Friday, January 02, 2015

My favorite foods and destinations of 2014

As the new year has nicely entered our life, I reiterate my annual tradition of listing my favorite items of the previous year -all of them related to food. This year's favorites include dishes, specialty foods and destinations that were bold, influential and had an impact in my personal food world.

My first time at the largest food trade show in the world, SIAL was impressive, overwhelming and amazing. I documented my experience through this post on the Huff Po which says everything:

Doing tapas at Calle del Laurel, Logroño’s famous tapas street
Mini fish bites, grilled mushrooms and cheese and ham tiny sandwiches, Logroño's street food has everything. Highly recommended when you visit this part of Spain. Pair it with a glass of Rioja wine and you are all set while you do your tapas pilgrimage.

Cyclades islands, Greece
After a few years of absence, I returned to Syros and Paros, two wonderful Cyclades islands. Except for their Mediterranean beauty, the islands are known for their traditional local food of notable cheeses, capers, fava dishes, sweet delights and local wine varieties among others. Try an “envelope” of San-Mixali cheese with grape syrup and sesame on top or a fennel cheese pie with yogurt.

Savory energy bars
Strong & Kind from the well-known for bars brand Kind, it is a tasty surprise for those who like savory and need a break from the chocolate peanut-y bars. I love the Thai Sweet Chili Almond Protein bar, a nice combination of sweet and spicy and the Jalapeno bar for a more grown up taste.

The Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes
This gourmet finishing salt is made from a blend of hibiscus flowers and delicate Australian pyramid salt. Great taste and flavor that pair well with almost any food, from salads and soup to your margarita cocktail.

The Angel’s Share 2009 Petit Syrah and Albariño Burgáns, 2013 Rias Baixas are my top two wines of the year for their sophistication, balance and freshness. For the sparking effect, try the Marqués de la Concordia Reserva de la Familia 2010 Brut Millésime Rosé Wine, a limited edition Cava.  

The new look from Terra Chips. Those colorful pieces of happiness are sweet and salty and pair nicely with your favorite beer. You can also eat them just plain out of the bag instead of dinner.

Sexy Pop popcorn. Light, low in calories and loaded with antioxidants, this popcorn will be in my snack pantry for a long time. I love the cheddar flavor but also the banana for a unique taste.

The RAP protein gummies  
They may have a texture that is different and not always likable, but those gummies have plenty of protein to satisfy you during the day or before the gym. My favorite is the orange citrus.

The Kettle Brand Thick+Bold Dill Pickle Potato Chips are free from gluten and trans fats. Crunchy, thick and bold, they do have everything, including many calories but they are so delicious! 

The Crisp melon cutter. Melon and cantaloupe are my favorite fruits for the summer so the Crisp knife is a must-have. The knife is extra long, has a sturdy blade and provide an easy slicing with its ergonomic handle. It also comes with a detachable seed removal scoop which gives this knife an edge.  Get it here:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tiki Cocktail Contest and Everything You Need to Know about Genever

In a buzzy room of Monsoon restaurant, bartenders, cocktail judges and gin enthusiasts came together for the Gindonesia Tiki Night last Sunday. Organized and sponsored by the Seattle Gin Society and by Lucas Bols USA, some of Seattle’s best bartenders went indeed head-to-head in a showdown for the most authentic Tiki cocktail contest. Judges had to rate balance, complexity, taste, presentation and garnish for a total of 25 points.

Bartenders are indeed creative personalities and can turn a simple mix into a fun glass with colors, garnish, fruit and flowers ready for a photo shoot. From spice to punches, we tasted many Gin concoctions during the evening including the Bols Genever punch. Additionally, Monsoon’s Vietnamese dim sum dishes that included vegetarian and beef rolls, rice noodles, chicken skewers and grilled bò la lot were the perfect pairing for the evening full of Gin and Genever!

Here are the winners:

Aaron Kimmel from Ocho (cocktail name "The Dutch Bomber")

Second Place: Brady Sprouse from Oliver's Twist and Rob Roy ("The Sprouse House Sling")

Third Place: Jack Sanders from Ba Bar

For the history: Genever is the juniper berry-flavored  liquor also known as Dutch Gin from which the Gin evolved. The Dutch were probably the first European nation to develop a large-scale commercial distilling industry. Between 1500 and 1700 every sizeable town had several distilleries making jenever, spirit or liqueurs. As they ruled the seas and owned colonies in West and East Indies –Indonesia today- they could import spices and exotic foods.  Amsterdam and Rotterdam were prominent ports for sugar, spices and grains. Many of today’s leading Dutch Genever distillers can trace their origins back to the 16th and 17th centuries as Bols (founded 1575). 

