Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Afternoon Tea: Indo-British Finger Sandwiches

Whenever I'm in London, there's nothing I like better than to partake in afternoon tea.  Actually, I don't need to be in London to take tea. I can do it any time or any place! I love everything about it from the pot of steaming tea served in a pretty little teacup, sugar cubes, petite scones to the miniature finger sandwiches.  And you can't forget...the clotted cream!  Ymmmm.  Maybe it's the little girl in me who loved hosting tea parties for my other girlfriends or the idea of more genteel times when you would dress up in a pretty dress and spend an afternoon gossiping with friends over a cup of tea. 

Afternoon tea is typically served as a light meal between 3-5pm.  It is a tradition that was actually brought over to England from Portugal in 1661 when Catherine of Bragança married Charles II!

So this weekend in honor of Will and Kate's nuptials, I am inviting you to a royal afternoon tea with my Indo-British finger sandwich.  The cilantro chutney that is the star of the sandwich is a recipe from my good friend's mother who is Tamil, from the city of Madras in South India.  I've had versions of this sandwich several times with them and each time I rave over it. So this time, I remembered to ask for her recipe which I will share with you today.  

The chutney is so tasty! Spicy and a little sweet, the cilantro leaves a nice, refreshing taste on your tongue and cools the heat from the pepper.  I would recommend using a good quality white bread if you have a great bakery nearby. I bought a delicious French white bread from my local gourmet market, Agata & Valentina.  The sweetness of the bread really complimented the chutney. It had almost a brioche quality to it. It is a wonderful light sandwich...perfect for tea!

This recipe makes a generous portion of cilantro chutney, so put it in a sealable jar and keep it in the refrigerator for a week to use for dinner later on in the week.  A great way to use the chutney would be to marinate some tofu, fish, chicken or pork in it for a few hours and then grill it on the barbeque or stove top on skewers. Easy and delicious! 

Makes 4 sandwiches

8 slices good quality white bread, crust cut off
1/2 cup cilantro chutney (recipe below)
1 kumato, thinly sliced *

1. On one slice of bread, spread chutney generously. Top with one slice of kumato (if you want two slices per sandwich, go right ahead!). 

2. Place second slice of bread on top and cut into a triangle. Repeat process.
3. Serve immediately with a piping hot pot of tea and scones.  This can also be made a few hours ahead of time. 

*NOTE: A kumato is a variety of tomato that originated in Spain.  It has a longer shelf life than regular tomatoes and sweeter.  I had them on hand which is why I used them.  Otherwise, I would use a regular tomato or cucumber.  The sandwich can really be made with anything including chicken, smoked salmon or a gouda cheese. Get creative!

Makes 2 cups

1 bunch cilantro, washed thoroughly
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup raisin (I used golden raisins)
1/8 cup lightly toasted cashews
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced (you can add 2 peppers if you want it spicier. I deseeded one side of my pepper to remove the heat because I am a total wuss!)
Salt to taste

1. Throw all ingredients into a food processor.  Add a little bit of water to get the chutney to come together.  Pulse on low for a few minutes for a few minutes.

2.  Add as much water as needed to thin the mixture and get the mixture into a slightly thinned out pesto. I used slightly less than 1/4 cup of water.  

3.  Store chutney in a sealable jar.  It should be fine for up to a week.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Dinner, Part 3 of 3: Profiteroles with Cinnamon-Rum Ice Cream

This is it! Drum roll FINAL Easter recipe: profiteroles with cinnamon-rum ice cream. Creamy, sweet and bitter all at once, profiteroles are one of my favorite desserts to make.  Most of the time, I just serve it with some Turkey Hill vanilla bean ice cream.  But since it's Easter, I decided to finally inaugurate the Kitchenaid ice cream attachment that my sister bought for me as my Christmas gift.

For my basic profiterole recipe, I always use Ina Garten's recipe from her Barefoot in Paris. Her orgasmic chocolate sauce makes such a common appearance in my desserts that I don't even reference it anymore.  It's one of my favorite cookbooks because it offers food that is so comforting yet elegant still.  I am writing the recipe as given by Ina with notes on my adjustments or additions.

