Pacific Northwest Magazine :: COVER STORY, Seattle Times Feb 2018
In it's 30th year, Seattle Garden Show aims for a younger crowd....Even if you’re not a Master Gardener, you’ll find there’s no experience required at this year’s show.
JUDITH JONES sent me a picture when she and her son finally sorted out how to erect the extremely heavy, 30-foot-high, three-sided ladder structure they had just built.
“I’m headed into the greenhouses now since the sun just peeped over the mountains,” she wrote. “It only shines for two hours this time of the year.”
Jones spends each day in January working in one of five greenhouses on the Gold Bar property where she lives and works, running a mail-order fern business she has owned since the 1980s, Fancy Fronds Nursery. A one-woman show, she is an international expert on ferns and has more than 1,000 taxa of ferns in her collection.
She calls her 5-acre piece of land the “Fronderosa,” and it’s exactly the sort of home you’d envision for a woman who has dedicated her life to working with ferns. Damp, woodsy and wonderful — you half expect a woodland nymph to hop out from the undergrowth and join the daily routine.
For the past 30 years, Jones has used winter to prepare in some way for the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, and this winter is no different. Jones can stand at her kitchen window and look out at the small glass greenhouse (made from repurposed sliding-glass doors) that glows at night from the grow lights. Here, rows of forced plants sit next to small ferns, ajuga and eucharis that are among the 100 plants she will bring to the show. Outside the greenhouse, her yard is full of structures used in past exhibits — including a colorful 500-pound snail she calls Meryl and a Thai pavilion from her 2009 “King and I” installation.
This sort of visual cacophony of artistic expression is her thing. In 1995, she dressed as a dead spirit for the Victorian graveyard theme, complete with two large Griffin statues that now live on the porch of her cabin.
“It’s a good way for the public to understand that you are associated with the booth,” Jones says. “It also helps clear an aisle (which allows more people to pass), because you’re strange,” which, to Jones, is excellent.
THIS YEAR MARKS the 30th anniversary of Seattle’s garden show. The oversized displays, as usual, will be captivating, over-the-top whimsies of dream gardens, and the seminars will provide excellent information for gardeners. At its core, the event has always been a garden show for gardeners.
The first time I attended was well before I started exploring gardening professionally. I was in my early 20s and had an interest in growing something, but with a small deck and little firsthand experience, the size of the show was overwhelming. And those display gardens? I wasn’t inspired. I was intimidated.
So if you lack a green thumb, or don’t have any land (calling all apartment and condo dwellers!), it might seem easy to pass this show over. Really, what’s it in for you? As it turns out, this year, there’s quite a bit.
Where once the show was all about the display gardens (of course, they continue to be a major draw), the show staff has added elements meant to attract all sorts of gardeners, enthusiasts and wannabes.
“In recent years, we’ve placed greater emphasis on small-space and container gardening, growing edibles and the role of garden spaces in home entertainment,” says Jeff Swenson, festival manager.
It’s no secret that every business these days is hoping to entice millennials, and the Flower & Garden Festival is no exception. Organizers are working to broaden its appeal by adding engaging elements, a larger marketplace and a local food court.
Says Gayle Payne, who designs the display garden for Flower Growers of Puget Sound: “The industry is having a hard time getting millennials into gardening. It’s something the industry is worried about: how to attract more people.”
THE GOOD NEWS is, there are newcomers to the show this year who have both the vision and the business savvy to think about what’s happening in the garden industry.
Heather Jellerson has built display gardens for other companies, but decided to give it a whirl with her own company, Millennium Landscape & Construction, Inc., which she operates with her husband.
“In our (display) garden this year, we hope it will be much more approachable and something DIYers can actually do themselves,” she says. Tired of seeing grandiose ideas that didn’t seem practical, she wants people to leave the show feeling empowered.
Her overall design relies heavily on metalwork, one of the most commonly asked-about features among new garden clients (she swears it is not difficult or intimidating to work with), and low-maintenance plants for the trendy, time-strapped consumer.
With the show only a month away, she was still working on final plans for her garden exhibit.
“I’m probably the one who is least prepared for the whole show,” Jellerson says.
She says she plans to use COR-TEN, a weathering steel that patinas into a stable rustlike appearance, to build garden beds and fencing. It’s a relatively easy project for anyone with the know-how to drill into metal. She says there’s not a huge budget for building the exhibits, and, “That’s what most home gardens are working with, as well.”
And while plans and materials are coming together for the physical structure, the plants are sitting in wait. Focusing on plants that need only occasional attention throughout the year — ground covers to give a sense of lawn, grasses and evergreen shrubs that flower across seasons — is a way to showcase easy ideas that attendees can imitate at home. For now, these plants are lined up in the nursery, about 20 feet from Jellerson’s back door, where they’ve been stacking up for months.
Also new to the show this year is “Floral Wars.” With a format similar to the festival’s popular container-planting competition, local floral designers will use American-grown buds and put together large floral arrangements in real time while on stage. Not everyone is interested in fawning over catalogs to find a new favorite bulb, whereas any home can accommodate a vase full of blooms.
It’s a smart move for show organizers, as the local flower business is booming — a trend with no signs of slowing. Flower farms are the new “it” factor in agriculture, and designers using local flowers are in high demand.
“I think, as a whole, the concept of seasonality has really been embraced,” says competitor and floral designer Gina Thresher of From the Ground Up Floral in Kent. “We have the most amazing local product and great farmers that stay on trend.”
Thresher contributed to the American Institute of Floral Design booth last year and is a fan of the show. “I’ve attended for so many years — my mom and I have so much fun.”
SEMINARS ALWAYS have been a large part of the programming, though Janet Endsley, the seminar and judging manager who has been involved with the show for the past 18 years, has made big changes lately. When she started, speakers were mostly regional. It was rare to see someone outside the Pacific Northwest come in to talk. Today, though, “Publishers send authors to us, and people can see speakers they normally wouldn’t ever see during the course of the year,” she says.
It used to be that plantaholics filled the halls, eager to learn more about certain plants, or looking for design inspiration for their yards. Today, the quest for inspiration is coupled with the desire for information, and the programming reflects that by offering a more diversified range of seminar topics.
“People are highly interested in growing edibles — 10 years ago, there were very few edible (seminars), and now I have a significant block of those,” Endsley says. Do-It-Yourself-themed classes remain popular, and Endsley has worked to add topics for urbanites in small spaces — classes on growing air plants, or a focus on hydroponics that promises to teach how to grow edibles on countertops.
Most of the younger gardeners I spoke with come to the show (with a parent, often) for the seminars, seeking information on how to get started, so Endsley is right on. Container gardening is a big draw, as is anything having to do with growing food at home.
“Heavy plant geeks can pick out what they’re interested in, and people in apartments can learn specifics for them, too,” Endsley says. “We’re looking back at the history of the show, and as the show evolves, we are trying to accommodate people’s lifestyles and give people useful information.”
EVEN WITH ALL the additions, it’s safe to say the main draw of the show is still the “garden creations” — a massive installment of more than 15 Puget Sound-area gardening and landscaping businesses.
Elandan Gardens of Bremerton is a fixture here — this will be its 29th year at the show. The company specializes in specimen material — trees of considerable size that are artistic in form.
“For the last 60 years, I’ve been training trees and turning them into spectacular pieces of art,” founder Dan Robinson says.
This year, Elandan Gardens will showcase two special trees, both of which stand about 12 feet tall. One is a large and gnarly 125-year-old laceleaf maple that Robinson has been caringly pruning for 45 years. The other is a twin-trunked, 56-year-old Japanese black pine that was grown from seed by his hand. As Robinson walked his 7-acre property one recent afternoon, he excitedly reminded me that I needed to get to the show to see them — “It’s fantasmagoria!”
Anthony Fajarillo of Redwood Builders Landscaping will showcase a selection of small bonsai trees — one of which you can hold in the palm of your hand. It’s his attempt to create a relationship between attendees and nature.
“Trees represented in miniature form through bonsai can become our portable connection with nature, especially now with our fast-paced digital world,” Fajarillo says. It’s a lofty message to convey through a garden display, but a timely one.
Fajarillo’s garden has a modern, Zen vibe to it and includes old hemlocks, conifers and moss, along with the bonsai trees. In the center, Fajarillo will place a floating deck set up to mimic a tea ceremony in progress.
A DECADE AGO, the displays imitated the seasonal influence of the time — winter. This steered booths and displays into a minimalist feel and kept the big, bold blooms to a minimum. For the past several years, though, “We’ve made an effort to bring in tens of thousands of flowers,” says Endsley. “People come to escape the dreariness of what’s outside — they want that fantasy; they want that now, and we’ve definitely brought that up.”
But not all gardeners are convinced the changes are for the better, and a question lingers: Can show programming satisfy the hard-core gardeners while simultaneously engaging garden newbies with a small space?
Michelle Meyer, owner of Gardening GaGa!, is on the fence after having attended religiously in years past.
“Quite honestly, last year I thought the exhibits and speakers were not very interesting to plant people,” Meyer says. She will, however, attend a daylong event on Friday specifically for garden professionals — the GardenPRO Conference, which was introduced this year.
For its big anniversary, the festival feels like a mixed bag — a bit of something for everyone. Time will tell whether this all-inclusive strategy works for or against planners, but with reasonable pricing for entry, I think it’s worth a visit. You can pick up interesting plants or garden art in the marketplace if you’re willing to shuffle past booths of unrelated paraphernalia like hair accessories or beef jerky.
The seminars offer solid information for beginners and midlevel gardeners. Same goes for the garden displays — for anyone with a blank slate who is looking for ideas, it still is a great place for inspiration or, at the very least, to satisfy a curiosity about how others build out their garden spaces.
And pending all else, you can swing by Fancy Fronds and meet the lively Judith Jones. That alone is worth the cost of a ticket.
Amy Pennington is a Seattle cook, urban farmer and author. Visit her website at amy-pennington.com. Look for her garden-featured NW Living stories to debut in Pacific NW magazine on April 15. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Liquid Assets :: WITCHES BREW, Edible Seattle July 2017
THE CUNNING CROW APOTHECARY CASTS A SPELL - AND MAKES EXCELLENT COCKTAIL MIX-INS
Walking into the apothecary, I pass by rows of dried herbs in tall glass jars, a tiered display of small, hand-woven nests, window shelves filled with shiny, colorful crystal gems, and a display of animal bones and antlers. It feels as though I’ve stepped into a voodoo shop.
Herbalist by design, The Cunning Crow Apothecary in the Greenwood neighborhood is run by self-described witches committed to “bringing the magic back into the medicine.” Before opening the small retail shop with adjoining teaching and community space, owner Ylva Mara Radziszewski had a thriving private practice as a traditional witch practicing herbalism, energy healing, and acupuncture. She opened the apothecary in 2016 to “empower the community to restore, what I consider, a birthright to natural health.”
While an herbal apothecary may not seem a likely outpost to gather signature-blended cocktail ingredients, I discovered otherwise. Here, “herbal medicine” tastes delicious and comes in the way of small dropper jars of tinctures — a dual-purpose, concentrated mix of herbs intended as remedy, but that veer into cocktail territory with ease.
A tincture is typically an alcoholic extract of plant or animal material. The original natural tinctures blended bark, roots, and herbs, steeping them to extract healing properties. While they were commonly used for their medicinal potential, occasionally they tasted good enough to drink for pleasure. Historically speaking, cocktail bitters, a key ingredient in many classic cocktails like the Sazerac and Manhattan, evolved from tinctures.
Basic herbal tinctures at Cunning Crow are extracted in organic grain alcohol or vegetable glycerin. The shop offers single-herb extracts, which can be used alone or for blending, in addition to a small selection of custom blends — created with a particular curative outcome in mind.
While the custom blends are formulated by Radziszewski, in keeping with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for herbal medicinals, they are made in partnership with Heron Botanicals, a small producer of artisan-quality herbal extracts, on the Kitsap Peninsula. Radziszewski honors herbalists who prefer local plants and use only organic herbs and sustainable wild-crafting practices for their plant matter.
In herbalism, plants have primary functions that are called upon to treat all sorts of ailments. “All of our custom blends are formulated with multiple bodily systems in mind,” says Radziszewski. “We want to approach crafting the medicine to support the person taking it and to support the plants.” Supporting the person means it is helpful when it goes down easy. In other words, taste is important.
As with everything we put in our bodies, caution is key. The Cunning Crow Apothecary casts a fascinating spell on the potential benefits of many herbs, roots, and spices. As noted on their website, however: “The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products and information on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for all matters regarding your health.”
Buddha Belly is a house blend that can easily be interchanged with bitters as a mixer, but offers so much more. “It is based off of the Five Elements Theory in Chinese medicine — if you stimulate your digestive fire, you can actually move stagnation energetically and physically through the body,” explains Radziszewski. A traditional base of gentian and yellow dock — both herbs that are mouth-puckering acrid — is spiked with strong flavors of fennel and cinnamon, so it is flavorful, but not entirely delicious on its own. It was formulated to offer relief for poor digestion, bloating, cramps, and general stomach aches. Radziszewski recommends this bitter tincture in Manhattans, as it packs a wallop and cuts through the sweetness of the vermouth.
The Aphrodisium tincture is popular for both its promise and spice-forward flavor. “We wanted plants that were grounding and empowering, to bring people into their own sensuality,” Radziszewski says. For this, they started with the ashwagandha herb and cinnamon, both of which are pleasantly flavored. She added damiana and rose for a gentle aphrodisiac effect that she says works for everyone, and then a bit of the African root yohimbe, a well-known aphrodisiac, as the kicker. Kava root was the final addition, added for its depth of flavor and “ability to relax the body while activating the mind,” tasting both earthy and sweet. While the mix of herbs was not blended solely for their flavor characteristics, “it just so happens it all tastes so well together.”
Because of the vast selection of tinctured herbs at Cunning Crow, visitors can also reverse-engineer the process of making a custom blend — a seemingly magic process that comes together thanks to the encyclopedia-like brain of Radziszewski’s. She needs only an idea of what sort of alcohol you plan to use and an intention of the atmosphere you hope to create. This is especially fun for dinner hosts who are aiming to manipulate the mood.
On a recent visit to the shop, I asked for an after-dinner tincture that could be blended with soda water for a non-alcoholic drink, as well as with a clear spirit, like gin. I wanted to create a festive atmosphere that was lighthearted and jovial. She suggested a tincture blend of the herb rhodiola, rose, rosemary, and chamomile, dropped into a glass of champagne or soda, calling it the “Fairy Cocktail.” It is sweet and floral, without being soapy. “Rose is a sweet digestive that will perfume your cocktail,” says Radziszewski. “The rose will go to the brain and create a lot of vasodilation, so you’re not in a food coma. And it has a refreshing taste.”
As with all fruits and vegetables, herbal tinctures have seasons. “Herbs have a tendency to work really well in the season of their purpose.” Yellow dock, Radziszewski says, is a great herb to use in spring when they’re pushing up nutrients and putting on new growth. That spring plant is “great for our body because we are getting ready to detox in spring.”
We tend to think of drinking alcohol as “bad” for us, but, interestingly, you don’t sacrifice the healing quality of plants when you pair them with a cocktail. “When we take medicinal tinctures, it changes our relationship with cocktails,” says Radziszewski. “Think of it as medicine in a martini glass.”
It is encouraging to think we can define the mood for any season with the simple help of nature’s plants, though having a witch around is helpful. While many herbs are delicious, not all are created equal, and choosing the wrong mix of plants can get you to a place of mismatched herbs and bad-tasting tinctures in a flash. Radziszewski is the first one to admit, “Some of the herbs we have here just taste gross.”
The magic of mixing awaits.
Garden :: START A GARDEN, The Kitchn June 2017
What's the Best Way to Start a Garden?
There are two ways to start a garden: You can grow something from seeds, or transplant a start (which is a fancy way of talking about a mini plant that's already started for you). Which one is better? It depends! It depends on what it is that you want to grow, how much time you have, and your level of experience.
Don't worry, it's not all that complicated. Here's a useful guide on both strategies so that you can make the most of your garden space.
Starting a Garden with Seeds
Growing from seeds allows for a much wider selection of plants. You can find (and mail order) all sorts of fun plants that you might not be able to get at your local nursery. Why just settle for a green leaf lettuce start when you can grow a fun heirloom oakleaf lettuce from a seed? Bonus: Seeds are usually less expensive than starts.
2 Ways to Plant Seeds
Direct sowing is exactly what it sounds like — when you sow (plant!) a seed directly into the soil. This is usually done in tidy, organized rows at specific depths into the soil. Direct sowing means you're intentionally putting a seed in the perfect spot for it grow. It gives you (the gardener!) the most control, which is a very good thing when you're growing in a small space, but it also takes the most time.
This is when you take a handful of seeds and sprinkle them over a designated area – sort of like salting meat. These seeds fall on the soil haphazardly and lack precision. Many times you will "fork" these seeds in with a rake (or in the case of a small apartment, you can use an actual fork), although some seeds (like chamomile and thyme) are small enough that you can just leave them on top of the soil. Broadcast sowing is the best for stem-y plants that can grow close together without crowding like arugula, cilantro, and basil.
My Super-Easy Seed Hack
All seed packets list planting information. While the packets are great guides, I've come to notice a pattern: The larger the seed, the deeper you plant it. Using this rule of thumb, plants tend to fall into three categories.
Those that are left on top of the soil. (Note: This works with very few seeds, but a short list includes basil, collards, and bok choy.)
Those that are planted 1/2-inch deep like leafy greens, brassicas, and alliums. Those that are planted 1-inch deep (think: fruits, melons, and legumes).
I will admit that this is a wildly generalized statement, but trust me — it works. Rather than spend time reading every seed packet, I've adopted this lazy approach and have never had an issue.
Gardening with Starts
If you're more green than green-thumbed (read: you've never really gardened before), this is probably your best bet. You can find the basic plants at your local nursery and most of the work has already been done for you. Planting starts also speeds up the timeline between planting and harvesting.
One Thing to Know About Starts
When transplanting a start into your garden, the only real rule is to provide enough space for the plant to grow. Start out by loosening the soil in your planter, so it's nice and airy. Then, loosen up the transplants and be sure to separate out individual plants — this will give them room to come to full maturity. If you bought a small pot of basil, for instance, it will probably contain more than a dozen small plants.
Planting Your Starts
Dig a deep-enough hole in the soil so that the entire root structure of the plant will fit. You don't want your roots all twisted up and pointing up out of the soil. What you're looking for is a nice loose root structure that faces down, so that the roots can start reaching out and growing strong. (You can even trim super-long roots by a few inches so that they're just two to three inches long.) It's really that simple.
Garden :: INDOOR GARDENING, The Kitchn June 2017
Maybe you've tried to grow basil in your kitchen before? And maybe you were lucky to get four leaves — two of which you were actually willing to eat? Trust me, I get it. I didn't always have a green thumb, but now I've literally written the book on indoor gardening.
The good news: Plants don't require a ton to grow (the official list includes light, nutrients, water, and a little bit of love). Here's how to make sure those needs get met.
Why You Should Start an Indoor Garden
There are so many reasons! For starters, it's super easy. (I know, you don't believe me because, well, there are a lot of words in this post. But that's only because I want you to know everything I know!)
It will also make your kitchen look like a lush land of freshness. And you'll feel like a wizard when you serve your family pasta with pesto made from the basil plant you nurtured yourself. Plus, you'll save money at the grocery store.
Convinced? Yay! Now keep reading.
The Total Beginner's Guide to Indoor Gardening
First, pick the right container.
The size of the container will affect the size a plant can grow. I'm not a huge fan of small pots for growing anything you're going to want to eat. Plants in a small pot might not die, but many will not come to full maturity — so what's the point? Small pots will also dry out very quickly.
The absolute smallest pot I recommend would be one that's six inches deep and about the same width. If a windowsill is your only option, don't worry — a long, narrow pot will also work well and can house one or two different plants.
It's also important that your pot has drainage holes (or at least one!) so that the water can flow through the soil. If you fall hard for a planter that doesn't have holes, you can usually get away with creating drainage by adding pebbles to the bottom of the pot before you add the soil. Just something to think about for now — more on this later.
Get the dirt on potting soils.
Not all potting soils are created equal. A good potting soil mix will drain well while still holding moisture. Most soil mixes are formulated to maintain a certain level of fluff so that plants are able to breathe. Fun fact: Air is right up there with sun and water in importance to healthy, thriving plants.
When shopping for potting soil, look for organic potting soil mixes from smaller regional companies rather than the national brands you'll find in big-box stores. And look for a bag that includes a mix of compost or bark. These add richness and texture to the soil and will help to retain moisture.
Coconut fiber is another good ingredient to look for; the porous fibers of the coconut hair absorb and hang on to water and also let air circulate through the soil.
Here's what to know about plants and light.
All plants need light to grow, although some do well in shade. Edible plants are sun-lovers and typically need anywhere from four to 12 hours of direct sunlight.
The best plants to grow in your kitchen garden are things like basil, arugula, mint, and scallions, all of which do well in somewhat-limited light and grow rather quickly.
Memorize these 4 rules for watering your garden.
Water is crucial to healthy plant growth and a successful garden: it transports minerals to a plant, allows evaporation for cooling, and aids in photosynthesis. Water's function to any plant is of utmost importance. With that, there are some basic principles to follow when watering your containers.
1. Water regularly.
It is imperative that the potting soil doesn't go completely dry at any point in a plant's life cycle. If the soil gets too dry, when you go to water the plant, water will just collect on the surface of the soil and then pool down the sides of the container instead of wetting the soil uniformly.
To avoid drying out your pots, be sure to check for water daily by inserting a finger into the pot. The soil should feel damp (but not soggy) about two inches down. If the soil is dry, water it.
2. Water deeply.
How do you know how much to water? Add enough water to your pots so that some of it seeps out of the drainage holes. This ensures that roots at the bottom of the container will have access to water. As water pools in the saucer, be sure to empty it (see next rule).
If you don't water deep enough, you increase the odds that your plant will have shallow roots. Shallow roots lead to weakened plants. And weakened plants have a diminished harvest. It's a bad cycle to start and it is challenging to fix. It's better to water fully and deeply every two to three days than to give your plants a little sprinkle every day.
3. Do not overwater.
Overwatering plants waterlogs the soil and keeps oxygen from flowing freely to the roots of plants. Plants need oxygen to survive, so this is a problem! Before you know it, waterlogging can lead to decay and rot.
To ensure that you do not overwater your plants, check for dryness in the soil before you water. Again, make sure you have proper drainage and that water is flowing through your container. You can also check the bottom of your pots for excess moisture. Carefully turn the pot over every now and again and feel through the drainage hole for dampness. If the soil is wet, give it a day or two to be absorbed by the plant before watering again.
4. Water with the seasons.
Your plants' water needs will change with the seasons and depend on sun exposure and the size and material of your container, so there is no steadfast rule on how often you should be watering. You must be your plants' champion to craft the best watering schedule.
However, seasons will often dictate a commonsense approach. Plants need more water in summer (when it's hot and soil dries out faster) than in fall (when the days are shorter and less warm). In fact, plants may need two daily waterings in summer, depending on your sun exposure. (West-facing windows will get much warmer than an east-facing balcony.) Although if you have the air conditioner on all day, you might not need to water as often.
As far as timing, plants will do much better if you water them first thing in the morning before it gets too warm. This allows for proper soaking and eliminates immediate evaporation due to heat. It also gives the water time to work its way through the pot so that you are not causing "wet feet" or overly damp roots to sit overnight and cool.
IMAGE CREDIT :: Shannon Douglas
Garden :: GROWING MINT INDOORS, The Kitchn June 2017
Mint is one of those plants that you really cannot mess up. Promise. It can handle the abuse of lack of watering or poor sunlight. The only real risk is that the plant chokes itself (silly, plant!) but that can be avoided easily.
Here's everything you need to know about growing mint in your kitchen.
First, the Basics
Mint is a considered a "runner" — a plant that sends out horizontal root runners, which produce new stalks. This is both good news and bad news for small gardens. Good in the sense that mint will keep on giving and is able to take abuse from lack of watering or poor sunlight; bad because you must pick a pot with enough space for the plant to continue growing in, or else the roots could wrap around themselves in swirly patterns and start to choke the plant. (Weird, right?)
Choose a long, shallow pot to give the plant room to spread. If you can't find a long pot, choose a deep one — whether deep or wide, the root system just needs room to grow.
Skip the seeds and go with a start (a plant that's already started growing) when it comes to planting mint. Why? You're going to want to taste a leaf before you commit to growing any sort of mint. Many peppermints, curly mints, and other plants are sold as mints, but they are not the same as the cool menthol plant you find in a mint julep and will likely disappoint in recipes.
Once you find a variety you like, get it home and plant it in that perfectly selected container. You probably only need one plant (because of all that spreading!), which means you don't have to worry about spacing. Just put the plant in the middle of your container, a few inches into the soil, and it'll spread out.
Mint can be planted any time of year and performs best in full sun, as long as the soil is kept moist, but it also thrives in partial shade. (Again, you really cannot mess this up!) A note on watering: Mint does not like wet "feet," so make sure the soil drains well and do not let water stand in the drainage saucer. As with all plants, you are aiming for a consistent level of moisture in the soil. Don't let it dry out and don't soak it, either.
To harvest, cut halfway down the stems — they will grow back. If the stems are looking spindly or the leaves are small and brittle, cut back the entire stem, as close to the soil line as possible. The more you harvest, the more vigor the plant has, so be generous and harvest a stem or two at least once a week. Once the plant flowers, be sure to cut it back all the way, fertilize it, keep it watered, and it will grow again. (Use a gentile nitrogen-heavy fertilizer such as alfalfa meal, which you can find at your local garden center.)
Keeping the Plant Going
Mint is a perennial plant, which means in an indoor garden you can grow it all year long — although as sunlight wanes in winter, so will the plant's growth. For this reason, unless you have a very sunny (south-facing) winter window, you should cut back your mint every autumn. Snip off the stems as close to the soil line as possible and keep it only lightly watered over the winter. This helps keep energy in the root system and won't stress the plant. While the mint may put on a little bit of growth after trimming, don't expect any real harvest until the season turns and the days start getting longer. Fertilize again in the spring, keep the soil moist and, soon enough, the stems will come back hardy and strong.
If you notice the mint's growth waning after the first or second year, the pot may be overcrowded with the root system. This happens with mint, but here's how you fix it: Turn out the plant, trim some of the roots, and re-pot it with fresh soil. Don't worry about cutting too much of the root system away — mint is hardy and will grow back.
