Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Great Food and Sites from around the Country...

by Xani

After a few days of hard work and good eats in Olympia, WA, it was time to head back to the Seattle-Tacoma airport and begin the long journey home. But first, lunch. As my co-worker AJ and I made the hour long drive up to Seattle, we decided that what this trip was missing was a really good burger. I harnessed the power of my Treo device and googled "Best Burgers Seattle WA." To my surprise one of the first results to pop up was GQ Magazine's list of The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die (17. Double Bacon Deluxe with Cheese, Red Mill Burgers, Seattle). Now, are any of our regular readers out there having flashbacks?? You might remember way back in June I did this post about eating a burger off Esquire Magazine's 60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For. What is it with men's magazines and their obsession with death?

AJ and I decided that if one of the 20 burgers you must eat before you die was just a few exits away, then eat it, we must, indeed! We headed to the Interbay location and it turned out to be a cute little "burger shack" type place with some picnic tables outside and semi-kitch decor inside. With little patience for admiring the scenery (we were HUNGRY), we got down to ordering. Aj went all out and got the double Bacon Deluxe with Cheese, I "only" got the Single Bacon Deluxe with Cheese. We also got some fries, AJ got a chocolate shake, and I got a chocolate malt. As we ordered this obscene amount of food, I noticed something which I knew was a harbinger of good things to come:

If you look closely, you will see that that is a picture of a GIANT stack of bacon on next to the griddle. They are not kidding with the bacon at this place! I was sure the bacon-stack was a good sign, and when the food arrived a few minutes later, it was confirmed.

I was in too much of a rush to start eating to get a better shot of these delicious burgers. But man, were they good! First off, they were huge. That is not a standard sesame seed bun, I'd guess it has about a 20% larger circumference than a normal bun. The patty (or patties, on the double) were totally delicious and juicy (as in take a bite and hot burger juice drips down your hand). The bacon was probably the best bacon i have ever had on a burger. Instead of a couple slices of greasy, limp, forgettable bacon, Red Mill's burgers had multiple strips of thick-cut, perfectly crispy, crunchy, peppery bacon. It. was. AWESOME. The cheese, veggies, and "mill sauce" (which I think is mayo with some kind of flavoring, and potentially crack, in it) all came together to make this a damn good burger. If you are in Seattle, or really anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, I highly recommend you get one of these burgers immediately, if not sooner.

The fries were good but not outstanding. The malt was top-notch, so much so that as I write this at 9:15 am, a full week after drinking it, I am craving one right now. AJ reported that his shake was also excellent. Overall this was a super-good meal that I probably never would have had without google and GQ!

With more time to kill before we needed to get to Sea-Tac, we decided to head over to the Pike Place Market, one of Seattle's biggest tourist attractions. We were too full from the burgers to eat any of the great looking food there, but we had a great time strolling around, people watching, and soaking up the great sites and smells (especially the gorgeous flowers)! I wanted to share a few of the pictures I snapped:

We thouroughly enjoyed visiting the Market and I was just happy to visit the Pacific Northwest again. Stay tuned for more posts from around the country!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

California Eatin'

by Erin

Yesterday I got back from my vacation to Los Angeles, where I visited with friends and family and had the most wonderful time! The next few blog posts from me will be about my culinary adventures around Southern California.

Now let's cut to the chase: After a harrowing trip across the country (I arrived 6 hours late at 1:00am...oy), I was greeted by my wonderful hosts, cousins Ann and Steven, who live in Santa Monica (right near the beach!). On my first day about town, we took a drive around Malibu and had lunch at Malibu Seafood, a wonderful seafood joint right on the beach. The little shop is a restaurant and fish market, which seemed like a good sign for the freshness of the fish!

We sat down at our picnic table overlooking the ocean and enjoyed some lemonade while we waited for our food to be ready.

We ended up getting the mixed fried seafood basket and a fish taco, and shared everything (of course). The fried seafood was awesome - it had shrimp, scallops, oysters, and a piece of fish (not sure what kind...), and was served with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. The shrimp were my favorite I think, followed by the oysters. It was served atop a bed of fries, which were also delicious.

The fish taco was okay - it was a little bland and boring. The fish was chopped up and grilled (or maybe poached?), which made the taco very difficult to eat since everything was falling out of the corn tortilla. Also, I am used to the yummy fish tacos at Baja Fresh with fried fish, which not only are delicious (being fried and all) but also keep the taco together better.

It was a great first meal in California - fresh and delicious, and out in the sunshine!

The evening meal of the day was also seafood-oriented: I went out for sushi with my childhood best friend, Jamie. She's out in LA trying to make it as a vocalist, and she's incredibly talented so I am sure we'll be hearing her on the radio any second now!

She drove an hour up to Santa Monica, and we drove to Wabi-Sabi, a cute little sushi joint in Venice.

We had to wait a little while in their lounge, but we were served cocktails in the meantime. Jamie got a grapefruit-basil martini, and I got a mojito - both were excellent. The mojito was served with a long, carved piece of ginger (I think) - it was beautiful but not exactly functional nor flavorful.

