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!
At long last, here it is: the potstickers post I have been referring to for weeks now! I have no excuse, as Kathy has already so kindly typed up the recipe for me. So, as those of you who have been reading know, I visited Portland and Seattle about a month ago, staying 2 1/2 days in each city (see posts on Portland, day 1 & day 2). My second day in Portland, Kathy taught me how to make guo tieh (literally, “pot stick”; also known in English/ Japanese as gyoza). She invited her friend Rhonda over to help out, and the three of us had a great time learning and assembling together (not to mention consuming prodigious quantities of wine). I also made a pot of my “Chinese-style” kale to go alongside, since the gyoza were our main dish. (Since this post is going to be rather long, I’ll post the kale recipe in a seperate blog entry, along with alternate versions of the potstickers.)
I just want to say that when you read this recipe it may seem like a lot of work, but if you have a friend or two over, it actually goes very quickly. We made a batch of pork and a batch of seafood potstickers, and with three of us wrapping it only took about half an hour. It’s a fun and impressive dish to make for a party if you have helpers… or you can offer to let people take some home for their labor! They also freeze well, so it’s worthwhile to make extra as long as you’re taking the trouble.
Guo Tieh (Potstickers) with Pork (recipe courtesy Kathy Lee, with ever-so-minor tweaks by Noëlle)
1 1/4 lbs unseasoned ground pork
1 bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed in a strainer and squeezed dry
4-5 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, very finely minced or put through a garlic press
3 tbs cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
soy sauce to taste- about 4 tbs recommended
sesame oil to taste- about 2 tbsp recommended
2 packages round gyoza wrappers, thawed if frozen
vegetable oil for frying (2 tbs per pan of potstickers)
Directions: Place the pork in a large mixing bowl. Adding water a little at a time, stir pork in one direction. Continue adding water until the pork stirs easily and is sticky. Stir in the spinach. Put the cornstarch and baking soda in a small dish and add just enough water to dissolve; stir this mixture into the pork along with the soy sauce and garlic. At this point, you can put the filling in the fridge if you’re not going to assemble the pot stickers right away.
When you’re ready to do the assembly, stir in the scallions and sesame oil. (Noëlle suggests frying up a small ball of the meat mixture to taste if it is seasoned to your liking before filling the gyoza; adjust seasonings as needed.)
To wrap the potstickers: Line a couple cookie sheets with wax paper. Put a small dish or glass of water at your “work-station”. Place a wrapper in your hand and put a spoonful of filling in the center (better too little than too much; you don’t want the potstickers to break open). As you go, you’ll get a feel for how much filling your wrappers can accomodate without being overstuffed. With your free hand, dip a finger into the water and moisten the edge of the wrapper.Now, there are two ways to seal the potstickers, the easy way and the “fancier” way. For the simple method, just fold in half, press the edges together to seal, and indent the bottom (the “fat” part). To seal them the way we did, fold in half but don’t seal the edges; grasp the wrapper as if it was a taco that you were holding shut at the top. Basically you are going to pleat one side of the “taco”, leaving the other side smooth. Fold over a little flap of wrapper towards the center, making a little “pleat” (see fig. 1). You can either do two or
three pleats on each side of the center. You should end up with this (see fig. 2): the top is pleated while the bottom is not; this gives them a nice shape for nesting them in the pan.
*Note: if you have made extra potstickers and want to freeze them, leave them on the wax paper and put them in the freezer until they are frozen enough not to stick together; you can then put them in a freezer bag.
Frying the potstickers (go here for boiling instructions): Put 2 tbs vegetable oil in a cold non-stick skillet. Add potstickers to the pan in a circle, nesting them snugly against each other, until the pan is full (see below).
