the enchantments

Two weekends ago, five of my favorite people and I made our way into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to take advantage of my incredible fortune in winning the lottery for a permit to camp overnight in the Enchantments. It was a completely mind-blowing experience.

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Our good looking crew in the parking lot before hitting the trail.

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dinner on an island

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In April, D gifted me with something I’d been dreaming of experiencing for a long time: dinner at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Many things have been written about Chef Blaine Wetzel’s arrival from Copenhagen’s noma and subsequent influence on the small inn perched above the water on the edge of the San Juans. I couldn’t wait to experience all that I’d heard so much about just as soon as we could find a free weekend. That free weekend could not be secured until exactly four months and 24 days after my birthday (and yes, I counted, down to the day). Needless to say, I was beyond excited by the time we finally departed Seattle headed for Lummi last Saturday.

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It was an absolute stunner of a day and I was giddy during every minute of it. Boarding the tiny ferry, taking our bags out of the car upon arrival, walking on the beach and digging our toes in the sand before it was time to get ready for dinner…all of it.

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So much more than just dinner dazzled us…

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Cocktail hour on the deck in the brilliant evening sunshine.

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A sweet pea-garnished drink for my handsome dinner date.

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We started with a crisp Eaglemount Cider from the Olympic Peninsula as the infamous “snacks” that start off the meal began making their appearance on our table. (Please forgive the lack of good light in these shots. As the sun went down, the dining room and my photos became progressively darker.)

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Samish Bay Mussel in a cedar smoke box.

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Samish Bay Mussel on its bed of rocks.

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Halibut Skin

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Crispy Crepe with Salmon Roe

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Kale with Black Truffle and Rye

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Goat Tartare

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Albacore Tuna Scraped by a Scallop Shell

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Smoked Sockeye

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Ancient Grains

with local chanterelles and elderberries

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Wild Seaweeds

braised with dungeness crab and brown butter

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Lummi Island Reefnet Pink Salmon

with summer salad

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Dried Beets

glazed with black currants and salted bone marrow

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Blackberries with Wild Grasses

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Huckleberries

with woodruff and malted barley

Not Pictured:

Hearth Bread with Pan Drippings

Grilled Shitake

Flax Bites

It was an absolutely exceptional experience that both of us will never forget and have been recounting since the moment it ended.

interlude

I interrupt the abundance of drafted posts I have on the back burner, full of stories I can’t wait to tell and pictures I can’t wait to show, to share this. It’s a feeling worth sharing and remembering and has thus managed to be typed up and published ahead of all the other posts waiting in queue.

It’s the feeling that can come only from knowing that an era has ended. I plod up the wooden stairs of our Queen Anne duplex with my weekend bags from a trip to the San Juans and I can tell before I hit the top step. There’s an echo and hollowness that immediately begins to cross the boundary from real to metaphorical for me. I peek cautiously, nervously into her bedroom and confirm…it’s empty. I knew it was coming, which month, weekend, even day she planned on moving the last of her things out to make way for new chapters in both of our lives, but it still feels so sudden.

It’s funny how such an exciting time of change and new steps can be so weighted by something you didn’t expect to feel weighty. Best friends since college, we’ve lived together for five years. Through choosing majors, shoving mattresses through door frames too small to accommodate them in junky college houses, through heartbreak, through chasing our classy college drink of choice (shots of the cheapest vodka we could find) with lime juice before we went out for the night, through new jobs and going back to school…

I am struck by how similar this feeling is to the one I felt on the last day of summer camp when I was little after seven weeks of intense bonding. Through tears and promises to write to each other during the school year on the stationery we’d won playing illegal games of poker in our tents, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to leave these people who now feel like they should be permanent installments in my day-to-day life. Even the fact that we’ll be a mere five mile drive away from each other doesn’t seem to temper my silly feeling of loss.

I feel so lucky. Lucky for this very honest reminder of just how fortunate I am to have a friend like her. Why it takes something like her moving out to bring this fact home so poignantly, I don’t know. I am just so glad that these moments, moments marking change and new adventure and love, exist. They are our poignant reminders of the many ways in which (and the people by whom) we are blessed. I love you, SMG.

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while we’re waiting (part II)

There is a quote at the beginning of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web that I love for its simplicity:

“The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime.”

