Cupcakes are an interesting beast. They’ve been oh-so-popular for the past few years, which has lead to a bit of a backlash. Those nay-sayers who like to be all “cupcakes are so overrated, I don’t understand why everyone is so into them.” I have to admit, they are a tad too trendy, and often a tad overpriced, but seriously. Who doesn’t love a cupcake? The perfect portion of cake and frosting goodness. And everyone gets to pick their favorite flavor. And they’re are special varieties. Seasonal varieties. Cake & frosting. You can’t go wrong. (Unless they’re grocery-store bought. Yuck.)

I’ve had quite a few memorable cupcake experiences in the past year:

BUTTER LANE (East Village, NYC) In April 2010, I was in NYC reconnecting with my dear friend Susanna, and while touring her ‘hood, we chatted over Stumptown coffee and cupcakes. A moment I’ll always remember. Cupcakes are good to bond over. I have to admit I can’t remember what type of cupcake I chose, but it was mighty delicious. I started following them on Twitter. Their tweets make me smile.

GEORGETOWN CUPCAKE (Washington, D.C.) When I was in DC in September, for work and visiting my sister, I had my heart set on getting a Georgetown Cupcake. A week or two before my trip out there, I spent a day on the couch under the weather. My DVR was empty and somehowI stumbled upon “DC Cupcakes” on TLC. The show was pretty terrible as far as reality TV shows go (and I love reality TV), but it whetted my appetite. I had to see what this place was all about. So on a warm September day we braved the line for our cupcakes. The line, apparently, is always long, and snakes up the block through housing lived in by rowdy Georgetown students. The day we were there happened to be homecoming or something, and the kids had been downing some Keystone light. They were rude. They heckled the line. “You’re wasting you TIME! I could bake you a better cupcake!” “Get a LIFE!” Ouch. It hurt a little. But we held our ground. We ordered a half-dozen cupcakes (strategically planned the night prior after careful analysis of their online menu and daily specials). And gosh were they good. Some better than others. The Mint Cookies & Creme was the best. Well worth the wait. Not everyday, but at least once in awhile.

While in Charlotte for a beautiful wedding, we were treated to a cupcake tower in lieu of a wedding cake at the reception. This choice, of course, is also trendy. I hadn’t actually experienced it before Charlotte, despite it’s popularity and attending several weddings. This moment in March 2010, however, completely won me over. I’ve never had such a delicious cupcake. Er, cupcakes. I had three, I believe (gasp!). One vanilla, one chocolate, and one more vanilla since those are my favorite. Delightful.

In addition to cupcakes while traveling, I’ve of course indulged in some here at home. And, shockingly, I have some opinions. For awhile I thought Trophy Cupcakes were the best. They edge out Cupcake Royale in moistness. Not to mention I like the blue and brown color scheme better than the pink. But that’s beside the point. I’m focusing on taste. So yeah, I’d often say I liked Trophy best, but in reality I’d eat and enjoy any Seattle cupcake. Like I said, I’m not one to complain about sweet frosting and loveingly baked goodness. But then, recently, I stumbled upon the cupcake of all cupcakes. I was in Bellevue wasting time before a movie. I was a bit cranky. I need a pick me up. I needed a cupcake. I’d spotted a little booth down a side hall of the mall. Returning, I saw a sign that stated they were voted the best cupcakes in the Seattle area by King5 viewers. I had to try. Bananas Foster was my choice. I died. And went to heaven. Amazing. Best. Cupcake. Ever. Pinka Bella Cupcakes. Go now, try one! It’ll make your day.

But like I said, cupcakes are a tad pricey. The cost-benefit is not always there. Sometimes you just need to hunker down and make your own. Sometimes, like me, you need to take them with you somewhere so you put them in your Crate & Barrel cupcake carrier. For these occasions, I have a go to cupcake recipe. And frosting recipe. They’re delightful. Probably not change your life good, but good in that “who doesn’t like a cupcake?” kind of way.

A Cupcake for All Occasions
  • Yield: Makes 18-22 cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (I usually use soy)

Important to remember (although I always forget): 30 minutes to an hour before starting, put butter, eggs and milk on counter to bring them to room temperature.

