Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘hazelnut

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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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!

It was a blissful afternoon of shopping in Portland. Alder & Co., Canoe, Flora, Hive and Woonwinkel were a modern collection of stores with curated homeware, jewellery, artworks and furniture. The contemporary aesthetics and stylish designs were stimulating! We re-caffeinated at Caffe Allora and joined the queue at Ken’s Artisan Pizza for dinner.

We were seemingly banished to wait at the back of the restaurant in the Bermuda Triangle of the dishwashing nook, an iron rack of logs for the wood fire oven and the bathrooms. I was surprised by a sprig of eucalyptus flower, leaves and gumnut at our table. I admired the vibrant hue as we sipped wine and whiled away two hours.

The wood fire oven is at the front of the restaurant where all the pizzas were made.

Paola‘s family serendipitously arrived as we were seated. It was nearly nine o’clock on a Friday night and Ken’s was buzzing.

Myra recommended the wood oven roasted vegetable plate. We ordered quickly as we were hungry and two of us were returning to Seattle afterwards. Clockwise from top right: carrots, chard, porcini and Asiago Vecchio; white runner beans, artichokes and tomato sauce; and polenta, kale, red pepper, almonds and chilli sauce. Tender and mellow, it was a requisite serving of vegetables.

We shared three pizzas. Ken’s crust was puffed and charred, a chewy dough that was sturdy support for the pizza toppings. The fennel sausage, onion, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and hot Calabrian chilli pizza was spicy and bold.

I’m ambivalent to bacon but the guanciale pizza was a crispy homage to cured meat.

Last was my beloved prosciutto with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. Generous ruffles of prosciutto di San Daniele were unctuous and sweet.

A creamy chocolate custard concluded our day in Portland. Paired with a quenelle of cream and studded with hazelnut crunch, the terracotta bowl was emptied with the assistance of an adorable mademoiselle!

Portland, we will return!

Seattle enjoyed a week of sunshine in late January. The Emerald City shone, and residents and visitors dispersed outdoors to revel in its glorious beauty. I uttered the phrase ‘the mountains are out’ with glee, admiring the snow-capped range reflecting light in the solitary distance.

After a Keren Brown event with authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg in December, I returned to emmer&rye for lunch with Shirley on a spring like day.

At the pinnacle of the Queen Anne Counterbalance, the restaurant is located in an elegantly restored Victorian house.

Upstairs is a private event space and downstairs are connecting dining rooms. We were seated in the front room where natural light filtered in through the bay and stained glass windows.

Shirley recommended the farro fries and, macaroni and cheese. Rectangular planks of golden farro were served with a sage yoghurt dipping sauce. Dense and crispy, the ‘fries’ were well seasoned and a nutty appetiser.

We also shared a beet salad of mixed lettuce, smoked blue cheese and hazelnut vinaigrette. A classic salad, sweet and tender slices of crimson beets contrasted with pungent cheese, crunchy lettuce and piquant dressing.

The fresh salad balanced the decadent mac and cheese. A generous portion of creamy yet light pasta was sprinkled with toasted breadcrumbs. It was a hearty, wintry dish.

emmer&rye has the motto ‘locally derived, seasonally driven’. On the website each menu item has links to the ingredients’ local producers. For example, the mac and cheese pasta is from Lagana Foods, and cheeses are from Beecher’s and Mt Townsend Creamery. Bravo Chef Seth Caswell for supporting our community!

Sydney has more than seven times the population of Seattle but sometimes it feels like both cities have the same volume of traffic. It was gridlock en route to The Pantry at Delancey‘s Back to the Basics cooking class on a weeknight. I slowly inched towards Ballard, anxious about being on time. I noted a reminder on my calendar several months ago for the release of their winter schedule and reserved a spot for this class and the coveted Great Pizza at Home with Delancey owner and chef Brandon Pettit.

Located at the back of Delancey, The Pantry has a stepped garden entrance. The patio would be lovely during summer for post class al fresco dining.

Decorated in a neutral white, the kitchen shimmered in glossy tiles and brushed stainless steel.

A bookshelf is laden with classic and contemporary cookbooks.

In a nook illuminated by tealight candles, I love this rustic honeydew sideboard stacked with ceramic crockery, serveware and linen.

Salvaged metal shelves displayed goods for sale including olive oils, salts, cooking chocolates, jams, granola and Weck jars.

At the heart of The Pantry is the communal table where groups gather to learn, cook and eat.

