I HEART BACON
Friday, August 7th, 2009

Celery Salt

Contrary to popular belief, celery salt is not ground up celery mixed with salt. Or maybe that isn’t popular belief but until I started thinking about it I had no clue what was in that strange, bitter, salty mix that is necessary for a good Bloody Mary.

Oddly enough, I came across an unorthodox recipe in Fergus Henderson’s, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.  I love this book, but it can be terrifying to cook out of: I’m not sure where to get fresh pig spleen and I don’t even know what a woodcock is. So when I saw a very simple recipe for celery salt I decided to give it a go.

His recipe calls for mixing coarse sea salt with freshly peeled and grated celeriac, refrigerating for two days, slowly drying it out in the oven and then grinding the mix in a food processor.

If you’ve ever worked with celeriac, you know that grating it is no easy feat. But it’s worth the effort. The resulting celery salt was delicate, yet flavorful and produced some of the best Bloody Marys I’ve ever tasted.

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Friday, October 21st, 2005

Bloody Marys

consumed on 10/21/05

During a long weekend at Ocean Shores, I discovered a smoked meats store that was next to the liquor store…. They had:

  • Razor clam sausage: wanted to try this but got vetoed…
  • Landjaeger: soft & slightly spicy peperoni (w/o the weird food colorings)
  • Brown sugar beef jerky: tender with a great, sweet & smoky flavor
  • Double-smoked bacon: need I say more?

We decided to combine the meats & liquor and made a full on appetizer cocktail!

Bloody Mary recipe:

  • 92 oz v8-juice
  • 750 ml crater lake vodka
  • 5 oz Worchestire sauce
  • 1 oz Tabasco (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1 T celery salt
  • 16 oz beef bullion
  • 4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 T pepper

Garnished each with:

  • pickled asparagus
  • shrimp sauteed in garlic & butter
  • dill pickles
  • olives
  • pickled hot okra
  • celery stick
  • daikon
  • a few slices of double-smoked bacon

 

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

Simple Syrups

What I love most about simple syrups, is that they really are just that: Simple. Ridiculously easy to make, they keep for a long time and are worlds better than commercially made flavoring. So why isn’t everyone making simple syrups?

PERSONAL RANT: On another note, why do flavored vodkas even exist? I recently had a drink made with Absolut Raspberri and thought it was the most disgusting thing to have passed my lips in a long while. It tasted artificial and fake and absolutely nothing like raspberry. And please don’t even get me started on that “Vanil” (a.k.a. nasty scented candle) flavor…

So I’m here to encourage everyone to make their own flavored simple syrups. It’s this simple:

1. Put three cups of water in a pot.
2. Add two cups of sugar and give it a stir.
3. Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil for a minute.
4. Remove from heat and toss in desired flavorings.
5. Let steep until cool and then strain into a clean container.

Voilà. Keep it in the fridge for up to 3 months. Add 1-2 tablespoons to any alcoholic drink, or even just plain carbonated water.

Last weekend B & I made a bunch of simple syrups for an Asian-themed party we were attending. We went to Uwajimaya in search of inspiration and walked out with: an English cucumber, a package of Vietnamese mint, lemongrass stalks, limes and a package of huckleberries.

The cucumber simple syrup was flat out amazing. All we did was peel the cucumber and then cut it into 1/4 inch pieces for steeping. Everyone who tasted it asked for the recipe. And then didn’t believe me when I told them how easy it was.

The mint simple syrup was awful, but only because we didn’t realize that Vietnamese mint isn’t really mint. We made a quick replacement batch using two mint and two peppermint teabags. Mint tea simple syrup is my old standby and is fantastic in drinks.

For the lemon grass, we simply sliced it into thin rounds for steeping. This syrup turned out light and fruity. It was too delicate for complex drinks, but it was perfect with just vodka and soda.

The lime simple syrup was made with the zest of four limes, plus the juice of one lime. We were testing out my new microplane zester and got a little over-zealous… we ended up with too much pith, so the syrup was bitter. We labeled it “bitter lime” and passed it off as bitters with flying colors.

Our last syrup was made from huckleberries. It was a beautiful color and had a wonderful, lush and fruity flavor. Worlds better than Absolut Raspberri.

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Friday, July 15th, 2005

Relish: Happy Hour at Brasa

My latest restaurant post is up at Seattlest: Brasa

http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2005/07/15/relish_happy_hour_at_brasa.php


Friday, July 8th, 2005

Relish: Happy Hour at Del Rey

My latest restaurant post is up at Seattlest: Del Rey

Cocktails! Fish and Chips! Read all about it!
http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2005/07/08/relish_happy_hour_at_del_rey.php


Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

Simple Syrups

I’ve been thinking a lot about lemongrass lately. I have this really weird aversion to lemons (they taste dirty to me), but I love the delicate perfume of lemon grass. I was thinking that lemongrass lemonade sounds particularly refreshing and summery. Then I had an idea to make lemongrass simple syrup to mix with sparkling water and/or vodka for my upcoming bday bash.

