It’s such a treat to travel around the country (and the world), enjoying all sorts of things that we don’t get here in San Francisco, so we usually put our locavore ways on hiatus when we’re on the road. Occasionally, we’re able to enjoy the best of both worlds, either by visiting a restaurant where the chef sources his ingredients locally, or by shopping for local ingredients and cooking our own meal.
But during our Seattle trip over President’s Day weekend, we did one better: We wrangled an invitation up to the (Not So) Urban Hennery for dinner with Laura and her husband Mike.
Despite a persistent drizzle that followed us up I-5 from the city, we arrived in Arlington with just enough sunlight left for a quick farm tour. We put on our boots and headed out to visit the hens. As soon as they saw us (or, really, Laura… she’s definitely at the top of their pecking order!), the girls started up with such a symphony of cackles, chortles, and clucks that we couldn’t help but laugh. They know that the bag in Laura’s hand is full of kitchen scraps, and I suspect they have an idea that there’s cracked corn on offer, too.
As the light waned, we watched Jake and Sam play in the yard as the chickens devoured the goodies Laura had brought them. (Talk about sustainability! Table scraps in, eggs out.) We talked about the plans for the rest of the acreage behind the house, admired Mike’s new fence, and then retreated into the warm kitchen for a snack of local cheeses and a basket of homemade crackers, along with some locally produced hard cider.
We gathered around the table in the stylishly cozy dining room for an all-local — and pretty much all-homegrown — supper of home-farmed chicken (naturally!) grilled to golden perfection by Mike, along with local wines, pan-braised purple carrots, and a stunning salad of garden spinach topped with local hazelnuts and dried cranberries. It was all delicious, but my favorite part was an amazingly simple potato gratin that showcased Laura’s earthy home-grown potatoes.
The recipe — which Laura’s adapted over the years from Nigel Slater’s Appetite — calls for what the author rightly calls an “almost obscene quantity of cream”. Laura says she’s had relatives refuse to eat it after they watched her make it! But really, without any cheese or extra butter, it’s probably not much more decadent than the gratin that you likely already call your favorite. The recipe serves 6 at least, maybe 8 (unless they’re shameless potato gluttons like me).
Back home amid the rain and the beginnings of our spring-cleaning project, we decided to make a whole batch just for the two of us — they’re that spectacular. “They’re even better left over,” says Laura, “Especially if you warm them back up in the oven with a bit of foil over the top.”
Dreamy Potato Gratin
- adapted from Appetite
2 pounds potatoes (about 3 large)
1/2 medium onion (or a leek), sliced very thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1 to 2 pints heavy cream, as needed*
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Peel potatoes and slice thin (about 1/8-inch or 3mm). Toss with the sliced onion and minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Layer the mixture in a well-buttered 9×9 pan and top with enough cream to come halfway up the top layer of potatoes but not submerge them completely. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.
Put the baking pan on top of a rimmed cookie sheet as insurance against a huge oven mess in case of bubbling over. Bake in the preheated oven, pressing the potatoes down into the liquid when the cream starts to expand. At the 20-minute mark, press the potatoes into the cream again and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
When the gratin starts to color and smell good — about the hour mark — check the potatoes for doneness by inserting a knife into the center. Continue to bake until the potatoes are no longer at all crunchy but not yet mushy. If the top begins to get too brown, move the gratin to a lower rack and turn the temperature down to 300°F. When done, remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes to allow the gratin to set.
* The quantity of cream needed will depend on how close you’re able to get your potatoes to the 2-pound mark, how much potato you lose to peeling and trimming, and the exact dimensions of your pan. Laura’s dish is closer to 10×10 and fairly deep, so she uses 2 whole pints. 1 pint was perfect in my standard 2-quart 9×9 pan.
I feel downright terrible that it’s taken me this long to tell you about the fabulous time we had last month in Seattle at Le Mixeur, the exclusive soirée organized by the Munat Bros, Ted & Charles. But in my defense, it’s taken me this long to figure out how to explain it without sounding like I’m bragging. Because, dear reader, saying Le Mixeur is a cocktail party is like calling the Titanic a boat: Technically accurate, but completely missing the point both in scale and impact.
