I love Instagram because it’s such an easy way to share little moments of your life with others. I love being able to post little snapshots of place I’ve been to, or activities I’m participating in, or food I’m eating, or even funny life moments. And I love seeing what my friends, or those that I “follow” post as well. One of the things I really love is the food photos, or better known as #foodporn. It makes my mouth water to see what other people are cooking, what they’re eating, what they’re baking, and where they’re eating. I often get inspiration from some of these pictures I see posted. One such case occurred recently when my sister-in-law posted a picture of some banana chocolate chip muffins she just made. I’m a huge fan of chocolate and I’m obsessed with any sort of sweet treat that uses bananas, so I told her right away that I had to have the recipe to the banana chocolate chip muffins. Luckily for me, she was nice enough to give me her recipe for these little bites of deliciousness.
I knew I had to make these bad boys. And surprisingly, it was much more simple than I thought it would be. Start with ripe bananas, a bit of salt, baking powder, eggs, mini chocolate chips, milk and/or cream, pure vanilla extract, brown sugar and flour. (Completely ignore the baking soda in the picture, not sure why it’s there?) Why does this sound like a lot more ingredients than I actually remember working with? Hm…
Start with the bananas. The riper the bananas the better. This is the perfect time to use ripe bananas that you may have thrown into the freezer to save so that you wouldn’t have to throw them out. I used 3 bananas. You’re going to have to go by feel here. The bananas add some moisture and texture to the muffins, but they also add a lot of density. Too many bananas and you end up with a dense and heavy muffin. Too few bananas and you may end up with dry muffins. The amount of mashed bananas you have will affect, a little bit, how much milk/cream goes into the batter. Go ahead and mash your bananas to bits. You’re going to end up with something that’s almost the consistency of mashed potatoes.
Next comes the egg. One egg, egg whites, yolk and all goes directly into the bowl with the mashed bananas. The next ingredient is the milk or cream. My sister-in-law used cream, and I happened to have cream on hand as well, so I used the last of my cream with a little bit of milk. It doesn’t really matter what you use, one can be substituted for the other. 1/3 to 1/2 cup of milk/cream is what you need. Add the milk/cream directly into bowl with the egg and the mashed bananas.
And the last wet ingredient is oil. I had canola oil, but you can use coconut oil like my sister-in-law did, or really any kind of oil. Though, you might want to stay away from olive oil. 1/4 cup of oil is all that is necessary. The oil also goes into bowl with the other wet ingredients. Combine all of the wet ingredients together until combined.
Time to work with the dry ingredients now. Start with 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar. The molasses in the sugar adds additional moisture to the muffins. 1/2 teaspoon of salt. They always say its counterintuitive to add salt to sweet things, but the salt really does help to draw out the sweetness in the bananas. 2 tsp baking power also gets dumped into the bowl. And the last ingredient is the big one, 2 cups of flour.
Once the dry ingredients have been added to the wet ingredients, it’s time to mix everything together. The one big warning my sister-in-law gave me was that I should only mix the ingredients together until they are just mixed, and not any more. She warned me that over-mixing turns out very tough and chewy muffins. When the wet and dry ingredients are all mixed together the final mixture should be kind of dry, and very sticky.
Finally, it’s time to add in 1 cup of chocolate chips. I used mini chocolate chips because, hey, you get way more chocolate chips into the batter. That can never be a bad thing. Take a rubber spatula and use it to fold the chocolate chips into the banana muffin batter.
Gently fold until the chocolate chips are incorporated rather than actually mixing the chips in.
At this point, it’s time to scoop the banana chocolate chip muffin batter into muffin pans. Grease the muffin pans thoroughly before scooping in the batter. I used an ice cream scoop so that I would get approximately the same size muffins. Atop the muffin batter, I sprinkled a few more mini chocolate chips so that when it bakes the chocolate chips are prominently featured on top of the muffins. Additionally, on one of the muffin pans, I sprinkled a little bit of turbinado sugar over the top of the muffins as well. The sugar is perfect for baking and adds a bit of crunch and sparkle on the top of the muffin once it’s finished baking.
The muffin pan goes into a preheated 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until they have risen and are golden brown. As soon as the muffin pan comes out of the oven, the muffins should be transferred to a cooking rack until they have completely cooled and can be enjoyed. The muffins can be stored, if there are even any leftover, in an airtight container and will be good for a few days. These are the perfect bite-sized snacks to enjoy in the morning for breakfast, or in the afternoon for a pick-me-up snack. If you love bananas as much as I do, these banana chocolate chip muffins are super simple and easy to make and so packed with amazing banana flavor and chocolatey goodness.
For 2 years I’ve been telling my husband how much I wanted an ice cream maker. There’s no denying that I love ice cream. It’s one of my all time favorite foods. Wait, can you even call ice cream a food? Anyhow, regardless of what it is, I can’t ever say no when you put ice cream in front of me. A few years back, when my husband and I were in Minnesota visiting his family, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law brought along their home ice cream maker and made us some delicious dark chocolate peanut butter ice cream. That only served to make me want an ice cream maker all that much more because I love the fact that with your own ice cream maker you can make all sorts of interesting and unique ice cream flavors and you’re not limited to the commercially popular flavors you see on grocery store shelves. Well fast forward to this past fall and an opportunity came up to get a really good deal on an ice cream maker and we finally decided to take the plunge. With the ice cream maker in hand, I was eager to give it a whirl and find out what kind of ice cream flavors were in my future. When I asked my husband what kind of ice cream he wanted me to make, his answer was “chocolate chip cookie dough”. Ok, ok, I know you’re thinking, chocolate chip cookie dough is a commercially available flavor, that’s nothing special. Well, fear not, I decided to put my own twist on it and I turned regular chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream into butterscotch-white-chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Wow, that’s a mouthful.
Ok, so you can’t have cookie dough ice cream of any sort without the cookie dough. So, that’s the first thing we need to get started on. Essentially, you make cookie dough like you’re making cookies. You need vanilla extract, eggs, a pinch of salt, brown sugar, baking soda, flour, white granulated sugar, butter and chocolate chips.
