Sunday, June 20, 2010

volunteer park cafe & marketplace

Goodness knows no boundaries at this lovely cafe and marketplace, quaintly nestled in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  The increasingly popular spot is frequented by nearby residents and far flung devotees, alike.

Owner and chef, Ericka Burke's genius is in her consummate knowledge encompassing every facet of a successful dining establishment. Seasonal menus feature inspired comfort food with a conscience. Simple fare is never contrived, often local, organic and always delicious.  Ms. Burke has mastered the art of deliberate imperfection.  The informal atmosphere is warm and convivial; heavy on charm, light on pretense.  Like a well worn book you read again and again.  Familiarity is the innate charm here. 
Resident baking maven, Heather Earnhardt, turns out irresistible scones, cookies, muffins and cakes with a deft hand. She daily transforms butter, sugar and flour into otherworldly rustic baked goods- always gorgeous but never too pretty to eat.  Don’t miss the figgy maple scones, all flaky buttery goodness studded with dried fig gems and smothered in a maple glaze.  The Charlie Brown cookies are another favorite- rich chewy chocolate cookies with a generous smattering of peanut butter chips throughout.

For breakfast, try the bacon and egg panini with two poached  eggs, crispy bacon, melted gruyere and thick slices of tomato on brioche bread.  For lunch, the pulled pork sandwich boasts a generous helping of slow-roasted, barbecued pork topped with tangy purple cabbage slaw and sandwiched between a toasted sesame bun.  Come dinner, don't miss the beef brisket, a handsome portion of salty, caramelized meat so tender that it falls apart when you as much as look at it.  The brisket is served over creamy polenta with a side of braised greens.  Pizzas and salads are sure bets.  Vegetarian options abound. 
IMG_1004 Thoughtfully selected wines are affordable and ever-changing, often venturing off the beaten path and are also available to purchase and take home.  In flawless succession, skilled baristas pull perfect shots of Stumptown espresso bathed in steamed milk and topped with rich, creamy foam. 

Ms. Burke treats her staff with care and it shows.  With their impressive tenure, her knowledgeable, amiable waitstaff lend to the familial vibe of the place.  From the wide array of comforting eats and thoughtful selection of  homemade gift items, to the edible gardens and happy-go-lucky chickens out back, the cafe and marketplace offers an in-city respite for the urban-weary diner.
IMG_0722  Share a corner table with a date, bring your grandmother for a weekday lunch, gather a handful of friends for a birthday dinner or enjoy a sleepy Sunday brunch with your spouse and offspring.  However you chose to assemble, be sure to bring your appetite. 

View their website for menus, hours and information on special events and wine dinners. 

Volunteer Park Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

beautiful edible things from the ballard farmers market

Sunday is market day at the Ballard Farmers Market.  This year-round market is the cream of the crop, featuring a host of local and organic farmers as well as cheese makers, fish mongers, butchers, bakers, and purveyors of handmade goods.  Food vendors offer up gourmet street fare while sidewalk musicians fill the air with their lively melodies.  In warmer months, a smattering of nurseries fill stalls with all varieties of herbs and edible plants.  Especially enticing are the potted strawberries and tomatoes, beckoning even the most reluctant gardener with the allure of ruby fruit beneath cheery green leaves.

Although I aspire to arrive at the market replete with culinary aplomb and canvas tote in hand, this is not often the case.  Sundays are for meandering, for throwing itineraries to the wayside.  I relish each hour of the day as though I were Cinderella at the ball, knowing the party will end with the stroke midnight.  Come Sunday evening, my remaining glass slipper is the memory of a day filled with the simple, inadvertent pleasures of living in the moment.

Last Sunday, my family and  I made our way to the Ballard market after brunching at nearby Hi-Life and stopping for coffee at Caffe Fiore.  We walked along in the shade of historic stone buildings before stepping out in the street where the market begins.  The sun greeted us like a spotlight on a movie set.  In fact, the entire scene felt surreal.  The hum of the crowd was punctuated by the sound of a fiddle, its playful notes dancing on the soft breeze.  We made our way down the sunny side of the street, stopping for a whiff of intoxicating peonies, considering organic strawberry plants and scanning a butcher’s chalkboard heralding an impressive selection of  grass-fed meats.  We rounded the corner and passed stall after stall overflowing with organic produce, the brightly colored fruits and vegetables all shouting, “hallelujah, summer is finally upon us!”

My gaze immediately fell upon the contents of a small cellophane bag.  Inside was a handful of yellowish orange twisty squash blossoms.  Also known as zucchini flowers, the blossoms share a season with the zucchini from which they sprout.  Once harvested, they are extremely perishable and must be eaten straight away.  I had long desired to bring these edible blooms into my kitchen and happily made my first purchase of the day.  The sack of eight blossoms cost a reasonable $2.50.  I intended to adapt a recipe from my favorite Jamie Oliver cookbook for stuffing the blossoms with ricotta and mint.  ‘Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life’ features simple and delicious recipes, organized by season, with emphasis on garden fresh produce.  

Onward to local cheese vendor, Mt. Townsend Creamery.  Their award winning cheeses pair beautifully with the crusty loaves of bread from Tall Grass Bakery, a few stalls down.  This time, I had my sights set on their fromage blanc.  I tasted a sample and was at once struck by the choreographed trio of tastes, beginning with tangy, moving on to salty and finally, a sweet creamy finish.  With just a tad less moisture than ricotta, this soft white cheese would seamlessly take its place.  

