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

Revel

Rating:

Last night Dan and Leslie introduced us to Revel, which opened in Fremont last December. Revel is the latest endeavor of Rachel Wang and Seif Chirchi, the chefs who left Coupage a few years back to start Joule. The theme at Revel is Korean street food, but not your typical bulgogi fare. This is chic, upscale Korean, like our friend Karen.

The menu is organized into six sections: salad, pancake, dumpling, rice, noodle, and ice cream sandwich. Between the four of us (including Dan’s extra-healthy appetite) we were able to sample about half the menu, as well as the daily special.

Rachel cooking
Chef Rachel at work in the open kitchen

Menu

We started our meal with a few drinks. Leslie ordered a greyhound, and about 10 minutes later our waitress returned with her drink, apologetically telling us that the delay is because her bartender accidentally made a grapefruit martini (with citron infused vodka). When we commented that this mistake sounded tasty to us, the waitress brought it to us compliments of the house, one of many nice touches by the staff. Lauren partook of the house-made sodas, enjoying her spicy ginger beverage. My glass of pinot was just ok – I’ll stick with mixed drinks next time.

Leslie double-fistingLauren enjoying her drink
The ladies with their drinks

Our food arrived progressively. First came the salads, which were divine. The spinach salad was a simple mix of fresh greens, sunchoke, and raisins with a mildly sweet miso vinaigrette. I’d never tried corned lamb before, but it made for an excellent combination with mizuna greens and fish sauce.

Next came the dumplings and pancake. The earl grey dumplings were dreamy. The noodles were a perfect chewiness and the ricotta/raisin filling had a soft sweetness that was addictive. By contrast, the pancake was blasé. I’m sure we got an iron boost from the kale, but overall the dish, while attractive, was also fairly bland.

We also enjoyed the special of the day – a whole grilled chicken with spring onions and enoki mushroom ragout. The chicken was moist and had absorbed the mushroom flavor well.

Our last dish was a bowl of noodles, tinged green with coriander and served with large, perfectly grilled gulf shrimp. The whole dish tasted very fresh; soft noodles with crunchy shrimp and vegetables. I quite enjoyed the noodles, and it would have been a large enough dish to satisfy my hunger if I was dining solo.

I’ve never been to Korea, but I bet you won’t find albacore tuna/fennel kimchi/escarole rice bowls on the streets of Seoul. However, I don’t think the clientele are here for the authenticity. Revel’s inventive, tasty small plates are drawing quite a crowd, with the main room already filling up when we arrived at 5:30. Lauren and I will return soon for another round of the salads and the earl grey dumplings;  we’ll make sure to save room and try the ice cream sandwiches.

mizuna salad
Mizuna salad with corned lamb, spicy nuoc cham

Spinach salad
Spinach salad with sunchoke, miso vinaigrette

Ricotta dumplings
Earl grey ricotta, golden raisin, candied pecan dumplings

Kale pancake
Kale, walnut, arugula, pecorino-romano pancake

coriander noodles
Coriander noodles with white gulf shrimp and cilantro pistou

Chicken
Chicken with mushrooms and spring onions

Revel
403 N 36th St
Seattle, WA 98103
206-547-2040

Deli and Bread Connection

Rating:

In both of our guidebooks, Deli & Bread Connection is touted as having “the best sandwiches in Kauai.” So when we passed through Lihue as part of our helicopter-delay excursion, we had to stop by for lunch. We ordered two of their specials: a Lobsta’ Roll, and a Chicado (chicken salad with avocado). However, they were out of avocado, so no Chicado for us. Based on prominent signage, we made a game-time decision to choose a Vegi Burger with its “delicious patty.”

The Vegi Burger was good – the patty was nothing special, but the accoutrements were fresh and generous, and the bun was a nice freshly-baked sourdough. The Lobsta’ Roll was absolutely, ridiculously amazing. The lobster salad was very heavy on the lobster – local, mildly sweet, and in big lumps. It was complemented very well by the Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and red onions. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and I savored every bite.

