Seattle Weekend!

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Currently we are en route to our new home in Seattle. Driving lazily across the country and trying to find semi healthy, edible road food.

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A couple weekends ago we were lucky enough to be sent on an apartment searching trip to Seattle and got to expense all our meals. This equals being full all weekend and stressing about finding the best coffee, best brunch, best dinner, best happy hour and also an apartment in 3 days. Below is the story of that food and coffee fueled weekend.

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Our first stop after landing was Delancey for pizza. I read Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life” earlier this year and then started following her blog Orangette. This pizza place was started by Molly and her husband, who I think was there throwing pizzas in the oven… They also started a cocktail bar next door, Essex, which we didn’t get to try yet.

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Excuse the blurry photo but you need to see this. Behold a sigh inducing tomato salad with out of this world tomatoes, creamy feta and magical meyer lemon shallot vinaigrette.

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White pizza with like 3 heads of dinosaur kale.

We walked a few blocks from our hotel to grab some cocktails at Rob Roy.

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FLATLAND YETTI
Earl Grey Infused Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, Ginger Syrup, Lemon, Orange Bitters, Rosemary
LEAF & SILO
Bourbon, Cocchi Americano, Branca Menta, Caraway Tincture, Spearmint Extract

A bunch of coffee was had: Vivace Espresso, Analog Coffee, Arabica Lounge, Cafe Campagne, Caffe Vita.

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And a baby donut at Stumptown.

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At Black Bottle, the food and drink was mediocre except their Blasted Broccoli; wood charred, smoky with a perfect crunch. Worth stopping by here just to have this dish.

We were taken to Bathtub Gin and Co.  by a friend. It was down a creepy, dirty alley and behind a nondescript door. Small, cramped and awesome, they had some good cocktails.

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Upstairs is the bar with a few tables and downstairs are a few cozy rooms with mismatched tables, barstools and chairs. We had a couple of autumnal “Dealer’s Choice” drinks where you name a spirit and they invent a drink for you.

Of course, we spent Saturday morning at Pike Place Market which is basically my version of Disneyland. We brunched at Cafe Campagne and wandered around lusting after all the foodstuffs. I kept having to remind myself that we were moving here in a few weeks and I could spend many an afternoon exploring, eating and stocking my kitchen.

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Daily Dozen donuts in the market was a nifty automated baking experience. The donuts themselves though, are nothing special. But it was fun to watch!

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Vegetables for miles!

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I’m thinking of starting a pasta collection…

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Anddd maybe a bread collection too?

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The surrounding alleys are also full of treasures.

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My love for spicy ginger drinks reached new heights at Rachel’s Ginger Beer.

After making the mistake of walking up Queen Anne’s hill in a desperate attempt at apartment searching, we exhausted our poor legs and decided a Happy Hour was in order.

Driving out to the Ballard neighborhood we happy hour’d at Bastille for some damn good french cuisine.

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Chickpea pancake with haricot verts, tuna and an egg. Falafel sandwich.

Continuing our mini food tour of Ballard, we dined next door at Percy’s and Co.

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GARFUNKEL
parsley-sage-rosemary-&-thyme infused gin, fresh watermelon juice, mint & our sour mix.

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Summer tomatoes, whipped house-made ricotta, crushed croutons, fried basil.

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SANKEY SOUR
bourbon, aperol, fresh orange juice, egg whites, angostura bitters & our sour mix
IN PERCY’S WE TRUST

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Pan roasted peaches, brown butter cake, cream.
Steamed Lemon pudding, blueberry-star anise compote.

Really fun apothecary style cocktails where you can add a tincture to your drinks:  Female Balance , Brain Power, Libido, Skin, Energy & Immunity.

Their food was great but nothing out of this world. They were open only 4 weeks when we went there, so I’m looking forward to eating there many times in the future.
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Before our flight we had a delectable brunch at Arabica Lounge, which was a gorgeous funky brunch cafe. I’m super excited that we found an apartment right down the street from it.

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Baked eggs with chevre and figs

A delightful chemex, with a million fancy egg dishes and yummy breakfast cocktails makes it a major find.

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A dinner alone

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Angel hair pasta with sautéed tomatoes, onions, black pepper crusted tempeh with a brown butter sage drizzle.

Being an introvert , I need at least a few hours a week by myself to recuperate and recharge.

“Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” is a book of essays by various authors about their secret, solitary eating habits and rituals. The essays are mostly quirky, wise* or poetic and a few are a bit lame. But I loved learning about everyone’s routine when there was no one around to impress but themselves.

Some came up with the weirdest combination of ingredients while some ate asparagus for every meal all summer long.

Some people loathed every lonely meal while others relished each silent, restful moment.

Some ate mac and cheese straight out of the pot and others set an entire place setting and feasted on multiple courses of gourmet experiments.

