meeting my newest seattle friend

I made a quick trip to Seattle last month to see my dear friend Megan and meet her 5-week old baby boy.

As cheesy as it sounds, Seattle clings tight to a piece of my heart. As soon as the plane landed on the tarmac, surrounded by clouds and drizzle, tears came to my eyes. I was there less than 48 hours, but we packed a lot in. Most importantly, I spent a lot of quality time with Megan, her husband Sean, and the cute newcomer to their family.

img_4981^^after touching down at seatac, i took the light rail (for just $2.75!) downtown, and then walked up to capitol hill. i had to hit up my favorite coffee shop, victrola, before uber-ing to megan’s ‘hood: madison park.^^

img_4997^^baby william! so happy to meet him! what expressions he has at such a young age. no surprise, though, given how cool and animated his parents are.^^

img_4985^^baby william, his parents, our friend shannon, and i all went to anchovies & olives for a delicious dinner, and then ended the night with dessert, conversation, and baby bouncing at cupcake royale.^^

img_4988^^gorgeous saturday morning light in madison park.^^

img_4999^^beautiful new mama rocking the best baby carrier eva.^^

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img_5005^^obviously, going to mighty-o donuts was a must. conveniently, they’ve open a new shop in ballard, which was another spot i wanted to visit. we spent saturday afternoon walking around and checking out new and old spots, happily full of donuts.^^

img_5013^^had to stop at golden gardens for a quick walk along the beach. // as the sun set, we went back to madison park and cooked salmon and vegetables for dinner. we talked parenting and baby carriers and life. we reminisced about the fun we had as twenty-somethings in fremont and capitol hill. we were too busy talking to take any pictures. it was just lovely.^^

img_5030^^a quick shot after a great breakfast at geraldine’s before i headed back to the airport. thank you SO MUCH for the wonderful weekend, megan!^^

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a donut desert in denver

When we moved to Denver, I knew I would miss so much about the city of Seattle. Not so much the rain and the grey (although I actually do really miss that sometimes!) but lots of other things. One thing I didn’t anticipate missing, however, was donuts. Artisan donuts. To get even more specific, vegan donuts. Basically, Mighty-O Donuts.

Before moving to Seattle, I’d always liked a sweet baked good, but I’d never really dabbled in the donut scene beyond a Dunkin’ Donut or a Krispy Kreme (why so much alliteration in the donut world, btw?). But on a cool, rainy, Seattle morning, there’s really nothing like a donut and a coffee to get you going. Mighty-O is where all my loyalties lie, but the city’s other big purveyor, Top Pot, is pretty much just as delicious. We’d frequently stop by one or the other for donuts on our way to a hike or a walk or a ski trip.

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Then we moved to Denver. A donut desert. There were great restaurants to be enjoyed, craft beers galore, and sufficiently (although not exceptionally) delicious cupcakes. But where could a girl get a donut? No where, it seemed. I asked around, and most people didn’t even understand my need for a fancy round treat.

Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking (Voodoo!). There are exceptions to this complaint. Mighty-O sells their donuts in a few Whole Foods. (Not all of them though, so it took a lot of asking and hunting. Cherry Creek is your best bet.) Voodoo Doughnuts opened on Colfax earlier this year. And another place joined the donut game as well: Glazed and Confuzed. It’s a bit of a haul from our ‘hood, but we made the trek last weekend to see what they were serving up.

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Unfortunately, despite the excitement shown in the above photo, I’m still left missing “Seattle-style” donuts. I’m hard to please, I guess. Voodoo, Glazed and Confuzed, and others certainly make delicious donuts. But here’s why I’m still not satisfied:

1. High-quality ingredients vs. Wow Factor
The craziest donut you’ll find at Mighty-O is something like chocolate raspberry. They make delicious and unique flavors, but they’re all pretty tame. French Toast is one of their standbys. This means whatever you choose for your breakfast treat will be indulgent and sweet, but not overly so. You (most likely) won’t feel ill. I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, but because Mighty-O uses only vegan (+ non-GMO) ingredients, their donuts are never going to be as over the top as Voodoo’s. Same goes for Top Pot. Their donut case has shades of browns and beiges. Not so much a rainbow. And that’s just fine with me.

