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Girls Re{treat} at Hotel Dana Treat and a Weekend of Eating

As hinted previously in my IFBC recap and blogging conference comparison, I’ll be posting next about the other part of my IFBC weekend — our re{treat}.

Since last year, a group of us who all met at BlogHer Food ’09 dreamed of going on a girls retreat. We’ve brainstormed places and time, but nothing really came out of it and sadly, the idea slipped through the cracks. Two months ago, by some stroke of luck, a girls re{treat} organically sprung from our friend Dana‘s generous offer to have us stay at her house. We’re not the same big group from last year, and in fact I’ve never met 2 of the girls, but we all love food — everything should be completely fine, right? I was excited and anxious, and the night before–sleepless for Seattle.

You might not be interested at all to read the rest of this post, but before you leave, at least consider this: make time for a fun weekend with just your girl friends (or guy friends). It doesn’t have to be a far away destination or be planned to the last minute. Just commit to have fun and promise yourselves to be in your best behavior. [We are the worst with the ones we love sometimes, and that is not the goal here. ;-)] From the past weekend, I can’t tell you enough how invigorating, exhilarating, fulfilling and refreshing it is! It’s just the shot of tequila my soul needed. Yeah, it comes with a hangover, but the good kind. Don’t get me wrong, family is great, but a girls re{treat} has its own sanity-saving merits, too.

Without further ado, here are the women who have collectively made that IFBC weekend so much more than just a trip to a conference (click on their names and check out their blogs):

  • Kristina, my BlogHer Food ’09 rockstar roommate, resource of all things tomato and leads this school of fish, flew in from Tennessee with 3 hours to make up for and a honking jar of Moonshine Cherries that will knock you out of your senses;
  • Denise, another sweet friend who I met (and also lives) in San Francisco, is half of ChezUs (say “cheez-us” only if you say “praise” first), organizes digital media workshops and heads an online video production company with her beau Lenny, baked and brought homemade cookies for us to try (that’s a food blogger for you);
  • Tracy, a cool bean with the hip haircut and adorable head accessories that hint at her Bay Area and artsy roots, will regale you with her quick wit and – get this — horoscope readings and analysis had us deep in conversation;
  • Cheryl, also from California, whose endearing candidness will stop you in your tracks, has a perfectly timed humor that could leave a roomful of tourists cracking up, is the kind of writer you wish you were; and
  • our hostess with the mostess, Dana, vegetarian personal chef extraordinaire who unknowingly broke her 20-plus years of vegetarianism with fine lard at Kate’s pie making class, and who showed us around Seattle, brought us to the city’s yummiest spots (with the time we have available), put us up in her gorgeous abode with warm beds, and kept us full (and punchy) with {dana} treats from her kitchen and cellar. [We're also grateful for Dana's husband who was a good sport about going to the island with their two adorable boys so we can have an estrogen-packed weekend.]

Ours is a kinship forged in car seat rotation program, good food and wine, laughter, cutting classes, hugs from (Dana’s) sweetest two boys (when they came back), and more laughter.

We headed to Matt’s in the Market after we skillfully arranged everybody’s luggage in the car, which was a movie-worthy feat in itself. Warmly greeted by their friendly staff, we couldn’t help but notice the outstretched arms of Seattle’s sunshine beckoning us through the restaurant’s half moon-shaped windows. It’s just the welcome weather we wanted. The deep honey-colored wooden tables, varnished with character, are the stuff of food bloggers wet (restaurant) dreams set in daylight. The usual lunch hour cacophony filled the relaxed and spacious nook on the third floor of the Corner Market Building. It’s a perfect place for casual first dates, drowning the awkward conversation in everyone’s blithe chatter–a sly hand to calm the nerves until dessert for two is served.

Each plate that passed through the open kitchen behind us made for a difficult choice after another. Should we order Pulled Pork? Banh Mi? Spicy Tuna Melt? Drinks and minutes later, salt-pepper chips – the common denominator of all our palate’s desires — crackled to eager synchronized bites, hushing our out-of-towner banter.

