Mardi Gras 2012

Ever since my father moved to New Orleans, we’ve had an annual tradition. He sends a king cake to  Seattle and we use it as the foundation for a Seattle Mardi Gras party. This year, my parents arranged to join us (most importantly, Baby G) in Seattle for the festivities. They arrived on Friday and brought some local supplies with them, including beads galore, many pounds of gulf shrimp, Louisiana crab meat, and a variety of New Orleans sauces.

They also brought two king cakes with them this year, one from each of the top two bakeries in New Orleans, in order get a Seattle vote on the decision of “best king cake.” The first was the historic champion (and annual delivery tradition): Randazzo’s praline king cake. However, the Randazzo family has been subject to some drama recently, and some locals (including my father) believe they are losing their touch. Enter Exhibit B, an apple and cream cheese filled king cake from Rouses that is my Dad’s current favorite. 

Yesterday morning we awoke early and headed to Pike’s Place Market to get the remaining ingredients necessary for Grandma Lynn’s cooking extravaganza. While we were out, Lauren and Gloria has some serious excitement on the home front. Unbeknownst to us, Shawn and Jessica booked a last minute flight from San Francisco, and they showed up on our doorstep at 10AM this morning!

We had a fantastic time this afternoon sipping Hurricanes and gorging on Cajun cooking. Somehow we all saved a little bit of room for the king cakes (competition for the baby Jesus embedded inside the cake didn’t hurt). When all was said and done, we had a clear winner; all but one vote was cast for…..Rouses! The overall food winner however, was Lynn’s crab cakes, which received numerous raves of “the best crab cake I’ve ever had.” 

Surprise!
Imagine my surprise in receiving this picture while I was out grocery shopping!

Mardi Gras feast
The feast – jalapeno corn muffins, jambalaya, crab cakes, rozo crab salad, and hurricanes

Dad and Lynn
The New Orleans locals bringing the Mardi Gras cheer to Seattle

Our little Mardi Gras queen
Our little Mardi Gras princess

Lauren and her presents
Showing off a gift that Shawn and Jessica brought back from Burma

Thai Tom 2011: Final Match

Eggplant Ginger vs. Cashew Chicken

Eggplant ginger tofu Cashew Chicken

Yesterday for lunch, Gloria joined us at the Thai Tom counter for the championship match of 2011. She was enthralled by the cooking show and the occasional bursts of flame out of the stir fry woks.

Enthralled by the flames

After Match 6, the championship was a little anticlimactic; Cashew Chicken has been bested by Panang Curry in the past, so it was no surprise that Eggplant Ginger also took the Cashews to task. It didn’t hurt that Eggplant Ginger was ordered with tofu, which in my opinion is superior to the chicken at Thai Tom.

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Final results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Gloria wants to dictate the time and place of the next Thai Tom Showdown, when she grows out of her disinterest in solid food. Thai Tom has at long last expanded their menu, so we will have to spend some time researching the initial qualifiers for the next match up. However, I expect it will include these solid contenders:

  1. Eggplant Ginger (#10)
  2. Panang Curry (#16)
  3. Cashew Chicken (#3)
  4. Pad Thai (#1)
  5. Swimming Rama (#15)
  6. Garlic and Pepper (#9)

Chilling at the counter
The next Thai Tom Showdown judge is ready for action!

Thai Tom 2011: Match 6

Panang Curry vs. Eggplant Ginger

Match 6

As the new normal, match 6 was performed take-out style. Today, Eggplant Ginger showed that when it’s on, it’s on in a huge way. In our biggest upset of 2011, Eggplant Ginger unseated the reigning champion in a very close call. While the Panang Curry was again excellent, it just couldn’t top the smoky charred delicious eggplant today. I guess sometimes you need a curry, other times a stir fry is the answer. Our final match of 2011 will probably be delayed a little while, as I’d like to take Gloria to the source for the occasion if possible.

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

A Whale of a Time

Yesterday we took Gloria on her first boat ride with Grandpa Gary and Grandma Lynn to see the orcas up close and personal in the San Juan Islands, located about 100 miles northwest of Seattle. There are a bunch of companies that offer whale watching tours out of Friday Harbor; after some research we decided on booking with Western Prince.  

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The trip started out with a pre-adventure at home. We piled into the Prius at 9:30AM and put it in reverse. I pressed on the gas and nothing, the car simply slid forward a bit on our steeply inclined driveway. We tried everything we could think of, including rebooting a few times, but to no avail. It’s our only car, and we thought we were sunk. Fortunately we have the best neighbors ever, and they lent us a car for the day. We also lucked out with clear highways to Anacortes; we boarded the ferry for Friday Harbor with about 90 seconds to spare.

