Monday, December 15, 2008

Cookies for President!

I'm not one to do cartwheels for cookies. For that matter, I probably won't pirouette for pies or tremble for tarts. I will, however, use a lot of annoying alliteration to tell you that I usually prefer the savory over the sweet.

But. BUT. Things have changed. A single cookie recipe has altered my normal opinion of dessert. Day after day, night after night, I walk Zombie-like into the kitchen to eat just one – okay, maybe two... Alright! I'll have three! cookies until every last crumb is gone. The extra dough doesn't last long in the freezer.

As for the recipe, it's origin is a bit embarrassing to me. You may have heard it before. It's the Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Ring a bell? The recipe comes equipped with a cheeseball story – that may or may not be true – and is at least 20 years old.

The tale goes that some lady asked the department store for the cookie recipe, and was falsely charged $250 – instead of the $2.50 she expected. But boy did she get her revenge! She decided to distribute the recipe to everyone she knows, and asked all of them to keep passing it along. Boy is she fierce!


But the fact of the matter is – the cookies are amazing. They are chewy and nutty and perfect – and you must make them.

Addictive Chocolate Chip & Pecan Cookies

Makes about 35 cookies

2 1/2 cups oatmeal – blended into a powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 ounces chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups pecans (or whatever nut you like)

*I added a big handful of shredded coconut to my batter and it was delicious!

-Cream the butter and both sugars in a big bowl
-Add eggs and vanilla
-Mix in flour, blended oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda
-When it's all blended together, add chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut if you know what's good for you
-Roll into flattened balls, and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.
-Bake for 9 minutes at 375 degrees.
Roll leftover dough into logs, wrap in plastic or parchment paper – and store in the fridge or freezer. You can cut off thick slices whenever you crave a cookie, and bake for 10 minutes.

The cookies will be very soft, and appear a bit raw after baked. Don't panic! Don't bake them longer! They will firm up when they cool.

Sushi & Jewshi

It's not polite to brag. I know this because my mother taught me manners. But I haven't lived with my mother for 11 years - so fuck it! I'm gonna brag!

Look at my beautiful homemade sushi!

I have no witty clever things to say about the sushi that I rolled last week. I'm not particularly in the mood to give you instructions on how to roll your own. I just really wanna show off the photos.

And I wanna say that I wanna make sweet love to Uwajimaya. This amazing and massive Asian grocery store, with its rows upon rows of tofu and noodles and frozen dim sum and what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-this produce is the perfect spot to gather sushi making materials. I was literally bouncing and skipping through the fish department. Fish excites me!

You can buy schools of sashimi-grade fish by the slab or, far more affordable, just a few savory slices. You can buy a small fan of seared tuna, a chunk of locally smoked salmon, a single octopus tentacle, and a healthy hunk of unagi.

And if you celebrate Hanukkah, you can roll up a batch of Jewshi. Sushi for Jewish people! Get it? Get it? Skip the bagel and create a smoked salmon, cream cheese and green onion roll. The adventurous should utilize the ultimate Jewshi roll filling: gefilte fish! Served sans wasabi, but with a squirt of horseradish of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Garbage Gourmet

They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. But I'm pretty sure the bloke who wrote that line wasn't imagining me shoving dumpster dived baguettes into a garbage bag at 11pm on a Tuesday night.

That's right, dumpster diving! Something I've been dying to do for years!

I happen to think there are several appealing aspects to rummaging around a big metal dumpster looking for a bit to eat. First off, the adventure! It's like searching for buried treasure. Plus you have to go when its dark and you can wear all black and a ski mask if you really want to get all dramatical. Second, I despise waste. I reuse tin foil and scrape the mold off my cheese. I don't need to remind you how much perfectly edible food Americans absentmindedly fling into the bin each day. And third, this food is free! With our collapsing economy, dumpster diving is as sensible as dropping J Crew for JC Penney.

I know what some of you are doing right now. You are making a snooty little wrinkled up sourpuss face. You are throwing up juuuust a little bit in your mouth. You are about to call and tell me you “have come down with SARS and can't possible make it to my dinner party Saturday night.”

But you should stop your sneering! Diving for dinner doesn't have to be disgusting. I didn't go snorkeling through your grandma's trash can, looking for a half-eaten Entenmann's cake. No sir. Hours after America voted to elect its first black president, three garbage giddy gals and I pulled up to one of Seattle's best bakeries. A bakery that charges about $5 for a loaf of it's organic artisan bread. A bakery whose name I am hesitant to mention, because I don't want it to start locking it's dumpsters!

And what delightful dumpsters they are! Lift a heavy metal lid, hop in the bin, and you will be knee deep in delicious bread; still securely tucked into paper sheathes. We plucked up round, crusty loaves of rosemary bread sprinkled with sea salt and squishy-soft sweet potato bread laced with pecans. There were long swords of sourdough and bags of dainty dinner rolls. Three garbage-free dumpsters. Piled with bread. We hardly made a dent.

I was scrounging for pleasure, but there was also some do-gooder diving on that historic night. Two of my freegan friends were gathering grub for Food Not Bombs, a grass roots organization that feeds the homeless with food that would otherwise go to waste.

