island time

happy dogs

We were lucky enough to spend last weekend at our friends’ house on Whidbey Island. The weather wasn’t perfect, but it was clear enough to see the mountains, and it only rained a little on our last day (this is basically ideal spring weather for this area). And there was a beach! Continue reading

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spice and daiquiris

sunset over Bellingham

It was Caribbean night at supper club. The day had started unpromisingly with a dense spring snowstorm, but by evening it was clear and almost warm. We ate and drank and admired the incredible view across Bellingham Bay.

Hemingway daiquiri

Jon mixed up a batch of Hemingway Daiquiris. I like classic daiquiris, but these are even better: tart, refreshing, and with a nice depth from maraschino and fresh grapefruit juice (recipe at the bottom of the post). Cocktail umbrellas were a must. Continue reading

road trip chapter 1: Portland

bridge shadows

We just got back from our yearly summer road trip to California, and it was a doozy! We decided to tack on a couple of extra days at the beginning of our trip and do some serious eating and drinking in Portland before heading down the coast.

sausage sammich

Our first stop when we arrived in town was Hopworks. It wasn’t quite as much fun as the last time we were here – they didn’t have any seasonal IPAs and there wasn’t a major soccer game on – but they still beat most brewpubs we’ve been to for amazing beer and food. Jon got the sausage sandwich with mustard and kraut and a side salad.

veggie burger

I decided to spring for a veggie burger. I usually avoid these (I may have eaten too many Gardenburgers in the ’90s) but this was a really good one – mostly black beans, topped with lots of tomato and avocado and peppers and cheese. I also got blue cheese dressing on my salad, which at HUB means big chunks of Rogue Blue. It’s so good I may have hurt myself.

Whiskey Soda Lounge

All that lunch filled us up for quite a while, so we approached dinner with caution. Fortunately the place we like to stay in Portland is right down the street from Pok Pok and its companion hangout, the Whiskey Soda Lounge. We started out at the lounge with cocktails and a couple of plates of Thai-style drinking food. We each tried cocktails made with Pok Pok’s signature drinking vinegars, and they were good.

honey vinegar cocktail

Mine was the “Hunny,” made with tequila, grapefruit juice, lime and honey vinegar. Jon was impressed by the “Stone Fence” which had apple cider, applejack, apple vinegar, and bitters. Amazing new flavors in all of these.

pork riblets

We had a hard time picking food to go with our drinks, but we settled on pork riblets. These were sweet and nicely grilled, but oddly came with a large wedge of raw cabbage, as well as some whole raw Thai chiles, sliced fresh ginger and a handful of peanuts. We weren’t sure what the protocol here was so I just tore the cabbage apart with my fingers and we alternated bites of everything (except the chiles – a little of those goes a loooong way).

corn fritters

After that we ordered one of the specials: fritters of leftover grilled corn (which was on the Pok Pok dinner menu that week) with chiles and spices. Sweet, smoky, crunchy, hot and fabulous, with a side of cucumbers and green chiles in vinegar. This was almost dinner in itself. But we still had to go over to Pok Pok afterwards.

Pok Pok

Much to our surprise, we got a table immediately (I had actually been hoping there would be the usual hour-long wait so we could walk around the neighborhood a bit). The outdoor dining spaces have been gussied up a little since we first started coming here, but it’s still casual and rustic.

dinner at Pok Pok

We only got two dishes this time, since we were full of corn fritters: a flank steak salad and a wonderful dish of smoky grilled eggplants covered with dried shrimp, shallots and chopped boiled egg, served with plenty of sticky rice. I would love to make this at home, it was fantastic.

food paparazzo

The next morning, after a run to work up our appetites again, we headed to Tasty & Sons for an early lunch. This was every bit as good as I’d heard, plus we had the fun of watching a photojournalist take glamour shots of the food just down the bar from us.

brunch cocktails

Since we were on vacation, we got cocktails: a raspberry-Lillet-sparkling wine concoction for me, and a gin rickey for Jon.

polenta and egg

We ordered two dishes, which were brought out separately as they were prepared – probably a good thing, since we each might not have shared nicely otherwise. Our first dish was polenta with loads of cheese, sausage ragu, and a runny egg. It was like the best cheesy grits ever.

couscous, eggs and harissa

The other dish was couscous with “North African sausage”, roasted cauliflower, another runny egg, harissa, and (to our surprise) lots of dried cherries and apricots. Not as gooey as the other dish, but incredible. I only regret not being able to try everything on the menu – we’ll just have to wait until we come back to Portland.

