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Author Archives: The Solo Cook

How to ripen garden tomatoes quicker

Five ways to ripening those garden tomatoes

Ripen your tomatoes with these quick tips. Heirloom tomatoes like this may look deformed but have amazing flavor. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ripen your tomatoes with these quick tips. Heirloom tomatoes like this may look deformed but have amazing flavor. Photo by Christine Willmsen

With shorter days and colder nights in the Pacific Northwest, it’s time to make sure your tomatoes get ripe so you can enjoy them in salads and in cooking. I planted my heirloom tomatoes from seeds and now I’m seeing all the amazing types of tomatoes grow and start to ripen. This reminds me of my childhood days, when almost every night we’d pull a red, juicy ripe tomato from the garden and serve it sliced with salt and pepper.

Here are five tips to guarantee tomatoes will taste amazing, and sooner than later:

Tear off small suckers, leaf starts, like these off the vine. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Tear off small suckers, leaf starts, like these off the vine. Photo by Christine Willmsen

1. If you already have multiple green tomatoes growing on the vine, cut the top of the plant where new shoots and flowers are starting to form. This focuses the energy on the current fruit.

2. Remove suckers every couple days. These are the small leaves that start growing in between the main branches of the tomato plant. They will literally “suck” the plant’s energy and make it challenging for your fruit to ripen.

3. Go by feel. Don’t base a tomato’s ripeness by the color. There are so many varieties of tomatoes that aren’t your classic deep red. If the tomato is plump feeling and tender then remove it from the vine. Some of my tomatoes are yellow and ripe now.

Even though this tomato is yellow, it's ripe. Base your ripeness on feel and when tender pull it. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Even though these tomatoes are yellow, they’re ripe. Base your ripeness on feel and when tender pull it. Photo by Christine Willmsen

4. With cold, wet nights approaching, you should thin the leaves and branches that aren’t critical to growing the fruit. This ensures that air can circulate between the leaves and fruit and it will help prevent late blight and mold.

5. If a tomato is too heavy for the plant like the one in the top photo, then harvest it and let it ripen on your counter or better yet in a shoe box in a cool, dark room.

Cheers

Christine

Restaurant brings French flair to Bainbridge Island

Three fun ways to enjoy Bainbridge Island for the day through food, walks and a museum

If eating solo, sit near the kitchen where you can watch Chef Greg Atkinson and his team use fresh ingredients for their dishes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

If eating solo, sit near the kitchen where you can watch Chef Greg Atkinson and his team use fresh ingredients for their dishes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Restaurant Marché, a bistro with a French-influenced menu, is reason enough to visit Bainbridge Island. Owner and Chef Greg Atkinson consistently prepares great food with a focus on local ingredients. But there’s more to see and do on this island.

With ferries leaving almost every hour from Seattle, Bainbridge is the perfect getaway for the solo traveler – either by foot or by car.

What better excuse do you need than a fantastic restaurant, verdant gardens and a new museum to visit Bainbridge Island for the day?

If the beautiful ferry ride over to this island getaway isn’t enough nature, I recommend you take your car on the ferry and then drive to the Bloedel Reserve. The 150-acre forest is lush with gardens and ponds. If you are keenly interested in birds, don’t forget your binoculars for this stroll.

After walking the trails for a couple miles, head back to Bainbridge Island’s downtown area – Winslow Way – where shops, the new museum and a wine tasting room will keep your senses engaged.

The great attraction about Bainbridge is that you don’t need a car if you just want to wander about downtown for the day.

New Museum captures creativity of local artists

The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, right on Winslow Way, between the ferry terminal and downtown shops, is a feast for the eyes. The museum, which opened in June, is free and features artist from the Puget Sound area.

At this point, you’ve built up an appetite and there’s no better place to curb it than Restaurant Marché.

Comfort and quality lead you to Marché

The lyonnaise salad has a perfectly cooked egg via sous vide as the centerpiece. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The lyonnaise salad has a perfectly cooked egg via sous vide as the centerpiece. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A hearty plate of duck breast with broccolini and an ancient wheat grain. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A hearty plate of duck breast with broccolini and an ancient wheat grain. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Here, Atkinson and his wife, Betsy, flow through the restaurant like it’s their second home ­– at least that’s the way guests are treated when they are greeted by the couple. Greg Atkinson worked as executive chef at Canlis for seven years and has also written several cookbooks.

