Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eating my way through Chicago - Al's Italian Beef!!!

Finally the day has come, the day I ate my first Al's Italian beef sandwich. What is an Italian Beef sandwich you may ask? Salty, juicy, heaven.

Even though "Italian" is in the name of the sandwich, don't think of this as anything authentic. Just like you wouldn't really find "teriyaki" in Japan, you probably wouldn't find one of these delicious sandwiches in Italy, however their American descendants perfected both.

My craving for an Al's Italian Beef sandwich first started from all of my time watching Food Network with Emi. Al's has been on multiple "versus" types of food shows, where a food personality will pit two similar restaurants against each other to determine the ultimate winner. For example in North Carolina, two BBQ places would compete against each other and in Chicago it's deep dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches.

Since most of my team is located in Chicago, I make it out there quite a bit, but have never had time for an Italian beef sandwich. My buddy Dave made sure I could finally knock this off my list of things to do. I had high expectations for this sandwich and thought I could finally get over my small "obsession" with Italian beef sandwiches, but I want them even more now.

Look at all of those well deserved awards!

Now this is key, the chopped up slow cooked meat is on the left and soaking in the delicious sauce. You have two options when you order your sandwich, dry or wet. Wet is the only way to go. If you order it wet, they take your sandwich with those tongs and actually submerge it, not dip it, but submerge it in that bath of delicious meat sauce on the right. Now you might think the hoagie might fall apart, but the bread actually holds up really well.

Best sandwich ever... Biting into that sweet, yet spicy, salty sandwich was amazing. You could see the chopped meat, pepper flakes, some celery, the hot and sweet peppers, and the dripping, marbled, oily sauce in the sandwich. Each bite squeezed the jus down my hand.
My buddy Dave also suggested I knock another Chicago culinary delight off of my list; the Chicago style hot dog. It was a poppyseed bun, with a tomato, mustard, sweet pickle, relish, and mustard (no ketchup!). I thought it would be too much to eat both, but they were both amazing and consumed in under five minutes.

The aftermath. Look at that delicious sauce on the left. Immediately after finishing the "best sandwich ever" I wanted another one. I'm still thinking of it to this day, two weeks later. I know this will become a tradition for everytime I go to Chicago and for everyone else planning a future trip out to Chicago, skip the deep dish and head to Al's.
- Kyle

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Truffle and Chantrelle Pizza and Italian Wine Tasting

Reason #101 why we love our kitchen; the new convection oven! We used to attempt to make pizza in our old kitchen, but it never came out right. With a few new changes, our pizza has never been better. Hate to sound full of ourselves, but our kids (one day) will be eating some great homemade pizza!

The key for us is to use the convection oven, a pizza stone (I bought from Crate and Barrel for Emi), frozen pizza dough from Central Market, and parchment paper (great tip from Carol).

We wanted to splurge a little for Emi's aunt and uncle who were in town from Hawaii and bought some black truffles for our pizza. $248 a pound! However we only needed a little bit.

The black truffles didn't end up being all that flavorful because in hindsight we think they may have been a little old and dried out. A few weeks later we bought some white truffles from Central Market and they almost knocked me out with their overpowering scent. Now I know how they should have smelled. We love truffle anything, but had never had fresh truffles.

Emi bought some amazing truffle cheese from Trader Joe's that she shredded and mixed with mozzarella to top the pizza. She also sauteed some fresh, wild chantrelles in olive oil and garlic to top the pizza. After cooking the pizza in the oven we thinly sliced the truffle over the pizza. One of the best pizzas ever and when we duplicated it a few weeks later with the white truffles, even better.

We also sampled Emi's uncles favorite wine, the Trader Joe's Barolo. I don't think it's TJ brand, but he's only ever found this great Italian wine there. We ended up bringing two bottles with us as an Xmas gift on this most recent trip out to Hawaii. Highly recommended wine that complemented our pizza perfectly. Only tip is to let is breathe a solid 15 minutes or so before you start to enjoy it.

- Kyle

Monday, December 27, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Pork Belly and Brussles Sprouts

Last year around Christmas we went to Serious Pie for our friend Calvin's birthday. You can check out that blog post here. Since that time, I have been on an elusive quest to recreate the amazing pork belly and Brussels sprouts appetizer we enjoyed. The problem with pork belly is that you have to cook it just right, otherwise it can turn rubbery or the fat might not render enough and it can remain fatty and soft. The best pork belly has crispy skin and soft, tender meat. There is little to no chewy fat as the meat has been essentially braised in its own fat as it cooks.

