If you ever come to Seattle, I highly, HIGHLY recommend putting a stop at the Ballard Farmer’s Market on your itinerary. It’s year-round, so no excuses.
I, stupidly, have been sticking to farmer’s markets in our neck of the woods for the past few months. Though Ballard was, immediately, one of our favorite parts of Seattle, I didn’t see the point in trekking up there (not that far, really) to get stuff that we have here.
Oh, I was so wrong.
We stumbled across it last weekend and have decided that we’ll be doing ALL of our weekly shopping there. (Gosh. I already can’t remember the last time I stepped foot in a grocery store.) The Ballard Sunday Market is incredible. It’s European style and you can’t get everything there – vegetables, fruit, pastured chickens (thank god we bought an extra, chest freezer), grassfed beef and pork products, milk (raw!), cream, butter (raw! raw!), arts, crafts. It’s huge and it’s beautiful and Sundays in October at the market will be pretty close to heaven.
Since I’ve just started experimenting with canning this year, I don’t expect I’ll have a proper winter stash yet. But my goal is that next year I will have canned & frozen enough to get us through the entire winter without having to by any out of season vegetables. I’ve also talked my husband into chickens – I’ll be taking a “city chickens 101” class in September and possibly GET the chickens by October. I’m *this close* to convincing him that a goat would be a great idea, as well. It’s a shame my maternal grandmother isn’t still alive. She had a huge garden & enough food frozen & canned that she said if there was some major catastrophe, we could all survive at her house for a year or more. I always helped her with the canning & gardening & picking of cherries/peaches/apples at farms, the freezing and even making ice cream. I’ve seen the stash. I believe it.
But I’ll be content for us to just get through the winter.
For our 1 year wedding anniversary (this past Saturday), Mr Nikki got me a stand mixer. Is it strange that I fantasize & dream about kitchen appliances? I know some women want jewelry, but as for me – when I came home and saw the top of the line kitchen aid stand mixer sitting there, I almost exploded with excitement. All my pasta & pastry making will be SO MUCH EASIER now. (You ever try making pasta without a dough hook? It ain’t fun.)
We also went back to Tilth Restaurant, which has become our go-to place for all special occasions. We’ve become friends with one of the waitresses who is, herself, a die hard foodie & future sommelier, who slips us extras and tells us secrets of morel mushroom hunting. (The season is just about to start and oh, yes, we’re doing it!)
The owner, Maria Hines, you may have spotted on Iron Chef America a few weeks ago. She and her chefs beat Morimoto. Her restaurant was also voted one of the top 10 in America by the New York Times, AND you may have seen her on Top Chef Masters a few months ago.
So. Of course, we got the tasting menu with wine pairings again.
Chilled Billy’s Gardens Tomato Soup with basil, grilled cheese sandwich and heirloom tomato. You’ve never had tomato soup like this before – it was a cold soup, never cooked, which left an incredibly bright & sharp flavor never seen in the hot version.
Then watermelon carpaccio with french melon, black mint and feta. This is PERFECT for eating on a hot summer day, like we’ve been having in Seattle. I’d like a huge plate of it right now. It was paired with a white Austrian wine and I remember the wine because I’d, admittedly and not necessarily wisely, developed a prejudice against wines from eastern and central Europe. (A byproduct of living in Prague and getting stuck with their Frankovka for 3 years.)
House made pappardelle with fava bean, cipollini and sous-vide egg. I love sous-vide egg. I love smushing it into whatever it’s on top of. In fact, I love eggs, period. I’ll eat a million of them each day, once I have those chickens. The papardelle was lovely.
Pan-seared Wild Alaskan Halibut with artichoke barigoule, picholine olive and fregola. This was on the menu when we got the tasting menu at the very start of Spring. We were THRILLED to see it on the menu again, since it had been our favorite thing last time. Even more so than dessert.
Pete Knutson’s Sockeye Salmon in tomato water with currant tomato and romano bean. Good, but not as memorable as the other courses.
Grilled Eel River Ranch Sirloin with fried green tomato, cheesy grits and chow chow. The sirloin had been our LEAST favorite on the menu last time – it had been served completely differently. But this time, it was absolute perfection. The grits were awesome, perfect complements.
And let’s pause for a moment before talking about the cheese course. The cheese course was paired, last time, with Chateau D’yquem Sauternes. We haven’t stopped talking about this wine – it’s creation involves rot & fungus and she said it’s actually closer (or is?) a port. My husband usually hates Port (while I’ve always been a fan) and he was crazy about this stuff. It costs something like $500 for a small bottle and he’s seriously contemplating making a purchase one of these days. It’s that good. It’s that good and a hundred times better when paired with the cheese – Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam Cheese – truffle honey, truffle salt and cracker. This is, quite possibly, a pairing of divine creation. Diving inspiration, most surely.
Lastly, strawberry-rhubarb shortcake with strawberry chip, rhubarb coulis and chantilly with anise.
I was going to say that it says something about the goodness of the food when you prefer everything else over dessert. But, quite frankly, I’d give up dessert a hundred times over for other courses. And I’d give up chocolate for cheese, in a heartbeat.
When it comes to cooking, my style is very farmer’s market-y. My style is very simple, home made, and fresh. I’ve tried “fancier” cooking at times, and I do it just fine, but it’s not my favorite. But when we go out to eat? Oh, give me artichoke barigoule!
We also got to speak to another waiter there, who visited the Basque region during the 2 years he lived in Spain. He was wistful as he told us about the food, where we should go, the specialties we had to try. (I fully intend to try the squid in it’s own ink, the halibut cheek, and the salted cod.) We’ll also have to see just how many bottles of txakoli we can bring back with us. Txakoli is the Basque’s version of Vino Verdhe (the Portuguese green wine). Txakoli, I’m told, is distinctly different from the vino verdhe, something I couldn’t get enough of during my time in Portugal. He confirmed that Basque is, indeed, one of the top food destinations out there. I don’t even know if we’ll hit any of the Michelin Star restaurants, from all I’ve heard, bar hopping for pintxos is far better.
I can’t wait for Nugget to be able to eat all this with us. They say that when children see where food comes from, when they’re involved, they’re less likely to be picky eaters. I’m going to bet that that’s true.