We celebrated our late fall harvest with the final Prosser Farm Dinner of the season. This was a beautiful multi-course feast which featured an entree of lamb leg confit with a mix of Prosser Farm dry beans and sumac. The rest of the courses celebrated to the max the fall bounty of Washington State and our farm. Can you believe we still had tomatoes for this dinner? The photo above is of last of the season Cherokee tomatoes with paddlefish caviar garnished with clippings from the farm’s cover crops (rye, clover, vetch, peas). Here the summer farm transitions to the late fall farm on a single plate! Read all about this glorious farm dinner here.
(Note: I wrote the following for Dahlia’s 20th anniversary; reposted here with slight updates)
Twenty five years…. I’ve worked with Tom since the first day of Dahlia’s existence (and for about 3 years before that at Café Sport), so Dahlia’s 25th anniversary represents a big chunk of my life. For me, it’s a big deal- momentous. What memories are stirred by this anniversary month? Here are a few:
Before opening day, the painters masked and taped that lofty space (ground floor plus mezzanine) at 1904 4th Ave. Then they spray painted the whole thing a deep, blazing red. We gasped; too much? A mistake? But when the masking tape came off, the space looked beautiful. With a coat of red paint, the Dahlia was born.
Tom had the idea that Dahlia food would be comfort food. Before we opened, he told me he wanted a coconut cream pie, a bread salad, and gnocchi on the menu. In the weeks before the opening, I tried out recipe after recipe to perfect these dishes for the Dahlia menu. The coconut cream pie is still on the menu, lightly tweaked but mostly the same after all these years. The bread salad is still on the menu, but was vastly improved by two innovations when we moved to the new space: a wood burning grill and our own bread bakery. The grilled bread in the bread salad went up several notches in quality.
photo credit: Ed Anderson
The Seattle Goodwill Games in 1990 almost put us under. The media spread the word to avoid going downtown at all costs because the crowding would be unbearable. This message was so successful, the Goodwill Games turned out to be the only time you could find a parking place anywhere you wanted in the deserted downtown area. Oh yeah, and then there was the New Year’s Eve big snow storm. Our staff numbers diminished.
In those days, our staff Christmas party took place upstairs in the mezzanine and everybody, including guests and spouses, fit with ease.
At first the mezzanine was our bar (we changed that later to be extra dining space-hooray for us that we needed it! and moved the bar downstairs towards the entrance.) Tom had the idea of giving customers in the bar a little check-off slip. 8 or 10 small appetizers were listed on this slip and you checked them off to customize your own little antipasto plate. I still think this was a cute idea, BUT working the line with a dozen of these slips hanging in front of you, all with a different assortment of items checked off- well, it gave new meaning to “in the weeds.”
Sleepless in Seattle: they filmed a scene for this movie at the (old) Dahlia. That was exciting, and it gave us some media buzz.
For years, I walked into the Dahlia everyday and put a sheetpan of russet potatoes in the oven first thing. When they were soft, I would food-mill them and make a big batch of gnocchi for dinner service.
My husband, Frank, and I got married at the old Dahlia in February, a few months after opening. Tom let us use the whole restaurant on a Sunday. (We were closed on Sundays in those early days.) Tom cooked all the food for my wedding. Frank and I drank so much scotch sitting up in the bar (ie. mezzanine), waiting for our wedding to start, that I don’t remember any of the food. I’m sure it was delicious. Everyone said so.
Loretta Douglas was born. She spent her infant months right with us in the kitchen, while we prepped. When lunch service started, her baby carrier fit snugly on top of a clean garbage can, (Child Protective Services- cover your ears!) and she slept while we plated.
Food from the old Dahlia that I still miss:
Hoisin barbecue with fried rice: We did this with babyback ribs, salmon, chicken, and duck. I liked the ribs best. We had 3 squirt bottles for making the fried rice: sake, soy, and rice wine vinegar. We called them the 3 amigos.
Tuna puttanesca: sashimi tuna sliced on top of spicy puttanesca pasta. We called this “tuna puna” in the kitchen. We called the chopped anchovy mix for the pasta, “catfood.” A plate of tuna puna and a glass of red wine was my favorite Dahlia dinner for a long time.
Sake steamed salmon with sake butter and pan fried turnip cakes.
Tom’s slow roasted duck with butternut squash risotto and huckleberry sauce.
Steven’s perfect pan-fried petrale sole with dipping sauce…
For the first few years of the old Dahlia, I worked side by side on the line with Tom. That was a thrill and a privilege. I still miss this because Tom brought a great sense of energy and fun to line cooking. “Move over bacon, here comes something leaner” was his favorite thing to say as he nudged you out of his way.
