Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘Dahlia Lounge

A Tom Douglas fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy.

Local restauranteurs and Seattleites supporting the relief efforts.

Tini Bigs poured Manhattans.

Ma’Ono‘s Talde Hawaiian bread bun with Portuguese sausage, pickled cucumber, garlic vinegar mayonnaise and coriander.

Spur‘s Katz’s pastrami sliders.

Dahlia Lounge‘s Momofuku pork bun.

CanlisEleven Madison Park black truffle and foie gras macarons.

Skillet‘s linguine with clams.

Staple & Fancy‘s Esca crudo.

Hot Cakes‘ chocolate egg creams and chocolate chip cookies.

Seattle hearts New York City!

I’m in a New York state of mind…

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I was thrilled that the first Little Taste of the Dahlia this year was duck. I’ve never cooked duck at home and was keen to learn the basic skills of the game.

With crimson walls and amber lights, the Dahlia Lounge had a sultry feel. The dining room was set for the evening service.

The event was held in the private dining room, divided by sliding opaque glass panes.

Dahlia Lounge menus were creatively recycled as booklets with the duck and wine menu printed on the back, and blank pages for notes.

Beverage director Adam Chumas matched the duck dishes with 2008 Château Grande Cassagne Grenache Syrah Costières de Nîmes (right) and 2009 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling (left).

Groups were seated at round tables and couples at bar tables. Our attention centred on Tom Douglas and Dahlia Lounge Chef Brock Johnson. The employer and employee was an entertaining pair. Duck has been on the menu since Dahlia Lounge opened more than two decades ago. It’s Tom’s favourite ingredient and he ‘would pick Chinese barbecue duck (烤鴨) over Texas barbecue any day’!

Pekin duck is native to China and Muscovy duck originated from South America. Restaurants cannot serve wild game and local ducks can be expensive. There was a discussion on the definition of local. Tom explained that the animals may be farmed locally but the butchering and packaging are often centralised. It may be branded and marketed as meat from Willamette Valley but the reality is it was processed in California.

A jar of duck liver mousse was sealed with rhubarb jelly. I spread a thick layer of the silky mousse on a slice of bread. Its intense, rich flavour was heightened by flecks of sweet jelly.

Tom commentated while Chef Brock demonstrated how to confit a duck leg, an ancient method of preserving. Rubbed with a herb salt as a dry brine overnight, the leg is then rinsed, submerged in rendered duck fat and slow cooked in 180°F for twelve hours. A five pound duck yields two to three cups of fat. It can be strained, frozen and reused.

The second course was duck confit with duck fried potato. A tumble of shredded meat was atop a halved fingerling potato.

Chef Brock expertly separated the breasts from a whole duck. The skin was scored, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme, and pan fried on medium low heat. Tom emphasised it is better to err on lower heat. One of the ‘lost techniques of cooking is warmth’, once the stove is off, the residual heat will continue to cook. Rest for at least ten minutes, sprinkle with fresh thyme and the duck breast is ready to serve.

Dolloped with cherry preserve, the slice of Muscovy duck breast had a sliver of crispy skin attached.

Dahlia Lounge roasts an average of thirty ducks on the rotisserie per day. The Dahlia duck is stuffed with aromatics, wing tips clipped and trussed in slits of its skin. Tom recommended 425°F for half an hour and 325°F for forty five minutes in a home oven.

Our final course was the famous Dahlia duck bun. Similar to the versions at Momofuku Seiōbo and Wild Ginger, the tender duck was wedged in a soft bun with mandoline cucumbers, a squirt of hoisin sauce and a spring of coriander.

My appetite was subdued by a bout of laryngitis but the duck morsels roused my palate!

Mr S has Scottish ancestry and we travelled through the countryside several years ago. I fell in love with the fields of heather, the glens (valleys), lochs (lakes), bens (mountains) and castles, the lilting accents, and the hearty Scottish fare. Every village, town and city honoured its history and were blessed with natural beauty.

We celebrated the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns at Slàinte at the Palace BallroomBurns Supper is traditionally held on the national bard’s birthday, 25 January.