The next morning at home, as I munched on slices of fragrant rosemary toast with butter, I decided this was only the beginning. Adventure! Less waste! Free food! I will scour every last dumpster in Seattle until I find the makings of a complete meal! And if I have to dramatically don an all-black outfit and a ski mask to do so. be it!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Guinea Pig: Peru's Other White Meat

Americans aren't too hip on eating their pets. They cower at cat consumption and look down on dog dining. If it's fluffy, furry or fetches, chances are they aren't interested. In fact, they are downright appalled!

I say they because I have never included myself in this camp. Yes, I love cats to an embarrassingly mockable degree, but given the chance, I might take a taste of a Tabby. No offense to adorable animals everywhere, but when it comes to cuisine, I wanna try everything! Which is why I couldn't wait to eat in Peru. A country that makes no excuse for its love of the guinea gig. Guinea pig on a plate, that is.

Called cuy, the rascally rodent usually only shows up on more expensive restaurant menus, and is considered a sort of delicacy.

It was Day Two of our five week trek around Peru, and we could wait no longer. Even my boyfriend, who as a child adored his guinea pig named Whinnie, was eager to try the pet on a plate. We grandly ordered up a cuy, along with an alpaca steak, in the charming city of Arequipa.

But even I was not prepared for the crisp, brown, tooth-to-tail animal set before me. He came with teeth, and claws, and hair!

His little guinea pig arm rested stiffly in my mashed potatoes.

He was also no picnic to eat. Fork and knife were abandoned for fingers, and once I managed to peel off his difficult layer of thick, rubbery skin, there was not much meat underneath. What meat there was tasted strong, gamy and...well, rodenty. Much more of a novelty than a delicacy, if you ask me.

A delicacy you can look in the eye, and even scratch behind the ears, if you stroll through some of Peru's amazing open air markets. At a street market in Calca, a quaint community in the Sacred Valley, guinea pigs squeak their days away in cages, oblivious to their dinner plate fate.

And oblivious to the luxurious lives their guinea pig pals are living up north.

America! Where the pets are just for petting.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

MSG for You and Me!

There are so many ideas and inventions that I wish I woulda come up with. The film House of Yes starring Parker Posey (and Tori Spelling, but could ya just hush up about it)?

"Dammit!" I cursed, shaking my fist as the credits rolled up the screen, "Why didn't I pen that script?"

Bacon? Already invented! Hoods on sweatshirts? Done. Mail order brides? Trazillion dollar industry. All the good ideas have already been claimed, and I find it absolutely maddening!

But the true, gut wrenching, "Why didn't I think of that?" pain came when I stumbled across another Seattle food blog: MSG150. The brave knights behind this blog have embarked on a truly delicious quest: they have 365 days to eat at every single restaurant in the International District. They will tackle tofu, joust with ginger, mingle with MSG and their veins will run salty with soy sauce. It's a dream come true for Asian food fanatics.

Normally I would pout and cry, then viciously egg the homes of the inventors who have stolen the ideas that I might have eventually come up with. But in this situation I took the high road. I decided to use this "Why didn't I come up with that?" blog to navigate my way through the ID.

You see, I have scraped my chopsticks across many a Seattle plate, but have yet to find my favorite Chinese restaurant.

Growing up, my family exhibited a fierce and unflappable loyalty for the First Hunan Chef Wong. Tucked into a shopping center, in a tree-lined Bay Area suburb, we spent decades gorging ourselves on double mushroom chicken with bok choy and slippery chow mein noodles; always brought to the table by the perpetually peppy, suspiciously straight, wife-owner who sported a butchy bowl cut and called my dad "Boss."

Now, every time I open a Chinese menu, I think "This will be the one! My new favorite place!" But alas, the soup will be bland, the chow fun too greasy, and the garlicky Chinese greens nonexistent.

But thanks to the good folks at MSG150, I was lead to Shanghai Garden. It was a weeknight, but every table was crowded, and a hungry mob was not-so-patiently waiting in the small lobby. As the waitress lead us to our table, I noticed that nearly everyone was eating the same dish: green fettuccine-shaped noodles that turned out to be a house specialty: barleygreen hand shaved noodles.

My Partner-In-Asian-Food-Crime (PIAFC? There has got to be a better acronym!) and I share a passionate love for cushy hand shaved noodles, so we eagerly ordered this dish, along with a surprisingly pricey veggie dish that I have been craving ever since. Sixteen bucks will get you a platter of stunningly green and toothsome pea vines, a scattering of hearty shitake mushrooms and thin, silky sheets of bean curd. It's a celebration of textures, and my very first encounter with a bean curd sheet.

A thick soup packed with seafood, chicken, veggies and more shitakes introduced my PIAFC and I to yet another new item: additively squishy, disc shaped, rice noodles that look exactly like water chestnuts.

As for those hand shaved noodles, I've had better (Seven Stars Pepper Szechuan's are dreamy) . These were green, but they lacked the requisite cushy and comforting qualities that keep me up at night.

