Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘cake

If I had to name a favourite restaurant in Seattle it would be Lark. Seasonal ingredients, small plates, attentive service. I have dined there twice and both meals presented regional cuisine at its best and epitomised what I love about a restaurant experience.

The only blemish is the lighting. For a city ensconced in a melancholic grey for half the year, Seattle’s eateries are in the shadow of candles and dimmers. The Danish word ‘hygge’ is the perfect description of cosy ambience but I would like to read the menu without squinting!

The Lark dining room has a homely feel. Opaque curtains partition the centre tables and there is a row of booths along one side. It is intimate and comfortable.

Categorised into cheeses, vegetables and grains, charcuterie, fish and meat, the menu is designed for sharing and the wait staff can recommend the number of dishes depending on your appetite.

Wine was poured and bread buttered as our group of four chatted on a quiet Sunday evening in spring.

Asparagus featured in three of the courses and starred in this in Provençal style. Tender spears were sautéed in olive oil, garlic, rosemary and black olive.

On a terracotta plate were ribbons of La Quercia prosciutto garnished with figs and Parmigiano Reggiano shavings.

Three plump scallops were atop asparagus in an earthy broth.

The ubiquitous asparagus were paired with slices of rare Mishima Ranch wagyu hanger steak, roasted potatoes and a dollop of ramp butter.

A petite cocotte of pommes de terre Robuchon was smooth and buttery, an elegant mashed potatoes.

Dining with the French means duck. A crispy Liberty Ducks leg was served with spring onions and green chickpeas.

I neglected to note the third cheese but the other two were Kukulu Bleu de Brebis from the Pyrénées and Taleggio from Lombardy.

A compact round of hazelnut brown butter cake was adorned with whiskey poached figs and accompanied by a quenelle of salted caramel ice cream.

Light and ethereal, a generous mound of miniature madeleines was dipped in a tiny pot of Theo organic dark chocolate sauce.

Lark is simply splendid, a beacon for the Pacific Northwest.

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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!

I like cooked vegetables. I grew up eating leafy greens sautéed in garlic and ginger, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, blanched lettuce steeped in oyster sauce, and stir-fried carrots and peas. Salads were not in my diet as a child.

As an adult I have learnt to appreciate the healthfulness of salads. Roasted beets, chèvre and pistachio. Arugula, pear, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. Spicy Thai salad with nam jim dressing. These are on regular rotation at home.

I have a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi‘s sumptuous Plenty and having dined at Nopi earlier in the week so I was keen to visit the original Ottolenghi in Notting Hill. Located on Ledbury Road, a manicured hedge and distinctive red font marked the entrance.

Tiers of buttermilk scones, viennoiseries, cakes, cookies, tarts, cheesecakes and brownies were displayed at the front window enticing passers-by. Tuck your elbows in and shuffle sideways as the front room is narrow!

Platters of vibrant salads lined the counter. A daily menu is published in the morning and on this May day there were:
* Roasted aubergine, sorrel and wild garlic yoghurt, roasted cherry tomatoes, parsley and pine nuts
* Mixed green beans, shaved asparagus and peas with spinach, chilli, garlic, tarragon, lemon zest and chervil
* Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
* Roasted squash with green olive yoghurt, roasted red onion, mint, capers and sumac
* Cucumber, celery and radish with nigella seeds, coriander and mint
* Butterbean hummus with roasted red pepper, hazelnut, lemon and parsley salsa
* Red rice and quinoa with cranberries, lemon, fried onion, mixed nuts, herbs, radicchio and arugula
* Heritage carrots with cumin seeds, garlic, lemon, coriander, pea shoots, arugula and pomegranate
* Beetroot and poached rhubarb salad with gorgonzola, red onion, and mixed herbs and leaves

There were also a selection of mains:
* Seared beef fillet with watercress, whole grain mustard, horseradish and sour cream
* Beef lasagne
* Seared sesame crusted tuna with coriander, ginger, chilli and sweet chilli, soy, pineapple and spring onion sauce
* Roasted chicken marinated in yoghurt and honey with mixed spices, chilli and coriander
* Grilled salmon with artichoke, pink peppercorn, preserved lemon and parsley salsa
* Smoked bacon quiche with sautéed leeks, parmesan and thyme
* Roasted tomato quiche with caramelised onion, goat cheese and thyme

Bold, herbaceous flavours with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, my eyes feasted on the mounds of fresh salads.

