Saturday, October 29, 2016

Where can you find Good Malaysian Food on Capitol Hill?

Editors Pick of the Week: Kedai Makan

In my last post I questioned the hype of Bakery Nouveau(even though I used to enjoy it). I do often like the anti-crowd mentality. Although, trying to be unique, in itself is a fallacy. But let's avoid that conundrum for now. Focus instead on a small Malaysian restaurant on Capitol Hill called Kedai Makan.

Let's avoid the terms "hidden gem", "tucked away treasure" and other cliché terms bloggers and food writers use to make a place sound like a diamond in the rough. Capitol Hill is gold mine of places to eat. All of which are often magnificent. Yet, I did not visit those places tonight. No, tonight, I visited Kedai Makan and had an amazing meal.

After spending about 15 minutes try to park(thank you Seattle for becoming overcrowded so fast..). I finally found a spot a few blocks away and quickly hustled to through the rain soaked streets. It was still pouring pretty heavily when I turned the corner on Bellevue and Olive and opened their door. Heads up, they don't take reservations!

Entering in, the smells alone...wait...let me again avoid the cliché blogger "the place smelled" and so on...

Oh the Smells!

One thing that caught my eye as a chef was all the Cook Books they had on their shelves. Some places do it to show off, so they buy the newest, shiniest, and over priced volumes of "NOMA" or "Fill In New Number one Restaurant Here". Great, you are reading books of food you are not cooking at your restaurant...

I wonder if these are read?

These books, they were all about Malaysian, Thai, Chinese and other Asian styles of cooking. It brought me back to the Herbfarm. After service was over, we might gather in the small two person office(by that I mean it only fit two people in it) and pour over some book for new ideas. We were always trying to push boundaries and learn about the classic techniques. It would seem that the cooks at Kedai Makan are trying to do the same. That is a great sign. It means they are at least trying to base their recipes in tradition, foods that have lasted for good reason. Good food isn't complicated, it is simple.

The menu was the ideal single page, all with dishes I had never heard before. Roti Jala, Nasi Goreng Kambing, Roti Babi and so on. All dish names I had never heard before. Possibly because I lack culture, or because Seattle is finally getting some great new styles of food moving in! Don't get me wrong, I love pho. However, there are so many new countries and food styles I would love to try.

Looking at the prices, the prices seemed very reasonable. Yes, Seattle doesn't exactly offer the $2 street food prices of Taiwan or Vietnam. So finding a place charging less than $18 dollars for dinner is a rare find.

I split three plates with my ex-boss who I had asked to join me. The first dish was Roti Jala, which was translated as net bread. My ex-boss and I assumed it would be like a Indian or Nepali style flat bread. This was not the case.

Roti Jala and Lamb Curry (Net Bread)

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.

Now, just because the Pork Belly was my favorite, doesn't mean the Chili Pan Mee wasn't good. In fact, when you have hand made wheat noodles going into your final product. Chances are, you have a good product. Why else would you spend the time making the noodle from scratch.

Chili Pan Mee

When it came it, it reminded me of a Korean Bibimbap. It had vegetables, a mountain of ground pork, onions and came with a side of dry sambal. It had a slightly preserved fishy flavor from what I assumed was fish sauce that really brought out the meatiness of the pork.The noodles had great texture and the whole combination of flavors were a combination of new and old. Growing up with Eastern European food that relies on the heavy hitters(Larger flavor and high fat), it is nice to get dishes with explosive pops of every which flavor. Funky fish sauce, crispy pork, tangy vingar, spicy pepper, curry, etc. It takes such skill to bring dishes like this together. They can't just fall out of the sky. Nope, they have to be crafted, layer by layer. This was really beyond just a great meal!

The Best Part

The best part of the whole experience? Well, imagine not having to spend $40+ just for two entrees and an appetizer in Seattle. Yeah, blows your mind right? You mean my entrée was under $13 dollars for dinner. That is crazy talk.

For the flavor, and price, this places deserves more than just word of mouth. You should come have a try! How often do you get to visit a different country in your own town. Yes, it won't ever be good as the food in Malaysia. If you never plan to go. Then this will make a great substitute. The flavors at this Malaysian restaurant layer beautiful. Everything is smooth, spicy, crispy, complex and each flavor played with is crafted for you! They dance, sing, and move to some unspoken music. They have solo jams on your tongue and play head banging, classic, baroque and indie all at once!

This was a great recommendation from a friend. If you have some place you think I should visit, write me a message or comment. I would love to hear from you!

Just as a parting picture, I also love cool furniture!

This is straight out of a book somewhere

<<Have you Been To The White Swan???                                             Top 5 Bread Baking Books>>

Monday, October 24, 2016

What to Order at Bakery Nouveau...and What to Stay Away From

Have you ever come to a store and seen it spilling out people and wondered, is it worth it? Why is the place on that top 10 list? Or where did all these people even come from? There are so many other great ice cream shops, restaurants or bakeries? Why are people here? I have these questions all the time when I walk around Seattle and I see the new fad restaurant crammed full of people or maybe it is just a local place that has been around for a long while.

