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!

Northwest Wining and Dining’s Dishes of the Day

July 22, 2013

Palomino Seattle Scallops with Pernod Beurre Blanc

Hard to believe it’s been three months since we chose a proper Dish of the Day (last one was The Capital Grille’s stupendous Seafood Tower), so today I’ve chosen not one, but three for your viewing pleasure.

Above behold the glorious Asiago-Almond Crusted Scallops with Pernod Butter Sauce and first-of-the-season grilled asparagus,  which we enjoyed a few weeks ago at the Palomino Restaurant & Bar location in downtown Seattle (truth be known, it is in the CityCentre Building, where Spencer used to go to work at Callison Architecture every day!).

How the chef got the perfect crispy crust and still managed to leave the scallops rare in the middle is beyond me. I tried to figure out how to replicate the dish at home, but just figured I’d eat it at Palomino as often as possible.

Just last weekend, when the temperatures were high (close to 90!) in Seattle, we were lucky to score an outside seat at Le Pichet, right on First Avenue in the Pike Place Market.

Le Pichet Pike Place Market Salmon

The Seared Salmon with baby garlic tops, flageolet beans, carrots, and asparagus was like summer on a plate, the salmon perfectly cooked to rare and the garlic tops more green than garlicky. A very light white broth brought the dish together so perfectly that I lapped up every last drop with the soup spoon thoughtfully provided!

Gordon Biersch Blackened Tuna Salad

Not so politically correct, but still very well executed, is the (blackened) Ahi and Greens salad at Gordon Biersch. I feel a deep twinge every time I order Ahi, since it  (in fact, most species of tuna, except for albacore) is on the endangered list, but every so often it serves as a special treat. This one was served with a well-made miso dressing and wasn’t overly charred or spicy. A Cajun remoulade sauce was also offered, and went surprisingly well with the fish and greens.


Northwest Wining and Dining Drinks Seattle!

June 3, 2013

A.J. Rathbun Drink Seattle iphone app

A.J. Rathbun, our good buddy and prolific author, whom we’ve written about not one time, but twice for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, has done it again.

But this time instead of another book (among which he has written “Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz,” the award-winning “Good Spirits,” and a host of others), this time A.J. has come up with his own app: Drink Seattle: A Spirited Journey Through Seattle Bars and Cocktails with A.J. Rathbun.

The Drink Seattle app costs just $1.99 in the iPhone App Store, with an Android version coming soon.

In the app, A.J. Rathbun, awarding-winning author of a host of cocktail and home-entertaining books, recommends over 50 of the best bars, cocktails, distilleries, and cocktail supply shops in and around Seattle.

And whether you’re visiting Seattle or already live here, if you like a good drink, you need this app. With the ever-jovial and witty A.J. as your guide, you won’t miss a lounge, bar, distillery, or dive that’s worth sitting down and sipping within.

This bubbly whirl gives you a great drink in nearly every neighborhood, specific cocktail picks for each place and a host of insights on individual bar personalities.

Each recommended establishment features a detailed review, notes on what to order, and great photos and tips for having the best experience you can.

As you’d expect, the app has a lot of bells and whistles–GPS, one-touch dialing, and turn-by-turn directions – and vital info like business hours, websites, etc. And, awesomely, the app is updated frequently so you stay abreast of all the latest changes in the Seattle cocktail scene.

A.J. knows from whence he writes, since he pens the monthly Bar Hop column for Seattle Magazine and a weekly blog for them on spirits, cocktails, and bars, as well as authoring his own tipsy blog Spiked Punch. He’s a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and a contributor to culinary and entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others.

For even more from A.J., you can follow him on Twitter.


Wining and Dining with Guests Through Seattle and Environs

April 15, 2013

The first week in April, from Thursday at 1:30 p.m. to Sunday at 11 a.m., we enjoyed showing my brother and sister-in-law around Seattle.

Welcome sign nan and brad

Here’s the cute “pig” blackboard sign in our condo that welcomed them to town.

Place pigalle oyster stew photo

We had our first lunch at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market (oyster stew, beet salad, duck confit, crab cakes). Here’s a gorgeous shot of Place Pigalle’s oyster stew, one of the best, if not THE best, version in town.

Wild Ginger Seven Elements Soup

At Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar, in downtown Seattle, three of us ordered the justly famous Seven Element Soup, which is available only at lunchtime (pity!). We also managed to down platters of Seven-Spice Beef, Siam Lettuce Cups, Hanoi Tuna, and bok choy.

Restaurant Marché Vegetable Plate

My brother was here partly for business reasons, so on the day he crossed over the mountains to attend a meeting in Yakima, Spencer and I took sis-in-law on a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island for a nature walk, exploring downtown, and lunch at our friend, Greg Atkinson’s, lovely Restaurant Marché.

We loved the menu, and enjoyed wild salmon, the Market Vegetable Plate (a daily-changing entrée with “five veggies five ways,” such as braised greens, grilled asparagus, carrots, and pea flan the day we were there).

