Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Andrea and Seattle

Andrea and I became friends during our Master's program at Azusa Pacfic University. She was my roommate for a NASPA conference in Santa Barbara and such a sweet friend throughout our short time together at APU. After graduating I stuck around L.A. and she trucked back up to Washington. The next time I got to see her was 10 years ago at Tacoma High School. Bobby's band Daily Planet was on Shoutfest and Munchkin and I traveled a bit with the band. It was so fun to see her then and to introduce her to my little miss. Munchkin was only about 3 months old though and slept through the concert with cotton in her ears. Andrea gave me one of my very favorite Christmas ornaments years ago. It is a little filigree angel that adorns our tree every year.

When I decided to go to IFBC I knew I wanted to see Andrea and spend some time with her! As it so happens the week I was up was also the beginning of the quarter for the college. Anyone in higher education knows that is a crazy time for everyone. Andrea picked me up from the W hotel Sunday evening and we headed out to dinner at Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge. We didn't have reservations but we were able to snag a spot at the bar. The bartenders were very helpful and ...we'll say offer suggestions. :) We ordered Housemade Boar Garlic Sausage, Slow Roasted Duck Confit, and Grilled Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto Fennel and Pea Shoot Salad. Every bite of each dish was delicious. I don't think I have had duck or boar before so both of those were interesting to try. The decor was beautiful. Even the bar was carved with intricate designs. It is a place I would definitely go back especially to catch up and have good conversation with a sweet friend!

Andrea graciously let me crash at her place that night and then offered me a conference room at her work the next morning so I could work on grading some papers, writing some blog posts, and general internet frivolity aka trolling Facebook and Twitter before my flight home. :) We were able to spend some time catching up at her place Sunday night. Before we headed into work though (taking full advantage of the carpool lane) we stopped by Top Pot donuts and Stumptown for coffee. My favorite doughnut was old fashioned salted caramel..sooo tasty! Taking in a dozen doughnuts also encouraged all of Andrea's coworkers to come meet me in the the conference room and to partake in the sugary goodness that is Top Pot.

Alas, the time we got to spend together was far too short! Next time I am in Seattle I will have to make sure it is not a crazy busy time so we will get to spend more time together. I am just thankful for the time we got to spend catching up this time. Next time the photo albums come with!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Refreshing and Tasty: Cascade Ice

Way back in September you might remember I went to IFBC in Seattle..I know, I could I let you forget. ;) While I was there I connected with a representative from Cascade Ice and we discussed having a giveaway for a Prize Pack of Cascade Ice products on my blog. I gave my card to the representative and didn't think I would hear anything else as I am a baby in the food blogging world. However, they are taking a chance on me and I received some samples in the mail and the opportunity to share some Cascade Ice with you.

At the conference Cascade Ice was available to snag as I was running from one workshop to another and was a perfect thirst quencher. My favorite flavor that I tried at the while I was in Seattle was Peach Mango. It made me think of those Koala drinks from when I was a middle schooler in the 80's. Of course this is much better for you than the old soda drinks.

Cascade Ice is sugar free, caffeine free, sodium free, gluten free, and carb free. Since many of the bloggers at the conference had specific dietary requirements these flavored, sparkling waters fit the bill.

In my sample pack, not only did I get several samples of sparkling water I also got a couple of drink mixers along with recipes! I did a tasting with my kiddos (of the sparkling water, not the drink mixers) and their favorite so far is lemonade. I am going to head off to Harris Teeter to pick up more in the very near future. If you want to find Cascade Ice near you check out their locator link.

Now, for the good stuff! I am not being paid for this; I just got a sample pack to try and I get to share a prize pack with one lucky winner! Check out the Rafflecopter below. You can enter once or you can follow the directions and enter up to 4 more times. I am leaving this drawing open until November 5th, which is 2 weeks from tonight so get your entries in and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Make sure to also check out Cascade Ice on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, or their blog.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sarah, Chocolate, Lunchboxes, and Rats

I met my husband 20 years ago. We were classmates and friends in the music program at APU for the first year that we knew each other. Now we are just about a week away from the 19th anniversary of our first date (it is the 17th or 18th or 19th...) So, even when we were just friends I heard stories about Sarah. Bobby and Sarah were in band together and also went to youth group together. Even before I met Sarah in person I felt like I knew her. With the advent of Facebook I got to peek into her life even more, introduce her to Suzanne (who I have only met in person once), and see her sweet boys as babies and as they are growing. One of her sweet boys and my sweet boy were born only days apart. When I finally decided to go to Seattle for the conference I sent Sarah a message to see if she would be willing to drive up from Portland, pick me up from the airport, and hang out with me for the night. Technology is weird. This was only the 4th time I have actually seen Sarah in person but I feel like we are great friends thanks to being able to "talk" to each other over the last few years! When Sarah said she would come to Seattle I was so excited! When she picked me up we went and checked into the LaQuinta near the airport and then headed out on a mission.

