Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thank you, Cannon Beach

In just under 48 hours I will be giving thanks for all of those things in life that I'd say make me fortunate. Things that I typically try to appreciate more than once a year but tend to let everyday life distract me from giving the nod they deserve. Things like my family, the man in my life, the best circle of friends a girl could ask for, my health, a steady job—you get the picture.

All of those will get their due time in their own way on Thursday. Right now I need to stop and express an outpouring of gratitude to Cannon Beach. Yes, I'm talking to you Cannon Beach. You who slaps me in the face with a healthy dose of relaxation the second I arrive. You who slows my step and makes me breathe, let’s me think more clearly and calms my nerves. Thank you, Cannon Beach.

You’re full of good coffee, maple bars, chocolate dipped krispie treats and pizza I just can't quit. You bring pancakes and French Toast for breakfast and you pour better-than-usual bottles of wine with dinner (and sometimes lunch). You inspire said man in life to make meals that include things like ciabbata crostini with cannellini beans and chanterelle mushrooms, homemade pasta dressed with arugula pesto and roasted tomatoes and Parmesan crusted halibut with not one but two special sauces (buttercup squash puree and red pepper coulis). And then you let me have real ice cream with an impromptu caramel sauce. Thank you, Cannon Beach.

Not just for the stellar food and soothing vibe, but for letting me sleep in, read books and for surprising me with beautiful days full of sunshine when I’m least expecting it. You bring me closer to some of my nearest and dearest, help me build relationships with more recent life arrivals and watch while I fall farther in love. Thank you, Cannon Beach.

And to the two people who have let me come to know their warm, cozy cabin so many times over the past few years—well, thank you for Cannon Beach.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When did November get here?

Seriously, when did we get 11 months into the year? How are we so far into fall and I’ve barely even noticed? I suppose the usual work, friends and life have been keeping me busy, but so busy that I haven’t had time to sit down and recollect anything since the Labor Day weekend trip to Allium? That seems absurd.

I guess it could have been the tail end of wedding season. I spent a chunk of September and October celebrating and shedding oh-so-happy tears (huge wedding crier here) as dear friends walked down the aisle, pledged their love and commitment to perfect companions and turned the page to new chapters of their lives. There were wedding showers, epic Vegas experiences, adorable grooms and breathtaking brides. Time spent catching up with people who feel like family, trips home (or as close to it as I get these days) and attempts to make up for lost sleep with early bedtimes and later weekend wake-ups.

Somewhere amidst all of the fun and chaos I managed to make my way to a pretty great place in Portland. The day after the fourth and final wedding of the year, my boyfriend and I decided to head into downtown Portland to have lunch and rehash our favorite parts of the weekend. My friend Tes recommended a place in the Pearl—Irving Street Kitchen. She’s the kind of gal that’s sort of effortlessly cool, in the know and has pointed me in the direction of a ton of other legit Portland spots (Nostrana, Park Kitchen, Higgins, etc.), so we were of course going with her suggestion before we left town.

Brilliant call. We were dragging after a long, eventful night that wrapped up a couple of jam-packed months. But the place’s warm, welcoming, wooden booths managed to perk us up, wrap us in their arms and make us momentarily forget that we had a three hour drive home ahead of us.

We had what I’m calling the brunch of all brunches. A breakfast of champions—if people were to call tired, dehydrated, sleep deprived couples who spend a near awkward amount of time considering the menu champions, that is. A mimosa with some sort of berry (huckleberry?) puree got me started, and a spicy, incredible looking Bloody Mary raised the boy’s brows before the shared plates we finally decided on followed. The Bibb Lettuce salad with Rogue Blue Cheese, Braeburn Apple and Radishes came first, followed by Draper Valley Fried Chicken served with Smoked Tasso Jambalaya and Sunnyside Eggs. Oh and then there was that order of Onion Rings with Truffle Aioli dipping sauce. Yes, I said fried chicken and I also said onion rings. (I did mention it was a late night, right?) Was it indulgent? Yes. Was it an over-ambitious order? Maybe. Was every bite of it amazing? Hell yes.

