Monday, July 30, 2012

Dining Out: ABC Kitchen, New York NY

I’ve had a Jean-Georges cookbook for years – and I never knew who this man was until fellow foodies Manh and Naomi invited Miranda and I to ABC Kitchen in New York.

The location is hidden behind some tired and distressed white doors.  I think that is on purpose because everything about ABC Kitchen is all about organic, locally sourced, reclaimed materials and everything else “Portlandia” when possible.
The bar is long and hip, loaded with many who couldn’t get a table or waiting for their table.

The dining area reminds me of a clear summer night and looking up into the stars as strands of lights illuminated above.  The exposed ceiling doesn’t hide the rustic wooden beams and partially rusted piping.  Tastefully dotted with spot lights one can’t help but think of starlight.  It’s pretty romantic, but it is cut short by the hustle of the wait staff and the noise of other diners.

I’ve had items on the lunch and dinner menu and each time did not disappoint.  Whatever you order, know that everything is fresh.  I'm mean really fresh.  My ginger ale was made with fresh ginger.  Juices are fresh squeezed and change depending on availability.  New York City’s interpretation of the farm-to-table dining concept, in my opinion, is defined by ABC Kitchen.
Service was acceptable, but I’ve experienced better.  Forgetting my drink order, a little delay with side dishes and a long wait for the check leaves service to be desired, however easily made up in the quality of food.

ABC Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dining Out: CHA:N, Seattle WA (PIKE MARKET)

Note: Their website has an incredible photo gallery. I would encourage you to look, the food styling and photography is phenomenal.

Tucked away off Pike Street in a small area known as Inn and the Market lies Cha:n.

Cha:n is a Korean fusion restaurant that is small and intimate.

Being near the market, parking is challenging.  We ended up valet parking, which Cha:n doesn’t validate (note that other restaurants validate parking).   There is obviously street parking and lot parking in the area, but be prepared to search out for it.

As I entered the restaurant, I noticed the small space and low ceilings.  Being it was somewhat in a basement of a building natural light was limited.

We sat in a table set for two, where on one side was a chair and the other was a long stretch of a booth that accommodated other tables.

We picked up the menu and noticed the humble offerings.  On one side of the menu was traditional Korean dishes and on the other were selections a bit more creative – Korean inspired dishes.

Our server was prompt and attentive.  Our small table didn’t offer much room for the dishes we ordered, so our server was constantly at our table clearing and replenishing.

One thing that stood out – banchan and kimchee came at a modest price.  I’ve been to several Korean restaurants around the country and for the most part, these items are free.  They are small dishes that offer diners a little nibble and accompaniment to their meal.  Similar to an amuse-bouche, they are usually a gift from the chef.  Just note that at this restaurant, you’ll have to pay additional for these items.

Definitely this restaurant offers innovative Korean dishes that pushes the envelope when it comes to traditional Korean cuisine.  It’s not at all a bad thing, it is just different.  I appreciate the step that Chef Heong Soon Park to take Korean dining to another level.

I would recommend dining here – but if you have any preconceived notions of Korean dining, leave them at the door and enjoy what Cha:n has to offer.

Chan Seattle on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dining Out: Lot No.3, Bellevue WA

I'm not much of a drinker, but I make up for that in food.  If any restaurant can convert me into a consumer of the spirits, it's Lot No. 3 located in the Bellevue Towers.  There is free validated parking - so make sure to bring your ticket when you dine.

When you open the big, substantial doors you enter a space with high ceilings, bad aucustics and a dark loft area with ample seating.  There are tables and chairs, sofas, cozy chairs, coffee tables - just about every seating arrangement to suit your dining mood.

The menu is ample, offering lots of pub food and drink but with a classy and upscale twist.  Beverage choices are overwhelming and for this non-drinking foodie I can't begin to do their drink menu justice.  I do know that they offer house infused spirits, beer, cocktails and anything that will quench your thrist.  If they don't have it, they can run next door to their sister restaurant, Purple Cafe and get it.

Food selections are upscale and delicious.  I'm impressed that they have taken the ordinary and made it their own.  I've been to Lot No. 3 many many times and each visit has been consistently good.  My son loves this place too.