This morning we stopped by Deli & Bread Connection on our way to the airport to pick up provisions for the long flight home (something I highly recommend). This time they had avocado, so we repeated our original order from Wednesday. The Chicado was good (reminded me of a sandwich from Specialty’s), but it paled in comparison to the Lobsta’ Roll. As a consequence of our flight shuffling, Lauren and I were placed in window seats on consecutive rows, with couples seated adjacent to us. As you would expect, neither couple wanted to swap seats with us. However, as I was taking my first bite of the Lobsta’ Roll, my neighbor offered to trade his seat for the sandwich. What would you do in this situation?

Counter service
Order up!

Lobsta' Roll
Lobsta’ Roll – lobster salad, grilled with mushrooms, red onions, and melted Swiss cheese

Vegi Burger
The Vegi Burger – with mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato-basil pesto, and “the works”

Kenny and his sandwichLauren and her sandwich

Deli & Bread Connection
3-2600 Kaumualii Highway # 1648 (next to Macy’s)
Lihue, HI 96766
808-245-7115

Longan

I first encountered longans in 2007 on a trip through the Mekong Delta. Our guide picked them fresh from the trees for us to try. I remember them being lychee-like, but with thicker skin, much bigger pits, less flavor, and a very thin flesh. Overall, they were a lot of work for minimal payoff.

This week in Kauai, I’ve been keen to try any local tropical fruit on offer. On Tuesday that included longan, the special of the day at Banana Joe’s. It turns out that Hawaiian longan are notably different than their Vietnamese counterparts (or at least from the ones I tried). First, the pits are much smaller. Second, the skin is thinner (think lychee, but without the bumps). The result is a lot more flesh per-longan. They have the texture of a lychee with a taste that’s nuttier and less sweet. While a significant improvement from my first longan experience, they still weren’t a fruit I would gorge on directly. However, tonight we made a great discovery: longan-banana-soy milkshakes. The banana added just the right amount of sweetness and soy milk complemented the longan’s natural malty flavor. While it still won’t make my top 10 list of tropical fruits, in Kauai I’ve learned how to appreciate it and will likely make another milkshake the next time we visit!

Longan purchase from Banana Joe's

Bowl of longans
Hawaiian longans – thin skin, thick flesh

Eating a longan
Trying my first Hawaiian longan

Longan milkshake
Longan, banana, soy milkshake

Shave Ice

All over Kauai, restaurants, storefronts, and free-standing carts offer “Shave Ice” – a large domed cup of finely shaved ice, with your choice of flavored syrups and optionally served over a scoop of ice cream. With the exception of the ice cream, I know this sounds like a snow cone, but the guidebooks all insist that’s an unfair comparison (snow cones are “crushed ice” and shave ice is “an infinitely fine powder”).

As it was a treat “everyone should try” (and we were craving a ice cold snack as a respite from the heat), we put aside our skepticism and picked up a shave ice in Hanalei this afternoon. Wishing Well, the top-recommended truck for shave ice, was closed, so we journeyed across the street to Shave Ice Paradise, another highly-rated stand.

Lauren ordering a shave ice

Our guidebook author swears by rainbow shave ice over macadamia nut ice cream, and we went with a small variation using one of Shave Ice Paradise’s recipies: Bali Hai Sunset (mango, liliko’i, li hing mui) over macadamia nut ice cream. The verdict: indeed, the shave ice is fluffier than your typical snow cone (no real “crunch” to be had). However, the syrups were still sickly sweet, and next time I will just opt for the scoop of macadamia nut ice cream!

Bali Hai Sunset
Hawaiians take their shave ice designs as seriously as Seattlites do their latte leaves

Syrups

P.S. For those that are curious, it looks like each liter of syrup contains about 1.25 pounds of sugar; who knows how that actually translates into shave ice servings though!

Thai Tom 2011: Match 4

Garlic and Pepper vs. Eggplant Ginger (Passover versions with tofu and no rice)

Match 4

A few Passovers ago, Lauren discovered that if you order a dish at Thai Tom without rice, they will happily serve it to you over spinach instead and it’s delicious. So when my mother-in-law was craving Thai Tom on her visit this weekend, we were prepared.

