New York Redux

November 7, 2009

We enjoyed two whirlwind days in New York City last month, staying at the Jumeirah Essex House in what was billed as a Deluxe View Central Park Room. In truth, this very expensive room was on the sixth floor at tree-line, so our “deluxe view” was a sidewalk outside the park, and the horse coaches and tour buses filled with tourists. The bathroom also needed a serious remodel, as the door kept hitting the toilet and the shower was tiny. Here are the restaurants we visited, along with thumb-nail sketches of our experiences:
  • Sarabeth–a few blocks down from the Essex House–suggested by our concierge, and it was AWFUL!!! Really a rip-off.
  • Tabla–Danny Meyers’s upscale Indian overlooking the Flatiron Bldg. Nice views of a pocket park from the upstairs dining room if you snag a window seat. Credible Indian (Spencer’s fave meal in NYC) BUT they were overhauling the menu so that the downstairs bar and upstairs more formal dining-room menus are the same, so not sure how it will fare moving forward.
  • Aquavit–One of our previous faves; had a bad server so didn’t live up to memory. Dining room seemed a bit “tired” as well. Pricey for the amt. of food you get. The wine we ordered wasn’t available, etc.
  • Jean Georges–VERY professional service, creative food without being too weird, gorgeous plates, really the whole package (but be prepared for the price tag!). Jean Georges was in the house and popped out into the dining room to keep his eye on everything.
  • Le Pain Quotidien–very good breakfast/brunch/lunch place right near the Essex House. Healthy, pure, just-good food and quite a large crowd at 9 a.m. (but the wait was short).

Carrying Halloween Forward. . .

November 6, 2009

Last week I found out that my talented Web designer and whiz kid Christopher Prouty, founder of Studio 99 Creative, has launched another exciting venture that will be of interest to anyone fascinated by vampires and the whole “Twilight” phenomenon. offers photos of gorgeous young vampiresses in various states of undress and degrees of vitality. Chris describes it in two simple words: Vampire Photography. Most appropriately, it launched last Saturday–Halloween!

Chloe on

Here’s a shot of Chloe looking wan and inviting.

Julia on

And here’s Julia looking beautiful, but a bit “drained.”

Chris reports his new site took 48 hours, three models, and 600 photos to launch.

But it’s out of the gate like a thoroughbred, having attracted 85 fans on Facebook during its first three days in existence. You’ll definitely want to “taste” this jaw-dropping site often and become Facebook friends, “forever”. . .

First Oysters of the Season!

November 5, 2009

Last week, we went to a few days before Halloween, and ordered up a table at the venerable Flying Fish Restaurant in Belltown. We specifically asked for a table at the very front of the restaurant, for what we hoped would be a ring-side seat for the ghouls and goblins out to celebrate All Hallows Eve as they scurried about First Avenue.

While the number of spirits was a bit disappointing, the creativity and work that went into many of the costumes was truly amazing. Themes this year seemed to be an overwhelming number of angels (both black- and white-winged), “super” heroes (such as the Green Hornet and Batman), and the usual vampires and vampiresses.

Flying Fish Oysters on the Half Shell

Inside, I enjoyed my first oysters on the half shells of the season. I swore I’d remember their names, but after sharing a bottle of Sauv Blanc with Spencer, their monikers went right out the window. But here is their photo, captured for posterity.

Flying Fish Sauvignon Blanc

And here’s that bracing bottle of wine, Craggy Range 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Don’t you just love the name? So evocative, and perfect since the winery’s 100 hectares of vineyards used to be an old quarry.

Flying Fish Oyster Shells

Here’s a photo of the poor oysters after consumption. All that’s left is their ruffly shells.

Flying Fish Fried Oyster Caesar Salad

I still hadn’t gotten my fill of the unctuous bivalves, so ordered chef/owner Christine Keff’s legendary Fried Oyster Caesar Salad. Four spanking fresh, just-shucked oysters perfectly fried in nothing but a light dusting of cornmeal, along with hearts of romaine, and not-too-garlic-y Caesar dressing. Simply the best in town.

Oyster lovers will get a thrill this Saturday evening as Elliott’s Oyster House celebrates its 17th annual Oyster New Year Bash. The Bash, which runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., features 30 varieties of local oysters, an oyster luge, fresh seafood buffet, and more than 50 WA wines. Although it’s already sold out, eating oysters at Elliott’s is a good idea any time!

Baking with Grand Central

November 4, 2009

My friend, colleague, and fellow Seattle Dame Gwen Bassetti, is the founder of Grand Central Baking Company in Seattle, which has since sprouted branches elsewhere in Seattle and also in Portland.

Gwen has long since turned daily operations over to the next generation, and the happy news is that daughter Piper Davis is just out with a lovely new tome entitled (appropriately) The Grand Central Baking Book.

Published by Ten Speed Press, it’s chock full of recipes from the bakery, family favorites, and glorious photos. This is a book for every baker’s shelf, and would also make the perfect holiday gift.

Gwen Bassetti and Piper Davis Book Signing

Here’s a photo of Gwen (right) and Piper during a book signing at the venerable Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. The day after the signing, the sad word came out that the venerable bookstore is in financial trouble and may be forced to move, essentially pulling the plug on an anchor store in this part of our town.

