Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Spring Menu at Shibumi Izakaya

The spring menu is coming to Shibumi Izakaya on Capital Hill in Seattle! Last week I was invited to a preview dinner of the forthcoming Japanese small plates and comfort foods. I've never been there before and wasn't sure what the evening had in store, but I was impressed.

The restaurant is beautiful and minimalist with wood accents and Japanese ceramics and clothing on display. The bar is well stocked, with a range of Japanese whiskys, sake and sochu. Always my favorite in any restaurant, the open kitchen borders on one half one the restaurant.

The bartender is super friendly. I'd never had shochu before and after chatting about how it fits into different cocktails, he brought out some samples. Quite a difference between barley and sweet potato distilled liquor. I had his take on Moscow Mule, made with his own ginger beer. He also made a vesper, substituting shochu for vodka, which was a delicious drink, too.  I recommend Shibumi on the drinks alone!
Moscow Mule with house made ginger beer
Like many Japanese restaurants, Shibumi serves beautiful sashimi. And while delicious, Shibumi has far more to offer. This eating experience showed that Japanese cuisine was more than just ginger and wasabi.
Sashimi
Once the small plates started coming, it got real.  The food ranged from vinegary and sweet shrimp and pickled cucumbers to savory cuttlefish stuffed with sausage. It was an eye opening evening; I don't think of sausage as a typical Japanese dish.

Soft boiled eggs are hard to come by in restaurants and I was pleasantly surprised by the soft egg with roe. The egg was perfectly creamy and the roe popped with the freshness of the sea. It's less salty than caviar and was a beautiful treat. I will replicate this at home for sure.

 

The chef, Eric Stapelman, came out and visited our table a few times. He shared that shibumi means always striving for perfection and it shows in his food. There was one dish that the restaurant was too dark for me to capture a picture and it was quite possibly the highlight of the evening.  A piece of poached salmon was wrapped in tofu skin, packaged up as a little gift drizzled with a savory nage. Each bite was blissful, but in a later discussion with the chef, he said he was considering swapping the salmon with his house made sausage - demonstrating how he's always trying to perfect what he does.

The evening wrapped up with black sesame ice cream, beautifully served with an edible flower. The black sesame impart a vaguely coffee flavor to the ice cream and the whole sesame give it a little crunch.


The new menu launches Wednesday April 15th and will delight your senses. Stretch your eating boundaries, try a new cuisine and enjoy some great cocktails.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, but I was given an awesome dinner and drinks. As always, the opinions are mine and I'm looking forward to coming back to this restaurant.

I'm still going to get Specialty Coffee

I wasn't able to attend this year's Specialty Coffee Association of America's Event in Seattle this weekend, but I've been getting my fair share of specialty coffee and have been living vicariously through the #SCAA2015 Instagram feed.




Over the year's I've realized the benefit of slowing down and enjoying life's experiences, even if they're the small everyday things. Coffee is one of those things for me. I used to drink 6 -8 shots of espresso a day. Along with some other lifestyle changes I'll drink one coffee a day, but it will be a damn fine coffee.

There is a lot of mediocre coffee available today and people drink it up. But what is great when you can find people that really love coffee and it shows in their product.  I've found a small cafe in Burien, Washington that makes excellent coffee and love the fact that at most Starbucks, you can get a pour over.

With a little searching or good friends you can find great roasters. A friend of mine from work brought me coffee from Bend, Oregon from Backporch Coffee Roasters which I've quite enjoyed of the last few weeks.


Sure, I've geeked out a bit with my purchase of a grinder and love my acaia coffee scale, but they all aid the experience in bringing out the best of the coffee.




Starbucks has done something wonderful with coffee, too. And I'm not talking about the fact that you can get a consistent cup of coffee just about anywhere in the United States (or right across the street from you where ever yo u may be in Seattle) - Starbucks has opened a roastery just for their own Reserve beans.

A photo posted by Beau (@beauraines) on



They have rare beans and they roast them in the same space that they make your drinks. Its not just machine pulled espresso drinks - they have all types of different pour overs, siphons and cold brew. Now that Starbucks has gotten everybody hooked on coffee, they're going to upgrade everybody to good coffee!

Ironically, the Starbucks Roastery is right down the street from Victrola Coffee Roasters. While they've been on Capital Hill for a long time, I wonder how many people walk right past them, not knowing the wonderful coffee that has been available since the early 2000's.

A photo posted by Beau (@beauraines) on



Take a little time, make an investment in your coffee experience and really enjoy it. You can have Specialty Coffee right in your own home.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Slowing down to enjoy the moment, old skool style

Yesterday morning, as I was making coffee, my wife asked me why I was using a hand grinder to grind my coffee beans and not using a machine. I recently purchased a burr grinder and its taken my coffee making to a new level. Her question made me think some - sure the hand grinder is one-third to one-fifth the price of an electric machine, it appeals to my price sensitivity, but there is something more to it.

My answer was that I could take the grinder with me when I go camping or traveling, continuing the idea that I could make great coffee anywhere. But more and more as the day went on, I realized that it was about slowing down to enjoy the moment.


Over the last few years, there are a few old skool methods and technologies that have re-surfaced in my life. I've started to make coffee with fewer machines, just different manual brew methods. It takes more time than just pushing a button on a super-auto espresso machine or popping a K-Cup in the machine and I get to enjoy the act of making the coffee.  The grinder was just another step in that direction, only adding a minute or two to the process, but allowing me time to think about where the beans came from and how they were ultimately turned into the drink I'm about to enjoy.


The same thing with shaving. Yes, shaving, something I've been doing almost every day since my late teens. I've always hated shaving, but I hate been un-shaven even more. I'd shave while I was taking a shower, taking advantage of the fact that the hot water would have already softened my beard (yeah, it grows that fast). It just became one of those things I'd do.

