Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

What I Did this Spring

Sometime back in February, I fell off the blogging grid. Where was I? What was I doing? Well, here’s a recap (with lots of photos):

I threw an epic Momofuku Dinner party with Bo Ssam, Sous Vide Hangar Steak Ssam, home-made Kimchi, Rice, Roasted Cauliflower and a whole mess of sauces. All from the Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang. Wow! Oh, and I created some specialty cocktails too, the Cucumber Bliss (cucumber infused vodka, ginger liqueur, lychee juice and meyer lemon bitters) and the Ginger Collins (ginger vodka, lime juice, orange bitters and club soda).

Since it just happened to be one of my good friend’s birthdays, I topped dinner off with the Apple Pie Layer Cake from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tossi. One of my guests declared it the best cake he had ever eaten. I’m not sure he was wrong.

Just a couple of weeks later I upheld my tradition of cooking dinner as my gift for another set of my friend’s birthdays (they’re a couple and their birthdays are on two consecutive days). I made giant ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and an egg yolk, plain cheese ravioli for the kid’s, Caesar salad (my friend loves my version) and home-made foccacia bread.

I finished that dinner off with another cake from Milk, the Confetti Cake. Not quite as good as the Apple Pie Layer Cake, but still tasty (and fun, especially for their kids).

Next up in my trio of birthdays was my own. I wasn’t planning a celebration this year but my husband insisted. We hosted a small group of friends for a crab boil, Dungeness Crab, Spot Prawns, Mussels, corn, potatoes and some Andouille Sausage that I made, stuffed and smoked myself. I also made all the crab dipping sauces found in Becky Selengut’s cookbook Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast. While the avocado herb sauce and lemon panko sauces were both good, the soy caramel made me want to pick up the bowl and lick it out when the meal was done. I’m not even joking a little here. And of course there were custom drinks including the Arecibo Sidecar with pear-infused brandy, triple sec, home-made limon-limettachello and meyer lemon bitters in a sugar-rimmed martini glass (and in case you’re wondering, Arecibo is the name of our house).

One more birthday, one more excuse to cook from Milk. For my own birthday I decided to make the carrot layer cake. I really wanted to make the pistachio layer cake (because I love, LOVE pistachios) but just a couple of the ingredients totaled $80 and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that. Happily, the carrot cake was really good (even though it didn’t set up very well because I undercooked the liquid cheesecake). Moist and not overly sweet.

Once we finished dessert I found out why my husband was so insistent that we have a party. He had been working for weeks (maybe months) on an edition of Trivial Pursuit personalized just for me (as in, all of the questions pertained to trivia about me). One of the sweetest things he’s ever done.

He also bought me a PlayStation with lots of video games. I lost a lot of March to Skyrim. Some people say video games are a waste of time but as my husband is fond of quoting “Time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted” -John Lennon

I managed to pull myself away from video games long enough to cater a couple of big parties.

We dog sat (that’s our dog Rupert on the left and the one we were dog-sitting, Penny, on the right).

I made some slap-yo-mama good Balsamic-Mint-Strawberry Jam

Somewhere around here I started feeling under the weather. Which for me means one thing, my (not so) secret shame, cup noodles. Something about them is magical when I don’t feel good.

While still not feeling 100% I co-hosted a baby shower. Since I was sick I had a lot of time on my hands to make some custom decorations. As for the food, we made pesto chicken salad, Mediterranean tuna salad, pasta salad with preserved zucchini and tomato confit, greens topped with strawberries, goat cheese and pecans, roasted asparagus with aioli and pinot noir syrup, confetti cookies (again from Milk) and cake balls and pops. I spent a lot of the party having coughing fits (and drinking shots of vodka to try to calm them, wheeee).

And since time marches on whether you feel good or not, we had this delivered, 27 cubic yards of dirt (for reference, there is a 16′ x 20′ tarp under there).

We dog sat again.

After three weeks I finally gave up and went to the doctor…

…twice. Thank the maker for modern medicine. Curse you asthma-riddled lungs.

Meanwhile my husband (and some friends and hired guns) were moving all of that dirt. I helped some by pulling weeds. A lot of weeds, actually. And I did some planting in the one area that now had all the dirt it needed.

Finally through the miracle of antibiotics (and the best cough syrup I’ve ever had) I started feeling better. We celebrated with a day away from the garden.

And some plant shopping.

Eventually, we got to the fun part of the gardening project, the planting. Made slightly less fun because it had to be done in the rain, but we’re troopers. And, lets face it, there are times in Seattle where if you wait for it to stop raining, you are never going to go outside.

We spent the night at a friend’s house and she made us Dutch Baby Pancake for breakfast.

We went to a BBQ where we ate brisket and drank bourbon.

We piled the dog into the car and drove to Boise to visit my mom and mom-in-law.

We spent the day at my mom’s cabin. What a view.

Back in Boise we ate some pretty great Basque food at Epi’s. Chorizo with pimentos, ham croquetas, Txerri Txuletax Pipperrakin (pork chops with pimentos) and gateau Basque for dessert.

