez, has a passion for local food and a great background in marketing and social media, having helped Fortune-500 and Mom-and-Pop companies alike.

Just go to the SOIL MATE website and list yourself. You can put as much or as little in your profile as you want. It’s faster than applying to a farmers’ market. As a farmer, you’ll be linked to the farmers’ markets where you sell, and vice-versa.

As a CSA farm, you can list your pick-up locations. As a winery, you can list stores and restaurants that carry your product.

It’s even a FREE service, and you can help by getting the word out on social media or by direct (email) outreach.

To good marketing!

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

Seattle Wine and Food Experience February 23

February 10, 2014

Wine Glasses

Buy your tickets today for  the city’s premier food and wine event, the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SWFE)!

SWFE is back for its sixth year on Sunday, February 23, 2014. VIP tickets are sold out; general admission tickets cost $55 per person and allow entry from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Throughout this unique gastronomical event guests will learn about and taste a wide offering of quality products through “experiences” and event features.

According to my friend and fellow Seattle Dame Jamie Peha, president of Peha Promotions, TableTalk Northwest, and producer of SWFE, “What makes Seattle Wine and Food Experience unique in the marketplace are the ‘experiences’ that guests encounter. Guests have the opportunity to educate themselves about beverage and culinary products from the Northwest and beyond, talk to producers, and taste samples from a variety regions and growing industries.”

Another feature that makes the sixth SWFE unique is that the event’s charity beneficiary is Les Dames d’Escoffier, Seattle Chapter. According to a press release:

This year’s beneficiary, Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle, brings together it’s talented membership for a special experience at SWFE. Get a taste of the beverages, food, and specialty products from talented members of Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle including Thoa Nguyen/Chinoise Sushi Bar & Asian Grill, Maria Coassin/Gelatiamo, Lisa Nakamura/Gnocchi Bar, Nancy Donier/Kaspar’s Special Events & Catering, Leslie Mackie/Macrina Bakery, Susan Neel/McCrea Cellars, and Susan Kaufman/Serafina Osteria & Enoteca.

Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle raises funds for scholarships for women in the culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries, and also supports community-outreach programs and sustainable-agriculture projects based in Washington state.

Other Dames participating in SWFE include Rose Ann Finkel/Pike Brewing Co. and Holly Smith/Cafe Juanita.

Other featured “Experiences” to date at the 2014 event include:

*Featured Wine Region: Woodinville Wine Country – Taste wine from Washington’s up-and-coming destination wine region with more than 30 of Woodinville’s wineries (and all of Washington’s AVAs) including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Patterson Cellars, and many more.

*The QFC Advantage Lounge – In this lounge environment complete with leather sofas, guests will enjoy bites from Murray’s Cheese, Boar’s Head Meats, and Simple Truth Crackers and sips of luxury wine brands including Chateau Ste. Michelle Single Vineyard Designates, Spring Valley Vineyard, Col Solare, and Northstar Winery. You know it’s going to be good!

*Northwest, California, and International Wines – Get tastes of wine regions from the Northwest and beyond with sips from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, and international wineries (including Italy, France, Argentina, Spain, and Portugal). With more than 800 wines available to try from the world’s top producers, your palate is in for quite a tour.

*SIP Northwest Distillery Row – Take a run at Sip Northwest Distillery Row featuring many of the region’s hottest craft spirits makers as well as global brands. Sip through their latest creations and learn how grains and botanicals become whiskey, vodka, and gin.

*Tim’s Cascade Snacks Beer and Cider Exhibit – Local favorite Tim’s Cascade Snacks will be serving up its famous salty chips and popcorn that pair great with regional ciders and brews. Discover the new developments in the world of these craft beverages.

*Les Dames d’Escoffier Alley –See above.

*Washington Beef Butcher Block – Washington Beef presents a unique opportunity to “Crave, Cut, & Create” your way to a perfect beef meal. Experience and savor beef’s flavor when prepared with care and paired with complimentary flavor profiles in dishes from Andaluca, bin on the lake, BOKA Restaurant + Bar, and The Georgian.

*Top Pot Doughnut and Coffee Bar – Grab a sweet treat at the event and revive your palate, with a stop at the Top Pot Doughnut and Coffee Bar. Try a hand-forged doughnut and cup of Top Pot Coffee. For an added bonus, grab a sample cocktail from Sun Liquor Distillery.

*Chef Prepared Gourmet Bites – Guests can savor the incredible creations from more 25 of Seattle’s most accomplished chefs representing a global range of cuisines. Featured restaurants include Andaluca, Anthony’s Pier 66 & Bell Street Diner, bin on the lake, BOKA Restaurant + Bar, The Capital Grille, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chinoise Sushi Bar & Asian Grill, Dirty Oscar’s Annex, Far-Eats, The Georgian, Gnocchi Bar, Gracie’s/Hotel Deluxe, The Hollywood Tavern, The Hunt Club, Kaspar’s Special Events & Catering, La Bodega, Macrina Bakery, Miyabi 45th, Purple Café & Wine Bar, Racha Thai, Ray’s Boathouse, Serafina Osteria & Enoteca, Tai Foong USA, Tilikum Place Café, Trellis Restaurant, and Volterra.

*Chef in the Vineyard with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates – Meet Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Culinary Director John Sarich, sample creative bites and taste through a wonderful selection of Washington’s best wines from 14 Hands, Anew, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Michelle, and O Wines. Seek out their displays in local QFCs for a special ticket discount.

*Event Feature: Stella Artois – With more than 600 years of Belgium brewing experience, Stella Artois is best known for its detailed method for pulling a pint and their “special” Stella Artois chalice. Enjoy a sip of Stella Artois and its other world-class brands including Cidre, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Leffe Brun, and Leffe Blond.

