Monthly Archives: April 2010

lunch at Mistral Kitchen

charcuterie plate at Mistral Kitchen

We have been lucky enough to eat lunch at some incredible places in Seattle. From Nettletown to Tillikum Place to the pork skewers at Lola, we have enjoyed some tremendous meals in the middle of the day these past few months. (The experience at Salumi stands alone. Nothing could compare to that.) However, I think Danny and I are more than willing to say this: the best lunch we have ever eaten in Seattle was at Mistral Kitchen last week.

Tell truth, we had heard that Mistral Kitchen was inclined toward molecular gastronomy, a little fussy, a lot to take. We didn't go for months, because of this. That doesn't really sound like the kind of place to take a toddler.

However, our friend Lorna Yee loves Mistral Kitchen. Nearly every other day she talked about stopping in for a bite to eat or a cocktail before a meal at another place. Lorna writes about restaurants for Seattle Magazine, so she's often going out to eat. It seemed to us that if Lorna loved the place so much that she was going on her free time, after trying other restaurants for work, it was worth our time.

Oh boy. Lorna is right. This place is pretty spectacular.

Look at that charcuterie plate. Two kinds of beautiful prosciutto, a small pile of soft salami, and house-made pork rillettes so creamy that they disappeared on our tongues in a moment. Too soon.

Lu with prosciutto, Danny with pork rillettes

As you can see, our toddler daughter loved the prosciutto. In fact, she pretty much ate all of my portions, as well as her own.

The folks at Mistral Kitchen treated us beautifully while we were there. Sometimes waiters can give us the stink eye when we walk into their restaurant with a child under 2. They probably think, “Oh gad, here comes my nightmare.” Lu is very well behaved in restaurants, since she goes to plenty of them, so mostly the waiters relax halfway through a meal. At Mistral Kitchen, however, the waiters welcomed her graciously, like they did us. (They also understand how to feed me gluten-free, safely, without batting an eye, so I was an instant fan for that, as well.)

Our entire meal was wonderful, each taste singular, perfectly prepared. In spite of our pre-conceived notions, Mistral Kitchen is not fussy or pretentious. That was not our experience at lunch. Instead, it's clear that the cooks in the kitchen, as directed by head chef William Belickis, understand how to treat the food well. Everything we ordered was delicately done, perfectly cooked, and seasoned exactly to our taste.

(Can I just say as an aside that Neil Robertson's desserts are some of the most extraordinary I have ever eaten? We're going back for those alone.)

On the day that we four met for lunch (Lorna came with us, of course), the charcuterie plate was the only pork offered that day.

after lunch

However, as you can see from our clean plates, we loved everythine we ate.

We are definitely going back, again and again.

I love when places surprise you.

Mistral Kitchen

2020 Westlake Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121

http://Fine-wood-working.com/

206-623-1922

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Skagit River Ranch sweet Italian sausage

skagit river italian sausage lunch

We have a problem.

We're addicted to Skagit River Ranch's sweet Italian sausage.

George and Eiko, who own Skagit River Ranch, are two of the best people we've ever met. Dedicated, passionate, funny, and loving — these two just make you feel good when you talk to them. That they raise some of the best-tasting pork we have ever eaten is really a bonus. We have a package of their pork ribs in the refrigerator right now, and we're still trying to decide how best to enjoy them this week. Some of the finished pork dishes you have seen on this site were made with Skagit River Ranch pork.

We used to buy our pork directly from Eiko's hands, at the stand she mans at the University District Farmers' Market. That was our regular Saturday haunt, where we met friends and shopped for the week's food at the same time. We had it good. Now, however, that we live on the island, and Danny cooks at the restaurant on Saturdays, we don't make it over there as much as we would like. We've been feeling a little bereft without our sweet Italian sausage.

