Lark – Seattle, WA

John Sundstrom’s new Lark location is stunning from the outside in.  Cool industrial exterior with a equally stunning interior that shows off the good bones of the restaurant.  The high ceiling and windows provide ample light and while there aren’t a ton of tables, the space still feels large and roomy.  If you don’t plan ahead or can’t get a reservation, their upstairs bar Bitter/Raw serves the full downstairs menu along with crudo and charcuterie.  They also have a happy hour from 4-6pm during the week.

I could have ordered the entire menu which made it very hard for me to narrow it down but overall I loved our selection.  The only dish I didn’t snap was the Montana wagyu steak tartare with capers, coronations, aioli and crackers but that’s because I got too excited when it arrived and dove right in.  Delicious!  Other dishes that caught my eye and I hope to try soon Cavatelli with lamb and pork bolognese, Parmigiano Reggiano and pickled cardoon as well as the Ninety Farm lamb duo with Corona beans, black kale and Meyer lemon…yum!

IMG_5984

IMG_5985IMG_5989 Burrata with charred leeks, Taggiasca olives, olive oil croutons

IMG_5991

Half wild mushrooms with garlic, shallot and butter

IMG_5990

Tamarin with fondue and shaved black truffle

IMG_5992

Arctic Char, smoked root vegetable dashi, maitake, green garlic custard

IMG_5994

Malt ice cream with crispy hazelnuts and gianduja “magic shell”

Napa Valley Wine Tasting

IMG_5519

My husband and I love everything about Napa, especially the wine, and try to get down there a couple of times each year.  I constantly get emails from family, friends and friends of friends asking where to go wine tasting so I thought a post about some especially good – not to miss spots – would be great!

There are wineries that take reservations and others that don’t.  Personally I prefer the ones that are reservation only simply because it means there will be no tour buses, less people, and more one on one time most likely with the owner or wine maker.  What’s not to love about that?!  One of the downsides to reservation only wineries is that sometimes that means there’s an expensive tasting fee.  At the end of the day I think you need to figure out what your goal is.  Are you looking to just have the experience of wine tasting without buying?  Are you wanting the convenience of just popping into a place off of Highway 29?  Are you interested in buying hard to find wine not accessible to the general public?  Whatever your answer is, I’ve got plenty of places for everyone.  Below I have them categorized to help you narrow down your selection.

*I highly encourage anyone and everyone to hire a car service for their day of wine tasting.  It might make your day a little more expensive but it’s a lot less cheaper than a DUI and will make the day safer and more relaxing I promise.  Just remember, “You booze, you cruise, you lose!”

Napa Valley Tours & Transportation

Appointment only:

Fleury – $35 tasting fee.  This is hands down one of our favorite wineries!  The winery itself isn’t anything to write home about.  It’s a warehouse with tasting tents set up inside however the wine is the true star here.  Go here if you’re looking for some great wine to purchase.  Our favorites are the Passionne, The “F” in Red, Le Fleur 29 and Rocket Juice.  Yum…makes me want some now!

Schramsberg $45 tasting fee.  If bubbles are your weakness, then this is your place!  I typically recommend people start their day here since drinking champagne is a little easier to do earlier in the day in comparison to red wine:)  You’ll definitely get your $45 worth of champagne, they serve generous pours and you’ll learn a lot about the history of champagne as well as the winery itself.

Quintessa $65 tasting fee.  One of the most expensive tasting fee I’ve ever paid at a winery but the architecture and winery itself are stunning.  By visiting this winery you’ll get a full tour of how the grapes are grown, harvested, sorted and processed into wine.  It’s a beautiful set up and the wine is really delicious.  Just a heads up if you do end up buying – we suggest cellaring their wine for a good 5 years.  It tends to taste a bit young before letting it age a little longer.

HALL Rutherford  – My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner in the gorgeous wine cave here.  Situated up in the hills, HALL Rutherford has stunning views and is overall a lovely wine tasting experience.  From whites to reds, their wines are delicious.  The “Bergfeld St. Helena” is a favorite in our house.

