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Chicken Parm Pizza

April 13, 2014 Leave a comment

pizzaparm

I love pizza. I love chicken parm. Why not combine them?

They do that at Kitchen Kabaret, the amazing food emporium located not far from where I grew up on Long Island. We were back there last weekend, and stopped by to take out some food. When I saw the pizza pictured above, I thought I was in heaven. But I had just eaten veal parm the night before when we had dinner with my brother’s family at our usual meeting place, Piccolo’s, so I resisted.

Next time.

kitchenkabaret

Categories: Food

The Good Life Gets Better

March 16, 2014 Leave a comment

cadburykitkat

Last April, in my post The Good Life: Cadbury Fingers, I wrote about the arrival from Edinburgh of our friends Tom and Carol with four boxes of Cadbury Fingers. Let me quote again from the Cadbury website.

This little biscuit is a national treasure and with its delicious combination of milk chocolate and crunchy biscuit, along with its compact size, it’s the perfect treat for the whole family. But be warned, one is never enough!

Two nights ago, on the occasion of her latest visit, Carol outdid herself. Yes, seven boxes this time, plus packs of KitKat bars, the British version being far superior to our local variety.

And it’s still true, one is never enough. Thank you, Carol.

Categories: Food, Travel

Halibut-Cauliflower Curry

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

dhalwalahalibut

[Christopher Testani for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Heather Meldrom, Prop Styling by Stephanie Hanes]

I was looking through the Saturday “Off Duty” section of the WSJ on my iPad Friday night when I came upon a “Slow Food Fast” feature with the title “Chef Meeru Dhalwala’s Chili-Rubbed Halibut With Cauliflower Curry.” I don’t know if I would have paid attention otherwise, but the subtitle “A quick, creative curry from the Pacific Northwest chef” caught my eye.

Earlier in the evening, a Facebook friend had posted that his family was at Shanik, an Indian restaurant that opened to great fanfare a little over a year ago in the bustling South Lake Union neighborhood just north of downtown, near Amazon headquarters and adjacent to a concentration of Tom Douglas restaurants. (I wrote about one, Cuoco, around the time Shanik was opening.)

We have yet to go to Shanik, scared off by articles previewing it before the opening that mentioned the long wait to get a table at Vij’s, the Vancouver restaurant that spawned it. The text of the WSJ article doesn’t identify Dhalwala, but I had a feeling she was the genius behind the two restaurants, which a quick check confirmed (sharing credit with her husband, the eponymous Vikram Vij). … And now I see that the caption under a drawing of her does list her restaurants as Vij’s and Rangoli in Vancouver and Shanik in Seattle.

Here’s a description of Shanik, taken from its website:

Shanik is a modern Indian restaurant that serves Meeru’s personal Indian cuisine which is creative and daring, yet comforting. We invite our customers into a version of India that is not intimidating, cliché, or a rehashing of what is traditionally marketed as Indian. Our restaurant is the same version of Indian that Meeru is: North American in lifestyle and attitude, while rooted in Indian heritage and cuisine. We take pride in making our own yogurt, paneer and ghee, as well as; sifting, grinding, and roasting our spices in-house. Our open kitchen is designed specifically so our diners can experience the warmth of our cooks, and signifies a sharing of heats.

And here’s an excerpt from the WSJ article.

“I’m very careful about buying fish,” said Meeru Dhalwala. “I don’t want my karma affected by the fact that we have messed up the oceans.” For her first Slow Food Fast contribution, Ms. Dhalwala has selected halibut, which is sustainably caught in the Pacific Northwest, where she has three restaurants. Rubbed with ancho chili and cayenne, the flaky white fish is steamed and topped with a cauliflower curry enriched with yogurt.

Like many of Ms. Dhalwala’s recipes, this one is rooted in the culinary traditions of India, where she was born, but it does not reference any particular region. “I’m not afraid to blur boundaries and break rules,” the chef said. “My mother would never have mixed fish and dairy, for example. But I find that a little a bit of yogurt adds a nice tartness.”

