Thursday, December 29, 2016

Best Restaurants I visited In 2016; Seattle Restaurants

I had the opportunity to visit a long list of restaurants in 2016 that were located in the greater Seattle area. Oddly enough, most of the really good restaurants I went to were not all in Seattle (at least, not the city area of Seattle). In fact, many of the best meals and bites I had in 2016 were in Ballard. Yeah, far away, in the middle of no where Ballard. Don't get too excited people of Ballard...Ballard is kind of part of Seattle...sort of.... However, I always feel like I need a passport and my day bag when I make a trek over there(Yes, Ballard is a neighborhood of Seattle, but I feel like there is a reason Ballard has it's own subreddit).

The city portion of Seattle is known for having a lot of fancy, and expensive restaurants. Especially on Capitol Hill. Many of these places make really good food. Naka, Spinasse, Altura, are just a few examples of really good restaurants on Capitol Hill. However, due to what I assume is rent prices for retail and restaurant space, the food is very expensive.

In comparison, Ballard food and restaurants tends to be a lot more mildly priced. Maybe it is because Ballard has a lot of good homey styled restaurants that serve really good, simple food. Overall, I have come to enjoy food the scene in Ballard more than Seattle in 2016. Maybe it is just because the traffic is not as bad as often, or maybe it is just a hipper part of town. I am not really sure!

Whatever it may be. Both Ballard and Seattle have great food! That is without question. Whether you are looking for ramen, burgers, sandwiches, or pastries, you will find a great supplier of all of these in the greater Seattle area. When it is pouring rain out and you feel trapped, there is always a hot bowl of soup somewhere. If you are looking for a place to take a girl or guy out on a date, entertain a friend from out of town or just trying to figure out what to do on the weekend their are plenty of places to visit.

Check out some of my favorite places to eat in 2016!

Best Restaurants In Seattle- 2016

Capitol Hill

Spicy Ramen

I found OOINK Ramen a few months ago when I was catching up with a friend. It is hidden above the QFC on Capitol Hill's Broad Way Street. Right next to the Marination Station this small ramen shop produces high quality liquid gold. The broth here is rich and unctuous, it warms the soul on a rainy Seattle day. In the end, OOINK ramen could not be more perfect for Seattle weather.

My personal experience at OOINK was amazing! My friend and I sat a that counter facing the window and ordered off the limited menu of 5-6 bowls of ramen (which I prefer). When the bowl came out, the sight of the perfectly cooked egg alone caused my tongue to shudder. The pool of chili oil made my broth look like the next BP oil spill. I impatiently pushed my spoon passed the noodles to get my first taste of the broth. As I pressed the hot unctuous liquid on my lips my tongue was instantly satisfied. The fatty pork, and spice from the chilies went off like fire works. Blowing my taste buds to smithereens. There was a depth and richness that is hard to explain. ThThai chilies added a citrus like spice. It was bright, and spicy. The experience was a combination of  fatty layerof chili and pork fat, rich broth, soy, and clearly love that created one of the better broths I have had in the last few months! (and I frequent Kizuki,  mostly out of convenience). I don't think I have been to enough ramen places to claim Ooink as the best ramen place in Seattle. However, it was the best experience I have had so far in Seattle. In 2016, this was the best ramen place by far!

Kedai Makan
Malaysian Food

So I lied...

There actually is a decently affordable place on Capitol Hill that makes amazing food! It is called Kedai Makan and they do great food!. Sadly, they don't take reservations. However, the food is worth the wait!

My trip, again, involved a wet and dreary Seattle day. I walked into the restaurant wet and excited for the meal I was about to partake in. Upon entering Kedai Makan, I was instantly hit by a waft of amazing smells. I could smell spice, lemon grass, ginger, fry oil and so many other good aromatic compounds danced through the air. 

Like usual, I came here with a friend who really wanted to experience a great meal. We ordered Pork Belly, Roti Jala, and their hand made noodles. All of the dishes were great. 

The most shocking dish was the Roti Jala. I had never had it before, but we were told it translated to "Net Bread". Wait what???

What we got was literally bread in a net form. It was stained yellow with turmeric and served with a cup of Lamb Curry. This was fascinating! Seven years of cooking and having all forms of flat bread and I had never seen anything like this. It wasn't just perplexing in sense of structure. It was also a complexly delicious dish. The flavors of curry and spice from the lamb and turmeric from the bread layered together and danced. Like two partners that had been moving to the beat of flavor for years, these two food elements skillfully tantalized my tongue. Each movement of their feet threw my mouth into gleeful turmoil. I was getting excited for our main courses after only one bite of this flat bread. The flavors were border line partying in my mouth. I wish my stomach was bigger sometimes...

How they managed to turn something and plain as "bread" into something so exciting is amazing!

Now for the next two dishes, we split the main courses. We ordered the Pork Belly and the Chili Pan Mee.

Spiced Pork Belly and Pickled Serranoes 

They were both great, but my favorite was the Pork Belly. It was golden brown, crispy and covered in just a light dusting of five spice. The slight sweetness that the five spice brought out of the whole dish set it all off. The cheap cut of meat is so often only seen as breakfast material. However, it served such a great purpose in a dish filled with vegetables. Each bite brought out new flavors in the green beans. The salty and crispy meat croutons were perfect. Like a salad, the beans almost were only getting in the way....I spent most of the rest of my night searching for hidden morsels of pork belly in the green beans.

Kedai Makan is a great cheap restaurant worth visiting more than once! 

Best Restaurants outside of Seattle 2016

Ballard(Ok, not really out of Seattle...)

