On home, and tea

acs_0133Thanks to Erin Boyle I stumbled across a beautiful mediation on home, travel, and belonging in Candace Rose Rardon’s essay, Home is a Cup of Tea.  She combines sweet sketches with simple musings about traveling, moving, settling, loving, and living — and how we define “home.”  Like Rardon, I have fond memories of drinking tea.  The tall, narrow cupboard in my childhood home full of tea tins, the fun of choosing a flavor for that particular afternoon, and the steamy, milky sweetness in my cup.

Even though the world may be extraordinarily challenging and difficult right now, we can pull strength and resilience from a sense of home, whatever that might be for each of us.  Some days, a cup of tea and a quiet moment to recharge are exactly what is needed.  Then we can jump back into the fray, renewed and ready to face the day.

Modern Art Desserts

After admiring the cover and peeking inside virtually every time I visit Blue Bottle Coffee Co., I finally picked up a copy of Caitlin Freeman’s Modern Art Desserts.  I am so glad I did!  Freeman’s book is a gem.  Formerly of Miette, Freeman clearly knows her way around amazing desserts — backwards, forwards, and sideways, in fact.  What made this cookbook stand out for me was the fact that is not only full of stunning recipes, but also it serves as both a personal memoir and a mini-guide to some of the works at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  While Freeman and her beautiful desserts are no longer at SFMOMA, the cookbook that resulted from her tenure there is a pleasure for the pastry enthusiast and art lover alike.

Each dessert is presented with a photograph of the pastry, an image of the artwork it was inspired by, information about the work and the artist, and Freeman’s own experiences creating the dish.  Then follows the recipe, with clear, clean instructions.  Many of the recipes are quite aspirational — the complex Mondrian cake, for example, takes a whopping two days.  However, specialized supplies and ingredients are sourced in the book, out-of-the-ordinary equipment is highlighted and explained, and a section early on gives a great rundown of both the ingredients and cooking tools you’ll likely need throughout.  Freeman somehow manages to make incredibly complex recipes seem both aspirational and accessible.  Mixed in with culinary feats like the Mondrian cake are slightly lower key options like trifle, sodas, popcicles, and even a savory snack or two, so there are certainly options for those who prefer to measure their recipe timing in minutes or hours rather than days.

Overall I was surprised and delighted by Modern Art Desserts.  It is a diverting read above and beyond being a good cookbook.  If you’re a modern art fan, give this one a whirl.  Freeman has given us candy for the eyes and the taste buds in equal measure.

Hey, Seattle (part II)

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Welcome to Part II of my little Seattle guide, with things to do and places to stay.  If you missed Part I you can read it here for all kinds of great places to eat!

Visit:

Pike Place Market

No visit to Seattle would be complete without a stroll through the public market.  Amazingly fresh seafood, bites of all kinds (see! told you more food!), beautiful flower stalls, and the original Starbucks location await you here.  Grab a salmon pâté piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky, walk down to pick up some smoked salmon from Pure Food Fish Market, and then wander as you munch.  You can duck upstairs to Storyville Coffee to escape the bustle for a few minutes if you like.  Oh, and I highly recommend a stop at Le Panier before you leave — this boulangerie and patisserie offers the best pain au chocolat I’ve had since Paris.

 

Seattle Art Museum

With an excellent permanent collection and innovative exhibitions, SAM is well worth a visit.  The museum “contains nearly 25,000 works of art from around the world. Dating from antiquity to the present, the permanent collection represents a wide range of global cultures and historical perspectives.”  The current temporary exhibit, Double Exposure, is worth a look even on its own; it is a satisfyingly nuanced look at portrayals of Pacific Northwest native peoples over the last 150 years.

 

The Elliott Bay Book Company

This bookstore in the Capital Hill neighborhood has been serving Seattle for over four decades, and is a delight in every way.  Highlighted local authors and subjects, quirky giftware for the bibliophile, and an on-site cafe make for a lovely afternoon.  Despite the likelihood of an overly-heavy suitcase, I had to bring three books home with me.

