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Monday, November 23, 2015

Limoncello Thyme Chicken

In my previous post I mentioned a tour we took of Letterpress Distilling and the great limoncello that they make by hand. They challenged us to create a recipe using their limoncello. Their favorites will be served at their 3rd anniversary party. I thought I'd do a play on lemon thyme and use Limoncello for both the marinade and the sauce for the plated chicken. I thought it turned out very well. If you can't find a good limoncello you can substitute vodka and lemon juice. I used chicken breasts for this recipe but you may use thighs which are more forgiving if overcooked. I served it over a bed of eggplant and onions stir fry mixed with quinoa.

Limoncello Thyme Chicken

Limoncello Thyme Chicken Recipe

Serving size: 2
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tbsp coconut oil or other cooking oil
1 tsp thyme leaves for garnish

2 tbsp limoncello (or 1 tbsp vodka + 1 tbsp lemon juice)
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey

3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Add marinade ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until well combined. 
  2. Add marinade and chicken to a ziplock bag and massage bag until chicken is well coated with marinade and put in fridge for 1 hour
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Add cooking oil to a skillet and set to medium high heat. 
  5. When pan is hot, add chicken, and set aside the marinade. Cook chicken on each side for approximately 5 minutes or until well browned.
  6. Place chicken on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and into preheated oven. Check temperature of chicken every 5 minutes until chicken reaches 165 degrees, approximately 10-15 minutes.
  7. While chicken is in the oven, add corn starch to chicken stock in a small bowl and stir until combined. 
  8. Deglaze the skillet with the left over marinade and simmer at medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add lemon juice and chicken stock/corn starch mixture and stir frequently until chicken is done.
  9. When chicken is done, remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm until ready to serve. 
  10. Add butter to sauce and stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  11. If using thighs you can add chicken to the sauce pan and serve when ready or plate the chicken with sauce over the top. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves.
Chicken Breast Browned

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Letterpress Distilling

Letterpress VodkaWe had the opportunity to take a tour of Letterpress Distilling with some fellow food bloggers in the Seattle area. They are a relatively small operation in South Seattle with a big enough space that allows them room to grow and I'm sure they will.

The owner, Skip Tognetti, treated us to some local cheeses, cured meats from Salumi and two cocktails to go with them. The first cocktail was a twist on Bee's Knees called La Vespa, made with their vodka, lemon juice and Captive Spirits Big Gin. I'm not a huge gin fan but mixed with vodka and lemon juice, it made for a tasty cocktail. The other cocktail, served hot, was the Letterpress Toddy made with their limoncello. Both recipes can be found on the Letterpress Cocktail Recipe page.

Letterpress Toddy La Vespa

We later got to taste the limoncello and vodka by themselves. A lot of the vodkas I've tried don't have a lot of flavor but this one is very complex with some anise and vanilla notes. I was really impressed. The lemoncellos I've tried before have always been really sweet and I wasn't very impressed by them. The Letterpress limoncello however is not like the others. You can tell just by looking at a bottle next to other brands that it's different. Not only do they not use artificial ingredients but they use local blackberry honey as a sweetener rather than sugar or corn syrup that most other brands use.
Vodka Tasting

Letterpress is truly a hand crafted, grain to glass company and sources nearly all of their ingredients locally with the exception of the lemons for their limoncello which come from California. They use no artificial flavorings or colors like the majority of limoncellos on the market do. Much of their process is very manual and little to no automation. They zest each lemon by hand using a lemon zester and stir the jugs of lemon zest infusion by hand daily until it's ready. They are also continuously testing the alcohol content as it comes out of the distiller.
Lemon Zest InfusionMeasuring Alcohol Content

One of the processes they use that I found interesting is how they separate out the proteins from the limoncello so that when people put it in the freezer, they won't get a separation and that's exactly what they do to separate it out. It goes into a freezer to allow the proteins to separate and they are removed. The process is done a few times to remove as much of the proteins as possible. They are currently looking for creative ways to use the discarded proteins. Raina, from makemendgrow.com, was lucky to take a bottle of the proteins home with her and plans to make some soap with it. I can't wait to hear how it comes out. I might have to try and get some for soap making too.

