Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Food Inc.

Last week I finished reading Food Inc.  This of course means I now need to watch the documentary; strange how the movie came before the book.  I really enjoyed reading this one, it was much easier to follow than Fast Food Nation thanks in part to it's organization and shorter chapters.  Here are 6 of the things I learned or liked:

1. The food industry likes to sue people.  Don't get caught saying anything negative about a food company or they will come after you.  It's affectionately called "veggie libel."

2. Biodiesel is dirtier than regular diesel.  I kind of knew this already, but the chapter on it really clarified things for me.  Just the other morning the news was touting how GA is going to start using peanuts to make biodiesel...because it's cleaner burning... I now believe it is wrong to use food as car/truck/tractor fuel.

3.  For every one person who does care about our food industry and it's impact on the world, there are several more who do not.  But change always starts with a minority, and it always starts with little steps.  So I'm going to try and do what I can to be a little greener and little more earth/animal friendly.

4. This book doesn't just spew a lot of information and leave you wondering "what can I do."  There is an entire chapter on how to start a community garden,  as well as stories about what people have done to make changes in their communities and businesses.

5. The chapter on childhood obesity was great.  Most of the information I already knew, but for those parents who want to feed their children well, and maybe even change their school food system this will give them some great ideas on where to start.

6.  Buy grass fed beef and organic/free range chickens.  Happy, healthy animals are better for us and better for the planet.

At the end of the book there are 3 recipes.  I made the cauliflower with red onions, chilies, and garlic the other night along with Giada De Laurentiis' turkey meatloaf.  My sister gave me her newest cookbook as a wedding present.  She even had it signed by Giada, I was pretty excited(See picture below).  Both recipes are FABULOUS!

Cauliflower with Red Onions, Chilies, and Garlic
Created by Preston Maring

Prep: Cut 2-3 small heads of cauliflower or broccoli into 1/2" florets.  Mince 4 large cloves of garlic.  Thinly slice 1/3 of a large red onion.

Heat 3Tbs of olive oil in a large skillet.  Saute' the cauliflower until it starts to soften.  Add the red onion and 2 large pinches of crushed red chili flakes.  Continue to cook until the cauliflower starts to brown a little.  Remove from heat.  Toss with the garlic.  Add a splash of red wine vinegar and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Seattle, The BEST!

Now, what you've all been waiting for, the best places to eat in Seattle!

Start your day off with a little walk to Cafe Vita.  We found the one in Queen Anne by accident when we went the wrong direction while trying to find Top Pot Doughnuts.  They brew the best coffee I have ever tasted.  It was so smooth and flavorful and thick; nothing watery or burnt tasting comes from this place.  Cafe Vita prides itself on being certified organic and purchases only fair trade coffees.  They also roast their own beans.

After a brisk morning walk you absolutely have to have a doughnut from Top Pot.  Who cares that they are fried and then covered in sugar...everything in moderation... (One doughnut usually has between 200 and 300 calories) At Top Pot, one doughnut is enough; unlike Krispy Kremes which leave you feeling over sugared and unfulfilled, these are quite satisfying.  I tried the pink feather boa.  An old fashion style doughnut with light pink frosting and shredded coconut.  Ryan tried the maple glazed crueler.  I have to be honest, we went back again one more morning and I had the blueberry old fashioned and Ryan tried the apple fritter.  But the pink boa was by far my favorite.  It's amazing how crispy the outsides were while still being light and fluffy on the inside.  Doughnut Perfection, and the coffee is pretty tasty too.

While walking back to the hotel one afternoon we went past a little place called Baracuda Taqueria.  I stopped to look at the menu, but as Ryan put it, "I don't need to see the menu, I can smell how good it is, we're having dinner here."  So later that night that's what we did. The restaurant itself is tiny with 2 small tables and 3 large tables that will seat about 8 each.  When we were there they had only been open for about 3 months.  For the best sampling of flavors go with the tacos which are sold individually for about $4.00.  I tried the chili lime shrimp taco and the fish taco.  It was a fiesta in my mouth.  One of the best things I have ever eaten.  Ryan tried several of the meat tacos.  You are warned though, they are spicy.  When the waitress came for our check, I asked for another shrimp taco and savored every bite.  If this place doesn't win an award in the next couple years, I will be very surprised.