For my ice cream recipe, since it was my first experience making fresh ice cream, I referenced several different recipes to get a handle on basic ingredients and approximate quantities used as well as basic instructions.  I would also recommend reading the instructions to your ice cream maker thoroughly as each one operates a little differently.

I was horrified by the amount of egg yolk that some recipes asked for (one called for 12!!).  Most I saw asked for an average of 4-6 egg yolks, so I decided to use 5 as a compromise.  The number of egg yolks you add is definitely adjustable, it just adds to the overall creaminess and texture of the ice cream. I decided to make a cinnamon-rum ice cream since I wanted to make something different.  I had also purchased this amazingly fragrant Saigon cinnamon in Seattle at Market Spice that has permeated my apartment with its sweet-spicy, floral note. The smell has made me want to use it for any purpose, so this was the perfect way for me to use it. And rum...well, do we really have to ask why I used rum?

Serves 6

Adapted from Ina Garten's "Barefoot in Paris"

1 cup milk
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter *
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream *
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips *
2 tbsp honey *
2 tbsp prepared coffee*
Good vanilla ice cream for serving

*NOTE: I used only 1/2 stick of unsalted butter and it is perfectly fine.  For the sauce, I used approximately only 5-6 oz 60% cacao BITTERSWEET chocolate chips from Ghiradelli for the six servings.  This is a personal preference since I adore the bitterness of dark chocolate. It also helps balance the sweetness of the ice cream. I omit the honey completely. It does taste nice with the honey, but is unneccessary.  For the coffee, I replace that with a shot of freshly brewed espresso.  You can also use 1 tbsp instant espresso. The heavy cream is reduced to 1/4 cup.  Lastly, I add just a dab of unsalted butter into the sauce to give it a gorgeous sheen.

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2.  Heat the milk, butter and salt over medium heat until scalded.  When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes.  The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan.  Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

3.  Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe in mounds 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  You should have about 18 puffs. ** With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff.  (You can also use two spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Make a small slit on the side of each puff to all the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.

4.  For the chocolate sauce, place the cream and chocolate chips in a bowl set over simmering water and stir just until the chocolate melts.  Add the honey and coffee and stir until smooth. Set aside. **

5.  For serving, cut each profiterole in half crosswise, fill with a small scoop of ice cream, replace the top, and drizzle with slightly warm chocolate sauce.

**NOTE: My profiteroles are a bit larger than normal so I usually am able to make only 12 puffs.  Two profiteroles per person is the perfect serving I find may want three but you will be sorry for it later!  The chocolate sauce can also be made by putting all the ingredients for the sauce into a small microwaveable bowl, cover, and in 15 second intervals microwave the chocolate sauce to melt.  Usually 30-40 seconds is enough to melt the chocolate a bit and warm everything up.  Then, all you need to do is mix it all together until it comes together into a gooey chocolate sauce.

Makes 32 fl oz

5 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp dark rum (I used Appleton's Special Jamaican Rum)
1 tbsp good quality ground cinnamon (I used Saigon cinnamon which I find to be more intense and spicy than the normal cinnamon you find in the supermarket.)

1. Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl.

2.  In a saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk, sugar, and salt over medium heat until it starts to simmer and sugar melts.  Then, slowly add it to the egg yolks, whisking at the same time, to keep the eggs from curdling.

3.  Return the entire mixture, once whisked together, back into the sauce pan over medium-low heat to create a custard-like texture.  Stir constantly, otherwise it will curdle on the heat.

4.  Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Add in rum and cinnamon and mix together until combined.  Let the custard cool, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.

5.  Process the mixture as per your ice cream machine's instructions.  Transfer ice cream to a sealable container and freeze until firm, minimum of 4 hours.  Make sure your freezer setting is at the coldest setting available.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Dinner, Part 2 of 3: Fennel-Orange Salad

Up until two years ago, I had never had fennel or had any idea what it tasted like.  All I knew was what others had told me to describe the flavor which was that it tasted like "licorice".  And I knew that I HATED licorice with a passion. I was the one who was always trading the Twizzlers I was given from trick-or-treating during Halloween.

