27 August 2009

Roosevelt Ale House is in the house!

So excited! The newly renovated space at 88th and Roosevelt is finally open! It used to be The Jones, which was tasty if pricey. For the past several weeks, mass construction has been happening -- lots of seats and tables and etc sitting on the front patio instead of patrons sipping drinks. The curiosity has been killing me!

Finally, a week or so ago, the haunt's new sign went up, confirming the rumor that this spot will now be known as the Roosevelt Ale House. (I think the Ale House has the same owners as The Jones, just a new name/face lift. This could be a very wise move, helping people continue to patronize local joints but not with such a steep bill at the end of the night.)

I'm so excited to have another pub-style place in the 'hood that hopefully will have faster service than, ahem, its competitor. We'll be trying it tomorrow with some fellow Maple Leafers so I'll keep you posted. Hooray!

Food & Drink Oregon Internship -- How to Decide?

I just received info about this contest from Alaska/Horizon airlines in my inbox. How to decide which to enter? Cheese & chocolate making sounds great... as does wine or spirit-making...Decisions!

25 August 2009

Summer's Swan Song: Fresh Corn Chowder

Yesterday might have been it. The sun shone brightly, the warmth creeping across my face as it streamed through the windows. Fresh corn sat on the counter. But there was a tinge in the air of things to come -- fall, specifically.

All good things have to come to an end, but it pains me nonetheless to see summer go until next year. Especially this one. It's been a doozy.

The one bright spot of the turn to fall is that fresh corn -- growing earnestly all season long on its stalks -- is now ripe and sweet and ready for enjoyment.

And enjoy it we did in this fresh-corn chowder recipe. It was absolutely smashing -- a perfect combo of sweet (I didn't char the corn, as I wanted to retain the kernels' sugars), a hint of spice (I used dashes of hotsauce rather than those fiery chipotles in adobo), and a more than pleasing texture (crisp, bursting nuggets of corn encased in a creamy, comfort-food stew). (Oh, for anyone veggie out there wondering about the bacon, Morningstar's faux bacon is a wonderful substitute!)

If summer's going to go, I want to send it off with a bowl of this chowder.

24 August 2009

Dining Out Delights: Tavern Law + Oddfellows

This Friday, I finally checked some places off the list that I'd been wanting to visit for some time.

The night began with a gamble: My cohorts and I wanted to explore the throwback bar Tavern Law--on opening night, no less. In a pleasant surprise, we got in straightaway (this was before 7 pm; by the time we shuffled out after 8, the place was getting packed).

I dug the vintage vibe and retro decor, especially the hidden upstairs room that made me feel like a 1930s girl in a speakeasy -- but much, much classier. Before taking us up the secret staircase, the hostess picked up a phone next to the stairwell to alert the barkeep at the top. I thought this a charming -- and practical -- touch. By the time we ascended the stairs (paneled in wood, decorated with old nudey-girl pictures), our seats were ready. As we sat sipping our cocktails, the retro wall phone chirped occasionally, the vest-wearing bartender peeking around the intimate room to see if any tables had freed for new guests. All very sophisticated.

The difference between the two storeys is in the menu: Downstairs you can order off the full menu (including nibbles) + partake of Tavern Law's recipes of signature drinks. Upstairs, there's nary a menu in sight. (No food, either, though on Friday the table next to us was feasting on a smorgasbord... I'm quite sure they were in the inner VIP circle.) To order a drink -- made of top-shelf liquors -- is a delicate dance between customer and waiter. I told the waitress that I was a gin gal, and she proffered up a couple of suggestions from her cheat sheet. We landed on a potion of gin + Lillet + a citrus twist, poured into an old-school champagne goblet that had first been washed with absinthe. The result was slightly sweet and tart; not at all 'foofy' yet very sexy. A perfect aperitif.

Next up, we strolled up to Oddfellows Cafe and Bar, one of the latest in Linda Derschang's empire. Not to play up the name too much, but it was rather odd to be in this space...A decade-plus ago, this was the setting for many post-punk/hardcore shows. I hold dearly in my memory the night I saw Treepeople play to maybe a couple hundred eager fans in this hall. Now, any rock-band sightings would be diners (or maybe servers).

The space is open, almost cafeteria-like, and casual-cool in the way Linda does best. We started off with some low-cost beverages (another staple in Linda's repertoire) and ordered a few items to taste off the menu. The tuna tartine sandwich was rather plain (tasty, mind you - just not anything out of the ordinary); the roasted-beet salad similar. No real complaints here, as the prices were more than fair. The only disappointment was dessert: We shared two (pictured above) -- a s'more concoction (brownie-like) and one of the house-made puddings (almond and berry). Both were dry and dull. I'd much recommend walking around the corner to the newly opened Molly Moon's ice-creamery instead.