CADE $35-$60 tasting fee.  Located atop Howell Mountain with breath-taking panoramic views of Napa Valley, this winery is a bit of a trek but worth it!  I happen to love their Sauvignon Blanc but I also never say no to a Cabernet Sauvignon:)

Gabrielle – This is such a special winery and not one to be rushed.  I believe I spent about an hour and a half here and probably could have been there all day had it not been for my other appointments.  Gabrielle takes you on a walking tour of her beautiful property and then brings you to a charming table set by the pond and under the trees for some wine tasting, as well as her salts, herbs, honey, etc if you’re interested.  The Silver Stallion is incredible as well as the Cask 321.

Caldwell Limited appointments each month.  Another winery set high in the mountains, this too is a very special place with the most charming owner (John).  This is probably one of the most exclusive wineries I’ve ever visited and they don’t offer many tastings a month so call ahead if you want to go.  All of John’s wines are stunning but something that also stood out was the wine his workers sell as their own.  John has been nice enough to gift them land on his property to make their own wine which is a pretty incredible opportunity for anyone let alone a very generous and thoughtful gift if you ask me.

Pride Mountain $20-$75 tasting fee.  Set up one of their tastings or tours for you and up to six to twelve other guests and enjoy the view and stunning wines.  I personally love their Merlots.  2010 was a phenomenal year for them which is unfortunately sold out at this point but I’m enjoying their current release now and it’s delicious!

Merus – Since visiting Merus, I now see on their website that it says, “Because our production is so restricted, the winery and its tasting salon are closed to the general public and may only be visited by invitation”.  I would check with your hotel concierge to see if they can get you in because it’s well worth it.  Their wine is outstanding!

Open to the public:

Robert Sinskey

Duckhorn

Freemark Abbey

Sequoia Grove

Frank Family

Silver Oak

Castello di Amorosa

Dream Bowl

I found this recipe in the February 2015 issue of Bon Appetit and couldn’t wait to make my own Dream Bowl creation.  Rather than a traditional recipe, this is more of a guideline to help you create the concoction that best suites you and your flavor profile.  Below is the breakdown with suggestions and ingredients to consider.  I roasted my sweet potato and butternut squash in harissa and loved the flavor it added.  A little spicy but not too much.  Enjoy!

The Base
What’s even better than a bed of delicious cooked grains? A duo! We like black rice with red quinoa, farro with red rice, bulgur with freekeh, or spelt with lentils (okay, so that’s a legume—see how crazy this can get?).

The Greens
Before you prep the other toppings, thinly slice heartier greens—e.g., kale, collards, savoy cabbage—then toss with apple cider vinegar to moisten and give them a few squeezes. They’ll be tenderized by the time you’re ready to assemble the bowl.

The Crunch
For an alt-crouton experience, toast a mix of nuts and seeds, such as sunflower and hemp with some fennel, in olive oil until golden and crisp, then season with salt and pepper. Bonus: Now you’ve got flavorful oil to work with, too. (Read on.)

The Upgrades
1. Use the leftover seed-toasting oil to griddle some sliced Halloumi cheese (our new favorite—don’t tell feta). 2. Dress up your grains with a generous handful of tender chopped herbs, such as mint, parsley, chives, and fennel fronds.

The Roast
For the ideal crispy-creamy balance, cut winter squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes into bite-size pieces, then toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a dab or two of harissa or a shake of curry powder. Roast at 425° until tender.

The Dressing
Bold is better. For our Turmeric-Tahini Sauce, whisk together 1/4 cup tahini, 3 T fresh lemon juice, 2 T olive oil, 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/4 cup water until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste of course.   Pour liberally on pretty much everything.

Bonus Tip
Don’t toss—at least not before admiring your work. Separating the components lets you design perfect bite after perfect bite.

