Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

I’m comfortable with dining alone. If I’m out and about on errands during the day I will have lunch by myself. There are many restaurants with counter seating which is perfect for one. I will perch on a stool and scroll the news headlines on my mobile as I eat. These contemplative meals tend to be at casual eateries so I was apprehensive about my booking at The Ledbury in London.

Chef Brett Graham is Australian and The Ledbury piqued my interest during the London riots. The restaurant was attacked by a mob and the staff armed themselves with kitchen accoutrements to defend patrons. There is an Aussie larrikin spirit to that!

I browsed the shelves of Books for Cooks, had coffee and brownie at Ottolenghi, and whiled away the morning wandering the streets of Notting Hill.

With two Michelin stars, The Ledbury has a prix fixe lunch menu at the bargain price of £35 for three courses. The stately dining room was decorated in warm tones with chandeliers, mirrored walls draped with curtains, tablecloths and upholstered chairs.

It was a full lunch service. There was a group in a business meeting, a family celebrating a birthday, and tourists in shorts and visors.

An amuse bouche of foie gras mousse on hemp biscuit was the centrepiece on a rustic ceramic plate.

Speyside and Glenlivet are words I associate with Scotch but the area is also a pristine source of natural spring water.

A wicker basket cocooned warm onion and bacon, sourdough, and malt bread rolls. The onion and bacon scroll was dense and savoury.

The first course was a salad of spring vegetables with crisp pheasant egg and Parmesan. There was a collective gasp from the adjacent table when this was presented. It was an artistic arrangement of tender batons. Vibrant radishes, carrots, asparagus, beans, peas and micro greens complemented the richness of the Parmesan encased pheasant egg.

My entrée silverware with replaced with a spoon. I was pondering how to cut hogget with the blunt, round edge when a shallow bowl was served. The waiter announced it was a pre-course of Cornish brill with radishes, barley, shellfish consommé and cream of white beer. Delicate and flaky, the white filet paired well with the briny broth. This was an ode to the ocean.

A serrated knife was swiftly set. The waiter wryly described hogget as middle aged sheep. The plate was a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours. A wedge of aubergine glazed in black sugar and garlic, dots of green tomato juice and flecks of dried olive were in a jus with three cuts of unctuous heritage prime biodynamic hogget.

A shot glass was layered with passionfruit jelly and vanilla cream, a sweet and tart palate cleanser.

Dessert was a vivid parfait of dried flowers topped with gariguette and wild strawberries, and white chocolate. A puddle of warm tapioca was textural and temperature contrast to the icy smooth parfait.

Petit fours from left to right: eucalyptus chocolate, earl grey biscuit and mandarin jelly.

Lunch was nearly three hours and I read that day’s Guardian newspaper in between courses!

If I had to name a favourite restaurant in Seattle it would be Lark. Seasonal ingredients, small plates, attentive service. I have dined there twice and both meals presented regional cuisine at its best and epitomised what I love about a restaurant experience.

The only blemish is the lighting. For a city ensconced in a melancholic grey for half the year, Seattle’s eateries are in the shadow of candles and dimmers. The Danish word ‘hygge’ is the perfect description of cosy ambience but I would like to read the menu without squinting!

The Lark dining room has a homely feel. Opaque curtains partition the centre tables and there is a row of booths along one side. It is intimate and comfortable.

Categorised into cheeses, vegetables and grains, charcuterie, fish and meat, the menu is designed for sharing and the wait staff can recommend the number of dishes depending on your appetite.

Wine was poured and bread buttered as our group of four chatted on a quiet Sunday evening in spring.

Asparagus featured in three of the courses and starred in this in Provençal style. Tender spears were sautéed in olive oil, garlic, rosemary and black olive.

On a terracotta plate were ribbons of La Quercia prosciutto garnished with figs and Parmigiano Reggiano shavings.

Three plump scallops were atop asparagus in an earthy broth.

The ubiquitous asparagus were paired with slices of rare Mishima Ranch wagyu hanger steak, roasted potatoes and a dollop of ramp butter.

A petite cocotte of pommes de terre Robuchon was smooth and buttery, an elegant mashed potatoes.

Dining with the French means duck. A crispy Liberty Ducks leg was served with spring onions and green chickpeas.

I neglected to note the third cheese but the other two were Kukulu Bleu de Brebis from the Pyrénées and Taleggio from Lombardy.

A compact round of hazelnut brown butter cake was adorned with whiskey poached figs and accompanied by a quenelle of salted caramel ice cream.

Light and ethereal, a generous mound of miniature madeleines was dipped in a tiny pot of Theo organic dark chocolate sauce.

Lark is simply splendid, a beacon for the Pacific Northwest.

Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of Starbucks. This is not a sponsored post.

