Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘Downtown

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!

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I had noticed construction at Westlake Woodwerk several months ago. I always peeked into the wooden toy workshop when I walked by where the craftsmen working by the window in the natural light. The owners of Eurostyle Your Life has opened Café Suisse in the space.

I had visited Switzerland once when I was a child and our couple of days there coincided with their national day. There was much flag waving and cowbell ringing! Colourful tassels decorated the leather strap of a large gold cowbell on the door of Café Suisse, a traditional Swiss greeting!

Café Suisse is cheerful and welcoming, cloches of baked goods displayed on the counter.

Glass tiers were stacked with Swiss treats and homeware from Eurostyle Your Life.

Diminutive by name, we were tempted by the selection of dainty petits fours.

The macarons were from MistralKitchen.

A happy cow guarded the tip jar.

Westlake Woodwerk now occupies a room at the back of the café with a view through a window in the shape of the Swiss cross.

We perched on felt stools, sipped coffee and had a leisurely afternoon. A tiny oblong had layers of ganache, a delicate chocolaty morsel. A complimentary piece of Douceurs des Cimes gianduja tasted like Nutella.

The back wall was covered with vintage Swiss tourism posters, and shelves were laden with chocolate bars and Swiss paraphernalia.

A short corridor connected Café Suisse to Eurostyle Your Life.

Eurostyle Your Life stocks a curated collection of bags, homeware, accessories, interior décor, toys and games.

I spotted a copy of Miroslav Sasek’s This is Australia.

Café on the right, shopping on the left!

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!

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!

Presented by Book Larder, the dessert party with Gail Simmons was held at the Palace Ballroom and coincided with the Top Chef season 9 finale on leap day. I love MasterChef Australia but I haven’t watched Top Chef so I was curious about Gail‘s memoir, Talking with My Mouth Full.

Banners of each chapter in cursive font and a symbolic illustration decorated the space.

The dessert menu was three chalkboards tied together with string.

Clockwise from top: schnecken, apple cake, derby tartlet, and chocolate meringue pie. The recipe of Tom Douglas’ grandmother, the schnecken was sticky sweet rolled and glazed pastry sprinkled with chopped nuts. Gail’s plum cake made with apple was scented and light. Chewy and nutty, the derby tartlet was a bite size treat. A pillowy twirl of burnished meringue rested on a chocolate filled crust, the mini pie was the highlight of the dessert party.

Rhubarb dump with crème Anglaise in a ramekin.

Tom Douglas welcomed us to the desert party, and introduced Amy Pennington and Gail Simmons. Amy is the host of Check, Please! Northwest which premieres this Thursday 8 March at 7pm on KCTS 9.

Both ladies listened to each other with intent and were animated in conversation. Gail’s mantra of ‘the harder you work, the luckier with are’ resonated with me.

Gail cited Survivor and Fear Factor as the stigma of the reality television genre when she filmed her first episode of the inaugural season of Top Chef in 2005. Many hours of footage from many cameras were edited for each show. Instead of applying a formula to the judging panel, their styles developed as a team.

Gail’s father was born in South Africa. He moved to Canada in the 60s and met her mother in Montreal on a blind date. Gail’s mother operated a cooking school out of her home kitchen and wrote a regular column for Canada’s national newspaper, The Global and Mail.

Gail graduated with a liberal arts degree with majors in anthropology (she ‘really likes monkeys’!) and Spanish (the language of kitchens). Gail wrote reviews of ‘ghetto’ restaurants for her university newspaper.

Her mother’s best friend, Linda, inspired Gail to enrol in culinary school to learn the science of cooking. Linda encouraged Gail to write down what she loves, and on the piece of paper was ‘eat, write, travel, cook’. Culinary school is a modern construct, and to speak and write ‘with authority’, she needed to know the subject.

In New York Gail worked for the esteemed Vogue food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten. Gail described her former boss as an extraordinary mind, a meticulous researcher and self-deprecating. It was ‘an education’ to be Steingarten’s assistant, a difficult job that has ‘opened doors’.

Gail recalled a dry aged meat experiment for an article where Steingarten left the meat on the counter to rot. Dry aging of meat is a calibrated process in a precise environment and Gail cleaned up the putrid meat with maggots before Steingarten returned from overseas!

Gail noted that physical strength is an attribute required in kitchens, it is gruelling manual labour to ‘execute a chef’s vision’. A key to success to knowing ‘when to keep mouth shut’! Gail emphasised the importance of goals and to be flexible with the path to achieve them.

As a judge she uses descriptive words (‘oozy’!) and assesses each dish objectively. She recommends Stephanie Izard‘s Girl and the Goat in Chicago, Spike Mendelsohn‘s Good Stuff Eatery in Washington DC and Harold Dieterle‘s Perilla in New York of the Top Chef contestants.

An audience question about Gail’s health was controversial. Amy stated that the question would not have been posed to a man. Gail responded that it is an ‘occupational hazard’. She tastes food in two or three bites, is attentive of her diet off camera, is active and while she is not American, she walks like a New Yorker!

Gail was gregarious and energetic, and I intend on reading chapter eight, ‘Alone with rotten meat: the Vogue years’, first!

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

After a brisk walk into Downtown and a quick browse in the SAM Shop I crossed the street to Fonté Café for the Sozo winemaker dinner.

sozo (so·zo) – noun
To save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction. To save a suffering one from perishing, to make well, heal, restore to health.