La Carta De Oaxaca
Oaxaca Food

La Carte de Oaxaca is a small little restaurant in Ballard. It doesn't have white table cloths, or obscure meats that can only be sourced by knowing a guy that knows a guy in some foreign country. Nope, it is a simple Oaxacan restaurant that serves the classics done right.

I would like to point out that Oaxaca is a region in Mexico. However, rather than classify this as a Mexican meal, I would prefer to refer to it as Oaxacan. You might otherwise assume every plate comes with refried beans and rice. This isn't that kind of place.

Tacos and Tamales
Oaxaca is a decent sized region in the south part of Mexico. Like any other country, each region has it's own specific dishes and variations of dishes.

For instance, let's take the classic tamale. Typically you see them wrapped in corn husks and steamed. Well Oaxaca still steams their tamales. They just wrap them in banana leaves instead. It gives it a light sweetness and a slightly more difficult eating process. La Carte de Oaxaca does a Tamales Mole Negro that is worth taking time to order. If you are a Mole person, then you should order this dish.

When I went I ordered the Carnita Tacos and Chicken Mole Tamale. Both of these dishes were great. I had no complaints. These dishes can be a little small, so don't let the prices fool you. However, for the quality of the product..I think it is worth it.

Pho and Sandwiches

Seattle has hundreds (maybe thousands of Pho) restaurants. They line Aurora and dart two and fro in the University district. There are even a few “Chic” Pho Places, including Ba Bar which charge up to $11-15 for a bowl of grass fed beef pho and recently opened its new location in South Lake Union. Most of the time, I prefer the more questionable bowls of pho you get for $9 in the International District (I don’t know why...something is wrong with me). This post may make you think that I am going to talk about Pho. 

Nope, this is the story about two sandwiches at a restaurant called Stock. Located near Greenlake, Stock Seattle sits on 65th and 5th. Their pho is good, well seasoned and has an underlying essence of star anise. However, don't expect to get any beef broth...they only have vegetarian and chicken based broths(I know, that is a border line sin).

That wasn't what got my foodie juices going. Here, what I really enjoyed eating was their sandwiches. 

Stock Seattle Duck Sandwich

Let’s talk about this duck sandwich. It is like putting roasted turkey on your leftover sandwich, it always makes a great sandwich. Then of course you add garlic aioli. Forgot about your fancy sriracha aioli, chipotle aioli, and whatever other funky combo you want to make (actually, you should try smoked onion is really good!). No, garlic aioli is always king. It is a classic for a reason. The garlic adds an extreme amount of flavor, like BMX biking extreme. There is just a little bit of spicy bite but a whole lot of depth in a good garlic aioli. Every good sandwich needs mayo, aioli or sauce. No matter what health websites say. A dry sandwich is no good! You need some love from a fatty substance. Garlic aioli is a good choice!

Besides an amazing duck sandwich. They also make a delicious lamb shank sandwich..when it is not 86ed..

Lil Woodies

The actual building where Lil Woody's is, seems like the entrance to a typical Jonny Rockets, or classic burger joint. Inside, you are instantly welcome by a giant "Whats Up Ballard" tile message. Not much can really be said about the furniture or ambiance besides that (what did you expect, linen and a butler?).

Being a purist, I had to order a Lil Woody. What more do you need than Patty, Cheese, Pickles, maybe ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and bun. However, my friend did tell me that the "Pigs and Fig" was a good burger. So I gave in. I ordered that as well....

It didn't stop there, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Milkshakes made with real Tillamook Ice Cream, but it wasn't just that. They had a flavor that looked like a middle schoolers text autocorrect. Ube, did they mean to spell Uber???

Nope, they meant to spell the word Ube, or a Filipino sweet potato. Well, how could I say no? So I finished my order and sat down.

Lil Woody
While I waited, I eyed the silly Sasquatch, who I can only assume was Woody himself. The guy seems to like burgers.

This place felt good. Like, I was actually going to enjoy the burger I was going to eat and feel full at the end. Unlike Feed Co Burgers, which offer a small patty at an even steeper price. This place seemed to scream, real deal, with nothing to prove.

Figs and Pig Burger

Un Bien

Un Bien, wow, I must really love sandwiches! If you like greasy, flavorful, sandwiches with crusty bread and grilled onions, then check out Un Bien. Now, I am not sure where you stand on the whole Un Bien Vs. Paseos argument and I don't really care. All I know is that the Palomilla Steak sandwich is my favorite sandwich in 2016. Yes, the roasted duck sandwich at Stock is good, this is just that much better...

However, unlike the duck sandwich, you will definitely need a nap after this delicious morsel.  This sandwich is not for people on a diet. It is a great sandwich that asks for no forgiveness. Clearly it is full of flavor, fat, and passion!

Un Bien Sandwich


Midori Bakery

Midori Bakery is a privately owned bakery in Redmond Town Center. The bakery touts seasonal ingredients and Coava Coffee from Portland Oregon(which for those who really like Coffee, will be very happy with the flavor!). I walked in and was a little dismayed. It was 3 PM and they had already sold out of most of their baked goods. In particular, I had heard of a delicious Nutella and Banana Croissant that I really wanted to try(also a Blueberry Almond Croissant that is supposedly just as good).
Caramel Chocolate Whisky Pecan Gateau and Pate Choux
Nevertheless, they still had plenty of their Gateaus lined up. A Gateau is a rich french cake. Typically, it has one layer of thick stabilized cream and a layer of fruit preserve on top of a rich decedent cake. They have several varieties pending on the time of year. This includes a Lemon Blueberry cake with a White Chocolate Creme, a Caramel Chocolate Whisky Pecan Gateau, a White Chocolate Cherry and Pistachio Gateau your mouth watering yet.

