Friday, June 25, 2010

Seattle Eats

Lola seattleImage by conjunction3 via Flickr

We just got back from an anniversary trip to Seattle. Because the kids were elsewhere we had the unusually delightful pleasure of being able to eat whatever we wanted. If you've been cooking for picky kids for over a decade then you understand just how remarkable this is.

We decided that, given our relatively limited funds for this adventure, we'd rather spend less on fancy lodgings and more on good food and that was a brilliant decision! We stayed in a little studio apartment in an old building right downtown. I was a little hesitant to rent it sight unseen but when Google maps showed its location to be directly across the street from the Dahlia Bakery, out came my debit card and a reservation was made!

What I didn't realize until we arrived was that our budget studio was located right in the middle of chef Tom Douglas' Seattle dining empire. We stayed two doors down from Lola, across the street from The Dahlia Lounge, around the corner from Serious Pie and a block away from Palace Kitchen. We'd planned to have a fancy dinner at one of these well-reviewed restaurants but when we arrived in Seattle, ravenous after a 3+ hour train ride and with time to kill before we could check in to our rental apartment, we decided it was a perfect time to try Lola.

This was probably the best of many good meals on this trip. It may have been due to our hunger after the long train ride or the playing hooky feeling of ditching the kids and skipping town or maybe just plain fantastic food--whatever, this was a meal to remember. Lola's menu is Greek inspired but features fine local ingredients. We started with freshly baked pita served with skordalia, a delicious potato garlic spread. I had amazing grilled salmon kebabs served with more pita, a lovely, tangy tzatziki and amazing "smashed" potatoes which were like no potato I'd ever eaten: golden and crunchy outside with creamy insides. Unbelievable. We were unnecessarily tempted by dessert and probably and ended up overstuffed and not nearly as delighted as we'd been by the meal itself but overall it was fantastic.

We spent the afternoon and evening wandering and, remarkably, ended up hungry again after hiking up to Capitol Hill hours later. There are plenty of restaurants along Broadway but none really caught our eye until we came to Galerias Gourmet Mexican Restaurant. A quick scan of their menu showed that this is definitely not your average burrito bomb Mexican place but a place that had a variety of interesting looking, unusual dishes. We stepped inside to some truly fabulous, over the top decor: bright colors everywhere, huge paintings of intense Biblically inspired scenes, and the tallest fake flower arrangement I've ever seen. We were seated in the shadow of the awe-inspiring monster bouquet but quickly forgot it once our food came. The trio of salsas which came as a starter was delicious. Each was distinctive, well balanced, and clearly made with care. The giant, tasty margarita was quite good and a definite bargain. My entree was poblano chiles stuffed with cheese and grilled veggies and wrapped in a light, buttery pastry which was an vast improvement over the usual soggy, eggy batter found clinging to chiles rellenos.

Other great meals included an egg and asparagus sandwich on a homemade English muffin at the Dahlia Bakery, delicious chai and kheer at Traveler's Cafe, salted caramel ice cream at Molly Moon's, a delightful brunch at the Dahlia Lounge (scrambled eggs with asparagus and Cougar Gold cheese and a bing cherry margarita), and some super simple but fantastic roasted corn from a cart. All so good!
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Today is a typical day: lesson planning, kid schlepping, laundry...pretty much the usual with one notable exception. It's also our 20th wedding anniversary. Twenty years! I can't believe I'm old enough to have done anything for 20 years but there you have it.

We decided to celebrate with a getaway to Seattle last weekend. The kids went off to stay with my wonderful, fabulous mother-in-law while we caught the train and headed north for a few days.

On of the frustrating parts of planning this trip was the outrageous prices for hotels in downtown Seattle. Even the simplest ones are shockingly expensive and, we imagined, probably completely lacking in charm in our price range. I kept searching and searching for something that didn't require a second mortgage and one day up popped airbnb in my search results, where we found a very inexpensive studio perfectly situated for our visit. We stayed on the second floor of The Virginian Apartments, overlooking busy 4th avenue:

We didn't really head out with much in the way of firm plans but we had a guidebook or two for ideas. We ended up at both the Olympic Sculpture Garden and the Ballard Locks on the same surprisingly beautiful day.

We walked for miles, we ate fantastic meals, and truly had a marvelous time.

Here are a few favorite photos:
And perhaps my favorite of all:
Here's to the next 20 years!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Best Chocolate Cake I've Ever Made

Cover of "How to Be a Domestic Goddess: B...Cover via Amazon

How's that for a title?

But it's true.

Last week I made the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. This recipe is found in an entire chapter of chocolate cakes but somehow I'd never gotten around to trying this one out. Too plain, maybe. But plain and simple was what I was looking for when I was trying to put together a festive meal to welcome my kids home from two soggy days in the woods last week. Our menu included buttermilk chicken and baby potatoes cooked on the grill, herbed focaccia, and a couple of salads which should have been enough for anyone but a dessert was definitely called for.

This cake fit the bill: simple, easy, and no running to the store for ingredients. I mixed up the cake and wondered how the liquidy batter could possibly transform itself into cake. Plus, only 4 measly ounces of chocolate? I did not have high hopes.

I was totally surprised by just how good this cake was. It doesn't look like much with it's sagging, cracked top--it's all about taste. I think it's the dark brown sugar that gives it the deep flavor. It tastes rich and complex but without the intensity or fuss of the "death by chocolate" genre of cakes. Which, for better or worse, means it's far too easy to have a second (or third) piece. I made the cake again later in the week just to make sure it really was a winner and I am happy to report that the first time was not a fluke.

The only change I made was the addition of a bit of salt because as far as I'm concerned all sweets taste better with a touch of salt.

The recipe is here. Go make it NOW!
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