Welcome to tastingmenu.com. My repository for thoughts and
notes on my eating experiences. Hopefully you'll find something enjoyable,
entertaining, or informative.
Spent some time checking out other food sites like this one on the web.
Among the best include - Sauté
Wednesday, The Making of a
Restaurant, JP's Restaurant,
Eat Drink and be Married,
Kiplog's Food Blog (who turned me
on to) The Julie/Julia Project,
and Purple Sunshine.
Check out the new links section for a huge
list of places food related sites.
Last night we went out to
Ristorante Paradiso in Kirkland, WA. I'm
still looking for a "blow-me-away" Italian place in Seattle as well as a
regular Italian place that you can rely on for good food and easy
atmosphere. I'm pretty sure Paradiso is the former. The bread was warm and
plentiful. My lemon chicken was really tender, flavorful, and good. Debbie's
really liked her pasta with cream sauce and peppery turkey sausage as well.
(I loved the sausage but thought the cream sauce was a little bland.) Bottom
line, dinner wasn't too expensive, the restaurant has lots of little nooks
and crannies if you want a more romantic or private setting, the food is
really yummy, and there's no pretension. I think this is one of those
restaurants, that when you want something easy you'll head straight there.
We agreed we were going to start going to smaller cheaper ethnic restaurants
on a more regular basis. I'm always up for that. Often that's the best place
to find incredible authentic ethnic food. I'm particularly psyched to find
great Vietnamese food. Saturday night's excursion with
Alex was to
Cafe Hue near
Pioneer Square in Seattle. Cafe Hue is a cool looking place with exposed
brick and a really gorgeous Asian wooden mural where all the characters are
"drawn" with inlaid mother-of-pearl. We ordered a bunch of pretty
straightforward Vietnamese dishes. The fresh rolls (Goi
Cuon) were not particularly outstanding - and only had one shrimp in
each. Cheap! The Cha
Gio - fried egg rolls - were actually decent. I think they stood out
because they were peppery. A really nice flavor. The Pho (not on the menu)
is only available with beef or chicken - no
Bo Vien (meatball) option. I got the beef. It was actually pretty damn
good. The ground shrimp and pork on sugar cane skewers were pretty good too.
Everything else was middle of the road. The rice noodles (Bun) were cold and
served with too few shrimp skewers. The beef wrapped in some type of leaves
(nolo?) were interesting, but not great. And weirdest of all, we were pretty
much the only people there. You'd think the service might be better, but it
wasn't. They also claim to be a patisserie but of the 10 or so desserts
listed, only 2 were available (the "daily specials"). We passed. All I can
figure is that this place does a brisk lunch business and hopefully that's
when they're in peak form. I might give them a second chance if I was
walking by and the place was packed.
We went to dinner with Alex
and Victor at my favorite sushi
restaurant on the west coast -
brought a bottle of the 1997 Heitz
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. great bottle of wine, that went surprisingly
well with our sushi dinner. We of course had to have the incredible rock
shrimp tempura. It's so light, and perfectly cooked, you'll blink and miss
out because it gets eaten so quickly. Alex had the presence of mind to order
the spicy aioli on the side which was perfect for dipping. We had a ton of
sushi as well, but the fun discovery of the night was "Temari-zushi",
though the ones we had we're smaller than the one's pictured. I didn't see
them make it tonight, but my understanding is that it's typically made using
plastic wrap to keep the shape. We topped ours with
Kampachi. They were like popcorn. Just pop them in your mouth. Dinner
was great - and the fact that Tatsu Nishino and his wife Eri are so
incredibly warm doesn't hurt at all. This is my second time there in 2
weeks. That feels about right.
evening we went to dinner at
La Toque - me,
Debbie, Alex, and
Lauren. We took plenty of
pictures so you can really get a sense of the meal. Alex had friends at
one of the local wineries who told him they thought that La Toque might be
even better than
Before things even really got going there were "gifts" from the kitchen.