I sent the article on to Gail, suggesting—since halibut is one of our standard fish dishes and cauliflower has become a favorite of hers—that maybe we should try the dish.

Now we have. Gail picked up halibut on the way home from the theater this afternoon. Cauliflower was already in the frig. With only a week in our kitchen (following ten months of remodeling), this would be a perfect test of the new cooktop. The result below.

gailhalibut

[Photo by me, food styling by Gail]

The WSJ staff may be a little better with their styling and props. They’re certainly better at photography. But I doubt their version tasted any better. Gail, Joel, and I had a wonderful meal. And Gail recalled as we ate that she has one of Dhalwala’s books, Vij’s At Home: Relax, Honey, written with Vij.

VijsAtHomeCover

A visit to Shanik is in order. Though with book in hand and kitchen done, we could work through the recipes first.

Categories: Food

Safeco Diamond Club

June 2, 2013 Leave a comment

felix

I haven’t gone to many Mariners baseball games in recent years. Until last weekend, the last time I was at Safeco Field was almost two years ago. The year before, my brother-in-law Jim had won an employee contest that had allowed him to pick a game the next season for which he would have full rights to a suite. He chose a Saturday night game on July 2, to celebrate his and Tamara’s 20th anniversary, and invited the family. (I wrote about it here.) That was our lone game that season, and then we managed to let last season pass without a game.

I’ve already written about the game we went to last weekend, in the context of its being Felix Hernandez bobblehead doll night. What I didn’t explain is that we had Diamond Club tickets. This was our friend Judy’s idea.

Judy and her family have had season tickets behind home plate since 1977, the Mariners’ first season. We’ve been fortunate to join Judy for many games, both at the Kingdome and at Safeco. The seats are maybe fifteen rows back from the field. The last couple of times we went, I noticed that people seated in the first few rows had food served to them at their seats. I didn’t know what the deal was. Now I do. It’s the Diamond Club.

What Judy suggested to Gail is that we choose a game for which she had tickets and she would trade them in for Diamond Club seats. The Diamond Club consists of the first eight rows behind home plate in the two sections immediately left and right of the line that runs from the pitcher’s mound and home plate straight into the stands, as well as the first eight rows of the two sections just left and right of these two. (The outer two sections run into the sides of the dugouts, and so aren’t very wide.) But more than that, the club consists of the space under the stands in these sections, with a restaurant, a bar, and more.

One enters the club from outside by going to the ticket takers at the southwest corner of Safeco, walking through an area that leads up to the stands, and then showing tickets again at the club entrance in order to be admitted. Inside the door, you are greeted, given an overview if you haven’t been in the club before, and shown to a restaurant table. It’s buffet eating, but first you can order drinks at your table before heading to the food.

Everything, I should add, is included in the price of the ticket. And these tickets aren’t cheap, though Judy pointed out that one could pay almost as much just for the seating in the stands, so it’s a pretty good deal. One doesn’t have to eat and drink to excess to feel like one has gotten one’s money worth.

The buffet is set up in an upper level surrounding restaurant tables. Then there’s a lower level with the bar, booth seating along a wall (where we were), and still more seating down around the bend. We ordered our drinks, then took our plates and headed back up to see what our options were. At one table, a man was making crab cakes in a frying pan. At another, there was mashed potatoes, asparagus, and barbecued ribs. Maybe fish too. I have to say, I should have written this post a week ago. I’m forgetting. Next, there was a man carving turkey and slicing meatloaf. Around the bend, on another wall, was Caesar salad, an array of fresh and roast vegetables, fruit, potato chips, and lots more. Then came desserts, which we didn’t look at closely until later. One table had a chocolate fountain with bananas and strawberries for dipping or coating. And along a counter were seven or eight cakes and pies to choose from.