Then, per my usual pattern, I turned something quite simple into something a little more complex. How about if I make all kinds of different flavored syrups? They can all have Asian-ish ingredients, since my party has a Vietnamese theme. I spent a very sunny weekend in my apartment, boiling down sugar and water.

Here are the combos I ended up with:

Lemongrass and Lemon Zest Simple Syrup
9 stalks of lemongrass (chopped), zest of one lemon, 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This ended up tasting exactly how I imagined it: fresh, bright and summery.

Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lime Simple Syrup
6 kaffir lime leaves (julienned), 1 regular lime (quartered), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I’ve never cooked with kaffir lime leaf before, but I found fresh ones at Uwajimaya. They were really beautiful and strange because they are two leaves, joined together, end-to-end. Unfortunately, they tasted more medicinal than I expected, so at the last minute I added in a regular lime to bring out a more fruity flavor.

Pandan Leaf Simple Syrup
8 pandan leaves (chopped), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I was intrigued after reading da*xiang’s recipe for Nasi Lemak. I had never even heard of pandan before, but it sounded interesting, so when I saw them fresh at Uwajimaya, I snapped them up. They had the most incredible and elusive scent. Whenever I held them up to my nose, they’d smell like bitter, cut grass, but when they weren’t as close they released a perfume like basmati rice. I was head over heels for the smell, but the plant itself tasted bitter. Oddly enough, the simple syrup ended up tasting like the smell and not the taste (whew).

Ginger and Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
1/2 cup grated ginger, 2 cups brown sugar and 3 cups water
This sounded like a great idea, but I think simple syrups are better off made with white sugar instead of brown. Somehow it just didn’t taste sweet enough. Also, I probably should have cut the ginger into coins instead of grating it because the ginger really overpowered the syrup. This one could go either way when mixed into a drink—either delicious and interesting or overpowering and medicinal.

Mint Simple Syrup
1/2 cup of mint leaves (whole), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This was my second favorite after the lemongrass. Pure and simple mint.

I can’t wait to mix them into drinks!

Saturday, May 7th, 2005

In Search of the Perfect Pork Martini

Vegetarians beware.
http://www.foody.org/home/martini.html

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Happy Happy Hour

A few friends and I were seeing a late movie at Pacific Place, but wanted a quick drink and snack beforehand. Every time I need to grab food downtown I’m dismayed by the lack of choices—there is an uncanny convergence of bad chain restaurants. After much debate, we finally settled on the Dragonfish Café in the Paramount Hotel. I had been there once before a long, long time ago and it left a bad taste in my mouth, although now I can’t remember why.

We walked in to find the bar area packed, as they were in the midst of their second happy hour (10pm-1am daily). We ordered a round of fruity cocktails and they came to the table in cute bamboo shaped glasses. Everyone took a sip and eyes lit up around the table. Then we all swapped drinks so we could taste everything. I was stunned that Dragonfish served some of the best juice-based cocktails I’ve ever had. And since it was happy hour, they were only $2.95 each. The best drink was the Lemongrass Lime Ricky, which featured lemon grass and lime leaf infused vodka. My other favorite was the Ruby Berry Splash—a spiked raspberry lemonade.

Since the drinks were so stellar, we decided to try out the Happy Hour Menu. We had a four piece Dragon Roll ($1.95) that contained asparagus, shrimp, tuna and avocado. Nothing special, but it wasn’t bad either. Next was the Chinese BBQ Pork ($2.95). Again, not bad, but I should never order BBQ pork outside of Chinatown, because it’s not very exciting when made from bland pork tenderloin. Where’s the crispy fat?! Our last dish was the Caramel Ginger Chicken ($3.95) which was oddly good, although the “caramel” tasted and looked a lot like a honey glaze.

I can’t say I’d go out of my way to eat here, but it will now be my restaurant of choice for happy hour before (or after) a movie, shopping, the theater, or any other reason I may find myself in need of a drink downtown.

Dragonfish Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

Muscat Love

This drink recipe was originally inspired by the “Sneaky Steve“, but B changed it so much that we decided to rechristen it as “Muscat Love”.

Here’s the recipe courtesy of B “HL”:

Muscat Love
2oz Zubrovka vodka
4oz Prosecco
2oz Reed’s Spiced Apple Brew
1 muscat gummy

Stir together the vodka, prosecco and apple cider. Top with a muscat gummy.