In my case, since I’m making butterscotch-white-chocolate chip cookie dough, I will need butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips and chocolate chips.
Start by taking the butter and cutting it up into cubes. Put the cubes of butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and turn the mixer on medium. We’re going to beat air into the butter until the butter is light and fluffy.
To the beaten butter, it’s time to add the packed brown sugar and the granulated white sugar. The packed brown sugar helps the cookie dough to get some color and brings moisture to the dough as well as the sweetness from the molasses. Cream the sugar and the butter in the stand mixer until it’s well incorporated.
Now, it’s time for the star of the show, in my opinion, the pure vanilla extract. I’m a vanilla lover, so I always add a little bit more vanilla than a recipe calls for. While the mixer is still on, slowly pour the vanilla extract right into the bowl to incorporate the vanilla flavor throughout the creamed butter and sugar.
Time for the eggs. Add one egg at a time into the mixer and beat until each egg is full incorporated before adding the next egg. With the addition of the eggs, you’ll see the cookie dough really come together. The egg helps to bind the dough into one big dough ball.
Finally, it’s time for the addition of the flour, baking soda and pinch of salt into the creamed butter and sugar mixture. So that you don’t send up a cloud of flour dust, slowly add the flour into the mixing bowl while it continues to mix. Add only as much flour at a time as the mixer can hold and allow that flour to mix into the dough before adding more flour. Mix only until all of the flour is just combined.
When you’re done, remove the bowl from the stand mixer. It’s time to add in the butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips and chocolate chips. You’ll want to slowly incorporate the chips into the dough and fold it in using a rubber spatula. Incorporating the chips by hand will ensure that the chips don’t get shredded to pieces by the stand mixer. Again, only fold the dough over enough to incorporate the chips. You don’t want to overwork the dough.
And now you have butterscotch-white-chocolate chip cookie dough. However, this cookie dough doesn’t go into the ice cream looking like this. We’ll need to form cookie dough balls. Since we made a small batch of ice cream, and we didn’t want the ice cream to be overwhelmed by cookie dough balls, we decided to roll out miniature dough balls.
Using your fingers, roll out miniature balls of cookie dough and lay them out on a silpat on a baking sheet. Since the cookie dough balls can’t be added to the ice cream in this form, they must be frozen. When you’ve finished laying out the cookie dough balls, the entire cookie sheet goes into the freezer for a couple of hours, or overnight, until they are completely frozen through. Once the cookie dough balls are frozen, you can gather them up in a plastic bag and store them in the freezer until you need to use them. Any cookie dough balls that you don’t use for the ice cream, you can always bake later to make mini cookies, or you can eat cookie dough raw, if you’re into that and don’t mind the raw egg in the dough (like my husband!). I think that’s secretly why he asked me to make cookie dough ice cream, because he knew there would be raw cookie dough for him to enjoy afterwards.
Now it’s time to make the ice cream base. To make the custard-like ice cream base, we need egg yolks, pure vanilla extract, heavy whipping cream, milk, granulated white sugar, a pinch of salt and a vanilla bean. The vanilla bean and pure vanilla extract is because we’re using a vanilla ice cream base.
Start by measuring out the heavy whipping cream. You will need 2 cups of heavy whipping cream. One cup is poured into a medium sauce pan on the stove. The second cup is poured into a big bowl into which the ice cream base will eventually be poured into in order to chill overnight.
Into the saucepan with the cup of heavy whipping cream goes 3/4 cup of granulated white sugar. This will provide the sweetness in the ice cream. Also, into the saucepan goes a pinch of salt. The salt really does help to balance the flavors and draw out the sweetness in the other ingredients. The last wet ingredient, which is one cup of whole milk also goes into the sauce pan.
Finally, split open a vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds inside. The seeds go directly into the saucepan. And the vanilla bean itself also goes directly into the saucepan. The stove is heated to medium-low heat and allowed to simmer. The vanilla bean seeds and vanilla bean itself will seep in the heavy cream and impart its very subtle flavor.
Make sure that the sugar has dissolved completely. When you see bubbles appear on the sides of the saucepan, you know it’s time for the next step.
While the cream in the saucepan is heating up, it’s time to prepare the eggs. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat 4 egg yolks until pale and creamy. You’re trying to whisk air into the eggs.
When the milk/cream mixture in the saucepan is ready, slowly pour a few cups of the heated mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer as it continues to whisk the egg yolks. At this point, we’re tempering the egg yolks so that they don’t scramble when we eventually pour the egg yolks into the saucepan.
After about 1/3 of the milk/cream mixture has been added into the bowl of the stand mixer, you’ll end up with a very pale white/yellow mixture. Your mixture is now ready to be poured into the saucepan. The egg yolks have been incorporated and are no longer in danger of scrambling.
Pour the entire contents of the bowl into the saucepan on the stove. Now stir the saucepan with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to fully incorporate the egg mixture into the milk/cream mixture. Continue stirring constantly.
After a few minutes of stirring you’ll notice that the custard you’re creating in the saucepan will slowly start to thicken. When the custard is thick to the point where you can run your finger on the backside of the spoon and the custard doesn’t run into where finger just ran through, then you know that the custard is done cooking.
It’s time to take the saucepan off the stove. The custard in the saucepan now needs to be poured through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl where you have reserved the cup of heavy whipping cream. The sieve will catch the vanilla bean and seeds that you used to steep and flavor the cream and egg mixture. Also, in the even that any of your eggs cooked, the sieve will catch that as well. The bowl should immediately be put into an ice water bath so that it begins to cool as quickly as possible.
When the custard mixture in the bowl has reached room temperature, it’s time to add in the pure vanilla extract. Pour in 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract directly into the room temperature custard mixture. Use a rubber spatula to stir and distribute the vanilla extract.
This custard mixture now needs to chill in the refrigerator overnight. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Push the plastic wrap right down until it’s touching the custard. The reason being is to eliminate any air in the bowl while it chills in the refrigerator. Removing the air and pushing the plastic wrap right onto the custard also prevents the custard from forming a skin on top of if, a skin which you don’t want.