We all got to take home a small bottle of the limoncello, a couple of limoncello shortbread cookies and we bought a bottle of the vodka which comes with a batch and bottle number on the label. They have a blood orange liquor coming out in a few months that I'm hoping to get my hands on a bottle. It's a seasonal product with limited quantities and I hear it's really good.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Farestart Guest Chef Dinner

Last year I had planned to go to a dinner at Lola Seattle that Jean Layton, a fellow food blogger, was organizing before IFBC. Unfortunately I had to cancel at the last minute due to an illness. Luckily she organized another dinner this year and I was actually able to go. This time she made us reservations for about 14 of us at Farestart. I had heard of the restaurant but didn't really know much about it. They have a culinary training program to help the homeless and disadvantaged. They also help them with job placement after they graduate from the program. Our reservation happened to be on graduation night though I didn't arrive early enough to see the graduation.

Not only was it graduation night, but it was also Guest Chef night. Our featured chef was Chef JP Ponticelli from Tulalip Resort Casino. They were very understanding with the various food restrictions: gluten free, vegetarian and I think there were a few others. All the dishes that came out for those with restrictions looked just as good as rest. We left the wine pairings up to Alina of One Girl, One Glass, One World. She did a great job picking out the wines for us. I had a long drive home so I didn't drink too much but I did give all four a try and as usual, my favorite was the red, the Kudos Pino Noir.

1st Course

Shrimp Cocktail Bateaux Sauvignon Blanc
Amuse Bouche: Fantail Shrimp Cocktail Spoon with celery root relish
Wine: Bateux - 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

2nd Course

Cucumber of Baby Greens Koi Pond Cellars Blushing Geisha
Salad: Cucumber of baby greens, local baby greens, Rogue Creamery Oregon blue cheese, baby heirloom tomatoes, citrus basil vinaigrette
Wine: Koi Pond Cellars - Blushing Geisha

3rd Course

Hawaiian Broadbill Swordfish Kudos Pino Noir
Entree: Grilled Hawaiian Broadbill Swordfish, herb-chive blossom butter, matchstick vegetables, Parisian potatoes, lemon chive butter reduction
Wine: Kudos - 2012 Pinot Noir

4th Course

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Rosa Regale Sparkling Red
Dessert: Peach Melba, Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, Poached Peaches, Raspberries, Toasted Almond Tuile
Wine: Rosa Regale - Sparkling Red

FareStart Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 21, 2015

IFBC 2015 - Sur La Table Test Kitchen

I attended the annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Seattle for the 3rd time. It would have been the 4th but you may remember last year I fell horribly and mysteriously ill the first day of IFBC and was unable to attend or do much of anything other than lay in bed all day and take a few visits to the walk-in clinic.

The past few years there have been some optional excursions before the conference and I was signed up to visit Sur La Table's test kitchen last year and was so bummed to have missed what looked like a pretty awesome experience from what I heard and saw on social media. I was ecstatic when I found out they would be doing an excursion for IFBC again this year. These excursions tend to sell out fast so I signed up the second I saw it was available to ensure a spot. For those that couldn't get into this one, several other excursions were available to choose from.

There were buses that left the hotel to take everyone to their excursions. All the buses arrived and left except ours. Unfortunately, the Sur La Table bus was MIA and we ended up taking taxes to their test kitchen in South Seattle, at least 10 of them. Fortunately we did have a bus to get back to the hotel but the mishap delayed our excursion by about 45 minutes.

We had a cooking demo featuring one of Kitchen Aid's newest gadgets, a spiralizer attachment for their mixer. They made zoodles with an heirloom tomato sauce which we later got to eat. I have a cheapo plastic spiralizer and it works just fine. At first, I didn't think I would have any use for yet another mixer attachment. That was until I discovered it is more than just a spiralizer. The attachment will also peel, core and slice an apple and other fruits and vegetables which was something I would actually use. The attachment is definitely going on my wish list.
KitchenAid Spiralizer Attachment Making zoodles with heirloom cherry tomato sauce Lunch Break

KitchenAid Precision Coffee Press The other new product I was excited about was a coffee press that was just released this month. It's not just any coffee press, it's a stainless steel precision press that has a built in scale that weighs the coffee and water in grams or ounces. It has a built in timer too. All it needs is a built in coffee grinder and it would have everything. We came to find out that they gave all of the excursion attendees one of these coffee presses so I didn't even have to put it on my wish list. I'm really excited to give it a try.

