Altura Takes Itself Just Seriously Enough

It was a coincidence that Altura received a semi-finalist nomination for a James Beard Foundation award the day we had reservations. It made it all the more surprising that tables around us sat empty for hours as we ate, despite my needing to book two weeks out to get a reasonable time slot. After the level of service and cuisine we witnessed, I can't help but wonder (hope!) if it was purposeful--to relax the kitchen and the waitstaff workload--so that the diner's experience is impeccable. If not, perhaps we were just fortunate that nobody read the nominations and tried to jump on the … [Read more...]

Dan Dan Mien: Hand-shaved noodles and a Favorite at Home

Dan dan noodles, or dan dan mien, is one of my favorite dishes in the whole world. In the five years since I first sampled it, I've tried it everywhere I could find it, in my own city, in Flushing Chinatown in New York, in Beijing, as close to the source as I could get, and even in Korea, just for good measure. The first time I ate dan dan mien with hand-shaved noodles at Seattle's Seven Star Pepper, I remember thinking it just might be the best thing ever invented. Thick ropes of uneven noodle dough swam about in a sea of peanut sludge, spiked with islands of pork. Later, I would learn … [Read more...]

[Contest] Where to Eat at Pike Place Market: A Local’s Perspective

Like Eloise in the Plaza, I ran about the Pike Place Market as a child; ducking into stands and around tourists. If I were lucky, there was a post-swim-lesson lunch courtesy of my parents, maybe at the Turkish deli. Other times, my friends and I would slunk about, mixing in amongst older, more experienced vagrants. We'd laugh at the tourists, posing outside the wrong (not the first) Starbucks. Today, I'm no different, no less a kid in a candy store. I sneak through the market at 8am, on my way to work, when only the useful stalls--the fish, the vegetables, are open. Pike Place Market in … [Read more...]

Pasta without a Pasta Maker: Orechiette

Before I owned a pasta maker, I too fell into the lazy pattern of assumption. I assumed I lacked the rolling pin skills to make pasta. I assumed I could buy pasta that was good. I assumed that those assholes with pasta makers were the only ones who got to have real, homemade pasta every night, up there, in their pasta-maker having castles. In Italy, I'm sure. Now I have a pasta maker, but sometimes, you just don't want to get down all the gear, and you just want some FREAKING PASTA. This is me, like, all the time. I'm a pasta maniac. So at times like this, the solution is Orechiette. It … [Read more...]

Chanterelles with Rosemary: A Foraged Feast

Seattle has a reputation for constant rain. Natives such as myself know that isn't true--it only rains in fall, winter and spring, and even then, just a light drizzle. Regardless, we natives also know that the rain brings us treasures in the form of chanterelle mushrooms. As our short summer wound down last week, I watched the rains begin--along with the complaints from those who have moved here from cities with summers that go past labor day. As others complained of the wetness, my head danced with visions of the reward we Seattleites get for enduring the rain. Freshly foraged chanterelle … [Read more...]

Making Whole Wheat Noodles

I'm okay with healthful food, as long as it tastes delicious. Thus I've never liked the dried whole wheat noodles that are available at grocery stores. Even with many more minutes of boiling than a normal pasta, the noodles have a funny texture. But the texture never gets to normal, or even edible.Then it occurred to me that the best pasta is fresh pasta, so why not try making a whole wheat fresh pasta. And what a pasta. Instead of being hard to cook, the texture has this wonderful melting chewiness that all fresh pasta does. In addition, there is even more texture from the whole grains. It's … [Read more...]

Spaghetti from a Squash

 I had never prepared spaghetti squash, but I had been told to simply treat it as if it were pasta once I had roasted it. Problem one came here--I couldn't cut the raw squash! It was hard as a rock. I had to roast it nearly half an hour before I could get a knife through it. When I finally did, I roasted it for another 20 minutes. When it came out, I could scrape my fork along the inside and out it came, like a bundle of noodles.   Then, as I'd been told, I just treated it like carbonara, sauteeing my pieces of bacon with a red onion and then tossing it over the 'noodles' and adding … [Read more...]

Homemade Cheese and Gnudi

Last week, while waiting for my duck to cure (yes, it is like watching a pot boil), I made cheese. I made a whole milk cheese, using organic milk and breaking it with lemon juice (slowly bring milk to a rolling boil, add lemon juice, strain with cheesecloth) and a goat cheese. The goat cheese was far tastier. I broke that with rice vinegar (because the only vinegars I had were that and balsamic), to add a sweetness to the goat-y stink, but the sweetness wasn't really present. The goat cheese was delightfully light and faintly goatish, and was perfect for spreading on toast or baguettes. The … [Read more...]

Never Say “Eew”

I first heard of shirataki as a substitute for noodles for people on low carb or low cal diets. As often as I diet, I am committed to the idea of real food. That means no fake sweetners (except diet coke, and that is a flavor thing, not a diet thing), no freeze dried or frozen miracle foods, to me, I assumed it also meant no shirataki, some sort of concoction dreamt up by the marketing geniuses over at Weight Watchers. A short time ago I learned that this is in fact a traditional Japanese food, created from starchy vegetables and used in a variety of ways. I was only feeling slightly daring … [Read more...]

Berebere Delicious Pasta Sauce

First of all: I don't like marinara. There, I said it. No, I don't like red sauce, and yes, that means on pizza, lasagna and pasta. Not even on my mozzarella sticks. A cardinal sin of foodie-ness? I'm okay with it. Just a little background on my quest for an alternative pasta sauce. And yes, I do love tomatoes. A little while ago we were out for a fantastic Ethiopian meal, and when they gave us our doggy bag, they gave us some berebere, the spice mixture, to go with. I've been wanting to use it for something for a while and hadn't found the right use, but when I spotted a friendly red bell … [Read more...]