I tried about a dozen recipes over the year, and have finally pieced together a couple of recipes to recreate that amazing dish. The pork belly recipe is adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe I found on the Internet. The Brussels sprouts have been adapted over the last year after many trial and errors.

I shared the last version with my favorite food Ginni pigs the other week when the guys came over to once again celebrate Calvin's birthday. Here is my belated Christmas and New Year's present to you all: one of my all time favorite dishes, finally perfected! Let me know if you make it and how it turns out--I am always excited to improve on perfection!

Pork Belly:
  • 1.5-2 lbs Pork Belly (you can find this cut of meat in the meat freezer section of Central Market in Seattle or ask your local butcher)
  • Plenty of kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and halved length wise
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in half
  • 2 red or sweet onions, halved
  • 1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves with the skin on
  • 2 cups of chicken stock or water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Score the skin side of the pork belly with a sharp knife with cuts about a centimeter apart, cutting through the skin but not to the meat portion of the belly. Rub salt and pepper into skin, getting it in between the scores in the skin and all over the rest of the meat. Put in oven for 30 minutes until the skin starts to puff and "crackle." Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and roast for another hour. Take the pan out of the oven and baste the meat with the fat and juices that have rendered out of the meat. Set the meat on a cutting board and add the vegetables to the pan, making sure they are tossed and coated in the fat drippings. Place the pork on top of the veggies and put back in the oven for an hour.

Take the pork out of the oven and place the meat to the side, covering with aluminum foil. Place the pan with the veggies and juices on the stove top at about medium heat and add the chicken stock or water. Bring it to a boil and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, creating a nice dark brown gravy. Let it simmer and reduce for a couple of minutes. Pour the gravy through a sieve into the serving dish, pushing the delicious flavors of the veggies through. Chop up the pork belly and add to the gravy.

Brussels Sprouts:
  • 1 bag brussels sprouts
  • 1 Shallot, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Sea Salt and Pepper
Core and quarter Brussels sprouts (this can take some time, so I always like having my handy dandy Suez chef, Kyle!). Heat a large skillet or pan over med-high heat and add olive oil. Once hot, add the shallots and caramelize until shallots begin to soften and brown a bit. Add the minced garlic and once it starts to brown (almost immediately) add the Brussels sprouts and saute, adding salt and pepper to taste. When the Brussels sprouts have browned a bit (about a minute) add the chicken stock and let simmer until sprouts have absorbed most of the liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the Brussels sprouts with the gravy and pork belly and serve immediately.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

Happy Eating,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Our Sunday Trip to Esquin: Last minute Xmas Present Solutions

Hohoho...MERRY CHRISTMAS! What better gift for the food and wine lover than a good ol' bottle of vino? That's what Kyle and I thought the other week when we found a couple extra hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon. We headed to our favorite wine shop, Esquin Wine Merchants, in Sodo and spent over an hour perusing through countless rows of fabulous wines, buying "gifts" for...ourselves!

One of our best friends, Becca and Lowell, turned us on to this great Seattle wine shop and we have been hooked ever since. My good friend, Carol, and many others have since also recommended Esquin to us!

Kyle likes to catch me in awkward face moments and post these photos on our blog. As you can see, I am very focused on the wine...This is our favorite room, the "back room." AKA the el cheapo sale room where they have great deals on some of the best wines. Also, if you buy a case of 12 bottles (from anywhere in the store) they give you 10% off your bill. That means we have to get 12 bottles every time. Can't pass up a good deal!


As you might have noticed from previous posts, Kyle and I are conducting very rigorous "research" on wines for our upcoming trip to Paris and the Mediterranean next summer. By research, we mean consuming large amounts of French and European wine so we are more aware and educated on what we like and what makes the wines of this region so special. More importantly, we are just enjoying consuming the large amounts of research and the food that we have paired it with!

I picked up this bottle of 2009 La Croix Du Duc Bordeaux. I am a huge sucker for great descriptors for wine that include "incredible deal."

And it truly was an incredible deal. It was bold and smooth, and just the kind of red that I crave with a good, wintery warm meal. Kyle made his Auntie Toyoko's famous short ribs that night which went perfectly with this rich bordeaux.