About a year ago, I got a double edged razor for my birthday - old skool, like your grandpa used. It takes a little longer, but the slowing down gives me the time to listen to the sound of the whiskers being cut, enjoy the smell of the shaving cream or feel the soap lathering on my chin and neck. I look forward to shaving now; it's a calming experience.

This year, for my birthday, I got a few cast iron pans. I find it amazing that cast iron pans cost less, last forever and cook better than the modern, copper, stainless steel and non-stick pans. I don't know why its taken me so long to start using them - I love them. The trade off comes in that they need to be seasoned, heating the pan and oiling it down, and entirely dried to prevent rusting. But with slowing down when taking care of these pans, the food browns better and still doesn't stick to the cookware. Fried eggs have crispy bottoms and beautiful runny yolks.

There is something to be said about returning to the classics, the old skool ways of doing things and stepping away from the push button automation or the arms race of how many blades can be squeezed into a razor. Slow down and enjoy the moment even when you're getting things.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Easy Microwave Poached Eggs

The first month of the new year has wrapped up. Maybe you set the goal to eat healthier in 2015 and after a month, the idea is getting a bit stale or hard to maintain. Maybe you just finished the Whole 30 and are thinking about how to make some of those healthy eating changes stick. Maybe you're trying to figure out how to keep your new morning routine of working out and still get to work on time.  I'll show you how easy it is to poach eggs - so easy you can do it at work.

I'm excited to be working with NestFresh, a producer of cage free eggs. On top of having plenty of room for their egg layers, NestFresh uses a network of smaller, family run farms across the US, getting you the freshest eggs. Since eggs are such a great food, I'll be writing a few posts over the next few months about how to cook eggs - there are so many ways to go beyond scrambled and fried!

A photo posted by Beau (@beauraines) on
And if you looked carefully at that picture above, you'll notice it is on a paper plate. I made that egg at the office!

Eggs are a healthy ingredient, loaded with vitamins and nutrients and a great source of protein. If you eat Paleo, they're a low-cost, clean, nutrient dense food, as opposed to other clean, protein sources.

Over the years, I've always viewed poached eggs as special, sort of a rarity. You have to be at a certain class of restaurant to see them on the menu, often as Eggs Benedict. Your local greasy spoon probably doesn't serve them, and if it does, your local diner probably isn't very greasy.

A photo posted by Beau (@beauraines) on
I will often make poached eggs on those special brunch holidays, like Easter or Mother's Day, and it is almost always for Eggs Benedict or replacing the Canadian Bacon with smoked salmon (rapidly becoming my preference). I've got inserts to cook them in a sauce pan, a special pan with poaching cups and have learned the great method to cook them just in a pot of water. Like making eggs any style, it is pretty easy, but it takes either some preparation or attention or some gadget to poach them.

But I've learned to make poached eggs in the microwave.

Ingredients and Equipment

  • 1 or 2 eggs
  • Small, microwaveable container 2 - 3 cups in size
  • Water

Steps

Fill the container approximately 2/3 full with body temperature water. I use my finger to assess the temperature and want it feeling neither hot nor cold. Poaching in the microwave is very sensitive to the initial water temperature - beware if one of your office mates was washing their coffee cup right before you fill your container.

I've also found that the shape of the container is important, the transition between the sides should be curved, not a 90 degree angle (like in many take away soup containers).


Crack your eggs into the water and cover with a paper towel. While I've never had a yolk explode on me, I've had pockets in the white pop which makes quite a mess on the inside of the microwave. The curved corned in the container help prevent those pockets.  Just cover it - you don't want to be the person who makes a mess in the office microwave. 


Put the covered container in the microwave and cook on high. This step will take some experimentation, depending upon the size of your container, the number of eggs and the power of your microwave.  In the picture below, I'm cooking two eggs in a 1000 watt microwave - it takes about 3 minutes.  When I'm using a 1200 watt microwave and only cooking one egg, it takes about 65 seconds.

As you try this with your microwave, remember, its far easier to add more time and cook it longer, rather than to un-cook the egg. And once the egg nears being done, 5 to 10 seconds can make the difference between runny yolks and solid yolks.


Take the eggs out of the microwave and test for doneness. They white should be firm and the yolk should still be soft to the touch. I've never found that the water is too hot for me to use my finger to make this check. If they're not done, put them in for a little more time.

\

Carefully drain the water from the container. You'll want to do this promptly, because the egg continues to cook in the hot water. The egg will barely stick to the container, so I often use a fork as the filter to hold my egg back and let the water flow out. You're so close, you don't want to lose the egg down the drain at this point!


Transfer the egg to your breakfast plate, with some clean sausage or bacon and my favorite, mashed sweet potatoes. Season as you see fit (I've not yet brought a salt and pepper shaker or Sriracha to work yet) and enjoy.



Once you work out the specifics for your microwave and bowl you are using, this is very simple to do. I take my eggs with me to work in the morning and a container of pre-cooked sausage and smashed sweet potatoes and make breakfast at work. Invariably, I'll get comments about what a great breakfast or on the days I bring a few slices of bacon to microwave there, how great it smells.  It beats out everybody else's instant oatmeal or cinnamon roll that they are warming up.

There is a slight downside that I must warn you about. Poaching eggs in the microwave, or in a pot for that matter, is really easy and you might just start doing it every day. The cachet of a poached egg might wear off a bit, but you'll be getting a healthy, delicious breakfast.

Note: I was compensated this post, but this is the way I make my breakfast almost everyday. All opinions are my own.

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

Ingredients
  • 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

Directions
  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.