the sweetest things

The last week or so has been filled with the sweetest things…

Like white cherry blossoms backed by blue skies…

 and oysters. I cannot get enough of them lately…especially when they’re fresh oysters from Fisherman’s Terminal on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

D bought me a “Morty the Knife Man” oyster knife with a great wooden handle and we are becoming quite good at not stabbing ourselves while wrestling them open.

We made our first trip to The Walrus and the Carpenter since they became even more wildly popular than they already were following accolades from Frank Bruni and Bon Appétit months ago. Amazingly, there was no wait and I was reminded of just how much I love that place over (more) oysters and a to-die-for maple bread pudding with espresso butter sauce and cream fraiche.

I’m wild about a good Moscow Mule in the spring and summer months. Last summer my honors for the best ones I tried went to the aforementioned Walrus and the Carpenter (special nod for the huge wedge of fresh ginger root as a garnish) and Ba Bar.  One thing both spots have in common in the way they serve the cocktail is the big copper mugs they arrive in, freezing to the touch and sweating condensation. I loved the mug tradition so much that I bought four of my own so that we can have them at home anytime. Here’s a great, basic Moscow Mule recipe and I recommend using Rachel’s Ginger Beer whenever possible. (We’ve tried every ginger beer we’ve come across for the past year, at least 7 brands, and RGB is the top of the heap by far.)

I decided to make the pilgrimage to Bar Ferd’nand after baker Sarah Ellsworth’s croissants were raved about in Seattle Magazine. Trying to heed the warning that the croissants come hot out of the oven at 9:00am and disappear shortly thereafter, I arrived at 9:15 to find a mere 2  remaining. They’re that good. Seriously. I bought one along with a buttermilk scone which came with cherry preserves and butter. The preserves alone were so delicious that I ate them by themselves with a fork.

As consolation for the fact that you’ve arrived too late to buy croissants for all your eagerly awaiting office coworkers to whom you’ve talked up the treats you’re supposedly bringing them, you can buy yourself a macchiato. They have really good coffee. What don’t they do well?

Speaking of doing things well, I bring you to Fremont’s Revel where pastry chef Laura Pyles has just taken over the dessert scene. This chocolate layered cake with mezcal cream and tamarind caramel rocked my world last week.

I am anxiously awaiting the opening of Hot Cakes owner Autumn Martin’s brick and mortar in Ballard later this spring. The fact that it’s being called a Molten Chocolate Cakery is enough to convince me that I’ll be spending far more time, money and calories there than I should be. Trying the double chocolate chip cookie at their Ballard Farmer’s Market booth last Sunday simply affirmed my prediction…

I want to leave you with a very simple but decadent recipe for Chocolate-Chunk Bread Pudding from Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious. It’s easy and so, so good:

Chocolate-Chunk Bread Pudding (from Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious cookbook & website)

Serves 6-8
Lacto-ovo vegetarian

  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • big pinch of salt
  • 14 ounces challah or brioche, preferably slightly stale, most of the crust removed and cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 7 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate, in the 70% range, cut into good sized chunks – not a whole mouthful but a lot bigger than a chocolate chip
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F., using convection if you have it.
  2. Butter a large shallow baking dish, around 8″ x 12″.
  3. Beat the eggs. Whisk in the milk, starting with just a little at a time until the eggs are well distributed. Whisk in the vanilla extract, sugar, and salt.
  4. Place the cubed bread in the pan. Pour the custard evenly over the bread and toss lightly, trying to get it to absorb without squashing the bread too much..
  5. Add the chocolate chunks and again toss gently to distribute.
  6. Cover the pan with tin foil and cook until it reaches an internal temperature in the center of 185 F. For me this took about one hour and fifteen minutes. You can also check for doneness with a fork, and as it gets close, by taking a bite. You want it to be well set, but not overcooked and rubbery.
  7. Let rest ten minutes and serve it forth. A bit of whipped cream, a drizzle of heavy cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream are all very welcome. If you want to whisk a bit of good bourbon into that cream, don’t let me stop you.