Fennel, also known as anise, is the key ingredient that is used in absinthe (another thing I tried and nearly spit out because in my excitement that it was finally legal in the US I forgot it was supposed to taste like licorice!).  It is used predominantly in Mediterranean Italy for its refreshing taste and is available to use either in its natural form, dried fennel seeds, or fennel pollen. In Indian households, dried fennel seeds are commonly eaten almost like an after-dinner mint to freshen the breath.

Then, while I was flipping through cookbooks, magazines, online food sites, etc for my Thanksgiving feast I came upon the perfect turkey recipe that included fennel as one of the ingredients. Usually, I would have left it out but I was curious. I figured that since it was really used for the base of my gravy that I wouldn't be able to really get an intense licorice taste. So I threw it in. Who knew?  I took the turkey out of the oven and popped a piece of the caramelized fennel into my mouth.  A-MAZING.  Caramelly, and nutty, the licorice flavor had concentrated during cooking and become more sweet than bitter which is how I usually associate licorice. Roasted fennel has become a regular addition to my meals since then.

During the last Fourth of July, I added raw fennels to my vegetable roster.  I was a bit nervous at first since only the bulb is edible and I thought it might be too tough. But sliced thinly, it is crunchy and fresh. It is the perfect dish during spring or summer when it is a little warm outside and you don't want something that sits heavy in your stomach or makes you feel bloated.

For my Easter dinner, I decided that I needed something lighter especially since the rest of my menu was so decadent.  I had opened with my Asian deviled eggs and yesterday I shared my glazed rack of lamb, so I wanted a dish in-between that was more of a palate cleanser. When you add the oranges, the citrus sweetness just brings it all together and adds a great play to the texture of the salad.  For this particular salad, I used Tarocco oranges from Italy that I purchased at Trader Joe's.  A family of the blood orange, the Tarocco oranges are characterized for their sweetness and its beautiful orange-red coloring. I felt that the sweetness of the oranges really enhanced the sweetness of the fennel.  The acidity from the oranges and limes also acts an agent to soften and "cook" the fennel.

It's even better because there is zero cooking involved. Let that oven rest!  If you haven't tried fennel yet because you have no idea how to use it, I hope this simple recipe will get you to try it.
Serves 4

1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds cut off, reserve fronds for garnish
4 Tarocco oranges (any kind is fine!)
2 limes or 1 juicy lime
1/8 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Thinly slice the bulb of the fennel using either a knife or mandoline. I like using my santoku knife for this. Put into a medium size mixing bowl.
2.  Quarter two of the oranges and peel the rinds off. Cut each quarter into 1-inch cubes and add to sliced fennel.

3.  Halve the remaining two oranges and over a sieve, squeeze all the juice into a small mixing bowl. The sieve will catch any seeds.

4.  Halve the limes and add its juice to the orange juice.

5.  Add oil, salt and pepper. Whisk together. Do not feel shy to dip your finger in to the dressing to taste if it needs more seasoning or acidity.  A perfectly seasoned salad is everything.
6.  Add the dressing to the fennel and oranges and with a salad fork and spoon, carefully mix everything together so that each piece is coated with the juice-oil mixture.

7. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours so that the flavors fully set-in. It can easily be made the night before and will taste even better the next day. I would not make it more than a day ahead of time though since the fennel can become soggy.

8. Garnish with tiny pieces of the fennel frond.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Dinner, Part 1 of 3: Apricot Glazed Rack of Lambs

Next to Thanksgiving, Easter is one of the few holidays I enjoy celebrating. The Easter bunny, egg hunting, little girls in their pretty sun dresses, kids (and adults) getting sick over eating all their Easter candy, the beginning of spring, flowers, family, and eating: what's there not to love?! This time of year always feels so alive.

With spring and Easter also comes some of my favorite ingredients to cook like ramps, asparagus, and artichokes.  There's nothing like cooking in season with the freshest ingredients available.  I am so blessed to live in NYC where all of this is readily available.  The Union Square Greenmarket is my mecca where I know I can always find the best fruit and produce from the local farmers.

