Wednesday, September 30, 2015

thoughts on seattle, wa (and the best things we ate).

I didn't expect it to happen, but I fell in love with Seattle.  It' hard for me to articulate why, but the city just pulled me in.  It's urban and yet it has the feel of a small town.  Seattle is big, it felt far bigger then New York, but it's divided into pockets and each pocket has it's own identity.  You could criss-cross the entire city and feel as if you've traveled a great distance and yet you only traveled a couple of miles.  And the restaurant scene!  Oh man.  It's freaking phenomenal.  I swear I am ready to move there.  So ready in fact that at one point, I was on Zillow and Indeed looking at apartments and jobs trying to envision what my life would look like if I left the East Coast for the West Coast.  

Tyler and I have already discussed heading back out there next year and visiting Seattle and Vancouver.  Practically everyone I met said if you like food you have to visit Vancouver so you know I am sold on it.  But we aren't here to discuss future meals.  We are here to discuss the best things I ate in Seattle.  Without further ado...

The Walrus and The Carpenter was one of those restaurants that I was petrified I wasn't going to have the opportunity to try.  It doesn't take reservations, it's the size of a shoebox, etc.  But the afternoon before we headed home, Tyler and I stopped by for an early bird dinner.  I think it worked out for the best because early birds get the happy hour special of half off oysters.  What I realized is that I still don't love oysters. To be honest, I don't really get the point of them but I do love clams and I really LOVE sardines with a parsley and walnut gremolata.  I will be dreaming about both those dishes until the end of time.   

The best dessert on this trip goes to the chocolate, banana, peanut cake from Honore Artisan Bakery. When I tell you it was dreamy and probably one of the best desserts I've ever eaten, I'm not lying. Chocolate fudge surrounded a roasted banana and caramelized peanut center.  My description will never do it justice, just go and buy it.   

Pizzeria Gabbiano is open only on weekdays and sells a Roman style pizza by weight.  The beauty of this is that you can get a little bit of everything and have your own little pizza tasting.  I was particularly fond of the peppers and corn bechamel pizza but you really can't go wrong with any of them.  A perfect spot to hit after walking through the Chihuly Museum.   

If you are in search of drinks, try Damm the Weather.  The food is supposed to be killer as well but we had sushi reservations that night and I wasn't going to spoil my appetite.   

The sushi at Mashiko is hands down the best sushi I have ever had.  Anyone can fly in fancy fish from Tokyo but it takes a really special restaurant to go the sustainable route and make sushi that is exciting, delicious, and down-right addicting.  I ate a lot of fish I had never had before and I got to witness a truly passionate sushi chef in her element, both of those things made this a truly incredible meal.  Also! They take reservations and if you make one, be smart and sit at the sushi counter.   

The Whale Wins, a sister restaurant to the Walrus and the Carpenter served the kind of food I can never get enough of i.e. small plates of vegetables prepared in remarkably exciting ways.  Everything we ate I would happily eat again. Especially the dragon's tongue beans with feta and red pepper and the grilled zucchini bread with creme fraiche (which I may have already made my own version of).  Every city should have at least 3 restaurants like this.       

And last but not least, Cafe Besalu whose croissants and cheese danishes are some of the best I have ever had.  We were fortunate to be staying about 2 blocks away which means I ate a cheese danish everyday for 3 days straight and I'm not sorry I did that. There seasonal fruit danishes are equally exciting.  If your smart, you'll get a little bit of everything and share with someone you love.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

white grout.

All white subway tile (with white grout) is my latest obsession.  I love how clean it looks.  Especially when paired with blue and black (which is my new favorite color pairing).  

Cover story from the October 2015 issue of Inside Out magazine. Styling by Jacqui Moore. Photography by Eve Wilson. Available from newsagents, Zinio,, Google Play,, Apple’s Newsstand, and Nook.:

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

enchiladas verdes.

September has practically disappeared and I'm not entirely sure how that happened.  I guess when you spend 2 glorious weeks living in a bubble far removed from reality you kind of loose sight of time.  It's a shame that it snuck past me because September is my favorite. Apples are plentiful, it's possible to sleep with the windows open (I sleep like a baby in this weather), plaid and flannel becomes a weekly wardrobe staple, and you can turn on your oven (and not sweat to death!) which means baked dishes have now become a dinner staple.

The baked dishes of September are my favorite because they can incorporate the last remaining summer ingredients in a new way. In August you probably ate a lot of raw tomatoes (ideally paired with burrata and basil) but in September you can roast them and toss them with cubes of mozzarella and rigatoni for an incredibly satisfying summer supper. In August, tomatillos became salsa and dinners consisted of chips, salsa, and margaritas (a completely acceptable dinner when it's 90 degrees), in September, you can't got wrong with enchiladas verdes.