But, the good news is, Shanghai Garden has renewed my faith in Seattle Chinese food. AND, even more exciting, my giant brain has finally thought up an amazing idea of its own:

Those adorably American Lil Smokies that I am too snobby to buy, but will eat the shit out of if you serve them in a crock pot at your House Warming party? Hows about I invent some Lil Smokies BUNS? Teeny tiny little buns, in which to tuck your teeny tiny wieners! I'm tellin' you. This time next year? Lil Smokies buns will be the next bacon.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cone Head

Did you know it takes an average of 50 licks to demolish a single scoop of ice cream?

Oh, did? Dammit! How did you know that?!

Well, Mr Know-It-All McSmartypants, I bet you don't know THIS: despite the rain and the gloom and the gray, Seattle is one of the top three ice cream consuming cities in the country! We boldly walk the rocky road, not letting a measly drizzle or drip stand in the way of our favorite arctic addiction.

I first learned this little nugget of knowledge from Molly Moon, founder, owner and namesake of Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream Shop in Wallingford. A hip, young, ice cream loving gal fresh off a career in politics, Ms Moon noticed that our fair city was only home to a single locally run, homemade ice cream shop. So she put on her cookies-n-cream cape and came to the rescue, just in time for the summer ice cream rush.

Cocaine snorting disco ballers waited in line at Studio 54, and Seattleites are waiting in line for ice cream. The words "local" "homemade" and "organic" harmonize with flavors like Thai Iced Tea and Honey Lavender, creating an irresistible siren song that has them lining up out the door, and sometimes around the corner.

After several cones on several occasions, I decided it was time to share the love with my friend and fellow foodie blogger at She melted over a scout mint scoop, packed with pieces of Thin Mint girl Scout cookies. I stuck with my standard: strawberry balsamic. I am by no means a creature of habit, but after tasting every single last flavor at MM's, I declare this sweet and savory combination to be my absolute favorite.

But there might be a new favorite in town! In just a few sweet hours, I will be in White Center to sample ice cream and Popsicles at an even newer establishment. If the words horchata + ice cream make you gasp with may wanna stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Va Va Va Vegan!

Hi. My name is Rachel, and I'm addicted to the Internet.

It's true! But I had no idea how much I depended on the World Wide Webby Poo (I figure an adorable nickname is suiting since we do spend so much time together) until I found myself computerless. Hence the lack of new blogs. Hence you crying on your pillow every night.

But all that time previously spent Googling Celine Dion's shoe size, has now been devoted to filling my face with delectables from Seattle restaurants that I have never tried before!

Where have you been eating, you ask? Well, for one, Hillside Quickie up on Capitol Hill. I have read reviews and passed by this vegan sandwich (yeah, that's right, more sandwiches) shop a baker's dozen times, but never stopped in. For two reasons:

1.) When it comes to vegetarian and vegan food, I prefer creative combinations of real veggies, legumes, tofu, pasta and rice, as opposed to those creepy curtains of wrinkly fake meat.

2.) Vegan food, especially sandwiches, tend to be B-L-A-N-D. Blandwiches, if you will.

But boy did I feel sheepish after taking my first bite at Hillside Quickie! After spending a secretary's lunch break deciding what to order ("Ooooh, look at that one! Fire roasted yam sammich?! Jamaican spiced tofu wrap?!") I finally settled on the Purple Haze:

Cushy rosemary focaccia managed to bookend an absolutely enormous sandwich filled with smoky slabs of soft eggplant, seitan steak, sweet grilled onions, and barely cooked, crisp bell peppers. This was a vegan sandwich with FLAVOR! With DEPTH! It was messy and drippy and threatened to disassemble at any moment, which are all the signs of a superb sandwich.

I am often lured into ordering a main course based on the sexiness of its side dish, and at Hillside Quickie my seitan stack was not accompanied by plain-old ordinary chips or potato salad. No sir. Piled up beside my teetering sandwich was a lovely lump of creamy risotto. It seemed to maybe possibly perhaps be made out of quinoa, and it seemed to be much better than the sticky, gooey "risottos" I've tasted at fine Seattle restaurants over the past year.

So the next time you accidentally drop your laptop in the toilet, or get busted for pilfering your next door neighbors Internet - seize the opportunity! Don't mope! Eat! Eateateat! Even if you're scared of potentially wrinkled up fake meat.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tapatio: a true inspiration

For nearly a decade now, I have enjoyed a passionate love affair with a bright eyed man in an (alright-already-we-get-the-point) huge sombrero. Obviously I'm talking about the handsome devil on the bottle of Tapatio.

I was introduced to the "red crack" by a neighbor in college, who had me over for roasted poblano peppers stuffed with cotija cheese and drizzled with Tapatio. Since then my cupboard, my desk at work, and (for a while) my car's glove compartment has always been stocked with a nice, big bottle.

I have no doubt eaten quarts of Tapatio over the years. But the last time I roasted a Mexican pepper, I was still buying college ruled binder paper and doing keg stands.
So it seemed this year's Tres de Mayo party was the perfect opportunity to reunite with the poblano. I decided to one-up my former neighbor with something new and delicious: chile rellenos.

