Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘charcuterie

When I’m in a lift I have a tendency to exit at the next floor the door opens. Each level of my work building in Sydney was painted a different colour so it was discombobulating when I’m in the foyer of the wrong one.

Here in Seattle I’ve inserted a key into the wrong apartment and panicked when it wouldn’t turn. I looked at the number and realised I was three floors above home. I gasped, stumbled and ran down the stairs. And I counted the number of floors.

When Marisa was driving us to dinner at Gainsburg we took the scenic route. We were happily chatting until we crossed the Fremont Bridge and not the Aurora Bridge. We were going in the direction of Greenwood, and thankfully American blocks are perpendicular and numbered so our absentmindedness was easily rectified.

The exterior is ominously clad in black, a ‘dining room and cocktails’ sign beckoned.

It was dark inside. Amber lights diffused a sepia tone and the furniture was in moody shades of red and brown.

We perched on stools at the counter and quizzed the affable chef on the menu.

An ornate plate of charcuterie consisted of coppa, porcini ham, smoked duck breast, olives, cornichons, bread and mustard.

A pot of macaronis et fromage was served with a side salad. Molten Gruyère and Brie were stirred into penne seasoned with roasted garlic and thyme.

A narrow baguette was stuffed with slices of duck breast and brie, caramelised apple and fennel, arugula and Dijon mustard, and served with frites.

The cheesecake du jour was salted caramel. A fluffy cheesecake with a thin biscuit base, the saltiness was balanced by the drizzle of glossy caramel on top.

Layers of spongy chocolate cake and satiny fudge were an opulent dessert.

Appetites satiated and enriched by conversations, we returned across the Aurora Bridge and I alighted the lift on my floor!

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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.

Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of Full Circle. This is not a sponsored post.

Sydney is a urban sprawl. Streets are at odd angles and arterial roads twist through suburbs. North, south, east and west, to drive from the geographical centre of the city to its boundaries would take at least an hour.

Seattle is more compact. Neighbourhoods cluster around the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, it is a short distance from houses and malls to fields and forests. The abrupt transition is bewildering and we ponder the scenery as we navigated to Carnation for Feast on the Farm.

In contrast to the soggy spring visit to Yarmuth Farm with The Calf & Kid where we cuddled kids and sampled goat cheese, we were at Full Circle Farm on a hot summer day.

Full Circle hosted the dinner with Stewardship Partners, Salmon-Safe, and Chef Ethan Stowell and his team cooking a family style meal.

Full Circle delivers ‘farm-fresh, locally-sourced organic and sustainably-grown’ produce to consumers. The mission of Stewardship Partners is to ‘restore and preserve the natural landscapes of Washington State’. Salmon-Safe certification ‘requires management practices that protect water quality and restore habitat’.

Groups sheltered under the umbrella and marquee for reprieve from the blazing sun. Hats, sunglasses and sturdy shoes were requisite attire.

We stepped and stumbled on a milk crate to board the tractor tour. We perched on hay bales covered by a blanket as we gently looped the acres.

Andrew Stout, founder of Full Circle, was our guide. The engine chugged along the dusty path as Andrew spoke about the growth of Full Circle and how the land is being rehabilitated.

Our shadows!

Lettuce and kale were neatly planted in rows.

A serene vista.

The many hues of clouds, mountains, trees and farm buildings.

Symmetrically ploughed fields.

We snacked on smoky discs of Via Tribunali wood fire pizzas.

On the left is David Burger, executive director of Stewardship Partners, and Andrew Stout is on the left. My favourite quote of the event was ‘we’re in the business of killing plants’. The crowd chortled and snorted.

A still reflection on the creek.

Sal, the leggy mascot of Salmon-Safe, greeted us.

A country kitchen.

Currant bushes marked the field where perpendicular tables were set.

Our view of the second table.

Mason jars decorated the length of the table, posies interspersed with leafy produce.

From one end to the other.

Effervescent and mild, Dry Soda quenched my thirst.

First was Salumi charcuterie. We nibbled politely on thin slices of cured meats and Castelvetrano olives as introductions were made. I had sprayed my limbs with insect repellent and apologised to our dining companions for reeking of citronella. We were seated with an interesting group of people, there was much laughter and engaging conversations on culture, food and literature.