Years later, we made the big move to the “new” space on 4th and Virginia (ie. our current location.) The current Dahlia’s bigger, better kitchen with wood burning grill contributed to bringing Dahlia food up to a level that I feel very proud to be associated with- even if I don’t do the cooking anymore.
So, thank you Tom and Jackie for opening Dahlia and thank you all our customers who helped keep the doors open for TWENTY FIVE YEARS!! My life would not be the same without the Dahlia Lounge.
Last winter I was lucky enough to tour a nutmeg farm on the exotic island of Penang off the coast of Malaysia. Spices still retain some of the mystery they did when the world was only connected by the trading ships of the East India Company.
Nutmeg was only grown on the island of Banda in Indonesia and was highly valued in medieval Europe. The island of Manhattan was actually traded by the Dutch to the British for control of that single tiny nutmeg producing island.
Eventually nutmeg and its sister spice mace were smuggled out and grown on Penang. The farm I visited was small and family run. They harvest incredibly delicious whole spices and produce nutmeg juice, jams, candies, oil, pickles, and butter.
You can see the outer fruit coat pulled away and the mace which covers the nutmeg
The cuisine of Penang embraces the spice by adding it to cool drinks and by sprinkling the candied fresh “fruit” (ie, the fleshy, astringent outer part of the nutmeg which is also made into juice) on rice dishes.
The markets carry all the sundry nutmeg and mace products, as well as the dishes laced with the tingling additions to everyday dishes of spices from the exotic nutmeg tree.
Penang is knows the world around for its street food. It is amazing. Malay, Chinese, and Indian foods all incorporate the flavors of nutmeg and other tropical spices grown right on Penang off the coast of Malaysia. You should check it out.
Our Rub with Love Sales Manager, Andrea Rapp, attended a Coconut Cream Pie Class at Hot Stove Society recently and was thrilled to take home this beautiful, coco-nutty wonder that she made her own self! Read the whole post here and check out the classes on our Hot Stove Society website.
A rare weather pattern of 80 degree weather in early October means that our Prosser Farmers are still picking 200 to 300 pounds of tomatoes for the chefs of the Tom Douglas Restaurants. Farmer/Chef Dev is making tomato confit, tomato pickles, fermented green tomatoes and tomato jam for a Prosser Farm dinner October 25. Read the whole article here on the Prosser Farm blog, and get Dev’s recipe for tomato jam too!
Hot Stove Instructor Herschell Taghap (also Social Media Expert, Line Cook, and DJ) taught a high-octane sold-out crab cake class last night. The class was based on 3 recipes from our Tom Douglas book I Love Crab Cakes and included a demo of cooking and cleaning live crabs as well as plenty of hands-on crab-cake cooking. In the photo above (photo credit to Emily Yan), Herschell practices flipping a giant crab foo yung! Read the whole post here, and while you’re on the Hot Stove Society site, be sure to check out the upcoming classes.
Wine grape sodas from left to right: Grenache, Orange Muscat, Concord
Anthony Polakowski, the master crafter of Serious Pie pizza dough, handmade grape sodas and fruit shrubs, is working up limited edition wine grape sodas for the menus at Serious Pie Virginia and Serious Pie Westlake.
The Orange Muscat soda, made with grapes from Crawford Farm (but lovingly hand picked by our Prosser Farm chef/manager Dev) , will be on tap for the next 5 to 7 days at Serious Pie Virginia. There were only enough grapes to make six gallons of soda- so it’s like liquid gold at this point.
The Concord grape soda, with its amazing, pychedelic blue violet hue, will be on tap at both Serious Pies (Virgina and Westlake) soon. The grapes come from Hogue Ranch.
Anthony is waiting on Grenache grapes, being harvested today at Oasis Farm, if the rain didn’t cause any harvesting delay. Grenache is a spicy grape which should be interesting for Anthony to work with.
Anthony’s goal when crafting each soda is to maintain as much of the flavor and complexity of the original fresh wine grape despite the heat of the extraction process. The Orange Muscat soda is sweetened with Shipwreck honey, which has a floral fragrance, almost like an orange blossom, and flavored with Madagascar vanilla, both of which highlight the natural sweetness and fragrance of the Muscat grape. To augment the mineral tang of these grapes, Anthony adds a touch of Murray River Salt.
Another of Anthony’s goal is for the sodas to appeal to adults and wine lovers by focusing on the distinctive profile of each wine grape, while still being sweet and straightforward enough for kids to enjoy.
The colors, as you can see from the photos, are brilliant.
If you’re at Serious Pie Virginia and want to try another handmade beverage besides the grape soda, try one of Anthony’s shrubs. Right now he’s still cycling through summer fruit flavors like Cantaloupe with Tibetan Curry, Blackberry, and Watermelon with Aleppo pepper salt, but an intriguing list of holiday flavors is already on the drawing board.
