31 July 2013

I Wish I Could Spell Louisville Like the Locals Pronounce It

We immediately headed to Hammerheads as soon as we entered Louisville's city limits.  We were starving for real food and that is exactly what we got.  Jenica ordered the crispy mac & cheese balls and each one was the size of her face.  There were no complaints and she begrudgingly let us try them. Or maybe I tried it when she wasn't looking.

I ordered the duck tacos and was in heaven.  I'm pretty sure this was a new way for me to eat duck and I remember them with fondness. 

We were all really happy with our food and Jenica and I were persuaded to try the bacon chocolate brownie.  I like the idea but it did not meet expectations.  

The next day we ate doughnuts and then wanted to explore the city.  We walked around to look at the beautiful architecture.  There are some great walking tours online and we picked and chose what we wanted to spend time doing.

There was so much loveliness in the homes and the gardens.  It was obvious that people took great pride in this neighborhood.

We were told by the girl who helped us at Nord's Bakery to check out this hotel downtown where the lobby has an art museum.  We had more fun hanging out at the elevator bank with the wall of falling letters that shaped itself into lines of poetry.

This was the lovely image that we saw as we walked outside.  We headed over to this really cute restaurant called Hillbilly Tea where we all ate salads and prepped for the drive back to Lexington and then onto Knoxville.  We were essentially alternating between sugar rushes and long intervals in the car. 

30 July 2013

It Takes A Whole Man Or Woman To Be A Shaker - Mother Ann Lee

I need to rewind to about a month ago when I was back in Kentucky with Jenica and Debbie.  In between eating doughnuts, we actually explored the state but only when we knew the doughnut shops were already closed.  Our first stop was at Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill.  I remembered a little about them before the visit including their lives of abstinence.  The religion relied entirely on converts which is fascinating to me.  There is so much more to know about this religion which traveled to the US with the hopes of religious freedom.  The original villages were farther to the East but a couple of families traveled to Kentucky and they decided to stay.  This village was disbanded in the early 20th century because there just weren't enough members to take care of it. 

This was the main dormitory and the men and women slept on different sides of the house. Everything about the Shakers was about simplicity but there was so much beauty in that simplicity.  There was beautiful craftmanship in their furniture and clothing. 

We visited the farm and I kind of really liked the kids.  This one was particularly brave and didn't mind the photos.  

28 July 2013

Sometimes A BBQ Is Meant To Be Indoors

After my coughing illness, I was ready to be outside eating BBQ.  I asked Jenica if she wanted to co-host since she has the perfect yard, grill and loves to cook.  We delegated tasks and then I watched the weather report.  It was great earlier this week and then it turned a bit worrisome.  But the weather in this area is always a guess.  We moved forward.

We spent the better part of yesterday setting up and cooking.

We set up everything in the backyard - tables, chairs, tiki torches, lights, flowers - and then it started pouring.  Around 5:45 we decided to call it a game and just baked the chicken in the oven.  I was so disappointed but it only turned into an indoor BBQ and I should be lucky that I only have 5 mosquito bites from the little time I was outside.

We had close to 20 friends yesterday but I apparently just wanted to take photos of the food.  I loved the colors of all of the vegetables and fruits.  Jenica made the watermelon, tomato and feta salad on the left.  

This is a pound cake with strawberries.  It needed more strawberries and whipped cream but I had no idea how much cake there really would be.

Jenica did an amazing job with the homemade lemonades - basil and strawberry.  I insisted on the mason jars which is kind of done but they are perfect for a BBQ.

Jenica also made the required by law mixed berry cobbler with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries which was delicious.

Debbie arranged the hot dog buns just so.  We had the choice of sausages and a dry rub chicken which I fell hard for.

I was very excited to see Seth, Sunny and the kids walk up the street.  They just returned from overseas and it had been over a year since I had seen them.  Tiger ran around looking for toys but Jenica and Debbie aren't really into toys any more.

A picture of the meats and cornbread and the beans.  The beans were incredible and I was super happy to finally find a cornbread recipe that wasn't dry.  I've had some disasters in the past.

Tiger didn't find toys but he found other distractions.

It was just a really lovely evening with friends.  It is also so nice to share the duties with friends.