We’d read about these fabulous shindigs, jealously drooling over tales of drinks created by some of the West Coast’s finest mixological masterminds. But somehow — despite having ingratiated ourselves to the Munats both at the Zig-Zag and at Tales of the Cocktail — we’d never managed to sync our travel plans to their social calendar. Eventually, we hit the jackpot, scoring an invite to Le Mixeur Cinq on a weekend when we had no other obligations; away we flew.
On our first night in Seattle, we dropped in on Keith Waldbauer skulking in his lair at Union, one of our all-time favorite Seattle dining spots. We’d read that Keith had contributed a recipe to the Mixeur menu, and we asked him to tell us about his inspiration for the drink that would be served to dozens — if not hundreds — of serious cocktailians the following night.
“Oh… you’re going to Le Mixeur?” he asked with a gleam in his eye. “You’ll have to tell me how my drink tastes. I just sent them a recipe and didn’t even try it.”
Was he pulling our leg? You never know with Waldbauer. No sir, you never know with a man like that.
The next night, we made our way to a warehouse loft in SoDo, in the ominously empty streets bathed in the blue glow of Qwest Field. After climbing flight after flight of stairs, our efforts were rewarded. The white-walled loft opened out and up and away, revealing a happy hubbub. Our eyes darted from walls hung with eclectic art to the oh-my-god-impressive bar in the corner, where professional mixologists and a few determined amateurs shook and poured for the flowing crowd. In an open mezzanine above, the DJ nodded and smiled as the beat kicked in; a belly dancer took the floor, gyrating for the loudly appreciative audience.
The bar was stacked deep and thick as folks studied the night’s menu and waited patiently. We quickly found Charles Munat, and weasled our way into a couple of drinks after what we later realized was a uniquely short interval. Happily, the crowd was full of plenty of friends, as well as many familiar faces from bars both near and far. And the gods of mixology obviously watch over fools and drunks, because Keith’s drink — a minty, gin-based, tall sour with a Chartreuse float, which he’d dubbed the Aristocrat Swizzle — was every bit as perfect as the setting.
- Keith Waldbauer
1-3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz lime juice
10 mint leaves
dash simple syrup
1 barspoon green Chartreuse
Muddle mint and syrup in a mixing glass. Add gin and lime juice, and shake with ice. Strain into an empty Collins glass, fill with crushed ice, and top with a Chartreuse float. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
If there is a drink out there with fewer redeeming qualities than the Jäger Bomb, I can’t imagine what it is. Seriously folks, this drink is a bad idea. It tastes like cough syrup, it’s loaded with sugar, it packs enough caffeine to instantly add fifty points to your heart rate, and one of the main ingredients is made entirely of industrial chemicals.
And so, in honor of Stevi’s Mixology Monday topic, Guilty Pleasures, I’m horrified to share with you that I’m completely, utterly addicted to the Trailer Trash Speedball, the Turbojäger, the Flying Hirsch, La Perla Negra: The Jäger Bomb.
I picked up this dirty little habit during my tour of duty as a guitar player for Seattle-area cover band Bad Alibi. For the first three months, I was fastidious about not drinking during performances. To tell the truth, for the first month, I was too panicked to even think about trying to play with a buzz on, which amused my band mates tremendously. They rarely got out of control, but every set was accompanied by beer and, to tell the truth, if our drummer wasn’t stoned, he couldn’t keep time at all.
Before the third and final set of the evening, one of the Alibi Boys would usually buy a round of Jäger Bombs. At first I declined to take part in the toxic trainwreck, but eventually I thought, “Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.”
Like any destructive obsession, ritual is an important part of the Jäger Bomb. A shot of Jägermeister, an herbal liqueur, is served next to a pint glass containing half a can of Red Bull energy drink. You drop the shot glass into the pint glass and chug the mixture. Think of it as a millennial boilermaker.
