Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Feasting: Spiral of Shame Edition

Let me be clear. I am NOT ashamed that I ate at Dick's Drive-in last night.

I am ashamed because it was the best food I had all evening. Well, at least the best food I had that I remembered to photograph.

My Friday began at the gym. After that, I took the Metro downtown, and had about a 1/2 mile walk to the office. Figuring I had earned "a treat." I stopped in at Boulangerie Nantaise. My friend Greg used to manage this organic, French bakery and I have enjoyed their pastries many times before. This time however, I thought I would try something other than my usual pain au chocolat and ordered an apple something-or-other. It looked promising and I clutched it in my paw all the way to the office.

Settling into work for the day, I got a cup of coffee and sat down at my computer. I was starving at this point and couldn't WAIT to tuck into that pastry. Hmm, I thought. That dough is kind of salty. Hmmm. Not really that flaky either. And, what is that filling? Apple-y, but kind of mushy. Kind of like applesauce, but bad applesauce. Bleh. I ate about 1/3 and threw it out. Thankfully I brought a breakfast burrito with me too and was able to have that for my morning sustenance instead.

On to lunch...I didn't bring one, but had hoped some of my office mates would be headed out to lunch. They weren't. I did get invited to sit 'round the lunch table with them though. I surveyed the food I had stashed in and around my desk. A mango, (delivered in this week's produce basket); some peanut butter; a can of sardines; almonds, white cheddar Cheez-its; and some Wasa crisp bread. So, I put together a random plate of fruit, fiber and protein and ate at my desk. I was too ashamed to eat this weird plate of food in front of my colleagues.

Finally...quitting time! Gavin was meeting me after work and we were going to meet up with some friends for drinks before heading to our friend Rachel's apartment-warming party. She ordered BBQ for the occasion and I was saving up. Perfect Friday Feasting fodder!

Gavin was hungry for a snack and since we were going to end up at the Rob Roy, we decided on having a quick bite beforehand someplace in Belltown. We went to an old favorite or ours - La Vita e Bella Pizzeria. We remembered them having some pretty tasty food. Either they have gone downhill or our palates have greatly improved, because the pizza was terrible. Not photo-worthy. Not Friday Feasting worthy. Heck, it was hardly edible.

On to pre-funk cocktails. The Rob Roy (formerly the Viceroy) had some GREAT cocktails. I started with their signature - the Rob Roy, naturally. It is basically a Manhattan made with Scotch. Then, I had a Martinez. I read about this cocktail at, in a great article they had called Shaken or Stirred. Another great cocktail. Of course, I failed to to take pictures of either.

Finally, on to Rachel's new Belltown flat. It is a super cute place in a great location. It smelled fantastic too, since she had ordered up BBQ ribs, chicken and hot links along with all the side dishes. I feasted and fêted , but totally FORGOT to take pictures. Grrr. What is that, zero for five!?

We called it an evening pretty early, since we had our own party to prep for Saturday morning. In a total lapse of judgement, we decided to make a stop on our way home at Dick's Drive-In. Actually, in the back of my mind I kind of wanted to prove that I can eat a greasy late night burger and not feel sick which was the case at In-n-Out Burger. As I unwrapped my burger and prepared to take a bite, I remembered - it's FEASTING FRIDAY - and quickly took a picture.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pain au Chocolat: Battle of the Bakeries

It is a widely held belief that the best pastries in Seattle can be found at Cafe Besalu. I have long subscribed to this belief. Thankfully, Besalu is not close enough to my house for me to be a regular patron. When I am in the neighborhood though...I make a point of stopping in for their out-of-this-world pain au chocolat.

Lately however, there has been a lot of talk about a NEW bakery in town. A new bakery that may just very well (gasp), take the top honors. Honoré Artisan Bakery even had the nerve to open a few blocks away from Besalu.

A taste test was in order. I was thinking of it as "The Battle of the Century" or "The Battle of the Boulangeries." The bulge? The butter?
Anyways, you get where I am going with this. I'll stick with the Battle of the Bakeries. Last weekend, Gavin and I had errands to run in that part of the city and when I suggested we stop and not one but TWO bakeries...he was on board.
On the left...the reigning champion: Cafe Besalu. In the other corner...the challenger: Honoré. Look at the challenger, all bronzed and puffed up. Besalu's fighter looks a little saggy, a little deflated even. I was starting to worry for my beloved Besalu.
But then, I took a bite. Sure, Honoré tries to one-up the competition with not one but TWO layers of chocolate. It's efforts however, are in vain. Besalu's pain au chocolat is flaky beyond compare. It's buttery, soft and tender dough balance just right with the bittersweet chocolate inside. It finishes with a slightly salty aftertaste.