PHOTO CREDIT :: Shannon Douglas
Garden :: GROWING BASIL, The Kitchn June 2017
The Easiest (Annual) Herb You Can Grow Indoors
You know all those grow-your-own basil kits sold online and in novelty stores? I do not understand them! For starters, they almost never work (or they do ... until they don't). And secondly, they're just totally unnecessary. Basil is actually not hard to grow, and you'll have a lot more success if you just do it sans kit.
Here's what you need to know about growing basil in your kitchen without a kit. Armed with this info, you won't ever have to buy one of those overpriced packs of basil at the grocery store ever again.
First, the Basics
There are all sorts of basils out there. Commonly, we use sweet basil or Genovese basil in cooking — this is the historically Italian herb that tastes of mint, clove, citrus, and anise all wrapped into one. There's also Thai basil, lemon basil, anise basil, lime basil, cinnamon basil, and more. The colors can range from lime green to deep emerald, and the leaf size will also vary across plants. Genovese basil produces big, puckered leaves that are fleshy, for example. Other varieties will grow as small bushes and produce small, pointed leaves.
If you're thinking, "Hey, didn't you guys already say mint was the easiest herb we can grow indoors?" You are not wrong. Mint is a perennial herb, which basically means you can grow it any time of year and it will keep coming back. Basil, however, is an annual herb and prefers warmer temps (plant it around May or June) and won't last much more than a couple of months.
Basil should be grown in a pot that's at least four inches deep. Of course, the deeper the pot, the more the plant will fill in, so keep that in mind when choosing. Fill the pot with potting soil so it's flush with the top — do not leave any space, as that would create a small shadow, blocking growing plants from sun.
Basil can be sown (planted!) from seed or purchased as a transplant (a plant that's already been started for you!). You can find sweet basil starter plants at the grocery store, but if you want to grow a less common type, you might have to look for seeds.
If using seeds, you can be super casual about it: Just sprinkle the seeds across the top of the soil with no particular pattern (it's called broadcast sowing). This method works for stem-y plants — like basil — that can grow close together without crowding.
If transplanting, the only real rule is to provide enough space for the plant to grow. Loosen up the transplants and be sure to separate out individual basil plants, allowing them room to come to full maturity. Trim any very long root systems to about three inches long and plant them into the potting soil, making sure you don't cover too much of the stem. Basil stems are delicate and will rot if planted too deeply.
As with most container plants, keep the soil just-moist and water consistently. Aim to water your basil plants in the morning — the warmer they are, the happier they are. If you water them at night, their root system will cool down, which is not ideal!
Harvesting basil is always a process of great debate and strategy. Basil is an annual plant, and so its character is to flower and set seed. Once flowering, the plant won't grow many leaves, so it's important to keep them from flowering.
How do you do that? When the plants are young (about six inches tall) pinch off the top set of leaves every two weeks or so. The plants will branch out from here, filling in the pot. Do not wait for flowers to form before you pinch them off! Doing so will only create more flowering stems. (Whoops!) If it does flower, just pinch them off (you can eat them!). As you harvest, limit what you take to just up to 2/3 of the entire plant, so it can continue producing.
To make sure you keep yourself in good harvest stocks, sow a small spoonful of seeds every three weeks starting in June. This ensures as some plants are coming to the end of their lifecycle, more are growing behind it.
Garden :: GROWING CHIVES, The Kitchn June 2017
Perhaps you've seen all those hacks online showing that you can regrow your scallions simply by placing the white bulbs in a cup of water (and maybe eventually putting them in soil)? Perhaps you've doubted that it really can be that easy? I'm here to tell you it is, indeed, that easy!
It is not hard to have a continuous supply of scallions. Of course, the more you know, the better your results will be. Here's a quick tutorial on growing and harvesting your own scallions at home.
First, the Basics
Scallions are part of the allium family (the same family as shallots and garlic) and are quick to grow. Even better, scallions are considered cut-and-come plants, meaning you can trim them for eating and the plant will continue growing.
The entire scallion plant is edible — there is the white, bulbous portion of the plant that grows somewhat underground, and the green stalks of the plant that shoot out from the soil. Both are tender, oniony, and delicious.
From seeds, scallions can take months to grow into full, thick plants. This is never my preferred method — only for the fact that there are two other options that are offer more instant gratification.
This is the method I mentioned at the beginning of the post: Using leftover store-bought green onions as your starts. Instead of just putting them in water (which the internet likes to tell you to do), I get the best results planting them into soil. To do it: Leave three to four inches of the white bulb intact and plant it about 1/2-inch deep in fresh soil. It will produce green stems that should be ready to harvest in two or three weeks.
If you begin with starts from a local nursery, growth will happen super quickly. When planting, trim the roots so they are about two to three inches long (above) before you put them into the soil. If you prefer to eat the white portion of the plant, which is more flavorful, you can bury more of that part deeper into the soil and it will grow larger than if it was sticking out of the soil.
Regardless which way you're starting your scallion garden, choose a narrow pot that is at least six inches deep and work in tidy rows, leaving one inch between plants. Fill the pot to its lip with potting soil — the deep soil will give the plant room to stretch its roots.
Scallions can be planted nearly all year long but do better in direct sunlight, so opt for a south-facing window if you have one. Those with less direct sunlight need not despair — scallions will still grow, just not as quickly. Either way, keep the soil slightly moist; overly wet soil leads quickly to disease and even insects, so be mindful that the soil drains well and do not let water stand in the drainage saucer after watering.
Every three weeks you can plant more scallions to produce a continuous harvest. Don't worry about overcrowding the planter because you'll be thinning it out as you harvest.
When you want to eat your homegrown scallions, you have two harvesting options. You can pull the entire plant from the soil, clean it, and use. Of course, then you'll have eaten the entire plant, so there won't be opportunity for it to regrow.
Another option: Leave the white bulb in the soil and cut the green tops. To do this, use scissors to trim up to 70 percent of the green from the plant. This will allow the green shoots to grow back in over the course of about two weeks.
PHOTO CREDIT :: Shannon Douglas
Garden :: GROWING ARUGULA, The Kitchn June 2017
What if I told you that you could grow your own salad (or, at the very least, a leafy base of arugula) inside the comforts of your kitchen? It's true, you can! Usually when it comes to indoor gardening, people tend to think of herbs or, well, just succulents. But it's actually super easy to grow arugula on your windowsill.
Here's what you need to know.
First, the Basics
A member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family, arugula is considered a cold-weather crop and does well in the cooler temperatures of early spring and fall. People often ask me why their arugula didn't do well; more often than not, it's because they waited to long to sow seeds and the weather was already too warm. If it's already hot where you are, consider bookmarking this story and revisiting it in the fall.
Arugula excels in north-facing windows — a rare trait for a house plant. The cooler temps keep arugula from bolting or going to seed. In the winter, move the container to sunnier spot in a south-facing window, but be sure to keep planters away from heat sources which will dry out the soil and stress the plant.
If given the room, arugula plants can grow to well over two feet. In a small container, however, the leaves grow to the perfect size for salad. I like to use a long, narrow planter for growing arugula. This type of container fits perfectly on a windowsill or ledge and does well for any shallow-rooted salad green.
Arugula does not need deep soil to grow, although the deeper the soil the larger the leaf. If you have a container that is at least four inches deep, that will work and produce baby arugula leaves — the same size you usually find in bagged salad bags at the grocery.
Sow (plant!) arugula seeds in the top layer of potting soil starting as early as February and all through early summer. Again, if it's pretty hot where you are, hold off until late August, September, or October. If you're using starts (mini plants that have already been started for you), transplant them into the pot, leaving about one inch between each plant.
Fun tip: With arugula, I like to use seeds and starts, sprinkling the seeds on the top layer of the potting soil around each plant start. (See the photo above.) This fills in the gaps and ensures a continuous harvest. If you want to impress your friends, this is technically called succession planting.
Each arugula seed produces one thin stem, which leaves grow out from. You can further your crop by cutting them back — the leaves will regenerate once or twice before getting too spicy, woody, or bitter.
To harvest, cut arugula at the base of each leaf off the main stem. You can decide for yourself when the leaf is big enough. For a mellow, spicy flavor and a tender green, harvest when the leaves are young — about three to four inches. If you prefer a stronger flavor and a thicker, crunchier stem, allow them to grow to five to six inches and cut the entire stem at its base. Arugula will grow back once cut, so don't pull the stems.
Remember, arugula bolts (goes to flower) quickly in the heat. If this happens, strip the stem of its leaves and use both the leaves and flowers in your salads. The stems can be chopped and used to make a pesto.
Arugula is an annual plant and will need to be planted year after year, which means you'll get plenty of practice at least!
Pacific Northwest Magazine :: TURMERIC, Seattle Times June 6, 2017
This versatile and colorful spice, from the ginger family, goes in everything from curries to medical remedies.
TURMERIC HAS BEEN used for centuries in Southeast Asia as both medicine and food. It is the principal spice in Indian cuisine and is widely used across other cultures. Medicinally, homeopathic advocates rely on turmeric for its beneficial healing properties. As of late, it has become the new “it” ingredient in a variety of cuisines.
Turmeric “root” is actually the rhizome (underground stem) of a plant in the ginger family, and bears a strong resemblance to ginger root. As a medicinal plant, turmeric is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, thought to reduce pain, quell arthritis and soothe upset stomachs.
The rhizome can be dried and ground into fine powder — this is the form of turmeric sold in spice shops across the world, and what gives curry its signature golden hue. Dried turmeric has an earthy, acrid quality to it.
As with most spices, the taste and flavor of turmeric will degrade over time.
“There is an enormous difference when you source high-quality turmeric,” says chef Eric Johnson of Stateside, who purchases turmeric powder from Villa Jerada, a local importer of Moroccan specialty foods. That means it’s time to toss that old spice jar you’ve had sitting in the cupboard for years.
Johnson relies on turmeric powder for his Vietnamese curry blend, which he uses on braised pumpkin. The curry powder is cooked with coconut milk and spooned over fat pumpkin wedges. He serves it with toothsome tofu “skins” as garnish, along with a mound of fresh herbs.
Fresh turmeric root is slightly spicier and brighter-tasting than its dried counterpart. Juice bars long have incorporated turmeric juice into their menus for its curative properties, but now it’s also showing up in morning lattes. Juicebox, on Capitol Hill, cold-presses fresh turmeric and blends it with house-made date-and-pepita (pumpkin seed) milk, ginger, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, orange peel and black pepper — served warm. Black pepper often is added because it increases the bioavailability of turmeric. A shot of espresso is optional.
Fresh turmeric can be found at Asian markets and even some grocery stores, such as Fred Meyer. It can be grated, diced or juiced — though proceed with caution: Its intense color also makes for intense staining.
Seattle chef Ba Culbert, of Tilikum Place Café, grates fresh turmeric and blends it with rice and coconut milk to make delicate, golden-colored crepes. She cautions that everything that turmeric comes in contact with will stain — fingers, cutting boards, graters, counters, dish towels and more. Consider yourself warned.
Stateside Curry Powder
There is no “right” way to make curry powder, as every household has its own recipe. Feel free to take away or add spices as you like.
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
2 tablespoons coriander seed, ground
2 teaspoons star anise, ground
2 teaspoons ginger, ground
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon white peppercorn, ground
1 teaspoon clove, ground
1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
1 teaspoon mace, ground (sub nutmeg)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 teaspoon fenugreek, ground
Optional 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if you like spicy
Blend all ground spices, and store in a jar. Curry powder can be stirred into any sauce, especially coconut-based sauces, as they do at Stateside, and can be blended into yogurt or cream. Toss a spoonful of curry powder with vegetables — at Stateside, they use steamed Cabochon squash. You can coat chicken, seafood, tofu and roast, as usual. Stateside’s Eric Johnson further offers, “If you’re into that kind of thing, add a big splash of fish sauce. And put herbs on top! Cilantro, Thai basil and scallion.”
Amy Pennington is a Seattle cook, urban farmer and author. Visit her website at amy-pennington.com.
Dean Rutz is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Key Ingredient :: SEAWEED, Seattle Magazine Dec 2015
Seaweed, long revered in Japanese culture, is available as close as Puget Sound. But can we simply stroll down to Golden Gardens and harvest some fresh kelp for eating? Read More.....
Key Ingredient :: VINEGAR Seattle Magazine, Oct 2015
Key Ingredient :: FISH SAUCE, Seattle Magazine Aug 2015
Ma‘ono’s Mark Fuller dishes on his go-to ingredient :: To the uninitiated, the mention of fish sauce might well result in wrinkled noses. Read More...
Dining Guide :: SUSHI
Key Ingredient :: HARISSA, Seattle Magazine June 2015
There's a New Spice Making Heat Waves in Restaurants
Chef Thierry Rautureau turns up the heat with Harissa
Move over, Sriracha, there’s a new hot number in town. Harissa, a North African sauce or paste made from a blend of Moroccan peppers, preserved lemon, oil and spices, ranges from mild to fiery. Thierry Rautureau, chef and owner of Luc, in Madison Valley, and Loulay Kitchen & Bar, downtown, counts on harissa to enliven his dishes and provide subtle heat. A self-confessed “spice weeny,” Rautureau says, “Harissa is heat with flavor.”
“The first time I tasted harissa was in paste form in France,” Rautureau says. “My father was making a roasted goat, and the marinade was in a bucket that had wine, oil, harissa and thyme.” Traditionally paired with couscous, harissa can be used to enhance the flavor of mild foods.
In his restaurants, Rautureau uses harissa mostly in aioli and as a finishing sauce; it is served as a thick spread on the bacon sandwich at Loulay and in an aioli for dipping french fries at Luc. For brunch at Loulay, he makes a harissa hollandaise sauce for poached eggs served over root vegetable hash, and stirs a spoonful into the beet-juice Bloody Marys.
At home, Rautureau uses harissa as an easy marinade for a grilled leg of lamb (like his father’s) or coats a whole side of salmon. “I combine olive tapenade and harissa and rub it on the salmon.” From there, he grills the fish for 10 minutes before removing the fish and leaving the skin behind for another 5 minutes to crisp. “It gets crispy, and the harissa acts like a rub—it makes a wonderful dinner.”
Why you should try it: “Discover a new heat [that offers] texture and flavor all in one place. Try different kinds to find out what you like best,” Rautureau says.
How to use it at home: The heat from harissa makes it a great counterpoint to creamy condiments. Combine harissa with sour cream for a cucumber dip. Or add a spoonful to mayo (or homemade aioli) and use as a spread on sandwiches or a dip for crudités or as a topping on crispy roasted potatoes.
Where to find it: Rautureau prefers Mustapha’s Mediterranean harissa, available at mustaphas.com, Metropolitan Market (various locations; metropolitan-market.com) and Whole Foods (various locations; wholefoodsmarket.com). Marx Foods (Lower Queen Anne, 144 Western Ave. W; 206.447.1818; marxfoods.com) carries a locally made harissa from Villa Jerada.
Luc’s Harissa Aioli
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon of harissa*
1 teaspoon of very finely chopped garlic
Juice from half a lemon
Ground black pepper to taste
2 cups of good olive oil
In a food processor bowl, place all the ingredients except the olive oil. Mix thoroughly for about 1 minute and drip the olive oil slowly into the mixture. If the aioli gets too thick during the process, add a little bit of cold water to the mix. Keep refrigerated.
*Harissa differs in heat strength depending on its purveyor.
Key Ingredient :: LOVAGE, Seattle Magazine April 2015
KEY INGREDIENT: Poppy chef/owner Jerry Traunfeld springs for this savory herb
Kitchen herb gardens are reasonably common around the city, but rare is the garden that contains lovage—a robust perennial that looks and tastes like celery. “It has a savory quality and is the kind of herb that gives food a depth of flavor and a deep, herbaceous vegetable note,” says Jerry Traunfeld, chef and owner of Poppy, on the north end of Capitol Hill.
That pop of flavor can be used to perk up vegetable stocks, enliven a bowl of steaming shellfish or fortify salads. Traunfeld often uses lovage as a finishing herb, or chopped fine and added to soups, although he says a little goes a long way. “It’s strong, and you have to use it carefully,” Traunfeld warns. “It’s an herb that can get bitter, especially if you’re using older leaves, when it’s more mature.” Leaves are best when picked young and tender; cutting back the plant regularly through the year helps to encourage new growth.
Where he gets lovage: Behind Poppy, Traunfeld and his kitchen team grow several clumps of lovage in raised planters. “I also planted some at my house for emergency backup,” he says.
Where you can find it: “I don’t see lovage at the farmers’ markets very much, so that’s the thing—you kind of have to grow it,” Traunfeld says. Lovage starts can be purchased at Swansons Nursery (Ballard) or the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale (May 2–3 at Meridian Park in Wallingford) and planted in prepared beds or large pots, which will help contain the plant and prevent it from spreading. “Growing lovage yourself is really exciting and so much superior to anything you can buy,” Traunfeld says.
How he uses it: Lovage goes well with shellfish, clams, shrimp and scallops. “We use it in the aioli for mussels,” a popular appetizer made up of lightly fried mussels with a dollop of herbed aioli. “We might put it in a carrot salad, because it works well and it’s very pretty with both the green and the orange—they have an affinity, just like in a mirepoix.” Lovage can be sliced into thin strips and used as a finishing herb on fish (Traunfeld recommends halibut), or the leaves can be added to a simple butter sauce. Behind the bar, Poppy bartenders make simple syrup from lovage by juicing the stems, which makes a verdant syrup for sodas.
How to grow and harvest it: “The cool thing about lovage is it’s the first thing to come up in spring,” Traunfeld says. It’s a hardy perennial, so plant starts in a permanent garden spot and let new growth come on before harvesting. To harvest, clip small, tender leaves at the base of the stems. Use older, woody stems as sipping straws in summer cocktails.
Whip up this tasty starter with the underutilized seasonal herb Lovage.
Poppy chef and owner Jerry Traunfeld discussed his favorite herb of the season in the April issue of Seattle Magazine. Here, he's provided a delectable recipe using the favored herb, lovage, and pairing it with mussels—an equally choice crop of the season—to create a delicious dish suitable to start any fête of the season.
2 pounds large-sized fresh mussels, washed and beards removed
½ cup dry white wine 1 cup all-purpose flour, or gluten free flour such as chickpea flour
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying lovage aioli
5 – 10 lovage leaves
Put the cleaned mussels in a large pot and pour the wine over them. Cover and cook over high heat until all the shells open.
Transfer to a colander to drain (you can save the liquid for a seafood soup, paella, or stew) then spread them out on a baking sheet and chill. Remove the meat from the shells, using a paring knife to aid if they cling.
Pat the mussels on a paper towel to dry them, then refrigerate until you are ready to fry.
Separate the shells and clean, rinse, and dry half of them. Discard the rest.
Prepare the lovage aioli and cut the lovage leaves into very fine strips.
Mix the flour with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in a large mixing bowl. Pour a ¼” depth of olive oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat.
Put half the mussels in the bowl of flour and toss until coated. Transfer them to a large fine strainer and shake off any excess flour.
Fry the mussels until lightly browned on the underside, then turn each and brown the other side. Use caution as the mussels might sputter and pop. Drain the mussels on paper towels and fry the second batch.
Arrange the mussel shells on a serving platter or plates and put a fried mussel in each shell.
Using two small spoons or a piping bag, top each with a small dollop of aioli. Sprinkle with the strips of lovage leaf and serve.
Lovage Aioli Recipe
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 small or 1 large clove garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
A dash of Tabasco Sauce
1/3 cup lovage leaves
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic, salt, Tabasco, and lovage in a food processor.
Turn the machine on and slowly pour in the olive oil in a steady stream.
Yield: Mussels serve 6 as first course; aioli makes 1 ½ cups, which is more than you will need for the mussels. Use the remaining aioli for sandwiches or salads.
Photos by Chustine Minoda
Dining Guide :: SOLO DINING, Seattle Magazine February 2015
Where to Dine Out Alone in Seattle
It may be the month of tables for two, but those of us looking for time to ourselves have options.