Since I was going to a food blogger conference, and because I like chocolate I checked Yelp for some suggestions. On that site I found reviews for a place called Intrigue Chocolates. The reviews spoke of a chocolate speakeasy. When you have to go up a staircase next to a sake bar and down a dark hallway and ring an old fashioned bell to get in you can see what the reviewers are saying. The door was actually cracked so we peeked in and were waved in by the Master Chocolatier, Aaron Barthel, himself! We were immediately welcomed by him and Justin (who was wrapping truffles) and asked if we would like to do a truffle tasting. As I was on a budget you know I had to ask if there was a charge. There was not so Sarah and I jumped at the chance to try 6 different flavored, handmade truffles. We were instructed to let each delectable morsel melt rather than chewing them. That way we were able to taste the flavors in each section of our mouth. We tried everything from longpepper, to bay leaf flavored truffles. I ended up purchasing 6 more for the road and Sarah picked up some hot chocolate. If you are in Seattle I highly suggest you check out Intrigue Chocolates! Not only were the truffles some of the best I have ever had, the experience of the one on one truffle tasting, seeing the entire kitchen and all of the spices used, and getting to talk to Aaron about the process, while feeling like we were in a speakeasy for chocolate is one I will remember fondly!

After our visit to the chocolate shop we went to the Trace to meet Dorie and the Doristas. Everyone was so welcoming of both me and Sarah and that was a lovely part of our evening. When that part of the evening wound down we were hungry and ready for dinner. We went to the Lunchbox Laboratory in Seattle. I had read a post from a Seattle native who said this was hipstery and fun. I ended up with Melmac (garlic alfredo mac and cheese), sweet potato fries, and a nutella shake. The shake was actually voted number 1 in Seattle Magazine! Sarah got a giant burger that looked amazing! One of the fun things about the Lunchbox Laboratory was that they encourage you to experiment with different items on the menu. I stayed with what they had already experimented with and was pleased. Once our food arrived our server, Rilke, (from New Mexico) let us continue the experiments with a tray of spices that included cinnamon for the sweet potato fries and bacon salt for the mac and cheese. And now you have another Seattle restaurant to try! Dinner flew by and Sarah I just talked and talked and talked like we had been talking for years. The beauty of this was getting to know Sarah so much better than the snippets we post for the world to see. :) I got to hear how she and her husband met, a bit about their college experience, and a few things about my own hubby! We were both exhausted and fell asleep quickly once we got back to the hotel.
In the morning we packed up and headed back downtown to the Sorrento Hotel and the Hunt Club for breakfast. You may be wondering about the rats in the title, well as we were driving near the hotel a rat ran out in the street right under a bus! You might think that mouse met its demise but you would be wrong! As the bus pulled away the rat ran back toward the curb...and then straight under our back tire....and then it met its demise. Turns out not only is Sarah a good friend she is a pretty good unintentional rat killer as well! We had a lovely breakfast at the beautiful Hunt Club and then walked back to make sure the rat was really was a grease spot with a tail by the time we got back to the final resting spot. Sweet Sarah needed to get back to Portland so she hauled me to the W hotel and dropped me off and was on her way. I look forward to the next time I get to hang out with her! Thanks Sarah for driving all that way to hang out with your friend from high school's wife! ;)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

