Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weekend of Festivals

My oh my was this a fun weekend. Saturday - Bite of Seattle, Sunday - Sequim, WA Annual Lavender Festival. I certainly ate a lot of food and got a lot of sun! Summer in Washington State is fantastic. First up, Bite of Seattle. The Bite of Seattle is the cities annual foodie festival. Like any festival at the Seattle Center, there is a large variety of food vendors, but the two features that are special to Bite of Seattle that I most enjoyed were the local and/or organic companies giving out samples, coupons and information, and 'The Alley', the Tom Douglas sponsored $10 speed lane to a sampling of food from some of Seattle's finest restaurants. The menu of 'The Alley' was different each day, my favorites from Saturdays menu were..

Rub With Love
d Hill's Tri Tip Beef —served with Ancho Molasses BBQ Sauce and Corn Relish

Thai Seafood Salad—Calamari, Shrimp and Octopus with sweet white onion, Kaffir lime, mint, cilantro and peanuts in a spicy Thai sweet-n-sour dressing

Cellars Restaurant & Lounge
GNUDI—“naked ravioli” Gnocci like ricotta and spinach pasta served with mushrooms and sage in white truffle oil cream sauce

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Dungeness crab—a chilled heirloom soup topped with herbed Dungeness Crab and avocado

Absolutely Delicious!

After consuming a free Brown Cow Yogurt (a favorite of mine ever since I got a free sample on the corner of 3rd and Pine last summer), gourmet popcorn, salsa, Ocean Spray Cran-Pomegranate Juice, Jones Soda, the food from 'The Alley' and who knows what else (can you
blame me for being unable to keep track?) I headed home full and exhausted. I was moving at a nice rate until I hit Whole Foods, upon entering to use the bathroom, I discovered they now sell Molly Moon's...Seattle's newest, most delicious and original ice cream. Realizing I hadn't had dessert, I got a 'mini' (one scoop) of Mojito Sorbet and closed out my trip to Bite of Seattle on a cool and sweet note.

Upon arriving home, some friends arrived at my apartment. Seeing as though they had gone to Bite of Seattle the day before, their bellies were much less stuffed than mine and were eager to
cook a fun and fancy dinner. After some snacks to hold them over while I mentally prepared myself for more food, we decided to prepare linguine with clam sauce, topped with fresh steamed clams. Sounds fancy, right? Turns out it's a fairly simple meal to make! Butter, cream (we used fat free milk plus a few teaspoons of corn starch instead), some fresh herbs (we used basil and parsley), salt & pepper plus a sprinkle of shredded parmesan and...ta da! A delicious and satisfying feast. Who knew?

With an eventful Saturday under my belt, I slept soundly and rose early the next morning. It was Lavender Festival Day! It turns out that the north east corner of the Olympic Peninsula has the climate and soil of France, and is perfect for lavender growing! After a quick drive to Edmunds, a lovely ferry ride across the sound and another quick drive (okay...so this one was not so quick), we arrived in Sequim (pronounced 'squim', like 'squid' but with an 'm'), home to the13th Annual Lavender Festival.

The 13th Annual Sequim Lavender Festival is the premier celebration of the joys of lavender and the largest lavender festival in North America. Sequim is located on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, cradled in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Park. The Sequim-Dungeness Valley has an ideal microclimate for growing lavender and with less than 20 inches of rain per year; the area is similar to the Provence region of France. Because of the unique conditions and dedicated farmers, Sequim lavender has received world-wide recognition for its superior quality and fragrance. Our farmers have over 200 years of combined experience cultivating lavender, developing the best planting and growing practices, and creating lavender products. (www.lavenderfestival.com)