Kitchen Aid makes the only magnetic drive blender. If you look at the bottom of the blender jar it is completely flat. If you use a blender regularly you probably know the base of it is the first thing that gets worn out or broken. I had a Blendec for many years and I don't know how many jars I went through. I finally decided to switch to a Vitamix after the 3rd or 4th blender jar. I've only had it a year and so far it's holding up.  You know Kitchen Aid is proud of this product because they offer a 7 year warranty with the purchase. It will be interesting to see how it gets rated. If I start having problems with my Vitamix, I may look into this one but not ready to switch just yet. Vitamix has a pretty good warranty too.

They had tables full of products on display in the test kitchen and a lot of it was their Christmas season merchandise, lots of red colored things. We got to take home a Christmas themed Silpat which I already tested out to roast some cherry tomatoes.

Sur La Table Holidays

It was a fun excursion despite the late start. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you ever get the chance, maybe at a future IFBC if they ever have it in Seattle again. They always treat the bloggers well and send them home with a bag full of great goodies.
Sur La Table Swag

Thursday, September 17, 2015

5th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival

I first heard about and attended this event last year. I believe I saw it come across my twitter feed which I rarely look at anymore these days. Now, I'm more of an instagrammer than a tweeter. This year's attendance was not as large as last year, maybe because the weather wasn't as sunny and warm but at least the rain managed to stay away. It was perfect weather for a tomato festival I thought. All the more food and wine for the rest of us.

Several wineries and restaurant chefs were in attendance serving up some delicious tomato based dishes and wine/beer to go with them. We learned if you want more than just a small sampling of a wine you can actually ask for a full glass. I don't recall that option last year but never thought to ask. We sampled most if not all of the wines and foods too. The prawn dish served by Trace was our favorite dish this year. We enjoyed chatting with Chef Derek Ronspies from Le Petit Cochon. It's a fairly new restaurant in Fremont that serves up farm to table and nose to tail cuisine. They actually change their restaurant menu daily so there is always something new to try. They brought a refreshing tomato ice cream with a little burnt egg plant puree.

There are around 100 varieties of tomatoes at the festival that are grown by the Bromiley's and Prentice's in Moses Lake, WA. There are tables set up with plates and bowls of cut up tomatoes with toothpicks and salt shakers for people to taste. The tomatoes are also available to purchase for a very reasonable price of $2/lb. I've already started planning the tomato varieties for next year and there a few on my wishlist that I don't have seeds for yet and one of those is the Japanese Black Trifele. I was excited to see that tomato at the festival and bought a pound of them so I could save the seeds for planting next year. I also bought some super snow white, chocolate cherry and one called dark green Mexico. A google search didn't turn up anything for that one so have been trying to figure out if it goes by another name. I'm thinking it may be a kumato but not sure. I've attempted to contact the growers via Facebook in hopes of getting more information on that one.
Green Doctors Currant Tomatoes Tomato Tasting Tomato Patch Browne Wine Beer BaconBacon Gazpacho Copperleaf Pizza Prawns Tomato Crumble Naka Ice Cream Crush Heirloom Tomatoes

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sno Valley Tilth Table to Farm Dinner

Every summer there is a series of table to farm dinners to benefit Sno Valley Tilth. They take place at member farms and have volunteer chefs prepare the meals for around 100 people. Last summer was the first we had heard about them but we opted to go to the Taste from the Garden dinners at Pine Creek Nursery instead which were easier on the pocket book and featured wine from our favorite local winery. Unfortunately they didn't do their farm dinners this year so we opted to go to one of the Sno Valley Tilth dinners instead. There were only two to choose from and we decided to go to the one at the Experience Farming Project in Carnation with Chef Garrett Brown preparing the meal.

The evening started at 4:30 with some Desert Wind Chardonnay and an appetizer that included potted goat and pickled lamb tongue. It doesn't sound very appetizing but was actually good and tasted nothing like what I imagined tongue would taste like, very tender. I didn't even realize what we were eating until after it was gone.