As I climbed back on stage after my first ever Jäger Bomb, I immediately understood the appeal. Our third sets usually ran from midnight to 1:45am. Fridays weren’t too bad, but we always played two nights in a row and the third set on Saturday could be tough. No matter how big the crowd was, by 12:30, the entire room was completely blasted. By 1am, the energy would start to fall off, and by 1:30, the only people upright were usually us and the bar staff.
This is all by way of saying that if you run around playing high voltage rock and roll late at night, the Jäger Bomb starts to make a lot of sense. One produces a high, fine, jittery feeling, and two will definitely get your motor running. Drink three in quick succession and you might as well hand the bartender your credit card and have them call the cops now, just to save time.
After about a year and a half of playing 5 hours a night, 2 nights a week, 3 weekends a month in roadhouses anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours outside the city, all while holding down a full time corporate day job, my attitude towards rock godhead changed. The crowds were getting smaller, the drives were getting longer, and there is absolutely nothing fun about breaking down the stage at 2am. When I left the band, I mostly stopped drinking Jäger Bombs, as it’s not the sort of thing that you order in polite company.
But every now and then I let the inner Neanderthal come out to play. I drop the shot into the glass, and fire back the mixture. As the tight rush crawls up my spine, I close my eyes and remember when the lights flashed, the fog billowed, and—with one foot on the monitor and a snarl on my lips—I delivered the mighty rock thunder to a sea of dancing hooligans.
4oz of energy drink (roughly 1/2 can of Red Bull)
1 shot Jägermeister
Pour the energy drink in a pint glass. Drop the shot in the pint glass and drink the whole mess down. Rock on.
There’s a strange thing that happens in Seattle. (OK, there are many strange things that happen there, but this one is food related.) Some restaurant — usually a reasonably popular one — puts a relatively obscure but approachable item on the menu, and before you can say “hamburger with a fried egg on top”, said item pops up on menus everywhere, from divey diners to haute-cuisine haunts.
Thus it is with the Reuben, the sandwich some might call Seattle’s signature. And it’s no great mystery why: There’s something irresistibly naughty — not to mention entirely un-Kosher — about a deli sandwich that combines salty corned beef, gooey cheese, zippy Russian dressing, and crunchy sauerkraut between two slices of butter-grilled rye bread. A Reuben is the perfect antidote for drizzly, chilly Northwest weather, an overstuffed slice of golden sunshine on a plate. Served with a garlicky dill pickle and a ramekin of good potato salad, there’s hardly any better cure for grey-day blues.
Child of the sunny Southland that I am, it’s entirely possible that I had never eaten a Reuben before we moved to Jet City. I quickly made up for lost time: Fremont’s Red Door tavern used to make a pretty good example, as did our old ‘local’ pub, the 74th Street Ale House on Phinney Ridge. Once we moved across town to Madison Valley, it was only a matter of days before I discovered the heavenly Reuben — and his turkey-licious sibling, Rachel — served on just-baked sour rye at the Essential Bakery Cafe. I could probably fill an entire post with Seattle Reubens I Have Known and Loved. (Thankfully, I managed to avoid the vegan one!)
Once we moved back home to San Francisco, I don’t think I ever encountered a Reuben on a restaurant menu. I’m sure Reubens exist somewhere within our seven-by-seven grid, but so far we have yet to cross one another’s paths. It’s a sad truth that moving from city to city often means leaving behind foods (and friends) you’ve grown to love.
Luckily, once you have the right ingredients, it’s easy to make your own fabulous Reuben. Sure, you can pick up pretty good deli meats around town, but one of the the best reasons to make your own corned beef is that you’ll have plenty of leftovers. Leave the little trimmings and end bits for tomorrow morning’s hash; the best and highest use of that glistening chunk of pink, lipid-laced meat lies between two slices of good bread. Shave it thin with your sharpest blade, and don’t stop until you’ve got a goodly pile.
