Thai Tom 2011 Showdown

It’s been almost five years since our original Thai Tom showdown, where Lauren and I methodically ran through a subjective set of face-offs across the 16-item menu. In the hopes of making the rotation more viable as an annual event, this year I’m only including the top eight seeds from that original tournament. Here are the 2011 match-ups, which I aim to complete in time for March Madness. For consistency, all of the dishes will be ordered with chicken and a spiciness of four stars.

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Poppy

Rating:

I’ve been meaning to write about Poppy for a few years now. After taking shelter at home all day from the snowpocalypse we took a long walk down to Broadway and I committed to following up with a review tonight.

Poppy opened in Fall 2008, after Jerry Traunfeld left his 20 year post at the Herbfarm (and its $250/person dining tab) to open a more casual restaurant in Capitol Hill. It took us a few months to make our first visit, after listening to Gio rave about his perpetual (almost weekly) dinners there. Once we did though, I was hooked.

The food at Poppy centers around the concept of a thali. Contrary to the Indian curries + rice on aluminum tray (or banana leaf), Poppy’s thalis are a Pacific Northwest-inspired assortment. They usually include a soup, a few salads, a pickle, naan, and one or two larger “mains” (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options). Lauren and I have found it best to split a thali, which leaves us some room for an appetizer and/or a dessert (both worthwhile).

The appetizer list has a few mainstays, including one of our favorites, eggplant fries with honey. Lauren normally hates honey, but cannot refuse these fries. Sometimes we recognize items we’ve make from the Herbal Kitchen (which Jerry will sign for you if purchased at Poppy).

For the thali, Poppy is very flexible about letting you mix and match between entrees, sides, etc. in order to fully customize your plate. If available, the scallops and black cod are both amazing, and they do a great job with yams and mushrooms. Here are some of what you might get if you are lucky:

vegetarian thali
Full (10 item) vegetarian thali (clockwise from top):
nigella-poppy naan
goat cheese blintzes with chestnut and chanterelles
triple celery salad (celery root, celery stalk, celery seeds)
persimmon, radicchio, and citron salad
local black truffle, leek, and sunchoke risotto
cauliflower, sesame and fennel soup
wild mushroom-marjoram bread pudding
nigella-poppy naan
center-left – brussels sprouts with crisp shallot
center-right – gingered burdock pickle
(hidden behind naan) – fingerlings with lavender and mint

scallops
Alaskan scallops with pork belly and vanilla-thyme quince

Thali for chilly nights
A thali for chilly nights (Jan 2009, clockwise from top):
four-seed chickpea salad
carrot soup with start anise and cinnamon
black cod with beet-wasabi sauce and burdock
Yukon gold potatoes and cashews with clove and cardamom
yam and sesame fritter
Berkshire pork ribs with pear, parsnip, and sunchoke
spot shrimp, endive, and grapefruit salad
center-top – lemon fennel pickle
center – cauliflower gratin
(not pictured) – nigella naan

quail and spot shrimp thali
A thali for December sun (2008, clockwise from top):
five-seed kale
mushroom marjoram bread pudding
quail from the tandoor with pomegranate walnut sauce
shaved cauliflower salad with Buddha hand
  persimmon, fennel, and chervil salad
chestnut soup with cardamom, vanilla, and bay
spot shrimp and fingerlings in garlic almond sauce
center-left – satsuma mustard pickle
center-right – rosemary-ginger yams with spiced coconut, cranberry cigar

Tonight we had room for one last bite. Usually we opt for Poppy’s house-made ice cream, which is the best on the Hill (sorry Molly), but given the chill outside we opted for chocolate. The torte is petite in size, but quite rich and satisfying.

chocolate torte
Chocolate caramel torte with orange peel and cocoa nib crunch

Lauren enjoying dessert
Lauren enjoying dessert

It’s great to have a restaurant of this caliber on the Hill. I’ve taken a number of guests there for the unique presentation, rotating menu, Northwest flair, and fun setting. We still haven’t managed to get there for happy hour, but I’ve heard rave reviews on that as well.

Poppy
622 Broadway E (at Roy)
Seattle, WA 98102
206-324-1108

Tu-Th, Sun: 5:30PM-10:00PM (Dinner)
Fri-Sat: 5:30PM-11:00PM (Dinner)
Bar menu for an extra hour each day

Le Fournil

Rating:

Le Fournil is a little French bakery and sandwich shop located under the I-5 bridge (and just south of the U-bridge). We’ve made a number of trips to U-Village since moving into our new house, and each time we passed Le Fournil we would wonder why we didn’t time the trip appropriately for a lunch stop. Today we avoided that mistake, and boy was it delicious.

My go to at Le Fournil is their “lunch special”, which includes a sandwich, drink (coffee or juice), and a pastry for just more than the price of a sandwich.  The sandwiches are served on their house-baked baguettes, and are primarily classic French choices like camembert or ham and cheese. Today we had tuna (one of my favorites), made with some light herbs and spices.

The hardest decision at Le Fournil is which pastry to get (the only wrong answer here is to abstain). When we took our friend Shivani here, she found the mille-feuille orgasmic. The croissants are flaky and perfectly buttery, but today we were drawn to the fruit tart section of the case and chose the lemon tart. Perfect if you’re in the mood for the tartness of lemon, it was a sizable portion (though of course we finished it all).

As this special is available as early as 7AM, I’ve also been known to stop in on the way to work and enjoy freshly-squeezed orange juice and an almond croissant (with a sandwich for later). If you are craving a little taste of Paris, get yourself over to the Montlake cut and linger over a meal at Le Fournil, you won’t regret it!

