Monthly Archives: July 2009

Scrumptious Seattle: A New Direction?

I started this blog a year ago. So much has evolved, changed since the inception of Voracious Girl. I look back to my first post; my life, a different time, a different place. My first post inspired by a meal at Crush with new friends, who I now call my close friends, the ones I email with exciting news or go to for advice, they are my ladies.

I apologize too often for not writing enough, but honestly, it is because I am out living life, loving adventures, often around food and the amazing place I live. I started out this blog thinking I would do restaurant reviews, but I found them to be cumbersome, not inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out, I eat out all the time. My Twitter, voraciousgirl engages in conversation about favorite dishes, new places/openings. I’m finding that to be the appropriate place to blog about eating out.My two favorite posts this past year, Food Inc & making cherry pie. Both came from the heart. The words flowed, easily sharing my passions. I enjoyed sharing the pie making process, it was less about the reader and more about my personal experience. Thus, making the blog more about the reader.

I am refocusing my slant, it’s about my personal food journey, whether it is a new recipe or a dinning experience that inspires me.  Part of my story is the process of learning how to cook for one. My life revolves around food, but if you saw my kitchen you’d find cobwebs, well not literally, but almost, spoiled milk in the fridge, practically barren. Instead I eat out mostly or *cough* prepared foods. My goal is to learn to cook for one. I shy away from cooking at home for two reasons: 1) I hate eating alone, I’d much rather share food over conversation 2)Eating the same thing for several meals is not always preferable, rather I am challenged to eat the entire recipe without the remaining portions going to waste.

Voracious Girl comes from my hunger for life, constantly reading and learning about new foods, restaurants and my quest to evolve as a home cook. I need to fuel my soul. Thanks for being here for the first year, starting the journey with me and I look forward to all of our upcoming adventures.

Adventures in Baking: Cherry Pie

Summer to most people is marked by sunshine, beach and outside activities. Me, summer begins when berries come into season. My absolute favorite fruits are raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and of course cherries. I’m never satiated enough with these summer fruits, honestly I have to use every bit of will power to not buy and eat every berry in sight. Often berries are eaten straight of the container, rarely making it to be used in other ways. Fortunately I received a very large box of slightly over-ripe cherries at work, leading perfectly to an classically all American summer dessert, cherry pie. This week, I made two pies. Both inherently different due to several factors.

Classic Cherry Pie

Classic Cherry Pie

The first pie was a truly classic cherry pie, lattice topped filled to the brim with sweet bing cherries. My pie dough recipe, compliments of Lorna Yee, from her upcoming cook book, utilizing a variety of fats to produce the ultimate flaky crust. I adapted a recipe I found on the Internet, since most cherry pie recipes call for sour pie cherries, so I adjusted the ratio of sugar since I was using bings, a sweeter variety. I chilled the dough overnight, the desired method for pie crusts. I have to admit I was skeptical at first, the dough a bit more crumbly than my previous pie crusts, so I added a bit of half and half, but this was one of the best pie crusts I’ve made. The filling though left a bit to be desired, it was watery and lacking the right cherry flavor, the more it sat the better the pie developed in flavor and consistency.

