October 27, 2007

a new gastro-pub

Just when you thought the term "gastro-pub" had gone out of vogue, the Spotted Pig showed its staying power by keeping its Michelin star and Seattle was blessed with Quinn's, the new haunt from Scott and Heather Staples. With a strong opening this week, Quinn's wears its gastro-pub badge unabashedly... and gives you pretty much everything you're hoping for: solid food, measured innovation, friendly and low-key staff, and a down-to-earth vibe despite the loft-style surroundings. All particularly impressive at this early stage in the game (despite my crappy cell-phone picture).

Spotted Scott Staples coming out of the kitchen on Quinn's second night, looking a bit tired but pleased with the bustling opening. Great, shatteringly crispy fries (just a bit too salty), piquant duck egg bocarones and a really fantastic braised oxtail with truffled gnocchi... This is turning into a great food corridor for Seattle. Wait until Quinn's hits full stride after its staff has notched a few months of experience, cuz there's a whole lot of potential here.

Head on over to the corner of 10th and Pike.

Quinn's in Seattle

October 25, 2007

Going to Leavenworth... for the wine

A few weekends ago, Lav and I took our first trip into the funky little town of Leavenworth, "Washington's Bavarian Village." It's a little bit of a peculiar place because, well, there apparently isn't anything historically Bavarian about it. The area of Leavenworth was originally inhabited by the Yakima, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes, and later settled and converted into a logging and rail town. In the 1960's, the town was dying because of the decline in the industry, so it reinvented itself as a Bavarian town, completely changing the appearance of the buildings to mimic a Bavarian mountain village. Go figure.

We happened to be there during the annual Fall Harvest Festival, which featured a pretty impressive parade through the town, complete with floats of all kinds... some of which came from outside of Washington state. Say what you will about this place being "manufactured," they know how to throw a good parade, with scores of happy people enjoying the afternoon and the smell of grilled brats wafting through the mountain air...

The real gem of this trip was our visit to Boudreaux Cellars, run by winemaker Rob Newsom. Tucked away on a small private parcel in the midst of the Wenatchee National Forest in the foothills of the Cascades, Rob is making some amazing wines of phenomenal polish and sophistication.

We had the pleasure of being the only visitors during our time at the winery, and Rob was incredibly warm and inviting as he shared his personal story and the setup of the winery with us (including the killer fermentation tank layout that gives full expression to the term "garagiste"). Rather than read all of the details of our conversation with him over the course of an hour, you should take a visit to the winery and get to know Rob yourself. This former Gore-Tex employee/rock climbing mountain guide turned winemaker has an easy-going, infectious personality... the kind of guy you'd want to hang out with on a lazy Sunday afternoon with some good wine and music.

Speaking of wine, we tasted the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a deep, luscious and intensely alluring elixir of dark red fruit and a faintly floral overtone. Amazingly refined tannins for a decadent mouthfeel, particularly for such a young wine. We also had the 2004 Merlot, similarly velvety in texture, and a masterful expression of cherry and spiced earthiness. Easily some of the best Washington wines I've tried so far.

Boudreaux is exactly the kind of winery you hope to visit--small, personal, and soulful. No big corporate interest to stifle the vision... just a crazy-talented winemaker with some tanks, a small building and garage, and a dog that loves attention... the kind of place where the wine is still bottled, dipped in wax and labeled by hand. Really special stuff.

Call before you show up.

Boudreaux Cellars
4551 Icicle Creek Rd.
Leavenworth, WA 98826

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October 7, 2007

composed salmon salad

Just messing around a bit tonight for dinner. We wanted to make a salad of some sort with salmon, so we hit up Pike's Place for most of the ingredients (with a quick stop at Whole Foods... yeah, I was bummed about that too).

In the end, the salad consisted of crispy skin sockeye salmon pieces, roasted red and golden beets, roasted fingerling potatoes, soft boiled egg, fennel (pickled and caramelized), shaved red onion, mache, frisee, and thyme in a vinaigrette made from the residual beet juice from roasting, lemon and olive oil. A fried lemon crisp was also made to accent the acidy underlying the vinaigrette.

October 3, 2007

Eggs: Slow poached or sous vide?

Slow-poaching and slow-braising are awesome cooking methods from a scientific perspective because to be executed successfully, you have to take into account the specific, precise physical properties of the protein you are cooking. For example, braising short ribs for 12 hours at 155 degrees F dissolves the collagen in the meat while gently cooking the meat at a temperature that prevents the proteins from seizing. The result is an uber-velvety short rib whose texture exemplifies decadence.

A few months ago, I experimented slow-poaching an egg in an attempt to create a near uniform consistency between yolk and egg white. When you fry an egg, the white tends to seize up faster than the yolk... thus, the sunny side up egg. If, instead, you slow poach it for an hour at 140 degrees, the white and the yolk cook and thicken at closer to the same rate. Get it just right and you end up with a fully cooked egg whose white and yolk walk the fine line between liquid and solid... the yolk ends up becoming unctuously viscous, and a hidden intrinsic sweetness emerges.

I love the taste of poached eggs with asparagus...

But an hour is a long time to wait for an egg to slow poach to the right consistency. What happens if you separate the yolk from the white and cook it gently sous vide? I put the separated egg yolk in a ziploc bag and placed it in the same 140 degree water bath as the slow poaching egg for a very rudimentary sous vide system. In 15 minutes, the yolk reached the desired consistency. In addition to saving time, cooking the egg yolk sous vide opens up the opportunity to flavor the egg with herbs, salt, pepper, oil, or anything else while it cooks in the bag.

Shaved wok-fired asparagus with sous vide egg, quinoa, toasted almonds and pecorino:

Not sure which method I like better yet... but it's nice to have options.

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