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

I Heart Crispy Duck

I attended my friend’s opening at the Traver Gallery tonight. The work was incredibly beautiful and the gallery was packed. Afterwards we went to Typhoon to celebrate. Typhoon is located in the old Wild Ginger building and, in my opinion, is about a million times better than the current Wild Ginger.

Typhoon always has great bartenders, so we asked for drink recommendations. I had my first Caipirinha and it was delicious—really light and flavored with lime, Cachaça 51, and just a touch of sugar. B had a Caipiroska, which is essentially the same drink but made with vodka instead of rum. These might turn out to be my new favorites for the summer.

There were four of us eating and we ordered plates to share:

Drunken Noodles ($11.95) – Wide rice noodles with beef and a really, really spicy sauce. Too spicy even for those who love spice.

Chicken in Green Curry ($11.95) – A light green curry sauce with chicken. A typical preparation, but very good.

Garlic Pork ($10.95) – Tender and slightly crisp bits of pork in a garlicky sauce. I loved this dish.

Five-Spice Crispy Duck ($19.95) – I order this every time I eat at Typhoon. The duck is perfectly spiced, crunchy and fatty. It comes with pillowy steamed buns and plum sauce, which makes the perfect sandwich. It’s expensive, but so so good.

Typhoon! (Seattle) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Bad Day at Work = Happy Hour at Brasa

I’ve been trying to be good lately—save money, eat healthy, work out… but sometimes you have a day that’s so bad you just say screw it. I won’t go into detail because there’s a small chance my co-workers read my blog, but let’s just say work was hell and by the time I left I felt like I’d been run over by a semi-truck.

I called Zach and told him we were going to Brasa for happy hour. Brasa has carved out a special place in my heart—and it’s not even about the food. I love that it’s spacious and never feels crowded. At the same time, I love that it’s dark and warm, so it always feels cozy. I love sitting at the bar and watching the kick-ass, spiky-haired bartender do her thing. I also love that the bar is dark no matter how bright it is outside. I love walking in and being enveloped in the smell of the wood-fired oven. I love that every single time I’ve been to Brasa I’ve had a fantastic time. And last but not least, I love that everything on their bar menu is half price before 7pm.

We each ordered a vesper, which was perfectly made by the aforementioned kick-ass bartender. Usually, I order the steak frites with Cabrales butter (mmm… Cabrales butter) and Zach gets the clams with chorizo. But tonight we were feeling wild, adventurous, and reckless. I had the pork sandwich ($10 full-price / $5 happy hour) and Zach got the lamb burger ($11 full price / $5.50 happy hour).

The pork sandwich was good, but not stellar. The pork was wonderfully flavored, but a little dry. The mound of fries next to the pork sandwich were incredible. Thin, crisp, salty and addictive. Zach’s lamb burger was outstanding. I’m not sure what they put on it besides a whole head of garlic, but it was delicious and juicy.

After a drink, burger and more than my fair share of fries, I was stuffed. Unfortunately, the gentleman two seats down from us ordered the “Spanish Donuts” and I wasn’t able to run interference in time. Zach saw them and he practically gasped. Seconds later he was asking the waitress for an order of churros.

Waitress: “What are churros?”
Zach: “Uhhh… Spanish Donuts?”
Waitress (skeptically): “Oh…”
Me (in my head): “How can you not freaking know what churros are? Especially when they’re on your menu?”

We forgave her as soon as she brought out our dessert; two pale golden puffs of ridged dough, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. On the side was an espresso cup filled with deep, dark chocolate and whipped cream. The donut was still hot from the oil and fluffy and heavenly. I didn’t like it dipped into the chocolate because the delicate cinnamon flavor was overwhelmed. I decided that churros would be perfect served with cinnamon flavored whipped cream and nothing else.

By the time we left, I was happy and full. My bad day seemed like weeks ago.

Brasa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

An easy get-together

I’ve noticed that people have given Palermo Pizza and Pasta some fairly bad reviews, but I really love it. Sometimes pizza should be greasy and taste like junk food.

I guess that’s what I was craving because these pizzas hit the spot. Especially when topped with togarashi and katsuo furikake (a bonito flavored rice topping). We ordered a sausage, mushroom and red onion pizza and a second prosciutto and mushroom pizza (called the Quatro Stagoni), which was extra delicious and greasy.

B brought a crazy drink called “Sneaky Steve”. Apparently, he found it on idrink.com by checking off ingredients he had on hand. This drink was made with sparkling apple cider, champagne and buffalo grass vodka. It was really good, but unusual, with hints of cinnamon.

Palermo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Dumb Ass

I didn’t want to be watching the first presidential debate alone, in case something went tragically wrong. So I decided to have a little dinner party with lots of alcohol—for either celebrating or dulling the pain.