So whether you are looking for a last minute (or belated) Xmas gifts for a food/wine lover or are just looking for a fun way to spend an hour, check out Esquin Wine Merchants. The people are friendly and unpretentious and help to make wine approachable. They also have a great blog that has given me many great recs! Check it out here.
Kyle and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hope you get all you wished for, including good health, happiness and of course, GREAT EATS.
Happy Eating,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Emi's Eats

After blogging for over a year and a half, I have decided to take my eating and writing to the next level and will have my very own food column in 2011 titled, Emi's Eats! The column will appear in the Seattle based newspaper, The North American Post, which serves the Pacific Northwest Japanese American community. My column articles will highlight local Asian American owned and/or operated restaurants along with their favorite recipes and personal stories. I am excited for a new outlet for my creative juices and to counter -balance my corporate day job.

In an attempt to appear tech-savvy and legit, I have started a twitter account. Please follow me at and let me know if you have any suggestions for places to add to my restaurant list!

I want to send out a special thank you to my dear friend and fellow blogger, Kelsey Smith, who inspired Kyle and I to start this blog and made us believe that we have thoughts and ideas worth sharing with the blogging world!

My first article will publish in the January 5 newspaper and will feature one of my favorite restaurants, Hiroshi's in Eastlake and his New Years inspired menu. The article will also be available online, so I will be sure to pass on the link when it is up!

Happy Eating,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sunday dim sum at T&T

As you all may know, I love Asian food (Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, doesn't matter). Most of my posts are about Asian food and this one is no different.

A week ago we went out on Saturday night to celebrate a friend's birthday. Definitely had a great time and needed a solid brunch the next morning to recover from the earlier night's festivities. Instead of going to our brunch favorite Epulo, I remembered that T&T, our favorite north end Chinese restaurant, just started to serve dim sum!

I usually order the same thing for dim sum every time. Shu mai, ha gao, garlic spare ribs, hum baos, chinese broccoli, various other shrimp related dishes, and end with some sweet delicious egg tarts.

Unfortunately T&T's dim sum didn't really live up to our expectations. We still wanted to write a post about T&T because to date we haven't found another place that serves dim sum up north. Also I still love eating dinner here, which we did later in the week. The roast duck was crispy and juicy. The dim sum was decent, but a little bland. I felt like I had a cold or my taste buds weren't working at 100% because the flavor just wasn't there.

The highlight of the meal for Emi was the Chinese broccoli and the baked hum baos. They glazed the buns with honey which added a little bit of sweetness to the salty pork stuffing.

The egg tarts weren't all that great. Not very flaky or sweet which is what I'm looking for in my egg tarts.

Overall the experience was decent, but not great. I'm happy to have a dim sum option ten minutes from home, the food came out quick and hot, and it was nice to change things up from our normal Sunday brunch. Also they just started serving dim sum, so hopefully they are still working out some of the kinks in their service.
Next time I'll be sure to broaden beyond my regular dishes to see if I was missing out on anything. Also let us know if you have any other good dim sum options up north.
- Kyle

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Truffle and Chantrelle Pizza

As I write this blog post, it is snowing outside and I am sitting in front of a warm, blazing fire. Nothing like a delicious and warm meal to heat you up on a cold, winter day!

Chantrelles are on sale right now at Central Market, so I picked up a pound with no solid plans for it. A couple days later, I realized I had to use it and incidentally also had a flashback to my amazing experience at Serious Pie last winter and that awe-inspiring truffle pizza that still brings tears to my eyes...

This is my attempt to recreate it, and I must say it turned out better than I expected given the fact that I am an amateur and lack a wood burning oven. Plus, Tom Douglas is a culinary God, and has access to the best ingredients in town. I have some good ingredients, but chose to be a slacker and used store bought pizza dough. I made Kyle make a side trip on the way home from work to get the dough from Trader Joe's.


