Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vessel: An Unexpected Juxtaposition

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So, last Saturday I went to Vessel (1312- 5th Avenue, Seattle WA 98101 and http://www.vesselseattle.com/). I have been there several times before and I am always VERY impressed with both the ambiance and food at this lovely little wine bar.

The decor at this bar is nothing short of fabulous: modern, expensive and swanky. Lime green walls, fancy black and white wall paper, leather ottomans, ghost chairs and Bertoia style chairs at the bar. There is also a window bar area where you can sip your drink and watch the traffic on Fifth Avenue . . . like you are a live mannequin. Sexy. Did I mention that when you step in here you look like you travel with your own personal lighting crew? Always a plus, it is wonderful to look fantastic when you are visiting a place to see and be seen.

Here is the interesting twist: in this super mod world all the cocktails and small plates come out of the era epitomized by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, 1930s chic. The cocktails have titles like: Aviator, Rubicon and Cablegram. The cocktails are made with bitters made in house and premium liquor . . . delicious. In addition to great cocktails they also have rare wines from around the world, including some wines available in half bottles which give you about 2 and a half glasses of wine for the prices of 1 and a half glasses-- can't go wrong with that kind of a bargain.

The food is the reason I keep coming back to Vessel. Oh. My. God. The truffle oil mac and cheese (picture above), one word: amazing. There is plenty of other stuff on the menu . . . pot pie with ratatouille, etc. However, if you go to Vessel you MUST order the Mac and Cheese. It is a gourmet twist on a classic and it absolutely the best in Seattle, bar none.

On December 5th Vessel is throwing a party to celebrate "Repeal Day" . . . discount cocktails and food. Anyone interested in coming with me to sample drinks from a Casablanca-esque drink menu and the best mac and cheese ever???

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Melting Pot has Nothing on Miss T

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How did I spend my Election Evening? Well, I spent it drowning in a pot of comfort food, while watching Obama's landslide victory over John McCain. I went to the best fondue place in Seattle . . . well its actually on Mercer Island. I brought a granny smith apple, roasted garlic bread and a bottle of pinot grigio with me, because this time it was Tiffany's turn to cook yummy food for me (hooray!).

I don't know how she does it but without fail the girl can turn gruyere cheese (3 types of it actually), garlic, fume blanc, brandy and nutmeg into melted deliciousness in about half an hour. My only job is to cut up the bread and the apple and uncork the wine-- quite the fair 'trade agreement' if you ask me. Her fondue is actually WAY better than the infamous Melting Pot. I kid you not. I recently went on a business trip to Spokane (or Spo-Kompton as some people like to call it) and went to the Melting Pot over there for a lonely fondue pot for one. Not only was the company bad (me, myself and I) but the food left a LOT to be desired after being spoiled by Miss Tiffany's fondue.

So, if you are ever in town visiting me and I ask you if you want to go to Tiff's for dinner . . . say yes, because its worth it!

Monday, November 3, 2008

$50 GG Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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So this weekend I was not feeling so wonderful (emotionally or physically), so I decided that I would have a low-key Halloween and make some comfort food. I had recently read one of my bazillion magazines that I get every month and it had a bunch of places to buy truffle oil and truffle butter-- you know-- those lovely 'infused' oils with the essence of the $2,000/ounce rare mushrooms. I decided to go buy some truffle oil ($24 at Williams Sonoma) and do research on the internet for the best truffle oiled grilled cheese sandwich, mostly because I had no idea what type of cheese to use. After a few google searches I found the $50 Gossip Girl Grilled Cheese. Now, embarrassing as it is, I love that tween-dramedy and suddenly I remembered the scene where they ate these lovely, decadent treats. I decided that THIS was the recipe I had to try out. So, I called up Tiffany, told her I was coming over armed with cheese (cheese is pretty much her kryptonite), and cooking her dinner.

I went to the store and purchased: fontina cheese, the QFC roasted garlic bread (which, btw is fantastic) and truffle oil. Now, in Gossip Girl the sandwiches actually have shaved truffles on them, but I don't even know where a commoner like me can purchase such an expensive piece of fungus, so I substituted the actually truffles with the WS truffle oil. I was also a little annoyed because I had done some research on fontina cheese and apparently it is an Italian cheese, which is nutty like gruyere, but more pungent as it ages (marked with a darker rind). Fontina cheese is also made in Denmark, but the Denmark fontina is supposed to be something of a knock off and not as yummy. Unfortunately, all I could find was a batch of Denmark's finest (boo) and nothing from Italy. I think I might need to go to a specialty cheese store to find the Italian stuff, but I had no time, so the Denmark fontina had to do.