They also have Dulce De Leche Brownies, Kouign Amann, Chocolate Kugelhopf and a few other pastries that make my spell check go crazy and throw the dreaded red line underneath. Maybe, the farther away the word is from English, the more delicious it is?

Overall, Midori was my last great find of 2016. I am excited to see what restaurants I will find in 2017. Let me know if you guys find any great places worth going!

Have a great 2017! 

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Tags; Best Places to Eat in Seattle 2016; Seattle; Ballard Restaurants; OOINK; Ramen; Sandwiches; Where to find food

Friday, December 23, 2016

Stock Seattle : A Tale Of Two Sandwiches

Stock Seattle; One of the Best Sandwiches around!

Seattle has hundreds (maybe thousands of Pho) restaurants. They line Aurora and dart two and fro in the University district. There are even a few “Chic” Pho Places, including Ba Bar which charge up to $11-15 for a bowl of grass fed beef pho and recently opened its new location in South Lake Union. Most of the time, I prefer the more questionable bowls of pho you get for $9 in the International District (I don’t know why...something is wrong with me). This post may make you think that I am going to talk about Pho.

Nope, this is the story about two sandwiches at a restaurant called Stock. Located near Greenlake, Stock Seattle sits on 65th and 5th. Their pho is good, well seasoned and has an underlying essence of star anise. However, don't expect to get any beef broth...they only have vegetarian and chicken based broths(I know, that is a border line sin).

Sins aside...let’s talk about what Stock in Seattle does well. Its menu is small and its ingredients are organic and local. Say what you want about small menus, it takes a lot of confidence to say “This is all we offer, take it, or leave it, we know what we do well". Instead of trying to market to everyone, Stock Seattle only wants people to come who like their product. Stock is not trying to prove anything, they know their sandwiches taste good and their pho is on point.

 With quality ingredients, and a focused menu behind them, they produce two very tasty sandwiches! I am sure their third sandwich is tasty too  (Egg and Cheese)...I just haven’t tried it.

Honestly, when you see a sandwich with roasted duck, garlic aioli, pickled beets and cilantro, you kind of forget all the other items on the menu. Of course, that is until you see a sandwich with braised lamb shank, pickled carrots, Stocks-secret sauce on a Tall Grass Bakery roll. Two amazing sounding sandwiches so closely put together on one meu. Then you put egg and cheese sandwich on the menu..well, sorry, that is like the black sheep at a family get together. Sad, alone and maybe neglected(but as any black sheep, there is always a band of quirky friends that love it). I just happen assume I am in the majority, because those two sandwiches won me over on description alone. There is something to be said for good menu descriptions…

Wording put aside, it doesn’t matter until you actually order a sandwich. How can you know if a sandwich is good until you try it? It could have black truffle aioli, foie gras and gold and still taste bad. In the end, it comes down to execution.

On my first trip I ordered the duck sandwich, I had too. It sounded so good. I had to see if Stock Seattle was up to snuff. If it didn’t oversell its products. I wanted to know what it delivered. One of the guys in our office is constantly trying new places, so he was the one who actually recommend it. So he put in the order and went to go pick it up

He came back with your classic brown box take out box. There were no fancy “Stock Seattle” labels, just a plain brown box lunch box. Not that it makes a difference from me, good food comes in all different shapes and sizes. I don’t need fancy packages for lunch. I just want a good sandwich.

Guess what, that is what I got! Stock Seattle makes really good sandwiches. I don’t think I could ever say that Stock, Un Bien, Salumi or another good Seattle Sandwich store makes the best sandwich. There are tens of good sandwich places in Seattle and Stock is one of them!

Roasted Duck w/ Pickled Beets and Garlic Aioli on Tall Grass Bakery Bun

Let’s talk about this duck sandwich. Roasted duck is typically reserved for when you go out for a dinner in the International District. Think back to a Christmas Story. The scene where the family goes to the Chinese restaurant because their dinner is ruined and they get the whole duck with the head and all. That kind of roast duck on a sandwich, yes please!

It is like putting roasted turkey on your leftover sandwich, it always makes a great sandwich. Then of course you add garlic aioli. Forgot about your fancy sriracha aioli, chipotle aioli, and whatever other funky combo you want to make (actually, you should try smoked onion is really good!). No, garlic aioli is always king. It is a classic for a reason. The garlic adds an extreme amount of flavor, like BMX biking extreme. There is just a little bit of spicy bite but a whole lot of depth in a good garlic aioli. Every good sandwich needs mayo, aioli or sauce. No matter what health websites say. A dry sandwich is no good! You need some love from a fatty substance. Garlic aioli is a good choice!

Then of course, there is the pickle, or in this case, the pickled beets. Maybe Stock knew I love pickled beets, or maybe they just know how to make good food..either way. Another necessity of any good sandwich is pickles or acid. It can be the acid of a slaw, mustard, pickles etc. Whatever you choose, meat loves the sweet and tangy combination. It adds brightness, moisture, and cuts the fat. Plus, beets add a rich earthiness that pairs amazingly with duck. I am sure that Karen and Andrew would approve.

Finally, if you feel like it, you can add a duck egg to the whole wonderful combination. It's not 100% necessary, but it is 100% delicious. So I didn't mind the small splurge for the up charge...I believe one famous philosopher once stated...treat yo' self.

All of this put between a Tall Grass Bakery bun makes on delectable Ballard combination! Still kind of Seattle...

That is all this great sandwich needs! Nothing more, please Stock in Seattle...keep this sandwich the way it is!

