Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Foody Club Is Now in Session: Spinasse

A couple of my best girlfriends from college (we met ten years ago--the same week I met Matt) just happen to be total food nerds like me. Jenn and I ate our way through Italy back during spring break of freshman year by way of pizze margharita and chocolato calda. And Maria was my muse to go to Chez Panisse in Berkeley last fall after she flew down to San Francisco just to eat at that famous restaurant. I like that in a girl!

Jenn is my carb-lover. Never passes on dessert or bread and her and her hubby Jay have a way with the grill. One of our favorite steak recipes comes from them: grilled with a port wine and cream reduction and blue cheese crumbles. Heaven!

Maria, with her Peruvian roots (and a Nigerian husband) is our more adventurous eater. She'll choose the most unlikely item on the menu and if you go to her house, she practically has a test kitchen set up making anything from souflee to ice cream to arroz con pollo. I once saw her cook a live crab she was keeping alive in her kitchen sink. But that's another story.

Jenn and Maria are far more restaurant-goers than I am--they visit lots of great spots and have an insiders eye on the best seat in town (Seattle, that is). Jenn showed me the wonder that is Besalu (amazing french pastry in Ballard) and Maria and Pete recently took Matt and I to the Volunteer Park Cafe for a fabulous meal. (Fun fact: The current chef at VPC was the chef at a vegetarian restaurant on Phinney Ridge called Carmelita's that I visited in high school. It was there that I tasted my first risotto--that buttery, herby delicious dish that I still have an obsession with).

Anyway, in an effort for me to get down to the Seattle food scene and for these girls to keep trying acclaimed new restaurants that seem to crop up left and right, we decided to form a foody club. Once a month, we try to get out to a new place and have a meal together.

Our first destination: Spinasse on April 27th.

photo courtesy spinasse.com

photo courtesy spinasse.com

Jenn and Maria had noticed Spinasse in Seattle Magazine's Best Restaurants issue, and since their focus in homemade pasta--who wouldn't want to start their food adventures there? The restaurant had a relaxed contemporary feel with communal tables and a huge wooden bar with a clear view into the kitchen, which was filled with Capitol Hill hipsters rolling pasta. The walls were lined with bottles of Italian wine and colorful waters. Overall the place felt homey and comfortable, like I'd wandered into an Italian kitchen--not the one owned by mom and pop, but by their hip grandchildren. The menu is inspired by the Piedmont region of Italy.

The evening began in my favorite way at any restaurant: with free food! The waiter welcomed us with this plate of Crostini. I believe the left was ricotta and marinated, stuffed pepper and the right was rabbit liver pate with balsamic. Both were excellent.

We decided finally to order an appetizer to split, two pastas and one entree. Between the three of us, it was plenty of food. The appetizer, alas, had no photo, but was a salad of chicories, marinated pheasant, toasted walnut, parmigiano, and aged balsamic. I'm a picky meat girl, but that pheasant was brined to perfection.

The fine, hand-cut egg pasta with butter and sage. I found this to be a really delicate dish in the traditional style with the butter and sage. I wasn't wowed, but I think I would have been if I had tried it with the homemade veal ragu on top instead.

Nettle and ricotta filled handmade ravioli with sage, butter and pinenuts. This was phenomenal. Who doesn't love ravioli? The nettles were a nice alternative to spinach, more delicate and interesting.

Finally, we shared the housemade sausage on a bed of braised spinach and tiny potatoes. The sausage was mild and well-crisped on the outside and the vegetables were perfectly tender with a little bite.

Maria says that the chef/ owner made these tables himself. Cool huh?

For dessert we had something called Bunet, a "traditional piedmontese chocolate custard terrine". It was somewhere between pudding and torte and very rich, flavored lightly with mint. Delicious.

I think we all agreed that the meal was well-worth having and although we were kicking ourselves for not trying the ragu, there will probably be another opportunity since I'm sure we'll all be back with our husbands. Next month: The Corson Building with chef Matt Dillon. I've been dying to eat here for so long! Can't wait.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Matt's Birthday Weekend

This past weekend we celebrated Matt's 28th.

Friday night we got all dolled up and headed down to the city to see one of our favorite bands play live for the first time: Mates of State at Neumos on Capitol Hill. After dinner and cocktails with Heather and her guy Chase at Oddfellows Cafe, we caught the last half of up-and-coming band Black Kids. M of S headlined. They are a married couple, so it was really cool to see how they've built their musical career together and how they work together on stage to both have fun and produce a great, high-energy show.

It was 1:00 am before we got out of Neumos and had the long hour and a half drive ahead of us. Poor Matt had to be at work at 8:00 in the morning. He managed to power through with Dick's burgers (oh the ecstasy and oh the agony!) and the podcast of NPR's comedy show Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me.

Saturday we took it easy (by which I mean that Matt came home from work at 6:30 and slept from then until the next morning while I played cards at the neighbors). But Sunday was a birthday "Fun Day" that I had planned.

We set out for the northern part of the Skagit Valley between La Conner and Chuckanut Drive. There's a tiny, blink-and-you'll-miss-it town there called Edison, which has tons of character and cool shops in its two block existence.

We had breakfast at the Edison Cafe, where the cook/owner took breaks from slinging hash to chat with us through the order window and the waitress played quick rounds of dice with the old dudes drinking coffee at the bar. We stayed over an hour playing cards.

Then we headed up the road to the Breadfarm, the same little bakery whose owner taught Matt and I classic baguette making last month at a class up in Bellingham. We picked up a bag of coconut shortbread and a loaf of sour cherry lemon bread. Words cannot describe.

