04 February 2016
30 December 2015
Over the Thanksgiving weekend The Girl and I decided to head to Bavaria for a traditional Christkindlmarkt. Luckily we now live in Seattle, so its a short 30 mile drive. "But wait a minute...." you say "when did you move to Seattle?" Hey, it happened and this isn't the time or place to discuss that Im trying to tell a story. "Sorry." Its ok, did you have any on topic questions? "Actually, yes, how are you driving from Seattle to Bavaria? I thought that was in Germany. Did Elon Musk finally build a James Bond villain super car?" Ok, first, I really need to stop talking to myself. Secondly, Western Washington has its own Bavaria.
Photo courtesy of ingejohnsson.photoshelter.com
I could wax poetic about the little town of Leavenworth. This hamlet in the Cascades reinvented itself as a Bavarian village, located where Icicle Canyon runs into the Wanatchee, is nestled in some of the most stunning landscapes in America. Approaching from Seattle US 2 (when open) is a scenic highway unparalleled for its beauty.
The town really dresses itself for Christmas. Beautiful towering trees. Sledding hill in the center of town. Snow on the riverbanks. If you are there early enough in the year the hiking up Icicle Canyon is stunning.
And yes, they have restaurants. This tiny village of 2,000 people has 26 restaurants, a brewery, wine tasting rooms, a distillery. The main focus of most of the restaurants in town are, unsurprisingly, German. You can start off with something super authentic like King Ludwig's. This about as kitsch and authentic as you can get. The traditional rouladen, Thinly slicked beef rolls filled with a scrumptious filling of pickle, carrot and bacon, is especially tasty. They also have large family style platters that can be rather intimidating unless you brought a hungry brood.
A slightly different take on German cuisine can be found at Uncle Uli's Pub. This is the dive sports bar taking a spin through the Alps. Stop here for a section segregated from children, live sports fix, and a burger with a bratwurst patty.
The culinary highlight for us was a stop at a restaurant with no discernible Germanic influence, Sulla Vita. This upscale European small plate restaurant is tucked in between Icicle Brewery and the tasting room for Baroness cellars.
The first dish was a flank steak with wild mushroom marsala. This was a good dish. The meat was cooked well, the mushrooms were very nice, it was just missing something. Maybe just a bit more salt, maybe a little red pepper. Its a very solid dish, but just missing that extra something to make it memorable.
The other two dishes we tried were far more successful. The first, a scallop piccata with crispy speck. This beautiful white wine sauce has just enough lemon to offset the richness, the scallops are just cooked through. Every bite is wonderful, but dipping the accompanying pita in the sauce is particularly delicious.
The third dish was a surprisingly delicious chorizo and sharp white cheddar stuffed mushroom. I'm not sure how this dish didn't end up a soggy grease bomb, but it was bright and biting with just a touch of heat.
Leavenworth is a beautiful town in a picturesque setting. Busy weekends will turn this tiny hamlet into a mad house, but it is well worth it for the quaint village in a stunning natural landscape. Add in some very solid restaurants, and you end up with the perfect weekend get away just a short drive outside of Seattle.
07 December 2014
I don't bake much. That's The Girl's territory normally. I do have my moments of glory though. Take this wonderful winter dessert that I debuted at Thanksgiving dinner. A rich, decedent bread pudding that is perfect for your holiday party.
For the Bread Pudding:
1/2 loaf Challah bread (I prefer the sweetness of challah but a good brioche will work.)
2 cups water
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 stick cinnamon
1 Tbsp almond extract
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins (Sultana or Currants work best)
1 cup butter in small cubes
1 cup sweet potato puree (canned or roasted sweet potato)
1) Dice the bread into half inch squares and hold in reserve in a 9 by 13 ungreased Pyrex dish.
2) In a saucepan over medium heat combine butter, water, condensed milk, raisins, and cinnamon stick. Melt butter and allow to heat for 10 minutes.
3) Remove from heat, and remove cinnamon stick. Add spices and sweet potato. Whisk in the eggs one at a time.
4) Fold cream base into bread and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5) Bake covered for 30 minutes or until set. While bread pudding is in oven begin the caramel (see below). Return to oven under broiler for 2-3 minutes.
6) Top with caramel and serve!
For the Caramel:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp Raw Coconut Syrup or Cane Syrup (Light Corn Syrup will work but less flavor)
2 Tbsp High Quality Bourbon (I use Four Roses. Trust me, only use what you drink.)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1) In a heavy saucepan on medium-high heat combine sugar, butter, syrup, and cream. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.
2) Reduce heat to medium, boil gently for 3 minutes.
3) Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon, vanilla, and salt.
Let me know how your bread pudding turns out and have a happy and safe holiday season!
15 October 2014
Everyone has a go-to Mac n Cheese recipe. Mine is a surf and turf using the sweetness of lump crab and the saltiness of pancetta. The recipe below is optimized for a party, serving 10 people as a side and 6 as a main course.