We were seated and ordered a few appetizers before we got our sushi. First we ordered edamame and a shrimp tempura special, which was tossed in a spicy vinaigrette - delicious! It was crispy and spicy, and not too heavy, as is the beauty of tempura. Jamie's take on the shrimp: "It's the rich-person equivalent of popcorn shrimp!"

Then we ordered our sushi: Jamie got the spicy crispy tuna roll and the california roll, and I ordered the yellowtail and scallion roll and the eel roll, along with an order of salmon nigiri, and tuna nigiri. Everything was WONDERFUL! It was beautifully presented and super-fresh, with nice large portions - so large that we even left a few sad pieces on the plate (a rarity for me when it comes to sushi)!

One interesting thing about this meal was that Jamie ordered her sushi with rice paper (like you would have on a Vietnamese summer roll) instead of nori, the traditional seaweed wrapping. I had never heard of such a thing, silly east-coast me! The waitress didn't even blink when this request was made! Just an interesting observation...

It was a great first day in California, filled with family, friends, and lots of seafood. Stay tuned for more culinary tales from Cali!

Happy eating,


ps. I apologize to the friends and family in CA whom I was unable to see - I only had but a few days out there! I will surely see you the next time around!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dinner in the City of Brotherly Love

by Erin and Xani

Last weekend, our cousin Karen was in Philadelphia for a conference, so we drove up from Baltimore to spend some time with her and of course, do some eating.

On a suggestion from Jenny (former resident of Philly/NJ), we went to Washington Square, a hip restaurant in...Washington Square (shocking, I know).

The first thing we noticed about WS was its interesting decor. We ate outside, but the outside seating area was covered by tent-like contraptions, and the walls and nearby bar had an art deco feel, which was very cool.

To start, we ordered a pitcher of Watermelon Lemonade, which consisted of vodka, fresh watermelon, and lemonade. It was delicious and refreshing, but with that nice little jolt from the vodka.

Then our waiter brought us some delicious bread, which was like a ciabatta (crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside, with lots of big air pockets), which was served with two kinds of butter: regular and garlic and herb. Yum!

We decided that the game plan for the meal would be for us to order a bunch of appetizers (since they all looked fantastic) and one main dish, and share everything. That way we could try more things (the ultimate goal of any foodie!) and also have room for something sweet at the end of the meal.

Our plan worked brilliantly, if we do say so ourselves. We ordered four appetizers:

  • Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare, with pickled ginger, lychee nut granite, and sesame flat bread
  • Panzanella Salad, with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, and garlic crostini
  • Spicy Crisp Calamari, with tobiko and lemon
  • Proscuitto Pizza, with olive tapenade and parmesan cheese

The tartare was Karen's pick and it was fabulous - clean, crisp flavors and fresh tuna, and yummy sesame crackers to boot.

The Panzanella was also excellent - it was sort of deconstructed and modern-looking, and the heirloom tomatoes were wonderful. The garlic crostini were super-flavorful and added a punch to the salad.

The calamari was good and spicy, though not terribly creative. It also could have been crispier. But, the squid was perfectly cooked and the serving was generous.

Lastly, the Proscuitto Pizza: this had a lovely crust and lots and lots of flavor, though EP thought it was a bit salty with both the proscuitto and the tapenade.

For our main dish, we ordered the Grilled Branzino, which was served with fingerling potatoes, lemon confit, and a brown-butter pine nut vinaigrette. YUM. (Unfortunately our camera was in a mood and none of the pictures came out right - sorry!) This was the best dish of the night! First, the chef here is a genius because he took the fingerling potatoes (one of the cutest and most delicious of the potato family) and he cut them into rounds (or as BCD Dad would call them, "potato money"). This resulted in the fish being layed upon a bed of crispy, delicious, tiny potato rounds! Um...anyway, got a little carried away there. The fish itself was also delicious - it was perfectly cooked and had a mild flavor, and the flavors from the lemon and the pine nuts were fantastic. Bravo!

As planned, we had room for some dessert and coffee/espresso. We decided on the Ricotta Beignets, which were served with huckleberry, vanilla cream cheese, and white peach sorbet. While these were not traditional beignets (see BCD opening photo above, taken when Xani and Erin went to the home of beignets, Cafe du Monde in New Orleans), they were still delicious and beautifully presented. They were still warm from the fryer, and the toppings were delicious and interesting. The vanilla cream cheese was sweet and thick, the huckleberry mash was bright and puckery, and the peach sorbet was AMAZING. It was clean and sweet and refreshing, and wonderful against the hot richness of the beignet. Yummm!

Overall, we totally loved Washington Square. The service and decor were fabulous, and the food was great and so beautifully presented. It was GREAT to see Karen and catch up with her - we usually see her but once a year at Passover so it was wonderful to spend some QT with her. We love you, Karen!

Happy eating,

E & X

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Good Eats in Olympia, WA

by Xani

I'm going to be on the road a lot this month (again) so look forward to posts exploring the cuisine in various corners of the country!