The Seattle Times editorial page ran a thought-provoking article about Elliott Bay in its October 27 issue.

Happy Birthday Pike Pub!

November 3, 2009

Our dear friends, Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, recently celebrated 20 years since founding the Pike Pub and Brewing Company. We’re especially partial to the place since it’s located in the basement of our condominium building, so easy to get to for a wonderful lunch or dinner.

To celebrate the big event, the happy couple invited 450 kindred souls for a fun-filled evening of food-, beer-, and friendship.

Pike Pub Celebrates 20 Years

Here’s they are with birthday cake and balloons; the staff also gave them a quilt emblazoned with logos from Pike Pub t-shirts.

And a good time was had by all!

Cookie Contest!

November 1, 2009

ART\'s Chocolate Buffet
A press release from ART Restaurant and Lounge piqued my curiosity when it announced that pastry chef Ryan Witcher is searching for the ultimate holiday cookie recipe.
The press release read: From November 1 to December 1, guests are invited to submit a recipe, along with 150 words describing what makes it a holiday cookie. Are these cookies served during the holidays? Do they have seasonal ingredients?

The winning cookie will be served during the holidays in ART Restaurant and at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, and the creator of the winning recipe will receive dinner for two and a one-night stay at the Hotel – plus bragging rights.

On Sunday, December 6, three finalists will be announced, and their creations will be sampled and judged by attendees and a panel of cookie enthusiasts at the Hotel’s first annual Holidays with HeART – a fun-filled and philanthropic family event hosted by Chefs Kerry Sear and Ryan Witcher. Attendees will enjoy a holiday lunch buffet, decorating stations with fresh-baked cookies, a reading of children’s holiday books, and more.

Holidays with HeART will take place from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle. The cost is $35 for adults and $25 for children ages 6 to 12. Part of the proceeds will support Treehouse Seattle, which helps kids in foster care. Reservations are recommended, and may be made by calling (206) 749-7070.

From November 1 to December 1, 2009, e-mail your ultimate holiday cookie recipes to

For a bit of inspiration, the photo above is from the dessert buffet that pastry chef Witcher presented at a recent Counter Uncorked! event at the hotel. Yum-o!

Tagliatelle with Balsamic Cream

November 1, 2009

Tagliatelle with Balsamic Cream

Tagliatelle with Balsamic Cream

Varietal: Chardonnay (Unoaked), Pinot Gris, or Gëwurztraminer

Serves 4 as a main dish; 6 to 8 as an appetizer

This heady mushroom and balsamic cream sauce is best served over fresh tagliatelle (homemade or store bought). Minus the pasta, it also serves as an alluring side dish or sauce with meat entrées such as grilled chicken, pork, or beef. The dish is very versatile as far as wine pairing goes; consider a full-bodied Pinot Gris, such as the ones produced by King Estate Winery in Oregon. Chilled Gewürztraminer or an unoaked Chardonnay would also work nicely with this toothsome dish.

1 pound homemade or store-bought fresh or dried tagliatelle (if you opt for the dried, increase the amount of mushrooms to 1 1/2 pounds)

Extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 pound small, whole cultivated mushrooms (such as white or cremini) or small, whole wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle or morel; see Cook’s Hint, below)

1/2 cup dry white wine

Pinch of sea salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons high-quality balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Cook the homemade pasta until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes, or cook the store-bought pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain well. Sprinkle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, toss to coat well, and keep warm until serving.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it begins to foam, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices and aroma, 5 to 7 minutes. Lower the heat if the mushrooms begin to brown.

3. Add the wine, salt, and pepper and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir quickly and evenly to prevent lumps. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is fully incorporated and loses its raw aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Slowly add the cream, stirring well after each addition to avoid lumps, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.

6. Turn off the heat. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and add it a few pieces at a time, stirring well after each addition. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar.

7. Pour the mushroom-cream sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among soup dishes or pasta bowls. Sprinkle with the cheese, and serve immediately.

Cook’s Hint: There is much debate over the best way to clean mushrooms. For cultivated mushrooms that are smooth and relatively clean (such as white or cremini), I find that a quick rinse in cold water, then thorough drying with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel, works best. For wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles) that may contain deep furrows, pine needles, and other debris, a mushroom brush and a gentle wipe with a damp cloth does the trick. Badly bruised or spongy spots, and signs of insects, should always be removed before cooking. Morels are another story, because their honeycomb surface can contain a lot of grit. To clean morels, if they are large enough, tap them gently (stem side down on a hard surface) to remove as much grit as possible. Then fill a large mixing bowl with cool water and add 1 tablespoon of table salt, stirring well to dissolve the salt. Add the morels and swish them through the water to remove as much grit (and insects, which are repelled by the salt) as possible. Drain the water and replace with clean cool water. Repeat the cleaning process two to three times, or until the water runs clear. After draining the last time, squeeze out as much water as possible from the morels, then pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or on paper towels. Cut out any discolorations or spoiled spots and discard any mushrooms that are spongy (which means they are old). Slice large mushrooms in half; leave small and medium mushrooms whole.

Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

« Older Posts