Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘brioche

din·ner
(noun)
The main meal of the day, taken either around MIDDAY or in the EVENING.
A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.
From Old French disner

I’m a frequent snacker. I enjoy long, leisurely meals but at home I munch on McVitie’s, fruits, nuts and muesli bars throughout the day. It’s both sustenance and habit.

With a 9:45pm reservation for our anniversary dinner, I had to prepare for a late night meal. I had a substantial lunch, potato crisps from the minibar and a Kind bar in the afternoon, and napped prior to going to the Mandarin Oriental for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. We waited for our table at the bar with a glass of wine and nibbled on a bowl of rice crackers in a lively atmosphere.

Dinner is the younger sibling of Heston Blumenthal‘s famous The Fat Duck. It has one Michelin star and debuted at number nine, the highest new entry, on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Named for ‘British quirky history and linguistic playfulness’, Dinner’s menu is a homage to traditional recipes cooked with modern techniques and local ingredients.

An elegant dining room with a panoramic view of Hyde Park, chocolate furniture and ivory walls complemented the high ceiling.

Clusters of jelly moulds made whimsical lights on pillars.

Nearing 10pm and feeling hungry, I was delighted to nibble on complimentary bread. I love the succinct menu in the format of dish, year originated, components and price.

Circa 1730, the hay smoked mackerel was garnished with lemon salad and gentleman’s relish, and drizzled with olive oil. The greens tempered the pungent, oily fish.

A couple of seasons ago MasterChef Australia contestants had to replicate several of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes and I was fascinated by meat fruit, circa 1500. A sphere of chicken liver parfait is dipped in glossy mandarin jelly. I discarded the authentic stem, and cut into the skin and flesh of the meat fruit. Spread thickly on grilled bread, the silky smooth parfait was tinged with citrus notes. It was soft and rich, best shared with the complimentary bread.

The Hereford ribeye, circa 1830, was the star of the plate. A tender cut, the beef was seasoned and perfectly medium rare.

The steak was paired with triple cooked chips and mushroom ketchup. Crunchy and luscious, the chips were starchy batons of joy.

Our waiter explained that umbles are offal and the phrase ‘eating humble pie’ is derived from the medieval specialty of umble pie. Morsels of umbles dotted the powdered duck breast, circa 1670. Portions of succulent duck and supple confit fennel were in a pool of savoury jus.

Fresh and bright, a side of green beans and shallots was the requisite vegetable.

On a wooden board was a Staub cocotte of brioche and a strip of spit roast pineapple. Circa 1810, the tipsy cake was ethereal and aromatic. Sweetly caramelised, the tropical fruit was a textural contrast to the custard soaked brioche.

We had watched the nitro ice cream trolley being wheeled from couples to groups all evening and I gleefully replied ‘yes please’ when asked. Liquid nitrogen is poured with a flourish and the handle cranked to churn the vanilla ice cream. Scooped into a dainty thin sugar cone, the ice cream was dipped in a selection of toppings. The freeze dried raspberries had a concentrated flavour and the popping candy was fun!

Our celebration concluded with chocolate ganache and caraway biscuit, courtesy of the chef with exquisite penmanship.

It was midnight, and patrons lingered at the restaurant and bar as we exited into the cold London spring, contented by the Heston Blumenthal experience.

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Seattle was blessed with consecutive weekends of glorious weather. The feeling of sunshine on bare skin is so restorative and we had a serene afternoon at the Washington Park Arboretum and the Japanese Garden, strolling and gazing at the blooming trees.

We leisurely looped the arboretum and garden, and had afternoon tea at Belle Epicurean.

Located at the Madison Park end of the botanic gardens, the second café by Carolyn Ferguson is in a spacious slate building.

A marble counter and glass cabinet displayed sweet treats.

The décor is Parisian chic with panes of vintage mirrors, framed black and white prints, and replica Thonet chairs and stools.

A gleaming espresso machine dispensed Caffé Vita coffee and there was a wine menu by the glass.

