Posts Tagged ‘cheesecake’
When I’m in a lift I have a tendency to exit at the next floor the door opens. Each level of my work building in Sydney was painted a different colour so it was discombobulating when I’m in the foyer of the wrong one.
Here in Seattle I’ve inserted a key into the wrong apartment and panicked when it wouldn’t turn. I looked at the number and realised I was three floors above home. I gasped, stumbled and ran down the stairs. And I counted the number of floors.
When Marisa was driving us to dinner at Gainsburg we took the scenic route. We were happily chatting until we crossed the Fremont Bridge and not the Aurora Bridge. We were going in the direction of Greenwood, and thankfully American blocks are perpendicular and numbered so our absentmindedness was easily rectified.
The exterior is ominously clad in black, a ‘dining room and cocktails’ sign beckoned.
It was dark inside. Amber lights diffused a sepia tone and the furniture was in moody shades of red and brown.
We perched on stools at the counter and quizzed the affable chef on the menu.
An ornate plate of charcuterie consisted of coppa, porcini ham, smoked duck breast, olives, cornichons, bread and mustard.
A pot of macaronis et fromage was served with a side salad. Molten Gruyère and Brie were stirred into penne seasoned with roasted garlic and thyme.
A narrow baguette was stuffed with slices of duck breast and brie, caramelised apple and fennel, arugula and Dijon mustard, and served with frites.
The cheesecake du jour was salted caramel. A fluffy cheesecake with a thin biscuit base, the saltiness was balanced by the drizzle of glossy caramel on top.
Layers of spongy chocolate cake and satiny fudge were an opulent dessert.
Appetites satiated and enriched by conversations, we returned across the Aurora Bridge and I alighted the lift on my floor!
I like cooked vegetables. I grew up eating leafy greens sautéed in garlic and ginger, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, blanched lettuce steeped in oyster sauce, and stir-fried carrots and peas. Salads were not in my diet as a child.
As an adult I have learnt to appreciate the healthfulness of salads. Roasted beets, chèvre and pistachio. Arugula, pear, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. Spicy Thai salad with nam jim dressing. These are on regular rotation at home.
I have a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi‘s sumptuous Plenty and having dined at Nopi earlier in the week so I was keen to visit the original Ottolenghi in Notting Hill. Located on Ledbury Road, a manicured hedge and distinctive red font marked the entrance.
Tiers of buttermilk scones, viennoiseries, cakes, cookies, tarts, cheesecakes and brownies were displayed at the front window enticing passers-by. Tuck your elbows in and shuffle sideways as the front room is narrow!
Platters of vibrant salads lined the counter. A daily menu is published in the morning and on this May day there were:
* Roasted aubergine, sorrel and wild garlic yoghurt, roasted cherry tomatoes, parsley and pine nuts
* Mixed green beans, shaved asparagus and peas with spinach, chilli, garlic, tarragon, lemon zest and chervil
* Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
* Roasted squash with green olive yoghurt, roasted red onion, mint, capers and sumac
* Cucumber, celery and radish with nigella seeds, coriander and mint
* Butterbean hummus with roasted red pepper, hazelnut, lemon and parsley salsa
* Red rice and quinoa with cranberries, lemon, fried onion, mixed nuts, herbs, radicchio and arugula
* Heritage carrots with cumin seeds, garlic, lemon, coriander, pea shoots, arugula and pomegranate
* Beetroot and poached rhubarb salad with gorgonzola, red onion, and mixed herbs and leaves
There were also a selection of mains:
* Seared beef fillet with watercress, whole grain mustard, horseradish and sour cream
* Beef lasagne
* Seared sesame crusted tuna with coriander, ginger, chilli and sweet chilli, soy, pineapple and spring onion sauce
* Roasted chicken marinated in yoghurt and honey with mixed spices, chilli and coriander
* Grilled salmon with artichoke, pink peppercorn, preserved lemon and parsley salsa
* Smoked bacon quiche with sautéed leeks, parmesan and thyme
* Roasted tomato quiche with caramelised onion, goat cheese and thyme
Bold, herbaceous flavours with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, my eyes feasted on the mounds of fresh salads.