Back at home, I reviewed the recipe and gathered ingredients.  My amenable husband headed to our neighborhood market for a lemon and a bottle of white, for the tempura.  He returned with a  2009 pinot gris from NWVP (Northwest Vine Project), in Oregon.  The wine was sweet and fruity with dried apricot overtones, a hint of pineapple and a crisp finish.  It would pair nicely with the bright flavors in the recipe.
The ingredients for the filling included fresh mint, red chilies, lemon zest, parmesan reggiano, fromage blanc, nutmeg and sea salt.  The simple tempura consisted of flour and white wine.  The hardest part was unfurling the delicate petals of the blossoms without tearing them.  Some splitting was inevitable but I managed keep the blooms relatively intact.  After creating an opening, I reached in and pinched off the bitter stamen(fig. 1).  After discarding two wilted blooms, six remained.  I stuffed each blossom with the fromage blanc mixture and closed the petals to seal in the filling (figs. 2 & 3).  Using tongs, I dipped each blossom in the batter fig. 4) and bathed it in about 2 inches of hot oil (350°F), flipping once, until golden (fig. 5).  Finished with a sprinkle of chopped mint, squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt, the result was akin to a foodies’ take on the jalapeno popper (fig. 6).
 IMG_0676IMG_0705IMG_0708IMG_0716 IMG_0710IMG_0721
Initially, I found the notion of ‘flowers as food’ more intriguing than appetizing; a culinary daring of sorts with no intention of adding crispy stuffed squash blossoms to my repertoire.  I reconsidered as I sunk my teeth into the crispy exterior, the flavors within awakening my mouth with cool mint, sunny lemon, and piquant chili, contrasted by the warmth of salty, tangy fromage blanc.  It was the essence of the garden mingled with savory cheese filling, all wrapped up in a tiny golden oblong package.  Delicious. 

crispy squash blossoms with fromage blanc and fresh mint 

serves 2-4 starters


6 oz. fromage blanc, fresh ricotta or chevre
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 small bunch of finely chopped fresh mint, leaves only
1 red chili or jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, and finely chopped
coarse sea salt (maldon or fleur de sel work well)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup white wine such as pinot gris
8 fresh squash blossoms, also called zucchini flowers
canola oil or extra light olive oil 
1 lemon (can be same one used for zest)


In a small bowl, combine first six ingredients, reserving a bit of mint for garnish.  Taste and season carefully with coarse sea salt.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, wine and a pinch of salt until thick like heavy cream.  If it’s too thick, add more wine.  If too thin, add more water.  If you dip your finger in the batter, it should nicely coat it.

Gently, open the squash blossoms, taking care to keep them as intact as possible.  Pinch off the stamen, inside, as it tastes bitter.

Carefully fill the flowers with the cheese mixture, pressing the petals back together to form a seal around the filling.

Heat about two inches of oil to 350 degrees, using a thermometer to gauge temperature.  Turn on the kitchen fan and have a plate nearby with a layer of paper towels. 

Use tongs to dip the stuffed blossoms in the batter, one at a time, allowing the excess to drip off.  Use the tongs to place them in the hot oil.  Never drop them into the oil.  Watch for the edges to turn golden and turn once, using tongs.  Remove from oil with tongs and place on paper towels.  Repeat.  Two may be fried at the same time but be careful so they don’t stick together.  I prefer frying one at a time.  Place on serving plate and finish a squeeze of lemon, remaining chopped mint and coarse sea salt.  Eat them while they’re hot!

Delicious paired with a crisp, fruity white such as pinot gris

adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver

Saturday, June 12, 2010

coffee love in seattle


Mom claimed that coffee was partly to blame for her petite stature.  “It stunts your growth,” she would say.  She went on to explain how her childhood caffeine habit may have been responsible for prematurely hindering her vertical development.  Mom also warned that our feet would not grow if we wore socks to bed.  Standing at just over five feet tall, her case was convincing.  Had she towered over us like an amazon; or at least been of average height, her warnings might have fallen on deaf ears.  

Throughout my formative years, I heeded this advice, steadfastly avoiding coffee and devoutly slumbering sans socks.  At age twelve, my pediatrician informed me that I was most likely done growing- yet I remained hopeful that I would have a late growth spurt.  I read articles where celebrities touted exercise apparatus which added a good inch to their height by lengthening the spine.  The obscure machines they described were Pilates reformers, at the time available only to the rich and famous.  I considered attempting to lengthen my spine by hanging from a chin up bar but had second thoughts when I visualized myself with arms like an orangutan. 

By my senior year of high school, I acquiesced to the inevitable.  My feet and I had not grown since the sixth grade.  Grudgingly, I accepted my fate, my consolation being that coffee no longer posed a threat.  At last, childish hot chocolate was retired in favor of more sophisticated, caffeinated beverages.  A hazelnut breve was my drink of choice.  The breve is essentially a latte made with steamed half and half, best drunk by those with lightning fast metabolisms, namely teenagers. 

In the spring before graduation, I took a job as a barista and fell in love with making coffee as well as drinking it.  I loved the sound of hot steam gurgling in a pitcher of cold milk, the intoxicating scent of fresh roasted coffee beans, the whirr of the grinder, the give of velvety grounds as they were tamped down in the filter, the weight of the handle when I fastened it to the machine and the resulting satisfaction of creating espresso with perfect crema.  There was a rhythmic cacophony to the whirr, hiss, gurgle, whirr… mingled with the muffled chatter of customers on the other side of the counter.  Mornings were golden, filled with the convivial air shared amongst early risers.  The afternoon crowd was a more subdued lot; but invariably grateful for their much needed caffeine fix.   I have fond memories of my barista days and still harbor a sense of entitlement when it comes to judging a good cappuccino.

favorite seattle coffee by neighborhood

Cafe Fiore- On several occasions, I noticed the back side of Cafe Fiore while perusing the Sunday Ballard Market.  When at last I made my way around the block and stepped inside, I stood in awe.  Upon entering, an embracing warm glow emanates from the backlit amber menu, exposed brick and honey stained wood floors.  The rectangular layout felt spacious due to well- appointed tables and plenty of space between the counter and seating.  The vibe was both modern and vintage with ornate black counters contrasting burnt orange walls.  The lighting, a juxtaposition of the clean lined hurricane lamps overhanging the coffee bar and the medieval-like wrought iron fixtures throughout.  If the ambience isn’t enough to draw you in, go for the coffee.  Seattle Magazine rated them ‘Best Independent Coffee Shop’.  Their organic beans deliver an espresso roast with full flavor and a smooth finish.   A bonus for parents is the tots’ corner in the back.  Cafe Fiore has three locations.


Victrola Coffee & Art- I happened upon this coffee shop when my daughter was enrolled in a nearby dance class.  It has all the trappings of a Capital Hill coffee house: diverse patrons, pierced and tattooed baristas, a standing piano and rotating artwork on the walls.  The common thread amongst  customers is a  mutual desire for really great coffee and a disdain for the conglomerate coffee shop (disguised as an independent), down the block.  My daughter’s class was held in the late afternoon, a time of day when I tend to avoid caffeine.  I was thrilled to discover virtually no difference between their regular and decaffeinated espresso.  Their coffee is both robust and smooth, with a complex flavor.  Victrola roasts their own beans at their Pike Street roastery and brews the best I’ve had in Seattle.  It reminds me of my favorite San Francisco coffee, Blue Bottle Coffee Co.  Victrola has three locations.


