jury duty

I had jury duty yesterday. This was only a significant event because of the mere fact I freaked out about it. I’m not sure why I made such a big deal of it, it just made me pretty anxious. It all turned out fine; I was dismissed. How does this relate to food you ask? Well, here’s the thing: once I was dismissed, I surfaced from my anxiousness and disillusioned civic-mindedness, and realized it was a weekday during the day. And I was downtown. Right by the library.

I went in, and immediately inquired about the whereabouts of the cookbook section. An elevator ride and a few laps around the “book spiral” later, I was surrounded by culinary masterpieces aplenty. Where to start? I quickly grabbed Spice by Ana Sortun. I’ve been dying to cook one of these recipes since I went to her bakery Sofra in Boston a month or so back with my dear friend Rachel. Sortun is best known for her restaurant Orleana, which I have not had the fortune to eat at. Yet. Someday I will. Rachel tells me it’s divine, and based on the deliciousness of Sofra, I’m fully convinced it’s be a magical eating experience.

At Sofra, I was dying to try the Shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato with curry and pita crumb) but the crowd was too intense for sit down food, so we got pastries and coffee and ate in the winter wind on the patio. It was very French, we thought. We hadn’t had our fill though, so we went back in and bought some treats for lunch. We selected some savory bread seasoned with za’atar as well as beet tzatziki and muhammara. I also snagged some cocoa spiced hazelnuts as a souvenir. Those were totally worth the $12 price tag. Honestly.

With Spice in hand last night, I set to work making beet tzatziki and prosciutto with fennel and blood oranges. The light, fresh flavor of the fennel and blood orange complimented the prosciutto perfectly. I used golden beets for my tzatziki, but they were still quite tasty. It was easy to prep, and all in all a perfect  meal to enjoy with a glass of white wine (since it’s almost spring) and relax away the stresses of the week.

[I also snagged two other equally exciting cookbooks. A16 Food + Wine (from the restaurant with the same name), and the olive and the caper. I’ll dive into those soon. Sometime before their 4/15 due date…]

P.S. – Best excuse for why jury duty would be a “hardship:” Um, I have plans to travel to London, England for the Royal Wedding.

bainbridge island

In our nearly three years in Seattle, we’ve been lucky enough to have a good number of loved ones come visit. One of my go-to activities is to take the ferry from downtown to Bainbridge Island for brunch. I love grabbing a coffee at Starbucks on the corner of 1st & Marion before walking down the walkway to the terminal, buying a $5 round trip ticket from the electronic kiosk and then walking aboard the ferry. The views of downtown never disappoint, and within 35 minutes (just about the time you realize you’re freezing), the boat docks. After disembarking (I love that word, fyi.), it’s a short 5 minute walk into the town of Winslow, where all the stores and restaurants are easily accessibly along Winslow Way for browsing and strolling.
But the thing is, if it’s a weekend, and you’re heading to Cafe Nola, which is where you’d be crazy not to be heading, chances are you’re not the only one. Awhile back, Giada De Laurentiis did a weekend guide of where to eat in Seattle on the Food Network. To be fair, she’s the one that deserves the credit for the brilliant Bainbridge Island brunch trip. But, anyway, whether it’s because of Giada or just good marketing and word of mouth, lots of Seattleites head to Cafe Nola for brunch. So when you get off the ferry you have to hustle. I invariably am annoying my companions by insisting we speed walk. “Hurry!” They always thank me. Because we get to Cafe Nola and get one of the last open tables, and we’re enjoying our amazing bloody marys while the other suckers are loitering in the entryway waiting for a table.
Brunch at Cafe Nola is devine. Their bloody marys are fantastic; the kind with a garden growing upwards out of them. They have different variations to choose from too, like one with beef juice dripped in. I always go classic though. And as far as food goes, it’s all good. But the must-order here is the Carmel Pecan French Toast. It is life changing. I promise. It comes with orange bourbon butter. Don’t waste any time being indecisive. Just order it. You won’t be disappointed. Especially after running from the ferry dock.