Lamb and Pickled Carrots

Stock's lamb sandwich is also worth ordering. I am so glad they picked the lamb's shank. It is a great piece of meat in general. It is jam packed with flavor! When it is braised and it just falls off the bone...well..what more can you ask for? Then you pair it with Stock's secret sauce, and tangy picked carrots. Well, you get a similar result as the duck sandwich.

It is just this combination of flavors that are so perfectly balanced. Rich meat and sauce, tangy vegetables and soft bun (ok that is not a flavor). All get a great sandwich.

Today I visited the place myself. I was shocked to see they were using 4 electric burners to do a majority of the cooking. Looking who was working behind the counter, I actually realized it was an old friend of mine who I hadn't seen in like 5 years. He is an amazing cook with one of the most creative minds I have ever met. As is typical with him, he was slamming food out, even under the limitations. 

If you ever happen to be walking on 65th, you will know Stock is close by because you can smell the spices and broth 30 feet away. There is just a cloud that hangs around the restaurant and entices you to walk inside. So many warm smells, and while Seattle continues to go through this weird weather, a warm bowl of pho or an amazing duck sandwich is a great pick me up!

I guess Stock really isn't in "Seattle" Per se...I would argue it is closer to Ballard. Ballard seems to have added another good restaurant. Not only is there Un Bien, La Carta De Oaxaca, etc. Now they have a great sandwich place that also serves pho...although, I am sure their pho is great too! I will have to give it a try the next time I visit.

Seattle and Ballard has a lot of great restaurants. If you happen to find the place you think is the next hot spot. Let me know! I love trying all the new places.

Until next time!

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Tags Stock Seattle; Restaurants in Ballard; Best Sandwiches; Pho              

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Engineering a Dish; How to Start Planning A Menu Part 1

 I might have overstated the title. Throwing the word engineer in just makes it sound as if you are designing a rocket or the next Uber App instead of just planning a plate for your next dinner party. The question remains, how do you plan a good tasting dish for your next party, or get together?

 I do think the best chefs out there have a method to their sometimes crazy sounding flavor combinations and dishes. There can be a sort of engineering styled mindset when it comes to high level restaurants. In fact, there really is. Take a moment to watch Alinea's Chef Grant Achatz's clip about designing a flavor profile. In this case, he is taking more of an early swing at coming up to what flavors go into a dish (in more of a free write format). From there, techniques, textures, etc, will all have to come into account.


There are a couple of ways to plan a dish in my book. You can either start top down or bottom up Thus, you can either start with a concept, or set of flavors and select your ingredients and techniques from there or you can start with your first ingredient and build a dish around that specific ingredient. When conceptualizing a plate, a Chef also needs to take into account other concepts like flavor combinations, texture, priming a guests mind verbally(through descriptions), fat, salt, etc. All of these play  a huge role in the dishes final flavor, the the diners experience.When all is said and done, an excellent plate of food requires perfect execution, planning, and finesse.

Below I break down the concepts I think should be considered when creating a dish!

Flavor Structure

One of my favorite books is the Flavor Bible. It doesn't have an recipes, but what it does talk about and offer is a deeper understanding of flavor and food. Most of the book is made up of flavor combinations. You can look up an ingredient and find what other things it might go with. Maybe you have never cooked a sun-choke before? and don't know what put with it, or maybe treviso or artichokes. Whatever it might be, this book more than likely has it!

Another concept this book talks about that is great is flavor balancing. This is very key! Most of the book deals with aromatic flavors. The human tongue can only distinguish the five "flavors", sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. At least, based off current research. The rest of the flavors we "taste' are aromatics. They come from our nose smelling and thus tasting. It is a cool little trick our brain plays.

Balancing this 5 flavors is key in every dish. Now, that does not mean every dish should always have an equal amount of all of these flavors. That would be boring. Instead, you should have an idea of what type of profile you want each dish to have. Do you want it to be a salty sweet combo, sour and bitter.  salty and umami, sour and salty and sweet, just salty and so on? Really you can do any combination of the 5 with any number. It is important to take it in mind thought. Just like I mentioned earlier, about menu structure. This plays a role as well. It is not only important that you balance cold and hot. It also is important that you balance the flow of flavors.

I recall my one of my Chefs telling me a story about when he ate a menu with 40 different courses. At first it sounded really exciting. Everything was pretty much one bite, but maybe they made 40 really good bites? However, as my Chef described it, everything really relied on the same flavor profiles, salty and crispy. Don't get me wrong, I love crispy pancetta and bacon, Parmesan crisp and kale chips. If your entire meal relies to heavily on one or two basic flavor profiles, then it will be dull and more importantly, that flavor will build and just over power everything else you are trying to taste.

Beyond just the 5 basic flavors, let's go one step further. Let's say you understand how to balance basic flavors really well. Now, you have to get an understanding of what goes with what. There are the easy flavor combos like basil and tomato, chicken and fennel, chocolate and raspberries. The more of these classic flavor combinations you understand, the better. Why? Because the more you understand the basics, the easier it is to make complicated flavor combinations. It's like playing an instrument. You can't suddenly play Beethoven's Fur Elise and expect to do well. Nope, you start with Mary had a Little Lamb and scales. If you don't have the discipline to master and execute the basics, how do you expect to develop flavors that really stand out if you never practice?

Yes, food could be stated to be an art. However, most artist first have to be craftsman and apprentices. It means painting straight lines, and cooking someone else's food. As you cook others people's food, you get what works. You taste it, you experience it, you learn to understand flavor.

