Friday, June 30, 2006

Anniversary #19

Debbie and I celebrated our 19th anniversary last Wednesday. We didn't know whether we'd have a place for our daughter to go in the evening, so we put off making any plans. We went to Madoka for lunch, which was delightful. We sat outside. We started off with some oysters on the half shell which were very refreshing on a warm day (thanks, Cat!) and I had the kobe beef burger (rare, natch) and Debbie had the farfalle with smoked chicken, yum. For dessert we shared the vanilla-black pepper ice cream with local strawberries in a balsamic sauce. It was fab. I managed to shear the arm off of the cheap resin dining chairs they have outside when reaching for my wallet. (Try these ones, guys, they're really comfortable and good looking.) After lunch I went and worked out with my trainer, Andrew. I had a little bit of a pulled hamstring, and should have stayed home--I ended up at the ER last night because it got really bad and I popped a fever, which the doc called a coincidence barring any more evidence to the contrary. So now I'm sitting around (can't lie down, slept in my chair) on Percocet.

Catherine managed to sleep over at a friend's house (thanks, Jen!) so we went over to the city for dinner. We went to Brasa in Belltown, which we'd never been to. Debbie started with a truffle-oil-drizzled carpaccio with parmesan, and then had the pizzetta with figs, serrano ham, and preserved lemon. I started with the spinach salad with shiitakes and bacon with a warm, creamy dressing. For a main course, I had Brasa's famous roasted pig, served in a cazuela with housemade chorizo, clams, smoked paprika and potatoes. It was really good, with everything swimming but not drowning in a paprika-y broth. It's been rosé weather, so we had a bottle of Rhône rosé. For dessert we shared the churros (listed as "spanish donuts"--doesn't everybody know what a churro is?) with spiced valhrona chocolate sauce. Life was good. Afterward we wandered around Broadway in Capitol Hill, where we picked up some soap and bath stuff at Bliss. Nice to be on a real urban street with people around in the evening.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day at Ivar's

"We're going to Ivar's for brunch," I told the boy.
"Why aren't we going to Elliot's?" the boy asked.
"Because Ivar's has an all-you-can-eat seafood bar, and we've never been there. It's a Seattle institution."
The boy is perfectly happy to sit at the oyster bar at Elliot's and suck down one or two dozen oysters shucked by David Leck, who could be the best oyster shucker in the country. Dad is maybe slightly less happy to pay for it, but Elliot's does have pretty good food, especially for a waterfront restaurant that gets a large tourist business. The boy looked displeased. "They have freshly shucked all-you-can-eat oysters," I said. The boy looked happy.
Ivar's has been there since 1938. I suppose you can't tell the real character of a place by Sunday Brunch, or maybe you can tell the character of a restaurant all too well by what they're willing to put out on Sunday morning.
During brunch, the boy said, "that oyster shucker sucks." In fact, all of it pretty much sucked. The oysters were decent, though kind of ugly after the shucker was through with them. The peel-n-eat shrimp would have been better if someone hadn't sliced them up the back to expose the contents of the vein without bothering to rinse it out. The "traditional breakfast fare" was barely warm. The salads were mostly starch and dressing.
"Why didn't we go to Elliot's?" I asked afterwards.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Life got better on Bainbridge Island today


The day after we moved to Bainbridge Island was our daughter Catherine's 9th birthday. We had dinner, and then we decided to go find someplace to have dessert. To our surprise, everything downtown other than sit-down restaurants and the 21-and-over pub is closed by about 6:00pm, so we picked up something at Safeway and went home, a little sad. Last week, we dropped Catherine at BPA at 7pm, and were to return for her performance at 7:30pm. All we wanted was a cup of coffee and someplace to hang out for 1/2 hour, and again, there was no place to go.

That changed today. Most Bainbridge residents are probably familiar with Mora ice cream, which is manufactured here on Bainbridge, in a small plant on Miller Rd. The owners are Jerry Perez and Ana Orselli, who are originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and wanted to create a community-oriented ice cream place like one can find in Buenos Aires or many cities in Europe. We first had Mora ice cream at their first store in a giant shopping mall, Bellevue Square. They have lots of fantastic flavors, including several variations on dulce de leche, gianduja, marron glace, pistachio, and on and on. They also make great fruit sorbets.

