Friday, December 28, 2007

The Green Leaf

With the exception of a bit too flustered service, we enjoyed the food at Tamarind Tree restaurant so much that we decided to take another foray into Seattle's International District while we were there. After having a good look on Yelp, we found The Green Leaf, a Vietnamese restaurant that many users were comparing to Tamarind Tree and more often than not, claiming it was even better. This was all the encouragement we needed to set off.

Learning my lesson from Tamarind Tree, I called Green Leaf ahead of time to make reservations for 4, but the woman on the phone said she did not take reservations for that small a number which I found rather odd. This feeling soon turned into a bit of annoyance when there was only one table remaining at the restaurant and it was unfortunately situated directly in the path of an icy wind tunnel that was created each time the door was opened (which was frequent due to the delivery people). To say that the decor of the place is a step down from Tamarind Tree would be a vast understatement. This was very much a hole-in-the wall restaurant you go on your lunch break as opposed to Tamarind where you could easily take a date or a crowd of friends.

Perhaps I should have tried something more adventurous, but I was so delighted by the Chili Chicken with Lemon Leaves at Tamarind Tree that I ordered a similar Lemongrass Chicken dish at Green Leaf. My dad ordered the house special noodle soup, Kym had the Vegetarian Vermicelli and my mom ordered the same thing as me only with shrimp instead of chicken.

The food arrived completely separate of each other which was a bit strange and always a bit awkward as people's food gets cold and you have no idea how long it will be. My chicken was quite good, though admittedly not quite as good as Tamarind. My dad found the noodle soup overcooked, especially the meat inside. My mother's lemongrass shrimp was oddly much more spicy than my dish which she wasn't quite able to handle unfortunately. In a reversal of fortunes, Kym was the most happiest with her dish finding it very delicious, particularly the tofu which was probably the best she's ever had!

Maybe we didn't make smart menu choices, but right now, given the similarity in prices, there's little question over which Vietnamese restaurant I'll go back to next time I'm in Seattle.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Dinner

My parents recently installed a beautiful new kitchen in their house so there was an impetus to cook a great dinner for Christmas. Instead of the typical roast dinner, we decided to cook an international cuisine and after some discussion, settled on Mediterranean.

We were fortunate to come across a Gordon Ramsay tv special that included a perfect recipe this theme:

Eggplant Caviar

Serves 3-4

2 medium eggplant
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into halves
2 tbsp rock salt
Few sprigs of thyme and rosemary
Olive oil, to drizzle
150ml sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Small bunch of cilantro, leaves chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the eggplant in two lengthways, then score the flesh with the tip of your knife in a criss-cross pattern. Rub the garlic halves over the scored sides of the eggplant and stud two halves with rosemary leaves and the other two halves with sprigs of thyme.

2. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Sandwich a rosemary-studded and a thyme-studded half together, with the garlic halves, and wrap tightly in foil to resemble a tootsie roll. Repeat with the other two halves. Place on a roasting tray and bake for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

3 Remove the foil from the eggplant , discard the herbs and scrape the flesh and garlic on to a chopping board. (Use two spoons when you’re doing this as the aubergines will still be steaming hot). Chop to a coarse paste.

4 Heat a saucepan with a little olive oil and add the eggplant paste. Cook over high heat for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently, until the juices have evaporated and the pulp is thick. This will also help to intensify the flavour of the eggplant.

5 Stir in the cilantro and sour cream and season to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon, spoon into a dipping bowl.

We served it along side toasted baguette for a delicious appetizer! This really turned out beautifully with a very interesting flavor.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tamarind Tree Restaurant

Last night was my first night in Seattle for Christmas vacation and my mom took us out for dinner at a nearby Vietnamese place they recently discovered and very much enjoy.

Tamarind Tree restaurant is located in the International District near to a plethora of other Vietnamese. Although it is tucked away in the corner, the decor of the place really makes it stand out as a classy restaurant in comparison to the the other Vietnamese places nearby.

I have never been to a Vietnamese place like Tamarind Tree--only hole-in-the-walls. Although we were fortunate enough to find a parking space in their packed lot in the back, we were not so lucky with finding a table. In all honesty, we were a bit aloof not to call ahead and make a reservation, somehow forgetting that it was a Friday night. The restaurant was bustling and we were almost tempted to head home again when we were told it was a 45 minute wait. I'm not sure if they are new to being this busy, but they didn't seem very well equipped to handle people waiting. There was nowhere to sit, no menus to look at and to make matters worse, the hostess accidentally skipped over us making our wait even longer.

When we eventually did get seated, I ordered the Chili Chicken with Lemon Leaves while Kym and my mother both ordered the specialty, Tamarind Tree Crepe. I was very happy with the chicken dish which came in an ample size and tasted delicious. My mother was also happy with her Crepe in spite of the fact that she realized after it was served that she had meant to order something else. Kym was not quite so fortunate and received a non-vegetarian crepe which is never a pleasurable experience for her to bite into and when the correct order finally arrived, she didn't like the greasy combination of deep-fried tofu inside the deep-fried crepe.

