Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Shmall


I’m having a hard time getting into fall this year. I’m usually a sucker for the crisp air, red and orange leaves, new boot collections, and comforting fall food, but this year I just can’t seem to get over summer. Summer was far too short and the weather, well… it sucked. I didn’t get my fill of long days and vitamin D, and suddenly—before I even had a chance think about buying brightly colored open-toe wedges—it was 6pm and already dark outside, and pumpkins starting popping up in the grocery store.

I’m trying to get into it though. I mean, I really do love wearing scarves and baking crisps and crumbles, and who doesn’t like a big pot of chili or soup on a cool fall day? Luckily two of my favorite fall things are helping me (slowly but surely) come around to the turning season: football and new TV shows! Ok, that’s maybe the dorkiest thing I’ve ever said on this blog…but I’m not kidding… I’m kind of obsessed with some TV shows right now. And the football thing… well, that’s just for the food.

Amanda and I recently went to a Husky tailgate with some of her friends (who happen to be UW athlete alums), and it was amazing. The game sucked, we got stomped, but the tailgate party was ah-may-zing! The group brings a big flat screen and satellite dish so we could watch the game right there in the parking lot. And the food… so good! Every tailgate they do is themed on the opposing team, so in a game against the cornhuskers, the food theme was corn. Amanda and I made sure all of our corny contributions were purple and gold, so no one would be confused about our loyalties.

Ever since then, I’ve been inspired by fun purple and gold football food ideas, and came up with the most perfect thing. It would be absolutely perfect for a Husky game…but I didn’t test it out at a football game. I tested it out for the premier of Law and Order: SVU! I love SVU like no one’s business. I even made Evan create an SVU theme song remix for me… it’s pretty rad. It feels kind of lame but also awesome to be madly in love with a network TV cop drama. But I mean… c’mon, Stabler’s a babe. And if you don’t believe me, ask Amanda—she’s obsessed too.

Anyway, for the big SVU premier, Amanda came over for… chicken wings! Purple and gold ones! I made Sticky Blackberry Honey Hot Wings. They were sweet and smoky, sticky and finger-lickin good. Flecked with (gold) shards of orange zest, the purple glazed wings were a UW football fan’s dream come true. They were also pretty damn good for Law and Order night.

As long as I have fall TV shows and football food, I suppose I’ll survive the short days and crisp air. With these wings, maybe I’ll even start getting into the season a little.


Sticky Blackberry Honey Hot Wings
 
24 chicken wings

2.5 cups blackberries
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/4 cup orange juice
1.5 tablespoons chipotle tabasco (or more to your liking..and you can use hot sauce of your choice plus a sprinkle of chipotle powder)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 pinch ground black pepper
1/4 cup melted butter
zest from 1 orange

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and put wings in for 40-50 minutes (until cooked through). While wings are baking, make sauce: puree berries, honey, ketchup, orange juice, hot sauce, brown sugar, and balsamic until smooth. If you dislike the seeds, strain (I like to leave them in). Mix puree with melted butter. Set aside.

After wings have cooked for 40-50 minutes, drain juices. Pour sauce over wings and coat evenly (you might have sauce leftover). Stick back in the 400 degree oven for 10 more minutes, turning often. About half way through, sprinkle a little more brown sugar on top, and mix in, sprinkle orange zest on top. For last few minutes of cooking, turn on broiler.

Reserve remaining sauce for dipping, or for another use (like eating with a spoon or dipping tortilla chips into or basting on salmon).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Brunch



I love breakfast and brunch…a lot. I like going out for brunch—the bloody mary bar at the Leary Traveler, the vegan pancake with fresh fruit from Portage Bay the spicy chilaquiles with black beans and eggs from Senor Moose, a cup of black coffee with super thick cream and a California scramble from the Rusty Pelican, an earthy chestnut pancake from Volterra, a veggie-filled hash from Hi-Life—if it’s a delicious brunch in Seattle, I’ve probably had it (or it's on my list...and if I haven’t heard of it or tried it, hook a sister up!). I like going out for brunch so much, that lately I’ve forgotten the one thing I like even more… making brunch at home.

My favorite go-to brunch is always a spin on the following: a thick piece of crusty bread topped with something green, sometimes a bit of breakfast meat, a fried, poached, or even scrambled egg, and sprinkle, slice, or shaving of cheese. No matter what combo you go with, it’s a no-fail winner. Lately I’ve been obsessed with roasted tomatoes, so today’s brunch was a toasted slice of French bread, topped with sweet tomatoes slow roasted in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary sea salt, peppery arugula tossed with a simple shallot vinaigrette, crispy baked pancetta, a fried egg, and a few shavings of Polder Gold Koe—a hard, nutty aged cow’s milk cheese I brought back from Amsterdam.

Compared with a restaurant brunch, making it at home costs less, tastes better, and has far fewer calories. What a satisfying way to start a Sunday.



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Keeping Portland Weird



Last weekend 14 friends and I went to Portland for the Warrior Dash—a 3-mile RACE FROM HELL complete with obstacles like fire jumping, diving over floating logs, and the best part… a total, full-on mud bath. It was insane, it was awesome, I loved it. Did I mention that runners were dressed in costumes, ranging from furry loin cloths and Viking helmets to wedding dresses and 3-piece suits? Did I also mention that after the race there was a huge beer garden dance party, filled with muddy warriors chugging ale and gnawing on giant turkey legs (not to mention YouTube-worthy freak-dancing, but that’s another story). I told you… totally awesome.