At Marché, you can sit outside or inside depending on how busy the restaurant at 150 Madrone Lane is on any given night. But the best seats (about four of them) in the restaurant are near the open kitchen, where you can watch Atkinson and his team roll out dishes like grilled salmon, trout meuniére and steak.

Try the salad lyonnaise, which has thick chunks of bacon and a gooey-centered egg (cooked sous vide) on top of friseé. Marché has great cocktails, but the wine by the glass is limited.

The show-stopping dish is the Pleasant View duck cooked medium rare with a crispy, rich skin and a bing cherry sauce drizzled on top. It’s plated with Eikhorn, an ancient wheat, and broccolini.

The menu also offers small plates to nibble on like the country pate with pistachios and greens.

Just steps away is Mora Iced Creamery, where you can grab a gelato for the walk back to the ferry.

These are some of my top reasons to visit Bainbridge Island. I hope you find even more.

Cheers

Christine

Restaurant Marché on Urbanspoon

Corn and Salmon Salad Recipe and Grilling Tips

A winning combination of ingredients for this chopped salad is salmon, corn and cherry tomatoes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A winning combination of ingredients for this chopped salad is salmon, corn and cherry tomatoes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

 

Seattle’s smoked salmon, grilled corn and fresh garden ingredients make this salad a full dinner

It’s sweet corn time. As a girl who grew up in Iowa, we always bought sweet corn from a pickup truck on the side of the road after the farmers had picked the corn that morning. So it’s only natural that I find myself buying numerous ears of corn in July and wanting to create different recipes in addition to just putting them on the grill.

I’ll never forget a surprise gift from my dad several years ago when he was visiting Seattle. When he arrived he opened an extra piece of luggage and about two dozen corn picked that day from an Iowa farm spilled out of the bag. My heart was warmed by my dad’s sincerity and we ate plump, juicy corn for days. With sweet corn being grown throughout the U.S., almost anyone can get fresh corn from their farmers market or produce store.

Quick grilling tips for corn

Pull back husks of corn and remove any hairs, then season with salt, cumin and chili powder. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Pull back husks of corn and remove any hairs, then season with salt, cumin and chili powder. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Grill corn for 8-10 minutes in the husks to keep them moist. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Grill corn for 8-10 minutes in the husks to keep them moist. Photo by Christine Willmsen

To successfully grill corn, prep and season it. That means you need to pull the husks back, remove all the silk (fine hairs) and spice it up by rubbing a mixture of salt, chili powder and cumin.

Try your own spice combination. Rewrap the husks around the corn and grill for 8-10 minutes on medium-high heat. I always poke the corn with my fingernail and if it pierces the soft kernel and the juices explode then it’s time to pull it from the grill.

While I may eat an ear or two for dinner, I’ll grill another one so that I can use it for a salad the next day. I’ve created this recipe that combines Seattle’s finest smoked or cooked salmon with garden ingredients that are ripe right now including arugula and cherry tomatoes. This is a hearty salad that’s perfect for one person for dinner. To see The Solo Cook assemble the salad, watch King 5’s New Day Northwest show. The recipe below is inspired by the restaurant Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I had a memorable salad. I know once you try my salad you will be hooked on cooking extra ears of corn for this chopped salad.

Hot in the Kitchen: Corn and Salmon Salad Recipe

Cut all your ingredients and line them up to place them in a line on your plate, then drizzle dressing on top. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Cut all your ingredients and line them up to place them on your plate, then drizzle dressing on top. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of corn or kernels from 1 grilled corn cob

1/2 cup chopped arugula

1/4 cup diced cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped smoked salmon or cooked salmon

1/8 cup slivers asiago cheese

3 tablespoons pepitas

1/4 cup cooked pearl or Israeli couscous

Pesto Buttermilk Dressing:

Gently stir dressing in with the salad ingredients. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Gently stir pesto buttermilk dressing in with the salad ingredients. Photo by Christine Willmsen

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup pesto (store bought if easier)

Half of shallot chopped

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 lemon squeezed for juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayonnaise, pesto, shallots and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into food processor and blend thoroughly.  As food processor continues to run, add buttermilk, remaining lemon juice and salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To prepare salad for presentation: place each ingredient in a line such as 1/4 cup arugula, 1/4 cup corn, tomatoes, asiago, salmon, pepitas, couscous, 1/4 cup corn and 1/4 cup arugula. Drizzle dressing on top of the ingredients. When ready to serve, lightly fold dressing into the ingredients. Leftover dressing can be stored for several days. Use the remaining dressing as a dip for fresh cut vegetables.

