Archive for October, 2008
This recipe was inspired by a recent visit to Piroshky Piroshky, the small, wonderful-smelling Russian bakery in the Pike Place market. They make some of my favorite street food, and I can’t make a trip to Pike Place without stopping by for a snack. On my latest trip, I tried their salmon paté piroshky (a piroshky is a stuffed, flaky, handheld pie) and it was divine. This “calzone” doesn’t attempt to recreate the salmon piroshky, but was simply inspired by it. The mascarpone cheese melts away during baking, leaving the rich smoked salmon moist and delicious.
Makes: 2 Coho Calzones
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes
Have you ever walked into a place and immediately felt like you’d found what you’ve always been looking for? That’s how I feel about Bricco della Regina Anna (or “Bricco” for short). Bricco is a restaurant and wine bar located on the main drag of upper Queen Anne, on a sleepy block that’s also home to Betty, Chocopolis, and the boarded-up shell of the former Queen Anne hardware store. The best thing about this location? I can walk to it! But don’t let that color my review – being within my promenade-radius is not a requirement for a great eatery.
A freestanding ledge loosely segregates Bricco’s dining room between dinner guests and passers-by who have stopped in for a glass of wine. The latter group is quite fortunate: the wine list, carefully selected by Wine Director Andrew Bresnik, is formidable. This isn’t surprising, given that the back wall of the dining room is a window to their walk-in wine cellar. But if you don’t know your Semillon from your Chardonnay, don’t fret. The wait staff is not only helpful and knowledgeable, but non-judgmental – if you can swallow your ego long enough to ask for a recommendation, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s more than just the wine that keeps me coming back to Bricco, though. For starters, the first page of their menu lists only cheese and salumi. In my opinion, this should have been the 11th commandment. The rest of the menu is composed of frequently-changing, à la carte salads, panini and entreés ($4 to approx. $18). Though the menu is small, everything is exquisitely executed. Chef and owner Kevin Erickson has hit a bulls eye with his balance of traditional and inventive bistro fare. And most of the dishes are so rich and beautifully presented that I feel nether guilty nor hungry when the meal is over. A few of my personal favorites: smoked trout salad with roasted beets and crème fraîche ($12), smoked salmon bruschetta ($4), and lamb sliders (pictured bottom left).
I’d recommend leaving room for dessert, too. Bricco’s roasted pears with huckleberry honey, aged balsamic vinegar and mascarpone is heavenly. Throw in a glass of port, and you’ve just enjoyed the kind of leisurely decompression that’s normally reserved for European poets.
Contrary to rumors that the restaurant was up for sale, the folks behind Bricco are actually expanding its horizons. Starting soon, Bricco will feature a full alcohol bar, complete with the sophisticated libations Seattleites have come to expect from expert mixologists. The owners are also opening Moshi Moshi Sushi (name unconfirmed) in Ballard. If they manage to create the same restaurant charisma as they’ve done with Bricco, I’ll be first in line, chopsticks in hand!
[photo (clockwise from upper left): cheese and salumi platter, beef tenderloin, lamb sliders, Nutella panini]
Imagine, if you will, an art museum restaurant. Make the image in your head very vivid, very detailed. In fact, close your eyes and picture this restaurant… (OK, open your eyes now so you can keep reading.) Now, imagine the sterile, lifeless walls of that restaurant covered with vibrant Seattle artwork. Those heat lamps you’re picturing in the kitchen? Replace them with pans of slowly roasting, locally-raised pork shoulders. The cafeteria-inspired, cavernous dining room? Swap it for about an upscale, inviting decor with a first-class bar and a wall full of Pacific Northwest wine. Now you’re just barely starting to get the picture of TASTE, the Seattle Art Museum’s bold, revitalized restaurant.
On a recent visit to TASTE, I was very impressed with not only the atmosphere and the quality of the food, but also the karmic value of my dinner. In the last two years, TASTE has managed to source 69% of its ingredients from local farmers, infusing over $1M back into family-owned farms. Particularly relevant to today’s economy, TASTE’s dedication to supporting small and local farms is commendable.
Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes are really the star of this dish. The French Laundry uses tomato confit in many of its preparations. My method isn’t quite as intricate as theirs, but the intent is the same: to sweeten and intensify the flavor of the tomato. The result is a delicious variation on your otherwise ordinary pasta night. After baking the tomatoes, to really make them confit, store them in an airtight jar immersed in olive oil for later uses.
Makes: Special pasta night for 2
Total kitchen time: 1 hour (15 minutes working time)
- 1/2 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes
- 4 oz. (about 2 cups) penne pasta
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
- 1/4 cup green olives, pitted
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, cut into 1/2” cubes
- 1 tbsp. freshly chopped oregano
- Rinse and pat dry the tomatoes. Slice in half through the stem end. In a small bowl, gently toss the tomatoes with about 1 tsp. kosher salt and enough good olive oil to coat.
- Arrange the tomatoes in an even layer, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Bake at 250°F for 1 hour. This is a good time to use your toaster oven, if you’ve got one.
- About 30 minutes into the tomato roasting, bring a very large pot of water to a boil. Even if you’re only cooking for two, use at least a gallon of water if you can. All the Italian chefs say we need to, though they may be in the pocket of Big Water. Salt the water.
- Cook the pasta to al-dente (10-12 minutes, check the package for directions) and drain well. Toss together the pasta, feta, oregano and olives with a little more (good) olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Plate, and add the confit-ed tomatoes on top.
For real tomato confit, Thomas Keller suggest that we blanch, peel, and seed the tomatoes before baking. If you’ve got the extra time on your hands, please go ahead and report back. I should be just about done with dinner by then!
Any German can tell you that wurst and and cabbage go hand in hand. Any Spaniard will say the same of chorizo and beans. But it takes a special, international inclination to make the case for kielbasa with brussels sprouts, white beans and mustard. I’ll tell you that it works wonderfully! The saltiness of the pork combined with the bitter, gentle crunch of the brussels sprouts and mildness of the beans is well-balanced perfection. Plus, its cheap, easy and looks good on a plate!
Makes: 4 Plates of European Unity
Total kitchen time: 30 mins
- 1 medium shallot
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 1.5 lbs. brussels sprouts
- 1 lb. pork kielbasa
- 1 can white kidney beans
- 2 tbsp. coarse mustard
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Peel the shallot and cut into quarters. Make a small pouch out of aluminum foil (2 layers thick) and place inside the shallot and garlic. Coat with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Seal the pouch tightly and place in the oven (I recommend the toaster oven) at 400°F for 30 minutes.
- Rinse and pick clean the brussels sprouts. Cut each sprout in half, discarding any wilted or fugly outer leaves. Steam (or boil, your choice) the brussels sprouts until tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside.
- Rinse and drain the beans. Honestly, 1 can is a little too bean-heavy. You may want to save about 1/3 of the beans for something else. I know, I’m telling you now after you’ve bought a whole can, as opposed to buying 2/3 of a can.
- Slice the kielbasa on a steep bias into 1/4” slices. Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed non-nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Arrange the kielbasa slices and fry until crispy on each side, about 3 minutes per side. It’ll smell like bacon, confusing your dog. Set aside (the kielbasa, not your dog) on paper towels to drain.
- If your skillet is full of porky goodness, keep it there. Add a generous tablespoon of good olive oil and keep the heat at medium high. Unwrap the garlic and shallot and smash them using the flat side of your knife. They should be very soft. Add them to the skillet and cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the mustard and cream to the skillet and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the brussels sprouts and beans (as many as you want to use). Toss everything together to coat, then season to taste with a generous amount of salt and black pepper.
- Plate the kielbasa on top of your brussels sprouts and beans in a large bowl to serve.
If you’ve been hit hard by the recession, don’t worry – you can make this recipe without the brussels sprouts or the beans (choose one). There, I just saved you like $1.50. Maybe I should invite Suze Orman over for dinner!
Every year I’ve been in Seattle I’ve come to appreciate more and more what a spectacular part of the country we live in. It’s not just because Frasier took place here, or because we have
such a great baseball team – it’s because of our proximity to such excellent landscape, such wonderful natural resources, and such good people. A recent trip to Lake Chelan, a small town about 4 hours outside of Seattle, cemented my beliefs all the more. From the orchard- and vineyard-covered rolling hills, to the deep, serene lake, I’d highly recommend Chelan for a peaceful weekend getaway. And, since everyone likes a list, here’s my top 10.