Knowing there were Reubens in our future, we picked up a loaf New York Rye from Acme and a hunk of Spring Hill’s Portuguese cheese, which makes a better-than-decent stand-in for Swiss. We thought we would be out of luck finding local sauerkraut, until fate intervened. The good news: Not one but two of our favorite local purveyors has just recently started brining their own ‘kraut. Fatted Calf sells a chunky, tangy variety, and Alexander Valley Gourmet sells a crisper, finer-gauge flavor. Happily, both are excellent, and equally well suited to Reuben-making.
The bad news: Neither brand is (yet) available in San Francisco. Fatted Calf sells theirs over the counter at their Oxbow shop but, alas, not at their market stands. Alexander Valley is wrestling with the classic shelf-space squeeze: So far, no San Francisco shop has made room for their newest product. (There’s hope, though: Alexander Valley’s fresh pickles are already available at Whole Foods, Rainbow Grocery, and Andronico’s; if you want the ‘kraut, too, leave a note for the manager asking that they stock it. So far, the new Napa branch of Whole Foods is as close as we’ve been able to locate it.)
With two containers of locally made sauerkraut in the fridge, all that remained was the Russian dressing. We stirred together some homemade mayo, a bit of last summer’s tomato jam, a blob of local horseradish, a few chopped pickles… and got ready to griddle. Sure, Thousand Island dressing would have done in a pinch, but we decided that making a 100%-local sandwich was worth a few minutes of extra prep.
And let me tell you: It was a Reuben to make you forget all the others.
The Perfect Reuben Sandwich
Here’s the part where I would normally explain exactly how to craft the platonic ideal of a Reuben sandwich. But frankly, there’s no way I could possibly improve on the recipe we found on Epicurious, as transcribed from Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food.
If you think the Zuni Cafe mock porchetta recipe is detailed, let me assure you: It ain’t got nothin’ on Schwartz’s step-by-step tutorial on building the proper Reuben sandwich. The devil may be in the details, but the details are in Schwartz’s Reuben.
Seattle must have missed us, because she tucked away her raincoat and put on her cutest spring dress for our recent three-day-weekend trip. Not that we would have cared if it had poured rain for 72 straight hours. Well, maybe a little. But the sunshine rounded out an amazing trifecta of food, friends, and fantastic weather.
As soon as we checked in at the hotel, we headed over to ‘Seattle Customs and Immigration’, better known as the Zig Zag Cafe. Anita has already posted about that stop, but I’ll just add that the joint was as packed as we’ve ever seen it. The revival of the cocktail and a couple of years of steady national press, including a spot for Murray on Playboy’s Top 10 American Bartenders list, have alerted the rest of the world to the magic happening there.
We usually keep to ourselves on our first night in Jet City, but we weren’t surprised to run into several friends at the Zig Zag, including Rocky (a.k.a. Old Two Livers). When the lights went on and the chairs went up on the tables, we followed Rocky to The Purple Dot in the International District. The menu at the Purple Dot reads like a description of a catering accident at the United Nations, and we took full advantage, ordering beef internal delicacies (belly, tendon, and tripe), soup noodles with beef and fish balls, beef curry, spaghetti with ham and chicken, and salt-and-pepper pork ribs. This is stuff that’s meant to be eaten at 3am with a serious load on, but I’d go back for those ribs at any time of day or night.
Dawn’s early light made way too much noise on Saturday morning, accompanied by a call at 7:30am from our remodel contractor spouting incomprehensible (and ultimately inessential) gibberish. Seeing round out of one eye and square out of the other, we shaped up as best we could and set course for the Steelhead Diner by way of the Daily Dozen Donut Company at Pike Place Market.
We figured that a mixed dozen baby doughnuts would be essential sustenance for a wait for brunch at the Steelhead, as it was close to noon on a bee-yoo-tifful Saturday. There was no line, but we killed some time snarfing doughnuts and replenishing the world’s stock of pictures of the Market’s famous sign. As it turned out, that bag of pastry would be the best thing that we’d eat that morning.
