Posted by: b44hanson | April 11, 2011

Supper Club – La Fermata

Already this version of the Supper Club has doubled the amount of dinners than the last one, as we met for our second bread breaking session at La Fermata in Bremerton. Irena and I had been to La Fermata once before and thought it would be a great choice for our first contribution on destinations. La Fermata is a little Italian hole in the wall, with no signage out front. Most people don’t even know there is a restaurant there, let along such a good one.

To get things started we randomly drew seat assignments and then did a quick round of ‘what if’, which created the very non-typical dinner conversation topic of zero gravity’s effect on human waste ;-). Although that wasn’t be best line of the night, which has to go to Pam for her “Free Range” comment! We are a very sophisticated group!

Irena and I split an Anti Pasta plate which included some incredible pickled vegetables and salami that will make that dry/bland stuff I used to get on my sandwiches as a kid go run and hide! I haven’t had that good of salami since my days at SCL when I would venture to Salumi for lunch! We also split a roasted beet salad with walnuts that reminded me just how much I love beets. As a child we would have them regularly, but they were out of a can and cold. For our main courses, Irena had the duck breast and I had pork loin. Both dishes were incredible and then we finished off the night , not sharing mind you as I stood corrected, but with our own individual Creme Brulee with some good coffee.

We all had fun, laughing, eating and just enjoying each others company. Net and Ann are up next and Pam and Lee are already planning their second one, a BBQ in August!

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | April 9, 2011

Wedding Brew

Irena and I are brewing up to batches of beer for our wedding. The first is Trophy Wife Pale Ale and we bottled that batch today.

A batch of Trophy Wife Pale Ale

This batch is based on a Sierra Nevada clone recipe, which I have made before and it turned out yummy. The art on the label is an update from the Trophy Girl Pale Ale label I used on the previous batch. Here is the artwork.

Note the Bling Ring!

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | March 7, 2011

Supper Club Take III

Saturday night marked the inaugural meal on what for me is the third different Supper Club I have been lucky enough to participate in. The first iteration was one that ran for a couple of years in Arizona, the second one was a brief one (only one outing) here in the Seattle area and now our current version. Basically the way we have implemented our Supper Club is we get a handful of people together that enjoy dining out, we rotate whose turn it is each month and they chose a place for a our dining destination.

Our first destination was La Fondita in Tacoma in the Proctor District. This was my first time to this quaint neighborhood and I liked its charm. The restaurant itself had a nice atmosphere, segmented into a dining area and bar area (although the bar area does have a few tables and is where we sat). The first test of a Mexican food place is the chips and salsa. The chips were fresh and the salsa was tasty, but for my tastes, I could have used a little more heat. I ordered the Chile Verde and asked for it spicy. Now keep in mind, the bar has been set pretty high when it comes to Chile Verde by my favorite New Mexican style restaurant in Phoenix, Los Dos Molinos. Los Dos serves up big chunks of tender pork that you touch with your fork and it falls apart, simmered in a yummy and fiery hot green sauce. La Fondita’s dish, although not quite up to Los Dos standards, did measure up pretty well. The chunks of pork were smaller and not quite as tender, but the green sauce was tasty and with the little chunks of Habanero mixed in, it certainly set my mouth on fire. I love putting out the fire with a yummy Marg and the Cazadores and Cointreau float margarita did the trick. I also sampled Irena’s Chicken Mole and the chocolate Oaxacan sauce delivered!

Of course what makes Supper Club work is the friends you are breaking bread with and this night was no exception as everyone gabbed, laughed and feasted away. Our hosts for the first dinner, Pam and Lee, even opened up their house for some after dinner ice cream, where we were thoroughly entertained by their precocious dog Tag. 

Can’t wait for this month’s installment!

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | October 18, 2010

Sitka and Spruce

I always enjoy a restaurant that allows my cooking voyeur tendencies to play out. I think I have mentioned before one of my favorite places in Maui, was a restaurant where we sat right in the kitchen. I just really enjoy watching professionals strut their stuff. For this reason Sitka and Spruce immediately made an impression on me as I took my seat and had this view….

Sitka and Spruce Kitchen

I was there for my Friday, lets get the weekend started lunch and it was hard to choose from the many tasty sounding dishes on the menu.

Eclectic Epicurean Delights

I ended up going with the pork in terrine with mustard and crackers, a Latte and the gateau Basque with preserved pumpkin. I didn’t really know what was meant by pork in terrine, but I knew I liked pork, so I went for it.

Pork in Terrine

I must admit I was a little worried when my lunch was brought to the table. Basically the pork in terrine looked a lot like a hunk of cold spam, but that is where the similarities ended. Since eating lunch, I looked up terrine and found out it is a ‘French forcemeat loaf served at room temperature’. Forcemeat is meat that is ground or finely chopped. It was amazing!! The pork was succulent, with just the right amount of saltiness. The crackers and mustard were home-made and any combination of the three ingredients prompted me to close my eyes like Remy and enjoy the tantalizing flavors exploding on my tongue.