This past Friday, we stayed the night with friends in the city. This brought us all joy, not only because we could wake up in the morning and see these lovely people, but also because their house is a ten-minute walk from the farmers' market. Where did we go first when we arrived? The Skagit River Ranch stand. Eiko was amazed at how big our daughter is. We talked and laughed about being parents. We picked out a lot of meat (Skagit River Ranch sells theirs frozen, so they last longer) for the coming weeks.

And we bought some sweet Italian sausage. This was lunch on Saturday afternoon: roasted fingerlings and sauteéd onions (both from the farmers' market as well), some seared red pepper, and sweet Italian sausage.

That was a good lunch.

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pork and quinoa breakfast

roast pork, red pepper, various veggies, and quinoa

“Breakfast!” Danny called from the kitchen.

Lu and I climbed off the bed where we had been reading stacks of books and ran out to the kitchen together. “What did Daddy make this time?” I asked her. Her eyes grew wide with anticipation.

We three sat down together at the dining room table, cups full  of steaming hot coffee for me and Danny, a cup of water for Lu. Her bowl of food no longer steamed, so she could eat it now. We said hello, marked the moment of a meal together, and looked down at our bowls.

Warm quinoa, roasted red peppers, broccoli sautéed in olive oil and garlic, thick slices of chewy mushrooms, browned onions, and cubes of roasted pork.

Lu and I blew kisses at Danny. Thank you. Thank you.

Sometimes, people write to us, “Oh, you eat so much meat. That can't be healthy.” But, as you can see from this photo, this is how we eat our pork most of the time: in small portions, as part of a balanced meal, in equal weight to the vegetables and grains, as flavoring and texture.

This bowl of food made us all feel good.

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lunch at Nettletown

the big board at Nettletown

One of our favorite new spots in Seattle for an exquisite little lunch turns out to be one of the most unassuming places you've ever been.

Nettletown is in a tiny storefront, a sliver of a restaurant in a small strip mall. It's practically next door to a Subway. You'd never expect one of the best exemplars of eating locally and in season to be in a place like this. The space has good karma, however. The renowned Seattle restaurant Sitka and Spruce used to be here, before it moved over to Capitol Hill instead. My guess is that after executive chef Matt Dillon received rave reviews from publications all across the country, Sitka and Spruce needed more than six tables for diners.

When Dillon left, Christina Choi slid into that space and started cooking in that kitchen instead.

Danny and I know Christina through Foraged and Found Edibles, the company she founded with Jeremy Faber. The two of them (and now their employees) forage iconic ingredients from the Pacific Northwest — nettles, fiddlehead ferns, morel mushrooms — and sell them to local restaurants. They are also kind enough to sell at Seattle farmers' markets. This is how we can eat creamy polenta with morel mushrooms sautéed in butter in April without having to go out to the woods ourselves. Christina also creates an incredible wild foods calendar every year. She has also cooked in fine kitchens across town, including the Herbfarm. With all this, our hopes for Nettletown were high.

We certainly weren't disappointed.

salad at Nettletown

This is the salad I ate. I love big salads and I love that this was called the Daily Big Salad. Yes, please. Fresh wild greens, a hard-boiled egg, bacon, and something called Japanese knotweed. Have you ever eaten it? I had not. It has a rhubarb-like texture, slightly vegetal, slightly sweet, but with a fermented flavor. I was instantly addicted.

The salty-smoky taste of the bacon (I think it might have been Skagit River Ranch bacon, one of my favorites for its meaty flavor) made the greens more zingy, the knotweed slightly less unusual in the mouth, and the eggs? Well, bacon and eggs. Come on.

I wish I had another one of these salads right now.

pork Asian noodles dish at Nettletown

This I could not eat. Oh, how I wish I could! But the pork short ribs had been marinated in something intoxicating that involved a touch of soy sauce. Gluten.

But our friend Jenise could eat this. And she did. (Wasn't she nice to let me take photographs of it before she dove in?)

Pork short ribs (tender, I was told) with marinated vegetables, a tea-soaked egg, noodles, and greens. This looks as healthy as can be.

It looks so damn delicious. I keep staring at the picture, trying to figure out how they made it. I want some, with tamari.