La Carta de Oaxaca
Amid the crowds of people who still (years after this place first opened) wait in line for seats at one of the large communal tables, solo diners have an advantage. They can grab a stool at the counter, which wraps around the open kitchen and allows for an unobstructed, action-packed view. The restaurant interior is decorated with an eye toward a clean, modern aesthetic (with a prominent gallery of photos from Oaxaca). Oaxacan cuisine is one of thick moles and spicy dishes, and La Carta produces some of the best in the city. Favorites include the mole negro ($12), a black mole over succulent, braised chicken and pork served with freshly pressed, handmade tortillas. For a lighter meal, opt for the caldo de pescado ($9), a very spicy soup made of coarsely chopped vegetables and a chunk of catfish, all floating in a deep bowl of tomato-based broth. 5431 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.782.8722; lacartadeoaxaca.com
The good news: Delancey, Ballard’s very popular pizza haven, has five barstools. That odd number increases the likelihood that a single person can claim a seat right away, a rare treat in this spot, which is prone to having a waiting list. The bad news: The seats are directly in front of the wood-fired pizza oven, so expectant diners must watch pie after pie go by until theirs arrives. The metal barstools induce a slouch and can be uncomfortable, but it’s worth the annoyance when a charred-crust pizza arrives, bubbling hot from the oven. Thin and salty, the crust is chewy and tastes faintly of smoke. Try the classic margherita ($12), topped with a bright house-made tomato sauce and mozzarella. Equally satisfying is the Jersey salad ($8), a simple bowl of thick romaine lettuce, ribbons of red cabbage and a generous grating of sharp grana cheese—the flavor defies its simple composition. 1415 NW 70th St.; 206.838.1960; delanceyseattle.com
Percy’s & Co
The best strategy at Percy’s & Co., one of Ballard’s newer apothecary-style bars, is to come for happy hour and stay for dinner. Serving medicinal drinks spiked with herbs and tinctures, Percy’s draws a generationally diverse crowd and has a convivial vibe. Thursday night offers free (bring cash to tip) tarot card readings until 6:30 p.m.—a great activity for solo diners, especially when paired with a happy hour cocktail ($2 off the full list). Pick from one of several infused spirits, many of which use herbs from the rooftop garden, and opt to add the “energy” (made from ginseng and turmeric root) or “libido” (made with catuaba bark) tincture for flavor or healing powers. The kitchen offers homey fare such as a large portion of creamy salt cod fritters with smoked aioli ($9), and a plate of Southern-style shrimp and grits ($16), which can be eaten at the bar, one of the communal high tables or in a booth, if you’re craving a greater degree of solitude. 5233 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.420.3750; percysseattle.com
Bar del Corso
While the wait at Bar del Corso can be intimidating, odds of finding one seat open at the bar are decent at this casual neighborhood pizza joint. Enter into a cozy room with a high ceiling, large wood-framed windows and a welcoming energy. The long bar offers tall stools with firm backs (typically occupied by regulars), which have the added benefit of providing some noise relief from the high decibel level of the dining room. You’ll also get a view of the active kitchen. The crust of the wood-fired pizza ($9.50–$12.50) is spot-on and comes with a thick tomato sauce and a variety of toppings—but don’t neglect the plated items on the menu. The burrata and rapini ($10) is a deeply satisfying dish of roasted broccoli rabe served with a creamy ball of oozy mozzarella, while the standout plate of “tonno del Chianti” ($10) is a heaping portion of sultry olive-oil-braised pork shoulder served over perline beans, frisée, radishes and radicchio. 3057 Beacon Ave. S; 206.395.2069; bardelcorso.com
In Old Bellevue, this Tuscan-inspired Italian restaurant offers a sexy night out on an otherwise quiet street. Muted lighting and dark wood decor ensure anonymity, allowing one to eat with gusto. Grab a table at the front of the restaurant and tuck into a banquette; table no. 3 is particularly small and cozy. Dig into a plate of rolled cannelloni stuffed with braised pork and sweet potato ($17) or indulge in a full plate of Bolognese, a shallow bowl of tomato and meat sauce served with thick, house-made pappardelle pasta ($17). A small selection of salads—try the Brussels sprouts with pancetta ($9)—and a short dessert list, created and baked by skilled pastry chef Karen Krol, promise a well-rounded meal. 10038 Main St.; 425.233.6040; cantinettabellevue.com
A casual Ethan Stowell outpost, Bar Cotto is a pizza haven that also offers scrumptious small dishes (if you don’t want a whole pie for yourself). The bar seats nine, bartenders are friendly and the drink list focuses on bitter Italian liqueurs. In the dining area, most tables are for two, making it easy to grab a seat and read a book or relax against the banquette while people watching. Choose from a variety of salumi (three/$18, five/$25) on the chalkboard, such as a selection of prosciutto or one of the house-made specialties, including the bresaola, a lean slice of air-dried salted beef. Pair this with one of many bruschetta; the chickpea, rapini and anchovy ($9) is a knockout. A winter salad of escarole and hazelnuts ($8) is crisp and light, while the beet, pistachio and sultana raisin salad ($8) is more filling and highlights winter flavors at their best. 1546 15th Ave.; 206.838.8081; ethanstowellrestaurants.com
Groovy hipsters and neighborhood families collide at this popular hillside spot, two doors down from Elliott Bay Book Company. Diners can partake in breakfast, lunch or dinner. Affordable comfort food reigns supreme at night, where dining at the bar is a social affair, which should include enjoying one of the many artisan cocktails, such as the amaro cooler ($9), made with bitter amaro and Fernet Branca, and topped off with Rachel’s ginger beer. Plates include a nod to vegetables, such as the thick slab of vegetable lasagna ($15) made from seasonal ingredients, or a creamy plate of mushroom and sage risotto ($15). For a lighter meal, choose from the selection of appetizers or salads, such as the roasted carrot and avocado salad ($8), dressed in orange-cumin yogurt and garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds. 1525 10th Ave.; 206.325.0807; oddfellowscafe.com
At this open restaurant, with its tall ceilings and large windows, soup is just what you need to warm up your bones in the cool room. Fresh, house-made Vietnamese food is served all hours of the day, including pho, a perfect meal for one. It comes out of the kitchen quickly and should be eaten in slurping spoonfuls. It’s an excellent choice when you don’t want to linger over a meal or bother with several courses. Try the pho ga ($11), a thin, flavorful broth served with roasted chicken pieces and a soft-boiled egg. Soups are served on platters with traditional pho accompaniments—fresh basil sprigs, lime quarters and sliced jalapeño—along with a squeeze of oyster sauce and Sriracha, a hot chile sauce that adds flavor to the bowl and helps create heat. 550 12th Ave.; 206.328.2030; babarseattle.com
On the ground floor of Hotel Max, Miller’s Guild showcases nose-to-tail butchery, offering various cuts and types of meat cooked over the custom-made, wood-fired grill. Toward the rear, tall, modern, white stools at a chefs’ counter allow diners to monitor kitchen action while eating. Daily meat specials “from the infierno” are offered via a handwritten menu, while other courses can be ordered from the menu. Try the indulgent roasted bone marrow ($18), served with a rich mushroom–foie gras relish, or the crispy french fries, served with a side of house-made motoraioli ($9), a creamy mayo made from the grill’s meat drippings. Of course, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen and park yourself at the bar, an equally active and comfortable spot for dining. 612 Stewart St.; 206.443.3663; millersguild.com
While there is a slightly confusing cluster of seating spaces here, the food and cocktails offer a level of modern and elegant indulgences seldom seen in the city. Just off the entrance, tall chairs positioned at a kitchen counter are strategically placed in front of the wood-burning oven and deep tandoor pit. Just beyond this is a proper bar area, where bartenders extol the history and virtues of various cocktails for hours on end. Beyond the main room and up a small set of stairs are more dining and lounging options in various corners and nooks, some with plush chairs, and others with couches for larger groups. Here, one can disappear into a book or work project (Wi-Fi is available throughout the building) while nibbling on a plate of hamachi crudo ($16) or devouring a dinner of 48-hour sous vide short rib ($30) served alongside a velvety mélange of cipollini (wild onions), kale and lentils. 2020 Westlake Ave.; 206.623.1922; mistral-kitchen.com
In this multilevel dining room, chef and owner Thierry Rautureau designed a table for one—a very rare find in Seattle or anywhere, really. At the corner of the balcony, a small rectangular table with a single, plush, white chair is positioned to face over the main dining floor, promising a bird’s-eye view of the kitchen and fellow diners. Reserve this table in advance when possible. The menu has broad appeal and focuses on French bistro classics, although it occasionally gives a nod to Rautureau’s earlier days of fancy French food, as with the scrambled egg and white sturgeon caviar ($25), a deceptively simple appetizer served in a cracked eggshell with a dollop of lime crème fraîche. It’s a perfect choice for one. 600 Union St.; 206.402.4588; loulay-seattle.com
This cavernous restaurant’s dining room feels big and cold, but not so up front in the bar, where tall windows look out onto Second Avenue and light spills in from streetlamps. Bartenders are expert at pairing wine and being attentive, while still making drinks for others. The menu is pasta-centric and includes house favorites, such as the rigatoni with spicy Italian sausage ($16), tossed in tomato sauce and generously sprinkled with fresh marjoram. Ordered alongside a bowl of greens ($8), tossed simply with herbs, lemon juice and olive oil, it makes a perfect, satisfying, flavorful meal for one. 2323 Second Ave.; 206.838.8008; ethanstowellrestaurants.com
Stroll up a creaky wooden ramp, flanked by tall bamboo canes, to the entrance of this home-style Thai restaurant. Housed in a cozy bungalow at the center of Phinney Ridge, Mai Thaiku specializes in medicinal cocktails (some of which include the libido-amping herb yohimbe) and full-flavored, heavily spiced cuisine. Skip the tables in the brightly lit restaurant and head into the intimate, dimly lit bar instead. With only five seats, you may well find another solo diner interested in chatting. Don’t miss the small section of “som tahm” dishes, made from ingredients pounded in a mortar with a pestle. For a memorable standout, go for the som tahm thai ($12), a fresh salad of green beans, tomatoes and green papaya tossed in a dressing with chiles, peanuts and dried shrimp. 6705 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.706.7807; thaiku.com
PIKE PLACE MARKET
Positioned just above Pike Place Market, this café is dedicated to cooking seafood dishes that highlight many of the fish from our northwest corner of the U.S. It offers a casual, friendly level of service. Lone diners can sit in the Puget Sound–facing bar or at a chef’s counter overlooking the kitchen, both of which are decorated with shadow boxes of fly-fishing flies and photographs of nature, and furnished with comfortable, swiveling stools. Steelhead accommodates every palate on its long menu. Fried fish and chips made from Alaskan ling cod and coated in Scotch-infused batter ($19) is a tasty spin on a classic dish, while kasu-marinated black cod ($37) from Oregon draws on Asian flavors and is served with an oversize portion of shiitake mushrooms and steamed bok choy. 95 Pine St.; 206.625.0129; steelheaddiner.com
This romantically lit neighborhood bistro features simple decor and concrete walls, and is flanked by painted gray banquettes and zinc-topped tables. Toward the back of the restaurant is a large bar area, where diners can choose between a seat at the counter or one at a handful of high tables. The French bistro–inspired menu offers six different cuts of steak ($24–$70), meant to be eaten with a heaping pile of perfectly crisp, golden fries ($6), an indulgent and worthy splurge for singles. Choose from one of several different, classic sauces for the steaks, such as béarnaise or horseradish cream. 1423 34th Ave.; 206.454.7932; ethanstowellrestaurants.com
Chinook’s at Salmon Bay
This seafood diner is always hopping. Families queue up at the front and vie for waterfront tables, but solo diners can head straight to the bar, where the bartenders work efficiently to take and fill orders. The U-shaped bar is positioned at the heart of this large restaurant, facing the always active Fishermen’s Terminal, a prime spot for people watching. Comfortable, high-backed chairs that swivel make it easy to linger over a bowl of traditional creamy clam chowder ($6.95) or one of the many salmon dishes: served on an alder plank with smoky beurre blanc (market price), in a pot pie ($16.95) or oven-broiled (market price) for purists. 1900 W Nickerson St.; 206.283.4665; anthonys.com
This off-the-beaten-path haunt on the eastern edge of Lower Queen Anne may not always be top of mind, but the kitchen turns out tasty food at affordable prices, and the restaurant possesses a welcoming, neighborhood feel. The long bar or the chef’s counter make for great solitary dining without the social pressure; this is a perfect spot to lose yourself in a book without being pestered. The pan-roasted chicken comes wrapped in prosciutto ($18), a preparation that reads as dated, but tastes divine. A dinner full of nosh-y items is also easy to put together here; the menu offers a cured-meat plate served with herb-infused olives ($13), a cheese plate with rosemary crackers and a dollop of house preserves ($12), and a platter of antipasti ($13), for those who prefer to graze. 823 Fifth Ave. N; 206.283.8800; eatatcrow.com
Sand Point Grill
Seasonal comfort food prevails in this neighborhood restaurant, which has been around long enough to be overlooked. A stone’s throw from University Village, the restaurant has a dark wooden bar that provides the best seat in the house. You’ll often run into a mature, friendly crowd of patrons who are happy to chat or leave you in peace. Dinner options range from casual (buttermilk fried chicken, $19) to creative (a cauliflower “steak” garnished with garlic-almond crumble, $14) to fancy (filet mignon with traditional sides and red wine reduction, $27), but the casual vibe means there is no need to dress up or put on your best shoes. 5412 Sand Point Way NE; 206.729.1303; Facebook: “Sand Point Grill”
From the same family that brought Red Mill Burgers to Seattle comes this friendly joint in the heart of West Seattle. Here, Northwest café food is served in a casual, pub-like setting, and it’s pretty easy for single diners to belly up to the bar on any given night. The spot is made all the more pleasurable by the 20-odd taps on display. Local brews fill most of the keg spaces, making this an excellent place for beer lovers, while wine, hard apple cider and even mixed cocktails fill out the poured offerings. Order from a menu that includes a wild sockeye burger oozing with chermoula sauce ($12.95) and served with fries or Red Mill’s famous fried onion rings ($4.50). Bonus points: On Monday nights, you can grab a burger and beer for $13. 2329 California Ave. SW; 206.420.3608; coppercoinseattle.com
Image Credit: Chustine Minoda
Key Ingredient :: HEMP, Seattle Magazine February 2015
How to use Hemp Seeds in Your Cooking
Chef Colin Patterson of vegan restaurant Sutra Seattle gets creative with hemp
Cannabis sativa is having a moment—from selling out in our first recreational marijuana stores to adding heft as hemp to vegetarian dishes around town. And while everyone is talking about the former, we’re here to celebrate the latter.
Hemp seeds (which have no psychoative effects) are a favorite of Colin Patterson, chef and owner of Sutra Seattle (Wallingford, 1605 N 45th St.; 206.547.1348; sutraseattle.com), the city’s only vegan fine dining restaurant. “Hemp seeds are one of the only plant-based foods that contains the same omega fats you find in fish,” says Colin Patterson, who has always relied on whole foods for flavor, not fake meats and proteins such as tempeh or seitan. “I don’t think [fake proteins] showcase food very well, it’s an easy out, and it’s also not very nutritious.”
Hemp seeds can be pulverized and used as a thickening agent for vegan-friendly “creams.” “If you add saffron to broth-soaked hemp seeds and purée them, you get a similar effect to a seafood saffron sauce,” as the omegas contribute a subtle fishy undertone.
At Sutra Seattle in Wallingford, Patterson uses hemp seeds for sauces, creams, salad dressings and soups. The seeds help enrich lobster mushroom risotto or a house-made Caesar salad, which he also blends with seaweed for a strong, ocean-like flavor. They may also be eaten raw, although Patterson suggests soaking them for at least 15 minutes before eating. “They have a very subtle, toasty flavor,” and soaking them helps to release the seeds’ nutritional flavor. “You’re making them come alive.”
Why you should try hemp seeds: For vegans or people with dairy allergies, hemp seeds give food a velvety texture that is otherwise hard to create. “Without [having to use] coconut milk or nuts, hemp seeds let you explore a fatty feel,” Patterson explains, “and diversity is good in a diet.”
How to use them at home: Soak the seeds in liquid—broth, water or vegetable juice—for 15 minutes or longer. Purée and strain to remove any solid pieces of the seed. For adding creaminess to soups, plan to use about 1 cup of hemp seeds per every 1.5 cups of liquid. For salad dressing, add soaked seeds to a blender with fresh herbs, lemon juice and water, and blend until the desired consistency is reached—no need for oil, as the seeds add the fat.
Where to find hemp seeds: Patterson orders them in bulk and recommends purchasing shelled hemp seeds, which break down more easily. They are sold as hemp hearts or shelled hemp seeds at most natural food stores, including Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com; $21.99/pound). They are also available in 7-ounce (organic) and 8-ounce (non-organic) bags at PCC Natural Markets (pccnaturalmarkets.com, $10.50).
Recipe for Smoked Lentil Sunchoke Cake with Black Garlic Hemp Seed Sauce
Sunchoke lentil cake
1 cup dried lentils (Chef Patterson prefers Beluga or French green)
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 piece of kombu (kelp)
¼ cup coconut cream
4 sunchokes sliced thin
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste
Bring lentils, stock and kombu to a boil and reduce to a simmer. (Kombu or kelp reduces the gas effects of legumes.) When lentils are at the al dente’ stage, turn it off and add a ¼ tsp of salt, cover and set aside.
Meanwhile toss sunchokes with olive oil and salt. Fill sunchokes about half way into six well-oiled 2-inch metal ring molds (or metal cookie cutters) on a sheet pan and bake at 350 until lightly brown, about 15 minutes.
Next, strain the lentils and prepare them for the smoker. There are a few ways to smoke the lentils, the best way is with a smoker. Place in a fine strainer, like a flour sifter, and smoke for about 1 hour. If you don’t have a smoker you can cook the lentils using a black smoky tea (such as Lapsang Souchong), you first make a strong brew and then cook your lentils in the brewed tea.
Mix smoked lentils and coconut milk and fill up the sunchoke ring molds with the lentil mixture.
Black Garlic Hempseed Sauce
½ onion, diced
½ head of black garlic
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup hemp seeds
1 cup stock
salt to taste
Sauté onion until slightly carmalized, add black garlic, stock and hemp seeds with a pinch of salt and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add lemon juice puree using a blender. (Use a towel to cover blender, and start blending on the lowest speed. Please be careful as hot liquid can blow up.)
1 bottle balsamic (nice and cheap)
1 jar caper berries
1 container of micros (watercress is a great substitute)
Place one bottle over low heat and reduce until it is a syrup consistency. Be careful to watch it closely at the end so as not to burn it. The easiest, safest way I have found if you have a dehydrator is to put the balsamic into a glass dish and dehydrate over night.
Place cakes in the oven to reheat for 5 minutes. Place sauce on plate put cake in the middle and garnish with micros, caperberries and balsamic reduction and enjoy!
Image credit :: Chustine Minoda
Dining Guide :: SOUPS, Seattle Magazine
Your Guide to the Best Soups in Town
Warm up to the best house-made soups on the menu
Cioppino at Fresh Fish Co.
At this small fishmonger in north Ballard, you’ll find a delightful bowl of cioppino ($3.99), a seafood stew made from a mix of fish and shellfish. Big hunks of fish trimmings and fresh catch embellish this tomato-based soup, which includes chunky vegetables. The seafood changes on any given day; one afternoon boasts spoon-size pieces of Alaskan salmon, while a batch on another day is mostly mollusks and shrimp. The tomato base is nothing special, but the soup itself tastes of the sea. This being a fish market, service is primarily takeout, and soup can be ordered in a portion large enough to feed four ($10.99 for 32 ounces), if you’re looking for dinner in a hurry. 2364 NW 80th St.; 206.782.1632
Huevos Ahogados at Señor Moose Cafe
Although it is easy to overlook on a menu teeming with tacos, masa cakes and hand-mashed guacamole, the huevos ahogados (“drowned eggs”) soup ($11.95) is not to be missed. Two suspended poached eggs—complete with oozing yolks—float in light tomato broth over a bed of thick, roasted poblano pepper strips and a dusting of Mexican Cotija cheese. On the side, a deeply golden piece of grilled bread slathered in butter is perfect for tearing into small pieces and adding to the broth, softening the bread’s crisp edges and providing texture. Sit at one of the many oil-cloth-covered tables or eat at the counter, which faces the kitchen (a great spot for solo dining) and enjoy this for breakfast (yes, this makes a terrific breakfast), lunch and dinner. 5242 NW Leary Ave.; 206.784.5568; senormoose.com
Hungarian Goulash at Liebchen Delicatessen
At this lunch-only deli, soups made from scratch focus on Eastern European classics, such as the hearty Hungarian goulash, spiked with cubes of pork loin ($2.83/cup, $4.35/bowl) and sweet and hot paprika. Made daily and loosely following a recipe, no two pots are ever the same. This quintessential deli, donned in Bavarian-themed decor, has a handful of small tables at the front of the shop. Small wares and grocery items line the long shelves full of products, especially around holidays, when the imported European candies are prominently displayed. 14125 NE 20th St., Suite G; 425.746.7810; liebchendeli.com
Avgolemono at Vios Cafe
Owner Thomas Soukakos, who hails from Sparta, offers classic Greek dishes that are wholesome and flavorful. While the menu changes seasonally, in winter, you’ll find several soup options, including the popular avgolemono ($4/cup, $6/bowl, $10/lunch bowl). This traditional Greek soup, speckled with white rice, tastes creamy, but the chicken broth is actually thickened with egg yolks, creating its signature yellow hue. Lemon juice gives the soup a refreshing tang; the bright citrus hints help to lighten winter doldrums. While soup can be ordered for takeout, the neighborhood cafés (also in Ravenna) are comfortable, and the staff is always friendly, so stick around to slurp. Capitol Hill, 903 19th Ave. E, 206.329.3236; Ravenna, 6504 20th Ave. NE, 206.525.5701; vioscafe.com
Matzoh Ball Soup at Volunteer Park Cafe
Thick, fat matzoh balls and coarsely chopped vegetables give this matzoh ball soup ($4.50/cup, $5.50/bowl) a satisfying, toothsome texture. Drawing on a love of one-pot cooking, chef and owner Ericka Burke has been making this soup for years, and it’s one of the most popular dishes at the café. A daily offering (along with one other rotating soup at lunch), the soup boasts a house-made broth that has a strong, pleasant hit of black pepper along with large, pulled pieces of roasted chicken. Communal seating promises a social lunch hour. 1501 17th Ave. E; 206.328.3155; alwaysfreshgoodness.com
Pho Tai Nam at Ba Bar
This soup’s deeply flavorful, salty stock is made with oxtail and marrow bones, plus charred shallots and ginger at this airy enclave, which serves fresh, house-made Vietnamese food all day, every day. Large, satisfying bowls of steaming soup are served with a perfect amount of thin rice noodles, along with strips of North-west fatty beef brisket and lean London broil from Painted Hills Natural Beef ($9 breakfast, $11 lunch and dinner). Bowls are served on platters with traditional fresh pho accompaniments—basil sprigs, lime quarters and sliced jalapeño—along with a squeeze of oyster sauce and Sriracha, and can be ordered from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. most days, and until 4 a.m. on the weekends. Beef balls, shiitake mushrooms or tendon can be added to the bowl for $2 extra—we recommend the plump and succulent mushrooms. 550 12th Ave.; 206.328.2030; babarseattle.com
Tortilla Soup at Poquitos
At less than $5 for lunch and $9 for dinner, this soup is an excellent choice day or night. Healthy, hardy and chock-full of vegetables, with a pronounced roasted tomato flavor, this bowl of soup is garnished with fresh cilantro, avocado, raw white onions (which add crisp texture) and a crumble of salty Cotija cheese. The chicken-broth base is infused with roasted red chiles, adding heat, and it’s loaded with pieces of grilled chicken. The large room seats diners in plush booths and cushioned swivel chairs around the bar, while the atrium-like bar area next door is an oasis of natural light, even on gray winter days. 1000 E Pike St.; 206.453.4216; vivapoquitos.com
Brown Beef Noodle with Soup at Szechuan Noodle Bowl
Located on the edge of the International District in an aging building, this restaurant has long been a foodie favorite for its green onion pancakes and savory dumplings. Inside, perfunctory tables and a low ceiling await guests. The staff is friendly; however, be sure to bring cash, as plastic is not accepted. The vague-sounding brown beef noodle with soup ($7.95) gets a little lost on the menu full of delicious-sounding options, but you’d be remiss not to order it. A big bowl of hand-cut, thickly misshapen noodles (cu mian, similar to Japanese udon) comes topped with a deep brown broth that is rich and salty. Cubes of beef are soft, tender and full of flavor, and are accompanied by a handful of wilted baby bok choy and chopped green onions, which add a bit of verdancy to the bowl. 420 Eighth Ave. S; 206.623.4198
Clam Chowder at Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar
It’s a bit of a puzzle to find this historic Pike Place Market oyster bar: Walk down the winding stairs from Post Alley directly into its courtyard, or, alternately, head to the recesses of the Market stalls between Virginia and Stewart streets, just past the original Starbucks. The decor is expectedly nautical, with a menu to match. Small, bright blue booths and checkered oil-cloth table coverings set the tone, as does the handwritten menu presented on an old paper bag. As far as soups go, the clam chowder rules; its sauce rich with puréed potatoes—not a starchy thickener. At $5.50 a bowl ($4.25/cup), it makes for a price-perfect, filling lunch. Pike Place Market, 1916 Pike Place; 206.448.7721
om’s Tomato Soup at Dahlia Bakery and Dahlia Lounge
In the jewel-box space that houses the Dahlia Bakery, people queue up year-round for takeout soups, salads and sandwiches. Just like mom used to make, Tom’s tasty tomato soup (available daily) is loaded with canned tomatoes and cream in perfect proportions, creating a super tomatoey soup that is best eaten with the brown-butter croutons (always served in Dahlia Lounge, next door; order as an extra at the bakery). Go with the large portion ($6 at the bakery and $9 at the lounge)—the soup has an irresistible piquancy, and the smaller cup ($4 and $6 respectively) will surely leave you wanting more. Dahlia Bakery and Dahlia Lounge, 2001 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.4540 and 206.682.4142. Also available daily at Home Remedy, 2121 Sixth Ave.; 206.812.8407; tomdouglas.com
French Onion Soup at Luc
Tucked into the busiest corner of Madison Valley, Luc serves French classics in a casual dining room fit for all occasions. Chef and owner Thierry Rautureau began cooking in kitchens in France as a teenager, learning the regimented classics at a young age. It is no surprise then that this traditional French onion soup ($9) is the best the city has to offer. Made from a rich stock of poultry and veal, the slightly sweet broth is bulked up with caramelized onions. A thick, toasted baguette wedge floats in the center of the bowl, while sharp Gruyère cheese is layered over the top and broiled, producing a bitter-crispy topping that is irresistible. Good thing the dish is available on both the dinner and weekend brunch menus. 2800 E Madison St.; 206.328.6645; thechefinthehat.com
‘Nona’ Vita at Mondello
The meatball soup at this Magnolia Village eatery is served as you’d expect it to be in Italy: no fancy garnishes and no secret flavors, just a wholesome, simple bowl of soup. Two friends—Corino Bonjrada and Giuseppe Forte—from north of Palermo own and run Mondello, named after the small town where they grew up. Small veal meatballs scented with parsley fill a shallow bowl of chicken stock, making the soup a hearty bowl fit for dinner. This version includes a small amount of spaghetti. Bonjrada’s mother, Enza, cooks most nights, while his grandmother, “Nona” Vita, is often perched at the bar waiting for closing time. The women’s presence, together with the heavy wood tables, the colorful room’s muted shades of blue and terra-cotta, and a hodgepodge of decorative items, lend to the overall homey feel. 2425 33rd Ave. W; 206.352.8700; mondelloristorante.com
Shoyu Ramen at Yoroshiku
Ramen joints are a dime a dozen in Seattle, but few do it better than Yoroshiku, which offers traditional foods from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where chef and owner Keisuke Kobayashi grew up. At lunch, it’s all ramen, either traditionally served in a bowl with broth or as “tsuke men”—noodles dipped into broth before slurping. Select from three broths (chicken and fish broth seasoned with soy sauce, house-made miso base or house-made miso base with chili oil), and several additional ingredients; the list runs the gamut of an exotic and well-stocked pantry. Our recommendations: the popular shoyu ramen ($9), with the addition of a soft-boiled egg or roasted seaweed. Also, a house-made miso broth works well with the vegetable soup, which is hearty when accented with roasted mushrooms or sweet corn. 1913 N 45th St.; 206.547.4649; yoroshikuseattle.com
A handful of local places offer tasty and speedy options for soup lovers in a hurry
If not quite infinite, this walk-up, cash-only shop in Tacoma’s St. Helens District does offer 20–25 delectable handmade soups daily. Owners Todd and Wendy DeShazo and Laura Adams boast a rotating menu of expected (broccoli cheddar, beef and barley) and gourmet (chicken Gorgonzola tortellini, eggplant parmesan) soups that align with the availability of local produce. Vegetarians and vegans can choose from more than a handful of protein-packed options, including the delightful, dairy-free (made with coconut milk) Caribbean red bean soup. The atmosphere is nostalgic: Stacks of records line the walls of the micro lobby, and a Crosley turntable spins all sorts of music. Snag a cup of soup ($3.50) and baguette (baked fresh and delivered by Corina Bakery three doors down) as a quick lunch, or a pint ($5.50) or two to bring home for dinner. Tacoma, 445 Tacoma Ave. S; 253.274.0232; Facebook, “Infinite Soups.” Look for a second Tacoma location, which was slated to open late last year.
In the grab-and-go grocer realm, Metropolitan Markets excels in its daily soup offerings—a large, self-serve bar offers various soups, depending on the location. French mushroom bisque is earthy and spiked with sherry, while the tomato basil leans toward creamy and is laden with fresh basil. All soups are made from scratch in-house by a team of trained culinary staff using traditional soup-making techniques. $2.99–$8.99 for individual portions. Various locations; metropolitan-market.com
With a rotating weekly menu, this kiosk, located on the ground floor of the City Centre building, offers 11 soups daily, including some gluten-free options, and rolls from Franz Bakery. Soups are made off-site and cooked in small batches without the extra preservatives you find in many soup mixes. Try the slightly spicy coconut chicken curry made with Thai basil and ginger. $3.99–$10.99 for individual portions. Downtown, 1420 Fifth Ave.; 206.625.9973; soupsonusa.com
The Great Northwest Soup Co.
Popular items tend to run out early at this South Lake Union lunch hot spot filled with neighborhood workers on lunch break. So don’t dawdle. Choose from about a dozen soups made in small batches daily, each served with a roll or cornbread. $4.49–$6.49 for individual portions. South Lake Union, 340 Westlake Ave. N, 206.420.8351; downtown, 1323 Fourth Ave.,206.859.6498; greatnwsoupcompany.com
Image Credit :: Easton Richmond
Dining Guide :: CHEAP EATS, Seattle Magazine January 2015
Where to Eat for Cheap in Seattle and on the Eastside
49 delicious (and some superbly nutritious) meals out for breakfast, lunch and dinner (with Chelsea Lin)
Breakfast of Champions
For $10 or less
Morsel and Bean
The name of this bright, new Ballard café (with a sister spot, known simply as Morsel, in the University District) may imply small, delicate portions of its signature item. But the truth is that these tender house-made biscuits are big enough to be a meal on their own. Get one plain, or make it a Spanish Fly, with salty Manchego, prosciutto, runny fried egg, arugula and aioli made with Mama Lil’s peppers ($6.75). The best part: You can order one at the drive-through and never have to change out of your pajamas. Ballard, 5905 15th Ave. NW; 206.457.5735; 4754 University Way NE; 206.268.0154; morselseattle.com
Dough Zone in Bellevue
Consider this humble eatery, tucked into a Bellevue strip mall, the poor man’s Din Tai Fung—and we mean that in the best possible way. The offerings aren’t exactly the same, but Dough Zone also makes xiao long bao (soup dumplings, referred to on this menu as juicy pork buns, $8.50 for 10), alongside another regional specialty called sheng jian bao, or jian buns ($8.50 for five) that have a similar meatball-and-broth combination inside, but a much doughier exterior. Both are exceptional. The spicy beef pancake rolls ($4.75) have bold flavor without being terribly spicy and are filling enough for a modest meal; congee ($2.75) comes with free refills. This is a place well-suited to groups, where the $10-per-person price promises a wide variety of tastes. Bellevue, 15920 NE Eighth St.; 425.641.8000; doughzone7.com
Schooner Exact Brewing
Beer and brunch—an unlikely duo that pair perfectly at this industrial SoDo warehouse brewery. On weekends between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Schooner Exact serves scrambles, sandwiches, salads and a few star waffle creations: The light, crispy Elvis waffle is a synthesis of sweet and savory with banana slices, peanut butter and two strips of bacon on top ($7). There’s an all-ages dining room to the left as you walk in—made kid-friendly with the addition of coloring books and toys—and some larger communal tables for catching up over beers in an open area to the right. Plus, there’s outdoor seating (overlooking the parking lot) in warm weather. SoDo, 3901 First Ave. S; 206.432.9734; schoonerexact.com
As with King Midas, everything Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi touch turns to gold. And so it is at Revel, where a simple bowl of porridge has been elevated from the status of gruel to brunch’s unsung hero, worthy of appearing on the same menu as flavor-packed kalbi burgers and ramen topped with pork belly. The congee ($10) changes seasonally, and really shines in the fall and winter, when a warm bowl incorporating ingredients such as shrimp, Brussels sprouts and pickled goathorn peppers is just about perfect. Fremont, 403 N 36th St.; 206.547.2040; revelseattle.com
Housed in an old firehouse just off Market Street in Ballard, this family-friendly diner serves some of the best deals in town for weekday breakfasts: six meals for just $5.75 each before 11 a.m., known as the “not-so-early-bird breakfast.” What’s the catch? It’s not the most inventive food. But if there’s ever a time for buttermilk pancakes, chorizo-stuffed breakfast burritos and goat cheese scrambles—and there definitely is—this is it. Ballard, 5425 Russell Ave. NW; 206.784.7272; chowfoods.com/hi-life
For Ballard barflies, The Sexton is best known for its sexy Southern charm and expertly crafted cocktails. And though it’s regularly packed at night, it sits noticeably quiet during Sunday brunch, when the farmers’ market bustles just outside the door. Grab one of the two window tables, and people-watch over inexpensive brunch choices, such as baked eggs with arugula and ham ($8) or house-made biscuits and hearty sausage gravy ($6). Most of the dishes will cost you less than a cocktail. Ballard, 5327 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.829.8645; Facebook, “The Sexton”
Easy Street Records
The chair seats are cracked, and the tables wobble, but breakfast at this record-store-meets-diner is a Seattle rite of passage. Under an old-school street lamp, early birds brave the 7 a.m. opening but most patrons roll in later and expect to wait for breakfast burritos (starting at $6.95) and lunch options including a parade of rock-inspired sandwiches, such as the Culture Club ($8.25), which is constructed of three layers of turkey, ham and bacon on wheat. The menu—and the everybody-knows-your-name service—is easygoing and readily accommodates kids and vegetarians. A word on those prices: The money you save on breakfast will likely be spent on vinyl before you’re done. West Seattle, 4559 California Ave. SW, 206.938.3279; easystreetonline.com
Voula’s Offshore Cafe
This classic spot, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, won Guy Fieri over with its family-run hospitality and house specials, such as the Chinese pancake baked with chunks of ham and an egg inside ($9.65)—big enough for three people to share. Eggs and bacon can be found anywhere, but the rectangle of buttery, golden brown, perfectly crisped hash browns served alongside Voula’s eggs and bacon (inching over our limit at $10.35) elevate the fairly boring order to something extraordinary. It’s casual, greasy-spoon fare—near the waterfront on North Lake Union, no less—at its very finest. University District, 658 NE Northlake Way; 206.634.0183; voulasoffshore.com
Francophiles, take note: There’s more to French breakfast than the perfect croissant. This longstanding Seattle favorite serves one menu for most of the day. Opt for a simple bowl of creamy yogurt with honey and walnuts ($5) or the heartier croque madame ($8.50)—one of the best in the city. Lunch, too, can come in at less than $10. Capitol Hill, 1117 12th Ave.; 206.709.7674; cafepresseseattle.com
Porkchop & Co.