The gateau Basque with preserved pumpkin had the bar set pretty high by the main course, but it did not disappoint. Basically the dish was a very moist pastry with chunks of sweetened pumpkin on top. It was heavenly, and as I sipped on my latte to finish up my lunch I knew I had to get Irena here as soon as possible.

One of the cool things about the communal style of the place is I got to engage in a discussion with the chef/owner who also owns another place called the Corson Building in Georgetown, where they serve an equally inventive menu, but in a family style setting. The next time I have a large group of people looking for a adventurous dining experience, we may have to go check it out.

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | October 11, 2010

Agate Pass Cafe

Irena, Jim, Linda and myself took our maiden voyage to Agate Pass Cafe for Sunday brunch and I will have to say we got mixed results. We showed up at 11:00 and the place was only about half full. We were greeted with a smile, seated right away and poured some excellent coffee. The waitress took our order and after she left, I commented to the rest of our party that I am always impressed by someone who doesn’t write down the order, but is able to memorize everyone’s wishes. I also qualified my statement by stating that I am impressed if they get it right.

Then the wait, and the wait and the wait. Keep in mind there are only 10-12 tables in the place and it was half full when we got there and I would say we waited at least 45 minutes for our meal. After about four cups of coffee, our meals finally showed up and wouldn’t you know it, they forgot one of our breakfasts. Now amazingly, they were able to whip that out in five minutes, which makes you wonder what the other 40 minutes was about earlier, but I digress. I will say the waitress was gracious in apologizing and comped Irena’s coffee and OJ.

The food itself was pretty good. Two of us got the Polenta Pancakes, one got French Toast and the order that had to be whipped up was the Vegetable Ragout. The food is good enough that I could probably convince Irena to give it another try, but I sure hope we just hit an off day in the service dept. Our side of the water, so needs good, high quality, independent destinations, I hope Agate Pass can rise to the occasion.

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | April 16, 2010

Serious Pie – No False Advertising

Coming up with the ultimate criteria of what makes a good pizza is impossible. It would be like trying to come up with the perfect way to state what style of music is best or defining who was the better painter Renoir or Degas. I have posted frequently on this blog’s sister site, shadwell’s jacket, about embracing the lack of absolutes in the universe and nowhere is this more relevant than in creative endeavors, where I also include the culinary arts.

Back to pizza, Chicago or NY Style? Pepperoni or Sausage? Square or Round. Preferences go on and on, with preferences being the key point. Everything about this discussion centers around personal preferences, so when I share with you my thoughts, here are some key reference points for you to consider about my pizza heritage. I grew up on Round Table Pizza and still like it. As a young adult I was introduced to Pizza My Heart and it’s New York style, greasy fold it lengthwise in half and savor in the yumminess. Then the clouds parted for me and I was introduced to Pizzeria Bianco. Regarded by some as (certainly not all) as the best pizza in the U.S. Pizza lovers would stand in 110 degree Phoenix mid-summer heat for an hour to get in on first seating at Chris Bianco’s pizza palace.

I provide this back story because here in Seattle I have found a pizza that, although it isn’t quite at that exquisite Bianco level, it can play in the same league. Serious Pie, part of the Tom Douglas suite of gourmet restaurants serves up the best pie I have experienced in the Pacific Northwest since I moved here in December of 08.

Irena and I made our second trip to Serious Pie on Tuesday night before a concert at the Moore Theatre. I got there a few minutes before Irena and ordered a Dogfish 60 Minute IPA off of their small, but high quality beer list. I timed it perfect as Irena arrived to our salad selection of Tuscan Kale, Pine Nut and Calabria Pepper salad. The salad was topped with paper-thin slices of Parmesan cheese and was excellent. I especially liked the kick the Calabria Peppers gave. For our Pizzas we ordered the Yellowfoot Mushrooms, Truffle Cheese and the House Salumi, Carmelized Onions and Sardegna pies. Both pies were excellent. The crusts were crispy, yet not dry and flaky. In the marketing on their website, Serious Pie states they are a pizzeria with a bread bakers soul and this crust, which I would gladly eat on its own backs that boast up. For the mushroom pizza, the fungi tickles your tongue in a musty, hearty flavorful way. The salumi pie is also amazing, featuring a delectable balance of sweet onion with the spicy sausage. Both Irena and I loved every bite. Even though we shouldn’t have, we couldn’t resist the temptation of dessert and went for the Vanilla Panna Catta, Rhubarb and Pistachio selection. Like everything else, it didn’t disappoint.