That's what Nettletown is like. Everything seems simple, the ingredients unadorned, the preparations fairly humble. But the taste of this food? Fantastic. The freshness makes each bite alive. This food — and that salad with bacon — will draw us back again. And again. And again.

Nettletown

2238 Eastlake Avenue East

Seattle, WA 98102

206.588.3607

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chicken-fried pork steak

chicken-fried pork steak

Have you heard of The Pioneer Woman? You must have, if you are reading a blog. Nearly everyone who can say the word “blog” without snickering or looking confused has been on The Pioneer Woman's site. Her heartfelt, funny stories of life on the ranch in Oklahoma, the passion she still feels for her husband (and his Wranglers) 15 years after they married, the love she feels for her children (whom she homeschools), and the crazy shenanigans that transpire on that ranch have captivated millions. Literally. She has millions of people visiting her website every month.

Yet, she's still humble and lovely, funny and gracious. She may have been on Good Morning America and The View the past few months, promoting her NY Times best-selling book , but she's still grounded.

(I'm lucky enough to have met her, a couple of times, and I can tell you that the woman really inhabits a room with her attentive kindness.)

Danny and I cooked out of The Pioneer Woman's cookbook for a week a while back, and we had a heck of a good time. In fact, Danny asked me to marry him again about 42 times that week. Ree makes good food, simply, food that doesn't require a lot of complicated steps. Food that celebrates butter and sugar and meat.

Since she and her husband own a cattle ranch in Oklahoma, you can imagine there aren't as many pork recipes in the book as we might have hoped. (There is a lovely spicy pulled pork, however, and the recipe begins with this line: “Oh my goodness, am I ever in love with pork shoulder. Please don't tell the cattle ranchers.” So once again, she's good.) However, Ree does have a simple, delicious recipe for making chicken-fried steak. Danny and I had a couple of pork cube steaks in the refrigerator one afternoon.

“How about these done like chicken-fried steak, but with pork?” I asked him.

He sort of grimaced. Danny's funny about food that way — if I have an idea that seems out of the unusual for him, he resists. At first.

Once I lay this plate down on the dining room table,  however, he did not resist at all. He dug his fork in and began eating.

1 ½ pounds pork cube steak
1 large egg
¾ cup milk
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (we used a blend of gluten-free flours, plus a pinch of xanthan gum)
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (Ree uses Lawry’s, and we used a red-pepper salt from Morocco we had in the spice drawer)
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¾ teaspoon black pepper
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
¼ cup canola oil

Set up a couple of bowls along the kitchen counter, next to the stove. In one put the egg, whisked together with the milk. In the next, the flour, seasoned salt, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper, stirred together well. Have the pork cube steaks on a plate.

Season the pork steaks with salt and pepper, on both sides.

Dip one steak into the milk-egg mixture. Flip it and coat the other side too.

Dip the egg-coated pork steak into the seasoned flour. Turn it over and over again until every pat of the steak is coated.

Put this same steak back into the milk-egg mixture, then again in the flour. This double-dipping and coating process makes the final pork steaks extra crisp.

Repeat this process with all the pork steaks and rest them on a plate.

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When you can drop a few pinches of flour into the oil and it sizzles, the oil is ready. Put no more than 3 steaks at a time into the hot oil. Cook until the edges begin to brown, about 2 ½ minutes. Turn over and cook until the other side has browned nicely, also about 2 ½ minutes.

Serve the steaks immediately. (And if you have cooked more than 3, keep the first batch warm in a 200° oven while  you finish the last batch.)

Ree also serves these with pan-dripping gravy, which is delicious. But you’re going to have to buy The Pioneer Woman Cooks for that recipe!

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She Smoke, the book

she smoke

“Ah, pork. Since that first little piggy went to the market, American barbeque has bowed down to the plump porcine god as slow-cooked royalty. We have entire festivals, competitions, and more than a few bed-and-breakfasts out there that have gone way past cute with collections of all things pig.”

This is how Julie Reinhardt starts the section on pork in her book, She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Book. With an opening like this, how could you not like it?

She-Smoke is smart, witty, and practical. Julie set out to write a guide to everything that someone who wants to learn about barbequing in the backyard needs to know. Charcoals, grills, knife-sharpening steels — these all come into play. Do you want to know when to use a dry rub or what meat does better with an overnight marinade? Julie covers this. I particularly like the chapter called “Grilling Basics.” Assume that the woman reading this chapter does not know anything about barbeque, since her boyfriend or husband has always done this duty. (Of course, it could very well be a man who needs to read this, since his wife has done all the grilling before him.) Julie runs through it all, with clear writing and funny anecdotes.

Really, if you want to cold smoke a pork tenderloin or make dripping-rich pork ribs this summer, this book would be eminently helpful.

On top of that, Julie includes recipes. Here are the pork recipes:

Buried Jerk Pork

Carolina Barbeque Pork

Carolina Pulled Pork

Diva Q East Meets West Pork Loin

Ego-stroking Baby Back Ribs with Apricot-Zing Glaze

Pulled Pork

Smoked Pork Loin with Grilled Apples

Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Drunken Port Sauce

Smoked Scrapple

Smoked Spareribs, Memphis-Dry-Style

Seriously, you want this book.

And now, you can have it. Julie was gracious enough to give us one of her books to share with our readers. Just leave us a comment here about why you are interested in the barbeque. We'll choose a winner at random, a week from today, by Random.org.

In the meantime, fire up the grill. The sun has to be out somewhere.

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Julie Reinhardt’s cocoa bliss pork

barbequed pork loin

You want this.  You know you do.

Look at that blackened crust, the crispness, the juices oozing in rivulets. With its burnt sienna exterior, this pork loin looks as though it was roasted in a furnace, without being burnt. It crackles off the screen, doesn't it?

pork loin, ready to eat

Don't let the darkened crust fool you. The inside of this pork loin was as juicy as you can imagine a pork loin to be.

We couldn't stop nibbling it.

Thank you to Julie Reinhardt for making us such a fine piece of pork.

And for giving us her recipe, in case you want to make it too.

Cocoa Bliss Rub (note: you could cut the quantities in half if you want just enough for this recipe.)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dutch processed cocoa
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano

The pork loin smoke-roasted for 2 hours at about 300-350 degrees. I think it could have used another 20-30 minutes to get a little more tender.

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oh boy, does she ever smoke

pork loin with cocoa bliss ready to be barbequed

Every day, when I open my email, I wonder what will surprise me next. There are usually strange PR pitches, some questions about baked goods or the best way to make roast pork shoulder, and some beautiful heartfelt letters that leave me a little teary.

And then this email from Julie Reinhardt shows up in the inbox:

“I own Smokin' Pete's BBQ in Ballard, have a new book out (She-Smoke), and have two (beautiful) kids. If you ever want to do a gluten-free barbecue shindig, I think it could be great. Barbecue should be gluten-free if it's done right, after all. It's also my personal quest to get more women out on the grill and smoker.”

We didn't have to think twice about that one. Sign us up.

Julie in her kitchen

This is Julie. She's pretty damned awesome. She and her husband run a southern-style barbeque joint in Seattle, which not only serves an incredible-looking menu but does catering and has live music. She has two kids — both of them under 5 years old — who are lively and running around her feet while she tries to cook. She wrote a book. She's writing other pieces too. And she's going on book tour to promote the joys of backyard barbequing and enticing women to step up to the grill. (Let go of your fear of the fire, ladies. You can handle those hot coals too.)

On top of all this, she cooked for us, cheerfully. She made sure the entire meal was gluten-free, including making tiny gluten-free buns for pork sliders, as well as a delicious sweet slaw from her family recipe.

The woman is a wonder.