For one of the best ice cream experiences ever, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and visit Mora Iced Creamery.  All the ice creams are made in small batches with regular flavors as well as seasonal.  I was going to get a small dish but couldn't decide on a flavor; there are about 44 to choose from.  Ryan suggested we split a piece of their apple pie and top it with cinnamon ice-cream (his favorite flavor).  I'm so happy I agreed.  The pie and ice cream were sooooo good I moaned after taking the first bite.  Seriously.  The pie was not what I expected.  It was flat and square and had cherries in it from a local farm which rounded out the flavor very nicely. It was pure ice cream bliss.

For the best seafood plan on Anthony's at pier 66 (they also have several other locations).  Yes it's a little pricey, but that's because they want to serve you only the best they can offer.  This is exemplified by the fact that they have their own seafood company just to inspect each days purchases.  They buy local produce and serve local wines and micro brews.  We started with a round of oysters, these were bigger than the Olympia oysters and take a little more thought when swallowing.  But the flavor was incredible, so fresh and not overly salty.  Ryan had the seared haddock and I tried the seafood chioppino.  I have never tasted anything like it.  There were mussels, clams, salmon, haddock, crab and two large shrimp simmered in a tomato broth.  It was seasoned perfectly and was just a touch spicey.  Nothing was over cooked and rubbery.  I tried to savor it as long as I could.  My only recommendation is to save some of the bread from the basket at the beginning of the meal since the blacked bread that comes with the chioppino will over power the subtle flavors in the dish.  Then, sit back and enjoy the view.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Seattle, getting better

It's amazing Ryan and I didn't gain about 20 pounds while in Seattle.  Luckily the city is perfect for people like us who love to walk around.  Had it not been drizzly the day we were on Bainbridge island I'm sure we would have rented bikes.  For this posting I'm reviewing what we decided to be the 'better' restaurants.  The ones where, if you happen to walk buy or notice you are in the neighborhood, you really ought to think about going in before walking past.

Start your day off with a most delectable latte from Cherry Street Cafe.  There are several in town so finding one isn't too difficult.  The baristas are very friendly and watching them make espresso is an art form.  I watched ours for about 5 minutes and was entranced by the entire process.  For some great atmosphere and really really good coffee go to Cafe Ladro.  They sell organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee so you can feel good about your java.  While you are there don't pass up the giant oatmeal raisin cookies, especially if you like the soft kind.  Also, the staff is so friendly you can't help but smile when you leave.

For breakfast take the ferry over to Bainbridge Island and head down town.  One of the first places to greet you is the Streamliner Diner. This is no ordinary diner; the guys behind the counter aren't your average short order cooks.  They have mad skills and can whip up the most incredible creations.  I wasn't in the mood for eggs so I tried the ginger tofu scramble with spinach which I definitely recommend.  Rarely will you see omelets with sundried tomatoes, pesto, or guacamole in them.  If you decide to get a biscuit with your breakfast, beware...they are huge. Tip: unlike leftover eggs, biscuits reheat well in hotel microwaves for late night snacks.  So take the biscuit or homemade muffin to go and gobble up the other goodies.  In essence, if you leave here obviously didn't order anything but coffee.
View of Bainbridge Island from the ferry deck.  Cascade Mountains in the background.

The Streamliner is where we first encountered Freezerves.  We thought the chefs made them, but they are actually made by Sunfresh Foods.  Unlike other preserves or jams, Freezerves are never boiled.  I have no idea how they are truly made, I just know they are some of the best fruit spreads I've ever tasted.  Later on we saw them at several other restaurants in Seattle.

