Friday, September 24, 2010

Iron Chef Time at Tilth

August and September bring many happy occasions to celebrate as you can tell from our recent posts. The most important of them all, is my birthday....kidding, kidding! But it was the perfect excuse to try out a restaurant I have been dying to knock off my restaurant bucket list: Tilth.

Chef Maria Hines, owner and Executive Chef at Tilth, was a featured chef on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters. It is always exciting to see people from Seattle on TV, but I was really intrigued by her approach to cooking. She is a proponent of eating local and organic. She is also incredibly methodical; so much so that on Iron Chef the commentators did not think she would complete all her dishes because she was so calm and collected vs. the usual chaotic atmosphere that most guest chefs inspire when on the show. She not only finished all five courses, but she won against the King of all Iron Chefs, Chef Morimoto!

I was the star struck dork that asked the waiter to meet Chef Hines. He said she is really shy and doesn't usually come out to the dining area. My mom, bless her soul, told them "but it's her BIRTHDAY"! So, Chef Hines pretty much HAD to come out then, right? And she did. She was so humble, kind and interesting. I love meeting chefs at cool restaurants--they have replaced my teeny bopper crushes in recent years. Can you see my giddy geekiness in this photo??

P.S. she is also about 2 inches taller than me, which earned her bonus points in my book.

We decided to do family style rather than the tasting menu, which appears to be the recommended way to go. Problem with the tasting menu is that all guests have to do it, so you all get the same food and don't get to try other dishes.

They brought out these yummy spoonfuls of goodness as a gift from the kitchen to start out our meal. It was a delicious peanut ginger soup that left me wanting a whole bowl to slurp up!

Look at the colors in this salad! It featured a tangy, spicy mustard vinaigrette, rogue blue cheese and Full Circle Farm greens.

This was one of the more innovative dishes I have had the pleasure of tasting. It is the white local corn flan with nasturtium, corn kernel, and pop corn shoot. The corn custard was savory and addicting and the corn kernels were sweet to give a nice contrast.

These are the amazing duck sliders, a signature dish at Tilth. There was a lovely onion relish and homemade ketchup that made the burger really pop. The homemade potato chips were phenomenal.

The Eel River sirloin with cheesy grits--the grits were creamy and smooth and the perfect accompaniment to a delicious steak.

The Skagit River Ranch Poussin with romesco, goat horn pepper, and baby chickpeas. The skin was crispy, just the way I like it!

The sockeye salmon was wonderful--there are two dishes I don't typically order at restaurants because I think my dad makes the best versions: salmon and steak. Why pay for something you can make at home? But both the steak and the salmon were well worth the price tag!

Alright, here we go...put on your seat belts for a recap on some awesome desserts! This is the Theo Chocolate Ganache cake with a chocolate cookie, cocoa cream and sea salt. It was rich and dense--one bite packed all the flavor and chocolate of a whole 7 layer cake.

The huckleberry tart with pastry cream, butter crust and black pepper. YUM!

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Tilth style, with blackberry ice cream, peanut butter cookie and toffee peanuts...I think I am going to try something similar at home--it was such a comforting and nostalgic type of taste that was at the same time, truly original.

This was the highlight of the meal for me! The White Corn Creme Brulee with corn nut, maple syrup and candied bacon. It was like a sweet breakfast dessert that played into my favorite sweet-savory flavor profile I love!

As if we needed more sweet treats, they give you these delicious chocolates as a parting gift along with your bill. I happily indulged in one last bite of goodness!

Thank you Mom and Dad for a wonderful meal! Also, thanks to my "fairy god mother," Masako, who came all the way from Japan to celebrate my birthday (OK, that's a stretch!). I had a wonderful time!

Happy Eating,


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dinner at Olives Cafe and Wine Bar

Olives Cafe and Wine Bar is another reason why Emi and I are happy we made the decision to move up north. Similar to our other north end favorites, Epulo and Hills, Olives focuses on modern, comfort food. Emi has been a couple of times before, but never for dinner, so to again celebrate her birthday we went to Olives. We used our Passport Card, which is awesome because we could get a 2 for 1 entree deal. Another reason we went was because I was going out of town for the weekend for work so I wanted to take Emi somewhere nice.

At Olives you have the option to share small dishes or if you're selfish, you can get full size portions for yourself. They have a bizarre happy hour that starts after 7pm, which was unexpected because usually HH takes place and ends while I'm still at work. However for our later dinner, we were lucky because we timed the meal perfectly for their HH specials. We started with their duck confit quessadillas. They were a little salty, but paired nicely with the guacamole and our bottle of wine.