Volunteer Park Cafe- With its high ceilings, light-filled interior, vintagey tables and cozy, bench lined walls, Volunteer Park Cafe feels like an extension of your living room.  Although more of a restaurant than a coffee shop, VPC readily support the caffeine habits of their loyal weekday coffee crowd.  Weekends are brunch focused and busy, often with lines out the door.  They serve Stumptown Coffee and baristas here know their stuff.  Cappuccinos have more milk than foam but are delicious.  The hardest part is walking out with just coffee.  While waiting in line, you pass a tantalizing array of quiches, cookies, cakes and scones.  I must stop now or this will turn into a restaurant review (coming soon…).


DeLaurenti- Whenever I shop in the Pike Place Market, I stop for coffee at the cafe in DeLaurenti.  They serve smooth and supple Caffe Umbria coffee and their well-trained baristas are among the best in the city.  Their cappuccinos have the perfect balance of espresso, milk and foam.  Lunch fare is simple and delicious but the line often snakes out the door.  The staff is friendly and efficient and did I mention how much I love their coffee?

Peet’s Coffee and Tea- Although I tend to advocate local businesses, I love San Francisco enough to consider it my home away from home.  Peet’s got their start in Berkeley, in the 60’s.  The founder was from Holland, like my husband.  I first tried this coffee while visiting the Ferry Building, in San Francisco.  As far as big companies go, this one has managed to remain true to their roots and to operate like a small business.  The staff are friendly and efficient and the espresso is flavorful and consistently good.  In summer months, I love their iced cappuccino, a refreshing combination of espresso, foam, milk and ice, unique to Peet’s.  There are four Seattle locations and one in nearby Redmond.

Essential Baking Company- Lunch and breakfast menus are extensive at this bustling cafe but they also cater to a loyal coffee crowd.  The coffee has a burnt caramel quality, like toasted marshmallows.  The cappuccino, with its ring of golden brown espresso circling perfect white foam, even looks like a toasted marshmallow.  It makes me happy.  The Wallingford location was their bread baking facility until they recently moved the baking off-site.  It is situated in an old brick building that has operated as a bakery since the 1920’s.  There is a third cafe in Georgetown. 

Fuel- This neighborhood coffee shop has an underlying road trip theme to tie in with their moniker.  Located in the old Montlake Library, the decor is a mix of contemporary tables and chairs and original wood floors and built-ins.  The staff are generally friendly and the espresso is robust.  Most baristas make a good cappuccino; the lack of consistency is my one caveat.  Typically, about half the cafe is comprised of laptop users.  Fuel has three locations in Seattle.

Caffe Umbria- Before it was Caffe Umbria, it was Torrefazione Italia.  The crowd is mostly the nine to fivers.  It’s hard to beat the location, on a cobblestoned terrace in the heart of Pioneer Square.  If you traipse across the way, you might catch the glassblowers at work in Glasshouse Studio.  Caffe Umbria’s backdrop is decidedly minimalist with pale yellow walls, mahogany stained tables and chairs and stainless steel accents.  The coffee is outstanding, very smooth and drinkable.  Coffees are served with a square of dark chocolate, the European way.   In addition, they offer Gelatiamo gelato and baked goods.  My husband drinks the Gusto Crema Blend at home, using his Bialetti stovetop espresso maker.  Caffe Umbria has one location in Seattle and one in Portland.

Espresso Vivace Alley 24- Two winters ago, during Seattle’s record snowfall, my family got a bad case of cabin fever.  We decided to drive our Volvo to REI to pick up a camping stove, in case we lost power.  We bundled up and fortuitously parked right in front of this coffee mecca.  From the espresso art mosaics to the pleasing shades of brown on the walls, floor and counters, there is the distinct feeling of being inside the perfect cappuccino, awash in a sea of milk, espresso and billowy white foam.  Vivace roasts their own beans resulting in a coffee that is sweet and smooth.  Baristas have mastered the perfect foam and crown it with artful espresso swirls, resulting in drinks that look as amazing as they taste.  Vivace has two stores and one sidewalk bar.

Caffe Ladro- When I worked on Queen Anne, I often stopped here for coffee. The setting is cave-like with dark, textured walls and eclectic stained glass arches.  The coffee is full bodied and intense but balanced.  Laid back baristas are friendly and focused.  Baked goods are delicious, particularly the ginger cookies, pumpkin pie and quiches.  An expansive bulletin board takes the boredom out of waiting in line.  The cafe on Upper Queen Anne is the original Caffe Ladro.  Their website states that there are now thirteen locations!

Macrina Bakery- Crusty loaves of bread, mouthwatering pastries and an inviting staff greet you as you enter this charming neighborhood cafe. Tucked away on the northwest edge of upper Queen Anne, the place is always bustling.  Square tables are intimately spaced and hard to come by but worth the effort if you can secure one.  The setting is soothing with cool blue walls and ethereal light streaming in through floor to ceiling windows.  The espresso drinks, prepared by counter staff who double as baristas, are consistently good.  The roast is full bodied with a round finish and cappuccinos are classic affairs with a balanced foam to milk ratio.   Macrina has three locations to choose from.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

salmon nicoise and a love story

In December of 2000, I made my very first trip to Europe.  It wasn’t just any trip.  I went to see a boy, a Dutchman whom I had first encountered seven months earlier in an Irish Pub.  He lived in Delft, a college town in Holland, where he was pursuing his masters degree in industrial design.  I was working three jobs and going to school in Juneau, Alaska.  When we met, we were both living in Seattle.  I longed to see the world.  He was already 5,000 miles from home. 