Next door, there's a great little artisan grocer called Slough Food. They brought wine to the farm harvest dinner we attended last fall, so it was fun to finally pop in and see what they were all about. We found European import grocery items and a deli stocked with artisan meats and cheeses. We chose a 4 oz wedge of a Basque sheep milk cheese and some finely sliced cuts of fennel and black pepper salami from Seattle meat shop Salumi (owned by Mario Batalli of the Food Network's dad). We also grabbed rosemary crackers, olives, and some good chocolate. We were picking up the ingredients for a sunset picnic later on.

After wandering around Edison's funky little shops (and finding a $3 cribbage board to feed my new obsession), we headed south again towards Anacortes. But before going home, I took Matt to see my other new obsession, Christianson's Nursery on Best Road. One word will describe their awesomeness: bunnies. Yes people, they have bunnies there. Not to mention an ancient and beautifully preserved schoolhouse, doves, orange trees, and nearly every plant imaginable. Oh, I could live there. (Alyson, if you are reading, you must visit!) Just a few shots from there.

On the way home, we passed a field with miniature donkeys. Like knee-height, we're talking. So imagine how tiny a baby miniature donkey would be. Matt's description was my favorite: "He's bite-sized!" Totally. But I have to say, I watched him for a little while, trying to get the perfect shot, and he was biting his mother mercilessly and bucking around. Little ass.

Back in A-tez, we headed to Washington Park and hiked to a cliff overlooking the Sound and the San Juan Islands. We unloaded our little picnic and enjoyed a perfect end of the day with wine, good food, and each other.

Baby Style

I thought I'd share my latest knitting creations. I've been making kitty hats for little ones for years (roughly based on the adult sized kitty hat found in "Stitch and Bitch") but recently I've modified some baby booty patterns to create little mary janes that I think resemble Keens. (It's tough to tell from the photos, but the bottoms are chocolate brown).

Now although the first pair of these were created for little Wesley Gough, I think the vote came back that they were a little too feminine, even in green and chocolate brown. So I was really excited when I found out that Casey and Carlos are expecting little Claire. These are her welcome-to-the-world presents from Matt and I.

I love making baby things because it all knits up so quickly for those tiny bodies. I always use cotton, organic if I can get it, so that the items are easy to throw in the wash and soft against that tender baby skin. Two major necessities in baby clothes, I think.

By the way, if anyone wants to order some of these items from me, let me know! The booties should be suitable for kids up to age 2 and the hats can be made any size.

For knitters, the baby hat is any standard stockinette hat pattern gauged for an average baby head circumference and length. I began with one inch of seed stitch at the bottom in a contrasting color. The ears are picked up from a top seam, also seed stitch for 3 rows, then decreased at the edges every other row until one stitch is left and yarn pulled through it. I did a second ear from the same seam and whip stitched the two together for better stability.

The booties are
this pattern, but with contrasting color bottom. Instead of the pattern's strap work, bind off all rows tightly and pick up 5 stitches on side to make strap. I don't have a pattern for the button holes. I winged it by binding off one in the middle, using a needle to hold one side while I knitted a few rows on the other, then a different scrap of yarn to knit the other side before bringing them back together, decreasing and binding off. There's probably a slicker way to do that, but oh well! That's what I get for going off-pattern.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Matt Roddy

Happy 28th! If I had posted a photo for every crazy hairstyle you've sported, I would have at least one for every year. ;)

I love you babe.

Catching Up: Sprained Ankle

Ok, so I take classes at my gym, one of which is Body Step, which is an hour of using a bench to step and jump and squat and lunge. It's aerobic, but it involves a good deal of coordination and I can promise I looked like a total spaz at first (and often still do).

So Friday, I was at the morning class and it was full--probably around 30 people there and packed in tightly together. We had come to the second to last track, the speed track, which involves doing all the moves at double speed. It kind of looks like when people run through laid-down tires in a military obstacle course. I was feeling good and grateful that I'd made it almost to the end of class (I was tired) and just as I jumped up on my step, I twisted my ankle and fell to the ground.

Before I could even tell if I'd hurt myself (still holding onto my ankle and squinching my eyes tight), I had three or four people asking if I was ok. Was I ok? I didn't know, but all the attention in the packed classroom was definitely NOT helping. Within 60 seconds, someone had brought me ice, a bottle of water and a container of a topical pain cream.

It was really nice, but man I felt like such an idiot. I'm clumsy enough to begin with (I've broken 6 glasses and bowls in the last month in our tiny kitchen!), so adding the need for coordination and the presence of witnesses was just a bad idea to begin with. I should have seen this coming.

I figured that I hadn't torn or broken anything, just a stupid sprain. I've been resting it all weekend, and I have been able to walk on it without any problems, but for whatever reason it's huge. Hopefully by tonight I can get back on the step. I'll feel really cool when I come back to class. Yeah. Right.

Catching Up: Arizona

Well, for those who follow, you'll notice I've been MIA. The reason has been a computer on the fritz, not to mention oodles of house guests and a vacation for a week with the Roddy fam in Arizona. (PS ten on tenners--Sorry I missed April. I'll be in for May!)

First, a snapshot of our trip to Arizona. We celebrated Easter together as well as Matt's mom, Maggie Mae's, birthday. (What a lot of M's!)

Drew, Mike and Bob

Maggie Mae in her beetle bug



Heather and Maggie

Toasting the woman of the hour at her birthday dinner

Easter morning at Corte Bella

Hiking at Lake Pleasant

It was such a great trip with the family and I came back about 5 shades browner from taking full advantage of laying by the pool. I had two days of girl time, just me, Heath and Maggie, before the boys started showing up and loved the time to enjoy these two ladies.