Little patches of blue sky and cherry blossoms here and there, crocuses trying mightily to bloom and have their time above ground after a winter of dormancy, bird song so loud that it wakes me before my alarm clock. Spring is practically here…and here’s what I’ve been up to while we’ve been waiting:

I am wild about a good lazy morning. Idly flipping through the paper and sipping coffee, mentioning articles of interest to D and savoring the hour (or three) of unscheduled time. A few weekends ago we found ourselves at The Fat Hen in Ballard for brunch. Rich, smooth hollandaise sauce, beautifully cooked eggs, sautéed Chanterelles, avocado and perfectly toasted English muffins were abundant.

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Toast and rhubarb preserves.

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In February, one of my favorite food bloggers, Sarah Britton of My New Roots, posted a recipe for what she called The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread. How could I not try it? It was everything the title of the post promised and I am now a devout fan of this incredible combination of nuts, seeds and all things good for you. My lovely friend Lauren showed up to brunch the other day with a simple spread of almond butter mashed with banana and that’s my favorite thing to top it off with.

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There is a wonderful woman named Alice from whom I’ve started buying my eggs. She has a flock of very happy Araucana and Cuckoo Maran hens on her farm in Arlington, Washington who spend their days scratching around in rich soil and only lay when they feel like it. She brought me a little description of their farm and this section, written for the hens, made my week:

“What We Like: pristine pasture grass; fat worms and bugs. We enjoy acres of land for exploring; posh designer coops for roosting. We get R&R twice a year — winter and summer and a generous maternity leave policy. We love warm mud baths and foraging.”

Extra hours of sunlight have meant more eggs with pastel colored shells and vibrant, orange yolks.

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The last time I posted I’d just returned from a trip to the Methow Valley. I haven’t been able to stay away since then. D and I finally bought Cross-Country ski sets when we realized we were renting at a rate that made the purchase more than worth it. The repetitive motion, chilled air, and the sound of my skis in the tracks are all things I’m really going to miss as the weather gets warmer.

Our last journey over the mountains to the valley was the first week in March and we were really pushing it. The snow was slushy wherever the sun had touched it and spots of dirt where enough melting had occurred along the trail truly signified the end of the season.

We stayed at the Rolling Huts with our friends Ben & Alisa. We agreed ahead of time to bring our own breakfasts and lunches for the trail and then go out to dinner at the cozy on-site restaurant. Alisa brought the most incredible granola, slightly modified from this recipe in The New York Times from 2009. I made a huge batch when I got home and we’d eaten it all about two days later.

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Other things I want to share with you:

-Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks has an online pop-up store called Quitokeeto. Whenever it’s open (sign up on the site to be notified), it’s full of the most simple, lovely things.

-Anything and everything Sprouted Kitchen. I cook from Sara and Hugh Forte’s blog and cookbook almost weekly and have never been disappointed by a recipe.

-The 2013 James Beard Foundation Award Nominees. Even though the winners won’t be announced until the awards ceremony in New York on May 6, the list is full of incredible books, articles, documentaries, restaurants and chefs for you to keep in mind as you read, watch and travel around the country.

Wishing you a wonderful spring.

a wintery week

Every year after the exhilarating, exhausting effort that comes with the holiday season at a busy, fine dining restaurant, Canlis shuts down for three days.  All Front of House, Back of House and Side of House (as we like to call ourselves in the office) employees have a few days to just be. Needless to say, it’s pretty treasured time.

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My three days were spent here.

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We left Seattle after work on New Year’s Eve. My parents, D and I headed toward Snoqualmie pass in light traffic and spent the next four hours singing along to my Dad’s impeccable taste in show tunes, eating fresh mozzarella and tomatoes sandwiched between a thick loaf of bread from Bakery Nouveau and dreaming of the snowy wonderland awaiting us in the Methow Valley.

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We skied until our muscles were so sore that we could barely get in and out of the car at the end of the day. We drank gin & tonics and played Hearts. We took over the nearby children’s sledding hill and laughed our heads off as we slid, completely out of control, down the slope. We curled up on the couch with bowls of warm Cardamom rice pudding with pistachios and rosewater from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem (thanks to my mother who packed all the ingredients she would need to make it for us).

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We ate delicious sandwiches at Cinnamon Twisp and wandered around between the beautifully stocked shelves of Glover Street Market.

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Their produce was so fresh it made me want to grab one of the organic bamboo salad bowls for sale and make a salad right then and there.

