Sunday, June 19, 2011

Seattle/Portland – Taking Food And Wine (And Beer) Addiction To Another Level

The Pacific Northwest is a food lover’s paradise. Ask anyone who has had a Dungeness Crab Cocktail and they will tell you that it is in a class all by itself.

10 years ago, I had a crab cocktail in Seattle that I still dream about…that was until today.

I ordered that same crab cocktail on this magnificently beautiful day in Seattle at Shucker’s, 411 University Street, at the Fairmont Hotel. I closed my eyes, took one bite and knew that nothing had changed about the culinary pleasures of the Pacific Northwest

where seafood is fresh and in abundance.

This entire region led the way for sustainable farming, providing a voice for local farmers. The style of cooking is as much Asian as it is Native American.

The moist weather and volcanic soil lay claim to grapes for wines, celebrated Walla Walla onions, wild mushrooms, stone fruits, an overindulgence of berries, pears and apples.

I had the most incredible peaches and apricots at Pike’s market this morning where I would go every day for fresh fruit and vegetables if this were in my back yard.

I’ll take you through some of the highlights of our culinary journey where one great meal was followed by another and my cooking session this morning consisted of Lobster Mac and Cheese and Mojitos… for breakfast.

Bon Appetit!

Pikes Market: Lowell’s - For Breakfast And The Views

Built into the edge of a steep hill overlooking Elliott Bat, Seattle’s Pikes Market is one of the oldest continually operated public farmers' markets in the U.S.

There are rumors circulating in Chicago that we will get a Public Market. If it is anything like Pikes Market, I’m excited.

This was my fourth trip to Seattle and I never tire of the mix. I find something new every trip and this is unquestionably one of my favorite cities anywhere.

There is a variety of rare shops, antique dealers, tiny family-owned restaurants, fishmongers, produce stands and the most incredible string of floral vendors where you can still buy a magnificent bouquet of flowers for around $5.

Tucked inside the heart of the market is Lowell’s Restaurant.

With three floors of stunning water views, I would come here every morning if I lived here. It’s one of my favorite spots in Seattle.

On this particular morning, we had the Incredible Breakfast Taco: house made chorizo, scrambled eggs, Cotija cheese, and avocado and tomatillo salsas on double corn tortillas, and crispy hash browns. It was indeed incredible and the homemade chorizo was some of the best I’ve had anywhere including Mexico.

We were seated with a group of culinary students who had come in for the day to see the market. I got lost in the conversation and the world class views. Just one breakfast and I was addicted again.

We returned early the next morning to try the Eggs Benedict. Believe it or not I hardly ate I was so taken with the views.

One of my favorite places on the hill was Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at 1419 1st Avenue,. My new selection: marshmallows on a stick covered in this amazingly sweet coating of caramel and chocolate…and I don’t even like marshmallows.

Ferry Ride To Bainbridge Island: A Perfect View Of The Seattle Skyline

Traveling on the ferry in Seattle is an adventure and the views of the city’s skyline was well worth the price at just $7 round trip for the 35 minute ride.

The island covers almost 28 square miles, and has a population of just over 20,000. Right when you get off the ferry, Classic Cycles Bike Barn rents bikes for $35 a day. We didn’t have an entire day, so we ventured up the hill to the town of Winslow for a few hours.

Of course, I managed to find Mora Iced Creamery where they still make ice cream the old fashioned way, in small batches, using fresh milk, cane sugar, ripe fruit and imported chocolate.

I had the Lemon Bar Ice Cream which was twice as delicious as the chocolate that Tommy ordered.

We are still debating whose ice cream was the best.

Here are two ice cream recipes that remind me of just how good Mona’s ice cream is:

Lemon Custard Ice Cream
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart milk
4 large eggs -- beaten
1 cup lemon juice
3 cups whipping cream

Combine sugar, flour and salt in a saucepan and gradually add milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Cool two minutes. Blend a small amount of hot mixture into the eggs. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan. Cook one minute; do not let the mixture boil. Transfer to a large bowl. Add lemon juice. Chill until cool. Blend in the cream. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions.

Lime Ice Cream With Graham Crackers
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 recipe lime curd (below), or 1 cup purchased lime curd
¾ cup plain yogurt
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs

Lime Curd:
Juice of 8 limes
2 eggs
6 tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Cut the butter into small pieces (about ½ tbsp each) and leave at room temperature to soften. Combine the lime juice, eggs, sugar, and salt in a double boiler over medium heat. Whisk until thick, and then remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until it is completely incorporated. Transfer to a cool bowl and refrigerate until cold, 1 to 2 hours.

