After two years the lease at my little apartment is finally up, and of course, I waited a bit too long to start moving and cleaning. I got my butt kicked by the move last week, but still managed to find the time to get a little nostalgic. My small studio at The Marlborough in Seattle’s First Hill Neighborhood was my very favorite home to date (aside from my new home with Andrew!), and it held so many special meanings as it was my home when I returned from San Francisco and was my safe haven during the craziness of restaurant opening and adjusting to a new life.
After living in SF I knew I had to live somewhere with history and charm, and while there are many places in Seattle that would qualify, it’s also disappointing to see so many new, bland, and cheap apartments popping up all over the city. The Marlborough was originally built in 1928, but was just reopening after an extensive remodel/restoration, and even though it was the first apartment I saw (except for an awful condo in Beacon Hill that smelled like cats had lived and died there), I instantly knew it was so very me.
There was the large living room and bedroom…
…a cozy little kitchen and dining nook…
…original glass doornobs and crown moulding…
…the separate DRESSING ROOM with french doors (in addition to a walk-in closet!)…
(there was no way I was turning it into an office)
…and killer subway and honeycomb tiles in the bathroom.
Once well-loved by me, this sweet little home is available now. If, by chance, you’re on the hunt for a bachelorette pad you may want to check it out.
The Marlborough | 122o Boren Avenue | Seattle, WA 98101 | 206.682.8800
[image via VintageSeattle.org]
Sitka & Spruce Quince and Taragon | Bar Sajor Quince and Sour Blackberry | Rain Shadow Celery
My bubbly fascination is in hyperdrive and it’s not for that from a wine bottle. Surprise, surprise but lately I’ve found myself craving the house soda’s at Sitka & Spruce and Bar Sajor. The perfect amount of sweet syrupy goodness + the most glorious flavors. They always seemed kind of a secret at Sitka since somehow that is the quintessential glasses-of-wine-with-lunch-spot but they are there, and the flavors change often. Think Lemon Verbena, Quince, or Elderberry.
At the new Bar Sajor they are front and center on the menu, so if you find yourself there you must try the cucumber whey or the sour blackberry. There’s also the drinking vinegars and those are epic. There was a beet one that looked beautiful. Ah, but don’t worry. After your soda you can have a glass of wine or cider. That’s usually how I roll.
Also, if you hop across the street to the new Rain Shadow Meats 2 they have the best sandwiches and salads for lunch, but they also have a killer celery soda. A take on the traditional Jewish deli staple this one was so good with my mortadella sammie and potato salad yesterday.
I’m actually encouraging you to skip the sparkling wine and try one of these concoctions on your next date. Then tell me about it later so we can gush.
Last fall Andrew was invited up to Lummi Island for a little getaway at The Willows Inn. I’ve written about my love affair with the island and the restaurant before, so I was desperate to find a way to cleverly
blackmail work my way into the trip. The Fish, Forage, Farm event is a hands-on excurision driven by guest participation, with each of the activities and the menus all focusing back to the island, restaurant, staff, history. So two nights of great food, happy company, and quiet island life was sure to be nothing short of epic, even in the midst of a Pacific Northwest autumn.
Of course I worked my way in and have been waiting forever to share the full experience with you. I wanted to wait until after they reopened (they’re on sabbatical for January and February), and since they open this Thursday I figure I’ve waited long enough.
There was more food and fun than I could even begin to share, so below is a little glimpse into a weekend away at The Willows:
Our hosts for the two days were Chef Ben, and Nettles farm maven Jennifer. There were five others that joined in, and we were all welcomed in front of a cozy fire at The Inn. A beautiful set-up of freshly baked breads and pressed apple cider (spiked with Buffalo Trace bourbon!) were there to help us settle in as we made introductions and talked about ‘the agenda’ for the days ahead. And when I say agenda, let me just say that at one point Ben made sure to mention that if ever there came a point where one felt that they needed a nap…that they should do just that. (Some kind of agenda, no?) We also each received a sweet little welcome kit with a small notebook and pencil for notes, and a pair of Japanese herb scissors.