Packages of bread sticks and Madeleines, and tubs of roasted spicy nuts cluttered the register as impulse purchases.
Shelves along the short set of stairs were laden with trays of produce, bottles of olive oil, jars of house made sauces and loaves of bread.
Downstairs was an all-white dining room with a communal table and Panton chairs, and an espresso nook. A grand mirror the size of the back wall created an optical illusion that widened and brightened the basement.
Pots of jams and cubes of butter were on a rustic wooden board.
I sipped a coffee.
And nibbled on a decadent chocolate and hazelnut brownie.
I did not order any salads because I had a special lunch booked at The Ledbury but my morning tea at Ottolenghi was splendid!
Posted Monday 18 June 2012on:
Mark Bitterman is championing the salt renaissance. The owner of The Meadow and author of Salted hosted a dinner class at Lisa Dupar Catering a couple of weeks ago. At home we have small containers of Australian and English finishing salts and a large jar of French salt for brining, pasta water and roasting. I’m a cautious salter but I have learnt to embrace how sodium chloride is transformative in cooking.
Adjacent to Pomegranate Bistro, the catering kitchen is a labyrinth of stainless steel, storage and commercial sized accoutrement.
Catering staff has a view of the restaurant through square panes and vice versa.
A seven course tasting menu paired by Mark Bitterman and Lisa Dupar.
Rimmed with carbonated black takesumi bamboo salt, a spicy Bloody Mary apéritif greeted us.
Rows of tables were orientated to the preparation area where chefs plated our food.
Mark was as charming and engaging as I remembered. He spoke with passion and humour about the history of salt, and the composition and flavour profiles of our samples.
Coral coloured and glistening, the salmon was cured by being pressed between two Himalayan pink salt blocks. The gravlax had a firm texture and was absent of the sliminess that sometimes afflict cured fish.
Soft slices of house made bread were smeared with butter and sprinkled with fleur de sel. The sweetness of the butter accentuated the moist crystals and delicate crunch.
The pretty flake salts were savoured on rice cake with carrot, avocado and black sesame salad. A flat disc with a crispy edge, the plain rice cake was perfect for comparing the salts. I love the elegance of Murray River flake salt, a parochial favourite. The charcoal pyramids of the Black Diamond was bold and earthy. From Anglesey, the current home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the oak smoked salt had an intense aroma.
The highlight of the evening was Juan’s chilli relleno with Molokai red salt. A popular family meal at Pomegranate Bistro and Lisa Dupar Catering, a whole poblano pepper was roasted, stuffed, battered and deep-fried. Garnished with guacamole and tomato sauce, the cheesy filling laced with the heat of the pepper was rustic comfort food. From the volcanic clays of Hawaii, the mineral elements of the Molokai red salt brightened the chilli relleno.
Blushed strips of Painted Hills beef were on a bed of mashed celeriac and topped with threads of sweet potato. The luscious sel gris complimented the meatiness.
A bowl of Kauai guava smoked salt.
Dessert was burnt caramel cheesecake with salted pecan crust adorned with fresh blueberries and a white chocolate curl. Unfortunately this was too salty for me.
Mark recommended flake salt, fleur de sel and sel gris as the foundation set for the pantry. Which salt to use? Consider if the intent is chemical, seasoning or visual. The final advice was ‘don’t grind salt’!
It was a glorious Monday in London and we spent the only clear weather we had outdoors. I gallivanted about Westminster in the morning fending off tourists with unwieldy maps and gargantuan DSLRs. We merrily roamed Kew Gardens in the afternoon, steamed in Victoria era glasshouses and felt the spring blades of grass between our toes.
Famished and fatigued, dinner at Nopi was a nourishing conclusion to a lovely day.
A lampshade of rustic bronze leaves greeted patrons.
The glare of the all white interior was diffused by the lighting creating a warm ambience.
A beautiful bouquet in pink hues marked the serving table where platters of salads and loaves of bread were displayed in a front corner of the dining room.
On the left was the grapefruit and lychee cooler, a fruity cocktail of lemon infused vodka, lychee and grapefruit juices, lemon, sugar and mint.
