Saturday, March 27, 2010

To SIP or not to SIP? (Seattle)

Whenever there is a new restaurant I am always overcome with a sense of excitement. The shiny newness of it all, the cuisine, the décor, the wine… the high I get from it is almost as good as the high I get when trying on a new pair of Louboutins. So, after a few failed attempts to attend dinner at SIP Wine Bar in Seattle- The new, chicly designed restaurant on the corner of 5th and Madison, I finally got the excuse I needed- business associates in town from LA.

Now typically when entertaining, I don’t go to anywhere that is not tried and true- especially with business associates. After all, one bad meal with them can be like a couture gown that doesn’t quite fit right- Disaster. However a good friend of mine had tried SIP a few weeks prior and had enjoyed it, so I decided it was as safe a bet as any.

Realistically, I should have known that my evening was going to be doomed from the start… After all I, MOI, moi whose barbarism extends to the need to consume a piece of bloodied red meat every other day or else I will be bitchier than I already am, was going to dinner with an AA member and a f-ing vegetarian. The thought of it alone is enough to send me into a rib-eye and vodka induced frenzy for the next week and a half.

Anyway, upon arrival, I was overjoyed to discover that there was actually valet service. For those of you that don’t know me, that is one of my biggest complaints about this city since moving from LA- NO VALET ANYWHERE! Can you imagine moi in my environmentally unfriendly Escalade, circling the block looking for parking? WHO DOES THAT? I mean really, it’s quite uncivilized. I don’t know how Seattle has managed to function for so long having to park its own cars. Ugh. Anyway, so after I pulled into said valet and handed them the ticket, I noticed that it was $9.00… Ummm first of all, valet service at Boa on Sunset is $8.00, and that is in freakin LA. This is on the corner of 5th and Madison in SEATTLE… Just a tad overpriced I think… But, as with shoes, yours truly is willing to pay the premium for quality.

After entering the restaurant, and admiring their wall of wine display, we were led up the ramp, past the cocktail crowd to our table by the lovely towering windows that enclose the whole of the restaurant. After reviewing the somewhat extensive menu, we decided on crab cakes with a granny smith apple and fennel root slaw. The flavors were fantastic with a light curry essence and the meyer lemon crème fraiche was delicious. The crab was succulent and had the perfect texture of creamy richness and a caramelized crust to incase it. Needless to say my palette was inspired and I was now hungry for more.

For my main course I selected the scallops, which were accompanied by a potato squash hash and house cured pancetta. Talk about a complete and utter let down. While I must say that the dish is a conceptual work of art, the execution was unfortunately not something that designated it so.

Upon arrival to the table, it was apparent that my dish had been sitting under a heat lamp for at least ten minutes, as the quince soubise had formed a layer of film on the top and the hash did not have a freshly whipped texture, but instead, the dull, sad look of mediocre potatoes that had been sitting out on Thanksgiving for too long. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a soubise sauce, I become elated- the lovely flavor of the onion and the silken texture of the volute that gets incorporated so the texture is creamy, but yet light enough to just barely coat the back of a spoon. Well in this case t’was not so. The sauce, while rich in flavor was a bit heavy for my taste, and the sheer fact that they had allowed enough time to elapse that the crème had formed a film on top, was enough to make me unappetized at first glance. My three miniscule scallops weren’t glossy, golden and caramelized, but instead the tops were an opaque white, with a dark black burnt rim around the edges. When I cut into the poor scallop, it was rubbery and overcooked. Now, I have no issue with miniscule scallops, I understand haute cuisine, but just like haute couture, the execution must be flawless in order for it to work. I doubt Valentino would send one of his signature red frocks down the runway with an unfinished hem, so I have no idea why the chef would have sent out overcooked scallops.

This restaurant gained back a few brownie points in my book with their dessert- a Key Lime Pie, which was actually more along the lines of a tartlet. The crust was made from crushed cookies and was buttery and crumbly in consistency. The custard was a bit sweeter than I would have liked, but tasty nonetheless, and I thought that the toasted coconut flakes added texture and gave the presentation an edge.

Overall, I have to say that I was terribly unenthused by this restaurant. I wanted to like it, I really did. The décor, while a bit hotel restaurant-ish, was still chic and quite comfortable. The live jazz band was also a plus as I find it a rare treat that Seattle restaurants be musically inclined. However, all that being said, I will not be venturing back to give it a second chance.

