Jul 2015
Smart Catch: A New Seafood Steward

Hmmmm, such a dilemma it was. Toward the end of dinner last night, someone at my table asked which of the four outstanding seafood dishes we'd just eaten was our favorite. How to choose? Particularly with chefs the likes of Thierry Rautureau (Luc & Loulay) and Branden Karow (Culinary Director with Ethan Stowell Restaurants, who I first met when he cooked with Thierry at Rover's) taking care of things. Chum salmon mousse tartine with goat cheese, grilled sockeye salmon with corn pudding, cherries & fried rosemary, baked Pacific cod with gremolata, peas & farro. But in the end, I think the first course remained my favorite: the king crab on a salad of bitter greens (arugula, endive, radicchio) with slivers of orange and grapefruit. It was an evening of eating well, but with a distinct purpose: introducing us to Smart ...

Jul 2015
Fancy Food Show, New York Edition

I went. I saw (and tasted). Not sure if I conquered, but I did my best. Last week was my first trip to the New York version of the annual bi-coastal specialty food extravaganza known as the Fancy Food Show, put on by the Specialty Food Association It's at least double the size of the San Francisco show held each January (which I've been to 6 or 8 times in the past couple decades), and with about 2500 exhibitors it's pretty critical to have a game-plan. And to know going in that it's a ridiculous proposition to consider sampling at even a fraction of all those booths you'll be passing. I bypassed tons of chocolate, cookies, chutneys, sauces, teas, spreads, pickles, juices, and even--shocking though it may be--cheeses and ice creams. I had my radar out, instead, for savory snacks, butters and ...

Jun 2015
Farmers Market Martini

You'd have to look really closely (and, likely, hold it against a white background) to notice, but this martini I just made has a very subtle pink hue. Which is solidly out of character for me. Usually once a glass holds more than just gin and a dainty splash of vermouth, I don't go in for calling it a martini any longer. I'm an annoying purist in that way. But since this twist is SO subtle, almost hidden, and doesn't mess much with the classic foundation, I was willing to give it a whirl. And still call it a martini. Inspiration came from the farmers market, where the season's harvest of beautiful, just-harvested heirloom radishes are showing up. I love radishes and eat the basic grocery-store bunches year round. But I definitely indulge more over the summer when selections really blossom. Why I ...

May 2015
The La Varenne Basics, Revived

Once upon a time there was this book: It was, for many years, among the kit of references and tools that students and stagiaires were given upon arrival at La Varenne cooking school in France.  In it are the foundational basic recipes that we would be drawing from over the coming months, recipes that would become nearly rote from the frequency at which we reproduced them. But for reference, reminders, and as a study tool before our occasional exams, this book was indispensable. You can see how well mine has been used since I first got my hands on it in August of 1989. It's the only book that resides full-time in my kitchen, tucked between the flour and coffee bins on the counter for easy access. I turn to it a bit less for the stock and sauces, which have become ...

May 2015
Inn at Langley: Bucolic Modernism

Whidbey Island is one among many beloved destinations for folks in the Puget Sound area, popular for day-trip escapes from the city, second homes and get-away weekends with friends. Walking the beaches, visiting lighthouses, biking country roads, kayaking, fishing, whale watching, catching crab....that's what we tend to associate with a trip to Whidbey. And you fuel up on big piles of island-raised steamed mussels, a pint of local beer, maybe some artisan cheese and whatever looks good at the farmers market. You don't imagine tucking a napkin on your lap in advance of being served dishes that seem to belong in a chemist's lab, or nibbling what looks like lipstick but tastes like a fancy Starburst. And this is exactly why dinner at Inn at Langley has come to be such a culinary surprise. ...

Apr 2015
IACP Take-Homes: Conference Reflections

For over two decades, about this time each year I've packed up for a trip to some North American city for a conference that has been a big part of my career path since the days when I was still trying to figure out where that path might lead me. I happen to work in the world of food, maybe you're in real estate or telecommunications or marketing. Most disciplines have similar annual gatherings for professionals that I can only hope are as inspiring and fulfilling as I find this meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals to be. It's a yearly master class, summer camp, feast-fest, networking blitz, mentoring (sometimes therapy) session and cocktail party all rolled into one, exactly the shot in the arm I need on an annual basis. This year's conference wrapped up last week in Washington ...

Jan 2015
Torrone with Almonds

It's a funny thing, coming home with a suitcase full of treasures from a delightful adventure abroad. The less common the destination and the more distinctive the treats acquired, the more nerve-wracking it can be to decide when will be the ideal/perfect/best moment to enjoy them. From this fall's explorations in Portugal and the northwest corner of Spain, I came home with a couple dozen tins of exquisite seafood (sardines, tuna, octopus), for instance, much of it from this amazing little shop in Lisbon. I've given a few of the tins as gifts but have yet to try any myself, waiting for some undefined "right moment." But life's too short and there's no time like the present, so I'll have to just tuck into a couple of them soon. Another treasure was some almonds I'd picked up ...

Jan 2015
Oysters for The Ark

So, first some news. Things have gotten pretty briny around my house, and that's not just because the Puget Sound is a brief stroll from here. I hadn't anticipated that my 2014 would wrap up fully engrossed in oysters, but that's how it played out. By complete coincidence, two Seattle publishers reached out to me about oyster-related projects. The first, an article for Seattle Magazine, appeared in the December issue and covers both the current boom in oyster bars and some of the environmental challenges that are causing anxiety for oysters farmers. And, Sasquatch Books wondered if I wouldn't be interested in writing a cookbook on the topic of Northwest oysters, echoing the heightened interest recently in all things oyster. The timing was good for me in terms of considering a new project. And for a number of months now, I'd been moving seafood up the ...

Sep 2014
Sipping at Feast

If hotel prices in Portland this weekend are any indication, this year's Feast Portland is a pretty big draw. Taking over the city, maybe. I'm going to be doing some hotel-hopping, chasing around the best deals I could find. I was on the phone with a fellow at one of the event's host hotels a couple of weeks ago and even he expressed a touch of alarm at how much a basic room was going for this weekend. Now I'm a fan of the Expedia "unpublished rate" booking, definitely saved some money for a couple of nights and I still get to be at great downtown hotels. But despite the feeling that the city's booked-up this weekend, there are still some tickets available for individual events during Feast Portland. I snagged up one ...

Sep 2014
The Ebook Jungle: My Journey

I'm definitely one of those types who learn best by doing. Oh, I did well with book and classroom learning when it really counted  through my school years. Since then,  though, I've learned far more by just diving into things and developing skills and absorbing knowledge along the way.  My rather limited gardening experience comes more from trial and error than careful study. I pick up languages well on-site where they're used, which is so much more engaging than in a classroom. After all, I don't think a language class would have taught me how to order ice cream in Turkish, but I picked that up quickly on a trip to Turkey! And my immersion into knitting began with buying some beautiful locally-spun yarn, then teaching myself how to knit it (thanks in large part to Vogue Knitting...