The market began in 1976 with just a few farmers and now has 140 farmers, fishermen, and bakers during peak season. It is open year round outdoors in Union Square on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8am-6pm. During the winter, those hours may be shortened depending on the weather.
The Friday of Easter weekend, I headed over to the market to pick up some ramps and Jerusalem artichokes from one of the farmers (they didn't have their sign up the two times I went to buy from them, but they are directly on the North-West corner right across from the Starbucks on Fridays).  More on ramps later on this week though for all of you curious readers! For now, just know that they are wild leeks. Then, I headed down to Trader Joe's down the street for the rest of what I needed. I was so excited to be cooking up a feast for my friend and I to enjoy!

This week, I will be releasing a recipe per day from my Easter menu.  On the menu for my Easter-themed feast is:

Asian Deviled Eggs
Fennel-Orange Salad
Glazed rack of lambs served on top of a Jerusalem artichoke purée and sauteed ramps
Profiteroles with cinnamon-rum ice cream

I released the Asian deviled eggs in yesterday's blog. 

Today's recipe will be the apricot glazed rack of lamb since there are several components to it.  While it may seem labor intensive, it is actually a very simple meal to put together.  It was probably no more than a half hour active labor.  The meal that comes together is really elegant and the Jerusalem artichoke (Also known as a sunchoke it has no relation to an artichoke at all! In fact, it looks more like what a potato and parsnip would look like if they had a child.) is so rich, sweet and decadent tasting. Paired with the sweet, garlicky ramps, it will leave your guests wondering exactly what it is they are eating. As for the lamb, I really like the pairing of the caramelized sweetness on the roasted lamb with the mild heat of the sriracha. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!
Jerusalem artichoke (aka sunchokes)

Serves 4

1 lb rack of lamb, frenched and trimmed by butcher already
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For glaze:
1/4 cup apricot jam (this would be great with orange marmalade or a fig jam too)
1 tbsp sriracha (you can add another tbsp if you want more heat, this just gives it a tang)
3 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp canola oil
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Jerusalem Artichoke purée:
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (can be replaced with skim milk)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For sauteed ramps:
3-4 bunches of ramps, ends trimmed and washed thoroughly (they are very dirty!)
1 tbsp canola oil
Pinch of salt

For lamb:
1. Take lamb out an hour before you want to put it in the oven so that the meat will rest and have a chance to come to room temperature.  This was a trick I learned from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home and really brings the flavor of meat out. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
2. While lamb rests, start on the glaze.  In a small mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the glaze and mix till it all comes together.  There should be minimal lumps.  If you need to, you can pop it into the microwave oven for 10-15 seconds to bring it all together. 
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
4. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, put lamb on and liberally glaze both sides of the rack of lamb. 
5. Roast lamb for approximately 30-35 minutes in oven. Take out from oven about every 15 minutes to re-apply the apricot glaze.  
NOTE: The lamb should be done if you touch the top and it feels firm with a slight give. It should be a medium rare. If you like it medium, roast it for another few minutes. I would not recommend roasting it further, otherwise the lamb will be overcooked and dry. 
6. Let lamb rest for another 5 minutes before cutting into individual pieces.  This allows the meat to be super juicy and moist.
7. Serve immediately.

For Jerusalem artichoke purée:
1. While lamb is resting, add all ingredients into a medium size pot. 
2. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and then bring heat to low and boil the artichokes until it is tender.  This is approximately 35-40 minutes. Cover while cooking.
3. Using an immersion blender, purée the mixture until smooth. Make sure you do not overblend it or it can become pasty.
4. Season to taste and mix together with a spoon.
5. This can also be prepared the night before and be reheated right before serving. 

For sauteed ramps:
1. Heat pan over high and add canola oil to wok or stir-fry pan.
2. Add cleaned ramps to heated pan and stir-fry for a few minutes until wilted.
3. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm while waiting to plate.

To plate:
1. Using a spoon, put roughly two large spoonfuls of the purée on the center of plate and work from the center out to create a cradle for the lamb.
2. Top with roughly 4-5 pieces of cooked ramps. Lay each one individually.
3. Lay one piece of lamb on top of the ramp and purée, bone-up. Cross the second piece on top, bone-up.
4. That's it! Bon appetit!!

Remember to come back tomorrow for part 2 of my Easter dinner!!

