I have yet to make as much holiday progress at home as I’d like (still stuck between two), but instead of rushing, forcing, stressing I decided to move things along by visiting Andrew’s wonderful friend Nisha at her little flower studio Fleurish on the Hill. If you’ve ever visited the Stumptown Cafe on 12th she does the big and beautiful arrangements that you see when you walk in. I always admire her work, so I was really excited to bring something home for the holidays.
All I knew is that I wanted something holiday-ish and branchy to fit into my giant Lenox vase and in just a few days I had this gorgeousness to set the holiday mood. Oh, how it smells of Christmas! There are so many great things tucked away inside but I am suddenly so fascinated by those eucalyptus pods hanging over the edge.
It’s funny that we all think of oysters as a summer staple, but truly they only start to come into their real season when the weather and the water cool down. Makes sense enough, so as hard as it is, I forgo oysters on the half shell during the warmer months and often look forward to the holidays to make up for precious lost time. Since ’tis the season to entertain you might want to consider trying your hand at shucking and serving some fresh local oysters for your guests. Or if the thought of that is too daunting, try practicing for a nice date night at home.
Some quick tips:
- If you’re going the party route, plan for 2-4 oysters per person (raw or baked). Limit to small gatherings until you’re confident enough to power through big batches.
- Start with Kusshi or Kumamoto varieties as they are easier to shuck, and are the perfect starter oysters for people who aren’t yet fully adventurous.
- My neighborhood Taylor Shellfish at Melrose Market has the most wonderful staff. If you head in before the afternoon/evening rush they’re always willing to give you a quick shucking demo.
If you buy your oysters the day before you plan to serve them, they will be fine to sit in the refrigerator overnight but there are a few things that you’ll need to do to make them happy during their stay:
1. Line a baking sheet with a wet (filtered water is best) kitchen towel.
2. Arrange the oysters in a single layer.
3. Place another wet towel on top of the oysters and make sure that all are covered.
4. Place in the refrigerator and check to be sure the temperature is no more than 35-degrees.
Note: Each shell should be closed, but if any are open they should close when tapped. If not, discard!
- Kitchen towel
- Oyster knife
- Shucking gloves (optional)
1. Fold a kitchen towel into fourths lengthwise. Create a little cradle for the oyster by folding the narrow towel into thirds and then creating a handle for the left hand.
2. Place the oyster cup-side down and use your left hand and the handle of the towel to hold it in place.
1. Insert the tip of oyster knife into the hinge at the back of the oyster. There’s an indented notch that’s easily identified above on this Kusshi.
2. Using pressure (as opposed to force) gently, but firmly guide the tip of the knife to the spot where the knife can fit past the notch and gain more leverage, then twist the knife to pop the hinge.
3. Gently run the knife along the top of the shell to separate it from the muscle, being careful not to pierce the body or lose too much of the liquor (juice) as you work.
4. With the top shell removed, the body needs to be separated from the bottom. Gently run the knife under the body of the oyster and separate it again.
5. A true sign of a proper restaurant/chef/shucker: as you’ve separated the body from the bottom cup, flip the body with the knife. Why? Because it looks better.
6. Check for shell pieces. Smell each oyster before plating. If anything smells off toss it! (Another note of importance: never swallow a bad oyster. Spit it out immediately and grab a piece of lemon to rid the taste in your mouth. Trust me, you’ll know when you’ve got a bad one.)
Note: As you practice popping the hinge you will break a few shells when the knife isn’t quite deep enough. It can be unnerving when you hit that first bit of resistance as it feels like there’s not a spot where the knife can fit, but with practice applying the right amount of pressure you’ll get the hang of things. I, too, am still practicing.
Tip: Use the towel to wipe the knife as it gets dirty or as bits of shell get stuck
Serving & Eating
- Ask for a bag of shaved ice when you buy your oysters. I much prefer oysters served over ice as opposed to rock salt.