Emi ordered the Crispy Skin Chicken Breast which was served over truffled mac and cheese, roasted garlic cloves, and a red wine chicken jus. The chicken was really good, although I prefer dark meat, and Emi said it was one of the best mac and cheese's she's ever had. It was gooey and truffley good!

I ordered a small portion of the Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, which came with braised baby bok choy, soy glazed carrots, edamame, peppers, and pea sprouts. I love a flaky, sweet miso glazed Chilean Sea Bass. This was very delicious and my only regret from this meal is that I didn't upgrade for the larger portion.

Emi wanted to change things up and ordered a cheese platter for dessert. It was served with a sweet, soft bleu cheese, crackers, and sweet pecans. The Cheesemonger which is a local cheese store down the street selected the cheeses for this dish. Emi said the bleu cheese was recognized as one of the world's best. Having cheese for dessert was definitly different, but a nice change and we're always open to trying new things.

I went the more traditional route with my dessert and ordered the Coffee and Donuts. Epulo has a similiar dish, which I thought was tastier, but the Olives one came with more cinnaomon sugar donuts, a delicious Mexican chocolate and Mascarpone Espresso sorbet on the side. Dunking the donuts into the Mexican Chocolate sauce was amazing and the espresso sorbet on the side was great.

Again if you haven't made the trip out to downtown Edmonds make sure to go in the near future. Not only is there an amazing Farmer's Market, but there are a ton of great restaurants and even bars. They have something for everyone and you know you can always check out our blog for reviews on our favorites!
- Kyle

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kickin it in Kirkland: Dinner and Drinks at The Slip

To celebrate Emi's birthday and to try something different this year, we decided to spend an evening out in Kirkland. One of my friend's over at Microsoft loves a local spot called The Slip. It's a hole in the wall, local bar, type of restaurant. I went there for work, earlier this year, and wanted to bring Emi back to enjoy the simple yet, surprisingly great food.

Since the summer seemed to come to Seattle late and is also leaving us early, we wanted to take advantage of a nice day by sitting outside. The Slip is located right off of the water, so it was a nice change of scenery for us.

We started with a couple of margaritas. I've always found that a tasty, stiff drink can make any meal taste better. However this salad, didn't need any help because it was genuienly good. We ordered the Gorgonzola Pear salad, which was pretty big so split it between the two of us. It came with grilled pears, spiced pecans, and a great bleu cheese salad dressing on the side. The salad was sweet, savory, and had a great crunchy texture from the toasted pecans and what we thought were slivers of sweet potato and yam chips.

The Slip's signature dish; their homemade clam chowder. I love clam chowder, but this one tops them all. The fresh herbs make this dish stand out. It's a explosion of flavor from the fresh rosemary to the rich cream, and chunks of clam. The chowder is definitely worth the trip.

It was nice to relax outside and to take Emi to someplace new. I'm sure the two margaritas a piece, helped us with the relaxation too.

The Jake's Quesadilla was my other favorite. It was spicy, sweet, and served with a really good guacamole. I'm pretty particular with my guacamole, but this stuff lived up to my standards. The cool, fresh guacamole balanced out the spicy quesadilla. The quesadilla was filled with pineapple, bacon and chicken sauteed in Tiger sauce stuffed in a sun dried tomato wrap with cheddar and jack cheese.

After dinner we wandered around Kirkland and also went down to the water to watch the sunset. The ducks living in that area must be used to people feeding them because they'll walk right up to you and nibble at your fingers.

Happy birthday Emi and sometime next week should be another post related to my family's celebration of her birthday.

- Kyle

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Official Anniversary Dinner - The Kingfish Cafe

You might be asking yourself, "didn't they already celebrate their anniversary?" Well, technically yes we did, but anytime we have an excuse to go out for a great meal, we'll take it and this meal was on our official anniversary August 23rd. So we'll say this was our official anniversary dinner.

Every time I meet someone who says they love food, I always ask them where their favorite restaurant is and recently The Kingfish Cafe keeps popping up as a common answer. Emi and I had never been there, so were determined to make it happen. Most people go out to fancy dinners for their anniversaries, we went out for fried chicken, ribs, and mac and cheese!

The Kingfish Cafe is well known for their Southern soul food. It's a small place and doesn't take reservations, so make sure to drop by the bar for a drink while you wait for your table.

