Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
After the amazing French pastries I moved on to eggs Provencal and Merguez - two grilled Merguez (spicy lamb sausages) with scramble eggs, tomato basil, cheese, sauteed with brunch potatoes and served with fruit. The lamb sausages were from Uli's in the Market. Not your typical pork sausage, a little drier, but much more flavorful and spicy. The eggs ended up being amazing. I was a little underwhelmed after being served from the appearance of the eggs, but after my first bite I was hooked. These were good eggs. I make eggs every morning so wasn't sure if they would be bland, but this flavorful dish is still imprinted in my mind weeks later.
My dad decided to skip brunch altogether and jumped straight into their lunch menu and tried their lamb burger. Oregon Andersen Ranch ground lamb, on brioche bread, tomatoes, lettuce, goat cheese and remoulade served with hand cut fries.
Emi went with the very traditional Croque-Madame - black forest ham, bechamel, and cheese sandwich, topped with two sunny side up eggs and hand cut fries. For sure Emi and I will be eating a few of these when we go to Paris. What an ingenious invention of a dish, toasted bread, salty ham, melted cheese, and runny sunny side up eggs! Basically they through together all of my favorite breakfast foods into one delicious sandwich.
Definitely a fun brunch. Great food, good company, and an awesome view. Eating brunch there reminded me of my old WaMu days. We used to go there for happy hour in the summer out on the deck overlooking the Sound. Highly recommend that as well.
Another reason you should check out Maximilien's soon is to sign up for the Celebrated Chefs program. After you sign up for the program every time you eat at an affiliated restaurant 5% of your total bill goes to a charity of your choice. There are a ton of awesome restaurants participating and you get a really cool cookbook for free! The cookbook has recipes from all of the participating restaurants (Barking Frog, Cafe Juanita, Palisade, Maximilien). Even if you only go to one restaurant it's worth signing up for so you can get the cookbook.
- Kyle and Emi
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Thank you to the Schwarzbach family for the delectable food! I hope to visit NYC in the near future as I travel for work.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
This year, we were once again invited to attend the Hutch Holiday Gala as guests representing the Innovators Network Council.
If you hate cancer, love food and good company, and are under the age of 45, please consider joining the Innovator's Network! We have a free happy hour at the Hutch on April 21 at 5:30PM. There are always amazing appetizers, great wine and beer, and wonderful short talks on the ground-breaking research that the Hutch is doing. Leave a comment if interested and I will send you the invite!
Friday, February 11, 2011
I watched as this well oiled machine of a man worked with such innate precision, serving as a one-man show in this 10 table restaurant. I found myself hypnotized by his ability to prep and cook our meal, seat incoming parties, answer the phone, clear tables, wash dishes, serve the next course...it was like watching a super hero movie where the star operates in warp speed mode, accomplishing whole days' tasks in mere seconds. Who is this man, and how did he become "The Grouchy Chef"?
Our gym, Crossfit Mukilteo, is located next to The Grouchy Chef. When they first opened the gym they decided to be neighborly and dropped in to get a good meal after a tough workout. They were gruffly turned away for violating multiple rules: reservations only, NO workout clothes...Meanwhile, our summer time meal stuck with me and rather than reminiscing about the food as I usually do, I kept thinking about the Chef. And everyday as I pulled into the gym parking lot, I would peek in the restaurant to make sure he had customers and was doing OK; secretly assessing what level of grouchiness the Chef was that day. I thought, "this guy just needs a hug."
I am excited to have an outlet and excuse to discover the stories behind restaurants and Chefs like The Grouchy Chef with my column. I first approached Chef Takayuki Masumoto (he has a real name!) on a snowy evening when he was shaking out his rugs in the parking lot. A small winter storm had passed through the NW, and my clumsy introduction was framed with clouds as my quick words hit the cold air. I let him know about my column and asked if I could interview him. As a certified Chatty Cathy, I mistook his silence for my cue to fill it with awkward and over-the-top compliments about my appreciation of his food and his business. He finally cut me off and said he didn't know if he would be a good subject. He told me, sincerely, "I am no one special." Taking a couple steps back (both literally and figuratively) I told him that I would just make reservations to eat at his restaurant the following week and we could see what progressed. What made me think that practically attacking the poor guy in a dark, cold parking lot, wearing a crappy old sorority sweatshirt and dog hair encrusted work out pants would inspire him to be a part of my story??