I actually hadn’t heard Kerry speak before and was really impressed. Although, I do have to admit that Bush’s performance that night was so god-awful that he would have made a brick sound brilliant by comparison. I had so much fun screaming at the TV and debating whether it was possible for Bush to be more stupid.

This is what we drank:
Zach’s Margaritas

This is what we ate:
Queso Fundido con Chorizo – melted, gooey deliciousness
Carne Asada
Mashed Potatoes with Zucchini and Jack Cheese
Caesar Salad
Flan

Everything was delicious and we were so elated at the end of the debate that we went out to celebrate at Cafe Septieme and then decided to top the night off with some cards and more drinking.

Tuesday, September 7th, 2004

Hendrick’s

Every now and then, we make the pilgrimage from Capitol Hill to Ballard specifically so we can eat fantastic Mexican food at La Carta De Oaxaca. I’ve been to Oaxaca, and this is the closest I’ve come to that kind of food in the states.

We ordered Birria (lamb stew), which is my favorite dish there, plus we got every plate that contained mole. Now normally I’m not a huge mole fan, but their mole is fantastic. The only problem with ordering all the mole dishes is that at some point they all start to taste the same, but it was so good that I didn’t care.

After dinner we were craving fancy drinks, so I suggested Sambar—the bar opened by Le Gourmand’s Bruce Naftaly. It’s a great, tiny bar, especially in warm weather when you can sit outside on the enclosed patio and feel like you’re in a different country. And they serve really good drinks.

I always order the Meli-Melo (vodka, cassis, grapefruit juice & an orange twist) because it’s delicious and because I’ve been trying to re-create the drink all summer, without much success. They have quite a well-stocked bar with lots of really unusual liquors and drink combinations. On our way out, we stopped and chatted with the super-friendly bartender. He told us about a bunch of drinks we should try (which I forget the names of now), but he gave us a sample of this cucumber gin. It was love at first sip.

As soon as I got home I looked up Hendrick’s Gin on the web. Not only do they produce a fantastic gin, but they have the cutest cucumber flash intro ever.

I have since scoured the liquor stores in the Seattle area—the only place I found Hendrick’s was at the Capitol Hill location, which just happened to have some in the back room because it had been special ordered by a customer. I bought the last two bottles they had left.

Now I have two reasons to visit Ballard.

Sambar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

In the kitchen with Bruce

Simple food is good when you have outstanding, fresh ingredients, but it’s even better when you take those ingredients and combine them to make something more complex with layers of flavor. This is why I love French sauces. And this is how I found myself taking cooking classes at Le Gourmand with Bruce Naftaly.

I really appreciate Bruce’s approach to cooking—everything should be made with the freshest local ingredients, using only what is in season. People know and love him for this, which is why his customers are always approaching him with extra produce from their gardens.

So the class works like this: We all squeeze into the kitchen in the back of the restaurant. Chairs are lined up in a row in front of the counter, so there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Bruce talks about what’s in season and outlines the menu. Then he starts making the dishes, while everyone takes notes and tries to keep up. My technique involves having a large notebook and starting every recipe on a different page and then flipping back and forth through the pages as Bruce goes back and forth between the dishes.

About halfway through the class, the regulars hand out bread and open several bottles of wine. In this class, we drank an Argi d’Ansa i Rouleguy 2003, which Bruce said was a rose cabernet made with Tannat grapes. It was a beautiful color, like cranberry juice, and was light and refreshing.

Then as the courses finish cooking, they are served. This was the menu:

Garlic & Apple Soup – Good and very thick; slightly tart.

Halibut with Fennel & Chanterelle Sauce – This was my favorite. The sauce was HEAVENLY paired with a simple poached halibut.

Roast Pork Loin with Huckleberry & Lavender and Plum, Dill & Garlic Sauces – The pork loin was fantastic, but I wasn’t wild about the two sauces; they somehow tasted raw to me. Bruce said that when cooking sauces for the restaurant they have a longer chance to reduce and become more melded.

Peach, Basil and Mint Sorbet – Nice flavor combination, but I would have added way more sugar. It was more like a palate cleanser than a dessert sorbet.

I must say that Bruce loves his Cognac. It actually went into every single dish. By the end of the night I figured he went through about a bottle and a half. Every time he paused and said ‘I think this needs something’, the class would shout ‘More Cognac!’. It was a slightly raucous crowd and so much fun!

I think the food quality in the classes isn’t as good as if you ate in the restaurant, but it’s such an enjoyable experience being nestled in his kitchen, learning, laughing and eating great food.

Le Gourmand Restaurant on Urbanspoon