farm picnic

oysters

I had meant to post these pictures two weeks ago, but life sort of got in the way. Better late than never…

This was a farm-to-table brunch potluck out at Gothberg Farms on the Skagit flats. The weather was less than perfect (cold and windy with occasional gusts of rain), but we got by with great coffee, amazing food, good conversation, wine and beer and lots and lots of oysters.

cheese board

Rhonda put together a cheese board with all of her fabulous handmade goat cheeses. I’m particularly fond of her “Woman of La Mancha” spiced aged cheese, but they really are all wonderful.

asparagus

There was roasted asparagus wrapped with buttery phyllo…

sliders

…and lamb sliders.

salad and cupcakes

Also several beautiful salads and what I believe were sweet potato cupcakes.

salads

rhubarb custard pie

And I made a rhubarb custard pie with fresh-pulled rhubarb from my garden. The custard didn’t set up quite perfectly (it never does when I’m trying to impress people), but it was tasty.

Hammerhead coffee

There was Hammerhead coffee from Bellingham, beer from Boundary Bay and North Sound breweries, and a selection of wine and bubbly, including runners-up from the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine competition.

shucking station

And kumamoto oysters. The best.

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A'Town

candlelitA'Town Bistro

I recently wrote a review for Grow Northwest about a new place in Anacortes called A’Town Bistro (you can read my article here). With the help of various friends and relatives, I’ve been able to try about ten different dishes here, and there has not been a loser among the bunch. They’re trying to focus on local, seasonal produce as much as possible, which should pick up now that the farmer’s markets are opening. I’m really excited about this place and I can’t wait to see what they do as the season progresses!

brunch

First, let me tell you about their Sunday brunch. Good mimosas, great beer selection, and a lovely assortment of egg dishes and more lunchy things.

wild boar burger

Such as the wild boar burger. This is already A’Town’s biggest hit, from what I’ve seen, and rightfully so. It’s thick and juicy, good condiments, good bread. And, apparently, made from wild boar knife-hunted in Texas. In case you were wondering how your wild boar was brought down.

ham shank eggs benedict

They offer several types of eggs benedict – this one had ham shank. There was a nice pile of properly cooked vegetables on the side and the English muffins were exceptional.

the best biscuits and gravy

Jon had to try their biscuits and gravy, and after eating for a while he declared it to be the best biscuits and gravy ever. This is really saying something. It was partly that the biscuit was fresh, tasted homemade and was full of cheese and herbs. The gravy also was excellent, with plenty of sausage. But the presentation took the cake, with one large biscuit with a hole punched out of it and filled with gravy, then a sausage sandwich made out of the removed circle of biscuit. This is a lot of food, and so good you might be inclined to do yourself a mischief. Be warned.

pho

They also have pho on the brunch menu, which I thought was such a good idea I needed to try it. The broth was aromatic with star anise and the paper-thin slices of beef poaching in the bowl with the noodles, and there were all the right toppings: sprouts, cilantro, basil, jalapeños. A bottle of Sriracha and some hoisin sauce did very well for condiments. I love noodles for brunch, and this was perfect.

pho toppings

wine with dinner

We’ve also visited for dinner. The wine list is nicely thought out with a mix of northwest, California and European bottles and, I thought, very reasonably priced. This muscadet was on special and we really liked it.

moules fritesFrench onion soup

They have a lot of classic bistro dishes on the menu. I tried the moules frites, which were well cooked and brightly flavored with Spanish chorizo. The fries are small-cut, crispy and seasoned with truffled parmesan, which makes them smell fantastic. French onion soup was also a winner – I find that many places try to make up for a dull broth with too much salt, but this had lots of flavor and wasn’t too salty. We also tried the beet salad, which was a nice variation on the usual: golden beets, greens, and quenelles of soft pungent cheese, very prettily arranged (we had them hold the hazelnuts).

halibut n chips

Halibut and chips were good, too. My father compared them favorably to the best fish and chips place we’ve been to. The tartar sauce was good, plus you get curry ketchup for your fries.

steak and sprouts

Jon got the steak. This was where we really became impressed, because it was perfect. Medium rare, absolutely delicious, tender and juicy. A nice amount of sauce, and a pile of Brussels sprouts and just a few smashed purple potatoes to go alongside. A really well-conceived entree – not many places do steak this well.

creme brulee

There were only three desserts on the menu: a cheese plate, crème brûlée, and gâteau au chocolat. We haven’t tried the cheese plate yet but we covered the rest. The crème brûlée was simple and perfect,  nice and cold inside, with the sugar hot and crispy on top.

gateau au chocolat

The gâteau was rather like the best fudge in the world, with whipped cream and a salted caramel sauce. Oh, and the coffee was good, too.

salt cellar

I look forward to many, many more meals here.

spring brunch

field tulips

Spring has sprung at last (although it’s raining again today, at least it’s a relatively warm rain). The tulip fields are coming into bloom (clogging up the local roads with tourist traffic), and my own garden is dancing with narcissus and muscari. We had a small brunch party this past weekend to celebrate spring/belated Easter, and it was good.

stuffed eggs

Of course, there were curried eggs (shown here without their blanket of curried bechamel). I don’t mess around with this recipe very much, because it’s so darned tasty – I especially love the fresh dill in the stuffing. I did use Mexican crema in place of the usual sour cream, since we had a big jar of it.

prosciutto asparagus

And the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, which we tossed into the oven at 400° and then forgot about yet somehow did not destroy. We still don’t have local asparagus, but this was lovely stuff from California by way of our local co-op. The prosciutto adds enough fat and salt that we don’t need to add any additional seasonings.

gazpacho

One of our guests brought a big bowl of gazpacho, which was a fabulous idea and really delicious with the eggs and asparagus. We might have to make this a regular feature of these brunch parties. He added kernels of fresh corn, which I’ve never had before in gazpacho and really liked. We ate leftovers of this for dinner with a few poached shrimp.

rhubarb pie

lemon cream tart

Then there was pie. I did a straight rhubarb pie with a butter crust and lattice top, then we tried a new recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours for Lemon Cream Tart. The word “cream” here is misleading, as the tart doesn’t contain any. It does, however, have almost a full pound of butter in it. It was like a shortbread cookie filled with lemon curd, but very (deceptively) light and fluffy lemon curd. I was glad we had guests to help eat it, otherwise I might have done myself a mischief.

pate sablee

Spring is off to a good start.

tulip dancer

the curried egg

hidden egg

For those who have not had a large Rubbermaid container of leftover curried eggs to work through this week, and are therefore not completely burned out on them, here’s a recipe (I omitted to include it in my Easter brunch report, obviously a mistake).

Ideally, this should be done with freshly found Easter eggs, wet with dew, delivered to the kitchen by victorious children, anxious to get back out into the fray. The finished dish will be ready by the time all the hunting is done, assuming you’ve begun the prep beforehand.

If you have no children or Easter eggs available, however, you can boil eggs just for this purpose. You could even make them sometime other than Easter. I won’t tell. Continue reading

Smith in the morning

Smith
Smith

CAPITOL HILL, SEATTLE: Stumptown coffee, dead animals nailed to the walls, mimosas served in juice glasses, and some of the ugliest portraits I’ve been lucky enough to see – this is my kinda brunch place. Actually, Smith seems like more of a bar than a restaurant, but if they’re cool with being open at ten on a Saturday morning then I’m happy to eat there.

Smith

It’s not one of those sunny, yellow, cheery brunch places. The walls are dark, the woodwork is dark, the main windows face west, and the waitstaff had a humorously morose air at being awake so early. Plus the aforementioned dead animals. The coffee was insanely strong. Continue reading