Stumptown BBQ pulled pork

Stumptown BBQ pulled pork

Before me was a mountain of super moist and tender pulled pork, topped with crunchy coleslaw, and nestled in crisp and light crusted soft brioche bun. And the Yukon gold potato salad that came with it? Moved me to reconsider my passive attitude towards potato salads.

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

Potato Salad

We shared each others food, sufficing our own curiosities. Ours was a lively table where Oohs and Mmms staccato-ed in mid-sentence.

Having sandwich envy

Having sandwich envy

Our server, Chris the Wine Guy, was one of the highlights of this meal. He captivated us with his oratorical description of sandwiches, and random stories, like eating the most amazing sandwich during his friend’s Bachelor Party Trip. Every restaurant needs its own Chris.

That kick-start meal was (hopefully? hypothetically?) burned off by leisurely strolling through Pike Place Market and admiring the endless row of affordable really cheap, but good quality, fresh flowers, gliding through the aisles of The Spanish Table, prancing around the Paris Grocery through Lillet-colored glasses, and lingering last in the World Spice Markets, where the concept of shaving a sea salt block with salt shaver left us wondering what we’re missing.

We were chauffeured to Hotel Dana Treat by the gracious hostess herself. Let me tell you, we were heaps better off there than at a hotel, plus the company can’t be beat! We settled in our respective rooms, toasted to French aperitif, and made our pact with the 100-proof Ole Tennesee Moonshine Cherries with our first “shots”. Zaps your brain to Neverland in record time is what it does.

After getting our IFBC badges and goodies at Hotel Monaco, looping in and out the maze of food and sea of fellow bloggers, looking for familiar faces (Hi Susan, John, Carrie, Arnold, Alice, Lori!) — and finding new ones (Hello Deseree, Jun, Jennifer, Leann!), during our brief meet and greet, we hopped back into the Dana Treat Mobile to catch our 7:30pm dinner reservation at Delancey.

Delancey Seattle

Delancy Seattle

We were joined by Mardi, Megan, Jen, and Sarah, the birthday girl.

Happy birthday, Sarah!

This further solidifies my belief that every dining party should have a birthday person. It’s fun. You get to sing to them and perhaps divide a pavlova dessert among ten.

Burrata, prosciutto, arugula and olive oil

Burrata, prosciutto, arugula and olive oil

Yes, that makes 10 of us, drinking beer and wine, and ordering — brace yourselves, because I kid you not — nine pizzas. That’s all flavors divided among ten brave, we’re-ready-with-our-fat-jeans women.

Cheryl attacking the margherita pizza

Don't ever mess with Cheryl. The margherita pizza laid helpless under her calculating hands.

Brave is the keyword here, as our eyeballs just about popped out after the 5th pizza. We tried as many flavors we could possibly stuff our face with, like amateur runners who are in over their heads having signed up for a half-marathon.

Crimini mushroom pizza

Crimini mushroom pizza

I tried all 9 with room for dessert, I can’t lie. The crowd favorite is the white pizza with fresh arugula. The padron-laden pie comes a close second.

The majority voted for the White Pie as their favorite. A sublime combination of housemade ricotta, fresh and aged mozarella, garlic and arugula won us over.

The majority voted for the White Pie as their favorite. A sublime combination of housemade ricotta, fresh and aged mozarella, garlic and arugula won us over.

The crust is light and crispy, with bubbles I always tend to gravitate to when dissecting one. They are my personal joy. I have to tell you guys, Delancey makes really good thin crust pizza with fresh, flavorful ingredients, and that’s all a pizza lover really needs to know. The combination of ingredients is neither overkill nor pretentious, and they don’t try to put everything in one pie. You can taste each component, and you can linger with them for a while. I can honestly say that you don’t have to fly all the way down South to Pizzeria Bianco and line up for a good part of the day to eat the best pizza this side of the coast. That said, make reservations before going to Delancey. A great pizza comes with a good following, and you don’t want to be disappointed by coming hungry without calling in first.

The night was young, but we are not, so as much as we had wanted to pull an all-nighter to catch and drink up, we had to roll into bed for the first day of the conference. And this is just the first day.

To be continued with more food tales, and friends.

