Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘Piedmont

All of Tom Douglas‘s restaurants are in our neighbourhood. Seventeen months in Seattle and we’ve dined at each of them except for Palace Kitchen. Every time I walk by I remind myself that we must have a meal there. And I finally did last week! Located on the corner of 5th and Lenora, it is adjacent to Palace Ballroom and in the midst of a couple of construction sites.

At the centre of Palace Kitchen is the bar, and two dining rooms are to its left and right. Window panes slide open for fresh air on warm nights and natural light filters in on long summer days.

A jewel toned goblet of strawberry lemonade was garnished with a lemon twist. A second beverage of sour cherry fizz was tart and minty.

Shirley and I shared three courses. First was ‘plin’, a Piedmontese style ravioli, filled with roast pork and chard. The pinched pasta were in a puddle of sage and parmesan butter. I spooned the fragrant sauce over each of the cute al dente morsels. Next time I’ll order a side of bread to mop the plate!

Palace Kitchen is famed for their applewood grill. The chicken wings were golden and sticky, laced with an intense smokiness. A sea foamed coloured coriander cream tempered the succulent poultry.

A vibrate mound of lettuce was studded with spicy garbanzo beans, fava beans, chopped boiled egg, drizzled with herbed dressing, and dotted with sliced radish. It was a healthful salad, spicy and crunchy.

Our second salad was compliments of Chef Dezi. Fava beans from Prosser Farm were grilled and tossed with ‘extra virgin’ (first press) fish sauce, ricotta salata, mint, radish greens and marinated peppers. The charred pods of tender beans were exquisite, a luscious contrast to the peppery greens.

An oval dish of silky orange blossom panna cotta was topped with seasonal strawberries and a brittle pistachio wafer.

Tiered discs of malted chocolate milk cake and cream were paired with shards of cocoa rice crispies and a quenelle of chocolate crémeux. A decadent treat, this was malty, chocolaty, and redolent of Milo and chocolate crackles.

I shall not wait another seventeen months before I dine at Palace Kitchen again!

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!

The Seattle Foodies First Friday Lunch Club this month was held on the Eastside at Café Juanita in Kirkland. It was a cheerful couple of hours with Carol, Shirley, Kimberly, Leslie and Erin.

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!

Cellar door tastings are free at most Australian wineries. We did a couple of day tours of California Wine Country on bicycles last year and we were shocked that we had to pay up to fifteen dollars for a flight of wines in the Napa Valley.

When I read that Soul Wine and Tom Douglas Restaurants were hosting Renato Ratti Winery, I called immediately to reserve spots. At twenty five dollars for the Piedmontese wine tasting and food pairing, it was exceptional value.

Ting Momo was an ideal space for the size of the group. Two long tables were set in the narrow room. 

The afternoon sun shone brilliantly and a cool breeze drifted in through the open windows.

Behind Brave Horse Tavern and above Cuoco in the Terry Avenue Building, Ting Momo serves Tibetan dumplings for weekday lunches. Aluminium tables, wicker chairs and wooden benches add to a casual feel.

Seven wines and five dishes were on the menu and the wines were generously discounted for order.  

Cuoco Chef Stuart Lane briefly described how each of the dishes was cooked.

Tom Douglas Restaurant Executive Chef Eric Tanaka assisted in the kitchen. The dishes were plated on the Ting Momo counter.

I love the vintage style labels on the Renato Ratti wine bottles.

Many Australian and New Zealand wines are twist tops. We’ve used our wine opener more in the last six months than in the previous six years!

We sipped on the first wine, 2009 Dolcetto d’Alba Colombè, as attendees trickled in. One of those was Tom Douglas!

The melodic sound of wine being poured into a glass, swirling the ruby liquid to release the aromas, caressing the stemware to reflect light, staring contemplatively at the wine legs – the beautiful ritual of wine tasting!

On the right is Michael Teer, owner of Soul Wine. Michael introduced his friend, Pietro Ratti on the left. Pietro’s father, Renato, worked in Brazil for the Cinzano company before returning to Piedmont and bought his first vineyard in 1965. Pietro inherited the winery from his father and he applies the same philosophy and approach as Renato. Pietro spoke with passion and humour, and we were all charmed by his Italian accent!

The region is also known for white truffles and Pietro joked that it’s better than the French ‘black potatoes’. Pietro explained that the Renato Ratti Winery owns parcels of land throughout the region and is not an estate. Grapes vary depending on soil (sandy or clay) and altitude (temperature); there are different microclimates within a distance of less than twenty miles.

Barolo is labour intensive, and it is manual and not mechanical. The viticulture is only on a hillside facing the sun at specific latitude. The grapes are tasted to determine when and where to pick. Each cluster of grapes is cut by hand. Cotton gloves are worn to protect the wax (natural water proofing) and yeast (natural fermentation) on the grapes.

The grapes are then crushed by equipment to replicate the gentle movement of feet. By law, Barolo has to age for at least twenty four months. Pietro recommended ‘drinking ’07 and cellaring ’06’.

Tom Douglas queried why Pietro doesn’t produce Rosato. Pietro responded that the yield is small and it interrupts the summer! Pietro mingled among the groups as we ate and drank and he happily answered our questions.

An earthenware plate with a slice of marinated red pepper was brightened by grassy green fava beans. Marinated in vinegar, the red pepper was a lovely balance of sweet and sour.

Carne cruda is a traditional Piedmontese dish. Similar to tartare, this was made with lightly seasoned minced lamb and drizzled with olive oil. This was the first time I’ve eaten raw meat and it was less meaty than expected, more like tuna.

Perched on the Barbera braised onions was a wedge of Toma. The layers of translucent onions were daintily sweet and their edges dyed by the wine. A Piedmontese cheese, the mild and creamy Toma highlighted the flavours of the small bulbs. Chef Stuart Lane noted the key to cooking onions is to lose rawness but retain freshness.

A tiny leg of quail was atop a smear of liver pâté. Golden and crispy on the outside, the quail was plump and moist. Mr S exalted the smooth and buttery liver pâté.

The final course was Nebbiolo Kobe beef cheeks with spiced lardo toast. Dark and chunky, the beef was easily pulled apart with only a fork. It was tender and enriched by the Nebbiolo.

Chef Stuart Lane commented on the interplay between food and wine, that it is a transformative relationship. Each bite and sip reveals depth and complexity to the food and wine.

Sincere thanks To Pietro Ratti for visiting Seattle, Soul Wine for organising the tasting event, Ting Momo for hosting, and Cuoco for the food pairings. Grazie!


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