Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sausage Making 101

You just never know what goes into a store bought sausage, ding, ding, ding, ding, then make it yourself.  I bought the meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid recently and I had helped my friend Renata make sausages once, so no sweat, right?  Well, off I went to Uwajimaya for the pork casings...
OK, if certain things about cooking gross you out, do not make sausages, DO NOT ATTEMPT AT HOME.  I can break down a chicken, duck, whole salmon, but touching a pork casing is a little gross.  Slimey, slippery, whatever, I had to get over it.
So, I thought I had everything I needed to make sausage, but apparantly, there is another attachment I needed to conect to my grinder attachment.  Oh well, I looked around and decided, I'll just use a funnel.  Not a great idea if you want to stuff the casing quickly.  Well first I chopped up the the pork shoulder into 1-2 inch pieces.  I had read several recipes which pretty much said, 4 parts meat to 1 part fat.  I decided 4 parts meat to 1 part panko mixed with olive oil instead of pork fat.  There's no avoiding some filler if you don't want all the fat.  I actually confirmed this with the executive chef at my work, who said he remembered making sausage at the CIA and "there's a lot of fat in sausage!"

OK, so I seasoned the chunks of meat, put it through the meat grinder, then it got UGLY!!!  I have a meat grinder, but I do not have the other attachment that makes makes stuffing the casing a little easier.  I couldn't take any pictures at this point, it was a mess.  Anyway, I had already put the slimey casing on the funnel, knotted the end and now I was shoving the ground meat by hand into the funnel, then into the casing.  STRESSFUL!!!  At this point, I announced, "I don't care if sausages are a million dollars a pound, I'm not making them again!!!"  So, the sausages were safe in the fridge, so we took a little BREAK!!!

We drove up to Snoqualmie Falls.  If you haven't gone to the Falls at Snoqualmie on a sunny day, do it.  Even if the path to hike to the bottom is closed right now, will re-open 2013, seeing the falls gave me just the break I needed to forget my kitchen.  We had a little time, so we went up to The Attic, the more casual pub at The Salish Lodge, right above the falls.

This is such a great place, you can sit by the window and check out the falls.  A lot of fun drinks and a fun pub menu.The Attic at Salish Lodge on Urbanspoon
Perfect place for a little snack.  We didn't want to have too much, after all we are grilling sausages later.
Well, good news, the sausages were better than we expected.  I need to make the sausages again and write down the recipe, I have to say, I wasn't expecting such awesome sausages the first time.  I'll share next time!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fitness Goal: Day 5

Breakfast: decaf Starbucks Via, 1 T cream, Splenda

Snack: 1 cup pasta, (1) slice Pepper Jack

Treat: (1) Fran's Chocolate Caramel - Let me explain.  What do I see on my desk when I come in today a beautiful little box with chocolates from Fran's   are you kidding!!!!!  Well I kept one and gave one away.  DELICIOSO!!!

OK, so here's the recovery meal...

Snack: (1) Granny Smith Apple, (2) slices Cheddar

Snack-Lunch: I had a tortilla with sliced tomato, (1) slice pepper Jack, (1) spanish Chorizo

more BAD behavior...I was watching Law & Order and I grabbed
Snack: a few hand fulls of Sugar Babies, I threw the rest of the box away

Dinner: Roasted Teriyaki Chicken, basmati rice, asparagus, chicken-pork-corn dumplings, wine, sparkling water
We didn't go out to eat as I had thought, my son and his friends came over for dinner, so we just ate the food we made for them

Dessert: a scoop of Captain America Swirl (not so good) at Baskin-Robbins

Sushi Who? SUSHI ME, another conveyor belt sushi...we'll see

 I'm not gonna lie I am not a fan of anything in the Crossroads area in Bellevue.  When you grow up on Mercer Island a hundred years ago, the only reason to go to Crossroads is to pick up fresh, hot bagels from New York Bagel Boys.  Well, the bagel shop is long gone, so no reason to go to Crossroads, right?  Well, I have to admit, my son suggested we go to sushi, specifically, Sushi Me.  This was the second time he has suggested it, so since he'll be going back to college soon, I reluctantly agreed.  My husband, not a fan of any conveyor belt sushi at dinner, he stayed home and ate leftovers!