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It was a good start to 2013. Just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of our beautiful, exciting Seattle lives to gain a little perspective and start the year off well. I wish you a wonderful new year.

eggs kurosawa

There’s nothing like a Thanksgiving on Vashon. The second we drive off the ferry and look back at the lights of Seattle twinkling in the distance, the pace of life slows and truly doesn’t speed up again until we return to the mainland again. We wind our way up the hill from the dock, along the main road until the familiar moss-covered mailbox comes into view on the left side of the main highway. Up the potholed driveway and past the surprised deer feasting on apples in the orchard, frozen at the sight of the car. After being barked at by the dog until he realizes who we are and happily writhes around, whining his greeting, we unload the car. Then, finally, I find myself tucked onto the window seat or leaning leisurely against the counter of my parents’ warm kitchen with a glass of wine in hand and I prepare to be fed. Incredibly well.

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My wise Mom kept breakfast and lunch of Thanksgiving day fairly light this year. Delicious, with just enough protein to get us through a long, hard day preparing all the food we’d eat that night. What a hard life.

We kicked the day off with a version of Eggs Kurosawa from the fantastic Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook. Rebar is a bright little restaurant in Victoria B.C. where we usually end up eating the vast majority of our meals every time we visit the city. They serve an entirely vegetarian and incredibly fresh menu.

A bed of warm brown rice topped with some farm-fresh scrambled eggs, toasted sesame seeds…

a few strips of nori seaweed…
and the best soy chili sauce you’ve ever tasted. Enjoy.

Eggs Kurosawa (from Rebar Modern Food Cookbook by Audrey Alsterburg & Wanda Urbanowicz)

Serves 2

2 cups cooked short grain brown rice

1 tbsp vegetable oil

½ block firm tofu, cut into 1/2” cubes (our version left out tofu)

¼ cup soy-chile sauce  (recipe below)

2 scallions, thinly sliced (our version did not include scallions)

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp oil or butter

¼ sheet nori seaweed, thinly sliced

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

  1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add tofu cubes and sauté until lightly browned. Add soy-chile sauce and simmer the tofu in the sauce for two minutes.  Add the scallions and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl. Heat oil or butter in a small skillet and scramble the eggs until light and fluffy.
  3. To serve, divide hot rice among two shallow bowls. Top each with scrambled eggs, tofu and sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and nori slivers. Serve with chopsticks.

Soy Chile Sauce

Yields 2 ¼ cups

3 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp red chile flakes

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp vegetable oil

¾ cup soy sauce

¾ cup vegetable stock or water

¼ cup honey

2 tsp cornstarch, whisked with ½ cup water

  • Rebar notes that you can replace honey with brown sugar for a vegan sauce.
  1. Gently heat the oils in a small pot until a piece of garlic sizzles. Add the garclic and chile flakes and sauté until the garlic starts to turn golden. Whisk in the soy sauce and stock or water and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  2. Stir in the honey and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch/water slurry. Simmer 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened and glossy. Cool and refrigerate for up to one week.

continuing education

This fall, I have been reminded of the importance of continuing education. Asking myself to take new steps toward honing things I’ve grown to love both professionally and personally is something I felt ready for at summer’s end. The results have been exhilarating, thrilling and demanding. I’m currently working toward my Certificate in Public Relations through the University of Washington. This was spurred on by my realized enthusiasm for the field and by the willingness of my employers to let me take on a role in a realm in which I have no formal training and believing I could do it. I am so looking forward to emerging from the program with a new wealth of knowledge.

To temper my weekly dose of press releases, backgrounders and public service announcements, I decided to take on something else that I am both fascinated and intimidated by. I spent five hours on an overcast Sunday at The Pantry at Delancey with Ashley and Gabe Rodriguez learning the makings of a beautiful food photograph. Something about Ashley’s gorgeous blog (Not Without Salt) and Gabe’s acclaimed wedding photography told me they’d be excellent teachers…and they were. I have a long way to go and a lot of practicing to do but I left feeling so very excited and inspired. Huge thanks to Ashley, Gabe & Brian Canlis for loaning me an amazing camera to shoot with.

let’s get cozy

The shift from long summer days to the short, crisp days of fall is complete. A steady, persistent rain hits the windows as I write this at my kitchen table and that cozy, warm feeling that autumn inspires has completely taken over.

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I returned from three weeks away from Seattle on September 26th and have slowly but surely been settling into my new Queen Anne digs. After a lot of nesting, it is finally starting to feel like home. Old hardwood floors, a washing machine that shakes the whole house when it’s on spin cycle and a ton of character are just some of the things that have us head over heels for this place. One my favorite purchases during my travels was a gorgeous Icelandic wool blanket that now graces the end of my bed in the colder weather and reminds me of the beautiful countryside I visited.