Bakery Nouveau is one such place. If you are hoping for a quick trip at 10 AM on Saturday morning. You better think twice. There are people pouring out of the doors, twisting around alleys and crowding into corners just to get standing room at Nouveau.

What makes Bakery Nouvea so special you ask? Bakery Nouveau is a busy little Bakery with two locations. The owners has quite the pedigree. It is owned by William and Heather Leaman. William was the captain of the 2005 Bread Bakers Guild Team for the USA. With his leadership, they won gold in the "World Cup of Baking". The man has more than paid his dues! He has also created an iconic Seattle Bakery. Even non-foodies know of it's Alki location!

When you walk in, you get the smell of the fresh espresso shot just pulled, the rich smell of lamented dough and the tantalizing smell of crispy caramelized sugar. I cannot argue with the ambiance created in this bakery. There are near a dozen employees running around the back. They are either helping customers, pulling bread out of the oven or making a cup of coffee.

The front is no less busy. People oooh and awh at the display case. Pointing out to their friends their favorites. Some of them have their camera phones pulled out to quickly snap a picture. This moment must be remembered and immortalized for some. Others, it is just a chance to make their friends on Facebook jealous.

Some people are there with friends, other business mentors and still others, like yours truly, to just enjoy the scene of people.

I have been quite a few times, and most of their pastries are hit or miss. So I wanted to take a moment to give my opinion on what is done well, and what is merely mediocre. They do several pastries really to the highest quality. It is why I always go back! However, Bakery Nouveau also has several pastries that I would stay away from.

Maybe it is because, I myself just don't like the pastry as a whole. Maybe I could travel to 1000 bakeries and never find one that made satisfactory versions of chocolate cake. However, I highly doubt it. I have had a decent piece of chocolate cake here and there.

Below you will find a list of my Order This! Not that!:


Double Baked Chocolate or Almond Croissant:

Let's start with a classic. All I have to say is thank goodness they got this right! A Chocolate Croissant and their drip coffee is their perfect pair. There is just enough sugar dusting the top that you don't need to sweeten your coffee. The flaky dough just seems to accept being paired with the bitter black tea. What is even better is the carmalley crust at the bottom created by the butter and sugar. I can imagine the poor sheet pan that had to bake off this delight. Even when properly sprayed, this concoction of butter and sugar, delicious, but messy. The entire partnership of bitter coffee and flaky pastry is perfect for a calm weekend.

Then of course, there is the moist middle layer with almond or chocolate filling. Some purist don't want any form of filling in their croissants. It's as if you took a croissant and decided you wanted a pie. The butter laden dough with a good douse of nut filling. It just all comes together. I love it. It is basically a butter bomb, but in a good kind of way. I have to restrain myself from ordering two!
Twice Baked Almond Croissant
Do I order a second Chocolate Croissant 

Phoenix Cake:

Bakery Nouveau really knows how to make some beautiful works of art. All their pastries have such a clean sheen. No matter the angle, these cakes sparkle. They call out to you! The first time I walked in the door, the Phoinex Cake just yelled at me. Eat me, please.

 This is one of the few cakes I like at Bakery Nouveau. It actually looks clean, not mass produced liked some of the other cakes Bakery Nouveau offers. It has a sleek hazel exterior, a pillowy soft texture and a beautifully layered interior. When I first bought it, I assumed it was just a caramel mousse. Slicing into it, you find a hidden treasure trove of layers. There is a layer of nougat, cake and creme. Bitter, sweet, creamy, crunchy, so many things in one bite.

Each pairs so well with the other. The nougat contrasts the creaminess of the rest of the dessert. The bitter notes from the caramel keep the entire thing from becoming too sweet. This dessert is a beautiful song and dance. Where each dancer perfectly compliments the others movements.

Again, paired with a cup of coffee, it matches the nuttiness of the toasted coffee and brings out some caramel notes. Plus, there is a cute little Bakery Nouveau placard. If you need a cute gift to bring to a significant other, this is a great choice!

Caramel Phoenix Cake
How can you say no to what is inside?

Caramel Apple Tart

Finally, the last hit has to be the Caramel Apple Tart. Flakey, buttery and sweet, what else could you ask for on a rainy Seattle Saturday? The sweetness of the apple on the luxuriously buttery dough. The apples so perfectly lined up like little toy soldiers really shows the time and care that went into making this dessert. This is the kind of dessert you expect to be a picture in a pastry book or food porn on Instagram.

This is the kind of pastry that on its own is great, you don't even have to order that cup of coffee. Why ruin the pure apple flavor of the tart? The other two cakes play really well with the bitter and caramel notes. This morsel produces its own set of complex flavors that don't need to be challenged. The choice is yours in the end of course!

The perfect round opening and the gently coated surrounding makes for a elegant presentation.

It is actually really bad. Again, this is one of those desserts I have to refrain from eating two!