Nothing makes me happier than gifts from the kitchen. :) These included
Gougere - pastry puffs with lemon aioli, and small Fried Green Tomatoes
served in little spoons ready for eating. Debbie was happy as dinner
started off with Seared Sonoma Foie Gras. Her main complaint about the
previous evening was "no Foie Gras". Specifically we were off to the races
with a choice of Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Medjool Dates and Chantarelle
Chestnut Bisque with Truffled Creme Fraiche. Foie Gras was delicious,
the soup was very good but pretty straightforward. Next up was a choice of
with Pernod and Candied Turnips or
Braised and Shaved Matsutake Mushrooms. Very very good. The Opakapaka is
a hawaiian fish, and the chef prepared it incredibly well. The dish was
super light and tasty. Next up -
Confit with "Lentilles du Puy" and Sherry Thyme Sauce or
Hare with "Anna Potatoes" and Wild Huckleberries. But the height of the
meal was the
Montauk Bluefin Tuna Seared with Cracked Black Pepper and Jack Daniels.
There was something so perfect about the completely rare center and the
evenly cooked outside. The tuna was simply above and beyond. Later the chef
- Ken Frank - came out and talked to us for a bit and told us how at this
time of year he was able to get that amazing tuna from Long Island. The
other options were great too:
with Portobello Red Onion Marmalade and Red Wine, or
Baby Lima and
Cranberry Bean Ragout "au Pistou". Lauren of course had the whole veggie
menu with some interesting items (pictured
his veal, Alex had the 1999 Paradigm
Merlot which he loved. I found it quite good too. Of course throughout the
meal we had a bottle of 1988 Kalin
Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. It was really perfect - strong, bursting
with flavor, lots of tannins. Just great. It kills me that they don't make
it anymore. (I'm appealing via e-mail to one of the new owner - Terry
Leighton - to see if they might consider making Cabs again.) The cheese
course was great including
Selles Sur Cher and one of my all time favorites
Epoisses (all melty
and strong). Dessert was a choice of the
Tart with Cinnamon Ice Cream or the
with Hazelnut Ice Cream. I had both, and both were fantastic. The
cranberries in the tart were super sour, and made the whole thing great.
There was also of course an entire array of tiny little sugary sweets and
delicacies after dessert served with coffee. All in all, better than French
Laundry? Probably not. But a really fantastic restaurant? Definitely yes.
And on top of it, the atmosphere seemed more relaxed (the chef was very
cordial and nice enough to spend time talking to us), and you can see pretty
clearly into the
kitchen which was cool. And of course, while certainly not cheap, it was
a fraction of the price of the previous evening's meal. I will definitely go
back. I hear there will be a branch soon in Los Angeles as well.
Saturday morning after recovering from our meal at the
we stopped at the
Grocery. As fun as it was picking the contents of our lunch picnic
basket from their incredible selection of cheese, sandwiches, meat, etc. But
I have to admit it was distressing to see just how targeted a demographic we
were. It was like every neat thing in your local fancy supermarket was
packed into this tiny store filled with a thousand yuppies who are
overfocused on food and wine. Oh well. Various salads, sandwiches, and
cheeses found their way into our shopping bag, and we were off to our
After a long drive up Spring Hill Mountain, we ended up at
Pride Mountain Vineyards. Since Alex
is a frequent visitor, we were squeezed in for a tasting in their beautiful
tasting room trying several of the 2000 whites and reds. The Merlot and
Cabernet Sauvignon stuck out as particularly tasty to me (and I typically
don't like Merlot). After placing our orders to be shipped home, we grabbed
a bottle and retired to a spot outfitted with picnic tables and an
incredible view of the rolling hills covered in vines. The weather was
perfect. Highly recommended. Pictures
here for your enjoyment.
French Laundry below? No problem. Here's a bunch of pictures from the
trip. Lots of photos of the various dishes. If you look hard you can
catch a glimpse of the laundry pin that held our napkins. Also some cool
shots of the kitchen from the courtyard at the front of the restaurant. Cool
image of the rows of ladles and mason jars.