We soon made our way to Nettles Farm, just up the hill from The Inn, and Jennifer gave us a great little tour before putting us to work in the hoop house. And by work I mean she had the seven of us plant two rows of napa cabbage sprouts, harvest some kohlrabi for lunch the next day, and collect eggs. Yeah, it was rough. It was fun to know that in just a few short weeks those cabbage sprouts would grow to be used by Chef Blaine and his team, but my very favorite part of the time on the farm was spending time with Jennifer and hearing her fun stories about cultivating the farm, learning about the different varieties of each plant, and her overall enthusiasm for eating seasonally.
And then came lunch….
After “working” on the farm it was time to gather in the farmhouse for lunch, and since it was the first meal we’d enjoy with one another there was much to be learned and shared. Of course, the seemingly endless supply of white wine helped us all ease into conversation mode. But everyone was beyond lovely, and ultimately we were all there because good food, and being connected to it was in some way or another, important to all of us. The creamy potato soup, flat bread, and wine were all unbelievable.
Dinner that night was some sort of amazing roasted duck, hay smoked celery root, kale caesar salad with chicken crackling, and beets roasted in bread, but of course all of the dinner meal pictures are too dark to share, and I just hate to post anything that doesn’t (even in the smallest way) attempt to convey how gorgeous each dish/meal was. So, let us move on to breakfast…
For nightly accommodations we were all split between two seaside guest houses, so each meal would switch between the houses. The first breakfast was at the house across the way and was a tasty mixed grain porridge, macerated berries, and gravlax from reef net caught salmon. How often does one get to wake to a perfectly made breakfast from an amazing chef? Not often enough. It was the perfect start before a relaxing autumn walk through the Otto Preserve, and a lesson on reef netting from Jerry.
Jerry is a badass reef net expert that has lived and fished the waters around Lummi for years, and I just loved listening to his stories and looking through his old photos. Since my very first meal on Lummi I’ve been fascinated by reef netting which is a historical method that allows for a more humane and sustainable way to catch the salmon. It ultimately allows the fisherman to select the best catches and set free those that don’t meet culinary standards with minimal shock. The pontoons you see above are rolled out into the bay and each platform/tower has a fisherman with a corner of the net. They trap the salmon and pull uniformly to raise the catch.
After a fun morning outside and a great chat with Jerry I love so much that Ben had some
nap time free time for us, because after that it would be time for the most perfect lunch ever.
Ben as a chef: his attention to detail, effortless skill, and passion for good food was infectious and exhilarating. Ben as a host: was more like a friend, generously sharing his knowledge, excellence, and love for the island with all of us. Ben is my favorite.
We were also really lucky to have his friend Brandon visiting from Toronto. It was great fun to see two gifted chefs and friends working together and the result was in this meal — one of my all-time favorite dining experiences. Crab salad (cleaned by two of our wonderful new friends in the group), fried smelt, freshly baked focaccia, horseradish creme, seaweed kohlrabi salad, and lots of bubbly.
Our final nights dinner was another amazing feast of lamb, fresh oysters, charred cabbage, and pickeld shallots. There was also a guest appearance from our favorite bartender from The Willows, Emily, and she made her signature gin fizz with some of the eggs we’d harvested the day before!
It was hard to prepare to leave the next morning, but we had a lovely farewell breakfast at The Willows and received a sweet farewell note and gift from Ben and Jennifer. The eggs we’d harvested were ready for us in a sweet little basket. Those little and meaningful little touches add up to so much.
Just like a meal at The Willows Inn, the two-day escape for Fish, Forage, and Farm is the treat of a lifetime. The relaxing pace and soul-stirring meals with new friends was exceptional and memorable. And with genuine and wonderfully gifted hosts like Jennifer and Ben, the tone was set for a meaningful experience with a rare opportunity to connect with and understand the food that’s available at that time and place. It’s a powerful feeling.