Today’s match involved two of my favorite stir fries. #10 (Eggplant Ginger) was my first love of Thai Tom, with thin slices of Japanese eggplant that soak up the ginger-soy goodness. #9 (Garlic and Pepper), while not quite the crack-like-version I had in Mae Hong Son, still uses a heavy hand of both garlic and pepper to whet your taste buds. In the end, it was a very close call, but the nod went to Eggplant Ginger. If you have a group of three though, get both (with a curry as your third dish of course)!

image
Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Portlandia Pornucopia

No, I’m not referring to the multitude of strip clubs in this otherwise wholesome little hipster town. I’m talking about food porn, of course. Portland is an oasis of food carts and other general deliciousness. Here are a few things we enjoyed last weekend:

Breakfast burrito
Chicken mole (and crack-filled) breakfast burrito from Maya’s

Arancine
Arancine – balls of saffron risotto with veggies and mozzarella, deep-fried for good measure – from Garden State

Arbor Lodge
The Arbor Lodge from the Big Egg – quite possibly the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. We enjoyed this tasty creation two days in a row. And yes, we had two breakfasts on Saturday morning.

Pear-gorgonzola pizza
Pear-gorgonzola pizza from Deschutes – where Tommy commemorated 21 years with a 6-beer sampler

Voodoo donuts
Fried creations from Voodoo Donuts – cute, but they looked much better than they tasted

Vanilla Extract

When Kenny and I were in Zanzibar last August, we enjoyed a spice tour and made a trip to the market the following day to purchase fresh spices, including vanilla beans. Since then, we’ve enjoyed using the vanilla beans in cooking projects at home, my favorite of which has been our homemade cinnamon vanilla bean ice cream (to die for – good thing we ditched the leftovers of our last batch at a friend’s house, otherwise I’d probably be gorging on it right now).

But the beans won’t last forever, so we decided that it would be a good idea to use a few of our remaining beans for homemade vanilla extract. Recipes and instructional videos abound on the interwebs; I ended up choosing this one because I liked the easy-to-follow steps with illustrative photos.                 

Of course, Kenny and I can’t do anything without creating photo documentation of our own, so here are my versions of the instructional photos – strikingly similar to those in the recipe, but featuring my kitchen!

Materials
Step 1 – Collect ingredients: vodka, vanilla beans, and a jar to store them in

Cutting the beans lengthwise
Step 2 – Cut the beans lengthwise, leaving them attached by an inch at one end

Vodka
Step 3 – Measure 1 cup of vodka into the jar

Adding the beans
Step 4 – Submerge the beans as well as possible – I wasn’t able to get them fully covered immediately because they were a bit firm

Ready for storage
Step 5 – Cover

Two weeks later
Step 6 – Wait. Here’s my concoction after 2 weeks of rest time. Supposedly 8 weeks of infusion is best, so ours should be ready by mid-May.

Bob’s Red Mill

I’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill products in stores all over Seattle, but started paying closer attention after I heard an NPR story about Bob’s Red Mill winning the award for best porridge in the world. It was then I learned that Bob’s Red Mill was in our proverbial backyard in the Portland area. I later heard an interview on Marketplace about Bob’s plans to bequeath the company to his workers. Fortunately we had some time this weekend to stop by the Red Mill.

Unfortunately the mill tours are only offered Monday through Friday, but we were satisfied with our trip to the visitor’s center. This mecca of grain has all of Bob’s products on offer (in multiple sizes), including a full row for the gluten-free crowd. There is also a section with baking supplies, a restaurant (we tried a delicious mango shake), and a section of bulk foods. I almost expected to see a petting zoo out back.

From flours to seeds to granolas, protein powders, dried fruits and more, we spent a shocking amount of time enjoying ourselves among the starches. Passover is rapidly approaching, but we still walked away with half-dozen or so items, and we’ll be back again next time we’re in Portland!

Bob's
Bob’s Red Mill: serving up smiles daily

Our grain purchases
Our grain gains on display: bulgur wheat, 7 grain hot cereal, steel cut oats, masa, pumpernickel meal, shredded coconut, and black sesame seeds