Honoré's pain au chocolat looked promising, but was much less flaky. I would even say it was doughy. There would only be one clear winner in this battle...Cafe Besalu.
Honoré is good. They are definitely on their way to being one of the top contenders. One thing they offer, that Besalu does not, are macarons.

Now, here is where the excel. I have long been a fan of the macarons from Le Panier, but THESE Just wow. The white one above was coconut with salt caramel filling. The green was pistachio. Or, as my friend Therese calls them, "pistach-i-crack." I have a feeling another bakery battle is in order....

Friday, March 20, 2009

Feasting Friday: Oyster Edition

It's the first day of Spring - and Friday - which means it's time to feast. It was kind of rainy today, but I still wanted to get down to Pike Place Market and take a look around.

As touristy as this place is, I love the energy. Daffodils and tulips are in season, wild mushrooms are available at many stalls and the sun actually decided to make a brief appearance.

And this - RHUBARB - can you believe it? I myself am not a huge fan...but it's a sure sign that spring is on the way.

I killed some time wandering the market, taking in the sights and sounds and listening to some of the street musicians perform.

My friend Robin works near the market, so she came to meet me for this week's "Feasting Friday." That is her dog - named Friday - how perfect?!

Robin is a BIG oyster fan - like me - so she is the perfect dining companion when I have a hankering for bivalves. We went to Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar, tucked into small space away from the crowds of people. It is pretty rustic, straight forward and simple. It doesn't get simpler than menus printed on brown paper bags...

We ordered a dozen raw oysters to share. They totally hit the spot. They weren't the best oysters I've ever had. I think I realized that unless I am eating oysters freshly shucked on the beach...I prefer them in a fancy setting, served ice cold with some tangy mignonette and a strong gin-based cocktail. That wouldn't be appropriate for lunch though now would it?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Food Notes from Hell-A

I was in LA last weekend with some girlfriends. It wasn't exactly a culinary trip (see In-n-Out and IHOP), but I do have some random observations and photos to share.

Fruit plate: Have you ever seen something so beautiful?

Restaurant ratings: These signs are in all restaurant windows and show you the grade that establishment received from health inspectors. My friend Jen thinks all restaurants in the US should have these.

Pizzeria Mozza: This was the one must-see on my list for the weekend. It did not disappoint.

These are the arancini at Mozza. Robin was tired of me taking photos of our food at this point. Oops.

Nate & Al's Delicatessen: This Reuben was probably the best hangover cure evah! We spent Saturday night out on the town (Late! With Cullens!) and needed some salty food come Sunday.

They gave us this pickle plate to start, which was perfect with a cold can of Coke. We wanted to ask for more, but our waitress - Nadine - was kind of terrifying.

Breakfast Burritos for the New Frugality

2009 is off to a great start, even with friends getting laid off left and right, and my own job less than stable. I've been able to stick to at least one of my New Year's resolutions, which is (other than being a record!) to live more frugally.I've added a few new words and concepts to my culinary repertoire. They include 'budget', 'frugal' and 'no waste.'

OK, I'll be honest. My idea of frugal and your idea of frugal may not be exactly the same thing. I'm still living pretty high on the hog compared to most. There has been such a trend in newspapers (R.I.P Seattle P.I.), magazines and blogs towards frugal cooking, that I have been inspired. I am trying to cook out of what's in the pantry (lots of dried beans and grains), waste less food and be mindful of sales and deals.
It is a really good discipline to get into, since it is preparing me for the worst case scenario.

I came across a great blog called The Simple Dollar because of their great breakfast burrito idea. The concept is that you can make really tasty breakfast burritos - in bulk - for freezing and reheating later.

With these breakfast burritos in the back of my mind, I continued with my plans of cooking out of the pantry (supplemented by the bi-weekly basket of organic produce we have delivered) and not wasting what we have in the refrigerator.