Here’s a quick reference of the places in Seattle I mentioned:

Matts in the Market
94 Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101-2066, United States
(206) 467-7909

Delancey
1415 Northwest 70th Street
Seattle, WA 98117, United States
(206) 838-1960

Pike Place Market
(address to the parking garage:)
1531 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101

The Spanish Table
1426 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 682-2827

Paris Grocery
1418 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 682-0679

World Spice Markets
World Spice Merchants
1509 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
206.682.7274

Posted in events, restaurants, shoppes, travel11 Comments

Ever Wished You Had An Instant Wine Chiller?

We are pleased to announce our partnership with OpenSky to bring you products we enjoy through our very own online store. We will provide you firsthand information on products and recommend only those that we use and find worthy of telling you about. Hope you like it! And thank you for your support, friends!

I know I do! Sure, in some supermarkets in the US selling liquor, they have those wine chillers so you can cool your wine before hitting the checkout counter. However, if you’re home and you already have your room-temperature bottle of wine, it would be a hassle to go out just to buy some wine. And if you’re like me who have impulse cravings for wine that doesn’t leave enough time to chill anything (and don’t own a wine chiller), that puts a damper on saying yes to instant gratification.

That’s where ravi comes in! ravi is an “instant wine refresher”. I prefer to call it my enabler of instant wine gravification. I just have to take out the inner cartridge out of the freezer, assemble the unit in two snaps and place on the mouth of the bottle of my preferred wine and I’m good to go!

ravi looks like the cartridge of a faucet tap water purifier, and is almost the same size. Yes, the liquid passes through it as it’s being cooled down. Instead of cooling the bottle, wine is being cooled as it’s poured. It doesn’t change the flavor in any way.

I put it to the test with a bottle of red wine. The wine’s original temperature is 25°C, as you can see here.

I took out the ravi cartridge out of the freezer and set it up as indicated. The first two glasses I poured registered an almost 10-degree drop in temperature right there. You will see that even after 30 and 60 minutes, ravi was still able to hold the chill and cooled the wine to about 17°C. That’s pretty good, I think. I drank the wine at the “start” and “ravi” temperatures and they difference is noticeable.

I mentioned above that ravi has a valve that you can block with a thumb. This valve controls the flow of liquid through the  cooling tube. The principle is simple: slow down the flow and the liquid stays in longer, thus chilling it longer. Based on experience, I didn’t have to do this for the first 3 glasses. It cooled down quite nicely to a nice 15°C.

The possibilities are endless: you can use ravi for red, white, or rose wines. Just like your ice cream maker bucket, you can place it in the freezer and forget about it until you need it. I put the cartridge in a resealable sandwich bag in the freezer door. Cleanup is a breeze–just rinse and dry the internal tubing with the included pump.

I can definitely see this coming to potlucks (at private residences) for instant wine chilling, and placed in a tiny cooler, or even in those lined keep-frozen bags when traveling. As a self-confessed “girl scout” who brings whatever may be needed, this is another great gadget to have on hand!

We have partnered with OpenSky to bring products that we love to you, our dear readers. We do earn a small portion of each sale made through our store, but we will never recommend products we’ve never tried or don’t believe in. That much we can promise you.

If you like this product, you can purchase it here right now for USD$40. If you order anytime between today and August 16 and use the coupon code FREESHIPPING, you’ll get free shipping!

** Please note items at our OpenSky store can only be shipped to the US. I’m really hoping they would ship to Canada and the rest of the world at some point. If you have a friend in the US, you can use your international credit card and ship it to the US. **

Posted in kitchen tools and gadgets, non-food, reviews, shoppes3 Comments

There Is No Grater Love

[Hah...that's my lame attempt for a title.]

This, my friends, is the epitome of my ability to convince myself to purchase things that are even more expensive that their non-miniaturized versions:

Grater Bookmark

It costs more than a Microplane zester, and more than a Microplane grater. The hilarious fact is, it took me ages to get myself the (real) zester because I can be so cheap. Sometimes.

Guess how long it took for me to decide to buy this grater bookmark? Hmm?

A second.

