Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

There’s Something I’ve Been Wanting to Tell You

There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you.

No, no…it’s nothing like *that*…, but something exciting did happen that’s kept me busy for a few weeks and I’m excited to share.

The Tuna Poke at BOKA Bar + Restaurant. Photo Credit: Annie Laurie Malarkey

One of the coolest parts about being a food writer is the invitations to spectacular events. There are chef’s dinners, wine tastings, cook book reviews, and more. At each event I feel as though I fall in love with a roomful of soul mates; of people who don’t think there’s anything funny about taking a picture of your dinner before you eat it, and couldn’t imagine not all sharing bites of each others’ meals to make sure you try everything on the menu.

It was at a recent Olive Oil tasting, hosted by the dynamite Talk of Tomatoes, that I met the editor of Seattlite, a fantastic publication that has it’s virtual thumb on the pulse of the latest in dining, travel, fashion, entertainment, events, and more in our fair city of Seattle. One thing lead to another, as they tend to do, and now I’m the newest columnist for Seattlite’s very popular Happenin’ Happy Hour column!

My first story, featuring BOKA Restaurant + Bar came out today…so I wanted to send you over to check it out. There really are few things better than getting to eat, drink, and write about all the best spots in Seattle, so I’m very excited to see where this chapter will take me.

Generous Pour Event at The Capital Grille. Photo credit: Annie Laurie Malarkey

And don’t worry…there’s been lots cooking in my kitchen as well, so stay tuned for Gourmet Camping Cuisine ideas, clever ideas to use up your sage, and lots more in the coming days and weeks here.

Happy almost Weekend!

xo.

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Table for One: Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, CO

There is something so utterly pleasing about dining alone. You can go exactly where you want, when you want, and you can almost always get a seat, even at the poshest and happening of restaurants. Not only that, you can sit there for hours, enjoying a lazy dinner, where your only required company and conversation is the feasts and flavors in front of you, the people watching around you, and the juicy speculation of the restaurant life that exists off the floor.

This evening I enjoyed a dinner for one at Boulder’s tres popular, Pizzeria Locale; a self-described, “…contemporary pizzeria, inspired by the traditional pizzerias of Napoli, Italy” that Food & Wine recently recognized as having one of the best sommeliers of 2012. With their fresh, local ingredients, gracious and knowledgeable staff, simplistic yet inspiring space, and exceptionally good pizza, it is, in a word (or four), pretty damn near perfect.

Seated at the bar where you can watch the kitchen gents craft pizza after pizza, salad after salad, the evening began with a glass of their prosecco, generously served in a wine glass. The Bisol 2009 Prosecco, “Jeoi”, from Veneto Italy ($9) was the perfect pairing with their seasonal salad of grilled onions, pea shoots, radishes, and goat cheese.

At the waiter’s urging I chose the Maiale pizza for dinner, a red sauce based pizza with “mozzarella di bufala-parmigiano reggiano-prosciutto crudo-arugula” ($16).

Tangent: Really good red sauce to me is like getting in a super sexy sports car with a 5-speed after driving your minivan around for years. You don’t really notice it if it’s average and unoffensive, but if it’s good, it is knock-your-socks-off-good and Pizzeria Locale definitely achieved fifth gear on this one.

One of the never-ending stream of 20/30-something gentlemen waiters who all referred to me as “Miss” suggested the Chianti which was an exceptional pairing with the salty prosciutto, fresh arugula, and indulgent buffalo mozzarella.

My only regret of the evening was the few slices of pizza I took back to my hotel room that will be delicious cold for breakfast, but not as good as if they were warmed up and enjoyed with another glass of wine. Tip: To successfully reheat Neapolitan pizza, without it getting soggy, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, add the pizza to a cast-iron skillet, and reheat in pan for 3-5 minutes.

Highly recommended as the perfect destination be it for one or twenty, when craving exceptional ingredients, prepared simply, in Boulder’s aptly described 25 square miles, surrounded by reality.

