Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's not a rock, it's chicken

I was going to go out and get some chicken to make some Asian-influenced broiled chicken dish to serve with fresh steamed green beans and rice (reducing gluten), tomorrow. But my husband's home today so he went and got the chicken, and then--because it's a warm sunny day outside, grilled the tequila/lime-marinated chicken.

He made sure to crisp the chicken skin, easy to do with the sugars in the tequila. The tequila also gave the chicken a nice alcohol-y smoke flavor, almost like Hawaii's Huli-Huli chicken but without the soy.

All that flavor in the chicken thighs... I prefer to pair this main entree up with basic steamed vegetables and rice. Here's his marinade recipe: tequila, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder.

My next main entree will focus on salmon and an Indian influence using the most basic of ingredients--yogurt, spices--and cooking technique--broil, bake.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Arnie's Mukilteo for Mari-jo

Mari-jo is a friend from way back--as close to a childhood friend as the rest of you non-military have and take for granted. I've known her since Aiea High School, Class of 1982. She and her husband Doug visited me and my family in Seattle last year. We took them to Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront, then Mia Roma's Italian in Bothell for dinner. They paid. They loved the simple, basic Italian fare.

I remember Mari-jo, me, Elaine, Gina, and some others would love to go to Hawaii's Yum Yum Tree or Uncle John's, Zippy's, or any number of those comfort food places. They're a bit too strait-laced and bland for my taste, but they remind us all of home, youth, and friendship: chicken pot pies, meatloaf, pancakes, Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice.

For Mari-jo's second visit (she brought her daughter, Jana, too) last week, I wanted to take her to a place that represented the Northwest more (and treat her this time). She confirmed this by telling me it would be nice if she could have a really nice salmon dinner somewhere. Somewhere, eventually lead me to Arnie's in Mukilteo near the ferry dock. Arnie's is a local seafood chain. There's one in Edmonds too, and it's always crowded.

I was torn between Arnie's and Chandler's Crabhouse on Lake Union, which KIRO-FM radio jockeys were always promoting. Chandler's menu seemed too frou-frou for Mari-jo's basic, down-home taste. We also had my picky eater son James to think about, as well as her seafood-hating, burger-loving daughter Jana. Then, there was the matter of finances. Chandler's was way too expensive. The King Salmon they had was Chipotle-glazed with apple cucumber relish. I know for sure Mari-jo prefers her fish prepared simply, some butter, a little caper. There wasn't a children's menu I could look at and not much of a non-seafood selection.

Arnie's had a children's menu (buttered noodles to the rescue) and a decent burger, plus assorted other simple non-seafood dishes to choose from. Its salmon was prepared with butter and capers. Done.

The late night before, I last-minute thought it best to make an online reservation (which you can do with the best, hippest restaurants nowadays), since it would be a Friday night. I made the reservation for six for 5:30 p.m.

It turned out I made the right decision.

We -- me, Mari-jo, and Jana -- were at the mall and barely made it to Arnie's, with the boys arriving 15 minutes after we did, after the reservation date. We beat the ferry and dinner traffic. The stragglers who arrived before us without reservations had to wait 40 minutes.

Mari-jo took one look at the salmon selection (there were two to choose from) and fell in love with Arnie's Seafood Grill -- char-grilled salmon, sea scallops, prawns. Once she tasted it, she was even more in love.

Her daughter Jana found an Asian-inspired kind of a dish -- herb-Panko breaded, pan-seared Chicken Parmesan -- which she declared was even better than a Macaroni Grill version, her favorite.

Luckily for them, we were in early enough to benefit from Arnie's $19.95 Early Dinner deal, which includes three courses (starter, entree, dessert).

As soon as I saw the Penn Cove Mussels in the starter section of the main non-early dinner menu, everything else faded to black. Mari-jo may love her basic salmon. But I have had a love affair with Penn Cove Mussels ever since I moved up here from Hawaii, and discovered them at Cyclops.

Arnie's offered its Penn Cove Mussels cooked with dill-sorrel pesto, wine reduction and cream. They were tart, tangy, lemony, and fresh--not one shell closed. I ate every last one with lots of light sour dough bread (hot, crispy, doughy) to sop up the creamy tang. The only other thing I had was a small, deeply flavorful Caesar.

I'd go back. I've been to Arnie's before. It was always just okay. I don't know what I was looking for. Something more classic-continental with raw oysters, cracked lobster, and Steak Diane? I don't know. But it's way better than just okay now. No wonder there are always crowds. With a gorgeous view of the ferry on the Sound and the Sounder train going back and forth on the track in front, how can you go wrong?

If any of my other out-of-town friends come in, that's where I'm taking them.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisinette Cookies

These were going to be part of the snacks I brought to my son's baseball game last week. Until I read the fine print on the package of Raisinettes that said they were made in a production plant that also processes peanuts. One of the boys on the team is allergic. But I still wanted to make the recipe, just later.

Later is now. No reason for the fire, other than Raisinettes are dangerous in this house. I used to mainline them as a child going to the movies. I'm no different as an adult. I settled for yogurt-covered raisins from a health food store to tide me over. Yeah, like those are any healthier.

