Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pee Wee Potato Salad
3 - 4 lb. pee wee potatoes, pricked with a fork
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 bunches asparagus, stems broken where they naturally break
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2C oil packed sun-dried tomato slices
1 Tbsp. capers, drained
10 pitted Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
2C baby arugula (optional)

2 Tbsp. Sherry wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan, add the red onions and cook until slightly caramelized – about 40 minutes.  Let cool.  Shake the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.  Preheat oven
to 400F.  Place the pricked potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake until soft – about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Place the asparagus on a cookie sheet, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until
tender – about 15 minutes.  Let cool.  Cut into 2-inch pieces.

Add ¼ cup of the vinaigrette to the potatoes and toss while they are still warm.  Add all the remaining ingredients and toss, adding additional vinaigrette as necessary.  Serve at room temperature.
MAKES:  6 – 8 servings

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Vancouver B.C. June 2013
I took the Amtrak from the new Seattle train station on Jackson to Vancouver B.C. in the early morning with a breakfast picnic from Foxglove Guesthouse in tow.  My lovely window seat heading in the right direction made a beautiful, comfortable trip.  Arriving at the station about noon, I took the sky train to Burrard station and walked about 10 minutes to Barclay House Bed and Breakfast ( in the West End where I stayed in the Garden Suite for three nights.  After checking in, I walked a few blocks to Market by jean-georges ( where I had lunch.  It is a lovely restaurant with ecletic fare and the beet salad with grapes, walnuts and warm goat cheese, scallops with caramelized cauliflower and caper puree and creamy peanut butter bar glazed with
chocolate were all excellent!! 

As the day was bright and sunny I walked along the sea wall near coal harbor and Stanley park to the suspension bridge which took about 2 hours, passing the first nations totem poles on my way.  Dinner was in Gastown at Wildebeest (, a quirky little restaurant with a very unique menu!!  I sat at a long wooden table with other diners which was terrific as you could see what everyone was eating and enjoying.  I ordered asparagus and ramps with potato mousse and clam vinaigrette followed by “the garden” which was a plate of partially raw and cooked vegetables on top of creamy mascarpone cheese with carrot sorbet – sooo delicious!!!  Dessert was a chocolate ice cream sandwich.  It was such fun being there!!!  I leisurely strolled through gastown back to the guesthouse. 

After an uneventful breakfast I walked down Robson Street across the bridge to Granville Island for a quick glimpse of the market before taking the bus to the UBC Museum ofAnthropology about 20 minutes away.  What a fascinating museum that was!!!  Filled with giant carved totem poles from Haida and first nation villages, masks, wooden boats, etc.  An incredible yellow cedar sculpture called “The Raven and the first Men” carved by Bill Reid was beautifully displayed along with some of his jewelry.  Outside are some wooden Haida houses with more totem poles surrounding them.  A highlight to be sure!!!  I caught the bus back to town and had lunch at Lily Mae’s ( , a charming little bistro in Gastown.  I just made it in time for lunch and was perhaps the last person eating!!!  I had a delicious organic baby purple spinach salad with goat cheese, candied pecans and orange segments followed by a warm apple cake with pecan caramel sauce – sooooo good!!! 

I took a walking tour of Gastown & Chinatown recommended in my guide book which started in Canada Place with its five Teflon sails meant to resemble a giant sailing ship.  I walked along the promenade and passed a huge ship filled with passengers departing for an Alaskan cruise.  On to the Steam Clock which lets off “steam” on the quarter hour to the T&T Supermarket which is an enormous Chinese market filled with every delicacy imaginable and then some.  Passing through the Chinatown Gate I came to a street market with vendors selling pot stickers, spring rolls, etc. to passersby.  There is also a nice Chinese Cultural Centre and gardens but both were closed so I wandered back to the shops on Water Street before heading to Forage in the Listel Hotel in the West End.  It’s a small little “café” which uses produce sourced from local organic farmers when possible.  I had some sizzling mushrooms topped with goat cheese with grilled caraway seed bread to put them on, grains and quinoa with carrot and butternut squash cubes served with raita and naan bread which could have used a bit more flavor and finished with a chocolate terrine with “bacon” brulee which was not as interesting as it sounds.  Luckily my guesthouse was only 10 minutes away after all the walking I had done….

After breakfast at a Starbuck’s nearby, I started the Yaletown, Granville Island walk which began at the Vancouver Public Library whose exterior resembles the Colesseum in Rome!  On into Yaletown, a funky upscale district of shops, restaurants, “New York-style” lofts and lots and lots of clubs.  Down Davie Street to the Roundhouse inside of which is the locomotive that pulled the first passenger train into Vancouver back in 1887.  Davie Street South to the False Creek waterfront at the end of which I caught the mini-ferry to Granville Island.

