Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ladies Who Lunch, and Brunch, and Occasionally Visit Starbucks

And since you are going to ask, yes, that would be me this past week now that I am fully off the crutches. Omigosh, I have reveled in the opportunity to be out and about, to engage with friends and family, and to enjoy someone else's cooking. 

Snoqualmie Falls & Lodge
Sunday Brunch at Salish Lodge led off the recent series of dining excursions. The weather cooperated and the setting was breathtaking, a mere hundred+ yards from the top of Snoqualmie Falls, the 268-foot waterfall, that is one of Washington State's most popular scenic attractions. Built in 1919 the original Snoqualmie Falls Lodge was famous for its view, hospitality and hearty breakfasts. My first visit to the old lodge was many decades ago during my freshman year at the Univ. of Washington. I remember a steaming bowl of tasty oats, fluffy pancakes, fresh biscuits and the waitress drizzling honey onto our plates from an impossible height. 

Biscuits & honey
The property changed ownership, major renovation and remodeling followed, and the new Salish Lodge & Spa opened in 1988. The dining room and country breakfasts are still renowned. Laci and Slone spent the early morning on a snowy roundtrip hike to Snow Lake, and met us at the lodge for a 10:30am brunch. 
Photo: My brunch companions at Salish Lodge
Seated near the crackling fireplace we poured over the tempting menu, sipped mugs of well-brewed coffee and caught up on recent happenings. The tabletop soon filled with 1 order of Oatmeal plus a side of eggs, 1 Eggs Benedict over Ham, another Eggs Benedict with Vegetables, and my Smoked Salmon Hash Skillet, plus plates of biscuits... with honey still drizzled from on high. I wouldn't bother with the salmon hash skillet again, but the Oatmeal and Eggs Benedict rated high marks from the other diners.

During a subsequent weekday lunch at the Columbia City Ale House the Soup Du Jour sounded so tempting that I veered from my usual order of the Red Reuben Sandwich or Fish Tacos. A steaming cup of Hearty Beef with Barley Soup paired with a small Honey Apple Mixed Green Salad was the perfect combo for a cool, gray December day. Good choice! 

Photo: Soup & Salad Combo at Columbia City Ale House
RL ate every bite of his Southwest Flat Iron Steak Sandwich, so the ancho chili rub, chipotle mayo, melted Jack cheese and fresh Pico de Gallo salsa must have been a hit... but I didn't notice or take any photos. I was too busy enjoying every drop of that colorful cup of richly flavored soup.    

Photo: Entrance to Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle
Another day, another adventure! The newly opened Starbucks Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle is Howard Schultz's latest shrine to coffee, most striking (to me) for the visual experience inside this incredible location. Copper pipes, pneumatic tubes, little coffee bean lifts and giant vats... everywhere we looked intriguing equipment sparkled under Disneyland lighting. 

Photo: Ladies Who Do Lunch & Occasionally Visit Starbucks
Hilary, Chelsea, Laci and I wandered wide-eyed through the multi-level, Willy Wonka-style, warehouse-size space. We were intrigued with the overall design, the unique equipment, the entire coffee-production process, and impressed for the most part with the helpful staff. The actual ordering of a cup of coffee needs some fine tuning... order where? which line? not here? 45 minutes and still waiting, really?

Photo: Inside Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle
A new Tom Douglas Serious Pie restaurant fills a small corner of the building, and that destination was the highlight of my day. Our starter plate of creamy burrata, charred Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced Fuji apples with a drizzle of pine bud syrup was absolutely swoon worthy - no exaggeration. Four of us shared two pizzas, wildly different in flavorful toppings but equally desirable atop thin and crisp, lightly charred, delicious crusts. Generous portions of Penn Cove clams, house-cured pancetta and lemon thyme topped the first pie - ok, this was my favorite and I devoured two pieces, but you do have to love clams. 

Photo: Penn Cove Clam Pizza at Serious Pie
Photo: Sweet Fennel Sausage Pizza at Serious Pie
The second pie held sweet fennel sausage, roasted red peppers and provolone cheese - not surprisingly it disappeared first (not everyone is wild about clams). I am totally ready to return here, or to another Serious Pie location, and nibble my way down the rest of the tempting menu offerings. Maybe a Happy Hour sip and graze with friends. As for coffee, I'll still brew it at home, though the foam won't be as pretty.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lamb Kofta with Yogurt Sauce

Call it kebab, kabob, kofta, brochette or satay, "food on a stick is just plain fun." I read that somewhere, probably online, and can't help but agree. Today's lamb kofta on a roll might have would have tasted the same if prepared as a flat lamb slider on a burger bun, but the skewer and grilling approach added an indescribable special something to the end result. 

The succulent, tender lamb available today is a much improved product over the disagreeable, strong-tasting, tough-chewing meat (mutton?) of my childhood memories. Now I love sizzling lamb chops, herb-crusted rack of lamb, butterflied and grilled leg of lamb, well-seasoned lamb burgers... and spicy lamb kabobs. 

I don't spend too many moments thinking about the U.S. meat industry in general, but did page through the American Lamb Council's website. Here are a few fast facts about our American lamb:

  • There are over 82,000 sheep operations in the U.S. and a majority are family owned.
  • The top 5 sheep producing states are Texas, California, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota, though sheep are produced in nearly every state.
  • 80% of U.S. sheep are raised for meat, with wool being a byproduct.
  • A 3-oz serving of lamb has only 175 calories, meeting the FDA's definition for lean meat.
  • In addition to protein, lamb is an excellent source of vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, selenium, iron and riboflavin. 

Interesting factoids, and it surprised me to think of lamb as a lean meat, but really it's all about flavor.  Today's lightly-spiced lamb kofta were delicious... food on a stick that was just plain fun. 

Lamb Kofta
Yields 8 kofta or 4 skewers

1 pound ground lamb
2 heaping tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 heaping tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
2 teaspoons garlic paste
3 tablespoons grated onion
1 tablespoon pimenton (smoky Spanish paprika)
1 scant teaspoon ground chili pepper (ancho or cayenne)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons za’atar (or sumac plus thyme)
1 tablespoon capers, drained & rinsed
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Yogurt sauce (recipe below)
  1. You will need a grill or cast iron grill pan and 4 long metal skewers.
  2. Mix the ingredients thoroughly by hand. Divide into 8 equal portions. With damp hands shape each portion of meat into a smallish cylinder. Slide two meat rolls onto a metal skewer, not touching but separated from each other, and set aside; repeat with remaining meat and skewers.
  3. Heat a ridged, cast iron grill pan over medium heat. Brush the pan lightly with olive oil.
  4. Grill the skewered meat, turning frequently, until a golden brown crust develops and the meat is still slightly pink but cooked nearly through. Careful, don’t overcook the lamb!
  5. Remove the kofte from the skewers and serve with warmed flatbread, pita or buns. Offer bowls of shredded greens and herbs, plus yogurt sauce on the side.

Yogurt Sauce:
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
grated lemon zest
2 green onions, finely sliced
Pinch of salt

Stir all of the sauce ingredients together, mixing thoroughly. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

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