Make the Ice Cream:
Whip the cream until slightly thickened and then add the sugar and continue whipping until soft folds are visible; you don’t want stiff peeks. Carefully fold the cooled lime curd, the yogurt, and the zest and juice. Lightly fold in the graham crackers* last. Freeze using an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions – this should take 15-20 minutes. Alternately, place in a shallow plastic tub and freeze, stirring regularly, for 4 hours (see head note.) If the ice cream is completely frozen at the time you plan to serve it (as in you made it ahead), you’ll want to take it out of the freezer about 20 minutes before serving to soften slightly.

*Crush the graham crackers by placing them in a zip lock bag and bashing them lightly. You want coarse crumbs and small pieces, not powder.

Does the Oswego Grill Make the Best Mojito Ever? Got My Vote!

The bartender at Oswego Grill was most generous to give his Mojito recipe to my brother Terry who would have figured it out anyway but this made it a lot simpler.

I made one today (remember, I make all this on Sunday morning so this was on my breakfast menu) and here is the proportions I used for one serving:

Oswego Grill's Mojito

Muddle: 1/2 lime, 1 mint leave and 1 sugar cube (or ½ tsp. sugar)
Add Ice and Shake

2 oz Bacardi Lemon
½ Oz Triple Sec
Splash of both sour and soda
Put ice in again and shake

I poured into a glass filled with ice and then filled to the brim with soda.

I need to work on this as Oswego's had more lime. Play with the recipe because it was definitely one of the beverage highlights of the trip…and we had so many!

Edgewater’s Six Seven: Another Great View and A To Die For Lobster Mac and Cheese

We stayed at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle which is the only hotel on the water. The hotel was a stylish version of a Northwest lodge. The décor was comfy yet elegant. I really felt at home at the Six Seven Restaurant. With spectacular views from the floor to ceiling windows, you could drink in likes of Elliott Bay, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains along with your wine.

You could tell that only the freshest and finest organic and naturally raised ingredients were used in the dishes. They were all fantastic and well worth the hefty price tag.

Tommy loves Lobster Mac and Cheese. I never have because it is normally too rich for my taste. This recipe was so good that we ordered it two nights in a row.

This was my version which I will post next week.

Woodinville: A Hidden Treasure Inside The Seattle Metropolitan Area

Something I learned on the trip to Woodinville: Woodinville has nearly half of all wineries northeast of Seattle. This is definitely the day trip to take in Seattle because we all LOVE wine.

World famous Herbfarm’s menus showcase the extraordinary foods and wines of the Pacific Northwest. Each 9-course dinner is served with 5 or 6 matched wines, drawing its insight from the seasons.

We caught one of the staff off guard when she was carrying in 16 glasses to set the table. Experienced, it was easy for her as they were neatly stacked. I decided that this was a disaster waiting to happen for me as I break plastic wine glasses because they hit the floor just at the right point.

Herbfarm's kitchen gardens and nearby farm supply the restaurant year round and the $200 a head tab (without wine) is worth the experience as reported by my sister-in-law who said she closed her eyes and was one of many who threw in their credit card when the bill came. Absolutely a "to do experience" when the boss is paying.

We made a short stop at the historical and beautiful grounds of Chateau St. Michelle. A tasting of four wines – the Grenache our favorite – was $10 a head.

By far, our favorite tour of the trip was the brewery tour at Redhook. For $1 you drank more than you toured and a very informed beer lover took you through all the reasons why you should be sold on Redhook…besides the fact that you got could keep the glasses at the end of the tour. She was funny and offbeat and this was one of the best tour I’ve ever taken...primarily because I stood at the same table drinking during the entire tour.

Lunch at the Barking Frog was so good because again, the fresh ingredients made the meal. We had Zoe's Garlic Rosemary Turkey with Havarti Cheese, Apple Smoked Bacon, Cranberry Mayo, Lettuce & Tomato, and Toasted Rosemary Bread with a Baby Spinach of Crispy Bacon, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, Spiced Walnuts, Dried Tart Cherries,Aged Sherry Vinaigrette.

I loved both the food and the service and would highly recommend it to anyone who does a day trip to Woodinville.

Rooftop at the Nines: Inside or Out?

We loved the Nines Hotel and almost everything all weekend was right on perfect. It was definitely one of the best hotel values we had on the trip.

Location, Location, Location – this hotel was not only the place to stay but it was in the thick of everything happening in downtown Portland including the Food Trucks (Portland has over 600 of them which makes it the Food Truck Capital of the U.S.) and the waterfront.