Cheers

Christine

Morel Mushroom Hunt and Taste Off

Blind tasting of Morel Mushrooms reveal different flavors

Bags of morel mushrooms are awaiting our very scientific blind tasting. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Bags of morel mushrooms are awaiting our very scientific blind tasting. Which mushrooms will we choose as the best – fire or natural morels. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Who doesn’t love mushrooms – those woodsy, musty and earthy caps that mysteriously and miraculously spring from the ground.  I was lucky to be invited to a taste off of morel mushrooms. My friend who is a mycologist and excellent cook – Matt Ironside – had recently plucked morels from the slopes of low-lying hills and mountains in secret locations within two hours of Seattle.

The morels were gigantic and fresh. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The morels were gigantic and fresh. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Knowing I had a crush on mushrooms, he asked me to join him and others to blindly taste natural morel mushrooms and fire morels. Fire morels grow after a forest fire. He wanted to know which we favored and why.

Matt is always on the hunt – for mushrooms that is. Like other mycologists he has his favorite secret spots that I’m sworn to secrecy. He came to the dinner, juggling several bags of morels. They were clean, large and begging to be in my mouth.

Matt prepared them the same way, sautéing sliced morels in butter and a touch of salt. He presented two plates, with the mushrooms looking almost identical. With chopsticks in hand, five of us voted on which plate we liked the best. And the winner by way of finger-pointing to the favorite mushrooms were the fire morels.

The winner of the blind tasting was the fire morels that were sauteed in light butter and a touch of salt. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The winner of the blind tasting was the fire morels that were sauteed in light butter and a touch of salt. I swear there was a hint of smokiness. Photo by Christine Willmsen

They were rich, earthy, nutty and creamy with a carmelized finish. And I swear there was hint of smokiness. Another judge said the fire morels were so meaty and flavorful they could replace a steak for dinner. The natural morels tasted great too, but the clear winner was the fire morels.

For more information on mushrooms connect with the Puget Sound Mycological Society. They have field trips for hunting mushrooms. I suggest if it’s your first few hunts for mushrooms that you go with an experienced mushroom hunter. 

Please keep Hildegard Hendrickson in your thoughts and prayers, she’s an expert mushroom hunter who has been missing since a morel hunt June 8. A search for her has been suspended.

Mycologist Matt Ironside stirs up a creamy morel mushroom risotto for dinner after our blind tasting. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Mycologist Matt Ironside stirs up a creamy morel mushroom risotto for dinner after our blind tasting. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Morels will be in season for the next couple weeks in Washington state.

So hunt them, buy them or order them on a restaurant’s menu, because these are the jewels of the earth worth savoring, especially if they were born after a blazing fire.

Cheers

Christine

Quick tips to make your tomatoes grow

Six tips for a bumper crop of tomatoes

Dig deep hole, put an inch of compost and a sprinkle of fertilizer into the hole and then plant tomato in a warm, sunny spot.

Dig deep hole, put an inch of compost and a sprinkle of fertilizer into the hole and then plant tomato in a warm, sunny spot. Photo by Christine Willmsen

It’s time to get dirty. Yep, I said it – get in the dirt and get dirty.

Memorial Day weekend has passed and that means it’s fair game to plant a number of vegetables, some that will give you vegetables early and others in the middle of the summer. One of my favorites is the tomato.

Since I’m from the Midwest, I’m compelled to plant tomatoes. As a child I remember eating big, beefy tomatoes every day with a pinch of salt and pepper. I also recall my mom canning those juicy, plump tomatoes for winter dishes. So my goal is to relive those memories by planting my own this year. I want you to enjoy them too.