Our stress disappeared once we were on the ferry. I can’t believe that I have lived in the Northwest for 14 years and hadn’t done this trip before. The scenery was stunning, both on the public ferry ride and in our whale watching boat. Western Prince had knowledgeable naturalists on board, who explained how you can identify orcas by their fins, mouth, and spots. The salmon were running closer to Vancouver, so our guide took us into Canadian waters to track the orcas (who dine on salmon). We were blessed with gorgeous weather; it was sunny and crystal clear. I lost count of all the whales we saw, and the orcas seemed like they were going nice and slow to enjoy the day as well.

We had a few other wildlife encounters on the boat. We witnessed a school of Coho salmon jumping out of the water and flapping their tails. I wasn’t quick enough on the draw to snap any (good) photos, so I kicked back and enjoyed this rare treat (the naturalist told us she’s seen Cohos jumping like this maybe twice in the past decade). Closer to Friday Harbor were a few families of harbor seals, plump and playful. It was the middle of pupping season, and we spied a few of the new arrivals nursing away.

It was a great day trip, and I think Gloria enjoyed her time on the water (the rest of us certainly did!). Our full photo set from the day is available here.

On the ferry
On the ferry to Friday Harbor (Gloria is hiding from the sun under the baseball cap)

Kenny on boatLauren on boat
Killing time on the Western Prince en route to the orcas

Gloria with her grandparents
The adoring grandparents with their little Glorca

Harbor seals
Harbor seals

Orca and the lighthouse
Orca in front of the lighthouse

Orca up close
Up close with one of the orcas

Orca in front of Mount Baker
It took about 50 tries to catch our orca friend at just the right time with Mt. Baker in the background

Thai Tom 2011: Match 5

Swimming Rama vs. Cashew Chicken

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We haven’t had Thai Tom since Gloria’s arrival, as it’s not the easiest quarters to squeeze a newborn into. But we had an itch to scratch, and thus loosened our tournament criteria to allow take-out as a viable option. I do not regret that decision. :)

The first time I had Swimming Rama at Thai Tom was pure serendipity. Lauren and I stopped by at closing time and asked if they were still serving. George said sure, but only if we wanted Pad Thai and Swimming Rama. While I do enjoy a good peanut sauce, I hadn’t ever thought to order Swimming Rama at Thai Tom before. Little did I realize what I was missing. Thai Tom’s Swimming Rama is like no other version I’ve had anywhere else. They mix in a generous portion of chili paste, and the result is more like a mildly-sweet peanut curry, similar to how I imagine massaman variation of pad prik giang would taste.

Unfortunately, today the Swimming Rama was overly sweet, and so it was easily topped by the consistently spiced cashew nut chicken that is second only to Mr. Poon. Swimming Rama, we’ll see you next year!

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Gloria’s Seattle Restaurant Tour–Month 1

Gloria turns one month old tomorrow. In her first month, she’s made quite the restaurant tour already, and her ratio of meltdowns to restaurant meals is unbelievably low. Here’s a list of Seattle eateries she has visited so far, in no particular order.

  • Vios – Gloria’s first restaurant experience was dinner at Vios. We went early, and I think there was a kid at every table. She’s also been back for lunch.
  • Pho Bac – we were reprimanded by our server for taking a newborn out of our house before she was 100 days old. Oops, we made an unintentional cultural faux-pas. The owner cooed and gushed over her though.
  • Gorditos – for the requisite newborn/Grande Burrito comparison photo
  • Mashiko – for my birthday. My first sushi in 9 months!
  • Tilth – for brunch
  • Marination Station – alas, our friends Kamala and Roz were on the truck when we visited the Station, but I’m sure we’ll have many  opportunities to introduce them to Baby G
  • Bluebird – Baby G screams for snickerdoodle ice cream
  • Pho Cyclo – it turns out it’s sort of difficult to hold a newborn in one arm while eating pho.
  • Agua Verde – for Boniato tacos, of course, no margaritas for Baby G
  • Jade Garden – Gloria already has a taste for dim sum, as she frequently consumed it in utero
  • Montlake Alehouse – who knew that alehouses were so kid friendly? Lots of dads with kids, watching the game. They even have a play area.
  • La Cote – this crepe place around the corner from us was surprisingly infant-friendly when we went for dinner with our friends Tracy and Dave.
  • Paseo – another favorite from when Baby G was still in the womb (good protein source). It’s a bit cramped though, and the only spot for her car seat was on the floor.
  • Szechuan Noodle Bowl – our little dumpling likes dumplings (the spicy vegetarian variety)

Pho coma at Pho Cyclo
In a pho coma at Pho Cyclo

Baby G found Mashiko a bit loud
Baby G found Mashiko to be a bit loud

Surprise!

