Thursday, December 17, 2009

Joseph Joseph and the kitchen of many colors

As I was making my $10 kitchen gift list, I was remembering my list from last year- particularly the colorful and fun products by Joseph Joseph. I love the idea of taking our every day tools and utensils, and turning them into something beautiful.

So, using this list of the "top ten cooking tools a chef needs" as an inspiration, I have interpreted the guidelines to make own my list.

10. Durable non-plastic oil/vinegar cruets and spice containers

Easy, thanks to World Market. This even comes with spices already in it.

9. Tough wood and plastic cutting boards

Wood is always pretty, but nothing compares to stripes.

8. Multiple non-stick-safe spatulas and stirring spoons

You can't mess with the simple design of a spatula, but a little barnyard motif never hurt anyone.

7. Sharp peeler

Hands down. Cutest. Peeler. Ever.

6. Sharp can opener

Aaaand we can continue the bird theme with a "tou-can-opener"

5. High-quality boning knife

Cute? No. Beautiful? Yes.

4. Forged chef's knife

Of course you know I think Bob Kramer's line of knives for Shun are the most beautiful. I heart them.

3. Pyrex glass measuring cups

Pyrex doesn't really change their design very much, but remember these measuring cups?

2. KitchenAid mixer

You really get the punch of amazing color when you see them all together.

1. Quality pots and pans

Le Creuset is easily the prettiest set of pots and pans you can get. Also perhaps the awesomest. Mix and match!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Catering a christmas party

For 60 guests. Love it when I get to put my pastry school skills to work. The hostess wanted all cakes, so here is what she is getting:

-Flourless chocolate decadence cake with crumbled pistachios on top

-Cranberry eggnog cheesecake

-Angel food peppermint cake with crushed candy cane garnish

-Sherry cake (Have you had this? It's southern, and pretty darned good)

-A lot of cookies for the kids. (I learned my lesson last year about greedy little kids at Christmas parties after they stuffed their faces with all my beautiful petit fours before any of the adults even saw them. The plan this year: make them sick on cookies and then put out the cakes for the adults to enjoy.)

I'll let you know how this goes!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Current obsession: whole grain mustard

I have never been a mustard fan. This has always been a sad reminder that hangs over my head reminding me that no matter how hard I try, I will never truly be a European (I know, I know, that little red EU passport is also a minor detail). Try as I might, if I was honest with myself I would say that whatever I was eating would have tasted better to me sans mustard- dijon, French's, whatever. Now I realized I was just uneducated.

I discovered whole grain mustard a couple months ago when I was making a turkey, spinach, and potato hash. It called for 1/4 cup of the mustard. It was obvious while eating it that the whole grain mustard made the dish. Then again, about a month ago, I made a beef stew, and what made it super tasty? Oh, yes. Another 1/4 cup of whole grain mustard! It just turns out that it makes everything....just plain better. It's definitely another one for the "make people think you did something really fancy" list. It acts like a secret ingredient. It's not sour and acidic like other mustards. It's just more tart and flavorful.

Now I won't have to feel bad about now getting the nutritional value of the superfood known as mustard. Do you know how healthy this stuff is? Speed up your metabolism, improve digestion, decrease cancer cell growth, help migranes, asthma, arthritis....I pretty much put a spoonful in and on everything savory that I cook now.

By the way, my favorite brand is Maille. You can for sure get it at whole foods, and probably other stores, too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A feast for your eyes

For your viewing pleasure, I have put Christmas in a blog. These are some of my favorite photos of Christmas food that I have collected. Maybe they will inspire you to make something beautiful. Or maybe they are just fun to stare at:

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Marshmallows and dresses

What more are the holidays about?

I happened to be watching Martha Stewart the other day while I was wrapping presents. She was making marshmallows with Claire Danes. The show brought to my attention that marshmallows would be a really fun bulk gift to make for all your friends and neighbors (and not to mention that Martha reminded us that they were "trendy" about 65 times). I tried very hard to pay attention to the recipe and the method, but pretty much spent the entire time drooling over Claire Danes' dress and wondering who the designer was.