When the Dutchman asked me to spend Christmas in Holland, I unflinchingly accepted his invitation.  In the days that followed, I purchased a plane ticket, expedited a passport, and packed my bags with enough clothing to last a month.  On the plane, I was seated next to a hunky microbiologist on his way to visit his girlfriend and her family in Spain.  We spent ten hours swapping stories about our respective partners; how we met them, our plans for the holidays and so on.  While I easily conversed with the hotty biologist, who was not only good looking but also amicable and intelligent, I realized I was in love.  Not with the guy next to me but with the handsome, kind, brilliant guy who would be waiting for me when the plane landed. 
Nothing could have prepared me for winter in Holland and I had just come from Alaska.  Also known as the Netherlands, the country was built under sea level and its cities are made up of streets with interlocking canals.  The cold is made more more penetrating because the air is damp from water flowing through the many canals.  I remained chilled to the bone despite my efforts to bundle up in layers; but as Billie Holiday once sang, “The snow is snowing, wind is blowing, but I can weather the storm.  What do I care how much it may storm?  I’ve got my love to keep me warm.”

The day after I arrived was Christmas.   The Dutchman and I took the train from Delft to Drachten, in the northern part of Holland, where his parents awaited us at the station.  The Dutch celebrate two days of Christmas, December 25 and 26.  Although American customs are gaining in popularity, Christmas trees are not as common nor is the exchange of gifts.  In Holland, the holidays are focused on family and food.  Fortunately, my overall state of culture shock eased the absence of familiar traditions.

Christmas dinner was delicious but simple fare.  I was slightly off-put by stewed prunes and golden raisins in my meat dish but tried to discreetly eat around them.  With a furrowed brow, the Dutchman’s mother asked, “Do you not like the fruit?” 
…to which I smiled and replied, “No, no, it’s delicious!”
His father then cheerfully remarked, “She’s saving the best for last!”
I can’t say that I loved the sensation of those warm, slippery sweet prunes as they slithered their way down; but I was not yet aware that the straightforward Dutch prefer honesty over flattery.

After a few days in Drachten, we traveled back to Delft where we would share a post-Christmas dinner with one group of university friends followed by a New Years’ Eve dinner with another group.  For most American students, standard college fare consists of delicacies such as  ramen noodles, jarred spaghetti sauce, pizza and takeout.  There are exceptions but ‘cheap’ prevails, thanks to bloated tuitions and a lack of government funding.  Dutch students, like their American counterparts, are familiar with eating on a budget.  The difference is that they are accustomed to cooking for themselves because dining out is much more expensive than in the States. 

The group dinners were comprised of around a dozen college friends who either worked alone or in pairs to create a seven-course meal.  They printed menus, put out their finest china and linens, lit glowing candles and dressed for the occasion.   For the first dinner, I assisted the Dutchman and his roommate in preparing stuffed mushrooms, the evening’s starter.   As the evening ensued, I was awestruck by these sophisticated students and their ability to seamlessly collaborate and create an elegant dinner party.

The second dinner was held on New Years’ Eve.  This close-knit group of friends had been dorm mates during their first two years of college and were now in the final stages of their programs.  Their bond was one with which I had no alliance  and I was more than a little intimidated by their easy manner with one another.  I had the acute sense of being the outsider, particularly as the effects of the wine overtook their collective efforts to speak English.   I had long since used up my five endearing Dutch phrases.109-0912_IMG Perhaps it was in this vein that I shifted my focus to the food.  I assisted the Dutchman and the evening’s host in preparing the main course.  The host had selected a salmon entree and the final result was picturesque, with seared salmon resting on a bed of  red bell pepper, haricots verts and thinly sliced potato, garnished with black olives fresh chives.109-0971_IMG  We started the evening with mango cocktails in sugar rimmed glasses, prepared by a student who had recently returned from Costa Rica.  The following dishes included  a soup course of vichyssoise, a starter of  thinly sliced chicken breast and pears poached in red wine with a cilantro garnish,  and for dessert, yogurt flan with blueberry sauce.  The meal and the year came to an end as we rang in 2001 with champagne and sparklers on our host's balcony.  109-0973_IMG
On New Year's Day, we strolled through Delft as a light snow began to fall, illuminated by festive lights swagged between centuries old facades.  It was one of those rare moments when time stood still.  I was filled with giddy repose as we walked along, huddled together to stay warm.  We turned a corner and the Dutchman steered me toward an outdoor stand where an intoxicatingly warm, yeasty scent was wafting through the air.  The vendor was selling oliebollen, dainty balls of fried dough, similar to beignets and liberally dusted with powdered sugar.  A puff of steam hit the cold air as I bit into the golden brown exterior, all flecked with snowy sugar.  Inside was subtly sweet with a texture somewhere between cake and brioche.  I fell hard for the ones that were studded with currants.  The word oliebollen sounds better in Dutch than when translated.  It literally means oily balls. 

No visit to Holland is complete without pannekoek, which translates to pancake but is more like the Dutch version of a crepe.  For authentic pannekoek, we  made our way to Stads-koffyhuis, in Delft, where the menu boasted an extensive selection, both sweet and savory.  I ordered the apple version with thin slices of baked apple cooked right into the batter, topped with spicy sweet cinnamon ice cream and accompanied by a generous dollop of whipped cream.  It was sublime but at twice the size of my head, far too much for me to finish.  It’s times like those when it comes in handy to know a Dutchman with a hollow leg.110-1028_IMG

Not too long ago, I discovered an outstanding local resource for wild king salmon and decided to reincarnate the salmon from that New Year’s Eve dinner, long ago.  Because I was at the store when inspiration struck, I had to rely on my memory to recreate the recipe.  In doing so, I deviated slightly from the original but ended up with a dish that is now our family’s favorite.    My daughter, Annabelle, claims that she likes it better than pizza or dessert.  The Dutchman, now my Dutch man, loves it too.


Salmon Nicoise

Serves 4


1 1/2 – 2 lbs wild king salmon filets
(I recommend looking for filets with plenty of white marbling as the fat is good for you and adds flavor and moisture to the fish)
1 1/2 lbs fresh haricots verts or green beans 
1 pint organic cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large handful nicoise olives
1 small bunch organic basil
1/2  large lemon
unsalted butter
canola or extra light olive oil
good quality extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt (such as Maldon or fleur de sel) 


First, rinse the salmon and pat dry with paper towels.  Check the fish carefully for bones and remove any that you find.  Cut salmon four pieces.  Season with salt.  Set aside.  

Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes, depending on size.  Pit and quarter the nicoise olives.  Chop the basil into confetti-like strips.  Cut half a lemon into two wedges.  Wash and trim the haricots verts.  Blanch haricots verts for a few minutes in a steamer basket.  Do not overcook.  They should be bright green and still fairly firm.  Try one.  If it tastes raw, give it an extra minute or two.  Rinse beans with cold water and set aside.