It’s important to allow the mixture to chill in the refrigerator overnight. If you don’t, you run the risk of your ice cream not setting up properly. The next day, when you’re ready, pour your mixture into your ice cream maker and mix according to manufacturer’s specifications.
With our ice cream maker, it only takes about 15 minutes to create creamy, silky smooth vanilla ice cream as a base. Oh yum! Perfect and delicious. At this point, you’ve pretty much got soft serve ice cream. In order for it to harden, you’ll need to scoop the ice cream into air tight containers.
Quart-sized containers are perfect. Scoop the vanilla ice cream into the quarter containers. After every couple of scoops, it’s time to add in the butterscotch-white-chocolate chip cookie dough balls that you created and froze earlier. Add in a handful of cookie dough balls for every couple of scoops of ice cream. When you’ve filled the quart-sized container use a large spoon or spatula to mix together the vanilla ice cream and cookie dough balls in order to distribute them throughout the ice cream. When you’ve filled the container, put it into the freezer for at least 2 hours so that it can set.
After 2 hours, scoop out some ice cream and serve yourself some amazing butterscotch-white-chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. I loved the process of making the ice cream. It was a lot of fun and a lot easier than I had ever thought it could be. Why did it take me this long to buy an ice cream maker? After a spoonful, my husband was in love with the ice cream I had created based on what his flavor choice was. He said that the butterscotch-white-chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream was spectacular and tasted way better than the commercially bought ice cream you get at the grocery store. That’s enough of an endorsement for me.
The day before we were to leave for Seattle, my husband sent me a quick text that said something along the lines of “Purple Café & Wine Bar, check out their menu.” Turns out that this was a recommendation from a co-worker of my husband’s who had spent some time in Seattle and thought that we might enjoy Purple Café & Wine Bar. At first, I wasn’t quite sure of the suggestion, before I looked at the menu, because of the fact that it was wine bar and I’m not a wine drinker. But, knowing the person who made the recommendation, I realized that it probably would be a good recommendation because she’s got good taste. It couldn’t hurt, right? And besides, we needed a place to grab a late lunch/early dinner the day we were flying out of Seattle back to Los Angeles. And hey, what do you know, Purple Café & Wine Bar is literally one block down the street from our hotel! How convenient. After a perusal through their menu, I found items that I could enjoy and the atmosphere of the place looked really neat, so I went ahead and made reservations. Our plan was to check out of the hotel, have them store our luggage, walk across the street to the restaurant, enjoy a meal and then head back to the hotel to pick up our bags and take the light rail back to the airport.
After having been in Seattle for a few days and feeling like we had walked all over the downtown area, we passed by the Purple Café & Wine Bar several times. Each time, I looked at it with longing waiting until we could give it a try. The restaurant is literally floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the restaurant with a prime corner location in Downtown Seattle.
As you walk by the restaurant, you can see their very unique spiral stair-cased wine bar sitting prominently in the middle of the restaurant. As you walk inside the restaurant and are greeted by the wine bar, it’s even more impressive. Turns out, that in the middle of the spiral wine bar, about halfway up the staircase, there’s actually hidden door that leads to a small hidden room inside. Very cool.
Turns out that the brains behind the concept of the Purple Wine Bar & Café are a husband-and-wife couple who had a desire to open a restaurant which featured what they called “approachable expertise”. Essentially, they wanted to pair a global wine selection with seasonal and fresh Northwest cuisine all in a relaxed and comfortable dining atmosphere. They opened the first Purple Wine Bar & Café in Woodinville, Washington in 2001. The first restaurant was a success and in 2003 a second location was opened in Kirkland. Finally, in 2007 the Downtown Seattle location was opened and soon followed by a fourth location in 2009 in Bellevue. This concept has actually been expanded by this duo with their creation of Barrio, a restaurant featuring Mexican cuisine paired with handcrafted cocktails, and finally Lot. No. 3 which features classic comfort food paired with classic cocktails and brews.
Though my husband and I aren’t wine drinkers (I know, blasphemous!), my husband did see a drink on the menu he wanted to try out, ginger beer. Turns out that the ginger beer was bottled by a local Washington company called Cock ‘n Bull. Served ice-cold and with a wedge of lime, this ginger beer was fantastic. It had a hint of sweetness with a strong tang of ginger, which my husband just loved.
Since this would be the only meal of the day that my husband and I would be eating, we went all out and each decided to order an appetizer. For me, I went with the smoked beef tartare. This was actually the first time I’d ever had tartare before and I was excited. I’m a huge fan of carpaccio and figured that tartare would be similar. Here, the smoked beef is mixed in with chopped up capers, cornichons, shallots and spicy aioli and served alongside grilled bread. I’m not the biggest fan of cornichons, but being completely chopped up and mixed with the beef and other ingredients, you couldn’t even tell it was there, other than the tang from the vinegar which you could taste. The capers added a nice salty mix, and the shallots give it a hint of sweetness and the subtle flavor of onions. The spicy aioli could clearly be picked up and I loved the little bit of kick you got from the tartare. But the star was the smoked beef. I loved the fact that it was smoked because you could really taste the smoky flavor of the beef, it was pungent and hit you right away. This was a terrific dish and a good start to the meal.
My husband went for something neither he nor I had ever eaten before but had heard about for so long. It’s traditionally associated with being a Canadian dish, originated out of Quebec, but there’s so many different versions these days with so many varied ingredients. Poutine is what I’m talking about, and as soon as my husband saw it on the menu, he knew he had to give it a try. At Purple Café, the poutine is served with fontina fondata instead of the traditional cheese curds, and topped with a bacon demi-glace and lemon-thyme gremolata on top of shoestring fries. Then the entire thing is topped with a huge portion of braised bacon. Oh wow did this look good when they brought it to the table. Provided with a huge steak knife, we decided to cut into the braised bacon and shred it up over the poutine. Then it was time to dig in. This was sinful comfort food at its finest. These fontina fondata and the bacon demi-glace were amazing and rich and absolutely melt-in-your mouth good. The lemon-thyme gremolata gave the dish a bit of acidity and some earthiness and that braised bacon was so amazingly delicious. This was the one item that my husband said was the most amazing thing we ate during our trip to Seattle. We just couldn’t get enough of the starchy potatoes with the bacon demi-glace and the sweet fontina fondata and the super delicious braised bacon. This dish was literally to-die-for.