Union Square Green Market
North and West side of Union Square (located at the corner of 16th Street and Broadway)
Hours: 8am-6pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Asian Deviled Eggs

Growing up, I remember all the memories of dyeing Easter eggs and then hunting for them with my younger sister.  Then, there were the memories of upset stomachs after gorging on Easter candy and jelly beans; that wasn't so fun. All my life I've loved the traditions that go with Easter, including the family gathering together to cook and eat together. It might have been a bit different in my household, but I do remember the eating and Easter egg hunting. 

In fact, I loved Easter egg hunting so much that I remember having my sister visit me in Virginia when I was 21 or 22 and she was a senior in high school. We stayed up the night before Easter making Easter eggs.  The next morning, we hid them in the little courtyard of my apartment complex and then proceeded to try and find them all. I say, try because even though we had hid them ourselves, we lost 2 out of 10 eggs somehow.   

In my household, my parents only knew how to make Chinese food, the only non-Asian food I had ever really had growing up were hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, and a limited number of pasta dishes.  When I moved to Edison, I was introduced to Indian food.  But my exploration of food really didn't begin until I started college in DC, one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the US.  My taste buds started really developing with all the amazing Thai, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern food I enjoyed along with the usual burgers and fries. 

Somehow, I made it through college without ever tasting a deviled egg until I was in my early 20s. And my first one was a revelation! Where had these been all my life? Creamy and a little tangy from the capers, they became one of my favorite things to make. 

If you've never had deviled eggs before, this recipe will convert you! The Asian deviled eggs I made as my appetizer for my Easter-themed dinner last night is the culmination of my Chinese heritage and my American coming together.

Serves 6

6 large eggs, hardboiled and peeled*
1/4 cup light mayonnaise 
1 tbsp sriracha
3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 stalks green onions (just the green part, reserve white for another purpose), finely chopped
Pinch of Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of Piment d'espelette (can be replaced with sweet paprika)

1. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out the yellow yolk into a small mixing bowl.

2. Add the mayo, sriracha, cilantro, half of chopped green onions in with the yolks. Using a fork, mash them all together until it becomes creamy and lump free.  Add just a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper, mix together one last time.

3. Spoon 2 tbsp of filling into the center of each egg.**

4. Top each egg with a pinch of piment d'espelette and green onions.

5. Serve immediately or you can make this the day before and bring it out ten minutes before your guests arrive.

* One of my biggest peeves is an overcooked egg yolk, it is dry and crumbly. A perfectly cooked hard boiled egg needs to be in there for no more than 8 minutes over medium high heat. The yolk will come out a gorgeous yellow color and still be slightly soft in the center of it. Your eggs will come out creamier if you have the perfectly cooked egg, I promise you.  If you are short on time or hate peeling eggs as much as I do, you can also just purchase them pre-made from a supermarket in the same aisle you would purchase your eggs.

** To create a more sophisticated plate of deviled eggs, put the filling into a piping bag, use a star-tip and pipe the filling into the center of each egg.

Make sure to come back on Monday to check out the rest of my Easter recipes!  In the meantime, I can definitely share what you have to look forward to as well as hopefully inspiring your Easter Sunday dinners tomorrow evening. Happy Easter everyone!!

Easter Theme Dinner Menu
Asian Deviled Eggs
Fennel-Orange Salad
Mini rack of lambs served on top of a Jerusalem artichoke purée and sauteed ramps
Profiteroles with cinnamon-rum ice cream