  • 1 lb chantrelle mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup truffle cheese (you can also find this at Trader Joe's for pretty cheap)
  • A pinch of truffle salt
  • A couple of drops of truffle oil
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees--I like a really hot oven, and find that the temp that the pizza dough packages suggest is often too low (usually 450 or so, which doesn't cook the dough very well)
  • Heat large pan with oil
  • Smash garlic cloves and put in pan to infuse oil with garlic
  • Add butter
  • Add chopped chantrelles and saute until mushrooms are tender, remove garlic
  • Roll out dough and place on pizza stone. My friend and fellow blogger, Carol, suggested that I put parchment paper under the dough and slide it out midway through cooking--this is a great tip and always helps to make the pizza crisp up better!
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the dough
  • Add the chantrelles and garlic infused oil to the top
  • Sprinkle the cheeses over the mushrooms as well as a couple of pinches of truffle salt
  • Sprinkle sea salt over the edges of the dough for a salty crunch
  • Pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until dough browns up and is to your liking
  • Once done, take out of oven and add a couple drops of truffle oil over the top
  • ENJOY!

This pizza was really good as leftovers, just put in a 350 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes.

Happy Eating,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sushi Sake Fest

One of my favorite events of the year is the Annual Sushi and Sake Fest that benefits Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. The first time I attended this all you can eat, all you can drink event, I was 20 and serving as a volunteer at the event. My mouth watered as I watched hundreds of guests gorge themselves on Seattle's best sushi and sake. The next year, I was 21, and Kyle and I came back as guests and feasted until we almost burst; we decided not to eat sushi until the next year's festival.
The idea is genius: take the best sushi restaurants in town, and offer a sampling of their best sushi (all you can eat). Add in sake and Japanese beer distributors (all you can drink) and you have my slice of heaven. And, it all goes to a great cause.

In the past, there were over 10 different sushi restaurants represented. This year they had a different format that included a sit down meal in addition to four different sushi restaurants sampling their delicious sushi. Featured above is Nishino's, which is located in Madison Park and is one of the best spots in town for sushi.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned the fabulous Hiroshi's, as one of my favorite sushi restaurants, located in Eastlake. He has been a part of many special events in my life. I held my UW graduation party at his restaurant and he catered a dinner for Kyle and I during our wedding week with a full sushi bar. He also is a great supporter of our Seattle Japanese American community and volunteers his labor and yummy sushi every year at the Sushi Sake Fest. Thank you for another great sushi feast, Hiroshi!

One of our favorites at every Sushi Sake Fest is Sushi Zen, which is located in Mill Creek. They featured an awesome roll that was topped with a seaweed salad. The crunchy effect it left behind in my mouth was superb! I think my mom and Kyle went back over 5 times because they loved it so much.

This gentleman came all the way from Japan to sample his amazing sake. There were six different sake stations that had a variety of different sakes. One of our favorites was a sparkling sake that was lighter and sweeter than the typical sake.

The plated meal included a rib eye steak, miso black cod, bok choy and a really delicate and delicious tofu dish. However, I would have preferred to spend the remaining part of the room in my stomach on more sushi!

We ended the night with a chocolate cake, green tea ice cream and strawberry mochi. YUM!

Next year come and join us for a great night supporting an even greater charity!
Happy Eating,

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rachel Ray You've Done It Again - Balsamic Pork Tenderloins

Since Emi was out of town enjoying a girl's weekend, I took it upon myself to go grocery shopping and to cook the week's meals. The first cookbook I turned to for inspiration was my first cookbook ever, Rachel Ray's Top 30 - 30 minute meals - Guy Food. It's such a simple cookbook, yet I have about 5 regular meals from this cookbook, plus I keep discovering new ones which brings us to the Balsamic Pork Tenderloins.

This was an amazing meal, one of my new all-time favorites. I smiled after taking the first bite of the tender, flavorful, and juicy pork tenderloin.

What you'll need:

  • 2 pork tenderloins (2 and 1/4 pounds total)

  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling (3 T)

  • EVOO, for drizzling

  • 4 cloves garlic, cracked

  • 2 T sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped

What to do:

  • preheat oven to 500 degrees

  • Place tenderloins on a nonstick cookie sheet with a rim

  • Coat tenderloins in balsamic vinegar (I used cheap balsamic and it still tasted amazing), rubbing vinegar into the meat. Don't worry about getting dirty, you will.

  • Drizzle tenderloins with evoo, just enough to coat.

  • Cut small slits into meat and disperse chunks of cracked garlic into the meat (tasty nuggets of deliciousness)

  • Combine sea salt and pepper with rosemary and thyme and rub meat with blend (you really can't overdo the salt, pepper, and fresh herbs).

  • Roast in hot oven 20-25 minutes, let meat rest, transfer to carving board, slice and serve.