Turn a large skillet on medium high.  Add 1 T unsalted butter and 1 T canola or extra light olive oil.  Once the butter begins to bubble but not quite brown, add the salmon, skin side up.  If the butter browns too quickly, turn the burner down to medium.  Leave the fish to sear for 3-5 minutes.  Using tongs, turn thicker chunks on each side to sear.  Once the exterior is nicely browned, turn the fish skin side down and allow to cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Remove fish from pan with tongs and set on a plate.  

Using the same pan, adjust heat to medium and add the haricots verts, tossing with any remaining juices in the pan.  Add tomatoes and olives tossing again to combine.  Squeeze lemon juice from 2 wedges over the mixture and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Mix in the chopped basil.   Season with salt.    Place the salmon in the pan, on top of the haricots verts mixture, and broil in the oven on low for 2-4 minutes, keeping a close eye on the fish. 

Divide the haricots verts between four dinner plates and place a salmon filet in the center of each plate.  Evenly distribute any remaining juices and serve with slightly sour crusty bread such as the rosemary diamante from Essential Baking Company.

Salmon pairs beautifully with red wine.  Try it with the Firehouse Red from Tamarack Cellars, a Columbia Valley red blend.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

eggs benedict, a.k.a. hollandaise 101

Saturday is brunch day at our house.

There are three rotating brunch menus from which I rarely stray.  Whole wheat buttermilk pancakes and Great Aunt Vi’s golden butter waffles are par for the course.  When feeling ambitious, I might whip up crepes with assorted fillings, including ham and gruyere, mushroom béchamel, lemon and sugar, nutella with strawberries, nutella with bananas and whipped cream…  Essentially, crepes are a thinly veiled excuse to justify nutella consumption.

Although my family was perfectly happy with my ‘repertoire a trois’, I decided that it was time for something new. 

I have always loved Eggs Benedict but had never before attempted to make them at home.  Last fall, I was inspired by a version at the darling restaurant, Jen’s Garden, while visiting my mom, in Sisters, Oregon.  It was by far the best interpretation I have encountered and I intended do my best to replicate it.

Naud Sarah and Annabelle at Jens Garden Sept 2009 010 02

Rather than the traditional english muffin, I baked rosemary parmesan scones, modified from a recipe for a cheddar chive version.  I cut half the dough into triangles and the other half into circles.  The triangular scones came out better and provided a better visual contrast to the roundness of the poached eggs. 

I recently discovered a flavorful, smoked ham at Bill the Butcher, the new neighborhood butcher shop, in Madison Valley.  I grilled 1/4” slices of ham using my All-Clad grill pan, which makes authentic-looking grill lines on whatever you cook in it.  I love this pan for burgers and sandwiches, as well.

From the deep recesses of a kitchen cupboard, I retrieved my fancy, underused Belgian egg poacher, from Sur la Table.  One of our friends, who is a chef, mocked the ridiculousness of my having an egg poacher when it is apparently quite simple to poach eggs without one.  I admit, the final result ended up looking like something you would get from room service at a fancy hotel.  Not exactly rustic cuisine but pretty.  I used local, organic eggs from Stiebrs Farms.

For the hollandaise, I decided that Julia Child’s recipe in ‘The Way To Cook’ was the way to go.  I was terribly nervous about cooking the egg yolk and curdling the sauce but tried to remain calm as I whisked the eggs, lemon and butter into an emulsion.  Julia Child’s recipe has a stopping point at which you can chill the mixture and then add in the remaining butter when you are ready to use the sauce.  This was a great time saver and had no adverse affect on the finished product.  In fact, it came out beautifully and tasted as good as any I’ve had in a restaurant.  One suggestion that worked to keep the sauce from becoming too thick was to add 1-2 ice cubes while warming it on the burner.  For seasoning, I used white pepper to avoid those pesky black flecks in the pale yellow sauce. 

After splitting the scones in half, I placed grilled slices of ham on the halves and then perched the poached eggs atop the ham.  The eggs were blanketed with hollandaise and a delicate dusting of paprika.  They were postively picture perfect.

Organic strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries were mixed with fresh squeezed lime juice, a touch of superfine sugar and a sprinkle of fragrant chopped mint.  I am not a fan of flavors mingling on my plate unless they were intended to and the brulee cups were the ideal solution.

Using a vintage French Mouli shredder, I shredded organic russet potatoes for hash browns.  You can’t hurry hash browns, which I did, by turning them too often and using the wrong pan.  The crispy brown part that was supposed to make them hash browns, as opposed to just ‘hash’, would not budge from the bottom of the pan.  In the end, they were alright; but decidedly more of a cross between hash browns and mashed potatoes.  I called them ‘mash browns’.  I may be on to something…

I found that the trickiest part was keeping everything warm while assembling each of the plates.  With guests joining us for brunch, I was frantically trying to get five plates ready at the same time.  This is precisely why they put everything under a warmer in restaurants.

Brunch is a great excuse to drink in the middle of the day.  With this meal, I served our favorite Prosecco, called Jeio

The eggs benedict were delicious and a welcome departure from the typical Saturday fare but they were also a lot of work.  Next Saturday, it’s pancakes and bacon, all the way.

for the birds

Our feathered friends have to eat, too

I have always dreamed of opening up a little cafe…

My daughter, Annabelle, and I recently collaborated on this darling birdie bistro.  Annabelle bought the kit with her allowance, at Magic Mouse Toys, in Pioneer Square.  We are quite pleased with the finished product.  All it needs is a coat of varnish, for weather proofing, and we will be in business.

Adding the final touches

The ‘before’ shot (the kit came with pre-cut pieces which we glued together before painting)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

yellow mould and other adventures in the pike place market


This Saturday, I did my grocery shopping in the Pike Place Market, in downtown Seattle.  It is the oldest working public market in the United States.  Back when we lived just three blocks away, market shopping was a daily occurrence.  Now that we are inhabitants of not quite suburban urban sprawl, visits are fewer and farther between. 