I spent about 2 hours wandering through a fascinating collection of shops, restaurants, workshops, the public market, etc., picking up a few things that spoke to me.  I passed by the Fish Dock as I walked around the edge of Vanier Park to the Vancouver Maritime Museum to see the 100 foot tall replica Kwakiuti totem pole.  On I walked along Kits Beach to the the Kilsilano area and ended at West for lunch.  I had been to West many years ago but didn’t realize that the head chef had left to open his own restaurant a few years ago.  So I was a bit disappointed in my selection.  My tuna salad with grilled vegetables was beautiful and delicious but the potato gnocchi with asparagus and peas although tasty was not particularly interesting to behold.  Dessert was a chocolate crunch cake in a custard sauce but really needed a lot more chocolate…

I leisurely wandered around before heading to the West End over the Granville Bridge.  The West End is filled with trees, large streets and lovely mansions.  My next walk took me down Robson Street and up to English Bay Beach Park where you can sit at one of the many cafes overlooking the water.  One of the most interesting parts of the walk was the Mole Hill area with its historic houses and little gardens everywhere.  A charming place to live!!!  As it was rather late by then I simply walked back to Gastown and had the best meal of the whole trip at L’Abattoir ( .  I started with salmon Nicoise which was cured salmon slices with crispy rice balls and a roasted pepper/tomato sauce followed by a warm steelhead and crunchy potato salad with arugula and shaved horseradish.  Dessert was a brulee lemon tart with berry compote and along with my meal I had a wonderful chilled glass of blended white wines from Washington State.

An early rise in the morning and a taxi to the train station, I passed through customs and bordered the train for Seattle about 7 a.m. Breakfast was banana bread and oranges which I had picked up the day before and a cup of hot coffee which I enjoyed while traversing the same lovely landscape as before.  I arrived in Seattle about 11:30 a.m. and made my way as fast as possible to Wild Ginger for a quick lunch of crispy spring rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves before catching the light rail to the airport and back to Orange County.

Lots of great memories of new places seen, new restaurants tried and new experiences undertaken….but it is always good to be home

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Seattle, Washington – May, 2013
An early morning flight from Orange County and I arrived at the Seattle/Tacoma Airport about 1 p.m.  I took the light rail into town and was at the Westlake Station in 30 minutes.  After being on the plane all morning it felt good to walk up Pike to Melrose and to my first stop for lunch at Mamnoon ( .  The “restaurant” closes at 2 p.m. but the same menu is served at a communal table in front of the “kitchen”.  I had a delicious falafel sandwich with tomatoes, pickles and yogurt, quinoa tabbouleh and semolina crusted pie filled with walnuts – what a great start!!!  I continued walking along Pike to 15th Avenue and made my way to Foxglove Guesthouse ( , an wonderful old house filled with antiques located in the heart of Capitol Hill.  I stayed in room 2 upstairs and it was wonderful!!!!

By the time I checked in to the guesthouse it was about 4 p.m. so I decided to just get familiar with the city.  I walked back down along Pike and stopped at the Seattle Public Library (, a beautiful 11 story glass and steel building.  On to the Benoroya Hall where concerts are held and one of Dale Chihuly’s glass chandeliers is housed.  Next stop the waterfront to see where the ferries leave from and finally Pioneer Square, the historic birthplace of Seattle.  It is a small little area of streets with cafes, shops and a beautifully carved totem pole replaced by the one that burned down.  I walked down to the new train station on Jackson where I would catch the train to Vancouver in a few days.

It didn’t get dark until 9 p.m. so I continued to walk back up Pike to Poppy Restaurant ( on Capitol Hill.  It was a great walk along Broadway passing cafes and shops and ending at Roy, a residential street lined with uniquely beautiful brick houses.  Dinner was delicious!!!  The menu lets you chose a 7 item or 10 item “thali” which are small plates of Asian inspired food.   I chose a 7 item thali and had cumin-braised beef short ribs, nettle soup, asparagus with fried sage, fiddleheads and fingerlings, leek and fennel gratin, wild ginger pickle and nigella-poppy naan.  I ordered the chocolate torta with caramel in addition as a meal is never complete without dessert.  Everything was excellent!!!  My hotel was only a 15 minutes walk away and that was doable!!

After a delicious breakfast of berries, melon, strawberries, apricots, cherries, pumpkin bread, croissants and coffee I walked down to Pike Place Market filled with fresh produce, seafood, bakery goods and craft shops.  It’s great fun to just wander around sampling everything.  A leisurely stroll along the shoreline took me to the Olympic Sculpture Park, a 9-acre outdoor sculpture museum.  In the park you will fine the 39-foot “Eagle” by Alexander Calder, “Wake”, the 125-foot piece of steel you can walk through by Richard Serra and the “Typewriter Eraser” by Claes Oldenburg among other things.