26 July 2013

Just Born: Kapnos Restaurant

I was excited to receive Karen's email with the information that she had Wednesday night free and could eat dinner around 8 at either Le Diplomate or Kapnos.  I understand her time is precious with a newborn so I jumped at the opportunity and made a reservation at Kapnos.  It's one of the many new restaurants opening on 14th St and this one has Mike Isabella as the chef.  I've loved him since Zaytinya and this menu looks familiar to his time there.

As we entered, we were both taken back by the volume in the place.  I've been reading a lot of criticism about this major change in restaurants - loud music without any interior help to muffle the sounds.  It doesn't stop me from eating at certain restaurants but I feel like my voice should not be strained when I'm done like it is after signing along at a concert.  This with the table knives are my only complaints about the restaurant.  The knife bothered me so much because its resting position is blade up.  This doesn't work very well when the knife is resting on the plate.  It's a bother.

But the food was really nice.

We started with the tyrokaftari spread on the flatbread which was so very good - feta, smoked manori, grains of paradise, and jalapenos.  I was weary of eating the jalapenos but I loved the heat with the soft cheeses.

This was the first thing I saw on the menu and I wish the photo captured more of the red.  It looked like fresh tuna but it was a spicy watermelon salad with urfa, rind, fennel, granite and more jalapeno.  Again, it had a nice bite with the only fruit I crave all the time in the summer.

Another photo that doesn't do justice to the food - underneath are two roasted duck phyllo pies with watercress, cherries and pistachio yogurt.  

My only small complaint was with the spiced baby goat.  It came with yogurt and a spicy sauce but the goat wasn't seasoned very well on its own.  It was perfectly cooked but I missed a little something with the meat.

We didn't really need to order this because we were full but I wanted some vegetables.  This was fava with yellow lentils, corn, spinach and pearl onions.  I liked eating it with the goat to give it some flavor.

It was dark and crowded but it helped me to finally notice that the chandelier is made up of wine glasses. It's a very pretty space and a nice addition to 14th St.

25 July 2013

One Last Trip to Ballard

I kept one of my favorite things until the end of the trip.  On Saturday I drove a little outside Seattle to visit with Robin and Christian. It is incredible to see Robs pregnant and they are so excited.  I was also super lucky to be there the one week that she was not feeling ill. 

I like WA because there are a lot of trees all over the place.

We drove into Seattle on Sunday to check out the farmer's market and eat at Bitterroot.  You can kind of see us in the photo.

My food photo is blurry but it kind of shows you what was happening.  The pulled pork sandwich was good.  I had read a lot about this place but then I ate barbecue two weeks later in Knoxville and Seattle just can't compete.

I made Robs pose with her flowers. 

We stopped by hot cakes where she tried the cookies and I had the before mentioned  Salted Caramel shake.  I forgot to take a photo of Robs and Christian but I won't the next time when I meet little Mario*.

*play name for the baby boy

24 July 2013

Sitka & Spruce

Mom asked me tonight how many meals I had each day I was in Seattle because it certainly seemed like a lot. She's right to ask.  I seem to travel just for food.

I woke up Saturday morning and walked up the street to Sitka & Spruce, a restaurant I've been reading about quite a bit.  I actually walked by this place the last time I was in Seattle but didn't feel like going in because eating alone was just too intimidating.  I'm so happy that I'm over that.

It's difficult for me to decide to eat brunch at a restaurant that is known for being good at dinner as well.  I just never want to miss out with what they can do with a meal that a restaurant often uses to set themselves apart.  Typically brunch is just the usual - eggs benedict, pancakes, oatmeal - with a few variations.  Sitka & Spruce showed me an entirely new way to look at breakfast.  I only wish I could have ordered more on the menu.

I love that I make reservations for even my meals that start at 10 am.  This place should have been crowded but not yet.

I started with a warm buttermilk scone with lemon curd and rhubarb.  It tasted even butter than it sounds.

And this is something I wish I could have every day - wild rice, mustard greens, cranberries, tahini and sheep's feta.  I needed this healthy and tasty start to my day after my dinner at Canlis the night before.  I want to return here for dinner someday.

23 July 2013

Canlis Restaurant: Happiness for a Few Hours

This is this place to come to when you want to experience a 4 star restaurant in NYC but you are in the Northwest.  The elegance, attention to detail, and memorable dishes make this one of those experiences that I want to return to but I'm scared it can never be like the first time.

