Friday, July 31, 2009

Feasting Friday: Affogato

Affogato is an simple Italian dessert of ice cream topped with a shot of espresso. Affogato actually means "drowned" and as you can see below, the ice cream is drowning in a pool of espresso.

I have been resisting the urge to eat ice cream morning, noon and night all week. It's been hot here in Seattle. Really hot. Hotter than the hinges of hell, as my mother-in-law would say. With temps topping 100 degrees, I've kept myself cool with nonfat fruit and juice bars. But it's Feasting Friday people. FF requires fat.

Tully's Coffee is located near my office and they sell some pretty tasty soft-serve. It is a little on the sweet side, but works perfectly in an Affogato. You can take a small spoonful and dip it as much or as little into the espresso as you like to add the bitterness of the coffee to the sweetness of the ice cream. It takes some practice, but that is part of the fun.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stairsteps to Heaven

The sign of beer perfection: Check out the foam steps down the side of the glass!? This is the amber ale from Two Beers Brewery in Seattle. It's pretty much perfection in a glass on a 90-degree Sunday afternoon...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cocktail Formula

One of my favorite writers is Paul Clarke. He writes about cocktails for The New York Times, Imbibe magazine and many of the other food and booze publications I read regularly. He also blogs at Awhile back, I read a blog post he wrote on Serious Eats about a simple cocktail formula that kind of blew my mind:

“Sour-style, liqueur-sweetened cocktails such as margaritas and sidecars usually fall into a 2:1:1 or 3:2:1 ratio of spirits:liqueur:citrus, depending on how sweet or tart you prefer the result. Remember the particular formula that’s to your liking and you can start swapping all kinds of things through to make different drinks: rum instead of brandy, apricot liqueur instead of Cointreau; while a little wiggle with the proportions may be required with some substitutions, as long as you follow the basic formula you can be assured that you’ll wind up with something balanced.

In an issue of Esquire, drinks correspondent David Wondrich offers another handy formula for creating cocktails on the fly—one that calls for two ounces of spirits, one ounce of a fortified wine, a teaspoon of liqueur and a dash or two of bitters. Ancestral relatives of the Manhattan and the martini often follow this formula, with excellent results, and best of all, it’s amazingly versatile.”

Brilliant! I have a couple of good cocktail books that cover the basics, including The Essential Bartender’s Guide by Robert Hess, but as I learn more about mixing cocktails this cocktail formula is going to come in very, very handy.

The difference between men and women

Last year we took an Italian cooking class from the chef at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. The chef’s famous lasagna was part of the curriculum and we were excited to learn his secrets. We had been making our own lasagna for some time, homemade noodles and all, but knew we could do better. The class was fine, albeit it a little unorganized, and the chef was very knowledgeable and friendly.

Something he said though bugged me and has stuck with me over since that time. When he was separating eggs for the pasta dough, he said “you know the difference between men and women, is that women separate eggs like this (transferring the yolk between two cracked halves of the shell) and men separate eggs like this (placing the yolk into his hand and letting the white drip down into the garbage can). This struck me as needlessly sexist. Maybe it wasn’t meant that way, but it still bugged the shit out of me.

Since then, every time I separate eggs I think about that. Recently, it dawned on me that women separate eggs that way because THEY SAVE THE EGG WHITES! Sure, many male cooks probably do too. And I can’t imagine that a restaurant would throw away valuable product. But I think many men just throw away the egg whites, whereas most women save them.

I am a big fan of eggs. I think they are brilliant whole, but the yolks and whites are also amazing when used separately. I make a lot of custards and egg-based sauces, so I often have saved egg whites in my fridge. Leftover egg whites are great if you can find a use for them. I understand you can freeze them too, but I haven’t tried that yet. If I have three egg whites, I save them for these Swedish cookies I often make. If I have one egg white, I generally mix it in with one or two whole eggs for scrambled eggs. If I have just two egg whites though, I got nothing.