What an explosion of flavors. Everything stands out from the sea salt and roasted garlic to the fresh rosemary and thyme, with a spicy kick from black pepper, all with a sweet essence from the balsamic vinegar.

Sometimes the most simple meals are also the most delicious. This was a good example of that. From prep to finished and in my belly, this meal took less than 45 minutes to make.

- Kyle

Thursday, November 18, 2010

French Wine Tasting - Chardonnay

We've been having so much fun tasting French wine that I couldn't wait to go pick up something different and this time went with a white wine. We prefer reds and rarely drink white wine, but if we do drink white, it's usually a Chardonnay.

Also the meal I made for Emi asked for a little bit of white wine, so I figured the wine would pair well with the food.

  • Name - Macon-Villages - Louis Jadot - Chardonnay - 2009
  • Cost - $15 - Central Market
  • Our Take - Emi described this Chardonnay as less buttery than most Chardonnays she has tried in the past. It wasn't as overpowering for me where some Chardonnay's are sort of sour and not very pleasant with their aftertaste. Similar to the French Pinot Noir we tried earlier in the week, this wasn't as strong as we expected. It was light, sweet, and paired well with the meal.

I paired the wine with Rachel Ray's real deal caesar salad and Mark Antony's scampi topping. I think it was the first time I've ever made a caesar salad from scratch. It turned out really well, but took a lot of steps which I don't really feel like listing here. However if you are interested, pick up Rachel Ray's Top 30 - 30 minute meals - Guy Food cookbook or just look it up online.

The best part of the salad was the scampi topping. I will list that recipe.

What you'll need:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • a pinch crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 T EVOO
  • 10 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (Central Market has a great deal going on right now)
  • a shot of white wine

Heat the garlic and crushed red pepper in oil over med-high heat until the garlic speaks. Add shrimp and cook for a minute on each side, keeping pan moving with vigorous shakes to avoid burning the garlic. Douse with a little white wine and serve on top of the caesar.

This scampi topping goes with anything, over pasta, any type of salad, even by itself. Also it's really easy, I highly recommend it and make sure to pair it with a nice glass of Chardonnay.

- Kyle

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wonton Noodle House

Again another reason why we love living up north; the newly opened Wonton Noodle House. This place was recommended by my aunt and uncle who have also been to one of our favorite noodle places, Mike's Noodle House in Chinatown.

Now instead of having to drive down south, we only have to drive five minutes north to get a warming delicious bowl of soup.

The Wonton Noodle House is located north of Ranch 99. It's in a separate strip mall. You can't miss it if you drive north on 99 past Ranch 99. It's on the right hand side.

We ordered a side of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and I got the beef brisket and siu kau soup. The noodles were egg noodles just like at Mike's. I think Mike's was a little more flavorful and saltier (which was a good thing in this case). However the closer location, no lines, I can pay with a credit card, and the diversity of their menu makes this a better choice than Mike's. We'll have to go back soon.
- Kyle

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

French Wine Tasting - Bourgogne - Pinot Noir

Last Friday, instead of going to the gym, we decided to make an excursion to Central Market to pick up a new bottle of French wine and some more food to supplement Emi's planned dinner.

One of the reasons we love Central Market is because they have an awesome wine selection and a helpful and informative staff. Since we know almost nothing about French wine, we asked the wine expert at Central Market to give us a quick French wine 101. He shared some great tips that I noted in Monday's blog post.

Since we told him we really enjoy Willamette Valley Pinot Noir's we thought we would try out a French version. He recommended a Pinot Noir from the Bourgogne region. Understanding our need for an economical wine, he thought this might be a good choice. Also this wine was supposedly an exception to the rule that a bottle that highlights a single variety like Pinot Noir in this case is usually cheap and not very good. We had to try the wine to find out.

Bottle #3 - Bourgogne Pinot Noir:

  • Name - 2007 - Joseph Drouhin - Laforet Bourgogne Pinot Noir

  • Price - $15 - Central Market

  • Winery Notes - Burgundian style, fruity, easy to drink and elegant.

  • Our Take - we noticed right away before even opening the bottle that the color of the wine was lighter than the dark red Pinot Noir's we have tried in the past. This did translate to the taste as well. It was much lighter and less bold than what we were expecting. Not sure if all French Pinot Noirs are like this, but something to note for next time. It was smooth and a decent wine, but not really our preference.