I like to think of myself as having a photographic memory. When it comes to fashion, I can tell you exactly what dress/shoe/bag I saw come down the runway in any given season that I will forever associate with its designer. When it comes to food, I can tell you exactly what I ate at any given restaurant that will forever haunt me in a fabulous way or otherwise. Unfortunately for SIP, it’s the latter.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet may have suggested that it’s nobler to suffer outrageous fortune, and in this specific case, my misfortune was that I had to suffer through an entire dinner of sub-par food that in any other situation I would have sent back. But old Billy S. also suggested that we take arms and oppose the sea of troubles… And since I didn’t have the luxury to oppose my sea of troubled scallops that night, I’m doing it right now. Sorry SIP, you’re fired.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Skillet Street Food (Seattle)

One of my greatest culinary passions is street food. It’s a passion that I discovered at a very young age. I actually remember walking through the streets of Taipei with my mother during my Spring Break and eating whatever goodies that we’d come across, my favorite being the green onion pancakes that were cooked on the huge oil drum woks. When travelling, I believe that consuming street food is one of the best ways to get to know a city or a culture. So you can imagine my disappointment upon moving to Seattle, and the severe lack of street food as opposed to LA, as the weather here is not conducive to such an industry. Yes there is a Taco truck down the street from my place that I can’t get enough of… But that is entirely different blog in it of itself.

When one thinks of “street food” the idea that normally comes to mind is a questionably sanitary truck, stand or cart, serving the economically priced food of the people. But what the gentlemen at Skillet Street Food have accomplished turns the concept of “street food” on its head. Based in a shiny silver trailer, and operating only twice a week at random locations all over the city, this little gem is absolutely worth the drive, the line and quite possibly Armageddon.

Friday at approximately 11:20am, I pulled into an alley in SoDo, down the street from the Starbucks headquarters. In the adjacent parking lot, there was a silver trailer, with Anita Franklin’s “RESPECT” blaring from the speakers within. The menu was simple and written on the side of the trailer in black marker, and as I was aware that they change the menu frequently, my friend and I decided to order one of everything. And all I have to say is thank God we did. While I wasn’t a fan of the slightly watered down and too sweet Rosemary Lemonade, there was not one other thing on the menu that I can say I would not order again, and again, and again. I won’t recap the entire meal for you, but here are the highlights…

As you know, I can’t stand Rachel Ray. I hate her acronyms and stupid words like “E-V-O-O”, “Sammys” and “Choup”. But if “sammys” all tasted like the Fried Chicken Sammy at Skillet, then I swear I’ll convert to her idiotic linguistics tomorrow. The breading on the chicken was spicy, flavorful and crisp and had been deep fried at the perfect temperature so the breading didn’t retain too much oil. Using radicchio in place of a traditional green lettuce added a different spin, and the celery root and apple slaw gave the sandwich a light freshness that I actually woke up craving today. The soft roll that it was served on had the sweet flavor of egg bread and was the perfect vehicle on which to spread the creamy, spicy aioli. Overall, the sandwich had a phenomenal balance of savory, sweet and spicy; hot and cold; soft and crunchy. In this cook’s book it was fabulous.

“The Burger” was composed of grass fed beef, and topped with a mild blue cheese, peppery arugula and the legendary bacon jam that Skillet dishes out. Served on a soft grilled roll, it was perfection. I know that you really can’t go wrong with bacon any time, however I have to say- Skillet’s Bacon Jam was incredible. The caramelized onions provided a rich amber color, an intense sweetness and sticky, jammy consistency, while the rendered bacon and spices gave it an incredibly savory flavor. As we ate the burger, we noted all the complexities and depth of flavor. The earthiness of the grass fed beef was so rich and yummy, and the sweet, savory combination with the bacon jam and tangy bleu cheese was such an outstanding combination. This was definitely no ordinary burger. All together as a package, it was flawless.

Now, like any heavy consumer of vodka, I enjoy a really good French fry in the morning. And I know that Poutine is a dinner staple among the good people of Quebec, and I officially want to thank them for sharing it with us. Skillet’s spin on the traditional Poutine was fabulous. Instead of cheese curds and brown gravy, the frites were smothered in cheddars, lighter gravy, and then tossed with Italian parsley and Rosemary. It was by far the most addicting dish I have had in a very long time.

Sitting in the back of our car devouring the meal, not caring about the potential of aioli stained leather, but all while cursing the fact I had worn the Dolce tux jacket, I couldn’t help but think how fabulous a concept Skillet was. Street food has always been something that is near and dear to my heart, and I am so elated to see Seattle ushering in new ideas such as making what was once the cheap eats of the people into innovative and gourmet delights. So when it comes to Skillet, I suggest you go immediately, and get there early, because more than likely, I’ll already be standing in line.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Background on the Chef

As with any fabulous fashionista, over the years I’ve gone through many changes- haircuts, spray tans, city of residence, gay husbands, gay boyfriends, straight boyfriends and of course the ever yo-yo-ing routine of going to the gym. However, the three things that have always stayed constant in my life are friends, fashion and food.