Realize i keep using the word "understand". When it comes to any field, it is about about gaining the lowest level of granularity. The lower you understand a concept, the easier it is to bend the rules. The best mathematicians are probably just as or more creative than the most skilled artist. They are border line cut your ear off crazy. That is what you need to be to start making food like Ferran Adria, Rene Redzepi, Marco Pier White, Jose Andres and so forth. These guys know food backwards and forwards and they still know they have a lot to learn!

You must be thinking I still haven't gotten to the point. I just want you to know how important understand flavor is! It is so overlooked when young cooks want to be Chefs at 22 years old. At that age they haven't developed a base of any kind, not on the hot line or in menu development. They create a roasted bell pepper coulis and think they deserve a Michelin star.

Don't be that kind of cook. Always wonder why! Always wonder why does tomato and basil go together and if tomato and basil go together, what other things pair well with the two? What doesn't? Again, why?

A picture from my notebook, Raspberry, Pistachio, Toasted Rice and Vanilla

Hand Shake Flavors

This concept is named poorly and I don't remember if I read it somewhere(maybe in the flavor bible) or if this is just the analogy I use to describe the concept. When you have two friends who have never met, and you bring them together, you need to stick around and make sure they have something common right? Well one way you can get around flavors not pairing well together is by putting some form of catalyst in between them. When you pair flavors that don't match, they need something familiar for the palette to hook on to. That way it doesn't get confused by what is happening inside your mouth. For instance, you could pair strawberry, basil and corn successfully (Maybe some type of corn cake, strawberry salad and basil ice cream, just an idea). I don't think strawberry and corn would taste good together (some people might disagree...but I would disagree with them ;)  ). Basil has to come in between and add that familiarity(The Flavor also has a good deal of their combinations online! check it out!).

Now...there is one danger in understanding this and this is why experience is important! There are many, many, many cases where this doesn't work. Where the flavors you are pairing don't work. The only way you can learn this is experience. You don't have to taste and memorize every flavor combination. Just like should memorize the why not the what or how. Otherwise, as soon as you come up to a new ingredient, you will have to go google what to put it with. An experienced chef should be able to taste something they haven't used before and understand what it goes with(not 100% of the time of course, but 70%-80% ).

Using familiar flavors to cross over is a great technique, certainly not the most complex but it does require time. Just like your piano, or violin teacher use to say....practice ...practice....practice.


Have you ever put something in your mouth and the flavor tasted fine...but the texture was all wrong, or maybe everything was just smooth and boring? Wait, are you telling me that taste is not just dictated by flavor!!!

Texture is a huge part of flavor. I recall one of my Chefs talking about a petite four plate that had a piece of chocolate that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen, and that was all. Personally, that is brilliant. This might be a weird quirk of mine, but I love frozen chocolate. For two reasons, the texture is much crisper, and temperature. Crispy, crunchy (not break your teeth crunchy), smooth, al dente, etc, all of these textures play a role in how food tastes.

Pre- Perception

When Chefs choose what words to describe a dish, they are priming your mind. I specifically used the word and concept priming. In psychology, it refers to preparing the mind, there are many different methods. In this case, it is simple. By naming a dish "gratin" or "pie" there is a specific food you connect with. You are now expecting to receive a cheese covered thing that was thrown under a salamander or broiler or a pastry dough encompassed product of some sort. If you were told that the dish you were about to receive were a mousse, but instead you got something that had the texture of think puree or custard..even a good tasting puree or custard, you would feel confused.

There are a few different paths I have seen from this initial confusion. Indifference, frustration, complaining, and quiet bickering(the most typical).

In the same way, pre- perception can also develop a mental bridge that can help a dish actually connect better in the mind. Maybe a dish is not 100% like a mousse or a gratin, but maybe it kind of is like one, and the Chef just wants to make a connection so you have a starting point. For example, when you look at the world of store bought products, there is "Almond Milk", "Soy Milk", "Rice Milk" etc. All of which...are not anywhere close to milk. They are really Almond water with some form of thickening agent to give it a texture like milk. It is brilliant from a marketing stand point. If they sold it as "Almond Water" it would not sell at the level at which "Almond Milk" sells(most likely). Almond milk creates the perception that you can replace your daily consumption of milk with almond milk. If I were to go to far into this, I would say that is double brilliant because the milk industry has already done a lot of the heavy lifting by putting so much into marketing campaigns for people to drink milk...we are already primed to think we need a lot more than we need....

Darn, I got on a side tangent again...

The point is...when you give some one a reference point, be mindful and make sure you know the words you are choosing...If you say egg someone who loves egg tarts, and you make a custard tart, someone is going to have a bad time.

Overall, an excellent plate of food requires several iterations, conceptualizing, and execution. Some at the best restaurants in the world take years worth of planning. It is said that the 9 layer Black Forest Gateau at the Fat Duck in England took 2 years of planning! That is intense. Yet, when you look at this dish, you see purpose with every ingredient. Every bit of texture, flavor, and mental priming is well planned. Especially when you are referencing something as classic as a Black Forest Cake. You have to make sure your cake tastes perfect. Otherwise, your diners response might end up "The cake tasted good, but it wasn't a Black Forest Gateau". They will leave your restaurant unhappy or at least, unimpressed. Desert is your big time to shine, it is the last bite, so they had to get this right. Next time you are sitting there pondering how to plan a dish, or a menu, maybe look into the Flavor Bible, whether you use the online version or go buy the book. Everything else will take time, failed dishes, experiencing more experienced flavor combinations, and an open mind. Good luck to your future menus!

