Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I'm Back!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pronunciation: \kən-ˈtes-tənt also ˈkän-ˌ\
Function: noun
1 : one that participates in a contest
2 : one that contests an award or decision

Remember my trip to New York with my friend JM? Now I can tell what the trip was really all about. JM is my friend Julie Merriman and we were in NYC to film a commercial for Food Network TV. Why would we be doing this? Because! Julie Merriman won the Ultimate Recipe Showdown in the Hot and Spicy category on Food Network TV.

Julie’s winning recipe was just one of the 10,000 that were entered. Along with the recipe Julie sent a video as part of her entry. You have got see her video, she posted it on YouTube. OMG what a hoot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqp69jEkW20

Julie has always been interested in competing. She was part of the culinary team when we attended the Art Institute. We even went to Hawaii with the culinary team. She’s smart and thinks on her feet which makes a good competitor. And in the kitchen where anything can happen being able to think quickly can be a great help. She has been steadily entering contests all this time and finally a payoff. No really a pay off; Julie won $25,000 for her winning Chipotle Steak Taco recipe. http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/hot-and-spicy-food-recipe-photos/pictures/index.html

Julie’s winning dish was a mole’ sauce over grilled flank steak wrapped in a soft taco shell. If you know your mole’, it is normally a process that can take several days and many ingredients. Even the judges thought Julie might have bitten off more than she could chew choosing such a complicated recipe while only having 1 hour from beginning to plating her dish. Boy did she have them fooled! She replaced a number of the main ingredients with peanut butter which held the texture of the sauce and allowed this recipe to be complete in the short amount of time they gave the contestants.

Julie beat out three other competitors in her category. She won the first round with the highest score. But, there are two rounds and she now had to start all over with a second recipe and only half the time. Again she wowed the judges by using a recipe that had 28 ingredients. She did a fantastic job, not withstanding what appeared to be the burned bacon smoking from her oven. But that’s another story.

Even though she did not win the second round no other competitors score was greater than what she had from round number one. And in the case of Ultimate Recipe Showdown it is a winner take all contest and Julie did just that! Julie has now decided to follow her dream even farther and is moving to NYC. Best wishes my dear friend Julie Merriman. I am so proud of you and until next we cook again you can….roux the day!

1 Sassy Tomato

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Frap•puc•ci•no [ fràppə chnō ]
Definition: a trademark for a drink made of coffee blended with milk
crushed ice, and flavorings

I hate to admit it but I am becoming, wait, nope I am a coffee snob. I grew up in a family of tea drinkers and had never tasted coffee until I was in my college days. As the years have gone by I have come to love my ‘joe’ and did not realize just how much until my recent visit to the Big Apple.

My first New York experience was a frozen mocha which they referred to as a frappuccino and I said no…frozen mocha. They said no, a frappaccino! Hello people this is not Starbucks and I know what a frappaccino is and this drink was not a frappuccino. In fact it wasn't even a good frozen mocha.

My next experience with a coffee drink was at Chelsea Market in a coffee shop. I ordered a mocha and I waited and waited…and waited. For some reason ordering a mocha appears to have been a foreign language order in New York. There was much confusion about how to make a mocha. The person making it came out of the kitchen with a plastic tub, took a cookie scoop and scooped out something chocolate looking and put it in my coffee. At home our chocolate is generally in liquid form and pumped into the cup not scooped from a tub. I drank it with a bit of trepidation.

I next tried ordering coffee at Oro Bakery and Bar in Little Italy. I ordered a mocha once again thinking that three times is a charm. Eve our barista made this mocha using large discs of chocolate, like king sized chocolate chips. That was another new one for me. Of the three times I had tried for a simple mocha this one was by far the best of the lot. It sure made me appreciate how coffee is made right here at home. Huge thanks to the gang at my downtown Café Lladro, Ian, Sheena, Celeste and Leizel, who spoil me endlessly. I just walk in the door and they say, ‘the usual’, I nod and next thing I'm holding a mocha!

My new favorite place to hang out and drink great cups of coffee is Via Vadi Caffe' in South Park at the corner of 14th and Cloverdale. This new little shop is owned by the vivacious Maria, who can hold her own no matter who is in the room. She makes a great cup of coffee delivered with the most fun sense of humor wrapped around a total family experience. Once you go there you are already family. Her shop is new, only one month old but she is busier every day. Maria is introducing South Seattle to the delicious Italian desserts she has loved all her life. Favorites so far have included the maple twists and real Cannoli. Yes I’m talking REAL Cannoli, with the cream made right there by her brother Otto. Until our next meal, and cup of coffee…roux the day.