IMG_5826

Kondo – Tokyo, Japan

I knew this was a 2 Michelin star tempura restaurant but I didn’t know much more than that.  Surprisingly I was able to make reservations just a day in advance for 6 people which was even more shocking when I saw how small the place was.  There was absolutely no English signage so had it not been for our taxi driver pointing it out to us we probably never would have found it.

Once inside we were seated around the tempura bar with a front row seat to tempura delights being fried in front of us (also Chef Fumio Kondo unbeknownst to us).  With three menu choices to choose from, we decided to go big and ordered the largest of the three, the “Yomoji” menu which included – an appetizer of 2 Japanese dishes, sashimi, tempura (7 vegetables, 4 fish, 3 shrimp), and Kakiage (a mixture of scallops and honewort fried in batter).  It was an aggressive order but our thought was “go big or go home!”.

Highlights were the shrimp, tuna sashimi, and tempura vegetables.  My least favorite dish was hands down the first appetizer which included two types of raw fish (which were very good) and then a large snail and fish liver.  I’m not a fan of liver to begin with and this one didn’t do anything to change my mind.  That being said I tried it to be polite and moved on:)

With each piece of tempura that we were served, we were told to eat half with a little salt and the other half dipped in the tempura sauce which had fresh diakon in it.  Overall I enjoyed the simplicity of the salt.  Everything was so fresh and cooked to absolute perfection.  Watching the chefs delicately prepare each dish was a treat.

IMG_6629

IMG_6631

Sashimi, fish liver (I believe monkfish) and sea snail

 

IMG_6632

Steamed tofu with yam, gingko nuts, and potato

 

IMG_6634

Tuna sashimi

 

IMG_6638

Shrimp heads

 

IMG_6641

Shrimp

 

IMG_6643

Lotus root

 

IMG_6644

Kisu – flat white fish

 

IMG_6645

Shiitake mushroom

 

IMG_6647

Some sort of fish/eel wrapped in shiso

 

IMG_6650

Onion

 

IMG_6652

Kakiage

 

IMG_6660

Fruit for dessert

 

Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp, Nduja and Tomato

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit • March 2015

If you get Bon Appetit or happened to see the most recent issue on the newsstand you saw the same food porn I did.  It was enough for me to race to the store in search of nduja this past weekend in hopes that I could make this gorgeous dish.  Lucky for me, my local grocery store just happened to get some in last week!  This dish is absolutely stunning presentation wise and flavor wise.  The black squid ink pasta is so sexy nestled in a white dish and the chopped up shrimp make each bite complete.  The fresh lemon juice is the perfect compliment to the otherwise hearty and meaty pasta and really does a great job brightening the dish as a whole.  I am dying to make this again and will be sure to call my grocery store to ensure they have nduja ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

4 SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large head-on or shell-on shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, divided, 2 smashed, 4 thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup tomato passata or puréed whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 ounces nduja*
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces squid ink linguine
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Peel and devein shrimp, saving heads and/or shells. Finely chop shrimp; set aside. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high and cook smashed garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Add reserved shrimp heads and/or shells and cook, stirring, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Add bay leaf and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until stock is slightly reduced and flavorful, 8–10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.

FullSizeRender

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add tomatoes and 1 cup stock (mixture may sputter). Return to heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is beginning to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add nduja, using a wooden spoon to work it into the sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 2 minutes.
IMG_5589

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (pasta will still be opaque and very firm in the center). Drain pasta, reserving 1½ cups pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and cook, tossing often and adding more cooking liquid to help finish cooking pasta, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened (but still saucy) and coats pasta, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and ¼ cup parsley; toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve pasta topped with more parsley.

IMG_5592

Do Ahead: Stock can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Wrap tightly and chill shrimp separately.

*The recipe says you can substitute an extra glug of olive oil and some red pepper flakes if you can’t find nduja but I wouldn’t recommend that.  I think the nduja is the key ingredient to this dish and without it, the end result would be extremely different.

