Monday, July 24, 2017

Honolulu: The Signature Prime Steak and Seafood House

Chris, Anne, and I relaxed after CVPR with views and appetizers at The Signature. This is the rooftop restaurant of the Ala Moana Hotel. The views of Honolulu Bay and Waikiki made a nice change after being in meeting rooms all day. We sampled two appetizers. First, the raw tuna was delicate and kissed with soy sauce. Second, the calamari was very tender on the inside with a light but crispy coating on the outside.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Honolulu: Wailana Coffee House

My cab driver from the airport recommended Wailana Coffee House. His recommendation turned out to be outstanding. It is in a low-key setting across from the Hilton on Waikiki. Inside, it is classic mid-century coffee shop. The food is excellent and the service everything you expect from a coffee shop experience---warm and generous.

My cab driver also pointed out an organic papaya tree growing next to the highway so I decided to try some here. I don't eat papaya often and I really enjoyed it. Like all great fruits, it combines sweetness and acidity in the right mix to give a bright, clean taste. The texture was soft and inviting.

My omelet was perfectly cooked. The green peppers were the standout filling---clearly very fresh with a nice snap and vibrant taste. The potatoes were excellent as well.

I enjoyed my experience so much that I went back for dinner the next day. My Portugese soup was hearty with a nice taste of beans.

My pork tenderloin was just right, crunch on the outside and porky on the inside. The option of brown rice was a very nice surprise.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Cherry Turnovers

This has been a big year for cherries and the large crop has stimulated my curiosity. I decided to make cherry turnovers, something I haven't tried before. The turnover dough is a pie dough with the addition of sour cream. The result is a very rich and soft dough. Here are some turnovers being assembled. And yes, I didn't make these very regular. I probably should have sealed them a little more thoroughly, too.

But boy, they sure taste good. I made some right away for a breakfast treat. The rest went into the freezer for future breakfasts, one of which happens to be today. My beauty is cooling as I type.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

On Airport Breakfasts

Eating breakfast at airports is a hit-or-miss affair. The majority of airports have very limited options, notably carb-heavy, for travelers who arrive for early morning flights.

A happy exception to this rule is Seattle. I recently ate breakfast at Anbthony's, located in the central hall at SEA. My veggie omelet was very fluffy; the home fries gave the perfect balance of carmelization and creamy centers; and the blueberry coffee cake was a great.

Now consider my sad little morning repast at San Jose's airport. I did arrive a little earlier to SJC but I saw no indication that my options would have been substantially better an hour later. Why so many minimal, not-so-good breakfasts at airports? Isn't breakfast The Most Important Meal of the Day? Am I the only person who wants a balanced morning meal with protein as well as carbohydrates? Do all those road warriors who crowd the hotel gyms at 6 AM put up with these unhealthy breakfasts? Or do they perhaps carry stashes of soylent green in their laptop bags?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

San Jose CA: Original Joe's of San Jose

Tom and I decompressed from our all-day meeting with an outstanding dinner at Original Joe's in downtown San Jose. This restaurant is distinct from the Original Joe's which sprang from San Francisco and spread across the Bay Area. It is a classic Italian steakhouse: wood paneling, padded seats, gracious service, big steaks. The place was packed; the clientele was not the computer crowd but seemed to be the more traditional residents of San Jose. Original Joe's has been here for over 60 years and clearly remains a favorite of the locals. I visited here once many years ago and my fond memories brought me back.

The bread was very good. Tom and I both went with a double dose of fat: butter plus olive oil.

I ordered what I have dreamed about for the past week, a rich, thick ribeye steak. I added on the fresh mushrooms; the spaghetti was my choice of sides. The steak was of very high quality, marbled with fat, and nicely broiled to medium rare. The mushrooms were outstanding. They had a firm, moist texture and were packed with umami flavor. The spaghetti cooked al dente and the meat sauce was rich.

Here is Tom's veal parmesan. He let me sample it: the veal was very tender and the sauce was rich with tomato, cheese, and meat flavor.

This is Tom's tiramisu, which he pronounced good.

My cheesecake was excellent. It was made in the style of Brooklyn. The cake was dense and moist with cheese; the crust was graham cracker. I didn't need it after that steak but it sure was good.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

San Jose CA: Flames

I wanted to get out a little for breakfast and get an early start on the day. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Flames. I found that it is a classic coffee shop---comfortable casual booths and tables, hearty American food, lots of coffee, friendly service.

Here is my spinach and mushroom omelet. It was nicely done and very satisfying. The hash browns were nice and crunchy. The sourdough bread gave a nice chew. It's good to see that the coffee shop tradition hasn't totally faded away.

Monday, July 17, 2017

San Jose CA: Social Policy

Social Policy, a.k.a. So/Po, is in the heart of downtown San Jose. I'm not sure where the name comes from. Their menu includes a big range of coffee drinks plus light, healthy foods.

I went with a quinoa oatmeal bowl. As you can see, it was sprinkled with walnuts and a few other goodies. The taste and texture were very different from a straight oatmeal bowl. The quinoa was a star ingredient, not just an add-on. Overall, it was both healthy feeling and tasty. After a transcontinental flight, a little healthy eating feels good.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Update: Jaemor Farms

A beautiful weekend seemed to be a good time for me to check on the state of north Georgia agriculture. The frost that descended across Georgia and South Carolina earlier this year damaged quite a bit of the fruit harvest. Jaemor seemed like a good place to survey the state of the crops. It may be easy to dismiss Jaemor as touristy, but behind that big stand is a big spread of all sorts of crops. And who can pass up their fried pies? This beauty was filled with dried peaches. The result was a marvelous variation on the standard. The dried peaches gave a more intense flavor and denser texture.

When I made it over to the produce section, I found that they had good stocks of several varieties of peaches and a big crop of blackberries. I consulted with one of the Jaemor staff, who was very knowledgeable and helpful. Given that my destination for this fruit would be pies, he pointed me to some bargains. The blackberries were labeled as overripe and priced 40% off. The peaches were small and 25% off. This is enough to give me two blackberry pies and three or four peach pies. I will savor them during those dark winter mornings as they remind me of summer days.

Pike Place Market

I greatly enjoyed my visits to the Pike Place Market during my visit to Seattle. My breakfast visits taught me that few stalls are open at 7 AM, meaning they don't serve the professional kitchen community. This beautiful display of salmon is at the stall famous for throwing salmon back and forth. I was tempted to ship one of these beauties back but I wasn't sure what I could do in a short amount of time with a fish so big.

This plaque honors the Japanese-American families who were removed from the market to internment camps during World War II.

I ended up taking home two items I love. First, a pound of hazelnuts. My first idea for these is layered with chocolate on a white cake. Second, three pounds of Rainier cherries. These are subtly sour, just tangy enough. As soon as I arrived home, I used them to make this delicious pie.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Seattle: Cutters Crabhouse

I enjoyed the view, the service, and the food at Cutters. Located at the edge of Pike Place Market, it possesses an outstanding view framed by a low-key, modernist interior.

This sourdough bread possessed a crispy interior and soft center with that hint of ripeness from the sourdough.

This is wild salmon, not raw. It gives itself away by the richer, fuller, slightly gamy taste which I love. Wild salmon is much more common in Seattle than in other parts of the country but even here not all places take the effort to find a wild salmon provider. I appreciate Cutters' authenticity and I really loved my fish. Those greens are garlic stems---who knew? Very thin and delicate with a definite green flavor but no hint from the flavor of their eventual product.

My berry cobbler was superb---rich local berries, not too sweet, just enough crust to contrast the fruit.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Seattle: Daily Grill

I enjoyed my breakfast at Daily Grill. I particularly appreciated the fact that they open at 6 AM, allowing me to get an early breakfast to stave off jet lag.

My veggie omelet was very well prepared. I ordered it as a straight omelet with mushrooms and tomatoes. The home fries were very well executed, brown and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Seattle: Beecher's Handmade Cheese

I was in the mood for a quick, easy dinner around the Pike Place Market. My visit to Beecher's fit the bill. They have another location in New York as well as a few in Seattle. They make their own cheese on site and have a variety of cheesey dishes.

This is what they bill as the World's Best Mac and Cheese. It was quite good. At least two types of cheese gave a nice combination of smoothness and a bit of tang. The sauce was very creamy without the roux in any way interfering with the cheese. I gobbled it down as I watched the cheese curds swirl in a giant bin in front of me. Overall, this was a touristy experience, but one that was both fun and nourishing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Seattle: Breakfast at Lowell's

Lowell's is one of the classic dining spots in the Pike Place Market. I enjoyed a wonderful dinner there with my friend Keith a few years ago. When the hotel mentioned that they serve breakfast I decided that I had to try it.

You can either order at the counter and eat on the third floor or go to the second floor for table service. I opted for the second floor and was rewarded with this view.

My lemon ricotta pancakes were sublime: very soft and tender, gently kissed with lemon. I ordered scrambled eggs as protein ballast. They were cooked with equally gentle care and made an outstanding complement.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Homeless in Seattle

Please forgive me, gentle reader, for this brief digression. I have been struck by the number of homeless people I see on the streets of Seattle. I see them at all times of day---not just early and late but during business hours as well. The homeless here come in all shapes and sizes. Some sit or stand in groups and engage in lively discussions with their homeless friends. Some are in wheelchairs and walkers. And some shout to no one at all. I have visited Seattle occasionally since my youth. I've always noticed homeless people here---the term Skid Row was coined here. But in those days Seattle was a slightly tired port city. Today, the horizon is circled by the logos of companies we deal with every day. I am shocked by the magnitude of the homeless population here. But the homeless are not confined to Seattle. I see homeless people regularly on my daily commute. I see them in my neighborhood, sitting in front of the supermarket, waiting for time to pass. My heart aches because I know there is nothing that I cannot wipe away the problems of these people. Homeless is a hard problem. People become homeless for many different reasons and no single approach will help everyone. But I do believe that we as a nation can help these people. So the only way I know to help these people is to ask everyone I know, including you the gentle reader, to not forget the homeless. So long as we observe and remember, we open ourselves to opportunities to help.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Seattle: Blueacre

Blueacre is a chef-owned on 7th Street in downtown Seattle. The space is very large and casually elegant. I went there for a seafood fix and wasn't disappointed.

The bread was outstanding and the butter that went with it was excellent.

Here is my salmon. It was cooked just right, finished but still juicy and flaky. The cherries were a nice adornment but the hazelnut shavings were the star add-on. The Pacific Northwest grows a lot of hazelnuts so the pairing is a natural one. The rich, almost caramel-y taste was a perfect accent to the salmon.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Seattle: Top Pot Donuts

I had assumed that my first post from Seattle would be some fancy seafood place. But opportunity occasionally presents itself and should not be avoided. As I walked along the monorail tracks, I spied Top Pot Doughnuts, a place I've seen on TV. How could I pass it up?>

My server recommended the raised donuts as the tastiest. I went with a classic glazed and was not disappointed. This is a first-class example of the breed. The texture was perfect and nicely airy. Even in the afternoon, the donut was fresh, a tribute to their volume. Definitely a worthwhile stop.

ATL: Breakfast at the Pecan Bistro

I had been able to eat only a little before leaving for the airport so I wanted to eat breakfast before I got on my plane. Pecan Bistro had the most complete menu in my concourse. At 3 minutes after 10 AM, they had switched to their lunch menu. I ordered a side of chicken tenders to get some protein.

They didn't mention anything about the waffle fries, which I largely ignored. I'm grateful for the chicken tenders, which stuck with me throughout my cross-country flight.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Good Luck Gourmet

Grant and Marie introduced me to Good Luck Gourmet where we had a very enjoyable meal. The menu features a wide range of Schezuan and other Chinese dishes, including the variety meats that one expects from a Buford Highway establishment. The service was extremely gracious.

Here is my spicy eggplant. It tasted great and came in a very large portion, too. The preparation is what some other local establishments call hot-and-numbing: a cornstarch coating and dry flakes of red peppers. Eggplant is a great foil for both the texture and heat of this dish.

And here is Marie's noodle dish, which she reported was very satisfying.

Metal vs. Glass Baking Pans

I've been wondering whether my attachment to glass baking pans is misplaced. A cornbread spree gave me the opportunity to compare glass and metal pans. I had some extra buttermilk; since cornbread is a good thing to have in the freezer, I decided to make two pans. The pans are slightly different sizes and the batter wasn't exactly the same height. But the difference between the two pans was obvious from the instant I pulled them out of the oven. The cornbread in the metal pan is clearly browner. When I tested the two loaves with a toothpick, that loaf also felt more done. This isn't a particularly scientific test but it does get my attention. Not only will I start to bake with metal pans as much as possible, I will start to shop for a metal pie tin.