- Serve naked or with lemon wedges and a basic mignonette: finely minced shallot, red wine vinegar, black pepper.
- For a special touch: freshly grated horseradish on the side. (My fave!)
This isn’t just a holiday tea, in fact Douglas Fir tips are usually harvested in the spring when they’re young and tender, but there’s something so undeniably festive about enjoying this tea now. If you geek out over the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree, then you’ll probably die from pure bliss when you get your hands on this stuff.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like a tree; instead it’s very light and clean with aromatics that smell like the sweet notes of a forest. Simply put, it’s one of the most lovely and comforting teas I have ever sipped. And since the tips are harvested from Pacific Northwest tress, every Seattleite should be drinking it.
Tea for two:
3 to 4 cups boiling water (depending on how concentrated you’d like it), two tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes.
Get it from the makers at Juniper Ridge. 20 unbleached tea bags per tin, $12.
Please, please, please…if you do one thing this season be sure to steep yourself a cup of this amazing tea.
I traded in my weekend for a few days off mid-week to escape up to Lummi Island for some fun on the farm and in the forest. Ok so perhaps there was an epic meal or two, but for a city girl it was kind of a big deal to get my hands (and boots) dirty. Even though today isn’t my usual day off I’m still riding high from two days of Northwest island life.
And how great is it to now have our sights set on Thanksgiving next week! Here’s hoping you have a lovely weekend preparing for time with your family and friends.
Transplanting napa cabbage seedlings. A little bit of garden work in the hoop house at Nettles Farm. Crazy to think that in just about 80 days this will be a giant cabbage.
City girls *can* have fun in the woods. Notice my Sorel boots? They. Are. Awesome.
Hard work indeed. Bubbly and the perfect Northwest beach.
Filed under: Beauty, Chocolate, Green, Health, My favorite things, Seattle
I’ve gotten a few inquiries about where I find chocolate to satisfy my
weekly daily cravings and somehow I could have sworn I’d posted about my very favorite chocolate, flavored sugars & salts, custom tinctures, natural health products, and vintage goodies store before. And yet somehow I missed it.
Sugarpill Apothecary (or just Sugarpill as we call it) was one of my very first discoveries after moving back from San Francisco, and while I needed time to settle in to my new adventure at home, this was the place that made me feel at home here while recalling happy memories of SF. I take all of my out-of-town guests here after brunch at Sitka for the perfect “Seattle experience”. (And come on, is that not the coolest branding logo ever?)
The proprietor Karyn has an amazing array of the most wonderful goodies and everything is just so me. I love her natural health and beauty section (of course), but then there’s….
…the wall of barware bitters and syrups…
…flavored sugars and salts…
…gourmet pantry items and so much more.
But perhaps the most wonderful resource in Sugarpill is Karyn herself. With extensive knowledge of herbology and homeopathic remedies (right up my alley!) I often come to Karyn for a custom-made tincture for whatever may ail me: fatigue, stress, cold remedies…anything. (And even if you don’t quite know what’s off, she has a wonderful way of helping you identify and articulate how you might be and feel better.)
As I tell all of my visiting customers at the restaurant, for the perfect one-stop-shop that is oh-so-Seattle, be sure to visit Sugarpill.
Sugarpill Apothecary Seattle | 900 E. Pine Street, Seattle, WA 98122 | 206.322.7455
I’ve gotten a few questions about the ceramic tea cup I used in the matcha tea post last week so I figured I’d share all about it since it’s pretty freakin’ cool.
The ceramic is an ancient pottery technique called nerikomi (or neriage) where colored slabs of clay are folded and stacked to create patterns in the clay. It’s widely considered to be one of the more difficult techniques to master because of the painstaking and delicate care that’s required to create the patterns. I happened upon these pieces at Far 4 here in downtown Seattle. When I saw this cup it was so Andrew to me: the colors, the pattern, the shape. It was instantly special and I had to get it.