A mound of shredded Tuscan kale was garnished with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and drizzled with anchovy dressing. This was one of three healthful salads served.

Chunks of roasted beets were topped with a dollop of house made ricotta. Pistachio kernels dotted the tender beets, it was an earthy combination of flavours.

Plump grains of farro were tossed with carrot and English peas. I had several spoonfuls of this toothsome salad.

Mediterranean mussels were roasted with guanciale, lemon and olive oil. The bivalves were aromatic and succulent.

In sunglasses, an apron and boat shoes, Chef Ethan Stowell generously donated two private dinners in Staple & Fancy‘s cellar room for auction to benefit Stewardship Partners.

Fennel and carrots were grilled, the former seasoned with bottarga and the latter with mint and orange.

This platter was double in size. The roasted king salmon were caught by Geoff Lebon of Halmia Fish. Portions of Salmon-Safe Draper Valley chicken were grilled with rosemary and garlic.

Dessert was a creamy panna cotta with mixed berries, slivered almonds and aged balsamic vinegar.

There was spirited bidding on auction items, and Mike McCready (guitar), Kim Virant (vocal) and Gary Westlake (bass) entertained us.

Each attendee was gifted a box of Full Circle produce which we happily carried home.

Carefully packed, the top layer was fennel, kale and lettuce.

On the bottom were apricots, cabbage, carrots, cherries, cucumber, onions and rockmelon.

Sincere thanks to Shirley and Full Circle for the opportunity to experience Feast on the Farm!

I celebrated Australia Day (26 January) with a private lunch at Salumi courtesy of Naomi. Founded by Mario Batali‘s father Armandino, Salumi is a family business that produces artisan cured meats with a retail store in historic Pioneer Square.

Resplendent in firecracker red, a tasselled Chinese lantern was sketched on the chalkboard. There was a Chinese New Year sandwich special on the menu for the Year of the Dragon.

A queue crammed in the narrow corridor and I weaved through the crowd to get to the back room. The blushed wall had a slot with a view of the communal table. A mosaic plaque was homage to the swine.

Opposite is a window into the storage facility where sausages dangled on a metal rack.

A pink chequered vinyl tablecloth brightened the room.

Translucent slices of salumi curled together.

Four rosy shades of salumi fanned around a platter.

A bowl of marinated mixed olives whetted our appetite.

We nibbled as introductions were made and wine was poured. The first course was tomato and mozzarella bruschetta, a classic.

Jalapeños were halved and stuffed with cream cheese and flecked with meaty fragments. Laced with heat, these morsels were bites of fun.

I was happy that the next course featured vegetables for a requisite serving of healthiness. Crunchy green beans and plump cherry tomatoes were tossed with slivers of bacon.

A traditional New Year dish, the cotechino and lentils were a taupe grainy mass studded with discs. With the exception of dal, I’m ambivalent to lentils but I liked the chewy texture of the boiled pork rind sausage.

Blistered and golden, next was a crisp edged frittata with cubes of fleshy potatoes.

A shallow bowl of aromatic soup was a welcomed palate cleanser. A deeply savoury broth, it reminded me of Chinese herbal soups that cure all ailments and enriches the soul.

A loyal carb lover, the highlight was the pappardelle with chicken, garlic, leeks and Vermouth. It was a symphony of harmonious flavours.

Just when we thought the meal was at its crescendo, the scent of truffles preceded the tray of polenta. I scooped a tasting portion on my plate and decanted some in a container to take home.

Dessert was wine poached pears cut into the shape of Dr Zoidberg from Futurama.

Shards of crackling concluded three hours of dining and wining, much as we did at Momofuku Seiōbo.

We slowly straightened from our chairs and waddled out for fresh air after indulging in the ‘chef’s whim menu’.

Our French friends scheduled a weekend brunch with French acquaintances and I flippantly mentioned Café Presse. I had a moment of panic as we walked up to Capitol Hill and realised we would be sharing a meal with five French people at a French restaurant that I suggested. I was relieved when I remembered Café Presse has the same owners as Le Pichet.