Despite a promising menu packed with foodstuffs from local purveyors, the half-empty Steelhead took nearly 45 minutes to deliver disappointment on white plates. The fish portion of my fish and chips was pretty good, but the chips absolutely sucked. The whole plate cost $16, and they didn’t even put bourbon in it or anything. Anita’s eggs Ellenburg — a Sysco-style chicken-fried steak topped with (broken!) fried eggs and a terrible sausage gravy — was stunningly bad.
Salvation lay only a couple of hours away. When the mid-afternoon turned peckish, we decided to visit our friend Jason at his ‘office’: Pagliacci Pizzeria in Lower Queen Anne. We ordered a couple of slices, sampled the monthly special ‘za (Portabello Primo: yum!), and re-acquainted ourselves with the sorely missed Pagliaccio salad.
After a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up, we met a crew of friends for drinks at the stylish, strikingly beautiful Vessel. Read Anita’s review and go now: This winning combination of smart, solid cocktails, tasty nibbles, and attentive, welcoming service is already drawing crowds.
From Vessel, we taxi-ed over to Tavolata, a new Belltown Italian venture from Union superchef Ethan Stowell. With a little help from a friendly kitchen, our posse of eight serious eaters managed to sample almost the entire menu. It was all very, very good, right down to the lemon zeppole for dessert. (How can you argue with a day that begins and ends with doughnuts?)
Two weeks later, Anita is still dreaming about this meal. Ethan’s crew is making most of their pasta from scratch in a basement workroom filled with flour-grinders, dough-extruders, and restaurant-sized rollers. And, while the secondi are glorious — both the Fiorentina-style T-bone and the double-cut pork chop are among the best meat dishes of the year so far — the pasta is amazing and totally different than anything else in town. Out of a near-dozen options, we sampled eight and there wasn’t a clinker in the bunch, from familiar standbys like a heart-stoppingly good rigatoni in tomato sauce to more-adventurous recipes like gnocchi with bitter greens.
Mind you, this was after we’d eaten our fill of gorgeous starters like cork-shaped fried polenta with bagna cauda, asparagus and fried duck egg topped with shaved Parmesan, octopus and bean salad (which will win over tentacle haters), and house-made mozzarella cheese served with a hazlenut-butter crostino. And they serve all of this gorgeous fare until 1am daily — sure beats the pants off of Beth’s.
One of the pleasant hazards of visiting our second home city is that we have a long list of ways to complete the sentence, “A visit to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without…” Sunday morning, the Mad Libs answer was, “brunch at Cafe Campagne with friends: ouefs en meurette, ouefs en cocotte, bloody marys, and bowls of cafe au lait.” We filled in another blank later that day with “…pizza and pasta at Cafe Lago,” with Tea and Carla.
Our last day was a bit of a struggle, food-wise. Breakfast: indifferent ouefs plats (but fabulous conversation and to-die-for morning light) at Le Pichet. Lunch: Lots of laughter (and friendly staff) at Bernard’s on Seneca, a “morbid curiosity” favorite as much for its “Germans storming the castle” decor as for the surreal food.
The lone bright spot for our tastebuds on Monday was a pint of cream ale at Hale’s Ales. We knew better than to try and eat at the pub, and decided to grab a pre-flight late afternoon snack at Baguette Box as we passed through lower Cap Hill. Can we say it? We are completely over this place. Every time we go, poor execution torpedoes a nifty “bahn mi-goes-global” sandwich-shop concept. And they’re always out of the first two things I want to eat… argh.
The rain began to fall as we drove south to the airport, and the droplets obscured the glimpses that we were catching of the skirts of Rainier. The distant mountain just barely peeked through the haze that erases her enormous presence even when the day seems clear and bright. We waved and said goodbye. Maybe she’d come out for our next visit — one of the many dear friends that we look forward to seeing again.
ps: You can see photos from all 15(!) food and drink stops in our Seattle Collection.