Trips to the market necessitate three destinations: De Laurenti, Frank’s Quality Produce and Don & Joe’s Meats.  Runners up are Sur la Table for Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, kitchen necessities and other culinary whims, and Pear Delicatessen (previously Pike Place Grocery & Deli), where you’ll discover an unexpected mecca of gourmet items such as fleur de sel  and Maldon sea salts, imported rose syrup, an impressive array of baking supplies, and an unexpected wealth of local wines, all reasonably priced.

When I venture outside the confines of day-to-day dinner planning, I invariably head for ‘the market’.  I credit a number of my culinary successes to ingredients found there as they never fail to elevate a meal from good to great.  Ricotta from De Laurenti tastes like ice cream, as opposed to the stuff at the grocery store which could double as spackle.  I have yet to encounter duck breasts that rival those sold at Don & Joe’s; nor could I hope to find a kinder, more affable butcher.  And my kitchen adventures are much richer for my interactions with Frank and his staff at Frank’s produce.  They are friendly, knowledgeable and know me by name.

Don & Joe’s Meats carries Magret de Canard duck breasts, beautiful racks of lamb and for the adventurous, a sizable selection of obscure animal parts.  If they don’t have it, they can most likely order it.  Don, with his rosy cheeks and bespectacled, twinkly eyes, runs the operation and is the nicest butcher I’ve ever met.  The first time he frenched my lamb rib chops, he said, “Now when you serve it to your friends, you can say “Ooh la la!”. 

Frank’s Quality Produce is run by Frank Genzale Jr.  This is a man who is easy to love.  He once carried my 23-pound Thanksgiving turkey from the produce stand to my car, several blocks away.  He clearly enjoys what he does and takes pride in his business.  The produce is top notch and Frank makes of point of sourcing local items whenever they are available.  This time, I filled a brown paper sack with just foraged local morels and another with thin green asparagus boasting tight purple tips, a sure sign that they are the freshest of fresh.

De Laurenti is one of a kind.  It is full to the brim with so many wonderful things but I love their cheese selection and helpful, all-knowing staff most of all.  A close third are their deli salads.  As much as I loathe the word ‘deli’, it means something entirely different when you are talking about a deli inside an Italian import store.  Their made to order salads would cost more to make yourself than what they charge for them, and are loaded with market fresh produce and chock full of  little jewels such as candied nuts, briny olives, flavorful cheeses and house made vinaigrettes. The sandwiches boast ingredients like white truffle oil, imported cheeses and locally cured meats, from Salumi

On this occasion, I had the good fortune of arriving at De Laurenti just in time for their Saturday wine tasting.  I have known for years that they host this weekly event but I’ve never made a point of being in the market at 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon.  In fact, I prefer shopping on weekdays when the market is quieter and therefore easier to navigate.  This Saturday, though, fate intervened on my behalf.

Tucked away in the wine loft was a tall rectangular table, its lacquered wood top boasting four wines from Joel Gott and four corresponding cheeses, selected by Connie Bennett, manager of the cheese counter at De Laurenti.

First in the lineup was a Columbia Valley Riesling accompanied by a goat Tomme.  This particular Riesling's allure was the absence of the anticipated syrupy sweetness.  It had the makings of a more versatile wine than the typified Riesling would have been.  The goat Tomme had a split personality.  Its earthy, musty flavor was countered by the slight tang and brightness of the goat’s milk.  This was a great match for the musky overtones of the Riesling. 

Next up was the Monterey Chardonnay and a cheese whose rind seemed to be blooming with mould before my very eyes.  While deftly wielding her cheese knife, Connie affirmed that this was indeed a seriously moldy cheese.  Three moulds were living on its rind, to be precise.  I was filled with a mixture of intrigue and trepidation as she went on to describe the yellow mould which was indigenous to the Savoie region and was the only mould of its color in the world.  The cheese was Tomme Crayeuse and I gave it a suspicious whiff before willing myself to taste it.  I took a small bite and discovered that there was none of the pungency I had anticipated.  Salty, creamy, earthy and with a slight fungal quality, it had enough intensity to be interesting but not overwhelming.  A new favorite, proving that you can’t judge a cheese by its rind.  The chardonnay, though not typically my preferred white, was quite good thanks to the absence of oak.  The fruit forward white complemented the cheese pairing without overwhelming it.

Third in line was a Zinfandel from California.  There was a time when I drank a lot of zinfandel.  My husband and I were big fans of Ravenswood, back in its heyday.  Most recently, we have been favoring the flavorful red blends from Columbia Valley, here in Washington State.  The zinfandel surprised me.  It was fuller, with good fruit but more complexity than I expected.  No lightweight, it had an underbelly to it and a longer finish.  The wine was paired with a Grana Padano, the slightly creamier, milder cousin of Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

The final wine was the 815 Cabernet Sauvignon also from California.  I tend to avoid Cabernets due to their girth and intensity.  This classic Cabernet was no doubt rich, with prominent veins of tobacco and burnt caramel, but had a smooth finish unlike the wallop that cabs sometimes pack.  After one sip, I was taken with with an overwhelming craving for steak and frites.  The accompanying cheese, a blue from Jasper Hill, was creamy, salty and smoky- in other words, the ideal counterpart.

The final verdict:  we went home with the Monterey Chardonnay and the Tomme Crayeuse.  I had hoped to pair the Crayeuse with the Zinfandel, my favorite of the four wines, but the cheese got lost in the robust red.  It was exciting to bring home the wine and cheese we liked best; but not as thrilling as happening upon a wine tasting on a Saturday in the market.

Our daughter, Annabelle, accompanied us at the tasting.  She sampled all four cheeses and then rattled off her detailed impressions of each one.  Her picks?  The Tomme Crayeuse followed by the Jasper Hill blue. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

salmon snob


I am a salmon snob.  Fresh not frozen, wild not farmed, King not Sockeye or Coho, etc… I blame this snobbery on my Alaskan upbringing.  King salmon was something you caught, not bought.  Although many Alaskans will eat or even prefer other salmon species, I would rather abstain than sacrifice.  For this reason, I prepare salmon just once a week; although I would happily eat it every night if it were free as opposed to setting me back upwards of twenty dollars a pound.

These days, I am trying to come up with new ways to cook it.  When I was growing up, the preparation was either sweet, with brown sugar, lemon and butter; or savory, with dill, salt, lemon and butter.  Teriyaki was another frontrunner.  The salmon of my youth was typically barbequed or broiled and never strayed far from its original state.  It is hard to make King salmon taste bad but harder still to come up with new ways to prepare it.