2. Coffee. Maybe this is another Seattle vs. Denver thing, but both Mighty-O and Top Pot offer stellar coffee alongside their donuts. (I’m talking about a full-service espresso bar that uses locally roasted beans. Not a thermos with some random variety drip.) It seems like a no-brainer. Does anything go better with a donut than coffee?

3. Cake vs. Yeasted
Which type is your favorite? I’m with cake, all the way. And that’s what Mighty-O and Top Pot do well. They usually have a couple yeasted options, but not too many. Voodoo and Glazed and Confuzed on the other hand, offer up several yeasted varieties.

4. Lines. This is where only Voodoo fails. I don’t even want to get started because I might not be able to stop. I have a serious problem with the omnipresence of the line outside all (most?) of their stores. Sure, there’s a long wait when something new and exciting opens. But months and months later, the line is just evidence that you’re not doing something right. You need a more visible menu! And perhaps you should carry a few less varieties at a time so people can order more quickly! Or staff some more people!

Ok. I have to cut myself off. From this post, that is, not from continuing to demand what I think is a better donut. It must be coming? It exists in so many cities. Come on, Denver, make me proud.

vashon island

When we were in Seattle last month, a main stop on my itinerary was Vashon Island to visit my dear friend Brenna and her family. They’d moved out to Vashon after we left Seattle, and I’d never otherwise made the trip, so Vashon was a total mystery to me. (Ok, “total” is probably an exaggeration, since I’d heard lots about it from Brenna and others, but I was still very excited to check it out.) Brenna’s daughter is the same age as Willa, and we were so happy they’d have a chance to play together for a couple days.

Vashon was beautiful. The island itself, and in particular my friends’ house, made me feel like life had slowed down. Everything felt calmer. Quieter. More relaxed. It was lovely. I was super excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest. So green! Moss! Trees and flowers of all types! Friends and fresh air are quite rejuvenating.

DSC03162^^ferry riding^^

DSC03177 DSC03166^^coffee, pastries, and steamed milks @ the vashon island coffee roasterie. it was the birthplace of seattle’s best coffee. and they now “specialize in heirloom coffee.” (i love seattle.)^^

DSC03215 DSC03253 DSC03272^^just look at all that green! don’t you feel more relaxed?^^

DSC03187 DSC03188 DSC03201 DSC03186^^around town. we had the most fabulous lunch at snapdragon. it was so hard to pick our sweet treats; such options! and, how cute are the little ladies?^^

DSC03227 DSC03265^^beach time. breakfast time.^^

DSC03279 DSC03281^^this is what trying to do a self-timer shot with two toddlers looks like.^^

Thanks for everything, Brenna!

girls’ trip to seattle

Where oh where has the last month gone? It was just April, but now May is nearing it’s end?

Things have been happening. Lots of doing. Lots of comings and goings. Lots of sleeping.

Perhaps most exciting of those things was a trip to Seattle during the last week of April. My mom, Willa, and I flew out to the sunny PNW for a week. (Yep, it was mostly sunny!) The goals were pretty simple: food, fun, family, and friends. We accomplished pretty much all of that, and more. It was wonderful visiting some of our favorite places and showing them to Willa for the first time. Not to mention it was fantastic having my mom’s help with Willa because, in case you didn’t know, traveling with a toddler is exhausting. Thanks mom!

DSC03138^^greens and blues. really nothing won’t grow in seattle.^^

DSC03143^^seattle: where even the highchairs are hip. (@ skillet diner)^^

DSC03293^^brunch at café presse on capitol hill^^

DSC03305^^BFF. dressed up. lake washington views.^^

DSC03322^^ladies who love seattle. and each other.^^

DSC03329^^i love denver. but there are no views like this in colorado.^^

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DSC03390^^afternoon at the aquarium.^^

DSC03397 DSC03399DSC03408^^din tai fung, u-village. where i learned that not only do they have the best XLB ever, they also have the best kids’ plates ever. but they are not for sale. i asked.^^

Check out more Seattle posts here, as well as my Seattle restaurant list!

the source

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A couple of years ago in Seattle, Melrose Market opened on Capitol Hill. It was pretty darn awesome, but not that notably unique for Seattle’s food scene. Several food purveyors and restaurateurs devoted to all things artisanal opened up in a building that was formerly an auto-repair shop. Locally-focused, trendy, and so Seattle, I of course loved it. My favorite Seattle restaurant, Sitka & Spruce was one of the main features of the market (it’d relocated from its previous space by Lake Union), and Dan and I went there for our first night out after Willa was born.

