Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cafe Besalu

There are a couple things that I'll admit to being spoiled about because I live in Ballard, WA. One of them is Cafe Besalu. Besides France, there is not one other place I have come across that makes chocolate croissants or any puff pastry for that matter like pure love and a close second would be Bakery Nouveau of course - but they are in West Seattle!
After your first bite of a pastry from Cafe Besalu, you may notice that a large part of the golden, flaky dough has fallen on your shirt, pants and the plate- I tend to think this is now a true test of a perfect pasty, does it deliver paper crackling layers of flaking sweet butter? Enough that I am dabbing every flake off my plate with my fingers. When you are out there croissant tasting- I'd say that if it didn't crumble at least a little, it may as well pass for a roll!

Always a line out the door, this cozy cafe delivers perfection in pastry form. And if on purpose, knowing there would be lines out the door, a pastry cook is constantly folding and refolding pastry dough on a table behind the pastry display case and cash register just for us. Dressed in white t-shirts, white aprons and jeans, each pastry cook is humble and methodical about creating puff pastry while all of us in line stare speechless at the golden display case, drooling. What is the minimum daily butter serving per person? When you are sipping coffee between bites of a crumbly chocolate croissant and inhaling the sweet cafe air. Should it matter?

Fiddle Head Ferns

On Sunday, I went to the Ballard Farmer's Market as I like to do and picked up a special seasonal treat, fiddle head ferns! The forager was sold out of early morels and said that porcinis were on their way! I am anxiously waiting for morels like girl with a giddy crush, waiting for the next time they meet. Oh but fiddle head ferns! They are a lot of fun to look at as well as eat. The curved head of the fern looks like a tight green lollipop, the top of a guard's tight bundled curved staff at the entrance of a garden gate or a type of barnicle feather found in the ocean.
When you first get them, give them a good rinse. The reccommendation on how to cook them is first to blanch in salted water, longer than you would broccoli or asparagus or else a quick pickle or roasted. I blanched mine last night and did a quick saute in butter and salt and pepper. They were delicious, very nutty, a slight crunch on the outside like asparagus but softer in the middle. As strange as the curved fiddle heads appear, they are so good and they are lovely on a plate, a twirled and curled edible treat.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Looking Ahead To Jazzfest

Yes, I know- Jazzfest!? It's like a foodie wonderland and I'm going! I remember hearing food story after story from my brother-in-law and his wife who went to New Orleans pre-Katrina. I can't even imagine what a real po'boy tastes like or crawfish etouffee? My neighbor and close friend, Jess, from Mobile, Alabama also lived in New Orleans for several years, will be my food guide throughout Jazzfest. As a true foodie herself, she even sent me a must have itinerary!

Po Boys
Soft Shell Crab
Turtle Soup
Gulf Shrimp
Alligator-Sausage cheesecake
Smothered Rabbit

What's a girl to do? Of course I am going for the music too, but I think anyone from NOLA would approve I am just as thrilled to taste my way through. I promise to take some great notes and photos. I wonder what you drink with all these things? A question for Marcus.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eat and Drink in the Northwest- Now at Amazon!

The first edition of Eat and Drink in the Northwest continues to move forward. If you prefer to order your books online, now there is an option. Our book is now available at!

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Cheer Up Food

Perhaps it's this freezing weather, the recent death in the family or because of other things in my life out of my control or all of the above- for whatever reason I was a little down this week and when other parts of my life are out of my control, I gravitate towards things that I can control to lift my spirits. Like cooking something wonderful.

I went to Ballard Market grocery store to buy some squid for a squid salad and was completely surprised to find razor clams. It was a happy surprise to find the one thing that may be my favorite thing to eat in the world, right there waiting for me to come and get them. Sweet, delicious and delicate razor clams, if you haven't had them, they are one of life's perfect delicacies. Seasonal and rarely available I was ecstatic. The squid salad would have to wait. I also bought two artichokes, a couple lemons and white wine.