When I showed up the next week at the restaurant, I dressed up; I didn't want to risk breaking one of his cardinal rules (no dirty jeans, workout clothes, sweatpants). I also wanted to prove I wasn't just "a bum in a suit" (random Wanda Sykes reference Kyle and I throw out sometimes). Mollie was my guinea pig guest this time and we dutifully sat on the wooden benches in the entry until Chef Masumoto noticed us and pointed to a table that was pre-set with menus, crystal glasses, and silverware. We read through the menu, and after deciding what we wanted, I approached the counter and ordered our food, paying with cash. I asked for the Chef's suggestion for which starch to have with my seared ahi. He said, "I don't know, that is why I call it 'YOUR CHOICE'!" I had to smile at that. He paused for a second, appraising whether or not to say what was on his mind. I raised my eyebrows, hoping he would open up to me. Be careful what you wish for.
"Can I give you some advice?" he stated, rather than asked. Oh boy. "If you want to be a real Restaurant Critic, you should not tell me when you are going to come to the restaurant. If you tell me, then I might act different, maybe kiss your butt because you tell me you will review my restaurant." Fair point. He went on to tell me that he does not want any positive review that is not well-earned. How can you be objective if you are getting special treatment?
I smiled and nodded, agreeing with him. I told him if I wanted to be a Restaurant Critic, then I would follow his advice. However, I plead, face beginning to blush, that this was not my goal. It is true, a real critic should be objective and fair-balanced. I have recently become enthralled with Ruth Reichl, former NY Times Restaurant Critic. Her memoir, Garlic and Sapphires, documents her adventures as a critic in the Food Capital and her quest to remain objective which involved elaborate disguises to elude the New York Restaurant scene.
I am not interested in reviewing food. I think I love food too much to be critical of it. I am interested in sharing the stories behind the food we eat; whether it be about the chefs, farmers, restaurateurs, traditions/rituals...I tried to convey this to him. He still looked skeptical and I think he tried EXTRA hard that evening to make sure I knew that I, too, am no one special. He was never outright rude, or really even grouchy. I think it was his way of showing me respect and demonstrating his style in action. He does not discriminate, he is gruff with everyone. At the same time, he will not just "kiss your butt" because you think you are someone special.
I really didn't have a story after that meal. I knew I had to go back, but honestly was a little nervous about what his next lesson for me would be! I brought my parents as reinforcement this time. I noticed this time that he had a sign saying "No pictures in the restaurant." My original angle for the story was that this "Grouchy" Chef was also very generous; and while he is gruff, he does not lack heart. He does not accept tips, but has a jar where you can donate to cancer research. He also offers free meals to wounded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans to honor their sacrifices. When I approach the counter to order for my family, I asked if it would be OK to include photos of his "tip" jar for my story. He winces. Uh-oh. He tells me that the donations he makes is separate from his business. He is a for-profit business, and does not want to exploit a charitable cause to gain more customers. I tell him he is a man of strong principles, and he replies that he is just an old stubborn Japanese man. I point to my father and tell him, I have a couple of those in my life.
When he comes to serve our soup, he shakes my parents hands and thanks us for our business. I start to see a flicker of warmth, and like a puppy, practically start barking with excitement, pulling a classic Emi move by starting to talk too much. He quickly retreats to the safety of his kitchen.
As we finish dessert, the last guests start to trickle out. We all smile and practically high five one another for being in on the secret, knowing about the best restaurant in Mukilteo. Chef Masumoto comes back out and as he clears our plates, we pick up on our last conversation. We speak for almost an hour about his life, his career, politics, Japanese American history...I am surprised that this man I thought I would have to hold down and torture in order to get more than a single word out, is now opening up so freely. He leaves for a second and comes back with the ultimate trophy: Grouchy Chef apparel for each of us. I look over to the shelf where he keeps his merchandise and notice the sign that says "Merchandise Not For Sale." I realize that while he wanted to earn my respect through his food and work ethic, the whole time I was earning his in return. And while he may think he is no one special, I find him and his story incredibly unique. It is so cliche, but when I go home to write the article, it truly writes itself.