16oz Jumbo lump crab meat
12 oz pancetta, thin deli sliced, cut into strips
5oz unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
6oz shredded white cheddar
3oz shredded parmesan
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon salt
16oz orzo pasta
1. Cut the butter into one ounce cubes. Place 4 ounces of butter in a small pot and melt slowly over low heat.
2. Add the crab meat and cook for 3-5 minutes.
3. When cooked remove from heat and remove crab meat. Place crab meat in a large (3qt) pyrex baking dish. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
4. In a small pan cook the pancetta until slightly crispy. Combine with crab meat.
5. Place a pot on high heat with heavily salted water for boiling the orzo.
6. Melt 1 ounce butter in medium sized pot over medium/high heat. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes stirring constantly until the mixture browns and develops a nutty smell.
7. Stir in the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Add the milk and, again, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
8. Add the pepper, fenugreek, and salt to the cream sauce. Stir.
9. While this is simmering your water should have reached a roaring boil. Add orzo to your pot of boiling salted water.
10. When your cream sauce has simmered for 3 minutes slowly add the cheddar and gruyere cheeses, a handful at a time, and stir until fully incorporated.
10. When the pasta is fully cooked pour the pasta into a colander to drain off water. Place the pasta in the pyrex dish, mixing well. Add cheese sauce, again mixing well.
11. Top with mixture of panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes, until bread curbs brown. Serve immediately
12 September 2014
Look at that picture. It's a bonsai tree. With eggs. You eat the eggs. Coming from the bonsai tree. Nothing I can say will explain to you what is going on here. Sure I can tell you about the taste and texture (pretty delicious) and try somehow to explore with you the intricacies of technique and origin of product for each course, but frankly that would be pointless. That is the greatest problem with explaining Chile's amazing and innovative restaurant BORAGó to you, person of the internet. It isn't a meal in the strictest sense. It is a sensory experiment. It is a transitory art instillation. It is a thoughtfully crafted love letter to the produce of Chile. It is intimidating and whimsical and challenging and inclusive.
Okay, I've admitted I can't narrate our dinner. 12 courses with an array of snacks, all paired with the sublime wines of Chile. I simply can't do it, even though I have the menu in my hand right now. What I can do is explain to you a little of why BORAGó is perhaps the most important restaurant in Chile's capital of Santiago.
First you have to understand the philosophy of the restaurant. Chile, a very narrow nation perched between the Andes and the Pacific, has never been renowned for its produce (like Argentina) or it's innovative cuisine (like Peru). It does, however, have one of the most varied ecosystems you will come across. Chef Rodolfo Guzmán and his staff have devoted themselves to highlighting the bounty of that ecosystem. They forage for fresh ingredients from across the country. We aren't just talking the normal mushrooms or venison, we are talking red crustaceans that look like a ballon and a red pepper had a love child and clover that actually tastes amazingly bright and citrusy.
Some of what...okay most of what....the chef and staff are foraging aren't even regularly staples of Chilean cuisine. In a lot of ways, Chile seems to have accepted the assigned monotony of its cuisine, preferring to be derivative as opposed to original. I can not count the number of risottos (Italy) and ceviches (Peru) The Girl and I ate on this vacation. That isn't a complaint; they were well executed and delicious, but they don't speak to Chile in any meaningful way. Chef Guzmán's goal seems to be to show the people of Chile that they have more to offer the food world than artful reflections of other nation's culinary heritage. To that end he and his staff have turned BORAGó into a sensory exploration of what is and what could be.
If that sounds pretentious to you, you aren't alone. It is hard to look at the dishes (presented below) and not wonder if the chef is more concerned with presentation than preparation. Nothing I can say will be enough to persuade you that the presentations are thoughtful representations of the produce and the environment from which it comes. Nothing on the menu will become a new national dish. There is no arroz con pollo hidden here. That is not the intention. For those of us visiting Santiago, we gain the opportunity to visit all of Chile in one meal. For the Chilean, however, there is something deeper, an opportunity to take everyday assumptions and flip them on their head. Perhaps the greatest gift BORAGó gives to the people of Chile is a chance to ask themselves "what is our culinary identity?" BORAGó will offer no answers, only more questions, and for that the Chilean people should be grateful.
The art and artifice of this restaurant are superb. Every course is presented with an explanation from the kitchen of the where and the why of the products presented. It is a full sensory experience, touch, taste, appearance, scent, all brought together by the chef explaining how each dish is reflective of the nation he loves so dearly and obviously. This isn't molecular gastronomy. This isn't modernist cuisine. This is Chile, from rocks of the shore to the stunted trees of the Andean highlands.
Purple potato "snack"
Foreground: Salty Berliner
Breadsticks. Sticks. That are bread
Crustaceans. The Girl's least favorite dish. Very challenging texture. Very interesting flavor
Crudo of Venison, hidden in the trees.
Veal. Tasty, tasty veal
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