Gin is a juniper berry-flavored grain spirit is an English shortening of Genever, the Dutch word for juniper. Although the origins of Gin are rather murky, it seems that the first time that the spirit was found in the late 1580s in Holland by British troops who were fighting against the Spanish in the Dutch War of Independence. They gratefully drank it to give them what they soon came to call "Dutch courage" in battle.  The English brought the idea of making and drinking gin back with them. It would take another 150 years before they would have their own version.

What is inside? Traditionally the base of Genever had a high percentage of malt wine (15%-50%), resulting in a spirit that had malty notes like whiskey and an herbal component that is common with gin.  This is the style of Genever that we know as Oude or Old, meaning that it is made in the old style. A newer style of Genever is called Jonge, or young in which there is a much lower malt wine content (up to 15%) which results in a much lighter style of Genever. With both styles, the spirits can contain sugar, adding to the richness on the palate.

Gin: This is a juniper-flavored spirit made by simply adding approved natural flavoring substances to a neutral spirit of agricultural origin. The predominant flavor must be juniper. All gins include juniper as an ingredient: other botanicals used are coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries and nutmeg. Typically a fine gin contains six to ten botanicals. Like all gins, London gin should have a predominant juniper flavor

For more events about the Gin Society click here:
For Lucas Bols, click here:
For Monsoon Seattle, click here:

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Gluten-Free Madeleines

The French Madeleines - the small cakes from the Lorraine region- may have become famous from French author Proust and his sensational descriptions in his palate. Now, they are available in their gluten-free form as well. I just saw this while visiting Paris at the Naturalia health store, offered from the Nature & Cie food company. I wonder that Proust would have said about it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pike Place Market Food Tour

Even for a Seattleite who is a regular at Pike Place Market, the market is still an unknown territory. So many purveyors, stalls, foods, restaurants, cafes, where you can start and end? Some aspects of it are known, others are unfamiliar.  Like the sign The market for the Producers or tiny alleys that were never followed. In an effort to explore it all, I spent nearly three hours with Leslie, our culinary tour guide of the Pike Place Market food tour organized by the Seattle Food Tours. Leslie as an insider of the Market does not only share the culinary details but also the history. We tasted gelato at Bottega Italiana, visited the DeLaurenti Specialty Food and Wine from a back door, met Rachel, the pig and indulged with donuts from the Daily Dozen Donut. Historic facts came along with tasty food. When the market started? When did it decline? What or who saved it? What is happening now? 

Through the buzzy storefronts to quiet side streets, freshly made chowder, Greek yogurt and crumpets with honey, you will explore unique layers of this wonderful, world-known market. The last stop was at Tom Douglas Rub Shack with a spicy salmon burger that the entire group appreciated even with a full stomach. I won’t reveal more as a personal experience of the tour is the best way to find out.

Leslie also answered the question that everybody often asks: do locals shop there? Of course they do, Leslie confirmed. But they know where to go and what time. Just avoid the weekends!

Seattle Food Tours:

The group

Friday, September 26, 2014

IFBC- My favorite product

During the International Food Blogger Conference, we were all exposed to several new and old products from cookies and nuts to bread mixes and seeds. This year my favorite product -and I vote for it-is the Noosa Pumpkin Yogurt. And this was unexpected as I  am not a pumpkin fan. I don't like pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins or even pumpkin beer or gum (they both exist). The only pumpkin related dish I enjoy is the pumpkin and corn soup, flavorful and smooth!

Therefore, I was surprised with this Noosa flavored yogurt. It is soft and creamy and tasty and the pumpkin puree blends perfectly with the creamy substance. Easy to eat, you will ask for seconds. And I don't blame you.

Monday, September 22, 2014

International Food Blogger Conference - The best off

One of my favorite things at the International Food Blogger Conference was this year's tote bag. I like it better full with the goodies but it is lovely empty as well. I wonder what people will say when I will carry it around in Seattle and in locations that my travels will take me. Here it is in color and in a Mad Men-like black & white version:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Chateau de Trirquevedel Tavel Rosé 2013

Last night I tasted for the very first time The Chateau de Trirquevedel Tavel Rosé. This wine has a long and glorious history. Favorite wine of Louis XIV and celebrated by author Balzac, I felt that I had to pay my tributes before I had my first sip. I love the deep pink color, very different than the traditional Provencial rosés. Tavel is the only A.O.C entirely made up of rosé, which prohibits any whites or reds from wearing the label of this Southern Rhône cru. This wine is a blend of 56% Grenache Noir, 20% Cinsault, 10% Clairette, 4% Syrah, 4% Bourbelenc, 3% Mourvèdre, 3% Grenache Blanc.

This said to be one of the best rosés of Southern Rhone, was dry with balanced acidity, pleasantly juicy and with red-fruit flavors that you can't miss. I would definitely recommend it even if it was slightly oversold by my friends and its historic timeline. I would like the fruits riper but all the same, it is an awesome choice for a hot summer day. Pair it with a light salad or slices of cheese. 
PS: Glasses were chosen with a practical angle as the wine was enjoyed at the park so they had to be different!