I coated each razor clam in Old Bay-seasoned flour, egg and cream wash and then panko. I fried them in a little butter/oil until lightly browned (they don't take long) and then onto paper towels. After the artichokes were steamed, Mark and I made two dipping aioli along with classic melted butter. A caper and herb aioli with lemon and an Old Bay season aioli with lemon and garlic.

The sweet razor clam meat, all salty and juicy in its crusty batter went great with both aioli. The artichoke leaves left our teeth like velvet butter and with the wine, the sweetness lingered like a giant inhalation of spring air. We toasted to Uncle Don, warmer weather and book sales of course! I was instantly cheered. Try as I might to go big-it's the small pleasures in life after all. There was nothing I could have wanted more at that moment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Saying Good-bye to a Writer and Gourmet and Cooking For a Funeral

The Odessa Record Newspaper
My great uncle Don passed away yesterday at 85. Not only was he a journalist, he was also quite the gourmand. Not until I was in college did we both realize we had a lot in common. I too had a writing itch along with a culinary goal. For years, he had written for the Stars and Stripes in France and also took cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu. I too graduated college with a journalism degree and later graduated from culinary school. Until he couldn't any more, he was the Editor in Chief of the Odessa Record, the small weekly paper of a tiny town of 1,000 people.

We never really cooked together but we have spent time discussing food and looking through cook books and talking about France. Last week I sent him a copy of Eat and Drink in the Northwest and I signed it "To one chef and writer from another." I hope he had a chance to see it.

Roughly 200 people are expected to turn out in his honor at the funeral for him on Saturday. Food is always appreciated in times like this and with so many people expected to pay tribute, I'll be making a couple berry cobblers. Warm, sweet and full of comfort.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Recipe Writing for EAT and DRINK in The Northwest Book 2

I've given myself a personal timeline to have a list of recipes for the next EAT and DRINK in the Northwest publication- but that was Monday. I did happen to make a list of 14 possible recipes on Monday, that I think would be fun, summery and above all, delicious. The list will be a work in progress for a week I think. I have to tell you that I'm thinking about recipes the way a person would obsess about research of a foreign country they are about to visit. I think about different ingredient possibilities almost hourly. With so many wonderful ingredients to choose from in the summer months- how can one possibly choose? What amazing fruit or vegetable gets left out? Then there is the other side of the coin, will people want to experiment with fiddle head ferns and sea beans like me? If it's a good recipe- then I say yes!

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Toast to Passport Weekend

If you were in Seattle on Saturday, or anywhere in Washington State for that matter , most likely you were smiling. It was finally a gorgeous day and in some places 80 degrees! All of us Seattlites were like happy lizards on hot rocks- thrilled to be drying out somewhere in the sun. I was lucky enough to be in the sunshine as well as tasting wine at Passport Weekend in Woodinville. The sold out two-day event was really nice. The wine highlight of the weekend was the 06' Cab Franc from Baer winery. It was a luscious red wine that among several wines that I tasted, stood out like a carved statue in a room full of boulders. I'd really like to see if it it can make a cameo in the next book. There were several other incredible wines at some incredible wineries, some tasty nibblies and fun people watching to be had. Who knew there would be so many limos in a business park full of winery warehouses? The other fun thing at Baer was the bluegrass band, the Tallboys who made the otherwise drab beige and concrete business park feel like we were all in a barn full of wine barrels out in the sticks.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cilantro Pesto

I wanted a new twist on pesto. I happened to have an abundance of cilantro in my refrigerator and I don't know about you but I immediately think of making salsa or some sort of Asian-flavored dish. There is a lot more that can be done with cilantro. Cilantro makes a fantastic pesto and even though I had pine nuts in my freezer, I used peanuts instead because I wanted a stronger nut flavor to balance with cilantro's upfront personality. The result was delicious and I just had to share. Try it with pasta, rubbed on grilled fish or shrimp or as a base for a salad dressing. I'd love to hear what else you all do with it. Enjoy!

