January 27, 2013

taking a stab at pho

I've always wondered how hard it would be to make a good bowl of homemade pho. We found some oxtail bones in our freezer and happened to have all the spices for the broth in our pantry, so we figured it'd be a good time to try. This is the gold standard for pho recipes and I'll try it next when I've got time to make a big batch for that really beefy punch. For now, the oxtails were a good start for two bowls of broth. Slowly simmered for 4 hours with fennel seed, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, onion and ginger... not too shabby.

January 26, 2013

french toast

Saturday morning... Option 1, pound out a 5 mile training run in the drizzle of Seattle. Option 2, hang back and fix up some caramel french toast. Let's just say half marathon training is a little behind schedule.

January 24, 2013

steak, again?

Why not? This time with a glossy merlot reduction. Yum.

January 20, 2013

NFC championship

A warm bowl of spaghetti for today's 49ers game. Just a little red and gold for the Red and Gold. Go Niners!

January 17, 2013


Quality grass fed beef, blistered broccoli and crispy potato for a simple weeknight supper.

January 13, 2013

lobster risotto

Creamy risotto, fortified by just a bit of cream and butter. Slices or raw lobster stirred in at the last minute, cooked primarily by the residual heat. A bit of luxury during the month if frugality... at about $3 per serving.

January 10, 2013

look mom, i'm on top chef!

Some people have 15 minutes of fame... I got 1.3 seconds.
I shouldn't be getting as big a kick out of this as I am... I mean, really, it was two split second shots. But darn it, it was exciting. Getting to be on one of my favorite shows--which I actually tried out for back in 2009--and having the chance to see how they film this stuff and edit it down to a watchable 1-hour episode... good stuff.

Getting on to "Restaurant Wars" would have been the real coup, but for now this nifty shot next to Padma will do just fine. She looks happy that I'm there.

Props to the judges on this episode. They called it exactly as it was. Kristen's and Sheldon's dishes were by far the best... the onsen egg with camembert-mustard sauce & buttered radishes was well-composed and elegant, with pure, clean flavors. Sheldon's Filipino tamarind soup with pork belly, shrimp & snapper popped with flavor. Totally addictive. (Side note: I told Kristen to ease up on the salt on her dish 5 min. before the judges went to her booth. And she won. Bam. Just sayin'...)

And thanks to B.H. and E.H. for getting us into the taping! Also spotted Mark, Angela, and a bit of LaV's head in the episode.

January 6, 2013

prosciutto pasta

One of the outcomes of this weekend's experiments was this prosciutto pasta, made by rolling a very thin slice of prosciutto between two pasta sheets. Once it is rolled to the thinnest setting, the pasta sheet itself looks a lot like a slice of prosciutto. The flavor of the prosciutto actually comes through really well, making this an interesting vehicle for all sorts of new dishes, like prosciutto papparadelle with peas, hazelnuts and dry charred kabocha puree.

January 5, 2013

January 2, 2013

A month of frugality

Our annual tradition begins. No alcohol, no excess, and no dining out. Everything will be homemade. It's a great way to get back to the basics. Like hot chicken soup on a cold day.

January 1, 2013

Best bites of 2012

2012 was another year of terrific eating. Sure, there were some disappointing moments. Like the time I had to give up my reservation at Little Serow when an unexpected addition to our party took us over the four-person table limit. Or the average experiences we had at Rionne XIII and The Whale Wins. I was particularly bummed about not being able to score a reservation at the amazing-sounding Restaurant Abri in Paris, with its 38€ 6-course prix fixe. Even still, there were some truly delicious new tastes. Here are the top 10:

ahi tuna poke, da poke shack (Kailua Kona): We were in Hawaii for a cousin's wedding, and we cruised by this nondescript counter in a parking lot for lunch. Shockingly great poke. Pay by weight and sit on the bench outside. No frills because none are needed. A must go in Kona.

corn and zucchini fritter, kedai makan: Kevin and Alysson rocked the Seattle food scene this year when they opened up their sweet little Malaysian food stand at the Capitol Hill farmers' market. My first taste of their nasi lemak left me dazed in sparklingly deep flavors--and had me going back for 7 straight weeks. At the height of the summer, they did this corn and zucchini fritter whose amazing crunch was accompanied by sweet bursts of market-fresh goodness. For 2013, they'll be at a fixed location on Olive Way.

bibim naeng myeon, Yu Chun (Los Angeles): Most people envy L.A. for its weather. I envy L.A. for its Korean food. This summer, we had a chance to try Yu Chun for the first time, and the naeng myeon rocked our world. Fundamentally simple, but truly amazing when done this well. The envy increases...

albacore, charred onion ash, radish, seaweed, castagna (Portland): We wondered how Castagna would fair after Matt Lightner went off to cultivate more success in New York (which he achieved, apparently). But under Justin Woodward, things are still humming along. I had three perfectly cooked pieces of fish this year. This was one of them.

grilled sweetwater oysters, chipotle garlic butter, hog island oysters (Tomales Bay): I usually dislike cooked oysters. These, however, are divine little guilty pleasures. The chipotle garlic butter explodes with flavor, and you can't beat the combo of these oysters and a sunny day next to the water.

pork chop, obelisk (D.C.): This was an unexpected find... a D.C. restaurant featuring Italian food where the cooking is kept as simple as possible to highlight the quality of the ingredients. Terrific antipasti and pastas, but the knockout was, of all things, an exquisitely prepared kurobuta pork chop. I've never had a pork chop so perfectly cooked, so tremendously flavorful, and so incredibly juicy. Best I've ever had.

cuttlefish carpaccio, hawksworth (Vancouver, B.C.): Hawksworth is a beautiful restaurant serving beautiful food to beautiful people. Props to their staff for accommodating us and providing fantastic service even though we arrived without a reservation (scored the only open table) and severely underdressed. Cuttlefish should not be this meltingly tender. Very well executed.

ya pla grab, little uncle: We always love whatever we get at Little Uncle, but this crispy smelt salad was a knockout. Perfectly crunchy whole smelt served with a zesty and uber-fresh salad. I remember this dish absolutely made my day.

utah beach oysters, pear, watercress, saturne (Paris): This was the best dish from the best meal we had this year. Firm, lightly briny, and with faint hazelnut notes, these beautiful oysters from Normandy were accompanied by little pearls of sweet pear, then blanketed in a sheet of watercress gelee. simple, pure, and illuminating.

éclair with raspberry-rose filling, l’éclair de génie (Paris): How about some dessert to round out this list? I was never a huge fan of éclairs, but I'd never had one like this. Light and airy pâte à choux with a delicately balanced interplay between raspberry, rosewater and chocolate. Christophe Adam is a master.

Some honorable mentions... kouign amman (blé sucré), financier (erik kayser), frosted madeleine (blé sucré), neba neba (kamonegi), shrimp (sweet d's shrimp shack), lobster carpaccio (corduroy)