Sep 2015
Coming Soon: Oysters!

It's a funny sensation, that moment in an author's life (at least this author's life) when you realize the book manuscript you've been working on for months is now finished and leaving your grasp for good: off to the printer in whatever form that last round of edits produced. The tweaking of the title, the final review of a few pages. The last minute edits and confirmation of name spellings. Then--'poof'--it's off into the ether. Even though I've been through this process many times before (this counts as number 9 of my solo books, with a dozen-plus more collaborations), it's a moment that always sets into flight a whole host of butterflies in my stomach. The butterflies have settled a bit now, the new book Oysters: Recipes that Bring Home a Taste of the Sea...

Aug 2015
Peachy Peach Peach

So many peaches! I was gifted a flat of the luxuriant organic peaches from Frog Hollow Farm a couple of weeks ago. The farm's east of San Francisco, but their peaches are--thankfully--made available at Metropolitan Markets  in the Seattle area each summer. When that box landed in my kitchen, the first and most automatic impulse was to make pie. Summer fruit pies are one of the most delicious hallmarks of the season, this one timed perfectly to share with friends on a weekend get-away. Next came the batch of ice cream, made with luscious Twin Brooks Creamery half & half, which I infused with a generous handful of lemon verbena from the garden. Oh so very good (even better with a tiny splash of dark rum drizzled over!). And my morning ritual of fruit-yogurt-granola ...

Jul 2015
Taste of Summer: Walla Walla Sweets

I missed the big kick-off for this season, the huge juicy sweet onions have been available for a few weeks by now. But there's still time to get your fill of one of Washington's hallmark  agricultural products: the delectable Walla Walla sweet onion. They've even been officially name-checked by the USDA since 1995, to assure that the name is attached only to true Walla Wallas from distinct geographic scope. It's reminiscent of the European practices that verify authentic regional foods—such as France’s appellation d’origine contrôlée designation for everything from wine to sausage. French soldier Peter Pieri is credited with bringing the seeds of an Italian sweet onion from Corsica to Walla Walla, Washington in the late 1800s, where the community of Italian farmers helped spur the production of this distinctive onion. The growing conditions proved ideal, the “sweetness” coming from a reduced level of sulfur in the ...

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 ...