Here are six tips for healthy tomatoes that I’ve picked up over the years and from a recent class at Swanson’s Nursery:

1. If you are limited for space, grow tomatoes in large containers on your deck or patio. If the only person enjoying the tomatoes is you, then I suggest you buy two plants that are different types.

2. Choose starters from your local nursery or store at this point, seeds won’t develop in time. Pick the sunniest and warmest spot in your yard. Tomatoes need 6-8 hours of light per day.

3. Right before planting, pinch off the lowest two levels of leaves. This will encourage a strong stalk to support the heavy tomatoes.

4. Dig a deep hole, put an inch of compost in and sprinkle some fertilizer in the hole before planting it. Cover the root and plant with soil almost up to the first leaf.

5. Plant 18 inches apart and put a cage around each plant. If plants are too close to each other, they can get diseases due to wet foliage.

6. Water consistently, making sure soil doesn’t dry out. Inconsistent watering can lead to blossom-end rot, a brown leathery spot found on the bottom of fruit.

I planted tomato seeds indoors for the first time and had great success. Photo by Christine Willmsen

I planted tomato seeds indoors for the first time and had great success. Photo by Christine Willmsen

My desire for fresh tomatoes started two months ago when I planted two types of tomato seeds indoors – heirloom tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes. I used old plastic egg holders to start my seeds and placed them on the sunny kitchen windowsill.

After they got two strong leaves on them, I transplanted them into a small pot for several weeks before I daringly planted them in the ground this past weekend. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll all have a hot, sunny summer, which means great tomatoes. Look for recipes from me in two months when we all are plucking them from our gardens.

Cheers

Christine

Poppy restaurant surprises dinner guests in Seattle

I picked Poppy as the Mystery Meet restaurant because I had yet to try the popular spot that's been on my hit list for months. I also wanted to see what Poppy’s Executive Chef Jerry Traunfeld was up to since leaving The Herbfarm.

I picked Poppy as the Mystery Meet restaurant because I had yet to try the popular spot that’s been on my hit list for months. I also wanted to see what Poppy’s Executive Chef Jerry Traunfeld was up to since leaving The Herbfarm.

Mystery Meet dinner location revealed – Poppy, an Indian restaurant

I love surprises. And as host of the recent Mystery Meet dinner in Seattle, my expectations were blown away by the food and service at the secret restaurant I picked – Poppy.

If you haven’t heard of Mystery Meet the concept is simple, a gathering of foodies who come together to eat at an undisclosed restaurant. The day before, guests were alert that Poppy was the restaurant I picked for this Mystery Meet adventure.

Ten of us took our seats at Poppy, located at 622 Broadway E., Seattle, on April 2.

Ten of us met at Poppy, located at 622 Broadway E., Seattle on April 2.

Ten of us met at Poppy, located at 622 Broadway E., Seattle on April 2. Photo by Christine Willmsen

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I picked Poppy for a variety of reasons. First, I had yet to try the restaurant and it has been on my hit list for months. I also wanted to see what Poppy’s Executive Chef Jerry Traunfeld was up to in the kitchen since leaving The Herbfarm. While Poppy has received high marks from food reviewers, I wanted to taste what it was all about.

With Poppy I realize you need to come hungry because it serves food Thali style. Thali means a round tray on which a variety of small dishes are served, all at once, to each guest. I started the evening with an amazing cocktail called Wild about Saffron – it mixed vodka, brandy and rose water with hints of lemon, saffron and angostura. Others in the group had wine and the Bourbon Sour that was topped with egg white.

Crunchy, savory appetizers for all

Dinner started with three appetizers: eggplant fries with sea salt and honey, spiced fig and onion tart with blue cheese and sage and spice crispies. The crispy and rich tart disappeared quickly among the group.

Spice crispies at Poppy restaurant are a great start to dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Spice crispies at Poppy restaurant are a great start to dinner.

One appetizer included eggplant fries with sea salt and honey.

One appetizer included eggplant fries with sea salt and honey. Photos by Christine Willmsen

I think the biggest challenge when going to Poppy is deciding what to eat. While there are only four choices, what you get with your four choices is mind-boggling. Keep in mind your main entrée includes six other smaller bites of about two ounces each of food.