Gold Rush
No too busy for a Thursday night, we sat down right away.  Decor, nothing special, however, not bad.  OK, down to business!  I took a quick look and saw a few of the usuals, tuna, salmon, seaweed salad (thank God), California rolls, ok, fine...WAIT!!!  After I took what I thought was hamachi, strange things started coming around...  This crazy roll came around, looked like something from Lion King. The Gold Rush, a California roll, topped with sweet potato, tempura, and tobiko.  I don't ever get California roll, too boring, but my son likes it, so I gave the Gold rush a try.  I liked it, different anyway.

 This plate with 3 gushy brown balls came around before, but I just wasn't interested...TAKOYAKI.  Fried octopus chunks in eel sauce, I don't know, but I got it.  I'll get back to this later.

The Yummy
  We picked a few other things, Lobster-Salmon roll, the New York which has salmon-apple-avocado, the Crispy tofu with house sauce, the Sesame Balls, the Yummy roll, and seaweed salad.  My son may have grabbed some other items, but I don't remember.  For those of you who know me, this isn't the kind of sushi I would usually or ever choose.  I was so overwhelmed by all the crazy combinations and my son really liked this place, so I put my usual selections to the side.

I'm glad I tried Sushi Me.  Not your usual sushi joint, at all.  The quality of the sushi is good, I welcome the creativity that Sushi Me brings to the conveyor belt sushi world.  What I like the best is this is not a pretentious sushi bar and the other guests are casual and relaxed. 

OK, back to this wierd octapus ball, wierd.  It reminded me of a potato croquette, often found on the Kiddie Plate at some Japanese restaurants.  The chunks of grilled octapus didn't help the texture, but the crispy crust kinda brought it all together. 

Sushi Me, it's not for the sushi purists, but give it a try!  Sushi Me is a nice addition to the sushi world.
SushiMe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fitness Goal: Day 4

Exercise: 35 minutes ARC TRAINER

Breakfast: Lowfat yogurt, 1 cup fresh berries, 2 oz granola with seeds and dried fruit

Lunch: Grilled Chicken Breast, Steamed Asparagus, grilled red pepper, mixed greens, sauteed yellow onion

Snack: sugarfree lifesavers

2nd Snack: Apple Jacks

Dinner: Sushi Me conveyor belt sushi
Diet Coke

I'm full!  I probably shouldn't have had the stupid Apple Jacks, but I was, or thought I was, starving. 

Zin Burger, Phoenix, AZ

 We have only grilled outside a handful of time this summer, if you can call it summer.  All over the country it looks like BBQ's might be banned due to possible FIRE!!!


OK, since summer is apparently NEVER coming to the Northwest, I am going to daydream about WARM sunny parts of the world.  Today I will visit Arizona...Ironically, the day I went to ZinBurger in Phoenix, AZ, it was RAINING.  Funny thing is that everyone blamed and thanked me for bringing the rain.  Well, no patio dining, but that didn't ruin my day...
There's a lot of yummy stuff on the menu, but since this was a work related lunch, I held back from ordering anything too unusual and everything under "Sides" and "Dessert".  I ordered the ZinBurger which comes with manchego cheese, Zinfandel braised onions and mayo.  So Good!!!  This burger should have been great with a glass of wine, but iced tea was fine too.
Zinburger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fitness Goal: Day 3

Breakfast: double iced espresso with 2 T whole milk, splenda, a dash of cinnamon and 1 T chocolate syrup
(not the best choice)

Lunch: "To Go" Mixed Greens, grilled chicken breast, Parmesan (I didn't ask for that), lemon for dressing and I picked the croutons out
Diet Coke

OK, I have a ton of stuff to do today, contracts to get out, 3 events planned, a seminar to attend at 1pm AND I just couldn't get out of bed to get to the gym.  However, I did not stop for "fast food" - GROSS - so here we go, lunch "To Go".