For our entrees, my husband ordered the pancetta and apple pizza. The pizza is handmade and topped with Tuscan pancetta, caramelized apples, autumnal herbs and New York style ricotta. You have the option of topping the pizza with a Steibrs Farms fresh egg, which my husband couldn’t resist. When the waitress brought the pizza to the table, she said that this was her favorite item on the menu and that the only way to have it was with the egg on top. The first thing my husband did was cut into the egg so that the runny yolk would run all over the pizza. The crust on the pizza was perfectly cooked, crispy on the edges and the bottom, but doughy on the inside. The Tuscan pancetta added a nice salty flavor to the pizza, and the runny egg yolk was fantastic and creamy. I thought that while the caramelized apples were good, they lacked a bit of texture to them because they were so soft. I would have rather seen the apples still have a bit of a bite or crunch to them. But the star of the pizza, in my onion, was the New York style ricotta. It was so creamy, and soft and delicious, but some texture to it. It certainly paired well with the pancetta. My husband really enjoyed the pizza, though surprisingly, the poutine took enough out of him that he couldn’t finish the last slice!
I went with a hamburger for my meal, the Painted Hills burger. The menu stated that the burger was made with Beecher’s smoked flagship cheese, grilled onions, mixed greens, tomato, sherry vinaigrette and spicy aioli. As soon as I saw Beecher’s smoked flagship cheese, I knew I had to have this burger. After all, Beecher’s Flagship is some of the best cheese I’ve ever tasted. The burger was super juice and tasty and the spicy aioli really came through. The tomatoes were ripe and fresh and the bugger was completely filling. Normally, the burger comes with a side of French fries, but I decided to substitute it for a cup of Purple Cafe’s tomato soup with San Marzano tomatoes. Being a cold and blustery day in Seattle, the tomato soup just looked too good to pass up and really helped to warm me up. I loved the rich, bold flavors of the tomato soup. This was like a comfort food meal, hamburger and tomato soup.
For dessert, my husband and I decided to split a desert, the cordillera mousse with chocolate crumbs, rosemary-chocolate sauce, cocoa nibs and chocolate crisp. The waitress told us we wouldn’t be disappointed as the dessert was as delicious as it was pretty. The waitress was right, the dessert itself was beautiful, but it was every bit as good as it was beautiful. When I ordered the dish, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I thought mousse might be something that came in a cup and was a lot softer in texture and fluffier. What they did at Purple was harden up the mousse in a cylindrical shape and laid it atop a bed of cookie crumbs, there were dots of rosemary-chocolate sauce on the plate and a few sprinkles of cocoa nibs. One bite into the mousse and it was fantastic. Even though it didn’t have the physical appearance of mousse, it certainly had the flavor profile of light, whipped mousse. The mousse was perfectly sweetened and the cookie crumbs, cocoa nibs and rosemary-chocolate sauce only helped to enhance the flavor of the mousse. The bed of cookie crumbs was perfect as it provided a great texture to the dessert. The rosemary-chocolate sauce was delicious. You could just barely taste the earthiness and woodsy notes of the rosemary before you were hit with the semisweet chocolate sauce. This was such a unique and creative dessert.
Purple Café & Wine Bar was a perfect choice for our final meal in Seattle. To dine in a restaurant which features local and seasonal fresh Northwest cuisine is really what the Seattle food scene is all about. Enhancing flavor profiles familiar to the area using quality, fresh and sustainable ingredients. Every thing from our drinks to the appetizer to the entrees to the dessert was top-notch. I’ve got to thank my husband’s co-worker for the suggestion as it was spot on. What a terrific Christmas trip we had to Seattle, discovering everything that the Pacific Northwest had to offer.
In doing some research for our trip to Seattle, I told my husband to find us a place to eat dinner in downtown Seattle for one of the evenings. After I sent him off with that task, what does he come back to me? A suggestion for gelato that’s only 2 blocks from our hotel. Ok, that’s terrific, but gelato isn’t dinner (though that gelato place ended up being Gelatiamo, which was fantastic). So, he goes back to do bit more research and comes up with a restaurant called Wild Ginger, across the street from Gelatiamo. My guess, the restaurant had him with the word “ginger” in its name as my husband has to be the biggest ginger fan I know. Being located across the street from Gelatiamo, I was ok with anything that wouldn’t require too much walking into strange parts of town we weren’t familiar with. However, the name Wild Ginger triggered something in my head, like I had heard of it before. And that’s when the light bulb went off, I had heard of this restaurant before as I remember having made reservations for dinner for my boss for a business meeting a few years prior. I made it a point to ask my boss about the restaurant, and his immediate reaction was that he really liked the restaurant and thought that my husband and I would as well. That was a good enough endorsement for me.
The story of Wild Ginger is that the owners of the restaurant took off on a trip to SouthEast Asia and came back with a great appreciation for the food and culture they experienced while overseas. Upon returning to Seattle, they decided that they wanted to open up a restaurant to bring the flavors of SouthEast Asia to the Pacific Northwest. Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant and Satay Bar was born in 1989. Over 20 years later, the restaurant has become a pillar of the Seattle dining scene, having moved into their current location across the street from Benaroya Hall in 2000. I was super excited to give Wild Ginger a try.
Drinks up first. I probably ordered what my husband wanted to order, but since I beat him to it, he decided he’d try something different. Boylan Bottle Work’s Creamy Red Birch Beer ended up being his drink of choice. Much like root beer and ginger beer, the term “beer” is a bit misleading. Creamy red birch beer is actually a non-alcoholic creamy root drink that is a mix of something between root beer and cream soda. Boylan describes the creamy red birch as a smoother and creamier version of their original red birch beer by virtue of the addition of a hint of vanilla. I think my husband liked it well enough.
