Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘French

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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Seattle was blessed with consecutive weekends of glorious weather. The feeling of sunshine on bare skin is so restorative and we had a serene afternoon at the Washington Park Arboretum and the Japanese Garden, strolling and gazing at the blooming trees.

We leisurely looped the arboretum and garden, and had afternoon tea at Belle Epicurean.

Located at the Madison Park end of the botanic gardens, the second café by Carolyn Ferguson is in a spacious slate building.

A marble counter and glass cabinet displayed sweet treats.

The décor is Parisian chic with panes of vintage mirrors, framed black and white prints, and replica Thonet chairs and stools.

A gleaming espresso machine dispensed Caffé Vita coffee and there was a wine menu by the glass.

There were cake balls wrapped in mint and fuchsia foil, Rolo tart, and slices of raspberry mousse cake, Alhambra cake, red velvet crunch cake, opéra cake and coconut crème cake.

In the perpendicular cabinet were flat discs of pastel macarons and jars of pistachio, vanilla, rose water and orange buttercream.

Pastries included pain au chocolat, orange scented brioche and croissants.

There were also lemon brioche buns with citrus confit and spiced almond brioche bostocks.

Mr S ordered le feuillette, a savoury tart. Black Forest ham, Gruyère and Mornay sauce were encased in a flaky brioche crust. The golden, molten mass was buttery and cheesy.

My coconut crème cake was baked with coconut milk, pineapple juice and rum. The layers of sponge and coconut cream cheese frosting were decadent and textured with shredded coconut. The tang of pineapple and the residual alcohol of the rum tempered the sweetness, it was an adult dessert!

Belle Epicurean Provisions was connected by a doorway.

A wall of square shelves cellared hundreds of bottles of wines.

Opposite was Belle Epicurean branded dessert sauces, and cake and frosting mixes, Riedel glassware and cookbooks.

Bars of Michel Cluizel chocolates of various cacao percentages tempted us.

The fridge at the back was a trove of gourmet and artisan aioli, butter, chutney, compote, soup base, tapenade, vinaigrette, and ‘take and bake’ croissant, brioche, puff pastry and tart.

Belle Epicurean is a French trio of café, pantry and wine store!

New York was quiet on a Sunday morning. Four days of volatile spring weather concluded with drizzle as we walked to the Upper East Side for sweet souvenirs. I had scrawled Ladurée‘s address in my notebook for last September‘s trip but avoided the opening weekend. I had mentally prepared myself for a queue out the door and was surprised by an empty footpath. Hello Kitty macaron decals decorated one window.

Macaron towers and Ladurée branded merchandise were displayed in another.

The macaron towers reminded me of a MasterChef Australia pressure test where contestants were challenged with Adriano Zumbo‘s olive, beetroot and raspberry macaron tower.

Sea foam walls were calming and accentuated the colourful macarons on the counter. Tiers of ribbons cascaded down wrought iron bars on a mirror.

Different sized boxes were neatly stacked on shelves interspersed by mini monochromatic macaron towers.

I resisted the themed boxes (Hello Kitty!) and purchased two classic boxes of eight, one for us and one as a gift for our French friends.

I was careful with the bag on the flight and there were minimal cracks on the macarons. From bottom: pistachio, vanilla, chocolate, caramel with salted butter, raspberry, coffee, orange blossom and praline.

Despite my lack of appetite due to laryngitis I gleefully halved each of the macarons with Mr S.

I have happy macaron memories and they’re best shared!

I’m always nervous suggesting European restaurants to our French friends. Thankfully we loved the cosy ambience and homely fare of Dinette. I hummed the tune of ‘Four Seasons In One Day‘ by Crowded House all day. Snow, sleet, wind, rain. Repeat. There were moments of brilliant light, silver beams refracted off pewter clouds.

On Olive Way in Capitol Hill, Dinette’s seasonal menu has French, Italian and Spanish flavours.

Two adjoining rooms split the bar and dining areas. Powdered blue walls were accented by a cluster of serving trays. Tangerine damask lamps and glassybaby votive candles lit the counter.

A vertical piano was in the back of the dining room and Casey MacGill entertained us with the rhythmic melodies of swing jazz.

Neutral walls and embellished pillars, I adore the simple elegance of the décor.