Thali-style offers several dishes to guests

I picked black cod with carrot sauce and cucumber shiso salad. The silky cod was cooked perfectly and the cucumber salad gave you a small crunch with every bit of fish. But that was just part of the main entrée. Along with the fish, an array of small bowls and dishes appeared on the large plate. My favorites on the plate were: the nettle and mushroom soup that had a smooth and earthy texture, grilled radicchio, leek and lentil salad, and delicata squash with black-eyed peas with berbere.

The black cod with carrot sauce and cucumber shiso salad came with six other small bowls of food. My favoraties were the lentil salad and the nettle soup. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The black cod with carrot sauce and cucumber shiso salad came with six other small bowls of food. My favorites were the lentil salad and the nettle soup. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Others in the group raved about their dishes. What’s great about foodies is that we love to share. In the case of so many great small dishes, it was nice that strangers were okay with others trying their food. The lavender-rubbed duck leg fell of the bone and was laced with rhubarb and angelica. The celery root ravioli with maitake mushrooms melted in your mouth with an unbelievable filing that had a creamy flavorful texture. It didn’t hurt that truffle butter lightly coated the ravioli. All the main entrees were served with nigella-poppy naan.

Don’t be afraid to ask the server what some of the ingredients are and how they taste. The staff is very knowledgeable about this infusion of Indian cuisine with other worldly flavors.

With 10 choices for dessert, picking a sweet finale can be a fun challenge

Midway through the meal guests moaned and groaned – in the pleasurable way of course. Once dessert hit I was already full, but like a true foodie I was able to find some room in my stomach.

This tart and creamy japanese cheesecake was just one of 10 dessert offerings at Poppy. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This tart and creamy japanese cheesecake was just one of several desserts offered at Poppy. The green pebbles are matcha coated in white chocolate. Photo by Christine Willmsen

I tend to go for the most interesting dessert – so I chose the Japanese cheesecake with passion fruit sabayon and matcha crumble.  The airy cheesecake, tart sabayon and the matcha (green tea) rolled in white chocolate made every mouthful a worthy bite. Others enjoyed the strong flavor of the ginger cake with vanilla ice cream, blood orange and candied olives.

Ginger cake with vanilla ice cream, blood orange intrigued several guests because of the candied olives. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ginger cake with vanilla ice cream and blood orange intrigued several guests because of the candied olives. Photo by Christine Willmsen

If you think this restaurant may not be for you because you are dining alone – well think again. Poppy has a fantastic bar where you can eat smaller plates that’s perfect for one person and they offer a great happy hour. Try the grilled smoke trout and the fig blue cheese tart, each are $10 or less.

Poppy is definitely on my Hot Spot list.

Cheers

Christine

Poppy on Urbanspoon

An invitation to explore a great Seattle restaurant – the location is a surprise

Join other foodies at Seattle’s Mystery Meet dinner

So this Solo Cook is all for adventures – especially with food. Are you game? Do you like secrets and mysteries?

Well join me, the host, at the Mystery Meet dinner in Seattle. Join other foodies in a food exploration on Tuesday, April 2, at 8:30 p.m. You don’t know what restaurant you’ll be eating at until the day before and you don’t know the menu until you arrive. Sign up here and invitations will be sent out.

I’m the host of this event and guarantee you’ll have a great time at this amazing restaurant with multiple courses for only $49. But there’s no way you’ll get the location out of me early – although I do accept bribes.

Part of the fun is solving the mystery by guessing what restaurant I’ve picked. Here are some clues.

Location Clues:

  1. Washington D.C. mound.
  2. 21% between 25th & 26th.
  3. My posse’s on it.
  4. Hindi or Nepali for “plate.”
  5. Dorothy naps.

I attended a Mystery Meet dinner a couple months ago that was hosted by another food lover and blogger, Myrissa Yamashiro. It was an amazing night at Luc filled with a visit from Chef Thierry Rautureau and great conversations about food vacations, cooking and the hot restaurants in the area. I have no doubt we’ll have just as much fun and entertainment at this surprise restaurant.

Be daring, be bold and book your ticket now for Mystery Meet dinner.

Cheers

Christine

Field Roast creator says let’s REALLY cook

Food entrepreneur wants us to cook more

David Lee started Field Roast in 1997 and created FareStart in 1988.