Kenny and I were in for a bit of a surprise earlier this week, when I awoke on Tuesday morning at 1am to the light of an almost full moon and had the realization that my water had broken. I was 36 weeks and 2 days pregnant. This was not at all how I had expected labor to start, for a number of reasons: I hadn’t had a single Braxton Hicks contraction or any other signs that labor might be imminent; I was born eight days late, and had presumed that my little bundle would arrive late as well; supposedly only 10% of labors begin with ruptured membranes.

But there we were. Once we got over the initial shock, we agreed that we should both try to get some sleep, as there was likely to be a hard day ahead of us. Easier said than done, of course. Contractions started at 2am, and we both gave up on trying to sleep around 5:30am. We took our time getting ourselves ready, eating breakfast, packing our bag, and of course working through contractions, before making our way to the hospital by 9:30am. Under ordinary circumstances we might have labored at home longer, but we had been advised to go in given that my water had broken.

By the time we got to the hospital, labor was in full swing, with contractions about 3 minutes apart and lasting around a minute long. Over the next few hours, Kenny and our fabulous doula helped me with various breathing and vocalization exercises, massage, positions, and other coping techniques. It was extremely hard work, but my amazing support team enabled me to labor without drugs or any other medical interventions. At 4:22 PM, our daughter was born at 6 pounds, 4.7 ounces, and 19.5 inches long, with a full head of dark brown hair. We were granted our request of uninterrupted bonding time with her for about two hours, before any exams or other procedures.

We were instantly overcome with joy, love, and sheer awe for the little person we had made. We named her Gloria Evelyn, after my beloved grandmothers. Her Hebrew (well, actually Yiddish) name, Gitka, honors Kenny’s grandmother Gertrude.

Some early photos below. You’ll have to forgive this proud new mama for her inability to trim down to a reasonable number. Get used to it.

Weigh-in
First weigh-in

Daddy time
Daddy time

Mommy time
Mommy time

Gang sign
Flashing her gang sign

Cutest baby ever
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is the cutest baby ever

Family
Our family

Luc

Rating:

All the parents we know have given us the same advice: “watch movies and go out to dinner as much as you can before the baby arrives.” Given that Lauren and I watch at most a few movies each year, we’ve been focusing on the other half of the guidance. Tonight we took advantage of our beautiful July 4th weekend weather and took a walk down to Luc.

Luc is the casual bistro that Thierry Rautureau (of Rover’s fame) opened last May, while we were away on our sabbatical. There is a long, narrow dining room surrounding a large bar along with seasonal patio dining. While I liked the indoor space a lot, we couldn’t pass up an outdoor table with weather like today’s.

Suli, our waiter, was very warm, friendly, and knowledgeable. At his suggestion I started with a glass of rosé and a cup of bing cherry gazpacho. It was a great summer-time pairing. The gazpacho was amazing – a smooth mix of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, garlic, chilies, and bing cherries. And it did go quite well with the rosé.

Based on recommendations I’ve been meaning to try Luc’s burger, but tonight that was not meant to be. I think it was a combination of the heat and the description of the day’s special, but I wound up ordering the Neah Bay salmon, which was pan seared and served on a bed of orecchiette and English peas, topped with a spinach sauce. I was very happy with my choice. The salmon was perfectly cooked; pink on the inside, crispy on the outside, and just enough salt to bring out the salmon’s full flavor. The spinach sauce and orecchiette made for a great pairing, and overall it was the best fish dish I’ve had in quite some time.

Lauren ordered the crab sandwich, which was simple but delicious. The local crab was mixed with a little lemon and served on rustic sourdough bread.

We didn’t have any room left for dessert tonight, but we’ll do so next time. We had a great time at Luc, and I can’t believe we waited this long to try it out. We’ll try and return at least once more before the baby is due.

Neah Bay salmon
Neah Bay salmon, orecchiette, spinach sauce

crab sandwich
Local crab sandwich, preserved lemon aioli

rose and gazpacho Lauren and her sandwich

Luc
2800 E. Madison
Seattle, WA 98112
206-328-6645

Interpretive Dining

Last night we had some friends over and made pizza for dinner. While the first and third pies came out perfectly round, we had a little mishap with pizza #2. I must have been too conservative with the cornmeal on our pizza peel; the dough stuck to the middle of the peel and I had to perform some intense spatula work inside of a 550 degree oven.

The result was non-standard, but quite tasty and a geographical conversation piece. I think that piece of asparagus on the right represents our apartment in Kampala, Uganda.

Africa pizza
Do you see what I see?