Lately I’ve been making a lot of ice cream. The custard base calls for 5 egg yolks. So, I have had five egg whites to use up after: that’s t three for the cookies and two for…two for…grrr. What can I make with two eggs whites?!

I don’t know where I saw them recently (probably the food network), but I saw meringues and thought, “BINGO!” Meringues use egg whites and I have plenty of those. I did a quick search on the new Epicurious iPhone app and found a simple recipe. The only key really is to make sure you get the egg whites stiff enough.


2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 200°F. and butter and flour a large baking sheet, knocking off excess flour. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, beating, and beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks. Drop heaping teaspoons (not measuring spoons) of meringue about 1 inch apart onto baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave meringues in oven 1 hour more. With a metal spatula transfer meringues to a rack to cool completely. Meringue kisses may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

I don’t have a decent pastry bag, so I used a ziptop plastic bag and cut a small corner off and used it as an improvised pastry bag. The meringues are tasty enough, even if they look like little white turds.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Feasting Friday: Teddy's Bigger Burgers

Our vacation to Eastern Washington was amazing. We went to Walla Walla for three nights, drove through the Palouse for a one-night stop in Spokane to visit some friends and then lounged around Lake Chelan for the last three nights. I have lots of good reports to share...from wine tasting, to Washington's second best bartender, touring the Dry Fly Distillery and our quest for the best drive-in burger. More on all of that later because today is Feasting Friday.

A big construction project is underway at our house. The roof has been torn off and it's fucking mayhem over here. Therefore...our meals for a few days will be eaten out, where there is no dust and no sawing or hammering taking place. Our first meal away from the chaos - I am happy to report - was perfect.

Teddy's Bigger Burgers is a chain from Hawaii that recently arrived on the shores of the Pacific Northwest. Before our vacation, I spent a lot of time on Chowhound researching restaurants. I found a thread titled Looking for the best burger in WA where I found lots of tips for the trip but ALSO saw mention of Teddy's, which is closer to home.

Teddy's has been voted best burger in Hawaii every year since 2004...according to their website at least. They opened their first mainland location in Woodinville, about 15 miles from our house. It isn't the most convenient option for burgers, but ended up being worth the drive.

They offer burgers in three sizes: Big (5 oz), Bigger (7 oz) and Biggest (9oz). All the burgers come with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and special sauce. More on the special sauce in a minute, but first can I just say that I LOVE a place that doesn't make onions optional?! I love onions on a burger (thankfully so does Gavin) and Teddy's slices theirs ultra-thin.

OK, so about that sauce. It is mayonnaise-based and a little bit sweet with just the tiniest bit of smoked flavor. I likened it to grilled pineapple, but that might have been because I had Hawaii on the brain. They slather on loads of it and it is a nice compliment to the "flame-broiled" beef.

Teddy's uses 100% ground chuck for their patties. They serve them medium and, as the menu states, that means they may be a little pink in the middle. It was cooked perfectly in my mind. A little drier than I expected out of ground chuck, but maybe they use leaner meat than I do. Or maybe some dimwit in the kitchen that day was pressing the heck out the patties with a spatula. Don't get me was juicy, just not oozing juice. Eeew. That sounded kind of gross. Anyways...

The fries were in top form. Thick-cut potatoes, double fried and not over salted. Perfection. This was a relief given our most recent experiences with french fries in the north end.

All in all, Teddy's was tops. I have a running list of my favorite burgers in the greater Seattle area and Teddy's is definitely in the top 5. Maybe even the top 2. It's THAT good.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Feasting Friday: On Vacation

Feasting Friday is on vacation and headed East - where the weather is hot & dry, the wine is flowing and the taquerias are muy autentico. I'll report back in a week. Adios!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thirsty Thursdays

Welcome to a new feature on this blog, Thirsty Thursdays. Every so often, on a Thursday, I'll share with you whatever tasty, refreshing beverage I am enjoying. It may be one of the many new cocktails I am experimenting with, a new smoothie or perhaps a new beer or wine discovery.