Friday, April 22, 2011

36 hours in Seattle, Washington

Last month, I was thrilled to find out that I would be heading to Seattle for an event at the first and original Nordstrom store in downtown Seattle.  Nordstrom is dear to my heart as I had the privilege of managing one of their departments in Tyson's Corner, Virginia. So I really got an inner understanding of how the company works and thinks. This was also my first trip to what is known as one of the rainiest cities in the US.
Seattle is located between Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean) to the west and Lake Washington to the east.  Its nickname and reputation as "Rain City" is actually a misnomer.  This reputation derives from the frequency of precipitation in the city (150 days of precipitation > 0.01 in) as well as the fact that it is cloudy an average of 201 days per year, and partly cloudy an average of 93 days per year. At 37.1 inches of rain on an average month,  the city receives less precipitation than New York, Atlanta, Houston, and most cities of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.  After the monsoon-like rains New York has been having this past month, I can definitely agree with that! Most of the precipitation in Seattle falls as drizzle or light rain. For the 36 hours I was there, it did drizzle about half the time I was there.  However, several local Seattleites pointed out that I was extremely lucky to enjoy the sun that did come for the other half. 
Seattle is broken up into into over a dozen neighborhoods, each with its own distinct characteristic. Ballard located in northwestern Seattle is known for its artsy scene and cute little restaurants and boutiques. It is a former Scandinavian community that retains visible remnants of its past. Fremont is Seattle's wackiest neighborhood, filled with eclectic shops and ethnic restaurants. During the summer, there's a solstice festival, a Sunday flea market, and outdoor movies on Saturday nights. The University District northeast section of the city surrounds the University of Washington. The U District, as it's known to locals, provides all the amenities of a college neighborhood: cheap ethnic restaurants, pubs, clubs, espresso bars, and music stores. 

Unfortunately, due to the shortness of my trip I had to limit myself to exploring the downtown, waterfront area. Since the infamous Pike Place Market was located about 10 minutes walking from my hotel, it was definitely not a hardship.

I arrived late on a Wednesday night into the Seattle airport. Since my flight had been delayed by an hour, it was close to midnight before I arrived at my hotel.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had upgraded me the corner suite. After the very nice porter showed me and my bags to my suite (along with a brief tour), I passed out on the very fluffy down bed for a much needed sleep.
I had forgotten the ungodly hours I used to keep when I worked for Nordstrom. So, when my alarm went off at 5:45am so I could prepare for my 7am meeting at the store I wanted to toss my phone to the other side of the suite.  But I knew that the quicker I finished with my meeting, the more time I had to check out the market. 

Around 10:30am, I gleefully escaped from the store to go back to my hotel, grab an umbrella and change into more comfortable shoes and warmer clothing since it was drizzling and about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius). I had two and an half hours of freedom to explore at random before my next meetings! Despite the rain, I definitely skipped a bit on my walk to the waterfront.
By that point, I was starving. So as soon as I saw the sign for Pike Place Market from the top of the hill and the delicious smells from nearby restaurants, I started hunting for some place to grab my first cup of coffee and some breakfast! Unfortunately (as always!), I got a bit sidetracked when I saw this at the bottom of the hill.

What was going on here??!! And then I looked up at the sign: Beecher's Handmade Cheese. Brilliant! I was greeted by a woman at the counter handing out pieces of fresh curd to taste: a bit bland, but interesting. The initial curds that caught my eye at first, then became solidified blocks of cheese that they flip over. Although Beecher's does not use modern machinery to assist them in the cheesemaking, they are still utilizing 5,000 year old techniques. 