Apple Caramel Tart


Chocolate Layer Cake:

Chocolate cake is a hard sell for me. Maybe I am just picky with chocolate layer cakes(Someone Prove me wrong please!). I have rarely found a chocolate caked I liked. Even when I worked at a place where I made the chocolate cake, I didn't like it. I remember working at LUC and making the chocolate cake there. I swear, it came across more like a chocolate protein bar not a chocolate cake.

Most chocolate cakes are dry, and bland. Trying to chew them just causes some weird reaction in the mouth that stiffens the jaw and hardens the gullet. This cake is just that, tasteless, and not very pure in chocolate flavor.  It almost makes me think of dry toast. Screaming to have jam and cream cheese placed on top of it. The butter cream and ganache don't help either. It really just makes the entire cake stiffer and harder to swallow. The cake itself looks so promising. It has that dark roasted chocolate complexion. A good ratio of filling to cake, and nothing too fancy on it to distract the mind from what this really could be.

Personally, I love chocolate. I have even made it from scratch. I try not to be a boring person. That doesn't mean I stray away from safe flavors. I am a fan of going out of the box, but I love chocolate in so many forms I always have to try the mandatory chocolate desserts on any menu. Yet, this slice of cake really leaves the mouth yearning for some milk, and a different cake.

Chocolate Cake


You know Tiramisu right? It is usually moist, covered in a soft and airy mascarpone cheese frosting and a dousing of coco on top. There are so many places to buy a decent Tiramisu, even Costco has a decent option. It's not a hard cake to make.

In fact, I bet you have even made it yourself once or twice! Maybe you got creative and added your own twist. It is pretty hard to get this cake wrong. Yet, similar to the chocolate cake, this cake really does come across as quite bland from Bakery Nouveau. We are talking about Tiramisu, it is supposed to be a pick me up. Whether you prefer it soaked in rum, coffee, brandy, or some other form of alcohol or syrup. It should have a decent amount of flavor from the syrup and coffee. Sure, the cake shouldn't be gushing syrup but it also shouldn't feel dry and dull.

I know mascarpone is not the most flavorful thing in the world. The basis of marscarpone is fat, it is border line straight cream. There are still ways to amend the dullness of said product. A little vanilla, coffee or salt will help entice the eater that much more. So little can be done to take this cake, or custard, whatever you consider it, to the next level.

I would rather have a Costco Tiramisu, than order the Bakery Nouveau Tiramisu. That is how unpleasant this cake was. If you follow my blog, I don't often bash on a pastry. After all, I want to recognize good food. I don't really care too much for bad food. I just wanted to take a moment to point out some of my less preferred choices.


Well clearly they don't have a level in the kitchen

Below will be some cakes that made neither list. They are actually worth ordering once. The nice thing about Bakery Nouveau is that its pastry case is almost always full and there are so many options. I have been to many other bakeries. Including places like General Porpoise, Cafe Besalu, Midori Bakery and so many more. I often run into the issue where the pastry case is empty or maybe I am limited on what my options are. I actually prefer the limited options, but if you don't I would say Bakery Nouveau would be great for you!

This is just one of so many bakeries in Seattle and it is one of my favorites, despite me picking some of their pastries apart.. If you would like to just have a quiet morning and watch the people on Capitol Hill, then order yourself a Double Baked Croissant and enjoy the view!

Pecan Tarts
Oddly enough, after I wrote this. I began to wonder if Bakery Nouveau is really my favorite bakery anymore. Almost everything from Midori Bakery is perfect. Where as Bakery Nouveau has so many options, that few are actually good.

I have a similar problem when going to Molly Moon's. Do I dislike the place due to it's popularity, or has its popularity caused its product to suffer? Can good quality product be massed produced? While I struggle with these existential questions, you should go and try all the bakeries you can. Come to your own decision about where the best bakeries really are!

I will have to take a trip to Cafe Besalu to reconfirm the order of my own top X bakeries in Seattle. However, I think there might be a new favorite. I do believe Bakery Nouveau has fallen a little bit from the top of the list.

Maybe you have a different opinion? Maybe you are a Bakery Nouveau Enthusiast ? What is your favorite bakery? and What is you go to order?

Raspberry Gateau


   <<5 Best Chef Knives                                                       What is the 4th Best Bakery In Seattle?>>

P.S. If this isn't the kind of Food Blog you are looking for, here are some more from other sources that are great! I want to make sure that you have the option to visit as many as you can. There are lots of good writers out there(and I am not one of them). I constantly have to google "How to be a good writer"

Roll With Jen

Tags: Best Bakery In Seattle, Seattle , Bakery Nouveau, Where Do I find Croissants, What is a pastry 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Throw Back Sundays? a Cook's Life

Sunday Project Reflections: After Hours with the Cooks

Following the "Stormageddon of 2016" I am feeling very reflective. My favorite day at my last culinary gig was Sunday's. Not because they were slower(in fact, most cooks hate that). No, I enjoyed Sunday's because it meant Sunday projects. It was a chance to be creative and try out ideas that we thought might work for a future menu.