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Tags: Menu Development; Recipe Planning; How to plan a dish; Dinner; How to make good food

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What to Get Chefs For Christmas, PT 2

Oh dear! It is almost Christmas and you still haven't bought gifts for your Chef friends or maybe just your friends who like to cook. If you have already...then no need to read this post, go and enjoy your Christmas Parties! If you haven't... well with there are less than 2 weeks to Christmas, it is not too late! If you need inspiration for what to buy your cooking friends for Christmas,  I have created a second list of gift ideas for chefs. It ranges from books to hardware, tools to text. The list below contains a great mix of gifts for techies, and old school book worms (like me). No matter their preference, I am sure this list can at least inspire some great ideas!

 If you don't think these are great ideas for gifts. Let me know! Maybe I can help recommend something more in tune to what type of chef your friend is. Everyone has their quirks. Some people prefer old school techniques and tools and others are first adopters, and need the new things now! The list below are some of my personal desires. It doesn't mean they are the only gifts that exists. I also have another Christmas list to help out, just in case this one doesn't provide enough information!

So let's get started!

1. A Day off...or week

The first gift doesn't even require any gift wrap! The only challenge is figuring out how to get your cook/chef friends to take a day off... I am sure you can't go beg their bosses to let them take a week off, but that would be one of the first gifts most overworked chefs would want and can never get. Unless you can convince the entire restaurant to shut down for a night, I don't see that happening. Nevertheless, it is a legit gift...that no chef ever gets. They might get Christmas off...but come Monday or Tuesday..they are back on.

2.ChefSteps CS10001 Joule Sous Vide, White/Stainless

The Joule is one of the newest versions of a home immersion circulators. Unlike the Polysci ones I used when I worked in fine dining which work big and bulky. The Joule has a super sexy and sleek design and is less than a foot long (11 inches) that makes it easy to transport. This offers amazing portability(which currently can't be beat). You can use this tool to cook meat, vegetables, custards and more. It does not offer any form of tangible interface on the device itself. Instead, it operates through an App, both for Android and Apple. This can be used either through Bluetooth or WiFi. When cooking meats, it allows for several different versions of temperature control, this includes precise and visual (you can actually see a pictures of meat and seafood cooked at different temperatures). There are also tons of videos on how to use the Joule on the ChefSteps website. All of them are very beautifully done and can really help you understand both how to use the tool and the sous vide technique. Also, they are planning on providing an API and software development kit. That means, they may soon offer the ability to program your own features. What would you add? If you are in programming, maybe you and the person you buy this for can work together to build some cool app! It really would make a great stocking stuffer!

3 iSi Gourmet Whip Plus, 1-Pint, Brushed Stainless Steel, Cream Whipper

Going  back to my days at the Herbfarm,  I remember using an ISI canistor for some pretty cool sauce work. Everything from hollandaise, scrambled eggs, hot foams, creams, etc. With this gift, a chef can really get creative. This isn't just for making whip cream on your latte. Nope, this tool is pretty versatile. Pair it with the Joule, and you can do some pretty cool things. Check out some of these videos that Chefsteps has on the two. They really are a great pair of tools to get your creative juices flowing. I also have a lot of bad experiences with this tool...typically because of the stress of the moment. It can have air bubbles that mess up your plating in the middle of the rush. However, if this gift is just used at home, then it won't matter! Your chef friend will just be using it for his or her fun dinner parties! You better get invited if you get them both the Joule and the ISI canister.

4 Modernist Bread: The Art and Science

Do you or your friend like beautiful pictures? How about geek level explanations? Well if you said yes two those two questions. Then consider pre-ordering your Chef friend Modernist Bread. These books will make any sourdough loving yeast enthusiast happy. For those who haven't read the original modernist, or at least stolen a glance here and there, these books are always amazing. It is basically the modern version of Escoffier Le Guide Culinaire. The first 5 book series covered savory and pastry. It was a compilation of all the greatest Chefs and their techniques broken down by science. This series promises the same level of detail and class.

 The books will not be available until next year. They even make a quick joke about making sure your 2017 starts off well despite circumstances (eluding to Trump). It does have quite a large price tag. However, if it is anything like the first edition of Modernist. It will offer a crazy amount of knowledge, technique and years of experience. So if your friend has been really good this Christmas and Holiday season, consider it as a gift...maybe the his or her gift for the next several Christmases..

5. Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 2 Quart Pate Terrine, Cerise (Cherry Red)

I don't know why I like these molds so much. Part of me thinks it is because they are so old school. Unlike all the modern equipment, you really can't get much older than containers that hold things in the culinary world(no really, that was a huge step for man). Whether it was just clay containers that held grain, or that were used to bake...they made it possible for us to start storing food and thus settle down. Now before I go down some rabbit hole...let's focus back on the cast iron mold.

They are great for so many things besides terrine(although that alone is a great use for them). We used to use them for breads, terrines, weights and pates! By weights, I don't mean for working out. Whenever you need to flatten a braised piece of meat, these work amazing. They are dense and can be further filled with other objects to increase their weight.

Besides that, if you love classic recipes like Pate De Campagne it comes amazing out of this cherry red dish. Not that it has to be cherry red.

6.Masterbuilt 20075315 Front Controller Smoker with Viewing Window

I have a huge thing for smoked anything. It goes back to culinary school. One of our final tests was a black box. If you have watched the show Chopped, you know the idea. You get a box, filled with ingredients, and you have to cook something based off those ingredients. I knew I wanted to smoke something in my dish. So I was happy when I saw some rainbow carrots (and I don't remember what else). I just knew I was doing smoked carrot puree! This resulted in an amazing puree and a messed up half pan. If I would have had a nice smoker...I could have avoided a near ruined pan. The best part about getting either yourself, or your friend a smoker is one word...bacon. If you want to make a flavor of bacon, do it! Maple, mustard, dill, black pepper, you name it, you can make it! It is fun and really easy. After buying this gift for your friend, I am sure you will start getting some nice cured meats as gifts for the next few holiday seasons(I wouldn't complain!).