At the intersection of 12th, Union and Madison, our group huddled in the crowded entrance as we waited for a table. With an exposed brick wall, skylights and a high ceiling, the dining room and bar was buzzing with energy. I scanned the diverse collection of publications on the newsstand and introductions were made.

We followed the maître d’ through to the back and were seated in the corner. The milky sky was surprisingly bright and we appreciated the natural light. A sideboard was laden with coffee and wine accoutrements.

We shuffled along the wooden bench as the tattooed and ringed waiter took our beverage orders. My Caffé Vita mocha was prettily decorated with a rosetta.

My favourite question of the menu was ‘how do you pronounce that’! I considered the pain au chocolat à l’ancienne (bittersweet chocolate melted on baguette) to nibble on while we perused the menu but I refrained. We sampled the assiette de charcuterie, a plate of country ham, sausage, terrine, rillettes and tongue with cornichons and bread.

We each ordered the croque madame or croque monsieur, some with a side of pommes frites. Topped with a glossy sunny side up egg, the sandwich of baked ham, Gruyère and béchamel bubbled and blistered. The viscous yolk and just set egg white tempered the saltiness of the meat and cheese layers. It was hearty French fare!

We whiled away the afternoon, our expat conversations interspersed with French.

Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of Lane PR. This is not a sponsored post.

I like wine. A simple statement, yet meaningful. Moments in life are celebrated or commiserated with wine. Champagne flutes at weddings, a bottle of red to listen to a friend, decanters at dinner parties or a glass while cooking. Our ‘cellar’ in Sydney, a cupboard underneath the staircase, was partial to bold Australian reds and fruity whites. We were blessed with wine regions in each state and proximity to New Zealand. I considered French, Italian and Spanish wines as special and for restaurant wine lists as they tend to be expensive.

We have drunk more ‘foreign’ wines in the eight months we’ve been here than we did the last three years in Sydney. They’re affordable and of quality. We’ve sampled Piedmontese wines and learned about French wines from Gallic friends. My knowledge of Spanish wines was limited to Tempranillo and Pedro Ximénez so I was keen to attend the eighteenth annual Wines from Spain Great Match ‘featuring Spain’s vivacious varietals’ held at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC).

Leslie Sbrocco hosted a Rías Baixas (means lower estuaries) tasting. The Denominación de Origen (Denomination of Origin, DO) in Galicia is located in northwest Spain and there are five sub zones. It’s wet and lush in the Atlantic climate and the grapes are grown over pergolas for air circulation, to ripen the fruit and to prevent mildew. An intense minerality of the wines is from the granite in the area. Leslie noted that Albariño is a balanced wine that is flexible with food pairings. Local dishes such as roasted Padrón peppers, tetilla cheese (‘nipple’ cheese) and percebes (goose barnacles) are eaten with Albariño.

We tasted eight wines – five from the Val do Salnés sub zone, two from O Rosal and one from Condado do Tea. Of varying shapes, sizes and colours, the eight bottles are a reflection of the diverse culture of Rías Baixas!

From left to right: Condes de Albarei Albariño 2010, Burgáns Albariño 2010, Mar de Frades Albariño 2010, Albariño de Fefiñanes 2010, Laxas Albariño 2010, Valmiñor Albariño 2010, Santiago Ruiz Albariño 2010 and Pazo Señoráns Albariño 2010.

Wine glasses were placed on a numbered piece of paper. As we swirled, sniffed and sipped, Leslie talked us through each wine and the audience commented on the aromas and flavours. The Rías Baixas DO has 9,000 acres planted and 6,500 growers with half an acre being the average plot of land. Leslie quoted a grower that ‘it’s like a garden’. It is a mountainous topography with thick foliage.

My favourite was the Albariño de Fefiñanes, a vibrant and elegant wine from an old winery. The Mar de Frades Albariño has a thermo-sensitive logo of a ship that only appears on the label when the wine is chilled to a serving temperature of approximately 55°F. The label of the Santiago Ruiz Albariño is hand drawn by the owner as a map for his daughter’s wedding.

After tasting eight wines and only eating a couple of thin slices of baguette, I was in need of food to absorb the alcohol before the main tasting. A handful of clothed tables were decorated with a bowl of spiced Marcona almonds and a saffron coloured Dahlia.