We left maybe a tad sluggish but psyched to have gotten a taste of Portland before heading home, where funnily enough, our first save the date for next year’s wedding season was waiting in our mailbox.

P.S. I'm playing with Picasa, hence the collage above, and it seems to have eaten my old, basic photo editing program. I'm experimenting with how to make the photos sharper once they're uploaded. In the meantime, this group of shots at least gives an idea of what the brunch of all brunches entailed, albeit a blurry one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Allium on Orcas...

I spent my Wednesday afternoon in a dentist chair this week. Two and a half hours of my mouth wide open, an uncomfortable dull ache in my jaw and the disturbing sounds of those scary silver "instruments." I had my iPod in hopes Ray LaMontagne and Missy Higgins would drown out the sound of the drill, but sadly, they failed me and I gave them a rest about 45 minutes in. I started then stopped listing to the small talk my dentist and his assistant were making with each other, looked out the window and zoned out while thinking about all of the other places I'd rather be.

My dentist's office is in Ballard and has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Puget Sound. It was grey and drizzling, and my mind wandered back to a similar view from the table my boyfriend and I had at Allium on Orcas Island Labor Day weekend. We'd gone to spend the night at his family's cabin on Lopez Island but couldn't get that close to Lisa Nakamura's new spot and not check it out.

The weather was less than ideal but the evening itself was flawless. Allium just feels like home. It's on the second floor of what feels like a house, has gorgeous but simple art and woodwork and a warm, comfy feeling. We took our time over cocktails (bubbles with raspberry puree for me, a bourbon sour for him) and the most amazing bread basket this side of Simon in Vegas (another story). We moved on to wine and then lingered over roasted vegetables with a caramelized onion dip, clam chowder and prawn and shitake "patties" that came with a garlic lime aioli and carrot beet slaw.

And we traded plates of Alaskan halibut with artichokes, tomatoes, and fava bean butter and New York strip steak that was accompanied by greens with Oregon Roquefort and a Russet potato gratin that was just bonkers. Absolutely nuts. Later at their adorable little bar, Lisa let us know it was only five ingredients, which seemed both absurd but appropriate at the same time. This is what I love about these little PacNW islands--the ingredients are so tasty it's silly.

The evening ended with more bubbles, our thanking Lisa and her husband profusely for a great night and a ferry ride that seemed just cruel after a few glasses of the good stuff.

I'll be back for anything else Nakamura decides to do with potatoes, dessert and a copy of the brunch menu to keep the dinner menu we kept as a souvenir company.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Anita's Crepes

It's seldom I get excited about breakfast food. I try. I really, really do. I go into the supposed most important meal of the day with high hopes and an open mind, thinking that the eggs in front of me could be cooked to perfection, potatoes could be well-seasoned or that whatever sweet treat I've let myself indulge in could really be worth it in the end. I often leave disappointed and either hungry for my next meal or angry that I wasted my money on a sub par meal. Most often it's both.

When I do leave the breakfast table happy I feel like I need to tip my hat. Post a little gold star in my brain and belly. I stop and try to figure out what it was that rocked my socks enough to make it different than the morning meals that came before it. Was it the dish? Did I do a better job of ordering? Was it the place? The atmosphere? Did mimosas impair my judgement? Could it have been that I was so hungry that even my napkin would have tasted good if I added enough Tabasco?

I recently left Anita's Crepes in Ballard asking myself these questions. I'd been with one of my nearest and dearest and was full, happy and thrilled that it was breakfast that left me this way. (OK, so technically, it was brunch, but to me the two are one in the same to me given my weekday morning meals rarely consist of more than coffee and the occasional English muffin. Weekend mornings don't often start for me before 9:30 or 10:00a.m., so brunch is breakfast.)