7.The Big Fat Duck Cookbook

I personally love really solid cook books that show good techniques(I am sure your Chef friends do too!). The Big Fat Duck cook book is an amazing display of both solid technique and easy instructions for chefs, and maybe what may appear slightly more complicated instructions for home cooks. Considering the level of food the Fat Duck does, the amount of detail they put into this book to help home cooks is amazing. I even found a blog of someone who went through and listed the equipment you will need and pictures of his attempts of the dishes! So you don't have to be a chef to try to make some of these dishes.

If your friend is a Chef, they will really appreciate this book. Check out this video for their Black Forest Gateau.

Not only is it doable! It is tasty, and if you get this book for your friend...well, you can hint that the gift comes with the stipulation....that this cake must be made for you once a year.

8.The Hungry Cuban Paella Pan

 I have always wanted a paella dish. When I first got really into cooking, this dish was the apogee of dishes. At least in my mind. Something about it seemed so magical. Maybe it was the crispy golden crust, the saffron, or maybe all the seafood. I am still not sure. I just know, it was this romantic dish. Truthfully...I have only been served one good paella... So having this pan would be great because it means a cook or chef can properly make paella. Sure, you can cheat and make it in a normal pan, but it never has the same effect when you share it with friends. Paella looks beautiful when you serve it in this dish. It looks regal, as if the dish was going to be served for a king!

9. A Vacation to Italy, France, Germany...maybe just all of Europe(Kind of point #1)

This gift ties a little bit with gift #1...and a little extra. Most cooks and chefs only make minimum wage. Thus, the idea of traveling to Europe is far from possible. That doesn't mean they wouldn't love to travel and experience some good food. Consider setting them up with a cool trip off to Europe for Christmas! Alright, maybe this is a small hope for myself! In all seriousness, maybe look into getting them out of the state. If they are from Seattle, try flying them to New York or San Fransisco. Let them experience some food outside of the Pacific Northwest or the East...or wherever they live for Christmas.

10.Meat Grinder

My final gift idea for this Christmas is a Meat grinder. Most chefs love making cured meat products (Charcuterie). Sausage is no exception. In order to do it properly, you need a grinder. There are recipes that say you can do it in the robocoup or other tools. But nothing does it like a meat grinder. Make sure you get a solid product. Like the one below. More metal is better. You want to make sure it can handle grinding meat and not crack. Always keep your pieces cold! Sausage making is a true art! It requires an understanding of seasoning, curing, emulsifying, and sometimes aging.

You could also grind meat for your famous burgers, or meatloaf! If you are an avid hunter, it is great when you have a lot of odds and ends. I have had my fair share of venison and wild deer sausage..or you could use the meat grinder and the cast iron terrine mold and grind some fresh pork and make yourself some pate!

I hope this list has given you a great start to your Christmas shopping. It can be really hard to shop for others, so maybe this list inspired you! If these gifts are not a good fit, or just out of your price range, feel free to ask for recommendations! Good luck out there, the malls get crazy around the holiday season!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and It is almost New Years!

All of the links to products are Amazon Affiliate links. I would like to be candid that I do receive a percentage of the purchase price. That being said, all the products I reference I have either used or own. I want to help people looking for products anyway! I don’t want people buying things that won’t benefit them.

<<Christmas Gifts PT 1                                                                        How To Cure Mondays>>

Tags: Best Christmas Gifts; Christmas Gifts For Chefs; Chefs; Buy; Ideas for Gifts; Ideas for friends; Chef Life

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Best Cure For the Mondays

How to Cure a Case of the Mondays

So it's Monday again. I begrudgingly open my eyes as my alarm goes off at 6 AM.  Now when you wake up and you have been hit with the worse case of the Mondays. A clinically depressing, mind bending, soul ripping case of the Mondays. How are you supposed to fix that? You need something strong to knock you back and get you through the rest of the day.

No, I am not referring to Starbucks over-roasted coffee. No amount of caffeine is right for this situation. My personal Monday pick me up is pastries. Yup, a healthy combination of sugar, butter and flour mixed, stirred, baked and fried to perfection. In particular, I enjoy two great bakeries in Seattle to help me say goodbye to the Monday Blues. Alright, one of them is a doughnut not really a bakery. The other is a classic French bakery in Ballard. They are typically out of my way, and they might be out of yours. However, if you need a cure for the Mondays. General Porpoise and Cafe Besalu in Seattle are great places to go! Both produce excellent products that are sure to put a smile on your face. Most importantly, make sure you visit these places and pick up some for your co-workers! What makes a team happier than doughnuts and pastries first thing in the morning?

General Porpoise

Renee Erikson's  doughnut shop on Capitol Hill is an amazing place to get rid of your Monday blues. I am curious where the name came from and this cute little picture. Who this porpoise was a general over, I don't know. But he looks kind of official, so I have to trust him right?

I enjoy being up early, before the city really wakes up. It is great to drive in before my typical 9-5 starts and find some delicious sweet to bring back to the office to brighten everybody's Monday.

Thoughts of fluffy egg doughnuts filled my head as I pulled my car over at 6:30 AM, right by the entrance of General Porpoise. I was actually 30 minutes early. Whoops...