**Places to buy nduja online – Zingerman’s and Boccalone

Stateside – Seattle, WA

I feel like even just 6 or 7 years ago when my husband and I moved back home from San Francisco, we felt like Seattle had some serious catching up to do in terms of the restaurant scene, but today I think a lot of cities need to catch up to us.  I’m happily floored by the chefs that have emerged and all the different cuisines that are popping up.

A French Vietnamese restaurant, Stateside’s chef/owners have planted themselves in the heart of Capitol Hill’s restaurant scene (at least the one on the west side – there are many) and have created such a fun environment.  Tropical wallpaper mixed with reclaimed wood tables, it’s a good mix and a great backdrop for some pretty awesome food!

We started with the Crispy Duck Fresh Rolls (duck rolls wrapped in fresh herbs and rice paper) which were very good.  Fresh flavors from the herbs, great texture from the crispy duck…all in all I would get these again no doubt about it.

Next were the Chili Cumin Pork Ribs (a bit spicy or extra spicy).  We chose a bit spicy but I think I’d go extra spicy next time.  I just wasn’t sure what to expect so we played it safe.  The ribs were perfectly cooked…the meat was so tender and moist.  The spices were great…different than your normal ribs but I like the change.  The fresh cilantro on the side is a great addition too!

The Green Papaya Salad was calling my name – sooo good if you like green papaya salad.  Long beans, tomatoes, lime, chili, dried shrimp (didn’t even notice them) and beef jerky…whaaaa?!  Crazy right?!  No…amazing!  They do note that it can be made vegetarian.  Unless you are one don’t do it:)  Everything about this was perfect.  Slightly spicy, fresh, crunchy peanuts on top…YUM!

The Master Stock Crispy Chicken (free range chicken poached in aromatic stock, then fried crispy) sounded too good not to try.  And different.  It came with three dipping sauces (I can’t remember them now sorry) and was topped with scallions and something fried like tempura bits but I can’t recall that either – my apologies.  Great dish!  The flavors are so different and well matched that I’m having a hard time describing them.

Last for the savory was the Bun Cha Hanoi (pork patties and belly in caramel fish sauce marinade.  imperial rolls, rice vermicelli and herb plate).  Delicious!  I loved this and think i could eat it quite often.  Everything is served separately which allows you create your bite.  Just thinking about this meal makes me hungry:)

Last but not least was dessert.  The only tragedy here is that ever since having a baby I’ve completely lost the ability to remember anything worthwhile therefore I need to write everything down and I didn’t in this case.  SO…I have no idea what it was we ate but I can tell you this…it was the most incredible dessert and I would go back for just it.  I realize I’m not helping you out here but at least you can reference the photo and see if anything looks similar on the menu.

IMG_4815 IMG_4813 IMG_4812 IMG_4814 IMG_4817 IMG_4816 IMG_4818

Trove Noodle – Seattle, WA

Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi have proven themselves ingenious chefs once again!  Trove, located on the corner of Pike and Summit, is four concepts in one.  You’ve got Noodle, Parfait, Bar and BBQ.  All are very unique and different yet they compliment each other perfectly.  I’ve been to all four but because they’re each their own, they also deserve their own blog post so stay tuned.

We couldn’t help ourselves and had to order three different noodles.  First the yellow curry rigatoni with cauliflower chickpea and yogurt.  Out standing!  So much flavor, awesome texture…standout dish for me!  I believe the nuts on top were toasted hazelnuts and there were also raisins or currants in there as well.  Perfection.

Next the spaghetti stir fried with meatballs and swiss chard.  Sounds plain but there was so much more to the dish and it was tasty!

Last but not least (and somehow I forgot to take a picture) was the rice noodle, chipotle pad thai with pork belly and yu choy.  Awesome!

I really don’t think you can go wrong.  The menu rotates so get in there often and try something new each time.  IF you aren’t stuffed when you leave, stop by Parfait on the way out.

IMG_3637 IMG_3639

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers

%d bloggers like this: