Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Scrumptious Seattle with the PNBC: Bainbridge Island

Today E concludes our Seattle series coverage with this post on our Saturday adventure.

Though the Seattle series has technically wrapped up, I wanted to make sure to get in a pitch for the lovely Bainbridge Island, a little island about a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.  All of us piled into the car on Saturday, parked on the ferry, and enjoyed the beautiful view of the city in the sunshine.

Picture by Andrew

It was morning so the natural first stop was Blackbird Bakery, a favorite among island visitors (and locals!) for their toast with jam.

Toast for everyone!

I'm not sure which of their simple, hearty breads goes into this perfection, but having had it before I recommended that everyone give it a try.  It's hard to believe that mere toast could be so delicious, but I think Andrew's picture, below, does it justice.  [Ed.: We also tried the plain croissant, the rhubarb tart, and the beach ball cookie.  The cookie won points for cuteness, but the croissant and rhubarb tart were strong contenders in the deliciousness category.]

Sometimes simplicity is the most beautiful.

Following a quick hike out at Gazzam Lake park, we decided that obviously it was time to eat again and headed to a little lunch place called Fork and Spoon just around the corner from Blackbird Bakery that offers simple sandwich/soup/salad fare.

Desserts from Blackbird are available at the ordering counter.

They had take-out figured out and put together a nice, multi-containered setup for us, but only those who had ordered a sandwich/salad combo seemed particularly satisfied with their meal.  P ordered a tabbouleh salad which she had intended as an entree but was really very small; I ordered a creamy polenta with roasted root vegetables, which was good but turned out to be 95% polenta.  [Ed.: The hummus sandwich, tuna sandwich, and meatloaf sandwich were also really good.]  When I return I think I'll opt to eat-in rather than take-out and see if that makes a difference.

Meatloaf sandwich with tomato relish, coleslaw, and tabbouleh salad

Despite the inconsistencies, this lunch was a solid way to kick off the rest of the day as we went wine tasting.  We headed north on the island and visited two wineries, most notably at Rolling Bay winery, which had a beautiful tasting room and garden and we whiled away the afternoon at a hefty wood slab table in the sunshine.

The wine was good and the winery provided bread and a Seattle classic, Beecher's cheese.  It was nice to slow down our pace and enjoy our time together - a great end to our adventure.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fig and blueberry tart

In celebration of summer produce, two weeks ago I baked a fig-and-blueberry tart, approximately following the same Amanda Hesser recipe that I've used so many times before (it's so easy, and works well with apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, and apparently figs and berries too).  The tart hung out in the oven along with some Parmesan potatoes, cherry tomatoes and bell peppers:

And then it was done: bubbly and quite fragrant.

Eaten with some soy frozen yogurt, the tart made for a tasty weekday dessert.

Yes, this picture was Instagrammed.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scrumptious Seattle: Dahlia Bakery

We left Seattle on Sunday afternoon, but fit in one last culinary excursion that morning.  Dahlia Bakery was just six or seven blocks from hotel, so after leaving our bags with the front desk, we walked up 4th Street until arriving at Dahlia Bakery (one of Tom Douglas' ventures, just next door from Dahlia Lounge and Serious Pie, and across the street from Lola):

Here is the display case of cakes and coconut cream pies:

Here's a close-up of the "famous" coconut cream pies in mini form.  I couldn't turn them down.

There is also a case of breads and cookies:

A mini coconut tart is called a "coco bite."  Mine got packaged in an unnecessarily pretty box, which opened to reveal a glorious little pastry that was both extremely creamy and somehow light-tasting, thanks to a fresh and crumbly crust and the feathery shards of toasted coconut.

I had read about the breakfast sandwiches as must-orders.  They are made with English muffins baked in-house, and come in three varieties: one with tomato, one with ham, and one with bacon.  We ordered the bacon (with arugula and egg) and the ham (with cheddar and egg), and found them wholly satisfying.  Andrew told me later that he had been skeptical - how good can a breakfast sandwich be? - but that these definitely hit the spot.

We finished with an order of the also-famous doughnuts (more like doughnut holes), which come six to an order, freshly fried and covered in cinnamon sugar.  They are served with some thick whipped cream (flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, I think) and some strawberry rhubarb compote, and it is way to easy to get through a bag.

And so, with happily full bellies, we left Seattle, looking forward to our next visit.  (Do stay tuned for one more post this week from the PNBC, about our wining and dining on beautiful Bainbridge Island.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scrumptious Seattle with the PNBC: The best of all possible foods, at Fainting Goat gelato

As promised, here is the first of two posts written by E after our recent Seattle reunion.