Sozo is an artisan winemaker that selects quality grapes from vineyards to craft their own blends. The company partners with not-for-profit organisations to distribute a portion of sales to assist those in need. Each bottle of wine has a medallion affixed to its label to indicate its contribution to Sozo’s commitment to the community. For example, ‘5 lives’ is equal to five meals supplied by local food banks.

Winemaker Cheryl Barber-Jones collaborated with Chef Peter Jahnke on the wine pairings for the five course tasting menu.

The first course was pear, caramelised onion and St André tart, and Sozo Humanity Riesling. Amber and flaky, the tart had a delicate sweetness that was accentuated by the mellow Riesling.

A generous fillet of salmon perched on a mound of mushroom risotto, and Sozo Potential Pinot Noir. Averse to fish skin, I gently peeled it from the perfectly cooked flesh. Both the salmon and creamy rice was well seasoned.

The third course was duck confit with lentils, and Sozo Abundant Mourvèdre Syrah Blend. I love duck but unfortunately this was a little dry and lacked the sumptuous texture of confit meat. Traditionally coupled with Pinot Noir, the Mourvèdre Syrah was a delightful match with the game.

Abundant Mourvèdre Syrah Blend, one of four Sozo wines sampled.

The penultimate dish of braised beef with blueberry barbecue glaze, polenta and kale, and Sozo Generosity Syrah Tempranillo Blend was my favourite of the evening. Tender chunks of slow cooked beef were atop luscious polenta and wilted kale.

We concluded with an affogato. A single shot espresso and a scoop of espresso gelato was presented in a coffee cup. The espresso and vanilla ice cream are served separately in a classic affogato. The caffeine and sugar were appreciated after four diverse savoury courses that highlighted the Sozo wines.

Charmed by the smooth Riesling, Mrs W and I both purchased a bottle.

We were gifted a bag of Yemen Mocca Sanani as we exited into the crisp night.

Sozo is on the wine list of more than seventy restaurants in Seattle. Next time you dine out, consider this socially responsible winemaker!

I attended my first Foodportunity yesterday evening at the Palace Ballroom, a networking event founded by the inimitable Keren Brown.

A screen projected the live Foodportunity Twitter feed.

The lovely Keren spoke briefly to thank Foodportunity’s sponsors and supporters, and drew the winners of the business card raffle.

My first taste was at Metropolitan Market, the main sponsor of Foodportunity. Imported wheels of Zola Gouda were stacked on the table.

A generous portion of creamy macaroni and cheese was sprinkled with bread crumbs and Parmesan.

I interspersed savoury dishes with desserts. Next was Fat Cat Fudge, a smooth chocolate fudge that was moderately sweet.

I spotted The Coterie Room in the corner and happily crunched on a decadent snack of ham crackling dipped in black truffle fondue.

In the same area was Inn at Langley. On a wooden paddle was a disc of smouldered spruce panna cotta with truffle honey foam and pine nut sugar.

The Chef in the Hat was momentarily absent but the silver forks of coffee cured salmon with celeriac by Rover’s were scrumptious.

One of the few restaurants with signs of their food, Local 360 had a rustic chalkboard written in cursive script and illuminated by tea light candles.

Except I didn’t notice the sign until after I ate the bacon wrapped rabbit saddle with cheesy grits and maple truffle jus. I don’t eat rabbit. But the meaty cylinder topped with a jelly cube was an appetising pairing.

Mike Easton was resplendent in a customised apron and demonstrated artisan pasta making.

Cooked on an induction stovetop at the stall, the malloreddi alla Siciliana was exceptional.

Fumie’s Gold had silver platters of sweet treats. I sampled the green tea cookie and it had a balanced matcha flavour.

The profiteroles and tiramisu were tempting!

My first loop concluded at the entrance where Mt Townsend Creamery was. Cirrus is a favourite and there were nibbles of Seastack.

Light and citrusy fromage blanc was spread on apple crisps.

I meandered back to the restaurants I had skipped due to crowds. At Blackfish from Tulalip was house smoked sockeye salmon with chèvre cucumber purse on a bamboo square. The salmon was surprisingly dense, tempered by the mandolined cucumber and goat cheese.

On a wooden board at Volunteer Park Café was crimped puff pastry with caramelised onion, a smear of chèvre and black trumpet mushrooms. I have fond memories of their grilled figs at Keren’s book launch party and these morsels were a highlight too!

The last dessert was by Main Street Cookie Company. Made with quality ingredients, the chocolate chunk and dark chocolate cookies were perfectly baked.

I hovered at Lucky Palate, curious about the contents of the paper cups. A vegetarian meal delivery company, the quinoa and farro were both textured and healthy.

A scarlet tablecloth greeted us at Tipu’s Chai. Steeped in herbs and spices, chai is a traditional Indian beverage.

A stainless steel and glass dispenser poured the Tipu’s Chai Now, a vegan instant chai. It was soothing and aromatic.

The penultimate was Tabby Cat Pickling Co.

Jars of pickles were scooped into bowls and the curried cauliflower floret was piquant.

And just before I exited, a friend‘s mother recommended the sizzling sausage by Tom Douglas.

Fluffy buns encased a spicy pork belly and octopus chorizo with fennel. It was a warming conclusion to a fun first Foodportunity.

Sincere thanks to Keren for connecting the Seattle food community!


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