Have you ever wondered how cooks, and chefs come up with some of our ideas? Have you ever had a dish and just been baffled that a chef was bold enough to try the combination. Well trust me, there were many iterations of that dish first. You could almost liken it to agile development. One version doesn't work, but it is almost there. Then, it is just a matter of tweaking. That is what our projects were for.

We had projects of all kind, fermentation, bread, desserts, cured meats and so on(We were no NOMA, but there were some cool things coming out of our kitchen). Each week we all tried to one up each other. Not in negative way, but as a way of learning. One week we would have one cook who decided to read some random book or obscure blog and he would show off some random new idea. Have you ever tried pig blood macaroons! I have. They actually taste good, and paired with hazelnut or lardo, or both...well they are pretty darn good. All because some cook read a blog about how egg whites and blood have similar protein compositions. My favorite idea was what we called coffocolate. I came up with the idea one fall. I made a product that acted like chocolate, but it was coffee based. It tempered, it could be reshaped, it was really seemed like chocolate(about 8 months later, I saw the same idea had been posted on ChefSteps, there is nothing new in the food world really).

I don't have all my pictures, but I wanted to share some that I do have.So if you feel like joining me into the after hours at the herb farm keep reading. This is after hours on a Sunday night!

Sunday Night Projects with the Cooks

First a picture of me and the gang sitting around after a long also so happens to be a panned out view of my first dish. If you can't tell which one is me. I am the one without a beard and not facing the camera. It may have been a rough week... that might be why Chef Chris Weber is focused heavily on his dainty glass of champagne. With that same train of thought, it may have been a great week! Maybe we are celebrating. Kitchens are hard to read.

Oyster Soup and Nori Gelato

This was one of my later Sunday projects. I had a thing for making Ice Cream  and so I liked incorporating into my dishes, even the savory ones. Being that Nori has a nice salty and delicate flavor, it was a great candidate for a savory ice cream. It came out perfectly and matched with the warmed Oyster and Butter soup. I probably would have taken the crab out of this dish and just put in a piece of brioche or baguette instead. Nevertheless, it was a combination that challenged Abbott and Costello.The salty buttery oyster soup with the fresh flavor of Nori and and herb really sung. I regret not having a crispier element in the dish. Still not sure what it could have used. Personally, I was trying to avoid the cliche bread crisp or crouton. Maybe that is exactly what it needed. What do you think? What would you have added to this dish? Do you even like the idea?

Tuna, Bone Marrow, Pickled Hazelnuts, Mouse Melons...

This was an example of putting way too many things on one plate. Like in many other professions, The KISS rule is repeated a lot. Just keep it simple stupid. Somehow, that is easier said than done. I think it tends to be the signs of a young cook to put too many things on a plate. In many ways, I don't even think it is a bad thing. I find that it is a great way to learn what not to put on a dish and what really doesn't work.

I had garlic puree, smoked bone marrow emulsion, two different pickles and some garnish and this was the scaled back version. Another picture has toast and salmon roe as well. Yeah, I might have been a little nuts with this dish.

Look at this dish, I have a few sauces, and garnishes. I could have gone away with three or four things on the plate. Honestly, this dish probably would have been great like a faux poux on a Pork Tonnato. Instead of having two different sauces, I could have kept the dish to only the smoked bone marrow emulsion. Then placed the tuna on top with some mouse melons. Wait, that's it? Yeah! I guarantee that dish would knock someones socks off before the picture above does.

As a quick sidenote: a I really liked the smoked Bone Marrow Emulsion. I just wanted to put it on everything. It was creamy, with just the right amount of acid. Almost like perfectly mixed drink, you couldn't even tell all the fat you were eating. It was dangerous.

Strawberries and Goat Cheese
The best time at the Herbfarm was Summer. As you can imagine, having your own farm as a restaurant is awesome. It is most Chef's dreams. They want to cook what they grow and slaughter. 

Now we couldn't grow everything, even on the space we had. Washington, thankfully, produces amazing produce. I barely have to add any simple syrup to most of my sorbet bases because the berries and fruit are already almost where they need to be.

Let's take strawberries for example. My typical strategy was to take one or two main ingredients and try to have them on a plate as many ways as possible. That way I would know what to take off later. 

There was macerated strawberries, strawberry sorbet, puree, sliced, compressed etc. Sometimes we used to make a joke on how much we would do to food before just serving a slice. Maybe, in the end, it would be better to just give the guest a bowl of berries. That isn't very fun though. This is a great combination. We got in a great slightly sweet fresh goat cheese. I used it for dessert mousses and cheese plates. It was super soft, unlike the typical tube goat cheese I find at the supermarket. More importantly, it wasn't grainy. This meant when I made it into mousses and whips like the one above, it didn't create an unpleasant mouthfeel. Somatesensory is a huge part of flavor for me. So it is very important that the product be smooth. 

Take that goat cheese whip, strawberries and a few pieces of olive oil cake and you are set. Actually, this dish could have just been strawberries and that goat cheese and I would have been very happy!

Chocolate Mousse, Nectarines, Blueberries, Raspberries and Mint Gelat

You might be able to tell I had a problem with over kill. I always had so many ideas, and I wanted to put them all on one plate. It takes a while to figure out that less is really more. I mean, how many fruits do you see with the chocolate mousse? And is that Gelato...again. I had a problem.

