Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

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Mr S has Scottish ancestry and we travelled through the countryside several years ago. I fell in love with the fields of heather, the glens (valleys), lochs (lakes), bens (mountains) and castles, the lilting accents, and the hearty Scottish fare. Every village, town and city honoured its history and were blessed with natural beauty.

We celebrated the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns at Slàinte at the Palace BallroomBurns Supper is traditionally held on the national bard’s birthday, 25 January.

The Palace Ballroom was set up with round tables and a handful of bar tables. A slideshow of Scottish scenery was projected on screens, although it was morbidly paused on a photo of gravestones for a while. A trio of musicians entertained us on a platform.

We perched on bar stools and sipped an apéritif of Rusty Nail which is a cocktail of Johnnie Walker and Drambuie garnished with a lemon twist.

We feasted on a menu and Scotch pairings by Dahlia Lounge chef Brock Johnson.

Our table was cluttered with glassware and silverware.

Dahlia Bakery scones were first and we mused if they would be American biscuits or British scones. A napkin in a weaved basket cushioned two ‘scones’ that were sweet flat squares of crumbly dough.

A square plate was layered with yoghurt, smoked trout and toast, and dotted with steelhead roe. The intense smokiness of the fish was tempered by the creamy yoghurt. The accompanying Scotch was a 12 year old Glenkinchie from the Lowlands.

A thin wedge of Black Sheep Creamery St Helen was served with a mini oatcake, slices of apple and a blob of apple jelly. I preferred the syrupy jelly with the washed rind cheese than the tart fruit. This dish was teamed with a 15 year old Dalwhinnie from the Highlands.

Two rare medallions of venison loin were veiled by a mound of black trumpet mushrooms and dressed with Douglas fir jus. The meaty flavours were balanced by the peaty 14 year old Oban from the west coast.

We stood while the piper led the haggis procession. A gentleman with a Scottish accent recited a lively rendition of Burns’ Address to A Haggis.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Diced offal, minced onion, oatmeal and seasoning were mixed with stock and stuffed in a sheep’s stomach. The haggis was pierced and boiled. The casing was cut at the crescendo of the poem and the savoury filling was eaten with mashed neeps (parsnips) and tatties (potatoes). A robust sixteen year old Lagavulin from the Isle of Islay was complementary.

The final course was sticky toffee pudding, Macallan caramel sauce and smoked cherry ice cream. A deceptively light sponge cake, this classic dessert was rich and toothsome. The last Scotch was a twelve year old Macallan from Speyside.

It was a cheerful evening warmed by a wee dram (or five!). To good health, slàinte mhòr!

Sydney has more than seven times the population of Seattle but sometimes it feels like both cities have the same volume of traffic. It was gridlock en route to The Pantry at Delancey‘s Back to the Basics cooking class on a weeknight. I slowly inched towards Ballard, anxious about being on time. I noted a reminder on my calendar several months ago for the release of their winter schedule and reserved a spot for this class and the coveted Great Pizza at Home with Delancey owner and chef Brandon Pettit.

Located at the back of Delancey, The Pantry has a stepped garden entrance. The patio would be lovely during summer for post class al fresco dining.

Decorated in a neutral white, the kitchen shimmered in glossy tiles and brushed stainless steel.

A bookshelf is laden with classic and contemporary cookbooks.

In a nook illuminated by tealight candles, I love this rustic honeydew sideboard stacked with ceramic crockery, serveware and linen.

Salvaged metal shelves displayed goods for sale including olive oils, salts, cooking chocolates, jams, granola and Weck jars.

At the heart of The Pantry is the communal table where groups gather to learn, cook and eat.

I tied my apron and settled into an azure stool. I sipped a complimentary glass of wine while flipping through the recipe booklet.

Brandi Henderson and Olaiya Land briefed us on The Pantry as a ‘community space’ and detailed the sequence of the evening.

First was homemade butter. Butter is simply churned cream. We huddled over the KitchenAid to watch the progression from cream to butter. The ‘super pioneer style’ butter was drained and rinsed of residual buttermilk.

Brandi and Olaiya waxed poetic about the flavour profiles of creams, some have grassy notes and others are sweet with hints of caramel. Homemade butter cannot be used for baking due to its varying moisture content.

Murmurs of appreciation echoed through the room as we nibbled on the thick smear of homemade butter on fresh bread.

Next was roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary. I’ve roasted beef, lamb and pork but never chicken. I consider this a fundamental cooking skill and Olaiya was an excellent teacher. The chickens were soaked in a heavily seasoned brine for at least eight hours. Brining reduces the risk of overcooking, infuses the aromatics and tenderises the meat.