Tom Douglas Restaurants Pastry Chef Brittany Bardeleben taught a Simple Fall Fruit Desserts class at our cooking school, Hot Stove Society, last Thursday evening.
The intrepid Brittany (in photo above), though only weeks away from becoming a Mom for the first time, showed up to teach the class with the capable assistance of two bakers from her pastry team, Carley Rose and Kelly Abernathy.
This was a hands-on class, which gave class members the opportunity to make their very own Boozy Apple Upside Down Cake. On the work tables, the recipe and the mise en place (ingredient prep) for the cake were carefully laid out and waiting.
The first step was to make the “caramel,” an easy brown sugar and butter topping laced with whiskey.
The next step was to peel and cut up a couple apples- one to decoratively arrange in the caramel and another for the simple one-bowl cake batter.
The cake looks like this right out of the oven.
And like this once tipped over and unmolded. This beauty was baked by one of the students who, after giving it a good drizzle of whiskey, got to bring it home to wow family and friends! In addition to this sweet, moist, boozy cake full of apples (hands on recipe), Brittany showed the class how to make Dahlia Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce and Huckleberry Ice Cream (demo recipes) including teaching the skills of caramelizing sugar, poaching pears and churning ice cream. The classmates went home with an arsenal of delicious fall recipes and Brittany promises to be back in Spring (post baby’s birth) to show us some Simple Spring Desserts. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have fun and learn to cook or polish your cooking skills at the same time! Wish you had signed up for this class? Look for more Hot Stove Society Cooking Classes here.
Last night, we were incredibly lucky to host what many consider to be the best chef in the world right now, Massimo Bottura, at our Italian restaurant, Trattoria Cuoco.
The night began with salumi sliced thinly by Ethan Stowell of Ethan Stowell Restaurants himself, with an accoutrement of antipasti including fried castelvetrano olives, grilled pacific octopus with ozette potatoes and citrus-marinated chiogga beets. Guests mingled, Campari cocktails in hand, in the beautiful lowly-lit exposed brick of Trattoria Cuoco.
Programming began with an interview of Massimo by Modernist Cuisine creator, Nathan Myhrvold. The two men, bound by a love for modern gastronomy, discussed Massimo’s creative challenge (and success) to evolve an old cuisine to the new techniques of modern gastronomy.
What was most interesting about Massimo’s insights on cooking was that his creativity seemed to flourish most in the places of greatest restraint. He spoke of food as if each dish were a painting or a poem: “How can I compress what I feel into 2 words…or into 2 plates?” When Massimo first opened Osteria Francescana in his home of Modena, Italy, he received a gauntlet of criticism. Modena is famous for such well-known staples as Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Balsamic Vinegar, but the province is also hotly protective of their food traditions. Massimo’s challenge was to prove to his fellow Modenesi that not only could he cook the traditional dishes best, but that he could make it better, more interesting, using the modern kitchen tools and knowledge that we have today.
His love for art and artistic expression bounced off the walls as he described the 12,000 vinyl records he had at home (and cooked to), the vegetarian panino with flattened artichoke leaves (and balsamic vinegar of course) he made to first entice and woo his wife, Laura, and the daily effort he puts into his kitchen– “All of our compassion, we condense into edible bites.”
The evening progressed with a feast of whole pig porchetta, created by the team at Trattoria Cuoco, passed plates of different style pastas created by Ethan Stowell and his team, Italian wines, pignoli cookies and handmade cannolis. To the accompaniment of vocals by Grace Love (whom Massimo described as a “Billie Holiday lookalike” and who is also a barista at our own Assembly Juice & Coffee bar), Massimo signed copies of his new cookbook, Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef, hosted by Book Larder.
The night was beautiful and warm as guests spilled out to the lighted patio under a blue dusk. It was an incredible collaboration of chefs who brought delicious food and persona to the event. Thank you to all of our guests who attended!
In reflecting on my recent trip to Mexico City, I am inspired by a quote of Chef Massimo Bottura, an Italian Super chef, soon visiting Seattle: “Art is essential for humanity. I don’t cook to feed empty bellies but to feed hungry minds.”
Mexico City is a flourishing mecca for a hungry mind. Unearthed Aztec ruins lie one story below conquistador cathedrals surrounded by European-designed bars and cafes. The architecture that has emerged throughout the millenniums seamlessly flows together, painting the story of a city that is used to housing an empire.
Eating in Mexico City follows a similar path. Many of the foods found on the street carts still hold their ancient native names. Street vendors sell huaraches–oblong fried masa with refried beans, your choice of meat, cilantro, and onions. The name huaraches is a tribute to the sandals worn by the indigenous Mexican tribes including the Tarahumara, made famous in the book Born to Run for their remarkable super-marathon-running traditions.