If you find the task of making marshmallows interesting, here is the recipe:


Makes about 16

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, sifted, for coating


  1. Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and, with the mixer on high, slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into gelatin mixture. Add salt and continue mixing for 12 minutes.
  3. Add peppermint extract and mix until well combined. Spray a rubber spatula or your hands with cooking spray. Spread gelatin mixture evenly into pan using prepared spatula or your hands. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, spray side down, on top of marshmallows. Let stand for 2 hours.
  4. Carefully remove marshmallows from pan. Remove all plastic wrap and discard. Cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares using a sprayed a sharp knife. Place confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, add marshmallows to bowl and toss to coat. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.
And if you just want to drool over an amazing dress, here's the link to the preview:

Isn't that dress awesome? If I had it I would wear it every day, I think. And I would most certainly make marshmallows while wearing it. Yeah.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

If you don't like to bake... know who you are.

So many parties, so many pot lucks, so many "bring along dessert!" invitations. What do you do? Pick up packaged cookies from the grocery store? Noooo, you make caramel corn! This definitely goes on my "easy things that for some reason really impress people" list. I made caramel corn recently for a party when I ran out of time to bake something, and people were raving, I tell you!

I got the recipe from Gourmet, and as amazing as it is, it fails to include the secret ingredient: popping the corn in coconut oil. Not only is coconut oil one of the healthiest fats for high heat, but it also gives the popcorn an ever so slightly sweet flavor- not strong enough to identify, but enough for everyone to think that you've done something really important.

So here's the rest of the recipe from Gourmet- no pastry chef degree required!

Maple Pecan Popcorn

Makes about10 cups
  • About 8 cups plain popcorn
  • 1 cup pecans (3 1/2 oz), coarsely chopped and toasted
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Equipment:

    a candy or deep-fat thermometer
  • Toss popcorn and pecans in a large bowl.
  • Line bottom of a 17- by 11-inch 4-sided sheet pan with foil, then lightly oil foil.
  • Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add maple syrup and salt and boil (still over medium heat), without stirring, until thermometer registers 300°F, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Pour syrup over pecans and popcorn, stirring briskly with a lightly oiled spoon or silicone spatula to coat, then immediately spread popcorn in pan in 1 layer. Cool completely, then break into bite-size pieces.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Fun fact of the day

Did you know that pine trees are edible? I just found this out. Apparently some breeds of pine have needles and bark that you can consume if you're ever stuck in the wilderness. Maybe boys scouts already know this? You can consume pine needles or brew pine needle tea- they are very high in vitamin C. Also, some Native Americans ate the bark of pine trees (that part I probably wouldn't recommend trying).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Only the best

Does anyone question that I loooove kitchen stores? I think not. When I buy my tools, I want quality, long lasting items. The problem is sometimes being able to decipher whether or not the quality that I want comes with the price tag. I'm smart enough to not assume that just because a wooden spoon is within the four walls of Sur La Table and priced at $25 that it is going to be the best wooden spoon out there. In fact I know this is not true.

I went to college in a tiny little town in the middle of Indiana called Winona Lake, and, while Wal Mart was certainly always 8 minutes away in the next town, Winona Lake had quite a standard of what businesses were allowed to be within its city limits. The water front was dotted with artisans and small shops. One of which is what I consider to be the best thing (if not the only good thing) that comes out of Indiana.

I was too wrapped up in college to care about domestic things, but when I graduated, got married, and started taking care of a house, my mind immediately went back to Whetstone Woodenware. The story is that the owner was a furniture makes and that his wife asked him to make "a wooden spoon that would not break." What came out of it was an entire business model. They have cutting boards, spoons of all shapes and sizes (the flat paddle is my favorite, and I literally use it every day), rolling pins, tongs, etc...all hand carved from wood! I'm telling you, these are by far the best kitchen tools that money can buy. Seriously, this guy could be charging three times as much as he does, but keeps all his merchandise at small town, midwest prices.

In this economy, and especially during the holidays when businesses expect a rise in sales, it's so important to support small businesses. And really, if they're selling the better product for the better price you have no excuse. This year, skip Williams Sonoma and browse through Whetstone's website instead. Instead of dealing with parking and crowds, you can sit at home on your computer, put on Christmas music, and sip tea all while you shop!

Monday, November 30, 2009

This is great

Aaaah Christmas cookies!

They are just about one of my favorite things in the world- the coming together of everything I love about the holidays! This year, I think the award for the best compilation of Christmas cookies goes to Sunset Magazine. The December issue sat on my coffee table for at least two weeks before I finally opened it up.

The article has just four cookie dough recipes, but it gets creative with the fillings and decorations. Who knows? It could even inspire creative thinking!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Round 2

I stuck with it! Today I prepared the doughs for pumpkin pie and onion pie. I also made the turkey stock, which isn't difficult, but takes quite a lot of time.