I got out of my car and had to enjoy a moment of the brisk Seattle air, before the traffic beat down the fresh air with the daily commute. It is not exactly like breathing in the air on Orcas Island, but there seems to be a slightly fresher feel about it(maybe I am to exposed to city air).

As I circle the block for the third time, I realize it is about time for General Porpoise to open. So instead of continuing my walk I pop into the quaint little store.

General Porpoise has a very contemporary feel as most restaurants do these days. It has a beautiful slab of marble running across the entire counter top. Behind the counter there is a sports car red espresso machine, and at the very end of the counter there are two fancy looking coffee making apparatuses. The combination creates an experience that feels like a coffee shop that mixed with an old fashion malt shop. 

As for the doughnuts themselves. Those are positioned closest to the front entrance on the counter. They have them nicely modularized into each specific flavors.

They offer seasonal flavors, so I can't guarantee what you will find when you get there. I found five flavors. They had Chocolate Marshmallow, Lemon Curd, Vanilla Custard, Date Shake and Tomato jam. I wasn't really feeling tomato, so I stuck with the more classically sweet flavors.

Of course you want to order more than you need. However, at $3.85 a pop. You run into some personal price barriers. I would still recommend you at least order one, before letting price be an issue.

I ordered 10 for my office, yeah, that hurt the wallet a bit. The gentleman behind the counter nestled my 10 doughnuts snugly into their temporary home as I drove them to an unsuspecting office that would soon be filled with fellow Monday diseased comrades. 

It was great to see everyone's faces light up when they realized their Monday was not going to be so bad! There were no survivors(doughnuts), even in my office of about 6 people. 

Well that is an exciting picture! I think it is best to look at these doughnuts grouped together...there is just something sexy about the 10 crammed together. 

I had a little bit of each but you can imagine each look about the same on the outside. Even the inside is really the same product with a slightly different tint. 

This is wear the similarities end. As I bit into one half of the chocolate doughnut. All I could think of was my grandmother's doughnuts. These doughnuts tasted like the farm fresh eggs they touted. They were eggy, light, and soft. 

The lemon curd was one of my favorites. I tend to like brighter flavors vs. heavier. In this case, the lemon delivered. It was bright and fresh, the curd was perfect for me. Compared to the chocolate, and vanilla creme which were good! but not my personal favorites. If you like pastry cream, and Boston cream pie doughnuts, then I recommend ordering the vanilla and chocolate instead.

Next time you are Capitol Hill and you see a sign in the distance with a blurry "G" and near indiscernible letters on the bottom. Pop your head in and see if it is time for a fresh doughnut and  cup of coffee.

Cafe Besalu  

Under similar circumstances, I traveled one Monday morning to the far reaches of Ballard. It does always feel to be very far from where I live...

This time, I was on a trek to a far away bakery called Cafe Besalu!

 I prefer to call it the classic king. There are few places that do the classics as well as Café Besalu. There is no fuss, there is over the top flavors or wide contemporary space to sit. Nope, this place is a small café, it would struggle to fit the local soft ball team. The actual structure looks a little worn. It does have a cute little sign in front of the store shaped like a croissant. Telling of good things in store for your future. 


 Inside you will find an older looking pastry case filled with a variety of goodies. Sweets with names you may have never even heard before and that give my auto correct heart burn. All of them glisten with a light glaze of either egg, or apricot preserve(I am not sure which).  

Of course you can see the espresso machine on the counter and maybe even a little of the kitchen. The oven behind the counter looks like it is 20- 30 years old. The place is far from feeling new(to contrast General Porpoise). Who cares though? When the pastries are as good as they are here, who cares?

There is always a silent baker lurking in the back, at least he has never said anything to me. He could be very talkative and friendly!  Perhaps, I myself am to awkward to start a conversation. There is not a huge display case. Instead, a small, maybe 7 foot wide pastry display. It is loaded with pain de chocolats, Apple Pastries, Hazelnut twists, and so on. All filled with the maximum amount of butter each pastry can handle. Before you start crying foul and telling me how unhealthy this all is, please stop. If you are going to have a pastry, do it! Don't tell me about some half fat solution. I have tried them, trust me...This stuff is the real deal and is worth getting off your Paleo, non-gluten, fruit cleanse diet to taste. 

The bakers here don't hold back. Each pastry is full fat. You can smell it when you walk in the door. Smells of caramelized pastry dough and butter saturate the room. I could sit there all day if the management would let me. All I would do is bask in the smells, and have a small cup of espresso. 

Today, I still had my mission. My goal was to bring smiles on a sad Monday(the only reason it was sad was because it was Monday). 

Below are the different treats I brought. As mentioned above, there were pain de chocolats, Apple Pastries, Hazelnut twists and more. They were all amazing! I really can't say much more than that. Crispy, flaky, sweet, caramel, and nutty.

This brought just as many smiles as the doughnuts and was $10 dollars cheaper(for whatever that is worth!).

If you are having a bad case of the Mondays and need a pick me up. Check out these two great places! Cafe Besalu and General Porpoise are both amazing and their treats put smiles on everyone's faces.

General Porpoise, like most of the places I visit, this place was recommended by  a friend. Surprisingly, I knew Renee Erikson had one the 2016 best Northwest James Beard Award. Yet, I had no idea she had a doughnut shop. So this was a great find!

Cafe Besalu I have known about for a while and gone to on a few occasions. It performs amazing every time! It is consistently great.

Tags: Monday Cures, Top Monday, Doughnuts, Cream Filling, Yum; Cafe Besalu, Pastry, Butter, Croissant, Bad Monday, How to cure Mondays