David Lee started Field Roast in 1997 and created FareStart in 1988.

David Lee, the creator of Field Roast and FareStart in Seattle, has many ideas and perspectives on food and he’s not afraid to share them. And there is one thing this vegan and I, a meat lover, have in common – we want people to learn about food and enjoy cooking it.

“We’ve lost our center,” said Lee during an interview and tour of his facility. “We’ve taken the presence out of cooking.”

“I want to teach people to cook for their daily lives, there’s a lot of people out there living alone.”

My response was – EXACTLY. That’s part of my mission too.

Field Roast vegan sausages

Field Roast vegan sausages

After years of working in the film industry, Lee wanted to take a different path.

“I wanted the creative pursuit on my own terms,” he said. And at that point – in 1997 – the seeds were planted for Field Roast, a grain-based food company he started after wanting to make a vegetarian teriyaki wrap.

Lee is also known for creating FareStart in 1988. This successful program serves healthy meals to Seattle’s homeless and disadvantaged and trains some of them to become chefs and support staff in the food industry through its job-training program.

Lee’s message is clear cut

But Lee doesn’t want to be known as the Field Roast guy or the FareStart guy.

“I’m just a cook,” he said.

And he wants YOU to cook too.

“You come home from work and you are tired, but you are assembling food and not cooking it,” he said.

That can be me some nights as a single person who obviously has no personal chef on hand (oh I’m interested in hiring one, especially a handsome man with good knife skills).

But recently I’ve become more conscious about what and how I cook. I’ve noticed, in the United States, that our default for food is quick and easy. This is not some breaking news story – many have written about the topic.

People grab a can of soup from the shelf, plop a processed meal into the microwave, or pull out a sodium-laden frozen meal that claims all the food groups in a plastic container. These are foods we merely assemble, but don’t cook or prepare.

For all the single people out there, I want to help you cook easy meals after a long day through my blog, and I promise if you cook some of my recipes they won’t look like shit on a shingle.

Lee said, “we need to spend more time feeding ourselves – it’s how we are taking in the earth and the sun.”

For some people that idea may be a little too philosophical, but I get Lee’s message.

Fresh ingredients are the key to Field Roast products

Field Roast employee mixes ingredients to make vegan sausages.

Field Roast’s popular smoked apple sausages include wheat, apples, Yukon gold potatoes, onion powder, garlic, sea salt, spices and sage.

During my tour, there were employees measuring batches of fresh ingredients, while others were swirling the sweet-smelling ingredients in large vats and still others were pumping them into a machine to make sausage.

Employees at Field Roast in Seattle cut sausage links

Employees at Field Roast in Seattle cut sausage links

With just 50 employees, Lee has grown an idea into a full-fledged successful company that offers vegan food products like roasts, cutlets and cheese. They distribute numerous products in all 50 states, including my favorite, which are their sausages.

Field Roast employees label and package sausages that are shipped throughout the U.S.

Field Roast employees label and package Mexican Chipotle sausages that are shipped throughout the United States.

I like the Mexican Chipotle sausages made with grain meat and a spicy-hot blend of smoked Chipotle peppers, Chili de Arbol peppers, fresh chopped garlic, sweet onions seasoned with cumin seed and oregano. These can be made into tacos and quesadillas. Field Roast also has some great recipes for their other products.

Cheers

Christine

 

Happy hour at Seattle’s Sazerac will leave you smiling

Sazerac is a great downtown spot for happy hour food

Try Sazerac's freshly-shucked and fried oysters for happy hour. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Try Sazerac’s freshly-shucked and fried oysters for happy hour. Photo by Christine Willmsen

I’m always tempted to show readers of this blog exciting, new Hot Spots for them to try that are great for single people. But I haven’t forgotten there are numerous old -school restaurants and bars that are great to visit.

Sazerac Restaurant & Bar, at 1101 4th Ave., is a great place for happy hour if you are already downtown for a shopping spree, live music or a museum visit.  Sit at a bar stool, relax in a lounge chair or sit near the open kitchen, where wafts of sweet, smoky wood meander through the entire room.

The pork rillettes with raisin bread is satisfying and filling. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The pork rillettes with raisin bread is satisfying and filling. Photo by Christine Willmsen

While the drinks are good here, the food steals the show.  You’ll only need one or two of these appetizers to feel like you’ve had a full dinner at this restaurant adjacent to Hotel Monaco.