Personally I look forward to the delicious luxury of eating a random meal that only the eater can appreciate, but if you are eating a meal alone, be sure not to feel lonely. Be adventurous, silly and brave.

Take yourself out to a restaurant that you never get to go to and don’t feel silly about eating all by your self. People watching is super entertaining, or bring a book to read or just simply be. It’s awesome. No one is judging you and if they are, who the hell cares?

If you are home and need to eat up the contents of your pantry because you are moving across the country in a few days, then by all means create the most absurd concoction you can imagine because it is just for you anyway. It could be brilliant, it could be a disaster or it could be just what you need.

What are your solitary eating habits?

*Nora Ephron and her potatoes

The Vegetarian and the Goat

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Girl and the Goat is one of the top restaurants in Chicago which means it is very hard for riffraff like me to get a table.

BUT! I may  have discovered the key to getting in . Arrive just as they open (4:30 pm) on a weekday and they’ll most likely be able to squeeze you in before a real reservation. Or at least sit you at the bar or lounge.  We got there around 4:40 and they said we can grab a table in the dining room as long as we were done before 6.

Mega score!

Mama Foodie was in town and was eager to try Stephanie Izard’s restaurant. Last time she visited Chicago she tried to steal one of their paper menus. I thwarted her, of course. The audacity. It’s not like I have  Barrelhouse Flat menu on my bookshelf right now…

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As you just saw, I didn’t need to be worried that my vegetarian stomach would have to subsist on garnishes alone. The menu is broken up into V (vegetables), F (fish), M (meat), Breads, Oysters, Goats, Desserts and Drinks. We looked through the whole thing and all 3 of us decided that we would feel perfectly happy sampling a few vegetarian dishes and, of course, a bread and spread.

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D.B. Cooper cocktail and Zucchini bread with olive butter and hummus

A pretty boozy and slightly expensive cocktail, but I tell you, I’d pay much more for that bread. It was decadent, yet light and fluffy. WAY too little to share with 2 other people.

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sweet corn goat cheese wontons
sungold tomatoes . apricot . ratatouille

Look! Popcorn on top! Miraculously it stayed crunchy while we ate. This dish was pretty sweet with the candy-like corn, juicy heirloom tomatoes and creamy goat cheese. The wonton element was just a tad doughy but the ratatouille definitely made up for it. Who doesn’t adore the right combination of savory and sweet?

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roasted beets
green beans . white anchovy . avocado creme fraiche . bread crumb

I was lured by that “avocado creme fraiche” when it came time to select our dishes. But I don’t think I actually got that much as it was scooped up by my two fellow diners… thank you mother and spouse.

However I did enjoy the combination of roasted beets and breadcrumbs with the spicy frisee. I’ll have to try to make something like this sometime.

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wood grilled broccoli
rogue smokey bleu . spiced crispies

Ok people. You have not had broccoli until you have this broccoli. It is out of control.

They had just the right crunch and a smoky woodsy essence that was just sigh inducing. THEN a crisp bleu cheese sauce type thing underneath it all and the whole dish was topped with spiced crispies. We were debating what we all thought these crispies would turn out to be. They turned out to be flavorful, toasted Rice Krispies basically. Added a great taste and texture element. Go eat this broccoli please.

Girl and the Goat was just the first stop on our mini West Loop tour as we had a gift card to RM Champagne and were saving room. Which I completely regret doing. I wish I would have tried that cauliflower and falafel at G&G.

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Pretty candelit fireplace in RM Champagne

Honestly, RM Champagne was a bust. It is beautifully decorated and I’m sure it would be fun to sit outside on a cool summer night and enjoy a glass of good champagne under the twinkle lights. However, I know nothing about champagne and ordered a cocktail which was nothing special. The dishes we ordered were on the lower end of mediocre , especially following Girl and the Goat.  Their desserts looked pretty and tasted fine. However, A doughy bland leek tart and cold flatbread does not a happy food dance make. Sorry RM,  but in such a foodie town you really need to step up your meals.

Who, besides Marie Antoinette, can survive on champagne and cake alone?,

Tacos with Avocado Chickpea mash

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Tacos are such a perfect dinner option for a vegetarian. You just need some solid corn tortillas, a good cheese and some spicy, flavorful fillings.

I love making spicy black bean tacos with goat cheese, roasted sweet potatoes and avocado. I also love crispy chickpeas and adding whatever spice I have on hand. Cumin, curry, oregano, red pepper flakes, etc all elevate chickpeas to a scrumptious level.

Going off of this Chickpea and Avocado Salad Sandwich , I created the above tacos. The fun thing about combining chickpeas and avocado is firstly, they are delicious and secondivly they can take on just about any combination of spices. Make it spicy with red pepper flakes, chili powder and some cumin. Make it Mediterranean with some garlic, lemon juice, oregano and maybe some basil. Add turmeric and curry to make it Indian. Etc, etc  and so on and so on.