No but in reality, this dish was really good. The spear mint gelato really brought the entire dish together. It was meant to be eaten portion by portion. So that the diner could taste the varying fruits, chocolate and mint gelato together. That being stated, like an end-user and UI when do diners eat the way you think they will.  So this is one of those dishes that never left the drawing board. Sometimes the idea of so many things on one plate really kills everything.

Occasionally, we put out dishes that were just so complex. Like duck fat candles, that really requires explaining. Diners won't get it right away and how pretentious are we as cooks that we make food that people have to explain how to eat it? That seems like over

Chocolate Sorbet and Cherries

This was actually not a Sunday project. However, it was common to get special requests from our guests for dietary restrictions. This was a dairy free, gluten free, blah, blah, blah dessert. Chocolate sorbet is pretty good though...It actually ended up very pretty so I wanted to share. It was a combination of cherries and chocolate. There is a cherry "gelee" made with a light agar instead of gelatin. The sorbet is just cocoa powder and simple syrup and the tuiles were made with margarine instead of butter.

Yeah, kind of bland for us meat eaters. For people who actually care for this world..haha..this is sometimes the best I could do. I did steal it from some cook book cover. Although, the dessert there was made of meringues and looked like grey slate. It was way prettier than this dessert.

Honestly, I think it takes a lot more skill to do dishes  under these limitations. I am not even saying I have that skill! In fact, I was much more impressed by Sweet Alchemy's Monkey Berry Bash ice cream. It was 100% vegan and I didn't even know. They tricked me. I tried it, and I was like, wow...that is great. Then I looked at the fine print! In all fairness, I was never allowed to use coconut milk at The Herbfarm. We tried to stay as local as possible. The goal was to keep the food within the northwest. Just saying, you should go try Sweet Alchemy if you are a vegan!

This was a step into our world. As chefs we are constantly trying to learn how to make food taste better and how to make your overall experience as a dinner better. After all, food is only part of what cooks sell. Some of my best meals were tied with the entire experience. So if you ever go to a place and think the waiters and waitresses shouldn't be serving the food with such nuance. They are just trying to wow the diners who may be a little bored of food. That is the only way I can describe it. We as chefs have to constantly entertain, not just cook food, for people who want something new. It can be a lot of fun!

Let me know your thoughts! What does your crew do after hours? Also, if you are just a home cook, I would love to see your "Sunday" or whatever day projects. Please feel free to send me your food photos! I love gushing over some dishes. Don't even worry about your experience level, at the end of the day. Food is food.

If you can't think of any ideas. There are lots of great blogs and books that will help expand your mind as a cook and a chef!. Don't limit yourself! Check out this list of blogs that aren't even mine o.O That I love to use and will really help you learn some new ideas.

My Favorite Food Blogs:


The Quenelle

Ideas in Food


My Shameless plug: Top Ten Cook Books For any Chef or Cook!

I was in a rut this week, maybe you can introduce me to a place you like to eat to help me break out of it! Maybe send me a picture of your projects, I would love to see what your restaurant team does!

Please feel free to ask any  recipe questions, restaurant recommendation questions, etc. I have a list of best places to go for various occasions. So feel free!

<<20 bits of Advice for a Young Cook                                                           My Favorite Knives>>
Tags How to plate food,Kitchen Confidential, How to get better at cooking ,What happens after hours in a kitchen,After hours,Cook Life

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What is the 4th Best Bakery in "Seattle"

Midori Bakery

Have you ever had to call and audible on your plans? Plans where you had your heart set on going somewhere, or eating some dish but then suddenly life throws a wrench in the stratagem of your weekend?

Well that happened this weekend to me. I had planned to go to Bakery Nouveau but as soon as I checked the roads on Waze, my heart sank, the 520 bridge was closed. For those native Seattlites out there, you know if you are on the East side, it can be a pain to get across to Seattle from Redmond. Especially when your map app says it will take 1 hour just to go in one direction. When one bridge closes, it funnels everyone wanting to go anywhere on I-90 or all the way around Lake Washington.

I could have let this ruin my weekend. I could traverse a 2 hour round trip or I could try to find a new place to get my baked goods. Where could I find good bakeries on the East side? (I only ever hear about the west side) Do those even exist? Luckily, my friends had told me of a bakery in Redmond recently that was supposedly pretty good. But I had not yet been there. I do enjoy going to new places, so this seemed like the perfect time.

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).
Add 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 Carmel 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 Kuglhpf 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?

I am a purist. Whenever I go to a bakery I do tend to order their Chocolate Almond Croissant first, although those cakes sounded tempting. The combination of flaky, buttery, pastry, with bitter, toasty coffee is just hard to beat. And on a day a dreary November afternoon, it warms the soul. The picture below does not do the combination justice. It looks as dull as a late night lecture on macro-economics. This was not the case. It was not my favorite chocolate Almond Croissant, it I would say it was a close 4th. I would prefer Bakery Nouveau, or Cafe Besalu. The Croissant I had was still worth writing about. The pastry was light like a cloud, the flavor was chocolate, and the rain was drizzling. A perfect afternoon. In addition, the coffee is really good! Oddly enough, finding good coffee is not as easy as you think in Seattle..It was smooth, nutty and I actually went back for a refill. I usually only limit myself to one cup per location(I have to).

