Those of you who read this somewhat regulary and read my posts about my trip to Portland may have been wondering, “Didn’t she say she went to Seattle as well? Did she not have any blog-worthy experiences while she was there?” I didn’t want to keep you in suspense any longer lest anyone die while holding their breath waiting, so here’s my Seattle post (with one last little bit of Portland thrown in for good measure).
The day I went to Seattle (a Saturday) I had intended to take an early-morning train, but it was sold out. Another excuse to go out for breakfast in Portland! Kathy took me to a place called the Screen Door, which she tells me is one of the breakfast hot spots in town. It was almost (unseasonably) warm enough to sit on the patio, but not quite. Fortunately, in spite of the restaurant’s popularity we didn’t have to wait too long for a table, and best of all, they offer self-serve coffee while you’re waiting. The restaurant defines their cuisine as “Southern-style”, and apparently their signature dish is a huge piece of battered and deep fried chicken atop a sweet potato waffle. I wasn’t quite brave enough to deal with that much food (someone nearby had ordered it and it was ridiculous) so I got a scramble with bacon, cheddar and spinach and it hit the spot. I felt a little guilty for not going out of my comfort zone food-wise, but sometimes you just feel like sticking with what you know and love.
The train ride to Seattle was lovely- an uncharacteristically sunny day, and the train conductor obliged my request for a window seat. I miss taking trains; I used to get around almost exclusively by train when I was in Europe, and it’s so nice to be able to read or nap or watch the world go by rather than have to stress about traffic or directions. I was visiting friends from college, and the priority was to spend some quality time with them, but I did manage a couple food-related pilgrimages my last day in town while my hosts Fred and Lori were at work.
My biggest priority was to visit Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, but before I did anything I wanted to fuel up for the day. Lori had recommended a coffee & doughnut shop called Top Pot that was downtown near Fred’s work, so that was my first stop. I have to confess, I’m not much of a doughnut person- I’d usually rather consume my excess calories in the form of cheese or pig fat than carbs or sweets, and doughnuts are pretty far down on the list of sweets I would reach for. But, this being recommended as a “local food landmark”, I had to check it out in the spirit of food journalism. I probably should have ordered a few flavors for comparison’s sake, but I just decided to go seasonal and ordered a pumpkin glazed doughnut. It was pretty good- not too much glaze and therefore not sickly sweet, and didn’t leave that weird film on your mouth that you get with most glazed doughnuts. It was very moist as well and had just the right amount of spice. I can only muster a certain amount of enthusiasm, but if you’re a doughnut lover, you’d probably be in ecstasy at this place.
After strolling aimlessly for a while around the Pioneer Square area and the waterfront, I made my way to the market, where I wandered through the stalls snapping lots of photos and wishing I had either more money to get things shipped home, or a larger suitcase. Fortunately I was there on a Monday morning, so I didn’t have to fight the weekend crowds and was able to photograph and check things out at my leisure without feeling claustrophobic. The market was a feast of colors, smells and the sounds of vendors hawking their wares… Even though I wasn’t in a position to take anything home, I enjoyed the sensory experience. I can only imagine the fever pitch of activity during the busier times, but I’m glad I got to explore without feeling rushed, pushed or crowded.
In addition to all the vendor stalls, Pike Place Market houses dozens of regular shops as well. When Fred found me, I was busy wandering around one of these shops, an Italian specialty foods store called DeLaurenti. Although I could probably find similar items in the Detroit area at Papa Joe’s, I was “on vacation” and wanted to splurge a little on something I probably wouldn’t buy at home. I selected a spicy Spanish chorizo (unlike Mexican chorizo, the Spanish variety is like a dried salami, so I was able to travel with it no problem). I was tempted to buy some salt-packed anchovies as well, but at almost $30, they were a little outside my budget.
Fred’s wife Lori had told me there were places at the market where you could walk up and order fish and seafood and eat it there at a counter, so I wanted to check that out since I’m all about street food and it seemed like it would be more of a local experience than sitting in a restaurant to eat. I ordered a crab cocktail and Fred got some fish & chips and we sat on stools at the metal counter to tuck in. If I’d had more time and a bigger stomach, I could have spent hours walking around sampling the various offerings- in addition to the fish specialties, there was a place touting their “famous” chili, a crêpe place, a place selling deep fried chicken livers, and much more.
The one thing Seattle is most famous for food-and-drink wise is obviously its coffee, which I didn’t get around to sampling (except for the coffee I had at Top Pot, which was fine but nothing extraordinary). However, I was intrigued by this sign advertising “Obama Blend” coffee. I’m guessing it’s a blend of Kenyan and Kona (from Hawaii)?
Next time I come to Seattle, I’m definitely going to set aside some money in the budget to take advantage of the many vendors offering to ship fish and seafood to your house. This time around, though, I was pretty satisfied with my experience; my only regret was passing up those chicken livers!
Browsing through other food blogs, I feel like a huge slacker for not having posted any “seasonal” recipes, but what with having to go to three different family get-togethers, two of which were out of town, as well as working and getting my upper flat ready for a new tenant, I didn’t have much extra time for holiday baking. I did make a bread pudding for a friend’s holiday potluck, but it didn’t turn out all that well and was unfortunately not worth blogging about (other than as a cautionary tale, but being short on time, I’d rather write about stuff that DID turn out)! Still, I do have some good food-related memories of the ’08 holiday season…
Christmas Eve, Marvin and I went to his mom’s for dinner. She made a dish of her own creation that can best be described as a “Latin Shepherd’s Pie”: she takes ground beef and cooks it in a skillet with onion, garlic, carrot and tomato sauce, and then spreads a layer of mashed yuca on top and bakes it. This was served with salad and some excellent tamales. It was very tasty and I hope to get more of an actual recipe from her eventually.
