Saturday, December 05, 2015

An alcohol problem - not having the right stuff

I have an alcohol problem. As we prepared for Thanksgiving and brought many fresh herbs that we don't usually have on hand and celebratory whipped cream, I started thinking of the cocktails that I could make with those ingredients. And unfortunately, I was stymied by not having the alcohol that I needed (okay, wanted).

Several years ago, I went to a movie theater and got a cocktail. Cocktails at the movies is another thing, but it was a nice date night with my wife. I had a Bogart cocktail, that was composed of muddled sages, gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and a lime garnish. I fall on the savory part of the cocktail spectrum, so this was right up my alley.

While I was preparing the ingredients for Thanksgiving, I secreted away a few sage leaves to save for my cocktail.  The next day, while we were lolling around in our food coma, I decided that the time was right for a Bogart cocktail. I started to gather my components, I discovered I was out of Cointreau! Stymied by the lack of a key ingredient, I decided that I would try another drink.

I had a growler of cold coffee, cans of whipped cream for pie and it was cold outside. Sounds like Irish Coffee weather! When we have whipped cream at our house, it is most commonly applied directly from the can into the mouth. You have to be fast to use in on pie or hot chocolate.

I warmed up my coffee, it had been on hand for my daughter to make iced coffees in the morning on the way to school, and went looking for my bottle of Jameson. I was thinking how nice it would be to sit by the fireplace, catch up on my reading and enjoy an Irish Coffee. I leaned over to go through our liquor cabinet contents and could not find my bottle. It turns out, I had finished it last winter and not yet replaced it.

My problem is that I don't have the liquors I want to make my cocktails with!  If you ask my wife, she'll tell you that my problem is that I have to call it a night after two drinks (sometimes even just one, I'm such a lightweight). In many ways, she's right; I won't drink a lot or often, but when I do, I want something good.  What is your favorite cocktail this winter?

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Seattle Craft Distillery - 3 Howls

Seattle has a growing craft distillery movement. Ahh, who am I kidding; there is just a growing craft movement... Craft coffee, craft cocktails, craft beer, craft (not with a K) cheese and craft distilleries. A few weeks ago, I was invited to 3 Howls Distillery in Seattle's SoDo district for a tasting and tour.

A small sample of the long line of spirits...
What I find especially neat about the craft distillery movement, really any of the craft , is that the people involved are so passionate about their craft. One of the 3 Howls owners, Will, gave my wife and I a personal tour of his distillery space. It's plain to see from just chatting with him that he loves distilling and making the perfect spirits. 

Even though Will has been making a lot of rum, we got a sample of his still aging single malt whisky.  I think he only had 2 or 3 barrels; this is really a small batch operation, so it was quite nice of him to share. And Heather, who isn't a whisky kind of girl, liked this single malt. It was smokey and smooth, but not overly smokey where it was choking you out. I'm looking forward to when this one is available for purchase!

Getting a special sample of @3howlsdistillery single malt #whiskey from @3howls founder Will. #3howls #Seattle #whiskey #rum #vodka #gin #cocktail

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

I got to take home a sample of the Hopped Whisky which was nice to enjoy on this blustery weekend we've been having in the Pacific Northwest. It was good whisky, but my tastes stray from the hoppy side of things, even in the beers I drink.
Drinking my party favor at home.
If you're in Seattle, 3 Howls offers distillery tours and will share their passion with you. If you're not in Seattle and you want to check them out, they're nationally distributed by Total Wine and More. Drink responsibly, but drink well.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Lingering over breakfast with a french press

I enjoy drinking coffee. I'm not one of those people that needs coffee to function first thing in the morning; my first coffee will often be 5 to 6 hours after I wake up. I drink coffee for the flavors of the beans and for the art of making coffee.