Chocolate Almond Crossiant and 8 oz Coffee
Now I also ordered two Gateaus to go. I ordered the Blueberry and White Chocolate Gateau and the Chocolate Caramel Whisky Gateau. Both were more than delightful! It was crazy, unlike many of the "Gateaus" I have had in the passed, these cakes were not dry, dreary and didn't taste frozen. Instead, they were pieces of light and fluffy cream , scrumptious cake and sweet glaze. The stabilized creams in both were just right. Neither of them seemed overly stiff. It didn't really seem like one portion was stuck apologizing for the limitations of another. Also, who doesn't like whisky and caramel...

They also sell cake by the sheet! So you can buy a few slices, try them, and take a whole cake home with you.

If you are trapped on the east side, this has been the best Bakery experience so far. It does have some cons. For instance, they run out of their best selling items fast! So you better be there before noon. They also have a much smaller selection then some of the other bakeries in downtown Seattle. If these limitations don't scare you away, then come and have a cup of Coava Coffee on a cold Seattle morning.

Do you have any favorite spots around Seattle, Oregon, maybe farther? Feel free to recommend them. I went to Midori based off of someone's recommendation! I trust word of mouth way more than magazine top ten lists.

Monday, October 3, 2016

How to Win A James Beard Award the Right Way; Whale Wins

A James Beard Level Dinner or Just Another NW Meal

In a Chef's eyes, the James Beard Award (Read #17) is like an Oscar for a movie star. It is the acknowledgement that you can duke it out with the best. A James Beard award tells young cooks to look up to you. It increases business, and increases the talent pool that wants to come work for you.

 Some critics mock it for being an over-glorified dog and pony show(see Eater: Anthony Bourdain). He has a valid point. Often times, the people that win seem better connected than those that lose. Many times, young chefs are merely put on the short list year after year to no avail. Until some new comer, with no more than 2 years experience takes the cake. Maybe they really are the better chefs. Who knows. I have worked for Chefs who have won it and those who haven't. I never thought one set of food was better than the other. We always just made good food.

Nevertheless, I decided to visit the Whale Wins. Chef Renee Erickson was the 2016 Jame Beard Award winner of the Best Northwest Chef category. I had worked for a previous winner of this award in 2013 and I wanted to see how the places stacked up. The reason many people question the award is because it is often voted on by your peers and past winners. So it is hard to tell what is skill vs. who you know.

Whale Wins has a Menu that is one page, clean and simple. Of which, none of it feels like the standard NW "we go to farmer's markets and always have a beet salad on the menu" type menu. Working in the industry, I remember a time when most fine dining places had to have Draper Valley Chicken Breasts on the menu or a Beet and Goat Cheese Salad. You could literally tell which chef worked where because each menu would have a few dishes from their previous place of employment. For a good 5 years or so, this was the case. This was so painfully obvious as a cook who worked at some of these places. It was almost upsetting. I am not saying a Chef needs to reinvent the wheel every time they move kitchens. However, when you open up Eleven Madison Park's cook book and literally find the exact same dishes being done at Canlis. You begin to question the skills of the chefs designing menus.

Lets get back to the main point, and away from my rant.

Whale Wins fights against that cookie cutter, pre-formatted menu. They have dishes like Tomatoes and Chantrelle Ragu with Green coriander, or Halibut wrapped in Figs Leaf served with Spicy Cashews. 

Dishes that actually perplex the palette, rather than play off the NW flavor combinations. Like beets and goat cheese, or peas and mint. Sometimes this can be a little concerning. Creativity is great in the hands of an experienced Chef, but can create poor combinations in the hands of those who aren't as certain. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

My trip to Whale Wins was only for a quick drink with a friend. I will eventually have to go back and have a full meal. We only ordered three small plates. We ordered the the Togiak Herring Butter on Toast with Pickled Onion, Broccolini, Anchoiade, and Mustard, and Burrata, radishes with Garlic. Most of these were pretty safe choices if the dishes themselves were done well. The one thing Whale Wins does do that is similar to a lot of places out there, is the concept of small plates. Whether you love or hate small plates, it is a great business strategy. Charge 20% less and serve 40% less.

Togiak Herring Butter on Toast with Pickled Onions
The three dishes came sequentially in that order. The first being the Togiak Herring Butter on Toast. I have what one might reference as a fetish for smoked fish and crusty bread. When you put a rich fatty smoked piece of fish on a rustic piece of toast. Honestly, there is nothing more I need to be happy.  This goes back to my first meal at Cafe Juanita(before I worked there). Their smoked Sable Fish dish knocked me back and ruined me for some future fishes courses to come. At Cafe Juanita, they served it with a room temperature tomato broth. The combination of tangy, sweet, smoky, tomato and fish should be mounted on a wall. It is a combination that should exist more often. This small plate was a strong contender for that food memory.