The menu was categorised into vegetables, fish and meat. We agreed to let our waiter order for us and our group of seven had nine dishes family style.
The first was roasted aubergine with black garlic, harissa and pine nuts. Eggplant halves were roasted until silky, its soft flesh contrasted with the crunch of the pine nuts.
I’m neutral on lentils so I only had a tiny spoonful of these green ones with shaved beetroot and radish, and berbere croutons. An African spice blend, the berbere was an appetising seasoning for the bland but nutritious lentils.
Sambal rubbed gurnard was wrapped in banana leaf. The fish fillet was succulent and fiery.
A sphere of burrata was paired with slices of blood orange and coriander seeds. The squeaky mozzarella oozed with cream, and the herby and citrus notes tempered the richness.
Portions of twice cooked baby chicken was dipped in chilli sauce and sprinkled with lemon myrtle salt. The distinct Mediterranean flavours were bold and vibrant.
A cube of pork belly was in a pool of grape mustard jus. The fatty meat was balanced by the wedges of caramelised nashi pear.
In a skillet was seared prawns tossed with feta, fennel and Pernod.
Two golden orbs were courgette and Manouri fritters. Dipped in a cooling lime yoghurt, the mixture of zucchini and Greek cheese were savoury bites.
The last of our waiter’s selection was a ‘cheesecake’. Valdeón, a Spanish blue cheese, was baked in a copper pot and garnished with pickled beetroot and thyme honey. I prefer this version to dessert cheesecakes!
This scoop of sorbet was the essence of pear.
A classic English treat, this Eton mess of meringue, sumac and rose syrup was topped with a quenelle of strawberry sorbet.
Delightfully warm and fluffy financiers were shared.
We were introduced to Seattle happy hour by an expat. If you adjust your dinner time to early or late, you can eat at some quality restaurants for a bargain price. I like that happy hour encourage people to dine out but sometimes I ponder how sustainable it is for businesses to maintain such discounts.
After heavy traffic en route to Bellevue, I was in need of a beverage and nibbles. We were at Cypress Wine Bar with a group of expat Aussies. Cypress Wine Bar is in The Westin Bellevue – it is an open space with a high ceiling and wide windows, we were seated near a fireplace with small tables and diamond-shaped lounge chairs. The appetizers and small plates are half price between 5pm and 7pm and some drinks are also on discount. All their wines are local except for the champagne and I ordered a flight of dry white wines. For $11, I was expecting sample size glasses but they were served in stemware and half full!
We ordered several dishes to share and I sampled the crab cakes, ribs, Mediterranean plate and the complimentary ciabatta. The two puck like Dungeness crab cakes were in a pool of honey mustard sauce with a side of wilted spinach in a Belgian endive leaf. The sauce is pleasantly mild and there is plenty of crab in the crab cakes. They’re pan-fried to a golden hue and the crispy, caramelised edge is a lovely contrast to the moist crab inside.
The ribs were thick batons in a syrupy glaze. I’m indifferent to ribs and these were okay. There was enough meat to make the effort to eat them but it does not fall off the bone nor melt in your mouth.
The complimentary ciabatta was my favourite antipasto. The bread is fresh and dense, drizzled with olive oil and an abundance of ingredients are piled on top. There is char-grilled asparagus spears, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts and pitted black olives. It is sunshine on a plate!
The after work catch up evolved into a progressive dinner – appetizer at Cypress Wine Bar, main at McCormick & Schmick’s and dessert at The Cheesecake Factory. It was more a regressive dinner for me – the restaurants got darker and I ate smaller portions.
I had half a serving of grilled wild Alaskan halibut with tomato confit and mushroom risotto which was a heavy dish. The risotto was creamy and buttery, and olive oil was swirled around the plate. In a gluttonous moment, I added a side of onion rings. I gasped when the waitress placed it on our table – they weren’t onion rings, they were onion bangles! They were coated in a thick batter that was crunchy and salty.
Our evening concluded with cheesecakes. One slice each of key lime cheesecake, Godiva chocolate cheesecake and white chocolate caramel macadamia cheesecake between eight people and there were still leftovers. It was a sticky sweet good night.