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?
Monday, August 29, 2011
All it took apparently was for me to mention offhand that Indian curry eases dementia (read it in a Costco Membership magazine). Even though I'd made Aloo Gobi last night and would make broiled curried salmon later tonight, my husband wanted to try out another Groupon for an Indian restaurant located in Fremont, Seattle, a 30-minute drive south from here.
Only trouble was, I insisted on going to UPS and Albertson's to get two big errands done, as previously scheduled. I also flaked out on the time to pick up our son from a playdate elsewhere, and found out only on the drive down to Fremont that we just lost a half hour (we're supposed to pick James up at 7 not 7:30 p.m. Oops!).
We had to find Qazis Rrestaurant -- Indian Curry House and Mediterranean Cuisine -- in a hurry during rush hour traffic, order and wolf down our food in less than 40 minutes, praying they served food fast.
It turned out they did. The food was out of this world, way better than a Seattle Bengal Tiger chain that sucked the last time we had Indian. Also, my friend said it was okay if we were a little late in picking our son up. Aah.
First thing I noticed right off the bat was baba ghanouge under appetizers. It didn't hit me until well into our meal that this was Middle Eastern, not Indian. That's when I realized this restaurant was Indian AND Mediterranean. So they also had hummus, gyros, falafels. Double score.
Baba ghanouge was so creamy, light, and buttery, like a feather, with barely a hint of garlic or lemony tang. It was barely there and perfectly sopped up by the buttery pita (more buttery than a Middle Eastern restaurant would offer, but I'm not complaining). I would so order just this next time, maybe the Mazza (hummus, baba ghannoj, falafel, dolmas, and tabboleh, pita bread) platter, and be done.
As it turned out, the curries we'd ordered were just the right amount. At other Indian restaurants, the curries come in these gigantic tubs. We always have doggy bags for days. But Qazis offers their many, many varieties of curries in these cute, metal, small bowls. Eddie and I finished my Chicken Vindaloo (even at mild, it was hot) and Chicken Makni (simmered in butter, tomato and cream sauce), with our colorful, orange-bespecked garlic naan and colorful, orange-bespecked Basmati rice--all deeply flavorful, yet simply prepared.
Nothing was overly done or heavy, not even the Vindaloo which had a kick but held a mild sophistication. We finished every last bite, save for licking our bowls, except the Basmati rice. The Basmati rice was really the only dish that came large; neither of us were complaining.
Even though we were both pleasantly stuffed--as opposed to vomitous--we had to order the kheer. With the flavorless dish water still in our recent memory from that horrid Bengal Tiger, we dived into our small bowl of rice, coconut milk, nuts, and cardamom. They could've added more nuts, but otherwise, perfection, rich, sweet, flavorful.
Because Qazis is also a Mediterranean restaurant, they offered a lot more than kheer (rice pudding), rasmalai (cheese patties swimming in almond-sweetened milk and cardamom sauce) and gulab jamun (fried milk dough dripping with honey/saffron syrup). There was halvah, baklava, kulfi (Indian ice cream comprised of condensed milk, cream, cardamom, almonds)--what I'm ordering next time, Chai ice cream, coconut almond ice cream, mango pistachio ice cream, NY cheesecake.
We ate inside, way before dinner time, around 5-6 p.m., so there weren't that many people. They were outside enjoying the sun. Some of the owners' children ran in and out from the kitchen. It was comforting, not intrusive, breezy.
I think this shall be my favorite Indian restaurant. We're definitely going back--only when we have nothing else to do but just sit back and really enjoy.
It's not often I'm inspired to make a recipe I find from a magazine. I've recreated a Campbell's soup recipe. I've wanted to recreate a Nigella Lawson strawberry muffin recipe. Otherwise, I never get around to it, or the recipe's too complicated.
Not this one. It's from Soap Opera Digest, and an Indian actress who plays Rama on ONE LIFE TO LIVE.