It started with the cheese. We've been working through a big block of mozzarella that we bought for a party a few weeks ago. The cheese would NOT be wasted! There are almost always cans of black beans and corn in the pantry and eggs in the refrigerator. All I needed to buy were some tortillas and salsa. I had a red pepper and an onion left from our produce basket that I sauteed up with plenty of salt and pepper. I probably could have spiced it up even more. Or, I could have skipped this altogether or subbed in fresh scallions. I had the pepper and onion though, so I used them.

Assembly line style, I lined up the tortillas and topped them with cheese, beans and corn, and the pepper/onion mix.
For the eggs, I scrambled one egg per burrito. You could less or more depending on how many of the other ingredients you have. You could even substitute in some egg whites, if you are into that sort of thing. I undercooked them a bit, as Simple Dollar recommended. Then, I spooned the eggs and some tasty salsa on top of the rest of the ingredients and was ready to roll.

Each tortilla was simply placed on a piece of plastic wrap and rolled tight. I wrapped them in a
second layer of plastic wrap just to be safe. All the the burritos were then placed into a ziptop freezer bag and into the freezer.
Reheating the burritos is simple. I've already had two and they tasted great. The key when you microwave them is to wrap them in a paper towel. You set the microwave on the defrost setting for about 2 minutes (I turn the burrito over halfway). Then, zap them on high for another 1-2 minutes, unwrap and eat.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday Feasting: In-N-Out Burger

I'm in LA for the weekend and tried my first - and possibly my last - In-N-Out burger. They don't call it in-n-out for nothing. Maybe it was the flight from Seattle. Or, maybe the bumpy LA roads. The smog? I don't what it was, but normally I have a stomach of steel. I can eat at Dick's Drive-In or taco trucks daily. Heck, I eat raw oysters. Nothing before made my stomach gurgle quite like this. FAIL!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Every Sunday afternoon, I listen to The Splendid Table. OK, maybe not every Sunday, but I DO listen to every podcast of the show. I am a bigbigbig fan of their book, How to Eat Supper. The host's voice takes some getting used to, but they have great guests and topics on the show.

Recently, they had the poet Elizabeth Alexander on the show (she's the poet who read at Obama's inauguration). The inaugural poem didn't do much for me, but I loved the poem she read about butter. Yes, butter. If anything is poem-worthy, it's butter. Oh, and the reference in the poem to Little Black Sambo makes me smile too. I totally remember that book from my un-PC, late-70s upbringing...

My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter meting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo's children despite
historical revision, despite
our parent's efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Feasting Fridays: A New Weekly Feature

Welcome to a new weekly feature of Sonja's Kitchen: Feasting Fridays. Each Friday, I'll take a break from from the kitchen and let someone else do the cooking. Expect reports on everything from breakfast pastries to martini lunches; from happy hour reports to fine dining.

This idea came to me on my walk to work this morning. My office has moved locations for the next six months or so (then it's back to the Eastside). I'll be working down on lower Queen Anne, which is high on dining options but low on parking options. Hence "the walk" to work.

As I walked the four blocks from my suh-weet all day/no charge parking spot to the office, I saw a Danish Flag ahead of me.

It was too early for me to think about breakfast, but as soon as I saw the sign - John Nielsen's Authentic Danish Pastries - my stomach awoke with a start and quickly sent signals to my brain saying, "STOPNOWANDBUYMEAPASTRY!"

The pastry case was filled with all the requisite "Danish" pastries: kringler, snitter, boller et al. I decided on a cinnamon and custard-laden snitter. The $12.50 kringle looked mighty fine and when I feel like sharing, I'll snatch one up.

I gleefully gobbled up my snitter, while scrolling through the lastest and greatest at It was good, but not great. A little too crispy around the edges and the custard was a little too gelatinous for my taste. Of course, I'm used to the real thing so you can't blame me for being picky.

A little bit of buyer's remorse later kicked in - thinly veiled as a sugar crash - because A) I am trying to cut back on my sugar intake despite the valiant efforts of the Girl Scouts of America and B) It's the recession! I can't keep spending $2.25 on pastries. I have vowed to savesavesave and live more frugally because hey, I could get laid off any day.

Wanting to justify my indulgence (not to mention get some much needed motivation and inspiration to add more blog entries), I hatched a plan. I work hard dammit, so every Friday I should treat myself. Thus was born Feasting Fridays. This will give me motivation each week to eat (somewhat) healthy, so on Fridays I can FEAST. And blog all about it...