Restaurant Marché Salad Niçoise

Here is my gorgeous Salade Niçoise with a very generous portion of perfectly cooked albacore tuna riding atop. The recipe is on Greg’s website and would be a snap to whip up at home.

And although we really weren’t hungry, we had to try a scoop at Mora Iced Creamery shop just outside of Marché. Pistachio, Gianduja (Italian hazelnut chocolate), and Coconut were our delectable choices.

Debra prinzing bouquet book

It was thrilling to see my dear friend Debra Prinzing’s book, “The 50-Mile Bouquet,” prominently displayed in the front window at Intentional Table on Bainbridge, in the Madrone Lane area  just outside Marché.

Steelhead Diner Caviar Pie

Our three dinners began in grand style at Steelhead Diner in the Pike Place Market, just across the street from bro and sis-in-law’s hotel, the beautiful, boutique-y Inn at the Market. In a bit of New Orleans-style lagniappe, chef Anthony sent over one of our absolute favorite dishes in Seattle–Caviar Pie.

After devouring that, we ordered more: Dungeness Crab Cake, Kasu Cod, troll-caught salmon. . .

Steelhead Diner Whole Idaho Trout

and the gorgeous whole Idaho Trout swimming in a brown-butter bath and sprinkled with a plethora of plump pecans. Yum!

Terra Plata shisito peppers

Vowing never to eat (or drink) again, we somehow managed to rally the next evening at Terra Plata, where the truly addictive Shisito Peppers with Aïoli didn’t last long.

Terra Plata Scallop Crudo

Nor did the Roasted Olives, Medjool Dates, or Scallop Crudo (pictured above).

Terra Plata Scallop Crudo

Scallops with Melted Leeks and a fried quail egg was my entrée; the meat eaters enjoyed the Braised Short Ribs.

Terra plata pavlova dessert

Two desserts sated our sweet tooths (teeth?!?!). Here’s the Pavlova. . .

Terra plata apple tart

And the Apple Tart.

RN74 Tomato Soup Fondue

For our last supper (sounds rather dire!), we lived it up at the always ebullient RN74 in downtown Seattle. Sis-in-law loved the Tomato Soup Fondue, while bro ordered a gorgeous Green Pea Soup with Dungeness crab. Spencer opted for escargots (served in the shell!), and I got the Butter Lettuce Salad with Blue Cheese.

RN74 Black Cod

Here’s the generous portion of Black Cod with Bok Choy and Wild Mushrooms that I ordered. Beef Bourguignon, Duck Breast, and Beef Filet satisfied my dining companions.

RN74 Woodward Canyon Wine

From the Last Bottle list (an ever-changing board, much like a railroad-station board) we chose a 2005 Woodward Canyon Winery Red Blend (made up of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc and Merlot) that was drinking absolutely perfectly (and a steal at $110, which is the reason we love the Last Bottle List so much!).

Etta's Seafood Salmon Cakes

Bro and sis-in-law wanted a really good Dungeness Crab Benedict for their final meal in Seattle. So bright and early (at least for Spencer and me) at 9:30 on Sunday morning, we trotted down the hill from their hotel for brunch at Etta’s, one of legendary Seattle chef Tom Douglas’s 10 restaurants.

By now, even intrepid eaters such as Spencer and me were in a food and wine coma. So I was very appreciate of the brunch special of the day since it was a bit on the lighter/healthier side: Salmon Cake and Grilled Asparagus and Arugula Salad (well, maybe the fried egg on top wasn’t so healthy!).

Etta's Seafood Dungeness Crab Benedict

The relatives raved about their Dungeness Crab Cakes Benedict, and Spencer chowed down on one of his long-time favorite dishes about town: Etta’s Breakfast (scrambled eggs, house-made chicken sausage, home fries, and sour-dough toast).

Etta's Seafood Family Group Shot

Here we are about to chow down at Etta’s, looking happy, and perhaps a few pounds heavier, after so much good food and drink in such a concentrated amount of time.

Of course, we did some sightseeing along the way (had to burn off some of those calories!) and enjoyed (and highly recommend) Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. We had been last May with Spencer’s cousin and wife, so feared we might be bored going again so soon. But we had a great guide–Dietrich–who has been working for the company on and off since 1989. He looked at things from an architectural standpoint as well as historical, and we all agreed we learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it.

SAM MIRROR art installation

We also spent a few hours at the Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibit: Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasure of Kenwood House, London. The paintings were truly inspiring, but perhaps most noteworthy (downright awesome) were the Rembrandt etchings.

Pike Place Market Scene

Bro and sis-in-law enjoyed discovering Pike Place Market, especially Le Panier for morning coffee, croissant, and banana bread.

Utilikilt Damaged Dummy Display

The weather was downright ugly (drizzle, heavy rain, a little sun, sunshine while it was raining!), and here is proof–a downed mannequin in front of the Utilikilts store in Pioneer Square.