Shenaz Treasury's (Rama, OLTL) Aloo Gobi (Potato-Cauliflower Curry) Recipe:
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small or medium cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. ginger, grated or finely chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground garam masala
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 green chilies, whole
Heat 3 tbsp. vegetable oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic and ginger in hot oil till golden brown, 5 minutes. Stir cilantro stems, green chilies and turmeric into the mix. Add tomato and continue cooking until tomatoes are softened. Add potatoes, cook and stir till potatoes are completely coated. Add cauliflower, season with cumin, coriander, garam masala, ground red pepper, and salt. Pour 2 cups water over mix, stir. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook till potatoes and cauliflower are tender but not mushy, 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves before serving [with rice!].
-Soap Opera Digest, Aug. 23, 2011
I love Indian food, especially vegetarian offerings like Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower curry). I was first introduced to Indian food by a former boyfriend back in Hawaii. He would take me to this awesome place in Honolulu where all the curries and daals and chutneys were served on this metal tray like from my high school cafeteria. Everything was so spicy and exotic. I couldn't get enough. That it was healthy and vegetarian, aided in my never ending fitness routine and six-mile daily jog.
This Aloo Gobi recipe seemed easy enough to make in my home. All I really needed was to pick up garam masala by the 1/2 teaspoonful at PCC (cheapest option; buying an entire bottle is expensive).
I actually had to pick up a whole lot more than one spice. Earlier today, I went to the Farmer's Market and PCC for most of the vegetables. The recipe didn't specify what kind of green chilies to get, so I got big serranos.
The hardest part of cooking Indian food is preparing all of the ingredients for the skillet, then, standing there making sure each one is toasted long enough in the oil with the other spices. I got the garlic and onion prepped when I realized I didn't get enough ginger. I finished chopping the other vegetables, put them in their own dishes, then went back to the store for more ginger.
I hate doing that.
I didn't use just water for the two cups liquid. I needed more flavor, if my husband was going to try some. Truth be told, I should've added chicken for him. I used a can of chicken broth then finished up the second cup with water. It still needed more salt after simmering covered for 20 minutes.
If you're a vegetarian/vegan, you would love this as is--minus the chicken broth. If you're allergic to tomatoes, use bell pepper, or even Chinese eggplant.
This is my attempt to eat better. Let's see how long this lasts.
I'm still interested in finding other Aloo Gobi recipes to try. Could be an Indian food-cooking trend here.
I've been wanting to UPS an online friend a baked good for months now. He lives clear across to the East Coast. It could cost me. I hope not. Am committed to mailing him this banana chocolate chip bread anyway. It's a recipe adapted from Food Network's Tyler Florence, and found on one of my go-to food blogs, Week of Menus (she's Korean too!). I left out the walnuts, because of allergies.
Next time I make this, though (yes, it's a keeper), I may save some flour to coat the chocolate chips with. When it was time to unmold it from the loaf pan, it stuck. Three chocolate chips wound up sticking to the bottom.
Not to worry. I simply waited until the loaf cooled down considerably longer than 10 minutes to unmold.
It's easy to make. I even dared to add one extra overripe banana -- all my bananas were saved up in the freezer for months -- without it messing with the final outcome. Smells so delicious. Banana bread lasts for awhile.
In Hawaii, it's a sign of hospitality, welcome, friendship and love.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
If I were in my right mind, maybe I'd have had the wherewithal to ask about my favorite Jake's Grill salad in the Portland, OR restaurant we arrived at. We were off on our first trip of summer vacation August 14th, headed toward the Oregon Coast, making a pit stop for lunch at Jake's Grill in downtown Portland. But I had the worst sleep deprivation known to man coupled with some anxiety issues related to sleep and throat spasms when I tried to fall asleep. I was on three hours of sleep and scared for my life I would never sleep again.
It was in this mindset when me and my family arrived at Jake's Grill on Sunday Brunch. We forgot about Sunday when the server handed us a Sunday Brunch menu. Neither me or my husband could find my salad on the menu (it was there under starters-mixed green salad, sorta). My husband, who tends toward pessimism, thought that meant they no longer carried it. I mean, it was three years or so since we were here last. It's possible.