1 Sassy Tomato

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

[om-lit, om-uh-]
eggs beaten until frothy, often combined with other ingredients, as herbs, chopped ham, cheese, or jelly, and cooked until set.

Hello New York City! We arrived on a redeye, checked into our hotel and it was time for breakfast. Our hotel was in Chelsea on 29th between 8th and 9th, so finding a restaurant should not be too difficult. Then again…the front desk directed us to Bagel Haven just a block and a half walk. We were excited to be walking around the hustle and bustle of New Yorkers on their way to work. The deli atmosphere had us all excited, since we really don’t have many of them in Seattle.

For a deli it was huge in my opinion, lots of tables, and lots of room. What did surprise me was having no idea where to place our order. Did we go to one end of the counter or the other? Did we just take a table and someone would wait on us? We had no idea. As it turned out if we wanted to place an order we could sit and someone would take it, but we were following the crowd and placed our order at the counter ourselves. It was hotter than an oven in the place and when they found out we wanted a table but had ‘placed’ our own order they marched us upstairs to sit. If we thought it was hot downstairs it was worse upstairs.

I ordered a mushroom omelet and JM ordered a Swiss omelet. They asked what kind of toast we wanted. When our breakfasts arrived they were served in little metal trays! What’s with that, I gave up Swanson’s when I was six. And to beat that the toast was cold and wrapped in aluminum foil. This isn’t going to get any better, I just knew it!

My big disappointment was the omelet itself. It was just some beaten eggs and some indescribable mushrooms of an unknown origin, mixed together and folded over like a pancake. I did know they were not from a can, beyond that I was not sure. Anyway, overcooked, dry, rubbery eggs folded! That was it! I peaked between the layers and nothing. I looked at JM and she was also checking her omelet, apparently looking for the cheese. She did have cheese but was concerned when she found mushrooms! Clearly they made one mix of eggs and added cheese. Needless to say we didn’t consume much of our first New York meal.

We also ordered a frozen coffee drink here that they wanted to call a frappaccino. Being from Seattle, the Land of Coffee these guys don’t have a clue about a frappaccino. Who were they trying to kid? Oh and coffee in NYC, that’s going to be another blog post all together. Until our next meal...roux the day!

1 Sassy Tomato

Saturday, January 30, 2010

n tamarind [ˈtӕmərind]
a tropical fruit, a brown pod with a juicy, spicy pulp used in medicines, drinks etc

My intentions have been to write on a timely and consistent basis, then along came the holidays and I failed. So here it is the New Year and by the way, Happy New Year to all. I am again at the starting gate, itching to go.

My sweet and precious friend Ni had been anticipating her upcoming 21st birthday for weeks. She asked if Diane and I would celebrate her big day with her. After some debate, okay maybe no debate the obvious choice for us to eat was Tamarind Tree on 12th and Jackson. I had asked Ni and Ling to make the reservations and both said they would. Okay slight communication break down here, English is a second language for both Ni and Ling and my Vietnamese is limited to Pho’, spring rolls and I’ll have a bubble tea! The girls are way ahead of me on that one. With that said no reservations were made, which we discovered when we were about seven minutes from the restaurant. Diane hurriedly called them, gave a cockamamie story and got us a table right away.

Diane and I had barely opened the menu when the waitress brought our water and asked if we were ready to order. Both of us started to say no when Ling started rattling off an order that we had no idea of its content and whoosh the waitress was gone. We were sitting there with our mouths open trying to understand what just happened.

Within minutes we were served delicate stuffed squid, a tray of petite rice bowls with savory accompaniments, crisp black sesame seed crackers, and the best escargot wrapped around fragrant stalks of lemongrass. This was followed by a beautiful daikon salad with slivers of red onion, pieces of toasted peanuts and topped with three perfectly seared bay scallops. Lucky for us that Diane does not care for scallops so no one had to share!

The main courses were tender marinated short ribs served on a mound of sweet jasmine rice and a beef noodle bowl. To my surprise this was a cold dish and absolutely delicious. Ni and Ling opted out of dessert, no wonder since the two little eaters ate twice what we did easily! Where did they put it? We however decided on dessert! Our dessert was made of cassava, yes the root vegetable, drowning in a sweet coconut milk, sprinkled with finely chopped green onion and roasted peanuts. If you’ve never had vegetables for dessert you may want to try this.