Retracing my steps to Pike and over to Mistral Kitchen ( for a very nice $20 prix fixe lunch.  The restaurant is very modern, light and airy and I truly enjoyed my Buenalba cheese with homemade tomato marmalade, moulard duck confit with caramelized onions and lentils and smoked chocolate macadamia nut cake.  I spent a few hours at the Seattle Art Museum ( downtown where there was a special “going for gold” exhibit featuring Chinese robes, French brocades, etc. with golden threads as well as gold jewelry from all over the world.  I most particularly enjoyed the extensive collection of native and meso American handcrafted art.

One of the ladies at breakfast had mentioned the Ballard Locks so I took a bus out there and was delighted to find it open until 9 p.m.  The Locks were completed in 1917 and link the Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington.  Boats as long as 760 feet can travel through and I was fortunate to see two large ships navigate through.  The locks are also a critical link for salmon heading upstream to spawn.  There is a viewing area downstairs where you can see the fish ladder which allows the spawning fish to climb to the freshwater side.  I wandered the beautiful botanical gardens nearby listening to the
live concert going on before taking the bus to Tilth ( where I had dinner that night.  The kitchen focuses on organic and wild ingredients and everything was perfectly prepared and excellent.  I ordered salmon wrapped asparagus with shaved asparagus curls, tender tuna with fennel dice and potato puree and chocolate ganache cake with cocoa cream.  It was an easy bus ride back to Foxglove Guesthouse…

Friday was a beautiful sunny day so I took the monorail to the Space Needle which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and is 605 feet high.  I rode to the observation deck in 41 seconds and had a fabulous view of Mount Rainer, Elliott Bay, etc.  Nearby is the Chihuly Gardens ( showcasing the most significant works of internationally acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly.  Inside there is the glass forest, glass baskets shaped like the ancient ones made out of bamboo, the Persian ceiling which was the most impressive of all, among other exhibitions.  There is an ongoing video showing many of Chihuly’s exhibitions in Jerusalem, Venice, etc. which was fascinating and the Gardens filled with glass art.  Dale was in the exhibition hall when I arrived so I was able to meet him – awesome in itself – such a famous man and so very nice.  Many of his “collections” are in the nearby café under glass which is also worth a visit.  Monorail back downtown and a short walk to Sitka & Spruce (, an adorable little “café” inside the Melrose market.  Although there are just a few tables and a simple menu the food is fresh and delicious!  I had small portions of the wild rice salad with tatsoi, cranberries and feta cheese and the kamut salad with cardoons and arugula and finished with a luscious gateau Basque with poached rhubarb.

A leisurely walk down to Pier 52 to catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island.  The ferry took about 30 minutes and it was a beautiful ride as the sun shone and the waves cascaded gently against the ferry.  I wandered the main street and took a walk along the shoreline before heading back to Seattle on the 6:30 p.m. ferry.  Everyone was a great help to me in finding the correct bus back to Ballard and to Staple & Fancy Mercantile, one of Ethan Stowell’s restaurants where I dined that night.  Housed in a beautiful renovated building, the restaurant focuses on simple Italian fare.  You are encouraged to order the chef’s menu and leave the decisions to the kitchen so that is what I did and it was the right choice.  I had several little plates to start, i.e. chilled asparagus soup with ramps, house made mozzarella with bagna cauda, crostini with white fish, spicy fried oysters, escolar crudo with sea beans, etc.  The second course was spaghetti with rapini followed by scallops with fava beans, olives and roasted garlic puree and ending with a chocolate terrine topped with chocolate gelato which was ever so delicious!!!  A ride on the same bus back as last night… Tomorrow I will take the train to Vancouver, B.C. and see what awaits me there!!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fresh Asparagus and Arugula Frittata
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 or 6 large eggs
2 Tbsp. cream
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 asparagus spears, roasted, cut into one-inch pieces
2C fresh arugula or greens of choice, cooked, squeezed dry, chopped
2 – 3 pieces prosciutto, cut into strips (optional)
1/2C freshly grated Parmesan or cheese of choice
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese (for the top)

Preheat oven to broil.  Melt butter in a medium non-stick, oven-proof sauté pan.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs, cream, salt and pepper together and fold in the asparagus, arugula, prosciutto and parmesan cheese.  When the butter is hot, pour in the egg mixture and cook until the bottom of the frittata is firm, shaking occasionally – about 10 minutes. 

Sprinkle the top with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese and place under the broiler.  Broil until the mixture is firm and bubbly.  Shake the frittata out onto a serving platter.  Cut into wedges and serve.
MAKES:  4 to 6 servings