Sunday, December 10, 2006

One birthday - One very long day of eating

I was asked to help organize our team holiday party this year so I jumped at the chance to eat well on the company budget - best of all, the party happened to coincide with my birthday. Fabulous food shared with friends (well co-workers really) with no guilt over the expense. After failing to get a response from anyone at Volterra for several weeks, I e-mailed Harvest Vine and got a response from Carolin Messier, co-owner and pastry chef that very day. The cellar was the perfect sized venue for our group of 20. Overwhelmed by the numerous menu choices we let their chefs do most of the choosing. We picked a few items that we absolutely wanted while she worked with the chef to fill in some seasonally fresh items. Our meal lasted 3 hours and everything was perfectly paced. We never felt rushed nor were we ever left wondering when the next dish would come. We had 5 different shared tapas, a choice of entree for everyone that just needs their own plate of something, a shared cheese course followed by a plate of 3 very generously portioned "mini" desserts for everyone - I loved that I didn't have to choose just one dessert. Service was excellent, the presentation impressed everyone and the whole room fell silent as everyone savored their entree. I can't recommend this place highly enough.

Here was our menu:

Cured Meats

Beet Salad - red and yellow beets dressed with a vinegrette - delightful presentation

Crab Salad

Sauteed Mushrooms with garlic and sherry - this my my favorite tapa - warm and flavorful

Pan Seared Duck Breasts in sherry sauce

Choice of:

Grilled Venison

Chicken in Saffron Almond Sauce

Salt Cod

Cheese Course with 5 different cheeses and quince paste

Dessert - I'm so glad none of us had to choose
Pumpkin Flan
A yummy cream puff filled with ice cream
Chocolate torte
My favorite was the flan - smooth and creamy

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yea's wok

Yea's wok has got to be the best chinese restaurant in the Seattle area. I knew this place was good, but today with bated breath I took my parents there (they were visiting from Vancouver) and amazingly, they liked it. My favorite thing there is the pan seared sea bass (right) which I order everytime. The hot and sour soup (left) is also very good. You can tell it's freshly made with incredibly soft pieces of tofu and the perfect balance of vinegar and spice. Go with a large group so you can share more things family style.

Weekend with my Parents

My parents and sister came to visit this weekend so I spent the day yesterday shopping and cooking while waiting for them to get past all the other Canadians at the border headed down here for the cheap outlet shopping. The weak US dollar has been a real boon for the Premium Outlet.

As with anytime I plan a big meal and am looking for one place to find my favorite things, I shopped at Central Market! So our menu consisted of:
Crab and Artichoke dip (store bought)
Kumamoto Oysters - simply shucked with a little lemon - my friends JY and DL visited earlier and had fun helping shuck, although I couldn't convince them to stay for the actual dinne
Pureed Ginger Curry Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup (that fuzzy picture above)
Rosemary Lemon infused Honey King Salmon
Sauteed Snap Peas
Creamed Spinach
Apple tarte tatin (nobody made it to dessert, but I served it this morning at breakfast)

So the hit of the evening had to have been the carrot soup which has a brilliant orange color. I tried to serve everyone smaller portions since it was early on in the meal, but almost everyone had seconds. My sister even took the leftovers back with her to Vancouver today! This recipe is an adaptation of one from Fields of Greens.

Pureed Ginger Curry Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

1 med onion, sliced
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed
cayenne (optional, I like a lot and so does my family 1 tbsp or so)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 lbs carrots - sliced
1 large yam (~ 2lb - garnet yams if available to enhance the orange color of the soup) - sliced
Chicken stock
1/2 cup orange juice
Saute onion in a olive oil until tender. Add cumin, fennel and cayenne and saute until spices are toasted. I don't have a spice grinder, so a lot of times I don't bother grinding and just use the seeds whole in the recipe - you could grind your own if you want, but an Indian chef once told me that they don't always grind the spices in Indian cooking. Add garlic and ginger, saute briefly. Add carrots and yam and add enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about 15-20 min until vegetables are tender. Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Place back on heat and add orange juice. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper - more cayenne if necessary. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of cream and cilantro (or chives, or whatever).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Second Life

I've been obsessed with finding out more about Second Life ever since an interview was aired on NPR two days ago There was also an article in Business Week ( This 'game' is a virtual world with a real world economy! People are paying real money for virtual clothing for their virtual selves. There are virtual malls with real people making money off of selling virtual goods. There is virtual buying, selling and rental of real estate. The cost of maintaining a virtual island in this online world? $200 per month in maintenance fees (property taxes?)! It's all truly mind boggling. I'm going to have visit a virtual coffee house for myself one of these days.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Last Saturday, K and I did a double date with his friends Q and KT. We visited the Bodies exhibit currently showing in Seattle. I haven't really read too much about the controversy surrounding the origins of the bodies (unidentified bodies from China? political prisoners?), but thought the exhibit itself was very well put together. It was well laid out and not creepy in any way. I thought the vasculature section was the most amazing. They had preserved blood vessels and veins in organs, while dissolving the rest. So after our human anatomy lesson, we were ready for dinner at Voila.

We made it here just in time to secure the last table in this small, cozy French bistro. The menu is mostly classic French food at surprisingly low prices ($10-$13 for dinner!). We had the beef bourguignon, a very hearty cassoulet with duck confit and a pot de creme to round out the meal. Both the food and service were excellent. My only complaint would be that the beef bourguignon was too vinegary (bad wine?). I'm looking forward to coming back, possibly on Wednesdays for their $25 prix fixe.