We celebrated Rupert’s 6th Birthday with a ride back to Seattle.

I went to the BlogHer Food Conference in Seattle (meh), made some fun new friends and ate this (they called it potato salad). How about we all agree to stop “deconstructing” food, hmmm?

We went to a Dodgers vs. Mariners game and had a beer (or two) in memory of my Dad (the Dodger’s were his favorite). I’m pretty sure the grand slam hit by the Dodgers was just for him.

We dog sat. Again.

We finished the last of the gardening (except for the never-ending weeding) by planting a few vegetables in my new raised beds.

And last weekend, since we were rained out from camping, we took a drive to Mt. Vernon to retrieve our newest backyard decoration from our friends at Bistro San Martin who had wrangled him for us. We call him Chicken Boo (you’ll get the name if you ever watched the Animaniacs). I love him. Our dog is scared of him.

In between all this craziness, I still managed to work, teach classes, swim and even, occasionally, do house work.

I can’t wait to see what summer will bring…



Friday, September 30th, 2011

The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

Back in January, after reading a New York Times wrote an article titled 10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride, I began plotting our trip. I figured, if it’s worth a plane ride, it must be worth a two-hour car trip. Looking at our calendar (and the hotel’s calendar), our first chance would be … September. Oh my, such a long wait. But again, if it’s worth a plane ride, it has to be worth waiting nine months.

Finally the time was here. Lummi Island is normally serviced be a car ferry, but for three weeks every September the car ferry is dry docked and the island is only serviced by a passenger ferry. If we had been staying more than night, I might have been disappointed not to have a car, but since ours was to be a very quick trip, and the hotel was very nice about picking us up at the car ferry, we decided to just go with it.

We arrived with enough time to relax in our room for a while before heading down for pre-dinner cocktails. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we decided to relax on the deck with cocktails and snacks.

My favorite of the drinks I enjoyed was the Spotted Owl made with Aviation gin, nettle purée, Douglas fir eau de vie, lemon, simple syrup.

Tangy and refreshing with a shocking green color. Our options for snacks were marinated cheese or turkey confit. Since I am mad for cheese, that is what we decided to have. I absolutely loved the simple presentation of the cheese presented in a jar.

Finally it was time for dinner. At our table we were greeted with menus detailing the five-course meal that was to come (and some sparkling wine). I am a strong believer that when you’re having a tasting menu, unless you have an actual sensitivity to certain foods, you should eat what the chef prepares. I may not be the biggest fan of fish in the world, but it just doesn’t make sense to me not to eat what the chef feels he cooks best. That being said, I was a little relieved to see that there was only one course that would have fish. Then I started looking over the back of the menu, where the provenance of the ingredients being used were listed. Salmon, clams and oysters were all listed but they were nowhere to be found on the menu. That’s when we found out about the snacks.

They started bringing out plate upon plate of one- to two-bite snacks. Many of them fish, most of them delicious (you never know what you might find out you like).


Smoked reefnet sockeye salmon
This was served in a closed wooden box with something burning beneath it so when the lid was taken off the box a delightful little puff of smoke came out and filled the air.

Salmon roe roll
Salmon I can live with, enjoy even. Salmon roe on the other hand is often a little too “fishy” for me. However, the crispy roll and the cream filling were very tasty.

Potato chip with homemade sauerkraut and black cod
Not much to say about this one. The title of the dish pretty much tells you exactly what it is. Didn’t love it or hate it.

Farm basket with herb emulsion
Basically a deconstructed salad with a basket of greens and vegetable tops, hazelnut “dirt” and herb dressing served in a little terra cotta pot. Fun, but a little messy. We got “dirt” crumbs everywhere.

Butter clam, cucumber, geoduck and potato, served with frozen horseradish
I liked all the components of this dish, but the horseradish “snow” that was served with it was my favorite part. It’s a little hard to describe, but picture a spicy snow cone and you’ll come close.

Kale toast with black truffle purée and rye crumble
My favorite of the snacks, the combination of crisp cooked kale (not sure if it was fried or baked) along with the truffle was fantastic.

Pickled oysters with garden sorrel

The presentation of this dish was just stunning. River rocks frozen in ice with the oysters atop. Unfortunately oysters are one of the flavors I really don’t like. I know I’m supposed to (it’s one of those things chefs are supposed to just like) but I have never met an oyster I enjoyed. But I’ll keep trying…

So, now we’re seven plates in and we haven’t even started dinner. Oh my.

First course
Organic grains with pickled mushrooms

The grains in question were emmer, barley, farro and spelt and they were in a slightly bitter sauce (made from watercress, I think). The pickled mushrooms added a nice counter balance.

Second course
Squid with kohlrabi and seaweed and an oyster emulsion
I’ve never had squid before in any form other than fried. I liked this dish (except for the oyster emulsion) but squid probably isn’t going to become a “OMG they have fresh squid I have to order that” kind of thing any time soon.

Just when we thought they were done bringing out snacks they brought out one more.
White anchovies with pickled elderberries in a brown butter sauce
The look on my husband’s face when a whole anchovy was sat down in front of him was priceless. While I’m not a huge fan of fish, my husband really doesn’t like it. But, being adventurous eaters we went for it. I was pleasantly surprised (and I really liked the brown butter sauce) while the husband, well, not so much.