Snack at Seminar:  Tea sandwiches, potato croquette, chocolate chip cookies, and an Arnold Palmer
So, the topic was women doing business on the golf course.  Blah, blah, golf, blah, blah, take golf lessons, blah, blah, I get it.  So at the break, I couldn't wait to see what was on the buffet.  The seminar wasn't as bad as I am making it sound.  I may even hit the driving range, some day.  Afterwards, networking and Happy Hour!!!
Amstel Light

2nd Happy Hour: 1/2 Stella Artois, brie, crackers, and sliced apples

Dinner:  (1) Hebrew National Beef Hotdog, pasta salad with black olives, tomato, and feta, and 1/2 San Miguel Dark Beer

Dessert: (2) Red Bean Mochi Ice Cream

I am not going to beat myself up over this day.  I am going to watch the new eposode of Royal Pain and see how the beautiful people in the "pretend" Hamptons are doing tonight.  Good Night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fitness Goal: Day 2

Pre-workout drink: Green Tea

Exercise: ABS, 20 minutes ROW and 20 minutes Step Mill

Breakfast: Lowfat yogurt, 1 cup fresh berries, 2T granola, double espresso

Lunch: 3 prawns, mixed greens, 2 T Balsamic Dressing, 1 T parmesan
Diet Coke

Dinner:  Novhilos Brazilian Steak House
That's right...salad bar and all you can eat steak.
OK this was a disaster!  I'm not going to go into how we got there, but once we sat down, I thought well as long as I'm here and going to eat all-you-can-eat BBQ (one price per person) I may as well have a big Brazilian Dark Beer too!  I didn't eat that much really.  One pass to the salad bar and a little filet and lamb.  Waste of money for me to go there.  I announced twice no dessert and only drank half my beer.  That's it.  I just need to move on.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fitness Goal: Lose 13 pounds by October 24, 2011 - Day 1

My constant battle...weigh loss.  Well, it might be easier this time since my husband is trying to lose weight too.  Skipped the gym today, but go a good run in this weekend.

Breakfast: Iced latte - I know, that's it.  I will try harder tomorrow.
Lunch: Salad with 3 prawns, 2 cups mixed greens, 2 T balsamic vinaigrette, 1 T parmesan, mushrooms, cucumbers, grape tomatoes
Diet Coke

Dinner: 1 cup "leftover" lamb & lentil stew, (1) corn tortilla, (1) slice Pepper Jack, (1) sugarfree jello cup, (1) red bean mochi ice cream

Water: (2) 16 oz. glasses

Exercise: none

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A reason to go to Ballard...the Walrus and the Carpenter

So they describe themselves as "the elegance of France with the casual comfort of a fishing pub".  I love this place.  (Thank You Margot!)  I recommend it to everyone.  Walrus and the Carpenter.   

This place is casual, stylish, and intimate.  Even though the space is very, very small, it doesn't feel crowded.  One of my favorite things in the world is oysters on the half shell and a cold glass of French bubbly.  This is now my favorite place for my favorite things!!!

OK, go there for the awesome oyster selection, but save room for all the other treats!!!

Here's what I shared with my husband when I went:
A dozen assorted oysters- mp
The hama hama and the kusshi are always on the top of my list, no matter where I go.  The best oysters are from the Northwest, n'est pas?

Bread and Butter - 3 - Don't get your
panties in a bunch over "The bread is not free?"  OK, I have worked in the food industry forever, with so many people starving, you know how much bread gets thrown out-TONS!!!  Unless I am sitting at a 10 course dinner at a 5 star or michelin-rated restaurant, PLEASE, ask me before bringing bread.