Purple Dot Cafe
515 Maynard Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98104
Daily Dozen Donut Company
93 Pike Street (Pike Place Market)
Seattle, WA 98101
95 Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98101
550 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109
2323 Second Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
1600 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
2305 24th Avenue East
Seattle, WA 98112
1933 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Bernard’s on Seneca
315 Seneca Street
Seattle, WA 98101
Hale’s Ales Pub
4301 Leary Way NW
Seattle, WA 98107
1203 Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98101
Damn you, Seattle. How can a small city have such an enviable concentration of great watering holes? San Francisco may have a cocktail scene, but so few of our places — especially the ones that turn up on those maddening “best cocktails” lists — are actually worthy of their hype. And yet, inconceivably, Seattle is now home to not one but two drinking establishments that make me want spend every summer weekend in the land of 10pm sunsets.
I never thought any other Seattle bar would turn my head so long as the Zig Zag Cafe served liquor and Murray Stenson tended bar, but now… hang it all, now there’s Vessel, too. Where Zig Zag is cozy, Vessel is swanky. Contrasting all the ways that the Zig Zag crew embodies unpretentious craftsmanship, Vessel’s staff leans toward the amusingly purist. (Shall we cheer or sneer at phrases like “juniper- and citrus-infused vodka” used to woo gin-phobic drinkers?)
Just like in my dreams, Zig Zag bathes in rose-tinted shadows; Vessel goes for the green with a vengeance. Where Zig Zag settles in for the night in warm woods and textured concrete, Vessel puts itself right on display with walls of glass, dark metal accents, and Philippe Starck chairs. The almost-windowless Zig Zag feels sultrily subterranean, whereas Vessel’s mezzanines and vitrines perch you high among Fifth Avenue’s glowing treetops.
And yet, both establishments converge in the expected place: An unwavering commitment to classic and creative cocktails. One early Saturday evening, a single bartender and waitress kept pace with the steady libational needs of our crew of eight (nearly all serious drinkers and drink-makers), putting together bullseye-solid renditions of drinks from their own menu — a pleasant mix of old standbys and original creations — plus more than a couple of tricky off-list requests from the peanut gallery.
For such an unrepentantly contemporary space, Vessel manages to be cozy and comfortable. Within the 1920s-era Skinner Building’s gorgeous old bones, a hive of brightly colored walls, modern furniture, and architectural lighting comes together to create an environment that wouldn’t feel out of place in a European capital. And in lieu of the usual V-stem cocktail glasses, Vessel serves its shaken-and-stirred drinks in gorgeous crystal champagne coupes. (Maddeningly, they’re from a Speigelau line that’s unavailable here. Any readers abroad want to buy us a case and trade for something you can’t get locally?)
Order the house cocktail, dubbed Vessel 75 — not an homage to the same-numbered gin-and-Champagne drink, but a nod to the last warcraft constructed in Seattle’s shipbuilding heyday — and you’ll be served Old Fashioned-like blend of bourbon, bitters, and orange zest. It’s topped with a gimmicky (yet completely lip-smacking) maple syrup foam… it works, yes indeed.
I had a chance to sample a Seelbach, a two-time entrant in last month’s MxMo roundup, and found the Vessel version nicely balanced. Aviations, Manhattans, ‘Ti Punch, Blood & Sand variations… I sipped them all, and loved the lot. And the nibbles our group shared — a charcuterie platter, and an assortment of almonds and olives — were well-constructed enough that I’d consider ordering some of the more-ambitious offerings next time.
I’ll be the first to admit that a couple of rounds of pre-dinner cocktails may not be a solid way to judge the depth of any bar’s talents and charms. But I will say that on the rare occasion when I’m just not in the mood for a trip down to the Hillclimb, or when I’m feeling glittery and uptown, it’s nice to know that Vessel’s garnered enough of a following among Seattle’s cocktail cognoscenti that we’ll have another worthy place to drink in our second hometown.
1321 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
- Monday through Friday from 11:30a; weekends from 4p
I made an atypical stop at Starbucks on the way in — oooh, they’re importing Top Pot doughnuts from Seattle! — and got a huge kick out of the array of super-picky orders being called out by the barista:
“Short triple latte extra-hot, extra foam”
“Iced triple tall sugar-free cinnamon dolce”
“Venti half-caf extra-shot soy with-whip white-chocolate mocha”
They were all picked up by people wearing Fancy Food Show badges.