After a lot of small plates shared at the table inside, we took in the nighttime views about 11 PM and it was beautiful.

Camp 18 and Killer Cinnamon Rolls: Oh, And Did I Mention The Coastline?

I’ve never seen the Oregon Coast before so imagine that I seize upon the opportunity to go on Sunday. The outing will be the most memorable of the trip.

I am happy to report that the Oregon coast is just as amazing as everyone says it is.

It was the very first time I have been to the beach and didn’t wear a swimsuit or even think about swimming. Building sandcastles, flying kites, or just walking on the beach was the order of the day. Being with family made it even better.

The beauty of the coast left me speechless. Wild and rocky and a place to wander when you got in the spirit, it took me all of five minutes.

We stopped at Camp 18 Logging Museum & Restaurant, 42362 Highway 26 in Elsie for breakfast. The spread was enormous and so good. The highlight: A giant cinnamon roll that even I feasted on until the last bite was gone.

Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls
recipe adapted from Lion House Bakery

2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
2 T active dry yeast
1 cup granulated sugar
1 T salt
7 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted

Place water, oil, eggs, vanilla, and dry milk in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and stir vigorously until milk is dissolved. Sprinkle yeast over liquid mixture, then add the 1 cup sugar, salt and flour.

Put dough hook on mixer and mix for 10-15 minutes on low speed. The dough will be VERY sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll out into a rectangle shape. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Roll up rectangle lengthwise and cut into 1-inch slices.

Grease 2 round pizza pans. Place one slice of dough in the center of the pan. Take the next slice of dough, line up the ends, and wrap it around the center roll, uncoiling the second slice as you go. Do this with additional slices until you've made a dough spiral that fills the pan. Repeat with remaining dough on second pan.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes. After baking, let jumbo rolls cool slightly before frosting.

Buttercream Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
6-8 T cream or evaporated milk
1 t vanilla

Combine powdered sugar, butter and 3 T of the cream in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, on low speed, combine well. Slowly add the rest of the cream, 1 T at a time, until creamy and smooth but not at all runny. Add vanilla and mix again.

Portland: 600 Food Trucks And Counting

Ending on a high note, Portland has over 600 and Seattle just half that. Is the Pacific Northwest the Food Truck Capital of the US? Rumor has it that the title was bestowed on Portland and rightfully so.

We’ll find out in August when I get the chance to check out the 3rd Annual Street Food Fest In San Francisco on August 20th.

With an overwhelming variety of cheap eats, you can pick your favorite but I challenge you to decide on just one!

An Afterthought:
I’ve said many times that I could live in Seattle. Everyone tells me that it rains here all the time but every time I’ve been in Seattle it’s been amazing.

I think people tell you that just so you will not up and move into their magnificent little corner of the world…and it is magnificent!

Bon Appetit!


I like it plain...with a side of summer!

Bon Appetit!

Wildflour's Southwestern Salad

I can list the ingredients in this salad but Wildflour Bakery in Lake Bluff makes the magic with the white sauce that they squirt all over the top just before you dig in.

I have a loose ingredient list that follows but is not quite Ann’s so if you want the real thing,Wildflour is at 14 East Scranton in Lake Bluff.

This is the best version of a Southwest Salad that I’ve ever had anywhere…and to think it’s right in my own back yard!

Bon Appetit!

Mixed greens
Red cabbage
Red pepper
Jack Cheese or cotija
Tortilla strips
Ranch buttermilk dressing with cilantro and drizzle of green chili sauce

1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp jalapeno pepper, seeded and crushed
1 Ranch dressing mix packet
2 garlic cloves
3 tomatillos

In a blender, place all ingredients and process until smooth. Allow to stand for a few minutes for flavors to meld.

Calla Lilies

I went out this morning and bought a bouquet of Calla Lilies. Flowers are a short term luxury in the climate that Chicago has.

Do I need an excuse to buy fresh flowers? I can always come up with one. How is this?
Calla Lilies remind me of when I lived in Guadalajara which was one of the happiest times of my life. I use to go the market and buy them often from an old woman who showed me photos of Diego Rivera paintings incorporating calla lilies. The more photos she showed me the more flowers I bought. Although he did many, we both agreed that this was our favorite.

                                                                                                         Photo by Blooms By Martha
They are a flower that is used to celebrate festive occasions like weddings and today – Happy Father’s Day!

Now what’s my excuse going to be next week when I come home with a huge bundle of Peonies from Green City Market?
I’ll figure that one out next week because today, it’s all about the Calla Lilies.

