Day II on Vashon: Hiking, beaches and a lighthouse

Point Robinson Lighthouse, Maury Island

The view from Point Robinson Lighthouse, Maury Island

Yesterday was our first full day on Vashon Island. Eager to see some island scenery and stretch our legs, we drove a mile down the road to the Island Center Forest. This 363-acre forest has 9 miles of hiking trails, two ponds and is open to bikers, hikers, dogs and horses.

We passed a few other hikers but mostly it was very quiet, and besides getting a little lost we were successful in finding both ponds. Though I’ll say one was definitely more of a marsh than a pond but still, it was a fun trek.

Island Center Forest, Vashon Island

Love how green it is here!

Island Center Forest, Vashon Island

Mukai Pond, Island Center Forest, Vashon Island

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Day 1 in Seattle and Vashon: Doing what we do best…eating!

Brunch at Joule, Coulotte with eggs

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my husband and I drove up to Vashon Island from Portland to spend Labor Day weekend away from the city. On our way up, we made a side trip to Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood for brunch at Joule. We had both heard rave reviews about their food but had never been in before. In all honesty, I went in with fairly low expectations simply because of the hype but was totally blown away.

First of all, I loved the concept of their brunch menu. You can pay $17 for a walk through their buffet and you get to order an additional entrée as well. For $12 you can do one or the other, but it was well worth the money to try both. The bonus is that you get the best of both worlds — you get to eat something immediately (and we were SO hungry after the three-hour drive) but you also get a hot dish made to order, which can’t be beat.

The buffet isn’t the basic cafeteria-style line up of eggs, pancakes and toast. Instead it’s a small table of fabulously prepared items, all based on a theme. While we were there, the dishes were southwestern inspired: peaches in habanero syrup with cilantro, jalapeño pimento cheese with homemade crackers, green tomato jam, corn salad, corn bread, pickles and more.

I filled my plate and cleared it in record time. Everything was so good, but the peaches were the winner, perfectly ripe, sweet and spicy.

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Celebrating love with an island getaway

Ferry to Vashon Island

Vashon Island is definitely not a tropical island!

Last weekend my husband and I hit our 7th year marriage milestone. To celebrate, I forced him to make my favorite dinner ever — chittara pasta with roasted cauliflower, chili flakes, bread crumbs, Parmesan and a LOT of olive oil. (Side note: This was the first time I’ve actually watched him make this dish and I have to say after I saw the sheer amount of oil in it, I almost wished I hadn’t helped him make it. My god!)

But besides a fantastic dinner and a bottle of bubbles, we laid low for the day, saving our energy for this weekend instead. My husband took a very rare Saturday off and, thanks to Labor Day, we have two blissful days planned on Vashon Island in Washington.

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Scenes from an Urban Garden Dinner Party: Part II

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Last week, I showed you the appetizers that I helped put together for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. My husband, the chef for the event, didn’t just stop at creative snacks. He prepared a five-course dinner as well, one that was so delicious we converted a 10-year vegetarian into a carnivore for the evening. I’d call that a massive success!

Here’s what we served after the passed appetizers were done.

Course 1: Salad of roasted beets, plums, goat cheese, mung bean sprouts and crispy quinoa.

Course 1: Beets, plums, goat cheese, mung bean sprouts and crispy quinoa

The beets were roasted, the plums firm but juicy, the cheesy was tangy and the fried quinoa added a happy crunchy texture.

Course 2: Homemade tomato leaf strozzapreti with Connie’s tomatoes and fresh basil in a  Parmesan brodo.

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Lamb tartare, foie gras and other tasty treats…

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

Every summer, I look forward to cooking with my husband and my good friend DB for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. This year marked our fourth year together, cooking for roughly 40 people, and I think we even manged to top last year’s dinner which was quite a feat.

My husband, being a chef, puts together the menu. DB and I just trade our time and culinary skills for beers and burgers afterwards. It’s a pretty good deal, considering all the sampling we do as we cook. I never turn down an opportunity to sneak bites of foie gras torchon!

The dinner takes place in an urban garden called Tabor Tilth. Connie, the owner, is extremely knowledgable and even has interns who live with her so they can learn the secrets of success urban gardening. She has everything from elderflowers to mulberries to tabacco growing in her yard. For a more in-depth look at Tabor Tilth, check out my post from 2 years ago.

While Connie is serious about what she does, the whimsical aspect of her house never fails to entertain me. These are some of the cool things I spotted in her kitchen this year. (The fact that she raises meat rabbits makes her rabbit art all the more fun to me.)

Bunnies of Tabor Tilth

Anyways, fun art aside, this post is dedicated to the snacks we served as our dinner guests started to arrive and began their guided tour of the garden. My husband tries to incorporate fruit into the dinner as much as possible, as well as making use of items that Connie grows, so this dinner is really an ode to fresh seasonal produce.

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Homemade Tamales: Good things come to those who wait

Homemade tamales with chicken, queso fresco & pico de gallo

Homemade tamales with chicken, queso fresco & pico de gallo

Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly trying my hand at making some of my favorite Mexican dishes at home. My homemade tortillas and sopes were so successful that I soon started dreaming about tamales, something I had never considered making from scratch.

Just as I was thinking about them, my husband (who must have been reading my mind) brought me home two bags of fresh masa from Three Sisters Nixtamal, a Portland company that specializes in masa and tortillas. We had some leftover chicken, a wheel of queso fresco and all the makings for pico de gallo so I figured my project would come together lickety split.

However, this is one of those times when taking a few minutes to do some research really pays off — it turns out I was woefully unprepared for the project I was about to begin! Luckily I found this article, which had oodles of helpful advice and saved me from certain tamale doom.

First off, I had no idea that (unlike when making tortillas, pupusas or sopes), the dough for tamales is not straight masa mixed with water. Instead you need to whip the masa with a fat, most often lard, resulting in a fluffy aerated mixture.

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