Christmas Baking 2015

Hello all-

Some years I do very little baking at the holidays, and sometimes I do a fair amount. It just kind of depends on how I’m feeling that year, or what I see that looks cute and I want to try (in addition to standard, family favorites).
This year, as you can see below, I was a bit out of control! 🙂
I found all kinds of cute cupcake decorations and other clever, cute recipes that I just had to try this year!

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
Carol

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H2A: Percy’s & Co.

1st H2A blog of the year!

My first H2A takes us to Percy’s & Co in Ballard. It is on Ballard Ave, and is in the building that was once the Old Town Alehouse; next door to Hattie’s Hat (whose signature “chicken fried chicken” is absolutely TO. DIE. FOR. But I digress…).

Percy’s has been recently listed by Seattle magazine as one of the best new bars in the city. So of course I had to try it! Boasting an “apothecary” type atmosphere, in terms of both the decor and the cocktails, it definitely delivered. The place still has the lovely hardwood floors from Old Town, and has both tall, bar-type tables for big groups, as well as some pale green hued half-moon booths. The color and the booths themselves were a nice touch to the decor. The feeling of the herbaceous/apothecary theme is evident: from the lovely booth color, to the ferns hanging in the ceiling, to the herbs seen in a chemistry-type flask/distillery at the bar.

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For dinner, we shared the potted pork rillettes and the pork dip sandwich; both of which were good. The real stars of the show though (and hence why they’re one of the best new bars in the city), were the cocktails. We both started with a Sankey Sour; a bourbon-based cocktail with aperol, fresh orange juice, egg whites, angostura bitters and sour mix. It was beautifully presented and dee-lic-ious!

Sankey Sour

Sankey Sour

We were then ready for round 2, but were a little hesitant to get one of the cocktails containing a stronger herb (they have cilantro infused gin, and star anise infused bourbon, among others), but we wanted to see what they had to offer, and it IS an apothecary bar, so we tried a “Sweetest Taboo” (cue Sade…). The cocktail consisted of lemon thyme infused bourbon, vanilla bean liqueur, aperol, relaxation tea, and fresh lemon. I have to say, it was quite good. Not overpowering, but had a lovely, refreshing taste to it.

I had only one irritation with Percy’s. And, unfortunately, it’s a problem found in many bars and restaurants nowadays. It apparently seems to be a common theme that they all insist on playing music loudly.  Granted, we were initially sitting near a speaker, but we ended up moving because we couldn’t even hear each other talk. Even when we moved, I had to scoot closer to her to be able to hear her clearly. It was quite distracting and made it difficult to even carry on a conversation. We had asked them to turn it down a little, but after initially turning it down some, someone else decided to turn it back up. It was so distracting, we ended up going ahead and getting the check; when, if it had not been so distracting, we would have stayed and enjoyed another cocktail or two. It’s a shame, because the place is quite nice, has tasty cocktails, and has a great overall feel to it. I know I sound like a crotchety old lady, but I just felt I needed to share so you’re aware.

Note to bars and restaurants: if it’s happy hour and not later in the evening when things get a little more loud and crazy, please keep the music down. It’s supposed to be setting mood as background. Let people enjoy each other’s company and your delicious food and spirits.

Onward and upward to H2A #2!

Mistral Kitchen 9-Course Dinner

In late May, Karen, Jeri, Jen, and I were able to get our schedules coordinated and enjoy a special deal we had gotten to enjoy a 9-course meal at Mistral Kitchen in downtown Seattle. We have all been there before, and they have wonderful food and fantastic cocktails. So we were very excited to have a whole evening there!

We had the most amazing servers and were having such a great time, that we ended up having the manager and pastry chef sit down and chat with us! We were there 5 hours and it just went by like that! Apparently, since they loved us so much, we ended up with more of like a 12-course meal! By the last of the 3 desserts, we were so stuffed, we had it home with us. We were just maxed out!

I ended up taking some notes (I know I know- nerd alert!) on what each course was, just to remember all the details and how amazing everything was (I tried to include the wine pairings when I’m remembering them, but that didn’t really go so well. Particularly after the “cocktail course”!

Intro/”Welcome” Snack: Champagne with chili oil
and lime popcorn:

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Amuse-bouche: Grav lox with creme fresh:

Big eye tuna with shaved asparagus and radish,
grapefruit segments, and radish sprout basil oil:

Maine diver scallop, corn, basil oil, and hon
shemiji mushrooms:

Alaskan halibut, Egyptian farro mustard greens, baby
turnips, heirloom carrots, radish sprouts, and pea foam:

Lamb, black beans, ramp oyster mushrooms, in
a port reduction:

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Pierre Robert cheese with apricot
marmalade and radish sprouts:

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Dessert:
Coconut pudding with rum foam, shaved coconut,
compressed pineapple, and cilantro syrup:

Chocolate bombe (peanut butter filling) with port
soaked cherries:

Some of the other items we had (that I was too wrapped up in to get a picture of):

Foie Gras with thinly sliced apple and candied orange peel (who would have thought I would like Foie Gras?! But I do!)
The “Cocktail Course”: “Point of No Return” was the name. It involved fire. Very cool.