While weekend brunch generally triggers an afternoon nap, weekday breakfast needs to provide energy and sustenance. Order Porkchop’s breakfast bowl: a modest portion of Anson Mill heirloom grits topped with two slow-poached eggs and tender roasted kale ($9)—for just such a nutritious pre-workday meal. The room and the food are simple and cozy, without pretension. And while these are the sort of dishes you could have made at home, why would you when you can eat them here? Ballard, 5451 Leary Ave. NW; 206.257.5761;
The Lunch Rush
For $10 or less
This weekday lunch-only spot is no secret—the lines regularly stretch out the door, and you’d best play by the rules and order at the counter before snagging a seat at the old church pews that line the walls. But owner Mike Easton knows his way around a pasta cutter, and the three daily changing variations of handmade pasta ($9) are worth every bit of the effort. It’s not a fancy place—you bus your own table and grab your own water—but the casual ambience helps keep this lunch relatively inexpensive. Pioneer Square, 217 James St.; 206.538.0999; ilcorvopasta.com
El Camión Adentro
For years, El Camión’s high-quality taco-truck grub had to be ordered (and hastily eaten) in a parking lot. But thanks to its 2013 takeover of the old Zesto’s space in Ballard, there’s a permanent place—with booths inside and a patio out back—to enjoy the truck’s tacos, burritos and, our personal favorite, gorditas ($6.60): a plate of three thick, handmade tortillas topped with meat (the adobada spicy pork is great), grilled onions, Cotija cheese, salsa verde and avocado. Avoid arriving early for lunch on weekdays if you don’t want to wait in line with the flurry of hungry Ballard High School students. Ballard, 6416 15th Ave. NW; 206.784.5411; elcamionseattle.com
Seattle isn’t hurting for sandwich shops, but affordable ones are another story. Delicatus covers a number of very important bases: cheap enough for frequent visits and varied enough that you needn’t repeat your order (unless you want to, of course). A chalkboard menu spells out more than two dozen sandwich options, from a Reuben ($9.75), piled high with corned beef, to the popular Pavo Diablo ($9.75), with smoked turkey, avocado and roasted poblano peppers. Dinner brings table service—and a bigger tip. Pioneer Square, 103 First Ave. S; 206.623.3780; delicatusseattle.com
Coco Ramen & Curry Bar
Anyone unfamiliar with Japanese curry should know that it’s less like the spicy, colorful versions available in other parts of Asia and more like gravy made from a spice-flavored roux. Coco’s modern, corner spot in Bellevue may be the only local Japanese restaurant where curry is the specialty and the reason for going—not just an afterthought in a longer list of dishes. It’s served atop a mountain of rice and protein on par with Seattle’s most generous teriyaki stands. Order the pork katsu plate ($8.99) for the most traditional experience; ask for it to be made spicy, if you dare. Bellevue, 120 Bellevue Way NE; 425.454.0588
This is Korean food made very fast and very cheaply, served with plastic utensils at plastic tables. It’s also Korean food for novices: The bulgogi (marinated grilled beef) and pickles in the signature rice bowls called bibimbap ($8.95) ring a tad sweeter than may be standard, and the overall flavors lack the pungency and spice typical of true Korean fare. But it has quality ingredients, plenty of veggies, and a fried egg and hot sauce on top. So really, what could go wrong? Capitol Hill, 1223 E Cherry St.; 206.538.0080; omabap.com
Sushi can be a wallet-busting meal, but not so at Kisaku for lunch, where a five-piece combo and California roll, plus miso soup, is $9.45. In fact, many of the menu items at this refined yet casual Japanese restaurant—including donburi, yakisoba and a daily bento box—come in at less than $10. As with dinner, the best seat in the house is at the sushi bar; unlike dinner, it’s fairly easy to nab a spot there during lunch. Green Lake/Tangletown, 2101 N 55th St.; 206.545.9050; kisaku.com
Floor-to-ceiling wood paneling makes this South Seattle neighborhood hangout dark even on the brightest days, but the all-day menu of pub food is best suited for lunch. A bar first and foremost, Loretta’s has better food than it ought to—the Tavern burger, a Dick’s-size single patty with a delightful char, dressed simply with American cheese, pickles, chopped onions and secret sauce, is just $3 (hand-cut fries are $3.50 as well, and worth it). A vegan burger, made in-house, is available for the same price. South Park, 8617 14th Ave. S; 206.327.9649; lorettasnorthwesterner.com
Legal complications after a split with his former partner resulted in a change of business names for locally famed chicken slinger Ezell Stephens. Rather than the eponymous Ezell’s, his newest restaurants are called Heaven Sent, and the chicken served is just that. The Lake City location is bright and impersonal in a familiar fast-food way, but the fried chicken ($8.20 for two pieces plus a side, roll and drink) is salty, crispy perfection. As for sides, the mashed potatoes and coleslaw are classic. Lake City, 14330 Lake City Way NE; 206.363.1167; heavensentfriedchicken.com
Taco-truck prices at a brick-and-mortar location: too good to be true? Not so at Tacos Chukis, a hard-to-find spot on the second floor of a patchouli-scented indoor shopping area on Broadway. The menu is limited, but most tacos are less than $2 each (they’re small, and you’ll want to order somewhere between two and five) and well executed. Particularly tasty is the house taco ($2.25), which features a hunk of grilled pineapple and dollop of guacamole atop marinated pork, chopped onions and cilantro. The beers won’t break the bank either. Capitol Hill, 219 Broadway E; 206.328.4447; Facebook; “Tacos Chukis”
For $15 or less
A rare find in Capitol Hill: A handful of entrées at this American-Euro café fall at or below the $15 mark. Dim lighting, compact seating, salvaged decor and high ceilings impart an urban feel here, where you can expect to find a multigenerational crowd. The meatballs and polenta with mascarpone ($15) is a plate any Italian grandma would love. Thick tomato sauce is spooned over rich polenta and topped with two fat meatballs; it’s a portion large enough for leftovers. For a more hands-on meal, the porchetta sandwich, made from slow-roasted pork and served with hand-cut fries ($14), is hearty yet elegant. Capitol Hill, 1525 10th Ave.; 206.325.0807; oddfellowscafe.com
A warm glow from dim lighting and heavy wooden floors with patina from foot traffic welcome diners into this Belltown restaurant, with its tall, street-facing windows. All plates here are served in shareable portions and categorized into specialized sections on the nontraditional menu. Vegetable platters are less than $11, and the meat and seafood plates are less than $16—a true bargain. Order a platter of the roasted shishito peppers with crunchy salt ($5), in which one in every handful of peppers is hot and spicy. For meat lovers, don’t miss the house-smoked wild boar ribs ($8), which are sticky with sauce, robust and sensual. Seafood, too, is reasonably priced. A plate of scallops with bacon and fried kale, at $15, is a splurge—and a luxury you may not want to share. Belltown, 2600 First Ave.; 206.441.1500; blackbottleseattle.com
The People’s Pub
The shabby brick exterior, dated signage and illuminated “Cocktails” fixture may put some people off this Ballard staple, but don’t judge this book by its cover. Inside, a wide room with red walls, framing wooden tables and high-backed chairs, lends to an overall Bavarian vibe, complete with beer steins on display. People rave about the deep-fried pickles on the German-American menu, but you’re better served choosing one of several traditional entrées that come with a portion of mashed potatoes and rotkohl—a braised heap of red cabbage cooked with apples, onions and wine. Try the Hunter’s Meal: jagerschnitzel, a pan-seared pork cutlet with a mushroom pan gravy, and substitute the house-made spaetzle, a springy German pasta, for the potatoes ($15). Ballard, 5429 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.783.6521; peoplespub.com
Pike Street Fish Fry
Recognizable by its large neon sign—a singular piece of art on an otherwise black building—this fish shack is a no-frills box of a restaurant just off the hipster-filled sidewalks of Capitol Hill’s busy Pike Street. Order from a short list of options at the walk-up counter inside—cod, catfish, shrimp, calamari or oysters are available daily ($9.50–$10). All seafood is fried in a beer batter seasoned with paprika and a perfect amount of salt. A small selection of sandwiches ($7) and tacos ($3.50) is also available. Gone are the deep-fried lemon slices it used to serve, although a side order of lemon aioli adds a citrusy zing to both fish and fries, as does the piquant house-made tartar sauce, which is excellent. Fries are twice-fried and crispy, served in a red plastic basket alongside the fish. With low ceilings and tall communal-style bars for seating (there is one small booth), it’s best to get your fish to go, which leaves time for it to cool before you dig in. Capitol Hill, 925 E Pike St.; 206.329.7453; Facebook: “Pike Street Fish Fry”
There aren’t many—any?—opportunities for dining on the beach in Seattle, but this neon shack in a landlocked former gas station near Green Lake has changed all that with a covered sandbox patio for eating alfresco year around. The laid-back vibe of this Caribbean restaurant carries indoors, where you place orders at the counter for hefty sandwiches or plates of citrus-braised pork ($9.99) or spicy shrimp ($10.99) paired with black beans, rice and a sweet, pickly slaw. Service is friendly and speedy. Green Lake, 6501 Aurora Ave. N; 206.420.8548; bongoscubancafeseattle.com
You don’t have to have an extended Ethiopian family to get your share of fir fir (a traditional dish of injera cooked with lamb or beef) and kitfo (a sort of heavily seasoned steak tartare)—just order up the combination plate at this family-run Pinehurst restaurant, north of Northgate, and you’ll feel like you’ve been adopted. The meat combos ($14/$15.50) and vegetarian combo ($12) each feature half a dozen different dishes laid out on a spongy circle of injera—enough food for two smaller appetites, or one big one. Don’t miss the traditional Ethiopian coffee. Pinehurst, 1510 NE 117th St.; 206.365.0757; jebenacafe.com
Pies & Pints
This is the house (er, bar) that pie built, but not the sort that’s served à la mode or the kind you pick up by the slice. Instead, the pies sold at this Roosevelt pub are Australian style pies: savory pockets of dough, about the size of a baseball, filled with meat and/or veggies. While the steak and potato may be traditional, we love the version that included chicken, bacon, mushrooms and Swiss in a creamy Marsala sauce ($11.95, including a side). Everything from the stocks to the desserts are made in house at this lively spot, also known for its trivia nights and live music. Roosevelt, 1215 NE 65th St.; 206.524.7082; piesandpints.com
“Eat at BP” screams the neon lights at the back of this hot-soup hangout in the Chinatown–International District, which adventurous eaters know as one of the few places in town to serve stinky tofu. While some hot-pot specialists serve it as a whole-table dish, the portions at Boiling Point are better suited for individuals and priced accordingly. The house special soup ($12.99) is a good place to start for the uninitiated; keep in mind that spice levels can range from not spicy to flaming hot. Chinatown–International District, 610 Fifth Ave. S; 206.737.8506; bpgroupusa.com
Vostok Dumpling House
If communist chic were a thing, this Capitol Hill restaurant, bedecked in Russian propaganda posters, would be its perfect expression. The Eastern European theme carries over to the menu, which focuses on two types of dumplings: Russian pelmeni, available with chicken ($5.50–$9.80) or pork ($5.25–$9.65) filling, and the more delicate Ukrainian vareniki, filled with potatoes, cheddar and onions ($4.50–$8.85). Half orders allow the option of trying both and staying on budget. Vegetable offerings are negligible—the occasional pickle or bowl of borscht—but you won’t miss them. Capitol Hill, 1416 Harvard Ave.; 206.687.7865; vostokdh.com
Travelers Thali House
At the epicenter of Beacon Hill, a welcoming purple house offers vegetarian fare that is big on flavor; the scent of warming spices hits you as you walk up the steps, passing by a red brick patio with dangling bistro lights. The à la carte menu of Indian favorites can be ordered in a mix of plates or condensed into one of the many sizes of thalis ($7.50–$22)—a platter of ramekins and small bowls filled with legumes, salads, chutneys and cooling yogurt sauce. Ask the friendly staff to steer you in the right direction, or build a meal from the janata thali—a mix of seven dishes—and add salads and snacks. Standouts include the gol gappa ($6), a small crisp cup made from semolina cradling cooked potatoes and chutney, which is meant to be filled with pepper water (a blend of fresh herbs and chiles served in a small pitcher on the side) and eaten in one bite. Don’t miss the refreshing bhel puri salad ($6), either: a fusion of puffed rice and crisp noodles tossed with cucumber, herbs, green chiles and lime. Beacon Hill, 2524 Beacon Ave. S; 206.329.6260; travelersthalihouse.com
One of the International District’s most beloved (and quirkily furnished—wagon- wheel chairs!) eateries is this hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant. Thanks to a more comprehensive menu than pho-only establishments, there’s a little something for everyone. Our favorites are the bowls of cool vermicelli noodles known as bun ($9.95–$11.95) topped with everything from fried egg rolls to lemongrass beef to skewered grilled shrimp. While alcohol is available, we recommend the traditional Vietnamese beverages, such as iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk or ultratart fresh lemonade (both $3.25). Chinatown–International District, 418 Eighth Ave. S; 206.340.1388; greenleaftaste.com
If not for the colorful graffiti on the corrugated steel walls surrounding this hidden gem, you could miss this industrial-looking urban oasis (its name is Polynesian for “harmony”) nestled up to the Ballard Bridge. Enter via a sprawling courtyard with a native plant garden and sculptured metal art. Under a eucalyptus tree, the stone patio has radiant heating, and a new outdoor shelter is meant to protect from the elements. Inside, the restaurant is small, with only a handful of tables. Belly up to the bar or grab one of the high bistro tables with plush stools. Blues play in the background, and the staff is hospitable and warm—it’s like relaxing in a friend’s backyard. Everything is organic and natural on the short menu. A burger ($11) is cooked to order and adorned with hand-cut fries that can run a bit blond, but are delicate and crispy. Don’t miss the fish tacos ($11) deep-fried in beer batter or seared—with a citrus-cabbage coleslaw and pico de gallo with fire-roasted peppers. Ballard, 4502 Shilshole Ave. NW; 206.258.2162; ponoranchballard.com
In the southern reaches of the city, one of 2014’s most anticipated openings was a Peruvian pollo a la brasa (or charcoal-
roasted rotisserie chicken) restaurant named Big Chickie. Located in a former gas station in Hillman City, Big Chickie may have a roadside fast-food feel, but it also has inspired eats: long-marinated, ultra-flavorful chicken along with sides ranging from beans and rice to kale slaw sweetened with golden raisins to cheesy shredded potatoes. A quarter-chicken plate ($8.86 for white meat or $7.95 for dark) comes with two sides and a cornbread muffin—a plentiful serving for one. Hillman City, 5520 Rainier Ave. S; bigchickie.com
You’ve come a long way since those dorm-room cups of noodles—but the slurping hasn’t lost its thrifty appeal
Shoyu Ramen at Kukai Ramen & Izakaya
A Japanese chain, Kukai Ramen & Izakaya (Northgate, 319 NE Thornton Place; 206.946.6792, kukai-ramen.com) is a game changer, thanks to its real-deal ramen, such as the shoyu ($8) flavored simply with Japanese soy sauce. Pay an extra $1.50 for the addition of a marinated soft-boiled egg.
On-tama Udon at U:Don
The key to U:Don’s (University District, 4515 University Way NE; 206.453.3788; freshudon.com) success is in the udon noodles, which are meticulously made from scratch using special Japanese flour. The rest that goes into this beautiful bowl (ranging from about $5 to $12) is just a bonus: a light broth made of dashi and shoyu, a sprinkling of green onions and ginger, and a delicate on-tama, or hot spring egg.
Kao Soi at Pestle Rock
Curried kao soi ($10 at lunch, $13 at dinner) at Pestle Rock (Ballard, 2305 NW Market St.;, 206.466.6671; pestlerock.com) is colorful, spicy and everything that is right with Thai food. This soup-like dish, common in northern Thailand, has boiled egg noodles topped with crispy fried noodles, pickled mustard greens and red onion.
Wonton and Beef Brisket Noodle Soup at Mike’s Noodle House
Bring cash to Mike’s Noodle House (Chinatown–International District, 418 Maynard Ave. S; 206.389.7099) or you may miss out on the wonton and beef brisket soup ($5.35–$6.35). There are many reasons to wait in the frequently long lines at Mike’s, but this soup—meaty, thin-skinned wontons, fatty brisket and skinny egg noodles swimming in savory broth—is all you need.
Pho Bo at Pho Bac
In a city littered with pho joints, Pho Bac (Chinatown–International District, 1314 S Jackson St.; 206.323.4387; thephobac.com) comes out ahead, particularly with its pho bo ($7.50–$8.50): beef stock simmered for 10 hours, with steak, brisket, meatballs, tripe, tendon, rice noodles (banh pho) and all the trimmings.
Laksa at Indo Café
A recent addition to the menu, the laksa ($9.95) at the Indonesian restaurant Indo Café (Haller Lake, 13754 Aurora Ave. N; 206.361.0699; myindocafe.com) is cold-weather comfort food. A large bowl of rice vermicelli noodles arrives, the noodles sharing the broth with curry, chicken and shrimp, punctuated by basil leaves and bean sprouts.
Healthy Meal Choices
Eating healthy while dining out isn’t always easy, but if you dig deep enough, there are a few delicious and nutritious options to be had. With an eye toward vegetable-rich, lean protein-based meals, here are some of the best—and most affordable—dishes the city has to offer
Photos by Andrew Vanasse
Shakshuka at Eltana Bagels
Known for its wood-fired bagels, Eltana may not be the first place to consider when eating healthfully, but don’t overlook its Middle Eastern–leaning menu. Here, shakshuka ($9.25)—a warm, thick stew of peppers and roasted tomatoes—is crowned with two eggs that poach in the hot sauce. Feta cheese and fresh parsley act as garnish, and offer a salty and verdant bite. It’s served with a bagel for dipping; choose from a multigrain option, such as the sesame wheat, or go with a gluten-free version if you’re avoiding grains. Fremont/Wallingford, 3920 Stone Way N; 206.420.1293; eltana.com
All-green Scramble at Evolution Fresh
This is clean eating for the masses, or at least that’s the plan for this Starbucks-owned eatery. The tiny takeout stop feels crisp and clean, with its hard concrete floors and wide, high, bright walls. Oversize photographs of fruits and vegetables scream healthy meals, which range from green juice to grain salads. For breakfast, check out the All-Green Scramble, a 220-calorie meal of eggs, steamed broccoli, wilted kale, raw spinach and grilled zucchini tossed lightly in lemon tahini sauce ($4.95 bowl/$5.95 wrap). With locations near the major shopping areas, these cafés make perfect pit stops. Downtown, Bellevue and University Village; evolutionfresh.com
Center of the Universe from Silence-Heart-Nest
Take care of your soul while you tend to your body at this spiritually driven vegetarian restaurant in Fremont. The light blue walls and Picasso-esque bird murals are pleasing to the eye, and the meditative music is calming, if not a little unusual in a restaurant. Waitstaff in saris serve the generously portioned Center of the Universe scramble: three eggs with onions, mushrooms, spinach (ask for extra) and cheese served with a mound of golden home fries and slices of multigrain bread (all for $9.50). And for any early birds, an abbreviated breakfast menu is available before 11 a.m. for $6 a plate. Fremont, 3508 Fremont Place N; 206.633.5169; silenceheartnest.com
Half a turkey sandwich and soup at Bakeman’s Restaurant
Home base to legions of downtown workers, Bakeman’s is always hopping during midweek lunches. The place is hidden on the ground floor of a nondescript building in the north end of Pioneer Square; enter this industrial-lit den with low ceilings and linoleum floors via a steep set of stairs. It’s best to be on your toes in this cafeteria-style setup—employees work quickly to take and fill orders, passing soups and sandwiches to you on a school-cafeteria-size tray. Opt for half a house-roasted turkey sandwich (white, dark or mixed meat), served with a dollop of cranberry sauce and a generous amount of shredded lettuce on house-made wheat bread. Pair this with a bowl of old-fashioned split pea soup for a hearty lunch. Pioneer Square, 122 Cherry St.; 206.622.3375; bakemanscatering.com
Veggie sides at Agua Verde
It’s easy to think of tacos as being cheap, but healthy? That’s not as simple. Agua Verde, the beloved restaurant on the shores of North Lake Union, serves traditional Mexican cuisine in a small, wooden cottage with bright walls and festive music. Skip the heavy tacos and order one of several hearty and veg-friendly sides for $3.50 each, such as arroz verde (rice with mashed chard), ensalada de col y arándanos (red cabbage slaw with cranberries), or the pineapple and jicama salsa. Ordering three sides gets you a side of corn or flour tortillas ($9)—if you don’t mind those extra calories—and the self-serve salsa bar helps add some kick. University District, 1303 NE Boat St.; 206.545.8570; aguaverde.com
Raw kale Caesar at Home Remedy
This is healthy eating at its finest and fastest—a large salad bar with several choices of lean protein is a win in this downtown gourmet deli created and run by Tom Douglas Restaurants. Hidden in the wayback (you’ll have to make it past the pizza station), a 12-foot-long salad bar offers a choice of chef-made salads or DIY options for building a healthy lunch. We recommend the raw kale Caesar, a salad fit for the gods, and the same, popular version that is served at Serious Pie. Pile on a few pieces of lean roasted chicken for protein and you have a well-balanced lunch to go. All items are $8.99/pound. Downtown, 2121 Sixth Ave.; 206.812.8407; tdhomeremedy.com
Image Credit: Andrea Coan
Key Ingredient :: COMTE, Seattle Magazine December 2014
Le Pichet's Jim Drohman on His Love for Comté Cheese
Chef Jim Drohman of Le Pichet and Café Presse honors French tradition with Comté cheese
It’s safe to say that with two French restaurants, a Parisian culinary education and a country house in the Béarn, Jim Drohman is a Francophile at heart. So it comes as no surprise then that he relies on cheese as a foundational ingredient in his dishes, in particular, Comté. The firm Gruyère-like cheese, with a nutty, caramel flavor and a creamy texture, “is one of the pillars of French cooking, no matter where you are in France,” Drohman says.
Le Pichet, near Pike Place Market, serves traditional dishes such as soupe à l’oignon gratinée—a bowl of rich French onion soup capped with a slice of Comté that is broiled until browned. Here, the charred cheese has “a crustiness that plays against the sweetness of the onions and sherry,” Drohman says, “and the bitterness from the cheese gives an exaggeration of sweet and sour.”
At Café Presse in Capitol Hill, the kitchen works through two 90-pound wheels of Comté a week, due to the popularity of the croque monsieur (a glorified grilled cheese) and the baked eggs with ham, both of which highlight crusty, burned cheese edges. “Comté has a high fat [content],” Drohman says, “so the nice, melty, milky characteristics come out when it’s just melted.” The omelette au choix at Café Presse showcases Comté at its simplest.
Where to find it: “Know your cheesemonger,” Drohman instructs. For his personal use, he likes Pike Place Market favorites Quality Cheese (1508 Pike Place; 206.624.4029) and DeLaurenti (1435 First Ave.; 206.622.0141; delaurenti.com), plus The Calf and Kid in Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market (1531 Melrose Ave.; 206.467.5447; calfandkid.com) and Big John’s PFI in the International District (1001 Sixth Ave. S; 206.682.2002; bigjohnspfiseattle.com). Comté comes in a variety of flavor profiles (some are more fragrant, while others have a stronger, aged flavor), so it’s a matter of personal taste. Comté averages between $23 and $32 a pound.
Why you should try it: As Comté ages, salt crystals develop and the cheese turns dense, acquiring notes of butterscotch and caramel. The flavor is long in the mouth and it luxuriously coats the palate. It’s excellent in all manner of melting; a little goes a long way.