Today, Mora's second store opened on 169 Madrone Lane, just off of Winslow Way in downtown Bainbridge. The great thing is, they're going to be open in the evenings, every evening! Jerry told us that he'll stay open until at least 9:00pm, and he'll stay open until 10:00pm if there are still customers coming in. The store is quite attractive inside, and has tables and benches outside which makes it a very inviting space for hanging out. The parking lot of Madrone Lane is small and surrounded by trees and buildings, so it seems more like a square/plaza/piazza than a parking lot. (Think of the hundreds of little piazzas all over Rome, for example.) That helps you feel like you're in a real community space, not just a unit in a mall.

Opening day had the usual glitches--the register couldn't take credit cards, our gift card (we bought a year's supply at a charity auction last year) wouldn't go through the register, and of course, the staff was not quite smooth at putting together the various items on the menu--they had to look at the cheat sheet. I expect that'll be worked out in a matter of days. The place was packed at 7:30pm when we went, and the staff was still smiling gamely and kept on scooping out ice cream. Debbie and I shared the chocolate parfait, which was layers of chocolate mousse, white chocolate and dark chocolate ice creams, with chocolate shavings in between, covered with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. It was fabulous.
As well as ice cream, various ice cream concoctions like shakes, parfaits, brownies a al mode, etc. they have good espresso (Illy) which I tried. Jerry is also proud of his selection of teas. In the evenings parking is absolutely no problem downtown, since nothing else is open! (Except Thursday nights, when some stores stay open until 8pm).
How great that we can now get a good cup of coffee and some great artisinal ice cream after dinner, which is when I think most people actually want to go.

(I apologize for the photos--I took them with my cellphone.)

Monday, June 12, 2006


For a simple dinner, I made steak au poivre. It's really easy. Take a small (6-8oz) filet mignon or other steak of your choice, dry it off, and crack peppercorns and push them into the sides and edges. I used a mixture of pink, green, and black peppercorns. Heat a frying pan (not non-stick) until it's quite hot, and cook the steak on both sides, and sear the edges, until it's done almost as you like it (I like it very rare, almost still mooing), and put it on a heated platter. Turn the heat down a bit and add some cognac. Add enough so that you think "that's too much cognac." Boil it and scrape the brown bits and cooked-on peppercorns in the bottom of the pan, and cook for a few minutes, until it reduces. Add some heavy cream (again, when you think "that's too much" you've probably got it right). Cook that down more, until it's thick and brown. Pour any accumulated juice from the platter on which the steak sat into the sauce. Add some salt to taste. At that point I added the steak back to the pan just to get it a little warmer on the outside, but that's optional. Put the steak on a heated plate, and whisk a pat of butter (unsalted if you've got the right saltiness already) into the sauce until it's melted and the sauce is smooth. Pour the sauce over the steak, and serve. You should end up with just enough sauce to cover the steak.

This was the first week of our CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) share from Persephone Farms in Indianola, so we also had some really amazing leaves (lettuce, arugula, etc.) with a tarragon-shallot vinaigrette that Debbie made. Olive oil, finely diced shallots, chopped tarragon (finally we've got some herbs growing in the garden!) and sherry vinegar. If you have time, soak the diced shallots in the vinegar first. Also, La Brea Bakery baguette, which up here is sold slightly underbaked, so put it in the oven at 350 until it's brown, about 10 or 15 minutes.

Treehouse Cafe

We stopped by the Treehouse Cafe in Lynwood Center (Bainbridge Island) after seeing the 5pm showing of A Prarie Home Companion at the Lynwood Theatre next door. I won't say much about the movie, other than if you have listed to A Prarie Home Companion over the years, you'll enjoy it, and if you haven't, you'll probably think it's a bit goofy. I think we might have been the youngest people in the audience.

The Treehouse Cafe is a pleasant space that we'd been to once before, but I guess recently they redid their menu to add more varied food. They have a nice selection of beer on tap.

We started out with buffalo wings. I have to say, they're the only good buffalo wings I've had on the island. Not dry, good kick of flavor, tastes like Frank's hot sauce, served with a nice chunky blue cheese dressing and some celery sticks.

I gather the time to go is not right after a movie gets out. We were not the first into the restaurant, and we waited a while for our pizza.
It probably took an hour from when we ordered the pizza to when it came out. Several other tables had ordered, eaten, and finished by the time it came. I guess they must not have a huge pizza oven.

What finally came, though, was a really good pizza. We had the "greek," which had artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomato. It was a nice thin crust, and not too much tomato sauce.

