Sunday, July 27, 2008
If you're hankering for a good wine movie that would be the Chardonnay to Sideways' Pinot, there is a great one on the horizon called Bottle Shock.
Bottle Shock is about the famed Judgment of Paris Tasting of 1976, where Napa Valley wines beat French wines. The results of this tasting shook the wine world. It validated the U.S. as a producer of quality wines and it put the wineries of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and Chateau Montelena on the map.
Going into the movie we knew more about the Stag's Leap side of things. After getting a private tour of Stag's Leap through a friend, we learned about its history and how their Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon was the wine of distinction at the Paris tasting. So knowing more about the red side, we were looking forward to learning about the white wine side of things and Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay.
In June, we went to the Seattle International Film Festival's closing gala for Bottle Shock. It was a grand affair with the red carpet and appearances by Freddy Rodriguez and Bill Pullman. The whole event was great and justly so, the movie was excellent. It was a great story and the characters were wonderful. I highly suggest watching it when it comes around to your local theater.
The movie did a great job with telling the story of Chateau Montelena. Of course there was a bit of Hollywood twists and turns mixed in, but the execution was excellent. And it had Alan Rickman. Always awesome. The movie did a great job of romanticizing California Wine Country and the experience of this tasting. Just a really enjoyable movie.
It comes out August 6 to wide release and will slowly trickle in following weeks. Go see it, you'll have a great time.
Much like the Cookie Monster, I too, have an insatiable appetite for cookies. And the recent chocolate chip cookie article that my friend Ana posted from the New York Times made me revisit some old recipes and think of cookies in a new light.
The article mentioned all sorts of great tips on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. From size, to resting the dough, to sprinkling sea salt, and what type of chocolate, I knew I had to make some with these things in mind.
There are tons of great recipes out there and our friends at Accidental Hedonist have one that is super easy which I'll use on occasion. I've also grown to really like this one from Paula Deen. I figure if anyone knows how to make a truly decadent and tasty cookie it would be Paula. And she delivers.
If you don't have time to bake your own, luckily in Seattle we have two places that make some awesome chocolate chip cookies. Cow Chip and Il Fornaio. But why stop at just Seattle? Il Fornaio's are everywhere and Cow Chip will ship!
In the immortal words of the Cookie Monster; "Me want cookie!"
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Earlier in the year, a friend tipped me off that Costco was selling Mexican Coke. This I had to try. Because Coke is so intrinsic to Mexican culture the bottlers used cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, the flavor should be better. I knew I had to try it.
And now I'm a convert. It's so much better and it's now my mission to inform anyone I know the gift of Mexican Coca-Cola. Think of it like this; imagine growing up and only knowing frozen yogurt. It's good, you like it, but you don't know there is something different out there and it's better. Ice cream. That is the jump I notice with Mexican coke to the stuff we normally get.
The flavor is so much deeper. Softer and not as harsh on the palate. The carbonation is restrained and you won't feel like burping instantly. Another cool thing is that it actually has a smell! And it's rad! It reminds me of fresh cinnamon rolls, very pleasing and smooth. It's just a better product!
I highly suggest you make your way to Costco or your local Latino grocery store and pick it up in the delightfuly retro glass bottle. You can even grab it from Amazon. You'll love it and you'll never go back to cans or plastic bottles.
Life tastes Good. With Mexican Coca-Cola.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Along with the Northwest Folklife Festival in May and Bumbershoot in September, the Bite of Seattle is part of the triumvirate of community events at Seattle Center. The Bite hits the good folks of Seattle in July and it's the city's crowning achievement of food, gluttony, excess, and awesomeness. The Bite has always been one of my favorite events, and as I've gotten older I've grown to appreciate it even more.
The beauty of nostalgia has deepened the colors for me when it comes to the Bite. When I was younger my family would always go and I loved it! In my mind, Seattle Center was this huge massive grounds, there were food vendors everywhere, it wasn't anywhere near as crowded as it is now, and we would be there until the sun would set. It's a little different now, mostly in that it's super crowded and there are really only about four dozen food vendors there
The vibe at the Bite has definitely changed in recent years. Is that bad? No, if anything it's different, and the glow of my memory only enhances my appreciation of the event. It's a chance for many to wear their 'Bite outfit' they've been saving all summer. It's a chance to walk around with friends and feel important. And you can eat till your more full than you could imagine.
My favorite thing to eat when I was younger were the Filet Mignon sandwiches from Metropolitan Grill. I loved those things. These were one of the things I most looked forward to as I got out of school. Sadly, The Met no longer participates in the Bite, but scores of other great places offer new discoveries.
What are some of your favorite foods at the Bite of Seattle? Is it the roasted corn? Funnel Cakes? Shiskaberries? No matter what, all of these are the right choice!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"Good things happen when you sit at the bar."
So she says during our recent dinner at Steelhead Diner. And it's factually correct, sitting at the bar of an open kitchen is truly awesome. You're in the midst of all the action, you're able to talk with the line, chat with the chef, and who knows? You might be surprised what you can learn about your experience.
When you have the chance to sit at the bar take it! For instance, this weekend at Steelhead Diner, we eagerly walked up to the counter outside of Chef Kevin Davis' open kitchen. We've always wanted to do this, especially there, but never have, so seeing a bunch of open seats we had to seize the opportunity.
But it's not just a Steelhead Diner thing; people all across town are noticing that sitting at the counter in an open kitchen is the 'cool' thing to do. You'll have a great time with your fellow patrons, the other people sitting at the counter will often be regulars; they'll tell you ins and outs of what to order, trivia, and even gossip!
As mentioned on Nancy Leson's All You Can Eat blog, there a ton of places all across Seattle where you'll happily sit on rotating chairs.