How to use it at home: In French onion soup, of course. (Find Jim Drohman’s recipe for French onion soup here.) Also with eggs—under the broiler, the Comté’s oils seep out and the cheese caramelizes and turns crusty, adding a bitter crunch to counter the richness of eggs. Tuck a small amount of diced Comté into gougère dough for a baked appetizer (see Amy Pennington’s recipe for kale gougères here). It is an excellent cheese for fondue, stuffed in winter squash and melted into gratins.
Le Pichet’s French Onion Soup Recipe
Chef/co-owner Jim Drohman serves this soup with 14-month cave-aged Comte cheese
For Le Pichet’s French onion soup (aka soupe a l’oignon gratinée or gratin lyonnais), chef/co-owner Jim Drohman uses at 14-month cave-aged Comté cheese, which has a strong, nutty flavor and smells slightly of the barnyard. On its own, the cheese is satisfying, but melted over a bowl of rich, French onion soup, it’s sublime. At Le Pichet and Café Presse, “duck jello” is added to the onion soup. Duck jello is the term Drohman uses to refer to the gelatin-rich duck juices that are left in the bottom of the pot when slow-cooking duck legs for confit. This sort of addition is typical of the French bistro kitchen, where nothing tasty is ever allowed to go to waste. Since most home cooks aren’t regularly cooking duck legs, use duck or chicken demi-glace, which can be purchased in small containers in stores, but which can also be left out of this recipe. Read more about Comte cheese here.
4 cloves garlic, germ removed
2 1/2 pounds yellow onions
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sherry
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 quarts chicken stock
1/8 cup duck or chicken demi-glace, optional
Salt and black pepper
2 cups grated Comté cheese
8 slices rustic country bread, preferably day-old
Peel the onions and slice thinly. Slice the garlic thinly. Wash, dry and stem the thyme. Chop it finely.
Bake the slices of country bread on a sheet pan in a very low oven until dry and crispy.
In a large soup pot set over medium heat, sweat the onions and garlic with the butter, stirring often, until richly colored. Add the sherry, increase the heat and cook until the sherry is almost completely reduced. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the thyme, bay leaf, chicken stock and duck demi-glace (if using) and bring to a simmer. Simmer to combine the flavors, about 20 minutes.
Carefully skim the soup to remove any fat. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls. Top first with the crouton and then with a nice layer of Comté cheese. Heat under the broiler until crusty and golden. Serve immediately.
Dining Guide :: GROUPS, Seattle Magazine December 2014
The Top Celebratory Spots in Seattle for Large Groups
Eighteen restaurants where dining out with a group doesn’t mean compromising on service or style
At this atmospheric, tiled Parisian-style bistro, groups have a choice between indoor or outdoor seating. Outside in the terrace room, wooden tables can be pushed together for as many as 16 people in the protected patio space under a greenhouse-like ceiling, which lets precious light through in winter. A fireplace and heaters keep the terrace warm even when the rain is falling. Indoors, large U-shaped booths hold groups of five (sometimes a hard number to seat), while tables can be pushed together for larger parties. Combining French cuisine traditions with an emphasis on Northwest ingredients, the menu is widely appealing. A long list of petits plats is handy for shareable nibbles to start the meal. There is always one vegetarian option, such as the socca galette, a chickpea flour pancake and roasted cauliflower, and who doesn’t love steak frites? 5307 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.453.5014; bastilleseattle.com
Brimmer & Heeltap
A warm, cheery and open space, this Ballard restaurant—a bit off the beaten track—is small enough to feel intimate, but big enough for one large party. The year-old restaurant is split into two rooms, which are adjoined by an interior wall with peekaboo windows. In the Garden Room (which exits to the outdoor gravel garden, where, in summer, diners eat alfresco), tables are pushed together for parties of six to eight (reservations are recommended). This room is quieter than the main dining room, allowing you to actually hear what your dinner companions are saying. The menu offers Asian-inspired seasonal plates, such as the popular broiled pork shoulder with caramelized onion kimchi, that are meant for sharing and come in either large or small portions. A heads-up to late-night diners: After 10 p.m., the staff meal—a surprise dish whipped up at the chef’s whim—is available for about $10 per person. 425 NW Market St.; 206.420.2534; brimmerandheeltap.com
A leviathan of a restaurant, the 14,000-square-foot Wild Ginger is a well-oiled machine that seldom misses on meals and provides an exemplary level of service, especially suited to business lunches or corporate-funded nights out. Diners have their choice of Asian cuisines covering several countries—that are uniformly delicious, authentic and known for their heat. Group capacity runs to as many as 80 for a seated meal (an upper dining room can be reserved for private functions), while the main dining room easily hosts smaller parties with reservations—or on a whim. Additional services—such as personalized menus, flowers for the table or one-on-one sommelier recommendations—can be arranged in advance. 11020 NE Sixth St.; 425.495.8889; wildginger.net
Big, shareable platters abound at this eclectic Belltown favorite. Diverging from a traditional format, the menu here is divided into focused categories, such as meat, seafood and veggies, making it easier to build the perfect meal for the table. Blasted broccoli, a platter of charred florets, is irresistible. The same can be said for the crispy fried chicken, which is available throughout the year and served alongside a mound of collard greens on the platter. The restaurant offers a long, narrow table for 10–12 people (which ensures you won’t be able to hear or speak to anyone at the other end, which could be either good or bad, depending on your group dynamic), while smaller tables can be pushed together for groups of any size. While the restaurant is large and its pace often slow enough that it can accommodate walk-in groups, reservations are never a bad idea. 2600 First Ave.; 206.441.1500; blackbottleseattle.com. Also has a location in Bellevue.
Boat Street Cafe
Although its urban patio disappears in the winter months, the interior of the shabby-chic Boat Street Cafe is a perfect spot for celebrations of any kind. The service is always professional and the humble menu of French country cuisine always satisfies—be sure to experience food nirvana by way of the signature pan-seared pork chop or salted dates in warm butter. A large table made of heavy wood is tucked into the back of the restaurant and seats as many as 12. Walk-in groups can prove challenging, as this Seattle favorite often fills up at night, so call in advance—even an hour ahead on weeknights gives the staff time to sort out a seating plan. Servers are accommodating to groups that wish to bring in cake or Champagne (for a fee). 3131 Western Ave.; 206.632.4602; boatstreetcafe.com
One of Seattle’s few late-night dining options (serving until 1 a.m.), the lively and cavernous Palace Kitchen has long catered to groups of six to eight at a couple of large oval tables flanking the bar in the dining room. These tables make it somewhat challenging to chat with people seated at the other end, but allow for easier conversation with those nearby. Large plates and hearty portions of Northwest comfort food are featured; happily, the servers are adept at making space for plates and service ware. The always-bustling Palace has a long list of appetizers, many of which are perfect for sharing, such as the bowl of steamed shellfish in broth (which is ever changing), or the signature goat cheese fondue, a bowl of soft, creamy goodness with charred bread and apples for dipping. 2030 Fifth Ave.; 206.448.2001; tomdouglas.com
An all-day, French bistro–style menu offers groups an option for breakfast, lunch or dinner at an affordable price from sun up until well after dark. A bowl of frites with mayo and a whole roasted chicken are perfect for sharing, as are the charcuterie platters, such as the pork rillette or the smooth chicken liver pâté. Located in Capitol Hill’s gourmet row along 12th Avenue, Café Presse comfortably hosts guests spanning the generations—students, hipsters, families, techies and grandparents rub elbows at the densely packed tables, lending the room an upbeat feel. While there are no official group tables, staff can push furniture together to accommodate groups, which are seated in the back portion of the restaurant—a charming (and calmer) room with high ceilings and exposed brick. 1117 12th Ave.; 206.709.7674; cafepresseseattle.com
Offering a break from standard restaurant procedure, Mamnoon seats large parties at round tables that accommodate anywhere from six to 10 people in the contemporary dining room. The longer table up front offers a front-row seat to the wood-burning oven, where the flatbread is made, and its narrow girth allows for easy cross-table conversation (that you can hear!), a rare treat. For any party of more than six, call to make a reservation in advance, as the dining room is packed on most nights. The space is adorned with soft shadows and art from Africa, Egypt and Morocco, and the modern Middle Eastern cuisine is perfect for adventurous diners who are up for sharing bites. Order the house-made mana’eesh, a savory, doughy flatbread (or ask for the gluten-free flatbread), and several of the dips. Try Mamnoon’s take on khoresh, a Persian-style stew, with herbed lamb meatballs, sweet and sour apples, and yellow split peas scented with turmeric and an herbal mix of oregano and chives. 1508 Melrose Ave.; 206.906.9606; mamnoonrestaurant.com
Osteria La Spiga
Take your party into the rafters at the vaulted La Spiga, where groups of as many as 50 are seated in the loft overlooking the dining room, allowing for enjoyable conversation above the din. Food is served family style and set up for sharing; order an antipasti plate of cured meats to start the meal and several bowls of handmade pasta for dinner. For guests on a gluten-free diet, La Spiga offers a suitable pasta, although these noodles are imported, not made by hand in-house. The loft is lovely in winter, when aromas from the kitchen are welcoming and cozy. 1429 12th Ave.; 206.323.8881; laspiga.com
Known for its thalis—large platters holding several small dishes of food—created by much lauded chef Jerry Traunfeld, Poppy is a refreshing dining space for groups. The large, airy room is quiet enough for convivial conversation, but active enough to feel like you’re part of a scene. Kitchen display windows provide views of the cooks putting together an appealing mix of dishes and snacks that are friendly to all food types—omnivores, vegetarians, those with allergies and vegans. Tables can be pushed together for parties of as many as 10, and a formal banquet table may be reserved in advance for 17. Plus, for smaller groups of five—an awkward number for restaurants to accommodate—hosts will happily add a chair to the end of a traditional table, which is large enough to allow for all the platters. For a seasonally herbaceous cocktail, as many as 13 imbibers can squeeze into the bar, which is especially nice for an early, casual drink at Poppy’s celebrated happy hour. Capitol Hill, 622 Broadway Ave. E; 206.324.1108; poppyseattle.com
For anyone who appreciates seeing and being seen, an 18-seat communal table is set right in the center of the rustic, triangle-shaped dining room of Tamara Murphy’s Capitol Hill farm-to-table hotspot, featuring dishes like the savory-sweet Brussels sprouts plate with Serrano ham, maple and rosemary. Once you’ve made reservations, the staff will craft personalized menus of Terra Plata’s seasonally driven offerings and expertly work around any food allergies, which is a huge plus with multiple diners and demands. A word to the wise, however: Sitting center stage means you get noise coming at you from all sides, which can seem overwhelming on busy nights. Walk-ins of groups larger than four are also welcome; the restaurant leaves space for last-minute diners, though on busy nights you’ll find yourself pressed for real estate as tables are densely arranged. 1501 Melrose Ave.; 206.325.1501; terraplata.com
Tucked in at the base of an office building just on the fringe of downtown’s retail center, Blueacre excels in offering a big fish-house feel without the obtrusive din of other diners. The large dining room, accented with glass decor in shades of blue and green, can seat groups of all sizes. There are several round tables for six, perfect for business dinners where speaking with everyone at the table is a must. Count on solid seafood choices that span the country; chef/owner Kevin Davis (who also owns the sunny Steelhead Diner in Pike Place Market), does an impeccable job of sourcing sustainable seafood from across the U.S. The oyster bar glistens with platters of freshly shucked beauties by the dozens, which are perfect for sharing, as are the steamed mussels. For the main meal, Blueacre offers a handful of sides large enough for everyone to sample. In the bar, booths hold as many as six friends—an uncommon find for a pre-theater happy hour or post-work stress reliever. Larger parties may be seated in one of the private or semiprivate rooms, which hold anywhere from 10 to 40 people. 1700 Seventh Ave.; 206.659.0737; blueacreseafood.com
Loulay highlights chef Thierry Rautureau’s modern French cooking with a Northwest influence in an upscale setting that is packed daily with both tourists and locals. Rautureau invested in soundproofing during construction, making this a great choice for when mom and dad are in town or if there is cause for celebration. Considering Loulay’s prime downtown location, its prices are moderate and cater to any budget, and the adept hosts can push together tables for as many as eight guests. Situated next door to the Sheraton Seattle Hotel downtown and serving food until 10 p.m., the restaurant offers a multilevel dining room with sleek and sexy modern white furniture, perfect for a festive night out and located close enough to The Paramount, ACT and 5th Avenue theaters for pre- or post-performance options. 600 Union St.; 206.402.4588; loulay-seattle.com
Service is tops at this downtown hotspot, where the upscale French menu caters to the discerning diner. The large, rustic wood chef’s table, which faces Fourth Avenue, seats 13–18 guests on high stools, and should be reserved; it’s in the perfect spot to start a night on the town. With appetizers pushing $20 and dinner entrées in the $30 range, it’s not cheap, but the reliably excellent food makes it worth the splurge. 1433 Fourth Ave.; 206.456.7474; michaelmina.net
Tamarind Tree gets a lot right for groups of all sizes—noise levels, comfort and food quality are all pitch perfect. Whether dining in the restaurant, accented with cliché Asian decor, or out on the heated patio, with its trickling waterfall, Tamarind Tree can host parties large and small. On the food front, Vietnamese fare scores a home run in the shareable department; large platters of greens, herbs and skewered meat can be shared across the table. Ditto for the hugely portioned salads and appetizers, such as fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce or the deep-fried rice balls with centers of cinnamon-scented pork. Service is reasonably fast and efficient but not polished. Water glasses go unfilled and wine or cocktails made at the bar are slow to arrive, but reasonable prices compensate for this. People are seated, served and shuffled out, making this is a great choice for short lunches or dinner out with the a multi-generational family. If you want to linger, it’s best to dine elsewhere. 1036 S Jackson St., Suite A; 206.860.1404; tamarindtreerestaurant.com
This is Italian food meant for sharing. In a neighborhood that boasts decent parking and is fairly accessible from most points in the city and the Eastside, Cafe Lago offers respite from crowded, restaurant-dense neighborhoods in the way of warm lighting and a trattoria vibe. Long before wood-fired pizza came into vogue, the cooks at Lago were tossing dough and charring it to a black-bottomed crust in the applewood-fed oven. The large pizzas feed many, depending on appetites, as can the traditional pastas (such as a thick fettuccine with meatballs or the linguine con vongole), which are made by hand daily. The large dining room fills up nightly, although it’s never too loud for chatting across the table, and it can seat parties of six to as many as 50. 2305 24th Ave. E; 206.329.8005; cafelago.com
How to Cook a Wolf
With only eight tables and a counter in the house, this jewel box of a restaurant is hard-pressed to accommodate groups. But the booth-like table tucked into a back alcove offers a special experience for parties of five. The U-shaped nook sits under a low ceiling of arched wood—a softly lit cave that inspires intimacy and is perfect for celebrating or dining with family. The menu is composed of Italian-centric small plates that are meant to be shared; a platter of softly cooked eggs is paired with local seafood and makes for a hearty starter, while pasta dishes dominate the entrée choices. Try the hollow bucatini pasta, which is renowned for soaking up sauce, or the simply prepared spaghetti tossed with anchovies and chilies. 2208 Queen Anne Ave. N; 206.838.8090; howtocookawolf.com
Looking and feeling like a French cottage, Pair has room for as many as 13 people in what is otherwise a small, intimate space adorned with thin linen curtains and copper kitchen tools displayed as art. A heavy wood table with pew-like benches, which sits in a nook opposite the bar, allows groups to experience the room’s energy while still feeling private. The menu offers subtle elegance that is unapologetically old-fashioned: A small bowl of cheesy, puffed-up gougères or a bowl of moules frites is perfect for kicking off a meal of small plates. Don’t miss the beef brisket made with fresh horseradish crème fraîche and scallions. Pair is a humble spot for a straightforward meal. 5501 30th Ave. NE; 206.526.7655; pairseattle.com
GROUP DINING 101
Hitting the town with a gaggle of family or friends? Here are some ground rules to remember:
1. In restaurant-reservation-challenged Seattle, bookings for groups of six or more are always recommended and are usually required.
2. Check your bill: Restaurants often add a gratuity (usually 18 percent) for parties of six or more.
3. Know your exit strategy: Separate checks are often not allowed. If that’s your preference, ask about it when setting up your reservation. In addition, some restaurants accept only a limited number of credit cards for payment, so bring cash if you plan on splitting the bill.
4. It might seem like a no-brainer, but because many dishes in today’s restaurants are meant to be shared, alert the host to food allergies when making your reservation or let your server know once you’re seated.
Feature :: LOCAL CHEFS, Seattle Magazine November 2014
Local Chefs to Watch Now
Eight up-and-comers who are worth keeping a close eye on (With Chelsea Lin)
Chef Taylor Cheney comes by her love of international cuisine organically: Her mother was a capable cook who filled her family kitchen with everything from fresh pasta to Chinese dumplings. During Cheney’s time spent cooking at MistralKitchen and La Bête, she became known more for her Middle Eastern family meals and pop-up dinners than the food on these menus. The young chef left La Bête in April to focus on opening a yet-to-be-named Arabic restaurant within the year (hopefully). Expect to find what she most enjoys on her travels to the region: “tangy pomegranate molasses, smoky eggplant, bright lemony hummus, herbal salads,” plus a dose of unparalleled hospitality.
There was a collective weeping this summer when La Bête owner Aleks Dimitrijevic announced he would be closing the popular Capitol Hill neighborhood restaurant/bar with an eclectic, internationally influenced menu. But thankfully, La Bête’s legendary Gruyère-topped burger is not lost forever. At press time, Dimitrijevic was scheduled to open the restaurant’s second incarnation in the fall—a nod to his love of smoked meats, tentatively named Spaghetti Western, he says. Consider this a version 2.0 and not a sequel; we’re not the only ones excited about what Dimitrijevic is going to come up with next.
Jonathan Proville, cook at Il Corvo
It has been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and no one embodies this ethos more than Jonathan Proville. Serendipity is practically his middle name. A shared car ride to an interview at an upstate New York pig farm led Proville to his first professional restaurant job in the kitchen at Gramercy Tavern in New York City. With no prior professional experience, but an extra helping of chutzpah, he landed that job in the kitchen at a well-respected and boundary-pushing restaurant, and stayed on for two years for an Ivy league crash course in cooking. He hightailed it to Seattle after Hurricane Sandy, had the good fortune to move next door to Il Corvo owner Mike Easton and promptly started working there. Today, he’s focused on opening his own spot and running several dinner series, all on the side of his full-time job at Il Corvo (Pioneer Square, 217 James St.; 206.538.0999; ilcorvopasta.com). His current plan: An upscale “farmers- market-vegetable- and local-seafood-driven menu that is elegant, natural and unfussy.” And you can bet when opportunity knocks, Proville will answer.
ohannes Heitzeberg, chef at Pizzeria Gabbiano
You’d think with a name like Johannes Heitzeberg, a man would have a killer German accent, but it isn’t so. Five years ago, Heitzeberg moved from his home state of California to Seattle and started work as a server at the now closed 35th Street Bistro. Mike Easton (Il Corvo) was the chef then, and Heitzeberg has worked with him ever since, working his way up the ladder at restaurants around the city. While he has no formal culinary education, growing up with a small biodynamic garden helped nurture his affinity for vegetables. This summer, Heitzeberg was tagged to run the kitchen at Mike Easton’s new outpost, Pizzeria Gabbiano (Pioneer Square, 240 Second Ave. S; pizzeriagabbiano.com), where he pairs seasonal produce (he peruses farmers’ markets for inspiration) with sourdough-based pizza dough. “I take delicious dishes and break them down for pizza toppings,” such as his play on puttanesca, in which he slathers roasted cauliflower, capers and chilies over the fermented dough. Mentored by Easton, he is overseeing a restaurant for the first time (running the kitchen, staff and ordering), and we’re expecting good things to come.
Monica Dimas left her position as Mkt.’s sous chef in August to become a roving chef at Stowell’s collection of restaurants as a way to give herself more time to do her own private catering and other events. More importantly, she says, “It gives me time to explore the city’s food scene on my own time, which, in turn, deepens my understanding of what the city has to offer.” You can find Dimas’ signature in dishes where vegetables and seafood are involved, and in her hands, eating your veggies has never been so enjoyable. (Thankfully, Dimas’ boyfriend owns a Kent Valley farm.) The voracious 29-year-old has no plans to venture out on her own just yet, though if she did, she says it would likely be a sort of bar-meets-restaurant establishment that she frequents most in her treasured time off.
Quinton Stewart, executive chef at 99 Park
Bellevue’s most anticipated eatery of the year, 99 Park (99 102nd Ave. NE; 425.999.3991; 99parkrestaurant.com) was dirt floors and blueprints when owner Micah Pittman and his business partners approached Quinton Stewart about being the restaurant’s executive chef. “I told them then that if they weren’t interested in being a James Beard Award–winning restaurant, my answer was no,” he says. The ambitious young chef—an ’07 Art Institute of Seattle grad who has spent time in the kitchens of Maria Hines, Ashley Merriman, Dana Tough and Noma chefs Mads Refslund and Daniel Burns in New York—still has two years to win one of the James Beard Rising Star Chef awards, given to a chef 30 or younger. He plans to use 99 Park, which opened in August, and the shareable menu of Pacific Northwest flavors (Neah Bay halibut, wild chanterelles, Washington oysters, etc.) he’s developed to get there.
Zach Chambers, chef at large
At a young 33 years of age, Zach Chambers has apprenticed in Rome, interned at New York’s Gramercy Tavern, worked at the original Cascina Spinasse and, until September, was the chef at Ethan Stowell’s Capitol Hill spot Bar Cotto/Anchovies & Olives. It’s no surprise, then, that he recently opted to take a breather and make time to ruminate over his next steps. These days, you can find him working the line at a handful of restaurants, dining out or traveling, all in preparation for his next big move, of which his deep Italian roots will likely influence the course. His own restaurant, perhaps? We can only hope.
Nico Borzee, chef at Hommage
Nico Borzee has worked in some seriously impressive kitchens (Coi in San Francisco, Joël Robuchon and Le Louis XV in Monaco), but came to Seattle in search of a simpler life—one with a backyard garden and more space for him and his family. At 30 years old, he’s been cooking for half his life, and has a pedigree seldom seen in Seattle. He worked briefly at Artusi before, at press time, he was hand-selected to head up the kitchen at Hommage, in the former Book Bindery location. Rather than work from a planned menu, Borzee prefers to build his pantry and create dishes on the fly. Ingredients are prepared in myriad ways, so Borzee can freely cook from the larder, as he does at home when his kid is hungry. “I want to create a dish for my customers like I do my family—when I need inspiration, I can just go in the fridge or the pantry.” With an extensive work history and a year-round climate that will allow Borzee to play with his food, inspiration is exactly what we’d expect.
Eric Johnson, chef and owner, Stateside
Once upon a time, a salty dog who loves to fish moved from New York City to France to Shanghai to work for prestigious chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He then found his way to Seattle because “it’s like paradise—the mountains the water and the snow are like a dream come true.” The happy ending? A new restaurant. Earlier this summer, chef Eric Johnson leased and built out his restaurant space around the corner from Melrose Market on Pike Street. At press time, Stateside (Capitol Hill, 300 E Pike; statesideseattle.com) was not yet open, but expect a proficient take on Vietnamese food not currently represented in Seattle. Marrying his impressive cooking experiences in France, China and Vietnam (already seriously cross-pollinated cuisines), Stateside will offer Vietnamese with an emphasis on its French and Chinese influences. There will be more soups than just pho as well as house-made cold cuts for the banh mi. “I’m very pleased to live back in the states, but there are things I do miss about Asia, and this restaurant is a way for me to stay connected,” Johnson says. Lucky us.
Modern Pantry :: EGGNOG & GLOGG, Edible Seattle November 2014
Aged Holiday Cocktails: from the Old World and the New
Last year, I spent the holiday season in Scotland and Copenhagen and I sorely missed the festivities at home. While the origin of eggnog can be debated, there is no denying it has come to symbolize American holiday traditions. I thought it would be jolly good of me to introduce friends to some of my time-honored holiday treats. The Scots were dubious.
Eggnog is made with eggs, sugar, spirits, and milk or cream (or both). In a typical iteration, eggs are blended with sugar and booze creating a thick and sweet beverage, not unlike Baileys. From there, portions of milk and cream are added before serving. Some recipes call for whipped cream, while others fold in whipped egg whites. I took another route entirely and went for an aged eggnog recipe.
Alcohol is a natural preservative, killing off bacteria. I had heard of aged eggnog before—the process seemed so much easier than the last minute preparation required with other recipes. With aged eggnog, eggs and spirits (like rum, brandy, cognac, whisky, or bourbon) are blended and mixed with sugar, the alcohol killing any potential of bacteria from the raw eggs over the course of time. (In fact, some think aged eggnog is safer to drink.)
The real benefit to aging the eggnog, however, can be tasted with each sip. More nuanced then just-made “nog,” aging mellows the boozy nose of this super spiked beverage and makes for a harmonious, blended flavor. Smoother-tasting than fresh eggnog, aging the drink also turns the consistency thin, a nice break from the thick and cloying versions we’ve all come to expect from the store.
To serve, you can fold in whipped cream, if you’re a frothy eggnog lover; just as you can use reduced fat milk if you prefer a lighter version. I add toasted star anise to the jar a few days before I plan to serve it—the warming spices embody all that is symbolic of the holidays in one, small glass. I’m happy to report the Scots I served were pleasantly surprised, resulting in quite a giddy New Year’s celebration.
Over in Copenhagen, I didn’t bother with eggnog and instead reveled in the country’s traditional warm drink, glögg. An infused wine, glögg is served warm with blanched almond slivers and a spoonful of raisins in the glass—something to nosh on while you’re outside enjoying the cold. The version I tasted was not overly sweet, though you can add more sugar if you like. You may also caramelize the sugar first, as my Swedish friend Johanna does. Below, I use the typical ingredients, but add ginger and fresh rosemary to perfume the glass. Glögg can be made a day before serving, or you can let the spices meld with the wine for several weeks, aging a bottle in a cool, dark cupboard.
Whatever your fancy, both drinks promise a cozy feeling and a very festive holiday season. Enjoy!
Serves 6 | start to finish: 30 minutes, plus 4 hours of steeping
1 bottle red wine (Cabernet sauvignon, syrah or pinot noir work well)
1 cup brandy or rum
1/3 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 cardamom pods
Zest of one orange
3 slices fresh ginger root
1 3-4 inch fresh rosemary sprig
1/4 cup blanched almond slivers
1/4 cup raisins or dried currants
In a large stockpot, add the wine, brandy, sugar, and all of the spices. Over medium high heat, warm the wine until hot and the sugar has melted (but do not boil). Remove the pot from the heat and set aside, steeping the spices for about 3 to 4 hours. Strain spices from wine.
