Posts Tagged ‘James Beard Foundation’
Posted Monday 17 October 2011on:
Lake Washington is a mental divider. Across the bridge is the Eastside, ‘over there’ is suburbia. Having lived in Sydney, driving for twenty minutes to get to a restaurant is considered fast! We don’t own a car here and we like the convenience of Zipcar. And we’re lucky to have generous friends who kindly drive us to and from places in exchange for our pleasant company!
Winner of the 2008 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Northwest Award, Chef Holly Smith opened for lunch just for us. In serene surroundings, the L shaped restaurant has windows with a view of leafy trees.
Next to the entrance are a long kitchen and a multipurpose bench.
Polished stemware is proudly displayed and muted tones are brightened by pastel mint accents.
We nibbled on fluffy bread with salted butter, and Parmesan and herb crisps.
Served in an asymmetrical oval bowl, the Alaskan king crab with green apple sorbetto and crab butter powder was artistically presented. The crustacean leg was succulent and the taste of the ocean contrasted with the tart sorbetto. It was a delightful pairing that whetted our appetite for Holly’s food.
The main course was rabbit braised in Arneis with chickpea gnocchi, porcini and house made pancetta. I don’t eat rabbit but my dining companions liked the tender meat and the texture of the gnocchi.
I had an alternative main of quail stuffed with house made ricotta and pancetta in reduction sauce with sweetbreads and chanterelles. A syrupy sauce simmered over many hours and reduced from litres to cups, it had a piquancy that complemented the other components of the dish.
The highlight of the meal was dessert. Resting in a puddle of Cardoon blossom honey, the panna votta was speckled with vanilla salt. It was a perfectly balanced dessert – creamy yet light, fragrant and sweet with bursts of saltiness. Matching wines were available and the Cascina del Santuario 2009 Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont intensified the flavours of the silky panna cotta.
October’s lunch concluded with brutti ma buoni. These ‘ugly but good’ hazelnut meringues crumbled and melted, and would be lovely with a cup of tea.
Sincere thanks to Darryl and Holly for an ethereal dining experience!
I grew up in a household that weaned off salt over time. My parents cooked with it sparingly in a salt reduced diet that was advocated by dieticians and nutritionists. As adults we had the same shaker of supermarket brand iodised salt in our pantry for many years, its only purpose was to salt the water to boil pasta in.
A couple of evenings ago Myra gathered a group of food lovers for a salt themed potluck with Mark Bitterman. Owner of The Meadow and author of Salted, Mark was visiting from Portland and hosted a dinner at Spring Hill on Sunday.
I bought some leftover heirloom tomatoes at the TomatoFare for the bargain price of two dollars a pound. I made an insalata Caprese as my contribution to the potluck. Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil were layered, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with Murray River salt flakes.
There were a variety of salts at the potluck and each had a story. Some were favourites, others were gifts, and mine reminds me of home.
Carol brought this beautiful Himalayan pink salt crystal for display.
The Secret Stash vanilla salt was speckled and moist.
I love the cute Sugarpill container!
Chuck made his own applewood smoked Maldon salt with lemon thyme.
There were several salads and one other insalata Caprese. Darryl‘s was geometrically styled compared to my rustic approach!
Ashleigh‘s salad of heirloom tomatoes, chèvre and mint was a kaleidoscope of colours.
The soup of the evening was by Kristin, pumpkin soup with salted pumpkin seeds.
Hors d’oeuvres included a cocoa nibs studded chèvre log with applewood salt by Karen.
Bite size hickory smoked salt pretzels, a recipe in Salted made by Carol.
Charred and fanned out on a bamboo tray, Shirley grilled maitake mushrooms and shishito peppers.
She brought three types of Japanese salts to taste with the vegetables – wasabi salt, dashi salt and shichimi tōgarashi blended with salt.
Chuck assembled fresh farm cheese and sungold tomato jam crostinis with his own applewood smoked Maldon salt and lemon thyme.
These sticky nuts were salted orange blossom honey almonds by Lisa.
Kim baked a tin of salted cranberry and pistachio biscotti.
Carol’s second recipe from Salted was Himalayan pink salt brittle.
Nazila dipped vanilla marshmallows in chocolate with salt on top.
Carol made her signature alderwood smoked salt caramels.