There is a gelato shop in my neighborhood, Wallingford, called Fainting Goat.  It enjoys enormous popularity, and for good reason - my lactose tolerant friends say that their gelato, particularly the salted caramel (which C got both times we visited) is wonderful, but I just have to say that I think their grapefruit sorbet is the best thing I've ever tasted in this world.  I have thought long and hard about this and am actually not exaggerating.

I am lucky enough to be able to go there once a week or so, and despite my limited consumption possibilities I've been able to enjoy a wide variety of sorbets, all of which have been amazing, especially the lemon (and of course grapefruit).  They have an unusual mojito sorbet which is also very popular and realistic-tasting :)

One of the first things C and I did after I picked her up from the light rail downtown was head straight to Fainting Goat.  The clerk found us amusing and allowed C to try as many flavors as she wanted before she settled on a daring (but apparently amazing) combination of salted caramel gelato and grapefruit sorbet.  To bookend the trip properly, we all returned to Fainting Goat after dinner on our final evening, and P went for a winning combination of dark chocolate gelato and berry sorbet.

(This photo was taken from Yelp)

C likes samples.

*What is a fainting goat, you might ask?  It is an evolutionary mystery.  Fainting goats' legs lock in response to fear or surprise and they fall over until the shock wears off.  I hypothesize that the only reason such an easy source of prey has persisted is through humans breeding them for amusement.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Scrumptious Seattle: How To Cook A Wolf

For date night in Seattle, we narrowed our many options down to Le Pichet, How To Cook A Wolf, Crow, and The Walrus And The Carpenter.  In the end we chose the "Italian-inspired" How To Cook A Wolf.  After an afternoon spent at the Seattle International Beerfest, we rested, hydrated, and dressed at our hotel downtown, then took the bus up to Queen Anne in pursuit of some awesome solid food.  We arrived a little early for our 8pm reservation, and since there isn't much space to wait inside the restaurant, we took a short walk around the block, enjoying the crisp air and lingering sun.

How To Cook A Wolf is a surprisingly small space, but also an attractive one.  The walls and ceiling are almost completely and continuously covered with warm wood paneling, with a strip of hammered copper and some light installations.  Of course, the shiny interior design comes at a price, which is a complete lack of sound insulation, but no matter.  The menu is relatively short, with a handful of salads and starters, a section of main dishes, and several pastas, all meant to be .  Everything is meant to be shared, which worked pretty well.  Our server was friendly and helpful if harried, and we ordered the following:

Salmon with English peas, morels, and parmesan.  It's hard to find fault with carefully and not excessively cooked salmon, and the morels added a great burst of saltiness that played off the peas' sweetness.  I liked the smear of pea puree on the plate.  Parmesan flavor wasn't particularly strong, but I didn't miss it.


Albacore crudo with strawberries, basil oil, and Serrano chile.  This was the star of the evening, a perfect mix of clean flavors.  Strawberries and basil oil would not have occurred to me as a flavor combination, but it definitely works.

Strozzapreti with beef cheek bolognese, oregano, and mint.  I forgot to photograph this, mostly because we waited quite a long time for it to arrive, and were rather hungry by the time it did.  Strozzapreti are like extra-large, slightly unfurled macaroni.  The bolognese was delicious, though it could have used a little more mint.  This dish was essentially comfort food with more glamorous starting materials.

It turned out that there had been a mistake regarding our order - probably the temporary omission of the pasta - about which the staff were very apologetic, especially after I asked whether they were understaffed (the answer being yes, since they had just opened their patio and were still working out how many servers were necessary).  We were offered dessert on the house, but after we declined, our pasta was comped.

Logistical issues aside, I would still happily return to How To Cook A Wolf.  On a summer evening it's quite pleasant to sit surrounded by glowing wood, copper, and fresh air, enjoying delicious and interesting seafood and pasta.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Scrumptious Seattle: Coffee, coffee, coffee, and some pastries

1) On the day I arrived, E took me to University Ave to experience the UW college town, and we ducked into Cafe Solstice once it started raining.  My first coffee in Seattle was this soy latte, and it was wonderfully smooth:

2) The next morning, July 4, we had breakfast at Essential Baking Company.  Another latte, also good, accompanied by a fresh-out-of-the-oven currant scone with orange glaze that was everything a scone should be (including reasonably sized and not overly sweet).  I was initially disappointed that EBC had run out of croissants by the time we arrived, but this scone was a great replacement, to the point that I forgot to take a photo while it was still intact.

3) Thursday morning's coffee came in a French press at Toulouse Petit, providing the dose of caffeine that Andrew so desperately needed after his early morning flight.  In the afternoon we wandered through Pike Place Market and braved the touristy hordes at the original Starbucks, which is an anticlimactically small shop with the exact same coffee drinks as every other Starbucks.  It was fun for the historical value, though, and we bought some original-Starbucks-exclusive beans as a gift.