Hard not to eat to excess. And from our booth, we could see a large grab-and-go center for people to get food to bring to the stands, or to come in from the stands for. Bratwurst, pizza, pretzels. And about a dozen candy dispensers on the wall.

There was a refrigerator behind our booth. It took me a while to realize that this was for our use too, filled with water and soda. This is all near one of the openings to the stands. By the next opening was a popcorn station, with hot butter too. And the next opening had boxes of candy of various types along with a soft ice cream dispenser. Oh, back by the brats and pizza were bags of caramel chocolate popcorn and some other type of popcorn. It’s really too much.

Game time was 7:10, with the club opening a couple of hours ahead of time. We were there shortly after opening, and at our seats an hour ahead of game time. The seats were in the seventh of the eight Diamond Club rows, about six to eight seats in from the center line. Which means we had a pretty darned good view of everything, including all the people milling around behind home plate for the pre-game activities. A boy and his dad who would go out to centerfield to catch balls shot from a machine in order to win assorted prizes. A boy who threw a ceremonial first pitch. Later, a group of kids from some school in Federal Way who were marched out just in front to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. But before all that, we caught the tail end of Rangers batting practice, with Rangers manager Ron Washington leaning against the batting cage watching his charges.

And did I mention the food? Yes, we could go back in any time for the grab-and-go offerings. But we also had menus at our seats from which we could order burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, drinks, and more, which would be brought to us by the next half inning. The sandwich special that night was a cheesesteak that I had my heart set on when we read about it on arriving at the club. However, after the dinner we ate, it simply wasn’t possible. I did eat some of Gail’s chocolate caramel corn. And I couldn’t resist grabbing a box of gummy bears on our way to the seats. That pretty much did me in. No cheesesteak for me.

The game? Oh yeah. We didn’t pay just to eat. We paid to see baseball. And so we did. There’s Felix Hernandez, at the top of the post throwing a pitch. The photo gives a better sense of where we were seated than my words provide. Great location.

But Felix had an off night, was hit hard, and we lost. A bleak game. Plus, a totally unrelated issue arose in an early inning and I found myself distracted for about two innings in a series of texts with Joel, despite his protestations that I should just enjoy the game and get back to him afterward.

I don’t imagine we’ll be getting back to the club soon. When we do—if we do—I might go for the seats farthest away from the center, over by one or the other dugout. For one thing, they’re just far enough off center to be beyond the screen that protects us from foul balls, offering a clearer view. A first- or second-row seat there would be pretty cool. And I might space out my eating better, so I’ll have room to eat the sandwich special at my seat.

Categories: Baseball, Food

The Good Life: Cadbury Fingers

April 24, 2013 Leave a comment

cadburyfinger

I mentioned in my post minutes ago that our friends Tom and Carol arrived from Edinburgh last night. They did not arrive alone. In their luggage was four boxes of Cadbury Fingers.

Whenever we go up to Vancouver—less often than we should—we make it a point to pick up a box or two of Cadbury Fingers. And when our friend Cynthia used to get up there a lot, she would generously do the same. But these are even better: straight from the UK. As described on the back of the box, they are

Delicious finger shaped crisp biscuits smothered in yummy Cadbury milk chocolate.

Or, from the website:

This little biscuit is a national treasure and with its delicious combination of milk chocolate and crunchy biscuit, along with its compact size, it’s the perfect treat for the whole family. But be warned, one is never enough!

It’s true. One is never enough. They’re so good that you might think Fred is singing about them in the video below.

Categories: Food, Travel

Birthday dinner

March 3, 2013 1 comment

dobostorte

Even though I don’t have a birthday this year, we still celebrated a few times in recent days, most notably two nights ago when Gail cooked dinner for 13. And what a dinner it was! If only I had taken some photos. In their absence—and in the absence of any ability on my part to convey the wonderful food in words—all I can do is describe the menu.

Gail laid out a cheese platter, crackers, and olives to start. I missed all that. I was busy planning the wine, organizing beverages, getting enough chairs around the dining table, then getting everyone seated and serving drinks.