 

Melrose Market

Melrose Market is like the teeny tiny well-curated cousin of Pike Place.  Meats, liquor, shellfish, homewares — all can be found in this little urban refuge.  Sitka and Spruce is located here, as it the most excellent homeware store Butter Home.  I wanted one of everything!  Their art prints and jewelry in particular caught my eye, but their are tons of other fun things to be had in this lovely little shop.  Visit if you can, and then grab a cocktail at Still Liquor.

 

Segway Tours of Seattle

Perhaps a little cheesy and touristy, but so much fun!  We spent a morning touring the city center by Segway, and got to see so many great spots.  The Space Needle, Lake Union, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, and the Museum of Pop Culture were highlights, but the running commentary from our excellent guide was no less interesting.  We actually walked back to the Gates Foundation Discovery Center for a closer look later in the afternoon, which proved to be both fascinating and inspiring.

 

Seattle is the city where Nordstrom was founded, so you can visit their original store location for kicks (and excellent shopping).  And the Chihuly Garden and Glass is definitely on my list for next time.

 

Stay:

Seattle is full of both excellent hotels and great AirBnB choices.  This visit we stayed at the Ballard Jungalow and had a delightful stay.  The host is kind, and her home is just the kind of serene escape I was craving.

If I you prefer a hotel, I have heard nothing but good things about the ever-hip Ace Hotel Seattle.  Reasonable prices, great vibes, and a great central location make this one a great pick.

Thank you for such a lovely week, Seattle!  We had so much fun and can’t wait to return!

 

Hey, Seattle (part I)

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This summer we took a week off to unwind and escape the heat in Seattle, WA.  I had never been, but the laid-back vibe and sense of community had me at “hello.”  After 100+ degree temps in Southern California, high 70s in the Pacific Northwest was pure bliss.  Add amazing food and stellar coffee to the gorgeous waterfront views all over the city, and you have an idea of why I didn’t want to leave.  Since we visited so many lovely spots, I’ll be splitting my guide into two parts.  This one, Part I, will focus on food and drinks.  In Part II I will talk about sights, shops, and places to stay.

Eat:

The Walrus and the Carpenter

You will have the opportunity to eat fresh, delicious seafood everywhere you turn in Seattle, and this elegant spot was no exception.  I had some of my favorite oysters of this trip here, briny and fresh, and the Sea Wolf Bakery bread and butter was perfection.  Roasted medjool dates with vanilla oil and salt made for a decadent sensory experience to end the meal.  Open for dinner daily, and they offer an oyster happy hour M-Th 4-6pm.  Know that there is often quite a wait, but fear not!  Amazing cocktails reside next door at the Barnacle Bar.  Order a spritz with the Spanish sardines with salsa verde.  Trust.

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Sitka & Spruce

For my birthday we indulged in the tasting menu at this quaint eatery in Melrose Market, and it did not disappoint in any way.  Unable to choose between the wine and beer pairings, we got both and sipped among the table — great call, might I add.  Every dish was as beautiful as it was delicious, and the drink pairings were a delight.  Their menu changes daily depending on what is forage-able or in season, so you’ll always have something interesting to look forward to.

Shiro’s Sushi

Shiro’s made for a special meal, with their combination of local and Japanese fish offerings.  Our omakase meal was pitch-perfect, from the kampachi to the toro and everything in between (the local salmon was particularly nice).  And is there anything quite so refreshing and the freshest sushi and a cold Asahi?

Kamonegi

If you enjoy soba noodles, look no farther than Kamonegi.  This tiny noodle shop offers hot and cold handmade soba in a cozy, fresh space, along with playful and delicious appetizers like yakitori duck tsukune with soft egg and shishito peppers with a miso spicy cod roe aioli.  If you arrive early for your reservation like we did, hop next door to Midnight Cookie Co. for cookies and milk and a little Nintendo.

No Anchor

I was a bit dubious when we walked into the dim bar of No Anchor, but my doubts began to melt away with my first sip of ale.  By my first bite of shishito fritter, I was a fan.  No Anchor boasts an extremely well-curated beer selection, with drafts offered at 42 and 52 degrees F to showcase each beer in its best light.  They also offer a grid with each of their beers ranked by how approachable/esoteric and traditional/modern you can expect them to be.  Their food is also delicious (corned duck breast with strawberry curd and fennel, I’m looking at you).  Don’t skip dessert, either — between the vanilla semifreddo and the dark chocolate sorbet, I was a happy camper.