While I would say they have some bumps in the road to fix, I have to keep in mind that they continue to have very low prices for some great food and atmosphere. Definitely recommend the place!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Capitol City Brewery

Situated very close to Union Station and Georgetown law school's campus is Capitol City Brewery. Because of its location, Kym passes by it all the time on the way to school so Monday we decided to give it a try along with some of our friends. Probably due to its location as well, the place gets pretty packed in the evenings. Although I did like the design of the place with the immense copper vats in the middle of it all, the inside felt a bit too much like a college frat part--probably due to the particularly young age of the crowd all standing around with beer and shouting--so we got a table outside under a patio heater. It was still a bit cold, but worth it.

We started with a round of Capitol City's own brew. The beer was pretty good, notably the pale ale was crisp and refreshing. The amber on the other hand, wasn't a favorite.

For dinner I had the meatloaf which came with a spicy gravy that made for a strange and simply bad combination. I normally like trying new combinations and enjoy spicy food, but the combination ended up being poor.

Kym had Cobb salad holding the chicken and bacon of course. This dish was also a bit odd as they crumbled up the boiled eggs in a layer on the outside which looked weird and was a strange way to eat an egg. There was simply too much egg as well. Other than that bit, the salad tasted good, particularly the dressing. The side of mashed potatoes she added along side was delicious, no complaints there.

One of our friends got the jambalaya which like the meatloaf fell prey to a strange combination of otherwise tasty jambalaya poured over strong cilantro rice which again made the dish taste strange.

Overall we had some good food and drink, but some strange flavor combinations on the menu to be sure.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Spinach, Green Pepper and Corn Enchiladas

Friday night and a little free time so we broke out the oven mitts and spatulas (party animals, I know)! Tonight on the menu, some delicious vegetarian enchiladas. There's something about the combination of spinach and cheese that rarely fails. The recipe was as follows:

1 cup cottage cheese (we used the non-fat type we had just fine)
10 oz frozen spinach
1 onion
pinch of cumin
1 1/2 cups corn (canned or frozen)
2 green peppers
2 T grated parmesan
pinch of salt

6 flour tortillas (the whole wheat variety we used were delicious)
1 1/4 cups salsa (preferably the fresh salsa in the refrigerated section rather than jarred)
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup milk

1 1/4 cups grated cheese (any good melting type)

In an oiled pan, saute the onions and peppers until golden brown, ad the cumin and thawed spinach. While this is cooling puree the cottage cheese in a blender/food processor, and stir in the saute mixture, corn, Parmesan and salt.

Stir the ingredients of the sauce together and pour a thin layer into a greased 9x9 baking dish. Then roll the mixture tightly into each of the 6 tortilla shells and place them side by side and pour over the remaining sauce. Finally, sprinkle the melting cheese on top.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes covered, then an additional 5 minutes uncovered to brown the top.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Subjectivity of Wine

Jonah Lehrer over at recently wrote a fascinating piece entitled the Subectivity of Wine. The article delves into the intriguing question of how much we are fooling ourselves when throwing down large sums of money for 'good' wine. I can't say the experiments he cites are too much of a shock. The power of the mind and placebos is well established. Oftentimes people don't even notice the complete lack of alcohol in an alcoholic drink, so it's not too surprising that people have trouble differentiating between the quality of those that do contain the bitter substance of alcohol within.

The most fascinating part was the so called 'experts' who could not even recognize that they were being served white wine. Of course, this this a great example of the power of the mind since they saw red wine and they were told they were drinking red wine, but still for none of these tasters who think of themselves as having such astute palates to recognize this is remarkable. After reading this it reminded me of how France's national wine tasting refuses to cover up labels when tasting wine.

Personally I've never been one to spend a great deal of money on wine, particularly at a restaurant. When I stop to think about it--am I really getting an extra $35-55 worth of enjoyment out of a moderately priced wine than I am out of the house wine? Not to say that I can't appreciate a great wine (at least I think I can, but this article casts doubts on that previous assumption), it's just about the actual dollar value of that appreciation. That of course makes sense in conjunction with wine's connotation with the wealthy since millionaires are likely going to be much less discerning over $20-30 spent.

I think I'm also much more likely to appreciate a $7-10 glass of beer (so long as its not a lager/light beer) than I am a $7-10 glass of wine. Perhaps that is just me and my unsophisticated pallete, but I remember well what an Italian sommelier once told me: the most popular wine in Italy is not a robust red from Chianti or delicate crisp white from Liguri, it is a brand of boxed cooking wine (and no, it is not just used for cooking).