Saturday, January 17, 2015

Get your oysters at Whole Foods Market

Last month, a few foodies and I were invited to Whole Foods Market Interbay to enjoy oyster and wine pairings. I don't go out of my way for oysters, so it was neat to try different ones and their taste differences.

A photo posted by Curator PR (@curatorpr) on

The Pacific Northwest has many great places for oysters to grow with all the inlets and beaches. They are evidently fairly easy to grow and sustainable.  They need little care and help clean the water while they feed on plankton filtered through their gills.

My favorite was the Penn Cove Select, it had a bright taste but not overly like the sea. I was really impressed that each oyster had a different flavor, even though they all come from the same sea. I guess its sort of like appellations for wine.

Shucking oysters is a learned skill and requires a special knife. Professionals use gloves to prevent stabbing themselves. I hear that you can even use a screwdriver to shuck them, but leave the shucking to the pros. You can pick up oysters at the market and bring them to your next social gathering. Oysters definitely add an air of class to a party or Sunday brunch.

If you're in Seattle, Whole Foods Market South Lake Union is having an Oyster Happy Hour with $0.69 oysters on Tuesday, January 21st 2015.

Disclaimer: I wasn't compensated for this post. I was, however, plied with oysters and wine by the Whole Foods Seattle PR team. All the opinions are mine.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Take your Kindle on the road with you with a Mobile Wifi HotSpot

Last month, a group of bloggers got together at the Techlicious & TravelingMom Holiday Roadshow to share some technology and traveling tips.  We had a wonderful lunch and I walked away with a Kindle Fire HD and an AT&T Unite for GoPhone  by NetGear Wi-Fi mobile hotspot. While each of them is pretty cool in their own, they're like the Wonder Twins - combined they're pretty powerful.

The Kindle Fire HD 7" is a pretty nice starter tablet. It's got a beautiful screen and a fast responsive processor. Battery life is pretty nice, lasting a day off use, making it great for trips. Mashable rates the Kindle Fire (albeit a larger size) a good one to get this holiday season.  This is my first table and I'm excited to leverage the larger than a phone form factor.

I'm truly interested in using it like a tablet, leveraging the larger screen for taking notes, looking at pictures in beautiful HD, and reading recipes while cooking. It's great for those things that work on your phone, but work better on a larger screen. This post was even drafted on my Kindle.

There are plenty of apps available through Amazon's App Store. Many software makers even keep the Kindle version up to date with their Android versions!  Skype works nicely with the front facing camera to keep me connected, though I don't travel as much as I used to.  I miss Instagram and the Google apps, though older versions can be sideloaded.

But what the Kindle excels at is connecting you to Amazon library of movies, books, music and their store. With a Amazon Prime Account it's so easy to quickly find and start watching a movie. And they can even be downloaded to watch when you don't have Wi-Fi, like on an airplane (don't be that guy with the $1,171 Wi-Fi bill).

Coupled with a AT&T Unite for GoPhone  by NetGear Wi-Fi mobile hotspot, using AT&T's fast 4G LTE (where available) network, you can connect your Wi-Gi only Kindle (or up to 10 other devices) to the internet.

This is great when traveling on a road-trip or, in my case, when the public Wi-Fi at the pool
just doesn't cut it.  You can have your own trusted network anywhere you are and not have to worry about anybody snooping your connection or if there will be Wi-Fi where you're going.  You don't have to type long emails on your little phone keyboard, you can fire up your laptop and use the full size keyboard from anywhere!

And because its through GoPhone, you don't have to sign up for a new subscription. You buy the device from AT&T or other retailers and then add a pre-paid plan. I've been using the $25 for 1.5GB of data in a month and that's been getting me through the multi-day swim meets that end the short course swimming season.

The new Kindle also comes with a 2 year anything goes warranty, when coupled with a Nerf-like case make this the kind of device you can share with your kids. It's got multiple user accounts so you can share it with your family and everybody keeps their own place in their books. With the Free Time Unlimited, kids are provided kid appropriate books, games and videos and the parent has control of how long they can play games and how much reading must they do before hand.

Note: I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive some cool swag, including the Kindle and the Mobile Hotspot and a really awesome lunch. All the content is my own honest opinion.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bourbon and Clove Cider Cocktail [Recipe]

Over the years, I've developed a taste for whisky.  I've figured out where my tastes lie in Scotch (The McCallan from the Scottish Highlands) but I've also had to more closely manage my budget.  There has been a re-birth of whiskey in the United States and I've begun to explore different bourbons.  Some of them are quite good and a great price point too.

