Each March the Washington Wine Commission asks us to celebrate Washington Wine Month. This year we at Tom Douglas Restaurants have decided to revel in a few ways. Our main promotion for the month showcases six American Viticultural Areas in our great state and affords our guests an opportunity to travel to each one as they visit our joints. If anyone has the fortitude to complete the journey, they will receive a free ticket to our Wine Press Club event on March 25th.
The beginning of Washington Wine Month prompts me to reminisce about one of my favorite personal moments involving some juice from Yakima Valley, the AVA that got them all started. After a long day farming in the hot Eastern Washington sun at our own Prosser Farm, Farmer Dev and I jumped into a truck and drove around the corner to visit some dear friends. As you may well know, Tom Douglas Restaurants and Chinook Wines have a long standing history. One of the perks of my position is that I get the chance to enjoy winery experiences beyond the tasting room, and this visit was what drinking local wine is really all about for me. Kay Simon and Clay Mackey invited us to the shade of their back patio to find a loaf of fresh baked bread and a treat from Clay’s collection of vintage Cougar Gold. Then they swept into their warehouse, a small garage behind the tasting room, and grabbed a bottle of Semillon.
We spent the early evening drinking cellar temperature white wine grown in the nearby vineyards, devouring hard earned cheese made from the milk of cows that grazed in nearby pastures. The pairing was perfect. The bright and zippy quaffs quickly dissipated the salty crystals that had developed in the cheese over time. As I popped the second bottle I thought to myself, “Hey, this Washington wine thing ain’t so bad after all.”
What do farmers do in the winter? You might think they would take the opportunity to sleep late, then hang around the house all day in their pjs drinking coffee and reading magazines, but super energetic Prosser Farmers Jackie and Dev (Dev is pictured above pensively pulling parsnips on a cold day) stay busy, busy, busy with in-depth farming education. To find out what Jackie and Dev have been up to, read the latest Prosser Farm blog post here.
Here’s a straight-forward video of our best selling Rub with Love Salmon Rub with a soundtrack that’s catchy as heck! Recipes for our shiitake relish can be found on page 114 of Tom’s first book, Seattle Kitchen. Thanks to Sarah Flotard for making this awesomeness happen.
Questions? Feel free to post them in the comments below or email us at HerschellT@tomdouglas.com.
My husband, Frank, and I just got back from a long weekend in Vancouver BC. We haven’t been up that way for at least 5 years, so we enjoyed every minute of our visit and enjoyed as well our large, comfortable room at the elegant Wedgewood Hotel. Shortly after we arrived, after taking a few minutes to freshen up and unpack, we rushed off to Chutney Villa, a casual South Indian restaurant on E. Broadway, for dinner with our cousins and their kids. (Our party was a rollicking group of 6 adults and 4 small children). My favorite bites were the starters: fried onion rings, fried cauliflower, and mixed vegetable pakoras accompanied by small plates of chutneys. The pakoras and fried veggies were gently spicy, not at all greasy, and the chutneys were fun and flavorful.
After dinner, our cousin Sam took us to the Keefer Bar on Keefer Street in Chinatown for cocktails (called “prescriptions” to fit the apothecary theme) and a cheerfully upbeat, sassy, and seductive Burlesque show. Also on Keefer Street, near the Keefer Bar, is Bao Bei, a Chinese small plates brasserie. These two spots, Keefer Bar and Bao Bai, are bringing a bright spot of hip, youthful energy to Vancouver’s Chinatown, a neighborhood that’s otherwise tends towards seediness, especially at night.
The next day, Friday, just a bit worse for wear from our very late night in Chinatown, we took the Sky Train to Richmond and walked to Sea Harbor Seafood. We ordered dim sum in a grand room hung with chandeliers and packed with tables full of Chinese-Canadian families.
Our favorites were a pan fried home-style pancake topped with shaved bonita flakes (photo second from top of post), pan fried sticky rice meat dumplings, cucumbers in spicy black vinegar, and perfectly fried smelt (photo directly above).