To Roast the Poblanos:

Lay them on a cookie sheet and throw them under the broiler. When they turn black and blistery, flip them over. The goal is to blister up as much of the pepper as you can.

Fling them into a paper bag to sweat for about 10-15 minutes (I imagine the peppers wear little baby sweat bands). This will make the skin peel off nice and easy. Which brings us to the next step: Peel the skin off. But leave the stems attached.

To Stuff The Poblanos:

Cut a slit around the pepper so you can remove the seeds. Be careful to keep the pepper in one piece. Then insert slices of pepperjack, Monterey jack, or cotija cheese. I love cotija, but the jacks melt super nice.

To Make the Dipping Batter:

You'll need as many eggs as you have peppers. Separate the whites from the yolks, and save the yolks in a little bowl.

In a nice big bowl, beat the living tweedle out of the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Beat the yolks with a tablespoon each of flour and salt. Combine the two!


Fill a plate or pie pan with flour, and get yer little assembly line moving.

Dredge both sides of the pepper in flour, coat it in the egg mixture, then drop it into a smoking hot pan of oil. You'll want about a cup of oil.

Fry em up til golden brown and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with a nice, big bottle of Tapatio.

This aint no neat and tidy operation. You will most likely drip fluffy eggs all over the floor, onto your Tres de Mayo party dress, and into your hair. But you will be so proud of yourself when the task is complete! Chile rellenos are more than just a bitch to make; they're an all expense paid trip to Tasty Town.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My Deep Dark Secret : Revealed!

I definitely hate to admit it. I always wanna lie about it. And when people do find out, it's completely humiliating.

I don't like raw tomatoes.

I know! I know! I already know you love to bite into them like apples, garnished with only a sprinkle of salt. I know you love them fresh from the garden, still warm from the sun. And I know you think you can change my palate's mind with your special (allegedly) magically delicious tomatoes. I've heard it all before! But I just.don'

As a "regular person" I've endured a lifetime of torment for my tomato trepidation. But as a restaurant critic - it seems I am legally bound to enjoy all foods - especially something as basic as the raw tomato. I have even received a piece of hate mail on this very subject:

I enjoy your food reviews. unfortunately i do not think that you have the ability to critique restaurants as it seems that you are an awfully picky eater (i.e do not like tomatoes).

Give me a frikkin' break: it's the only thing I truly don't like!

Until now.

On Sunday night, the monthly Seattle Food Bloggers dinner was held at The Capitol Grille. Not being a dapper grandpa who smokes a pipe, has a groomed mustache and enjoys counting money, I would never have dined there on my own.

We were treated to a complimentary zillion course dinner that included local wines, filet mignon, and lobster macaroni and cheese. But the most important course of the night turned out be the salad.

I chose the Caprese. I figured donating my tomatoes to the table would be like dropping off a bag of Versace at the Goodwill. So I pawned off most of the big chunks, but was oddly protective of the little yellow and red grape tomatoes coated in 12 year old balsamic. I gave one a try. Hmm. Not bad. I tried another. And another. They were so sweet! And perfectly ripe! And not gushing with slimy seeds! And probably completely masked by that delicious aged balsamic. A perfect fork full of fresh mozzarella, pungent basil and tomato. I am totally getting this Caprese salad concept.

Hallelujah! I no longer have to live in shame! I think my tomato shunning days are over!

As long as there's a bottle of 12 year old balsamic handy. Or at least a dapper, mustachioed grandpa with some extra money that needs counting.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pop Til You Drop

Tragically, I was going to start this story with something predictable (but true) about how I love going to the movie theater because of the glorious, butter-drenched popcorn that awaits me there. But then I got to thinking. Strange as it may seem, I possess a nice little collection of happy memories that center around popcorn. Really, I do!

Ask me about childhood camping trips. Go on, do it! Then I can tell you about how I built some biceps, spastically shaking that little Jiffy Pop tin over the crackling campfire. I felt giddy hearing the first pop-pop, eventually followed by the her-contractions-are-getting-closer-together pop-pop-pop-pop that caused the foil to expand, creating a silver, pregnant belly full of popcorn.

Then there were the trips to the pumpkin patch, where my mom would buy magical ears of dried corn on the cob. They came home in a brown paper lunch bag that we'd fling in the microwave, and by golly, that popcorn would pop right off the cob!

In college, my favorite late night (alone at last) snack was a bathtub-sized bowl of freshly air-popped popcorn. In an effort to reduce the belly bulge brought on by daily Chihuahua-sized burritos and countless $1 pints of Sierra Nevada, I drenched each and every fluffy white kernel with a spritz of I Can't Believe It's Not butter spray. It's fat and calorie free, you know. Oh, and it also kills roaches on contact.

You have to hand it to popcorn. It is a magic snack! And certainly not lazy. What other food literally flips inside out when it gets all hot and bothered?

Well, I nearly flipped inside out after tasting the popcorn at Seattle's Market Theater, an establishment appetizingly located right next to the famous Post Alley gum wall.