Cookiecrumb over at I’m Mad and I Eat and Kev at Seriously Good have challenged one another to a mac-n-cheese-off, an ooey-gooey duel, a fight to the death on the field of fromage. Their chosen weapons? Bechamel, pasta… and cheese.
What is it about humble ol’ Mac & Cheese that brings out the competitive spirit in otherwise mild-mannered foodies? Last year, our old Seattle crew hosted a mac & cheese showdown, where no fewer than half a dozen recipes vied for the crown. And about a month ago, Union — one of Jet City’s top restaurants — hosted a citywide smackdown (mac-down?) that got promoted on local radio.
I’ve got a few favorite recipes in the files, including a 5-minute version that I make sometimes for breakfast, but no single concoction owns my allegiance… certainly not enough for me to want to enter it into public competition. But the eye-rollingly good version I serve to company — as a side dish, mind you — comes courtesy of our friend Wendy, the hostess with the mostest, who’s tweaked Martha Stewart’s recipe to the point of decadence.
Fondue Mac and Cheese
4T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
2 slices good white bread, grated coarsely
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. each freshly grated nutmeg, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper
1/2 pound sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1/2 pound penne
Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9×9 baking dish, and set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1T butter. Pour butter into bowl with breadcrumbs, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.
Fill a large saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Add penne, and undercook by 2 to 3 minutes, until the outside of the pasta is just cooked. Transfer macaroni to a colander and drain well, shaking the colander to remove as much water as possible from inside the penne. Set penne aside.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt remaining butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. While continuing to whisk, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Turn off heat, and whisk in the wine, salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and both cheeses, reserving 1 cup of cheese for topping.
Stir macaroni into the cheese sauce, then pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top, followed by the buttered breadcrumbs. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer casserole to a wire rack, and cool 5 minutes; serve hot.
Since tonight marks the beginning of Sukkot and the Chinese Autumn Moon festival, I suppose it’s futile to pretend that it’s not yet fall. Even though we live in a place where we don’t really see the leaves falling from the trees, all this rain makes it pretty obvious that Indian Summer is, at last, behind us.
This Audrey Saunders cocktail — a favorite of our Seattle crew — requires a bit of shopping, but the end result is well worth it. If you try it, I suspect that you’ll enjoy making it well into the holiday season.
1 oz. Clear Creek pear eau de vie
2 oz. Trimbach reisling
1/4 oz. honey syrup (equal parts of honey and water)
1/2 oz. Orange curacao
dash Peychaud bitters
Measure all ingredients into cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a whole piece of star anise.
it’s our last night in Seattle, and where better to wrap things up than Palace Kitchen, the casual-dining jewel in the Tom Douglas empire’s crown. Palace quickly became one of our Seattle haunts when we were locals, and somehow they always managed to have “our” usual table ready and waiting just as we walked through the door — no mean feat, given that they don’t take reservations.
Years before ‘small plates’ became a thing that every decent chef dabbled with, diners at Palace were already constructing delicious meals from just the left side of the menu, where you’ll find favorites like plin (ravioli-like Piemontese dumplings), mind-bogglingly good oysters with shave-ice mignonette, and a rotating selection of five artisanal cheeses.
After extensive research — and 18 months of the foodiest folks in town trying hard to dethrone the resident Royale — pretty much everyone I know agrees that Palace is home to Seattle’s best hamburger. (It’s also home to the world’s coolest ladies’ room stall: the size of my first apartment and just as funkily furnished.)
Palace also is one of just a handful of locations where you can buy a slice of Tom’s justly famous Triple Coconut Cream Pie. (He also sells it at touristy Etta’s near the Market and the upscale Dahlia Lounge, plus Dahlia Bakery.) If you don’t have room for dessert, they’ll box it up for you to eat later… and throw in some napkins and plastic cutlery, too. Or come late, just for dessert: Palace serves their whole menu until 1am — pretty much last call for food in sleepy Seattle — and a special breakfast-style entree just from 10pm through closing time.
2030 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
(reservations for parties of 6+ only)