This particular series is created by master ceramicist Yusuke Aida, one of Japan’s most respected artisans. More than just a cup we often pause to admire it as an object of art…and when you consider that many of us are guilty of cupboards full of free mug swag or crummy tourist souvenirs it’s been really nice to have a unique and special piece to enjoy with tea every day.
Have you caught on that Andrew’s cup has become our cup? All the more reason to justify finding one for me now, right? I’m really liking this checkered guy here.
With Yusuke Aida in his 80′s now, there are some younger artisans that have taken up the art of nerikomi, and the price point is not quite as high as. I am really excited about discovering Sakai Mika. Her pieces are for sale online here. And if you’re curious to see more of the nerikomi process, check out this amazing post on her technique.
Yusuke Aida ceramics available online, or at the Far 4 shop here in Seattle.
For me, there are only a couple of chefs in Seattle that are showcasing what Seattle dining and cuisine is really and truly about. In a place and time where the hype-machine glorifies mediocrity it’s easy to confuse glitz for good food and celebrity chefdom for good cooking. There are, however, two chefs worthy of praise and recognition, and Renée Erickson is one of them. (It’s no surprise to anyone who catches my weekly favorite recaps that Chef Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce and The Corson Building is the other.)
You’ll recognize Renée as the name behind Boat Street Café and The Walrus and the Carpenter, and while those are some of the best that Seattle has to offer, there really is nothing quite like her latest venture, The Whale Wins.
I was lucky enough to be able to join Andrew for a little sneak preview on Friday and I can’t even begin to describe the setting or the food. For day three of a secret soft opening it was nothing less than stellar.
Located in the newly renovated Fremont Collective building on Stone Way, The Whale Wins is one part of a quadplex of sorts. To the left you’ll find the relocated Joule, to the right you’ll find the relocated Evo ski and snowboard shop, and downstairs you’ll find an indoor skate park.
When you take your seat be sure to look up and check out the warm welcome from the light installations. H-E-L-L-O, H-E-L-L-O.
Then marvel at the open ceiling with exposed beams that purportedly mimics those of a ships internal lateral hull structure. Regardless of what they are, it’s gorgeous.
Like both spaces before, the setting Renée has cultivated here is gorgeous. I have too many favorites to mention, but to name a few there are the marble top tables dressed with butcher paper, sea green/blue thonet chairs, ship lap panelled walls, Blue Willow china serviettes, killer lighting, and an enormous vintage sink at one of the server stations. Oh, and the vintage brass pepper mills? Un. Real. (We now have one coming, by the way.)
Elegant and bright, yet casual and welcoming. I’m just so excited that Seattle has another perfectly Northwest culinary destination.
Real. Classic. Perfectly executed.
Succulent roasted chicken with crisp skin. Perfectly roasted beef tenderloin (served at room temperature) with vibrant arugula pesto potato salad. Roasted radicchio with its tangy bitterness cut by a creamy buttermilk dressing and a burst of poppyseed.
The menu seemed to be structured around classics: perfectly executed staples, seasonal and local ingredients, and Renée’s mom’s brownie recipe! From beginning to end the meal was delicious, comforting, soulful, and endorphin-inducing. The main courses from the Oven section of the menu were elegant and sturdy with SO much flavor imparted from the wood-fired oven. And really, I never order chicken but this one shouldn’t be missed…and neither should the roast beef for that matter. Additionally, one of my favorite parts was the use of herbs: vibrant and refreshing, but not overpowering.
And if it wasn’t already perfect enough, they offer my favorite François Pinon Vouvray Non-Dose bubbly by the glass ($10) and by the bottle ($40)!
Winter Lettuces, herbs, pistacios, and Yarmuth sheepsmilk cheese
Roasted Radicchio, hazelnuts, buttermilk poppyseed vinaigrette, and preserved lemon rind
Roasted half chicken, cauliflower, butter, and chervil
Roast beef tenderloin (sliced thin and served at room temp), arugula pesto, potatoes, and fresh horseradish cream
Shirlee’s brownie (omg!)