Fresh Radishes, cultured butter, lemon oil - 6
I have never been a fan of radishes.  I buy them because my husband loves them and if I need garnish for hummus.  I wasn't going to try the radishes, but I am glad I did.  Changed my opinion of radishes forever.  Maybe I need to buy young, baby radishes, maybe it was the preparation, but YUM. 

Fresh Pea Soup - I forgot the price
Delicious.. velvety, fresh, tangy.  I didn't see this on the menu, so I think it was the Soup du Jour

Grilled Sardines, shallot, walnut, parsley - 8
Worth every penny!!!  Great flavor combination (don't you hate when people say that?)  Seriously, I only ordered this to see if the flavors worked together - YES THEY DO!!!

Steak Tartare, farm fresh egg yolk, toast - 12
I've had steak tartare at many places, even steak houses, and not everyone gets it right, for me anyway.  Too much filler, can barely taste the steak, etc., etc.  Many times if carpaccio is an alternative, I'll go for that instead.  Safe to say, the steak tartare at the Carpenter and the Walrus is fantastic!  You be the judge.

Last but not least, the sweet stuff:
Dinah's Cheese with curried apricots - 8
Medjool Dates, olive oil, sea salt - 8
So, they should serve these two together, but they don't, so the combination of the cheese and dates makes a great ending to the Walrus and the Carpenter experience.

YUMMY and I will see you soon!!!
The Walrus and the Carpenter on Urbanspoon

Eastside Eats: Via Vita Cafe and Wine Bar

I met the owner of Via Vita at a business meeting some time back and she was so charming and excited about her cafe.  I love that!!! 

Not a celebrity chef, not a graduate of the CIA, but Janice Lawrence, a real person who loves good food, is the owner/operator of Via Vita Cafe and Wine Bar.  I had to go check her place out.

I was not surprised that on a Saturday morning, she was right there greeting guests at the door.  A breath of fresh air, REALLY!!!

The big windows at Via Vita keep things bright, so even a NW rainy day won't get you down.  I started with a cafe au lait, then went over the menu...hmmm...what shall I have?  I had just come from the gym, so I felt I must have burned enough calories to enjoy the DUCK FAT POTATOES, so I ordered the Basque Style Omelette - $12.
The basque style omelette comes with chorizo, piquillo pepper, parsley, and goat cheese inside and a side of DUCK FAT POTATOES!!!

I was quite happy with my selection, but I looked across the table and saw John's plate and couldn't stop staring at the mini brioche...must have bite...please?  John ordered the Saucisson Hash; duck fat potatoes, French sausage, 2 eggs, and mini brioche - $12.

Well, he offered, but I thought, I'll have to come back for my own brioche another time.

I had a great experience at Via Vita.  On my way out, I noticed so many YUMMY baked goods, I really have to go back soon!!!
ViaVita Café and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

3 reasons to go to Munchbar

crispy mac n' cheese bites with black truffle mayo...10

tabletop s'mores: melted chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers and rocky road ice cream...8

warm pb&j bread pudding: brioche, grape jelly and peanuts...8

So I have gone to Munchbar a few times.  I'm not going to judge the "club" side, just the food.  Sometimes I wish I was not in the food industry, so I get the "real" experience.  Needless to say, my first time there was off the charts EVERYTHING AWESOME, the next time...service sucked!  Experience ruined.  I vowed to stay away, but I couldn't say anything negative, because I am a huge fan of the Executive Chef Seis Kamimura.  I think he is so talented and creative, everyone should experience his food.  OK, so I went again, ran into the GM (super nice), hence, GREAT EXPERIENCE.  Ok, regardless of what I have to say, tons of people flock to Munchbar at night, so business is good.  Conclusion, I will go back to Munchbar when the mac n' cheese bites, s'mores, or pb&j bread pudding call my name.
Munchbar & Piano Bash on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 17, 2011

RN74 comes to Seattle!!!

