Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

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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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din·ner
(noun)
The main meal of the day, taken either around MIDDAY or in the EVENING.
A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.
From Old French disner

I’m a frequent snacker. I enjoy long, leisurely meals but at home I munch on McVitie’s, fruits, nuts and muesli bars throughout the day. It’s both sustenance and habit.

With a 9:45pm reservation for our anniversary dinner, I had to prepare for a late night meal. I had a substantial lunch, potato crisps from the minibar and a Kind bar in the afternoon, and napped prior to going to the Mandarin Oriental for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. We waited for our table at the bar with a glass of wine and nibbled on a bowl of rice crackers in a lively atmosphere.

Dinner is the younger sibling of Heston Blumenthal‘s famous The Fat Duck. It has one Michelin star and debuted at number nine, the highest new entry, on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Named for ‘British quirky history and linguistic playfulness’, Dinner’s menu is a homage to traditional recipes cooked with modern techniques and local ingredients.

An elegant dining room with a panoramic view of Hyde Park, chocolate furniture and ivory walls complemented the high ceiling.

Clusters of jelly moulds made whimsical lights on pillars.

Nearing 10pm and feeling hungry, I was delighted to nibble on complimentary bread. I love the succinct menu in the format of dish, year originated, components and price.

Circa 1730, the hay smoked mackerel was garnished with lemon salad and gentleman’s relish, and drizzled with olive oil. The greens tempered the pungent, oily fish.

A couple of seasons ago MasterChef Australia contestants had to replicate several of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes and I was fascinated by meat fruit, circa 1500. A sphere of chicken liver parfait is dipped in glossy mandarin jelly. I discarded the authentic stem, and cut into the skin and flesh of the meat fruit. Spread thickly on grilled bread, the silky smooth parfait was tinged with citrus notes. It was soft and rich, best shared with the complimentary bread.

The Hereford ribeye, circa 1830, was the star of the plate. A tender cut, the beef was seasoned and perfectly medium rare.

The steak was paired with triple cooked chips and mushroom ketchup. Crunchy and luscious, the chips were starchy batons of joy.

Our waiter explained that umbles are offal and the phrase ‘eating humble pie’ is derived from the medieval specialty of umble pie. Morsels of umbles dotted the powdered duck breast, circa 1670. Portions of succulent duck and supple confit fennel were in a pool of savoury jus.

Fresh and bright, a side of green beans and shallots was the requisite vegetable.

On a wooden board was a Staub cocotte of brioche and a strip of spit roast pineapple. Circa 1810, the tipsy cake was ethereal and aromatic. Sweetly caramelised, the tropical fruit was a textural contrast to the custard soaked brioche.

We had watched the nitro ice cream trolley being wheeled from couples to groups all evening and I gleefully replied ‘yes please’ when asked. Liquid nitrogen is poured with a flourish and the handle cranked to churn the vanilla ice cream. Scooped into a dainty thin sugar cone, the ice cream was dipped in a selection of toppings. The freeze dried raspberries had a concentrated flavour and the popping candy was fun!

Our celebration concluded with chocolate ganache and caraway biscuit, courtesy of the chef with exquisite penmanship.

It was midnight, and patrons lingered at the restaurant and bar as we exited into the cold London spring, contented by the Heston Blumenthal experience.

We returned from a sodden and blustery week in London to a glorious Seattle spring weekend. I check the weather forecast morning and night, converting Fahrenheit to Celsius and scrutinise the predicted precipitation. I wither in the blistering sun in Australia and I wilt in the shades of grey of the Pacific Northwest. C’est la vie!

It was a rejuvenating walk to Fremont for the second Mobile Food Rodeo. Clear sky, a gentle breeze, geese and their goslings pecking the grassy banks of Lake Union, the fresh air soothed the jet lag.

Parallel to the Fremont Sunday Market the Mobile Food Rodeo changed its venue to a closed street this year.

There was no wait to enter with free admission and the atmosphere was congenial. Families picnicked, friends gathered and couples strolled with their dogs.

I patiently queued at Maximus Minimus while Mr S browsed the row of food trucks. Our appetiser was from Happy Grillmore of Portland.

Steadied by a toothpick, the pulled pork slider with jalapeño lime aioli and spicy pineapple coleslaw was a little small for the price but was juicy and tangy. The sweet potato fries were pleasantly crunchy.

The customised pig is back for another season with attitude. I was bewildered the first time I saw Maximus Minimus grunting on a Downtown street!

