Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘cheese

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!

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!

This is my third post on pizza in three weeks! Ballard Pizza Company is the first of Ethan Stowell‘s Grubb Brothers ‘production’ of casual eateries. After cocktails (a refreshing Inverness mule of Scotch, ginger beer and fresh lime juice) and Mackie’s potato crisps at MacLeod’s Scottish Pub, we joined the Saturday night queue at Ballard Pizza Company. Our group of four gathered at the communal bench and bopped to 80s and 90s hip hop as we ate.

I returned during the week for lunch with Shirley. A gargantuan wheel cutter was a beacon for pizza lovers. Painted pewter, a glass paned garage door rolls up on those beloved Seattle summer days. Play That Funky Music greeted us.

A New York style pizzeria, Ballard Pizza Company sells ‘fat slices’ and ‘whole pies’. Pasta and gnocchi were carb alternatives, and salads and soups were lighter meals. There were eight beers on tap with a flat price for pints and pitchers. Wine on tap was noted as ‘coming soon’.

Staff was rhythmically stretching dough on enormous wooden paddles. A cheese pie is the base and you can add any toppings priced per item.

A daily stromboli special had salami, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes.

There were six pizzas sold by the slice: cheese, pepperoni, ham and pineapple, tomato and rapini, sausage and mushroom, and broccoli and garlic confit.

We ordered and paid at the counter, and had the pizzeria to ourselves for several minutes. Timber and brick were the requisite rustic material on the walls, roof, chairs and tables.

Each table had three shaker jars of chilli flakes, dried oregano and grated Parmesan.

We shared slices of tomato and rapini, mushroom and sausage, and broccoli and garlic confit. The thin crust was a little firm with an even char. Bitter greens and juicy tomatoes were an appetising combination.

Florets of broccoli were interspersed with cloves of garlic confit. The garlic was sweet and mellow, and I would have been happy with just the caramel coloured morsels and mozzarella. The sausage and mushroom was a highlight. Peppered with Italian sausage and crimini mushrooms, the slice was spicy and meaty.

Ballard Pizza Company will be popular with the late night crowd!

I have two pizza classes scheduled within a month. I was at Serious Pie Downtown on a Wednesday morning for the first one. The pizza classes are held on weekdays and Saturdays before the restaurant opens. The city felt lethargic on a cloudy midweek day and it was a little odd walking into an empty Serious Pie.

Coffee and banana chocolate walnut loaves greeted us. I nibbled on the sweet, nutty bread as I leafed through the printed notes.

The Kitchen Table is the new private dining room at Serious Pie Downtown. For dough-shaping and dining parties, the dual purpose room was rustic and decorated in warm tones. Twinkling lights were strung overhead.

Vases of dried flowers lined the window sill as an organic curtain. Metal shelves were laden with commercial size tubs of World Spice herbs and spices.

I was happy to spot a large container of Murray River flake salt in their inventory.

Chef Audrey Spence was ill so Cari kindly shared her expertise with us. The Serious Pie dough recipe is a secret but there is a modified version for the home cook. Cari detailed the three-day dough making process. Bread flour, semolina flour, biga starter, olive oil, honey, salt and water are mixed, proofed and hand-shaped. Cari demonstrated how to stretch the dough.

Silky and supple, the wet dough wobbled and yielded easily to touch. We each dusted the wooden surface with flour and stretched a ball of tacky dough. Gentle and nimble fingers were the key! We sprinkled the pizza board with semolina flour and slid the dough on top.

Mise en place: basil, caramelised onions, clams, fennel sausages, hedgehog mushrooms, pancetta, potatoes, olive oil, roasted garlic, roasted peppers and tomato sauce.

Parmigiano, Provolone, Feta, Mozzarella and herbs were in terracotta dishes for us to sample.

Clockwise from top right: Provolone, tarragon and Parmigiano.

I created a half and half pizza. On the left: olive oil, hedgehog mushrooms and caramelised onions. On the right: tomato sauce, pancetta, roasted red peppers and basil.

My half and half pizza on the rack in the queue for the oven.

Our cheeks were rosy from the heat of the apple wood burning pizza oven.

Gauge of the wood fire pizza oven indicated a temperature of 658 °F (348 °C).

The pizza was placed at the edge of the fiery glow and in one swift motion the board was displaced. An enormous stainless steel paddle pushed the raw pizza to the side and back where it blistered and crisped. After five minutes, Cari dabbed on the Provolone, and the pizza was rotated and cooked for another two to three minutes.