The Palace Ballroom was set up with round tables and a handful of bar tables. A slideshow of Scottish scenery was projected on screens, although it was morbidly paused on a photo of gravestones for a while. A trio of musicians entertained us on a platform.

We perched on bar stools and sipped an apéritif of Rusty Nail which is a cocktail of Johnnie Walker and Drambuie garnished with a lemon twist.

We feasted on a menu and Scotch pairings by Dahlia Lounge chef Brock Johnson.

Our table was cluttered with glassware and silverware.

Dahlia Bakery scones were first and we mused if they would be American biscuits or British scones. A napkin in a weaved basket cushioned two ‘scones’ that were sweet flat squares of crumbly dough.

A square plate was layered with yoghurt, smoked trout and toast, and dotted with steelhead roe. The intense smokiness of the fish was tempered by the creamy yoghurt. The accompanying Scotch was a 12 year old Glenkinchie from the Lowlands.

A thin wedge of Black Sheep Creamery St Helen was served with a mini oatcake, slices of apple and a blob of apple jelly. I preferred the syrupy jelly with the washed rind cheese than the tart fruit. This dish was teamed with a 15 year old Dalwhinnie from the Highlands.

Two rare medallions of venison loin were veiled by a mound of black trumpet mushrooms and dressed with Douglas fir jus. The meaty flavours were balanced by the peaty 14 year old Oban from the west coast.

We stood while the piper led the haggis procession. A gentleman with a Scottish accent recited a lively rendition of Burns’ Address to A Haggis.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Diced offal, minced onion, oatmeal and seasoning were mixed with stock and stuffed in a sheep’s stomach. The haggis was pierced and boiled. The casing was cut at the crescendo of the poem and the savoury filling was eaten with mashed neeps (parsnips) and tatties (potatoes). A robust sixteen year old Lagavulin from the Isle of Islay was complementary.

The final course was sticky toffee pudding, Macallan caramel sauce and smoked cherry ice cream. A deceptively light sponge cake, this classic dessert was rich and toothsome. The last Scotch was a twelve year old Macallan from Speyside.

It was a cheerful evening warmed by a wee dram (or five!). To good health, slàinte mhòr!

I have an aversion to raw food. I dislike crunchy salads and have been eating sashimi for just over a year. I’m suspicious that the glistening flesh will be slimy and fishy. I now love salmon and tuna sashimi, and progressing with oysters.

I attended the Little Taste of the Dahlia with Oyster Bill from Taylor Shellfish Farms earlier this week. Keen to learn about shellfish, I was delighted that Bill Whitbeck, or Oyster Bill, was the guest for the return of the series.

Held in the private dining room of the Dahlia Lounge, it was an intimate space with cosy round tables brightened with posies of sunflowers.

I found good seats with Darryl and we perused the menu as attendees trickled in. There were four bites from Chef Brock Johnson paired with Muscadet and a special beer by Elysian Brewery.

Tom Douglas was resplendent in his oyster shucking sunglasses. He demonstrated the calmness required which bemused Oyster Bill.

Geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) is a very ugly species of clam. The room descended into naughty giggles as the phallic shellfish was passed around.

Virginica oysters and Mediterranean mussels were displayed on ice. Tom Douglas welcomed the group and explained the purpose of the Little Tastes of Dahlia series is to connect with and learn from suppliers. He introduced Oyster Bill from Taylor Shellfish Farms. They recently opened a store in Melrose Market on Capitol Hill.

Tom mentioned that he’ll eat oysters smoked, poached and broiled but not raw. Tom and Bill demonstrated their shucking techniques, twist not pry! Tom’s first job in the restaurant industry was shucking oysters for a buffet.

The first course was a Virginica oyster with heirloom melon, cucumber, lemon and mint. I don’t know how to eat an oyster gracefully so I pick up the half shell and slid its contents into my mouth. And I didn’t slurp! Shimmering and briny, the Virginica oyster had a delicate flavour that was enhanced by the diced accompaniments.

Farmed in Totten Inlet in south Puget Sound, the Virginica oysters grow in mineral rich waters. They’re the same species as the Atlantic oysters but have a different flavour profile. Ocean acidification has affected supply and Bill commented that it is a global warming issue.