The Fat Hen

This adorable brunch spot in Ballard may have been my favorite meal of the trip.  A small slice of Europe plunked right down in Seattle!  Between the best crab Benedict I have ever had and the egg bake alla Boscaiola, I was in heaven — and a shandy that paired Austrian beer with a spot-on fresh lemonade put me right over the top.  Don’t miss their house-made ricotta, either.

Frankie & Jo’s

Just across the street from The Fat Hen is Frankie and Jo’s plant-based ice cream shop.  While a visit to Molly Moon’s homemade ice cream is a necessary Seattle stop, make time for Frankie and Jo’s as well, and you won’t be disappointed!  My scoop of chocolate mint brownie was out-of-this-world good.  Also, two words: moon goo.

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Coffee, coffee, coffee:

Regardless of where you fall on the coffee-lover spectrum, you likely equate coffee with Seattle.  Seattle was an epicenter for the second wave of coffee, is the birthplace of Starbucks, and is regarded as a world center for both roasting and supply chain management.  Let’s just say that tons of great coffee can be found here.

Starbucks Reserve

We skipped the line at the original Starbucks location in Pike Place Market in favor of visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery over in Capital Hill.  It is like Disneyland for coffee in every way: glossy, commercial, and undeniably delicious.  I highly recommend the experience bar downstairs, where you can order small-lot coffees from all over the world in espresso or siphon tasting flights (with optional chocolate truffle pairings!).  If sweet coffee drinks are more your style, order a Shakerato affogato and thank me later.

Espresso Vivace

For old-school espresso and an obligatory hat-tip to David Schomer, visit Espresso Vivace.  ‘Nuff said.  (My iced mocha was delicious.)

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Seattle Coffee Works

A homey spot just outside of Pike’s Place Market, Seattle Coffee Works’ flagship location offers an espresso counter and a slow bar for pour-overs.  Solidly good coffee and a great variety of direct trade beans.

Ghost Note

This modern spot in Capital Hill offers a simple core menu with stunningly good single origin coffees.  A Kenya single origin espresso shot recommended by the barista here was definitely one to remember.

La Marzocco

This grandaddy of espresso machines and grinders has a beautiful, light-filled cafe and showroom right in the Seattle city center.  Each month a new, renowned coffee brand or roaster takes up residence in their cafe, trains their staff on their coffees, and creates a unique experience for guests.  We had the pleasure of sampling coffees from roaster La Colombe while ogling the beautiful espresso machines.  Think car showroom for baristas, only full of light and plants and delicious coffee.

For places to visit, shop, and stay (and maybe more food, shhhh!), tune in to Part II here!

Key lime pie

Look out world: I have discovered the magic of Instacart.  It is a grocery delivery site and app that is, in a word, amazing.  I can now do my grocery shopping from my couch in my PJs.  What a time to be alive, yes?  Some kind person shops for me and delivers my groceries for a low fee, and I get some of my life back!  Win!  I was initially hesitant due to the yearly fee, but now (much like Amazon Prime) I am hooked.

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My key lime pie!

The one drawback to Instacart is that seeing tiny product images on one’s screen is quite different from grabbing something on a shelf in real life.  I accidentally ordered key limes instead of regular ones recently, and didn’t realize it until I saw the bag of tiny citrus fruits in the bottom of my grocery bag.  Not all was lost, however.  I figured it was as good a time as any to try my hand at key lime pie!  I turned to my beloved Deb of Smitten Kitchen and made her delightful pie over the course of a lazy Saturday afternoon.  It.  Was.  Perfection.  Ideally balanced between tart and sweet, great flavor in the crust — just lovely.  Sunshine on a plate.