Since we made the trek all the way down to P-town, we decided to get a hotel and celebrate our warrior-status with a night out. Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in Portland… growing up, Portland was our nearest big city, so we went there for all our school shopping, Christmas shopping, and all around mall shopping needs (that’s right… is an hour away from the closest mall). We also went to Portland for the airport, the train station, and school field trips. So during my adult years, while my friends took off on weekend getaways to Portland, I chose to stick around Seattle, or check out other towns cities I wasn’t so familiar with. However, it turns out I wasn’t very familiar with Portland at all (past the malls, anyway). Last weekend was my first grown up night on the town in Portland, and I loved it. With an earthy-hipster vibe and street food on every block, Portland is AMAZING!


Unlike Seattle, with its soul-crushing city ordinance against food carts, Portland is a food-cart mecca! Streets and parking lots are lined with food carts made from old campers and trailers, and serving up everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to Kahlua pork. It’s like a street festival or a fair… Every. Single. Day. I now know where all of the world’s dreamers go… they go to Portland. And they make street food. Wandering the lively streets of Portland late at night, after closing down the bars, I felt like a kid in a candy store… an inebriated, 20-something kid in a candy store filled with delicious street food.


After a very disappointing street quesadilla (I don’t want to give out a bad review, because that’s not my style… but… not a fan of one specific Portland dilla-cart that has chicken sausage on the menu... you’ve been warned), I needed the streets to redeem themselves. And that’s when I spotted the waffle place. Unfortunately, I don’t even know what this place is called. I wasn’t looking at the name; I was looking at the menu… and at the vanilla scented waffles, folded half, oozing with melted chocolate in other patron’s greedy hands. J-dub and I ordered 3 waffles. Hey…we jumped over fire, we deserved it! We had a ham and cheese, a maple pecan, and…wait for it… s’more! The s’more was everyone’s favorite. A chewy, golden waffle, filled with nutella and marshmallow cream, and folded in half…gooey, sweet perfection.


While in Portland, we also had to try a favorite for locals and tourists alike: VooDoo Doughnuts. You’ve seen it on TV… the little shop adorned with posters and voodoo dolls, with pierced and tatted-up donut slingers, and the famous holy-grail of all donuts, the maple bacon bar! If you haven’t seen it, you don’t watch enough travel or food TV (or maybe I watch too much).


Either way, we went, we stood in line for over an hour, and we got a dozen donuts, including the maple bacon bar, a giant squishy donut topped with Captain Crunch, and one with a mystery grape-flavored purple powder. Then Amanda, Evan, and I ate said dozen donuts, by ourselves, with help from no one. Was it worth the long wait? Duh.


Costumed leaps through fire, street-food galore, and donuts shaped like voodoo dolls...You’re weird Portland, but I like it. A lot. Keep it up.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Europe Part 2: Brugge

I don’t know about all of you, but I always had a picture in my head of Europe. It was filled with narrow cobblestone streets, small brick houses with brightly colored shutters, serene canals with white swans drifting ever-so-peacefully by, and of course, giant, looming castles with waving flags, pointy tops, and huge wooden doors. I watched a lot of Disney movies as a kid.


Actually, now that I think of it…this image might be straight out of Beauty and the Beast. Regardless of where it came from, it was my Europe. Lucky for me, on my first ever European vacation, I was able to experience the Europe I had always dreamed of, full of swans, cobblestone streets, castles, shiny red apples, princesses, evil step-moms…


Ok, so maybe Brugge (Bruges), Belgium wasn’t exactly like my childhood visions, but it at least looked the part. Evan and I took a quick one-nighter to Brugge, via train from Amsterdam (wherein we accidentally sat in first class and after twenty minutes of luxury, were asked to move). Right when we walked into the picture-perfect medieval town, I knew I was in heaven. Actually, I knew that at the train station in Antwerp, when I had my first Liege-style Belgian sugar waffle. With just one bite of that waffle, I knew Belgium was going to be good.


Brugge was amazingly beautiful and breathtaking…but let’s get back to that waffle! Dense and chewy with hints of vanilla and crunchy bits of pearl sugar crystalized on top. It was amazing. I can’t really even explain how delicious it was because every time I think about it, my mind drifts off and I lose myself in daydreams filled with waffles. If you think waffles are strictly for breakfast, drowning in maple syrup and butter….you’ve never had a real Belgian waffle. We spent roughly 24 hours in Brugge, and I ate roughly 5 waffles… a couple plain, a couple with chocolate, one with ice cream. Not gonna lie…the train station kiosk waffle was my favorite.


Brugge, however, isn’t just about the waffles or the amazing old architecture. It’s also about the beer and the moules-frites! All of the adorable little restaurants had menus out front advertising their moules-frites: mussels with fries! I had the most delicious, steaming pot of mussels alongside a small dish of frites with mayo. Compared with the vlaamse in Amsterdam, the Belgian frites didn’t blow me away (crazy, right?) but the mussels… wow! They were fresh and bright, full of flavor. And I had a huge pot of them, all to myself.


And… no trip to Belgium is complete without sampling the local brew. Our favorite was the Kwak—a really delicious amber-colored beer with a funny glass and a great story. We drank a lot of Kwak. Then we got lost among the castles and towers, in the pouring rain, heads fuzzy from beer, late at night trying to find our way back to our cozy room in a tiny little bed and breakfast. We wandered the dark, quiet little streets of Brugge, dripping wet, literally walking in circles for well over an hour. By the time we finally found it, my only pair of jeans was soaked through and my shoes were squishing…but I’d do it all over again for a sugary waffle and a tall glass of Kwak.

Our stay in Brugge was brief, but it was just long enough to reignite my fantasy of a fairytale Europe, and to give me enough pictures—on film and in my head—to keep the magic alive until next time!