The first coffee I drank was from Starbucks. It was early morning and I was bleary eyed when I entered a Starbucks in Sydney and ordered an iced mocha. Espresso. Chocolate. Milk. Ice. Its cold sweetness was jolting, the caffeine sharpened my senses. Thus I welcomed coffee into my life, a daily embrace with a chocolaty, milky beverage that focuses my mind.

A proud Seattle company, Starbucks pilots new concepts such as Starbucks Evenings here. Stores such as Olive Way and Terry and Republican have pioneered an after 4pm menu of wine, beer and small plates. ‘Drop in after work, with friends, after yoga, by yourself, after a long day or after a great day’ for an apéritif or digestif from your friendly barista!

Located in the Amazon hub at South Lake Union, Terry and Republican is a lively Starbucks. About half a dozen tables are in the sunken courtyard.

A sign advertised Starbucks Evenings with a sketch of a wedge of cheese, a wine glass and a beer bottle.

A radiant sun: coffee, tea, pastries and sandwiches. A crescent moon: red wine, white wine, small plates and desserts.

The interior is spacious and modern with exposed ducts, cement pillars, wood panelling and industrial lights. Floor-to-ceiling windows brightened the muted tones. The Starbucks logo is spray-painted on a wall made from salvaged bicycle tires.

As you wait for your coffee you’re reminded of Starbucks Evenings with more chalkboard art.

We were seated behind the counter and we peeked through the open shelves to the nimble baristas and crowd of patrons.

We perched on stools and were greeted with Starbucks designed Riedel glassware, a glass of ‘refreshing’ Villa Sandi Prosecco DOC Treviso Il Fresco from Italy topped with a petite bowl for spiced pepitas.

Each glass is etched with a whimsical saying such as ‘take a moment or three’ and ‘permission to relax’. We also sampled a ‘crisp’ Erath Pinot Gris from Oregon, ‘fruity’ Rosa Regale Brachetto from Italy and a ‘full-bodied’ Bergevin Lane Syrah She-Devil from Columbia Valley.

A bowl of rosemary and brown sugar cashews were warm and crunchy.

A wedge of triple cream blue brie was paired with walnut cranberry bread and fig preserves.

Deglet Noor dates were stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon. A drizzle of piquant balsamic glaze tempered the decadent morsels.

An oval flatbread of marinated artichoke hearts, red peppers, dry Jack and goat cheese was appetisingly spicy.

A bouquet of vegetable spears was served with a pot of smoky chipotle hummus. I munched on the plain crudités as a palate cleanser between the small plates.

Two tender skewers of panko and Parmesan crusted chicken were dipped in a tangy honey Dijon sauce.

Truffle macaroni and cheese was in a shallow dish to maximise the surface area of the golden herbed Parmesan breadcrumbs.

The pièce de résistance was the chocolate fondue. A cookie tray was filled with luscious dark chocolate. Threesomes of madeleines, marshmallows and strawberries were the perfect shapes for plunging into the viscous pool with our fingers.

Ms D-R and I lingered for a while afterwards, enjoying the ambience and discussing gathering friends for Starbucks Evenings.

Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of Full Circle. This is not a sponsored post.

Sydney is a urban sprawl. Streets are at odd angles and arterial roads twist through suburbs. North, south, east and west, to drive from the geographical centre of the city to its boundaries would take at least an hour.

Seattle is more compact. Neighbourhoods cluster around the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, it is a short distance from houses and malls to fields and forests. The abrupt transition is bewildering and we ponder the scenery as we navigated to Carnation for Feast on the Farm.

In contrast to the soggy spring visit to Yarmuth Farm with The Calf & Kid where we cuddled kids and sampled goat cheese, we were at Full Circle Farm on a hot summer day.

Full Circle hosted the dinner with Stewardship Partners, Salmon-Safe, and Chef Ethan Stowell and his team cooking a family style meal.

Full Circle delivers ‘farm-fresh, locally-sourced organic and sustainably-grown’ produce to consumers. The mission of Stewardship Partners is to ‘restore and preserve the natural landscapes of Washington State’. Salmon-Safe certification ‘requires management practices that protect water quality and restore habitat’.

Groups sheltered under the umbrella and marquee for reprieve from the blazing sun. Hats, sunglasses and sturdy shoes were requisite attire.

We stepped and stumbled on a milk crate to board the tractor tour. We perched on hay bales covered by a blanket as we gently looped the acres.

Andrew Stout, founder of Full Circle, was our guide. The engine chugged along the dusty path as Andrew spoke about the growth of Full Circle and how the land is being rehabilitated.

Our shadows!

Lettuce and kale were neatly planted in rows.

A serene vista.

The many hues of clouds, mountains, trees and farm buildings.