Mix the butter at medium speed until somewhat smooth. I am in love with my KitchenAid mixer, so that’s what I use, but a regular electric mixer works too. Pour in sugar and beat well. Add eggs, waiting 30 seconds or so between each. Mix well.

Take a break and preheat oven to 350. (Most recipes say to do this at the beginning but who can prep that fast? I for one need more time!)

Add vanilla, almond extract, baking powder, salt, flour, and milk. Beat until everything’s incorporated. Pour into cupcake pan. I often don’t use papers – if you go this route make sure the pan is well buttered or oiled. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until a toothpick or sharp knife comes out clean.

The Best Chocolate Frosting Ever

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature
  • 4 cup sifted powdered sugar (You can decrease this amount if you don’t care about it being as stiff for piping)
  • 1/2 cup high-quality cocoa powder

Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy. Mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Mix in cocoa powder. Once cupcakes are cooled (completely cooled!), frost using a knife, or piping bag, or ziplock bag.


[This post orginally appeared exactly one year ago (1/10/10) in one of my previous blogs. One of the ones that lacked focus. It was about anything and everything, but this pitch for cabbage fits here. I love cabbage. I’m actually craving some right now. Which is why I’m adding this post. And the one year thing is a nice added reason for posting today. Enjoy.]


My family likes to say that I’m a food snob. I suppose it’s true that I’m….well, particular. I have strong opinions about food, from what to buy to which restaurants are worth the money. More than anything I hate spending money on food that is a) not very good or b) I could have made myself. And don’t even get me started on bottled water. Such a waste of money. In China, I drank the boiled stuff from the machine on our hall. I put it in my nalgene and put it outside on my windowsill until it cooled off. It didn’t take very long. I was in Harbin after all.

When lovingly criticized by my family for being a food snob, I have one argument: greens. I love cheap greens. Iceberg lettuce and plain old green cabbage. YUM. Love the crunch. (I must admit, however, I do enjoy buying these organic when I can, because it makes me feel less guilty about not washing before eating.) Lettuce is my standby for lunches, and cabbage is my go-to veggie for dinners (I think Dan may be getting sick of it). but I can’t really put into words how happy it makes me to purchase a nice big head of cabbage for 49 cents a pound (39 when it’s on sale!) and store it in the fridge for as long as I like before pulling it out, and copping it into those clean, crisp ribbons. Depending on my recipe, I throw it in the electric wok or my le creuset and in no time I have a delicious, nutritious meal.

So, I’m thinking not everyone eats enough cabbage. And I think that if you’re one of those people, you’re missing out. So to make things easy for you, here are some of my favorite cabbage recipes:

Cabbage and Hot Sauce (Orangette) – Make sure you have it with a fried egg, so good! (Also, Orangette apparently has a similar affinity for cabbage, as she just replaced her photo of orangettes on her blog with a gorgeous shot of savoy cabbage. But therein lies the difference. Savoy is fancy. It’s more than 49 cents a pound. But then again, she is Orangette after all. And I’m…well, not.)

Stir-fried Cabbage (Bon Appétit) – Great with rice and tofu, or a fried egg!!

Red Lentils with Cabbage (Smitten Kitchen) – A much more involved recipe, but so delicious. And keeps with the cheap theme!

Try one. I promise you’ll like it. And if you don’t, you’ll only be out $2.

(Thanks JO, for prompting this post – I hope you’ve enjoyed some cabbage dishes recently!)

seattle eateries

I love the Seattle restaurant scene. Mostly, I love eating. And like most people, I like trying new places. But I also like order. I like not being overwhelmed by options. That’s the great thing about eating out in Seattle. There are so many fantastic options, and new restaurants opening all the time, but there’s a small enough number that you can keep your mind wrapped around it. You (er, I) know about the new places opening their doors, the places that are closing, and where the food trucks are.

A few months back, I started compiling a list of restaurants I needed to try. We were planning a few dinners out for birthdays and visitors, and I wanted to make sure we were prioritizing. My list, of course, is always expanding. It seems new places open faster than I can eat. Or afford to eat.