Without bothering to ask our server, we took what he said as gospel and found Sunday Brunch fare to order. Me halfheartedly. It was all I could do not to keep freaking out about my lack of sleep. I wasn't even hungry, even though I should be--not having eaten a thing in the entire two-hour drive down from Seattle. My stomach, at the moment, was in knots with anxiety.
If I were hungry, I'd have ordered the Smoked Salmon Lox, Bagel and Cream Cheese selection, Traditional Eggs Benedict, Dungeness Crab and Shrimp Cake Benedict, or Grilled Bavette Steak and Eggs. The Chef's Special: Lobster and Pancetta Quiche looked good and interesting too. I never order much less see quiche on any menu, and lobster? Forget it.
But the Parmesan Rainbow Trout and Eggs caught my eye and I went with that, hoping it would do the job, fill me up, and we can get this four-day trip over with, so I could see a doctor about my sleep problem.
The trout was okay. Only okay, because I half-expected it to arrive unadorned. I didn't pay attention to the "Griddled Parmesan Crusted" part of the description, apparently. The Romesco sauce it came with had more flavor, a slightly creamy, vaguely tart flavor. The two eggs over easy were perfectly cooked but unsalted, a practice many restaurants succumb to that *sucks IMHO.
Everything was just okay, even the biscuits (with jam) my son loved. It was at Jake's Grill where he discovered what everybody else already knew about: the breakfast sandwich. He made his with scrambled eggs and bacon. No condiment. After that, he began ordering fixings for his breakfast sandwich at a lot of Oregon Coast restaurants. My son tends to prefer all his food separate, so this was a victory of sorts.
It was only after we'd finished eating and were speaking to a hostess that she told us the salad in question was available, even on Sunday Brunch. We only had to ask our server. Duh!
The salad I speak of is simply, House Greens. But they come with blue cheese and walnuts, and the most amazing vinaigrette (not Balsamic, which you can order too). All I need is this salad, their freshly baked, crispy/doughy sourdough bread and butter, and an iced tea.
Next time. Maybe next summer, when I nag my family to go to Cannon Beach, OR this time. I'm not done with the Oregon Coast.
*Always salt during cooking. Salting afterwards does little to flavor the food. You're better off not even eating it.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Me and my family had high hopes when we walked into a busy Mo's Chowder--at their Lincoln City restaurant. After all, we'd been told to not miss this place when we traveled to the Oregon Coast, it's an institution. Everybody loves the chowder at Mo's.
Really? Everybody, meaning everybody loves Hallmark cards, Nordstrom sales, and those god awfully unfunny white-trash National Lampoon Chevy Chase Vacation movies?
In that case, I'm glad to say we hated Mo's. Okay, we didn't hate it. The food wasn't horrible. It was just, bleh... typical brand-name, assembly-line, factory-churned chained-franchise fare.
The chowder itself, which I ordered in a cannonball (supposedly a sourdough bread bowl), was fairly bland. The bread bowl barely sourdough--lord how I miss San Francisco, way too soft, mealy, and almost stale in texture. The broth was barely there, with a way too heavy cream base that overpowered everything into nothing much at all.
When we sat down to eat, I almost bailed on the whole chowder experience for the chilled Oregon Bay Shrimp Cocktail and something in an equally chilly Crab and Salmon, Bouillabaisse, or even a giant bowl of steamed clams in butter and wine, sopped up by bread with butter.
Maybe I should've.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I was at the Mukilteo Farmers Market (every Wed. 3 p.m.-7 p.m., June 1-Sept. 28) for the first time today, expecting to find fruits and vegetables, hoping to find Washington honey (in hopes of spoon-feeding it to my son regularly so he avoids allergies here). I didn't expect gourmet Italian pizza of the finest quality and probably found only in the cafes of Rome and Florence.
I didn't expect to find any food. Just produce.
Yet, the first booth I saw next to the organic meats was for hamburgers and hot dogs, then across the aisle, following my nose to the sweetest, most succulent smell ever -- calling to mind all the best pizza joints on the East Coast -- a pizza booth. But not just any pizza booth. This wasn't a carnival pizza reheated in a microwave or convection oven.