Tomorrow we will make almost all of the dishes (stuffing, glazed carrots, boiled kale, put the pies together) so that Thursday all we'll have to think about is roasting "The Bird" and the other things that are better made the same day like salad and mashed potatoes.

After we are done preparing everything we can on Wednesday, we will be doing what I hope most of you will be doing and EATING DINNER OUT! You'll have enough to think about on Thanksgiving, and you're going to want to start the morning with a clean kitchen. Trust me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Round 1

3 Days to go! I hope that you are at least thinking about your menu for the biggest feasting day of the year. I decided that I would finally go for "The Bird" this year rather than my past endeavors such of duck, Cornish game hen, or ribs.

I was very proud of myself for getting all of my shopping done on Saturday. Now all I have to do is meditatively stick to my game plan. What a fun week I have in front of me!

Today I made:
-cranberry relish
-sauerkraut with apples
-the filling for the onion pie
-the beet marinade for the marinated deviled eggs.

Didn't get to the pie dough. That'll come tomorrow. Try to have a spirit of thanks all week, and enjoy every minute of it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I think you must know

In the past have shared with you many of my favorite restaurants. I like to keep this blog positive, but after my dinner out last Friday, I feel I need to rant. Oh yes, we had a terribly mediocre, horribly overpriced dinner. The kind that hurts when you pay for it. This brought back memories of a few other dinners we've had like that. These are dining establishments in Seattle which, no matter how often you hear people say they just loved it, I want to you please heed my words and avoid them like the plague. My biggest disappointment list...

....Begins with last Friday when Raj and I decided to explore the new high end shopping center in Bellevue called The Braven . We should have been clued in when walking by the new Louis Vuitton store that The Bravern caters to people who like to pay waaay to much for low quality junk just to make themselves think it's luxury. We wanted to try something new, anyway, so we went to The Artisanal Brasserie, which apparently is an extremely popular restaurant in Manhattan (that totally blows my mind, because I always imagined that New Yorkers know when they're being taken) and the chef came here to open a new one. The menu was promising, and almost looked like the index for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I ordered an onion tarte and Raj ordered steak tartare for starters, and we decided to share a cassoulet for an entree (after all, and $20 entree should be enough food for the two of us, right?). It all sounded fancy, but in the end, my "tarte" was caramelized onions on a pita, Raj's tartare was ground beef, and the cassoulet was unremarkable and so small that Raj also had to order soup to fill himself up. The worst part was that combined with two glasses of wine the bill came out to be $100. Don't get me wrong, we've paid that for a good dinner out before, but this was seriously twice as much as it should have been. Combine that with the fact that we saw the movie "2012" after, and you've got one bad date (except, of course, the man I was with)!

If you think $100 is a nauseating bill, a year or two ago we wanted to go "somewhere nice," so we decided to go to Crush at the recommendation of many supposed foodies we had talked to. This was a while ago, so I don't remember the details of what we ate. All I know is that I so badly wanted to love it- the pretentious white decor, the insanely slow service, the food that just didn't tickle me. I wished even more that we had enjoyed the experience when our $250 check came at the end of the meal. Live and learn, and never eat there again, am I right?

Other places to not eat:

The Space Needle Restaurant (total novelty)
Burgermaster (does this go without saying?)
Lark (I'm taking the advice of friends on this one. Some people swear it's their favorite restaurant, but based on my knowledge of our tastes I think we'll skip it)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All I have to say is this:

Apple Crisp


5-7 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into wedges

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter removed from fridge 45 minutes prior


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the apples in a 9x13x2 inch Pyrex casserole dish.

Sprinkle the lemon juice and nutmeg over the apples.

Sprinkle the cut vanilla extract over the top of the apples.

Stir the mixture around a bit with a spoon.

Combine maple syrup, cinnamon, oatmeal in a bowl. Cut in butter.

Sprinkle mixture over apples.

Bake 45 minutes or until topping looks crisp.

Here is why you are thanking me:

Difficulty: none

Refined Sugar: none

Wheat: none

Guilt: none

You can also replace the butter with coconut oil to make it vegan or the oats with quinoa to make it even healthier (although that's a bit adventurous for me).

Again, you're welcome. ;)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Anthropologie, you're killing me!

Below are the most ridiculously adorable measuring cups you have every seen in your life, courtesy of Anthropologie (in order of what I think to be least cute to most cute).
Geese? Yes, geese! Awwwe

If you need more fowl in yer kitchin, there is a sort of chicken set, too. I'm dying...
Flowers...perhaps a little hard to level off, but still, it's making me crazy!