Mustard seeds, water, salt and vinegar were ground to a paste in a food processor for homemade mustard. We sampled this mustard and one made two months ago. The new mustard was too pungent for my palate. Mustards mature with age and the two month old was still sharp but more balanced.

We assisted in the preparation of the roasted winter vegetables, and roasted beet and arugula salad with hazelnuts. Gargantuan beets were halved and wrapped in aluminium foil.

I despise eating Brussels sprouts but I was okay with peeling and cutting them.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips were chopped into similar sized chunks for even cooking. The onions were sliced with the grain to maintain its shape. The winter vegetables were loosely scattered on a sheet pan so they would roast and not steam.

Brandi is the pastry chef at Delancey and desserts are her specialty. She whisked the ingredients together for a bittersweet chocolate sauce.

Brandi also demonstrated how to make vanilla ice cream. A split vanilla bean was steeped in milk, cream, sugar and salt, and tempered with egg yolks. The French custard was stirred, chilled and churned in an ice cream maker.

Olaiya expertly emulsified a vinaigrette for the salad. She recommended tasting the dressing for mouthfeel and adjusting the acidity with additional sugar.

We were warmed by the heat of the oven and the perfumed air whetted our appetite. The chickens were rotated and rested. Brined chicken retains a pink hue. Cut into the thigh and if the juices are clear, it is ready.

Tossed with toasted hazelnuts and crumbled Bleu d’Auvergne, and drizzled with the piquant vinaigrette, the roasted beet and arugula salad was a delicious and seasonal first course.

The highlight of the meal was the beautiful birds. The blushed portions were succulent and the charred lemon had an intense citrus tone.

Despite my aversion to Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, I ate one of each. I chewed fast and they were caramelised. All the vegetables were well roasted.

Dessert was a sundae of homemade vanilla ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce sprinkled with salt flakes. The savoury flecks were a contrast to the sweet and creamy sundae.

I lingered a while afterwards and chatted with Brandi. She lived in my beloved Sydney for six months and we exchanged anecdotes about the Emerald City.

I purchased a container of Maldon sea salt and returned home happy with the tips on improving my basic skills.

Disclosure: This was a complimentary meal courtesy of JGA PR. This is not a sponsored post.

Weekday lunch can be a functional meal. There were times in Sydney where I gobbled sushi rolls, rice paper rolls and salads at my desk in between meetings. But a benefit of working in the city was being within walking distance to many restaurants. Some with a prix fixe menu, others à la carte, weekday lunch was brisk business. Friends gathered to gossip or colleagues mingled to celebrate a project milestone, a lunch sans office were always welcomed!

I had a late lunch reservation at The Capital Grille on a manic Monday for their ‘plates’ lunch menu.

Located at the corner of 4th Avenue and University Street, The Capital Grille is conveniently located for a weekday lunch.

The stately dining room was decorated with oil paintings on canvas, hunting trophies, plush carpet and leather upholstery.

Generously spaced and kindly lit, the tables and booths seated couples and groups in business discussions and birthday cheers.

For sixteen dollars, you select one dish from each of the three columns of the seasonal ‘plates’ menu.

An enormous shard of water cracker and a warm crusty seeded roll was served with a triangle of salted butter.

In the soup or salad column was clam chowder, field greens and roasted red pepper soup. A deep bowl of soothing liquid, the roasted red pepper soup had a mild sweetness brightened by freshly cracked pepper.

My soup spoon for your sabre!

The sandwich options were two mini tenderloins, lobster roll, and wagyu cheeseburger with fried egg and crisp onions; and sides of fresh green beans, truffle fries or roasted root vegetables. I was tempted by the cheeseburger and fries but after an indulgent festive season, I ordered the lobster roll and roasted root vegetables.

A mound of lobster salad was wedged in a toasted roll. Chunks of lobster and diced celery were lightly coated in a creamy dressing and balanced on lettuce leaves. I wielded the knife and cut the lobster roll into edible portions.

Fragrant with rosemary, the parsnip and butternut squash were yielding, and the heirloom carrots had a pleasant crunch.

I love the pairing of chocolate and hazelnut and The Capital Grille had chocolate hazelnut cake on their dessert menu. A gargantuan slice of cake was presented with a puddle of crème Anglaise, toasted hazelnuts and a wafer. Layers of dense chocolate cake and chocolate mousse were frosted with hazelnut chocolate ganache.

I nibbled the edge of the decadent cake and the remainder was boxed with a tag from Chef Mark.

Service was attentive and efficient, and the ‘plates’ menu is perfect for weekday lunch!


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