This was a wood-fired oven pizza with gourmet options, from Margherita -- which I had, to fresco giardino, pear gorgonzola, and pepperoni--at $4 a slice, $18 for a whole pizza. (Soda options include glass bottles full of Coca-Cola on ice.)
I could see myself coming back every Wednesday from now on, every summer, with my family. Pick up a pizza, enjoy it by the Waterfront overlooking the Sound, watching the ferries, James playing in the beach or the playground with other kids, go back, pick up some organic fresh produce, some fresh homemade fruit pie, pastry, artisanal breads, toffee, get a massage, and have a fantastic summer day out of it.
Why I never bothered to go the previous summers is beyond me. Lazy, stupid,... Well, I know now, right?
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
This review was also published in the Mukilteo Beacon's August 17, 2011 issue.
I'd never heard of John's Grill before. Usually, a restaurant named after someone -- Beth's Cafe notwithstanding -- doesn't bode well for me. It's like the name of someone denotes something casual and diner-ish, and maybe not good.
My husband received a deal through Groupon on this place in Mukilteo, WA, on the way to the ferries. John Aiden is the chef. He's worked in kitchens before but then had a regular job before deciding to open up his place only a few years ago. It's a family affair, his wife and daughter help out as waitstaff. The place itself is tucked amongst other businesses, a salon, a mortgage company, one or two residences--all along a townhouse set-up overlooking the Puget Sound.
I wanted to go to Beth's Cafe, actually, straight out the gate. But we had the Groupon deal so we decided John's Grill was better. It was.
As soon as I saw the appetizers, I knew I was in trouble. So many to choose from, a few you never see around here. Kind of a mix of Asian, seasonal, seafoody, and Italian influences. Fried calamari with jalapeno tarter sauce, crabcakes with remoulade, grilled beef kabobs in sweet red miso and with cilantro sauce, chicken satays. I wanted to order them all. But if I did that, I couldn't order all the entrees.
What I wound up with was trying the Polenta Sticks. They intrigued me. Deep-fried hot polenta sticks sprinkled with Parmesan and a Roquefort sauce for dipping. I'd seen a Giada de Laurentiis cooking show recently where she deep-fried polenta cubes as exotic croutons for her gazpacho. This was the best decision of the night.
After one crispy, creamy, tangy, memorable bite, I knew I would come back JUST to have these. Even my husband grabbed two sticks and he doesn't eat polenta. When the server took my empty plate away, I felt miserable--
--until my husband's bowl of roasted corn clam chowder arrived. I spent most of my time coveting his soup. The corn was fresh and freshly roasted, the clams a perfect antidote, and it was so so creamy but with flavor, not just to be creamy. Best chowder ever, even better than Elliott's or Arnie's down aways. This is another dish I would come back for.
The only miss was my soup du jour, a chicken jambalaya which needed salt and another base of flavor. I kept going after my husband's corn chowder with the slices of rosemary bread they served (the bread's from the local Essential Baking Company and very good).
The restaurant's seasonal with changing menu options. Good thing one of us ordered the Beef Stroganoff, as I don't see it on their regular website menu. I was torn between that and their specialty--the steaks with a choice in preparation. My husband and I agreed one of us will order the Stroganoff and the other the New York Steak (regular cut). I ordered the grilled steak medium-rare with the green peppercorn/mushroom sauce that's served on the side. It came with wedge-cut potatoes and asparagus.
Again, my first bite was my husband's order. So good. Stroganoff can be hit or miss. Secret's in the deeply flavorful, rich sauce and the seasoned meat. John's Grill did it perfectly. I'm praying they have this entree in November when I go back with my mom (who's going to be visiting from Hawaii) for my birthday dinner.
My steak was done perfectly too, though, don't get me wrong. Problem is, there's only one of me. This restaurant requires you return over and over again for one exquisite bite of one particular dish at a time. One day, maybe I'm there with a girlfriend for the chowder, sopped up by the gently sourdough bread. Maybe another, me and the hubby treat ourselves just to the steaks.