The spring season will be the perfect time to join in, and the “agendas” will differ with each session and season, so if you’re interested give them a call or check their site for upcoming dates. I would do it again in an instant, and would also like to wrangle some friends to come along too.
The Willows Inn | Lummi Island, WA | (360) 758-2620
I’d never seen a Witch Hazel blossom before last year (god, I love this shot!), and ever since I’ve been dying for its return in the Winter Garden at the Arboretum. I’m kind of ashamed to say that it never dawned on me to think beyond the magic tincture I splash on my face each night, but behind the natural toner is a wonderfully fragrant and vibrant tree that blooms in winter. So if you’re in need of a floral fix and can find an upcoming dry day you should head into the Winter Garden for a quiet stroll and a few deep breaths of the Witch Hazel blossoms. (It makes for a great little date too!)
Oh, and can we just talk about the rules of visiting public gardens for a moment? Let’s all agree not to snap off a branch or blossom to take away. Didn’t we cover this in Kindergarten? I seem to remember the lesson, but sadly so many others we saw didn’t. Savor and share.
How I use Witch Hazel toner
After cleansing, the purpose of a toner is to remove excess oil and dirt, and also to close the pores and restore pH balance. Witch Hazel is a natural antiseptic, so if you make sure the product you’re getting is alcohol free, it can perform all the functions of a conventional toner, but without the added preservatives and chemicals. After that you’re free and clear to lotion it up.
Bottom line: it’s natural, it works, it’s cheap, and it will last you quite a long time.
I use Thayer’s. Different varieties here for about $6.
I can’t believe it has taken me this long to brag about my friend Nancy. She is one of the kindest people I know, and I often wish I could be see her IRL and not just through Facebook. Beyond her overall awesomeness, she is also a very gifted photographer; which by the way, is her hobby outside of having a real job and a long commute. I have a deep love affair with all things from a macro lens so her images are always fascinating. She lives in the most lovely little town of La Conner, famous for their annual tulip festival, so her portfolio reflects the beautiful and rustic countryside and lush greenery and blossoms.
If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, head up to Mt. Vernon and visit her show. Her photos will be featured along with a local jewelry designer. The perfect stop for a meaningful Valentine’s day giftie and a fun little getaway.
Baubles and Blossoms
Saturday, February 9th
2112 Riverside Drive, Mt. Vernon WA
This has been my weekend runaround, my typical night at work, and my lunch date outfit. It’s comfortable, it’s easy, it’s the Canadian Tuxedo; and suddenly, it’s very much acceptable to mix denim…I swear!
I think I surprised Tessa at lunch last week when I rocked the dark wash coat and chambray shirt, and to be honest I kind of shocked myself with it a few weeks ago when I threw it together. To be honest, there is no single silhouette, proportion, or color combination that works better than any other, really you just have to feel comfortable in the mix you’re wearing. I’ve collected some great style inspirations on my Pinboard here, and there are many a stylish lady making the tux look good. Check them out and give it a go. (The sneaker look is also a latest favorite of mine, Pinboard here.)
We’ve been having lots of fun playing with popcorn lately and there are so many fun twists that I can’t wait to share, but I figured I’d start off simply with an heirloom popping corn done right on the stove.
If you’ve never popped popcorn on the stove top I swear in some weird way it’s easier than in a microwave where I always managed to under-pop or walk away and completely singe the entire bag. With the stove, the quality of the popped kernels is much better and you have so many choices in the variety of corn that you want to use. Heirloom varieties are not genetically modified (they don’t contain Round-up!) so the character, taste, and texture of the corn is richer and tastier.
Everyone has one of those tall stock pots with a lid tucked away somewhere; ours has become our popcorn pot. You’ll want a tall pot so a large amount of steam can collect.
1. Place the pot on medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of oil. We switch between bacon fat, duck fat, or coconut oil.