These thespians take their popcorn seriously. First they pop it to perfection. Then they toss it in a big bowl with real melted butter. Then they shake on a little truffle salt (Holy halter-tops am I obsessed with truffle products right now). And then, just when it starts to seem ridiculous, a casual sprinkle of fresh tarragon. It's a truly tasty trip to Truffle Town, for a mere $2 a bag!

Just when I thought I might have closed the book on fond popcorn memories, here I go creating new ones. *Satisfied Sigh*

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

You Don't KNOW me! I blog what I WANT!

Believe it or not, sandwiches are not on my short list of absolute favorite foods. But a quick graze through this blog would inspire that very fact.

I recently realized that I never write about my favorite foods. I never write about the amazing restaurants I formally review, and I never write about the fancier foods that pass through my (fancy?) lips. It's simply far more fun to scribble on about Beefaroni sandwiches and trips to the farmer's market.

Maybe it's time to stop living a lie, and show you the real me. The girl who constantly craves Asian cusine. I honk for garlic wokked Japanese eggplant, swimming-pool-sized bowls of pho, shiny slices of sashimi and umami-tinged agedashi tofu.

Ever since I was a wee little piglet, I have enjoyed the comforts of a steaming bowl of udon soup. It's the only thing I remember eating when my family went out for Japanese food. My parents must have deemed it a "safe" dish that I wouldn't spit back into the bowl.

So when the new and hip (um, totally me) Boom Noodle opened on Capitol Hill, I had to have a slurp. Here in Seattle, I have a partner in noodle soup crime. A gal who knows that ramen is far more than a freeze dried desperation dinner. I told her to put on her newest and hippest frock, and meet me at the dinner table.

I was initially skeptical of Boom, as it comes from the folks who brought us Blue C Sushi. But one look at the drool worthy menu, and I started to have higher hopes.

The Wild Salmon Udon not only features chunks of smoked white king salmon, but includes crisp, salty peels of fried salmon skin. There's a fat and meaty shitake mushroom, ribbons of silky spinach, tamago, and lots of slippery buckwheat noodles to slurp from the white miso broth.

Unable to resist the siren song that is the Boom Noodle menu, we also split the Chilled Sesame Tofu.

It is a visually intriguing small plate, featuring
shiitake mushrooms, wakame, bamboo shoots and green onions, all atop slabs of tofu and doused in creamy sesame sauce.

It was a nice mix of crunchy and tender, and the sauce was finger licking good, but the tofu could have used some serious marinating. A perfectly acceptable dish, but not the one that will draw me back to Boom. But, have no fear, I will be back.

As long as I am able to wield a pair of chopsticks, I plan to slurp up all the ramen, soba, and udon noodles I can get my sandwich loving lips on.

Yeah, that's right. I do love sandwiches. And on second thought, some of them do make my short list of all-time favorite foods! I may love me some toro sashimi, but I might sell my sister for a perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

From Karaoke to the Ukraine!

Yes, driving drunk is bad. But so is the "I was responsible" forty minute bus ride to pick up your car the day after you belt out The Girl Is Mine at a karaoke bar (Paul, I think I told you. I'm a lover, not a fighter!).

After about 25 minutes of whisper-screaming into my cell phone (I know, but I get bored on the bus) I hopped off right in front of a little ethnic market and produce stand on 105th & Greenwood. It was fate! Seriously cheap fate, it turns out.

I had already browsed my corporate neighborhood grocery that morning, foraging ingredients for the night's Indian themed dinner. A package of dried, whole, red chilies was going for $5, and I flat out refused to pay it.

But here at Lenny's Fruits and Vegetables/Ukraine International Foods, dried whole chilies are yours for a cool 79 cents!!

For $5.36 I got:

(dried shitake mushrooms, rice stick noodles, a bunch of fresh cilantro, dried peppers, and a huge sack of black sesame seeds)

Oy! I love a bargain! And an ethnic grocery. Even if I have no idea what to do with the countless jars of shrimp paste, lychee in syrup, and mystery cans of Vietnamese surprise.

The nice thing about this particular little treasure (I can't type that expression without snickering), is that if you happen to hate all Asian and Mexican foods (which not only brands you a fool, but a racist as well) there is a full-on Ukrainian deli in the back! Meat tubes of all shapes and sizes and glorious cheeses as far as the eye can see! And it's common knowledge that no one, and I mean no one, can turn down a Ukrainian meat tube.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Earl of Sandwich: I Salute You

Oh boy, do I love getting mail. It's like magic! You open up the little box, and there is stuff in there waiting for you! I love the "Happy Birthday" postcard my dentist sends me, I love the Latina magazine that belongs to a lady down the street, that ends up in my box. And best of all, I love the sweet little red envelope we have all come to recognize as Netflix. I hadn't gussied up my long-as-Crystal-Gayle's-Hair queue in ages, so imagine my surprise when I found the hard hitting, groundbreaking documentary Sandwiches You Will Like in my very mailbox.

Um, okay, you can totally wipe that face off your head. Like you've never watched a sandwich documentary. Pfffft. Please!