Almost Tomato Time

The gal at the Farmer’s Market told me that the tomatoes are running 3 weeks behind schedule because of all the rain. I can tell just by looking at my plants.

I’m still buying hothouse Heirlooms at the supermarket. They are good and I like my tomatoes like dad use to fix them – nothing but a little sea salt and pepper with a splash of EVVO and Cider Vinegar!

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer...Way Too Short But Oh So Sweet

I love my weekends at home when I can fire up the BBQ and kick back.

but I also love my weekends away when everything I thought was so important is really not important at all.

Savor every moment of your summer. Way too short but oh so sweet!

NRA 201

The NRA put on another great show this year and I am proud to report that I actually behaved myself – unlike last year. I didn’t eat everything in sight…just half of it.

From the long list of celebrity chefs to all of the great food samplings, this was the foodie heaven that you never want to come back from.

There were so many food samplings that I quit counting after the third aisle. Unfortunately reality set in on Tuesday morning when I stepped on the scale.

So what did I learn this year besides I had better exercise more self control again next year.

Lesson One: Who is the REAL Barilla Chef?

Who is the chef behind all those great Barilla commercials that sends every woman I know into a complete frenzy?

Roberto Farnesi? EnricoMutti?

Both strikingly good looking, 100 % Italian and certain to make every women on the planet feel like she can cook perfect pasta and fall in ever after love with her next door neighbor.

The Barilla commercials are a work of branding genus.

This ladies is the real face at Barilla and I can tell you that he was unexpected…and amazing.

Lesson Two: Take it all in…

From McCormick’s master chef Kevan Vetter,

Rick Bayless and all the other celebrated chef at the NRA, I took it all in.

You can never learn enough about the food industry as a foodie. In fact, this year’s sessions convinced me that I need to take more cooking classes.

From mastering a difficult technique or trying something new – I discovered so much about cooking and food presentation at the show this year that I went away with a whole lot of ideas that I want to put in writing in the coming year.

This show was a total eye-opener for a Foodie!

Lesson Three: You don’t have to own the latest and greatest…but it helps!

Like Rick Bayless said, the temptation was overpowering. He wanted to rip out all of his kitchens and start over.

Keeping up with the new technology is a challenge…but certain that you’ve got to do it to stay ahead of the game.

My new technology venture this week instead of buying the Viking stove I feel in love with?

I purchased an Ice Cream maker. They have come a long way from the hand crank churn that my dad owned. I am inspired to turn out some good flavors and I am hoping by the end of the summer I can master a few.

New technology? You don’t need it but it sure helps.

Lesson Four: Nobody has more fun than the chefs at Rational.

RATIONAL revolutionised the catering industry back in 1976 and continues to do so today.

Just look at their new digs. I was flying by and didn’t get a seat but I saw a lot of people fighting for one.

Lesson Five: Chef’s Fun Foods. Did someone say French Fries?

Chef’s Fun Foods is transforming the way French Fries look and taste. My favorite – the salt and vinegar… of course!

Lesson Six: Sunday is just another day…think again!

Sunday was the opening of the International Wine, Spirits and Beer Event. Did everyone come…just about. All my favorites were there including Blue Moon and Simi…just to name a few.

What I truly love about cocktails is that they have taken on a life of their own. Infusions, herbs, spices and a whole lot more. There are cocktail “chefs” out there who can teach us a thing or two about what is ordinary and what is over-the-top. Even if you don’t drink, there are plenty of non-alcoholic versions that will make you think you do.

              Photo: NRA

Lesson Seven: Who can get this party ended?

Gale Gand, partner and executive pastry chef at Tru of course. Her lead of Flash Mob was another great hit this year!

Lesson Eight: Been there – done that? Boy, do I have news for you!

Every year there is something new that totally surprises me. From the food, to the exhibitors, to the celebrity chef line up and the international guests…I encounter so many new things about this show it’s no wonder that I need to do a lot of homework before I go.

Lesson Nine: Lots of discussion on Yelp, Google, Open Table, et all...

My take on the whole thing? Pay attention but in the end, it’s your own opinion that counts.

Glance at the bad reviews if you want but trust your instincts and follow your gut. Your palate will never fail you.


I’m so happy I live in Chicago. Chicago has so many great restaurant offerings you could go for years without experiencing the same thing twice. Get out there.

I do a new restaurant every Saturday and I have yet to find one that I haven’t loved.

Whether it’s a dive... or a five star...

there is something about each one of them – particular to their neighborhood or their ethnic offerings – that makes them unique.

The 93rd Annual NRA Show is May 19-22, 2012 at McCormick Place.

Bon Appetit!