Laurelwood Brewpub

That afternoon we walked on the esplanade, poked around shops, and had a beer at the Laurelwood Brewery (we love their Workhorse IPA but don’t often get to try their other beers), but didn’t feel the need to eat anything for a while – we were saving ourselves for Grüner.

Gruner

Until this trip I hadn’t heard of Grüner at all, but thanks to the magic of Chowhound we made a last-minute decision to have dinner there and managed to snare a reservation. It’s alpine German food, wonderfully seasonal and well-executed. Unfortunately I took really crappy photographs, but it’s still worth showing them to you – sorry about the blur.

cocktails

We started with cocktails, of course. I tried the “Austrian Monk,” which was an unlikely-sounding combo of yellow Chartreuse, gin, celery and lemon. The celery turned out to be a major player here – maybe an extract? I really liked it. Jon got the Albatros which was a bit more fruity than I cared for but it was fun.

cured salmon

Along with our drink order we asked for a plate of the cured salmon with horseradish cream and frisee with herbs. Nothing could have gone better with the celery flavor of my cocktail, it was perfect.

pretzel

When the bread plate came it turned out to be a perfectly fresh pretzel with lots of salt. Probably the best pretzel I’ve ever eaten.

spring saladkilling the salad

The salad we ordered was recommended by our waiter as being a perfect early summer creation: butter lettuce, radishes, strawberries, walnuts and chevre. It was brought to our table by a trembling server who seemed terrified that the whole concoction would go toppling off the plate, but it was great fun to whack the whole thing in half. And it was incredible to eat – the strawberries were perfectly, absolutely ripe, and the flavors of the fruit, cheese and nuts all worked together.

trout with grebiche

Finally we moved on to entrees. I got the golden trout, very simply prepared and served with asparagus, young potatoes, and a sauce grebiche. I thought it was lovely, but I ended up feeling rather covetous of Jon’s dinner…

chicken and spatzle

…which was this fantastic Riesling-sauced chicken with morels and favas and quark spaetzle on the side. Damn, this was good. I mean, really good. Wow.

the wine

The wine we had with dinner was a very fresh, crisp, low-alcohol Riesling. Its faint apple flavor made a nice counterpoint to both our dishes.

the bill

The bill was brought tucked into a strange-looking German novel. I don’t know why.

Salt & Strawstrawberry balsamic pepper ice cream

After dinner we drove back to our lodgings, parked the car, then wandered back down Division to the ice cream cart we’d seen set up on the corner, called Salt & Straw. It had been a warm day, and even at 9:30 pm there was a line stretching down the sidewalk. Jon got a scoop of salt ice cream with a caramel ripple, and I had a cone of strawberry-balsamic-black pepper, with enormous swathes of strawberry jam running through it. It made an exciting end to our Portland visit.

Next: down the coast to California!

weekend eats

Hanky Panky

Last weekend involved two different trips down to Seattle to have dinner with friends. I only took a few pictures, but both dinners were notable.