I recently attended the 2015 International Food Bloggers Conference (disclaimer: this post is one of three posts I'll write in return for a discounted ticket) and a pre-event sponsored by Sur La Table and KitchenAid. I'm all about gadgets and cool kitchen cookery, so it was a great to visit the Sur La Table's test kitchens and see the new products coming out this fall. And I was quite pleased by the new Kitchen Aid Precision French Press that we were given.
If you've seen my Instagram photos, you know I love coffee and geeking out about it, maybe half of my pictures are of coffee in the making. Not only is the Precision French Press beautiful in it's stainless steel glory, it has a scale and timer built in so you can get your coffee just right every time. And because a French Press says lingering over breakfast or a baked good, the double wall construction keeps the coffee warm longer.
Photo by Parker Raines
Using the press is quite simple, especially given that it is self-contained.  I warm my press with boiling water, empty it and measure the coffee with the integrated scale. The manual comes with a table for a 1:16 coffee to water ratio, so no early morning math is needed! Tare the scale and fill with water to the target weight and then start the timer, all right there on the handle.  I like a 4 minute brew time and after a stir to break the crust, a gentle press of the plunger makes great tasting coffee.

Keep in mind that brewing with French Press does require a slightly coarser grind coffee, otherwise pressing the plunger will get pretty tough.  I've had glass presses break on me as I've been pressing and its quite a mess, but with the strength of stainless steel, I'm not sure how this one would fail - no matter what it would be a hot mess. So, just make sure you use an appropriate grind, which is nicely pictured in the manual, as well.

Personally, I'm quite happy that the art and science of making coffee is becoming more prevalent. It's no longer the brown stuff from the can that my grandparents would drink; like wine and chocolate, the subtle flavor nuances are now being appreciated.

How do you like to make and drink your coffee? Are you on board with the craft coffee movement or does coffee help you survive the morning?

Saturday, September 05, 2015

September is going to be awesome

September is shaping up to be an awesome month.  For one, I'm writing on my blog again after an almost 3 month hiatus.

End of Summer Backpacking Trip

September started off (well, really August ended) with a 2 night backpacking trip with my son in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. He said he wanted to go backpacking during the summer and this was the last weekend of summer. What started out being planned as an overnight, turned into a 21 mile, 2 night, multiple lake extravaganza in the woods.

We started out Friday afternoon at 4:25pm with 4.5 miles and about 2000' elevation gain to get to Melakwa lake before the 8pm sunset. We made it just in time to set up our tent in the twilight and enjoyed dinner in the dark.

During the nights (both of them), the wind and rain were both hard, but we stayed warm and dry. It sprinkled during the day were we weren't necessarily dry, but we weren't cold or wet either. Though there was some suck factor, we both had a great time.

I took my Aeropress on this trip, with the grand plan to take some of those camp stove, Aerpresss, coffee pictures against the beautiful lake backgrounds. Sunday morning, I had a great backdrop for it - we camped at Rainbow Lake and our tent door opened up to look out across the lake. If it hadn't been raining so much while I was making breakfast, well let's just say I didn't have any coffee that morning.

New Job, New Computer

I'm getting settled in my new job and learning the ins and outs of using OS X.  In my case, its not such a big deal, because I usually have 4 terminal sessions open anyways. I love the fact that underneath the polished GUI is some form of 'nix.  And I'll say it - "why didn't I do this sooner?"

Swim practice has started up and as I write this post, I made this tweet:

So, don't be surprised if you see more more geeky tweets in the coming months.

The Elysian Games

Next weekend, I am competing in the Elysian Games at Seattle Center. Taking advantage of my age, I'm competing in the Masters ( > 40) division. I didn't finish last last year, so I'm going to do it again. It's going to kick my butt, but I'm going to have fun at it.

International Food Bloggers Conference

The 7th annual International Food Bloggers Conference is the following weekend 18 - 20 September.  I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, making new friends and getting re-energized about my blog. Oh, yeah and tasting some really good food.

With the legalization of marijuana in Washington, there is even a breakout session on edibles. Truthfully, that breakout is not for me, but I know that lots of people are looking forward to that session. 

This will be my third year in attendance and its a fun filled, tummy filling experience.

MBA Reunion and Cal Football Game

It's been 5 years since I graduated from the Foster School of Business with an MBA and its reunion time. What's kind of cool about this reunion is that the football game that it is paired with is against Cal, our alma mater.  It'll be my families first UW football game, so it'll be pretty cool to see Cal too. 