Sticking with the veggie theme, for some very unique chili head back to Pike's Place Market and walk straight up the road from the fish market.  Here you will find Stealhead Diner. (I didn't realize we ate at so many "diners" until just now).  This is some serious chili, it was thick and rich.  The cumin and cinnamon were so fragrant.  This was the first time I had ever seen asparagus in a chili.  The thick coating of melted cheese on top didn't hurt either.  To celebrate our first night in Seattle we ordered oysters (my first time).  I had no idea what to expect, but the little Olympia oysters wet down very easily.  They were served with a bay leaf granita which added just the right touch.  I'm officially hooked on oysters now.  Also, the bread basket here is AMAZING!  Seriously, you have to go to Stealhead if only for the chili and bread.
The famous Pike's Place Fish Market

Need something to quench your thirst after all the walking you will be doing?  Vital Tea Leaf is unlike anything I've ever seen.  The small store has several rows of large glass jars containing mostly Chinese style tea.  So as not to overwhelm you, the owners offer free tea tastings.  It's more than just tasting though, they will tell you about where the tea comes from and how it will cure just about any disease.  Even if you do not buy any tea, it is definitely something to try if only for the experience and entertainment.  Ryan and I were a little worried the air port security would think our dried stevia and loose leaf tea was something illegal; no such luck.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Seattle, The good

After the wedding Ryan and I flew to Seattle, WA for our honeymoon.  We've always wanted to go there and instead of laying on a beach for a week, thought this would be a great opportunity to explore the city.  This post is about the 'good' places to eat in Seattle.

For breakfasts Voula's Offshore Cafe & Meca Cafe serve up your basic diner fare; hash-browns, eggs, and giant pancakes.  Meca is deffinitely what you call a dive bar, my french toast was nothing special but the atmosphere was very unique.  There were paintings on the walls by a local artists and you could tell when the regulars came in and the waitress greeted them by name and with their usual order.  Voula's was featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri.  Lets just say I have never seen so many hash-browns in my life.  We sat at the counter and watched the cooks crank out mounds and mounds of them, as well as make omelets like crazy. The best time to eat here is when you are really really really hungry.  Ex: After walking for 2 hours because you crossed the wrong bridge and got a little lost on your way to breakfast...

A trip to Seattle would not be complete without coffee, and lots of it.  You might be wondering how many Starbucks we visited?  The answer is NONE!  Except for the cup we shared at the top of space needle where they only brew Starbucks coffee.  For a decent cup of coffee (better than Starbucks) try Uptown Espresso.  They have several locations around Seattle and are apparently famous for their 'velvet foam.'  I can't say anything for their foam since I just had coffee, but if you need a caffeine fix it will get the job done.

 If you are in a hurry or with a group of very indecisive people go to Zeek's Pizza.   They sell pizza by the slice at a great price.  2 slices will set you back about $4.50 and it's not just a choice between cheese and pepperoni.  Each day they also sell one of their original meat creations and an original veggie creation by the slice.  For pizza that was made earlier in the morning and re-warmed, it was quite tasty.

If you are at the market and want a more upscale lunch head to Etta's.  It's owned my Tom Douglas who also owns several other restaurants in Seattle.  After seeing Dahlia, featured on food networks "The best thing I ever ate."  where Giada De Laurentiis gushed over his crab cakes I decided I wanted to try them too.  Let me say the crab cake was quite exquisite.  You could definitely tell it was fried in real butter.  The green chili sauce that came with it was wonderful, I wanted to drink it...  However, the french fries that came with it were really greasy and over salted.  But the asparagus was perfectly cooked, fork tender with a good bit of crunch and still bright green.  Compared to the other seafood Ryan and I ate later during the week, this was not the best.  Ryan's salmon was a little on the dry side, the sautéed mushrooms that were on top almost made up for this though.  All in all it was still a good meal with excellent people watching.