Lauren and her lunch special
Enjoying the lunch special: latte, tuna sandwich, and lemon tart

Sweets on display
A large selection of goodies, from peach tarts to mille-feuilles

Le Fournil
3230 Eastlake Ave E (just south of the University Bridge)
Seattle, WA 98102
206-326-0287

Tue-Sat 7:00AM-6:00PM, Sunday 8:00AM-3:00PM

House/Car Incompatibility

When we moved into our house, we had a very unfortunate discovery – our new car does not play well with our new house! Since the garage is on the 2nd floor (or, as Tracy says,  “floor -1”), the driveway slopes down from the curb to the garage. Because of the low nose on the Prius, we can’t quite clear the angle to enter the garage. We have about a two-foot wide gap to fill:

DrivewayProblem

We brainstormed a number of options with family and friends. Gio discovered some awesome display ramps, assuming we had the clearance and the free cash. My Dad uncovered a potentially more viable option: a company in Kent that sold a variety of ramp products. I emailed them a description of the situation, including the above diagram, and received the following response:

Neither one of our ramps will help you out due to the width you need to fill up the void causing your problem.

I have suggested the attached solution for several people and have received feedback that it works. It’s not a very good looking solution but if installed properly this could help you out.

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Cut 4ft x6ft x ¾” horse stall matting, (found at feed stores) into 6ft long strips and lay one over the top of each other to fill up the low area causing the problem. You can move then around until they raise your car up enough to gain entry into the garage.

The strips will allow water to drain into your area drain.

To keep them in place you could bolt down the top one on each corner or glue them together. You could make 4ft strip and use two sets of them if the 6ft is not enough width.

The only other option we’ve thought of is large steel plates (also not “very good looking” but at least we could paint them). Stay tuned.

Vanilla-Cinnamon Ice Cream

How to make delicious ice cream:

  1. Go to Zanzibar and purchase fresh spices, including vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks
  2. Return to Seattle and unpack your ice cream maker
  3. Simmer 3/4 cup milk mixed with one farmer’s market egg, a little sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a vanilla bean (spliced and scraped)
  4. Chill, add 3/4 cup cream
  5. Put in ice cream maker, and grate part of the cinnamon stick

cinnamon-vanilla ice cream
Dairy hangover: we finished all of this ice cream tonight (since of course it’s best fresh :) )

House Haunters

It’s been a crazy month between adjusting back to life in America, being back at work, and purchasing a new home! Yesterday we got the keys to our house, and the movers arrived this afternoon. We had a great stay with Gio, Gatsby, and Daisy over the past six weeks, and already miss having them around. On the flip side, we are quite happy to bid adieu to the storage locker that held the majority of our belongings this past year. We’ve had a few early visitors and are looking forward to many more!

Our kitchen
Lauren checking out the kitchen from our porch

Stocking the new pantry
Filling the pantry with goodies from Trader Joe’s

Moving
While the movers did the heavy lifting, we helped with a few odds and ends

Zombie cats!
Our first Halloween spirits: Zombie Cats!

Best Eggs in the Nation

After reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma a few years ago, Lauren and I started looking closer at where our food (in particular meat and eggs) came from. We are fortunate to have a staggering number of farms in Washington state, and wondered if any of them had an approach like Virginia’s Polyface farm. We didn’t know where to start, but while we were searching online, Lauren also e-mailed Michael Pollan for advice. She actually received a response in just a few days (via his aide) that recommended Skagit River Ranch as a place with similar values and farming methods to Polyface.

Thus we were introduced to the best eggs I have ever tasted. They were creamier and “eggier”. Pasture-raised chicken farming doesn’t come cheap; at ~$6/dozen it was the most I had ever spent on eggs (at that time). That said, comparing Skagit River Ranch’s eggs to generic supermarket eggs (from chickens raised like this at best), is like relating Theo’s chocolate to a Hershey’s bar.

Every other Saturday morning we would pick up a dozen at the U-District farmer’s market, until last summer when they would sell out within minutes of the market’s opening. This morning we were able to resurrect our tradition. When we stopped by Skagit River Ranch’s booth they had dozens of eggs remaining – supposedly last year’s chicks have grown up to be “very prolific.” We also found out that they were given top marks this week by the Cornucopia Institute and got a few mentions in the Seattle Times.

We celebrated the farmer’s market bounty in the form of a chanterelle/leek/truffle oil omelet, topped with chives from Gio’s garden and our homemade bread. Yum!

Chantrelle omelet

Skagit River Ranch eggs

Sleeping in Seattle

Two days (and ten time zones) later, we’re finally back in Seattle! The trip home was fine (if long), but it was frustrating to watch Puget Sound pass under us as we flew on by to SFO. On the plus side we got to spend a sunny afternoon in Millbrae with my mother-in-law before our final flight to Seattle.

After forcing ourselves to stay up until midnight, we managed to sleep in until 8AM this morning. Of course, while we’re physically awake, we’re certainly not all there yet.

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Until we find a more permanent residence, we’re staying at Gio’s lovely place, where we awake to views like this:

Mount Ranier
Mount Rainier, our favorite local volcano

Bellevue
Bellevue actually looks nice when viewed from across the lake with the Cascades in the background!

Cuban Christmas in Seattle

Our good friend Gio hosted a fabulous Christmas dinner at his new house in Seattle. And because we’re staying with him, we got to help out with the cooking. Gio taught me how to use my new favorite kitchen appliance (the pressure cooker, of course, for those who have been following along) to make his famous Cuban black beans. He made fried plantains and white rice as accompaniments. Our friends Nichol and Fernando also joined, along with their kids Enrique and Natalie. We got a few fun shots of the kids, dogs, and adults after dinner:

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Natalie, Enrique, and Lauren

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Gio and Daisy

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Gatsby

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Kenny wearing a new shirt from our Delhi shopping spree

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Lauren and Natalie