September is going to be jam packed... It's funny how we had a quiet summer and then pack it all into the very end. Hopefully, I can keep writing during the month. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

An Even Better Paleo Mug Cake

Recently, I wanted a treat for dessert. I knew that mug cakes were quick and easy and I wouldn't have to turn on the oven on a hot summer night. I did a Google search for Paleo Mug Cake and found this recipe. I looked at that recipe and realized that it did look good, but I thought I knew how to make it a better paleo mug cake.

Just make sure you have a big enough mug!
Just make sure you have a big enough mug!

Now let me warn you, as mug cakes go, this is a pretty labor intensive recipe. For most mug cakes, you just throw everything in a mug, give it a stir and pop it in the microwave. This recipe has two cooking cycles and you have to add ingredients in a sequence. But don't let that deter you; its still far easier than making a cake and having to warm up an oven.

An Even Better Paleo Mug Cake


4 tablespoons chocolate chips, divided
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 espresso shot
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg


  1. Melt 3 tablespoons chocolate chips and coconut oil in the microwave in a mug. I will set my microwave to 70% power and microwave for 20 secs and stir, multiple times. This way, I get a good melt, but without burning them. Plus, sometimes chocolate chips hold their shape even though they are melted.
  2. Stir the coconut flour, espresso and baking soda into the melted chocolate. Then add the egg and mix it well - if you don't, you'll be left with little worm like strings of egg white in your cake, which is kind of weird.
  3. Add the remaining chocolate chips for little fudge-like nuggets in your cake. This step can be omitted, it makes for a pretty rich cake, especially if you use dark chocolate.
  4. Cook it all in the microwave for about a minute and a half. It should be dry when tested with a toothpick. Let it cool a bit and enjoy.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Starbucks Grande Plan For Great Coffee

I've think I've figured out Starbucks grand, or should I say grande, plan. For years, I've maintained that Starbucks is great because you can get a consistent cup of coffee, just about anywhere. Recently, I've come to the conclusion that I want to consistently get great coffee. For me, this has meant independent cafes and brewing my coffee myself.
Starbucks recently opened their Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, where they roast rare and small batch coffee beans. Its an experience because the tasting room is built around the roastery, you can chat with the roasters as they work. They sell beans that you'll only be able to find there, some of them even roasted the same day!  There are great single origin beans and some that come from a farm smaller than a football field.  Unlike a normal Starbucks, you can get your coffee from a whole slew of brew methods and if you find a new favorite, you can pick up all of the coffee gadgets you'll ever need (or want).

While this is a great coffee experience, it is only here in Seattle. But Starbucks is up to something. Starbucks has done a great job of exposing American's to good coffee, but they're going to take it up a notch. With the roastery and a few other efforts, they're exposing American's to great coffees.

I've recently started seeing Starbuck's single origin beans at the grocery store. I've not picked any up because they've always been pre-ground and I know that is sub-optimal, but its getting the idea out there in front of consumers.

Last weekend, I was driving a carpool for swim practice and was in a shady neighborhood where the Starbucks is my hangout while waiting for practice to end. I was surprised to see that they had one of their espresso machines loaded with single origin beans from Kenya. They had little signs suggesting that people order their espresso drinks with the single origin beans. I decided to have a tasting and compare the espresso made with the two different beans. It took a while to get my order right, two single shots of espresso, not one double, but the differences between the two beans were incredible and easy to notice.

At most Starbucks, instead of their drip coffee sits in the urn for up to 30 minutes, you can order a pour over. They'll use any of the beans in the store for it, opening a package from the shelf if necessary. At no additional cost compared to their drip coffee. It's definitely slower and does have an impact on the customer queue, but its one more way that Starbucks is upping the quality of the coffee that they make available.

Starbucks has been successful at getting coffee in front of almost all Americans and even convinced them to shell out big bucks for a drink with very little coffee in it. Now, with these introductions of better brew methods, distinct flavor profiles and single origin beans, they're working on stepping the American coffee drinker up to a better coffee experience. In the long run, this is great for coffee growers and the coffee industry. Its actually interesting from a business perspective where the big player in the industry is working to make the market better rather than just drive costs out.

Maybe its not a grande plan, but a Venti. What do you think?

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.
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


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.