What a great, fun experience. Sometimes I don’t mind paying extra for a special experience. And that’s what this was. Not just good food and wine. But a whole experience, and one I won’t forget anytime soon.  Can’t wait for our next culinary adventure…

Great Restaurants during “Dine Around Seattle”

The month of March in Seattle is a great one. It’s my birthday month, the weather is changing for the better, the days are getting longer, and it’s every foodie’s favorite annual event: “Dine Around Seattle”. With Dine Around Seattle, many local restaurants offer special dinner menus: 3 courses for $30. It’s a great way to try restaurants that you’ve always mean to try. The two restaurants I tried this past week were Olivar and Monsoon.

Olivar, Spanish for olive grove, is owned by Chef Philippe Thomelin. Chef Philippe grew up in France, and spent many years in Spain, where he became even more passionate about the Mediterranean-style cuisine. He has been in Seattle for over 10 years, and has been a wonderful culinary addition to the Seattle “foodie” community. The restaurant is in the old Loveless building, which is a Seattle icon. Loveless is a beautiful, Tudor-style building, built in 1930. It was originally a place for artists to live and work, and is currently the home to some apartments, and Olivar. One of the neatest things about the decor in Olivar is the large mural on the wall that dates back to the mid 1930s (done by the muralist Vladimir Shkurkin). It is just beautiful and I love that it’s still there.

Surprisingly, we ended up not going with the special menu and just got some stuff that looked especially tasty! We both started out with a lovely glass of Brut and a mixed green salad with Valdeon cheese, and candied walnuts. Mmmm mmm!

Susan had the Sunchoke soup that was de-lic-ious and I had the sautéed potato gnocchi with hedgehog mushrooms, caramelized onion, migas & Manchego. I had the chocolate creme brulee and a glass of Maderia for dessert. I was so full of great food!

Olivar is a wonderful restaurant with a very unique ambiance. Love it!

I also went to Monsoon on Capital Hill. I have meant to go there for years and finally made it this past week! Monsoon has been in Seattle since 1999 and, according to the website, “Monsoon marries traditional Vietnamese cuisine with Pacific Northwest innovation.”

I went with several of my friends, and we went with the special DAS menu. I had the pork ribs with hoisin & five spice sauce, the wild prawns with lemongrass, spicy yellow curry, and roasted peanuts, and for dessert, the banana cake with coconut sauce. I also tried some Karen’s first course: grilled squid stuffed with duck and basil and Jeri’s Bo La Lot (grilled beef wrapped in grape leaves). Holy BUCKETS! The food was amazing! So good and I’m glad I finally went. Looking forward to more jaunts to Monsoon in the future.

LloydMartin, Seattle’s Newest Gem

A few weeks ago, my sister and I went to the new restaurant at the top of Queen Anne Hill: LloydMartin. Named by Seattle Magazine as one of the Best New Restaurants in Seattle, owner Sam Crannell has created a truly delightful environment; filled with delicious food, lovely and creative drinks, and an adult, yet energized and fun setting.

Since it was our first time there (and we came hungry), we decided to try several of the “small plates” offered. We had the shaved pear salad with blue cheese, hazelnut, port syrup, & frisee, the 64°C duck egg with brioche and mushroom-bacon-red wine sauce, a cheese plate with my most favorite cheese (delice de bourgogne), and a charcuterie plate. They mistakenly thought we ordered the manila clams (with chorizo, apple cider and white wine), but let us have them to try since our server joked that he couldn’t put them back! Bonus!

All of the food was absolutely delicious. Wonderfully prepared and perfectly presented. My personal favorite of the small plates might have been the pear salad; simply because it was so beautifully and creatively prepared (and anything with blue cheese, hazelnuts, and port is bound to be pretty tasty). Now, if you were to ask anyone in the restaurant, my favorite might have been the juice from the steamed clams. I soaked up ALL of that juice with the great crusty bread that was nearby. It was a little embarrassing, but so yummy!

We decided to split a large plate, and got the lamb cannelloni with balsamic roasted cipollini and chevre fondue. O.M.G. Let me say it again. O.M.G. Makes me start drooling just thinking about it! That was the most tender, flavorful, and delicious lamb I have ever tasted. Truly amazing. It simply melted in your mouth it was so good.

We were so full from everything, we never made it to the foie gras, which I’m sure is amazing as well. There’s always next time!