I ordered a specialty non-alcoholic drink called the peachy keen. Described as a mixture of orange juice, lemon lime soda, peach and raspberry it was a little bit carbonated and a little tangy and sweet. It reminded me a bit of the “Shirley Temple” I got at the Seawall Bar & Grill in Vancouver. That combination of orange juice and lemon lime soda creates a nice fizzy, carbonic and slightly sweet drink that’s really refreshing.
Because Wild Ginger is a satay bar, we figured that instead of ordering appetizers we should give a couple of their satay dishes a try. If the restaurant has the word satay in its name and half the appetizer menu is a list of different satay’s, I’m going to have to assume that this is something the restaurant thinks that they do well and wants to highlight. For those who don’t know, satay is an Indonesian word which translates to “skewered.” Found in many SouthEast Asian nations, different types of meats, poultry and seafood can be found skewered on wooden bamboo sticks which are then grilled over an open flame. Here at Wild Ginger, these grilled skewers were served with a rice cake and pickled cucumbers.
Our first satay was salmon. We figured that since salmon is so prevalently found in the area and that fresh fish is always available, that a grilled salmon skewer would be perfect. The salmon satay was served with a teriyaki dipping sauce. The pickled cucumbers are something that you commonly see served with satay in SouthEast Asia. The salmon and teriyaki sauce was the perfect combination, with the sweetness from the salmon and the tangy bite of the teriyaki. I really enjoyed the rice cake, which was more like a rice ball made of sticky glutinous rice and the pickled cucumbers was refreshing with the tang of the vinegar combining with the crunch and slightly sweet cucumber.
The second satay we chose was Saigon scallops made with 3 fresh sea scallops per skewer that are lightly grilled. The dipping sauce with the scallops was a soy and black vinegar sauce. The soy and vinegar combination made the sauce very thin and light, and with the scallops, I wished we had a thicker type sauce that actually would coat the scallops. But the scallops themselves were amazingly sweet and tender and perfectly grilled so it had a bit of char flavor. My husband and I both thought that the scallops were ultimately better than the salmon.
As Wild Ginger serves food family style, we decided to go with a variety of entrees so that we could touch upon several of Wild Ginger’s specialties. All entrees come in two sizes, small and large. We opted to go with the smaller size on all of the entrees, and it’s a good thing we did because they actually ended up being quite large for just the two of us.
The first dish is Wild Ginger’s most popular and what they call the house specialty, the Wild Ginger fragrant duck. I think this is definitely the first time my husband and I have ever ordered a duck dish to share. My husband is a duck fan and has certainly ordered duck for himself, but I’ve never been a huge fan of duck and have never ordered it for myself. The dish contains succulent fresh duck spiced with cinnamon and star anise. Along with the duck, the dish was served with steamed buns, Sichuan peppercorn salt and sweet plum sauce. The idea is to take a steamed bun, open it up, load it up with some of the duck (the meat as well as the crispy skin), add some cilantro, mix together the peppercorn salt and plum sauce, and add the sauce to the duck and create a duck sandwich inside the steamed bun. Generally, I’m not a fan of plum sauce, but the combination of the peppercorn salt and the plum sauce was amazing and matched perfectly with the spiced duck. The crispy skin created a nice texture contrast to the rich duck meat. And the steamed bun was a thing of beauty, light and airy with just a hint of sweetness to it. This had to be one of the better duck dishes I’ve ever had, and my husband thought it was one of the best dishes we had the entire trip.
Our second entrée was something called seven flavor beef, another one of the dishes Wild Ginger is known for. In fact, the menu descries it as a Wild ginger favorite. The dish is from Vietnam and is composed of sliced flank steak marinated in the seven flavors of lemongrass, peanuts, chilies, hoisin, basil, ginger and garlic. That’s basically the holy trinity of SouthEast Asian flavors. The beef is served on a bed of sautéed bean sprouts and onions. Neither my husband nor I could believe just how incredibly flavorful the beef was. You could taste the lemongrass and the basil and the ginger and garlic and just a faint touch of the chilies. It was just amazing. I also enjoyed contrast in the crunch of the onions and the bean sprouts that were served with the seven flavor beef.
The final entrée we ordered was the seabass. According to the menu this was certified sustainable seabass, which is a big deal in Seattle as many of the restaurants pride themselves on serving only sustainable seafood. The seabass was pan-fried and topped with aromatic SouthEast Asian herbs and crushed peanuts. Oh my gosh this was amazing. The seabass was literally melt-in-your-mouth. The flavor of the herbs and the peanuts complimented the buttery texture of the seabass so well. I probably could have eaten a couple of filets of this seabass if not for the fact that we had beef and duck as well! It’s amazing to see how a few herbs can really infuse flavor into a dish. This has to be one of the most flavorful seabass dishes I’ve ever had.
After dinner, my husband did something I’ve never seen him do before, and that’s order an after dinner drink! I think he was pretty full from the meal itself, but as soon as he read the drink menu, he just had to order the first drink on the list called the satay separator. The satay separator is a drink made with Grand Marnier, brandy, Kahlua, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and all served in a chilled martini glass. My husband really enjoyed this drink, I think partially because the drink was straight up alcohol, there were no mixers, no fruit juice, no syrup. Every ingredient was alcohol. But he said it was nice and smooth and a good mix of different types of alcohol to make a really good after dinner drink.
To go with his satay separator, for dessert, my husband ordered a very simple mango sorbet garnished with some lime zest. Originally, my husband was thinking that he might not finish his dessert because dinner was filling and he had his cocktail. But, I assume he must have really liked the sorbet because the next thing I know, it was gone. I was able to sneak in a spoonful of sorbet before my husband devoured it. I found it to be smooth and sweet and a bit tart. That told me that they used fresh ingredients in the sorbet rather than some sort of mango syrup substitute, which was nice.