Since moving to Denver, I’ve missed Seattle’s food culture. And places like Melrose Market. But Denver continues to surprise me, and months ago I was estatic to hear news of The Source. When I read about the project, I knew it’d be very similiar to Melrose. I’ve been dying to check it out for the past few months, and I finally got there the other day. My sister was still in town (which was awesome) and I thought The Source would be a fun place to spend a few hours. And thankfully, but not surprisingly, it was.

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The Source does, indeed, have all the same fantastic traits as Melrose, but with a Denver flair. In a converted factory building– it’s BIG. There’s apparently room for 25 vendors, but the dozen or so that currently occupy the space already offer up a great deal. It was kind of an amusment park for people who love food. Coffee! Fresh bread! Meats! Beer! Kombucha! All local. All delicious. And actually, shockingly, all reasonably priced.

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RESTAURANTS+DRINKS
Comida Cantina
Acorn
CapRock Farm Bar
Crooked Stave

COFFEE
Boxcar Roasters

ARTISAN FOODS etc.
Mondo Market
Americanum Provisions
Proper Pour
Meathead
Beet and Yarrow

ART+GOODS
Svper Ordinary

DSC01646DSC01649^^lunch at acorn^^

DSC01662^^high five from the butcher!^^

DSC01654 DSC01673^^these photos make me so happy. it was such a lovely morning; family and food. good times. we’ll definitely be back. often.^^

november + december

I’m sure I’m just one of a million people who is saying to themselves, “Hey, it’s a new year. I should blog more.” However, I’m not sure the lull in my blogging had much to do with the specific dates. Mostly, I haven’t written much because November and December of last year got a bit hectic. There was a lot going on in our lives…several trips, dramatic changes to the daily routine, and as a result, not much cooking.

The months were not without culinary highlights though. Looking back through pictures (my culinary memory), I recollect a lot of satiating eating experiences. So, before I, like so many others out there, refocus my efforts on posting more in 2012, I want to document a few highlights from the last months of 2011:

Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu. After a trip to Uwajimaya to stock my Asian pantry, I made this relatively straightforward tofu recipe. The pepper was intense, but in a good way. Incredibly rich and flavorful, this dish is fancy enough to shine as a weekend meal for sure.


Serious Biscuit.
 
Before they changed their name from Dahlia Workshop, we made our way down to South Lake Union on a sunny weekend morning to try Tom Douglas’s latest breakfast joint. The breakfast sandwiches finally filled the void in my life that has been vacant since we left the driving radius of Middlebury’s Bagel Deli. The biscuit is of course a much different medium than the bagel, but the enjoyment factor was in the same ballpark. I’d recommend steering clear of the “holy cow i feel ill”-inducing options such as fried chicken with tabasco black pepper gravy, and instead going with something more simple, like the fennel sausage and egg with pepper relish and fontina. But then again, who am I to say what your weekend morning might call for.

Pecan Pie. This Thanksgiving, for the first time, I added a third slice of pie to my already crowded dessert plate: chocolate pecan. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing for so long! And then, at a delightful holiday party around Christmas, the hosts served me my second pecan pie. It totally hit the spot again. Although I have to say I would have switched the pies if possible. I think a delicate, slightly sweet pecan pie is great alongside pumpkin and apple, whereas the chocolate pecan stands out solo. My friend Leigh shared a recipe for the latter which I can’t wait to have the occasion to bake.

Delancey. When I turned 28 in November, I was lucky enough to gather ten of my closest friends for a dinner at Seattle’s best artisan pizza joint. The best part about having a party of 11? Making a reservation! They only take reservations for parties of 6+, and without one the wait is still usually 2 hours, even years after their opening. We kept the ordering simple: one of each pizza on the menu. The crimini was my favorite as always, but everything was sensational. I love that place. Orangette was even in the house – I decided to pretend she knew it was my birthday and was nearby to celebrate. Yeah right.