Third course
Nettles farm hen’s egg with summer vegetables and lemon verbena sauce

This was described as every vegetable currently in season on the farm served with a poached egg (though technically it was a sous vide egg yolk not a poached egg). This was my favorite dish of the night. Perfectly ripe vegetables, some pickled, some cooked, some raw surrounding a perfectly cooked, creamy egg yolk. Each bite was a little different depending on which vegetables happened to be on the fork and the yolk and lemon verbena sauce made for a totally tasty dressing.

Fourth course
Slow roasted pork shoulder with grilled onions

There were at least three different types of onions surrounding a tender piece of pork shoulder. The pork had a slightly sweet, tangy barbecue type sauce as well as an onion au jus. Outstanding.

Before the dessert course they brought out a single paper husked cape gooseberry as a palette cleanser. So much better than sorbet.

Fifth course
Green apples with buttermilk and licorice

This had apple sorbet topped with buttermilk foam and surrounded by very (very) thin slices of apple and some kind of licorice gel chips. A very intriguing combination.

Finally, because we hadn’t had nearly enough, we were presented with flax seed caramels. Yes.

After dinner I was allowed to go into the kitchen and chat with the chef for a while. I am always amazed when I go in a kitchen and it turns out to be tiny (and without much special equipment). For most of the meal, the doors to the kitchen were left open so I got to enjoy watching the staff assemble all of our delicious plates. I’m always surprised when a kitchen is so calm and quiet when they are producing that kind of food. P.S. the chef said that my idea for sous vide paté was genius (which I have to say made me feel pretty darn good about myself).

Finally we made our way back to our room where we were greeted by chocolates on our pillows. The hot tub was calling my name but the bed called louder.

The next morning we returned to the dining room for breakfast and then the concierge gave us a ride up to visit Nettles Farm. I love that all of the vegetables, herbs, berries and flowers that we ate throughout our meal came from a farm less than a mile away. We spied on the chickens and pilfered a few tomatoes from their vines.


With that we walked back to the Inn and then got a ride back to the ferry. Our quick trip suddenly over.

So, was it worth the wait and the drive? I would answer with a resounding yes as this will get a place in my top ten meal list. Though I’m not sure I would make the effort again (I like to spread my fine dining experiences around a little).


The fish-hating husband, however. Well he had a different take. You can read all about how a non-fish eater with the palette of a five-year old copes with a meal like this right here.


Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Allium on Orcas

Earlier this week I had the privilege of joining a few friends and fellow food enthusiasts on a day trip to Orcas Island for lunch at Allium prepared by Lisa Nakamura.

The idea for this trip started (like all great ideas do) on twitter. Karen (@karenrosenzweig on twitter) tweeted something like “A day trip to Allium on Orcas would be fun” and before you know it 13 of us where on our way.

The original plan was a three-course meal (with wine pairings) but the night before we were to go, a six-course menu had been posted. Yay.


Jones Family Farm Spot Prawns with Washington Asparagus
Sauce Bernaise Mousseline

I think we all knew that we were in for a treat when this first course arrived. I seriously wanted to lick the mousseline off the plate.


True Cod Clamwich
Maple Rock Farms Kale Tips a la Kim Chee

Of all the courses this was my least favorite. I loved the cod, and especially the kale tips, but I founds the clams a bit on the salty side.


Truffle Gnocchi
Pommes et Pommes de Terre

This, however, was my favorite course. I seriously wanted three more plates of these. The gnocchi were so light and fluffy. The apples so sweet and totally unexpected. And the sauce? Well let’s just say I wanted to lick the plate again.


Mad Hatcher Squab
Polenta, Five Spice Cherry Demi

Another winner. I’m considering stealing the flavor profile of the sauce and squab for this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge (which is sausage links containing poultry and fruit)


Lopez Island Creamery Guava Sorbet
Muscat Beaume De Venise

Lisa has this flavor of sorbet made especially for her restaurant. It totally reminded me of being in Hawaii. She poured the muscat right over the top of the sorbet which was a lovely combination.


Mint Chocolate Pot De Creme

Rhubarb Cake with Lavender Caramel

We didn’t all get both desserts, but since I had made friends with the person sitting next to me I was able to try both. The Pot de Creme was wonderful. Like a Girl Scout thin mint, but creamy. My favorite of the two was the rhubarb cake. Sweet and tart and delicious. My neighbor and I felt like failures because we couldn’t finish both desserts, but we were full to capacity.

After lunch we all lingered a while. Enjoying the deck overlooking the bay and taking in the sun while it was out (I imagine the deck is awesome for dining when it is warmer). Finally it was time to go so we headed towards the ferry for home.

While it may seem a little excessive to drive four hours and spend two hours on a ferry just for lunch, I can say without a doubt it was completely worth it. I’m definitely going to try to get up there again. But maybe I’ll try to spend the night.

About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

Follow ChefDJen on Twitter