Land is leased from private owners for farming. Specific conditions including fresh water and salinity level are needed as the oysters are not fed once released from the hatchery. The oysters eat algae and are all natural.

Chef Brock Johnson detailed the ingredients of each dish. The seared Qualicum Beach scallop was paired with batons of Ruby Jon apples and seaweed, and served with cracked pepper and drizzled with olive oil. Plump and tender, the simple dressing highlighted the freshness of the scallop.

Geoducks are unique to the Pacific Northwest. They can live to more than a hundred years old. The older geoducks have darker meat, and can be tough and chewy. If caught in the wild, you cannot return them. Taylor Shellfish farms geoducks and they are harvested at about eight years old.

Like trees, geoducks and oysters have ridges on their shells to indicate age. Geoducks burrow in sand and live below the surface. Only an inch or two of the snout is visible. Considered a delicacy in Asia, the largest export market is China. Tom shared an anecdote that a geoduck chow mein was on the opening menu of Dahlia Lounge more than twenty years ago!

To prepare the geoduck, blanch it in boiling water until the skin blisters. Remove the sausage casing like skin, glide knife along the shells to detach the muscles and the geoduck is ready for consumption. The belly is best for sautéing or in a stir fry and the siphon can be sliced for sashimi or ceviche.

A deconstructed chowder, the geoduck essence was steeped into mashed satina potatoes. Geoduck sashimi and bacon salt perched on a dollop of infused mashed potatoes, a tiny portion and yet so scrumptious. The geoduck was succulent and toothsome, close your eyes and you can feel the sand between your toes, hear the waves lapping and smell the salty air.

The final course was Mediterranean mussel with linguiça and pickled peppers in a tomato saffron broth. Brock noted that Mediterranean mussels spawn in winter and peak in summer which coincides perfectly with tomato season. You generally cannot overcook Mediterranean mussels, they tend to retain suppleness.

The heady combination would make a delicious moules frites, the mussel absorbed the intense aromatic broth and the spices in the salty Portuguese cured pork sausage.

Beer is a classic match with mussels and we were lucky to sample a glass of Elysian Brewery Saison of the Witch. A collaborative effort, the beer is brewed by Elysian Brewery and Brave Horse Tavern with Prosser Farm pumpkins and wild fennel. The Halloween themed, Belgian farmhouse beer was pleasant to drink and I think it’s a festive season beer!

We were also poured a glass of Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet and toasted wine importer Joe Dressner.

Little Taste of the Dahlia with Oyster Bill was another quality Tom Douglas event and I look forward to the next in the series!

Mr L is a creature of habit. Every other weekend we would get a late morning phone call for brunch and Dahlia Lounge is a favourite of his. The original Tom Douglas restaurant, Dahlia Lounge is genuine and charming. Dimly lit booths create an intimate atmosphere in a large dining room, which is also a dismal environment for photos.

I had a delicious Asian breakfast dish here a couple of months ago but sadly it wasn’t on the menu. It was a noodle soup in a clear broth with ham hock and spring onions topped with a poached egg, and a mild chilli sauce on the side.

Predictably, Mr L ordered the eggs Benedict. The spring version had smoked pork loin, baby arugula and poached eggs on English muffin with horseradish Hollandaise and roasted potatoes. The smoked pork loin looked grey and drab but Mr L assured us it was tender and flavoursome.

Mr A opted for an omelette of sweet pea, Laura Chenel goat cheese and smoked ham with pork loin, biscuit and roasted potatoes. A lovely pale yellow colour, the omelette was beautifully cooked and filled with heady goat cheese.

French toast is a weakness of mine and I couldn’t resist this one with strawberry compote, Chantilly cream, almond clusters, maple syrup and bacon. Pan fried in butter, the bread was spongy with a crispy edge to soak up the compote and maple syrup. The piped Chantilly cream was delightfully airy.

For years, I equated French toast to the ‘western toast’ you get in Hong Kong ‘tea cafés’ where the bread is deep fried and served with a thick slice of butter and drenched in golden syrup. The golden hues are sometimes enhanced with oozing peanut butter in the middle. It is a rich and irresistible, albeit bastardised version of French toast. 

I love Dahlia Lounge for its consistency and seasonal menu and will happily return again and again!


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