A pinch of marjoram perfected the seasoning. I wielded the mezzaluna and sliced the pizza into eighths.

We settled into the dining room with our artisanal, personalised pizzas.

A selection of Italian varietals was paired with our pizzas. I sipped a glass of Villa Giada Surí Rosso Barbera d’Asti, a fruity red.

It was deeply satisfying to eat the pizza I had handmade, and without any clean up afterwards!

It was fun to be in the Serious Pie kitchen to learn some of the techniques of their famous pizzas!

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

I’m a slow grocery shopper. I browse the aisles for discounts, read the nutrition labels, convert measurements to metric, and compare brands. AmazonFresh delivers our non-perishable staples, and we’re lucky to live within walking distance to Melrose Market and Pike Place Market.

Whole Foods Westlake is my local supermarket and we’re there several times a week for vegetables, fruits and incidentals. Whole Foods has a reputation for being expensive (hence the moniker ‘Whole Paycheque’) but it is a greengrocer, butcher, baker, deli and purveyor of specialty goods all in one that is both of quality and convenient.

Located near Alderwood Mall just off I-5 exit 181B, the first Whole Foods in Snohomish County is opening this Thursday 15 March in Lynnwood.

My tour was scheduled on Friday at 9am and it was a surprisingly quick half hour drive to Lynnwood. The 33,000 square feet standalone store clad in Douglas-fir wood was a beacon on a bleak day.

Decorated in pastel colours throughout, the store was brightly lit and bustling with staff training and shelf stocking.

We breakfasted on muesli bars from the bakery.

A tray of berry muffins.

Of the 150 employees, fifty per cent currently work for Whole Foods so it’s a one to one training ratio. Founded in 1980 in Texas, Whole Foods is a natural food store. It stocks many organic products but it’s not certified organic. It has since expanded to Britain and Canada, and they’re considering sites in Alaska, Tacoma and West Seattle.

Denise Breyley is the Local Forager for the Pacific Northwest and I covet her job! She described it as being a ‘matchmaker’, sourcing products from local farmers and producers. There are seven recipients (Firefly Kitchens is one) of the Local Producer Loan Program in the Pacific Northwest. The money is for new equipment purchase, organic certification and other capital investments.

CB’s Nuts used the funds for a peanut butter jarring line which is in Mirracole Morsels‘ peanut butter cookie, and Middle Fork Roasters coffee is in their ‘pick me up’ cookie.

Mt Townsend Creamery is another beneficiary of the Local Producers Loan Program. These wheels of Trufflestack and Cirrus are from the first batch made with loan money.

The produce section is next where we sampled Sumo Citrus. A hybrid of Japanese Satsuma and Californian oranges, the citrus fruit is plump, seedless and bursting with sunshine.

Whole Foods Lynnwood will open with at least thirty items in the produce section, will increase to more than one hundred in the first month of trading and peaks at seventy per cent in summer.

Sold by weight, acrylic containers dispensed bulk cereals, dried fruits, flour, grains, lentils, nuts, rice, seeds and snacks. Buying in bulk is value for money and eliminates waste in packaging.

In the bulk section is the cooking department. The wooden counter will have computers for cooking resources, and the area will feature ingredients and local authors, Amy Pennington will be the first on 16 March.

The cheese department is in the back left corner. Patrons can sample all the cheeses, and they maintain a database of your purchases for your reference. You can buy shredded cheese by weight. There are also thirty varieties of olives for scooping.

Cold shelves were full of local pasta and sauces, Ethan Stowell‘s Lagana Foods, Cucina Fresca and Manini’s.

A lime sign above the seafood department encouraged us to ‘bring some local flavour home for dinner’. Each fish and crustacean is tagged with information and staff can assist with sustainability questions.

Whole Foods own Select Fish, a processing facility, for quality control. They partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium to rate by fishery and Whole Foods does not sell red rated or non-rated seafood. A non-affiliated third party audits farmed aquaculture annually for feed and water quality, and environmental impact. Whole Foods targets three per cent wastage or spoiled seafood which is composted.

A set of clocks indicated what time the beef was minced. The meat department is a full service butchery. Whole Foods applies Global Animal Partnership‘s five-step animal welfare rating system for all meats. A fridge was marked dry aged beef, done in-house for a minimum fourteen days.

The Whole Body department has a swap program where you can bring in two conventional products to exchange for private label equivalents.

Neatly stacked bars of Fran’s and Theo chocolates.

Cans of Zevia soft drink and bags of Kettle potato crisps.