There were cake balls wrapped in mint and fuchsia foil, Rolo tart, and slices of raspberry mousse cake, Alhambra cake, red velvet crunch cake, opéra cake and coconut crème cake.

In the perpendicular cabinet were flat discs of pastel macarons and jars of pistachio, vanilla, rose water and orange buttercream.

Pastries included pain au chocolat, orange scented brioche and croissants.

There were also lemon brioche buns with citrus confit and spiced almond brioche bostocks.

Mr S ordered le feuillette, a savoury tart. Black Forest ham, Gruyère and Mornay sauce were encased in a flaky brioche crust. The golden, molten mass was buttery and cheesy.

My coconut crème cake was baked with coconut milk, pineapple juice and rum. The layers of sponge and coconut cream cheese frosting were decadent and textured with shredded coconut. The tang of pineapple and the residual alcohol of the rum tempered the sweetness, it was an adult dessert!

Belle Epicurean Provisions was connected by a doorway.

A wall of square shelves cellared hundreds of bottles of wines.

Opposite was Belle Epicurean branded dessert sauces, and cake and frosting mixes, Riedel glassware and cookbooks.

Bars of Michel Cluizel chocolates of various cacao percentages tempted us.

The fridge at the back was a trove of gourmet and artisan aioli, butter, chutney, compote, soup base, tapenade, vinaigrette, and ‘take and bake’ croissant, brioche, puff pastry and tart.

Belle Epicurean is a French trio of café, pantry and wine store!

We celebrated our first anniversary in Seattle with dinner at Spur. We had a cosy evening at the gastropub during the miserable spring of last year and loved the experience. Located next to The Coterie Room, Spur is the original restaurant by Chefs McCracken and Tough.

The ambience was warm and bistro like. A narrow room is split into two, long communal tables on the right and individual tables on the left. Plush armchairs are at the entrance and the open plan kitchen is at the back. Mirror panes line the wall to create the illusion of space and illuminate the high ceiling.

The menu is categorised into seasonal and staples. In a nostalgic moment, we ordered the same dishes as we did nearly twelve months ago.

Pimm’s is a classic English liqueur and we sipped on a refreshing twist, the West Coast Pimm’s. Poured into a tall glass with lemon, cucumber, mint, basil and ginger ale, it was a fizzy beverage with a citrus bouquet.

Dotted with capers, a plump piece of sockeye salmon was atop pillowy mascarpone on a crostini. At four dollars each, they were appetising bites.

Cut in half and served with a mound of shoestring fries, the grass fed beef patty, red onion jam, cheddar and thyme were sandwiched in a buttery brioche bun. It was a juicy burger, the delicate sweetness of the red onion jam accentuated the savoury beef.

Parmesan foam, shaved Parmesan, glossy sous vide duck egg, finely sliced green onions, crunchy pine nuts, meaty oyster mushrooms and silky tagliatelle, my main was a delectable combination of textures and flavours.

We reminisced and reflected, making the time to pause over a delicious meal at the end of a hectic week.

On a gloomy day I challenged myself to walk up to emmer&rye. It was a crisp morning but I warmed up quickly on the Counterbalance. I had to pause for a couple of minutes after the steep inclines before entering the restaurant for a Keren Brown event with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine.

An elegantly restored Victorian house in Queen Anne, emmer&rye has a homely porch, a cosy dining room on the street level and a private function room upstairs.

Through the curtains were a narrow staircase and vintage framed portraits line the wall.

Skylights brightened the loft and the space was decorated with antique furniture.

Chef Seth Caswell, a champion of ‘locally derived, seasonally inspired’ cuisine, was our host. Platters and trays of hors d’oeuvres, stemware and books were presented on a wooden bench anchored by two ornate candelabra dripped in wax.

Dolloped into dessert wine glasses, the braised lamb with leek purée and Yukon potato shooter was delightfully creamy.

On house made herb crackers were Tumalo Farms goat cheese with nectarine chutney which was a lovely contrast of savoury and sweet.

Cubes of farro fries were neatly stacked on a duck egg blue platter with a pot of sage yoghurt dipping sauce.

