Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘Puget Sound

I have an aversion to raw food. I dislike crunchy salads and have been eating sashimi for just over a year. I’m suspicious that the glistening flesh will be slimy and fishy. I now love salmon and tuna sashimi, and progressing with oysters.

I attended the Little Taste of the Dahlia with Oyster Bill from Taylor Shellfish Farms earlier this week. Keen to learn about shellfish, I was delighted that Bill Whitbeck, or Oyster Bill, was the guest for the return of the series.

Held in the private dining room of the Dahlia Lounge, it was an intimate space with cosy round tables brightened with posies of sunflowers.

I found good seats with Darryl and we perused the menu as attendees trickled in. There were four bites from Chef Brock Johnson paired with Muscadet and a special beer by Elysian Brewery.

Tom Douglas was resplendent in his oyster shucking sunglasses. He demonstrated the calmness required which bemused Oyster Bill.

Geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) is a very ugly species of clam. The room descended into naughty giggles as the phallic shellfish was passed around.

Virginica oysters and Mediterranean mussels were displayed on ice. Tom Douglas welcomed the group and explained the purpose of the Little Tastes of Dahlia series is to connect with and learn from suppliers. He introduced Oyster Bill from Taylor Shellfish Farms. They recently opened a store in Melrose Market on Capitol Hill.

Tom mentioned that he’ll eat oysters smoked, poached and broiled but not raw. Tom and Bill demonstrated their shucking techniques, twist not pry! Tom’s first job in the restaurant industry was shucking oysters for a buffet.

The first course was a Virginica oyster with heirloom melon, cucumber, lemon and mint. I don’t know how to eat an oyster gracefully so I pick up the half shell and slid its contents into my mouth. And I didn’t slurp! Shimmering and briny, the Virginica oyster had a delicate flavour that was enhanced by the diced accompaniments.

Farmed in Totten Inlet in south Puget Sound, the Virginica oysters grow in mineral rich waters. They’re the same species as the Atlantic oysters but have a different flavour profile. Ocean acidification has affected supply and Bill commented that it is a global warming issue.

Land is leased from private owners for farming. Specific conditions including fresh water and salinity level are needed as the oysters are not fed once released from the hatchery. The oysters eat algae and are all natural.

Chef Brock Johnson detailed the ingredients of each dish. The seared Qualicum Beach scallop was paired with batons of Ruby Jon apples and seaweed, and served with cracked pepper and drizzled with olive oil. Plump and tender, the simple dressing highlighted the freshness of the scallop.

Geoducks are unique to the Pacific Northwest. They can live to more than a hundred years old. The older geoducks have darker meat, and can be tough and chewy. If caught in the wild, you cannot return them. Taylor Shellfish farms geoducks and they are harvested at about eight years old.

Like trees, geoducks and oysters have ridges on their shells to indicate age. Geoducks burrow in sand and live below the surface. Only an inch or two of the snout is visible. Considered a delicacy in Asia, the largest export market is China. Tom shared an anecdote that a geoduck chow mein was on the opening menu of Dahlia Lounge more than twenty years ago!

To prepare the geoduck, blanch it in boiling water until the skin blisters. Remove the sausage casing like skin, glide knife along the shells to detach the muscles and the geoduck is ready for consumption. The belly is best for sautéing or in a stir fry and the siphon can be sliced for sashimi or ceviche.

A deconstructed chowder, the geoduck essence was steeped into mashed satina potatoes. Geoduck sashimi and bacon salt perched on a dollop of infused mashed potatoes, a tiny portion and yet so scrumptious. The geoduck was succulent and toothsome, close your eyes and you can feel the sand between your toes, hear the waves lapping and smell the salty air.

The final course was Mediterranean mussel with linguiça and pickled peppers in a tomato saffron broth. Brock noted that Mediterranean mussels spawn in winter and peak in summer which coincides perfectly with tomato season. You generally cannot overcook Mediterranean mussels, they tend to retain suppleness.

The heady combination would make a delicious moules frites, the mussel absorbed the intense aromatic broth and the spices in the salty Portuguese cured pork sausage.

Beer is a classic match with mussels and we were lucky to sample a glass of Elysian Brewery Saison of the Witch. A collaborative effort, the beer is brewed by Elysian Brewery and Brave Horse Tavern with Prosser Farm pumpkins and wild fennel. The Halloween themed, Belgian farmhouse beer was pleasant to drink and I think it’s a festive season beer!