*Northwest Travel Magazine – Test your palate with a blind comparative tasting of the same varietal from different AVAs. Northwest Travel contributor Cole Danehower will be hosting this fun and interactive experience.

Tickets for this year’s event are on sale here. General Admission tickets are $55. New this year is an optional VIP ticket is available to guests for $65 and includes one hour early entry, custom event tote bag, wine glass and tasting plate, plus an opportunity to win a variety of prizes including a wine trip weekend for two to Woodinville Wine Country, tickets to July’s Wine Rocks event, and more. Ticket prices include access to all areas of the event. No one under 21 will be admitted and ID is required.

So please plan to attend the sixth-annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience. . .good not only for you but for the good of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Seattle Chapter.


October Events at the Pike Place Market

October 14, 2013

Arcade lights pike place market logo northwest wining and dining website

Friday, October 18, marks one of the Pike Place Market’s most fun events of fall–Arcade Lights.

Seven p.m. to 10 p.m. that evening is the time to join your fellow foodies, locavores, beer lovers, and wine enthusiasts in the Market’s historic Arcade to taste handcrafted savory and sweet bites, handcrafted beer, local wine, and nonalcoholic drinks by more than 60 local artisan food and drink purveyors. Adults (over 21 years of age) only, please!

This after-hours event, which benefits all the good works of the Pike Place Market Foundation, provides the perfect setting in which to taste the latest creations of Seattle’s famously innovative food and drink purveyors.

The Pike Place Market Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the following human service agencies at the Pike Place Market: Pike Market Child Care and Preschool, Pike Market Medical Clinic, Pike Market Senior Center and Downtown Food Bank

More than 60 local food and drink artisans will be showcased at Arcade Lights, including Drummin’ Up Wontons, Mt. Townsend Creamery, Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt, Sweet Iron Waffles, Whidbey Island Ice Cream Company, Finnriver Farm and Cidery, Naked City Brewery, Naches Heights Winery, Patterson Cellars, and more.

Pair your favorite must-have tastes with a glass of seasonal ale, Washington wine, or bubbly fruit soda in what has become known as the ultimate tasting event of the season!

Advance tickets, which cost $28, allow advance ticket holders to enter the event at 6:30 p.m. Day-of tickets are limited, and cost $35.

Ticket price includes 10 tokens, a tasting glass, and a cloth napkin. Additional tokens can be purchased at the event entrances.

Market pumpkins northwest wining and dining website

A more family-friendly event takes place on Saturday, October 26, when the Market offers up a Halloween celebration presented by the community’s very own Orange Dracula.

Kids and parents can snap photos with friendly witches, explore a spooky kiddie haunted house, and find the perfect carving pumpkin.

Pets in costume can join in the fun too! Trick or treat through the crafts market and participating Market businesses.

The fun begins under the Public Market clock and continues to Orange Dracula, which has Halloween decorations, costume,s and a Dracula pinball machine. Orange Dracula is located on the third lower level of the Market.

So, all in all, October is shaping up to be a VERY fun time in Seattle’s venerable Pike Place Market.

San Juan Islands Great Island Grown Festival October 1-13

October 1, 2013

Crow Valley Farm Orcas Island

Bountiful farms, stunning pastoral landscapes and superb local food…that’s the San Juan Islands way of life!

The Great Island Grown San Juan Island Festival

Beginning today, and lasting until Sunday, October 13, farmers, restaurants, the Island community, and visitors will come together to celebrate this unique and coveted destination at The Great Island Grown Festival.

The Great Island Grown Festival features two weeks of events and workshops, from distillery tastings and plein-air farm painting to shellfish tours and sheepdog demonstrations to farm parades, bike tours of farms, and vineyard harvests. And, of course, farmers’ markets, harvest festival, and farm-to-table meals.

Island Grown in the San Juans is a membership organization of San Juan County farmers, restaurants, and supporters. The organization celebrates the bounty of the Islands’ rich agricultural heritage, and inspires Islanders, visitors, and businesses about the many benefits of buying locally grown and harvested products from land and sea.

The complete festival calendar and more details including dates and locations are available on the Island Grown in the San Juans website.

And here’s some really interesting historical information about agriculture in the San Juan Islands (from the media release):

The San Juan Islands are blessed with a temperate climate and were once considered to be the breadbasket of Western Washington. The local fruit industry began in earnest in the 1890s, with the introduction of Italian prune plums, and grew to include thousands of trees bearing apples, cherries, peaches, and pears.

During the early 1900s, farmers shipped boatloads of fruit from all the major islands to Salish-Sea ports, where the produce was transported by rail throughout the country. Although the islands no longer dominate Washington’s fruit industry, the legacy of historic orchards with local varieties such as the Orcas pear bear witness to the rich history of Island fruit-raising and distribution—a heritage that is still cultivated by San Juan County growers today.

Island Grown in the San Juans chose a logo with a pear in a boat as a symbol of the rich agricultural heritage of the island archipelago situated in the waters of the Salish Sea. Pears played a key role in fruit raising in the San Juans during the period from the 1890s to the 1930s.

The pear represents an Orcas pear, a delicious heritage variety that was discovered by Joseph C. Long along a roadside on Orcas Island in 1966. The Orcas pear (Pyrus communis) is listed as an American Heirloom Pear in Slow Foods USA “Ark of Taste,” and is suitable for fresh consumption, canning, and drying.

The boat was, and still is, one of the primary means of transportation in the islands. Even today, islanders are known to transport their farm produce by boat to markets on other islands.

Photo courtesy of Island Grown

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!

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.

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