Anita's is of course known for it's crepes, but I wanted something savory too, so I followed my friend's lead and ordered the breakfast that included eggs and bacon too. The eggs were in fact scrambled perfectly, which for me means not too soft, not too juicy and not too hard either. The bacon was cut thick but held a perfect crisp around the edges. It was a nice balance for the standout, which was of course the crepe. Mine came light and filled with fresh local peaches and raspberries. The Chantilly cream that topped it made me swoon.

The space is warm, bright and cozy. It was full of little tables and people soaking up a sunny Sunday. We skipped mimosas in favor of coffee, so the bubbles weren't messing with my mind. Nope, I loved this place, and I loved my breakfast. Though, I will say the conversation, giggles and girl time may have made me a tad giddy.

I'll be back for a $15 Friday night wine flight and the crepe with chevre, roasted golden beets and Balsamic vinegar....or maybe the roasted duck with organic baby spinach and ginger-soy-jalapeno sauce...and maybe the champagne mangoes and cream crepe for dessert.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


My boyfriend's birthday was at the end of June but he just got the rest of his gift on Monday. A couple of days before his big day, I planned a little dinner party (that ended up not being all that little actually) with a few handfuls of his favorite people. He did the cooking, 'cause, well, that's kind of how it usually ends up working around here. It was a great night, but I left thinking that I still wanted to give him something that felt more like an actual gift and less like forced labor.

My post 20 person dinner party budget meant the gift had to be reasonably small and affordable. I debated a handful of options for a couple of days before opting to give him a couple of tickets to Foodportunity, a Seattle food-focused event that's organized by Keren Brown (aka Frantic Foodie) and aimed at connecting people who love to eat. We'd kicked ourselves for not attending the last one when we saw the likes of Thierry Rautureau of Rover's and Luc tweeting from it, and I like the idea of giving experiences as presents. So there you go.

Monday's event was Foodportunity's fourth and its one year anniversary. A few standouts from the list of participating restaurants were Luc/Rover's, Matt's in the Market, Zoe, Cantinetta, Fresh Bistro, a handful of dishes from Tom Douglas' Prosser Farms and the forthcoming Blackboard Bistro. Matt's had my favorite bite of the night--a pork belly bahn mi--and I was pleasantly surprised that a seafood cocktail from Fresh was a close second (both below).

We'd gotten there right around 6:00 when the doors opened and made our way around the room, briefly chatting with a few of the chefs and table hosts along the way. A couple of hours later, we were stuffed and decided to move on to BalMar in Ballard to round out the night. I'm not sure we did the amount of Foodportunity mingling, meeting and greeting we intended...but I'm also not sure I mind ending the boy's birthday celebration by getting lost in our own little cocktail conversations either.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lummi Love

This past weekend, I discovered and fell in love with Lummi Island. As a +1 to the boyfriend, I was lucky enough to tag along with him on a weekend wedding full of sun, fun, love and indulgence.

The wedding itself was gorgeous perfection. The bride was nothing short of stunning. The groom was beaming. The venue was amazing. (Willows Inn, if you ever find yourself in the area). The ceremony was intimate, personal and tear-jerking (yep, I cried, despite the fact that I'd only met the couple the night before). The weather was epic. And the food...well, the food was spectacular. Probably some of the best wedding food I've had.

I had a hunch it was going to be a treat when I overheard the officiator introduce herself to the chef as he cruised around the deck during the rehearsal dinner. He introduced himself as Justin, and I thought, gosh this guy looks familiar. I dismissed the small chance I knew who he was and blamed my bad eyesight for failing me yet again. But then, my boyfriend's dad casually mentioned that the guy use to have a place in Capitol Hill in Seattle. Ding-Ding-Ding. I guess my eyes aren't that bad after all. Justin Niedermeyer--the former and premiere pasta maker at Spinasse--was cooking this lovely couple's wedding meal. AWESOME.