This past week, my dearest friend Alli was in town for a visit. We really wanted to take a ferry somewhere, so Bainbridge was the natural choice. But, it wasn’t the weekend. That meant having brunch at Cafe Nola was not an option. We decided to head there anyway (not walking as fast off the ferry though), and arrived around 2pm. Our friendly waitress popped up to our booth with “Hi! Would you like a Guiness!?” Huh? “In honor of St. Patrick’s Day!” Oh. No thanks. We instead looked at the menu. $1 PBRs!!?! You’re kidding me. “You basically lose money if you don’t order one,” advises our server. We’ll have two.
Lunch food was delicious. We had an arugula salad with roasted squash, blue cheese, and lemon caper vinaigrette accompanied by the more indulgent bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates. Yum. But the real clincher was the $1 PBRs. It wasn’t like they brought out the can from the back room. They poured them into the coolest high ball glasses. (It kind of made me want to get some of the same glasses. Until Alli reminded me I have way too many glasses already.) Duly noted: lunch at Cafe Nola is just as amazing as brunch.

Another advantage to the afternoon trip to Bainbridge, we discovered, is wine tasting. Apparently Bainbridge has a growing wine scene, with 8 wineries on the island. We ventured into eleven, where the friendly sommelier Kevin got our tasting started. There are a few other tasting rooms within steps of the ferry (see this guide from Sunset magazine) and I’m sure they’re all nice, but I recommend eleven. The wine was impressive, the prices reasonable, and Kevin provided fantastic service.

We opted to taste all 9 of the available wines (at $1 a taste, why not?!). We sipped away while Kevin told us about the winery, where they source their grapes (all from Eastern Washington except those that make their Pinot Gris port), and life living on Bainbridge. The wine was really good. My favorites were their Pinot Grigio and a red blend called La Ronde (65% Malbec, 28% Syrah, and 7% Petit Verdot). Alli treated me to a bottle of the Pinot Grigio and I bought a bottle of the Sweet Sarah port, so we have two bottles of Bainbridge wine to enjoy at some point this spring.
Moral of the story is this: if you live in Seattle or come to Seattle, make the day trip to Bainbridge Island. While there, eat at Cafe Nola. After some delicious fare, there are many other fun things to explore – one of which is wine tasting!


top o’ the morning to ya

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching, and unlike other years, this year I actually have Ireland on my mind a little bit. It started a few weeks back when I was running with my dog, Bryna, and we passed an affable middle-aged man who burst out with, “Top o’ the morning to ya!” At first I was confused. Then, I realized, he was trying to talk like an Irishman. Bryna’s an Irish Setter. Her name is Irish/Gaelic. I found it on a name website after the name we’d picked for her didn’t quite fit the day we met her.
Bryna likes cool rainy weather. Not too hot, not too cold. We like to imagine it’s because of her Irish roots. Even thought she’s actually from Ohio. Turns out I’m very much from Ohio as well: I’ve been pretty obsessed with Ancestry.com recently. It all stemmed from the recent Top Chef episode when genealogists compiled binders on each cheftestant’s family roots, and they then cooked a dish inspired by their heritage. So we decided to look into our heritage. My family goes back generations in Ohio. A little bit in Pennsylvania and New Jersey too. My goal has been to trace things back to Europe. I’ve gotten there with a few relatives – found my way back to Baden-Baden in Germany, France, and Ireland. I didn’t know I had Irish roots. Although I do have reddish hair…

Anyway, the dog, ancestry, and upcoming holiday inspired me to cook something Irish. It was also partly thanks to an unknown colleague who printed a recipe for Irish Soda Bread on our work printer. It looked delicious. So I did some Googleing, and found the recipe. It was from Smitten Kitchen. She adapted it from New York Times. And so I adapted from both. It has made the weekend. Which has been pretty rainy and cool. Not cold though. Kind of like I imagine Ireland to be. Bryna likes it.

Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from NYT.
Yield: 1 10-inch round loaf.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
scant 2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk (whole milk + 1T lemon juice)
2 eggs, well beaten
~2 cups raisins
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1. In a bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder & soda, and salt. In another bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Then add two eggs and butter and whisk until combined.

2. Grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet and line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350.

3. Pour wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds.

4. Pour batter into skillet. Bake until toothpick comes out clean and top is golden. 50 minutes to an hour. Cool before slicing. And if you’re picky like me be sure to cut into slices, not wedges. Wedges are for cake. Slices are for soda bread.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day week.