After watching the cheesemakers busy at work for a little bit, I wandered over to the counter to taste the final product. Beecher's does carry other local artisinal cheesemakers other than their own, but I was really interested in trying theirs which are made on-site. I finally decided on their award-winning Flagship Reserve (won America's best cheddar in 2007)since it was perfect for travel back home to NYC. It also has that caramelly, nutty flavor that I love so much in my cheeses. According to their website, Beecher's will also be opening up a second location in NYC near my office. Looks like Murray's will have a little competition!
So, my hunt continued for some much needed sustenance since it was close to 11:30am by that point.  My first thought was to check out the first Starbucks location ever which was located in Pike Place. But then, I stumbled upon the cutest little French bakery at the corner: Le Panier (The Basket) and the smells that were coming out of there was just too good to pass up!
 After browsing the delicious selection available, I finally decided on the jambon-mornay (ham with mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce usually made from a combination of gruyére and parmesan cheese) and my usual non-fat latte with no foam. I also cajoled the guy ringing me up to one of their petite meringues (only sold in a bag) rather than their massive meringues since I just wanted a tasty mini-treat later on in the afternoon.  For those of you who have never had a meringue, they are usually made with whipped egg whites and sugar and can be flavored with anything from lemon to passonfruit.  They are light and airy on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside. The meringues were actually so good that I came back for a bag after all the next day for the way home.
I shared my latte and jambon-mornay with two new human friends and one dog friend. One of them was a photographer who lived in San Francisco but had a second home in the Seattle area, so she shared some wisdom to me on what to eat at Pike Place Market. Fortified with good food and coffee, I exchanged info and headed off across the street to enter the market. 
 The Pike Place Market was created in 1907 after Seattle city councilman at the time, Thomas Revelle, proposed a city street market that would connect the farmers to consumers directly to try and battle the astronomical rising costs of onions.  What began as a market with only eight farmers has grown now to a nine-acre market housing over 200 commercial businesses, 190 craftspeople, and approximately 100 farmers!  It is one of the most well-known farmer's markets in the US, attracting over 10 million visitors a year. 
Upon entering, I was greeted with rows upon row of fresh cut flowers. So beautiful! Look at the gorgeous tulips...
After walking past the vendors selling hand-crafted jewelry, candles, etc I reached the gorgeous fresh fruits and produce with all seasonal items like fiddleheads and ramps.  All of which I love!
Wandering aimlessly in food ecstasy, I was hailed by a vendor to stop and try his dark chocolate linguine.  While eating a bit of dried, uncooked pasta is not the most appealing thing, it was definitely great to taste the pure flavor of the bittersweet, dark chocolate really come through in the pasta. With that lure, I was introduced to Papperdelle 's Pasta, an artisanal pasta maker who creates over 100 unique flavors of dried pasta along with sauces and pestos. Other than the dark chocolate linguine, they also offer some unusual flavors like chipotle black bean fettuccine, Tunisian harissa fettuccine, and a Calypso blend (Lime Gnocchi Shell, Mango-Peach Sea Shell, & Red Southwestern Chile Lumache ); the latter two pastas I purchased to take home and experiment.  Each one came with a recipe which you can also find on their website, but I ventured out on my own with the Tunisian harissa fettuccine. (All upcoming I promise!!!)

Now it wouldn't be a proper trip to Seattle without checking out the locally fished seafood offerings. Still full, I decided to take home a slab of alderwood smoked salmon for the family from Pure Food Fish

Then, I headed over to Pike Place Fish, originator of the "flying fish".  This is the infamous tourist attraction where the fishmonger toss a customer's fish selection to another to be wrapped up.  I saw one guy toss what must have been a 15-pound Halibut! They should never hire me for THAT job. Me, being the clutz that I am, would have dropped every single slippery fish.  

Just when I thought I was done and over on sensory overload...
I saw a wooden sign emblazoned with "Market Spice". I admit it. I am a spice-a-holic.  After Paris, I told myself I was cut off. In my collection, I have close to 100 different varieties at the moment, including five different salts! But I admit I have a serious problem.  When I see fresh spices, especially the collection that was at Market Spice, I just can't say "no".  

In existence since 1911, Market Spice not only offers an incredible breadth of fresh bulk spices and their own blends, but they also have over 100 dried tea blends!

I was proud of myself for only walking out of there with only three spices including one tea blend(another item that I cut myself off from purchasing anymore). 
By that point, I was getting a little hungry again. So I decided to take up the advice of the friend I had made at Le Panier and decided to try a piroshky which I had never had before. For those who are as clueless as I am as to what exactly is a piroshky, it is a Ukranian word for baked or fried buns filled with a variety of fillings, savory or sweet. There was a long line at Piroshky Piroshky which I took to be a good sign. While waiting in line, I watched one of their bakers create a chocolate piroshky in the window. Between watching him and reading the offerings on the menu posted in the window, I was drooling. In the end, I decided to take the advice of my new friend and went with the smoked salmon piroshky. On my way out, the owner was working on the cherry and white chocolate piroshky. Ugh!! Shoot me already!

If you want to know, the smoked salmon piroshky was out of the world! Creamy, salty with flaky little bits of fresh salmon all wrapped in a soft, but crusty bread that was a cross between a roll and a crossiant, I was rolling my eyes in pure ecstasy as I walked back to the hotel in the drizzling rain. 

Later that evening after our event finished, I met up with a group of my colleagues at this oyster-brewery, The Brooklyn. Located in downtown Seattle, a few blocks away from the market, this Pacific-Northwestern restaurant is a great find in the quiet night in downtown Seattle.  Offering 13 different varieties of freshly shucked oysters daily, most of which I had never heard of, I was really excited to try out a few.