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The Canlis Experience: Not One to Be Missed

You crawl up Highway 99, barely keeping pace in the right lane, for fear that if you miss the driveway you’ll be jettisoned over the bridge and into that foreign land that is “North of the Shipping Canal”. Your speed, which is much more in alignment with the Senior Citizen community that used to frequent this establishment, is in direct contrast to your Spring couture and daring high heels, because if there’s anywhere in Seattle you can wear true fashion in March, it’s here. Pulling in, you are greeted by the famous valets, who mysteriously remember which car is yours, and escort you into an evening of sheer bliss. Arriving inside, it is one smiling, beautiful face after another, seeming to know instantly what you want even before you do, and existing for no other reason than to meet your needs.

Yes, dear readers, we are talking about Canlis. An icon of the Seattle food scene, that has existed for generations, but has recently undergone a transformation, albeit subtle, to reinvent itself to a modern destination of creativity and cache, while still maintaining its old values of service and elegance.

We were there at the invitation of one of the owners, Brian Canlis, who took over the restaurant from his parents in 2003, being joined a few years later by his brother Mark.  Two foodie friends, enjoying a night out on the town, and feasting on the spectacular cuisine and impeccable service, that Canlis both promises and delivers.

It was a meal of epic proportion, each dish better than the last, delighting the senses and aweing the eyes. Yes, Canlis is spendy, there’s no denying that, but for an evening of true celebration or fun, you’d be hard pressed in Seattle to find anything better.

Here, a few of our favorite dishes that seemed to magically arrive at our table, whisked out by the never-ending team of servers that would appear without you seeing them coming, and be gone before you’d lifted your eyes from whatever masterpiece had just  been delivered.

Amuse Bouche: A Rhubarb celery puree topped with popped quinoa.

The Canlis Prawns are ambrosial, and utterly satisfying. Lucky for us, Canlis is willing to share the recipe on that one.

Peter Canlis Prawns: Sauteéd in dry vermouth, garlic, red chilies, and lime.

On we went from there, to perhaps the most beautiful dish of the night, and a personal favorite:  The Foie Gras.: A torchon accompanied by rabbit rillette, Sauternes, and pine ash, served with a warm brioche.

Foie Gras: A torchon accompanied by rabbit rillette, Sauternes, and pine ash, served with warm brioche.

 The Crab Cake followed, which our server endearingly (and accurately) described as, “about the size of a hockey puck”. While this dish lacked the “wow” factor of some of its predecessors and followers, it was fully consumed and enjoyed, nonetheless.

Dungeness Crab Cake: Crisped, with artichoke "risotto", sauce barigoule, and extra virgin olive oil.

I won’t taunt you with the detail of everything else we had: The Canlis Salad:  a standard at the restaurant and worth trying. Hamachi Sashimi: A complex and pleasing collection of flavors. The Halbibut: A standout of the evening, pan seared and served with cannellini beans, Spanish chorizo, and taggiasca olives.

Chicago-based Intelligentsia Cappucino.

The evening ended with a perfect cappuccino (from Chicago’s boutique Intelligentsia not Starbucks, bien sur) and desserts from Canlis’ pastry chef that have you going back for bite after bite, despite declaring, “I’m never eating again.”  The Mille-Feuille: Milk chocolate, banana, caramel, and peanut butter and The Chocolate Fondant: With ginger, milk crumble, and toasted rice are both to die for.

Start saving your pennies and getting out your shiniest shoes for a dinner at Canlis. You won’t  be disappointed. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of your best champagne, imagine there’s a piano player in your kitchen, and  enjoy these few recipes, compliments of Canlis itself.

Peter Canlis Prawns

(serves 3-4)

5-15 Black Tiger Prawns, 16/20s, shells removed and reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 cup vermouth, Lejon Extra Dry
1/4 cup Shrimp Butter (recipe follows)
sea salt & pepper to taste
baby greens for garnish

Directions

Heat a stainless steel pan with the olive oil on high heat. Just before smoking point, add cleaned prawns and sear, adding salt and pepper. When half cooked, pour off excess oil and add garlic. Remove the pan from the heat and de-glaze with vermouth and lime juice. Add the chilies, return pan back to the heat, and reduce liquid by half. Add Shrimp Butter and adjust seasoning. Remove prawns and arrange on the plate around baby greens. Finish with sauce coating the tops of the prawns. Shrimp Butter: Roast the shrimp shells in convection oven at 500° for 2 minutes, or until pink. Add shells to blender with an equal amount of boiling hot butter and let blend for a few minutes until the shells are completely broken down. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and chill in an ice bath, whisking the butter to bring it back together.