Christmas morning was lovely… Marvin and I opened our gifts in bed and then had a yummy breakfast of bacon & onion quiche, green salad and a tropical fruit salad. It was nice to be able to relax a little before having to dash home to make my dish to pass for Christmas dinner and make the drive to Lansing.
Our family does holidays potluck-style, with the host providing the meat and the rest of us contributing side dishes, desserts, etc. Our meat dish this year was ham, so my contribution to Christmas dinner was a dish of peppery turnip greens, sautéed with little pieces of bacon and a generous amount of diced onion, and seasoned with a couple pinches brown sugar, a splash of apple cider vinegar and a couple dashes of tabasco. I love the spicy/bitter flavor of turnip or mustard greens, but I realize it’s not for everyone- I had originally planned to do collard greens, but when I went to the store they looked terrible, so the turnip greens had to stand in. (I have since used some of the leftovers as an omelette filling, with a little handful of diced ham thrown in as well. Mmmm.)
For my other family gathering, I made a really simple “cheese log” using a log of fresh goat cheese- I just rolled it in chopped walnuts and cherries, put it on a little platter and drizzled some balsamic vinegar on top. Although I feel like those flavors are a bit cliché at this point, it was a matter of making something easy and quick with what I had on hand. Perhaps I’ll try it again with walnuts, honey and herbes de Provence to switch it up a bit.
I got some great cooking-related holiday gifts, including two cookbooks that were on my wish list: The Flavor Bible, a wonderful reference that was on many foodies’ “Top Books of ’08″ lists, and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (one of my resolutions for the new year: Bake more bread!). I also got a Wusthof chef’s knife and a beautiful French-inspired set of dishes from Marvin (you can see them in the quiche photo above), an ice cream maker from my sister, and a KitchenAid food processor courtesy of a gift card from my dad. Thanks everyone! I feel very fortunate to have such a generous family. Next year I do hope to get organized far enough ahead to give gifts of baked goods to friends… another New Year’s goal to strive for!
On the subject of New Year’s, Marvin and I decided to take it easy this year and just have a small gathering of friends over. I had to work during the day and the party was a total last-minute decision so I didn’t have any time to make any of the food… Trader Joe’s to the rescue! I feel guilty buying all store-prepared food, but it was either that or no party. Sarah did bring a plate of these cute little appetizers though… hot dogs wrapped in puff pastry, sliced, baked and served with a mustard dip. It reminded me of something Amy Sedaris would come up with. I’m happy to report that the party was a success, especially after we got a rousing game of Taboo underway (girls vs boys; the girls won, of course).
I have a few food-related goals for 2009, in addition to the bread-baking. I have a rather large cookbook collection, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I own several from which I have never cooked a single item. I thought I might set a goal of cooking one new item per week from these books, but I fear that may be a tad ambitious. Still, I definitely want to try to explore and make use of some of the books that have been sitting neglected on my shelf. My other main goal is to do more holiday baking- perhaps I’ll give Valentine’s treats out since I didn’t get to give away any Christmas goodies. I can’t think of many better activities on a cold February day than making batches of cookies or other treats!
For the last several years I have been a regular consumer of pre-packaged “energy bars” like Clif, Luna, Balance, etc. Not being in the least a morning person, I would often find myself rushing out the door in the morning without having had the time for breakfast. But I’m not one of those people who can just skip breakfast either; I usually wake up pretty hungry. I always kept a stash of these energy bars on hand for those rushed mornings when breakfast was not an option, but I had been wanting to wean myself off them because I had been reading about how the highly processed soy by-products in them might not be so good for you. (Not to mention the fact that at over $1 per bar, they really add up in the grocery cart.)
No more! I am happy to report that I found a recipe for cereal bars courtesy of Nigella Lawson that is healthy, inexpensive, quick and easy to make and tastes better too. This would be a good recipe for kids to make because it’s so simple, all you have to do is measure and it doesn’t even really matter if you’re a little off. My sister thought this would also be a great snack to take in the car when she’s rushing the kids around to after-school activities!
Cereal bars (adapted from Nigella Express)
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (NOT instant); preferably organic (you can get these in the bulk section, along with most of the ingredients below)
1 cup each of the following: unsweetened shredded coconut, dried cranberries or other similar dried fruit, mixed seeds like sunflower or pumpkin, and nuts (I prefer walnuts or almonds, but if you want to go cheaper, use peanuts)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (Trader Joe’s sells an organic one)
Preheat oven to 250 and lightly grease a 9×13 pan (I use this spray called Baker’s Joy, it works great). Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Put the condensed milk in a glass measuring cup or something similar and warm it in the microwave for a couple minutes on medium power (it gets runnier as you heat it and easier to mix in with the other stuff). Dump it in the bowl and mix WELL (you don’t want any dry spots). Smush it into the pan with a spatula so it’s all flat and even. Bake for 1 hour, let rest for 15 minutes, and cut into the size of your choice. (If you let them set longer, they’re harder to cut, but they don’t fall apart as easily.) I wrapped mine individually in wax paper and then stuck them in a Tupperware container. They will last quite a while and don’t need to be refrigerated or anything.
Variation: Tropical Cereal Bars
Substitute a combination of dried papaya, pineapple, or banana chips for the cranberries, and use cashews, Brazil nuts or macadamias for the nuts.