The first night we started out with drinks at Canon (which was inexplicably empty despite the Cinco de Mayo madness going on in every other bar in town). I tried one of the aged cocktails, and was surprised to have it served in its own little flask. I felt rather foolish drinking from a bottle, but it was a great cocktail. Two of our party ordered the “shrouded roulette,” where you request your base spirit and the bartender makes up something for you. I hadn’t realized they wouldn’t tell you what was in it even after you were finished. Sneaky.

small plates at Quinn's

After drinks we walked down to Quinn’s for dinner, and the four of us shared a bunch of small plates. I’ve never gotten to try this many things at once at Quinn’s, and as usual it did not disappoint. We started with stewed oxtail with a bone marrow custard and a dish of excellent olives (not pictured), then had a green salad with scallion aioli, pig face nuggets, and a really delicious plate of sockeye salmon lox with steelhead roe and grilled bread. I would have been delighted to have a whole plate of the salmon to myself – the roe in particular was addictively good. The pig face nuggets sounded more exciting than they actually were, but they were unctuously porky and the sauce was delicious.

small plates at Quinn's

We had to get the wild boar sloppy joe, which was as wonderful as we remembered, and we also tried the cotechino sausage with cassoulet. It was very good, but maybe better suited for a cooler evening. I took a bite of the grilled fresno chile that came with the sloppy joe and nearly had the top of my head come off.

dessert at Quinn's

Some of our party had room for dessert. One of us got butterscotch custard, served in its own tiny jar, another ordered orange cake with Sichuan pepper ice cream, and the third got a chocolate peanut butter torte. I finished my beer and called it good.

sausage-rapini pizza

The next night we found ourselves at Via Tribunali pizza in Fremont with a large party. I’d never been here before and it was excellent.

The pizza is nicely charred and very, very thin. It comes uncut, so you can make the slices any size or shape you want. I got the salsiccia rapini – tomato sauce, Italian sausage and rapini (broccoli rabe) – one of my favorite Italian flavor combos.

pizza

Jon got the Via Tribunali house special, which is sort of an Everything pizza with the edges folded in on itself. Just a hint of smoked cheese gave it a distinctive character.

Great place! We’ll definitely be back to try more pizza, some salads and perhaps some tiramisu. Soon.

via tribunali

Boulevardier

BoulevardierBoulevardier cocktail

A few months ago Jon was looking through a book of cocktails and found an interesting but slightly complicated drink that was itself a variation of another cocktail called a Boulevardier. Apparently a classic, but one we’d never heard of, we decided to try the original drink immediately, and have made it many, many times since. We still haven’t made the variation.

The Boulevardier is like a combination of a Negroni and a Manhattan: rye, vermouth and campari. And it has many of the best qualities of both drinks. The campari is what I taste first, with its fruity bitterness, then the rye’s warmth comes up from underneath. Every sip seems a little bit different. Our recipe says not to garnish the drink, but I like it quite a lot with a good twist of orange peel.

We’re not the only ones enjoying this drink recently – there was a nice discussion of it in the New York Times last week. See how fashionable we are?

Boulevardier

Boulevardier

  • 1 ½ oz rye or bourbon (some recipes call for 2 oz)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz campari

Stir all ingredients with ice, then strain into either a cocktail glass or over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish, if you like, with orange or lemon peel.

snow days & drinkies

across the rooftopscozy cat
where a cat should bestill snowing

I had various ideas for posts to put up this week, but then it snowed and everything went to hell. Which is basically what happens when it snows in Western Washington. Whether it’s half an inch or twenty inches, schools close, people stay home from work, grocery shelves get depleted, and Twitter and Facebook turn into unending streams of complaints and snow pictures. We stayed home, turned on the fire, and made cocktails.

It’s been a while since Jon has done much drink experimentation – we’ve been happy with our repertoire of drinks, with an occasional new addition. But the unexpected down time this week inspired him to try several new recipes. Here are the ones we tried (and lest this list seem alarmingly long, keep in mind we’ve had all week to get through these):

The Day Off

The Day Off

  • 1.5 oz bourbon (we use Bulleit)
  • 0.5 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist. (Note: the drink in the picture was shaken, not stirred, which is why it has foam on top. We recommend stirring for a clearer cocktail.)