I didn't get the full story on how he ended up at this place but know it has something to do with him hunkering down for a bit after traveling to Italy. And to be frank, I didn't care why he was on that that little, idyllic island--I just thought it was amazing to be eating the guy's food for a wedding I was already adoring.

The even better part? The bulk of the meal was sourced with ingredients from Lummi. I've known local, farm-to-table meals have a different, most often better taste than dishes that were made the other way around for awhile (much love, Alice Waters). But this meal slapped me in the face with a tasty reminder. Some salmon from the Sound. Some greens from one of the many nearby farms. Some bread that was made in the kitchen earlier that day. Some lamb that was raised on the island. All of it incredible.

And yes, Niedermeyer of course did a pasta. It was a spinach-filled Cannelloni that was rich and crispy and tender and savory and...sigh, perfect. But the taste that's still making my mouth water is the roasted cauliflower, made with olive oil, salt, pepper and red chili flakes. It really is the simple things with me.

I tried a bit of everything and was so full I could barely do a second glass of champagne, a rarity for me, as I think I've been clear that I love my bubbles. A lot.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any shots of the food (or the rest of the wedding, for that matter). A memory lapse meant I left my camera on the bed at the farmhouse where we stayed. I did get a few shots earlier that day of the scenery though, which I actually think are more important in this case. The food was definitely a standout. But it was sharing it with some pretty incredible people, during a weekend I felt seriously fortunate to be a part of, in a place that looked like this, that really made it an experience:

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's Been Awhile....

Yes, it's been awhile since I've posted anything. But no, I'm not going to detail all of my excuses for my little leave of absence. They're not that great, and I also honestly just don't really feel all that obligated. It basically comes down to not liking the idea of writing something when I'm not feeling creative, motivated or inspired. I don't feel compelled to post something for the sake of posting, or because feel like I have to because I've pinned myself into some sort of schedule.

Now, I know that I'm breaking one of the core "rules" of blogging with that mentality. I'm supposed to post frequently. I'm supposed to post often. But I don't like the idea of attaching a feeling of must-dos to something I consider a fun hobby. I've got enough of those elsewhere in my life.

To be clear, I am oh-so-thankful for and envious of the real bloggers out there. People who do post everyday and manage to keep it interesting and worth reading each and every time. And honestly, getting lost in a week's worth of Cupcakes and Cashmere, Eat Drink Pretty and Smitten Kitchen posts makes my Sunday mornings.

Anyway, this space hasn't really been about volume of posts. It's been about sharing the food related experiences that move me enough to jot them down before I forget them.

And, well, it's been awhile.

I blame it on France. France and all of its amazing, delicious indulgences. Its cheese, bread, crepes and patisseries. Its chalk board menus and its open-air markets with special salami, bright and bountiful produce and macaroons. Its cafe au laits, croissants and cafe culture. Its prix-fixe meals, giggle-inducing lamb chops, Joel Robuchon potatoes and picnics in perfect parks. France and its real butter, surprising obsession with pizza and all of its carafes of Chablis, Rose and Sancerre.

I've never eaten as well as I did in Paris, Lyon and Provence. It felt new and I felt lucky. I had aspirations of chronicling each and every meal, taking and sharing pictures of all of the beautiful presentations and documenting flavor profiles, because, as I said above, that's what this space has been about for me. But once I got there, I kind of just lost myself in all of it. I shot photos where I felt it appropriate and tried to journal as many meals as I could.

I've been asked a couple of times what the best thing I ate was. I could probably narrow it down, but I don't really want to. Though, I did pick a few of my favorite photos taken during some of the most memorable days.

Scanning back through these photos has in fact given me a shot of motivation. A little jolt of inspiration, happiness and gratitude. It was a vacation that makes me crave more new adventures that are similarly foreign in more ways than one. The sign of a good trip, I'd say. Hopefully it won't be awhile until I have more of those to share.