This is a fairly straightforward recipe, except for the having to leave the sheet pans full of balls of raw cookie dough chilling in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Why? I don't see anything different on the ingredient list from other oatmeal cookies to warrant a chill, but, it's not my recipe, it's Sweet Pea's Kitchen and it's based on a solid, popular oatmeal-raisin cookie--which she spiffed up with Raisinettes. Genius.

Plus, I figure, if you pair Raisinettes with rolled organic oats, you can't feel too guilty.

They're not for any special occasion. Just in my trusty ole cookie jar for my family (read: my husband's sweet tooth).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crystal Creek Cafe Pie

I haven't been interested in pies since I overindulged as a youngster at a picnic in Kentucky. I ate so many different pies, to this day I can't look at cherry pie without feeling my gag reflex. But all that changed last night.

We were staying at a Hilton Garden Inn in Bothell-Seattle for spring break when it was time for dinner. Just nearby is this intriguing diner called Crystal Creek Cafe. Only it looks new (open for awhile now, since 2002?), clean and empty. We walked into a restaurant set back in the 1950s with a glass inset selection of homemade pies and cinnamon rolls the size of my head, Coca-Cola memorabilia and replicas of old warplanes on the ceiling.

With only one other couple, older, sitting in a booth, we were seated and got to ordering. My husband was craving a hot turkey sandwich before he even knew he would come here, saw it, and was loving himself. It's one of the best I've ever shared. The turkey's real, sliced off a real roasted bird, with comforting golden gravy and thick -- I want to almost say challah -- golden bread. We wondered why we never did this the day after Thanksgiving. (Oh that will change.)

I had huevos rancheros, beefed up with refried beans, but served in two sizes. My smaller size wasn't substantial enough; hence, the sharing of my husband's hot turkey sandwich. Our son quizzed the waiter on whether his mac and cheese was Kraft (it was), otherwise forget it. Instead of a fruit bowl, he wanted French Fries. The crinkly kind! We wanted some too.

But I knew no matter what I ate for dinner, I'd have pie. They looked so good on the counter. The crusts nice and thick, sparkling with thick sanding sugar, brimming over with juicy colorful berries and fruit. My husband wavered on the fruit pie when he heard they had chocolate cream. Me, I went for the strawberry-rhubarb, ala mode, heated slightly. The strawberry's sweetness (it's not in season, so it must've been artificially sugared up to get that sweet) nicely offset the rhubarb's tartness.

It was only when we left that I noticed they also had peach-raspberry, a fact the helpful waiter forgot.

Next time.

Poached Egg, Turkey Bacon, Asparagus, Asparagus Pee

Don't let simple recipes fool you. They're often the best. I'm not talkin' about simply classic Ina Garten recipes that require some brain cells to put together. I'm talkin' about so simple as to be stupid, why is this even put together as a recipe stupid, like PB&J. That's what I thought initially of this asparagus and poached egg recipe from For the Love of Cooking.

At first glance, the recipe's like, what's the big deal? just throw a poached egg on some asparagus spears. Also, where's the carb? Is this Atkins now?

But I saw some asparagus--the thin pencils I prefer over the thick--at Albertson's the other day for cheap, so hey. It's always good to get a tried-and-true roasted asparagus recipe, and this is one of them. Easy to follow, easy to try, and fail-safe. I added crushed garlic and real olive oil from a bottle.

The only thing I didn't do, is poached the egg her way, with a custard cup in the simmering pot of water. I already have a poached egg pan, which I didn't use in this case, and a quicker way of doing just one on the fly.

Yes, I threw in a piece of spelt toast and some turkey bacon. Otherwise, the dish seemed half-empty.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Big Mario's New York Style Pizza

My husband discovered a new pizza place up in Capitol Hill-downtown Seattle. We live north in the suburbs near Everett. Last night, he asked what our son wanted. Pizza. So he decided to drive all the way down 30-40 minutes through Friday night traffic to try Big Mario's New York Style Pizza take-out.

Big Mario's is fairly new to Seattle, about seven months in. Located in a prime spot on Pike and 10th, near a bar, where the action is.

All I asked for, to supplement the large cheese pie, was a calzone, thinking it would be this small fold-over triangle of cheesy goodness to tide me over until the pizza slices were warmed up in the oven.

I wound up only wanting the gigantic calzone the size of my rear end. It's this half-moon of pizza doughy goodness filled with delicate, creamy ricotta with Mozzarella, dotted with generous slices of Prosciutto ham and basil, and comes with containers of tomato sauce for dipping.

My husband's meatball sandwich was also a stand-out. The texture of these small meatballs was exactly right, from what I remembered of my favorite East Coast place -- Rudy's, now Vito's in Wrightstown, N.J. Not too meaty, not too chunky, not gristly at all, with the right bready fillers to make it light. But Vito's makes their meatballs huge, the diameter of hockey pucks.

The New York Style Pizza itself was alright. Crust was definitely a winner, but something in the tomato sauce lost me, some seasoning that was too heavy and not enough tang.

When we go back, I'm having that meatball sandwich all to myself. And the Affogato, which I've always wanted to try--preferably with my BFF while we people-watch in the noon-day gray of a typical Seattle spring. We'll see.