I toasted my chickpeas with salt, pepper and olive oil with a dash of cumin and a healthy dose of Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. I adore crispy chickpeas so I opted to toast them for about 5-8 minutes instead of using them straight out of the can. Mash them up with a couple of avocados and add a bunch of salt and whatever spices, herbs or oils you fancy. Pick out the cheese that works best with your chosen spice mixture, whether it be a nice sharp cheddar, creamy goat cheese or a nutty parmesan. I like to sprinkle the cheese on the tortilla and bake it in the oven just till it melts.

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Top that cheesy tortilla with the mashed avocados and chickpeas, mixed greens and sriracha sauce. Maybe add some Nachos as a side?

Heritage General Store

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Apparently people demand bikes and coffee. A combination that never occurred to me, but works seamlessly at Heritage General Store.

Heritage has become my favorite spot in the city to sit and read or work for hours. Its atmosphere is incredible inviting, pretty and rustic. It serves Stumptown coffee and you can even get a growler of iced coffee to take home. Delish.

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They carry a few Southport Grocery baked goods, little sandwiches, soups and a few types of quiches. On the weekends they carry a selection of Glazed and Infused doughnuts which is more than acceptable to me.

They also had a killer sour cherry lemonade a few weeks back. It may be a seasonal thing so be sure to try it before it disappears.

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I absolutely love their support of small, artisanal vendors. They have a florist who brings her flowers by every so often, and a broken down vintage bus outside that has a new pop up shop seemingly every weekend. Last weekend there was a masseuse  with a tent and a few weekends ago was a vintage dress shop.  Totally hipster and completely rad. A good source tells me their wifi even reaches to both of their outdoor areas.

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When my husband’s bike arrived without instructions on how to assemble it, (thanks Retrospec) the combo of coffee and bikemanship finally dawned on me as utter genius instead of just delightfully quirky. We brought the bike parts to them, grabbed a coffee and were assured that they would take it from there. And they did!

Whether you need to fix a flat tire or customize an entire bike, this is the place to do it. I love seeing all the crazy cool rides scattered around the shop.

There is a store in the back for all the bicycle gear your hipster heart could ever hope for. Seats, locks, baskets, bells, helmets, lamps and contraptions I don’t even recognize can all be found. You can purchase some online too.

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There is even something for the little ones, and a photography studio.

Stop by Heritage, drink a coffee, eat a treat and hunker down for a few hours.

(You’ll probably see my brother and sister-in-law there as it is basically their second home.)

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Bake some goat cheese

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May I suggest the following 6 steps to pure happiness:

1. Pour marinara sauce in a cast iron pan

2. Crumble goat cheese alllll around

3. Sprinkle freshly chopped basil on top

4. Drizzle olive oil all over , then top with salt and cracked black pepper

5. Bake for about 20 minutes or so, until it starts to bubble and the cheese browns just a bit

6. Break off a chunk of a warm, crusty baguette and dip it straight in that pan of goodness.

Quick before it cools down!

avec plaisir

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Chicago foodies know that avec doesn’t really need yet another praising blog post, but since it is probably my last visit for a long time, indulge me.

Avec was my first gourmet food experience in Chicago and maybe ever. It was momentous for me and got me interested in reading and experiencing Chicago’s “food scene”.

My first visit was for my boyfriend (now husband) and my 2 year dating anniversary.

It was recommended to us by a barista friend of ours. I tell you, a quality barista is the best person to turn to for restaurant recommendations, besides me of course.

The second visit was when I took my mother, (an official Foodie) to show off a good, buzzed about, Chicago place. She loved it of course.

And now here is the tale of my third and final time (for now at least) eating at avec.

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avec sour and a barrel aged cocktail

Avec is basically a wine bar with really delicious small and large plates. But they have 2 cocktails on their beverage menu so we tried them out. Mine was their take on a whiskey sour and was quite good, though it got watered down quickly. The barrel aged cocktail was really nice, boozy and bright.

There was a chef change or 2 since my last visit so the menu was revamped. However there are 2 staple items that they cannot remove from the menu, as customers literally refuse to let them.

I’m a vegetarian, but this dish at avec is my personal exception. Their meat is from local farms and I feel safe eating one meat item from such a prestigious place. Please eat these next two items together for the full effect.

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chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce

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“deluxe” focaccia with taleggio cheese, ricotta, truffle oil and fresh herbs

Mhmm, the truffle taste and smell just invades the table and the spicy, sweet chorizo stuffed dates with a tomato sauce is just a miraculous salty/sweet combination.

Their dishes are “family style” and meant to be shared with the entire table. Sort of a mediteranean-ish tapas if you will.