Gail partially plated the food in the kitchen with Chilean sea bass and black rice. The sea bass had been marinated in a mix of saki, mirin, white miso, and more, then dressed in sesame oil and soy sauce. There was green onion too, and maybe more. The rice was served plain. In a bowl for us to dish out was sesame noodles with pea pods, red peppers, scallions, and again probably some other vegetables. Another bowl had the salad, consisting of red leaf lettuce, arugula, peas, asparagus, and a champagne-vinegar-olive oil-mustard vinaigrette.

I had selected three red wines to serve with the meal. Given that we had just the one course before dessert, this wasn’t exactly a wine pairing. Just a sequence of wines I thought would be interesting to try. And I didn’t sequence them well, because I wasn’t sure we’d need more than two bottles. (Not everyone was drinking wine.) The one I put in reserve, which we did get to, should have been first.

We began with Stryker Sonoma‘s 2002 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. We had received two bottles of it in our club shipment in the fall, with winemaker Tim Hardin explaining that “during the 2002 harvest, I brought in an exceptional crop from Monte Rosso Vineyard and decided that we would age 50 cases … for our Club Members. I’ve released this library selection exactly 10 years to the month. The wine shows us just how age-worthy our wines have become.” It was superb. I wish we had bought more.

In the description of the 2005 vintage, Monte Rosso is described as “one of the oldest and most celebrated vineyards in Sonoma County. Perched upon the Mayacamas range at over 1000’ elevation, it is named for its distinct red soil comprised of mineral-rich decomposed volcanic rock. Difficult growing conditions produce grapes of uncommon character and result in fabulous, age-worthy wines.”

Next was McCrea Cellars‘ 2006 Sirocco, a southern Rhone style blend (41% mourvèdre, 36% grenache, 13% syrah, and 5% each counoise and consult) from Washington State that I wrote about two months ago. It has been one of our favorites recently and we were eager to share it.

Last was Porter Creek‘s 2009 Hillside Vineyard old vine Pinot Noir. It’s no longer available. From their description of the 2010 vintage, we are told:

Among the oldest Pinot Noir plantings in the Russian River Valley, this vineyard produces a wine that demonstrates the multi-layered complexity achieved only with old vines and very low yields. Shows an incredible range of fruit and a density, leading toward age worthiness. Planted in 1974 and yields just 1 to 1.5 tons per acre.

As Porter Creek club members for a little over a year, we’ve tried several of their pinots, but this was our first from Hillside Vineyard. It didn’t seem to be as popular with our guests as the others, for which I blame myself, both for my poor sequencing of the wines and for opening it while it still had aging to do. I thought it was great myself. Maybe my favorite of the three. But no doubt it will be even better with a little more time.

Oh, dessert. Boy was that a treat. Talk about labors of love. Gail decided to create a version of the Jewish deli classic seven-layer cake, or what is essentially the same thing, Hungarian Dobos torte. (See also here.) She made nine layers, as it turned out. As best I can tell, the nine layers came from making three separate thin cakes, icing them, stacking them, then cutting the result in thirds and stacking again. Delicate work, resulting in the most wonderful of desserts.

The end result: thirteen well-fed and happy people. Thank you Gail.

Categories: Food

Christmas on the Ronald Reagan

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

110210-N-IC111-106

[USS Ronald Reagan, U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin B. Gray]

The USS Ronald Reagan is the ninth of ten Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, the largest US Navy ships. Commissioned in 2003, it saw its first deployment in 2006, in the Persian Gulf. It is normally based in San Diego, but has spent the last year up this way at Naval Base Kitsap* being refurbished. In another month, it is due to return to San Diego.

*Naval Base Kitsap is the union of the Puget Sound naval shipyard in Bremerton and the submarine base in Bangor. Both are on Kitsap Peninsula, which lies west of Seattle across Puget Sound, with the Bangor base ten miles due north of Bremerton. But they are on entirely distinct bodies of water: an inlet of Puget Sound for Bremerton, Hood Canal for Bangor. And they serve entirely different purposes, Bremerton home to large ships and Bangor the Pacific home of the Trident nuclear-missile-equipped submarines. Nonetheless, they are now a single entity.