Anyway, this visual sandwichpalooza launched me into a sandwich frenzy.
Frenzy meaning, I ate three sandwiches this past week, two that will make you wanna hug your grandma.

Never underestimate the potential of a grocery store sandwich. Pete's is a small, unassuming shop right across the gravel road from the east shore of Lake Union. The crumbly storefront is a clever disguise for what's inside: aisles of fine wines, an impressive cheese selection, and a deli where you might spend 18 minutes deciding what to stack between two slices of bread *cough*.

After a long fret, I chose to fill my soft roll with peppered turkey, capicolla (paper-thin slices of Italian spiced ham) , provolone (I really wanted my boyfriend brie. Oh, Brie! But I used my willpower to stick with the Italian theme) roasted red peppers, balsamic, red onions, and lettuce. Momma mia! (I am allowed to toss around obnoxious, cliche Italian phrases, since I sacrificed the brie for provolone) This was a mighty fine sandwich! A sandwich with a view, enjoyed just blocks away from work.

Sandwich number two takes us to beautiful Aurora/Highway 99. I was driving back to work after interviewing several homeless people (I'm living the dream, people) when I remembered Barriga Llena, Seattle's newest (uh, and only) torta shop. Desperate for authentic over-the-counter Mexican food, I took the Spanish-only menu as a good sign.

Barriga Llena's specialty is the Barrigona, a torta stuffed with Old McDonald's entire farm: breaded steak, chorizo, pork leg, cheese, and a hot dog. Seeking semi-purity, I opted for the steak, pork leg and cheese. A Mexican roll, the size of my size-9 foot, is stuffed with the meat menagerie, mayo, mashed avocado, lettuce, tomato (no thanks) and then grilled 'til melty.

Every single person who walked by my desk stopped to gawk at the carnivorous creation. But as the after-school specials of my youth taught: looks aren't everything. The massive, fried steak reeked of elementary school cafeteria food, which sort of brought down the entire torta. And after I polished it off, my stomach felt like it was toting a toaster. But, on the plus side, the thick, brick red (homemade?) hot sauce was top notch, and helped ease the blow.

Nothing screams healthy like a big, fat, deliciously drippy, aoili-trickling-down-to-your-elbow Cuban sandwich. Which is exactly why I ate one right before a long walk around Green Lake.

Paseo has no sign, but you'll be tipped off to it's whereabouts by the hungry mob lined up on Fremont Avenue. This is, hands down, my favorite sandwich in Seattle. Order the Midnight Cuban Press and get hunks of slow roasted pork, thin slices of ham, melty cheese, sweet chunks of caramelized onion, cilantro, hot peppers and garlicky aoli shoved into a crusty roll and grilled. You will need 800 napkins. You will make embarrassing moaning and groaning noises. You will wait in line for this massive sandwich.

When I don't have time to take a nap after lunch, I order the scallop sandwich. About six or seven fat scallops peak out of the baguette, along with those perfect onions, jalepenos, garlic aoli, cilantro and a leaf or two of romaine. If you manage to capture one of the few tables inside Paseo, you will be rewarded with a half a corn on the cob smeared with more yummy tasties.

Forget President's Day, I think we need a three day weekend in honor of the Earl of Sandwich.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blue Suede Barbecue

It smells like pig in the Memphis airport. Big, fat, succulent, juicy pig. Ribs. Bacon. Pork chops. A virtual storm of swine smacked me in the nose the second I walked off the airplane. I pity the rabbis who travel to Memphis.

When I got in the rental car, and turned the key, the local public radio station pumped 1950's rockabilly into the mid sized sedan.

This is why I came to Memphis: music memorabilia and barbecue. And good old fashioned kitsch. Eleven years after my mom and I boarded a double decker bus in Liverpool for the Magical Mystery Tour, here we are touring Graceland, Sun Studio, and being Baptist-for-the-day at Reverend Al Green's Sunday morning service. Oh, and depleting the world of its WetNap resources at several hands-on barbecue joints.

Pork is to Memphis as Barbra is to the gays, so it would be wrong to resist the fine swine available at BBQ joints like A&R Bar-B-Que on
Elvis Presley Blvd.

The A&R magicians are behind this sensationally sloppy pulled pork and coleslaw sammich, and a slab of fall-off-the-bone sweet-sauced ribs. Use the two slices of soft, government issue white bread as edible napkins. Avoid the sickeningly sweet tea if you're not into getting cavities. Order more fried, beige food in the form of crunchy, breaded deep fried pickles.

I didn't go into this barbecue business blindly. With only two-a-half days to gnaw meat off bones, I sought the advice of down-home-Americana-food gurus Jane & Michael Stern then cross-referenced their picks on I also wore horn rimmed glasses, made pie charts and briefly held a protractor. But not in vain. Without my sacred list of rundown barbecue restaurants, Mommy and I would have been driving aimlessly around the horribly depressed city, resorting to Church's Chicken drive-thrus.