Snowed In

Snowed In

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Averna
  • 0.5 oz Carpano Antica formula vermouth
  • 0.5 oz pomegranate juice

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Snow Day

The Snow Day

  • 1 oz rye
  • 1 oz Lillet blanc
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • dash absinthe

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Jon’s note: “I think this one may still want a little tweaking. The concept is good, but the balance isn’t quite right.”

The Pitchfork

  • 0.75 oz aquavit
  • 0.75 oz Carpano Antica formula vermouth
  • 0.75 oz Averna
  • 3 dashes rhubarb bitters

Stir with ice and serve on the rocks.
Jon’s note: “This is my variation on the Trident, which is itself a variation of a Negroni. The Trident takes the Negroni recipe and swaps aquavit for the gin, dry sherry for the vermouth, and Cynar for the Campari, and then adds peach bitters. I’ve brought back the vermouth, used Averna instead of Cynar and rhubarb bitters in place of peach.”

Manhattan variation:  Averna instead of vermouth, and rhubarb bitters instead of Angostura. Served on the rocks, no garnish. This was nice.

Brooklyn variation: St. Germain instead of vermouth and Averna instead of Torani Amer.

And finally, my favorite discovery of the week: the Norwegian Sunset. Imbibe Magazine just posted this as part of their online newsletter and we made it immediately. It’s wonderful – the rich vermouth and amaro balancing the caraway of the aquavit. I loved it. Will make again.

Norwegian Sunset

  • 1 1/2 oz. aquavit (we used Linie, but we’re guessing that Krogstad would be even better)
  • 3/4 oz. Aperol
  • 1/2 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: 5 drops Regan’s orange bitters

Combine the aquavit, aperol and vermouth in a shaker and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the bitters.

Canon

nameless cocktails

On Tuesday of last week, we had driven to Issaquah to pick up my work from an art show and decided to go home by way of Seattle. We ended up in Capitol Hill exactly at 5 o’clock, just in time to get a seat at the bar at Canon, Jamie Boudreau’s new place (which is in the old Licorous location, btw). And if that weren’t cool enough, our bartender turned out to be none other than the legendary Murray Stenson, previously of Zig Zag Cafe. He said he had only worked half a dozen shifts or so at Canon, and he was still feeling his way around the bar, but it was a true pleasure to finally get to watch him at work.

The cocktail menu had some interesting drinks on it, but none of them seemed quite what we wanted. Murray pierced us each with a penetrating stare and asked a few pertinent questions (clear or brown? bitter or sweet?) After a short interrogation, he determined that what I wanted was a drink made with either bourbon or rye, bitter or herbal in tone, but soft and easy. He whisked away and poked around in the shelves, returning shortly with a cocktail. A version of the Currier (this was the only drink name we were able to get out of Murray all night), it had Buffalo Trace bourbon, Rose’s lime juice, fresh lime and kummel, a caraway-scented liqueur. Really interesting, balanced and complex.

Jon’s first drink was a gorgeous concoction of excellent rum and amaro and I forget what else. It was delicious. I have no memory of his second drink, except that I know it had Campari in it. Dang, I knew I should have been taking notes. I do remember that we had a plate of ricotta gnudi with kale and shiitakes that was truly delightful and paired rather well with our first round.

Canon

As we sat admiring the liquor collection, my eye was caught by the tequila selection almost immediately over my head. I asked if I could have something with tequila for my second cocktail, and Murray’s eyes lit up. “Oh yeah!” he said, and dashed off. The drink that appeared before me definitely had tequila and green Chartreuse, but I’m not at all sure what else. Some sort of juice, and a bit of lime zest. It paired perfectly with the Barron Point oysters we were eating.

Barron Point oysters

Needless to say, Canon is an amazing bar (dare I say, even on a night when Murray isn’t working). We are SO going back as soon as possible.

