Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘Cascade

Autumn is here. I love the transition between seasons, how the previous lingers and the next emerges. Crisp mornings and deciduous trees shedding their golden leaves, interspersed with surprise bursts of sunshine.

A couple of locals have mentioned Row House Café and we meandered over to South Lake Union for weekend brunch. Located on Republican between Fairview and Minor, it is away from the Westlake and Terry hub.

A homely house converted into a café, Row House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

The front room is warm and welcoming with chalkboard menus, cake stands and bottle lined shelves.

There are two dining rooms decorated with eclectic recycled furniture.

Salvaged mirrors hung on walls and it was fun to peek in them for interesting reflections.

Row House served illy coffee and I cozied up to a smooth mocha.

It was quiet on a late Saturday morning and service was efficient. The relatively small café had about a dozen items on the weekend brunch menu.

Mr S ordered the eggs Benedict with prosciutto. We exchanged a knowing glance when we noticed the uniform shape of the poached eggs. Deceptive in appearance, the eggs were perfectly poached and not rubbery. The Hollandaise sauce was a little bland and watery but the oozing yolk and cured meat were flavoursome.

I was tempted by the description of the hundred layer French toast. An interpretation of French toast made with a flattened croissant, it was buttery and soft.

The Row House website describes the café as a ‘conversation house’ and it is indeed a welcoming place to sip coffee and chat.

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From Southeast Asia to the Mediterranean, and North Africa to South America, Sydney is a multicultural city with cuisines from across the continents. Authentic or fusion, rustic or formal, the eateries are diverse and neighbourhoods specialise in Turkish, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Italian, Korean and beyond.

But I have never eaten a Filipino meal until the Thrilla in Manila pop up dinner at Ting Momo. Cuoco line cook Herschell Taghap was our host, DJ and chef for the evening.

An energetic atmosphere greeted us and Ting Momo was cosy reprieve from the coat and scarf weather. A row of glass jars containing herbs and spices lined at the counter.

Ting Momo is only open for weekday lunch and is the perfect space for special events. Chef Eric Tanaka and others were busily finalising the preparation as damp patrons trickled in from the rain.

The talented Herschell entertained us at his turntable! He described the menu in detail and explained the background of each dish.

A wooden bench along the windows had metal bowls of snacks. Calbee Shrimp Flavoured Chips and Nagaraya Cracker Nuts are popular in Asia. The chips are uniformly shaped with a distinctive flavour.

The adobo flavoured nuts were crunchy and an alternative to popcorn!

Herschell’s mother’s recipe of broiled eggplant omelette was light and silky, served on a crostini with dilis (dried anchovies) and Jufran banana ketchup.

On another table were bottles of Sunkist with an ice bucket. Herschell shared an endearing memory of his mother drinking Sunkist, how it symbolised quality of life.

Oink! A whole pig was flattened and roasted.

Sauces and condiments used in Filipino cooking.

Aluminium trays were laden with food for the Filipino buffet. Daeing bangus is milkfish with toyomansi (soy sauce and kalamansi lime juice), sugar cane vinegar, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and red onion.

A dab of pungent bagoong (shrimp paste) adds complexity to any savoury dish.

Golden and crispy, these ground beef, carrot, celery and onion lumpia were dipped in plum sauce and greedily devoured.

I love noodles and the pancit canton had strands of firm egg noodles and a colourful assortment of carrot, celery, onion, green onions and chicharrones (pork rind).

Kare kare is Herschell’s favourite. A stew of oxtail, long beans, taro root, Jif peanut butter and bagoong. Deceptively plain in appearance, the gravy was gelatinous and nutty.

A gleaming cleaver hacked the whole roasted pig into tender chunks. A tray of salty crackling was the first to be emptied.

Rings of cherry tomatoes and green onions covered chopped hard boiled eggs and day old jasmine rice. A scoop of rice and a squirt of Tiparos fish sauce is Filipino comfort food!

The sisig was in a gigantic cast iron pan, a stir fry of pig’s head meat, bell pepper, red onion, lime and sugar cane vinegar.

There was also a bowl of sinigang, a sour soup of tamarind, lime and prawns.

And finally, dessert! Biko is a soothing pudding of glutinous rice, coconut milk, caramel and toasted coconut.

It was a memorable first experience with Filipino cuisine! Thanks Herschell for your passion and energy!

After a lovely brunch experience a few weeks ago, we returned to re:public for dinner. The restaurant was lively with a convivial after work crowd enjoying the happy hour. We were seated at a booth and the relaxed atmosphere was conducive to good conversation.

Mr and Mrs W shared a heart of romaine salad for an appetiser while Mr S had the house smoked Chinook salmon with spicy yoghurt and wild watercress.

I selected the grilled asparagus with hot coppa, soft boiled duck egg and parmesan. This was another version of my Eat Pray Love moment at Le Pichet. A handful of quality ingredients assembled on a plate is pure enjoyment.

We rarely cook duck at home so one of us usually orders it if it’s on a restaurant menu! A confit duck leg and slices of seared duck breast was served with a corn purée and roasted root vegetables. The cooking method preserves the tenderness and moisture of the game, and the fattiness was tempered by the sweet and crunchy carrots and parsnips.

A hearty dish, house made pappardelle was tossed with lamb ragù, lightly dusted with Pecorino and presented with a sprig of mint. The wide strands of pasta were coated in the meaty sauce, a rich and scrumptious combination.