Euclid Hall. On an early December trip to Denver, we wanted to try some of the region’s famous microbrews. And of course one can’t just drink a high-quality beer solo. Delicious gastropub fare alongside is often our requirement. Thankfully, a quick internet led us to Euclid Hall, ranked by Esquire magazine as having one of the top ten beer menus in the country. The beer list was indeed impressive: great selections on tap, and a bottle list organized by increasing complexity by mathematic terms.

The food didn’t disappoint either. We had wild mushroom poutine with porcini gravy and Wisconsin cheddar curds, a double decker chicken schnitzel sandwich on dill rye with aioli and apple cabbage caraway slaw, and some “hot, spicy and very sincere pickles” on the side. Based on this restaurant and our lunch at Masterpiece Delicatessen, I was quite encouraged by Denver’s food scene.

specialty items

Last month, I was at Pike Place Market with my dear friend Katie. It was her first visit to Seattle, and after showing her the flying fish, the first Starbucks, and all the amazing food vendors, I paused on the cobblestone street and said, “I just need to grab something from this Indian grocer.” I quickly strode into The Souk and found what I was looking for: black mustard seeds. After paying a couple dollars, I reconvened with Katie outside the store, and she commented, “I don’t think I’ll ever cook anything that calls for a spice that’s not available at a regular supermarket.”

Katie’s comment got me thinking. Trips to multiple markets = delightful or aggravating? Certainly it depends on the person. But me? I’ve never met a market I didn’t love. Just yesterday I went to three groceries before noon (no way am I buying romaine hearts at Fred Meyer for $2.99 when they’re $1.99 at Trader Joe’s!). And markets that carry specialty items are the best. Many agree with me, obviously. But several fall into the other camp, usually sticking to the standard spices and ingredients. And then there’s actually a third camp, which I sometimes fall into. This is those of us who love using special ingredients, but often don’t have what we need on hand and decide to make the recipe anyway, hoping it’ll turn out okay. Sometimes it does, but often it doesn’t. So from the me who went into The Souk that day to get the mustard seeds, here’s my reccomendation:

Step 1: Find a recipe that calls for something you’ve never heard of.
Step 2: Google the ingredient so you understand how it’s sold in the U.S. and what you’re looking for once you get to the store. (Be sure to check if it has any alternate names in English.)
Step 3: Find a store.
Step 4: Make the trip, even if it takes some effort.
Step 5: Cook the recipe and be prepared to have your taste buds amazed.

For inspiration, here are a few of my favorite recipes that call for ingredients not available at most “regular” stores.

Cucumber Peanut Salad 101 Cookbooks
This is the salad that calls for black mustard seeds. It’s very easy to make, minus the chopping of the cukes, and the cheapness of the ingredients makes up for the effort you have to make to get the mustard seeds!

Pasta with Mustard Greens Pesto, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Smoked Mozzarella Bon Appétit
This recipe is borderline. It’s very possible to find all the ingredients in a standard grocery, and definitely at Whole Foods, but there are still some specialty ingredients that are necessary to make this recipe as written. And if you’re not going to try it as written, you shouldn’t bother. The smoked mozzarella and shiitake mushrooms are a must.

Palak Daal 101 Cookbooks
The first few times I made this I couldn’t find urad dal anywhere, so I substituted chana dal and brown lentils. And the dal was good. But when I finally found urad dal at an Indian grocer, I was delighted by how improved this dish was.

Laarb (Thai chicken “salad”) Mark Bittman’s “The Best Recipes in the World”
Laarb (Laab, Larb) could very well be my favorite dish in the entire world. It’s a Laotian dish made with meat, fresh herbs, fish sauce, and lime juice. It’s usually served with cabbage and other fresh vegetables. Ground toasted rice is an important component of the dish. It’s not too hard to make, but you do need to stock your pantry with some specific ingredients from Asian grocery stores.

Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce  Saveur
Shout out to Rachel who told me I had to try this recipe. It fit well with a weekend trip to Pike Place, where we picked up salmon and mustard powder. I think it would work well with other fish besides salmon. Serve with some yummy basmati rice.