What does this have to do with us? Well, Jessica’s boyfriend serves on the Reagan, and we were invited aboard to join him for Christmas dinner. On a visit three months ago, we got a quick overview of the base, including a look from a short distance away at the Reagan in dry dock. It is now in the water, moored near the dry dock. This time we got a full tour.

We took the 12:35 PM ferry from Seattle to Bremerton, drove off around 1:30, and followed Bryan onto the base. Once parked, we had a five-minute walk to an area of higher security, where we passed through a gate and were given visitor badges. Signs forbade cameras, with a helpful explanation that anything that can take photos is a camera. Yes, that includes cell phones, which Bryan had instructed us to leave in the car. And that’s why I can’t illustrate this post with all the cool photos I had anticipated taking.

We approached the carrier from the bow, starboard side (which is to say, heading to the left of the front as pictured above). As you may know, below the flight deck is a deck that is one large hangar bay for storage of the planes. The Reagan has four elevators to lift the planes to the flight deck, three on starboard and one in the rear on the port side. The fore and aft starboard elevators were lowered, but the central elevator was raised. We entered by a ramp leading to the hangar deck below this elevator.

It’s difficult to get a proper sense of scale. The Reagan is just short of 1100 feet long, bow to stern. 3 2/3 football fields, or a modest par 4. The hangar deck ceiling is so far above that the deck length is not immediately apparent. Not to mention that with various items piled up (not planes—no planes are based on the carrier while it is being worked on), you can’t really see from one end to the other.

Dinner was served from 2:30 to 4:30. Or rather 14:30 to 16:30. We were in no hurry to eat, instead following Bryan around for an hour. Up and down stairs, fore and aft and fore again, in and out of dozens of nooks and crannies. His office. His colleagues’ offices. Fire safety equipment. Messes. Lounges. And everywhere, Ronald Reagan watching over us. Photos. Sculpture. Hollywood memorabilia.

About that fire safety equipment. The carrier is so fascinating a piece of design and engineering, one can momentarily forget that it is an instrument of war. Especially when it is not in active service, without its full complement of 3200 people running the ship and another 2400 for the airplanes. Fire can break out anywhere, for any number of reasons, including flight accidents (as occurred in the initial deployment). Safety is paramount. Everyone has fire training, oxygen, etc.

We wandered from compartment to compartment, pausing at 14:30 when the chaplain’s voice came over the ship PA system to pray for Christmas dinner. Then came the moment I was looking forward to, as we climbed up four flights and came out on the flight deck. Pretty spectacular view. No planes of course. Just maintenance equipment. Looking down at the elevators was exciting. And off the stern.

As we walked, Bryan bent down to pick up a small piece of garbage, then explained that it is daily protocol to line up the crew in lines on the deck, walking its length looking for stray debris to pick up. Even the tiniest item can damage a landing airplane.

We headed back down, and soon arrived at the aft mess deck to get on line for dinner. Here’s the menu.

reaganmenu

The person just ahead of me on line got a few last turkey scraps, after which the server (whose face was hidden from view by the barrier that keeps diners from leaning over the food) spent a lot of time scraping and pulling more bits off the turkey carcass. It soon became clear that he was done serving until another turkey was brought over, so I moved on to the prime rib station and was served a couple of slices. A mashed potato tray arrived, just in time. I took that, sweet potatoes, glazed carrots, and a cheese biscuit. We reached the dessert display and moments later a tray filled with cheesecake servings was brought in. I took one of them.

What I didn’t yet understand was that once we got to the dining area, we could choose from additional eating options that surrounded the dining tables. A salad and fruit bar on one side. A station where egg nog and punch were being served, with the assorted nuts and candy spread out on the table. In the far corner, the ice cream bar. On the way there, another table with a giant rectangular cake, some pieces having been cut and put on plates, like at a wedding.