Symmetrically ploughed fields.

We snacked on smoky discs of Via Tribunali wood fire pizzas.

On the left is David Burger, executive director of Stewardship Partners, and Andrew Stout is on the left. My favourite quote of the event was ‘we’re in the business of killing plants’. The crowd chortled and snorted.

A still reflection on the creek.

Sal, the leggy mascot of Salmon-Safe, greeted us.

A country kitchen.

Currant bushes marked the field where perpendicular tables were set.

Our view of the second table.

Mason jars decorated the length of the table, posies interspersed with leafy produce.

From one end to the other.

Effervescent and mild, Dry Soda quenched my thirst.

First was Salumi charcuterie. We nibbled politely on thin slices of cured meats and Castelvetrano olives as introductions were made. I had sprayed my limbs with insect repellent and apologised to our dining companions for reeking of citronella. We were seated with an interesting group of people, there was much laughter and engaging conversations on culture, food and literature.

A mound of shredded Tuscan kale was garnished with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and drizzled with anchovy dressing. This was one of three healthful salads served.

Chunks of roasted beets were topped with a dollop of house made ricotta. Pistachio kernels dotted the tender beets, it was an earthy combination of flavours.

Plump grains of farro were tossed with carrot and English peas. I had several spoonfuls of this toothsome salad.

Mediterranean mussels were roasted with guanciale, lemon and olive oil. The bivalves were aromatic and succulent.

In sunglasses, an apron and boat shoes, Chef Ethan Stowell generously donated two private dinners in Staple & Fancy‘s cellar room for auction to benefit Stewardship Partners.

Fennel and carrots were grilled, the former seasoned with bottarga and the latter with mint and orange.

This platter was double in size. The roasted king salmon were caught by Geoff Lebon of Halmia Fish. Portions of Salmon-Safe Draper Valley chicken were grilled with rosemary and garlic.

Dessert was a creamy panna cotta with mixed berries, slivered almonds and aged balsamic vinegar.

There was spirited bidding on auction items, and Mike McCready (guitar), Kim Virant (vocal) and Gary Westlake (bass) entertained us.

Each attendee was gifted a box of Full Circle produce which we happily carried home.

Carefully packed, the top layer was fennel, kale and lettuce.

On the bottom were apricots, cabbage, carrots, cherries, cucumber, onions and rockmelon.

Sincere thanks to Shirley and Full Circle for the opportunity to experience Feast on the Farm!

Tilth, James Beard award winner Maria HinesOregon Tilth certified organic restaurant, has been on my restaurant list for many months. I’m yet to dine there but I attended a cooking class with Tilth’s chef de cuisine, Jason Brzozwy, at PCC Greenlake on Monday.Smaller and older than PCC Cooks in Redmond, the narrow stairs to the room is marked by an enormous balloon whisk and a wooden serving set.

The stainless steel kitchen had two cameras focused on the stove and the bench. The galley is stocked with accoutrements in an assortment of shapes, sizes and colours.

Each course was paired with a wine. From left to right: Terre Margaritelli Pietramala, Chinook Cabernet Franc Rosé, Lachini Pinot Noir and Château de Corneilla Muscat de Rivesaltes. The Muscat had a ‘quite the find‘ sticker on the bottle indicating that the wine is exclusive to PCC.

We snacked on marcona almonds as Jason welcomed us. He is from Chicago and has worked at Tilth for four years. He smiled as he recalled how as a child his attempt at boiling water for oatmeal ignited a fire. He discussed Tilth’s philosophy and how to ‘create memorable food’. We introduced ourselves and described what that meant to us.

A handsome man, Jason is affable and genuinely loves to cook. He demonstrated each recipe with aplomb.

First was a salad of figs, arugula, Rogue River blue cheese and marcona almonds. Jason explained that ripe figs are plump, heavy for their size and appear delicate. Another tip from the chef was to ‘dress the bowl, not the lettuce’ to avoid wilted greens. Sweet, peppery and pungent, it was a simple salad of complex flavours.

Next was gazpacho. Jason demonstrated his knife skills in cutting peppers into brunoise, eighth inch cubes, for the pepper jam. Fresh corn kernels and diced onions were seasoned and blended until a creamy consistency. Canola oil, lemon juice, black and white pepper, and salt are his staples. The pepper jam was reduced to a syrupy liquid and cooled.

To serve, the corn gazpacho was ladled over a quenelle of pepper jam, halved cherry tomatoes and basil. It was a piquant soup, a summery appetiser.

Tilth’s fisherman teaches anthropology at Seattle Central. Jason spoke with respect about what the fisherman does and the importance of letting the quality of the ingredients be the highlight of each dish.

The fleshy sockeye salmon was deboned with tweezers and portioned.