Of course, then you put pickled onions on top, and I am in heaven. The bread was grilled with just enough bitter char which was cut by the fatty Herring butter. Then the sweet and tangy pickled onion tied the entire package together. I could not complain about this dish. I would not ask for it in another form. This was a safe flavor combination. However, it isn't done enough. I am sure now it is a different story, but when I had this meal originally. I know I did not see flavor combinations like this at other restaurants in Seattle.

Broccolini and Anchoaide
The second small plate came out. Broccolini and Anchoaide. I was very excited about this combination. I recall having to make anchoaide at my first restaurant gig. You take roasted garlic, anchovies, bread and a little olive oil. Then you blend it all together using a food processor until it is super smooth. The flavor of garlic and anchovies together, you can take a spoon to it. Put that on bread alone and call it an award winning dish. Paired with a vegetable like broccolini, it really has a chance to shine. Combine the bitter, grilled Broccolini with the salty, some what sweet garlic puree. If you open the Flavor Bible, you know those two items are right next to each other. The best part is, they are not creating a crazy new flavor combination. However, they are still creating a dish we don't see enough in the northwest. Putting a roasted garlic and anchovy flavored sauce next to Broccolini is not rocket science. It does not require 20 years of experience in cooking to know that it tastes good.  It was the perfect accent on a simple dish. Like the diacritical that sits above a Latin "a". It elevated the dish.

Burrata and Radish
Finally, Burrata, whenever I see it on a menu, I am inclined to order it. It is not that Burrata itself has complex flavors. In fact, it really just tastes like an empty canvas of cream and cheese. However, when you mix it with flavors like spicy radish and astringent green garlic you end up with a Monet of flavor. Throw in the crunchiness of some focaccia croutons and it really takes the cake. Yes, that is the dish that you see above. The radish was a great raw bit to the dish. Burrata, as explained earlier, really is just fatty goodness. There is no real flavor beyond that. So adding the spicy radish was a clear example of good chefing. It doesn't require too much skill and lets the cold line have an easy dish to plate. Most of everything on this plate could even be made to order. Except the foccacia. So even if they ran out of prep, they could quickly make it all.

I will point out, I was very confused by the pool of oil. I often see this happen and get...well confused. I get a little oil to garnish a plate. Sure, that makes sense. However, when half of the bottom of my plate, which you can see is not an exaggeration is swimming in olive is a bit of a what the f*** moment. Were you rushed? Did you think this would taste good? Isn't that kind of a waste?

If it came from the garlic puree, then you are doing something wrong. In no way should you have that much oil breaking from your sauce. A little bit of oil breaking from it is fine. A large amount, well that just is a culinary sin.

I was still happy with the flavors, and food. It does make me question the skill of the chef who saw this plate go out of the kitchen. It wasn't even a busy night.

All in all, the three small plates were each a good mix of flavors. Not one was too salty, too bitter, too anything (except too oily). They each incorporated familiar flavors and each ingredient played off each other. In many cases, James Beard winners may only gain their fame through back room deals and tight relationships. I know this wasn't the case with Renee Erickson. The food I had was on point. The flavor combinations was a mix of NW flavors and small twists from local farms.

Renee Erickson has been in the news a lot lately. She has a lot of new places she has open up. All of which are really good. I do think she earned her James Beard Award. I do also think there are many other Chefs that should go before her. I will never understand how the James Beard awards are truly done. How do they really decide the winner. Why put Cafe Juanita on the list every year for a James Beard Award for service when it never wins? What is the point. I have many questions, but  a satisfied stomach.

I would recommend this place for date nights, catching up with an old friend and celebrations. Please feel free to recommend some of your own favorite places that I can go visit. Maybe you can join me!

Please feel free to recommend to me your favorite restaurants. Whether your favorite restaurant is in Seattle or somewhere else. I love to hear about new places and most importantly try new places. The best way is word of mouth! Relying on other sources that only tell you about places that are currently popular...or maybe good(Whale Wins is just one of so many places!)

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Tags: James Beard Awards, How to win a James Beard award, Who is the best Chef in Seattle, Menu Development, Food, Chef

;Whale Wins;

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Where to Find Pulled Noodles? Beaverton?

A Story of Confused Noodles 

Sometimes, I find that people make the mistake of thinking that good food only exists in the major cities and this is coming from a Seattleites, born and bred. As a Seattleites, I noticed that there seems to be some form of pretentious one-sided rivalry Seattle has towards Portland and it's close suburbs. As if Portland will never have the level of uniqueness, talent or prowess that Seattle holds over them.

To counter, I find that Portland could give two s***** about what Seattleites think. I think that is why I really enjoy Portland, not only as a food destination but also as a populace. The people are friendly, the food is diverse, and the Seattle freeze is thawed on the border of the Columbia

On one such excursions to one of my favorite NW cities I happened to need a dinner destination. I had been in a long and dull all-day work meeting for the requirements of a new project. All I wanted was a knock your socks off, wake you up, homey meal that made me think I had traveled a thousand miles to a country more interesting than that meeting room. 