I hope you all enjoy it--if you can stand reading through my mini-novel of a lead in!
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Right before we kicked off our family progressive brunch, we held our annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. Everyone (as in my Mom, two aunts, Emi, and cousin's husband) brought three dozen cookies of various assortments.
The cookie exchange is one of my favorite annual holiday events. This one event most likely attributes to a few of my additional holiday pounds of Christmas chub. With the great assortment of cookies I can't help myself because I want to try them all. Every year everyone makes awesome cookies, but my aunt always goes above and beyond. She is a very talented baker and cook. For example one year she made this amazing gingerbread house and for those of you who remember she also made our wedding cake.
Look at the details! How can anyone compete with that?
What a spread! We had everything from pecan tarts to peanut butter cups, Russian teacakes, cupcakes, fudge and more!
My aunt made these amazing cookies. They were definitely the highlight of the spread. Not only did they look delicious and festive, but they tasted great as well. We each went through and selected cookies for ourselves, since it was an exchange after all. Holiday cookies can be a very valuable commodity, they can compliment your morning coffee, be a nice finishing touch to a heavy meal, used to bribe co-workers, as a gift for that friend you like, but don't want to spend money on, or a gift for that neighbor Buster and Mia bark at every morning, to helping one plump up for winter hibernation. See many uses.
Emi made her unique, sweet, and comforting sweet potato cupcakes with a cinnamon cream cheese topping. Definitely the perfect cupcake for a Holiday cookie exchange. Emi has been baking a lot recently so hopefully will do a blog post about these cupcakes soon.
My favorite of the exchange were my Mom's lemon bars. Probably the only "cookie" of the bunch that actually gets better with time. The crust crystalizes and hardens a little so that the bars have a crunchy sweet, frosted sugary shell that quickly gives way to the gooey sweet tartness of the lemon insides and the buttery flaky dough. Best cookie/bar ever. I'll be making these for the rest of my life.
Fun event with the family and something I hope to join in on in the future. Now I have to learn how to bake... Anyone have any favorite cookie recipes?
Monday, February 7, 2011
Each family is responsible for hosting the group at their home for a different course of the brunch. Think all you can eat breakfast buffet, but four of them in a row with maybe 30 minute breaks in between....
After stuffing ourselves at aunt and uncle #1's house (which in hindsite, was probably not very smart because of what lay ahead) we went to aunt and uncle #2 to enjoy their great food as well! This course included creamy eggs, fruit salad and the specialty dish below.
Little German pancakes, served with raspberry jam, Nutella, and powdered sugar. Delicious, light, puffy, rolled up pancake balls. My aunt recently got a cool little pan to cook them in. We also found them at Williams and Sonoma. We were stuffed, but not done yet...
Finally at my Mom's we had prime rib sandwiches to end the day! What started as brunch quickly blended into blinner! My Mom set out artisan rolls and my favorite, potato rolls to enjoy with the thinly sliced prime rib which we dipped into the salty, smoky au jus. Served on the side to probably help promote digestion was a sweet, tender pear salad.
All in all a great first progressive meal experience. I could see this catching on for future celebrations. Next time I'll make sure to pace myself a little more so that I don't feel like passing out afterwards or I'll make sure the last stop is at our house so I can excuse myself for my bed.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
For next time, if I go back I'm going to do a few things differently, first I'll only order one order at a time, they are only good when they are piping hot, otherwise the dumpling skin hardens a little and the soup isn't as flavorful. Second I won't waste my time with any of the other food, I'll just order the dumplings. Third, I might want to eat a little before or after because I'm not about to spend $50 on dumplings alone...
Great flavor and a unique dish that if you've never tried before, make sure to get out to Lincoln Square in Bellevue to try this culinary treat.