This was my third visit to Mexico. I am always swooning over the colors, flavors, and aguas frescas that I just can’t recreate here in the U.S. Among my favorites, a few experiences stood out not only for their flavors but for the stories behind the food. On our first night, we wandered through the Centro Historico district past an entire family making sopes out of their garage. In the cascade of florescent light, club-goers, late-night workers, actors, artists, dancers, and neighbors huddled together waiting for their meal. While the food was to go, most diners lingered in order to top their bites with the homemade green and red chiles, chopped onions, and whole cilantro leaves. The assembly line utilized every family member. The oldest boy–about 10–mixed dried masa with water and salt. Without stopping once, the mother (and head cook) molded the masa into balls and flattened them on her fryer. As the masa slowly hardened, she made indents with her fingers where the beans and meat of your choice would go. The youngest girl–about 6– collected money from customers. We ordered a sope con pollo and sope con carnitas. Balancing on the small children’s plastic chairs, we scarfed down the sopes the size of dinner plates, sniffling through the spiciness. We couldn’t help but eat the whole thing.
Contrast that with the 27-chef food lab occurring just behind the walls of the subdued dining room of Pujol (considered the 36th best restaurant in the world). The lunch tasting menu began with a hot tea aperitif made of pepper leaf, corn silk, and cocoa flower. Immediately following, the server brought a smoky mescal cocktail brightened with xoconstle (a native cactus fruit). My favorite and most memorable dish was the smoking gourd brought out containing baby corns (husks still on) smothered in a sauce made of chicatana ants, coffee, and chili. True to the molecular gastronomic movement, the food was art in and of itself, a recreation of Mexican tradition while paying homage to the variety of influences that have settled in this cosmopolitan center.
On my last day, I attended an artist market down the street from my hotel. Hungry for one last meal before the flight, I found a very endearing senora making vibrant blue corn quesadillas and tlacoya (stuffed with beans). They glistened as they cooked. While she made an assortment of quesadillas of shredded chicken, flores de calabaza (squash blossom), champinones (mushroom), huitlacoche (a type of naturally occurring corn fungus), and nopales (cactus), we talked about techniques for making crunchy, un-slimy nopales. (Slice and saute them, then wash the slime off with water, put them back in the pan and add salt.) Her pride with which she spoke about her food, the intuitive ease of her hands as she handled the masa, the vibrancy of the food–this was the energy that flowed behind every dish I ate and every kitchen I visited.
Food is a great source of pride and expression of culture in Mexico. It mimics the same pride found in the many humbling Diego Rivera murals scattered throughout the city, the museums of art and of anthropology, and in the hundreds-year-old cathedrals hosting mass throughout the day. There was a beautiful homage to their dynamic history in everything I ate. It is this quality that I found so inviting and inspiring in Mexico City.
(More photos below)
All photos from top to bottom:
1. The entrance to the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
2. The left side of the massive Diego Rivera mural at Palacio Nacional
3. Beautiful colonial style buildings in the Historic District
4. The woman making sopes on the street (that I deliciously scarfed down)
5. Smoked baby corn served in a gourd at Pujol Restaurant in the Polanco neighborhood
6. Blue corn quesadillas from the street vendor outside Ciudadella artist’s market
7. Alegrias bar~ these were sold everywhere on the street and are a dense, simple snack consisting of amaranth seeds (or Huautli) glued together with honey, baked with peanuts, pecans, and raisins. They sold for 5 cents each and were a delicious snack that gave energy but were much healthier than an energy bar or chocolate bar.
8. Huitlacoche tacos smothered in green chili.
9. Brunch at El Cardenal, including famous Dona Olivar hot chocolate, lamb barbacoa (in the middle), and the best milk cream (un-skimmed) I’ve ever tasted.
10. Another street treat: 3 generations of women sat together around a big metal saute pan at this street stand. They sold roasted corn kernels drizzled with oil and topped with picante (or chili powder). They were a different type of maiz, but I didn’t get the name. Crunchy, a little spicy, and very delicious snack as we walked through the markets to Palacio Nacional.
11. One of my favorite buildings in the Historic District. Another example of the beautiful and eclectic architecture in Mexico City.
Welcome to Family Meal, a blog that examines all things new and noteworthy in the world of food, wine, and dining.
At family meal, otherwise known as staff meal, there’s no hierarchy; you’re breaking bread with your friends. For those 30 minutes, everyone is equal- and hungry. Family meal is our version of the water cooler- but with better food.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts, tips, and observations, and, in the spirit of family meal, I’ve invited our creative, energetic staff- everyone from line cook to bartender to bookkeeper- to have a say. I hope you’ll add your own comments and join in the conversation.