1. Rent a house. There are charming hotels and B&Bs scattered throughout the town, but there are also a wonderful private homes for rent. Renting a house has a few advantages, particularly if you’re traveling with friends. Look for a house right on the water – the view doesn’t get any better. Also, try to find a house with a hot tub, if that’s your thing. You’ll want to soak your feet after a long day of wine tasting, and a Jacuzzi overlooking the lake brings any day to a tranquil end.
2. Wake up early to go fishing. Fishing may not necessarily be your thing, but I can’t think of a better way to relax than at the end of a dock early in the morning. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll be serving fresh trout omelets – yum!
3. Visit the Blueberry Hills Farm for breakfast. You’ll need to start your day off right, and their blueberry blintzes hit the spot. Be forewarned, though: that $3.50 side of bacon only comes with two slices!
4. Enjoy a tasting at Wapato Point Cellars. They have a beautiful tasting room and gift shop, and the onsite staff is friendly and knowledgable. I enjoyed their 2006 Malbec enough to walk off with a bottle.
5. Stop for lunch (and another tasting) at the Vin du Lac Winery. In addition to some very respectable wines, they offer an excellent light lunch menu. We gathered around an outdoor table overlooking the lake and for a leisurely lunch that hit the spot exactly.
6. Head to the South side of the lake for a tractor ride around Tsillan Cellars (pronounced “Chelan”). This was by far my favorite winery in Chelan, and not just ‘cause I’m a sucker for tractor rides. Their award winning wines stood up to the hype – particularly their 2006 Estate Riesling, which was very well balanced and not overly sweet.
7. Just down the road is the Sunshine Farm Market, a great roadside market with fresh produce (and goats!). Pick up a few Washington apples to take back home for a tarte tatin.
8. Once you’re ready for dinner, I highly recommend visiting Lake Chelan Winery for their evening barbeque. Starting at 4:00, you’ll be able to order a glass of wine to accompany killer, fall-off-the-bone ribs and soul-warming baked beans in their permanent tent behind the gift shop. If you thought wine and chocolate pairings were good, just try wine and ribs.
View my Windows Live Maps Collection of this tour
I had the recent pleasure of dining at Crémant, a captivating, authentic French bistro in Madrona.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, I plan to eat my last meal on Earth in a French bistro. To me, the rich decadence of traditional bistro fare is a reminder that you’re alive. Though most cardiologists agree that joie de vivre and fois gras become mutually exclusive after a few consecutive evenings, the French still manage to outlive us by 5-10 years, n’est pas?
Given my vigor for all dishes French, my recent visit to Crémant hit the spot. In a day and age when Americans are so insecure of their own culture that they’ll only eat “Freedom Fries”, my faith in humanity is restored when witnessing chef/owner Scott Emerick’s faithful execution of the most unabashedly French dishes that have existed since Louis XIV. For example, the Foie Gras Salade Royal ($14, pictured above)is an increasing rarity among restaurants and gourmet food shops, but its inclusion on the menu signals a steadfast allegiance to everything good about French cuisine. Furthermore, this particular foie gras had a noticeably fresh flavor and texture that paired well with the sweet crunch of the pistachios and green beans.
My personal favorite dish was the Os à Moelle Rôti ($12, pictured above), three roasted marrow bones served with a pile of salt and a small spoon. Again, I commend the chef for his inclusion of this staple. I would gladly return for lunch and order several more plates.
Unfortunately, there were a few negatives to the meal as well. Besides the foie gras and marrow bones, which were plated with generous pinch of sel gris, there was a prevailing undersaltedness to many of the dishes, including the pork rillette, salt cod and potato puree, and braised pork shoulder. And, although the wine list at Crémant is fine enough to make an Alsatian blush (little wine humor), my glass of red was served about 10° too cold, which is a shame when your wine list includes $140 Burgundies. If these critiques seem picky, that’s because they are. There is a clear attention to detail and an adherence to the French culinary attitude of perfection at Crémant, so these small, correctable mistakes stood out even more.
I will gladly return to Crémant, hopefully before the eve of my death. I wonder if they’ll accept my prescription for bone marrow?