17 August 2009

An Abundance of Cukes and Zukes! Zucchini and Fennel Gratin + Cucumber Collins

Right about now, I'm considering myself an especially lucky gal. My veggie garden consists of only one tomato plant (which has produced two - count 'em) toms to enjoy. But the crisper drawer in the fridge is overflowing with gifts from gardener friends. Green beans. Tiny onions. Fresh carrots. An abundance of cucumbers and zucchini.

This weekend, my dear friend Rebecca added an interesting item to the mix - a heady bulb of fennel. The smell alone was intoxicating, as was the question of what do do with it.

I thumbed through my go-to cooking bible (no, you don't need to call me Julie -- my resources is Joy of Cooking, not MtAoFC as Julie Powell dubs Julia Child's tome) to sort out what to do with this fennel. I'd envisioned something braised or roasted.

On the first page of fennel recipes, something caught my eye -- something that could use multiple veggies that spilled out of the crisper: Zucchini and Fennel Gratin. I scanned through the list of ingredients, and lo and behold, I had everything on-hand. Kismet!

So Monday after I closed the dayjob, I got to work on the food-job. It didn't take long to slice and dice the fennel (cleaning out its sandy layers - akin to the dirt that clings to the layers in leeks). I chopped some onion and set it to work sauteing with the fennel.
One word of warning - the recipe says to cook the fennel & onion mixture at as low heat as possible. My stove was on "low" and the mixture still seemed to brown too fast -- it could be because I had it on medium for the first 7 minutes or it could just be that my electric stovetop doesn't go as low as the recipe's writer intended (perhaps a gas stove would be more precise).

On to the sliced zucchini, paper-thin and sauteed on high for a few minutes to brown. This may be another spot where I went wrong. After the zucchini cooked, I set it aside as the recipe directed. But I filled a cereal-bowl with the warm veggies and let it sit until I needed it a good 60 minutes later; I think I should have waited to cook the zuke until closer to assembly time -- or, at minimum, spread the layers of cooked veggie onto a plate or baking sheet to stop the cooking. It turned a little soggy...

After removing the zucchini, I reused the same pan to cook some freshly chopped tomatoes - a couple borrowed from mom's garden! - with a taste of salt and pepper. I was happy to scoop the fresh tomato sauce atop the gratin at the end; otherwise this would've been a very green dish.

At this point, I realized that a cucumber Collins would complement this side-dish nicely. It is easy-peasy to make, and is yet another item that I must credit to Rebecca! For each drink, simply muddle a handful of cucumber slices (about 5) and add to a standard Tom Collins recipe. Or, if you're like me and don't have everything on hand (ahem, lemons), improvise! I made mine from 2 oz. Sapphire gin, 1/2 oz. simple syrup - always on hand in my fridge and ridiculously simple to make, and a splash of organic lime juice. Shake it up with the muddled cukes and strain into a glass, then top with lemon Perrier and a slice of cucumber for garnish.

As I tasted the fennel-onion mixture in preparation for assembly of the gratin, I realized I wanted it to be a tad sweeter. So I added a splash of vermouth. (Yes, I have vermouth on hand, but no fresh lemons for my drink. Go figure.) That must've been Julia speaking after all.

All in all, the recipe fell flat. The flavors were great, but the textures - not so much. Next time I'd definitely be careful about the cooked zucchini (I'd even suggest broiling it off the bat, rather than sauteing). I'd also add something with a bit more bite to the gratin - something crisp and crunchy, like those crispy canned onions that were so prevalent in the 80s. Fortunately, the Collins turned out just swell, letting me enjoy the feast of veggies if only in liquid form.

14 August 2009

15th Ave Coffee and Tea - Starbucks, transformed

Sitting here at the newly revamped "15th Ave Coffee & Tea" in Cap Hill. This is the former site of a traditional Starbucks (a store at which my guy worked for a number of months, in fact).

The place has been transformed into an independent coffee house style joint. No Sbux logos anywhere, for example. Varietal, artisan offerings (coffee & pastry). And there's even wine/beer - something I plan to sample later this afternoon once the workday winds down.

Haters had a lot to say before this place opened, but it is fabulous (and packed). My handcrafted cappuccino (made with Yirgacheffe instead of Espresso) is delightful, not to mention beautiful -- as was the almond-paste extra hefty piece of toast (devoured).

And there's free wi-fi (Finally "Starbucks" has learned that this was a way to keep people in-store. I've already had 2 beverages...).

This may well become my new Friday workspot!

11 August 2009

Just drove past a new Ezell's chicken in Shoreline. Oprah will be pleased.

05 August 2009

Drooling over the "Top Chef Masters" vegan concoctions for Zoe Deschanel. Am now so hungry and want them to come to cook at my house!

02 August 2009

Just OD'd at the Theo Chocolate Factory. If you go, sample the coconut curry choc & "big daddy" bar. More to come after I have some sustenance to offset sugar!