If you decide to tackle this recipe (and I hope you do!), know that I needed many more key limes than she indicated to get 2/3 of a cup of juice.  I’m not sure if my limes were tiny or hers were gigantic, but I needed about double the number of key limes she did to get enough juice.  Also, since those suckers are tiny, I’d love a juicer like this to make the juicing process easier next time.  Lastly, I found the pie to be most flavorful and easiest to get out of the pan if it got closer to room temperature before serving.  Easy recipe, yummy results, and an accidental ingredient utilized.  It’s the classic lemons to lemonade scenario, although I think I made out even better — because pie!

My pink glass pie plate can be found here.  If you’d like to try Instacart, get $10 off here.

Links to ponder

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It has been a difficult couple weeks for a variety of reasons, perhaps most especially because we lost some amazing and luminous figures to suicide just days apart from each other.  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, you will be missed.  As we hold ourselves gently, gingerly, and move forward, here are some important/poignant/touching/thoughtful reads for you to ponder:

The kind of “bad boy” we need more of…

Why “you are loved” is not enough.

Anxious and unashamed.

An important read on size appropriation.

Quick, curious, playful, & strong.

 

Fridays are for cake

One week ago, I tried a new cake recipe for a Friday night dinner with friends.  Spoiler alert: it is amazing and I will be making this one again and again.  Behold: Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake.  I served it topped with dollops of the strawberry black pepper jam I made several weeks ago, and it was perfection.  Not too sweet, perfectly moist, easily mixed, and the most delightful hint of citrus.  Make it for yourself or someone you love this weekend — you won’t be sorry!  Sharing is entirely optional.

 

That’s my jam

 

This weekend I took some time on a gloriously rainy Saturday afternoon to putter in the kitchen and make some jam.  This seemingly simple project was one literally years in the making.  There was a tea bar years ago that served a lovely afternoon tea, including homemade spreads and preserves.  One of my very favorites was their strawberry black pepper jam, and I missed it when they closed up shop.  Cue the very-occasional brief longing, and then the inspiration to make some myself, and then the busyness that inevitably made me forget about it for another year, and then another… and another.  How many times do we think, “I’d like to do XYZ,” and then it hits the back burner as life and to-dos and work take over indefinitely?

Well, my friends, this was the day.  I used this recipe from Epicurious, doubled the quantity, and added a good amount of cook time to get the jammy consistency I wanted.  It turned out delicious, and I spent a very happy weekend eating my preserves on toast with a bit of chèvre.  I also now have 8 little jam pots (very Meg from Little Women, although mine jelled!) sitting in the fridge, ready to be enjoyed or distributed to loved ones.

Not only did I finally get my jam, but the whole little adventure got me thinking about the want-to vs. the have-to.  We’re all very busy, all the time.  We have tons of things we have to do.  I commute a long way, so it often seems that my downtime is even more scarce than most.  But the immense satisfaction of enjoying something you really want to do outweighs even the most efficiently handled to-do list every time (and believe me, I love a tidy finished to-do list).  Let’s resolve to find more time for the want-to.  Schedule it, prepare for it, treat it with the same priority as the rest of your to-do list.  It may seem like less “fun” if it is something you have to schedule, but it will be so enjoyable to actually get to paint that watercolor, go explore that new bakery, make that jam, or learn to knit when you finally do make time for it.  Trust.

 

 

Oh, Barcelona

When I first began planning a trip to Barcelona, I was more focused on the Paris leg of that Europe trip than anything — I love that city dearly.  But when I mentioned my trip planning, people would say, “Oh, Barcelona?  That is my favorite city…”  Their voices would be wistful and a touch envious with the pronouncement, and now that I have been, I know exactly how they feel.  Barcelona is an amazing and vibrant city, full of modern art and culture, delicious food and wine, and a spirit that is infectious.

Eat:

La Boqueria

This is city’s most famous public market.  Fruits, cheeses, meats, and sweets make up a colorful panoply, rows upon rows.  Stop at the tiny Bar Pinotxo, and thank me later — many say they offer the best tapas in the city.  Cava at 11 A.M.?  Why yes!  Seriously delicious baby squid with white beans were had at this tiny eatery, served by the kindest older gentleman proprietor who could not have been more enthusiastic to share his food with us.  Make sure to grab some jamón and cheese to snack on as you wander.

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