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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: Toulouse Petit

I must say before this review that I am not very familiar with creole cooking...but when I was in New Orleans this past fall, I fell in love with it. Like Ben says to me, "If you were to ever move to New Orleans...that would be the end of Sandy Lam." Comfort foods to the max. Since my return I have been craving some tasty southern cooking, a bit weary of being able to find something as wonderful in Seattle. Fried chicken here is NOT like fried chicken down there...even at Ezell's. Although if someone were trying to drag me to KFC, I would pick Ezell's handsdown.

Any way, my good friend Ben suggested Toulouse Petit for an early dinner for us. All he had to say was cajun and I was hooked. Upon arrival, I was a little taken back by how classy the place looked. Candlelight glow seemed to be the only source of light, until I noticed the glass blown light fixtures above every table and booth. Which was equally as dim. To quote one of my favorite bands (enter shameless plug), The Senate, there was definitely some "sexy ambiance" going on. Actually, the mention of The Senate, isn't so random for this entry, if it weren't for one of the members, Nick Drummond, I would've never gone to New Orleans to experience all its majesties. So check them out, if you're lucky you can hear their reunion on Feb. 6 at The Triple Door (my favorite Seattle music venue...I'll probably write a review after I go in a couple weeks so you can hear how wonderful it is).

Ok - back to food. So the "look" of the place was impressive. There was a moderately casual level of noise that was a mix of conversations and kitchen clatter, which I liked. Really quiet restaurants tend to creep me out. We were seated right away, as the happy hour/dinner rush was just about to start. As soon as I sat down though, I immediately knew what was missing. Music. The best part of New Orleans is the music. And when I realized what was playing in the background, I was a bit confused. The Shins. The Shins? Really? Don't get me wrong, I love The Shins, but not in a creole restaurant. After that, the music choice didn't get much it might just be me (a music lover) being picky, but that part didn't score any cool points.

The menu however - scores many cool points. Or delicious points actually. Here's a couple things I managed to scribble down:
* Seared duck confit salad with endive, radicchio and poached egg ($9.50)
* Louisiana blue crab over fried green tomatoes with Tarragon Chive Ravigote ($15.00)
Their seafood menu included four different types of oysters and many other delicious dishes. I spent forever pouring over the menu trying to decide what to eat and learning about the restaurant's origins. The back of the menu included great interesting facts and thank yous for people who helped put the restaurant together.

One thing that is noticeable about the place is the attention to detail the place has as far as constructing a vibe and atmosphere to the place. Which I think is something I noticed when I was in NOLA. Each store, restaurant and bar I visited had it's own vibe. Their own creative twist - like each store was a reflection of it's own distinctive personality. Perfect example: Coops. Which really deserves another entry of its own so I'll have to explain that one another time. According to the menu, there are 85,000 moasiac tiles on the body of the floor of the restaurant, 712 panes of glass in the windows, and 40,000 glass tiles in the platforms of the booths. Toulouse Petit employees have tasted tested over 3,000 wines during the year it was in construction to hand pick an impressive selection of wine. Being the wino that I am, I was about to order a glass, but noticed Abita Amber on the menu. I immediately ordered one, since I seemed it was so fitting. My second drink in New Orleans was an Abita Amber, which came recommended by my friend Nick. I'm not a beer drinker at all (in fact it's only within the past couple of months I have come to somewhat like the taste of it, and even then I can only stand a pint of it), so the fact that I like this New Orleans brew says something to others like me.

So that was an easy pleaser. We started with some Spicy Deep Fried Alligator with white and red remoulade sauce. I've never had alligator before, but I liked it! It was like a cross between chicken and seafood. Sweeter and lighter than chicken, but with a similar meat consistency. I've also never had remoulade sauce, but it's wonderful! The white sauce had a creamy, buttery, green onion base and the red was similar to a spicy, but chunky hot wing sauce. Ever had a 7-Alarm wing? Well it looked like that, smelled MUCH BETTER, and was no where near as spicy as that horrid thing. We also nibbled on some french bread with honey butter before our food came. The honey butter wasn't the greatest, but hey - it's honey butter and it's hard to complain about honey butter.

For dinner, Ben ordered Crawfish Etoufee (dark roux French Quarter classic, served over creole basmati rice with scallions and Parsley). For $14.50 you could have what's seen below!