One of my favorites is the pork rillettes for $9 because the rich pork spread is paired perfectly with raisin pecan bread. Another must-have is the spicy beef tartare with roasted chilies for $8.

A glass of Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with oysters. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A glass of Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with oysters. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Happy hour is 4-8 p.m., every day except Sundays. And don’t forget the half dozen oysters freshly cracked in front of you and put on a beautiful rustic wood platter that pairs well with the Townshend Sauvignon Blanc for $7 a glass.

Sitting at the counter at Sazerac gives you a view of Chef Jason McClure's talents. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Sitting at the counter at Sazerac gives you a view of Chef Jason McClure’s talents. Photo by Christine Willmsen

For a main entrée I dug into the Pork Cheeks with Parsnip Puree, Bourbon Mushrooms and Shishito Peppers. The rich tender pork, the subtle sweetness of the parsnips and the touch of heat in the peppers make this a winning combo.

Jason McClure has been the executive chef for 15 years, but that doesn’t mean the menu is stale. McClure is always pushing his staff to be creative and bold, even mentoring some of them.

There’s no doubt he’s infused a certain chill factor at the open-faced kitchen. If you are like me and want to see the food and chefs in action, sit at the kitchen counter where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of almost every maneuver of the staff.

Here you will see and be able to interact with the chefs and be able to ask questions.

Try the pork cheeks with mushrooms and peppers for a main entree at Sazerac. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Try the pork cheeks with mushrooms and peppers for a main entree at Sazerac. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This is definitely my comfort zone, sitting near the heat of the wood-fired oven, soaking up the scents from the cutting boards and hearing the food sizzle on flames.

But another place to sit is in the bar, where you’re more likely to find people to interact with who have just gotten off work or who are gallivanting around downtown.

Here there is a mix of men and women who are single, often ready to start their weekend early and spark a conversation.

But don’t let me sway you. Try Sazerac out yourself and tell me what you think.

 

Cheers

Christine

Sazerac on Urbanspoon

Two Beet Salad Recipes that are Quick and Healthy

Try these two quick and healthy beet salads; each is a perfect serving for one

Roasted beets can taste like candy when added to salads. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Roasted beets can taste like candy when added to salads. Photo by Christine Willmsen

It’s time to go beyond the traditional roasted beets your mom boiled or cooked in the oven and think of beets as a way to beef up your salads.

Go to the store and get two or three beets and start by cleaning them and trimming the green tops off.  Leave about one inch of the stems intact to prevent the beets from bleeding. But don’t throw away those green tops; use them in my chicken soup recipe I posted last week. Beets are superfoods, stocked with high levels of folate and potassium, according to Self Nutritional Data and the USDA.

I often cook several beets on a Sunday night so that I have them ready for these salads throughout the week. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Then rub each beet with a bit of olive oil and wrap them in aluminum foil.  Place them on a cooking sheet so that their juices won’t ooze to the bottom of the oven and make a mess. Cook them for at least one hour or until a knife can easily slide through the beet. Cool them to room temperature and peel them.

Now let’s have fun with two different salads that I promise will make your beets taste like candy from the earth. The first salad combines the sweetness of beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese to make this a savory and sweet salad. The second salad is all about combining fresh, simple ingredients. Each of these recipes is a perfect serving for one person for lunch or a side dish at dinner.

Hot in the Kitchen: Beet, Cucumber and Pea Salad with Feta

The sweetness of the beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese make this a great salad. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The sweetness of the beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese make this a great salad. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1 cooked beet cut into squares

½ cucumber peeled and sliced

¼ cup peas defrosted

1/8 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to your taste. I used peas from my garden that I froze earlier in the year.

Hot in the Kitchen: Beet, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Beet, tomato and avocado salad only takes minutes to prepare. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Beet, tomato and avocado salad only takes minutes to prepare. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ingredients:

1 cooked beet, sliced

5 cherry or teardrop yellow tomatoes sliced in half

½ avocado cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Gently mix ingredients together and sprinkle with sea salt.  If you are craving greens in your salad, add ½ cup torn arugula.

Cheers

Christine