The Canlis Salad

(serves 4 to 6)

Salad

1 large head Romaine hearts, cut into 1″ pieces
(Wash individual leaves in warm water, drain and dry in colander then chill in refrigerator. Don’t ever, ever toss a Canlis Salad with warm or wet leaves!!)
8 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup very well done chopped bacon
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh mint*
1 tablespoon thinly sliced oregano leaves
1/2 cup croutons*
kosher salt and fresh ground tellicherry black pepper to taste

Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground tellicherry black pepper
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 coddled egg*

Ingredient notes:

Mint – you can’t use too much mint (experiment yourself)
Coddled Egg – Pour boiling water into a cup and put a whole egg (in the shell) into the hot water , let sit for 1 minute. You may substitute with pasteurized egg mixture (found in the dairy section in cartons).
Croutons – We make our own croutons. Butter and Italian seasoning.

Directions:

To make the dressing, put the salt and pepper, lemon juice, oil, and coddled egg in a bowl and whip vigorously, then reserve. To a salad bowl add the prepared Romaine, green onion, cheese, bacon, oregano, and mint. Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly. Split the salad on to four chilled plates and arrange croutons, a sprinkle of Romano cheese and halved cherry tomatoes on the salad to finish the presentation.

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The Corson Building: “Like, oh my god!”

The Corson Building

“So…what do you say we reserve our Zipcar for an extra hour before we head back to my parents?”, he crooned to his date smoothly hoping to distract from his mediocre good looks and advanced receding hairline.

His date, (who was admittedly much better looking, but whose vapid expression and refusal to actually eat any of the food in front of her immediately made me skeptical), declared “Totally!”, whipped out her iPhone with the urgency of someone grabbing their EpiPen and immediately started pecking away at the ZipCar ap.

This couple, smooshed next to us at The Corson Building’s communal dining table, was the epitome of NW trust fund babies, who are too ecofriendly to own their own cars, and too liberated to own a house, but who aren’t too proud to still be living with their parents in their 30s and 40s.

Now…you’re probably thinking that I’m being overly judgemental and sarcastic (it has been known to happen ) and are curious how it is that I know so much about these people. Well…for one…The Corson Building, which has dominated the Seattle restaurant scene with rave reviews and a cult like status, is a delightfully small space with large communal tables. I actually like dining like this, except for the rare instance where you’re seated next to Gucci-wearing, pseudo hippy, faux artists who make out at the table and sort of push their food around exclaiming about its’ “depth”, “energy”, and general “fucking awesomeness”.

To be fair, I think our dining neighbors may have given the evening a more sour tone than was deserved but for as excited and ecstatic as I was to try The Corson Building I was sadly disappointed. It’s good, not great. But for the price and exclusivity there are many better restaurants in Seattle (think Anchovies and Olives or La Medusa).

I started with the smoked and marinated trout and mussels with raw beets, crème fraiche, and walnut oil. Unfortunately, all those powerful flavors spent the whole time shouting over each other, rather than complimenting, resulting in a surprisingly bland, B- appetizer at best.

On I moved to the One half of a young chicken cooked in the fireplace with artichokes, and a sauce of livers & garden sorrel. This was yummy, but was prepared and served in what I can only describe as an overly deliberate peasant fare fashion, as though to shout to the world…”This isn’t a fancy restaurant! It’s not snobby! It’s just everyman’s grub!” Everyman’s grub at $50+ per person easy.

The dessert however was delicious; Kurt Timmermeister’s triple cream with squash conserve and cookies. The combination of the sweet and savory was a delightful end to an entertaining, if not wholly satisfying dinner.

Enjoying a girl’s weekend to myself I wanted to create something similar, but with a bit more of a nod to Summer’s arrival. The result?

A traditional shortbread cookie, topped with a wedge of Saint Andre’s French cow’s milk cheese, and finished with a rhubarb compote. Serve this as the perfect end to a dinner party, with a crisp, white wine.

Now THAT is something worth returning the Zipcar late for.