Enchiladas verdes is a simple baked dish that no one can resist.   I prefer making enchiladas at home because they are lighter and brighter.  Not exactly health food, but when you avoid drowning them in cheese they could almost be considered healthy. The salsa verde is bright and tangy and pairs perfectly with leftover roast chicken to make an incredibly delightful meal.  

Enchiladas Verdes 
Recipe adapted from the Homesick Texan

For the Salsa Verde

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 or 2 serrano chiles, cut in half, stems removed (depending on how hot you want it)
1 cup cilantro, leaves and stems
3 cups chicken stock or water (in a pinch)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

For the Enchiladas

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 corn tortillas
2 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Muenster, Asadero or Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream
2 peeled and pitted avocados, cubed

To make the salsa, place the tomatillos, onion, garlic, serrano chiles and cilantro in a large pot. Add 3 cups of stock or water and bring to a boil on high. Continue to boil uncovered for 10 minutes or until the tomatillos go from a bright green to a light, muted green (If the water doesn’t cover them completely, don’t add more water just turn the tomatillos in the pot halfway through the cooking so all sides are exposed to the boiling water). Turn of the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the pot contents to a blender and blend until smooth. (If you don’t let the vegetables cool, the steam will make the blender lid pop off, which makes for a bit of a mess.) Add cumin and salt to taste. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish and spread 1 cup of the salsa along the bottom.  Place the rest of the salsa in a large bowl (large enough to dip the tortillas in). In a skillet, heat up the oil on medium-low heat. One at a time, heat up the tortillas in the oil, and then keep them wrapped in a cloth or tortilla warmer until all the tortillas are heated. 

To assemble the enchiladas, take a heated tortilla dip (VERY BRIEFLY) into the salsa, place a couple of tablespoons of chicken down the center, and then roll the tortilla. Place filled tortilla in the baking dish and repeat. 

Pour evenly over the rolled enchiladas the rest of the salsa. Top with the shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm topped with sour cream and cubed avocado.   

Monday, September 21, 2015

thoughts on portland, oregon.

As an overenthusiastic foodie, I've had a desire for several years now to visit the Pacific Northwest. Besides San Francisco, no city seemed more populated with Farmers Markets, restaurants and doughnut shops then Portland and Seattle; for that reason I had to go.  

Portland was the first stop on our trip and while it's a great city, it's not one I could live in.  Mostly because I had a hard time figuring out what anyone actually does besides drink really good coffee and compost.  It just doesn't feel like a city.  It feels like a college town or maybe a place where people live after they made their millions in New York (because that's the only way one could afford such fancy coffee and beer).  It's a little crunchy (I've never seen one store sell so many types of kombucha).  Not necessarily a bad thing but perhaps not the thing for me (though I do love me some kombucha). 

I barely made a dent in the food scene. There was only so much time and stomach space.  But we did eat some pretty epic things and below is the list of my favorites.  This is in no way a definite list, just the things I actually got a chance to eat and loved.   

The Portland Farmers Market is the farmer's market of my dreams (it's Saturdays at PSU which is near the Pearl District).  I probably love it as much as I do because it was the first thing we did in Portland on a day with near perfect weather.  It's a good combination of farmers market and food hall and it's HUGE.   I refrained from spending all my money on peaches, apples, kombucha, and fish, because as Tyler reminded me, it would not survive the trip home.  

Blue Star Doughnuts  are pretty darn good.  We sampled a variety over the course of two trips and my favorites were the hard cider fritter and the classic buttermilk.  I preferred the buttermilk based doughnuts to the yeasted variety but that may be personal preference.  All are phenomenal.   

Apizza Schools.  I realize as a born and raised New Yorker, that the idea of eating pizza on the west coast is absurd (we have enough good pizza in New York!), but I did just that.  I had read a lot about this place from the guys over at Serious Eats and I figured I had to try it.  It was really good and well worth the meal  (half Margharita/half Diablo Blanco is the way to go).  The pizza is New York style and it's surprisingly light.  Not in the sense that you feel as if you were cheated on toppings, but it's graceful (is it weird to call pizza graceful?). Also, their antipasta veggie plate is a phenomenal way to start your meal.  

Ava Gene's and I have a love hate relationship.  We ate some really incredible things there (the corn and chicken liver crostini was most notable) but the service was awful - the server clearly forgot to put in our order so it took a very long time to get our food. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the service thing really bugs me.  Especially since the server knew we were waiting forever (the table next to us got all of their food before us and ordered after us) and didn't try and make it up to us in anyway.  But the crostini was so good, I'm keeping them on here. 