Warm, welcoming, perfect. Considering all of the things that float through your head in preparation for an opening the staff was attentive, happy, fun, and relaxed. Pros from beginning to end.
In the end…
It’s likely there will be quite a frenzy when it officially opens on Wednesday (Halloween), so be ready. But here’s my take on it: dinner here is going to be obvious. It will be amazing, but it will also be a spot to see and be seen, and that’s not why I eat out. I’m not a foodie. I seek out and appreciate legitimately good food. So for me, in the end, it’s all about lunching. This is the best opportunity to get to know the staff, the food, the space. And it’s so much more personal. Take advantage of those special days and turn them into special dates by setting aside time to make it a true lunch. Have a glass (or two) of bubbly, sit back and let the kitchen determine your courses, and add dessert (have I mentioned Shirlee’s brownie yet?) with Stumptown Coffee’s Duramina french press.
I’m 5 days in to a 12 day marathon at work. No weekend this week, so instead I caught up with my dear friend Gena over coffee and tea and also snuck away for some lunching. The only hard part has been the gloomy, stormy weather that makes me want to stay in bed. Enjoy your weekend, friends. Make it an extra good one.
Here are a few of my favorites from the week. Kiss!
No surprise, I lunched at Sitka & Spruce. Smelt, loxed trout, and lightly fermented vegetables. Oh, and some bubbly.
I indulged in Thai pastries. Chef made these pastries filled with her pineapple preserves as a gift for one of our servers that just moved to Hawaii. These piggies were ‘seconds’ so they became mine.
I had this on repeat. Then I decided to check out the video. Nothing like Time (Clock of the Heart) as the soundtrack to an extra long week. I suddenly see the irony in this.
I had three days off this week and it was glorious! Even back in my corporate days I always wondered why the big wigs didn’t understand how much happier and productive I could be if I had three days off. For real! So yes, I had a wonderful week and am still very content with what remains through the weekend as we have a few more days of very summery sun.
I hope you were able to take advantage of your extra day off. If not, maybe you can sneak a mental health day in sometime soon. You deserve it. Kiss!
Overpass ribbons for instant happiness. There are a bunch of kites strung throughout Freeway Park and I believe this is part of the exhibit. It’s just a lattice wood fence with roadwork ribbons attached but it’s so pretty and it makes me smile every time I walk through.
Birthday brunch planning for mom. My guy and I made gravlax with a piece of salmon my dad caught for us so we decided make an entire brunch around it. It was unbelievably good. We’re making another tomorrow so I’ll see if I can’t come up with a recipe to share.
Nectarine blackberry pie for snacking. If the season is here the only thing to do is make a pie. The sour cherries in July were awesome but there’s just something about the fleshy, sweet nectarines (and autumn slowly approaching) that makes me so happy and content.
If you’re out and about in Seattle on Sunday you should swing by the Melrose Street Fair in front of Melrose Market. We’ll be celebrating its 2 wonderful years with food, booze, and coffee. My very favorites stops Sitka & Spruce, Bar Ferd’nand, and Taylor Shellfish will have snacks, and my very favorite guy and I will be working the Stumptown Coffee Cold Brew station. Come by and grab a brew!
In the meantime I’ll be contemplating preparations for the changing season. Autumn is in the air and while I’m really, super excited I’m hoping that there are still some of bits of warmness ahead. I’m just not quite ready to give up my favorite Summer accessories. Here’s to warm (and dry!) Indian Summer days, and cozy cool Autumn nights.
Cole Haan mini purse. Just big enough to hold my phone, cash, and lipstick. I got it so long ago it’s probably considered vintage by now.
T by Alexander Wang tee. Seriously the most wonderfully soft and stylish t-shirt ever. From cut-off shorts to fancy skirts it’s perfect.