Finding an interesting and original place to eat in the heart of the Seattle’s downtown shopping proves difficult for us. There is an overwhelming amount of sub par Thai, chain steak houses, sushi, or burger joint options, most of which are overpriced and unsatisfying. This explains why we watched with heightened anticipation the final construction touches on the Olive 8 Hyatt hotel/condo living with Urbane Restaurant and Bar. As we would walk by and peer through the large glass windows our excitement increased. We regularly attend the MET opera Live in HD at AMC Pacific Place 11 for the encore performances during a week night and need a quick dinner prior to 6:30 or 7 PM show. After exhausting our efforts on Capitol Hill restaurant locations we visited Urbane prior to the MET’s Les contes d’Hoffmann performance. Visually, the restaurant is extremely pleasing with sharp clean lines, contemporary serving ware, and a spacious seating area. On first glance the happy hour menu and dinner menu looked creative, satiating, and very affordable. A large pint of micro-draft beer at $3 is the best value. We ordered a couple items on the happy hour menu and one second course plating from the dinner menu. (more…)
January 17, 2010
October 11, 2009
This is a summation of our Taco week with Mark Miller’s “Taco” book. A few basic things to get out of the way first: 1) We needed many ingredients that were not at a standard grocery store, but a specialty Hispanic food store. 2) The tacos require several steps prior to sauteing, sometimes roasting the pepper to peel, multiple items to chop, dice, or julienne, smoking spices, or squeezing limes or lemons. 3) The actually cooking time is short and so is the eating, since they are small and you basically just pound them down one after another. It was hard not to prevent yourself from popping them into your mouth with only a two large bites. Typically, we take 30-40 minutes to eat each night, but during the taco week we consumed them quickly. We tried to hit all areas of taco filing, including, egg, vegetable, poultry, fish, and red meat. However, we had to drop one of the chicken tacos because we couldn’t locate nopales. Overall, Miller’s “Taco” book is fantastic and offers a wide variety of options to the traditional American taco!
1st Taco: “Bacon and Egg with Red Chile and Honey” with the “Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce” for Sunday breakfast. The bacon caramelizes with the honey and red chile powder and sit on a bed of fluffy puffed eggs. It is topped with julienne strips of roast red pepper, chopped cilantro and the chilled tomatillo-avocado sauce. A critique on myself, I could have cooked the bacon a little longer, because it did not provide the crunchy texture contrast that was expected. The key to this taco is the accompaniment, otherwise it would have been similar to something I have previously created. With fresh tomatillos and a perfectly ripe avocado it steps up the average breakfast taco. On a Scale of 1-10, it gets a 6.5.
2nd Taco: “Squash Blossoms with Green Chiles and Cheese” with Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce.” The chilies in the recipe included poblano, jalepeno, serrano, and green. Two of them required the seeds left in which gives the dish a bit of heat. This filling is not for the spice sensitive. A couple of years ago, I discovered the squash blossoms at the farmer’s market and would stuff them with various cheese and herb mixtures. But, this recipe intrigued me because they become part of the taco filling. Epazote was an ingredient, I had never used or heard. According to the source it decreases flatulence after a rough meal. Perhaps this ingredient should be used more in bean dishes! Unfortunately, I could only locate it dehydrated, but it has an interesting scent. The fresh herbs added to the dish were marjoram, basil, and cilantro. Marjoram created perfume fragrance that dominated the smell and taste of the filling. I found it a bit harsh, so I would reduce the amount of marjoram next time. The filling had beautiful hues of yellow and green with speckles of white from the chile seeds and graded queso Oaxaca. The tomatillo-avocado sauce dripped out onto our fingers as we gobbled up the delicious vegetarian tacos. The yellow squash provided enough substance to a non-meat meal. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 9.
3rd Taco: “Seared Tuna Taco with Roast Pineapple and Habanera Pepper Sauce.” For this we used the fresh albacore tuna, we previously mentioned (plug in previous post). The tuna was sliced into 1/2 inch sections and then rubbed with a dry mixture of red chile powder. It is quickly seared on both sides. The pineapple rings were caramelized on a low stove temperature and then mixed with the lime juice, roasted habanera and fresh coriander. Since this taco contained the hottest known pepper to man-the Habanera, we fully expected it give a kick in them mouth. But, the caramelized pineapple toned down the heat from the pepper. While this taco was good because of fresh ingredients, it scored the lowest because of our execution-we overcooked the tuna and could have carmelized the pineapple more. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 6.
4th Taco: “Classic Ground Beef with Guajillo Chile with Salsa Fresca.” What I love about this classic taco is no use of a taco seasoning package. What the hell is in that, anyway? This is what a standard taco should taste like. We used our Kitchen Aid mixer to grind the beef shoulder and cooked until brown. Then, you added the re-hydrated Guajillo chiles, tomatoes, and white onion and create a stew-like texture. There were a couple other red chiles used and some of the mexican oregano. The freshest ingredients of the Salsa Fresca are necessary-heirloom tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice- to make the best topper. Combining all the ingredients makes for the best beef taco. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 8.