Emi ordered the Two Sistas cocktail which came with Stoli vodka, Peach Schnapps, peach nectar, and a squeeze of lime. The perfect drink for a warm summer night.

I ordered hands down the best mojito I have ever had in my life. The Kingfish Mojito was made with cachaca 51, fresh mint, muddled limes, simple syrup, soda, and splash of sweet and sour. This was a really sweet mojito, but somehow the lime balanced it out perfectly. You could barely taste the alcohol, yet it hit you hard. I also loved how it was served in a jar. I would go back just for this drink.

Emi ordered the sweet smoky pork ribs that came with collard greens, cornbread, and a surprisingly good potato salad. The potato salad ended up being one of the highlights of the meal.

We had to order a large side of mac and cheese, which is one of their most famous dishes. Their menu says they use two types of cheeses and then bake it up.

My fried chicken, probably one of the best I've ever had. The chicken was super moist and juicy on the inside with a great flavorful, spicy crust on the outside. The potato salad was the perfect complement.

That's two "best ofs" in one meal. I think I'll be back soon and know exactly what I'm going to order next time. I can't wait to find out where we'll go next year. Last year was The Metropolitan Grill for Porterhouse steaks, this year was The Kingfish Cafe for fried chicken, ribs, and mac and cheese, maybe next year will be seafood?

- Kyle

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back to Ann Arbor and The Big House

Over this past Labor Day Weekend I found myself traveling out to Ann Arbor again for work. This time I was out for the Michigan vs UConn football game and was lucky enough to check out The Big House which was celebrating it's grand reopening after finishing renovations.

I took this photo while I was waiting for my food outside of Zingerman's. Zingerman's is my new favorite deli. I actually smiled and got a little giddy when I walked in to order my food. Food is one of the few things that can get me this excited.

I only had one night in Ann Arbor, so knew exactly where I would eat, Zingerman's. This time I got the sandwich Emi ordered. It was the pastrami with Swiss cheese and the best coleslaw ever. Rich, creamy, and sweet and really what sets this sandwich apart from all others. The pastrami was amazing, but probably the best part about this sandwich was the fresh bread. They toast it to perfection. I'm not always a big fan of toasted bread with sandwiches. I always think of the crusty white bread that comes with club sandwiches and how it always cuts the rough of my mouth. This bread though is perfectly toasted so that it doesn't fall apart, but still provides an amazing crunch without being too hard.

I enjoyed it with a bowl of matzah ball soup. I could tell the broth was made with homemade chicken stock and to top off the meal I washed it down with a cool cream soda.

The big boy up close and personal. What a filling, yet tasty meal. Near the end, I was stuffed, but it was soo good I couldn't stop eating.

Inside of Zingerman's they have stories behind every single sandwich they have ever had on their menu. Since they serve variations of corned beef, pastrami, chicken, and more they have a lot of stories.

Even though this isn't food related, it was what brought me back to Zingerman's. My first time inside of The Big House. 114,000+ fans. Pretty crazy.

When Emi and I were in Ann Arbor earlier in August, I didn't think I would be out again so soon, but I'm happy I was so that I could get my Zingerman's fix. Hopefully we'll be back again soon.

- Kyle

Friday, September 10, 2010

Farmer's Market Anniversary Dinner

To celebrate our 2nd anniversary and to welcome Emi back from a conference over in Leavenworth I decided to make a special dinner for the two of us. All of the ingredients were local and purchased from the Edmonds Farmer's Market.

This is one of Emi's favorite new wines. She tried this Syrah recently at a dinner with our non-profit organization. She'll have to do a blog post on some of her new favorite wines sometime in the near future and I'm sure she'll highlight this wine.

Our summer favorite, caprese with heirloom tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, Hawaiian sea salt, pepper, olive oil, and our aged balsamic vinegar. The difference this time is that I added avocado, which adds a richness to the caprese salad. I also served this with some toasted bread. I heated 3 T of olive oil in a hot pan with one clove of crushed garlic. When it was hot, I toasted each side of the bread for a few minutes and added generous amounts of salt and pepper. The garlicky toast topped with the sweet caprese salad was great and a delicious way to sop up the extra balsamic.

I grilled some fresh Yakima corn for us. I served it with the honey-ancho chili butter which I blogged about last week.

This was a special meal because every time we go to the Farmer's Market Emi wants to buy fresh pasta from this funny Italian guy who has a stand at the market. Finally I decided to splurge and bought Emi her duck ravioli. This stuff wasn't cheap at $13 a package, but it ended up being well worth the cost.