I had a Buttermilk-fresh Herb Fried Game Hen with a Black Pepper-Tasso Gravy (A sexed up version of the ubiquitous southern favorite with pureed potatoes and mini buttermilk biscuits) $14.00

Taste: Definitely hearty - definitely creole. The gravy sauce on the hen had just the right spices. The potatoes were pureed but not to the point where I was wondering if this came from a powder in a box, they were just slightly buttery, and balanced out the incredibly flavorful hen and gravy. Oh man - it was delish. The mini biscuits were hardly flaky, in fact they were quite moist with almost a cake like consistency. I wish I had saved some honey butter for them. From the bite of Ben's Crawfish Etoufee that I had, it was pretty intense, but probably can't say much more than that.

Overall, I liked the place. The food was good, service was prompt, and the atmosphere was great. Those are my essentials for restaurants. However, what scores cool points in my book are authenticity, creativity, and price. While I enjoyed the classy but casual atmosphere, I didn't really feel like it was a southern resturant. The atmosphere reminded of a place that Nick and I were literally hoodwinked into. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but somehow Nick and I got talked into from the streets to dining at this snazzy looking place - only to find the food was incredibly disappointing and pricey. Lucky, Talouse Petit has MUCH BETTER food and I didn't feel so cheated when I left the place. Maybe I'm just expecting too much, but I was hoping the vibes I would get from the restaurant would match my feelings for NOLA. I guess it might be too much to expect to have the same experience, but it is how I feel.

It definitely runs on the pricier side, but I've paid more, for food that wasn't as fabulous as this. The portions are large, but not too large. The service was prompt, but not genuine. The overwhelming menu and attention to detail scores many points in my book though.

*One thing to note though, make sure you are not seated by a window next to the street. A street light kept flickering on an off and since the place had such low lighting, it was really irritating to have your eyes adjust so often while you're eating.

Rating: ***.5 (I don't want to quite give it a 4 since I haven't really tried any other Seattle creole places)
Toulouse Petit
601 Queen Anne Avenue North (at the junction with W Mercer Pl.)
Seattle, WA 98109-4013
(206) 849-3602

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frugal Foodies

This is such an interesting group...I may make it a goal of mine to try it sometime! Random people getting together to cook fantastic meals together!

Frugal Foodies makes its Seattle debut:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jan. 10 - Jan. 16 Food Fiascos and Tasty Triumphs

Long story short: I didn't cook much this week. But here you go!

It's a Trader Joe's salmon roullette stuffed with spinach florentine. I made my favorite spinach quinoa (pronounced keen-wha) dish with it...but it was a bit too much protein...but incredibly filling. If you don't know what quinoia's the must wonderful superfood. Tasty and nutritious, this almost grain-like source that has all 8 amino acids. You can use it in place of grain foods (I usually substitute for rice or pasta). The best way to describe it is that it's pretty much like a hearty cous cous. Anyway, the following is a recipe: Although it doesn't have to be followed to a T - because I just make it up the proportions most of the time.

* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 large onion(s), minced
* 1 medium garlic clove(s), minced
* 1 cup(s) quinoa, rinsed (or purchase pre-rinsed quinoa)*
* 2 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 1/8 tsp black pepper
* 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional
* 4 cup(s) spinach, baby leaves, packed, coarsely chopped
* 1/2 tsp table salt
* Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.

* Add quinoa to skillet; cook, stirring frequently, until quinoa starts to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.

* Add broth, black pepper and red pepper flakes to skillet; bring to a boil. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low and simmer for 13 minutes; stir in spinach. Cover skillet and cook until spinach and quinoa are tender and liquid is absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes; season with salt. Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

The salmon was just thawed and sauteed with some white wine and garlic. Delish for being frozen!

Meghan decided to put her sushi skills to the test the other night. We make a pretty good team. Tempura Sushi is sooo good.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My first Pacific Northwest Cooking and Recipes Meetup

I've recently joined a club: The Pacific Northwest Cooking and Recipes Meetup and went to the first meeting today. It was fantastic. Here are some of the foods we shared!

Crab stuffed mushrooms broiled with white wine

Pesto Baguettes (I'm not of the official title)

Crab Ragoon (My favorite!! I seriously ate half of these)

And this was just the sweetest wine bottle opener ever!