This fall, I was at a social gathering sponsored by Farmstr, a local Seattle start up connecting farmers and consumers. You can buy a flat of brussels sprouts or an organic, free-range chicken directly from the farmer and pick it up at a convenient Seattle location.

At this gathering of food bloggers, there was a delightful cider punch. It wasn't cloyingly sweet and there was a delicate hint of cloves and you could feel the warmth of the alcohol trailing on your throat. It was a very nice, subtle way to enjoy the flavors of fall and winter.

I asked the chef for the recipe (cider, bourbon and homemade clove bitters) but didn't get the ratios. And on top of that, I'm not quite cool enough to have clove bitters nor have I gotten into making bitters, but my browser search history was full of "how to make bitters" searches.

While it doesn't seem too hard to make bitters, I decided to experiment and see if I could make a similar libation with ingredients around the house.

I started by infusing some apple cider with cloves and reduced it a bit, because I was side tracked by a family card game.  Then, I tried adding some bourbon until I found a nice balance of sweetness. While I made it as a drink for one, this could easily be served as a punch as it was at the Farmstr party.

So, I've noticed something else about drinking bourbon. I don't drink very much, maybe one alcoholic drink a week, but everytime I've had a bourbon drink with a particular brand of bourbon, I just cannot sleep. Its almost like when you have a strong coffee too late in the day and it keeps you awake. I've not noticed this with all bourbon brands and never with any other alcohol. Does this happen to anyone else?

Bourbon and Clove Cider Cocktail

  • Apple Cider, 1 cup  (I used filtered because that was all my son could find when he was on the grocery run)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • Bourbon

  1. Infuse the cider with the cloves. Break the cloves in half and add to the cider in a pot on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes or reduced to about 3/4 cup. More reducing will bring out the sweetness of the apples and the cloves.
  2. Filter the infused cider and cool. Or do it in the opposite order. Store it in a closed container in the fridge, maybe a mason jar for some extra hipster points.
  3. When you're ready for a drink, pour 3 shots of clove infused cider and 1 shot of bourbon in an old fashioned glass and enjoy.  I didn't add ice because the cider was cool from the fridge and I prefer my dark alcohol drinks neat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails [Book Review]

From the Brooklyn based guys that brought you the Mason Shaker, Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails is a beautifully photographed book of cocktail recipes, celebrating the seasons and seasonal ingredients in artisan cocktails.

I was given this book to review and if I have to test the recipes (read: drink cocktails) to do a little work, I'm game.  And these aren't fruity, sweet cocktails either; these are the savory cocktails, focusing on the flavors of seasonal ingredients. With the cover photograph having a sprig of rosemary, I knew this book was for me.

Unlike many other cocktail cookbooks, this book is organized by season. Each recipe uses seasonal ingredients: sage and grapefruit in winter, fresh berries in spring, watermelon and stone fruit in summer and apple cider in fall. Using the freshest ingredients makes for the best flavored cocktails and the recipes were driven by what they could find in their Brooklyn farmer's markets.

Each recipe is beautifully photographed, including the ingredients artfully displayed and the finished drink. After making the Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sour as my tester drink, I passed the book to my wife to choose our next cocktail. She was unable to choose a drink, because "this book is like Instagram for cocktails."

A photo posted by Heather Murphy-Raines/Scouts H (@unitedstatesofmotherhood) on

Something else I loved about this book was that each season included a non-alcoholic drink, still focusing on those seasonal ingredients. I enjoy a cocktail, but more than one or two and I stop enjoying them and just want to sleep.

The book excerpt has a few recipes, so you can check out the drinks and decide if this is the book for your cocktail library. I'm not sure if this book belongs on my cookbook shelf or on display on my coffee table. Its a beautiful book on its own, with wonderful recipes contained inside.

As stated in the review, I received a copy of this book for review from Blogging for Books. Other than the book, I was not compensated. The opinions in this review are my own and I wouldn't have shared it with you if it wasn't a great book.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Varied Musical Tastes

Lately, I've not been happy with the music on the radio here in Seattle. Sure, one station has started off a 2 Minute Promise (only two minutes of ads at a time), but that just gets them back to the mostly cruddy hipster music sooner. My daughter and I got burned a few nights ago: another station's DJ announced "great music right after we come back [from these ads]." It turns out we almost finished our drive home, more than five minutes, before they played some pop song that neither of us liked.

I'm always flipping through the presets in our cars, hoping that the next station will be playing a great song. And you know that the expression the grass is always greener isn't always true.  But every once in a while, I get lucky and find a good song. And I'll turn it up.  Loud.