To age: bottle wine in a clean glass container and cover—an old wine bottle or spirits bottle works well, as does a half-gallon mason jar. Store in a cool cupboard for several weeks, or up to 2 months before serving. (You can age the glögg even longer, if you so choose.)
To serve: re-heat in a large stockpot over medium heat until glögg is hot, being careful not to boil. Add a spoonful of almonds and a spoonful of raisins to each glass, before pouring in a ladleful of glögg.
Note: to caramelize the sugar, heat sugar in a stainless steel pan over medium high heat, swirling regularly, until melted completely and amber in color. Pour caramelized sugar into gl
ögg. The sugar may crystalize, but don’t worry—stir until fully dissolved and incorporated into the glögg.
Aged Vanilla Eggnog
Makes 8 lowball glasses | start to finish: 20 to 30 minutes
1 1/2 cups bourbon or whiskey
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
2 star anise, dry roasted (optional)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Whole nutmeg, for grating
Combine all of the spirits and set aside. In a large bowl or standing mixer, add the eggs and sugar. Beat on low speed until all of the sugar has dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the spirits, drop by drop at first to temper the eggs. When all of the liquid has been added, strain into a clean glass jar (using a strainer will catch any solid bits of egg), cover and store in a cool dark place. Invert the jar occasionally, or at least every three days, for a minimum of nine days and up to three weeks total. Five days before serving, add the vanilla bean pod and star anise, if using.
To serve: strain out the spices and place the eggnog mixture into a large bowl or container. Add the milk and heavy cream and stir to combine. To serve, shake a ladle-full (about 1/2 cup) of eggnog with ice until frothy. Serve immediately, over a lowball filled with ice and top with some freshly grated nutmeg.
Key Ingredient :: WALNUT VINEGAR, Seattle Magazine October 2014
Tilikum Place Café chef/owner Ba Culbert reveals her secret culinary touch
A fortuitous souvenir brought back from France by her sister led Ba Culbert, chef and co-owner of Tilikum Place Café, to one of her dearest ingredients—walnut vinegar. While not a fan of other flavored vinegars, Culbert immediately loved how walnut vinegar has a “subtle and nuanced flavor that keeps dishes light.”
Walnut vinegar is sold in various hues and potencies, though Culbert prefers the French brand she uses at the café (see “Where to find it,” below). Dark in color, with an aroma of toasted walnut and an underlying sweetness, it shows up in dishes throughout the year. In spring, Culbert uses a splash as salad dressing, omitting the oil entirely. ”It has a delicate flavor, and I like to keep things lighter,” she says. “Plus, oil tends to wilt softer greens like arugula or watercress.” In summer, fresh, local fruit, such as strawberries, peaches or melon, is served tossed with walnut vinegar. Winter sees the vinegar as a finishing acid for a piquant bite on celery-root purée.
“I find it less predictable and much more interesting than walnut oil,” Culbert says, noting the vinegar’s nuttier fragrance and earthy flavor profile. Of course, being a chef, she tried to make a home version, but it’s still a work in progress. “Mine is more bitter and not as delicate,” she confesses.
Why you should try it: “Walnut vinegar gives you a brightness and also a subtle flavor component that is very complementary to root vegetables,” Culbert says
How to use this at home: Skip the squeeze of lemon and try walnut vinegar for a sweeter vinaigrette. Arugula, goat cheese and orange segments tossed with walnut vinegar make a lovely salad. It also pairs well with roasted grapes or cheese.
Where to find it: Culbert uses white-wine-vinegar-based Edmond Fallot vinaigre de vin blanc aromatisé à la noix from Paris Grocery near Pike Place Market ($6.49 for 8 ounces. 1418 Western Ave.; 206.682.0679; parisgroceryseattle.com). Marx Foods also carries Sparrow Lane walnut champagne vinegar from California ($25 for 6.75 ounces. Lower Queen Anne, 144 Western Ave. W; 206.447.1818; marxfoods.com).
Celery Root Puree
1 large bulb celery root (or 2 small)
Cream, to cover
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
Walnut vinegar, to taste
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Peel celery root, either with a knife or peeler. Cut into even pieces, about 1 inch. Put in a small sauce pan and cover with cream. Put on stove and bring to a slow simmer, being careful to not let cream boil over. Simmer until tender. Strain the celery root and reserve the cream. Put celery root in a blender or food processor. Add some of the reserved cream, starting with just a little and added as necessary to achieve your desired consistency, processing until smooth. (The consistency you want will vary according to what you are serving it with. I generally like to make mine thinner rather than thicker.) Season with salt and a pinch of cayenne. (I like to use it instead of black pepper for this dish so it doesn't have black spots in it.) Add walnut vinegar at the end, starting with 1 to 2 teaspoons. Mix in and taste, add more according to your preference but a light or subtle touch allows the celery root to shine. Serve with seared salmon, roasted chicken or lamb, or roasted winter squash.
Green Bean Salad
2 pounds green beans, blanched and shocked
1/2 small red onion, shaved
1 pint baby heirloom tomatoes, skins removed (remove stem and score tomato, blanch in water that is at a rolling boil in small batches, or in hot oil, for 30 seconds and place in ice bath)
Candied, or toasted, walnuts (optional)
1 small shallot minced
2 Tablespoons walnut vinegar
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Makes 6 to 8 servings
In a small bowl add shallots and vinegar. Whisk in cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Dressing will keep for up to one week.
In a larger bowl, add green beans, onions, tomatoes. Add half the dressing and toss gently until beans are evenly coated. Add more dressing as desired. Serve on a large plate and top with candied walnuts.
Read all about walnut vinegar here.
PHOTO CREDIT :: Andrew Vanasse
Key Ingredient :: SAMBAL, Seattle Magazine August 2014
How to Prepare the Spicy Sambal Sauce
Wild Ginger executive chef Jacky Lo on the art of making the famed restaurant’s fiery sambal
A face shield and eye goggles aren’t common kitchen tools, unless you’re executive chef Jacky Lo, who, along with his team of cooks at Wild Ginger, gears up each summer with a full-on production line—cooking with more than 3,000 pounds of chiles—to prepare sambal. While they make more than 10 different sambals throughout the year, the all-purpose sambal that’s served with many of Wild Ginger’s dishes (and bottled for the restaurant’s pantry) is made mostly from fresh red jalapeños sent directly from a special grower in eastern Washington; the farmer works with Lo each year to choose the plants.
Sambal, a condiment found in Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Asia, is a paste of smashed fresh chili peppers combined with a slew of other ingredients, and there are no set rules on how to make it. “Sambal is a ubiquitous term, like stew,” says Wild Ginger owner Rick Yoder. At Wild Ginger, as many as six hot chile varieties are combined with lemongrass, ginger, sugar, salt and lime peel. Sometimes shallots are added, or maybe dried shrimp.
The finished sambal is brought to a boil, very briefly, leaving the chiles’ vibrant red color intact. The piquant and spicy hot pastes vary year to year, and some sambals are labeled “superhot” and used with caution and by special request. “The toughest part is tasting,” because the heat blows your palate, Lo says. Thankfully, the heat is nothing a little coconut gelato can’t cure.
How he uses it: Combined with fish sauce, sugar and lime juice, sambal is used in house vinaigrettes, such as that on the green mango salad served alongside sea bass. Lo also adds it to a wok, along with toasted garlic, for a saucy, spicy coating on the Malacca prawns. Sambal is also smashed with shrimp paste and ginger and slathered over simply steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf.
Why you should try it: The assaulting and superflavorful smack of Jacky Lo’s sambal adds brightness and vigor to a dish. It is an alternative dipping sauce, similar to a hot sauce but with more body, that adds heat and potent notes from smashed lemongrass and ginger.
Where to find it: Wild Ginger makes fresh sambal available for sale (in regular to-go containers); ask your server or the host. In addition, Uwajimaya (in Seattle’s Chinatown–International District, Bellevue and Renton; uwajimaya.com) carries a large selection of jarred sambal. The most popular is a red chili paste, sambal oelek, which costs less than $5.
1 pound red jalapeños, stemmed
½ cup vinegar
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
1 small piece ginger, peeled, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lime peels
Salt and sugar to taste
Combine everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, adjust seasoning to taste. Cool and store in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator for as long as 1 month.
PHOTO CREDIT :: Matt Owens
Key Ingredient :: SMOKED CHOCOLATE, Seattle Magazine June 2014
Hot Cakes' Autumn Martin on How to Smoke Chocolate
Chocolatier Autumn Martin pays tribute to her roots with smoked chocolate
Autumn Martin has long been enamored with the process, smell and flavor of smoked foods. “My dad smoked salmon and steelhead every year when I was growing up,” says the fourth-generation Pacific Northwesterner.
So it was only natural that the owner of Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery in Ballard ended up smoking chocolate. “It brings me back to my childhood days of camping and reminds me of dripping Northwest forests and meat smoking,” Martin says, “but it also allows me to harness all of that and fit it into my world of pastry and chocolate.”
The alder-smoked chocolate chips lend a subtle flavor to most dishes, bringing savory along with sweet. A handful of chips tossed into moles or chilis ups the woodsy profile while adding a depth of flavor. Martin loves the flavor so much that, during her stint as pastry chef at Canlis, she tried to smoke an orange. Chocolate is better.
WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT....
Smoking foods imparts a decadent smoked flavor, evoking open-fire cooking and nights around the campfire without the need to pack up the car and set up camp.
HOW TO MAKE A CHOCOLATE SMOKER....
A homemade smoker can be made using two small cardboard boxes (about 6 by 6 by 6 inches) and one cardboard tube from a paper towel roll. Cut a tube-size circular hole in each box and tape each end of the cardboard tube to each circular opening. Heat a handful of alder wood chips (which can be found at most grocery stores, alongside the charcoal) in a pan until they’re smoking, place in one box lined with tin foil. Fill the second box with a tray of chocolate chips—semisweet works well. Close boxes and smoke to taste. Martin recommends at least 30 minutes, depending on how many chocolate chips. You may need to replace the wood chips several times during smoking; monitor the tray and make sure the smoke is consistent and does not wane.
Key Ingredient :: AIOLI Seattle Magazine April 2014
Miller's Guild Chef Mixes Up a House-Made Mayo
Chef/partner Jason Wilson turns waste into wonder with his signature condiment, Motoraioli
Chef Jason Wilson grew up in a family of butchers, and as a kid in Minnesota, he relished the fatty, gnarly bit on the end of a roast. As a chef, he developed modern techniques and tastes, which are on display at Crush in Madison Valley, but with his newly opened Miller’s Guild downtown, he returns to a more visceral style.
“It’s wood-fired cooking in a nutshell,” Wilson says of the 9-foot-long, custom-made, open-flame grill that serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece. Instead of traditional grates, the grill is tilted at an angle to funnel “the goodies”—seasoned fat, grease and oils—into a channel.
Early on, Wilson dipped some focaccia in it, and proclaimed, “This is good!” This eureka moment went on to inform the menu. Using the collected grease as an infused oil, Wilson created a house-made mayo, naming it Motoraioli in homage to the brown hue the drippings impart. In home kitchens, leftover roasting juices are more commonly used in gravy, or, gasp, treated as waste. Wilson showcases it in his signature aioli. For brunch, Motoraioli is served alongside fries as a dipping sauce, while for dinner, it appears in an appetizer of corned beef tongue, house pickles and leeks.
Modern Pantry :: ASPARAGUS Edible Seattle August 2014
True confession: before I moved to Washington as a 20-something, I had never eaten asparagus. I grew up in New York and while we ate vegetables at every meal, asparagus was never one of them. It wasn’t until I started working in the Seattle restaurant industry in the late ’90s that I got into the swing of things and started looking forward to our local asparagus season. With such a versatile vegetable, the chefs would grill, sauté, steam and bake asparagus, creating a two-month parade of verdant and fresh-tasting dishes.
Luckily for us, Washington is a major producer of the country’s asparagus supply, producing over 22 million pounds annually, making it that much easier for locals to gorge. Sadly, these snappy green stalks are gone too soon—the season never lasts as long as I like.
The solution to this, of course, lies in preservation. While it’s difficult to keep the crisp in an asparagus spear, the flavors are easy to preserve. Here, we offer two ways for putting up a spring glut—one for a mint-infused asparagus pickle and another using oil as the preservation liquid. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to quick-blanch and freeze a bag or two. Between jars in the cupboard, containers in the fridge and a handful of freezer bags, you can stock up enough to last nearly until next spring.
Lemon & Olive Oil Preserved Asparagus
makes 4 pints | start to finish: about 30 to 45 minutes active time
Asparagus is a low-acid food and therefore needs special care when preserving. Here, olive oil preserves by inhibiting oxygen from touching and spoiling the asparagus. It will not, however, ward off bacteria. To insure you do not introduce bacteria, you briefly pickle the asparagus before the oil bath. The final product is stored in the fridge, as a cool refrigerator will also retard bacterial growth.
To eat this, simply strain from the oil (reserve the infused oil for sautés or salads) and use the spears in salads, soups or as a light snack. I love it for breakfast, underneath an over-easy egg and alongside buttery toast.
5 pounds asparagus, woody bits trimmed
1 ½ cups white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 wide strips lemon zest
2 sprigs rosemary, cut in half
2 cups olive oil
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add pint jars (you may need to work in batches) and let sit for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars from water and set aside until ready to use.
Measure the asparagus to match the depth of the canning jar, leaving a 1″ gap at the top for headspace. For pint jars, the spears should be about 4″ long. Rinse the trimmed spears and set aside in a shallow baking dish.
Add the vinegar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour over asparagus spears, letting them marinate for 10 minutes.
While the asparagus is brining, add the aromatics to the jars. To each pint jar, add equal parts salt and peppercorn, one half a garlic clove, 2 ounces of lemon juice and 1 strip of lemon zest. Set aside.
After 10 minutes, drain the vinegar and pack the pickled spears tightly into the jars. It helps to turn the jar on its side while adding the asparagus. When the jar is nearly full, add one rosemary sprig. Press asparagus together as firmly as possible and pack the jar completely.
Pour the olive oil over the asparagus, tapping the jar lightly on the countertop to release any bubbles. Cover the asparagus by 1/2″, creating an olive oil seal, and leaving about 1/2″ of headspace. Place in the fridge to macerate for at least two weeks before eating. Asparagus will last about 3 months.
sterilized jars • store in fridge
Champagne Pickled Asparagus
makes 4 half-pints | start to finish: about 45 minutes
This pickle recipe uses champagne vinegar, which is more delicate on the palate than white vinegar. The crisp mint shines through and an orange peel added to each jar lends a subtle sunny note. Use the asparagus on a green salad with a hard-boiled egg or as a side dish to grilled meat. If using in a cocktail, pair with vodka or gin for best results.
5 pounds asparagus, woody bits trimmed
5 cups champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 bunches of mint (about 1 cup densely packed leaves), 4 stems reserved
4 broad strips of orange zest
4 teaspoons allspice berries
4 whole star anise
Trim the asparagus spears to fit into a pint jar, about 4″ tall. Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Pull the pan from the heat, and add the mint (reserving four 3″ stems for the jars) and let steep off heat until the vinegar is cool.
Meanwhile, pack each pint jar with one of the reserved mint stems, a strip of orange zest, 1 teaspoon of allspice and 1 star anise. Then, add the trimmed asparagus to each jar. Pack the jars densely, fitting in as many spears as possible.
Strain the mint leaves from the vinegar and return to the stove over high heat, bringing to a boil. Using a liquid measuring cup for ease of pouring, add vinegar to each jar, leaving a 1″ head space, but making sure the tips are covered. Trim and re-pack any asparagus spears that stick up into the 1″ headspace. Once all spears are submerged in vinegar, process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on the counter overnight.
washed jars • water bath
Modern Pantry :: YOGURT, Edible Seattle January 2013
Adventures in Fermentation :: YOGURT
When I was in elementary school, my mom packed my lunch every day. I wasn’t one of those kids who glamorously got to wait in line for a hot lunch; I was the one with a grease-stained paper bag. On the very rare occasion, my mom would pack up a yogurt cup. I favored the kind with sweetened yogurt on top and jam-like fruit on the bottom.
Thankfully, my taste buds have matured and the thought of pre-sweetened yogurt is cringe-inducing. And while I eat yogurt daily, I never considered making it at home until my friend Lynda eco-guilted me by pointing out my habit creates considerable waste from all the plastic yogurt containers I blow through. This simple statement of fact forced me into the kitchen.
Homemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency. Made from the binding of milk proteins, homemade yogurt will vary in texture and richness each time you make it. Temperatures, good bacteria and milk fats will vary slightly with every batch you make, so no two will be identical.
To make yogurt, milk is heated to just below boiling and then cooled—a warm jump start wherein good
bacteria can proliferate—and then held at a consistently warm temperature for hours. You need to introduce good bacteria (just like bread yeast) to the milk to activate the fermentation process. You can use either non-fat, low-fat or whole milk as all produce excellent results. The biggest challenge with homemade yogurt is maintaining a warm space needed for the milk proteins to bind together. You can incubate warmed milk in a number of ways: storing in a cooler with a hot water bottle, placing in a warm cupboard next to a hot water heater, even using one of those 70s-era plug-in yogurt makers. Over the years, I’ve settled on a simpler technique that doesn’t require special equipment—just your oven.
After the yogurt sets up in the oven overnight, it is chilled where it will thicken further. Homemade yogurt varies in texture. I prefer a smooth, pourable consistency, but you can easily manipulate yogurt into a thicker, lusher product. If the final batch is too loose or you are after a Greek-style yogurt, strain the chilled yogurt through a fine mesh sieve at room temperature for several hours. This produces less yogurt (about a pint, depending on just how thick you want it) and a cup or two of whey that you can use in another recipe (try using it to cook polenta).
makes 4 cups | start to finish: 30 minutes active time + overnight rest
from Edible Seattle January/February 2013
6 cups of dairy milk
4 tablespoons plain yogurt with live yogurt cultures
Heat the milk over medium heat until quite hot, but not boiling—about 180 degrees if you’re using a thermometer. Remove pot from the heat and let cool until it’s 115 degrees, still nicely warm, but not immediately hot to the touch.
While the milk is cooling, preheat the oven to 120 degrees or your lowest setting. Turn oven off once it’s been warmed, but do not open the door.
When milk has reached 115 degrees, place the 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt into a large, non-metal bowl and slowly whisk in one cup of the warmed milk. Add the rest of the milk to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover with a large plate or plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, poke a few holes on top to allow air flow; if you’re using a plate, air will escape around the edges.
Working quickly, place the bowl in the oven and close the door. Turn on the oven light, if you have one, and let the bowl sit overnight.
In the morning, remove the bowl from oven and test the set of your yogurt. If the yogurt is very thin, like heavy cream, and you’d like it thicker, you may reheat your oven to 120 degrees and place the bowl in the oven for another 4-6 hours. Afterwards, move to the refrigerator to chill completely, where yogurt will continue to thicken slightly.
If you would like a Greek-style final yogurt, set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain off the whey. The longer you strain the yogurt the thicker it will become, so be mindful and check the set every hour or so.
Store the final yogurt in a covered glass jar or plastic container in the refrigerator. Yogurt will keep for several weeks. Save four tablespoons as a starter for your next batch.
washed jars • store in fridge
Modern Pantry :: CRANBERRIES, Edible Seattle December 2012
Cranberries Two Ways
Stocking the Pantry & Filling up the Holiday Table
By now, we know that the Pacific Northwest is an absolute cornucopia of farm fresh produce, so when I stumble on a new fruit or vegetable at the farmers market, it’s a thrilling occasion. Last year I stopped in my tracks when I passed an unadorned table at the Broadway Farmers Market simply piled with big wooden boxes and a small bowl of cranberries. (If you miss the short late fall window for farm-direct berries, many of the common Ocean Spray bags are grown and packed in Washington.)
Cranberries are high-acid fruits and grow on vines in marsh-like conditions or bogs. Although their acidity and tartness often gives cranberries a bad name, with a little sweetening they offer a palate-cleansing acid perfect for a holiday spread. Cranberries can be cooked down to a soft jam or quickly cooked and left with a crisp texture and bite. Either way you prepare them, cranberries are a short-season crop available only once a year, so it is best to stockpile and build up your reserves.
Toasted Pecan & Cranberry Relish
makes 4 half-pints | start to finish: 1 hour
from Edible Seattle November/December 2012
This recipe is a spin on the more traditional Thanksgiving side dish of cranberry sauce, embellished with the addition of toasted nuts. Cranberries and pecans are great together, but pistachios are equally delicious. Cranberries are quite tart (and I like them that way), but feel free to add more sugar to suit your tastes. This relish is wonderful used as jam, and even better when served as an appetizer alongside a delicate soft cheese like brie or camembert.
4 cups cranberries (about 1 ½ pounds), rinsed
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
In a large saucepan, combine the cranberries, water, sugar, and currants and set over medium heat. Zest the orange directly into the saucepan. Then, using a chef knife, remove all the remaining peel from the orange and chop the flesh roughly. Add the expelled juice and orange flesh to the pot. Cook the mixture for about 20 minutes, until the cranberries begin to pop and relish turns thick. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar, if you like. Add the toasted pecans and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached.
Fill clean jars with relish, leaving 1/2″ of head space. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and top the jars with lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove each jar with tongs and let cool on the counter.
washed jars • water bath
Apple Cranberry Salsa
makes 4 half-pints | start to finish: 1 hour
from Edible Seattle November/December 2012
This salsa is packed with spice and is a light appetizer that is perfect for starting a heavy wintertime meal. Serve with grilled crostini or homemade tortilla chips, or try some as a fresh garnish on roasted meats. While you can safely water bath can this recipe, you can also make it in advance and store it in the fridge for the Thanksgiving table.
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 apples, cored and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds & ribs removed, diced
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
4 cups ( about 1 1/4 pounds) fresh whole cranberries, rinsed
In a large pot, add the onion, apples, jalapeno, water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and honey and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for five minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add the cranberries and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, just until cranberries start to break down and the apples are cooked, but still firm.
Remove from heat and add salsa to clean jars. On a folded-over dish towel (for padding), strongly tap the bottom of the jar on the counter to help pack down the salsa, leaving 1/2″ of head space. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and top the jars with lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove each jar with tongs and let cool on the counter.
washed jars • water bath
Modern Pantry :: HOMEMADE HOT SAUCE, Edible Seattle September 2012
Watermelon Cayenne Hot Sauce
homemade hot sauce to spice up your pantry
Late summer welcomes one of my most-coveted arrivals to the farmer markets: those hard-to-resist baskets of peppers. Fortunately for Pacific Northwesterners, the hot, desert-like conditions of eastern Washington lend themselves perfectly to ripe, sun-kissed peppers in sundry sizes, colors and heat levels. Peppers are one of the most versatile vegetables for preserving, and can be grilled, roasted, pickled or pureed into something delicious. This summer, skip the usual suspect of pickled peppers and try your hand at a batch of hot sauce. Homemade hot sauce can vary in heat from make-your-eyes-water hot to a more mellow burn. Adding fruit to hot sauces sweetens them up, and gives them a well-rounded appeal.
The final product can be used on tacos or served with chips, of course, but is also a flavorful addition to vinaigrettes for dressing salads or summer vegetables. Spooned over poached eggs and beans, they’ll wake up your morning palate. However you serve ’em, they’ll most definitelyremind you of summer sun during the short cold days of winter. If you’re lucky to stumble across the dozens of varieties at Tonnemaker or Alvarez Farms, be sure to ask for assistance in identifying which to choose based on your preference for spice.
Watermelon Cayenne Hot Sauce
makes 4 half-pints | start to finish: 2 hours
This hot sauce is blood red and slightly sweet with just a touch of intense heat that won’t linger on your tongue. A single beet added during cooking gives this hot sauce a velvety, thick body and its deep purple-red hue. As for heat, Cayenne peppers are in the middle of the heat-spectrum. Watermelon juice does a good job mellowing out the spice, but if you’re looking for something even less spicy, substitute jalapeños. Use an heirloom watermelon whenever possible, as they tend to have the most flavor and be the sweetest.
5 lbs watermelon, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped fine, yielding 2-3 cups
2 cayenne peppers or 3 jalapeños, chopped
1 medium beet, chopped yielding about 1 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 limes, juiced
20 mint leaves, whole, yielding 1/4 cup
Working in batches, puree the watermelon flesh in a blender, until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the juice in a large bowl. Do not press against the watermelon pulp when straining, and discard the pulp after each batch. Measure out 2 cups watermelon juice and set aside. Reserve any leftover juice for another use.
In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and set over medium high heat. Add the onions, peppers, beets and salt and sauté until just soft, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and lime juice and bring to a simmer, cooking until vegetables are completely soft, about 30 minutes.
Pour the vegetable mixture into a blender and add the mint leaves. Puree, working your way up from lowest to highest setting, until smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl and let the juices strain out, using a rubber spatula to gently stir the pulp and help release the juice. Do not actually press the pulp, and discard it after no more juice is being released.
Add the watermelon juice to the pepper liquid and stir to combine. Pour into clean canning jars or small bottles and store in fridge, up to two months. You may also pressure can for shelf-stable hot sauce, processing at 20 minutes for half pint and 30 minutes for pint jars.
Mango Habanero Hot Sauce
makes 4 half-pints | start to finish: 1 1/2 hours
This sauce is crazily spicy and will absolutely hurt. Habañeros are one of the most potent peppers you can buy, and come in hues ranging from yellow to deep orange. Combined with mangos, the heat mellows ever so slightly, letting the sweetness from the mango shine through. They also combine to make a brilliant golden hue which is absolutely stunning in the jar. You must wear latex kitchen gloves when making this hot sauce, as the oil from the habañeros is ferociously hot and will burn the living hell out of your skin and eyes. You should also work in a well-ventilated room. When heated, the peppers release capsaicin into the air, an irritant to your respiratory system.
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
1 small onion, skin removed, quartered
7 small orange habañeros, seeds and membranes removed
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pit removed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
Using a food processor, grind the carrot to a fine dice. Add the onions and process until finely diced, then add peppers and pulse until they’re finely diced. Next, add the mango, salt and sugar. Blend until completely pureed, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the puree to a medium saucepan. Stir in the vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Set over medium high heat and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring often. Remove the sauce from the heat and pour into clean canning jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. (You may also strain hot sauce first, if you would like it to be perfectly smooth.) Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
washed jars • water bath
washed jars • store in fridge, or pressure can
City Dirt :: 5 CONTAINER PLANTS FOR FALL, Food52 September 2012
Five Container Plants For Fall
This is the sixteenth in our biweekly series from Amy Pennington – urban farmer, founder of GoGo Green Garden, and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening – on how to start growing your own food, no matter how tiny your garden-to-be is.
Today: It's hard to believe, but fall is on its way. Amy tells us what to plant now for the perfect patio harvest come cold weather.