This weekend was amazing. We flew down to Napa with a bunch of friends and
on Friday night we finally got to eat at the
French Laundry. There were 9 of
us so we got a private room. The only drawback was that we couldn’t bring
our own wine for a party of 9 (8 and below was ok) even by paying a corkage
fee. The meal was pretty much fantastic. Our expectations were pretty high
so there was almost no margin for error, and the meal was as expected –
pretty close to perfect. In addition to the 9 course tasting menu there were
about 4 or 5 additional little goodies that came out of the kitchen to make
us happy. The entire atmosphere of the restaurant was really warm and
refined straight down to the old style laundry clothespins imprinted with
the restaurant logo that held each of our napkins as we sat down. (Many of
these clothespins ended up in our pockets. Since they had the phone number
printed on the back I assume the staff is not surprised when they end up as
souvenirs. The bill also came on an oversized dry cleaning tag - cute!) Our waitress Annie was really great. She was eager to understand
everyone's food "sensitivities" and talked to us in an audible whisper most
of the evening. We were a bit boisterous so maybe that was to help us keep things
relatively calm. Dinner started off with Cornets - Salmon Tartare with Sweet
Red Onion Crème Fraiche (not on the menu). There was something about the
salmon's consistency - it was chopped so finely that it felt almost like
caviar. Next up was a selection of little pastries. One was a little gruyere
puff, the other was a little flaky pastry filled with tomato confit and
topped with either a cherry tomato or a dollop of eggplant "caviar."
pointed out that it was likely on purpose (and consistent with the general
sense of humor on the menu) that vegetarian caviar was made from eggplant.
Up next - truffle custard served in an egg shell. Things continued with Oysters and Pearls – Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with
Poached Malpeque Oysters and Osetra Caviar, Sweet summer white corn
“Agnolotti” with Perigord Truffles and White Truffle Oil. The waiter then
came out and grated an obscene amount of fresh truffle onto all of our
dishes. Alex got to try grating himself. I think my favorite dish of the
night was the Almond Crusted Filet of Gulf Coast Pompano Melted Belgian
Endive and Green orange “Aigre Doux”. The texture and flavor was so refined,
so balanced (the crunchy almonds and the soft fish) that it was emblematic
of the entire experience - and delicious. Then came Peas and Carrots – Sweet
Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Carrot “Parisienne” with Young Pea Shoots
and a Sweet Carrot Emulsion. We couldn't get enough of this. The lobster was
sweet, and perfect, and extraordinarily buttery. Next up was Un Paquet des
Rillettes de Lapin – with a “Ragout” of French Green Lentils and Applewood
Smoked Bacon and Butternut Squash Puree.
Aliya and Gil weren't into the
rabbit so of course an amazing Quail dish came out of the kitchen for them.
The fact that the kitchen was so flexible given how snobby the could be
given the demand for their food was really impressive.
vegetarian tasting menu was another example of this incredible
flexibility/repertoire - one of her dishes was Sugar Pie Pumpkin Tomato Canneloni - super yummy. Things continued with Carre de Veau au Four – Roasted Rack of Nature Fed Veal with “Rissole”
Fingerling Potatoes, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Anjou Pear. Next up was
“Montbriac” with Jacobsen’s Farm mission Fig and Fennel Salad, Frog Hollow
Peach Sorbet with Toasted Almond “Financier” (amazingly delicate and delicious
and peachy), Delice au
Chocolat – with Coffee “Anglaise” and Chocolate “Dentelle” (chocolate
perfection), and tiny cinnamon Pot du Cremes for the boys with miniature
Crème Brulees for the girls. This too was a special item from the kitchen
that wasn't on the menu. I'm not typically into Crème Brulee but this was
really amazing - tiny and perfectly sealed by fire so the tops were like
carmelized candy. And in case anyone was still hungry, Mignardise – an
assortment of small chocolates, candies, and little pastries/cakes. As I
recall every dish there is a theme I keep trying to touch on but every time
I write it, it kind of sounds silly. Every dish really featured the essence
of the ingredients in an unbelievably pure and amazing way. The lobster was
"lobstery". The peach sorbet was "peachy". But it's more than just
highlighting the flavor. You felt like you were eating the ingredient in its
purest form. This to me is one of the cornerstones of food at the French
Laundry, and something to look for. It's special. In the interest of full
disclosure I should
point out a couple of things one small, one large. Everyone agreed that the
chairs we sat in were uncomfortable - not surprising that the only
thing we could find to complain about had nothing to do with the food. And
the bill was enormous - dinner starts out at $160 per person and with wine
it skyrockets. We had a bunch of wine, the highlight it was generally agreed
was the Thackrey Orion 2000 Syrah
with grapes that came from 90 year old vines. But if you're not doing it often hopefully you can find a way
to finance dinner at the French Laundry because it really is one of the best
meals you will ever have. We tried to get an opportunity to thank the chef
and even see the kitchen but by the time we were done it was 1 in the
morning and we were informed that the kitchen was busy getting ready for the
next day. A bit of a disappointment but not the end of the world. Two in our
party stuck around for a bit waiting for their cab and caught site of
Keller orchestrating the post-dinner kitchen activities. They said things
ran like clockwork with Keller clearly "in charge" and his staff waiting on
his every word. No surprise there as it's pretty clear that he's the source
of the quest for perfection at the French Laundry. Bottom line, if you're
into food, find a way
(any way) to get there. You will not be disappointed. Apparently there will be a branch
in New York soon. We'll see how the experience scales.