Desert Wind Wine Potted Goat and Pickled Lamb Tongue

Before dinner, we broke up into two groups and our group split again into 3 groups where each group paired up with one of the farmers for a tour of their garden plot. We got to visit with 2 of the farmers participating in the Experience Farming Project as well as the farm manager who is also farming the land. We learned about what they were growing, where their food was going and what some of their favorite crops were. Below are the 3 farmers we toured with:

Sean Stratman

ArtifactsSean is the Experience Farming Project's farm manager and owns Dancing Crow Farm. He told us a bit about the farm and how it provides hands on farming experience to those interested in making farming a business. Sean concentrated on five main crops in his plot which included a couple of different varieties of beans and tomatoes. He mostly sells his produce to non-profit organizations around Washington. Most of the farmers seemed to use buckwheat as a cover crop and could see it popping up between various plants on most of the plots. I have some buckwheat seeds that I got from a seed exchange last year that I may plant as a cover crop this Fall in my garden beds. He and most of the other farmers seemed proud to own a walk behind tractor which they use for tilling the tough soil prior to sowing their seeds. Sean collects artifacts that he finds which were left behind by the dairy farm that once occupied the land they are now farming.

Sean Stratman Beans

Auggie Bautista

This was Auggie's first year with the program. He quit his corporate job to become a farmer and has started Jumanji Farm. He is all about the business and marketing aspects and the crops that give you the most bang for your buck. He grows a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and learning what grows well and not so well in the area. He mentioned brassicas like kale and cabbage are difficult to grow due to bugs which is a big problem for everyone in the valley, including me. I've managed to control them somewhat using a mix of neem oil and water. His favorite crop to grow is tomatoes. I asked what his favorite variety is and he responded with an orange French variety called Jaune Flamme. It's not a variety I had heard of before so I looked it up online when I got home to see what I could find out about it. An orange tomato is the only color I didn't grow in the garden this year and have been trying to decide which one to grow next year, this might be the one. It is an indeterminate variety that produces orange, golf ball sized fruit fairly early, has a unique citrusy taste, is resistant to many diseases and looks beautiful. What more could you want from a tomato? Auggie sells his produce at farmer's markets and also has his own CSA. 
Auggie Bautista

Bob Bois

Bob owns Green Fields Farm and is in his second season with the Experience Farming Project. He grows lots of leafy greens on a half acre that he sells at the Carnation Farmer's Market on Tuesdays. He follows organic practices though is not certified. He recently bought some property nearby with land that he will be preparing to farm on next year. Bob Bois

The Food

I didn't realize there were gluten free and vegetarian options when I ordered the tickets for the event. We spotted several seats with gluten free and veg tags so I talked to one of the staff about getting the gluten free option. The food was served family style with the exception of the gluten free and vegetarian options which were served on separate plates much later than the rest of the table was served I might add. There was no menu for those options either so I can't say for sure what they were. Each family plate served 8 people but 1 of us was gluten free and 1 was vegetarian so most of the plates were only shared by 6 people. I was surprised that all of the family style courses had gluten except the salad. Each course was paired with a wine from Desert Wind. The dessert was a blackberry hand pie and Crème Fraiche ice cream while the gluten free option was just the ice cream. I was hoping for some berries to go with it but there was not. The ice cream was good though. The meal was finished with coffee and/or a brandy unlike anything our table had ever had before.

Lamb Salad
1st course:
(right) Heirloom Tomatoes, Pickled Fennel & Kohlrabi, Purslane, Baby Lettuces, Sunflower Seeds, Chevre, Gewürztraminer Vinaigrette

Gnocchi Veggie Saute
2nd course:
(left) Black Pepper Gnocchi, Smoked Corn, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Grilled Zucchini, Mustard Greens, Queso Fresco.
(right) Gluten free option: Sauteed vegetables and greens

Lamb 4 Ways Plate of Lamb
3rd Course:
(left) Belly Roulade, chevre, spinach, pine nuts – Tea-smoked Ribs, bourbon-spiked balsamic molasses – Shin, crispy leeks, pistachio hollandaise, za’atar – Leg and Apricot Tagine – Whey-Poached Emmer Wheat and Herbs
(right) Gluten Free Option: Pile of lamb with apricot tagine

Blackberry Handpie Crème Fraiche Ice Cream  
4th Course:
(left) Local Blackberry Hand Pie, Crème Fraiche Ice Cream, Candied Ginger
(right) Gluten Free Option: Crème Fraiche Ice Cream, pistachios, borage blossoms, candied ginger