According to newspaper reports, there were over 200 stands at the street fair and over 30,000 visitors to the festival. Wow! The amount of lavender infused food was impressive, and the lavender infused culinary items for sale were inspiring. I purchased a little container of culinary lavender and I can't wait to try it out! My favorite part by far though, were the farm tours. There was a free shuttle bus running from the street fair to each farm ($15 got you into all 8 farms, if you had the time!), and we managed to make it to three farms before we ran out of time (and
energy). At Port Williams Lavender Farm we got a taste for what was to come and learned about the organic soil they use. At Purple Haze Lavender Farm, my favorite for sure, we were entertained with jovial live music, relaxed with drinks from the Lavender Bar (I had a lavender cosmo, delicious!) and took in the beauty of the neverending fields of lavender. As seen in the picture at the beginning of this post, they had a field of lavender with alternating rows of deep and light purple varieties, with a huge hedge of sunflowers at the end. Gorgeous! We finished up at Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm, where we cooled off with some White Chocolate Raspberry Lavender Ice Cream, and got our picture taken in the field.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food-Lover's Guide to Seattle? Count me in!

This month, The Kitchn is doing a food guide to American cities, and first up....Seattle! Check out the Seattle post, "A Food-Lover's Guide to Seattle". I was familiar with a few of the places they discussed, and already checked out one of the ones that was new to me! I stopped by Cookies last night and my oh my! It's cookie cutter heaven! I left there with some wonderful cookie cutters for a favorite lady of mine who just had a birthday (can't spoil the surprise and tell you what they are!) plus a mini moose cookie cutter, to accompany the large one I already own (now all I need is a mini Maine and a mini lobster, and my Maine themed cookie cutter collection will have the essentials!). City Kitchens has always been my favorite place to get cookie cutters (and everything else kitchen related), and being downtown it's most convenient for me, but I've added Cookies to my mental list of great places and if I'm in the neighborhood (Ballard), you can bet I'll make a stop. If you need unique cookie cutters, a wide selection of sprinkles, adornments, etc, or a fantastic spread of lovely aprons, Cookies is where it's at!

P.S. I added my two cents in the comments section, couldn't resist!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Prairie Home Companion

Well, if ever there was a way to celebrate the 4th of July a few weekends ago, I found it. And most of the over 60 crowd in central Minnesota would agree with me, I think. I attended the 35th Anniversary show of Prairie Home Companion, along with 10,000 other individuals, in the small town of Avon, Minnesota. Here's what I wrote while attending the event:

"If the public radio audience is narrow, and the Prairie Home Companion audience narrower - those that show up for 4th of July celebrations in Avon, MN - to celebrate an otherwise generally debaucherous holiday amongst families and a live brass brand... it's that much narrower. In a very complex Venn diagram (how do you spell that?) these families match mine. Sitting in rural Minnesota, surrounded by strangers, I am home.

"Rhubarb pie sold out first, then brats (bratwurst sausages, to those of you that are not midwest-based). They can't get rid of the pizza. The only beverages being purchased are water and beer. Every kid in sight is nibbling on carrot sticks, raspberries - and that one has a hunk of brie cheese.

"Children old enough to be irritable at the world are coping with their frustrations by quietly reading books, propping up spare layers to create shade for their huddled reading nooks."

I ask you - does this sound like your average American crowd? I think not. Get your Venn diagrams started.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Cocktails

Simple syrup is not a new concept to me. I'm quite aware of the fact that it is a key component of many a drink, but I've never made it at home. And wow. It is easy! And delicious. If you're a fan of sweet, summery drinks (with or without alcohol), whip up some simple syrup and go nuts! I added mint to mine (mint I grew myself, don't forget!), and it made a lovely addition. I made a drink based off a The Kimmy, a recipe I found on culinate.com. For simple syrup, simply bring equal parts sugar and water, plus mint in this case, to a boil and then let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. If you added something such as mint, simply pour the simmered mix through a strainer and press the leaves for maximum flavor. The recipe on culinate.com recommends using 1 cup of loosely packed mint leaves. Once you've got your syrup, keep it in a glass jar in the fridge and use at will!

The drink I made included gin, tonic, a splash of both lemon and lime juice, simple syrup and mint for garnish. Mint simple syrup is a key ingredient in mojitos, a personal favorite, so that's what I'm going to test it on next. Wish me luck!