Mrs W chose the fish for her main. Two fillets of pan roasted Alaskan halibut rested in a creamy bisque of seasonable vegetables. The halibut was fresh and firm, and we had fun sampling and guessing one unknown vegetable. I think it was daikon.

Mr W didn’t need a serrated knife for the crispy pork shank with braised onions and peas. Golden and crispy, the meat yielded to gentle carving.

There was still daylight as we exited, a reminder to make the most of the long summer days.

If I have to draw how my brain functions, it would be a mind map with intersecting and criss-crossing lines in all directions. I make idiosyncratic associations and perplexing connections. The challenge for Mr S is that I think it but I don’t verbalise it. I ask questions or make comments that are seemingly out of context but are perfectly sensible and logical to me.

And thus, I giggle when I see the Lumpia World food truck. Because of Oompa-Loompas. Just is.

A regular rotation of food trucks now services the Amazon and biotech companies in South Lake Union. Conveniently parked on Harrison Street near Fairview Avenue, the food trucks are thriving on workers in need of a quick lunch. Sometimes a dessert food truck (I’ve spotted Parfait and Molly Moon) is also there for a weekday sweet treat!

A small whiteboard lists the lumpia and soba items. I was there for a late lunch and thankfully there was no queue. I ordered at the front window and picked up my meal from the side window. There was a sun shade with a couple of trestle tables and half a dozen foldout chairs underneath. A taupe tablecloth and yellow plastic flowers brighten the surroundings.

Served on a paper tray, the lumpia combo has your choice of four lumpias with rice and dipping sauce. I had one each of ginger pork, lemongrass chicken, ground beef and vegetables. The plain rice had a liberal sprinkling of furikake, a Japanese seasoning. The crunchy logs were a little dry on the inside, with only hints of ginger and lemongrass. The peanut hoisin sauce added depth of flavour.

Alas, no Oompa-Loompas were making lumpias in the Lumpia World food truck!

I have fond memories of spearing marshmallows on a twig and toasting them over an open fire at school camps. The timing is crucial. The warmth and crackle of the flickering flames lulls you into a glowing sleepiness but you must be alert and watch the spongy confection closely. There is a moment where the outer skin is caramelised, and the centre is molten. This is when the marshmallow will instantly disintegrate in your mouth.

Dahlia Workshop celebrated National S’more Day by cooking artisanal s’mores al fresco on a charcoal barbecue.

Rachel the Pig was chalked to entice passers-by. The chefs were cheerful and expertly assembled the s’mores.

Space was limited outside and trays of house made graham crackers were piled into Serious Pie boxes.

Bullions of house made marshmallows were skewered and slabs of Theo Chocolate were stacked on graham crackers.

The chocolate pieces were positioned at the edge for gentle melting.

The bamboo sticks of marshmallows were held directly over the open fire until it bubbled and browned.

Each ingredient was layered on top of the other for a dessert sandwich.

Crumbly and sugary, it oozed and dripped with each bite. It was messy and sticky, rich and sweet.

And thus, I ate my first s’more!

We’ve had meals with several Australians in the last couple of weeks. Some were visiting for work, others were on holiday. There’s a homely comfort to hearing an Aussie accent, laughing at a sarcastic comment and understanding a cultural reference.

Our sunburnt country is girt by sea and with the exception of New Zealand, it takes many hours on a plane to get to another country. In this tyranny of distance, Aussies tend to travel for weeks and months and not days.

Sustained by a warm day and long daylight hours, Mr N overcame jet lag for dinner at Cuoco. Occupying the street level of the Terry Avenue Building, the restaurant is resplendent in its restoration with brick walls, wooden beams and Georgian windows.

A wide entrance welcomes you with a view of the open plan pasta making area, lined with Atlas Marcato pasta machines in rainbow hues. We were ushered to the bar for an apéritif before being seated at our table.

I noticed a couple of private dining rooms, ideal for business meetings and special celebrations. I read on the website that there’s also a chef’s table, a concept that’s popular (and expensive) in Sydney.

The tables had dividers or were generously spaced which made for good conversation. As with all other Tom Douglas restaurants, Cuoco is dimly lit but we were lucky to be by a window.

We shared house made bread with extra virgin olive oil tasting. Fresh and fluffy, the thickly sliced bread had a chewy crust and a soft centre for soaking up the fluorescent liquids.

Our waiter was congenial and knowledgeable about the menu. Mr S ordered spaghetti with garlic, anchovy, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, Parmigiano and grilled wild prawns. A dryer style pasta with flavoured breadcrumbs, the combination was a pleasant textural contrast. The prawns were succulent and added bulk to the meal.

Mr N craved a classic dish after seventeen hours of airline and airport food. The seven layer lasagna with tiers of Bolognese and besciamella was cosy and soothing.

I don’t recall ever eating lamb in pasta so I was intrigued by the lamb ravioli served with garlic, spring onions, English peas and Pecorino. Plain in appearance, the flat, jagged edged parcels were silky and protected a dollop of finely minced lamb.

A bowl of Bing cherries was the dessert special but my love for chocolate and hazelnut pairings prevailed. Salted, roasted and crushed hazelnuts were scattered on top of a slice of chocolate Nutella semifreddo. The waiter brought three spoons but only one was used – mine!

It was still dusk as we left. Mr N commented that Seattle is a liveable city in summer and we wholeheartedly agree.

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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