Tiered platters of charcuterie had a selection of cheeses and cold cuts including Manchego, tetilla, jamón serrano and chorizo.

A large salad of greens, tomatoes, corn, Manchego, red onions and vinaigrette was fresh and tangy.

The tortilla de patatas is a soothing wedge of comfort food and I devoured the Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions.

Bain-marie stations had spicy chicken empanadas, and bamboo skewers of marinated and grilled scallop, salmon and halibut.

Albondigas, meatballs in tomato sauce, were neatly lined in a tray.

A spoonful of paella was topped with saffron seared scallop.

I was so happy there was lamb. Seasoned with garlic and parsley, the lamb chops were tender and juicy, and slightly pink in the middle.

Nourished and hydrated, I walked a couple of laps of the Crystal Ballroom. A beautiful bouquet was the centrepiece.

Hundreds of WAC branded wine glasses were gleaming.

A grand room lit by chandeliers, it was buzzing with wine lovers.

I spotted Salty Seattle who introduced me to The GastroGnome. We drank merrily, and had convivial conversations with representatives from Lane PR, Embassy of Spain and Trade Commission, and Wines from Spain.

The highlight was the Conde de Valdemar Reserva 2005 and Gran Reserva 2004, both spicy and rich Tempranillo. The terms Reserva and Gran Reserva are governed by law in Spain, stipulating a minimum period of aging in barrel and bottle.

I concluded my tasting with the Finca Antigua Moscatel and La Guita Manzanilla. Syrupy and smooth, the Moscatel would be a sweet end to a meal. In contrast, the Manzanilla was delicate and light.

It was a fun afternoon and I can now select Spanish wines with some confidence.

‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ Samuel Johnson

I was delayed by Hurricane Irene in New York for two days and my direct flight London was rescheduled to one connecting via Amsterdam. Thank goodness I arrived in time to attend the wedding but I was reduced to just Saturday in London.

We missed the wedding of dear friends earlier this year in Australia. They have since moved to London and I had lunch with the newlyweds at Jamie’s Italian.

The flagship Covent Garden restaurant is spacious and lively. Seasonal produce are stacked in crates by the entrance, fresh pasta is handmade at the front, a bench is laden with crusty loaves of bread and the dining room features a charcuterie counter with legs of prosciutto di Parma dangling on hooks.

White tiles with black accents line the walls, Jamie Oliver branded products and cookbooks are neatly displayed on shelves, and wooden tables are matched to red lacquered chairs. Patrons sang a jovial rendition of ‘happy birthday’ when a cake with candles was delivered to a nearby table by staff.

The menu is divided into nibbles, antipasti, pasta, secondi and sides. As I browsed the menu, I could hear Jamie Oliver’s distinctive Essex accent reading it to me! We picked our courses between convivial conversations.

Mr M ordered crispy squid as an appetiser. Lightly floured and served with ‘really garlicky mayo’, a squeeze of lemon freshened the tender tentacles.

Mrs M and I had a crispy courgette flower each. Stuffed with four cheeses, lemon and mint, the golden zucchini flower was drenched in a puddle of olive and tomato sauce. I prefer battered to crumbed but it was rich and tangy.

Mr and Mrs M both selected main courses with squid ink. Mr M had scallop and squid ink spaghetti with chilli, parsley, anchovies, wine and capers. The snowy scallops contrasted with the black pasta. I twirled a few strands around my fork and it was deliciously briny.

Night on a plate, the crab and squid ink risotto had a mound of shredded crab meat and ‘crunchy herby breadcrumbs’.

A beautiful lemon colour, my bucatini carbonara was coated with egg and parmesan and dotted with pancetta and leek. The slippery buccatini is hollow in the middle and it was a smoky and simple lunch.

Mr M was full but the ladies welcomed the dolci menu with glee! A decadent treat, Mrs M selected a slice of chocolate and espresso tart with glazed figs and orange crème fraîche.

I defaulted to my favourite of tiramisù. On a rustic plate, the wedge of Italian dessert was layered sideways and covered with lemon zest.

It was lovely to spend the afternoon with Aussie friends, strolling the cobbled streets of ye olde London.


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