4) Friday morning found us at Milstead & Co., where we had breakfast before meeting up with E, M, and P for the Theo Chocolate Factory tour.  Milstead turned out to be my favorite coffee place of the trip.  I wish I had taken a picture of the interior design, a blend of austerity and charm which perfectly emphasized the coffee.  Both the cappuccino and latte were top-notch, and I was delighted that the pastries were just as good.  At bottom left is the "blackberry veneziane," which was one of the best pastries I've ever had: puff pastry and vanilla custard with a generous heap of fresh berries, in a very shareable flower shape.  We also tried the blueberry cornmeal muffin, which had plenty of berries and was nicely crumbly, but got overshadowed by the blackberry pastry.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Scrumptious Seattle: Toulouse Petit, round 2

Over a year ago, E first visited Toulouse Petit and raved about it in this guest entry.  I had wanted to have brunch there ever since her visit, and my wish was finally granted last Thursday morning.  After E & M, Paras and I picked up Andrew from the light rail station downtown, we immediately drove to the Queen Anne neighborhood, snagged a great parking spot just across the street from the restaurant, and waltzed into the restaurant with plenty of time left on the "Breakfast Happy Hour" (from 8am-11am on weekdays, most menu items are $8, with the rest $11).  We were hungry and knew that Toulouse would deliver beautifully.

French press coffee to start for the caffeine addicts among us, and then menu perusal.  Andrew and I shared two dishes as usual (in case it wasn't obvious already, I am a big believer in sharing an egg/protein dish and a carb dish at breakfast or brunch places).  Here is the "Big Easy" Andouille sausage scramble with potatoes, which was savory, spicy, and comforting:

Our sweet carb dish was the creme caramel french toast with pear caramel, strawberries, and pecan butter.  This was pure dessert-for-breakfast, and even one-ups University Cafe's croissant French toast in decadence.  No knife necessary:

Paras had the granola with yogurt and fresh fruit, and E & M shared the crab and asparagus scramble, all with apparent enjoyment.  As a table we also shared an order of the famous beignets, which come with chicory anglaise but were also quite amenable to being dragged through leftover pear caramel.

I definitely want to return, and also want to try lunch and/or dinner here.  Of course, I plan to visit Seattle again in the forseeable future, so more meals at Toulouse Petit will probably be feasible.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Scrumptious Seattle: 4th of July festivities, with a pie

My blog lives once more!!!  To my [few but much valued] readers, I'm sorry for not posting since March....the past four months have been filled with 1) surviving the first year of med school, 2) maintaining a surprisingly satisfying personal life, 3) maintaining a semblance of an exercise routine, and 4) remaining as fed and rested as possible in order to enable 1), 2), and 3).  But anyway, last week was a long-awaited reunion/date/vacation in Seattle, and as it involved an almost overwhelming stream of good food and drink, now seemed like a good time to revive this blog.  My Pacific Northwest Bureau Chief, the lovely E, will be helping me recount the culinary events of the Seattle week, so stay tuned for some entries from her.

Paras and I spent the 4th of July with E and M at their Wallingford abode.  E and I started preparing the day before by constructing and baking our first-ever pie, following Mark Bittman's recipes for a flaky pie crust and a classic apple pie.  It was certainly time-consuming, but less so with two people.  We finished assembling the pie late in the evening, when I was dizzy with tiredness (having been awake since 3:45am).  As such, the pie was very lopsided and generally unappetizing in appearance, even with the addition of a little pastry star on top, so we named it Freedom Fugly.

There was some leftover pie crust and a few seasoned apple slices, so I shaped a little turnover and named it Mini Me.  After Freedom Fugly and Mini Me went into the oven, I went to bed.  The next morning, when I asked about Mini Me's whereabouts, I was told that E & M had unceremoniously consumed it in the middle of the night.  Outrage ensued, and I had to be placated with coffee and a scone (more on Seattle coffee later).

This deep disappointment aside, Freedom Fugly's stint in the oven significantly improved its appearance.  And, as we discovered during the Independence Day afternoon, we had made a completely delicious, unequivocally successful pie.

Other than pie, we enjoyed berry dacquiris, corn/bean/tomato/feta salad with crackers on the balcony.

The lights and candles that we arranged on the balcony gave our entire celebration a rather elegant effect once the sun went down.

An hour or two after pie and snacks, we had hot dogs and chicken apple sausages with fajita toppings.  Completely stuffed, we had only to await the fireworks, which were every bit as satisfying as our dessert, drinks and dinner (in that order) had been.  A fabulous 4th of July!