5th Taco: ” Chicken with Chorizo”. This taco turned out to be one of the easier tacos to prepare using only a blender and one pan, and also one the most delicious from the book. These tacos contain a green marinade which balances the red chile in the chorizo. We served them with the queso fresco, and you can also garnish them with quail eggs sunny side up. We have included the recipe (adapted) below. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 9:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 poblano chile
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 gloves garlic
1 teaspoon green chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and grounf
1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1 nuch green onions, root ends trimmed and cut into large pieces
1 1/4 lbs of chicken breast (we used de-boned thighs as we feel like they have more flavor), cut into 1/2 strips
6oz Mexican pork chorizo bulk or links
1 tablespoon veg oil
1/2 white onion
8 crispy yellow corn tortilla shells (we used Don Pancho corn tortillas)
In a blender, place the water, lime juice, chiles, garlic, cilantro, green chile powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, salt, parsley, and green onions and puree until smooth. In a bowl pour the marinade over the chicken strips. Let set for 1-3 hrs. If in links remove the skin from the chorizo and break it up, and in a large skillet over med. heat saute the onion until carmelized about 4-6 minutes.
Add the chorizo to the onion and cook, stirring until the sausage is cooked through, around 8 minutes. Remove the sausage pan from the pan and set aside, leave the fat in the pan. Remove the marinated chicken strips and drain off the excess liquid. In the same pan as the chorizo was cooked, saute the chicken, turning once or twice, until the chicken is a light golden color and cooked, around 9 minutes. Remove from the heat or keep warm until ready to serve and stir back in the chorizo/onion mixture.
To serve, divide the filling between the warmed tortillas, top with queso fresco, and Salsa Fresca, then serve. We ate these tacos Hair of the Dog, Blue Dot, Imperial IPA. A hoppy, piney, citrus-like beer which balances the spicy attack on the palette.
August 30, 2009
This summer we’ve been treated to great tacos at Tako Truk and just last night we enjoyed a repeat of Kye Soon Hong and Eric Vigessa’s outstanding Korean Tacos on Eric and Dawn Wright’s patio (see Gourmet’s recipe and post about the Korean tacos by Matthew-Amster Burton which we missed the first time, and blog post via Rebekah Denn). Tacos can be fun to make, so differently construed, and be filled with great flavor combos and textures, so I checked out “Tacos,” by Mark Miller at the public library (after an NPR recommendation). A quick perusing and I know we are going to love this cookbook. Rarely, do I buy a cookbook without testing out a few recipes first, but this could be the cookbook for the year and it’s only August. Even before we’ve cooked anything, we are salivating at the 75 options of tacos filled with things like squash blossoms, nopales, wild mushrooms, duck, squid, pork, bacon, or even elk. (Not sure where I can find elk meat in Seattle, but I am sure I could order some).
Saturday midday, we drove to a Pike’s Market, University Market, and Whole Foods to collect all the items we needed. I don’t think I have ever purchased as many dried or fresh chilies in one day as we did yesterday. Our car was filled with the hot spicy scent of capsicum for several hours. Fortunately, Seattle has the true gem when it comes to the purchase of bulk spices, World Spice Merchants. Any spice you want or don’t know you want, they will have it or they will recommend a place to get it. I needed a “few” spices so I created the list and passed it along to the merchants to prepare! My list for chilies included: Ancho, Chipotle, Guajillo, New Mexico, Passilla Negro, and Pasilla de Oaxaca whole and a few more were grounded or flaked. While we waited for the packaging of the spices we headed to El Mercado Latino, a small grocery near Pike’s Market. Surprisingly, we bought all the Mexican ingredients we needed: corn tortillas, queso oaxaca, expazote, and crema Mexicano. Next stop Tonnemaker Family Orchard, at the University District’s farmer’s market. By far, the Tonnemaker Family have the largest selection of fresh chilies and peppers I have ever seen in an open market. Their collection ranges from the hottest to mildest varieties. Vibrant colors of reds, orange, green and yellow overflow the white boxes, small medium and large sizes to choose from. I walked away with 10 different chilies and peppers totaling only a few dollars. Close to the University farmer’s market we usually swing by University Seafood and Poultry for their “fresh-fresh” wild local St. Jude albacore tuna . OMG…we feel this is the best tuna we have had all summer and for $6.95 lb, it’s a steal. The rest of the supplies were from other vendors at the farmer’s market or via Whole Foods.
The menu is now set for the week and we will report on the highlights at the end.
- Bacon, Eggs, Red Chile, and Honey Taco
- Squash Blossoms with Green Chilies and Cheese
- Seared Tuna Taco
- Sonoran Chicken with Nopales Taco
- Classic Ground Beef with Guajillo Chile
- Accompaniments include Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce, Mexican Crema, Roasted Pineapple-Habanero Chile Salsa, and Salsa Fresca
August 29, 2009
In a quiet area just off Denny and the corner of 5th, sits Tilikum Place Cafe. With a shortage of restaurants near the Seattle Center, it is a worth a visit, especially if you are in the area for a performance. We look forward to visiting during the regular Seattle Opera season, but we stopped by for an early dinner during the 2nd week of the Seattle’s Wagner Ring Cycle. It is one of the few places we know you can actually sit down to eat at 4 pm (Operas during the Ring start at 6).