Fish tacos have shown up in several food magazines as of late and after gleaning from the glossy cover photos and skimming through the recipes, I came up with my own version.  You will most often find halibut or cod in fish tacos but I decided to give salmon a try.  King, of course.

I first prepared a slaw with shredded Napa cabbage dressed in lime juice and Maldon sea salt.  I set that aside to pickle while I prepared a buttermilk crema by whisking together buttermilk, crème fraiche and lime juice.  The crema would be drizzled over the taco filling.  The best store brand tortillas I have found are white corn tortillas from La Tortilla Factory.  They taste positively homemade.  I wrapped those in foil and put them in the oven to warm at 350 degrees.

Organic fish taco seasoning doubles as a rub which I applied before searing the the salmon in a hot pan with equal parts butter and extra light olive oil.  A few minutes on each side and the salmon was done and ready to cool while I finished the rest of the prep.

Organic black beans warmed on the stovetop as I crumbled cotija cheese to sprinkle over them.  Cotija is a bit like the Mexican equivalent of feta.  It is salty, pungent and very crumbly.  Cilantro was then chopped and set aside.  The avocado and tomato were cubed and tossed together with lime juice and sea salt.  I used a fork to break up the salmon into smaller chunks, removed the tortillas from the oven, set out all the taco fixings and dinner was on the table.

Wine pairing:  The Jack 2007 – A Columbia Valley Red

on baking bread

“How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like kleenex?”
–Julia Child


Growing up on an island in Alaska, I was familiar with the kind of bread that tasted like kleenex, cardboard or something along those lines.  Occasionally, mom baked homemade bread; but Oroweat was par for the course.  Because mom had whet my appetite with the real deal, I was privy to the sad, spongy sliced bread that housed my daily sandwich fillings.  It may be the reason that I loathe sandwiches to this day.

Here in Seattle, it is fairly simple to get a good loaf of bread.  Most grocery stores carry artisanal loaves that rival the tasteless sliced sandwich breads lining the adjacent shelving.  I am particularly fond of Essential Bakery’s Pain du George, Grand Central Bakery’s semolina baguette (available only in their cafes and at a smattering of local restaurants), Macrina’s rustic potato loaf, Tall Grass Bakery’s honey oat or honey wheat, and Columbia City Bakery’s ficelle or roasted potato dinner roll.  The best croissants are from Le Panier and nearby Blackbird Bakery, on Banbridge Island, has the best homemade taste with their oatmeal wheat bread.

All that said, I harbor an unfulfilled penchant for baking bread.  My last attempt was in 2007 when I used a recipe from Julia Child’s ‘The Way to Cook’.  I beg to differ, Ms. Child, as I followed the recipe to the letter and my bread, which took countless steps and several risings, made me feel more in tune with ancient Egyptian brick makers than with the perfect bread pictured on page 34.  I laughed it off as those dense little loaves hit the bottom of the garbage can with a thud but it has taken years to shed the belief that I haven’t got the touch.  I must have over kneaded.  Or something.

Bread baking should be joyous, a fruitful labor resulting in home baked goodness and that warm, yeasty smell wafting through the kitchen.  Fast forward three years and I at last readied myself for another go at it.  I researched a bit and settled on a recipe for oatmeal wheat bread.

The first try was not unlike the last one.  The bread seemed to have shrunk during baking and had a strange, sour smell.  My husband, Naud, and daughter, Annabelle, were so excited that they let their desire for home baked bread overrule their taste buds.  They tried to convince me that it was an edible mistake but I knew better and threw it out when they weren’t looking.  Clearly, I was accurate in my earlier assessment that I should leave bread baking to the professionals. 

Ever the optimist, my husband, Naud convinced me to give it another try and I did.  It was better but still needed work.  For my third attempt, I decided to try a free form approach rather than using a loaf pan.  The result was much better, as shown above.  I have been baking a loaf every few days but took a break this week to enjoy some local loaves.  I find that I now have a greater appreciation for the art of bread baking and a desire to learn more.

In fact, I think I’ll bake another loaf tomorrow…

the local bread list

IMG_1413 Best all around bread
Essential Bakery’s Pain du George-  This bread is a slightly sour organic wheat loaf.  It is huge and holds up well for days.   Use it for toast, sandwiches, with dinner… even to make strata and stuffing.  Everyone who tries it loves it.  It is named after their head baker, George DePasquale.

Best baguette
Grand Central Bakery’s Semolina baguette-  The semolina is only available in Grand Central’s bakery locations as opposed to it’s sibling, the rustic baguette, available at various Seattle grocery stores.  The semolina has a denser crumb and less air, like a true French baguette.  More delicate than the rustic, it is reason enough to visit any of the local restaurants clever enough to serve it.  Le Pichet, Cafe Campagne and Bastille, to name a few.  The semolina is the closest thing in Seattle to a real Parisian baguette, possibly even as good.

Best baguette, runner-up
Columbia City Bakery’s ficelle- It is a baguette of a different shape, sort of like a horse of a different color.  Their ficelle is chewier in texture with a paler exterior than a traditional baguette.  It has good flavor and is outstanding in part for its authenticity.  I have to admit, though, that I have never been to the bakery.  So many local restaurants and cafes serve bread from this bakery that I don’t have to.

Best dinner roll
Columbia City Bakery’s roasted potato dinner roll-  I recently learned that I don’t have to dine at Chez Shea to eat these rolls.  You can buy them at the bakery, in Columbia City.  They are ungodly delicious.  The potato gives them a moist, dense, earthiness.  The crust is paper thin, comparable to the skin on a baked potato but in bread form.  These killer rolls are almost a meal in and of themselves as they are roughly the size of a softball.

Best oat bread
Tall Grass Bakery’s honey oat bread- This bread is sublime- with its dark brown crust contrasting a pale oat interior.  The flavor is hard to describe.  It is slightly sweet and has a dominant oat flavor and moist texture.  There is nothing like it.  Tall Grass is located in Ballard and often has a stall at the Sunday Ballard Market.  Their bread is also sold at Madison Market.

Best potato bread
Macrina’s rustic potato loaf- several local bakeries make a potato loaf but this one is the cat’s pajama’s.  The bread is a bit salty with a rich potato flavor and snowy white crumb.  The crust is thick and golden and balances beautifully with the almost airy quality of the interior.  It is the perfect bread for BLT’s.