I went to Tiff's and invaded her kitchen (which is MUCH larger than mine). I sliced the bread and the cheese, and layered the cheese on the bread. Then I brushed the inside of the other piece of bread with truffle oil using a pastry brush. Then on the exterior of both pieces of bread I spread on sweet cream (unsalted) butter. I grilled the sandwich with even more sweet cream butter and truffle oil in a skillet. Two minutes later . . . voila . . . a FABULOUS $50 Gossip Girl grilled cheese sandwich!!

Tiff and I both thought that they were little pieces of heaven (they even SMELLED savory), but of course we both started thinking of other stuff we could add. We came up with pieces of turkey after Thanksgiving and a mixture dungeness crab meat with artichokes. Something tells me I have a lot of fatty cheese in my future, but hey, eating fatty foods is okay on weekends, right???

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Have A Crush on Crush

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So, last night Matt and I went to Crush (2319 E. Madison) in Seattle. I have been wanting to go to this restaurant for a little over a year now and I keep reading rave reviews about the chef and the restaurant itself. When you see the restaurant from the street it doesn't look like much. It is a converted mansion in a residental area of Capitol Hill, and if you aren't looking for the it, chances are that you will drive right by it and not even notice it. However, when you walk into the restaurant your expectations are immediately heightend. The furniture is all white, super modern and chic, plus the lighting is oh-so-flattering and it smells awesome. There is an upstairs and downstairs section. We walked in and the hostess led us upstairs to a white leather booth lit by lime green votive candle holders (if you know me, you know that I currently have an obession with all things lime green).

I had been eyeballing the menu on-line all week (http://www.chefjasonwilson.com/) and I knew I wanted the lobster and a glass of chardonnay. We ordered the potato gnocchi for an appetizer-- it was totally delicious! Gruyere cheese, mushrooms and truffle oil over perfect little potato gnocchi. I was in heaven, plus the bread that they brought out was super good as well. Then came the main courses. I ordered the lobster and Matt ordered the chicken.

I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in the lobster. The flavors of the dish were amazing (more gruyere cheese too . . . yum!) but the lobster was not as fresh as I would have expected. Perhaps I have gotten spoiled living in the Northwest and all, but when I order seafood I HATE it if it tastes "fishy" at all. The lobster was a tad bit fishy for me. I was very sad. Overall the dish was great and if the lobster had been a bit fresher I would have given it an A+. The tangerines in the pasta were a wonderful idea and went great with the lobster.

Then we ordered more wine and asked for the check. When the check came the waitress also brought a selection of truffle chocolates on a plate that had "Happy Birthday" drizzled across it in chocolate. I had told her that it was his birthday when I made the reservation and they must have made a note of it, because I didn't have to say anything while we were there. Plus, they didn't charge us for the dessert . . . even better!

The food was great and the atmosphere was very, very sexy and hip. I was very impressed and I felt like the food was worth the money.The menu changes seasonally and I will definitely go back again to try what they might have for winter . . . and spring . . . and summer.

So, if you're ever hungry in Capitol Hill and have a few extra bucks to blow. Head up Madison and go to Crush.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ebelskiver Pancakes

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As you may or may not know, I am slightly obsessed with Williams Sonoma and all of their wonderful cooking gadgets. A few weekends ago I went and purchased an ebelskiver pan (and an AWESOME, top of the line cheese grater, but that is a whole other story). Ebelskiver pancakes are dutch pancakes that are round, fluffy and usually stuffed with something yummy. I had seen the pan in the catalog with some apple cinnamon filled delights and I had to go buy it.

I went to the store and bought all of the ingredients, including some canned apple pie filling because I was too hungry to think about making THAT from scratch at the time. I went home and started preparing the batter . . . thinking it would be a relatively simple process. I was wrong. As it turns out, ebelskivers are so light and fluffy because the cook has to separate out the egg whites from the egg yolks and whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until they are a meringue consistency and THEN mix the delicate egg white mixture in carefully with the rest of the batter. It took me about 30 minutes to prepare the batter alone. Then, the fun part started: cooking the little things. They cooked quickly and turned easily using toothpicks ( I am super anal about NOT ruining my non-stick surfaces).

I pulled out the first batch, layered on some powdered sugar and maple syrup and gave it to my friend to try . . . dun dun dun . . . he loved them! Hooray! I made another batch and tried them myself, I was less than impressed. They were good, but I think they could have been SO much better with a filling made from scratch. So, I went online and found lots of new fillings to try: raspberry, lemon mascarpone, chocolate . . . I am excited to try out my new pan again, but with more time and a filling from scratch.

I don't think I will be able to try this weekend because I am just too busy trying to finish my painting project and heading back to Gig Harbor to meet up with friends. Once I do try again I will post how it went . . . and if it is actually good . . . maybe a recipe too!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Seattle's Best . . . Crab Cakes?

