Monday, September 28, 2015

Trendy and Tasty: favorite dishes at IFBC

A Food Blogger Conference places, as someone would expect, food in the center of its activities. This year's IFBC did the same. I won't say much in this post but I will show. Pictures often speak for themselves even if they are occasionally blurry (thanks to amazing cocktails and wine available pretty much throughout Saturday during the conference). 

Here they are:

Starting with breakfast, the beet citrus flavored Stonyfield yogurt served in a martini glass was delicious -I loved the tart taste. The innovative glass serving elevates yogurt to a completely different level!

During the Franciacorta seminar, we tasted six different sparkling wines paired with amazing foods courtesy of Stoneburner restaurant. My favorite -the Hebi (spearfish) crudo, finger limes and alleppo pepper. I love raw fish!

At the culinary fair, top dishes were: 

Smoked sobrasada chorizo with port soaked figs and Valencia almonds from Lark's Bitter/Raw- pure pleasure with an exclusive blend of flavors

Loulay's duck confit sliders, those small bites of happiness can be on my table every day

Fried chicken on waffle, an old classic with a twist in a mini version, comfort food for the soul from the Skillet

Hot Stove Society featured pig's head stir fry with spicy rice crunchies and scallions - a real treat for the carnivore

The list tops the avocado mini cupcake from Avocados from Chile - I am not a cupcake fan but savory cupcakes are far more attractive. A new trend?

Favorite drink? The Il Mosnel Brut from Franciacorta. This blend of chardonnay, pinot bianco and pinot nero is a dry wine of medium acidity and an excellent choice for a warm summer evening or a crispy fall day. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why I like the IFBC gift bag

What can someone find in the IFBC gift bag? There are plenty of things that you could guess like a  recipe book, a cheese cutter and an ice cube tray. But there are some items that are random and unrelated to a food blogger, like the pair of sun glasses and the odd selfie sticker.

I love gifts. Unlike others who feel maybe intimated or overwhelmed from the unexpected box or just like to "play" humble, I have always welcomed them small or large. A gift is a manifestation of generosity in any shape or form: from a red apron to a freshly-baked cookie, I grab it with an open heart and the smile of a little girl. I don’t feel any guilt and have no regrets. It is not a coincidence that the gift chose to appear in this particular moment, in this particular bag. Maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe it’s time to embrace it and learn something new.

 What I can possible learn from Krusteaz's apron? Well, maybe to cook more often and keep the dough away from my shirt. The cheese cutter? To cut cheese better by indulging in cheese more often. The ice cube tray? To make ice cubes with different ingredients and use them for iced coffee or cocktails. Not all the items in the bag have an educational purpose like the gluten free crackers or the notebooks; they will still serve me well but I know how already. Manitoba Harvest's hemp seeds will pair well with the Stonyfield yogurt and the recipe books will generate new ideas for cooking. My check list is in good order.

Opened and almost gone!

My thanks to all those who accepted to give away their unique and useful products. I am certain that they found a place in our homes already. Now let me find my selfie stick. Time to take some selfies.

I have to learn to take better photos....

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Olympia for the foodies and more!

If you want a break from the hustle and bustle of Seattle, or are traveling to or from Portland, don't forget to stop in by car, bus or train for a fun and relaxing time in Olympia at the southern end of Puget Sound. Whatever you decide to do, there will always be a place to satisfy your appetite  there. The Washington State Capital is a small town but it offers an array of culinary and drinking adventures. Here are my suggestions:  

Start your day at the Farmers Market which celebrates its 40th birthday in 2015. During the summer months from April to September, the market stays open from Thursday to Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Buy your fresh fruit and vegetables, grab fresh bread, smoked sausage or salmon jerky –all at your fingertips. Then pause for a break for brunch with a pita gyros at the Pithos Gyros, tamales at Los Tulenos  or some Indian curry at the Currie in a Hurry. This vibrant open market is a small heaven, an ideal place to relax with a plate of food.

Continue west from the market to the boardwalk overlooking the impressive Olympia marina with wonderful views of the Puget Sound to the north and striking sights of Capitol buildings and Dome to the south. The Thriftway store just a little more to the west is Olympia's only downtown grocery store with an good selection of gourmet foods, wines and beers and a nice little coffee shop overlooking the marina.

Olympia is known for its notable coffee scene. There are more than half-dozen independent and local coffee brewers ready to please your java needs. Olympia Coffee Roasting Company sources its beans form the best farmers around the world while at the spacious Batdorf & Bronson, you will get an organic cup of joe. CafĂ© Au Lait is a tiny coffee stand at the Capital Mall, the best spot to grab your mug before sightseeing. 

Just south of Olympia is the town of Tumwater which was the home of the Olympia Beer or "OLY", a once revered name in the West for Beer. The brewery shut down its door many years ago but there are some thoughts of renovated the currently empty brewing buildings  and convert them into an educational center for brewing and distillation . If you want to find out more about the historic brewery, you can take a guided tour at the Schmidt House in Tumwater (check here for times and fees). This is the family house of the Olympia Brewing Company founder, Leopold Schmidt. 

There are of course several great micro breweries. Oly Taproom, located at the waterfront, is Olympia’s first taproom and bottle shop where you can try selections from more than 600 bottles. Or try the Fish Brew Company, where you can enjoy handcrafted brews, ciders and ales with some tasty dishes and live music.

Like much of the Northwest, Olympia is home to a number of wineries and distilleries. One of the best, the Stottle Winery produces award-winning wines from Viognier to Cabernet Sauvignon. Or if you like spirits more, don’t miss the Sandstone Distillery with its very distinguished white whiskey and gin. For those who really like their wine, there is a wine trail with stops at six wineries. Find out more here:

The dining scene is equally impressive. Find local fine cuisine at Anthony’s HomePort with exceptional seafood and Northwest specialties or grab a table at Koibito Japanese Restaurant if you have a craving for sushi or udon, and the always excellent Oly Rockfish Grill.

Don't forget to walk the length of  4th Avenue, former home to a lively hippie scene in the 70's and now home to a variety of unique bars, shops, and book stores, with my favorite for some one-of-a-kind cookbooks Orca Books. In fact all of Olympia's downtown is interesting, small and easy to walk. Halfway between Seattle and Portland the town has elements of both cities to sample and explore.

Finally, finish the day with a nice evening out. There are some interesting bars like the Dillinger’s Cocktails & Kitchen for some Prohibition era cocktails at the bank vault of Olympia’s Security Building. Or the 1230 Room for the hipsters and some dance music.