Best sandwich bread
Tall Grass Bakery’s honey wheat bread- This whole wheat bread is the perfect sandwich bread.  It is hearty, wholesome and tastes like homemade wheat bread with an artisanal twist.  It holds up well for several days.

Best Croissant
Le Panier- I have eaten many croissants in Paris and tried them occasionally in Seattle but they tend to disappoint.  Le Panier’s croissant is the exception to the rule and has the perfect balance of golden flaky exterior and buttery, pull-apart insides.  It is never too doughy or too crisp but is impossible to eat gracefully, and isn’t that the hallmark of any good croissant?

Best home style loaf
Blackbird Bakery’s oatmeal wheat bread- You have to go to Bainbridge Island for this bread but it’s worth the trip.  Whenever I have the chance to head to this quaint bakery, I order buttered toast with a cup of whichever homemade soup is available and I order a loaf to take home with me.  This is your mother’s bread.  Or maybe your grandmother’s.  At any rate, it tastes the way homemade bread was meant to.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

fresh alaskan halibut with asparagus, morels, sweet corn and fingerling potatoes, two ways


Spring had sprung and the time came to do something new with halibut.  Morels, with their short season, were calling my name.  Local asparagus had reared its pointy head.  The fish would happily bed down upon Russian banana fingerlings.  Sweet yellow corn was a shoo in; the ideal counterpart to an otherwise savory compilation. 

I began by slicing the potatoes in 1/4” thick ‘coins’.  Half were tossed with Maldon sea salt and olive oil and roasted in the oven on low broil; the other half were parboiled and set aside.  
Leeks pair beautifully with halibut.  I sliced two of them in half, horizontally, up to the pale green part and then cut those into 1/4”  half moons.  I then caramelized the leeks with light olive oil in my Le Creuset, at medium heat. 

After rinsing the morels to remove unwanted grime and possible insects (par for the course), I patted them dry with paper towels, quartered them and added them to the pan with the leeks, allowing the mushrooms to cook for a few minutes.  The asparagus were cut into 1/2” pieces and added to the pan with the leeks and morels. 

After a couple of minutes, I added around 1/2 cup pinot grigio and let it cook down a bit before stirring in 1/2 - 1 cup heavy cream.  Once the mixture began to simmer and thicken slightly, I removed the pan from the heat and strained the sauce, through a sieve, into a medium-sized bowl.

I poured the strained liquid into a new pan, on medium low heat.  Rather than cook the corn, I sliced the starchy sweet kernels right off the cob and into the pan, then added the parboiled potato ‘coins’ and left that mixture to warm on medium low, seasoning with salt, to taste.  The strained morel/leek/asparagus mixture went into another pan, on low heat to keep warm.

Equal parts butter and extra light olive or canola oil are ideal for searing fish, creating a perfect golden exterior, and this was the method used to cook the halibut.  I heated about 1 tablespoon of each, on medium-high, and seared small fist-sized chunks of halibut, skin off, for 2-3 minutes on each side.  When the fish is flipped too soon, it sticks.  If it resists the spatula, I wait, turning down the burner, if needed.

Once the fish was ready, I assembled the dish, starting with a base of the cream/potato/corn mixture.  I placed the seared halibut over  that and spooned the asparagus/leek/morel mixture around the fish with a mound of asparagus and morels atop the fish.  I then added a smattering of roasted potato ‘coins’ and the dish was ready to serve.  Lemon could easily be incorporated in this dish by adding a small amount of zest to the cream mixture or to finish the dish. 

This recipe is loosely based on an entree I fell in love with two summers ago at Seratto in Portland, OR. 

my, oh my, chicken pot pie

in loving memory of my stepmom georgina who loved chicken pot pie best of all.

One afternoon, as I stood in front of my favorite produce stand, in the Pike Place Market, I awaited my turn while simultaneously awaiting divine inspiration for dinner.  I soon overlooked divinity in favor of eavesdropping as the woman ahead of me shared her dinner plans:  chicken pot pie with bacon, marjoram and crème fraiche.  You had me at bacon.

It was an “I’ll have what she’s having” moment.  Of course, no recipe is complete without a few personal touches. 

As the woman in front of me rattled off her list of ingredients, which included carrots, green beans and onions, I omitted onions in favor of leeks and tacked on fingerling potatoes, which I planned to slice in 1/4 inch rounds and parboiled to insure doneness.  I opted for organic bunch carrots rather than the suggested baby carrots, which was a minor detail.  The original recipe called for an already roasted deli chicken.  I decided to buy free range chicken breasts, rub them with olive oil and sea salt and broil them in the oven.  I increased the amount of crème fraiche, to make a thicker sauce, and I added white wine, a sauvignon blanc.

Puff pastry is to chicken pot pie what icing is to cake and I like to gussy mine up with petite hearts, crimped edges and an egg wash.  The little hearts puff up adorably when they bake.  Puff pastry is something that I have not attempted to make myself but I generally find the grocery store varieties disappoint.  They contain hydrogenated fat among other unpronounceable ingredients.  As luck would have it, there is an outstanding puff pastry called Dufour, available at gourmet grocery stores, nationwide, such as Metropolitan Market, in Seattle.  It is award winning and with good reason.  The ingredient which puts the Dufour dough on its pedestal is high quality European butter, sorely lacking in its hydrogenated counterparts.  The price tag will set you back about triple what you pay for the other brands but it is worth every penny.

I love making this chicken pot pie for new moms and I usually tuck a few extras in our freezer for evenings when inspiration proves elusive.

When I wearily utter the words, “What should I make for dinner?” 

My daughter, Annabelle will often reply, “My, oh my, chicken pot pie!”

lunch for three


One Saturday, I assembled this platter with some of our favorite foods, including fragrant,  juicy Comice pear spears, paper thin slices of salami from De Laurenti, salty sour cornichons, snow white squares of Greenbank Farms raw goat cheddar, hunks of Essential Bakery’s chewy, slightly sour Pain du George organic wheat bread and smoky sweet slices of Garrett County ham.


Our rustic lunch served as a welcome departure from the typical Saturday brunch.  Fortunately, Annabelle loves this sort of meal as much as we do.  It was almost as if we were transported to a Parisian bistro-  All we needed to complete the picture was a slightly chilled glass of rose.