The guy selling the ravioli recommended that I saute some fresh mushrooms (chantrelles which I bought from the market) with some fresh sage. Then serve with the ravioli and top with a little bit of salt and pepper. A very simple sauce that went a long way to bring out the flavors of the duck.

The very easy, simple, yet delicious main course. Butter and salt makes anything better. Basically a fool proof, refined dinner.

I also bought a flat of local strawberries and blackberries to use for dessert. I coated them in sugar and stored in the fridge. I then made some shortcakes and also grilled up some fresh peaches. After the peaches grilled I melted Emi's Ann Arbor maple sugar over the peaches and combined everything together and topped off with whipped cream. This was a fun way to end our locally produced anniversary dinner.

To many more delicious meals together.

- Kyle

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ann Arbor Part 4

Emi told me to write the last Ann Arbor blog post. She loves Ann Arbor and loved our trip, but after all we did, she's probably getting a little burned out from all the blogging about her hometown. To the rescue, here I am.

We enjoyed a special dinner and night out with the Lookers for our last night in Ann Arbor. They were the best hosts and made sure we were well fed throughout the whole trip. They also put up with the "kids" coming home around 4am every night. However we were soon to learn that they could party into the early hours too.

Emi's Ann Arbor Farmer's Market heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil, sea salt, olive oil, and Emi's 18 year aged balsamic vinegar that we picked up earlier in the day.

The finished product served with some fresh mozzarella from Zingerman's. Delicious. Nothing is smoother and perfectly sweet like a great aged balsamic. The cheap stuff is vinegary and burns your throat a little, but this stuff you could sip.

Mark made his famous paella for us. Here he is searing the giant scallops.

He premade a tomato mixture on the stove inside and seared the seafood to make sure they were evenly cooked, then threw everything into his greased, authentic paella pan that had been heating up on his BBQ.

Here he is mixing the rice into the tomato mixture. Usually he buys Spanish rice from Zingerman's, but they were out so the recommended Arborio rice which is what you would use for risotto. Mark wasn't sure how it would turn out, but it ended up amazing.

Adding in the fresh mussels.

The finished product. Prawns, mussels, and fat scallops. This was an amazing meal and made me want to go out to buy my own paella pan. We ate the paella with Emi's caprese salad and a great crusty freshly baked bread. Usually I don't order prawns or scallops at restaurants because usually you only get 4 or 5. This was the best of both worlds because I love prawns and scallops, and with our small group, I could eat and eat until I couldn't anymore.

We had a blast with the Lookers and enjoyed some great Pacific NW wines that we packed with us that night for dinner. They even went out with us after dinner and took us to their favorite local Ann Arbor bar. I think we got home around 2am that night. What a great way to end the trip.

We had one more fancy meal while we were in Michigan, but this time it was in Auburn Hills. Unfortunately the lighting was pretty dark inside the restaurant, so the pictures didn't come out so well.

I received a recommendation for Lelli's from someone I had met earlier in the day while at work. Emi looked it up on Yelp and found out it had received great reviews. It reminded me of somewhere the Detroit mafia would probably have eaten back in the day. Definitely an old school type of place with great steaks and Italian food.

We decided to splurge a little and this is what ended up as anniversary meal #1 with many more to come over the next month.

Each meal was a six course meal, so although not cheap, it came with a ton of food, and it was all good. Our meal started off with an antipasto plate that came with salami, shrimp cocktail, cheeses, and pickled beets to whet the appetite and to enjoy with our wine.

Our really good Caesar salad.

A creamy minestrone soup that came highly recommended. Our waiter said the recipe is top secret. We've never had a creamy minestrone before, but will probably compare minestrone forever to the one we had in Auburn Hills, MI. Lelli's also had really good warm, soft rolls that went great with all of our pre-main course meals.

On to the next one, spaghetti with meat sauce, now the meal is getting fun! I already had my antipasto plate, minestrone soup, now spaghetti, and my main course isn't even here yet!

My tender, flavorful, Midwest raised Filet Mignon. You can tell they put a lot of love into this dish and by love I mean butter...

We ended the meal with a lemon gelato. What a sweet way to end a great meal and a fun trip out to Michigan.

This was my first time to Michigan and to Ann Arbor, Emi's hometown, and what a fun trip. Little did I know that I would be back in Ann Arbor just weeks later and I even had time for a quick trip to Zingerman's. Future blog post to come!

- Kyle