I’m not the kind of friend who can protect you from shopping frivolously. It’s just not happening from my camp if I think something is cute or worth it. And how can this not be worth it, I tell you?

Grater Bookmark

I just about died from cuteness. Look at its sisters. There were only the grater and whisk bookmarks at the Vancouver Art Gallery, but the grater won. I’m proud to have enough self-control to buy only one. For now.

The company that designs/makes these irresistible bookmarks (and other fiiine stuff) is RAS in Madrid, Spain. The kitchen bookmarks are part of the pdl design collection. [PS - Gourmeted.com is not affiliated with them, but heck I'd love to if only for these bookmarks --haha. This could be the beginning of another obsession.]

Posted in dailies, shoppes6 Comments

Soy Bean Sprouts with Shiitake Mushrooms

Going to the Chinese supermarket is like invading an assorted box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get. When I go to the regular grocery store, I know what to expect. That’s not the case when I go to T & T. My trip there is almost like a trip to a mall, I not only go there to get what I need but also to find something new — whether it be a snack in those attractive packages, a cute cake, a home gadget that I never thought of before, or a new vegetable (to me). Years ago I had kept asking my friend, who cooks a lot of veggies, the name of the dark green vegetable with garlic and oyster sauce and she kept saying the Chinese name because she doesn’t know the English name. I finally found it at the store — it’s called gai lan. Whew. Things like this hurt my head sometimes. Haha.

I like bean sprouts because they are a part of the Filipino cuisine. What I haven’t tried before were soy bean sprouts.  I know it sounds surprising given that I have gone all the way to a North American country to discover a really Asian ingredient.

At T & T, they put mung bean sprouts and soy bean sprouts side by side in the vegetable section that it confused me at first. After a quick look the former is twice the size as the latter but half the price and with a more attractive color — yellow and bright yellow green. I’m easily distracted and persuaded like that. I bought an equivalent of 4 generous handfuls of them and cooked it the other day with fresh shiitake mushrooms.

I like shiitake mushrooms but I detest the rubbery texture and extra pungent smell and taste of it when it’s cooked from the dried variety. However, I found fresh ones from the Chinese place and tried it. Oh, it was so good! Soft and meaty, but not too overpowering for the soy bean sprouts. It’s quite perfect with subtle bean flavor. I love the extra crunchiness of the sprouts with the bigger beans compared to the mung bean sprouts. Very good buys. Did I mention that this is such a cheap dish to make and very healthy, too?** I never considered buying groceries on a regular basis from the Chinese supermarket before, but I just might. I only spent around $50 for a week’s grocery including meats and fish. In this economy (and I really notice it with the empty malls!), it doesn’t hurt to save where you can. I love that they have a huge variety of seafood and meats, too, including all the ones that I miss about Filipino dishes.

I’ll be going back there to see what’s in store for the Chinese New Year that’s coming up in a week. We’re kind of like that here — those that are not really Chinese start to celebrate it as if it’s our own. Don’t laugh now. :p

[** I've read somewhere that shiitake mushrooms are expensive. I really didn't notice or it would have jumped out at me at the checkout counter. I think the big bag that I had was less than $3.]

Alright, if you made it till here, here’s the recipe:

Soy Bean Sprouts with Shiitake Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • soy bean sprouts (or mung bean sprouts if you can’t find them); I’d say do a 4:1 ratio of sprouts and mushrooms
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced about 1/4″ in thickness (about 1.5 packed cups when sliced)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Saute onion with ground pepper and a pinch of salt in a medium pot (big enough for the sprouts) with oil heated in medium-low heat. Do that for about 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and saute for another minute.
  2. Add oyster sauce and sliced mushrooms, saute for a minute then add water. Turn heat up to medium and wait to boil, and allow it to do so for 2 minutes to let the mushrooms cook.
  3. Once it boils, pour in the washed soy bean sprouts. Mix it with the rest of the boiling ingredients. Toss it regularly and cook until the stems start to become translucent. You can grab a sprout and taste it for your desired crunchiness. Add salt to taste.
  4. Serve on its on or with rice.