Place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Do not use more heat or the wrappers will burn! Let sizzle. After about 5-7 minutes, gently lift a gyoza and peek at the underside to check for browning. Total browning time will be between 8-12 minutes, depending on your stove, skillet, etc. Once the gyoza are nicely browned, fill a glass with cold water and add to skillet. Stand back, as this may cause oil to splatter. You want the water to cover the potstickers about 3/4 of the way. Cover the skillet to steam (ideally your skillet will have a lid, but use a plate if necessary). After a few minutes, check the water level. When all the water has cooked off, remove from heat. Cover the skillet with an inverted plate the same size or larger than the skillet. Put an oven mitt on. Put the oven-mitt hand on the plate and, holding the skillet with the other hand, invert skillet. Voilà a beautiful plate of golden brown potstickers!
Dipping Sauces for Potstickers
For dipping sauce, Kathy uses a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili sauce; combine to taste. I make a similar sauce but sometimes add a dash of sesame oil. The Lee family uses another dipping sauce comprised of nothing but soy sauce and copious amounts of minced garlic! I also like sweet chili sauce, a thick, syrupy bottled sauce (you can make your own by cooking down sugar syrup and chili sauce; sometimes the bottled kind has high fructose corn syrup).
My second day in Portland was just as filled with deliciousness as the first, if not more so. We started out the day with coffee and savory pastries at Crema, a coffee shop/bakery near Kathy’s house. Their black coffee was some of the best I’ve ever had, and I had a difficult time choosing between all the wonderful-looking offerings. I ended up with a manchego-mushroom biscuit that was somewhat like a scone; Kathy had some kind of flaky turnover filled with eggs & veggies. Apparently on the weekends, the line goes out the door, and for good reason. We were there on a Friday morning and it was pretty full but we got a table. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera battery charged when we were there, but I popped back in later that day to snap a couple pics of their delectable-looking baked goods.
After we were sufficiently caffeinated, we decided to do some shopping in SE Portland, on SE Hawthorne St. The neighborhood is a mix of trendy independent boutiques, a couple (inter)national shops like American Apparel, and lots of reasonably-priced restaurants. We decided to re-fuel
at the Cup & Saucer, a cute little diner-style place serving mostly soups and sandwiches. The food wasn’t anything “amazing”, just your standard stuff, but our BLT and Turkey Chili hit the spot after a morning of walking around, and between the staff and the customers, it was a good place to sit and people-watch.
Next on the agenda was Portland Wine Merchants, a little wine shop tucked on a side street just off Hawthorne and run by an old neighbor of Kathy’s. Although there were definitely some pricey options in the shop, the focus seemeed to be on great wines in the $10-to-$20 range. The owner was really helpful and the store had such a nice ambience that I wanted to linger there even after we had made our selections (a Pinot Noir for Kathy, and a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Grigio for me, to go with the potstickers we were planning on making for dinner).
Our last stop for the day was at Zupan’s Market, an upscale grocery store, for ingredients for that night’s dinner. We picked up seafood and pork for our potstickers, and kale for a side dish. At that point it was getting late in the afternoon so we headed home to get organized for our evening of cooking. Very soon (I promise!) I will be posting Kathy’s mom’s potsticker recipe as well as my recipe for “Chinese-style” kale…
A couple of months ago I had some frequent flier miles burning a hole in my pocket, and decided to plan a trip to visit friends in Seattle. When my old college roommate Kathy heard I was going out that way, she insisted I swing by Portland and stay with her for a couple days. We hadn’t talked in about 10 years but had recently reconnected on Facebook… I have to admit I was a little hesitant about whether it would be awkward after all that time, but I noticed from her Facebook page that she was into cooking and good food in general, and she won me over with the promise of teaching me how to make her mom’s recipe for guo tieh(aka potstickers)! I was sold.
My first day in town Kathy had to work, so I trekked all over downtown Portland. My first stop was Powell’s Books, where I spent most of my time in their HUGE cookbook section (4 enormous, beautiful aisles…) I found a book on baking that I had been wanting (on sale, no less) as well as a handful of non-fiction food writing/ memoirs/ etc. It amazes me but even after working in a bookstore all those years, I can still find room on the shelves for just a couple more books…
Kathy had told me that due to the temperate weather, there were outdoor food carts in various spots throughout downtown (in at least one spot, they take up an entire city block!), some of which I saw but alas did not get a chance to sample. All types of nationalities and foods are represented and you can apparently get any number of great meals for cheap. One of many reasons to come back for another visit.