Cilantro Pesto
(makes about a cup)

2 bunches of cilantro cleaned and de-stemmed
1 clove garlic minced
¼ c. peanuts
¼ c. Parmesan cheese
½ c. olive oil

In a small food processor add cilantro, garlic, peanuts and Parmesan. Pulse a couple times to combine. Turn on food processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Turn off food processor and pour contents into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Looking Ahead to Passport Weekend

I'm not sure if April is wine month, but it sure seems like the month to kick off all things wine! Taste Washington was last weekend and up next is Passport! Passport weekend in Woodinville is like a Woodinville who's who for all of Saturday and Sunday. Large buses of people, limos and tour guides will be slinking along the passport paths of participating wineries. Everyone who attends gets a signature glass to take with them to all of the participating wineries as well as a little passport book to be stamped as sampled wines are crossed off. I'm looking forward to meeting some wonderful people, making some great connections and of course, sample some fantastic local wine from our fortunate region. And more great news about the book, Chateau St. Michelle is going to carry Eat and Drink in the Northwest! And just in time for Passport weekend.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Check Out Eat Local On Queen Anne

If you haven't checked out Eat Local, a business who encourages Seattle residents to eat locally made products, it could be your next daily stop. Pre-made local entrees, local wines, cheese and locally raised meats are all available at this Queen Anne store. The owner, Greg Conner, has created a much needed resource for people in the area who are not only concerned about what is in their food, he's created a way for them to support local dairy, produce and meat farms. Cheers to Greg!

Thanks to the Issaquah Highland's Cooking Club

The Issaquah Highlands Cooking Club was a great success. As always, it is a great group of people in a casual setting who are just as passionate about food as I am. Thanks for everyone who came for 5 courses of Thai food and some creative food carving with less than cooperating vegetables. The green onion into lilies ended up being quite cute and a tomato rose that I practiced on before I left my house was a lovelier presentation than what I was able to replicate. Favorites of the evening were the mango and sticky rice with sweet coconut cream, the Thai style crab cakes and Tom Kha Gai, chicken coconut soup. And Huge thanks to Christine, my sous chef for the evening who always helps me make these cooking classes a success.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Third Place Books

A lot of you have asked where you can pick up EAT and DRINK in the Northwest, a food and wine experience, and now I can tell you. Besides Des Voigne Cellars, Darby Winery in Woodinville is carrying our book. Darby's 2005 Destiny Ridge Syrah is paired with the Lamb Chops with Rosemary Lavender Fleur De Sel in the book! The wine is fantastic by the way and it really is a luscious pairing. Third Place Books in Ravenna or in Bothell is currently carrying the book too, should you live in the North Seattle area or in Bothell. As the book has just been released, I'll be able to tell you about other places it will be available soon.

Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NELake Forest Park, WA
Tel: 206-366-3333

Ravenna Third Place Books
6504 20th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA
Store: (206)525-2347

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thank You!

Wanted to send a shout out to everyone who made the trip to Des Voigne Cellars in Woodinville for the EAT and DRINK In the Northwest Book Release Party! We sold a lot of books and met some fantastic people who are interested in seeing the book in other wineries and stores. The Party was lovely, Darren generously let the public sample his amazing wines, including the launch of "Untitled." What a wine. Of course I had to buy a bottle, if the deep flavors are not enough to tempt you to buy the wine, then the sexy label of an elegant sheet of music simply titled "untitled" will sell you for sure. The crostinis were a hit! Brined green peppercorn hanger steak with herbed butter. The other: a caramelized pear on fig, red wine and shallot spread with Gorgonzola and arugula. Both were gone before the party ended. I was estimating 400 crostini but know we made well over 500. Plus, we had a cheese tray with goat cheese rolled in fresh herbs, a double cream brie, Gorgonzola Dolce, (one of my current favorites). It's always a good idea to have some sort of almonds, dried fruit and of course grapes for munching. Last, we had a bunch of easy cheddar and jack cubes for the masses. Big thanks to Darren for letting us buddy up with his release party, thanks to all who came out to see the book and try out Darren's new wine and cheers to everyone who has already tried out a recipe!