Posted in Asian dish, dailies, healthier choices, original Gourmeted recipe, quick & easy, shoppes, vegetables12 Comments

Celebrate the Mondays

I used to hate Mondays like the plague. I had anxiety attack-like symptoms that petrify me during Sundays that I don’t even get to enjoy that day. I know several people who dread Mondays and just know it’s going to be another ‘case of the Mondays’. Wow, way too many M-words. I’m happy to say that I’ve freed myself from that crutch.

My strategy the past few years? Schedule fun things that I like for Mondays, so I’ll have good things to look forward to, Like this:

Dutch Chocolate donut from Lee's Donuts

This afternoon I’m going to get a few of these incredibly delicious donuts to bring for Dan. This is my absolute favorite donut in the whole world, and that says a lot because I’ve eaten hundreds of them. [Scary.] If you’re ever in Vancouver — as if I haven’t given you enough reasons to go — don’t forget to visit Granville Island. I’m also seeing a good friend later to talk about exciting things (haha).

How do you beat your Case of the Mondays?

Posted in dailies, fun, shoppes, sweets, travel5 Comments

Shop Therapy: Kitchen Towels at W-S

Kitchen TowelsThings have been slow here because of bodily aches and pains (the perks of working in front of the computer for too long). I haven’t cooked anything this week because of ‘em. Dan has been such a good sport — cooking the other night and cleaning up after. Ahhh…what good life! Haha.

Having been deprived of cooking and currently stuck with the inability to knead dough for my next projects — soft pretzels and bagels — I have to satisfy my food and kitchen quota somehow.

Yesterday afternoon, after a full day of running around to figure out all these aches that I shouldn’t be feeling till I’m twice as old, I succumbed to the devil’s hiss of window shopping. While waiting for Dan to get out of work, I found myself at our usual stop: Williams-Sonoma. I drooled over the KitchenAid stand mixer that I really shouldn’t get right now, and ended up buying cute (and huge!) kitchen towels.

Don’t the citrus colors make you smile? [Just roll with the sick one 'ere. Haha] I just couldn’t leave the store without them! :-)

Now it’s your turn to spill — What have you purchased for your kitchen lately? What indulgence did you allow yourself?

Speaking of, I want some chocolate pudding pie now.

Right, right…I gotta go. I was advised less computer time. Ciao!

** Note:  This is not a sponsored post. I wish.  Do you hear me, Williams-Sonoma?!? :-)

Posted in dailies, kitchen tools and gadgets, shoppes6 Comments

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

There’s something about Super Bowl and the hoopla and the parties. I’ve never really been into it and my most in-depth participation in this old American tradition — and you can take my “in-depth participation” in football as lightly as you want — was yesterday. I probably shouldn’t tell you that aside from knowing that the game was going to be in our own backyard of Glendale, AZ, I knew nothing more of it until the day before. And when we went home, I found out that the players were staying at the hotel right across where we live. Obviously non-plussed. All I can say about the game is that it’s good to see the underdog win, and the two Mannings brothers have each won. See? I know a few things.

I’ve twice declared yesterday in mid-inebriation that Super Bowl is my new favorite holiday next to Christmas and Thanksgiving. Anything that involves a fiesta of good food and great company is right up my alley. What’s not to like? It makes me sound like complete glutton, but the easiest way to get me into anything is through food. At heart, I’m a man with a big stomach and and even bigger eye for food. Wait, that didn’t sound right… nevermind.

Yesterday for the party at Dan’s parents’ house, Dan and I brought spinach and artichoke dip, which garnered a handful of “Can you give me the recipe?”s, and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Dan will tell you all about his amazing dip later — you better try it!

I’ll provide you with some artery-clogging-free pictures of cupcakes for now.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes were “semi-homemade”, thanks to the Sprinkle’s Cupcake Mix from Williams-Sonoma. I must admit, it was alright for what it was worth. I totally agree with Dan’s dad that he was expecting a little bit more moisture as you bite into the cupcake. It wasn’t awesome and I’ve had better red velvets, but this was nice to try, especially for the eye candy factor.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I just adore the red batter and the resulting cake color.