Packages of bread sticks and Madeleines, and tubs of roasted spicy nuts cluttered the register as impulse purchases.

Shelves along the short set of stairs were laden with trays of produce, bottles of olive oil, jars of house made sauces and loaves of bread.

Downstairs was an all-white dining room with a communal table and Panton chairs, and an espresso nook. A grand mirror the size of the back wall created an optical illusion that widened and brightened the basement.

Pots of jams and cubes of butter were on a rustic wooden board.

I sipped a coffee.

And nibbled on a decadent chocolate and hazelnut brownie.

I did not order any salads because I had a special lunch booked at The Ledbury but my morning tea at Ottolenghi was splendid!

So I finally dined at Sitka & Spruce. Sunday closure, long waits and a forgotten scheduled delivery had foiled previous attempts and this was remedied by an early weekday lunch. Located in Capitol Hill’s beloved Melrose Market, Sitka & Spruce is charmingly rustic. A narrow corridor adjacent to Rain Shadow Meats is a compact pantry stocked with breads, spices, olive oils and salted caramels.

Red perpendicular sliding doors mark the entrance to the restaurant.

Eight by six glass panes saturate the dining room with natural light. There is counter seating by the window, half a dozen tables and the centrepiece is a wooden communal table adjoining the open kitchen.

The galley is along the back wall where bread was sliced and beverages were poured.

We perched on stools next to the terracotta mise en place where chefs plated dishes.

The local and seasonal ‘elevenses and lunch’ menu is sized to share.

Sparkling water is served in a mason jar with a wedge of lime.

A pot of butter sprinkled with Maldon salt flakes and Columbia City Bakery baguette.

We selected four items for our threesome. First was asparagus, Iowa smoked ham, hazelnuts and poached egg. A golden stream of yolk cascaded from the white cocoon. Flecked with dill, the buttery salumi, tender spears and crunchy nuts were a symphony of flavours.

Three portions of Pacific coast farmstead cheeses were drizzled with honey, its delicate sweetness accentuated the cow, sheep and goat notes.

Scattered with walnuts, a mound of peppercress shrouded a generous mass of chicken liver pâté and mustard. Silky on the palate, the intense richness of the pâté was moderated by the spicy mustard and greens.

Last was pan fried soft shell crab with aioli, radish and greens. The diminutive crustacean was cooked whole and the meaty morsels were unctuous and briny.

A glass cloche displayed a cake that we admired throughout our meal. We shared a wedge of gâteau Basque, crème pâtissière encased in an almond crust and topped with caramel and cacao nib crumble. It was an ethereal dessert, a fine balance of textures.

Fifteen months in Seattle and I can now recommend Sitka & Spruce!

After a delicious lunch at emmer&rye we meandered down a block to Café de Lion for sweet treats.

Named after the owners’ son, the logo of a crown and lion’s head was prominent on a textured frame. The café was decorated in an eclectic style with chocolate walls and miniature Eiffel Towers dotted throughout.

Classic French techniques fused with Japanese influenced flavours to create intricate pastries.

On a tiered tray topped with a crown were guimauve (marshmallows), sablé (Earl Grey, sesame and matcha) and jams (peachy peach, and apple cinnamon and milk caramel).

On a crystal stand were glossy apple and banana Danishes streaked with chocolate.

Golden parcels of phyllo were dusted with powdered sugar.

An acrylic case protected the delicate rainbow macarons.

A couple of tables lined the wall and the counter seating had a candid view of the vacuum coffee makers with Lion’s father as the barista.

A vintage cabinet displayed the menu, and a dainty teacup and saucer.

We perused and purchased, the desserts carefully packed in a branded cardboard box.

Clockwise from top: mocha, chocolate and green tea. With a crispy crust and a chewy centre, the perfectly shaped macarons were ethereal.