Seattle Cityscape from Bainbridge Island Ferry

More proof of the inclement weather; brooding skies as shown from the ferry coming back from Bainbridge Island.

Seattle great wheel elliott bay waterfront july 4 photo

Bro and sis-in-law promised they would be back soon, so I’ve already started thinking about what we will do next time.

For starters? How about a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel?


Tara’s Healthy, Homemade Baked Granola

January 3, 2013

Just yesterday, in a lovely holiday gift package, our friends at ART Restaurant and Lounge in the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel Seattle sent over a sample of pastry chef Tara Sedor’s Homemade Baked Granola.

And boy, was it ever good!

Tara was kind enough to share her recipe, and you can even view a step-by-step photo tutorial on the Four Seasons’s Facebook page.

To make the recipe at home, you will need:

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 cup dried fruit, such as dried cherries, dried apricots, dark or golden raisins, or a mix

Milk or plain yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 300 °F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet or spray with nonstick spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almonds, brown sugar, and salt.

3. Add the maple syrup and honey and stir well until all of the oats are evenly coated. Give the mixture one final stir.

4. Transfer the granola to the prepared baking sheet and spread it evenly over the pan. Reserve the mixing bowl.

5. Place the granola in the oven and bake until golden brown, mixing the granola every 20 minutes with a heatproof spatula, about 1 hour.

6. Transfer the granola back into the reserved mixing bowl. Add the dried fruit and mix until distributed throughout.

7. Store the granola in an airtight container or Zip-loc plastic storage bag.

8. To serve, divide the granola among cereal bowls and top with milk or plain yogurt.

Cook’s Hint: For New Year’s gift-giving, fill a Mason jar or goodie bag with the freshly made granola. Add a ribbon or bow and gift to very lucky family members or friends.


Fabulous Holiday Recipe: Baked Stuffed Clams

December 24, 2012

As we count down to the holidays and begin thinking about what to serve our families and friends for the special day (whatever you choose to celebrate), we will post some of our favorite recipes of all time for your consideration.

Here’s the recipe for lusty Vongole Ripiene (Baked Stuffed Clams with Toasted Parmesan Bread Crumbs) that comes from chef Walter Pisano of the long-running Tulio Ristorante in downtown Seattle.

Walter’s recipe was printed in a December 2008 article I wrote for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine on the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional, multi-course Italian seafood-centric dinner served on Christmas Eve.

Please follow the link about to learn more about the Feast of the Seven Fishes, to seem Seattle Times photographer Ken Lambert’s lip-smacking photo, and to see Walter’s recipe.

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.

Dish of the Day: Place Pigalle’s Outstanding Oyster Stew

December 7, 2012

This Dish of the Day was originally published in 2010, but it still holds true today. Thank you, Place Pigalle!

Every now and then, usually in the winter months, when the weather is typically Northwest (gray, gray, and more gray), I get a hankerin’ for Place Pigalle’s Oyster Stew.

This outstanding version of the genre has been on the menu at the venerable Pike Place Market hideaway for god knows how long–I’d bet ever since former bartender Bill Frank took over the famous biker bar in 1982. Whenever it was, I hope new owners (at least by Pike Place Market standards) Seth and Lluvia Walker  NEVER take it off!

Place Pigalle\'s Oyster Stew

Somehow, its creamy smoothness is totally imbued with über amounts of oyster nectar. A coupla perfectly poached oysters lurk within. I always add pieces of broken-up bread (soft inside part only, no crust) to sop up the sensual soup and make it last longer.

One cup, along with the Roasted Beet Salad, is all I can rationalize, although I’d drink vat loads if the calorie count and sat-fat levels were lower. Which more than qualifies Place Pigalle’s Oyster Stew as my Dish of the Day.

Dish of the Day: Tango’s Gambas Picantes

November 27, 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 Gambas Picantes (Spicy Shrimp) from Seattle’s Tango Restaurant & Lounge. 

We enjoyed our entire recent meal at Tango Restaurant & Lounge, so it’s really unfair to single out one dish as the Dish of the Day.

But the Gambas Picantes (Spicy Shrimp) were truly outstanding. . .my small-plate portion a steal at $7.00.

The Spicy Shrimp actually served as my entrée after our appetizers that included Piquillo Rellenos (albacore tuna-stuffed red–piquillo–peppers). The piquillo peppers are smoked over oak, which imparts a lovely mild flavor.

Sautéed Calamari with fire-roasted tomatoes, poblanos, red peppers, cilantro, and lime juice was super succulent and full of flavor from the variety of peppers.

Instead of salad (gotta get those greens among all this protein!), we opted for a small order of Tango’s toothsome Green Beans & Harissa, pan-roasted  with tomatoes, pinenuts, and harissa, a soulful Moroccan spice mix.

A bottle of Viña Ardanza Reserve Rioja–old stuff from 2001!–was well worth every penny of its $80 price tag. We liked the wine so much, we ordered a case for future drinking pleasure.

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!

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