Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Trip to Seattle, or CQ's Big Foodie Vacation

Last June, Dan and I took a little trip to visit some friends of ours in Seattle. Jill and André, now married, had just become engaged. It was a great time to escape a very busy time at work for a week and I also wanted to meet this new man that had swept my dear friend, Jill, off of her feet. After some chat on Facebook, Jill and I had set the whole thing up about eight months ahead. She agreed to let us stay with them, so how could I refuse. I bought plane tickets with my tax refund in late January and anxiously awaited our departure day.

We arrived in Seattle in the early evening on a cool June day and were picked up at the airport by Jill and André and shuttled to the Alki Beach area to see a gorgeous sunset. There's something about the water there that reflects the sunlight in a special way. I've never seen a sunset quite like that. While in Alki, we stopped at a local pizza joint known and loved by the local folks called Pegasus. We had some great pizza and chugged back some local beers. It was a hearty and delicious repast after a long flight.

Our first night would prove to be the beginning of a culinary themed vacation. Our friends took us to some of their favorite places like Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon and Mr. Gyros, and we took them to some places that we had researched on the internet. We were sure to stop at Fran's Chocolates at least once while we were there since we order their sea salt caramel chocolates from across the country. We also had a really enjoyable time touring the farmer's markets and cooking meals together. André made a spectacular smoked pork shoulder that cooked slowly for nearly 13 hours. I prepared a sautée of fava beans and morels and a chicken one night and we drank some delicious local wines. We also discovered some lovely local cheeses. I especially enjoyed those from Estrella Family Creamery.

We took some time to tour the city a bit on our own. We found the Seattle bus system to be very easy to navigate with our trusty iPhones in hand. Together, Dan and I saw the Space Needle and the Jim Henson Exhibit at the Seattle Center. It was a hoot to see a lot of the Muppets and other puppet characters that we had grown up with. I was fascinated by Jim Henson's world. If this exhibit comes to a city near you, be sure to see it. We also happened across a little cheese shop in the shadow of the Space Needle where we spoke to the proprietors about the local cheese scene. I liked the looks of the store full of personal touches. You could tell they were passionate about food and wine. I was very interested to learn about the burgeoning artisinal cheese-making industry in Washington and Oregon. We talked for a good while and got really dorky, which was lots of fun for me!

We also made a trip out to the Boeing Plant in a Zipcar with Jill one day. Dan was especially excited and interested in our visit here. He was nearly jumping up and down with excitement to when we saw the moving assembly line that Boeing uses to build its jets. It inspired a trip later in the week to the Museum of Flight where we saw a plane that had been used as Air Force One and one of the retired Concord Jets. I learned more about airplanes and space travel than I ever thought I would in my entire life.

Brunch at Le Pichet was another highlight worth mentioning. It's just off Pike's Place Market and couldn't be cuter. There seemed to be quite a few locals there despite their very touristy location. We sat outside on a beautiful cool Sunday afternoon and had a fabulous brunch. I was very excited to see that they had a selection of five rosé wines by the glass and enjoyed sipping on one with my poached duck egg and mushroom sautée served up with plenty of crusty baguette to sop up the delicious juices.

Seattle on the whole is a really beautiful city. Each neighborhood has its own distinct feel and personality. We saw only a handful of them, but we felt like we experienced so much variety because each is so unique. In particular, I enjoyed our jaunt to the Gas Works Park. We had a fantastic view of the entire bay and watched a para-gliding lesson in progress with great amazement and amusement. We were very fortunate during our stay to have very good weather. June is the perfect time to visit Seattle. In fact, we only had very light rain one day, and for the most part, the skies were blue and the weather was mild. As a result, we were able to walk nearly the length and breadth of the city in the week we were there. Thank goodness we both brought sturdy walking shoes.

On one of our last nights, we wanted to treat our friends to a really great dinner as a thank you for hosting us. After all, we did save a ton in hotel costs and it was the least we could do. On our previous visit to Seattle, we had eaten at Café Campagne and were duly impressed, enough to want to go back to the "real" restaurant upstairs, Campagne. In truth, it was the rich imported butter that we remember most about our visit to Café Campagne, and the hospitable and knowledgeable bartender. She had introduced me to Pichot Vouvray, which they were pouring by the glass, and I still look for it to this day.

It was no surprise that we were treated that evening to a fantastic feast fit for kings and queens served by a professional staff in a lovely setting with a million dollar view of the bay. I created a tasting menu of sorts for us by ordering two plates at a time per course to be shared, and we tried almost everything on the menu that way. All of the food featured the bounty of fresh local ingredients from the Pacific Northwest prepared with a solid foothold in French technique. The charcuterie plate alone would be worth returning for, and the wine list was well selected and reasonably priced. It was a suitable celebratory end to the fabulous week we had spent with our friends!

I can't wait for the next trip out. I've already bought a ticket to visit in March for my birthday. You can bet we will have a blast!

Morels and Favas Seattle

1/2 cup favas steamed and shelled
1/2 cup fresh morels
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry rosé wine
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
EVOO, Butter, Salt and Pepper
  1. In a large stainless skillet, heat enough EVOO over medium high heat to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil begins to smoke, add onion and shallot and sautée until they are translucent.
  2. Add garlic, favas, and morels and sautée until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add rosé and reduce to half over medium heat. The morels will plump up a little as they absorb some of the liquid.
  4. Stir in creme fraiche and a knob of butter.
  5. Correct seasoning and serve immediately with crusty bread.

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