Shortbread topped with a Wedge of Triple Cream, Finished with a Rhubarb Compote

Makes 16, 2″ morsels of deliciousness

Rhubarb Compote

Makes about 2 cups, so you’ll have lots extra but it’s delicious used on ice cream, as a marinade for chicken, or served with crackers and cheese.

1 pound rhubarb, stalks only, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until rhubarb is very tender and resembling a rustic jam. Remove the vanilla bean and allow to cool completely. Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to four days.

Shortbread

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tsp orange zest
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt

1.In a mixer, preferably your Kitchen Aid, combine the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the mint and orange zest, and gently blend. Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt, and mix until well blended and forming a dough. Give the dough a knead or two to fully assemble into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten to about 2 inches thick. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

2.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Press the dough into a lightly greased 8×8 baking dish, making as flat and even as possible. Prick in a decorative pattern with a fork.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, just until dough begins to brown at the edges. Cool for 2 minutes and then cut into squares. Once cool completely remove from pan and set on serving platter.

Assembly

Assemble the cooled short breads on a plate, allowing one to two inches of room in between each. Top each with a slightly smaller piece of triple creme cheese. HINT: In order to get a really clean cut of the cheese, freeze it for 15-20 minutes and use a knife that has been run under hot water. If you follow this technique you’ll just want to allow enough time for the cheese to come to room temperature after it’s been cut and assembled; about 30 minutes. Top with dollop of the rhubarb compote. Enjoy!

Shortbread.Cheese

Awaiting the rhubarb compote

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On Display: Grilled Bruschetta with Pesto, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Grilled Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Pesto, Mozzarella, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Grilled Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Pesto, Mozzarella, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

We continue to lead more and more public lives. Between Facebook and Twitter, MySpace and FourSquare we are constantly and ultimately connected, sharing a running stream of our whereabouts, feelings, exercise routines, and meals.

So I suppose it should come as no surprise the institution of the chefs table has seen exponential popularity and growth in the last two or three years. For those of you not familiar with the concept, this is a bar or table that has been attached to open kitchens where patrons can watch their meals being made and chat with the chefs while they’re at it. Think of it like the wilderness safari of a restaurant.

Having worked in just enough restaurants to know there’s a whole lot going on back there you don’t want to know about I both adore the chefs table from a foodie diner’s perspective and yet am baffled so many chefs allow it. Gone are the days of joking about the “MILF at table seven with the bad boob job” or spitting on the steak that came back for a third time to be cooked more. Chefs and their staffs are on constant display and pressure to not only create an impressive meal, but to do it gracefully and look like they’re having fun to boot.

I recently stumbled upon Rioja in Denver’s trendy LoDo neighborhood. Sans reservation I walked in and thanks to my solo status was offered a sole seat at the chefs table. What followed for the next two hours was an absolute symphony of culinary excellence, innovation, and performance. The food was exceptional, the service flawless, and the kitchen, which was turning out plate after plate of Mediterranean inspired creations, literally humming. The lead chef, Jennifer Jasinski, was focused and no-nonsense, but finished each sentence with a ‘please’; Incongruous, if not unheard of in most kitchens.

The entire meal was spectacular, but the appetizer of hand-made mozzarella, wrapped in smoked prosciutto, grilled bread, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, and green olive pistou was perhaps my favorite.

I’ve simplified it here to make it more doable for the home chef but if ever in Denver I highly recommend a trip to 14th and Larimer, where you can see the magic up close and personal.

Grilled Bruschetta with Pesto, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 4. Perfect as a first course to a fancy, dinner…or as a light lunch.

8 slices Rustic bread, brushed with olive oil

8 prosciutto slices

8 slices fresh mozzarella, approximately 1/4″ thick

Pesto (homemade is better…but store bought will do the trick)

8 large pieces Sun-Dried tomatoes, packed in oil

  1. Assemble sandwiches, starting with pesto, then adding prosciutto, adding tomatoes, and topping with mozzarella
    Pesto Prosciutto
    Sun Dried Tomatoes Mozzarella
  2. Using a stove top griddle or cast iron pan, heat the pan to medium heat. Add  the sandwiches and cook 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown and cheese is melting. If the cheese isn’t melting and you’re worried about them getting too brown, add a lid to the pan for about 60 seconds.
  3. Cut in half and serve.

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