We piled our plates with the delectable selection and ate as we listened to Mark, a James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner. An eloquent speaker, we were all mesmerised by his salt narrative. Salt is a ‘universal food, a defining ingredient of the world’s culinary traditions’. He described himself as a vagabond writer and a ‘ravenous and perennial eater’.
When he opened The Meadow, he felt all he was doing was putting contents of his basement into jars! Salt connects people and he stocks over one hundred varieties of salts in his store. They also sell flowers, chocolates and bitters.
He realised there was no original research on salt and its behaviour on food. Salt is a powerful flavour enhancer, a nutritional necessity and the only mineral we eat. It is not just a chemical, it is a substance made by hand.
The Meadow has recently opened a store in New York for retail customers, and they supply food manufacturers and restaurateurs.
Salt makers have an intimate relationship with nature, a deep understanding of complex conditions. Saltiness is modulated by the shape and size of the crystals. Salts have different moisture levels. Fleur de sel has about ten percent residual moisture and is resilient in food, it glistens as it dissolves to spark our palate. Eighty pounds of salt yields one pound of fleur de sel for a ‘luxurious, sensual experience’!
Japan has the most sophisticated and obsessive salt culture. To make takesumi bamboo salt, sea water is extracted from three thousand feet under the ocean, sprayed onto bamboo to dry and stirred continuously with a wooden paddle while simmering until evaporated.
Hundreds of millions of years old, Himalayan salt blocks can function as tableware or cookware. It’ll slightly cure sashimi or Carpaccio, and can be heated up for sautéing.
The ‘manifesto’ is the byline of his book and this is clear when he declared that kosher salt is a stainless steel cleaner! Kosher salt is a desiccating agent that extracts moisture. It is a refined chemical manufactured for industries and it is Mark’s ‘mission in life to eradicate kosher salt’.
Salted has three sections: the life of salt, a history; salt guide, varieties and profiles; and salting, techniques and recipes.
We concluded the evening with a peek inside his case of sample salts. Mark had a bottle of nigari, or magnesium chloride. At the Spring Hill dinner the attendees had experimented with droplets into bourbon, adding a complex bitterness.
So for Kate, salt is not just salt!
Sincere thanks to Myra for her hospitality, Mark for his insights, and the Seattle food community for a delicious and informative potluck!
Whether it’s slow food or organic, farm to table or nose to tail, local produce and goods have evolved from being a movement to the mainstream. We shop at farmers markets and buy sustainable seafood. There is immense interest in the origins of ingredients, and where and how our food is grown.
At FareStart, it is as much about what is being cooked as it is about who is doing the cooking. The FareStart motto is ‘Great food. Better lives.’, their culinary job training and placement program offer the homeless and disadvantaged an opportunity to learn the skills to pursue a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
The FareStart restaurant is open for weekday lunch and hosts Guest Chef Night dinners on Thursdays. In the entrance foyer is a feature wall of plates decorated by donors and sponsors, and framed and autographed black and white photos of past guest chefs. A long communal wooden bench is prominent in the middle of the dining room, there is a mezzanine level and the open plan kitchen is visible from the main part of the restaurant.
I had a mid afternoon appointment and knew that I would be having a light supper so I decided on a three course lunch! On the specials menu were Chef Chieu’s crispy tofu nuggets with sweet chilli dipping sauce. The three golden wedges had a crunchy batter and paired well with the not too sweet sauce. To my surprise, firm tofu was used and it was squeaky like haloumi and a little dry. This was easily remedied by extra dips in the sauce.
Listed in the FareStart favourites section of the standard menu, the blackened salmon sandwich was served on a local artisan roll with a side of lemon caper aioli and with a choice of fries, soup or salad. I opted for the daily house made Thai chicken peanut soup. It was thick and creamy, and full of chicken pieces and toasted peanuts. Unfortunately it was too spicy for my palate.
The wild salmon fillet was seared with a blackening spice and it had a lovely caramelised crust to it. It was a generous portion, about double the size of the brioche bun it was resting on.
The lunch rush had emptied and three wait staff asked separately if I would like dessert – yes please! The crème caramel was oddly presented with sliced strawberries. I love crème caramel – the slight wobble on the plate, the intense caramel layer tempered by smooth custard and how the caramel drips from the inversion.
Students were among the kitchen and wait staff and the revenue from the lunch service goes directly to the FareStart programmes. Winner of the James Beard Foundation 2011 Humanitarian of the Year award, I’m proud that FareStart is part of the Seattle community.