We paired the wine with Emi's butternut squash soup and some delicious, flavorful, and tender lamb chops. We haven't had lamb chops in awhile, mainly because they cost $15 a pound. However Central Market had them a little cheaper so we bought some to pair with this wine.

My favorite way to cook lamb chops is to first season generously with sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and a little bit of MSG. Then I broil them on high for about 6-8 minutes per side. You don't want to overcook them because you want them to be tender.

Next up will be some white wines from France.

- Kyle

Monday, November 15, 2010

French Wine Tasting - Bordeaux and Cotes Du Rhone

Food and wine go together hand in hand, however we haven't done many posts related to wine. We've done a few about winery tours, but none related to our day to day eating. There are a few reasons for that.

  1. We're definitely wine amateurs, but to our defense, we do understand what we like and what we don't like. Emi told a guy helping us buy wine today that we'll drink anything, even Yellowtail. That's where I draw the line, too many bad memories of that crappy wine. I know someone who loves that wine, but she probably won't read this, so I should be OK. And if she does, you know I'm sort of kidding, but not really.

  2. We never used to drink wine all that often, alcohol in general, unless it was the weekend or a special occassion. Work has changed all of that, now there's nothing I want more then a glass or two of wine to help me unwind after I get home. Hey I love my job, but I've also come to enjoy my vino.

  3. We're poor.

Now that we've picked up a little more "experience" we thought it was time to start sharing our adventures with all of you as well. Besides drinking more wine recently, we've also decided that we need to broaden our palattes beyond our NW and Napa Valley wines. Especially with our upcoming trip to Paris and the Mediterranean next summer, it's time to prepare. Since it's our first trip out to Paris and Italy, we might as well have an idea of what we'll want to drink while we're out there because there will be a lot drinking. Also learning is fun!

Since the first stop off our trip next summer will be in Paris, we decided it was time to gain a better understanding of French wine. A few things I've learned so far:

  1. French wineries highlight the region the wine came from over the grape variety. In general you won't find a bottle that says Syrah on it, but if you understand the region that is famous for Syrah, then you should buy a bottle from that region. Meaning some research and understanding is required.
  2. Most French wines are a little harsher than PNW wines and need to breathe.
  3. What I've seen so far is that French wines are primarily blends over a single type of grape. There are always exceptions to the rule.
  4. The wine guy at Central Market told us, if the wine calls out what type of wine it is (Cabernet Sauvignon) over the region, it's probably cheap and no good.

Bottle #1 - Cotes Du Rhone Rouge:

  • Name - 2007 - Perrin Reserve - Cotes Du Rhone Rouge (from the Cotes Du Rhone region)
  • Price - $12 at QFC - $9 at Trader Joes
  • 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourevedre, 10% Cinsault grapes
  • Winery's notes - peppery, black cherry, cassis and spice flavours
  • Our take - harsh from beginning to end, even when we let it breathe still didn't like it. In general our first French wine taste test was pretty bad.

Bottle #2: Bordeaux Rouge:

  • Name - 2008 - Les Caves Joseph Bordeaux
  • Price - $6 at Trader Joes
  • 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Winery's notes - serve with roasted or grilled beef, lamb, and game
  • Our take - compared to the first wine and PNW wines in general, this was a great value. Smooth, yet bold, smokey, and peppery all for half the price of the other bottle. This made me think I need to try more wines from the Bordeaux region.

If any of you out there have any recommendations for what we should try please let us know. We are definitely looking to keep things economicaly ($13 or under, $20-$25 on the very high end). In general we prefer reds and for comparisons sake we love Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, Napa Valley Cabernet's. Also we enjoy Syrah and I've recently started to really enjoy Malbec's.

- Kyle

Friday, November 12, 2010

Japanese American Gold: Matsutake Mushrooms

Similar to my lovely wife, I am waaay behind on my blog posts. This one I've been wanting to share with all of you for months now, but work came up, then travel, then I got lazy. At least it's still Fall which is very relevant for this post.

Matsutake mushrooms also known as wild pine mushrooms, grow rampant in the wet and damp Pacific Northwest. They are hard to find and only grow in the wild, which is why they can be quite expensive. It's common for many Japanese-Americans to have secret spots to hunt for mushrooms that they pass down from generation to generation.