My second pie was all together a much more lofty adventure. A wonderful friend of mine is gluten and dairy free, so I thought it would be fun to try a new type of baking and wanted to share something homemade with her. I went straight to the expert in gluten free baking, the gracious Shauna Ahern aka Gluten Free Girl. Shauna was kind enough to share her pie recipe which will be featured in her upcoming cookbook. This was my first adventure in gluten free baking, after a few email exchanges with advice in translating her recipe to be dairy free, I was ready to start the journey. I won’t reveal her recipe as I have been sworn to secrecy, however it opened up my cupboard to a whole new world of flours, literally. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, as I started to blend the ingredients together, I realized I was in a whole new league, the first time I had been truly challenged by a recipe in a very long time. The dough much more sticky than I expected, I skeptically formed it into a ball and chilled my very non-pie like dough. After a quick hour, I removed the ball, still extremely sticky and attempted to roll it out. My naivete in gluten free baking was evident, sticking to the parchment paper refusing to easily to drop into the pie plate. Luckily per Shauna’s instructions there was no worry of overworking the dough; I made several attempts to re-roll the dough each time getting a bit more frustrated with myself. Thankfully due to a wonderful Twitter community I received several hints and lots of coaching from the experts. Finally I resorted to the very technical method of squishing the dough into the plate. My next challenge, topping the pie. I had neglected to think about how I would top it, after losing a bit of dough to my battle with the parchment paper, I very delicately stretched it out adding one of the flours and again smushed the dough on top of the pie, unfortunately I only had enough dough to top 3/4 of the pie. At this point I was running late and didn’t have time to bake the pie and make my ferry, alas more improvisation was necessary, I would have to chill the pie and bake the next day.

Tonight, determined to conquer the gluten free pie, I finished with baking the pie. Not only had I made a financial investment in my first gluten free pie, but most of all I wanted to win the challenge. To be blunt, I am bit shocked by the results.

Gluten Dairy Free Cherry Pie

Gluten Dairy Free Cherry Pie

Warm out of the oven, the pie bubbled, golden brown, baked much more evenly than the first pie. The filling congealed and sparkled, brighter and more pie like. Did chilling over 24 hours do the trick? My hand pressed crust, uneven and very homemade looking, cooked evenly. This pie reminds me that the outside doesn’t reflect the inside, perfection is only in the eye of the beholder and the unexpected surprises us. My special pie meant much more to me than the previous pie; it was about facing an obstacle, a new challenge and literally rising above the bumps along the road. I persevered, expecting failure, it was the complete opposite.

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Tonight I shared the pie with two friends, non-gluten/dairy free eaters. I brought both pies, topped with simple vanilla ice cream. Their favorite pie of the evening, the gluten dairy free version. Both said the crust was better, more buttery tasting yet less rich. The filling slightly tart, the cherry flavor more evident was also a hit. All of us were pleasantly surprised to like the gluten free pie so much. Personally I was proud of my pie, I faced a new challenge in my cooking endeavors. I look forward to trying new gluten free recipes. Much thanks again to Lorna Yee, Shauna Ahern and Kate McDermott. And last but certainly not least, photo credit to my dear friend Noelle Smithhart.

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Opening Night

Let me first of all say that I do not consider myself to be an established food writer, professional critique nor a veteran in the food industry. I like quality food, whether it is from a truck on wheels or the “finest” restaurant in the city. Personally I believe that the best and most interesting food writers/reviewers are well rounded and versed in their appreciation for many types of cuisine. My food knowledge mostly stems from growing up in a household where food was valued, we ate homemade macaroni & cheese, not one from powder in a box and I was challenged to appreciate trying new foods whenever possible. As an only child we ate at nicer restaurants and my mom had stacks  of Gourmet magazine including ones from the 70’s, I had trifle before it became infamous by Friends. I grew up in restaurant cities- Boston and San Francisco- farmers markets and fresh food were pretty much always accessible. I digress, this post is not about my background.

Last night I was one of the first public diners at Bastille in Ballard. As previously stated, my job is not to write about food, rather its something I enjoy as a hobby. My blog is still quite basic. I am active on Twitter, to me it’s a place to converse with others who enjoy my passion and learn from other home cooks, restaurant enthusiasts and industry veterans. My posts/tweets are not always profound nor do I have the life that I frequently can post about my beautiful meals prepared in my kitchen. Rather I live in a small apartment,  I cook infrequent rather mostly eat out on a very modest salary. My purpose in going to Bastille was pretty basic and mostly selfish, I never dined at a restaurant on opening night so I thought it would be fun since there was certainly a buzz around Bastille and it was “affordable” for my budget and it is in my neighborhood. Other Twitter folk were attending so I figured if anything fun people would be there as well. I asked a fellow Ballard resident/Twitter and someone I have been wanting to get to know better to go with me.