We were also poured a glass of Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet and toasted wine importer Joe Dressner.

Little Taste of the Dahlia with Oyster Bill was another quality Tom Douglas event and I look forward to the next in the series!

Like Seattle, Sydney is a city by the water. Neighbourhoods thrive by the ocean, along the river. Sydneysiders are mesmorised by the harbour, we all share a deep love for its beauty.

The magnificence of Sydney Harbour is showcased every New Year’s Eve with a spectacular fireworks and pyrotechnics display. In the euphoria of the celebration, it really is the best city in the world. The need to live near water is imprinted in my DNA.

On a warm day, we boarded a ferry to Bainbridge Island. It was a windy half hour with a panoramic view of Puget Sound. We hired bicycles to ride around the island. A gentle breeze and beautiful scenery tempered some steep inclines.

After helpful directions from a friendly local, we parked our bicycles and settled into the last outdoor table at Treehouse Café. We each gulped a glass of water to cool down.

A Tudor style building, the interior is spacious and welcoming.

The extensive menu is available all day and there is a selection of Macrina baked goods displayed on the counter.

Several connecting rooms operate as a dining room, bar with a pool table, private function room and live music venue. Artworks by local artists are featured throughout the café.

Mr S ordered a lox sandwich. The seeded bagel was teetering on the retro diner basket, overstuffed with cold smoked salmon, capers, red onions, tomato and a thick spread of cream cheese.

All sandwiches are served with a wedge of rockmelon (cantaloupe) and a pickle of equal size.

I shared a Greek salad, and a chicken and Brie sandwich with Ms S. The kitchen kindly split the Greek salad in half for us.

A large plate of cos (romaine) lettuce, chopped Kalamata olives and red onions, chunks of tomatoes and cucumber, and crumbled feta was drizzled with a zesty lemon oregano dressing.

I chewed and crunched and chomped but my half could have been divided again. It was a family size salad!

In contrast, the chicken and Brie sandwich was a better portion. The toothpick skewered slices of chicken breast, avocado and Brie with a dollop of roasted red pepper mayonnaise on ciabatta bread.

I generally find chicken breast to be a dry cut of meat, and pairing it with avocado and a creamy sauce balanced the flavour and texture of the protein.

Hydrated and nourished, we mounted our bicycles and peddled on.

Pike Place Market thrives with activity in summer. Tourists queue patiently for a coffee from the original Starbucks, buskers are vying for the attention of passers-by, crowds linger at the fishmonger eager to witness a salmon throw, children climb on Rachel the Pig like an amusement park ride, and locals shop and eat in the heart of Emerald City.

When I reflect on summer in Seattle, these would be the fond memories I’ll retrieve to endure another winter. On a postcard day, I meandered down to Post Alley for a weekday lunch with La Modette. I have not walked this section of Post Alley before, an eclectic collection of trinket stores and restaurants.

My usually reliable mobile phone had ingested polyjuice potion and assumed the temperament of a diva. I could not, for it would not let me, search for the address of The Pink Door. I strolled up and down Post Alley looking for a sign when I realised there is literally a pink door. More beige than pink, two painted marble columns guard the entrance to The Pink Door.

A restaurant with free live entertainment by night (cabaret, trapeze, burlesque), a table on the terrace is highly coveted at lunch. With a panoramic view of Puget Sound, the terrace is shaded by a wooden lattice and I could easily while away the afternoon with a bottle of crisp white and nibbling on antipasti.

Service was brisk and we were seated quickly at a vinyl clothed table. We ordered a glass a house red, a generic Italian wine served in classic beer bottles. It was more than a standard drink at eight ounces!

La Modette opted for the antipasti, a generous plate of prosciutto, salami, grilled seasonable vegetables, tapenade and mozzarella.

I selected lasagna Pink Door, their signature meal. Presented in an oval baking dish, sheets of silky pasta were layered with besciamella and pesto, and doused in marinara sauce. Each mouthful was a complex blend of creamy, tangy and earthy – it was the definition of comfort food.

We exited through the anonymous pink door warmed by the sun, glowing from the vino and enriched by travel stories.


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