Today I was headed to the blood bank after work. Not the kind of blood bank that pays you for your plasma. This blood bank has volunteer donors contribute to the local blood supply for patients in need of transfusions, either due to illness or injury. I am proud to say that I've been donating for over 10 years now and just recently received my 5-gallon pin! You donate a pint at a time, so that is over 40 donations. Since I am O-NEG blood type (the universal donor type), they call me often. I try to donate regularly since it's a free and easy was to give back. Plus - free cookie!

So, I was early to my donation appointment this afternoon and realized that next to the blood bank was a beer market. But, this wasn't just any beer market. The sign boasted BIGGEST BEER SELECTION IN SEATTLE. Big Star Beer Market, let's see what you got.

In a word, impressive. Big Star just may have the BIGGEST BEER SELECTION IN SEATTLE. They had tons of imports - Germany, Belgium, Eastern Europe, Great Britain and more plus lots of beer from OR, WA and CA. They also sell different shapes of beer glasses and dozens of varieties of hard ciders. They had lots of 22-ounce bottles from local microbreweries, but I had my eye on the chilled beers. The summer weather has returned to Seattle and a cold, crisp beer sounded perfect for this evening.

When I traveled to the Philippines last year, the only beer we drank was San Miguel (it might actually be the only beer they sell). It is a crisp, light lager that is perfect for the hot, humid weather of SE Asia. It isn't nearly as hot nor as humid here right now, but San Miguel is a rare find and I just couldn't pass it up.

My blood donation went well. Iron levels good, blood pressure low and veins pumping freely. At the end of every donation, they tell you to drink lots of fluids for the next two to three days. I know from experience that you definitely get dehydrated after donating, so today will definitely be a Thirsty Thursday. The tech reminded me to drink lots of water. I asked, "What about beer?" and she firmly reminded me to drink water. But beer is mostly water, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Maraschino Cherries

In the winter of 2007, I saw a magazine cover that said “Homemade Maraschino Cherries.” I have been a Manhattan drinker for years and long ago eschewed those bright red abominations found on supermarket shelves. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED those cherries as a kid. Especially if they were served in a Shirley Temple or Mor-mor's lime jello molded salad.

I promptly bought that issue of Imbibe magazine and almost immediately signed up for a subscription. Based in Portland, OR, Imbibe magazine packs every bi-monthly issue with cocktail history, bar essentials, recipes, reviews on spirits, beer and the occasional non-alcoholic beverage.

The recipe for maraschino cherries is simple. Put fresh, clean, pitted cherries in a jar and top with maraschino liquor. What could be easier than that?! Well...first, I needed to find maraschino liquor.

Last winter passed and I still never found maraschino liquor. In fact, I had never even tasted it. I figured it tasted like cherries. In May of last year that changed on a trip to the Zig Zag Cafe. The bartender Murray schooled us about many things, including maraschino. First, we learned that it is pronounced mara-skeeno. We also learned that it provides many cocktails - particularly those bourbon or gin-based cocktails I love so much - with a sweet, nutty flavor that can't be beat.

Finally, in the fall of last year I found a bottle of Manhattan. I ended up buying it, toting it home and giving it a good home in my liquor cabinet. It only recently got some action when it made its way into an Aviation, but more on that later.

Local cherries (well, WA state at least) are in season, so I dusted off that old recipe and got to work. Pitting cherries is a hell of a job, made only mildly easier by a cherry pitter. As the recipe says...all you have to do is pit the clean cherries and put them in a jar and top with maraschino liquor.

And wait.

Place the jars in the fridge for a week or two, turning them daily to evenly distribute to liquor. They'll keep fresh for about a month. Although with that much alcohol, I suspect I they'll last a lot longer.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Feasting Friday: On the Water

For someone that lives in a city surrounded by water, it is shocking how little I actually get out on the water. That all changed this week when we went out on our friend's Zodiac.

The picture above isn't exactly what you imagined when I said "Zodiac," was it? The thing is, Robin and Jason really know how to entertain. If you set up a table with a table cloth, load it with bottles of wine and tasty food...then, a Zodiac can actually be quite civilized.