Our next adventure is to make homemade pasta, which I may or may not attend. I've made it before and I find it incredibly labor intensive and I'm just as satisfied getting my tortellini at the store. :) Although I will say it definitely tastes much better and I wouldn't mind doing it for a special occasion.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Bakery Nouveau

In my perfect world, there are a couple of businesses I would personally bribe to relocate near my home (to be determined) just so I could indulge myself in whatever they had to offer me. One of them, is Bakery Nouveau. It's probably for the best that it's a bit of a trip for me to grab a $3.85 croissant sent from the pastry gods.

Located in central West Seattle, Bakery Nouveau offers so much goodness, even people such as myself who drool over foods can't handle the intensity at times. I came upon this place when a good friend of mine recommended it to me. Being the food connoisseur that he is (as in he literally ordered seven of the same lobster dishes at once while on a cruise just to figure out which one would taste best after hearing the food quality was inconsistent), I took his recommendation to heart. We made a trip together and my mouth was already starting to build more saliva than usual once I entered the small shop.

I can't describe how much I LOVE the smell of bakeries. If it weren't for the fact I don't think I can ever work out enough to keep the amount of pastries I like to consume in one sitting off my body, I would probably spend a lot more time working on my pastry making skills. Not to mention the patience involved with that. Any way, the windows of the shop have multiple homemade pizzas lined up, each looking more delicous than the next. The next display will not only intrigue your taste buds, but your appreciation for the art of desserts as well. Cakes of all sizes including large 8-inch ones adorn the top of the display. My favorite is the individual 3-inch cakes which are literally miniature versions of their larger counterparts. For father's day last year, we got a variety of individual cakes for all the dad's (from our secondary family). Photo to the right taken by Jane Li, of the different mini cakes we got. Classic chocolate and the Phoenix Mousse.

The third display has an arrangement of french bread (which I heard makes the most fantastic sandwiches), quiches, sandwiches, etc. I've only been able to sample the quiches (A Quiche Lorraine and a Spinach Ricotta), which were each so savory, it didn't matter if you had them warm or cold. The crust along makes my mouth drool just thinking about it. And the filling has just the right blend of flavors. It's hardly bland and you can taste how each ingredient compliments the others. At $4.50 each, this is definitely a snack or small breakfast I would love to treat myself to. I didn't take a photo of the last quiche I got (I ate in the car and forgot I hadn't taken a picture), but just know everything in this store looks incredible.

The last display is where it get's really dangerous. Because if you're a recent college grad such as myself and not making the big bucks, you're always looking for the best deal. I'm usually going for the "whatever gets me the most food for the least amount of money" sort of thing. But Bakery Nouveau is a special treat and you can't skimp there. So after feeling completely overwhelmed by the intesity of everything, I put my bargain hat on. The pizzas you can pass on if you're not that hungry; the cakes you can pass on because you don't want to buy a whole cake for yourself or spend close to $5.00 for a slice of cake; you can even pass on the sandwhiches or quiches if you were able to pass up the pizzas. The last display has an incredibly delectable assortment of pastries. Each one is beautifully crafted, and it's hard to determine what you want exactly, if you are a snacker like me. I could definitely bringing a friend or two and sharing whichever desserts you decide to go with. That way you can sample each one. Nothing gets a reaction out of me better than their Cherry Almond Croissants. When I went this past weekend, the workers told me they hadn't made any in a while, so I got the next best thing. A Twice Baked Croissant. Exchanged for $3.85, this is probably the most intense pastry I've ever had. The crust is flaky, but the entire piece is so dense, one can only handle so much rich sweetness. It is soaked in simple syrup and stuffed with almond cream. It is then topped with sliced Almonds, powder sugar and more almond cream. Drool......

Besides the croissants and quiche on my last visit, I bought an 8-inch Phoenix Mousse for my mom's birthday. I can't even describe this cake any better than their website describes it:
"This cake scored the highest points in the National Pastry Championship, 2005. It is a triple layer mousse cake with a delicate balance of pear mousse, 70% chocolate mousse, caramel mousse, pecan dacquoise and chocolate sponge cake. All covered with a caramel glaze."