Seattle Fans of Michael Minna, your wait has finally ended.  RN74 is here!!!

On a rescent visit to San Francisco, we did not go to any Michael Minna eateries, because we were waiting to visit RN74 in Seattle.  We love StripSteak at Mandalay Bay and I recommend it to everyone going to Las Vegas.  Another new favorite is SeaBlue, also in Las Vegas, but focussing more on seafood.  Oysters, oysters, oysters...yummy, I should have had a fish entree, but the Porterhouse was calling my name.  Next time.

RN74 is a cool space located on the busy corner of 4th and Union.  I actually caught a glimpse of Michael Minna leaving RN74, then going outside the restaurant to catch a cab with, I think, his kids.
So, besides a celebrity chef sighting, beautiful and fashionable Seattleites can be seen here.  Despite the rescent showing on the "Worst Dressed in the Nation list", well 34th place, unlike our 1st plce neighbor Portland Oregon (ha, ha) , there are SOME chic and food savvy, in Seattle and I think they are hanging out at RN74.
So, we didn't intend to stay for dinner, just get a quick cocktail and a snack.  Hmmm...nice space, good seating, a few booths, I like it here!  We ordered our first cocktail and a few little bites to share.  Enjoying the last sip of my delicious cocktail, the Suedehead, the server described it as a refreshing "concentrated" mojito with a hint of fresh basil, perfect paring with my Shiitake Mushrom Tempura and aioli, $10.00 ($5.00 at Happy Hour).  This cocktail was so good, a blast of summer in Paris.  One nice thing and big deal to me, about the cocktails at RN74 is they are not served in a "super size" martini glass, but in a proper cocktail glass.  I don't know what has happend to some bars, but it's a cocktail, not a big gulp. 
Thank You RN74!!!

Small Plate: Grilled Lamb with white bean ragout, $10.00. 
Worth every drop!!!

Second little bite arrives and we decide to stay a little longer...
So, RN74 is suppose to be an urban wine bar featuring a combination of refined American and French cuisine with wine highlighting the burgandy region.  I love the interpretation that RN74 offers.  After I finished my fancy cocktail, I switched to a red burgandy...of course.  Despite the fact that my husband works in the wine industry, I usually depend on servers to recommend wines for me.  I know that servers will either recommend their favorite or something a little on the high end.  Well, the wine was delicious and went perfect with the lamb sausage, white bean ragout and roasted garlic.  The lemon zest and fresh arugula were a nice surprise to the dish and the lamb sausage...the best I've ever had!!!  I only wish I had a baguette to sop up the broth the beans were soaking in...YUM.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras Sliders with caramelized onion jus, sylvetta (wild arugula), and apple mustard, $16.00. 
I'd order this again, for sure!!!

I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't resist...Foie Gras Sliders with caramelized onion jus.  Are you serious????  So what if I was on a big foie gras boycott a little while back, it was everywhere, garnishing everything, STOP ALREADY.  Sliders, give me a break, they are on every menu, just get big girl burger and get over it.  OK, hold everything...FOIE GRAS SLIDERS.  Now that totally makes sence!!!  These little babies are better than I expected.  The bun is toasted and buttered (or something) and everthing between that bun is crack for foodie-food addicts.

We ordered the Pomme Frites, Trio of French Fries and Dipping sauces.  A little disappointing.  I know I'm talking about fried potatoes, but still.  When I went to Michael Minna's StripSteak in Las Vegas, my view of French Fries completely changed...FANTASTIC.  I thought who is this clever chef who has changed the face of French Fries forever.  Well, I did see the server pass us and circle the restaurant twice, before finally bringing the cold Pomme Frites to our table.  I thought the potatoes were different types, if they were, I couldn't tell.  The sauces were nothing special, the pesto was the best out of the three, which included an apple-yogurt dip and a tomato ketchup, at $8.00, I have to say, not worth it for potatoes.  I might order the frites again and blame this experience on the
"getting the kinks out of a new restaurant...whatever".