For my own dessert, I chose the rich chocolate torte. The torte was a bit more like a flourless chocolate cake than a torte, but that didn’t make it any less chocolate-y! The desert was garnished with fresh whipped cream and orange zest. I’m going to say that the whipped cream itself probably had some orange juice in it too because you really could taste a hint of orange infused into it. The rich chocolate torte stood up to its name as it really was rich. As any torte or flourless cake is, it was heavy because it was missing the air component. But the chocolate was silky and smooth and rich and not bitter at all. Obviously, this torte was made with high-quality chocolate. And there’s just something about the combination of rich chocolate and a hint of orange that just creates a happy marriage.
My husband and I fell in love with Wild Ginger. If not for a dish we had at dinner our last day in Seattle, my husband would have easily said that the fragrant duck was the best dish we had on this trip. We loved the freshness and quality of the ingredients served at the restaurant. The atmosphere of the restaurant was relaxing and inviting. The concept of Wild Ginger and the satay bar was fresh and new and different. The flavors of the food were bold, and unique and delicious all in one mouthful. When I find myself in Seattle again, you can bet I’ll make a return visit to Wild Ginger.
In preparation for coming to Seattle, my husband and I did a bit of recon for places to eat nearby our hotel. However, during our search for the perfect dinner spot, we got distracted and off task because my husband found a gelato shop only a couple of blocks from the hotel. Mmmm, gelato! Way better than ice cream, and completely irresistible. My husband insisted that I take notes as to the name of the gelato shop and its location so that we could find it when we arrived in Seattle.
After 2 days of being in the city, we finally found the perfect time for an afternoon break and a little gelato pick-me-up. It seemed as though we had trekked all over the city, from Pike Place Market to the Seattle Space Needle. On our walk back to the hotel, we took a bit of a detour to visit Gelatiamo. In Italian, Gelatiamo means “let’s have gelato together,” and it’s that warm and welcoming feeling that this gelateria conveys. The store was opened in 1996 when owner Maria Coassin brought her passion for authentic Italian gelato and homemade Italian cakes and pastries to Seattle. Maria comes from a long line of bakers back in her hometown in Northern Italy. In fact, her family has run a bakery in this same town for more than 250 years. Maria decided to expand her horizons beyond just pastries and cookies and learned the fine art of gelato making from a master. She has since perfected the technique for making gelato and creating new recipes.
Gelatiamo invites you to come in and take a seat and enjoy these wonderful Italian classics that have been hand-made with care. The store is more than just gelato, it also showcases many favorite Italian pastries and cakes. There’s a revolving cake display right in the window filled with so many wonderful creations.
As you walk further into the store, there’s a refrigerated display case that showcases all of the stores Italian cookies and various pastries. From chocolate, vanilla and pistachio bignes, to ganache bites, to tiramisu cups, the selections are just so mouth-watering it’s hard to pick between them.
My husband and I couldn’t leave without having a pastry so we each selected one pastry which was boxed up so that we could enjoy it later at the hotel. My husband decided to go with the Grand Marnier tart topped with chopped walnuts, chocolate curls and a candied orange slice. While a nice treat, my husband felt that the tart shell was a bit dry and crumbling and not quite as moist and buttery as it could have been. He certainly tasted the Grand Marnier and liked the touch of the candied orange on top. And the flavor of chocolate and Grand Marnier is always a good one.
For my to-go pastry, I chose the cream cannoli. I’d probably be more inclined to call this a cream horn rather than a cannoli in the sense that I’m familiar with a cannoli, but that didn’t mean this wasn’t any less good. The shell of this cannoli was terrific. It was flaky and buttery and exactly what you’d expect. The cream filling inside was smooth and custard-y and sweet, but not too rich. This was a perfect afternoon treat.
But what we really came here for was the gelato. There were so many flavors and they all looked amazing we almost couldn’t decide what we should order. We kept going back and forth between ordering a small or a medium. If I could, I would have taken half-scoops of every flavor. It all just looked so amazing. The flavors we had to choose from were cappuccino, lemon, maple pecan, mango, chocolate, raspberry, pistachio, chocolate chip, ginger snap, blackberry, coconut, coffee chocolate, strawberry and egg nog. Obviously, some of these flavors were seasonable and a nod to the Christmas season.
I ended up choosing the smaller size which meant two scoop of gelato. Obviously, I was going to choose 2 different flavors rather than 2 scoops of the same flavor. After a little internal debate in trying to come up with two flavors that would go well with one another, I ended up choose chocolate coffee and chocolate chip. What can I say, I’m a bit of a boring girl who likes what she likes. I loved the chocolate chip, it was more like straciatella that you’d find in Italian gelato. The flavor of the gelato really made the chocolate stand out rather than just tasting the vanilla in the cream. And the chocolate coffee was fantastic. It even had some chocolate covered espresso beans inside of it. The flavor of the chocolate was spot on and there was a little bit of bitterness from the coffee which was perfect.
My husband chose to go with the medium size which comes with three scoops. Unlike me who tried to find flavors that paired well together, he decided to just choose flavors that he wanted to taste regardless of if it was a fruit flavor or cream-based flavor or what not. His three scoops consisted of blackberry, egg nog and coconut. I wasn’t surprised that he ordered the egg nog since I know he’s a huge fan of egg nog. My husband said the egg nog gelato tasted exactly like drinking egg nog. The one downside to the egg nog was that it was all sweet so more than a scoop of it may have been too much. The coconut, my husband described as being just like coconut. It had actual coconut flakes in it and tasted good, not too sweet, but also wasn’t anything too special either. And finally my husband’s favorite flavor was the blackberry. He thought that it was absolutely “awesome” and had the perfect amount of sweet and tang. It was the rich magenta-purple color of the blackberry that caught his eye as it’s not normally a flavor he’d order, but he couldn’t resist and was really glad he had chosen it since he thought it was so good.
Even though the weather was in the low 40s, it’s never too cold for some good gelato. I’m so glad that my husband and I felt Gelatiamo. It really hit the spot after a long day sightseeing around Seattle. The setting of the store was cute and quaint and their pastries, cakes and cookies all looked fantastic. But there gelato definitely hit a homerun. They had a wide variety of different flavors and I loved that they seasonal flavors such as ginger snap, maple pecan and egg nog. It wasn’t all about traditional flavors, but it certainly was about traditional techniques. The gelato was creamy and smooth and rich and absolutely perfect. A terrific afternoon snack and a kick of sugar to power through the rest of the day.