My family has a spot, but Emi and I are lazy, so we buy our mushrooms instead of foraging in the wild for them. This story is about the great discovery we made in Matsutake Joe.

A few months ago we attended a bake sale and bazaar at Emi's church. Emi's church is primarily made up of Japanese-Americans so it was basically the perfect spot for Matsutake Joe to set up shop. Matsutake Joe, is a Chinese guy who drives around a beat up old van and on this day was parked right at the exit of the church parking lot. I wasn't too excited to stop and check out his mushrooms, but Emi who will strike up a conversation with anyone and is the person who buys Sham Wows and Egyptian cotton sheets from the Puyallup Fair was more than willing to check out this guy's van.

Matsutake Joe had baskets and baskets of wild mushrooms. The smell was amazing. Matsutake mushrooms have a very distinct, amazing aroma and are a Japanese delicacy. A little bit goes a long way.

Matsutake mushrooms can usually run $40 a pound, but we paid $15 for 2 pounds of the broken ones, plus they threw in a pound of wild chantrelles free!

We bought broken mushrooms, which taste just as great, but were half the price. Japanese and Japanese Americans spend a lot on quality products. Being a gift giving society, it's normal to spend a lot on food and it better look nice too. However since we only care what it tastes like we bought a couple pounds of the broken ones.

We gave a pound to my grandparents and kept the other pound for ourselves. My grandmother told us to soak them in salt water to clean them.

We invited Emi's parents and my parents over for dinner to enjoy a matsutake feast. Here's what one looks like sliced up. All you do to prep them is rinse them off in salt water or brush off the dirt and then cut off the base.

I made the first course, matsutake soup. I boiled a pot of water and added in chicken pieces, napa (cabbage), and sliced matsutake. I also added in some ajinomoto (MSG), salt, and pepper. A very simple, yet delicious soup.

Emi made matsutake gohan (rice). She made rice the way she normally would (washed it and added water to it), but also added in sliced raw chicken, sliced matsutake, shoyu (soy sauce), and hon dashi (fish soup flavoring). Everything cooked in the rice cooker together and came out steaming and delicious. The matsutake gohan went perfectly with the main course.

For the main course Emi made sukiyaki, but instead of normal mushrooms she showcased matsutake mushrooms, which was a great treat. The matsutake mushrooms added a great flavor to the rest of the dish when it all cooked together.

Our feast!

We celebrated my Dad's birthday that night and picked up a delicious blueberry pie from the Church bake sale to enjoy. The pie was great and a nice way to end our extravagant meal.

Matsutake mushrooms are another indicator that Fall along with its grey skies and rainy days are here to stay. At least while we hide from the cold and rain we can enjoy a delicious meal.

- Kyle

Monday, November 8, 2010

Absolute Perfection: Nobu

I am a snob when it comes to sushi...if I am going to pay serious buckaroos for something my mom and dad can prepare for half the cost, then it better be good. There are a couple truly Divine sushi spots in Seattle: Nishino's, Shiro's, and Umi Sake Bar (for those who love rolls). I also love Hiroshi's on Eastlake who can bring the sushi bar to you and does great catering and private parties.

Nobu is one of those cache restaurants that I associate with US Weekly and the skinny celebrities that frequent these type of "see and be seen" type of places. I never know if they are actually good because I figure the celebrities don't really eat when they go to the restaurants.

I recently went to San Diego for meetings and enjoyed a fabulous meal with my colleagues at Nobu. Just like my Dallas post, I was too ashamed of my food obsessed self to get out the camera and take photos of the food...but the mental picture will last a lifetime.

We noshed on a fabulous chilean sea bass, fresh yellowtail with jalepeno, toro tartar with caviar, and so much more. The desserts were also to-die-for.

Short of going to Japan's fish market, this was one of the best sushi/Japanese meals I have ever had the honor of being a part of.

On another sushi related note, for those of you in the Seattle area, there is a fabulous foodie charity event coming up: the Annual Sushi and Sake festival. Follow the link to get tickets and enjoy an evening of sampling Seattle's best sushi, sake, and beer! We will definitely post about our experience!

Happy Eating,


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Spanish Chicken and Chorizo

For you avid Food Networkers out there, you might have seen the new show that features Nigella Lawson. I have seen her on Top Chef many times as a guest judge. I haven't been able to figure out if her British accent and very sensual way of talking about food inspires me or creeps me out.