On the other hand, the chive, egg and shrimp dumplings I ordered (photo above) were soft and gelatinous and frankly a little too odd in texture for my Westernized taste buds.
Friday night’s dinner at Maenam was our favorite meal of the trip. Modern Thai food in a stylish room with friendly, professional servers and superb cocktails, all at moderate fine-dining prices- not too fancy but just special enough. We loved every bite and sip at this place but the highlights were: Frank’s cocktail- Golden Buddah- scotch, tamarind water, vanilla bean and chocolate bitters. This may sound like a trying-too-hard mixologist’s mishmash, but it was in fact beautifully mellow and balanced, with all the elements coming together and highlighting the flavor of the scotch. Other highlights at Maenam: super crispy fried oysters in a spicy batter with a fish sauce dipping sauce…. a really bright, well dressed and well seasoned green papaya salad with long beans… halibut in a lovely green curry with a few different kinds of eggplant, including little pea-sized eggplants and also strings of fresh green peppercorns. We ended with a terrific dessert: a warm, pan fried roti bread stuffed with banana and lightly drizzled with sweetened condensed milk (photo above). If you’re heading to Vancouver, be sure to stop for a meal at Maenam- so worth it!
Saturday morning it snowed!! We woke up hungry for more dim sum, so we opened the umbrella against the pelting wet snow and slogged down Robson Street to Dinesty (there’s also a location in Richmond; the Robson location is newer). This bright, contemporary spot, famous for soup dumplings, attracts a youthful clientele (at the Robson location at any rate). You can look through the street-side plate glass window to watch the kitchen staff hand-forming dumplings. After being seated, we ordered the shrimp and scallop soup dumplings and found them to be quite tasty. The pork pan fried soup dumplings (photo above) were even more delicious. Fortunately, there’s a helpful guide on the menu on how to eat soup dumplings without squirting stock all over your shirt front. Pick up a dumpling, holding it by the top knot with your chopsticks, and place it in your soup spoon. Poke a hole in the dumpling to let the soup out, then carefully slurp and eat.
The shrimp and pork panfried dumplings (photo above) were delicious as well. We also ordered a refreshing and garlicky cucumber salad. Our surprise favorite was a beautiful big plate of a steamed green vegetable- we were told it was called Chinese lettuce- which was bright green with just enough juicy softness and also enough bite, chew, and texture. In all, a thoroughly satisfying dim sum experience and I would be so very happy if a branch of Dinesty opened in my Seattle Green Lake hood!
For a snowy day activity we took the Sea Bus over the water to Lonsdale Quay, where we wandered the market stalls then finally settled into a window seat at The Cheshire Cheese where we nursed a beer and watched the snow fall.
Saturday dinner was at the trendy and stylish Gastown restaurant L’Abbatoir. Good cocktails, especially the Fourth Regiment with bourbon, vermouth, and three types of bitters including some delightfully aromatic celery bitters.
The warm steelhead and crunchy potato salad (in the forefront of the photo above) was very good, but the pan fried sweet breads- so tender and delicate- on toast with a scrumptious, classic sauce gribiche and veal tongue (you can just barely see this dish towards the back of the photo) was spectacular, the best bite of the meal. We liked our entrees too, especially the Steak Diane with a dollop of soft herb butter melting on top.
The next day, Sunday, after eating omelets in the cozy Bacchus Restaurant of the Wedgewood Hotel, we packed up and headed to Seattle, driving through snow, snow, snow most of the way back home (see photo top of post.)
The question “for here or to go?” is something I am often asked in the U.S. Our culture is so swept up in being “time efficient” that we multi-task in anyway we can, and our sit down meals seem to be the first to go. Our food becomes ever more “lunchable,” so that meals are ergonomically designed to be eaten with the left hand while the right hand responds to emails on our mobile phone.
The “grab-n-go” food culture used to be flooded with crap designed by chemical engineers–rather than by chefs–and thus these foods were generally nutritionally vacant and saturated with 5 different unrecognizable versions of corn. But customers may now be driving the market in a different direction.