The nice thing about combining gourmet and pizza is it brings you in on the low-end of cost for a truly gourmet experience. We were out the door at around $70.

I am feeling a Moore Theatre pre-dinner ritual taking shape for Irena and I as we thoroughly enjoyed our slices of pizza heaven from Serious Pie.

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | March 30, 2010

Jonesing for the Holy Trinity

I break my love for Mexican food down into three categories. GourMex, Dive and Chain. Having spent most of my adult life in the desert southwest in the burbs outside of Phoenix, I was spoiled with excellent choices in all three categories. I didn’t really move to the Pacific Northwest in search of better Mexican food, but since I am here, I have been trying my best to find suitable proxies for the yumminess I left behind in the Valley of the Sun.

I admit I have been hampered in my search in the Dive and Chain categories, because I live in the relative wasteland of culinary choices of Kitsap county. For me, in these two categories I am looking for a place that I might hit weekly, whereas I view GourMex as more a of a destination experience, where I would be willing to drive a distance for a fine meal. That is not to say there aren’t any good places here on my side of the water, it’s just that there aren’t many. Slim Pickens would feel at home here.

For Dives I have hit a place at 6th and Callow in downtown Bremerton which is part grocery store (I have liked their Carne Asada I have gotten from the meat counter) part restaurant. It is very divey, which I like and the food is decent, but not good enough to warrant a spot on my regular rotation. Last week I tried a family run place in Silverdale called El Huarache Azteca where I had a decent Carne Asada burro and will probably go back to explore further. On the chain front Azteca seems to be the best in the area, yet it is still chain and falls clearly to third place in my three categories of Mexican restaurants. Just for reference for any of you that have been to Phoenix, my favorite dive was Los Dos Molinos (you could say, technically a chain, since there are five restaurants at last count, but every one of them is run by members of the same family). For chain, I prefer the taco bar / taqueria type of places and my favorite was Rubios.

My favorite category though is a blending of two of my favorite things. Good, spicey Mexican food and the high quality and creativeness that comes from a gourmet touch, thus the term GourMex. In Arizona we had what I liked to call the Holy Trinity of GourMex; Richardsons, Los Sombreros and Barrio Cafe. Richardsons started off as a bar, that just happened to have a killer kitchen and soon the kitchen became the main attraction, yet when you walk in, it still is a bar. What I like most about Richardsons, is you can eat cheap and good, off of their combo plate style menu or look to the giant daily special chalkboards for the gourmet selection. Like all three of the GourMex places I have listed, I have never had a bad experience at Richardsons. Los Sombreros is a little more upscale in both ambience and creativeness. This was my go to place for taking out-of-town guests as nothing beat sitting out on the patio sipping on a Cazadores & Cointreau Marg and enjoying some killer food. My favorite was Barrio Cafe, located right in the Barrio in downtown Phoenix. It is a fine dining experience with such creative dishes you will not find anywhere else in the Phoenix area. Order their guacamole made right at the table and savor in the pomegranate deliciousness!

Ok, now that I have got myself all worked up, why did I go down this memory lane? Because two weekends ago, Irena and I set out for our first shot at a GourMex style restaurant here in the Seattle area, Pesos in the Queen Anne neighborhood.

As you walk in to Pesos you are greeted with a beautiful interior. It does have a bit of a bar feel as over 50% of the layout is geared towards the consumption of spirits, but the dining room of about 15 tables is very nicely decorated. Service was excellent, passing the always difficult test of keeping Irena’s water glass full. First taste was chips and salsa which was good and then quite possibly the highlight of my meal was the awesome Cazadores, Cointreau with a splash of Grand Marnier on top Marg. Yummy! Irena ordered the Vaquero Rib Eye and I chose the Carnitas Tradicional. The Rib Eye had a spicy rub and was cooked perfect. My Carnitas though, were a little disappointing. I liked the flavor mix of Ancho Chiles, Cinnamon and Orange, but instead of fall apart tender like I usually get at Los Dos, these were given a final treatment of deep-frying and it really dried them out and for some of the smaller pieces they were down right hard. Irena hit it on the head when she quipped, “I like the Carnitas from Costco better!” Now that isn’t quite as bad of a slam as it sound, as the carnitas you can get from Costco are amazing, but still, a fine dining establishment losing out to prepackaged! Not good.

Overall I would say we did enjoy our experience at Pesos and we will come back to explore other meals. So far it is the closest we have come to experiencing true GourMex in the Pacific Northwest, but I did leave jonesing for the Holy Trinity of  the Valley of the Sun.

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | March 27, 2010

A Word of Caution

I thought I was the only one that didn’t know you shouldn’t blend hot liquids in a blender with the lid on tight, when I scalded myself and made a mongo mess of my kitchen some 10 years ago. Fast forward to earlier this week and my very accomplished cook and girlfriend was getting ready to blend some hot liquids and I thought for sure she would know how to handle it, but the sudden scream told me, not!