But I figured I would let her recipes and cooking speak for itself and found out that she is legitimate. Along with this recipe, I am currently catching up on blogging while waiting for my "Beer Braised Beef" to cook up in the oven--another Nigella recipe I saw on the TODAY show. Maybe it will be next week's recipe....

I should warn you all that if you watch her show she is obviously filming in Europe and uses grams, liters and other strange European measurement terms (I know, I am such an arrogant/ignorant American). Well, this smarty pants watched the show and thought this recipe looked good and was so simple, I could do it without referring to the online recipe. She said to put the chicken in the oven for an hour at 200 degrees. I thought, "hmm...that sounds awfully low, but I trust her." Oops. She meant 200 degrees CELSIUS! Moral of the story, trust your gut, not British TV cooks...haha, just kidding.


2 tablespoons regular olive oil
12 chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)
1 3/4 pounds chorizo sausages, whole if baby ones, or cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks if regular-sized
1 1/4 pounds baby white-skinned potatoes, halved
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 orange


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the oil in the bottom of 2 shallow roasting pans or quarter sheet pans, 1 tablespoon in each. Rub the skin of the chicken in the oil, then turn skin side up and put 6 pieces in each pan.

Divide the chorizo sausages and the baby potatoes between the 2 pans. Sprinkle with the onion and the oregano, then grate the orange zest over the contents of the 2 pans.
Bake for 1 hour, but after 30 minutes, swap the top pan with the bottom pan in the oven and baste the contents with the orange-colored juices. Transfer the chicken mixture to a large serving platter and serve.

I used cumin instead of oregano (another slip up as a result of my overconfidence with the recipe) and it was really good and went well with the chorizo.

Other than the minor hiccup of the oven temperature, this was a very simple and delicious recipe that I would recommend for a weeknight hearty Fall meal.

Happy Eating,


Friday, November 5, 2010

My BBQ Birthday Extravaganza

Only 2 months late....once again, the blog has been a casualty of Kyle and my hectic schedules and I am finding a long list of backlogged posts waiting patiently for my attention.

I celebrated my 26th birthday with my wonderful family and a BBQ extravaganza. I was inspired by the end of our rainy, cold summer, to enjoy one last drop of summer fun.

Kyle's Aunt and Uncle, Cheri and Jon, made these fall-off-the-bone, juicy, sweet and tangy ribs. They were gone quickly and the only evidence of our feast was this photo, a couple clean bones, and sticky fingers.

We also did a burger bar with all the fixings: sauteed onions and mushrooms, guacamole, bacon, cheese.....mmmmm....

After our amazing Japadog experience at the Vancouver Olympics, I have been craving a good "Japanese" fusion hot dog. Kyle really likes this Starburst commercial for Sweet and Sour Starbursts. There is a "Scottish Korean" man in a kilt that tells his son that just like the sweet/sour Starburst, he is a contradiction. That is what these hot dogs are...random reference, I know.

What makes the hot dog "Japanese"? We put equal parts soy sauce and sugar with about a tablespoon of ginger on the stove at low heat. Once it started to boil, we turned down the heat and added the hot dogs to marinate for about 10 minutes and infuse with a teriyaki flavor. Then, we grilled them up and topped with Japanese Mayo, Okonomiyake sauce, and nori. They were delicious!

We also had classic hot dogs and Bobby Flay's New York hot dog. I linked the recipe, it is a keeper! As you can see from the photo, there was a unique roasted red pepper relish, "NY onions", horseradish mustard...yummo!

My mother in law made fresh lemonade, which went perfect with our picnic themed bbq feast!

My dad makes me a cheesecake every year for my birthday. I remember as a kid watching him slave over the complicated NY Times recipe the day before my birthday parties. The cheesecake is delicious, but I think the love and effort my father puts into the cake makes it taste even better.

Every year we have a different topping. This year it was a passion fruit topping.

One of the best parts of family gatherings is seeing our adorable nephew, Owen. He recently was captured on film saying "Em........iiiiiiiiiiiii". Although it was only two syllables, I am convinced he was really saying, "I love my Auntie Emi and she is my favorite Auntie in the whole world."

The aftermath of our gluttony. Buster, Mia, and husband were all pooped after a long day of fun!

Thank you to the whole family who helped to make my birthday special and fun! I am so blessed to have wonderful people in my life who know the way to my heart is through my stomach!

Happy Eating,