A functional chalkboard listed the specials in block writing.

Infused with bergamot, the Earl Grey martini was a zesty apéritif.

We shared terrine and toasts as appetizers. A slice of rabbit, pistachio and bacon terrine was paired with grained mustard and pickled rhubarb. My aversion of rabbit continues and I had one bite of the terrine spread on crostini.

A three by four grid of toasts were presented on a wooden paddle. From left to right: prosciutto, croque monsieur and pesto. My favourite was the pesto, molten Beecher’s Flagship and spicy pickled peppers.

Ms S had the rainbow trout with French lentils, ruby chard and lemon aioli which was pleasingly fresh.

A generous portion, the spaghetti carbonara was tossed with bacon, peas and topped with an organic egg yolk. Mr S twirled a forkful for me to taste and it was a robust pasta.

An apt dish for March, Ms LM’s lamb was braised in Guinness, on a pillow of mashed rutabaga, leeks and peas, and garnished with grated horseradish.

I ordered the crispy skin chicken thighs. The butterflied dark meat was well seasoned, and the cauliflower purée was creamy and sweet.

The second terrine of the meal was Valrhona chocolate with whipped cream and nut brittle.

Our dessert was a retro bread pudding with raisins soaked in Tuaca, a dollop of whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce.

Quality ingredients, cooked splendidly!

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.

After a delicious lunch at emmer&rye we meandered down a block to Café de Lion for sweet treats.

Named after the owners’ son, the logo of a crown and lion’s head was prominent on a textured frame. The café was decorated in an eclectic style with chocolate walls and miniature Eiffel Towers dotted throughout.

Classic French techniques fused with Japanese influenced flavours to create intricate pastries.

On a tiered tray topped with a crown were guimauve (marshmallows), sablé (Earl Grey, sesame and matcha) and jams (peachy peach, and apple cinnamon and milk caramel).

On a crystal stand were glossy apple and banana Danishes streaked with chocolate.

Golden parcels of phyllo were dusted with powdered sugar.

An acrylic case protected the delicate rainbow macarons.

A couple of tables lined the wall and the counter seating had a candid view of the vacuum coffee makers with Lion’s father as the barista.

A vintage cabinet displayed the menu, and a dainty teacup and saucer.

We perused and purchased, the desserts carefully packed in a branded cardboard box.

Clockwise from top: mocha, chocolate and green tea. With a crispy crust and a chewy centre, the perfectly shaped macarons were ethereal.

Layers of coffee soaked sponge cake, ganache, buttercream and chocolate glaze, the opéra gâteau was exquisite.

We’re delighted that Lion’s parents are sharing their lovely pastries with us!

There was an ominous feeling on the Saturday of Hurricane Irene. Blanket television coverage droning on about this, that and the other, the solemnity Mayor Bloomberg’s news conferences, declarations of state of emergency, mandatory evacuation orders, and the shutdown of the Subway and all New York airports all amplified the forboding.

Although I joined the grocery store queues and stocked up on bottled water, some muesli bars and a large bag of almonds, I felt safe in Midtown Manhattan.

The apocalyptic photos of an empty Grand Central Terminal and deserted Times Square were transmitted across the world. The streets were eerily devoid of people and silent of honking as the city stoically awaits the ferocious hurricane.

Most stores were closed and only a few eateries were open. Ms H did a search and found Marché du Sud on the Upper East Side.

We walked there from opposite directions in the torrential rain, thankful that the hurricane winds were still several hours away. The entrance to Marché du Sud is divided into the dining area and patio on the left, and the bakery and gourmet market on the right.

Cold and dripping wet, I was relieved to be indoors. A long and narrow room with the bar at the front and an open kitchen at the back, the space was homely and comfortable.

The laminated menu had a tabloid magazine as its cover. There were set menus available but curiously these were cash only.

We selected two items to share. The specialty is Alsatian tarte flambée or French pizza. Thin and crispy, the l’authentique had crème fraîche, lardon, caramelised onions and Gruyère. Plain in appearance, it was a delicious combination of flavours.

We should have ordered a second French pizza! The Belgian waffles were unfortunately a little dry but easily remedied with extra cream.

Hunger sated, we strolled a couple of blocks in search of gumboots for Ms H. You’ll smile at this cute photo!


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