The List lead us to Interstate Bar-BQ, whose owners (The Neely's) are apparently the stars of a new Food Network show. When the folks at Interstate get bored, they stack meat. Here is a link-n-log cabin made out of pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork and links. After a few bites of the chewy beef, I decided I was wasting my time and precious stomach space. I needed to save room for a Memphis specialty, a side dish that has furrowed the brow of every non-Southerner I have described it to. Barbecued spaghetti. Spaghetti with barbecue sauce, and yes, more shredded pork. Meh. I vote for the plastic urine-sample cups of crispy slaw and smoky beans. Yeah, that's right, I aint afraid to ruin your appetite with my crude descriptions.

After an enthusiastic, fist pumping, two-day meatfest (I also ate ribs at the Blues City Cafe on Beale Street before my mom arrived), we decided to detox....with two pounds of crawdads (fondly nicknamed Mud Bugs) and a dozen Louisiana oysters on the half shell. Our lips and tongues zinged and burned, as we sucked the tail meat from the spicy, Old Bay dusted crustaceans. Unfortunately the oysters belonged on an episode of Bivalves Gone Bad. Freakishly large and absolutely flavorless, we had to console our taste buds with a tart, custardy-smooth slice of Key Lime pie.

You know you are a food obsessed freak when you nearly miss your flight because you insist on eating at Memphis' very first cafe, even though you've spent your allocated lunch time getting obnoxiously lost searching for said historic cafe. With only fifteen minutes to order, eat and pay, I did something I never do: quickly ordered a meal. No hesitation. I only asked one question, and only changed my mind once (soup, salad, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes. Pick one!? Are they crazy? What do I fucking DO?!)

I came to Memphis with a curiosity and a craving for an Elvis sandwich: peanut butter, banana and bacon pressed between two slices of buttered and gilled bread. Arcade Restaurant was rumored to be the only dealer in town, but it turns out the King's creation is baconless (the nerve) so why bother?

At the adorably vintage Arcade, $7 bucks will get you chicken with dumplings more like planks of fat, cushy noodles than airy blobs of dough. You will run your tongue over these gravy slicked dumplings and savor their smooth texture for as long as possible before chewing and swallowing. You know you're in the deep South when the menu asks you to pick two vegetable sides, and macaroni and cheese has made the list. The frills may be few, but the noodles are tender and the cheese melty and plentiful. I nibbled a few bites of corn bread muffin, dipped my fork into a tiny plop of spicy peach cobbler, slapped a $10 on the table and ran out the door mid-chew.

Needless to say, I left Memphis with a full belly and a major mega crush on Elvis Presley. I plan to hang his pompadoured poster above my bed, and passionately fan-faint every night while imagining that he's serenading me. I already bought one of those pork scented Plug-Ins, to really get into the Memphis mood.

"Hold me close, hold me tight
Make me thrill with delight
Let me know where I stand from the start.
I want you, I need you, I love you.
With all my heart"

Elvis Presley

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gettin' Fresh at the Farmer's Market

I am a produce pervert.

"Um, I just think your vegetables are really....pretty." Totally. Awkward.

This to the farmer with the constipated expression as I snap photos of his dirt flecked potatoes and adorably tiny Brussels sprouts. (Sidenote: did you all know it was Brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts? I, for one, had no idea! Thanks spell check!)

Gosh darn it, I love the farmer's market. I mean, I really really love it. Like, I wanna marry it! Even if I don't buy a thing, I get actual tingles just admiring the chubby little misshaped carrots and careful stacks of vivid green leeks.

Even on a chilly winter's day (just like today!) the Ballard market is overflowing with local produce; the newborn root vegetables exposed to the Seattle sunlight for the very first time. There is amazing cheese (I'd caucus for Estrella Creamery and it's swoon-worthy, pungent, oozy, washed rind creations). There are local oysters and seed studded baguettes perfect for a sword fight or a hot butter bath. And the best way to warm up: cozy grilled-to-order quesadillas packed with fresh market vegetables and melty, white cheese. This rustic snack is like taking a big bite of the market itself. Wow. That might be the cheesiest line I've ever written. You see?? That's what the market does to me!

Feeling light, happy and inspired, I hightailed my bag of veg home to make a big pot of my newfound favorite soup: Chickpea and Leek. It's super (or should I say souper? Oh idiotic puns. Sigh.) simple, but remarkably tasty. Aka I can eat it for a few days without getting sick of it. It's a Jamie Oliver recipe, and satisfies both creamy and chunky soup cravings.

To Get the Job Done:

-12 oz can of chick peas (garbanzo beans)
-1 medium white/yellow potato (peeled and diced)
-5 medium leeks (sliced. discard tips)
-2 cloves chopped garlic
-3 cups chicken or veggie broth (I do half and half)
-a knob of butter (oh, those lispy British cooks and their whimsical kitchen slang)
-a tablespoon olive oil
-salt and pepper
-Parmesan cheese for garnish (Really intensifies the tasty factor. Get a fresh chunk for grating)

The Job:

-Warm a soup pot, then add the butter and oil. Let it melt.