What I recommend:
Pretzel - This is my absolute favorite.  It's served on a cutting board with a side of housemade beer based mustard.  It has a thin, buttery crust and an inside so soft it almost melts in your mouth but has just enough texture to still be considered a pretzel.  It's fantastic.
Creamy Tomato Soup - I usually get this and a pretzel and I'm all set.  The soup has a delicious tomato flavor and just enough cream to give it some substance.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich - My son's favorite.  It's made with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions.  It's quite the combination.
Veggie Sandwich - I try to eat vegetarian throughout the week, and this sandwich makes it easy to do so.  Their vegetables are well seasoned and makes eating your veggies a pleasurable experience.
Lot No. 3 Punch - Think of kool-aid, but even better because it's housemade.  The flavor changes often, so ask your server what's currently "on tap" so to speak.
Big Piece of Chocolate Cake - Ok, if you're a chocoholic, this will put your claim to the test.  This is an intense piece of cake that is sure to satisfy a sweet tooth and your chocolate cravings in one dessert.  I was pleasantly surprised!

Lot No. 3 on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 16, 2012

Read My Mind: Chef Marcus Samuelsson

I know of Marcus Samuelsson from the Food Network show Chopped.  Of course Mr. Samuelsson is an accomplished chef and restaurateur.  Until recently, I didn't know that he was the recipient of several James Beard awards and a philanthropist supporting many great causes including C-CAP and UNICEF.

Mr. Samuelsson recently came to Seattle and hosted a book signing of his new book, Yes, Chef as well as a cooking demonstration and four course dinner at Palace Ballroom in Seattle.  My husband and I were two of about 175 guests that enjoyed an evening of fun and good food.

After cocktails, appetizers, signing of books and food chatter among guests we were seated and entertained by Mr. Samuelsson as he talked about growing up in Sweden, life as a chef and his several restaurants around the world.

Mr. Samuelsson gave a cooking demonstration of the meal we ate and showed how easy it was to take ramen from the ordinary to the extraordinary and how to smoke fish on the stovetop.  In between, he entertained us with stories of growing up, how he eventually ended up in the United States and cooking for the Obama's at a White House state dinner.

The highlight of my evening was meeting Mr. Samuelsson's content director.  Talking with her gave me more insight of this celebrity chef where Mr. Samuelsson's passion for food extends far beyond a successful restaurateur. His philanthropy, his connection with his community, his involvement with the impact of food on our lives made me realize this man's focus on the culinary industry is so much more than owning successful restaurants.  I believe Mr. Samuelsson to be a food steward of the world.

What we ate:
Tray passed appetizers:
..Gravlax, Purple Mustard over Pumpernickel
..Fried Chicken with Broth Shooters
..Warm Beef Tartare with Ayib (Ethiopian cottage cheese) over Toast

..Dashi Ramen with Poached Egg & Slow-Cooked Pork Belly
paired with Kan Nihon Kai Sake
..Hot Smoked Arctic Char with Apple Broth & Celery-Asian Pear Puree
paired with 2009 Domaine Bourillon Dorleans Vouvray Sec
..Chocolate Cake with Roasted Cherries
paired with Niepoort 10 Year Tawny Port

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dining Out: Scarpetta, New York NY (Meatpacking)

Like children who are impressed upon when viewing a TV commercial, I feel that same way when I listen to any food authority sign praises of their love of a restaurant.  It's almost gospel!  The Best Thing I’ve Ate features Food Network celebrities sharing their favorite go-to places to eat.  Ted Allen, host of Chopped! talked about his love of Spaghetti at Scarpetta Restaurant in New York City.

I’ve already been to Scarpetta and just recently enjoyed another plate of Chef Scott Conant’s spaghetti.

As I entered the restaurant, I pass the bar which is full of foodies (and possibly drunks) eager to savor the food and drink of this fine dining establishment.   The main dining area is large, offering tables in the center and half booths (when a table offers chairs on one side and booth seating opposite) along the walls.  In the rear houses an impressive wine collection, beautifully displayed through a glass wall and window.