Bite size squares of rye toast were spread with lamb liver mousse and topped with caramelised onions.

My favourite was the crispy pork belly with pepper jelly on fried brioche, a delectable combination of fatty meat and crunchy bread.

Dessert was a decadently chewy hazelnut and whisky chocolate caramel slice.

We munched on the morsels, and sipped on Chemistry Wines White Blend and Saviah Cellars 2009 ‘The Jack’ Syrah while Karen and Andrew spoke eloquently about their eighth book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine.

Flavour and aroma influence our taste. Karen and Andrew added the ‘X factor’ which is contextual to our eating and drinking experience, it increases the flavour and aroma of food exponentially.

2011 is a ‘watershed year for wine’ in America. After seventeen consecutive years of growth, the US is now the number one consumer of wine in the world. Since 2002 every state in the US has been producing wines.

My face creased in shock when Karen quoted a survey that the average American eat a sandwich and drink a can of soda for dinner. Food and wine are intertwined, and Karen and Andrew are champions of enjoying food and wine together.

Many wine books published detail the history and technicality of wine, a France-centric approach to wine writing. Karen and Andrew wrote about how early settlers in Virginia were required to plant grapes to produce wines.

Karen and Andrew encourage people to drink wine and to find out what they like without the high culture. Food and wine are ‘both groceries, staples’. ‘You just need a glass’ to appreciate wine. ‘If you like it, damn it you like it!’

The authors advocate drinking in moderation for pleasure and comfort. Karen and Andrew recommend drinking local wines but also to sample other regions and styles to expand our palates which evolve and refine over time. They mentioned the Wine Century Club, where you qualify for membership by tasting at least one hundred varietals.

Some of their pairing highlights were foie gras and a century old Sauterne, and curry and Riesling. Karen and Andrew are emphatic that wine is about quality of life and can be consumed for health and happiness.

They commented on the importance of educating children about alcohol, and trepidation and judgement as barriers for adults. They waxed lyrical about sommeliers as ‘gifted linguists’. Sommeliers will suggest matches if you let them know what you like! They shared an anecdote of a friend asking for wine that ‘won’t make my mouth feel furry’.

Sincere thanks to Keren for connecting us with Karen and Andrew, and to Chef Caswell and the staff at emmer&rye for their hospitality.

We embraced the cool change yesterday. It was welcomed with a happy dance after a couple of weeks of humid weather. I withered in lethargy, desperate for reprieve from dense, still air. We relished the wind as we strolled to MistralKitchen for brunch. Autumn is here!

I have walked by MistralKitchen many times, always peering into the candle lit dining room. The restaurant name is stamped out in sheet metal with vines twisting across the entrance. A heavy door opens to a small alcove with stacked wooden crates of Granny Smith apples.

To the left is the Chef’s Table and Jewel Box for an intimate and formal dining experience. On the right is the main dining room. The interior is sparsely decorated and there are generous gaps between tables. A high ceiling and a long windowed street frontage brightens up the space of pewter and charcoal tones. It has an industrial warehouse feel with exposed air ducts and simple furnishings.

The bar is the length of the room and is anchored by a wood fire oven at the counter seating end, and mirrored shelves of liquor at the other.

It was an interesting brunch menu with items such as lamb ragù and braised greens, and pork belly BLT and buttermilk biscuit. There was also a dessert section with curious pairings such as chocolate zucchini cake, spicy peanuts and bay leaf pudding, and Italian plum crisp and liquorice ice cream.

Ms C eschewed her standard breakfast of raisin toast with Vegemite for the brioche French toast with apple butter and maple syrup. Three thick triangles of browned buttery bread rested on puréed apple. With a crisp edge and soft centre, it was a decadently sweet version of French toast.

Mr S ordered the scrambled eggs with roasted squash, tomatoes, potatoes and Hollandaise sauce. Chunks of vegetables were enveloped in fluffy eggs and doused in a creamy sauce. Micro leaves freshened the plate.