Don't forget your morning, afternoon, evening, or anytime of day latte at the bakery as well. Although I'm not much of a coffee drinker, I heard the espresso is quite tasty.

After several successful visits, here I am. I've also learned that Bakery Nouveau is home to mutliple award winning bakers. Another great perk is that the bakery is open late. Later than any bakery I've ever been to. 7 or 9 p.m. seven days a week. Needless to say this place is doing well, catering to all types of events, and sponsoring many local events and charities.

So the next time you are in West Seattle, don't leave without making a stop for a little slice of heaven.

Rating *****
Bakery Nouveau
4737 California Ave SW (at the Alaskan junction)
Seattle, WA 98116

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jan. 1 - Jan. 9 - Tasty triumphs and food fiascos

This week was quite successful in my opinion, besides starting the new year off with a disappointing meal at Claim Jumper. I guess we could start with that so we can end on a happy note.

Food Fiascos

After a great day snowshoeing to start off the new year, my friends and I were famished. So of course we chose the closest restaurant we knew would serve us ginormous proportions. I haven't been to Claim Jumper in about four years, but I remembered loving their insane and ridiculous proportions. I was pretty excited for what I ordered - it sounded amazing and I had something similar before at Famous Dave's. It was a "Giant Stuffed Idaho Potato" (Charbroiled or blackened chicken, fresh squash, broccoli & carrots with melted cheddar & jack cheese baked and served with homemade alfredo sauce - $11.95). I was stoked because the price was pretty low for Claim Jumper and it sounded amazing. Plus according to their caloric menu, it only weighed in at less than 1200 calories! (The last time I checked something on a menu was a Cajun Chicken Pasta from Cheesecake factory and it was definitely 2950 calories!)

Eventually the food came. And I was very very sadly disappointed. First of all - this was NOT a giant potato. If you want a giant potato - go to Famous Dave's! The most incredible stuffed baked potato I've ever had. Great BBQ too. Any way - the chicken was very dry, the vegetables were bland and what seemed to be barely steamed. I think the only saving grace was alfredo sauce that might've had some cheese in it. I was pretty saddened by this experience. I remember the potato cakes being my favorite thing on the menu but I didn't order any this time since my whole dish was a potato. Our service was good, the atmosphere was just as I remembered it. Busy, semi low lighting, lots and lots of people. Our server was polite and punctual, checking in on us at just the right times. Definitely trying to work the up sale on us, but did so in a nice way. Any way - that's all I have to say about that. But if you want a giant stuffed baked potato, go to Famous Dave's. Too bad there isn't one in Seattle. I need to do some more discovering.

Tasty Triumphs

Pike you never disappoint. I love being able to hop onto a bus down the street from my house and pop out just above Pike Place. Fresh spanikopita, smoked salmon pate piroshki, bbq pork hom bow...mmm....I bought some unique pasta from Pappardelle's Pasta to try with a secret sauce recipe I stole from a guy I seeing. The sauce is a an incredibly rich cream sauce with garlic, fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, and spinach. Usually made with bow tie pasta, but I wanted to see what it would be like with Pappardelle's Garlic Basil Fettichini. Mmmmmmm garlic and basil pasta....

I decided to make the pasta as a welcome home dinner for Meghan...and it turned out great because she pitched in on some ingredients so we could have a well balanced meal. I made Heather's cheese bread from heaven (garlic butter with warm cream cheese spread on french bread, topped with shredded mozzarella and broiled. Meghan made a spring salad with tomatoes. I was going to make some other veggie side dish but got too lazy. Although the fettuccine was dried, it cooked quickly compared to other dried pasta you get in the store. The sauce turned out great (being that I was basically just guessing because I never made it myself). The meal was fantastic, the only problem was that the fettuccine was surprisingly heavy. Fettuccine normally is filling, but this was filling on a whole other level. It was dense and had just enough of hint of flavor. I think since the sauce was already heavy and thick to begin with, the pasta was a bit much. I loved the garlic basil fettuccine, but think it would be much tastier in something that was more veggie loaded tossed with a light lemony sauce. Oh well - noted for next time....

The quick meal of the week: Louisiana hot links sauteed with onions and bell peppers served with some wild rice. 20 minutes later - delish. It's pretty much prepared how it sounds!