Kathy met me for lunch at the Bijou Café, a cute little breakfast/lunch spot on the Eastern side of the downtown area (132 SW 3rd Ave, to be precise). Apparently Portland is known for being a “breakfast” town (there are several websites and blogs devoted solely to Portland’s first meal), and with lots of competition there’s no room for slack. I chose an omelette that was on special, with chanterelles (a local product) and smoked gouda. The omelette was amazingly fluffy and came with great hash browns; my only issue was that the smoked gouda kind of buried the flavor of the delicate chanterelles. Kathy ordered a mushroom panini which looked fabulous; I was actually a bit jealous looking at her mushrooms since I couldn’t really taste mine. I couldn’t believe I ate my entire omelette plus the muffin it came with AND Kathy’s green salad, but I guess that’s what walking all morning will do for your appetite!
We had designated Friday as our “potstickers” night, so Thursday we decided to go out for dinner. Kathy and her boyfriend are fortunate enough to live mere blocks from what is known as “Restaurant Row”, a 3 or 4 block stretch of NE 28th St. just north of Burnside. After getting a haircut at the neighborhood outpost of Bishops, a local chain of hair salons whose gimmick is to give a free Miller High Life with your haircut, I was feeling good, and ready for a nice meal.
We decided to stick close to home since we had lots of good restaurants to choose from right in the neighborhood. We ended up at Navarre, a wonderfully authentic tapas restaurant at 10 NE 28th St. I always lament the fact that there are no “real” tapas places in the Detroit area; everything is more like small plates or appetizers, and usually priced so that you would have to spend an ungodly sum to sample more than a few items. Not so here!
The à la carte menu featured several items in the $5 range and it would have been completely do-able to assemble a filling meal for under $20 per person. As it was, we opted for the “We Choose” menu at $25 per person, where the chef sends out a variety of dishes. The wonderful thing about this is that if you have more than one person, they don’t duplicate dishes (at least not that I’m aware; there were three of us and we all ordered the “We Choose” and didn’t get two of anything). So, happily, I was able to sample many more items than if I had been dining solo or ordering à la carte. The only request we made was that the game bird paté (see above) be included in our menu, and they happily obliged. It was served with a country bread and a little dish of sweet pickled vegetables. Kathy and I had to restrain ourselves not to polish it off before Garrett arrived- it was one of the creamiest, most delicious patés I have ever tasted (outside of France, no less).
After the paté we were served a plate of beets and spinach, both lightly dressed and with toasted breadcrumbs for garnish. Those were followed by trout cooked in parchment paper, which would have been delicious had it not clashed with our wine
choice, a 2004 Andrew Rich Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley (my favorite region for domestic Pinot). After discussing this with our waitress, I was kindly informed by Kathy that the local pronunciation is “Wuh-LAMM-it” (rhymes with dammit), not “Will-uh-METTE”, as I’d been saying. (Weirdos.)
After the fish and veggies, there was a slice of meatloaf in a delicious sauce with an egg baked in the center, as well as two types of legumes: a dish of lentils and a dish of white beans with parsley. Both were very good, but I was running out of steam at that point. We sat and chatted and digested; then rolled ourselves out the door, but not before I tried to snap a couple last tipsy photos of the décor (in my defense, it was incredibly low lighting in there and difficult to shoot without flash!). I was glad for the walk home; the fresh air was refreshing and it was nice to feel like I was burning a couple of the calories off…
Stay tuned for Day 2 of my visit to Portland, and the potsticker recipe!
(Note: all photos in this post were taken by yours truly EXCEPT the Bijou Café photos, which I found on the world wide interweb.)