I've realized that music I like falls into some pretty disparate categories. This dawned on me as I was driving back into my neighborhood with Verdi's Rigoletto playing loud enough that the ladies walking on the street could hear it.

The morning before that, as I was driving to CrossFit at 5:40AM in the dark, it was Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia. It's got such a catchy beat and did a half-way decent job of firing me up. You've got to be awake for 6AM CrossFit.

Bend Ova by Lil Jon has gotten some radio play of late. The thumping bass, the rhythm of the lyrics, the call and response just makes it ripe for being played loud. Just about everything my Lil Jon makes me want to move and I don't have any moves. Warning, though this the non-explicit version, its pushes quite a few boundaries, so its probably still NSFW. Or when the kids are home. See, that's why I play it loud in the car.

And none of these are my favorites or even fall in the same genre as my favorites. You've got to go pretty deep on the independent radio stations around here to hear any Ministry, KMFDM or NOFX.

What song(s) are you going to turn up when they come on the radio that might surprise even yourself?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

If your shower is longer than two songs...

I've recently come up with a small productivity trick. I guess it can even be called a lifehack. I keep my showers short and sweet in the morning listening to music. Yes, listening to music.

I enjoy music. It really brightens my mood or helps pull me out of a funk. My family can tell when I've had a rough day if they come home and some dark industrial is playing. When I stay up way too late coding, dirty dubstep helps keep me going for the long run. I have a playlist (listen to it on Spotify its loud and probably NSFW) that fires me up on the way to CrossFit. A day doesn't go by without music. With smart phones and streaming audio services it makes it that much easier to get your music where ever you are.

I go to CrossFit first thing in the morning and return home to shower, get breakfast and get ready for my day. It's so easy to step into a hot shower and let the water massage my sore muscles and warm me back up again, as we start to get into cooler weather. I could just stand there (okay, sometimes lean against the wall) and let the hot water course down my back. I could do it until the hot water runs out.

I've started playing music (you might recall this post) while I'm in the shower and found that a shower takes less than 2 songs. So, I use that as my benchmark for shower length. Instead of falling into a blissful state of relaxation in the hot water, it reminds to keep moving.

I've been unable to get any of my kids to take on this practice and I've got kids who can just stand in the shower well after the hot water has run out (or at least that's how long they seem to me). But I think it would be a great tip to keep them on task.

Now, before any of you go out and have your kids start this, I've also figured out how to game my own system. Most of the time, I listen to punk songs, which are on the order of 90 seconds to 2 minutes long. But if I want to take a longer, relaxing shower, most dubstep songs are 4 to 5 minutes long.  So, if they start listening to Iron Butterfly's In A Gadda Da Vida (bewtween 8 and 30 minutes, depending upon the version) or Weezer's Only in Dreams (7:59) as their two songs, you'll know they're playing you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Paleo Chicken and Waffles

Last weekend was the 2014 International Food Bloggers Conference, where brands and bloggers got together in Seattle to network, learn and enjoy good food.  With breakouts on Food, Writing and Technology, there was something for every food blogger. I had an enjoyable time and actually got to meet some bloggers in real life. Ironically, some of those I met live in my same neighborhood.

What was great about this year's conference was that there were many brands represented in the healthy space, and for me, that means acceptably paleo.  Dinner last night was brought to us by the swag from these brands.

  • The local sausage company, Isernio's, which makes clean chicken and pork (didn't know this before the conference) sausage.
  • Nutiva, which makes coconut products, like coconut oil and flour
  • NestFresh, a cage free, organic egg producer
Almost mis en place!

I had a hole in my tummy that was looking to be filled with waffles, so that's what I decided to make.  After going through my paleo waffle recipes (thank you PaleOMG), I found that they all required coconut milk, of which we had none.

It was almost 8pm and we were getting hungry. I knew that its only an 8 minute trip, one way, to the grocery store. So, yes, I did make a grocery store run for coconut milk and a few add-ons as I dashed out the door.
Paleo chicken and waffles.

 I made PaleOMG's Savory Waffles and topped them with browned Isernio's Chicken Breakfast sausage and some of Heather's spicy (homegrown) ketchup. While the savory herbs in the waffles complimented the sausage, the waffles were dry. Her recipe actually tops them with a gravy and they needed the moisture from a gravy, for sure.

What was neat about IFBC was that these were all products I already enjoyed in my clean eating and I got to meet brand representatives and see some new products (more on that later).

Disclaimer: The chicken and eggs used in this post were some swag from the conference.  I ate this stuff already, so I already thought it was great before I got some free coupons! While I wasn't compensated for this post, I did receive a blogger's discount for attending the conference and this post is meeting a part of what I had to do in return for the discount.