Fountain outside my hotel in Olympia, WA

We begin in the Pacific Northwest, where I spent a few days in Olympia, WA. Olympia is the capitol of Washington, about an hour south of the Seattle-Tacoma airport. The night I arrived my coworker AJ and I were invited to dinner by a co-worker. I wasn't really feeling up to it after an early wake-up in Philadelphia (we had a great meal there as well-- post coming soon) and spending all day in planes, but, duty calls. We had dinner at Anthony's Hearthfire Grill, where we were seated at a lovely table right by the water. While the East coast sweltered in 100+ temperatures, I was eating a delicious steak with an enviable view of Puget Sound. Not too bad. No pictures of Anthony's, unfortunately, but we did have a good, solid meal there on my first night in Olympia. Our dining companion has lived in the area for many years, and gave us great recommendations for the rest of the week!

The next night, after a long day of work, AJ and I strolled across the street from our very cute hotel to Gardner's Restaurant. Gardner's is a cute little place, that has sort of an old farmhouse feel. The servers were all very friendly and attentive. Once we sat down and got settled, we ordered a bottle of local Pinot Noir, nibbled some bread with garlic butter, and admired the lovely surroundings.

Gardner's is mostly a seafood place, and the menu had lots of tempting dishes. I finally decided on the Cioppino, and AJ ordered the crab casserole. Both dishes were served with a salad and side, so we decided any additional starters would be overkill. Salads were basic, but fine. Then out came the main courses. AJs crab casserole turned out to be a large plate filled with lumps of (I think) Dungeoness crab, mushrooms, cheese, and lots of yummy flavorings. I tried a bite and it was wonderfully rich and flavorful. He got a side dish of fettuccine alfredo, too. My bowl of Cioppio was absolutely HUGE. I mean, it was kind of obscene. Piled high with mussels, rock shrimp, fish fillets, and scallops, all swimming in a rich tomato broth. If that wasn't enough, it came with a side of delicious mashed garlic potatoes. It was a delicious dish and after eating as much as I possibly could, the bowl was still half full! I felt bad throwing it away, but somehow I didn't think the fish soup would taste so great after a night in the mini-fridge...

Of course we did have a LITTLE room left for dessert and coffee. How could we resist when the waitress brought over this gorgeous dessert tray?

AJ got a slice of decadent chocolate cake, I was happy to order a dish of pear sorbet, which turned out to be really flavorful and refreshing-- just the thing I needed after that rich soup.

With full bellies we said goodbye to the friendly staff and strolled back across the street to our hotel. I got right into the soft, cozy bed and fell asleep listening to the sound of sea-birds singing outside my window.

The very next night we made reservations at Ristorante Trinacria, another recommendation from our Olympia resident and apparently a "cult favorite" among locals. Trinacria is a funky little place on the main drag in Olympia, right next to a tattoo parlor, and a short walk from our hotel. The whole place only had about 10 tables. The decor was a collection of mismatched furniture, unusual art, and bizarre aqua fiberglass pillars.

After admiring our surroundings we got down to business and decided what to eat! The menu was limited: about four or five starters, and maybe a dozen mains, mostly pasta with homemade sauces and pizzas with unusual toppings. We were tempted by the starters and decided to get an order of antipasti as well as a caprese salad, to share, along with a bottle of Italian red wine. Once the starters arrived, I could tell we were in for a treat. This was definitely a real-deal, authentico type of place....

Our friend in Olympia had told us that the owner/chef of Trinacria came to the US from Sicily not long ago, and that he was a stickler for doing things the old-fashioned way (not to mention an insistence on reservations, that's a helpful hint from me in case you end up in Olympia and want to just drop in for dinner-- don't do it!). The starters were simple, delicious, and perfect. Cappo ham, asiago cheese, olives and imported Italian bread sticks made up the antipasti, and everything was just bursting with flavor. The caprese was made of sweet, ripe tomatoes, topped with pieces of fresh buffalo mozzarella and shredded fresh basil. It was just as it should be-- basic but absolutely delicious.

Pleased with our starters we were excited to get to the main dishes. AJ ordered Spaghetti with the homemade Ragu (meat and vegetable sauce) and I decided to be brave and try the gnocchi with pomodoro (tangy tomato) sauce. I say I was brave because, as you might know, good gnocchi can be hard to find! The little potato/pasta dumplings can become gummy and nasty if they are improperly cooked. But I had a good feeling about Trinacria, so I went with it... and I was greatly rewarded for my bravery! The gnocchi were really, really great. They weren't gummy at all, they were light little pillows with just enough tangy tomato sauce on top. They really seemed homemade, right down to the little ridges on each one...

Ooohh... just look at that! It was a really good plate of pasta. Makes me want to try to master this dish at home!

After the mains came a plate of salad, further proving this place was following a traditional Italian model of dining.

At this point I guess I have to talk about the one "complaint" I had about the place-- the dessert. They only serve two desserts, cannoli and tiramisu. Well, as I've said before I'm not a big fan of tiramisu, and the same goes for cannoli. So, instead of dessert we lingered over some espressos and enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant. Here's a picture of me as we left and headed back to the hotel for yet another good night of sleep.

Overall we had delicious food and great times in Olympia! Thanks so much to Scott for all the great tips!

Stay tuned for another Washington post featuring one of the best burgers in the USA!


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