Eric working the grill

This is her husband, Eric, the more silent partner. Julie does all the talking. Since she was in the kitchen with us, talking about her book and the joys of running a business and organizing a book tour and trying to help a toddler to sleep through the night while planning for a television appearance, Eric was kind enough to stand outside in the rain and coax the coals to produce enough heat to roast our pork.

I love what Julie wrote about her husband on her blog:

“I love my husband who yes has been supportive and my go-to-guy for this whole book process, but also much more. He has been silent. He, who worked his tail off for 20 some years on the line, churning out 300 covers without a break, working for many, (though not all), assholes along the way. He, who just wasn't self-serving enough or self-advocating enough to be a celebrity chef. He, who has got to be bugged by my interviews and cooking demos and book talks, yet has not made hardly a peep about it. He, who manages to calmly smoke up and slice the godly stuff each day and night for the faithful, sometimes as if from thin air, even when the line goes out the door and we're running out of everything.”

There is a lot more to Eric than we learned in this first visit with them.

grilled jicama salad

This slaw that Julie made, with grilled jicama, was a revelation. Grilled jicama? I didn't even know jicama had a taste until this. It always seemed like a texture instead. But grilled, it's more pliable and slightly sweet, slightly smoky, slightly intoxicating in its unexpected taste.

And it's a great accompaniment to barbequed pork.

Julie was kind enough to share her recipe with us, for you.

Modified Aunt Sandra's 3-week Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage
1/2 head purple cabbage
1 jicama, peeled and planked
some olive oil for grilling jicama
2 carrots (I think we got sidetracked and only did one)
1 cup sugar
1/2 small bunch cilantro, stemmed and coarsely chopped

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 fresh limes, squeezed

1. Brush jicama on both sides with olive oil. Grill directly over heat on both sides until grill marks form, then move to indirect heat, close the grill lid, and roast for about 10 minutes.
2. Shred cabbage, grate carrot, dice jicama. Pour sugar on top and set aside.
3. In pan, mix the vinegar, vegetable oil, lime juice, salt and dry mustard, and bring to a boil. Stir, then bring to a boil again.
4. Pour hot dressing over the dry mixture. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved and refrigerate overnight (though obviouslu we did for a mere 30 minutes). Add cilantro before serving.

“According to my Aunt Sandra, this will keep up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. We usually eat it up before then.”

Julie cutting the pork

Slaw is great. We love slaw. But we were all waiting for the finale. The pork.

This is pork loin rubbed with Julie's Cocoa Bliss rub. Crisp and blackened on the outside, tender and oh-so-faintly pink on the inside, this pork made us so so so happy at the end of a rainy afternoon. The waiting only made the pork juicier.

We're making this at home.

In a couple of days, we'll share Julie's recipe for the Cocoa Bliss rub, so you can make it too.

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Homesick Texan’s home-cured ham

ham_dsc03344

We don't do much about Easter around here. The kid is too little to know about the Easter Bunny yet. Danny works at the restaurant on Sundays. We'll have a long morning together, a big breakfast (probably with bacon), the paper, and laughter. Then Danny will drive to work and Lu and I will play. (Hopefully, it won't be raining the entire day, so we can be in the garden.)

But I tell what I wish we had done for Easter. I wish we had cured our own ham.

Our friend Lisa Fain, also known as Homesick Texan, cured her own ham. (That's her photograph of it up there too.) And we are so inspired. She makes it look so easy. And delicious.

Go on over and read Lisa's accounting of the home-cured ham. Then, tell us if you cure a ham too.

Also, are you having pork for Easter? If so, in what form? (And if you are reading this after Easter, what did you have?)

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salami for chopped salads

Salami for chopped salad

After we ate at Salumi, it was hard to buy any other cured pork for a bit. I mean, what can compare to this lunch?

However, not having the best doesn't preclude having the rest. Especially when the sun is shining in a spring-like fashion, the greens you bought from the farmers' market are actually vivid green, and the entire house is chanting its hunger.

Time for chopped salad. Time to pull out the salami.

What is your favorite brand of salami? And what do you eat it with?

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