I tied my apron and settled into an azure stool. I sipped a complimentary glass of wine while flipping through the recipe booklet.

Brandi Henderson and Olaiya Land briefed us on The Pantry as a ‘community space’ and detailed the sequence of the evening.

First was homemade butter. Butter is simply churned cream. We huddled over the KitchenAid to watch the progression from cream to butter. The ‘super pioneer style’ butter was drained and rinsed of residual buttermilk.

Brandi and Olaiya waxed poetic about the flavour profiles of creams, some have grassy notes and others are sweet with hints of caramel. Homemade butter cannot be used for baking due to its varying moisture content.

Murmurs of appreciation echoed through the room as we nibbled on the thick smear of homemade butter on fresh bread.

Next was roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary. I’ve roasted beef, lamb and pork but never chicken. I consider this a fundamental cooking skill and Olaiya was an excellent teacher. The chickens were soaked in a heavily seasoned brine for at least eight hours. Brining reduces the risk of overcooking, infuses the aromatics and tenderises the meat.

Mustard seeds, water, salt and vinegar were ground to a paste in a food processor for homemade mustard. We sampled this mustard and one made two months ago. The new mustard was too pungent for my palate. Mustards mature with age and the two month old was still sharp but more balanced.

We assisted in the preparation of the roasted winter vegetables, and roasted beet and arugula salad with hazelnuts. Gargantuan beets were halved and wrapped in aluminium foil.

I despise eating Brussels sprouts but I was okay with peeling and cutting them.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips were chopped into similar sized chunks for even cooking. The onions were sliced with the grain to maintain its shape. The winter vegetables were loosely scattered on a sheet pan so they would roast and not steam.

Brandi is the pastry chef at Delancey and desserts are her specialty. She whisked the ingredients together for a bittersweet chocolate sauce.

Brandi also demonstrated how to make vanilla ice cream. A split vanilla bean was steeped in milk, cream, sugar and salt, and tempered with egg yolks. The French custard was stirred, chilled and churned in an ice cream maker.

Olaiya expertly emulsified a vinaigrette for the salad. She recommended tasting the dressing for mouthfeel and adjusting the acidity with additional sugar.

We were warmed by the heat of the oven and the perfumed air whetted our appetite. The chickens were rotated and rested. Brined chicken retains a pink hue. Cut into the thigh and if the juices are clear, it is ready.

Tossed with toasted hazelnuts and crumbled Bleu d’Auvergne, and drizzled with the piquant vinaigrette, the roasted beet and arugula salad was a delicious and seasonal first course.

The highlight of the meal was the beautiful birds. The blushed portions were succulent and the charred lemon had an intense citrus tone.

Despite my aversion to Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, I ate one of each. I chewed fast and they were caramelised. All the vegetables were well roasted.

Dessert was a sundae of homemade vanilla ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce sprinkled with salt flakes. The savoury flecks were a contrast to the sweet and creamy sundae.

I lingered a while afterwards and chatted with Brandi. She lived in my beloved Sydney for six months and we exchanged anecdotes about the Emerald City.

I purchased a container of Maldon sea salt and returned home happy with the tips on improving my basic skills.

Disclosure: This was a complimentary meal courtesy of JGA PR. This is not a sponsored post.

Weekday lunch can be a functional meal. There were times in Sydney where I gobbled sushi rolls, rice paper rolls and salads at my desk in between meetings. But a benefit of working in the city was being within walking distance to many restaurants. Some with a prix fixe menu, others à la carte, weekday lunch was brisk business. Friends gathered to gossip or colleagues mingled to celebrate a project milestone, a lunch sans office were always welcomed!

I had a late lunch reservation at The Capital Grille on a manic Monday for their ‘plates’ lunch menu.

Located at the corner of 4th Avenue and University Street, The Capital Grille is conveniently located for a weekday lunch.

The stately dining room was decorated with oil paintings on canvas, hunting trophies, plush carpet and leather upholstery.

Generously spaced and kindly lit, the tables and booths seated couples and groups in business discussions and birthday cheers.

For sixteen dollars, you select one dish from each of the three columns of the seasonal ‘plates’ menu.

An enormous shard of water cracker and a warm crusty seeded roll was served with a triangle of salted butter.

In the soup or salad column was clam chowder, field greens and roasted red pepper soup. A deep bowl of soothing liquid, the roasted red pepper soup had a mild sweetness brightened by freshly cracked pepper.