I love these beautitully painted stone wear measuring cups. Aaaugh!

If your head isn't spinning with cuteness yet, these should put you over the top (also from Anthro)

Oh yes, you too can look adorable while you're using your adorable measuring cups.

I don't think I've ever wanted a pair of salt and pepper shakers this bad. They are just perfect!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Current Obsession: Crystallized Ginger

Crystallized ginger (also known as candied ginger) is not something new, but lately I have been wanting to put it on and in everything I cook and bake. And not just for the nutritional value.

I first began loving candied ginger four or five years ago when I made a cranberry relish from Real Simple Magazine on Thanksgiving that used about 1/2 cup (I'm still searching over the internet to find a link for you, but RS doesn't seem to have it anymore). It was the first time I actually liked cranberry sauce.

Since then, I usually just munch on it for a sweet treat or when I have a stomach ache. However, like I said, lately I've had a hankering to put it into things. Especially into things with chocolate.

I did the dessert catering for a party the other day. Since discovering that most women don't really eat dessert (Tell me, how to they live??), I usually try to include some sort of small bite that goes well with coffee. I made these chocolate biscotti with candied ginger from Martha Stewart. They were really easy, and for taste I would give them an 8/10 (which is where Martha's recipes usually seem to land). It's definitely worth a go.

For the lot of you who like to eat real dessert, I have for you Orangette's Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Candied Ginger. Oooooh man.....

1 cup granulated sugar (for vegan version, use raw sugar)
1 large egg (or 1 ½ tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 2 Tbs warm water, says Glenn)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (or ½ c non-hydrogenated margarine), at room temperature
2 ripe medium-size bananas
3 Tbs milk (or soy milk)
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
Small chunks of candied ginger, to taste
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar, egg, and butter.
In a separate bowl, mash bananas; then mix with milk.
In another separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with banana-milk mixture in two parts, stirring by hand until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, ginger, and optional nuts.

Turn batter into loaf pan, smoothing top with the back of a spoon, and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes; then remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I don't get it...

Hey, check out this website! If you want to be a pastry chef like me, or just go to culinary school, then this will help your search for the perfect food education!

Anyway, I was reading an odd article on the New York Times website. According to the Federal Trade Commission, "Beginning Dec. 1, bloggers, Twitterers and many others who write online product reviews must disclose the receipt of free merchandise or payment for the items they write about. The guidelines, an update of the F.T.C.’s 1980 guide concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, will affect many in the beauty and fashion blogging community, where freebies ($40 eye-shadow palates, $250 clutch purses and, yes, $69 jeans) are rampant. The rules reflect the commission’s concern about how advertisers are using bloggers and social networking sites to pitch their products."

***Hey, do you like to cook? You should go to culinary school! Start your career here!***

I don't understand how this is humanly possible, and I also don't understand why bloggers have been targeted. People have been paid to talk about how they liked products for decades and maybe centuries. Yes, popular bloggers receive free stuff sometimes. Yes, bloggers even get paid to do their jobs.

Hey, you know what? I really value my pastry school education.

I don't really have a problem with the FTC's law, assuming it is protecting the consumer and not per chance having anything to do with...say... lobbyists. What bothers me is that fashion magazines, television, movies, and the radio have been doing this forever. Do you know how sales of a pair of jeans go up when a celebrity is wearing them? Do you think that celeb actually paid for those jeans? And it's not just the pages in magazines labeled "advertisement" that are doing paid advertising. I've even heard rumors of clothing stores giving away clothes to popular kids in high schooles. So why do bloggers and twitterers (tweeters? twits?) have do disclose every time a company sent them a product to sample and write about? I certainly would not write about a product if I didn't like it- free or not.

By the way, owners of fine Seattle dining establishments, I would be happy to write a review about your restaurant if you give me a free dinner. Can't promise it'll be a good one, but why don't you send me a couple gift certificates and we can see what I think?

Lastly, another paragraph in the article states, "Even before the new rules, some bloggers identified posts that advertisers paid them to write as 'sponsored.' But most don’t have formal disclosure policies, or they tend to use ambiguous language about giveaways."

Maybe I am missing something.

This article was 'sponsored' by

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I love...happy hour

It's not because of the half-priced cocktails and well drinks.