Layers of coffee soaked sponge cake, ganache, buttercream and chocolate glaze, the opéra gâteau was exquisite.

We’re delighted that Lion’s parents are sharing their lovely pastries with us!

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!

I attended my first event at Book Larder yesterday. A community cookbook store in Fremont, it is a warm and welcoming space with the kitchen at its heart. A large group gathered for Christina Tosi, author, chef and owner of Momofuku Milk Bar.

A vintage stove is salvaged as a window display.

Cookbooks are categorised and neatly stacked. I’m enamoured by the teal walls, a regal shade against the stark white shelves.

Wooden tables are focal points for new releases and local authors.

A snapshot of the Australian section! In stock were Frank CamorraMargaret Fulton, Bill Granger, Rachel Grisewood, Donna HayLuke Nguyen and David Thompson.

The kitchen is equipped with modern appliances and accoutrements. 

On the cover of Christina’s cookbook is the neon ‘milk’ sign of Momofuku Milk Bars.

A container of cereal milk mix.

The view of the kitchen through a glass of cereal milk. Milk infused with cornflakes, sugar and salt, the sugary beverage replicates the taste of the liquid left at the bottom of a breakfast bowl.

The air was perfumed with butter and there was an abundance of sweet treats.

We munched on sample containers of cereal crunch, a caramelised cornflakes snack.

A platter of cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookies.

Deceptively plain in appearance, these corn cookies were chewy with a distinct corn flavour.

Sugar, butter, cream, eggs, milk, cream and oats. The core ingredients of crack pie. Its magical ratios are whisked, kneaded, cooled, baked and frozen into a dense, sticky and crumbly dessert.

Christina described Momofuku Milk Bar as a bakery that serves cookies and cakes with a personality. As a child she was a ‘picky eater with a sweet tooth’. She enrolled in culinary school in New York as an aspiring pastry chef to do what she loves which is to ‘eat sweets all day’! After she graduated she worked in fine dining restaurants. She enjoyed the challenge but was questioning her career direction when she was introduced to David Chang.

David had ‘drive and courage but no infrastructure’ and Christina was hired for the ‘etcetera’ role of ‘everything non-kitchen’ related. She would work during the day, bake at home at night and bring her baked goods into the office to share. There were no desserts on the menu at Noodle Bar or Ssäm Bar. The restaurants were chef focused where the chefs did the payroll and trained the wait staff. It was endearing but masculine.

After a couple of jokes, David was serious about Christina making desserts for the restaurants. She introduced one at a time while still doing her ‘etcetera’ role and transitioned to full-time chef. When the real estate next to Ssäm Bar became vacant, David decided Christina should open the Milk Bar. It is this passion and intuition that characterises David Chang.

Christina commented that the Milk Bar was a ‘lady approach to opening a Momofuku’. Christina built a team of small and talented people that operate the Milk Bars. Each item at the Milk Bars has intention and story behind it. Favourite components of desserts are deconstructed and reconstituted.

David opened Momofuku Seiōbo in Sydney last week and I asked Christina if she’ll follow with a Milk Bar. She explained the business has grown rapidly over the last three years and her fear is to split her team and fracture the creative process. She noted there was space available for the expansion!

Another question asked was about home cooking. Christina said the essence is home cooking but she references her formal training. She likened milk powder to ‘MSG for the baker’. She worked at wd~50 prior to joining Momofuku and it was there that she learned to think about the science of food. Her cooking is ‘tangible in unexpected ways’.

The final question was about working with David Chang. Christina spoke with respect and affection on her relationship with David. Working with David requires commitment and tenacity, they have a deep understanding and trust that is ‘silently dynamic’. She is stubborn and David knows it!

Christina brought boxes of cookies from the Milk Bar. From top right: corn cookie, cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookie, compost cookie, blueberry and cream cookie, and confetti cookie.

I purchased a copy of the book and I look forward to reading about the ‘intention and story’ of each of the recipes.

Congratulations to the Book Larder for a stellar calendar of events and sincere thanks to Christina Tosi for sweetening our Tuesday evening.


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