The menu offers an array of Italian dishes, all executed with such style and taste.  While perusing the menu, we are offered an out of this world bread basket.  Ok, I don’t normally go crazy for a bread basket, but the offering is so substantial one can’t help but be delighted by the offering.  Within the crisp white napkin lies freshly sliced Italian boule of sorts, thick cut slices of Stromboli (bread layered with cheese, tomato and cheese), focaccia with pronounced specks of sea salt and small crusty Italian bread rolls.  It is accompanied with freshly churned butter (or so it seems), an eggplant/tomato spread and delicious extra virgin olive oil.  

Service on both visits was excellent.  In fact, on my most recent visit, Ricky our waiter recognized us from the dinner the night before at Scott ConantManagement.  Needless to say, Ricky took very good care of us.

Scarpetta restaurants can also be found in Las Vegas NV, Miami FL, Toronto Canada, Beverly Hills CA in addition to the meat packing district location in New York City.

I highly recommend Scarpetta, which means the little shoe like shape taken by bread that is about to grace your plate (to take in the sauce at the bottom of your plate that you so want to finish because it’s oh so good).

Scarpetta on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In The Kitchen: Stromboli

Stromobli is a type of stuffed bread, usually stuffed with cheese and Italian cold cuts.  I'm sure there are many variations as to how these are made.

If you've ever dined at Scarpetta restaurant, you've experience Stromboli (Chef Scott Conant style).  Their bread program includes stromboli, delicious Italian bread stuffed with smoked mozerrala, genoa salami, garlic, basil and topped with cherry tomatoes.  The nice thing is that it's FREE. Between you, me and the fence post, Scarpett's bread basket with a glass of wine is a meal in itself.

On the Food Network's The Best Thing I've Ever Made, Cheff Scott shared his recipe for Stromboli.  It looked easy to make, so I made it in my kitchen.

Ok, like any bread product you'll want to allow time.  This took all afternoon (from shopping to eating) to make.  Confession:  I now have a deep appreciation for the bread basket at Scarpetta.  Hats off to Chef Scott.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dining Out: Monsoon (East), Bellevue WA

It seems that Vietnamese cuisine brings thoughts of "strip mall", "noodle soup" and "inexpensive" .  Well, some of that may be true.  But at Monsoon, none really apply.

Monsoon East is a great upscale Vietnamese restaurant in old downtown Bellevue.  It is part of the Monsoon family of restaurants that includes a location in Seattle, Ba Bar and Baguette Box.

Ok, back to their East location. Located on Main Street in old downtown Bellevue they offer street parking and lot parking which I have yet to find.  Open their big, heavy door and you'll find yourself in a restaurant very fitting for the Bellevue scene.

I've been many times for happy hour, brunch, lunch and dinner.  I find their menu able to please anyone, especially my picky vegetarian friends.  Ingredients are always fresh and flavors of herbs and spices blend very nicely with their menu items.

Most Vietnamese restaurants don't compare to the quality and attention that good food deserves.  You'll find yourself plesantly surprised at how Monsoon has elevated this wonderful cuisine as well as the dining experience.

My go to menu items include the following.  Note that items may not be served throughout the day:
Grilled Lo la lot
Arugula, avocado salad (this is fantastic, the flavors are so fresh and delicious)
Vegetable fresh rolls
Crispy Washington druken chicken
Oxtail broth pho (note, this pho is much more flavorful)
Any of the Vermicelli bowls (a hearty salad(ish) dish)
Any Banhi mi (in case you're looking for a soup and sandwich combo)

Monsoon East on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 6, 2012

Out and About: Fainting Goat, Wallingford


I'm not big on frozen treats, so I can't tell you if this is the best gelato in the world - however, I can tell you that the gelato at Fainting Goat is delicious.

Gelato in general has a lower butterfat content than traditional ice cream products.  It's made in the same way as ice cream, but has a softer texture than it's American counterpart.

Fainting Goat is located in Wallingford right on the main strip.  It's small with about 5 tables for sit down eating.  Flavors are typical of a gelaterie (a place where gelato is made).  There's the always present vanilla bean, chocoalte, but other options like mango, pistachio, coffee and banana.  You'll also find cakes and espresso drinks at this small mom and pop establishment.

Behind the counter you'll find a husband and wife team happily scooping their frozen creations for you.  They're open late - perfect for an evening treat.  Samples are free for the asking.

Support local businesses.  Visit Fainting Goat.

Fainting Goat Gelato on Urbanspoon