Chris and Leslie are from the midwest. They think that
Graeter's ice cream is the best on the
planet. It is definitely good. Super creamy. But I think the locally
Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream may be my current favorite. And even though
I'm into vanilla, their Mukilteo Mudd chocolate flavor is just amazing. Lots
and lots of butterfat.
I made the
that I listed the other day. It was really really good. Easy to make
too. I have to confess though I did not use chicken stock made from scratch.
Osem Chicken Consomme. The soup was still great - and the consomme is
even vegetarian. The recipe is now listed in the
Chris travels to Beijing
soon. I'm so jealous. :) Found a couple of restaurants that might proved to
be yummy... added them in the new
Beijing Restaurant page. I especially want to go to the
Hong Kong's China Club.
Tonight we went with Chris,
Leslie, Alex and Lauren to
Racha Noodles and Thai Cuisine. The restaurant looks nice and has a cool
open kitchen where you can watch them prepare the food. The food itself was
decent. At its best, it was the chicken satay - juicy, tasty, delicious. At
its lamest it was the Goy See Mee (buckwheat?) noodles. The chicken curry
was also very very good as was the half ton of sticky rice we ordered. The
garlic spinach and the duck were "eh". I won't feel bad if I go back
to Thai Racha, but there's a bunch of places I want to try that are much
higher on my list. The hunt continues for great Thai food in Seattle.
and I went with Lauren and Alex
to Belltown Uncorked.
(It's still happening tomorrow.) Basically a bunch of restaurants from a
relatively food-centric part of downtown Seattle (Belltown) and 15 or so
Washington state wineries get together to give out samples of their food and
vintages for a flat fee - $20. It was definitely worth it. I'm not a fan of
wine from Washington state, but there was an interesting thing today -
namely Wilridge Winery (neighbors of Alex and Lauren) who had an interesting
Nebbiolo - Nebbiolo di Klipsun. Not as much depth as I like, but
definitely tasty and not too expensive. While I don't think you can grow
good cabernet sauvignon grapes in Washington state, maybe Nebbiolo is the
grape that's made for this climate. The restaurants made a decent showing -
we didn't make it to the "Winemaker's Lunch" ($75 per person) served by
and Marco's Supper Club. But other than Dahlia Lounge
which I've been to often and love, I want to try those
places. However, we did get to try food from a bunch of other places
including - Assaggio,
and Mama's Mexican Kitchen.
Many of the chefs were there handing out food including
Kerry Sear (Cascadia)
Murphy (Brasa). The standouts were the two sandwiches both with yummy crumbled cheese -
chicken from Belltown Pub and
steak from Brasa. Makes me kind of want to try
Brasa again (last time we tried it we didn't have a good time - atmosphere
was crowded/dark/noisy, and the food wasn't good enough to make it worth
it). The pork taco from Fandango and the quesadilla fropm Mama's were good
located a scant block from the event wasn't included in the selection of
restaurants. And the organizer didn't seem to have heard of them. A glaring
omission, but the day was still worth it.