I did not take any photos because I was alone and it just was not one of those places to take photos.  I arrived for a very early reservation but there were a couple of advantages like watching the guests arrive and seeing everyone in their finest clothing.  I was also able to experience the restaurant when it was quiet and I could hear the pianist from the bar who has been playing there for over 20 years.  He was mixing Sinatra with Beyonce and it worked really well.

I was seated in a booth and told that it was the same booth where Peter Canlis would conduct restaurant business when he was alive.  There was even a phone right to my left  that he would use to conduct that business and I was invited to use if I so felt the need.  I didn't use it and I wonder if anyone ever takes them up on that offer.  During his lifetime, the booth was only for Mr. Canlis except when special visitors like John Wayne would eat at the restaurant.

I ordered a cocktail (sans alcohol) called the Thom Yorke.  I don't remember the ingredients because I just saw the name and knew it right.  The meal took a couple of hours and I was able to enjoy the view over Lake Washington while watching the other diners around me.  I was taken by surprise but also impressed with the family at the table near me who prayed before they ate.  It reminded me of a Rockwell print we had in the house growing up of a mom and her son praying at a diner. 

The staff did an impeccable job walking me through the menu, giving suggestions and making sure I was always happy.  They started me with lemon sourdough bread and an amuse bouche of carrot curry soup.  I ordered a  four course meal and started with the Canlis salad.  I have read articles about this salad and heard it talked about on tv shows.  It was a given that I would order this.  The best part was how it was made at my table by Mark Canlis, the owner. We had a really lovely discussion about food, dining in the Northwest, and restaurants in NYC where he had connections.  This was a definite highlight of the night.  I know that salads can often be not that special but this one was very worth it.

I ate the pork belly with huckleberry.  I seem to always want pork belly especially when it's coupled with a fruit and it never fails to make me happy.  My main course was Sockeye salmon that was alive earlier that day.  I seem to only eat salmon when I'm in the Northwest and that is where it should be eaten.  The meal finished with  a Mille-feuille which was a cake with layers of milk chocolate, bananas, caramel and peanut butter.  Everything I love is in that dessert.

This meal is in that all time favorite category.  I'm happy I went on my own because I paid attention to so many things that I never would have if I had been otherwise distracted by good conversation.

Today the NY Times took away one star from Daniel because the service was preferential to the recognized critic and not to other diners, namely his friend at the other table.  I don't know if that happened when Trish, Mer and I visited in April 2012 but it was still one of my favorite meals in NYC.  I subsequently judged other 4 star restaurants to the service we received there because the bar was set so high.  I hope that all is smoothed out soon because it was a 4 star restaurant a year ago.

20 July 2013

A Day of Seattle Favorites

I've had a couple of opportunities in my life to spend at least a month or two in Seattle.  This was the city I wanted to move to whenever I thought about where to next.  It currently is in battle with Portland for my affections but it's a city I jump to visit whenever possible.

I just happened to be there on National Doughnut day this year and my hotel was right down the street from Top Pot which wasn't planned at all.  I grabbed a couple to take into the office for some appreciative people.  I returned on Saturday to buy a dozen for Robin and Christian because the doughnuts are still loved even when you live an hour outside of Seattle.

I don't know why it took me so long to visit the Seattle Public Library even when my hotel was right across the street during an earlier visit.  It's a gorgeous building designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus.  It is worth a look when you have the opportunity.

I walked up to Capitol Hill to eat a late lunch at Bakery Nouveau which is unbelievable.  I loaded up on a little bit of everything and was properly impressed, especially with the double baked chocolate croissant.  My only wish was to have been there with Phor because she would have loved it as much if not more than me.

I walked over to my absolutely favorite clothing store - Totokaelo.  I first visited this place in Fremont in 2006 and it was my entrance drug into fine fashion.  The shop moved since my last visit and I was shocked by the vastness of the new space.  It's gorgeous and I couldn't resist taking a photo of the shoe wall.  I found the perfect pair for walking in a city.

And it is in an even better area because it's right by the Elliot Bay Bookstore which is another place I visit whenever I am in Seattle. It has the perfect combination of new and wholesale priced books.  I bought a couple by Don DeLillo and Evelyn Waugh that I would not have typically picked up.