We had to leave leftovers for doggy bags (and my late-night dinner tonight), or else we couldn't do dessert. Do dessert. John's Grill has two trademarked features: white chocolate and deeply dark chocolate mousse and a brownie with John's own special caramel sauce (they do a sundae for the children). Their special, seasonal dessert was a blueberry crisp. Oh decisions, decisions. Since I had my heart set on the mousse, I stuck with that. But next time...
Sunday, August 7, 2011
My son's burnt out on his weekend baking lessons. Gonna give it a break. This meant I had to do the one part I thought he would get a kick out of (which is why I chose the recipe from Runs With Spatula food blog :\): the icing and sprinkles.
He wound up just rolling out the dough, cutting shapes out, and finishing up the icing. I took care of the rest, opting to use leftover green icing from another recipe before the recipe icing--leaving it white. The leftover green icing is slightly different in amounts and liquid (cream instead of milk), so the multi-colored sprinkles just bounced off those cookies. I could've colored the white, but was too tired.
I didn't have a smallish, round cookie cutter, so I used some round spare parts of a Pampered Chef frosting gun. The cookies baked unevenly. The first batch smelled burnt, so I just took them out exactly after eight full minutes. But the tops were still pale. Wouldn't you know, the last batch of four came out golden on the top and not burnt smelling, after I almost forgot I left them in the oven longer than eight minutes.
Best of all, this recipe produces two rectangles of dough. We used up the first. The second's in the fridge in case James gets the urge to bake sugar cookies again.
I'm thinking of having him sell these tomorrow to the neighborhood for profit. Why not, right?
Thursday, August 4, 2011
The best-laid plans... Seems to be the story of my life the past few weeks. Maybe I just dislike summer and forgot.
Nevertheless, after about eight hard-fought hours of restless sleep at a hotel overnighter, I bagged on working out in the fitness center, I bagged on getting breakfast in the lobby lounge (since I got out of bed way too late), me and my family bagged on going to a nearby breakfast joint or even back to a tried-and-true diner.
Nope. We pressed on, trying to make the most of the rest of a full day off for the family, searching for a U-Pick Blueberry Farm (sorry, only on Wednesdays), winding up all the way East of Seattle in Snoqualmie, and settling for something to eat, anything we could find just so none of us would be doubled over with an empty stomach ache.
At first, I wasn't interested in trying this small, non-descript place (Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory and Cafe--in business in the area for 14 years) my husband pointed out. The menu didn't include a Diner Breakfast or Hotel Room Service Breakfast I'd had in mind. But after finding nothing else in the small town, we went back -- heading to our car -- and went in, mostly because our son was hungry and wanted a cheeseburger. Then, my husband got a (cheese-less) burger himself.
I was holding out, hoping to drive back closer to home and to that Breakfast Diner spot. But it was a long drive back and I was really very hungry at this point. I thought having a Coke float -- nothing else appealed to me, not the grinders they offered (a Philly grinder had chili, mozzarella and cheddar cheese in it!) or the sandwiches.
After taking a bite of my husband's delicious, tender, soft burger, out of desperation, I decided to order my own, with cheese and a side of tater tots, not the potato salad, thank you. My son had his cheeseburger with a bag of Cheetos and, strangely appealing, an ice cream-less cone. The mom took my order from behind an old-fashioned-looking ice cream parlor counter and her husband prepared my burger from the see-through kitchen across the way.
Best burger ever. A lot of that was my hunger talking. But the burger was less hard, gnarly, mealy beef, and more soft, inconspicuous filler. The bun was a meal in itself, tasted freshly made, artisanal, maybe even buttered before lightly toasted, crusty like French bread on the outside, soft and flakey like a croissant on the inside.
Even better: the Candy Factory also housed in the same Cafe. My son had craved gummies all morning. There they were, along with my caramels and Ed's homemade chocolates.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
"If it's supposed to be a fine-dining restaurant, why's it called Barking Frog?" -my son James
The first time I went to Willows Lodge's Barking Frog restaurant, it was with my husband about two years ago. It was the first time we stayed overnight at the Woodinville, WA lodge for free too. My musician husband plays in the Thursday night band. They played for a weekend employee event. Payment was a free overnight stay and a $125 restaurant comp.
