Spring Training and Sister Time

Wow- I’m waaay behind on blog posts for Sugar Sand! I have been focused this past year on getting the word out about a cookbook I recently co-wrote, but I am back now to, hopefully, a more even balance of main employment, cookbooks, and photography. I’m going to try anyway!

Last month, my sisters and I all met back up (after a hiatus last year) in Phoenix for our long weekend of fun, sister time, and Seattle Mariners Spring Training. We stay at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort (I love to say “tapatio”) which has great landscaping and colorful architecture on the grounds, and also has a variety of great pools to get in as much sun as possible! And these white Seattle legs needed it that’s for sure! In addition, the resort is located right next to the North Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so we can go on our morning hikes before we hit the sun and baseball. The beautiful hiking trails and the proximity of them to the resort make it one of my most favorite parts of the vacation. Within a few minutes you feel like you’re really out in the middle of nowhere and able to really relax and enjoy the beauty that is Arizona.

Here are some photos taken of the hotel grounds, on our hikes, and at the baseball games and practices. I’m already looking forward to the next trip!

 

 

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Wonderful Book and Subsequent Fieldtrip

I recently read a book that I enjoyed so much, I still can’t stop thing about it. I’m even half considering re-reading it again! As soon as I finish this post!

The book is called “The Boys in the Boat” and it is about the varsity crew from the University of Washington who won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

 

The book is great for so many reasons. First, and most importantly, it’s about one unit of nine guys and their boat, the Husky Clipper. They worked together, they failed together, and they won together. Much of the story focuses on one of the rowers in particular: Joe Rantz. The author talks in the prologue about his first meeting with an elderly Joe and his daughter, to discuss writing the book. Even some 60 years later, the thought of his other teammates and their amazing journey together as one, brought him to tears when speaking about it. His one condition to writing is was to be sure it was “not just about me. It has to be about the boat.”

This was a group of young boys growing up during the Depression, who came from small towns in the Pacific Northwest (an area barely even known about to the rest of the country at that time) and many of whom barely had enough money to eat; let alone get themselves through school. And at that time, the UW crew was hardly the powerhouse it is today. Before they could even get to Germany to race for gold, they had to beat the incredible US teams; which, at that time, we’re predominantly from the East Coast. Once they did make it to Berlin, they were going up against the fierce and extremely driven Germans and the Italians. Teams that had funding for days and had damn near professional athletes.

And it wasn’t only those nine boys and the Husky Clipper going up against the Germans at that time. These Olympics were just a few years before the start of World War II and the global tension and worldwide concern was reaching it’s peak. It was the entire nation behind these boys and pinning so much on them in Berlin. Their ability to tune that out and to stick together and rise to the occasion is what makes this book so great.

I also found the details and explanations of rowing, as well as the character back stories and narratives particularly fascinating and engrossing to read. Living in the Seattle area, it was really cool to read about all the references in and around the city and to learn new things. I was constantly like I know where that is” or “I didn’t know that’s who Royal Brougham was!”

I was so sad when I came to and began reading the epilogue. One, because it was sad as the years pass and they begin to die, and two because I was coming to the end of the book. I think when you are truly sad to see a book end, and want to immediately re-read it as I do, then you know it was something pretty special. I can only say I’ve had that experience a handful of times, which makes this on my “Top 5” of all-time list for sure.

At the end, the author talks about what happened to the Husky Clipper, and how it is now hanging in the ceiling of the Dining Hall at the University of Washington shell house. Seeing as that’s only about 10 minutes from where I work, I decided to go by one afternoon and check it out. I have to say, it was a very moving moment for me. Surprisingly so actually. I looked up into the shell of the boat, and saw all 9 different foot holds; leather and worn after 70 years. I walked from one end to the other, rattling off their names, and trying to picture these young boys sitting in it and rowing together in perfect unison. It was so special and something I won’t soon forget.

A wonderful story and a great read. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

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!