Until recently, I had been blogging about my dating life, (Confessions of a Serial Dater), however as of last week I decided blogging about the mancandy in my life and all of my melodramatic antics (regardless of how funny they may be) without his knowledge or consent would probably be a huge faux pas, kind of like Lauren Conrad designing a clothing line for Kohl’s... So after coming to the realization that I reluctantly will have to take a break from writing about men, I decided that perhaps I should write about the other love of my life: Food.

For those of you that know me, it’s no secret that I am in fact a huge foodie, cook, entertainer and hostess. For those of you that don’t know me, well I thought that perhaps we could get to know each other a little better, before I published my first review… After all, I am a lady, and I like to be wined and dined before I hop in between the sheets, you know?

In a nutshell this is my deal- I’m a commercial real estate broker by day, renegade foodie by night. Well actually, perhaps we should just say renegade foodie 24/7, because even when I am at work I am talking about food… I’m not a professional chef, but I am a self taught cook, with a great palette and a hunger to always learn more about the art of gastronomy. I live and cook in pencil skirts, four and a half inch stilettos preferably made by Christian Louboutin, and I’ve never met a woodland creature that I wouldn’t wear or eat. I hate PETA, and maintain my stance that since I wear vintage fur I am technically recycling. I think that people that advocate for world peace should drink more vodka as it cures all that ales you- thirst, sadness, cancer, world hunger. It really is like the miracle drug. I am a firm believer that men that drink white wine as a preference are usually not worth the time- After all, if you can’t handle a good, bold, spicy glass of red, chances are you can’t handle a real woman.

I am a bit of a control freak (my friends would say that it’s more like insane control freak) in the kitchen, and if you want to help me at dinner parties, for God’s sake, just stay on the opposite side of the breakfast bar, and keep my wine glass full… You can even open the door when guests arrive.

If I had my own restaurant there would be a sign out front reading “Vegetarians, Vegans & Ill Behaved Children Not Welcome”. I am undoubtedly a meatatarian… In fact, I prefer my steak still be mooing when it gets to the table. I’ve never understood the human need to cook red meats past a medium rare, as if you do, you may as well be eating cardboard. Foie gras is in my top five exports from France, alongside from Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, and the actor Oliver Martinez.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the cooking shows on the Food Network with people that don’t actually know how to cook. Yes, Sandra Lee that means you. I’m sorry darling, but “Semi-Homemade” doesn’t qualify as cooking, that’s called unwrapping and warming up. Giada, Sarah Brown and Robin Miller annoy the hell out of me, and all of their food sucks anyway… Which brings me to my next and most crucial point- I DON’T TRUST SKINNY CHEFS. Because if you are that skinny and cooking for me then you probably don’t believe in what I have deemed to be the Holy Trifecta of Gastronomy: Butter, Bacon & Booze.

Do I work out? Yes, I just started to go regularly, (again), but honestly, the only reason I am going is so I can justify cooking with more butter. I’m serious! Every morning when I am in agony on the elliptical/or stairmaster, I just think to myself “Moi… just go 15 more minutes… if you do, you can make the coconut cake…” By the way, I use Ina Garten’s (a.k.a. Food Goddess of the Hamptons and friend to hot gay men everywhere) recipe and there are like five sticks of butter in there… Yeah. Hence the stairmaster…

Until recently I lived in Los Angeles, where there was never a shortage of friends, fashion or food, and luckily for moi, I was often able to engage in all three of them at the same time. Having relocated to Seattle, I now find that in order to keep my sanity I must leave this city a minimum of once a month to collect and center myself before I return to the land of muddy corduroy and Birkenstocks. So, I’ve been putting my frequent flyer miles to good use, travelling the country and indulging in the cuisine along the way. And let me tell you- There are some FABULOUS places out there!

In this blog, I’ll be sharing my experiences from my travels, and also from those of my own backyard, a.k.a. Seattle. To kick things off, over the next few weeks I’ll be travelling through and writing about Seattle, Seville, Barcelona, Chicago and New York. I’ll be cooking, eating, wining and dining and sharing my experiences and very opinionated point of view along the way. I have no idea where my culinary adventures will take me, but the one thing that I do know is that I’m always hungry for more.