Nong's Khao Man Gai is the place everyone tells you to visit in Portland. The abridged story is that the owner came over to Portland penniless and started a foodcart that everyone loved. Eventually she was able to open another cart and then a small store front.  Feel free to Google the name for more details (Google can tell you more then I can).   I almost cried because I thought we weren't going to get the chance to try it but lucky for me everything worked out. The menu is short and sweet.  The food is simple and satisfying.  I got the chicken with peanut sauce and loved it because what is there not to love about peanut sauce.   While there I saw one of the contestants from Top Chef and totally kept my cool.   

New Seasons Market is the supermarket of my dreams.  It's like a Whole Foods and specialty food store wrapped in one.  They were selling 20+ types of local hot sauce when we were there.  That my friends is my kind of supermarket.  I wouldn't call this a must hit, but if you are near one, definitely peruse!  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

chocolate chunk pumpkin seed cookies.

Tyler and I got back from the Pacific Northwest 2 days ago.  While there I was the most relaxed and happy I've been in a long time.  I took myself off the grid as much as possible. Checking e-mail once every couple of days and Facebook hardly ever (Sunday required the internet as it is the start of Fantasy Football!).  It's was nice to be present.  To not think much about what I wear (I kind of like the ease of having only a finite amount of clothing to pick from), to walk miles a day, to try new food.

I needed the two-week hiatus from this place.  To try and figure out how I want it to look going forward, to understand what I want from it.  I still haven't totally figured it out but I am eager to talk about food again.  Soon we will discuss all of the glorious things I consumed in the Pacific Northwest (doughnuts! fish! pizza!) but now we are here to discuss a cookie recipe that I've wanted to talk about for so long. 

This is a cookie for September.  For back to school (or in my case work). They are chocolaty and satisfying especially at the 3PM slump when all you want is to forget the fact that you are knee deep in work.  I like them because they are chock-full of nuts and and more chocolate which tricks you into thinking they are a granola bar (they are not).  Did I mention they freeze brilliantly?  They do which means you can stockpile them in the freezer for when you really need a pick-me-up.  

Chocolate Chunk–Pumpkin Seed Cookies
Recipe adapted from Bon Appeit

Makes about 36 cookies

Some notes! For the ideal chewy brownie-ish texture, take care not to overbake.  I added in some cocoa nibs because I've had some languishing in our cabinets.  I think it's a genius addition.  Also, I made the cookies far smaller then the original recipe specified because a 3PM treat should not be the size of a small dinner plate (as much as I wish it could be).   

1½ cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1½ cups (packed) light brown sugar
1⅓ cups granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1¼ cups bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup cocoa nibs (optional)
Flaky sea salt

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Toast pumpkin seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet on upper rack, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, whisk flour, cocoa powder, kosher salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and paprika in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing until well blended after each. Fold in chocolate and pumpkin seeds.

Portion dough into 36 balls (about 2 tablespoons each) and divide between parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2" apart. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake cookies, rotating pans halfway through, until edges are slightly browned and firm but centers are still soft, 9–10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

woodbury kitchen: a review.

Up until last week, it had been two years since I had last visited Baltimore.  The last time I was there, I ate a lot of pretty (ok really) good bar food (the kind of stuff you should be eating on Football Sunday).  It was satisfying food - the classics done right, but it wasn't something you would necessarily go out of your way for.   

It appears, a lot can change in two years because Baltimore has turned into a bit of a destination.  The food scene is changing.  Restaurants focused on local, seasonal, regional cooking are beginning to pop-up and the restaurant that seems to be spearheading these changes is Woodbury Kitchen.  I first read about them in a post that popped up in my Instagram feed about a year ago.  They were making the kind of food I love (seasonally focused small plates) and for that reason it was added to my ever-growing list of places to visit.  

I took myself to dinner there last Monday, and for a Monday evening, in the middle of August, during a torrential summer rain, this restaurant was packed.  They hype and fervor around the restaurant is worth it.  They are doing some pretty incredible things - looking at the history of food native to the area (Crab! Rice!) and making it modern.  

But, there was one dish that below me away - their eggplant caponata.  A whole baby eggplant was roasted until tender and topped with tomatoes and roasted garlic.  It didn't mess with the classic too much - instead it elevated it and made it something new and incredibly memorable.  It made me wonder what else the kitchen is capable of.  

I will be back because I need to eat more of the menu (which is why Tyler will be coming) and really dive into what they are doing, but what I saw, I liked a lot.   Baltimore, I have a feeling we will be seeing more of each other.   

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

industrial chic.

Industrial chic gets me every time.  

I love the idea of an armoire in the kitchen.  It's the perfect unconventional pantry (especially if painted black and paired with open shelves).   

Love this kitchen. Laure joliet | VSCO Grid.: Love this kitchen. Laure joliet | VSCO Grid.

Image via Pinterest.