My soup spoon for your sabre!

The sandwich options were two mini tenderloins, lobster roll, and wagyu cheeseburger with fried egg and crisp onions; and sides of fresh green beans, truffle fries or roasted root vegetables. I was tempted by the cheeseburger and fries but after an indulgent festive season, I ordered the lobster roll and roasted root vegetables.

A mound of lobster salad was wedged in a toasted roll. Chunks of lobster and diced celery were lightly coated in a creamy dressing and balanced on lettuce leaves. I wielded the knife and cut the lobster roll into edible portions.

Fragrant with rosemary, the parsnip and butternut squash were yielding, and the heirloom carrots had a pleasant crunch.

I love the pairing of chocolate and hazelnut and The Capital Grille had chocolate hazelnut cake on their dessert menu. A gargantuan slice of cake was presented with a puddle of crème Anglaise, toasted hazelnuts and a wafer. Layers of dense chocolate cake and chocolate mousse were frosted with hazelnut chocolate ganache.

I nibbled the edge of the decadent cake and the remainder was boxed with a tag from Chef Mark.

Service was attentive and efficient, and the ‘plates’ menu is perfect for weekday lunch!

It snowed in Whistler on Christmas Day and I loved it. Snowflakes zigzagged gently from the sky and dusted every surface. I was delighted with my first white Christmas. The powdered slopes were serene and the magic carpet was quiet. We skied in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon.

Bearfoot Bistro was recommended by Naomi and was conveniently located across from our hotel.

Survivor like torches guarded the entrance of the restaurant.

A cascade of glass globes were strung together as a sparkling chandelier.

The interior was warm and welcoming. On the far left was a champagne bar and Belvedere Ice Room. The main dining room was buzzing with families and friends celebrating Christmas. We were seated at a table with a view of the busy kitchen. Service was traditional fine dining style with a cocktail cart, sommelier and a plethora of staff.

Enticed by the cocktail cart, we ordered apéritifs as we composed our three courses. The bartender was a little absent minded. Ms S asked for recommendations for a refreshing cocktail and he referred her to the menu. Intrigued by dehydrated beer as an ingredient, Mr L ordered a Caesar. Unbeknown to our group of Australians, Caesar is a Canadian cocktail with Clamato juice which was not listed. We had the same expression after one sip each and it was abandoned.

An amuse bouche of salmon tartare whetted our appetite.

My first course was arctic char. From left to right: gravlax and celeriac, tartare and blini, and smoked and sorrel. Similar texture and milder flavour to salmon and trout, the morsels were perfectly paired.

Photographing was a challenge in the dim lighting! Ms S selected the Pemberton beets and carrots with shaved ricotta salata, spicy greens and white balsamic. It was artistically presented and I sampled a lump of white beet which was sugary.

The gentlemen had the wild mushroom soup with truffles. Poured at the table, the soup was a thick liquid with an earthy aroma.

A tangy citrus granita was the palate cleanser between courses.

The sommelier recommended a local wine, Foxtrot 2008 Pinot Noir. It was a classic match for our game main courses.

Three rare slices of Yarrow Meadows duck breast rested on a plump duck confit ravioli, squash purée, cauliflower florets, beets and pumpkin seeds. The dish was well seasoned and the meat tender, and the components were a delectable combination.

Mr S chose the wild game tasting plate of wild boar wrapped in venison and braised bison short rib with wild mushroom and heirloom bean ragoût. The other couple picked the chef’s Christmas special of goose.

We spotted a cheese cart and the fromage expert was friendly and helpful. We shared a bleu, a local cheddar and a semi soft, with raisins, candied walnuts, fig jam and crisp fruit bread.

I was determined to photograph dessert and I persisted with the single flickering candle as my light source. Served on a slate plate, the geometrical coconut and pineapple had frozen coconut mousse, Meyer lemon and kafir lime sorbet, pineapple and espelette jelly, rum caramel macadamia and cilantro. It tasted like a sophisticated piña colada!

A deconstructed St Honoré was a log of vanilla crème chiboust, coffee Chantilly, crispy malt Irish cream and brown butter milk jam.

On a rectangle of bourbon cake, the apple and caramel had a wheel of salted caramel maple parfait, apple pavé sour cream ice cream and crumbled bacon.

Petit fours concluded our Christmas dinner. From left to right: nougat, peppermint bark, ginger snap and hazelnut ganache.

It was a fun festive season in Whistler!


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