It was the perfect birthday celebration. We laughed lots and many pictures were taken for Ni to keep. Since this night Ni has moved back to Indiana to be closer to her family. You are missed, sweet girl and until our next meal…roux the day.

1 Sassy Tomato

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ap•pe•tizer (-tī′zər)
1. a small portion of a tasty food or a drink to stimulate the appetite at the beginning of a meal
2. a bit of something that excites a desire for more

I met Chef Dan Theissen in my first year of culinary school. Each time I was around him I saw the dedication to his craft. I also had the opportunity to work with him at Salty’s and additionally, at many charity events where he volunteered his time and talents.

Late this afternoon my friend Diane and I wandered south to Normandy Park, home of Chef Theissen’s new restaurant Archery Bistro. We entered to a very welcoming host and warm surroundings. The space is warm in color and feel, the staff inviting and friendly.

We were taken to bar for the ‘happy hour’. Karna brought us the menu giving us great description of what was to come. Each item we ordered carried its own amazing blend of flavors. The generous crab cake was perfectly crusted outside and moist inside. It was paired with crisp Fuji apple and watercress slaw, drizzled with an apple aioli. The Asian cocktail sauce over the seared tenderloin tips tasted of five spice and a hint of sweet chili. Ohhh the pumpkin ravioli. What more needs to be said about fresh pumpkin in little pockets of pasta in a light browned butter? Can it get much better? Of course it can! Penn Cove mussels tossed together with andouilli sausage in a saffron white wine broth.

Chef Brandon came out to talk with us for a bit. We thanked him for the wonderful tastes we had just enjoyed. He shared with us his background and how he knew Chef Theissen and how excited he is with Archery Bistro. I let him know that I had already sent out a twitter update and that we would be back next week for dinner, with friends.

Having just enjoyed four scrumptious appetizers it certainly left me wanting more. So, until our next meal (next week)…roux the day!

1 Sassy Tomato

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mise en place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃ plas], literally "putting in place") is a French phrase defined by The Culinary Institute of America "everything in place", as in set up

Have you ever watched Martha cook; where she has everything premeasured in little bowls? Well, for culinary purposes that is ‘mise en place’. In reflection I look at my life as a sort of everyday mise en place. As life happens I grab it and put everyhting it’s place.

My favorite job was climbing poles and installing dial tone. Due to a foot injury I had to move to an ‘inside’ office job and trust me this was not everything it it’s place! My spirit was taking a bit of a beating in the new world. What did lift me was Julie and I continuing our cooking classes. We learned Italian desserts, Italian breads, southwest cooking and even a breakfast class. Doesn’t everyone know how to make breakfast? Apparently we didn’t!

I could not ignore this burning drive to cook. I was lucky enough to have an employer who offered continuing education. Within six months of the new world I working in I enrolled in the Culinary Program at the Art Institute of Seattle. This program is intended to be a two year course which I managed to stretch out for nearly five years. More about that later! I was so excited to get started, what would I learn next?

I was enrolled but when was my first class? What was I going to cook? What day of the week? What amazing food would I be touching? Hold up! My first class wasn’t going to happen for another four and one half months and it just so happened to be safety and sanitation and guess what? I didn’t get to touch any amazing food. In fact I didn’t get to touch any food at all. It wasn’t until the fall quarter that I got to take my first culinary lab class.

There we were all lined up in our black and white chef pants, our white chef coat, white kerchief and a white floppy hat. What was with the hat! I was feeling a bit cocky. Afterall I had all those cooking classes with Julie under my hat and by now I was a pro. Well at least with chiffonade! Bring it on I thought and did they ever. I was soon to find out that I didn’t know much of anything!

If there is one thing I learned and learned well it really is about ‘mise en place. Whether it was the uniform the I wore, the notes I took in class, having all my equipment ready or learning how to lay out the ingredients before I began. Everything had an oder and the more I applied this the more I discovered that ‘mise en place’ just makes sense.

Taking a look at how it all shaped up I am surprised.. Throughout my years in school I was able to study with amazing chef instructors; work with some of the finest Chefs in Seattle and the rest of the country; travel to competitions; do an externship in Austria and finally graduate at the top of my class. So as you see it was ‘mise en place’…everything had it’s place! Until our next meal…roux the day!

1 Sassy Tomato