A new wave of healthy quick-grab snacks and lunches have emerged, with more and more shops opening such as Starbucks’ Evolution, our own Home Remedy, and Whole Foods- whose entire front entrance at the Westlake store is now dominated by buffet style build-your-own lunches and salad bars.
I believe that the act of sitting down for a longer meal promotes a healthy lifestyle–a kinship among diners, family mealtime, and a space for cultural dialogue and exchange. But I don’t fault the to-go eating lifestyle. I myself book my days so chock-full that many of my meals happen on the way between walking from errand A to appointment B. And to keep up with it, I often buy my meals on the way, forced at the end with a decision to throw away half a meal, eat until I am over-stuffed, or try to save it for later and carry around a messy take-out container whose “latch” pops open at the slightest movement (when will they figure out a better design!?).
So, my predicament, shared by many perpetuating the to-go U.S. lifestyle, is that eating on the run isn’t always efficient. Sounds ironic, doesn’t it? It adds up. It isn’t necessarily cost effective, and the food you ordered generally doesn’t keep well for later.
Let me re-introduce you to the Mason jar. The Mason jar has been borrowed by non-food related personnel for barn-yard candle holders, tool kit storage, and my favorite, terrariums. But now kitchens are taking back their own invention from their dusty shelves, saddling up along jam enthusiasts, fermentos, and sweet old grandmas who still practice canning for winter. The Mason jar is one of my favorite kitchen inventions and one that I have found to have the greatest diversity of uses.
What if instead of going out and buying a sandwich for $10 ($12 if you tip, $15 if you add a drink with that), you took all of the leftovers in your fridge at home, stacked them neatly in order from bottom to top by durability, and added lettuce on top?
I give you the Mason Jar “McShaker.” (Ode to the cleverness of McDonald’s marketing). I made my own last Monday. This salad was comprised of 5 items headed to their death bed in my fridge: roasted chicken from a few nights prior, pickled cabbage sitting in my pantry, cucumber that still had its last crunch, mixed greens, and mushrooms I had used for flavoring the chicken jus. Stacked from heartiest on the bottom (cucumbers), to most fragile at the top (mixed greens), I threw the jar in my bag on the way out and headed to work. Put it in the fridge at work, and then forgot about it for the entire business week.
Then the opportunity arose. On the last day of the business week, I had 20 minutes to spare before heading to an event during which I knew I couldn’t eat. I needed something that I could start eating right away, but that I could also save for later if I got hungry again after the event. I poured some olive oil in my salad jar, gave the jar a good shake, and voila. The layering technique preserved the texture of each item, the pickled cabbage infused the salad with the vinegar “dressing,” and I felt more energized for my event than if I had grabbed a bag of pretzels on my way to the car.
-I give full credit to the Palace Kitchen General Manager, Sue Burns, for originally giving me this Mason jar idea in the first place.-
If you’re really jazzed on this DIY portable snackable, may I suggest the CUPPOW mason jar insert? I just purchased mine at City Hardware for $8, but it can also be bought online. This simple yet brilliant product is a plastic cup that fits on the inside of a standard mason jar lid, thus creating two-compartments. Any snack or meal that you love but that didn’t hold up with wet and dry mixed together in your Tupperware now has portability: hummus and vegetables, cereal and milk, salad and dressing, chips and dip–I pack it up in one mason jar, throw it in my bag, and it usually keeps in the office fridge for a week.
I mixed cereal, apple slices, chia seeds, our very own Brave Horse Tavern sous chef Chris Field’s Seattle Granola in the mason jar. Milk is in the blue Cuppow container, ready to pour and mix!
But here’s the real kicker. I told you how bringing a Mason jar snackable helps clean out your kitchen before food goes to waste, and it’s obvious that bringing your own meal to work will save you money. But what about my earlier diatribe on mealtime kinship and cultural exchange?
When I brought out my Mason jar salad on the way to my event, you wouldn’t believe how many strangers stopped what they were doing to ask me questions about it and begin a conversation.