Canon

daiquiri

daiquiri

For a long time I wasn’t really sure what a daiquiri was. I first learned of its existence from old Doonesbury comic strips, back when Duke was governor of Samoa and went through gallons of banana daiquiri. I thought it sounded exotic but disgusting, and never tried one. Recently I became aware that, while there are still horrible sugary-fruity-yuck versions of the daiquiri floating around, the original really didn’t sound that bad: just rum, lime juice, sugar. An actual drink for grownups: a little tart, a little sweet. Huh. We had a bunch of limes left over from our party, so one sunny afternoon I asked Jon to make me a daiquiri. He did. And it was good.

lime slice

Classic Daiquiri

Loads of versions out there, obviously. This one is from Speakeasy, by Kosmas & Zaric. It was tasty. And large.

  • 2 ½ oz Flor de Caña rum (or some other rum, but this is a nice light one)
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • ¾ oz simple syrup
  • 1 lime wheel for garnish

Shake the rum, juice and syrup with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the lime wheel.

elderflower descant

Elderflower Descant

We’ve missed the last few Mixology Mondays, for various reasons, but when we saw that May’s theme was floral cocktails (hosted over at The Barman Cometh), we made a special effort to get something together. There are quite a few floral-based cocktails we like, particularly the Deep Blue Sea (violet) and the Vieux Mot (elderflower). We thought it would be fun to come up with something new with one of those flavors, so Jon did some experimenting these last couple of weeks, then wrote this:

As Jessamyn has already mentioned, I recently got a copy of the very fine book Left Coast Libations.  While many of the recipes therein have immediately grabbed me, demanding to be made, other recipes have remained more aloof.

Case in point, the Pear Sonata.  I’m just not a big fan of dusting a drink with ground cinnamon, and even if I were, there’s no way in hell I’m going to make pear foam.  Pear foam?  Really?

However, after letting the recipe percolate in my mind for a while, I began to recognize that for all of its weird trappings, the Pear Sonata has good, solid bones to it.  Gin, St. Germain, dry vermouth, and lemon juice.  Nothing wrong there.  What if I were to tweak the proportions a bit, leave off the pear foam (really?), and let the St. Germain shine through?  It seemed worth a try.

I began with a base of Bluecoat gin.  Bluecoat, made here in the US, has quickly become one of our very favorite gins, with a distinctly citrusy note to it, which I thought would work well with the St. Germain, which I boosted to a full jigger’s worth.  Lemon juice and dry vermouth, and in a nod to the original Pear Sonata recipe, just a dash of Clear Creek pear brandy.

A twist of orange to garnish.  I find that I have grown very fond of using orange to garnish drinks containing lemon juice – it’s similar enough not to clash, yet different enough to add a little extra dimension to the drink.  And as I was about to present it, Jessamyn added her own touch: a single lilac flower.

Elderflower Descant

  • 1 oz. Bluecoat gin
  • ¾ oz. St Germain
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. Dolin dry vermouth
  • dash Clear Creek pear brandy

Shake well with ice and strain.  Garnish with a long twist of orange and a lilac flower.

Elderflower Descant

the research continues

I have no idea what drink this was

We’ve continued on our recent kick of trying new cocktails, mostly from Left Coast Libations but occasionally dipping back into other cocktail references. The trouble is, if we don’t write down what we’re trying, we forget the names almost instantly. When I went through my photos from the last few weeks to see what I had shot in the way of cocktails, I found several – but I had only a vague idea of which drinks they had been.

Historic Core cocktail

This one I’m pretty sure was the Historic Core, created by Joseph Brooke in LA. It had Rittenhouse rye, apple brandy, Chartreuse, Carpano Antica vermouth, Angostura bitters and lemon peel. I remember it as being interesting but not riveting.

Don't remember this one, either

This one was a complete mystery to me. I liked how Jon zested the orange, but I had no memory of the drink itself. When I asked, he said it was a variation on a drink called an Ueno San, with rye instead of bourbon, cocchi americano instead of Lillet, orange bitters instead of peach bitters, and Carpano Antica. So there you go. I suppose we might experiment more with that one.

Maybe I should take better notes.