After talking to a few Seattleites, they recommended getting the oyster-beer sampler which is four 3.5 oz samples of their daily draft with a select oyster to accompany each.  For those of you who don't drink beer, they also offer this same flight with white wine and vodka! It's a bargain ranging from $9-13!
A glass of bubbly in memory of my visit to Mumm in Reims.

But none of us were feeling the flights, so instead opted to share a bunch of little dishes including a dozen oysters. I was quite happy to eat the oysters that our other two companions did not want to eat. My favorite was probably the Hama Hama (Humbolt Bay, WA) which was small and delicate, salty but slightly sweet.  
We also shared the Day Boat scallops topped with seared foie gras (see below). It was served with a vanilla bean-scented carrot puree and mascarpone filled mission figs, finished with a port wine demi-glace. The yellow-fin tuna tartare and seafood volcano (dungeness crab, wild fisherman's daughter prawns, and fresh Treasure Cove oysters) went so fast, it had no time to be immortalized sadly.
A few champagne cocktails later, we all tottered back into a cab to our respective hotels.


The next morning, I woke up early to grab some breakfast from some of the small restaurants I had seen at Pike Place Market. I had a few hours to do that and grab a few last minute treats for my flight home. 
Now you might remember, that I had mentioned checking out Starbuck's first retail store on Pike Place.  I did find it, but decided I could have it anywhere in the world. The great thing about Starbucks is that it tastes the same anywhere in the world. So I knew I wasn't missing out on anything. I thought there were a lot of Starbucks in New York. In Seattle, there are about two Starbucks per block. It's kind of amazing and frightening. I am proud to say that I had nothing from Starbucks on this trip to Seattle!  For sake of posterity, I did photograph it as proof!
The line to get into Starbucks.

Heading back into the market for the second day in a row, I checked out the menu at the restaurants located inside to see what caught my eye. With their dungeness crab eggs benedict and a view of the Puget Sound, Lowell's was the clear winner. 
There is nothing fancy about Lowell's.  What is special about it is that it has been serving Seattleites and visitors one of the best breakfasts in Seattle for nearly 100 years. It offers three floors of seating, though only the second serves beer and liquor. Each floor has a clear view of the Sound and was a wonderful, relaxing way to start the day and enjoy your meal. 
A little bit of food porn with the arrival 
of my luscious Dungeness crab eggs benedict.
View of Puget Sound from Lowell's

Rubbing my very full stomach, I decided to walk it off a little bit with some views of the area around the harbour and grabbing some grub for the plane.  

Saying a final farewell to Rachel the Pig, Pike Place Market's unofficial 550 lb mascot, since 1986. Seattleites and tourists world-wide stop by to visit and photograph her, before making a small contribution to her.  Rachel collects approximately $6,000-9,000 annually for the market's senior center, food bank and other services.  
Since it was a sunny day in Seattle, I was able to see the top snow-caps of Mount Rainier, a 14,411 feet tall stratvolcano located 54 miles southeast of Seattle. Look closely since it blends in with the fluffy clouds! 

And then I finally had a chance to enjoy the meal I had bought at the market, this monstrous Dungeness Crab Roll from Pike Place Chowder. Made from what looked like 2 lbs of fresh crab with mayo, diced celery, lemon juice and spices, it was light with the pure taste of crab shining through. So much better than what I had been getting used to eating on my flights!  All in all, not too shabby for a mere 36 hours in Seattle! I will be back again to visit all the other wonders I didn't have a chance to enjoy on this trip.
Dungeness crab roll from Pike Place Chowder

Beecher's Handmade Cheese 1600 Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.956.1964

Beecher's Handmade Cheese Flatiron District
900 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Pike Place Market
1st Avenue and Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101

Papperdelle's Pasta
Main Arcade @ Pike Place Market
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.340.4114

Pure Food Fish
North Arcade, Desimone Bridge & on Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.622.5765

Pike Place Fish
Main Arcade @ Pike Place Market
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.682.7181

Piroshky Piroshky
1908 Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.441.6068

The Brooklyn Seafood, Steak and Oyster House
1212 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.224.7000

Lowell's Restaurant & Bar
1519 Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.622.2036

Pike Place Chowder
1530 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206.267.2537