My husband makes no qualms about the fact that he could eat cheese day and night and day and night and never get tired of it. In fact, I think if he could only ever have one last meal, or one food item to bring with him to a deserted island, I think it would be cheese. That’s how much he loves it. He usually doesn’t care what kind of cheese it is as he feels as though all cheese is the same, with one exception. For years and years, I’ve heard him rave over how much he loves cheese curds. Apparently, cheese curds are pretty popular in the Midwest where he’s originally from. Before I met him, I’m not even sure I’d even heard of cheese curds before.
One of the things we did during our time in Seattle was explore the famous Pike Place Market. The market is more than just fish tossing, as its most famous for. But the market brings together all sorts of merchants – fishermen, butchers, craftsmen, florists, artisans, etc. There are hundreds of stalls selling everything from native American art to metal work, to original paintings, to clothing, to hot sauces, to organic honey, to all sorts of seafood products, to fresh-cut flowers and more. But, one store that caught our eye as we walked through Pike Place Market was Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. First off, it was cheese, so that definitely caught my husband’s eye. But, for me, it was the fact that you could watch the cheese making process from start to finish, which I found incredibly interesting.
In 2002, Kurt Beecher Dammeier, took over the corner shop of a long time Pike Place merchant that had closed its doors, in order to fulfill his dream and passion to go into the cheese-making business thereby becoming Seattle’s only artisan cheesemaker. Kurt, whose grandfather’s first name was Beecher, had a vision of showcasing the cheese-making process within the space’s 1000 square foot kitchen which is almost entirely encircled in glass so that passersby could see the entire process from start to finish. Kurt felt it was important to create cheese that was free from harmful additives and preservatives and thought it equally important that people could see where their food comes from and how it’s made. As you walk up to the store you see two large aluminum vats. When we arrived, the one closest to the window was being filled with milk and mixed with enzymes that start the cheese-making process. All of the equipment inside Beecher’s was initially purchased used from various sources and welded together so that they would all fit within the small kitchen at the store.
Mr. Dammeier believed that the key to good cheese starts with good quality milk. Due to a chance meeting, Mr. Dammeier met a local farmer from Duvall, Washington who was raising a herd of healthy, well fed, non rBST treated cows, and ultimately agreed to become the sole supplier of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. Now with source for good quality, local Washington cheese, the cheese-making process could begin. It’s incredible to see vats of milk transformed into curds and whey and then ultimately into cheese. The shop sells blocks of the cheese that they make as well as use some of the cheese in their signature recipes served up at their deli counter.
It’s hard to say what’s more popular at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, the counter that sells that food products made using Beecher’s cheese, or the cheese counter itself selling not only Beecher’s Handmade Cheeses, but also cheeses from around the country made by other small artisan cheese makers. At the counter, Beecher’s sells what they call the “world’s best” mac & cheese made with Beecher’s flagship cheese. Or, there’s also the really popular grilled cheese, also made with Beecher’s flagship cheese.
At Beecher’s cheese counter, you can purchase all of the different varieties of Beecher’s cheese as well as other artisanal cheeses that may be hard to find. Originally, when we stopped at Beecher’s, we were only intending on purchasing some cheese curds, if they sold any. However, on their counter, they had some samples of the Beecher’s Flagship cheese. Of course, you can’t put out samples of cheese and not expect that we’re going to give it a try. Wow! After one little nibble of their Flagship cheese, my husband and I were hooked. So, we knew we had to pick some up to bring home. Now, we’re only sorry we didn’t buy more of this amazing cheese. I see why it’s called their Flagship cheese. According to the label on the Flagship, it reads, “Fifteen months of aging nurtures the flavor and texture of Flagship to perfection. Flagship is sold only when it meets our rigorous standards – when a simple vat of milk becomes the pride of Beecher’s fleet.” The cheese itself has a bit of a sharp edge to it, the way sharp cheddar does, but it also has a really nutty flavor, similar to a nutty Gruyère cheese. It’s the perfect combination and a really good cheese for cheese and crackers or for grilled cheese.
In addition to purchasing a wedge of the Flagship cheese, my husband couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy a wedge of Beecher’s Just Jack. While I am the cheddar cheese lover in our household, my husband really loves his Monterey Jack cheese. According to Beecher’s, “Just Jack is anything but ‘just’ Jack.” Beecher’s makes “this cheese with whole cow’s milk, giving it a buttery texture and the especially rich flavor of pure cream.” One taste of the Just Jack and you can definitely taste the smooth buttery texture they describe. The cheese is mild and light in flavor, perfect for a Monterey Jack cheese. It’s creamy and kind of melts on your tongue.
But, for my husband, the star of everything at Beecher’s was their fresh cheese curds. Believe me, my husband wasn’t going home without cheese curds. Not only did we buy a pint on the first day we visited the store, we had to go back the next day before we flew home to buy a couple of pints to bring home. That’s a) how much my husband loves cheese curds, and b) how wonderful and fresh he thought the cheese curds at Beecher’s were. Ok, I’ve got to say I think cheese curds must be a Midwestern thing as I’d never even heard of buying or eating cheese curds until I met my husband. I’ve heard of curds and whey, but had no idea you could just buy cheese curds and eat them. Yet, my husband tells me that you can find cheese curds at grocery stores, at gas stations, at state and county fairs all over the place and he thought I was kidding when I said I’d never heard of cheese curds.
Are you like me and never heard of cheese curds before? Well, here’s Beecher’s explanation of what cheese curds are. “or they can be eaten and enjoyed fresh from the cheesemaking kitchen.” I must say, after having some of Beecher’s cheese curds, I think I’m a believer now. This really is fresh made cheese. My husband says that a sign of fresh cheese curds is the fact that squeak in your mouth when you chew them, and these certainly squeaked. It was a bit of an odd sensation, but kind of neat. The flavor of the cheese curds is a bit salty, but so amazing fresh. It’s unbelievable how fresh these were and a bit difficult to describe in words.