I opted for the wood fire oven pizza with salumi, basil and soft egg. Translucent slices of cured meat were draped over fresh basil leaves on a tomato base. A just cooked egg wobbled in the middle. A pair of pizza scissors was wedged under the crust. The crust was a little oily from the drizzle of olive oil but the pizza was a classic combination and a large serving.

MistralKitchen is a quiet spot for a relaxing weekend brunch.

I’m not a baker but I love desserts. A spoonful of sugar completes a meal.

In Sydney my favourite pâtisserie for dessert to take to dinner parties is Adriano Zumbo. He had my loyalty before his MasterChef Australia appearances! Macarons of every flavour and then some, seasonal and whimsical dessert concoctions, creative twists on classics, it’s Adriano and the Chocolate Factory.

Fuji Bakery reminds me of Adriano Zumbo in that I would like to order one of each! One each of the croissants, one each of the brioches, one each of the Danishes, one each of the cakes.

Painted a neutral colour and its name discreetly engraved on the window, Fuji Bakery is located at a busy intersection. There is an espresso machine serving Caffé D’arte coffee, and a couple of tables in the corner.

A curved pane of glass shields the two tiered display from prying fingers. There are some savoury items but the highlight is definitely the sweet baked goods.

After much deliberation, I selected four treats. Clockwise from top: fondant chocolat, custard cream, brioche Suisse and poire.

In a crimped foil wrapper, the mini cupcake sized fondant chocolat is made with bittersweet chocolate. The dense cake is baked until just set while the middle remains delightfully batter like.

Poire, the French word for pear, is a Danish topped with organic custard cream and pears cooked in Tahitian vanilla. The flaky pastry shell is a textural contrast to the soft, translucent and glossy pear slices.

Deceptively plain in appearance, the brioche is light and buttery, filled with an organic vanilla bean custard cream, and dusted with icing sugar.

Long and flat, the Grand Marnier flavoured chocolate custard oozes out of the brioche Suisse. The brioche dough is studded with orange peel and bittersweet chocolate, a rich and decadent combination best shared.

I shall cross the lake soon to visit the flagship store in Bellevue which has a comprehensive selection!

My only visit to Seattle prior to moving here was during winter a couple of years ago. A fog blanket cocooned the city the entire three days and it was the coldest climate I’ve been in except for skiing.

On our first day we exited the hotel in search of coffee. Shivering and waddling in bulky clothes, we nearly crossed the street for Starbucks to escape the chilly wind. Thankfully Mr S spotted Belle Epicurean in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel and we shuffled inside for breakfast.

It’s a charming café and I have fond memories of sitting in the bay window, drinking giant (by Australian standard) cups of coffee and eating pastries.

A bell chimed as I opened the door to signal my entrance. Belle Epicurean was near empty for my late lunch. Most patrons ordered food and beverages to take-away.

Sparsely furnished with marble tables and lacquered chairs, the chequered floor enhance the Parisian feel. The walls are decorated with framed reviews and the owner’s Le Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

There are trays of baked goods on display and a refrigerated section with a selection of delectable desserts.

I sipped on Perrier as I waited for my lunch order. My mother likes sparkling water and the distinctive emerald bottles were omnipresent in my childhood.

I was in need of comfort food. A wintery meal of wild mushroom soup and roasted beet salad was satisfying. Dotted with flecks of puréed chanterelle and porcini mushrooms, the soup was earthy and warming.

A mound of cubed beets and sliced onions rested on a bed of mixed greens drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. The salad was served with herbed chèvre crostini.

Each mouthful was a blend of sweet and acidic, a pleasant contrast to the creamy soup. Spread on a thick wedge of soft baguette, the molten goat cheese was fragrant and flavoursome.

Belle’s Buns was the genesis of the café. The owner, Carolyn Ferguson, sold these at her local farmers’ market before opening Belle Epicurean.

Brioche buns are the specialty of Belle Epicurean. There is a variety to choose from and I picked the mini cinnamon.

Tanned and tightly rolled with a dollop of cinnamon paste on top, the brioche had a light crisp shell and a buttery centre. A perfect size for a sweet addition to lunch!

Belle Epicurean was as chic as I remembered, and in a convenient location!


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