I discovered the wonder of happy hour about two years ago. You see, it's not only dive bars that serve peanuts and all-you-can-eat fries participating in happy hour. Many a high end establishment offer a special menu as well. Sometimes the menu is completely different than the regular menu, sometimes it is the same but at a discount, but more often than not it's smaller portions of the menu plus a few extras. Fried calamari seems to show up at nearly every happy hour (Those squid must like the house wines....zing!) . I like it because more often than not restaurant portions are too big for me, and I haaate wasting half of a $30 plate if it's something that cannot be taken to go, or we won't be on our way to a fridge any time soon. Raj likes it, because he can order plate after plate of food and not worry about the bill climbing sky high.

One problem Raj and I both have is that neither of us gets off work early enough to enjoy the before 6:00 on weekdays happy hours. I really appreciate and want to acknowledge restaurants that get creative with their happy hour times.

Without further ado:

Dragonfish Cafe- 3-6 pm, 9-1 am daily, and 3pm-1am Mondays(!)
$2 and $3 half rolls of sushi (good sushi), and $4 and $5 small plates such as Sesame Soy Tuna and Lime Rickey Shrimp.

Coastal Kitchen- 9pm-11pm daily
Everything is three bucks, including house wines and beers. The Arepas and fish tacos are both awesome and filling.

Boka Kitchen and Bar-Sunday and Monday, 3:30 to Close, Tuesday-Friday, 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to Close, Saturday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to Close
Everything on the bar menu is half off. 'Bar food' includes a sizable grilled Angus beef burger with truffle fries, pacific rockfish with summer succotash, and a charcuterie plate.

Tutta Bella Pizzeria
- 3-6pm Monday through Friday
I've never actually been to this happy hour, because 1. It's only at the Westlake location (MAJOR bummer) and 2. The hours are stingy (even bigger bummer). But I love Tutta Bella, so any kind of discount on their food needs to be noted. From what I've heard the "little plates" that are $3-$6 aren't actually that little.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This Squash Looks Like a Duck

...and other fun with squash.

My first idea for this blog was to celebrate fall by giving you an extensive list of great websites that have to do with squash. (Not so) Shockingly, there were not very many. I came up with three, one of which only sort of has to do with squash. I know, I know...I'm stretching it here.

The "This Peanut Looks Like a Duck" blog just absolutely cracks me up (and also proves what an unsophisticated sense of humor I have). Whenever I have a blue day, I log on to cheer myself up. There happens to be many pictures of various squash on this blog because- think hard about this- many squashes resemble ducks. Did I change your life?

Second, a website that I found most fascinating. The MBG Kemper Center Plant Finder has a list of over 150 varieties of squash that are pictured and identified. I honestly had no idea that many types of squash existed, let alone in one farm (The Great Pumpkin Patch located in Arthur, Illinois). How many varieties must there be in the world? Some look like ducks, while others look like little creatures that might crawl into your homes and suck your brains out:

Lastly, eHow has step by step instructions on how to make your own homemade pumpkin puree. This may sound ambitious, but it's fairly easy. I swear the most difficult part is cutting the pumpkin in half without losing a finger. I should know, I did it tonight (made pumpkin puree, that is, I didn't lose a finger). Using fresh pumpkin puree enhances the flavor of your desserts like you cannot imagine. I freeze the puree in 1 cup portions, 2 cups equaling one 15 ounce can of pumpkin.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Another one bites the dust

"Please be advised that Gourmet magazine will cease publication after the November issue." what I saw the other day when I went to to print up a recipe. All I have to say about this is: dang. Actually, that's not true. My real commentary is this: FREAKING CRAP, WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ALL MY FAVORITE MAGAZINES!?!? I am much too upset to use propper grammar. First Domino goes under, and now this, which is even sadder because Gourmet has been around for 60+ years. I dare not publish the other magazines that I like, as this will probably ensure their demise as well.

I apologize for not telling you about this sooner. Honestly, I don't know how long this has been public information. You may have known long before I did. This does not keep me from lamenting on my blog about how disappointing this is.

"Subscribers can look forward to receiving Bon Appetit magazine for the remainder of their subscription. The website will remain available during a transitional period, and access to Gourmet recipes will also remain available via sister site and the Epi iPhone application."

Boooo! I would print up all your favorite recipes now- just in case. I mean, who knows, the INTERNET might cease publication next...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I finally like wine!