Atop a slice of heirloom tomato and in a shallow pool of tomato water, the seared Alaskan salmon was garnished with slivers of sugar snap peas and drizzled with edible flower vinaigrette. Cooked to a medium rare, the salmon was buttery with a crispy skin.

Dessert was macerated local raspberries, Greek yoghurt and honey tuiles. The tuile batter was spread on moulds, baked and draped over rolling pins to curl. The tart yoghurt balanced the sweet berries and the fragrant wafer.

The recipes are perfect for a summer dinner party!

Disclosure: This was a complimentary meal courtesy of Evolution Fresh. This is not a sponsored post.

My favourite Boost Juice is Passion Mango. An icy blend of mango, passionfruit, tropical juice, sorbet and yoghurt, it is my standard order for on-the-go sustenance. I like that they have a store at Sydney airport where it’s economical to pay seven dollars for a smoothie instead of double that for greasy noodles or oily pizza.

The second Evolution Fresh opened in Downtown Seattle last Friday. Located opposite Nordstrom on Pine, the space is subdivided from the adjacent Starbucks, the owner of the Evolution Fresh brand.

I had peeked into the first Evolution Fresh store in Bellevue when I was on the Eastside for lunch at Din Tai Fung. It has a salad bar and seating, whereas the Downtown Seattle one is compact, designed for ‘juice and food good to go’.

Banners line the wall with appetising photos of the signature bowls, a flowchart for cold pressed juices, and a whiteboard for customers to scrawl messages.

The shelves are laden with bottles of juices and pre-packed meals. Sweet treats were in glass cloches and jars.

Wire baskets of fruits, drink bottles, an apron and a chopping board were hooked onto metal rails in a corner of the tiny kitchen.

Six screens panelled the back wall display the beverages menu.

Eight juices are available on tap, including organic apple and organic carrot.

Lemon, ginger and cayenne pepper, the spicy lemonade piqued my interest.

Categorised into easy, balanced and green, a mix of six juices are in cleansing packs.

Breakfast items intermingled with snacks, signature bowls, sauces, sandwiches, salads and wraps. Each has a colourful nutrition label.

I scanned for the keyword, mango! Mango, papaya, pineapple and apple juice were a summery medley, the Smooth Mango was refreshing.

I was a frequent patron of Saladworks in Sydney and the signature bowls are a similar concept. Fast and fresh, each bowl has a healthful serving of vegetables, nuts and seeds. Spinach, julienned carrot, sugar snap peas, roasted red peppers, sautéed shiitake, grilled portabella, scallions, coriander and parsley were layered on top of cold buckwheat noodles.

The buckwheat noodles signature bowl was paired with tamari five spice sauce.

I drizzled the viscous dressing over the spinach leaves and gently tossed it through. It was crunchy and herbaceous, a substantial size for lunch.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Evolution Fresh is convenient and nourishing.

Face masks and hair nets are synonymous with Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) in Sydney. Cooks are in silent huddles in the open kitchen, kneading dough and pleating dumplings (餃子). The public display of food safety is commendable but I feel awkward staring at the staff.

The signature spectacle is also at Din Tai Fung in Bellevue. Patrons can watch each step of the dumpling making process as each dumpling is rotated through several pairs of hands. Sans face masks and hair nets, brows are knitted in concentration and nimble fingers pinched and pressed.

Located in Lincoln Square, Din Tai Fung has a modern and spacious dining room. You may have to queue for a table during peak times but the maître d’ is excellent at estimating the wait and you can while away the minutes learning the art of dumplings!

Our group of four were seated in a comfortable booth. Each table has a condiments tray with bottles of soy sauce and vinegar, and a jar of chilli sauce.

The laminated menu has photos for reference and you can tick the items on the order sheet. Sweet and sour spareribs (排骨) whetted our appetite. More sweet than sour, these unctuous morsels were coated in a sticky marinade.

Famous for their soup dumplings (小籠包), ten xiao long bao were steamed in a bamboo basket. Dipped in vinegar to balance their richness, the delicate dumplings were savoured for their liquid centres.

Beneath the cloudy broth were prawn and pork wontons (雲吞). A popular meal with noodles in Cantonese cafés (茶餐廳), the silky wrapper encased a meaty filling. It was simple comfort food.

My favourite dish at Din Tai Fung is the spicy prawn and pork dumplings. Boiled wontons were tossed in a luscious sauce, each mouthful pungent and fiery.

Slippery strands of egg noodles were stir-fried with Napa cabbage (黃芽白), spinach and prawns for a toothsome plate of carbs.

Garlicky batons of green beans were bright and crunchy.

Dessert was a mango smoothie with tapioca pearls. An icy, fruity blend, it was a refreshing beverage.

And they have dessert dumplings too!

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