FIVE CONTAINER PLANTS FOR FALL
It doesn’t necessarily feel like it, but sadly summer is waning. Our days are shorter and while temperatures may remain hot (you lucky ducks!), shorter days means less light for growing plants. In many states across the country this means it’s time to get the winter garden going, if you haven’t already. Late summer begs for cool loving crops that are quick to grow. For anyone starting now, smaller leafy greens are your friend.
By nature, leafy greens require less direct sunlight, prefer it when it’s a bit cooler, and can be grown in both a proper garden bed and a smaller container. Most greens germinate quickly and many can be found as starts. Following is a list of five plants to grow right now – some can be harvested before winter sets in, and others can be left to overwinter in regions with mild temperatures. Be sure to get planting straight away though. Mother Nature is moving fast and I can tell you from experience...she usually wins the race.
You’ll need a pot filled to the brim with potting soil. Feel free to use an old pot; just refresh the soil and make sure you remove all old root hairs. If you’re using seed, you can direct sow, which is a method in which you sow a seed directly into the soil.
You can also broadcast sow seeds for loose leaves: you do this by taking a handful of seeds and scattering them evenly over a designated area, sort of like salting meat. These seeds fall on the soil haphazardly and lack any spacing. (I'm showing the technique in a garden bed here, but it also works for containers!)
Of course, you can also use a start when planting this fall. Plant starts are a bit easier as they give you a jump on the season and don’t require you to nurture seeds through germination. When transplanting a plant start into a pot, you need only provide enough space for the plant to grow. Loosen up the transplants root system and be sure to separate out individual plants so you allow them room to come to full maturity.
Many lettuces will grow and mature in less than two months. These are wonderful immediate gratification kind of plants, as they germinate and grow quickly and are easily harvested. Lettuces come in assorted sizes and colors, allowing for a nice salad bowl mix, but be sure to choose varieties that will do well late in the season – I really love Green Deer Tongue lettuce for winter and have heard great things about Arctic King, a butterhead for anyone wanting a traditional green lettuce leaf.
Where and When to Plant
• Sow lettuce seed or plant starts through the month of September.
• Sow seeds in a long, shallow, pale-colored plastic container -- lettuces are shallow-rooted, and plastic containers hold water a bit longer than clay ones.
• If using seeds, be sure to keep the seedbed moist until seeds germinate, which typically happens in five to seven days.
How to Harvest
• To harvest lettuce, try to remove the larger outer leaves first. Using a small pair of scissors, cut the individual leaf stems as close to the base of the main stem as possible, leaving some interior leaves behind.
Chervil has tender fernlike leaves, it is extremely dainty and delicate. The flavor is not unlike dill, but it is sharper and more crisp. It doesn’t linger on your palate as dill can, and it won’t overpower a dish. Chervil is a great match for eggs, light broths, and with white fish of any kind. (Editor's Note: The chervil hasn't popped up in Amy's garden yet, so you get a photo of sowing in action! Chervil looks like this.)
Where and When to Plant
• Sow in late summer.
• Chervil can be grown in a medium-depth pot, about eight to twelve inches deep. The wider the pot, the more thickly the plant will fill in, so keep that in mind when choosing.
How to Harvest
• Cut the entire stem of chervil and use both leaves and stem.
• The plant will quickly fill back in, so harvest often!
3. Green Onions
Scallions, chives, green onions – they are all in the same family of allium and are quick producing. You can grow for greens or the whole plant.
Where and When to Plant
• Green onions can be sown in late summer for a fall harvest.
• A shallow container works well. Try these in a gutter garden!
How to Harvest
• Pull the entire scallion from the soil, if you’d like to use the white.
• For greens only, trim the stems leaving a few inches of the green onion behind so it can re-grow.
Arugula is a leafy green that produces long flat leaves with a distinct peppery flavor. Each seed produces one thin stem, which leaves grow out from. You can further your harvest by cutting them back often.
Where and When to Plant
• Sow arugula seeds in the top layer of potting soil from late August through October.
• If given the room, arugula plants may grow to well over two feet! In a small to medium container, however, leaves grow the perfect size for salad.
How to Harvest
• Cut arugula at the base of each leaf off the main stem.
• You can decide for yourself when the leaf is big enough, but larger leaves are much more peppery.
Chicories are essentially bitter salad greens that can be eaten raw or take well to grilling. Chicories such as escaroles and endives are good choices for fall.
Where and When to Plant
• Sow seed or plant starts now through the first week of September.
• Sow seeds in a long, shallow, pale-colored plastic container, as chicories are also shallow rooted plants.
How to Harvest
• To harvest, remove the larger outer leaves first. Like for lettuce, using a small pair of scissors, cut the individual leaf stems as close to the base of the main stem as possible, leaving some interior leaves behind.
Modern Pantry :: RED WINE VINEGAR, Edible Seattle March 2012
The Mother of All Condiments
This past fall I had the great fortune of teaching a quarter-long class on preserving to an eager audience of health-minded, highly educated individuals at Bastyr University. Using the prolific campus garden and taking cues from local farms, I built a thirteen-week course based solely on what was seasonally available to put up for the pantry. The course covered basics like jam and pickles, but we also had the time and opportunity to introduce specialized concepts like ratafia (fruit-infused booze), floral dehydration (picture hundreds of perfectly dried chamomile buds) and fermentation.
With any class I teach, I fully anticipate being asked a question that stumps me. Siona was one of my brightest students and challenged me to stretch my brain into an area where logic and knowledge meet up and battle for answers. It was during one such class when Siona asked if we could make vinegar. “Sure,” I said absent-mindedly agreeing and trying to put on my best poker face. While I’ve been preserving for years and have a reasonable understanding about the science of preservation, I’d never tried my hand at home vinegar-making. Honestly, it seemed both unnecessary and uninteresting. My desire to be a know-it-all, however, demanded that I do some research.
I started experimenting at home, reading up on the subject and ultimately found the easiest way to make vinegar starts with using expired red wine. I’ve since moved on to home fermentation of apple cider (forgetting about a gallon of cider in my fridge for months) and vinegar infusions, but what follows is the
perfect starter recipe for anyone interested in making vinegar at home. I stick to using materials found around most homes.
This red wine vinegar recipe will take several weeks at a minimum, though it can be put together in the length of an afternoon. Over the weeks of curing, you will smell the transformation. One of the most important things to remember with homemade vinegar making is that in order for alcohol to turn to vinegar, it needs air. Oxygen helps along acetobacteria in the process of converting alcohol to acetic acid, the main component of vinegar. To jump start any alcohol’s conversion to acetic acid, I use the sediment found in a bottle of unpasteurized and unfiltered apple cider vinegar (available from many local grocery stores). This sediment will eventually turn into the ‘mother’: a thick gelatinous glob composed of plant cellulose that will float to the top of your vinegar jar. This mother is active, and may be used to start other vinegars.
Confused? Don’t be. You are simply adding helpful bacteria to alcohol, in order to turn the alcohol into vinegar—much like adding the right bacteria to milk makes yogurt. You will need to watch for unwanted mold forming on the surface of your wine solution. Skim it off and keep an eye on it. If mold develops again, toss the batch and start over—something may be off in the wine. It is good to note that you should only use wine you would like to drink. Simply put, crappy wine makes crappy vinegar. Finally, when all is finished and you can smell that your wine has converted to vinegar, pour a small glass, take a sip and toast both Siona and the power of curiosity.
Red Wine Vinegar
makes: 6 cups | start to finish: 20 minutes preparation; 2 to 3 months total
from Edible Seattle March/April 2012
large square of cheesecloth, 6 layers thick
1 large rubber band
glass one-gallon jar
6 cups red wine
One 8-12 ounce bottle organic, unpasteurized, unfiltered cider vinegar
Wash the glass jar in warm, soapy water and rinse completely. Add approximately 2 cups of red wine.
Drain the cider vinegar out of the jar slowly, leaving behind the sediment collected on the bottom. (Reserve the vinegar for another use.) Add the reserved sediment, and any small amount of residual vinegar, to the red wine. Place the layered cheesecloth over the jar opening, and secure with a rubber band.
Set the jar in a warm (70° to 90°), dark spot and let stand for 1 1/2 weeks. I use a cupboard in my kitchen, but a closet would also work well.
Add about 4 cups of red wine over the next 10 to 14 days. You may do this incrementally as you have leftover wine, or 2 cups at a time. After 14 days, the jar should be about one-third full. A thin, slimy veil will form over the surface during this time. Once the veil has formed, you will need to add the wine through the tube of a bulb baster tucked under the edge of the veil (so the veil remains intact and floating).
Let the jar stand for a total of 10 weeks in its warm, dark location. Check periodically: If your vinegar ever begins to smell off—like sulphur or other strong chemicals—discard it, wash the jar and start over.
When the vinegar is fully cured and smells sharp and crisp, pour it through a paper coffee filter and into a stainless steel saucepan. Heat to 155 degrees over medium heat, and hold it there for 30 minutes. Using a plastic funnel, pour into sterilized bottles. Use homemade vinegar for salad dressings, sauces or a condiment, but not for pickling—the acidity level may not meet food safety requirements for pickles.
City Dirt :: TOMATO DIY, Food52 August 2012
Tomato DIY: Pruning and Trellises
This is the fifteenth in our biweekly series from Amy Pennington – urban farmer, founder of GoGo Green Garden, and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening – on how to start growing your own food, no matter how tiny your garden-to-be is.
Today: Amy teaches us to take care of our tomato plants, prune them fearlessly, and trellis them with simple household supplies.
Come summertime, when the air is hot and the sun is high, everyone comes down with a little case of tomato fever. I’m not sure how this plant grew to such epochal proportions as to measure the success of a home gardener, but it has. Today we present tomato tips and tricks, from pruning for maximum yield to easy DIY trellises.
Pruning Those Suckers
Tomato suckers are the small sets of leaves that grow between the main stem and a leafy branch of a tomato plant. These suckers, if left to grow, become additional flowering and fruiting stems for the plant. That's good, right? Not quite. If allowed to bloom and fruit, these additional tomatoes will ultimately compete for nutrients from the plant. Over time, this lessens the overall chances of all the fruit coming to delicious maturity. Cooler and shorter seasons (like in the Northwest), cannot support such prolific tomato production -- but regardless of your temperature, all tomatoes do well with a little pruning.
Pruning, in this case, refers to snapping off those little suckers. When the stems are new and short (say, 3 to 4 inches) you can snap them off with your fingers by bending them back quickly. If you let them get much larger, it’s best to use a set of shears so you don’t tear the main plant stem in the process. Starting in early August (after the plants have some good strong growth and the weather is consistently warm) I snap off suckers -- no hesitation, no regrets -- from the top half of the plant. (If you planted a smaller tomato variety or cherry tomato plant, leave more suckers on the plant. Because cherry tomatoes are smaller, they ripen faster and the plant can support more production.)
In addition to trimming suckers, now is a great time to prune about 30% of the green leaf stems from the tomato vine. This sends the plant's energy into fruit production, rather than upward growth. This also allows for air to pass through and for sun to shine on the fruit, which helps develop sweetness. More practically, pruning also allows a gardener to clearly see when tomatoes are ripe.
Be aggressive and fear not -- pruning will seldom cause damage to the plant or overall tomato production. Our "job" as home cooks and gardeners is to produce the most luscious tomato for our table. Keep that in mind, and you won’t have a problem getting rid of suckers and excess leaves. One last note: some people (like me) find the leaves of tomato plants highly irritable to their skin, especially on prolonged contact. For this reason, I always, always wear gloves and long sleeves when dealing with tomato plants.
A structured tomato trellis offers support to climbing or tall plants and is perfect for maximizing and managing your space -- they keep tomato stems from breaking and allow for pruning. I know everyone loves tomatoes, so now is the time to get in the garden and focus on building tomato supports, if you haven’t already!
Perhaps you’re one of the many who purchase tomato "cages," but find that the plants are growing well over the confines of the cage and dragging it down. I’ll be honest and admit I am not a fan of tomato cages. Instead, I build a support system of bamboo in all of my tomato beds. DIY trellising is uber-efficient and less expensive. It also allows for easy pruning, good air circulation, and good fruit maturity, as it allows sun to sit on individual tomato fruits, ripening and sweetening them up. There are lots of other options for trellising, as well – re-using a fence, for instance. If you have supportive items like this around, use them. If not, build your own.
To Build: You need 5 lengths of 6-foot bamboo. Crossing two pieces of bamboo, tie string about 5-inches down, creating a small “X” at one end. Once tied, splay the bamboo apart, making a large “X” – these will act as the foundation for the trellis. Do this twice and position the the bamboo legs about 5 feet apart in the bed. Position the remaining piece of 6-foot bamboo across the frame and voila! A super durable, strong trellis in which to trail over vining plants.
To Support Tomatoes: Use garden twine and loosely make a knot around the main stem of the tomato, winding the string up to the top of the bamboo and tying off. Do this in one or two places along the main stem, gently twisting the tomato plant around the string for extra support and VOILA. Tomato support!
For heat-loving tomato plants, it’s smart to water in the morning before you leave for work. Watering in the morning leaves time for plants to soak it up before the heat of day and evaporation take over. Watering in the evening results in a drop in soil temperature which these heat-lovers do not appreciate. You wouldn’t like to go to sit outside in wet socks at night time, would you? Same, same.
City Dirt :: USING THE WHOLE PLANT, Food52, July 2012
Just Eat It: Using All of the Crops You Grow
This is the fourteenth in our biweekly series from Amy Pennington – urban farmer, founder of GoGo Green Garden, and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening – on how to start growing your own food, no matter how tiny your garden-to-be is.
Today: Amy shows us how to harvest plants from root to stem. Don't stop at eating fruits and vegetables -- eat pea vines, squash blossoms, and even tomato leaves!
Urban farming implies that you’re growing in a small space, so maximizing that space with an eye toward production is the most practical way to grow and harvest food. Fortunately, many plants are a virtual buffet, with edible, harvestable parts from root to stem. You need only know what bits you can harvest and how to introduce them into meals for a progressive harvesting schedule that lasts for months. Today: a round-up of goodies to harvest and cook with -- a timely, seasonal guide for what to harvest now.
1. Pea Vines
Spring peas are on their way out (though in temperate climates, now is a great time to sow a second crop of peas for fall harvest), and it’s time to pull the plants out of the garden to make way for another crop rotation of summer lettuce, or a row or two of bok choy. Before tossing pea plants into your compost or yard waste bin (or feeding them to your chickens), consider using the last few inches of pea vine in your kitchen. Harvest them by cutting the topmost 6 to 12 inches of tender, thin vine from the plant.
These pea vines can be sautéed or tossed in to salads, but this late in the season the odds are greater that you’ll be harvesting woody, tougher stems from the plants. It may take a little effort to coax them into something delicious, but using every bit from the plant is economical for both your time and your budget. I have a great recipe for Pea Vine Dumplings -- try it! It’s a great recipe to double, as well: just freeze extra dumplings and use them for another meal or as a quick appetizer the next time you need to whip something up in a hurry.
This is the perfect time of year for squash blossoms, and zucchini are shallow-rooted plants so anyone can grow a plant or two in containers. (Make note for next year, if you aren’t growing already!) All squash plants make flowers -- zucchini, pumpkin, winter squash, etc. Before you harvest squash blossoms, know that there are both female and male blossoms on every plant. Male blossoms grow at the end of a long, thin stem, and have a long stamen in the center of the blossom. Female blossoms have no stamen and will develop fruit -- you can see the to-be zucchini just under the flower's stems. They also tend to die a bit faster. If you’re harvesting squash blossoms, be sure to opt for the male blossom, leaving the females behind to grow zucchini. Stuff the blossoms with cheese and fry, fill them with seasoned rice or meat and bake in the oven, or cook them into a frittata. Some Mexican cultures use the squash blossoms for a thin tomato soup.
You can also use squash leaves in recipes. While they are edible, they can be a bit prickly and tough, so choose smaller leaves. Some Asian cultures sauté young tender leaves or curling vines. I have also used large squash leaves to cover and insulate squash gratins. They act as a gentle covering to keep vegetable gratins moist while the leaf on top chars to a crisp – a nice final combination of textures for a vegetarian meal.
3. Fava Tops
Fava beans have a long growing cycle, and anyone lucky enough to have space for these tall plants should plant a thick crop in the fall for an early summer harvest. While you wait for the fava bean pods to mature, snip liberally from the top of each plant -- about the last 4 to 6 inches, which are the most tender. Use these tops as you would pea vines: as a simple sauté or raw in a salad serve them best.
4. Tiny Carrots & Greens
If you’re growing carrots at home, you will need to thin them in order to make space for each individual carrot to mature. I try and thin carrots at the last possible moment -- this means that I harvest teeny tiny carrots and greens that can be used as garnish or, even better, pickled whole.
You can use carrot greens as you would parsley. The flavor is strong and slightly carrot-like, but the bitterness makes a nice counterpoint to fatty fish or meat -- use carrot greens in a gremolata with lemon peel next time you grill this summer. It is also worth noting that the older the carrot, the more bitter the green, so opt for thinned carrots or smaller tops when harvesting.
4. Tomato Leaves
It is widely supported that tomato leaves can be poisonous, as they’re in the nightshade family. Tomato leaves, however, are not dangerous if ingested in small quantities, and in fact can be used as an infusion, much like tea leaves. Tomato leaves add a level of depth to the flavor profile in a simple red tomato sauce. They can also be steeped in strained tomato water for a super fragrant cold summer soup or beverage. (I don't recommend eating them up three meals a day, but occasional use is just fine.)
City Dirt :: 6 DIY GARDEN PROJECTS, Food52 July 2012
6 DIY Garden Projects You Can Do Right Now
This is the thirteenth in our biweekly series from Amy Pennington – urban farmer, founder of GoGo Green Garden, and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening – on how to start growing your own food, no matter how tiny your garden-to-be is.
Today: No backyard? No problem! Amy saves the day with easy DIY garden projects from things you already own -- spoons, wine boxes, milk crates, and more.
By now all your summer crops are planted, but it's a bit too early for sowing fall crops just yet (not to mention there is likely no room!). For gardeners, the height of summer provides a bit of downtime -- your main focus shifts to daily watering and tending for anything already planted.
This means that now is a great time to busy yourself with other garden projects. These DIY projects -- plant markers, milk crate planters, wine box planters, and more -- will both tide you over AND make your life easier during busier times. A little preparation now can have you in an organized and lovely-looking garden all year long.
Spoons: Readymade plant markers are plentiful, but often unsuccessful -- the names wear off, and they tend to bleach out over time. The solution? Make your own by using aged silverware and some creative glue work.
• Make a label from plain white paper that is small enough to fit along either the length of the handle or in the bowl of the spoon.
• Write the plant name on this label, attach it to the handle or spoon bowl with white glue, and let it dry completely.
• Make a glue wash by mixing two parts white glue to about one part water -- it should be thin, but tacky. Using a small paintbrush, brush over the label, being sure to cover it completely but lightly, so you don't have any lines. Let dry slightly and apply a new coat. Repeat for a third and final coat. (A final spray with a clear UV- and water-resistant product, sold at houseware and hardware stores, will help the labels last even longer.)
• When fully dry, stick the handle of the silverware in your soil as a plant marker.
Shrinky Dinks: Another plant marker that stands the test of time (and weather) is inspired by a favorite childhood project -- the Shrinky Dink. Remember those plastic sheets you color, cut, and bake? The only challenge is making a big enough label, pre-baking, that results in large enough print to read.
• Typically, I cut the plastic for a plant label into a 5" x 2" label. This will bake down to about a 2" x 1" sign. I like the simplicity of black ink on the white background, but you can get creative and add color. As with the silverware labels, use a thin sharp marker or colored pencil for this project -- it allows for precise lettering.
• Punch a small hole in the top of your label before baking. You can thread garden string through the hole and tie it to the base of your plant.
• Alternatively, make a small hole (using a small hole punch) on each side of the label. After the label is baked, unfold two paper clips and bend the wire in half through the holes - this creates a tent post that you can pierce your soil with, in order to hold the label in place.
Plastic milk crates - Plastic milk crates make easy, cheap, durable planters.
• Fill the gaps with either a liner (like a gently used plastic shower liner with drain holes), Spanish moss, or some sort of fiber -- coconut fiber or even hay. This prevents soil from falling through.
• Before planting, I like to spray paint my milk crates white -- this gives them a very clean, modern look.
Gutters: Found on nearly every building and home, gutters are easy to come by if you keep your eyes peeled on trash day, or roam the aisles of salvaged goods warehouses.
• Because gutter material is light (stainless steel, aluminum, or plastic), this is an ideal planter for tying to a balcony railing. Perfect for city dwellers!
• With their long, shallow shape, gutters are perfect for planting lettuces.
• Be sure to drill drainage holes along the length of the gutter before filling with potting soil and planting.
• Ideally, look for one made of stainless steel -- they are the best-looking.
Wine boxes: If you live in or near wine country (or have a habit of ordering booze online), wooden wine boxes shouldn't be too difficult to find.
• These shallow boxes are good for lettuces, seed starting, and microgreens.
• The thin wood on these boxes will last longer if you apply a coat of oil before planting (choose a Danish oil or orange oil from your local hardware store). This helps give your boxes a tough and slightly waterproof finish, but know that they have only a two or three year lifecycle before they really fall apart from moisture.
Burlap, potting soil bags, and other sacks: Remember the Potato-In-A-Bag post from a few weeks ago? Using the same concept, you can make your own "container" out of just about any bag.
• For a plant-in-a-bag project, I prefer a better-looking bag than potting soil bags, but those work, too. Burlap sacks and plastic woven feed bags are a bit more shabby chic. If you live in an area with local coffee-roasting companies, you should be able to find used burlap bags for free. Country feed stores are a good source for old feed bags. These often have the added benefit of vintage-looking logos -- a great way to add character to your urban garden.
• To plant in these, you need only steady the bag and split a hole in the top. Simply pour an entire bag of potting soil into the burlap sack or feed bag before planting, then add your starts or seeds directly on the soil surface. • Be sure the edges of the bag don't come up around the plant to block out sunlight. • Soil kept in burlap will dry out quickly, so be sure to monitor water needs closely. The plastic feed bags will hang onto water as a plastic pot would, so be certain not to overwater these.
These are some quick ideas for easy gardening projects anyone can accomplish in a weekend -- from those in studio apartments to gardeners with big backyards. I am 100% certain that you will also have some awesome ideas for DIY garden projects that are economical, easy, and efficient -- I look forward to hearing about them in the comments!
City Dirt :: PROPOGATING HERBS, Food52 June 2012
Sharing is Caring: Propagating Herbs
This is the twelfth in our biweekly series from Amy Pennington – urban farmer, founder of GoGo Green Garden, and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening – on how to start growing your own food, no matter how tiny your garden-to-be is.
Last week I met up with my friend Sarah, a farmer. Sarah has been farming for years and she's an absolute pro, so I asked her to meet me out at a new space to help me devise the perfect garden plan. (She's a genius that way – indispensible knowledge.)
We met up and walked to the garden. On the way, she spotted a old, prolific fig tree and stopped in her tracks. "Oh – I need that," she exclaimed, and simultaneously reached into her back pocket as she crossed the street. With at quick snip, she cut a couple inches length from the fig plant, looked at me, and whispered, "You want one?"
The practice of growing a plant from a small clipping is called propagation, but I had no idea you could grow a fig tree from a mere four inches of branch. Propagating a plant from a cutting or root division is one of the coolest parts of gardening. Propagating plants, quite simply, extends a plant's reproduction beyond the usual blooming and seeding. There are two methods we'll cover today: splitting the roots of a parent plant, called root division, and taking a cutting. (Grafting is also considered a form of propagation, but requires a bit more work.)
Root Division: Split One Plant Into Two
Many herbs and plants can be divided by simply splitting up their roots: Thyme, Oregano, Mint, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Chives, Tarragon, Lovage, and Marjoram are all perfect candidates. It's easy:
1. Dig up the plant and its entire root system as best you can in early spring or fall. Growth is slow during these seasons, which makes this treatment easier on the plant.
2. Work apart the roots and slice through them with a clean knife or your hands. (You can also trim the root balls with scissors.) Be sure that each division has both healthy roots and at least one small green shoot!
3. Repot into a large enough pot and water well. Be sure to keep it watered well until the plant catches on and begins to put out new growth. You don't want to add any additional stress to the plant from lack of water!
A note for apartment gardeners: if you already have perennial herb pots going, it may be time for you to split them and separate the division into two pots. Every three years or so, perennial herbs do well with some dividing. Add some compost to the new potting mix and repot in a same-size or larger container. If you don't need more of the same herb, divide them anyway and repot as gifts for friends or neighbors.
Taking a Cutting: Cloning Your Plants
Some plants root out from the stem, making them excellent candidates for cuttings. Examples include Figs -- like the one my friend Sarah clipped -- Lavender, Lemon Balm, Mint, Scented Geraniums, Tarragon, Sage, Lemon Verbena, and Oregano. (Yes, many plants can be propagated in both ways -- use the one most convenient for you.)
As a general rule of thumb, take a cutting from new plant growth. This is best done in late spring or early summer -- cuttings prosper in warm conditions. This also allows enough time for the cutting to put on some new growth without the stress and cold of winter.
1. On some plants, new growth comes in the form of a side shoot; in others it grows from the top of the plant's branches. Choose the newest growth and cut about a five inch length just below a set of leaves.
2. Remove the lowest leaves from the cutting, as well as any buds or blossoms on the stem. (If left, these will take energy away from the plant by producing seed.)
3. Place the cutting directly into a small pot of potting soil (leave it unfertilized for now), being sure to bury the lowest leaf node (the node is the area below the lowest leaves that you just removed) and water well. This leaf node is where the bulk of the plant's hormones are located, and they will aid in root development. Keep the cutting watered until the plant begins to put on new growth.
You will know it's ready when the cutting does not pull out of the soil with a gentle tug, indicating the new growth is sufficient for transplanting to a bigger pot. This generally takes from four to six weeks.
There are many, many edible plants that you can propagate easily (including tomatoes!), so share in the comments if you have some great tips! For the next City Dirt, schedule some time for a weekend project. We'll be covering garden DIY – salvaged containers and clever (read: free!) materials to use in your garden, no matter the size.
Photos by Della Chen
Modern Pantry :: SHRUBS, Edible Seattle July 2012
Red Beet and Rose Drinking Vinegar
simple summertime drinking vinegars
BY AMY PENNINGTON
Several summers ago I stayed on my friend Lynda’s farm in the Methow Valley. As expected in eastern Washington, the long summer days saw temperatures climbing and without air conditioning (we were on a farm, after all) we suffered through the stifling heat by moving slowly and wearing sun hats. In the evenings, we would sit on the porch and sip yuzu vinegar with a splash of sparkling water and a glass full of ice. It was Lynda’s trick for keeping cool and while the first sip was bracing, the second was nothing short of refreshing. An addiction was born.