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Sweet corn panzanella with nectarines, arugula and mint

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burrata cheese with green strawberries, marcona almonds, peas and strawberry vinaigrette

The panzanella was bright and light. I loved the mixture of nectarines and mint.  Is there anything more heavenly than burrata? It really stood out here with the fresh crunchy greens and a light garlic bread. I don’t remember the green strawberries much though…

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Before I go further I just want to point out that  there were 4 of us at this dinner sharing all these plates. Just so you don’t think we are gluttons or anything.

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whipped brandade with garlic bread and chives

This was a delicious dish, but I think we got it a tad late into our meal, so it was too rich to eat much of. But the thick wheat bread toast worked perfectly with the creamy whipped fish. Like a fancy, mini fish sandwich.

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Capricola pizza with red onions, figs, pistachio pesto and arugula

I only tried a bite of this pizza and a few figs since I hit my meat limit with the chorizo dates. But I loved the vinegary red onions and figs. I think figs on pizza is entirely too rare.

Finally, we all made room in our stomachs to share a few scoops of the special gelato of the day : Coffee Toffee.

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Coffee toffee gelato

Sugary wafers on top added a jolt to the creamy, coffee goodness. A perfect treat to end the meal.

Thank you avec for providing me with my first grown up, gourmet meal in Chicago and for being consistently delicious and never pretentious.

Savory French Toast

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Excuse the iphone photo. I was too hungry to get out the real camera

I know, this is the 2nd french toast post in as many weeks. We don’t even make it that often. It’s just, I had to share this game changer of an idea*.

Savory. French. Toast.

Why has french toast been locked into this “sweet” category with its toppings reduced to fruit, syrup, butter and whipped cream?

This eye opening concept of making french toast savory is absolutely genius.

It sounds like I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m not. At all.

So the above version is pretty simple. To make:

Use the bread you’d normally use for french toast and make up your egg mixture.

Add some salt, pepper, dried herbs and some cumin to the eggs mixture. Make your french toast. I like mine on the toastier side.

For the garlicky kale,  chop up a bunch of garlic, saute it with olive oil until it just begins to get brown and toast. It will smell amazing.

Add chopped up kale and some salt and pepper and saute till its crispyish, about 7 minutes. Don’t add too much oil or it will be soggy.

Make quick caramelized red onions by chopping them in nice big chunks and cooking them in a bit of olive oil on high until they begin to brown. Then add a dash of sugar, lower the heat a bit and cook some more. Add about a tablespoon of water to let all the caramely sweet stuff on the bottom of the pan meld back into the onions where it belongs.

Finally make a nice, over easy fried egg. Please keep the yolk runny! It will act as the “sauce” for your breakfast.

Plate your french toast, toss on the crispy kale, caramelized onions, spread on a couple dollops of goat cheese and top with your egg.

I challenge you to make a more exquisitely satisfying breakfast.

 

*Credit goes to the spouse who had a hand in the invention when told we needed to make breakfast with what we had in the house.

Wine and cheese spread

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I threw a little wine and cheese party for the spouse’s birthday a few weeks ago.

Really I was just looking for an excuse to use some of our fun wedding gifts. Platters, trays, cheese knives and slate boards!  Oh My!

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Looking back at these pictures, I see I may have made the spread a bit too overwhelming. But I just wanted ample options for creating tantalizing combinations! There were about 5 different cheeses and a variety of crackers and bread, along with pizzelles.

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For toppings I laid out avocados, oil and vinegar, lavender honey, a few savory and sweet jams and spreads, arugula and basil. Also smashed up roasted garlic with oil and herbs.

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I found some  tiny “champagne grapes” at Trader Joes. They were very sweet and looked quite elegant in my pretty white basket.

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Oh! I also used my small cast iron pot to make my new favorite obsession.

Pour marinara sauce and top with a generous dollop of goat cheese. Circle the cheese with a drizzle of olive oil and top with salt and black pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Sharing is absolutely optional. In fact, I discourage it.

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We had a red wine from Greece, a few from Trader Joes and asked our friends to bring some as well. It was fun to mix and match elements to find the best combination of wine, cheese, spread and toppings.

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I take any excuse to get out my funky cocktail glass collection. No two are the same and none of them cost more than $1 each if I’m not mistaken.

Secret: Goodwill and thrift stores. Completely cool glasses that are super fun to mix and match.

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The whole affair was simply elegant, just what I wanted.

Until the group decided to counteract the posh by watching Jackass: The Movie.

Edible flags

Italy

This is so imaginative!

It is an ad campaign for the Sydney International Food Festival interpreting each country’s flag by their cuisine.

I love it! Also the festival itself sounds incredible. A month long  and over 500 food related events!

I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, and this would make it the absolute ultimate trip.

I can’t decide which country I’d eat first…

Australia

France

India

South Korea

Thailand

USA