Depending upon what you had for lunch, and how much walking you do I'd recommend The Signature for either supper or happy hour.  Our cashier at REI recommended it to us, and after walking back to our hotel we realized it was only a block from where we were staying.(Mediterranean Inn)  If you go for happy hour, which they are famous for, make sure to try the spring rolls and shrimp kebob.  The guy next to us ordered a bowl of noodle soup, it looked incredible.  I wanted to ask for a bite but figured that would be a little awkward.

For those of you interested in trying different spirits made locally check out the Pike Brewing Company. It's located at the market and besides the usual bar food and of course sea food, they brew their own beer.  I'd recommend going for happy hour and sampling a few beers or drinks; then find a late dinner elsewhere.  Ryan says the stout is excellent.  I tried 2 different types of gin produced in WA distilleries: Cascade Mountain and Voyager.  I had no idea there could be such a difference in taste.

If you are tired of walking around and need a night in, pick up some dinner to go at Metro Market.  It may be just a grocery store but it's as if someone crossed a Whole-Foods with a Publix or Hy-Vee.  They have great options of prepackaged foods made in-store.  As well as a wide variety of hot items on their 'buffet' line.  It will not be the best thing you have ever eaten, but it certainly won't come close to the worst.  I had the chicken mole and Ryan had the chicken enchiladas, but the menu changes daily so you never know what you might get.

Finally, after a day of flying or walking you might get hungry for a late night snack.  If you enjoy old fashioned hamburgers and hand made french fries then Dick's Drive In is the place for you.  Ryan also saw Dicks featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and decided we had to go.  We had no idea it was kitty-corner to our hotel.  The nice thing about Dick's is that there are very few decisions to make.  The Menu is short and they do not take any special orders.  The hamburgers a WAY! better than other fast food chains.  The french fries are hand cut and would have been exceptionally tasty, but we got the tail end of a batch and they were a little limp.
On my next posting I'll be narrowing down to the 'better' places to eat in Seattle.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wedding Cake

Let me start with a little disclaimer, the next several postings will be me indulging my inner foodie, but I'll still add a little spork-full of nutrition info in.  

Ryan and I packed ourselves into his car about 2.5 weeks ago and started driving North to Iowa for the wedding.  On the second day of our journey we stopped at a St. Louis Bread Company (aka Panera);  I was happy to see that they now have the calorie content of just about every item posted clearly up on their menu boards.  This doesn't mean their products have gotten any healthier; but at least for those who want to know, the info is there.

Incase you happen to travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa; let me recommend a couple restaurants: 
Sub City: Like a Subway but with fresh meat and cheese sliced right in front of you. It's amazing.
The Brown Bottle: It may not be 'authentic' italian, but it sure is good.  The lasagna is fabulous.
Cup O' Joe: The most retro cup of coffee you'll ever get.  Also has a great view of the Cedar River.

Now for the important stuff...CAKE!  I love cake and refused to have one of those extravagant cakes covered with fondant that is dry and flavorless in the middle.  So I enlisted the help of my aunt who is quite the cook and baker.  She made us the most wonderful carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.  The cake also had pineapple and walnuts in it.  Our cake may not have been the most elaborate, but it was definitely the best tasting.  Even our DJ who said he never eats the wedding cake couldn't resist a slice.  For a history on carrot cake as well as lots of other cakes check out this website.  My other aunt and grandma made a little over 400 cream cheese mints, which must be a midwest thing since no one here in GA knows what I'm talking about.

Why carrot cake?  Because it's my favorite.  Also, when Ryan and I were freshmen at MnSU we were watching food network and someone was making one.  I looked at Ryan and said "when I get married I'm having carrot cake at my wedding."  Ryan replied, "I'll marry you just to be there and eat the cake."  Little did we know he'd be the groom.

If or when the recipes to the cake and mints are revealed to me, I'll be sure to post them here.