It's a great experience and one you should take at any restaurant or bar. Again, you'll have to trust me on this one. You'll love the experience. You'll even start to wonder what the big deal is about sitting in a booth.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
In my relentless quest to hold in as much information as possible and share it with the world comes this great tip for grilling. I learned it from Cook's Illustrated. The tip is this; buy an aluminum foil roasting pan to superheat your grill.
When grilling, you want to get those brilliant grill marks on what you're cooking. Either having those diamond marks or parallel lines, the key is having the grates loaded with enough heat they cause a tight sear on what you're cooking. This tip helps that process.
Use an aluminum foil pan you'd get at the market to cover the burners where you plan on cooking. This creates a cover over the burners and the grates, where the heat goes back into the grates. This superheating creates an instant sear onto whatever you're cooking. It's super helpful and I've used it all the time while I've grilled. Try it with pineapple or steaks. Or anything.
After about 5-10 minutes of preheating it should be ready. Because the grill is so hot it'll sear instantly and release easily, so you don't need to oil the grill.
Enjoy this tip and happy grilling!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I love roast chicken. Love it. What's not to love; rich flavor, moist meat, basically everything you love about chicken is amplified. Great in its simplicity, but like most things that are simple can be incredibly challenging. Cook too long, you get cardboard. Cook too short, hello food poisoning. But that middle point of perfection is one of the best things you'll ever eat. Roast chicken is the star of the show at any dinner.
Some interesting notes on roast chicken:
Le Pichet/Cafe Presse
Listed both as they are sister restaurants, but they are slightly different, mostly in the experience. Le Pichet is whimsical, playful, with an old world energy, while Cafe Presse is energetic, urban, vibrant. The feel at both places pass onto the dining experience. When you order their chicken expect to wait an hour. It's worth it. The chicken will be quartered off for you and you'll get a healthy portion of fries at Cafe Presse and Le Pichet will have some veggies and maybe polenta to accompany it. And for dessert definitely make sure to order the Chocolat Chaud. It's so good it's not even on the menu. Another insider tip from your friend Frank.
Heston Blumenthal Search for Roast Chicken Perfection
In the molecular gastronomy world there are a gaggle of renowned chefs doing their thing. Folks such as Wylie Dufresne, Grant Achatz, Ferran Adria (I'll be writing more about him soon...) and more, Heston Blumenthal is doing his thing at his renowned restaurant, The Fat Duck. What's unique about his roast chicken is that he cooks his for about 4-6 hours at 60 degrees Celsius. You read that right. 60 Celsius (about 140 Fahrenheit) how is this possible you ask? Doesn't the internal temperature of chicken need to be 165? Conventionally speaking, yes. But molecular gastronomy is about breaking walls of food through science and technique. What Chef Blumenthal does is keep the chicken roasting at 60 continuously, as in there isn't waves to the temperature. His ovens pump over those four hours at a steady temp. For our pedestrian ovens, the heat fluctuates and reaches an average that achieves that temperature. Tricky. And yes, I want to try it.
Costco Rotisserie Chicken
The seasoned rotisserie chicken at Costco is unbelievable. And it's only five bucks! It's super flavorful and will yield at least a couple of meals out of it. You can also use the bones and scrap meat to make broth. Another great thing that Costco does with their chicken at the end of the day is make soup and chicken salad. Great way to reuse the meat. The tricky thing with going to Costco is that the trip will easily cost you $100 in the end. This is also known as The Costco Effect. An example; one time we were at Costco to grab water. That's it water. But as we're walking past the butcher counter I mention that people were waiting for the chicken. So that peaked our interest. As we wait for the next round of chicken to be ready we decide to mosey over to the books and DVDs. That wait ended up costing us another $100.
But back to the chicken, since it's rotisserie, it rotates on a spit and self-bastes to stay moist. The chicken is always perfectly cooked and seasoned and will make you want to eat it then and there. When you grab yours, make sure to grab a plastic bag to put it in, careful as it may leak. Also, the trussing they use is a bit tricky to take off when you're ready to eat, so make sure to cut it away and pull it off, the wings are the tricky part.
There you have it; my soliloquy to the glory of roast chicken. Trust me, I could go on even more, but we'll save that for another post.
Oh yeah, wine pairings. Because of it's richness, something with a nice bit of acidity would be great to have with it. For whites, a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc or Washington Riesling would be perfect. And don't exclude reds as the bold flavors of roast chicken could stand up to some reds. French Beaujolais or Oregon Pinot Noir, even Washington Cab would make a great match.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Tucked away in the back of the Westlake Whole Foods is a food gem. If you're into getting good food for cheap prices. Walk past the produce and in front of the butcher and fish counters lies the SeaSmoke Cafe.
I must admit in my first few visits to Whole Foods I didn't know what to make of the cafe. There was a grill, a range, seating, pretty much a tiny 8-seat restaurant. But I used to always walk by it. Then my friend Jen, extolled its virtues. She gushed praise and talked about how much she loved grabbing lunch or dinner there. She described the experience; go to the fish or butcher areas, grab the serving you want and the SeaSmoke cook will make it to order. Seems simple enough, but I still never tried it; chalking it up to a weird idea that I couldn't really understand.
One day, we gave it a shot and now we are fans. Basically, everything Jen mentioned is spot on. You ask for whatever you like at the counters and bring it to the cooks. Choose your sides and you're rolling. One time, we grabbed a lamb loin chop and a calamari steak. You pay for the precooked weight of the food. For the two items; seven bucks. Sides are $2.99 for two. So in total two entrees along with two sides each only set us back $14.19. Holy smokes is that a deal.
You can try out anything; ribeye, crab cakes, dover sole, chicken sausage, kabobs, they'll make anything! And again it's affordable and made to order.
Trust me you should visit. Others around Seattle know about this foodie hideway.