Our trays were full in any case. We grabbed silverware, water, looked for seats. The basic dining room furniture is a table with four attached chairs in opposing pairs. If free standing, it would allow each diner to take a seat from the outside edge. But the table-chair units were lined up side-to-side in long rows, making access from the outside edge of a given unit impossible if someone was sitting at the adjoining unit table. We found one empty table and an empty seat to one side. To the other side, was a family of four, a Navy person, his wife, their two daughters. I tried to take my seat next to him, soon discovering that entering into an empty seat from the middle, with the metalworks getting in the way of my feet, required a level of flexibility that I apparently lacked. On my third effort, I squeezed in, but I had to lean right so as not to be right up against my neighbor. Joel sat next to me, Gail opposite me, Jessica opposite Joel, and Bryan on her far side. Next to Joel (across from Bryan) was a young woman, another Navy person.

Once I ate everything, quite happily I should add, I contemplated what would be involved in getting back on line for turkey. Or getting a salad. Or some fruit. I was prepared to skip the ice cream. But I wouldn’t have minded just a little taste of the turkey supplemented by fruit and salad. Plus, where was that cornbread everyone seemed to have on their trays? That looked good.

The dilemma: was it worth trying to unfold myself from the table to get food, only to have to figure out once again how to squeeze back in? And none of the rest of the family was making any moves for more.

Curiosity got the best of me. And I discovered that I could climb right over the back of my seat. Getting out was easy. I toured the mess, bringing back samples from my forays. Carrots, cucumbers, chow mein noodles, and jalapeños from the salad bar; melon, pineapple, and grapes from the fruit bar; a piece of that wedding cake; a roll. I never did see the potato salad or cornbread.

I squeezed back in, with greater confidence this time, and resumed eating. Joel had struck up a conversation with the young woman next to him. During a lull, I leaned over and asked the basics. Where is she from, how long has she been in the Navy? Tennessee, near Nashville, second year. I don’t really know the etiquette, whether Navy people want to be pestered by random civilians who happen to be sharing Christmas dinner with them.

Once done, we headed out along with the Tennessean. Scraped the plates clean in garbage bins under the eye of two Naval personnel, turned plates in at one window, silverware and trays at another.

Time for more touring, starting with a male berthing compartment. Crew members sleep in bunks three high, each with a light above and a locker. And we saw a head. Then we moved forward to a large compartment in the bow where the anchor chains are stored and let out. That’s quite a sight. Those are big chains. And the clamps that keep the chains from sliding are impressive too.

Off to starboard was one of the ropes that was in use holding the ship in place. It exited out a huge hole in the side and ran downward to the dock. As Jessica observed, one could fall right out that hole. To which I noted that there are many ways to accidentally kill oneself on the ship, Bryan pointing out that getting caught up in the rope would be bad. There’s good reason to drill, drill, drill. It’s a dangerous workplace.

We came back out to the hangar deck, saw the Ronald Reagan statue, peered in at the (closed) ship museum, wandered around the deck some more, then headed down the ramp to shore. As we walked toward the bow, sunset came. Taps was played through the ship, the flag on the bow of the flight deck was lowered, and the exterior lights came on.

Parallel to the ship’s bay is the dry dock. Bryan, Joel, and I wandered in that direction. As we peered down at the current dry dock occupant, a Navy police van came racing over, lights flashing. Out jumped two women, telling us we needed to leave, then a man explaining that we needed to stay by our ship. Oops. I’ll say no more about what I saw.

We turned in our guest badges, left the secure area, walked back in the light rain to the car, said our thanks and farewells to Bryan, drove off the base, and back to the ferry terminal nearby in downtown Bremerton. Forty minutes later, we drove on board a much smaller ship and sailed toward Seattle.

A memorable Christmas outing.

Categories: Big Ships, Family, Food