Note the new "Media" section of the site.
Expect more pictures as time goes on.
We decided today that we're not going to enough
tiny unknown ethnic restaurants. We'll have to do more of that.
Saveur recently had an article all about scallions. I like scallions. They
had 3 neat recipes I'd like to try -
and dinner at
Pizza. The butter chicken at Mayuri was delicious, and the pizza at Post
just as good as last time.
We're going to Napa soon.
This place seems
OK. I'm in. The LA Times (free registration
required) reviews several different brands of
artisanal pasta. The conclusion? It actually does make a difference.
Molly Katzen has a new
(Free registration required)
Buy lots of cheese? Don't always eat it all
before it's too late? Try
One of my favorite wines, that I've discussed a
bunch of times - Kalin Cellars
1992 Cabernet Sauvignon is not being made anymore. This has actually been
the case for some time but I finally figured it out today. According to an
e-mail discussion I've been having with them, the 1992 was the last version
of the Cabernet, as new owners took over the vineyard and decided to stop
making it. Major bummer.
Alex sent in this link to
pictures of sushi.
Makes me want to go to Japan (or at least to
Nishino). I have
to get my act together and start posting all my food pictures on this site.
I love Cabernet Sauvignon from California.
Every one I've tasted from Washington state has been "eh". However, I'm
always willing to try something new. Pacific Northwest magazine has a cover
My friend Larry in the other Washington (DC)
went out to dinner last night at
Ten Penh on Pennsylvania Avenue. He said the "best thing of the
night was the drink though -- had a round of
Saketinis. A martini made with Sake and a splash of vermouth. But
instead of an olive, it was a baby octopus on a stick. Yummy. grossed out
the chicas, though, when we ate them. I guess they've never had a baby
octopus before. (I'm sure the octopuses would serve the same drink with
human embryos or something, but hey, I'm happy to take advantage of my spot
on the food chain)."
Just when you think the internet is boring,
someone puts a ridiculous amount of effort into something like
The Condiment Packet Museum.
The go deep.
This is kind of neat:
eBay sells food and
wine. Who knew?
Frozen food is on the rise says the San Francisco Examiner.
In France, fusion food is popular. The New York
Times (free registration required) talks about
four fusion restaurants in Paris.
I love this website.
Top Secret Recipes gives you
recipes to make your own homemade versions of commercially sold food
products. This week? Make your own
Alex and I are planning to make
peking duck (instead of
turkey) on thanksgiving. As best we can tell it's basically a honey
marinated duck. Ever wonder
what it takes to raise good duck?
Bon Appetit has a guide to the "new
ethnic restaurant." I've been wondering if we should make a trip to greece
lately. I don't think I've had
upscale Greek food yet.
Buried in "downtown" Redmond,
Washington is the Country
Garden Bistro service Country French Cuisine. Robert and Cynthia
Houot are the Chef/Owners of this establishment. At first it seems neat to
have a small, easygoing French restaurant out in the suburbs. And certainly
some of the dishes they serve are enjoyable - yesterday's french onion and
leek soups in particular were good. The croque monsieur and madame
sandwiches were also yummy - really buttery grilled ham and swiss cheese
sandwiches the latter with a fried egg on top. Sometimes the food is
inconsistent with the fruits and vegetables served with lunch not feeling as
fresh as they could be. Country Garden Bistro is certainly much better than
many of the nearby fast food options, etc. but overall nothing feels super
special. The service is kind of unsmooth as well. If you're in a pinch
though, it's certainly worth a try.
I've been experimenting with baking
lately. If you can follow directions, it's difficult to not love any baked
product just coming out of the oven. The Seattle Times talks about
quick baking with baking powder instead of yeast.
I plan on trying to enter the
Pillsbury Bake-Off when it reappears in
a year or two. But that's not the only cooking contest in town. Here's the
that won the National Beef Cook-Off (whatever that is).
StarChefs has an article about
rising stars in the Boston area. One of the four is Thomas John of
Mantra. I want to
go back there.