Wedged in a doughy bun were chunks of Maximus pulled pork. Marinated in a sticky sauce, the pork was tender and spicy. A side of Maximus coleslaw flecked with coriander was refreshing.

A toothy Mohawk tomato is the mascot for Tokyo Dog.

Wrapped in chequered wax paper, the signature Tokyo dog of smoked cheese bratwurst was seasoned with teriyaki grilled onions, furikake, tonkatsu sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. The meaty hot dog had bold umami flavours. We shared a bottle of Calpico Mango, a Japanese yoghurt drink.

Our final food truck was Parfait Organic Artisan Ice Cream, my favourite local ice creamery that delivers!

We happily licked scoops of toasted coconut and chocolate peanut butter cup in sugary waffle cones as we weaved through the Fremont Sunday Market.

The inaugural kinks have been untangled and it was a better organised Mobile Food Rodeo.

It was ice cream weather in New York. After shopping for a couple of hours, I criss-crossed Midtown Manhattan to Momofuku Milk Bar for a sweet treat. Located in the foyer of Momofuku Má Pêche, Christina Tosi‘s neon pink homage to baking was reprieve from the humidity.

The chalkboard menu spanned the wall. Neatly printed in rainbow colours, the menu was categorised into soft serve, merchandise, cookies, flavoured milks, pies, milkshakes, cake truffles, coffee, whole cakes and daily breads.

In contrast the opposite wall was plain. Birch shelves had wire baskets of cookies, stacks of cardboard boxes and branded merchandise.

David Chang’s ‘quarterly print journal’ Lucky Peach, the Momofuku cookbook, and Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar were displayed with bottles of Cereal Milk mix, cookie mix, t-shirts and totes.

Individually packaged blueberry and cream cookies.

Momofuku Milk Bar served Stumptown coffee. An illuminated milk sign projected a magenta glow over the croissants and bagels.

The centrepiece behind the counter was a machine dispensing Cereal Milk and pineapple upside down cake flavoured soft serve.

The Cereal Milk soft serve was squeezed into a paper cup and dropped into a larger plastic one. The double cupping insulated warm fingers and there was no dripping. I’m a slow eater and the frozen dessert was surprisingly sturdy, retaining its shape for several minutes without melting. Smooth and creamy, the Cereal Milk soft serve was luscious.

I purchased a bottle of Cereal Milk mix, a fun dessert for the next dinner party.

I will return to Momofuku Milk Bar for their savoury items, bagel bomb (bacon, scallion and cream cheese) or volcano bread (caramelised onion, potato gratin, Gruyère, bacon and pancetta)!

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.

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!

After a fun afternoon tenpin bowling at Garage Billiards, we sought reprieve from the darkness that was the end of daylight saving. The sister restaurant of the soon-to-be relocated Restaurant Zoë, Quinn’s gastropub is at the busy corner of Pike and 10th.

I love the architecture of Capitol Hill. Single or double story buildings are converted into spacious gathering places with floor to ceiling windows and mezzanine levels.

The entrance curtain parted to reveal a moodily lit loft. The bar is at the front and there are tables on the ground floor and upstairs.

We were seated by the window upstairs with a view of neon signs and street traffic. The wall was decorated with animal themed artwork, including these drawings of a plump pig and cow.

A majestic sheep grace the cover of the menu.

Water was served in recycled liquor bottles of varying shapes and sizes. Ours was Sazerac rye whiskey.

We chose a cider each. In a salvaged jar was a draught apple cider blended with apricot. In a flute was a pear cider made in the style of Champagne.

Topped with a pink cow shaped pin etched with ‘M rare’, the burger of Painted Hills beef, bacon, cheddar and mayonnaise was served with a bowl of French fries. The thick beef patty was juicy and the sturdy bun held the burger contents together without getting soggy.

Two generous portions of battered fish fillets rested on French fries, and were plated with pots of tomato sauce and tartare sauce. The batter was light and crispy, coating the succulent and flaky fish evenly. It was the best fish and chips I’ve had in Seattle!

The dessert items were priced at three dollars each and were perfect tasting size. I paired the chocolate ho ho with coffee ice cream. Studded with roasted hazelnuts and a round wafer, the ice cream was smooth and creamy but light on caffeine.

The chocolate ho ho was a cream log encased in chocolate ganache. It was pleasantly sweet with the texture of sponge cake.

We look forward to the re-opening of Restaurant Zoë in January 2012!


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