I love mussels. They’re meaty, delicious and are a great way to change up the monotony of weeknight meals. I made this recipe last year in September while still enjoying warm nights in the backyard, but it can easily be recreated any season. The Seafood Rub is a fragrant, mild curry is delicious on seafood such as scallops, white fish, lobster or shrimp. It’s a bold recipe, but not overly spicy – If you want a bit more heat, you can add jalapenos or Thai chilies with your red onion if you wanted it.
There’s a bunch of items you probably already have in your pantry, but pick up the shellfish and herbs the day you plan on using them.
Seafood Rub Coconut Curry Mussels
1 pound mussels or clams, scrubbed clean
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup Rainier or any lager or white wine
2 tablespoons Rub with Love Seafood Rub
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1 handful cilantro leaves
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the butter has stopped bubbling, add the red onion and cook for 7 minutes. Add the Seafood rub, garlic and ginger and cook another 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping the bottom of the pan and reduce by half. Add your coconut milk, a squeeze of lime and mussels. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and adjust heat to low for 7 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. Top with a pinch of Seafood Rub, cilantro and scallions.
Enjoy with rice or grilled bread!
Aquavit has taken ahold of me in the past few weeks. The complex flavors and range of styles is intriguing and inspiring. A handful of American craft distillers have also been inspired by this Nordic tradition and you can find more than a few versions popping up here in Seattle alone. Tradition dictates that a few fragrant, classic spices like dill, caraway and cumin should be a part of the flavor composition, but if you look at the menu for Aquavit in NY, you’ll find that their house made aquavit list involves flavors ranging from cranberry to horseradish. In my experience thus far I’ve also found more than a few versions of this spirit that have been influenced by the flavors of fennel or anise.
While I’m no historian, it seems that the naissance of aquavit came about because folks had bad tasting spirits, and they put whatever they had that tasted good into the hooch to make it palatable. Most of the distillers that I spoke with regarding their aquavit production do the same thing, except their base spirit isn’t nearly as crude. A few folks are actually infusing their spirits then redistilling a single time. But that being said, why not try to make some aquavit yourself? A quick trip to the bulk section at Ballard Market and you’re on your way.
I’m currently working on a project to make my own aquavit. When I’m infusing spirits with multiple ingredients I like to do them separately and blend later. That way I have complete control over how apparent each flavor is in the final product. Often flavors get muddled if they are all together from the beginning. For starters, I’ve taken 2 oz each of cumin, dill seed, caraway, and coriander, toasted each and placed each separate spice in a jar with 12 oz of vodka (a note on the vodka, high end is overdoing it, but low end will hurt. Find a decent, fairly clean vodka for this. I’m using Gordon’s). Each day I shake the jars gently and after 2 weeks I’ll see what I’ve got. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.
If you want some aquavit right now and can’t wait two weeks, I recommend that you stop by Old Ballard Distillery down on Shilshole and talk to Lexi. Their product is truly outstanding and very traditional in style, not to mention she knows a ton about the tradition and history of this life water. Here’s a little blurb from her: “Aquavit is primarily a food-pairing liquor. There are many different styles and flavors of Aquavit to go with many different types of food, so ‘good’ or ‘bad’ determinations are subjective and very personal. Try different styles/flavors and choose your favorite for yourself.”
If you want more from Lexi check out the class that she’ll be teaching at Downtown Spirits on Monday March 3rd. Call the store to sign up: 206.812.6591. I’ll be there!