Trendy bartenders across the country are turning to similar drinking vinegars, or shrubs, to add that special splash of flavor in their cocktails. Shrubs are not a new creation, and were used in colonial America as a way to preserve quick-spoiling fruit. Lacking proper refrigeration, fruit turned quickly. Adding vinegar to the fruit solved the crisis and was a means of preservation, as vinegar is high in acid and prevents mold and bacteria from forming.
At home, there are no limitations to what can be combined and preserved safely, so shrubs are a great way to experiment with preserving. Be sure to choose a high acid percentage (5%) in the vinegar you use, which assures stability. I prefer softer and sweeter vinegars: apple cider or champagne work well with many fruits and vegetables.
As an added bonus, shrubs are alcohol-free, and thus are a festive option for anyone who does not drink alcohol. You can add a spoonful to make juice more complex, or go straight for the sparkling water and make a brightly colored fizzy drink.
Strawberry Vinegar Fizz
Makes about 1 cup | start to finish: 2 hours
This drinking vinegar screams spring and smells like strawberries fresh from the field. The acid from the vinegar and sweetness from the strawberries wakes up the palate without being offensive. You must be careful to strain all of the fruit pulp out of your final vinegar, lest you have unsightly bits floating in your beverage. Try this with sparkling water or amp it up by topping off a few spoonfuls with champagne. It can also be used as salad vinaigrette–perfect tossed with toasted almonds and spinach leaves.
3 cups hulled and chopped strawberries (about 1 1/2 pounds whole berries)
2/3 cup champagne vinegar
Combine chopped strawberries and sugar and stir to combine. Let macerate for at least one hour, or let sit overnight, stirring occasionally and making sure all the sugar dissolves. Using a blender, blend the strawberries along with the macerating juices into a smooth puree, about 4 minutes. Do this by starting on the “chop” speed and working up to “puree”. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp. Do this several times until the puree is very smooth and does not contain any flesh from the fruit. Stir in champagne vinegar and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several months.
To serve, fill glasses with ice and add one or two tablespoons of strawberry vinegar. Pour seltzer over, filling the glass and stir to combine. This drink makes an excellent adult beverage, too. Add one ounce of gin per glass (Aviation or Bainbridge Organic gins are exceptional) or top off the shrub with champagne instead of sparkling water.
washed jars | store in fridge
Red Beet & Rose Drinking Vinegar
Makes about 4 cups | start to finish: 1 hours
I developed this recipe based solely on the principle that beets are vibrantly colored and saturate anything they come in contact with. Additionally, the flavor of beets is quite earthy and subtle—appealing without being overwhelming. The addition of rose geranium leaves creates a floral note and softens the vinegar perfectly. Rose geranium is becoming more and more popular at plant sales. Keep your eyes peeled this year and pick up a start so you’ll always have access to the flavor. Or feel free to add a few drops of rose geranium essential oil to your vinegar. A word of caution, however; a little goes a long way so start small and build flavor to your taste.
6 medium beets, diced yielding about 2 cups
4 cups apple cider vinegar
5 – 10 large rose geranium leaves
1 1/2 cups sugar
In a medium sauce pan, heat beets, vinegar and rose geranium leaves over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil and cook another ten minutes. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
When the beets are cool, strain them and the rose geranium leaves from the vinegar and pour into a glass jar and cover. (You can reserve the beets for a salad.) Place the drinking vinegar in the fridge, where it will keep for several months.
To serve, add approximately two tablespoons of vinegar to a glass and filled with ice. Fill with seltzer water or champagne and garnish with a sprig or petal of rose geranium.
washed jars | store in fridge
City Dirt :: POTATOES IN A BAG, Food52 May 2012
You Say Potato...in Bags
This is the eleventh in our biweekly series from Amy Pennington – urban farmer, founder of GoGo Green Garden, and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening – on how to start growing your own food, no matter how tiny your garden-to-be is.
Today: Growing potatoes couldn't be easier -- as Amy explains, it's all in the bag. Literally.
Growing potatoes is a pretty mysterious undertaking. All of the harvestable bits of the plant grow underground, making it hard to keep track of progress. Even though I've grown potatoes in the past, I'm consistently amazed when baby potatoes appear in the soil at harvest time.
To grow a potato, you basically cut a small piece off of a seed potato (a potato specifically designated as seed for planting, versus a potato you buy in the store) and bury it under a few inches of soil. The plant will eventually send up a stem and leaves, and as the plant grows we cover them (always leaving a little bit of leaf showing) in order for the plant to produce more potatoes. Pretty simple. This process, when done in a field, is called "hilling up" potatoes, as farmers will form hills of soil around the potato stem to maximize production.
In small urban gardens, this task becomes difficult as we often don't have much space to begin with. Or maybe, like me, you only have a small balcony. Fortunately for all of us, potatoes can be grown in bags — or boxes or garbage cans for that matter. Essentially, any container in which potatoes can grow vertically while we cover their stems and roots will work.
Before we get started, a few quick notes about potatoes:
• Potatoes do not like super hot weather -- for Northern gardeners, now is a great time to get started. For Southern gardeners, you'll have to wait until the heat of summer begins to wane, or try putting your potato bags in a cool, shaded spot that only gets morning sun, such as the north side of a garage or a north-facing balcony.
• Sweet potatoes and potatoes are different plants, but can be grown in the same manner. (Remember that they take longer, about 3 months.)
• Choose a quick-growing potato variety for your bag. Remember all those seed sources we talked about a few weeks ago? They're great resources, as is your local nursery.
• Finally, for this plant-in-a-bag project I prefer a better-looking bag. Burlap sacks and plastic woven feed bags are a bit more shabby-chic than the bag your soil is sold in. Try your local coffee roaster or country feed store; these often have the added benefit of vintage-looking logos — a great way to add character to your urban garden.
For more on potatoes and how they're grown, you can find more in this post on Feed52. And now, here's potatoes in a bag — know it, love it.
1. Purchase organic seed potatoes and a bag of potting soil.
2. Cut each potato into smaller 1 to 2-inch "seeds" — each seed should have 1 to 3 "eyes." Set the seeds on a countertop or windowsill for a day or two to dry out. This helps minimize rot during the growing process.
3. Empty 2/3 of the soil bag into a storage bin, a large terracotta pot, a garbage bag, or another large, handy receptacle. (You'll end up using this portion of the soil for covering the potato stem.) This leaves you with 1/3 of the soil still in the bag — now, fold or roll down the sides of the soil bag so you end up with container-bag about a foot deep. (Check out Feed52 for more on how you can use simple straw to hill your potatoes.)
4. Place the seed potatoes, eyes facing up, about 2 inches deep into your soil. It's easy -- just press them in and call it a day.
5. Pierce or slash your potato bag in several places to allow for drainage, but be careful not to make too big of a hole. You don't want soil spilling out!
6. Water lightly. The best way to tell if your potatoes (or any plant, for that matter) have enough water is to stick your hand into the bottom of the bag. The soil should just barely hold together due to dampness, but it should not be wet. As you continue to water over the coming weeks, be sure to NOT overwater your plants! Overwatering and then drying out the soil will produce imperfect potatoes with knobs and hard, dense skin.
7. After a few weeks, the potatoes stems will have grown about a foot tall. Now is the time to unroll a length of your potato bag and cover the entire stem with fresh soil (or hay***), leaving the leaves uncovered. If the stems grow tall enough, you can do this once more during the growing season.
8. When flowers start to bloom on your potato plant, it's a good indication that you've produced baby potatoes (also called "new potatoes" -- these are the same teeny new potatoes you see at the farmer's market). You can harvest potatoes from your plant now, if you'd like!
9. After the flowers bloom, the potato vines will yellow and die back. Leave plants for another week or so before harvesting (potatoes are still developing inside that bag). To harvest, line your patio or deck with newspaper and cut open the sides of the bag. (Soil will spill out, which you can reuse for lettuces or herbs.) Harvest the potatoes and let them "cure" for two days — this simply means laying them out to dry, which helps to develop the skin. Then cook them as you like!
Culture :: WA STATE COTTAGE LAW, Crosscut May 2012
Legalizing baking: What's the hold-up with Washington's Cottage Law?
A Washington state law allowing the sale of home-baked goods has been in place for nearly a year. So why haven't local bakers been able to take advantage of it yet?
A Washington state law allowing the sale of home-baked goods has been in place for nearly a year. So why haven't local bakers been able to take advantage of it yet?
Several years ago a friend held a holiday sale at her house showcasing local artists, crafters, and DIYers. We gathered and set up ‘shop’ around her living room offering wares. I was there selling jars of jams, scented sugars and fermented lemons at her request – I had extra stock so figured, why not? Little did I know at the time that I was operating an illegal underground store. I just thought I was being savvy and making a few extra bucks for holiday shopping. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one selling homemade goods.
“When I decided to take cake-making from a hobby to a business, I went through my county and contacted my health department and found out it was illegal to bake cakes out of my home,” said Felicia Hill, owner of FH Cakes based out of Vancouver, Wa. A mother of two, Felicia started baking cakes at home after her one-year old was tested positive for a severe peanut allergy. Her cakes were three dimensional creations that took dietary restrictions into account. Eventually, friends and neighbors started asking for cakes and a small hobby business was born.
At the time, it was not permissible by Washington State Law to sell food made in your home kitchen. All food products intended for sale had to be assembled, cooked, baked, etc in a commercial kitchen. These commercial kitchens are built-in to any food business like a restaurant or cafe, but for a dabbler in home-cooking, commercial space is a challenge to come by. There are churches, community kitchens, and the occasional shared-use kitchen space available to burgeoning entrepreneurs, like at Ballard Kitchen – a commercial space in Seattle where small businesses can rent occasional space.
As she got busier, Hill did some investigating on exactly what she needed to do to become a legitimate and legal business. “I had permitting fees and inspections, a kitchen rental, and I had to find childcare for my two small children,” while at the commercial kitchen, she noted. Hill quickly realized the costs were prohibitive to her being in business.
She had heard of other states implementing “Cottage Industry” laws to support small-scale home producers and decided Washington State needed one, as well. In the fall of 2010, Hill met with her local Senator and discussed the possibility of introducing a similar law. At about the same time, she learned another Senator was proposing the same bill (then-Senator Rockefeller) and quickly joined him in support.
In the early stages, the bill proposed for Washington state essentially copied the details of a recently adopted cottage law in Michigan, allowing private homes the ability to produce commercial food goods while assuming licensing and compliance with all details of the law. An early advocate, Hill followed the bill through the legal process, attending the first public hearing and meeting with Governor Christine Gregoire after the Cottage Industry Law (SB5748) was signed on May 5, 2011.
While the new law allowed for home-produced goods, there was one major problem – home kitchens have to be licensed in order to operate legally, but there was no budget to pay for an inspector to visit homes and conduct inspections. Licensing fell to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and “they had to find staff and pull them from other projects for this,” added Hill. “We were supposed to see things wrap up three months after the bill was signed into law, but I kept getting the run around at WSDA,” Hill bemoaned. The law sat stalled with little movement.
There were other issues too — seemingly foreseeable, as the original law from Michigan was little-edited. The gross sales revenue was set low, at $5,000 a year, making it a challenge for anyone looking to build a viable business. Over winter, a group convened (including Hill) and made small amendments to the bill (including increasing gross sales allowable to $15k), hoping to improve upon it and correct formalities with the intent of reintroducing it this year.
At the first of the year, the expectation was a public hearing in January to finalize the details of the revision. Inspections were supposed to start this past February. Both lawmakers and the committee seemed to be on the same page, but January arrived, and nothing transpired. Then February came, and still nothing.
“We expected that ‘the rules’ were going to be in place for the new year, and every month goes by and they still haven’t figured it out,” said Kelli Samson, a mother of two small children and a pastry-maker who sells her desserts to the local community in Olympia. She also writes a food blog, freshscratch.net. She has been waiting for the official word to kick off her local baking business.
So what’s the hold up? Initially, it seemed to be a matter of public safety. “Working with our applicants, we’ve developed a common-sense approach in helping these new home-based food businesses open their doors, while protecting the public from food-borne illness,” said WSDA’s Kirk Robinson, assistant director for food safety. The process took the better part of 2011 to sort out, with the help of Hill and others on the committee.
With the new bill finally revised, the Cottage Industry Law (SB5748) is on the verge of issuing licenses to Seattle's avid home bakers. Inspections are expected to start mid-summer to allow home entrepreneurs to start selling baked goods, including breads, cakes, cookies, granola, nuts, jams and jellies, and other “low-risk” products identified by the WSDA. Home bakers will be able to sell up to $15,000 of products a year, although online sales are not allowed.
Then it becomes a matter of budget and timing. With over 250 early applicants for a license, there are a lot of home kitchens to license and monitor. Though the WSDA is the official governing body responsible for inspections, they may also hire the Public Health Department to step in and help, once inspections start mid-summer.
Hill is expecting FH Cakes to eventually help support her household operations and add to her family's bottom line. In an interesting way, fighting for this law has focused her, allowing her to get serious about the business she would like to build. “I do want to eventually have a much bigger business than the one I have now,” she admits.
Others are simply looking for a safe and protected way to explore. “I’m looking to grow the business a little, but I don’t want the joy to be sucked out of it because it feeds my creativity and allows me to write about my blog,” noted Samson.
For Hill, pushing this bill into law has almost become her full time job — one that doesn’t pay the bills. She built and runs WashingtonStateCottageFoodLaw.com, a website that has tracked the law through its various iterations and posts information, like “how to get started and what you have to do to have a legal business in the state of Washington.” She also started a Facebook account to keep in touch with other home producers.
With the new rules to the law finally amended, the Cottage Industry Law is on the verge of being officially implemented, the waiting game over. For Hill this means full steam ahead on a burgeoning baking business. For others it simply provides a new opportunity to think big but start small. In either scenario, everyone involved is hoping for a sweet ending.
City Dirt :: NO SUN? NO SHADE? NO PROBLEM!, Food52 May 2012
No Sun? No Shade? No Problem!
This is the tenth in our biweekly series from Amy Pennington – urban farmer, founder of GoGo Green Garden, and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening – on how to start growing your own food, no matter how tiny your garden-to-be is.
Five Plants for Full-On, Sunshine-y Gardens
Here's a fruit fact: Most fruiting plants require 10 to 12 hours of direct sunlight for full-blown plant productivity and success. Sure, you could get away with less and still have a red tomato at summer's end, but in a perfect world, 10 to 12 hours is the goal. These plants require more sunlight than, say, leafy greens, as they not only rely on photosynthesis for strong stems and leaves, but also to both produce and mature their fruits to convert the carbohydrates in unripe fruit into sugars, which makes them sweeter.
If you have a patio or deck that is in full sun all day, you should be high-fiving yourself. But remember, instead of dealing with shade you will be dealing with the inevitable problem of watering. Inherent with growing plants in pots is their tendency to dry out more quickly, requiring a far more aggressive watering schedule. Here are some tasty choices: tomatoes, beans, peppers, zucchini, and potatoes -- all sun-loving plants that are delicious, produce a reasonable amount of food for your table, and can be grown in pots or garden beds:
• Cherry and paste tomatoes are where it’s at. Leave the craggy heirlooms and beefsteaks to the farmers (they take so long to grow and mature!) and stick with smaller fruits that ripen more quickly.
• Cherry tomatoes come in a variety of sizes – pear shaped, tear drops, or tiny little circular gems – and vary in acidity from dry to super sweet. Yellow, red, and orange are offered widely and you’d do well growing a mix of both colors and shapes. Why plant the same ‘ol things you can buy at the grocery or farmers markets?
• Paste tomatoes are typically oblong – think San Marzanos and Romas. They are excellent cooking tomatoes (unlike fresh tomatoes that produce too much liquid and don’t have enough flesh for juicy sauces).
• Beans love the sun and are part of the plant group making up the Three Sisters: squash, corn and beans, all planted during the height of summer heat.
• All beans, whether bush or vine, tend to be productive as long as you’re actively harvesting from the plant. Green beans are pretty typical, but I urge any food-loving gardeners to try something new – grow a bush of haricots verts or yellow wax beans.
• Try Scarlet Runner Beans for a nice broad bean, and eat them fresh instead of drying them for storage as is traditional. Beans are reasonably acclimated to pots due to their smaller root structure, but be sure to use a deep one and give them room to really spread.
• It is no coincidence that Mexican cultures rely on peppers for a main source of flavor and nutrition. It’s hot down there! Peppers love heat! If you have a rock wall facing south, peppers should definitely make the cut. Sweet and hot varieties as well as a rainbow of colors are offered.
• If you’re growing in pots, there is good news and bad news. Bad news is, only one pepper plant for every large pot! Stick with a smaller variety, as pots will often dwarf larger-sized peppers anyway.
• The good news is that peppers are actually perennial plants. If you harvest actively, prune after fruiting, and move the pot indoors to a sunny window over winter, odds are good that the plant will continue flowering and fruiting. This works exceptionally well with chili peppers.
• Summer means a glut of zucchini, we all know this. One plant is enough for a couple, so plan accordingly and don’t overplant. I’ve seen many home gardeners let their zucchinis get the size of a watermelon, but don’t do this – the only outcome is super mealy flesh and seeds that are too large for eating.
• Instead, harvest when zukes are young and tender and eating them raw is a pleasure. For any gourmands, you can even harvest when the fruits are super small and still maintain the bright yellow flower.
• While potatoes grow underground, they do love the sun and heat of summer -- particularly sweet potatoes, which are often a challenge to grow in cooler northern climates.
• If you have a garden bed, great – dig a trench and get growing. For anyone using a balcony or deck, potatoes can be grown directly in the bag. (Let me know in the comments if you need instructions for this and we’ll post some!)
• The beauty of homegrown potatoes lies in the wide variety available to tenacious home gardeners. Order your seeds online each spring and really take advantage of shapes and sizes – long, thin, purple, pink, yellow, etc.
Five Plants for Not So Sunny Places
It's such a bummer when you inherit a shady garden or live on the north side of a high rise building -- but that doesn’t mean you have to give up entirely on growing some food! Leafy greens are your answer: smaller greens like lettuce and herbs need only 6 hours or so of direct sunlight to really prosper (in my garden I get more like 4 hours). Leafy greens are also reasonably quick-growing; lettuce that has been directly sown is often ready for harvest in as few as 35 days.
Leafy greens take up and use nitrogen for healthy plant growth. If your greens end up tinged red or turning yellow and watering is not an issue, you may have a nitrogen deficiency. Adding a tablespoon per plant is enough to notice positive changes over the course of a week. For container gardening, adding nitrogen before planting or when seedlings are young is recommended. Here are five plants -- chervil, lettuces, marjoram, thyme, and arugula -- that are a good choice for any shady garden or deck.
• Chervil is the new dill. (You heard it here first!) A self-seeding annual, chervil is one of the very first plants to pop out of the soil and signal spring’s arrival. It’s a bit late to plant now, but chervil is a good one to keep in mind for a late summer garden that will grow through fall – awesome for any late-starters.
• A tender herb with a delicate stem and soft, feathery leaves, its flavor is a cross between parsley and tarragon, but more subtle.
• Chervil will set flowers and go to seed once spring turns warm, so it’s best to cut and use the herb regularly. In mild climates, a second crop of chervil will often re-seed and grow back in fall.
• Many lettuces, particularly loose leaf and Bibb varieties, will grow and mature in 45 to 55 days. These are wonderful immediate-gratification kind of plants, as they germinate and grow quickly and are easily harvested.
• Lettuces come in assorted sizes and colors, allowing for a nice salad bowl mix. Bibb, Oakleaf, Romaine, and Looseleaf are the predominate lettuce shapes and both seeds and starts are available at most nurseries.
• Marjoram is a strong-flavored herb, very similar to oregano, but with a softer note. It is a great herb to grow, as it is often difficult to source at the grocery.
• It can be added raw to dishes, but will also withstand some heat from cooking. Try it in tomato sauces and gravies or as a small addition to salads.
• Marjoram is a perennial herb, though it can be tender, and you will often see it sold as an annual. It’s a great herb for drying.
• Thyme is easy to grow and will come back year after year. Be sure to select a culinary thyme (English thyme is a favorite), as there are many members in the thyme family and not all of them taste great. If you purchase a start, taste a leaf first to see if you like the flavor. This is really the BEST way to know if you’ll like something.
• Thyme is one of the most versatile herbs to cook with. It's indispensable in stocks or for roasting meats, but it can also be used in sweet desserts and pairs well with fruit such as plums and blueberries.
• Scented thymes are interesting additions to the garden. Lemon thyme has a distinctive citrus aroma and can be used in most recipes that call for English thyme.
• Arugula is essentially a looseleaf lettuce that we use for salads, and has a distinctive pepper-y spicy taste. Plant arugula in the early spring and early fall, as this is a cool season crop that does not do well in heat. (In fact, it will often bolt and send up flowers at the first sign of a warm spring day.)
• People often ask me why their arugula didn’t do well; more often than not, it’s because they waited too long to sow seeds and the weather is already too warm.
• Each seed produces one thin stem, which leaves grow out from. You can further your harvest by cutting them back often— leaves will regenerate once and maybe even twice before getting too spicy, woody, or bitter.
City Dirt :: How to Start a Container Garden, Food52 March 2012
Setting Up Your Container Garden: Tips for Apartment Dwellers and Small Spaces
Many moons ago, I tried to convince a boyfriend to let me grow food in his yard, tearing out existing landscape. (He declined and now has a vegetable bed in the worst place, which I secretly love.) I have a habit of sizing up random yards, searching for the perfect place to grow food because sadly, I don’t have a yard or garden of my own. I’m relegated to planting any food I want in pots. It's honestly not my preference, but still, I like to think that I’ve perfected the art of growing in my microclimate. I know I share circumstances with many of you: Without some pots on a patio, balcony, or windowsill, we would be plant-less. No fun. So, for this installment of City Dirt, we’re covering container basics for urbanites looking to supply their kitchens with some garden goodness.
You should know from the onset that not all vegetables grow well in containers. By planting in a contained environment, you are inhibiting the plant’s growth to some extent. Think about it -- plants can send out roots and root hairs only as far as the walls of the pot allow. Restricted by the pot, not all plants will come to full maturity and produce food. This presents the biggest challenge of growing food in small spaces.
Deciding What to Grow
The ultimate goal is for your garden to be productive. I aim for a constant supply of ingredients for the kitchen, so I nurture plants that can be continually harvested. I suggest growing plants that will be used frequently, but in small amounts. This gives plants time to regrow between cuttings -- no sense in planting a crop that you’ll wipe out in one go. (I figure it’s better to have something available over a long period of time.)
• I rely heavily on herbs in my garden. Herbs will single-handedly change the flavor of most recipes and are often pricey at the grocery; many are not commercially available.
• Plants that produce abundant quantities of ingredients that I know I’ll use often are also a favorite. Lettuces, for example: These are wonderful to grow at home. They take up little space, produce (and reproduce!) quickly, and offer fresh greens for salads, or for a nice leafy garnish. I use lettuce in large amounts, and their fast growing cycle makes them highly productive, economical, and worthwhile.
• Plan on mixing it up to make sure there is always something new and different to harvest. Choose plants that will run through their life cycle in one season (annuals) as well as plants that continue to come back year after year in the same pot (perennials).
• Make the most of what you grow by considering its uses beyond the kitchen. Lavender makes a subtle herb rub for seared duck breast and can also be used as an herbal stuffing for an eye pillow. Scented geranium leaves can be chopped and used in sweet recipes, infused into water for a facial toner, or steeped to make teas.
• A container garden should ebb and flow, just like a large garden. Some plants are grown for their leaves, some for their seeds, and some for their fruits. I try to round out my garden plan so there is always something ready to harvest. Today, as I write this, I have marjoram, thyme, and scented geraniums that survived the winter. Arugula and mâche are just popping up, too, having reseeded themselves from last year (at the end of the season I stopped harvesting their leaves and let them "go to seed" -- the matured plant grows seed pods that fall into the soil and regrow). Within three weeks, the lovage should be starting to show (the same plants I’ve had for four years), and I’ll be planting a second crop of arugula.
To start a garden in containers, you’ll need, at a bare minimum, pots, soil, and a low-level organic fertilizer. A bag of compost is also a great addition. Access to water is an important consideration. In my own garden, I fill eight old water bottles and carry them back and forth from my kitchen sink. Just make sure you have some way to water your plants, as containers require a diligent watering schedule.
Most plants need a little legroom to stretch their roots. Try to plant in a pot that’s a bit bigger than the plant will actually need. It is better to leave a little wiggle room than to have plant roots mashing up against the container walls. If you allow for some growth, you increase the odds of your plant growing to full maturity.
Plastic pots are the least expensive container option, so they’re great for anyone on a budget. It’s true that they are usually the least attractive option, but they hold their moisture longer than clay or ceramic pots and are lighter and easier to move around.
Clay pots are porous, so air moves easily through their walls. This is helpful in that it allows roots to breathe and keeps them out of direct water, but it’s not helpful in that the soil tends to dry out quickly. In hot weather, you’ll need to closely monitor the moisture in your clay pots. They are a fairly inexpensive option for the home gardener after plastic, and they come in a myriad of shapes and sizes. If you choose clay pots, be sure to purchase a saucer or plate to sit under the pot. This works in two ways -- to keep moisture off the surface of your deck or patio and to hold in moisture for the plant.
I won't be discussing it here, but making your own pots is super rewarding, too!
You must use potting soil in your containers -- soil mixes are formulated to maintain a certain level of lightness so that plants are able to breathe, drain well, and still hold in some moisture. (Air is right up there with sun and water in importance to healthy, thriving plants!) Look for organic potting soil mixes from smaller regional companies rather than the national brands you’ll find in big-box stores. Choose a potting soil that has no added fertilizer or nutrients. It is best to add those on your own as needed for the particular plants you will grow.
If you are adding new plants to previously used containers, do not rely on simply digging a small hole in the soil and stuffing in a plant start. Old soils often contain dead roots from previous plants (see above). These roots will impede the new plant’s roots and constrict air as the new plant tries to grow in the same small space. For that reason, just as you would in a garden bed, it’s best to rework your soil before planting. As on the farm, till your soil using a fork or your hands. Loosen it up, remove the root hairs, then gently work in some compost and a spoonful of a low-level organic fertilizer before adding a new plant start.
We will cover more container plant topics like feeding your plant, tending for plants, and more in upcoming articles, but for now, these are the basics you need to get growing. As ever, I’m looking forward to all of your questions in the comments!