My husband thought that these were some of the best cheese curds he’d ever had, and maybe some of the freshest. The idea of being able to see them make cheese right there, and then bring the curds out and pack them in 1/2 pint, pint and quart containers was pretty amazing. And these little curds are pretty darn addicting. Once you pop one in your mouth, you can help but grab a few more and pop them in your mouth as well.
Beecher’s was a neat experience in see fresh artisanal cheese made right in front of your eyes. To know that this was fresh, healthy, high quality milk from a farm in Washington, brought straight to the cheesemaking kitchen and then turned into cheese is a beautiful process. It’s literally farm to table, but for cheese. My big regret now having come home is that we didn’t buy more cheese at Beecher’s to bring home. Their Flagship cheese is probably some of the most amazing cheese I’ve ever tasted, and my husband was absolutely in love with Beecher’s cheese curds. If we lived in Seattle, I have a feeling we’d probably be Beecher’s biggest customers. I’ve already started thinking about how can I get my hands on some more of this amazing Beecher’s cheese!
Completely loaded on caffeine from our visit to the first ever Starbucks, my husband and I began our exploration of Pike Place Market in Seattle. Visited by over 10 million tourists a year, Pike Place Market is one of Seattle’s main tourist attractions. Sitting at the end of a steep hill overlooking Elliot Bay, Pike Place Market is home to small family run restaurants and cafes, artisans, craftsmen, collectible shops, antique dealers, fresh produce markets and fishmongers. It’s the fishmongers that the market has really become known for as the Pike Place Fish Market is famous throughout the world for their theatrics in fish throwing. Opened on August 17, 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest, continually operating farmer’s markets in the United States.
As we strolled through the market during the morning hours before many of the tourists had arrived and while the daily craftspeople were still setting up their stalls, it almost felt like we had the market to ourselves. Seeing the fresh produce and colorful fruits laid out waiting for someone to come by and scoop it up, seeing the fishmongers hard at work scaling and gutting fresh fish just brought in that morning, seeing the work of local craftspeople who have come here to sell their wares, this is all part of the experience of Pike Place Market. For us, the morning hours also meant catching a whiff of fresh-baked bread, donuts and cakes. Our noses ended up leading us right to Pike Place Bakery. The bakery has been family run and operated since 1983 when it opened up at Pike Place Market. In order to assure that everything laid out in their display cases daily is fresh-baked, Pike Place Bakery’s head bakers arrive to work each morning at 1 am in order to start baking that day’s pastries, donuts, breads and cakes.
It is the display cases at Pike Place Bakery that do all of the advertising necessary for the bakery. It’s pretty much impossible to walk by display cases filled with amazing pastries and donuts and smell fresh-baked bread without wanting to stop and sample a few items. Take this display case containing cheddar cheese rolls, jalapeno cheddar cheese, blueberry coffee cakes, fresh baked croissants and Kaiser rolls and much more. This kind of bakery is right up my alley. At this point, it wasn’t a matter of whether or not we were going to stop and get something to eat here for breakfast, it was what are we going to get and how many can we buy? Look at those cinnamon pull apart and almond cinnamon pull apart rings at the bottom. They look amazing.
It was the donuts that caught my husband’s eye. There were so many different kinds to choose from. How to decide between an apple cinnamon stick, or a maple bar? What about coconut cream cheese, my husband does like coconut after all. There was the cinnamon pershing, and no one loves cinnamon as much as my husband does. Oh and there’s maple cinnamon pershing, even sweeter and better, right?
But that wasn’t even it, there were your standard glazed donuts and powered sugar donuts. What about the maple filled custard bismark and the chocolate filled custard bismark? I think that chocolate filled custard bismark might be right up my alley. Oh no, turns out my husband decided that’s what he wanted to get. Like me, he couldn’t resist the custard filling in the donut.
One chocolate custard filled bismark coming right up. Fresh baked donut, with a yummy chocolate coating and filled to the brim with sweet, delicious custard. Oh yeah, I can see why my husband wanted to get this. I had to take my thumb and scoop up a bit of that custard though. I love custard filled donuts, those have to be my favorite. I think my husband inhaled his bismark in about 3 bites because all of a sudden I looked up and it was gone. Just like that.
I originally thought that I was going to order the chocolate custard filed bismark, but after my husband chose the donut, I decided to go in a different direction. The cinnamon sugar crispy in the middle of this display case caught my eye. But those cinnamon rolls looked terrific as well. And those apple cups were huge! And a lemon cake muffin, I’m surprised my husband didn’t decide to order that instead.
But the pastry display case is what really caught my eye. Look at the chocolate dream cake at the bottom. Or the custard rum chocolate cake next to it. I’m a sucker for cake as well. And those fudge brownies on the second shelf look amazing. Oh how I love chocolate. And the cream cheese brownies next to them with the fudge drizzle on top. Those look to-die-for. I was nearly going to order a cannoli because they looked so delicious. There were so many choices: mocha, chocolate chip cream cheese, German chocolate and cream cheese. How could I choose which one I wanted? Then my husband pointed out the cream puffs and eclairs, including the fresh strawberry éclair, and I knew then what I wanted.
I had a choice between a custard éclair and a Bavarian éclair and I chose the Bavarian. I’m a huge fan of the creamy and smooth Bavarian cream and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this Bavarian éclair. Oh my! I almost forgot to take a picture of the éclair before I ate it because my mouth was watering. This éclair was delicious. You could taste the freshness and quality of the éclair. The choux pastry was perfectly baked and light and airy. And the Bavarian cream and fresh whipped cream was such a perfect, and luxurious combination. I think I could have eaten 4 of these.
I rather regret not having gone back to the bakery to buy a box full of goodies and pastries. The bismark and éclair that we purchased at Pike Place Bakery were a perfect sweet breakfast to give us energy and tide us through our morning stroll around Pike Place Market. All of their goodies in their display cases looked delectable, and you could certainly taste the freshness in their products and the goodness and quality in the ingredients they used. I would never hesitate to stop by Pike Place Bakery to grab a sweet treat during my next trip to Seattle