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I love wandering around the house in these while deliriously carrying out my morning routine before I’ve actually fully woken up. I bought mine years ago at Nordstrom, but Lands’ End and L.L. Bean both have a great, very reasonably priced selection.

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I found this phenomenal recipe for Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal on Eat Boutique last week. I made it for an early morning breakfast date with a friend and we loved it. Talk about comfort food! If you try it, I recommend halving the brown sugar to 1/4 cup and toasting the pecans so they’re crunchier after the last half hour of baking. Enjoy!

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I also highly recommend eating it in bed if you’re feeling decadent.

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There is nothing like settling in for a multi-hour brunch/newspaper reading/coffee drinking marathon on a Sunday morning. We generally post up at Macrina and stay until we start getting dirty looks.

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Cold weather also means that it’s time to bust out the festive, warm, boozy drinks. Like Hot Toddies. Here’s an delicious and very simple recipe for this wintertime treat.

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This city is flush with incredible new restaurants and there is no better time to try them than right now when you need to focus on bulking up to keep yourself warm this winter. Please tell me I’m not the only one who justifies eating things like thick slices of light, buttery brioche toast and marmalade with this logic. That’s what I had this morning at The Whale Wins and it blew my mind with its delicious simplicity. I recommend Seattle Met’s great coverage of the Seattle restaurant scene to stay up on openings etc.

Wishing you coziness until next time…

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jam with julia

There are some friends that enter your life and then, thankfully, never leave despite distance, time or the ebb and flow of your interests as individuals. Julia is one of those friends. We met our first year of college and have seen each other with increasing irregularity after those four years were completed and we walked off into the unknown with our diplomas. There have been chance and wonderful overlaps over the last four years: summer nights around the campfire on Orcas Island when we both happened to be there at the same time, dinner in Seattle between her return from and preparation to jet off on her next (incredible) international adventures. I couldn’t have been happier when, a few months ago, she has chose Seattle as a semi-permanent spot to nest for a while.

As soon as she was settled (and flush with rhubarb from her mother’s garden) she invited me over to her beautifully decorated home and kitchen to do some canning.

We used Marisa McClellan’s recipe for Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam from her blog Food in Jars and also spent plenty of time thumbing through Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation for future inspiration.

Of course their were cocktails. She had concocted the most wonderful minty, clementine-infused vodka which she combined with lime soda water, garnished with mint and handed to me to sip on while we boiled the jars, simmered the rhubarb and scraped vanilla pods.

And there were snacks: fresh chevre, fat olives, cracked wheat crackers and and an amazing garbanzo bean dip.

I left with three warm little jars of jam nestled between folds of newspaper inside a cardboard box to keep them from moving too much while they set as I drove home. It was the nicest evening and I am looking forward to so many more like it. Such a treat to have you home Miss Julia!

lately (the food & drink edition)

In honor of my incredible Dad (who responded “oh, that’s today?” when I called to wish him a happy father’s day), I bring you the best of something that we have a very shared love for. The one thing neither of us ever turns down at the end of dinner even when everyone else at the table has thrown in the towel. Dessert. Here are a few delicious things I’ve tried recently to start us off:

Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery’s molten chocolate cake in a mason jar…

and look at this beauty of a space in which you can have your cake and eat it too.

Gigantic s’mores from Josh Henderson’s Guest Chef Night at Farestart. I can’t believe I hadn’t yet been to one of these fantastic dinners until last month.

Apricot upside down cake at Restaurant Zoe.

Now, for something a little more practical: these overnight, no-cook refrigerator oatmeal recipes are so easy and the perfect breakfast. I’ve been eating them without fail almost every morning for the past few weeks.

When you get tired of your forays into the world of chilled oatmeal, go to Restaurant Bea in Madrona for brunch and try the Biscuits and Gravy. Tom & Kate are doing good work with their beautiful little space and fantastic food.

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a few great things to sip on as your summer gets started. This is the tasting lineup at Schooner Exact in SODO. Their beer can be found all over Seattle but it’s not a bad option to stop in and stay a while while you’re running errands in the south part of town.

For a quick refresher on a hot afternoon add a splash of soda water, bitters, cranberry juice & a squeeze of lime to ice. For the workday (pictured above on my desk) version that’s all you need. For the after hours version, just add gin.

Anything at Rob Roy. Especially during happy hour (4-7). Plus, if you need any further nudging, they were just named one of the Best Bars in America by Esquire.

Happy Summer!