So here it is your primer for how to deal with hot liquids that need to be blended. The preferred method is to use a little hand-held immersion blender and do the blending right in the pot. This works the best and since it is an open environment you don’t have the problem of the heat building up pressure, which is the issue with doing this in a blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender and you can’t wait for your liquid to cool, you can do it in a blender, but you must be careful.

First, take the little plastic top off of the lid. When you go to blend, put a kitchen towel over the hole in the lid. This will allow the pressure to exit while the towel will stop you from having to clean your walls. The other thing you should do is start with the lowest speed possible on your blender and blend in short bursts. I would also only fill the blender to about a third to a half full, leaving room for expansion.

So there you have it. Buy your self a little hand held immersion blender or be very careful with your blender and you can handle the hot stuff!

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | December 22, 2009

Nattamit – Not to be Missed Thai!

Last Friday, I asked the question of a business associate what she wanted for lunch. She replied, “Anything, as long as it isn’t chain”. We then went off on sharing great stories of divey, family run ethnic places we have enjoyed over the years. We ended up eating at Elliot Bay Cafe (under the bookstore), but that write up will be saved for another day. Today it is about sharing one of those stories about an incredible divey, family run ethnic place in Silverdale, Nattamit Thai.

On Saturday, after a day of holiday work, Irena and I were tired and hungry and had a hankering for Thai. I had heard good things about Nattamit on Chowhounds and had actually driven by it before but it was closed. We decided to try our luck again and the sign said it was open, but alas the door was locked. Just as we were sulking away, the owner/chef/waitress opened the door and let us in, explaining that someone must have locked the door by accident.

The place is small. Only about five tables inside, with a few more on the patio, which I heard is a good people watching spot in the summer, but doesn’t do much good in the drizzly dead of winter. The place immediately scores bonus points with me as it is the Pirate episode of Married with Children on the tv behind the counter. Obviously this place has class! For those of you that don’t know, my email address is albundywannabe. Our host told us to make ourselves at home and that is kind of what it felt like in there as we helped ourselves to water and looked over the menus for our selections. Irena chose the staple, Pad Thai and I ordered Panang Curry w/Pork. We also got an order of Springs Rolls for appetizers. To drink we each got iced Chais.

When the food arrived it looked and smelled great. I have had a lot of Pad Thai in my day and even will cook some sorta from scratch at home, but I can safely say that after my taste of Irena’s Pad Thai that it might have been the best I have ever had. It had a stronger then normal peanut spicieness to it that I really liked. I asked for my Panang Curry spicy hot and although it didn’t remove the lining of the inside of my mouth it did provide some decent kick. The oily curry base was a perfect compliment to the pork and peppers. You can tell if I really like a sauce, if I use every bit of rice to absorb it all and I did.

We were stuffed, but we couldn’t resist splitting an order of Black Rice Pudding for dessert. It was sweet, hot and creamy heaven!

I originally was lamenting our lack of chow worthy options on our side of the water and I think what I am coming to realize with discoveries like Nattamit, is that the selection is there, if you know where to look!

Chao

Bill

Posted by: b44hanson | November 1, 2009

Suzy’s Kitchen – Awesome Korean

At the bottom of Suzy’s menu it says that, “All food and desserts made with Suzy’s love” and I believe it.

Suzy’s Kitchen is at the corner of 6th and Callow in downtown Bremerton, in a little strip mall that houses a tobacco shop and a mexican restaurant. It has bare bones decor, but when Jenny (Suzy’s daughter) greets you, you suddenly are transported into having dinner with some family friends. Jenny is friendly and gracefully helps me as I butcher the Korean pronunciations of the dishes I am anxious to try.

Irena and I have been there twice now and have sampled Kalbi (Marinated beef short ribs), Kimchi Chap Je (Sweet potato noodles stir fried with veggies and kimchi), Bulgogi Chap Je (Sweet potato noodles stir fried with veggies and beef) and Bibimgooksu (Bulgogi, cucumber, veg, noodles in spicy fruit sauce). All of the entrees are served with banchan, which consists of six yummy side dishes ranging from terriyaki potatoes to kimchi. Both times I have had the Korean coffee, which I think is just sweetened Nescafe, but it still tasted good and went well with the meal.

The food is amazing and the portions are very generous. Jenny always offers to refill the Banchan, but we pass since we always have more than enough to eat anyway, typically taking enough leftovers home to fuel a lunch or two at work.

Suzy’s really stands out in the somewhat limited dining scene in the Bremerton area. It is good, authentic food served in a friendly environment. It has quickly moved to the top of Irena and my rotation for dining out in Bremerton.

Chao

Bill

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