For dessert we shared a huge piece of really good carrot cake.

The food and atmosphere are good, and I would go back, but I'd avoid Sunday night after the early showing of a popular movie.

UPDATE: We went back on a Thursday night, not right ater a movie, and our pizza came right on time, and was great. We had the "Rockaway", which had lots o' meat and onions and peppers. Thin, crispy crust. We started with the artichoke dip, which was yummy, and enough for 4 people. Catherine had the kids' spaghetti, which wasn't spaghetti at all, it was linguine. She didn't like it, but she generally doesn't like spaghetti sauce that didn't come out of a jar. Maybe she'll like the BLT next time.


When I was younger, if I wanted BBQ, I'd go to Flint's in Oakland, CA. It was perhaps not on the nicest block in town, and you could smell it from blocks away. Inside the door, there was a formica counter with a broken black-and-white tv, and most of the back was taken up by the brick BBQ with iron doors. You'd stand in line (always a line, even at 2am) and when you got to the counter, a huge woman with arms the size of hams would say "next!" without turning her back. If you didn't bark out your order immediately, she'd yell "I said NEXT!" and maybe even turn around and glower at you. She wielded a giant meat cleaver, and cut up your ribs, sliced beef, chicken or hot links, "whack! whack! whack!" If you were consistently polite (as you were expected to be, yes ma'am) she might even give you a smile when handing you your order. The sauce came in three variations--mild, medium, and hot. The potato salad was fluorescent pre-packaged stuff. Newbies would be given two slices of wheat bread, but if you were known, they'd give you white bread. Sweet potato pie was available for dessert, but who could eat one after a plate of Flint's? You'd get your plate of 'Q, bread, and potato salad wrapped in a paper bag, and on the drive home you'd get your steering wheel and pants all greasy after sticking your finger in the bag and tearing off just a little, because it smelled so good. It was the real deal, best I ever had. I knew people from "famous BBQ" towns like KC who said the same thing. I think Flint's is still there, but Mr. Flintroy is long dead, and I think his relatives have all moved on, and sadly it's gone downhill.

Since then if I've wanted real BBQ I've pretty much had to make it myself, with best results by following Bruce Aidells' advice for cooking pork ribs and making "Oakland-style" sauce (I think he was in line with me at 2am), until now. If you've gone to the Saturday Farmer's Market on Bainbridge recently, you've probably seen (or smelled) Bainbridge Island BBQ's big ol' BBQ rig. Greg Epstein grew up on Bainbridge, and came back after working as a chef in Seattle and Santa Monica to start a local BBQ business. The difference between most BBQ businesses and Greg's is that he has no retail storefront other than at the Farmer's Market.

Greg makes a mean rack of pork ribs, slow-cooked until the meat falls off the bone. Pork ribs are always my litmus test for good BBQ. Anybody can make beef ribs, because you just cook them until they're done and make sure you don't burn them, but making good pork requires patience and the right amount of heat and smoke. Greg's are great. He also has beef ribs, chicken, and salmon.

There are two sauces available: Whiskey Brown Sugar, which is a sweet, dark sauce, and Chipotle Honey, which is a red sauce with a bit of kick. Sides available include a really great potato salad, cole slaw, pinto beans, and creamed corn. The salmon isn't served with sauce, but is just glazed and roasted, and it's very tasty.

Greg stands behind his product--last week we ordered salmon and some pork ribs, and Greg called back later to say that he wasn't happy with how the salmon turned out, and he'd give us a free one if we came by. I think he might have gotten a bad piece to try, because he made it with wild-caught copper river salmon, and mine was really great, with that buttery copper river texture that we all love so much.

By the way, if you make your own BBQ and don't feel like taking several hours to make sauce, the best store-bought sauce in my opinion isn't one of the fancy brands, it's Safeway Select Original. Add a little red pepper flakes and you're on your way.

BIBBQ - Delivery Tue-Sat 1-8pm (225-1215 or 842-RIBS)
9-1pm at the Farmer's Market.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Paella Cooking


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mom's Book

My mom's latest book, "Multiethnic Australia: Its History and Future" was just recently published, and Debbie and I put together a website for it. Check it out!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Dangers of Green Tea

I managed to knock over a full cup of green tea on my desk when answering the phone. It took me a while to realize that the space bar and "b" keys on my PC keyboard don't work anymore. They should put that on the warning label: "Warning! Contents may short out your keyboard if spilled."