IFBC Post #3 Photography and UrbanSpoon

One of the main things I wanted to get out of this conference was tips on making my food photography better. I struggle with natural light in my kitchen in the winter and have too much direct light in the summer. One of my favorite sessions of the conference was the Live Cooking Demo by Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes and the A-Z's of food photography with renowned New York Times food photographer  Andrew Scrivani. Both were hilarious in the demo and both gave fantastic tips on food prep and on photography tips. Andrew's set up for food photography is pretty amazing and he uses all kinds of props. However, he did say he uses a lot of cardboard from his T-shirts to reflect light. I, unfortunately, was not one of the lucky few to get up close and personal with the prepped food for photography but I got something even better!
IFBC teamed up with  Bar Sajor on Urbanspoon who put together 25 intimate dinners around Seattle. I think there was a little apprehension about these dinners from a lot of people. Some people brought family with them and wanted to be able to eat with them, others had specific blogger friends they wanted to share a meal with. There was one group specifically formed to be gluten free. I guess it is a good thing I am not afraid to go with it as I jumped on my assigned bus and just went. My group was missing a couple of people but I ended up in the group with both Chef John and Andrew Scrivani! Not only did I get to have an amazing dinner at Bar Sajor in Pioneer Square, I got to talk more with both of these fantastically talented people not just about food and photography but about family as well! Plus I got to meet several other awesome bloggers who shared some of their story! I sat next to the fabulous Daytona Strong and across from Nico Vera of Pisco Trail. I thought this was a fantastic event and hope they will do it again.
Oh the irony of sitting with a renowned food photographer and taking rather poor quality food photos with my phone camera in extremely low light. Chef John held his phone camera over the dishes so I could get at least some light. :) We had a lovely 7 course meal that included wine with every course and a cocktail at the beginning of dinner. Anyone who has read my blog or knows me in person knows I am not a big drinker. I tasted my cocktail and it didn't really appeal to me. It seems that sipping vinegars are a new trend and that is what my cocktail tasted like. I like vinegar but apparently not for drinking. I did taste a tiny sip of each wine with each course but did not drink a lot. Confession: alcohol hurts my stomach the second it touches it. That is one of the biggest reasons I am not a big drinker. These wines went well with the meal and I am glad everyone else enjoyed them. :)
1st course: mild to spicy salami, pickled okra
2nd course:pickled peppers and smoked yogurt
3rd course: sweet peppers, shashito, lipstick peppers, Asian pears
4th course: salmon beets nasturtiums
5th course: ricotta tart with heirloom tomatoes
6th course: roast chicken, kale, roasted apple
7th course: Dessert! caramalized butter ice cream and chocolate chip cookie
And of course Espresso with rock sugar

Each dish was delicious and expertly prepared. At the end of the meal our server brought the chef for us to meet as well. Bobby and I love to eat out and it would be fun to go back to Bar Sajor with him if we get back out to Seattle sometime soon!

The other lovely bloggers at our dinner were:
Daytona Strong who writes A Scandinavian Food Blog and writes for  a travel blog called Wanderlust and Lipstick.
Our spunky, on top of it hostess Myrissa Yamashiro of Almost Fit to Eat.
Nico Vera of Pisco Trail. Not only does he love food, and take meticulous notes, he also loves to run in the mountains. We got to talk a bit about Marin Headlands where he runs sometimes and where I went to science camp! :)
Sutee Dee of Project Dinner Party, who throws dinner parties with different themes each month. He might like my Spam and Anchovies Cooking Club! :)

This was a lovely dinner with lovely company. I would love to do this again!

IFBC Swag Winner Announced!

Check out the video to see if you won!

Friday, October 04, 2013

{FFWD} Salad Nicoise

I am a cheater. That is all. ;) I bought ingredients for this lovely salad and have only cooked once this week. I made homemade mac and cheese Monday night and we have eaten leftovers from that a couple of times, Bobby and the kids made some pasta sides, and we ate out once. I am going to Girl Scout camp in  less than an hour so I took my son and went downtown to have lunch with my hubs. We went to Blackstone Brewery (they have a great kids menu that includes m & m's and homemade applesauce). I happened to see that Black Olive Salad Nicoise was on the menu and included all of the ingredients in Dorie's recipe except anchovies. They let me sub sliced chicken for the grilled tuna and I was in business. As soon as my salad arrived I whisked it off of our dark table to a table with natural light that I had been eyeing since we had been seated. The caper vinaigrette was a perfect complement to all of the ingredients in this dish. You might notice no eggs in the first picture. I noticed too after I took the picture and requested them for later. So, I still ate Salad Nicoise today, I just didn't make it myself!

Make sure to check out French Fridays with Dorie and the Leave your Link to see how other cooks around the world liked this dish this week!