I am a huge fan of pasta primavera...if I was vegetarian, I would just eat any pasta primavera for the rest of my life. And hummus. I love hummus. I've tried several pasta primaveras over the past year and tried to create one of my own. This week - I got pretty close...even without the summer vegetables. Can't wait till they're in season again and I can get them at the farmer's market!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How to Make Wine (Part 3): Stabilising and clearing

Probably the least exciting part of making wine. This is where I lost part of my allure to making my own wine.

After 10 days, I checked the wine and measured the gravity. To ensure it's stability it had to read the same gravity level two days in a row. To pick up all the sediment, we had to stir vigorously. Good thing I had Troy.

After stirring in some more metabisulphite and sorbate, we stirred some more - vigorously, as the instructions and DVD clearly stated. Then we left the wine for another two weeks.

Pretty simple. :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

December's food fiascos and tasty triumphs

Happy New Year! Since I just started this blog, I'm going to include some earlier food adventures from the month of December. But I'm hoping to make this entry a weekly event.

Tasty Triumphs

Creamy shrimp bites (these don't have a real name...I stole the recipe from my mom). This is one of my favorite appetizers to make because it's delicious, easy, and fast. Anyone that loves cheese and shrimp in general will love this. This spread stores will in the fridge and is still tasty after a couple of days (It's never lasted more than 2 days in my house just because it gets eaten!)

The following ingredients are just an estimation...I learned to make it without measurements. Serves quite a few (30-40 pieces?)

- 2 Baguettes
- 1 bag of frozen or fresh uncooked shrimp (18 oz. I think) with tails on
- 2-3 bunches of chopped green onions
- Half a sweet purple onion (I don't remember the technical name off the top of my head)
- Half a bag of shredded cheeses (any assortment really, but no pepper jack)
- The last ingredient grosses me out, and hopefully maybe one day I can use a substitute...but about 1-2 cups of mayo if not more...
- Salt and pepper

Mix everything together and spoon it onto slices of baguettes. Broil at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The snacks will be ready when the top part just turns brown (usually 5-10 minutes).

Mmmm so tasty...

Homemade Tempura sushi is always tasty...

My friend Trevor made us some tasty homemade pizza..I forgot to take pictures of the finished products, but they were amazing...All ingredients were homemade (including the marinara and pesto)
- Magherita pizza
- Pepperoni (ok the pepperoni wasn't homemade...)
- Veggie (Bell peppers, onions, olives...I don't remember the rest..I didn't eat it)
- Meat lovers (Italian sausage, pepperoni, onions, feta, I don't know what else because I didn't eat that one either)
- Pesto, pine nuts, feta, fontina, mozzarella, italian sausage, bell peppers
- Hawaiian (canadian bacon and fresh pinapple)


Food Fiascos

I have to express my extreme displeasure with Diva Espresso. Only for their chai tea lattes though. But I was reminded the other day why I so strongly dislike the chai there, I feel that it needs to be documented. When I got my regular soy chai for the first time at Diva, I was sadly dissapointed. I remembered taking 5 sips and throwing it away. And if anyone knows me, I HATE to throw away food. Especially food I've paid for! I went there a second time because everyone at my work raves about Diva's coffee. Being the rejected Seattlite that doesn't actually drink coffee, I stopped by again at the same location to get another chai, hoping that maybe the last time was just a fluke by a barista's first time on the job. The second time - it tasted exactly the same. Different barista's - same taste. A dirty, oily, burnt rubber taste is what it reminds me of. I don't know if it's the soy or the chai - but after that I said never again. And then someone offered to go on a coffee run (not knowing where they were going I ordered a chai, and then I was reminded why to never order a soy chai for Diva's. I'd like to know what it is I don't like about it, but I'm pretty sure I've never had a more foul experience at a coffee shop. I could go on an on about chais and maybe I'll save that for another entry...

For Christmas Day, I decided to try my first standing rib a nutshell it didn't go too well. I tried a recipe I found by Paula Deen. It looked and sounded easy enough, so I tried it. I was only cooking for three people though so I tried to find a smaller roast and guess on cooking times. The first time I took it out, the meat was quite rare. The second time I took it out I ended up just slicing some pieces before putting it back in. In the end the seasoning was fantastic, but the meat texture...not so much. It was edible, but not the greatest.

I think that's it for's been a while so I'm sure I've missed some things.