I’ve received a few inquiries about my list, so I decided to post it here. To my “must try” list, I added on places I’ve already been. Places I’ll happily go back to any day of the week. I suppose I should explain a bit more about what types of places I like, so you have a sense of whether or not my opinions have any relevance for your eating desires–

“Places I love” are a combination of great food, nice service, excellent atmosphere, and decent location. If a place is really hard to get to but has awesome food, it’s probably in the “like” category. I hate stuffy service (white linens) and also get turned off by too-cool folks. I prefer small plates and sharing to giant eat-yourself entrees. I love all types of drink lists – good beers, good wines, fun cocktails. I don’t mind paying a lot for a good meal, but I hate overpriced average food. I don’t mind a long wait, if I’m mentally prepared. I do, however, like reservations. I’m a planner. For pizza, it needs to be artisan or New York style. Oh and most importantly – there would never, EVER, be a restaurant on my list that makes you hold onto your silverware between dishes/courses. I HATE that.

As for places that “underwhelm,” let me explain. These aren’t places I hate. They’re places (for the most part) I actually like. They’re just places that others rave about and I don’t really buy the hype. But, to each his own.

Ask questions, please. And certainly feel free to disagree. I like a debate.

Poppy (Capitol Hill)
Anchovies and Olives (Capitol Hill)
How to Cook a Wolf (Queen Anne)
Quinn’s (Capitol Hill)
Via Tribunali (Capitol Hill & 4 other locations)
Sitka and Spruce (Capitol Hill/Downtown)
Volunteer Park Café (Capitol Hill)
Brad’s Swingside Café (Fremont)
Delancey (Ballard)
Chiso (Fremont)
Geraldine’s (Columbia City)
Nettletown (Eastlake)
Salumi (Downtown/ID)
Dahlia Lounge (Downtown)
Umi Sushi (Belltown)
Cichetti (Eastlake)
Dad Watson’s (Fremont)
Silent Heart Nest (Fremont)
Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 (Bellevue)

Sushi Kappo Tamura (Eastlake)
Tilth (Wallingford)
La Spiga (Capitol Hill)
Tilikum Place Café (Seattle Center)
tidbit (Capitol Hill)
35th Street Bistro (Fremont)
Homegrown (Fremont, Queen Anne)
Paseo (Fremont)
The Shelter Lounge (Ballard)
ocho (Ballard)
King’s Hardware (Ballard)
Spur Gastropub (Belltown)
Branzino (Downtown/Belltown)
Flying Fish (South Lake Union)
Monsoon (Capitol Hill)
Dinette (Capitol Hill)
Tavolata (Belltown)
Matt’s In the Market (Pike Place)
Serious Pie (Downtown & SLU)
Lola (Downtown)
Tutta Bella (Westlake, Wallingford, Columbia City)

Canlis (Queen Anne)
Kingfish Café (Capitol Hill)
Toulouse Petit (Queen Anne)
Jade Garden (ID)
Bastille (Ballard)
Portage Bay Café (SLU, U-District, Ballard)

MUST TRY SOON {dinners}
The Corson Building (Georgetown)
Serafina (Eastlake)
Re:public (South Lake Union)
Café Flora (Madison Valley)
Madison Park Conservatory (Madison Park)
June (Madrona)
Cascina Spinasse (Capitol Hill)
Boat Street Café (Capitol Hill)
La Bête (Capitol Hill)
Tamarind Tree (ID)
Lark (First Hill)
Mistral Kitchen (Downtown/Belltown) [tried 2/11/11]
Local 360 (Belltown)
Lecosho (Harbor Steps)
Joule (Wallingford)
Elemental (Gasworks)
Art of the Table (Fremont)
emmer&rye (Queen Anne) [went 2/15/11]
The Book Bindery (Queen Anne)
Staple and Fancy (Ballard)
The Walrus and the Carpenter (Ballard)
Spring Hill (West Seattle)

MUST TRY SOON {drinks | small plates | casual | brunch | lunch}
Seatown Snack Bar (Pike Place) [went 3/11/11]
Delicatus (Pioneer Square) [went 3/26/11]
Verve (Columbia City)
Sutra (Wallingford – Vegan)
Licorous (Seattle U)
Harvest Vine (Madison Park)
Bisato (Downtown/waterfront)
Uneeda Burger (Fremont)
moshi moshi (Ballard)
Lunchbox Laboratory (South Lake Union)
La Carta de Oaxaca (Ballard) [went 3/12/11]
Flying Squirrel Pizza (Ballard, Seward Park)