Let's acknowledge the truth- while it can add so much to a meal, the consumption and/or appreciation of wine is not a necessity here is the United States of America. A person can live his or her entire life without a drop and be just fine. If wine is not for you, I understand. It's expensive and- let's all be honest now- does not taste good at first. In fact, I would guess that the sommeliers with the most sensitive palates didn't like wine when they first began drinking it. How could they? Honestly, I did not like wine for probably 25 years of my life. However, as a trained chef, I felt it very important to develop a taste for it in order to go as far as I possibly could in my culinary experience.

Like chopsticks, appreciating wine takes practice. And (unlike chopsticks) a lot of money. For a long time, when I drank any kind of alcoholic beverage all I tasted was "burning." I started, as recommended, with cold whites. Riesling was immediately my favorite, and I ordered that a lot to begin with (I still like it). As they began to taste to sweet, I moved on to dryer whites and reds- I could tell my taste was shifting, but really, if I skipped a glass of wine my dinner wasn't missing anything. If I was honest, I still preferred a Pellegrino.

I didn't realize that I had truly begun to have good taste in wine until last June, at my sister's graduation party. I hesitantly chose a bottle of wine for the party of eight or so that were coming to dine with us, and was very proud when everyone raved over how good it was.

In Europe, wine consumption is very different. Allow me to share one of my favorite pictures from my time in Crete:

This girl was one of the cutest things I had ever seen- sitting on a bar stool at my sister's wedding reception, swinging her legs, swirling and sniffing the last few sips of her parents' glasses, and obviously getting a little tipsy. We all know that if this was the US, the authorities would have been notified and this girl would have been in foster care by the end of the night. Not here, though. They simply view wine differently than we do, and my little friend was learning to responsibly appreciate wine from a young age. (By the way, it's not like she drank every day. This was a wedding, and we were all celebrating).

Just as when I was in Tokyo I thought to myself, "I'm so glad I've learned to use chopsticks!" While I was in Crete I thought to myself, "I'm soooo glad I've learned to like wine!" Something there definitely would have been missing if I hadn't. I am glad I have finally gained a taste for wine in a way that enhances rather than overpowers my food experience. My bank account may not be, but I certainly am! ;)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Annika's best kept secret

By accident, we discovered brunch at the Four Seasons hotel in Downtown Seattle. There is a restaurant in the hotel called "Art." Sounds pretentious and expensive, I know. But it's not. Here are the reasons you should check it out....

1. Great food. Always the most important factor, of course. You can tell they chose fresh, high quality ingredients.

2. They treat you like royalty. Being that you are in a Four Seasons hotel, they ought to. It's decorated very chic, and all the chairs are fluffy, comfy arm chairs.

3. There is almost never anyone there. No wait- and I really get tired of waiting an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch at Portage Bay Cafe.

4. All entrees between $10 and $19. Very decent, in the end.

5. I saw Toby McGuire there. That's Spiderman, in case you don't know.

6. I love this song!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Things I've purchased, and things I still want

If anyone is interested...Here is a list of recent (and by recent, I mean the past year) purchases for my kitchen that I am happy with.

Wusthof Classic 8" bread knife. I debated adding to my Bob Kramer for Shun collection, but I decided that the bread knife was entirely too large. I wanted mine to be handleable (not a word, I know), and opted for this nice little size (and 25% of the price).

Krups Belgian Waffle Maker. I finally broke down and purchased this. I have to say, it doesn't have the best reviews (it doesn't have the worst, either), but it is working just fine for me. Now my waffles are all crisp on the outside and soft on the inside like I like them.

Mitered Hem Napkins. I have wanted cloth napkins for a long time, but took a while to find the right ones. I want napkins that I can abuse and have them still come out of the wash fine. And who in their right mind would buy dry clean only napkins?

Le Creuset 7 1/4 quart round French oven. I bought this today! Just as I was lamenting to my husband that sometimes I feel unequipped for large party cooking, and as he was responding that Le Creuset never goes on sale, we saw it. Sitting on a shelf at Sur La Table, shining like the sun in all it's discontinued "Dijon" glory. It was marked down 30% off, which was enough for me to bring it to the register to buy, but even better when the sales girl took an extra 20% off that. The final price was $150 for a $365 pot that will be of infinite value to me. Cha-ching!

Now, I want a splatter screen, but refuse to pay $59 for one out of principal. Any suggestions?

Also, seeing as my blender smells like burning motor every time I use it (which isn't actually that often), I am on the lookout, but not in a hurry. I like this one:

Waring Professional Bar Blender
. But it can wait.