Marcus Samuelsson, celebrity chef, cookbook author, and co-owner of Red Rooster Harlem, wrote a thought provoking opinion piece for the Sunday Review in last Sunday’s New York Times. In the 90′s, Marcus, an ambitious young chef, moved from France to New York to work at Aquavit. After long shifts at work, he often took the subway uptown to explore Harlem and unwind in the neighborhood that made him feel most welcome and most at home. Marcus, who was born in Ethiopia but was raised by adoptive parents in Sweden, talks about “the joy and magic (he) felt walking into the bars and soul food joints in Harlem.” In Harlem, for the first time in Marcus’s life, he could hang out in a restaurant or club without being “a minority in the room.” The title of the essay, “Is Harlem ‘Good’ Now?” refers to a question that is often asked of Marcus as he travels around the world as part of his work. What is meant by the question “Is Harlem ‘Good’ Now” is this: Is it safe? Marcus argues that this question misses the mark because it’s “loaded with long-held ideas about race and class, one that dismisses the complex vital history of this neighborhood and its people, their contributions to civil rights and art, under one word: bad.” The Harlem that Marcus knows has “been brought to its knees by poverty and drugs and unemployment and has been pulled up by its art, its music, its food and its people.” Read the entire opinion piece here.
Also in last Sunday’s New York Times, a delightful “Op-Art” piece by Ben Schott called “Behind Bars: The secret vocabulary of New York’s finest drinking establishments.” Did you know that at the King Cole Bar and Salon, to call someone a “Warren Buffett” is bartender parlance for “a wealthy client, not spending”? Take a look.
Grant Achatz of Alinea and Next lists “11 Reasons I Love Chicago” on the Epicurious blog, Epi-log. “I honestly don’t think Alinea would have worked anywhere else besides Chicago,” says Achatz. Despite the fact that Chicago is often thought of as a meat and potatoes town, Achatz says “Chicago’s culinary community and media were really open to my crazy style of food…” As for Achatz’ favorite Chicago hangouts, a few that he mentions are: Yusho for smart and creative Japanese grilled skewers, Hot Doug’s for hot dogs (“virtually impossible to get into. They should sell tickets like Next.”), and GT Fish and Oyster for incredible fish and chips.
Using Tom’s Rub with Love Exotic Mushroom Rub on round steaks (eye of round, bottom round, and top round) is a great way to boost the flavor of inexpensive cuts of meat. I rubbed it on the beef and immediately roasted at 450 degrees. Once the thickest part of the roast reached 115 degrees on my thermometer, I pulled it from the oven. Once it rested for 10 minutes, I sliced the meat thinly to make killer roast beef sandwiches!
I reduced a few cups of mushroom stock (you can use a carton of chicken broth if you’d like) and added a few pinches of the Exotic Mushroom Rub to reinforce the flavors on the steak. I took the sliced beef and warmed it back into the jus. From there, I placed the meat on a toasted potato roll (from Dahlia Bakery via Home Remedy) with a slice of cheddar and a few slices of red onion. I took the remaining jus and pour it in a little bowl for dipping!
As a restaurant industry lifer, I think I’ve worked on Valentine’s Day every year since I was 18. This doesn’t leave buckets of time for romancing my sweetie, but every year we find our own little way to celebrate which usually entails a lavish brunch at home and a nap before we both head to the ‘office’. Obviously, Valentine’s Day screams for the festive color of rose, sparkling rose is a really great way to celebrate. I recommend Secco Rose for a killer deal on some pretty tasty pink bubbles.
That being said, I think a cocktail is a great way to really get the love vibes going on Valentine’s Day. This inspires me to discuss a classic, the French 75, a quaff that could be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner and even for a late night rendezvous. While named after a piece of artillery used by the French army circa World War I, this cocktail has all of the bells and whistles that make it a great drink for a celebration. For those who’ve never enjoyed one before, it’s a bubbly and punchy drink that will trick you because it’s so pretty and easy drinking. I’m not often one for ruining perfectly good sparkling wine by adding anything to it, but gin is a good way to go if you must, and I think in this instance it’s a worthy mix.
2 oz Dry Gin
½ oz Lemon Juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup
Combine ingredients, shake and strain into a cocktail glass, top off with a dry sparkling wine, garnish with a lemon peel.
If you are feeling like this cocktail isn’t manly enough, change out your gin for a decent cognac like Remy Martin VSOP. Some say that the cocktail was originally made this way, but it’s commonly seen with gin.