My favourite, ice creams and frozen desserts!

Refrigerators with doors and energy efficient LED lights were installed for milk and juices.

Deli, sandwiches, taqueria, and greens, beans and grains will cater for lunches and dinners. FareStart students supply the packed salads. There is an organic salad bar in the prepared foods department, and rotating themed hot bars (Thai, Mexican, Indian and comfort food). The intention is for it to be a ‘one stop shop’ for meals.

The espresso bar serves Allegro Coffee.

And they have soft serve machines with a toppings selection!

The tour concluded with brownies and cookies from the bakery.

All the staff spoke with genuine passion about what they do. There is much excitement to be ‘part of the Lynnwood community’.

Whole Foods Lynnwood opens this Thursday 15 March with a bread breaking ceremony at 8am.

We have been foiled in several attempts to dine at Sitka & Spruce in the past year. The first was a walk-in rejection with nearly an hour wait. The second was an abruptly terminated phone call when I requested a table for eight during the festive season. The third was a hasty retreat due to a forgotten AmazonFresh scheduled delivery. Determined to have a meal at Sitka and Spruce I suggested dinner there after the Cheese 101 at The Calf & Kid but alas, the restaurant is closed on Sundays.

I adore Melrose Market and every neighbourhood should have one! The Calf & Kid is an artisan cheese purveyor with personalised service and a genuine passion for quality cheeses.

The cheese counter at The Calf & Kid. A handwritten sign is spiked into each cheese with unique descriptions and flavour profiles.

Dry-aged beef at Rain Shadow Meats.

Cooking wood piled outside Sitka & Spruce.

Jars of herbs and spices at the Sitka & Spruce Pantry.

We peeked through the window panes into the Sitka & Spruce kitchen where cheeses were plated.

Bar Ferd’nand recommended Spätburgunder, a German Pinot Noir. A fruity bouquet, it was a light wine pairing for the cheeses.

Cheese 101 is an introduction to cheese with the founder and owner of The Calf & Kid, Sheri LaVigne.

We chose a table in the corner. Wine glasses were promptly dispensed. We sipped the red and flipped through the booklet on cheese vocabulary and types of cheese as we waited for others. An earthenware bowl of crackers and seeded bread were plenty for the cheeses.

A generous dollop of fig jam.

Sheri briefed us on the history of cheese, her background and why she opened The Calf & Kid. Her love for cheese originated from living in New York where cheese was an ‘affordable luxury’. In 2001 there were four cheesemakers in the Pacific Northwest, today there are more than seventy. The samples selected were European and local for comparison.

Like wine, cheese has terroirs. The characteristics of a cheese are impacted by the environment, the animal’s diet, the cheesemaker’s recipe and method, and the seasons. Every batch of cheese will taste different.

Sheri mentioned that the strength of the cheese has to match the beverage. She likes pairing cheese with beer. Bourbon and whisky add another dimension of flavour. Sheri recalled that goat cheese and coffee are the ‘worst combination ever’!

Sheri commented that drinking raw milk is ‘more dangerous’ than eating raw milk cheese. ‘The concern is listeria which is harmful to the immuno-compromised and can be fatal.’

Clockwise from top:
* Leonora – various producers, Spain, pasteurised goat milk
* Humboldt FogCypress Grove Chèvre, California, pasteurised goat milk
* Fougerus – Robert Rouzaire, France, pasteurised cow milk
* Moses SleeperCellars at Jasper Hill, Vermont, pasteurised cow milk
* Manchego – Pasamontes Denominazione di Origine Protetta, Spain, raw sheep milk, aged one year
* Tin Willow TommeBlack Sheep Creamery, Washington State, raw sheep milk, aged five plus months
* Gruyère de Savoie – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, France, raw cow milk, aged two plus  years
* Snow Canyon EdamRockhill Creamery, Utah, raw cow milk, aged two plus years
* Tallegio – Guffanti Brothers Denominazione di Origine Protetta, Italy, pasteurised cow milk
* Red HawkCowgirl Creamery, California, pasteurised cow milk
* Colston Bassett StiltonNeal’s Yard Dairy, England, pasteurised cow milk
* OregonzolaRogue Creamery, Oregon, raw cow milk

Sheri explained each cheese in detail as we nibbled and I took copious notes. Earthy, buttery, nutty, caramel, mushroom, funky and grassy were all words scribbled on the page!

I was enamoured by these pastel tassels accented by gold and silver tones.

Wine and cheese are joie de vivre!


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