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So, for a fair number of years now I have been on a very serious search for Seattle’s best crab cake. It sounds lame, I know, but my mind has always boggled at the fact that some crab cakes are like divine ambrosia and others are disgusting, inedible swill. I make a fantastic crab cake myself, but I rarely make them because it requires a trip to Pike Place to buy the freshest possible crab, overheating (and stinking up) my apartment with steam from boiling a 12 quart pot and 2 HOURS of shelling the damn things—they are fantastic but I work full time and making them often just is not practical.

Anyway, I have visited many of Seattle’s restaurants (both low and high end) to try their crab cakes. Here are some of my more noteworthy findings (ratings are based on a scale of 5):

67 at the Edgewater score 2.5
A single crab cake is $18 at the Edgewater, with its lovely view and swanky atmosphere. However, I would have to say that the crab cake is NOT worth the price. The crab cakes are made using jumbo lump meat and some kind of odd cream based, whipped up crap that holds the cake together—this results in a rubbery, unpleasant texture that is interrupted by a lump of meat every now and again. The flavor was great, but the texture was horrible. If you do go to the Edgewater order the salmon. Oh.My.God.
Edgewater: 2411 Alaskan Way, Pier 67, Seattle, WA 98121

Anthony’s score 3
The crab cakes aren’t too outrageously expensive and are worth the price. They aren’t incredibly flavorful and the sauce is much too buttery—they may as well serve the things with a stick of butter and not bother calling it a sauce. Every once in a while I have found a piece of shell in my crab cake as well—which is unpleasant.
Anthony's: 6135 Seaview Avenue NW, Seattle, WA 98107

Icon Grill score 3.5
To be fair, these crab cakes are a crab/salmon hybrid, but they are delicious. They are fairly priced and you can get them in the bar at happy hour. They go great with a chardonnay and have a flavorful sauce.
Icon Grill: 1933 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101

Matador score 1
I will NEVER eat a crab cake at the Matador again because my mouth was on fire for 4 hours after I left! I enjoy a little spice as much as the next girl, but this was eye popping, painful spice. It’s my fault really; I didn’t read the menu closely enough and overlooked the fact that the crab cakes had habenero pepper in them. I will say that despite the fact that my mouth was en fuego the crab cakes came with a fantastic sweet coconut sauce that was meant to compliment the spice. If the crab cakes were half as spicy they would have been fantastic, but I do not enjoy sweating while eating.
Matador: 2221 NW Market Street, Seattle, WA 98107

Nordstrom Gill score 3.5
I was pleasantly surprised one random Saturday while shopping and spur of the moment stopping in at the Nordstrom Grill (basement of the flagship Nordstrom store in downtown Seattle) for a snack with a friend. We ordered the crab cakes took a bite, and looked at each other like “Oh my God, this is actually good?!?” They were flavorful, good sauce, no weird texture, no complaints from this picky eater and cheap to boot.
Nordstrom Grill: 500 Pine Street, Seattle, WA 98101

Oceanaire score 1.5
You know for a place that boasts the best seafood in town and has a reputation as such you would think an amateur foodie like myself could find SOMETHING to like about this restaurant. The crab cakes were as bland as the nasty, potluck looking, sad pea salad they were served next to . . . . vomit. Oh, did I mention that you are paying for “the best seafood in town”? Ha.
Oceanaire: 1700 7th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101

Salty’s score 3
Once again, these are expensive, and slightly overpriced if you ask me (as most things are at Salty’s), but you are paying for the view. The crab cake had adequate flavor and an excellent raspberry sauce that I found VERY enjoyable. I think I liked the sauce better than the crab cake.
Salty's: 1936 Harbor Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98126

Szmania score 3
I like Szmania’s in general, it is a cute restaurant right in Magnolia with paintings from local artists and rave reviews from magazines and newspapers hanging on the walls. German food isn’t normally my bag, but the potato crusted salmon is super good. The crab cakes were fairly good as well, but nothing to do a cartwheel about, just good.
Szmania: 3321 W. McGraw, Seattle, WA 98199

Tap House score 2
Blah. Chain restaurant food prepared in a place that does too much of everything and does absolutely none of it well. Blah. Go to the Tap House for the beer not the food, especially not the sushi. I am not a big fan of sushi in the first place, but I had a horrible stomach ache after attempting to eat a California Roll here.
Tap House: 1506 6th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101

I have eaten crab cakes many other places as well, but nothing sticks out in my mind about the other places in a good or a bad way. I am fairly certain that I had crab cakes at Flying Fish in Belltown, but I can’t remember enough to make a fair critique.

I have to say my homemade crab cakes are still my personal favorite! I make them with fresh, Dungeness crab meat and serve them with lime, cilantro aioli. I would post the recipe, but I think I want to keep it all to myself—you know, so I can get the credit! I make them on the rare occasion that I throw a party, so next time come and enjoy.