Thank goodness for the interwebs, a few seconds on Google and I found the place I wanted to go. A place called Du Kuh Bee. I didn't read the reviews, I didn't have to. All I saw was "hand pulled noodles". It brought me back, in culinary school, I tried to master the technique and failed miserably. That decided it, I wanted to know where my failure stopped and an experienced noodle puller's experience began.

Driving up to the curb, the sign seemed to display a typical Korean Restaurant(Yes, hand pulled noodles are Chinese, but I am not going to ding them for that). The sign was a little dingy and seemed to be at least a decade old. However, walking in, I knew I had made the right choice. The place was small, the tables were crammed but the place was still packed and I still got an excellent seat at the counter(helps that I was a single diner). 

When the waitress came around, I was ready to order. I ordered a bowl of the hand pulled noodles, grilled calamari and 16 oz of Hite. While I waited for the meal I was able to watch one of the cooks in the back pull noodles like a machine. It was like watching Swan Lake. His hands flowed so easily. I couldn't believe it. He made what I struggled with, look like child's play. I felt a little envy but also appreciation for the talent this man had worked hard to acquire.

My trance was broken by my food arriving at the same time. This was a little strange but I was ready to eat. 

The grilled calamari came with a black slightly sweet dipping sauce. It went perfectly with the salty, grilled calamari. The slight smoke flavor with the soy and plum type BBQ sauce  went together like PB and J, like Abbott and Costello. It made the one octave flavored calamari sing like Yma Sumac

I ate this concurrently with the pulled noodle dish. It reminded me a little of spaetzle texture, a unique al dente that can only come from fresh pasta. It was cooked in something similar to a paprika oil and served with cabbage, onions and carrots. The spice from the paprika oil produced a beautiful harmony of all the flavors mixed in this large portion of noodles. I was one happy customer. Of course, the Hite paired well with the two dishes.

In the end, I left satisfied and full. It's the kind of meal you don't want to brush your teeth afterward. 
Sometimes a meal doesn't need to be in New York, San Fransisco, Seattle or other "Food City" to be a great meal. Sometimes a meal doesn't have to cost 200 dollars and require silverware to be replaced after every bite. My favorite meals often are one or two plates and cost 10-20 dollars.

An Ex-Cook's About Me

A Little About Me

Hello interwebs! You are probably looking at the picture on the right and wondering, who is that dorky-snot nosed kid on the left. Well, that would be me. You can tell I thought I was the bees knees of the culinary world huh.

Who am I? I am an Ex-Cook who worked in fine dining for 7 short years, I still have some of the burn scars to prove it. In my short tenure I worked at  established fine dining classics in Seattle like Cafe Juanita and The Herbfarm but also worked the corporate cook life at The W Hotel, short stints at other lesser known restaurants and I even planned a Pop-up or two

This is where I cut my teeth, burned my arms and brought thousands of people great tasting meals. I have worked for bosses that made life hell and bosses that knew how to grow young talent. I have worked in kitchens that were small, and dingy and kitchens bigger than the dinning rooms they served. I have broken down pigs, rabbits, geese, chicken, whole quarters of beef, you name it. I have even made pastry dough, wood-oven baked breads, tarts, ice creams, even house made chocolate!

If you had ever made the mistake of asking me a question, you know you were about to get an encyclopedia style answer. Maybe you would hear about the reason for proper tempering of chocolate and how it can be likened to making medication or rock candy or maybe you would just get the entire anaerobic cycle quoted to you. Food was and is still my passion and knowing everything I can about it is still very important to me.

Now, it is my turn. I am looking to find the places that know how to tantalize the taste buds and create memorable experiences. Sometimes that means paying 200 dollars for an over complicated assortment of edible flowers, posh foams, spheres and meat that may have been sous-vide for 6 days. Other times, these meals may be scavenged in hole in the wall dives that serve food that would put a pachydermin a coma.

Food has so many different layers and so many different styles. I am often just as happy eating a whimsical meal with all the bells and whistles as I am eating a burger. Each of these offer a different outlet of expression. The Chefs that make these meals are awesome and I want to make sure I respect their work! I know it is not easy to please every customer, every time.

Do you have any places you think are the top restaurants?

Along with my quest to eat, I am trying to help the next generation of cooks come up. If you have questions about what is like in the industry, or how to get into the top places, I am going to try post about as many of these topics as possible. Maybe you are a young cook and you are looking for knives under 100$ or perhaps you want to find the best cook books to understand food. Then I will try to provide a post to cover that.

I was able to work at some of the best places in Seattle, in fact, in many cases I have gotten jobs in the corporate world because of the level of kitchens I have worked in.

 I am always looking for suggestions and I am hopping to provide you guys a few here and there. Feel free to send me your favorite places.

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Tags How to Cook,What am I passionate about,Cook life,My Favorite Recipes,After Hours,Kitchen Confidential,Where is good food