As my sister and I were talking to Tyler (the fantastic bartender by the way) throughout the meal, we noticed that the open kitchen seemed small, and we found out that they have no hood, grill or gas. They only have two plug-in electric cooktops and an oven. So all this amazing food came from two plug in cooktops and one oven! That is just insane! It just goes to show you that you don’t need fancy kitchen equipment (or apparently even basic equipment for that matter) to create wonderfully amazing food.

LloydMartin was great, and Sam Crannell is a genius with braised meats. I cannot wait till I can get back there to try more from their menu. Might just have to treat myself…Merry Christmas to me!

 

Rover’s Restaurant

Thierry Rautureau, affectionately known as the “Chef in the Hat” in the Seattle area, has been the chef/owner of Rover’s in Seattle since he bought it back in 1987.
The story of how the nickname came about is this: his wife bought him a fedora one year for Christmas, and he ended up wearing it constantly. One night in the restaurant, he went into the dining room to chat with one of his guests, and forgot to remove his hat. A patron exclaimed “Look, it’s the Chef in the Hat!” Word quickly spread and the nickname stuck!

Chef Rautureau is from the Muscadet region of France, and hence the food at Rover’s has been described as “Cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Refined by a French accent.” Rover’s has for years been known in the Seattle area as not only one of the most expensive restaurants in town, but by far the best restaurant as well.

I’ve always heard great things about Chef Rautureau and his food, so my good friends and I decided to bite the bullet and we went there this past Thursday. This was the last night of Seattle Restaurant Week, a bi-annual event which involves many wonderful Seattle restaurants in the area providing a special three course dinner option for a limited time.

Let me just say that it was simply the most magnificent dining experience I have ever had. From the moment we stepped in the front door, to the last moment when we were getting our coats at the door; everything was immaculately done and absolutely perfect.

For Restaurant Week, there are three different options for both the first and second courses, as well as different dessert options. In addition, there were wine pairings to go with everything. Since there were three of us, we thought it would be perfect to play musical plates and wine glasses and try one of everything!

Before we started with sharing the three courses, we decided to try a few other things that we knew would be delicious: The Scrambled Egg with Lime Crème Fraiche and White Sturgeon Caviar, and the Seared Foie Gras in a Savory Profiterole with Cognac.
Oh. My. LORD. They were both absolutely delicious (with the egg being particularly lovely in its presentation), but the Foie Gras was exceptional. Perfectly cooked and perfectly paired with the profiterole and cognac. I have had very good Foie Gras before, but Chef is able to take it to the next level: into the stratosphere of taste.

After we wiped the drool from our mouths and quit rolling our eyes and carrying on, we proceeded with the sharing of the three course options. All of the food in the different courses was amazing. My particular favorites were the guinea fowl and the potato and leek soup. And the brown butter buerre blanc sauce with the halibut: sooooo good. This is not the kind of restaurant where you soak up sauce with your bread, but J and I didn’t care. We damn near licked the bowl clean! So yummy!
In addition to the great food, the wait staff was just impeccable with their service, timing, and friendliness. Just a wonderful, wonderful experience all the way around, and I look forward to returning there in the very near future.

Kickin’ it at the Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen

Below is a quote from the book by MFK Fisher, How To Cook a Wolf (where she’s talking about having a friend to go out with):

“He will be the kind who will have worked all day and be as glad as you to sit back and absorb a little quick relaxation from a glass and then eat, quaffing immortality and joy.”

 

That perfectly sums up what my sister, J, and I did on Monday afternoon at the newly opened Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen is in old Ballard, at the corner of 22nd and Shilshole Avenue and opened on Friday, August 16th. The place has a great atmosphere and a very cool vibe. They have done a really nice job with the decorating and overall feel, and have left no stone unturned. From the menus being printed on nice paper, to the light fixtures in the ceiling having a neat “wagon wheel”-esque shape. Even the bathroom has an old western kind of feel with rustic wood doors and an old timey sink and soap dispenser. Very nicely done.

We shared a couple of different food items, including the smoked cheddar & tasso grit sticks, pulled pork sliders, fried green tomatoes, and collard greens. Mmmmmm mmmmmm!!!! Delish!!! The grit sticks were definitely my favorite. I think I could eat like a gazillion of those things! All around tasty food, and I will definitely go back. I already have the menu in mind for the next time: fried chicken with mashed potatoes and a slice of house-made pie for dessert.

We also had some Southern themed cocktails. (We ARE from the South after all. It was our duty to make sure they were represented correctly and there was only one way to find out!)
We had the Mint Julep, Whiskey Smash, and Southern Punch. Refreshing and tasty.

We had such a nice time sitting back and relaxing on the deck (which is fabulous I might add), enjoying our cocktails and food. It was quite the enjoyable evening, and I look forward to my next venture to the  Kickin’ Boot..