Chicken Liver Mousse with country bread crostini, a bargain at $8.00.
 Well, we couldn't leave now.  We were still enjoyoing our wine and decided to order the Chicken Liver Mousse with country bread crostini.  Not sure what was in the aspic, but I liked the sweet, tart, taste, it went well with the smooth and very rich mousse.  I really liked the crostini, which I found out was made with brad grom Grand Central Bakery, kudos to Chef Michael Minna, for including locally made bread.  We also ordered the Selection of Artisan Cheeses, $17.00.  Let's face it every restaurant does a great job with their cheeses, it's all in the presentation, n'est pas?  The cheese was served with some kind of gelee, but I don't think we got bread, wierd, but maybe the crostini that came with the chicken liver mousse was meant to go with the cheese too. Anyway, it didn't matter.  Who needs all that bread?

Hand Cut Beignets with salted caramel, MacCallan 12 Butterscotch
 OK, I DID NOT WANT DESSERT.  I know this is a first, but I really wanted to pick up a sweet treat from the Street Donuts food cart that we parked near.  I guess that will have to wait for another time.  My husband had heard that the Beignets at RN74 were very good.  There went my donut idea for later. 
I am convinced my husband ordered the beignets because he wanted to try an Oregon Scotch that was on the drink menu, which he did order.  The beignets are brilliant.  They arrived hot and crusty on the outside with light fluffy dough inside.  I thought the cup it was served with had a sauce in it, but as soon as I plunged my spoon in it, I found a lovely caramel pot de cream...YUMMY!!!
RN74 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eastside Eats: Milagro Cantina

Looking for a little South of the border sunshine on a drizzly Northwest day...go to Milagro Cantina.  Start with the House Margarita: Tradicional 100% agave reposado, Patron Citronge, lime juice, lemon juice, agave.  Not bad.  Of course, you can get anything from the bar, see martini to the left.

In good ole "American" Mexican tradition, Chips and Salsa make an appearance upon arrival, but splurge and get the Tres Guacamoles.

The Guacamole de la Casa is avocado, roasted poblano peppers, garlic and cotija cheese.  The guacamole de mango is exactly as decribed with a few pine nuts.  Finally, the guecamole de granada is avocado with pomegranate and almonds.  To be honest, I couldn't pick just one, however, next time I'll stick to the more traditional guacamole de la casa.  I wasn't too hungry, so I chose to order another appetizer, Queso Fundido with chorizo and skip the entree, but there was plenty for me to share.

Cheesy, spicy, YUMMY!!!
Combinaciones: Mexicana.   So this is what my son ordered and will order it everytime.  Big plate for a big eater.  If you want a sampling of the great flavors Milagro Cantina hasto offer, this is a perfect choice.

Cheese Relleno, Rotisserie Chicken Enchilada, and Choice of Taco
Mariscos Enchilada.  OK, my husband alwaus picks the seafood entree at Mexican places.  I think it's funny.  However, one of our firsts dates was in Mexico at a great place overlooking the ocean and we had lobster tacos...I guess it makes sence.  Here'e the thing, Mexican places always seem to drown the seafood with a cream sauce.  What are they hiding?  Bad Seafood?  Well, I took a bite and it was delicious.  I wouldn't choose it unless I was splitting it, very rich.  My husband managed to eat every bite.
Churros.  Not impressed.  granted, they churros ARE FRESH, but the dipping sauce, "not my favorite".  I think the churros are SO GOOD at Barrio, with their chocolate sauce.  Any other churro would really have to blow me away!

Capirotada.  This dessert was a crumble of sorts.  It was ok.  I should have just had the ice cream with the sauce alone...DELICIOUS.

Milagro Cantina on Urbanspoon


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