2. Throw in 3-4 kernals while the oil is melting. Once those guys pop the oil has reached the right temp.
3. Add 1/2 cup of popcorn and cover.
4. Swirl the pot over the heat and listen to how the corn is popping.
5. Once the popping stops wait a second or two longer, remove from the heat, and open the lid to let the steam escape.
6. Serve with your favorite salt.
The brand we’ve been using is India Tree (a Seattle-based company!), and their Paloma Blanca is heavenly…even described as “little doves” (palomitos) on the package. Available online or on the gourmet food aisle at many grocery stores. While the Blanca is our favorite, the other varieties are great too.
It is freakin’ cold here. The days are clear and dry; words that don’t often describe Seattle weather, but without our usual thick blanket of grey-gloomy cloud cover there’s nothing to hold in even the slightest bit of warmth. I love seeing bits of frost on the ground each day (not to mention the sun!), but until it actually snows I’ll continue wish it into existence and feast on oh-so decadent, stick-to-your-ribs kind of dishes like this guy here: a proper dish of spaghetti alla carbonara.
The key here is not to skimp–not to be afraid to use the rendered bacon fat, and not to be shy about the salt, pepper, or parmesan. It’s not a traditional addition, in fact many Italians won’t eat it if there’s a speck of anything green, but I like to add chopped fresh parsley to give a bit of freshness and lighten things up…if only just a tad. Regardless, with or without a pinch of greenery this dish is badass.
When cooking the pasta, be sure to use a large pot with about 4-quarts of water. I used to force it into a small pot in order to save time and water, but in order to get the perfect texture and release of starches be sure to use lots of water, and don’t be afraid to salt it. We want to be sure the noodles have their own layer of flavor. And if you’re looking for a good brand of pasta I really like bionaturae’s line of organic pastas. They’re often on sale at Madison Market too.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 lb (about 4 slices) thick cut bacon, sliced
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional: Fresh parsley, chopped
Warm the olive oil in a pan and cook the bacon (sliced into lardons) until crisp. Set aside but be sure to save the rendered fat.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil ladle a few spoonfuls of the water into a bowl to warm it before adding the egg and cheese. Set the bowl aside and add 2 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water and drop the spaghetti. Cook according to the package directions or until tender but firm.
Toss the hot water from the bowl and add eggs, parmesan, and black pepper. Beat well. When the pasta is done drain it and toss immediately in the egg and cheese mixture. Mix well, then add the bacon and rendered fat. Mix again and add more black pepper; taste and add salt and more pepper if needed.
Are you all settled into this lovely new year? It’s nice to have a bit of a normal routine again, I must say. And now that we’re on the upswing for longer days it all seems to be quite nice to me. I’m looking forward to finalizing plans for our little shindig and sharing some recipes with you. Tonight we’re going to play with gougères!
Happy weekend to you. And may you play with your food too. Kiss!
Mint, vintage Kaj Franck enamelware bowls from Andrew! The only hearts approved for our Lucky Valentine party so far. (There will be a strict limit until I can find some good party inspiration that isn’t beyond cheesy. Seriously, try searching for Valentine party inspo.)
A sneak peek at Seattle’s Bar Sajor from Chef Matt Dillon. I was so lucky (if not slightly groupie) to tag along with Andrew to see the space as they’re finishing construction. Hallelujah, Pioneer Square finally has a chance to live up to its potential! Giddy doesn’t even describe how I feel.
Early in the fall I mentioned a yummy food gift we received from Chef Kylan of Sitka & Spruce: homemade yogurt, granola, and jam. Well if you’d like to try some too, and if you’re looking for something to do tomorrow morning (Saturday) come visit me at the Stumptown Cafe on 12th Avenue between 10 am – 12pm. Come taste some of the goods and sip on some Grand Cru Stumptown coffee brewed in a sexy Chemex. Kylan will be there to share more about this sweet little project too.
Just head downstairs to the roastery and you’ll see us. We’d love to talk yogurt, food, coffee, anything with you. Very informal, friendly, and tasty, I promise. Kiss!
Pioneer Square Pantry tasting
Saturday, January 4th | 10 am to 12 pm