The cupcake mix kit comes with the cupcake mix and the candy topping of brown and red circle, which was a cute touch. It doesn’t include the confectioner’s sugar for the icing, but it was so good that I will post it up here for you and you can make it for your cupcakes. Dan, who is averse to cream cheese, liked it a lot.

Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Please register and Vote for Gourmeted between February 4 and 8. Won’t you please, please — vote on the newbie on the block?
We’ll all have a chance to win a trip to Napa Valley for the annual Death by Chocolate Festival. We’ll take you there with pictures and send you postcards from beautiful Napa, if you want. ;-)
It’s a win-win situation! What are you waiting for? Go vote!

Here’s the frosting recipe: Continue Reading

Posted in baking, chocolate, dailies, dessert, fun, shoppes, sweets11 Comments

Post-Christmas Sale at Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate and Handcrafted Marshmallows

It is not every day you see things go on sale at Williams-Sonoma, but at this moment there are four products that are a divine addition to your cupboard. Peppermint flavored hot Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Chocolate marshmallows, and vanilla marshmallows.

I am not sure why they are only available around the holidays because fine chocolate is something that can be savored year-round. When Joy got a package of this rich goodness for Christmas a few years ago, we tried to stretch the marshmallows further than the hot chocolate. It was a feeble attempt. When we ran out in late February, which was still cold in Phoenix and Vancouver, we were crushed when we found out that they were no longer selling the divinity.

Our eyes glazed over this past Thanksgiving when we saw the many stacks of marshmallows (The Cocoa was nowhere to be found, though.) The holidays passed in a blink of an eye and we found ourselves shopping for us again. When we entered W-S, I saw someone holding the brown tin of hot chocolate. I was on the prowl. I finally found what I was looking for, with this news on a laminated card nearby:

Holiday Sale: 50-75% off!

I looked at the marshmallows: 3.99 a box. Originally 19.00.

I looked at the hot chocolate: 14.99 a tin. Originally 19.50.

$40 of sugar later, I have restocked the cupboard with the best tasting hot chocolate and marshmallows available. If you have a Williams-Sonoma near you, go and get yourself a box and a tin. You will be glad you did.

Posted in chocolate, shoppes5 Comments

Cheese, please

{democracy:2}

One thing I surely miss about Vancouver is the food, especially the variety and availability of all sorts of food from cuisines all over the world. Amen. Yumm. If you want to eat at a different restaurant each meal/day and be satisfied with the quality, I don’t think there would be a shortage of choices in that city. I love that I get a lot more “hits” that “misses” when it comes to trying new restaurants. [**If you're in Vancouver, go check out Dine Out Vancouver for affordable dining at Vancouver's top restaurants this week.**]

My best friend and I used to ‘trek’ a lot (by trek, I mean they’re not in our usual routes) to eat at different restaurants and food places. One of my favorite destinations is the cheese shop at West 2nd: les amis du FROMAGE. It’s near my other favorite stop, Patisserie Lebeau, whose Belgian waffles are to die for.

Before I left Vancouver, I dragged my other girl friend there so I could get cheese. Here’s my loot:

  • aged cheddar (3 years)
  • triple cream brie
  • goat cheese
  • cheese curds

I was a very happy girl that afternoon:

Cheeses!

The cheese curds were fresh and “squeaky” as they should be. I’ve never eaten cheese curds before and I must say they are my new favorite snack. I finished half the bag in one sitting. Oops. According to the seller at the cheese shop, you can combine/squeeze together the cheese curds to form one cheese. Well, it didn’t last long enough for me to do that. HA! I found out it’s also the cheese used for poutine. [I don't eat poutine.] All I know is that it tastes great and it’s “fun” to eat because it squeaks when you bite into it. Could be cool for kids.

The triple cream brie cheese was SO good. It melts in your mouth. I haven’t tasted brie with such smoothness and intense creaminess before. Even my parents were pleased with it.

The other two cheeses have yet to be tried. I’m so deprived of a cheese shop here in Scottsdale that I actually brought cheeses all the way from Vancouver — heavy hand-carry and all. Now that that the weekend’s here, it’s wine shopping time at BevMo!)

Posted in dairy, shoppes0 Comments