With a group of 6 we tried a wide variety of dishes and specials. To start off with cocktails, Michael had the Maritime IPA and I had a cocktail of vodka, peach bitters, and sage. Both drinks provided a refreshing start for the hot evening. The starter dish we ordered was a grilled quail, blueberries, greens, almond corn cake with a little chili oil. The grilled quail was cooked perfectly, moist inside-crispy outside, coupled with the sharpness of the tart blueberries and the bitterness of the greens it made for an immediate delight. The dish was actually served as an entree the evening before, but we grabbed it to split since there was only one order left. Our next course consisted of the Spanish white anchovies with beet caviar, pickled shallots and a little frisee and a side of baked beans. I know, why the baked beans, well we feel that these “standard” beans can make or break a restaurant. Tilikum’s baked beans definitively made the cut. A great portion of beans, maple sugar sweet, and chunks of salty pork. I could have licked the bowl, but I held out. The Spanish anchovies were fresh and salty with beet and picked shallots. The beets could have been prepared a little different, because they didn’t provide enough contrast to the shallots and anchovies.
Our main dishes consisted of the Moroccan chicken with white bean and mint soup and the housemade pork terrine with cherry moustarda and cincinnati radishes. Even on a warm summer evening the soup was an amazing blend of rich chicken broth, chicken pieces, vegetables, and spicy flavors-probably cayenne. It makes me look forward to the fall. The pork terrine had solid pieces of shredded pork that easily spread onto baguette slices. The radishes created the crunchy texture contrast with the silkiness of the terrine. Other members of our party had the savory tart with goat cheese and summer squash and the pan seared chicken with toasted dumpling and vegetables. There were mixed reviews of the savory tart because there was too much pastry and little of the filling. While some dishes were a huge hit, others were still pretty good, regardless we hope that Tilikum Place Cafe is here to stay, as we are in dire need of solid restaurant choices for Opera or theatre nights in the Seattle Center area.
407 Cedar Street
Seattle, WA 98121
August 8, 2009
Do you ever wonder where to get eggs? Most people purchase them in the refrigerator section of their grocery store. However, if you get a chance to get fresh farm eggs, grab them quick. A friend of mine lives on a small acreage on Whidbey Island. She has some feathered friends: turkeys, pheasants, a variety of chickens, and geese. Last winter I asked her for goose eggs because I had never had them and wondered how they would taste compared to a standard chicken egg. By spring though, the geese went broody and stopped laying, but she managed to gather and share 3 varieties of chickens and a few pheasant eggs for our consumption.
The three variety of chicken eggs included: buff Orpington, silver-grey Dorking, and buff brahm Bantam with the addition of a ring necked pheasant egg (photo presents this order). The size and color of the egg shells clearly separate the difference between the eggs. The buff Orpington (large brown) and the silver-grey Dorking (large white) have standard shells that cracked like any other egg I previously purchased. However, the ring necked pheasant (small dark brown/olive) and the buff brahm Bantam (small brown) had thick dense shells. I was actually concerned about breaking the yolk, but successfully I kept them all intact. I have never made so many eggs before, so thankfully I had my mom and Michael to help taste.
The base I prepared combined slices of yellow onions and coined Yukon gold potatoes with a little sea salt and pepper, which is a standard brunch base for us on the weekends. First, I sauteed the onions just until they were soft and then set them aside from the heat,while the potatoes boiled in salted water. After 8-10 minutes, I could pierce the potatoes with a knife. I drained the potatoes and once they cooled cut them into round circular disks. Because I wanted to taste the subtle differences between the eggs, I poached all the eggs. In my opinion, it allows for the best egg tasting experience; you get the delicate fluffiness of the egg white and the richness of creamy yolk. While the eggs were poaching, I sauteed the onions and potatoes in a little butter and extra virgin olive oil and kept them on warm until the eggs were done. After plating the onion and potato hash first, I added a pheasant and Bantam egg to each plate topped with some chopped flat-leaf parsley. The Dorking and Oprington, I plated separately.
The tasting results: We all more or less agreed with the outcome. The pheasant egg had a lighter softer yolk with a delicate gamier flavor. The Bantam yolk was the largest in proportion to egg white and only had a little more flavor than the pheasant egg. It tasted like any other egg (from the grocery store). The best would be a combination of the Dorking and Orpington. While the Dorking’s egg white was airy, fluffy, and full of texture, the Orpington’s yolk had a rich silkiness that surpassed the other eggs. As the yolk spilled over the sweet onions and salty potatoes, it created an excellent balance. Get out of the grocery store and go to a local farm/market to see if you can get your hands on any Dorking or Orpington chicken eggs.