The stage was perfect, a warm summer evening, drinks outside on a real patio. This is one of my biggest beefs with most outdoor dinning in Ballard, they are all sidewalk spots, not that I do not support any and all types of outdoor dining, but a place where I could sit outside and not inhale car fumes and feel so crammed that I’m dining with the table next to me. Rather, unlike most outdoor locations in Seattle Bastille hit the mark, heat lamps, fans and  greenery, literally an oasis in the middle of the city. Before it opened I knew it would be a perfect summer hangout spot. In honor of the celebration I started with Champagne which did take awhile and wasn’t perfectly chilled but it was a delightful crisp not too sweet nor too dry for $6 pre-dinner drink. Others around me were less than enthralled with some drinks, I tasted a Rosemary lemon cocktail that was way too bitter and barely tasted the Rosemary (Volterra still wins for best Rosemary lemon drink with their house-made limoncello) and a French 75 that I actually enjoyed and I don’t  like Gin. I did watch the tweets, interested to see what other diners thought and for suggestions regarding best dishes to try. My dining companion and I settled on a rooftop greens salad, Moules Frites and the Duck Confit. Our waiter who was awesome especially for his first night ever at Bastille including the dry runs recommended one of the value reds (aka under $30 for a bottle).  Literally after I took my last sip of Champagne he brought out the bottle of wine and our fresh roof top greens with the hazelnut dressing followed. Crisp, chilled and lightly dressed the salad was absolutely perfect. The greens literally grown on the roof could not be more local bursting with flavor. After seeing the bread and butter a friends table we decided to order some, yeah its extra something Seattlelites aren’t quite used to but pretty common in French cafe cuisine and really for $3 with free refills of Grand Central Baugette and Pulgra butter we couldn’t complain. The bread also arrived quickly which I am very happy we ordered because the time in between the bread and the mussels was lengthy. Neither of us minded the wait, rather we conversed, sipped our wine and enjoyed a quintessential Seattle summer night (and maybe check Twitter a few times). The Moules Frites won me over, not a tough mussel in the generously sized portion. The butter, champagne, leek and thyme broth embodied classic French cafe cuisine and was truly fantastic, so good that I dipped anything and everything to entrench in the tasty broth. The frites sprinkled with grey sea salt were mostly warm and just barely crisp still tasted very good- I would of liked the option to upgrade to the truffle oil though, but as I always have to remind myself at a new place, next time. Then the long wait began for round two of our small shared plates. Granted they were full at this point. I used the opportunity to explore the absolutely exquisite inside with white subway tiles encompassing the walls, beautiful deep rich wood, a vibrant very open kitchen and a long community table to boot! In the back there is a larger bar with an incredible crystal chandelier. Once our duck arrived, we were ready for more wine, our choice, the $13 house carafe of red that our waiter generously filled to the brim to make up for our long wait. The duck was a bit dry  and lentils slightly undercooked, but that was most likely personal preference. Lastly we ended our evening with dessert because we were very much enjoying our night out on the patio. The pineapple upside downcake accurately described as old fashion with a fantastic pineapple curd I could of eaten by the spoonful. My profiteroles average, the chocolate, lukewarm and kinda blah, the puffs generic and overall just OK. After telling our waiter our critique, he told us they were on the house.

The buzz and discussion that since ensued regarding real time (Twitter) critiques of restaurants is fascinating. Personally I agree that none of us should expect perfection opening night or for that matter the first month. Never judge a book by its cover, opening night was the cover. I am absolute certain that Bastille has much to offer us and the few kinks we experienced on the first night will not matter a few months from now.  In the mean time I am planning on trying many more dishes and supporting another local business who is committed to using locally sourced food.