We weren't bowled over by the fine-dining restaurant. It was too fancy for us. The menu items were just too complicated. Seasonal, fresh, organic, went well with a variety of wines, sure, but just too weird with way too many weird ingredients. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't... us. We're spaghetti and meatballs, clean, fresh, simple flavors, don't mess it up by mixing in too many ingredients.
I think a part of the problem then was we weren't opening ourselves to trying new things. We tried only to find main entrees that we could relate to, like, say, a filet mignon, and then tried to enjoy it but couldn't because some blackberry sauce with fennel garlic bulb aioli was taking away from the basic flavor we were used to and entrenched in.
This time, I made a point to really open my mind, forget my favorites, and just try dishes that seemed--as the sum of their myriad, disparate parts--interesting to try and so much better than I'd originally given them credit for.
The restaurant was running late when we arrived for our 7:30 p.m. reservation last night. We were seated in the small lounge and given a free appetizer of our choosing. My husband couldn't settle on anything to share. Originally, I was going to go for the grilled foccacia, prosciutto, blue cheese, fig jam, hazelnuts and grape must syrup. Far out, right? The fig and prosciutto drew me. But I knew my husband would not go for the blue cheese; he hates blue cheese. So, because I heard a couple waiting before us talking about it, when the server approached for our order, I automatically blurted out, Steak Tartare.
Ahi tartare, I'll eat. I like sushi. But raw beef? Ew.
Still, I figured Barking Frog is a high-end establishment and wouldn't serve questionable meat. Plus the raw quail egg intrigued me (reminded me of the Korean Bi Bim Pap a little). Fighting my fears, I went for it and was rewarded with the best raw meat dish ever, even better than any raw ahi served in Hawaii. My husband went crazy for it. Thing is, you had to put a little bit of the Steak Tartare, the picked white asparagus spear, the red wine onion jam, and the Dijonny mustard on the slices of grilled bread to truly enjoy what the chef intended you to enjoy.
The meat was meaty, not gross-meaty. If that makes sense.
I hate beets. With a venom. But I've only ever had canned beets. I've been told farm fresh beets are best. Especially when paired right. When these roasted beets (red and golden) are paired with Micro Arugula, raspberries, Marcona Almonds, deep-fried goat cheese balls, blackberry vinaigrette, they're sublime. The creaminess of the goat cheese and the faint tart-sweetness of the berry vinaigrette removes any hint of dirty in the beets and brings out their earthiness. I could've eaten another plate of this.
My husband didn't notice I'd ordered the beets until they arrived, then he tried to eat all mine--and he's not much of a fan either--even with the goat cheese and he hates them.
Another food I'm not terribly into is halibut. It's bland and eh to me. Very little flavor. Easily overcooked. Yet, for my main entree, I ordered Oven Roasted Alaskan Halibut with pancetta, morel, cipollini onion, English peas, English pea sauce, and Fingerling potatoes.
I never order halibut!
I'm so glad I did this time. The top had a nice, flavorful, salty enough crust, but the thick, almost translucent meat underneath was perfectly cooked, very flaky and required the creamy lusciousness of the English peas in their sauce and the salty bite of the pancetta cubes.
I almost licked the plate.
For dessert, there was nothing else to order but more of the unconventional. I was searching for a strawberry shortcake. But I'm at Barking Frog, not Red Lobster. So after going back and forth between the blueberry soup (there's olive cake in there with lemon thyme sorbet and lemon curd) and Peach Melba Coupe, I went with the Peach Melba Coupe, hoping the peaches were ripe. I liked that it had white peach sorbet, honey ice cream, whipped raspberry, raspberry coulis, and Caramel Krispies.
Our server said it was all kinds of wrong, listing each ingredient with "love" being the last. Indeed.
After I first took a bite, I closed my eyes in ecstasy as my husband laughed. It was that perfect. So peachy, so light balanced with a tartness of the raspberry and so decadent with the creamy whipped raspberry.
I even finished off my husband's Syrah.
Definitely an improvement the second time around.