-Add leeks, garlic, and a few shakes of salt. Sweat gently. Not you, the food. (Read: This be the hee-larious instructions from my pal Carrie, who bequeathed me the recipe. I love the word bequeath. Just be careful not to stutter and morph the "th" into an "f." Happened to me once and...oh, Jesus. I completely digress)

-Stir in chick peas and potatoes - cook 1 minute.

-Add 2 cups of stock. Simmer for 15 minutes (I do lid-on to cook potatoes through)

-Now, bust out a blender or food processor or hand mixer. Ladle in some of the soup and blend. You can do as much or little as you like. I blend about half. This makes for a creamy consistency, but leaves lots of the chunks that make the soup so satisfying.

-Add the blended bit back to the pot and add remaining cup of broth. Let simmer for another 15 minutes uncovered (or longer -- it's an unfussy recipe), taste and season with salt and pepper - and serve! You will need to add salt.

I like to peel big curls of Parmesan off the hunk -- and sprinkle on top of each bowl of soup.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Goat Fever! Oh, yeah, and dinner at Ron's.

I've got a bad case of goat fever. And it's all Herby's fault. Yeah, that's right, the goat's name is Herby (I call him Herby Poo and Puffy McPufferHerb in my mind) and I have a major crush on him.

Herby belongs to my heart, but he lives with Ron & Michelle (we have an open relationship). Thankfully they hosted the last Dinner Club, so I had a chance to canoodle with the Herbster once again.

For this dinner we each picked a recipe from the Best of Gourmet 2000 cookbook. I made Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Green Olives. Readers, preserved lemons don't grow on trees, so I had to get hella Amish and preserve those puppies myself. Good thing it was easy, but sounds totes hard so people are totes impressed.

You simply boil those Meyer Lemons for five minutes, cut 'em into sections, roll them in lots of coarse salt, shove them in a (pickle) jar and drown them in lemon juice. Five days later: preserved! Now you can eat the peels; puckery, salty and soft.

As dull and drab as the dish may look, the salty lemon and pimento stuffed olives brighten up the turmeric stained chicken. Add some sauted mushrooms and onions, and you've got a comforting and super flavorful dish. Just don't overcook (oddly, just some of) the chicken (dammit!) or you'll be sorry.

Hey! Wanna know what my fellow Foodaholics cooked? No? You don't? You only care about what I make? Oh reader, that's sweet, but just so rude! Go on, take a looksie:

That there on the left is what we like to call a Salmon and Leek Pie. Mmmm....piiiiiie. It's topped with a sour cream chili sauce. Oh, and that down below? That's a little Beet, Jicama and Citrus Zest salad with garlic yogurt dressing...on endive.

Coming up on your left, my favorite dish of the night: Puff pastry smeared with lotsa creamy goat cheese, topped with caramelized onions and sage. Mmm! Dan cooked the onions down with Sherry, and they took on a deep, intense, almost meaty, flavor.

Coming up on your right, we've got your classic Ratatouille heaped atop a pile of pasta.

And for dessert, some Hot Banana Creme Brulee, freshly caramelized by way of blowtorch.

Not even a dinner this delicious could cure my goat fever. xo

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Barfaroni - The Sandwich of Dreams and Nightmares

I grew up in a Chef Boyardee free house. No TV dinners. No Hamburger Helper and no sugary cereals. When my sister and I accompanied our mom to the grocery store, we'd hungrily browse the frozen food aisle like a broke Elizabeth Taylor at Tiffany's.

So when Cathy's boyfriend, Sean, suggested we make grilled Chef Boyardee Ravioli sandwiches, I almost started breakdancing in Winco's canned food aisle. Instead I giddily grabbed a tin of raviolis ($.88!) and impulse bought a can of Beefaroni (my first ever!).

These wife-beater worthy sandwiches would be concocted at an event titled "Beer + Cheese + Whores = Your Perfect Friday Night." It was a Chico friend reunion (the whores, of course, being Cathy, Lisa and me); the perfect excuse to sip a 40 ouncer of Mickey's and bust out the SnackMaster.

Exhibit A:

* Beefaroni on white. Slice of American cheese. Slices of Tilamook Cheddar.

* Peanut butter on white. Slices of banana. Drizzle of honey.Chunks of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Exhibit B:
Clamp that shit shut (Sean's a professional. Note the "I'm concentrating really hard on this important task" tongue maneuver. )

Exhibit C:

That can't be good for the arteries.

Exhibit D:

This is actually the ravioli sandwich.
Aka "the HeartAttackwich" AKA "Little Slice of Heaven."

Exhibit E:
Easy Clean-Up!

It was a white trash dream come true! One hand gripped the Mickey's 40oz. The other held my scorching hot dream sandwich. I nibbled a few bites of the Beefaroniwich. I nibbled a half a ravioliwich. I definitely had a few bites of a gorgonzola/monterey jack/wasabi mayonaise on sourdoughwich. And I sipped that sweet malt liquor. I danced on the counter. I ate a few cold raviolis out of the can. And then...

Readers, I totally barfed. Like, four times.

The moral of the story? Listen to your mutha. When it comes to a Boyardee ban -- she definitely knows best.