Yesterday was the Fremont Solstice Parade. The day dawned drizzly and gray, feeling much more like April than June. A week of compulsively checking weather.com, hoping that, at the very least, the rain would hold off, had culminated in soggy disappointment. Nevertheless, the show must go on. If we couldn’t have sun for the Solstice Parade, we could at least have mimosas, bacon and french toast. There is nothing like good friends, good food and booze to brighten up an otherwise bleak morning. About 20 minutes before the official parade was scheduled to start, we headed down so we could catch the naked (mostly painted) bicyclists. It is always interesting to see what people consider “painted.” The corporal craftsmanship ranged from elaborately themed masterpieces that suggested hours of painstaking work to fully nude with a few spots of paint here and there to justify their presence among their painted peers. One man strolled nonchalantly along the parade route, completely nude with no paint what-so-ever. To each his own I guess. There was a couple painted as a bride and groom, a woman with zebra stripes and a whole group of folks painted as trees, just to name a few. All in all, I was impressed that so many people were riding naked in the drizzle! The actual parade wasn’t as interesting. There were a few good floats: the flying spaghetti monster was there as usual, attended by his pirate keepers. There was the troll smoking a giant joint…always a good one, as well as some resident zombies…what would the Solstice Parade be without zombies…??
We ditched early, just before that fat lady to get a table to Brouwers where we found a spot in the patio area and the rain consented to hold off for a while. It was nice to sit down with a good beer and a warm platter of frites. After buying our fair poster we headed home and watched Venture Brothers while devouring Zeeks, washed down with Rainer. A good Solstice, despite the unfortunate weather and after about 12 hours of sleep last night, I am ready for summer to start!
So, they say that cooking at home, from scratch is less expensive than going out or eating pre-made meals. Usually this theory seems pretty accurate but as I paid for groceries last night, I began to seriously question it’s validity, at least as a hard and fast rule. $78 was the total for my purchase of groceries for the lasagna dinner I had planned. This included lasagna made from scratch, pre-made garlic bread ( I made my own for a while but, honestly, when you are spending 2 hours on the main course, it is worth it to just be able to stick it in the oven and relax with a glass of wine) and Caesar Salad made from scratch. This DID NOT INCLUDE WINE!
After getting over the sticker shock, I went over my purchases and found the culprits, cheese (never cheap if you get the good stuff) and San Marzano canned tomatoes. They were about $7 for a 28 oz can and I got 3 of them. Later, back in the kitchen, I tasted the plain tomato puree before I added it to the onion, garlic and crushed tomatoes that I has simmering on the stove and I realized why they cost $7! I could have eaten that puree plain, with a big spoon! It was so sweet and tomatoey and tasted of sun. If it costs $7 to bottle sunshine, sign me up!
I loosely followed Giada’s recipe but I made some of my own changes. I simplified the sauce by just using the canned San Marzanos, half of one large onion, 4 garlic cloves, red pepper flakes and the addition of fresh basil just before taking it off the heat. I omitted the carrot and celery in Giada’s recipe and combined the tomato sauce with about half a cup of bechamel rather than the 1 1/2 cups called for in the recipe. I think it made it taste much more fresh clean.
Instead of frozen spinach, I used fresh which I wilted with a little bit of oil and squeezed the moisture out of. It tasted much sweeter and less bitter.
To the ricotta and egg mixture I also added fresh parsley which kicked it up quite a bit.
All in all, it was delicious and now we have 6 more meals…so really, our lasagna dinner only cost $9.50 per person…actually a pretty good deal when you think about it 🙂
One of our favorite places to go for Happy Hour in Seattle is Maximilien in Pike Place Market. The waiters are snarky…French or at least the way that Americans imagine the French to be, but the food is fabulous and the happy hour, one of the best deals in Seattle. Happy hour is usually held in the upstairs bar area which is cramped and cozy, a perfect place to get together with two or three friends and enjoy a glass of house red, succulent mussels and crisp frites. Yummmm… Other happy hour selections include Salmon Coulibiac, which is salmon baked with goat cheese in a puff pastry covered in mustard sauce and mini Croissant au Jambon, a small croissant filled with cheese and ham…delicious!
This past Friday we blew in from the rain anticipating a nice dry booth in which to enjoy some wine and appetizers…not so. A private party was taking up the bar area, so happy hour was being served outside…in the rain. Each table had an umbrella over it and some of the umbrellas didn’t overlap as well as others so waiters were constantly darting in between tables trying not to get wet…it would have been comical had we not been cold and damp as well. Kamil suggested that we pretend we were in a monsoon climate. Monsoon climates are generally warm though and we were too far from the heat lamp to keep up that illusion for long. Three glasses of wine and 8 appetizers later we were beginning to be chilled to the bone and left in search of more hospitable climes.
We discovered one in the form of the White Horse, which is a small hole in the wall in Post Alley by Kell’s that boasts Books, Ale and Wine on its sign board outside. Three things I enjoy, so I had been wanting to check it out for a while. They had a small selection of Wine and Ale. For wine, they had a white, a red and a port and three kinds of bottled beer as well as one cask beer. The inside was dark and the walls lined with books. There were three patrons: one, a girl reading a book and sipping a glass of red on a couch by the door and the other two were an older couple sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender who looked like he was straight out of the 30s, sporting a tie, a clean white apron and a pleasant smile. In short, it is the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and a good book and be transported back 80 years. I will definitely be going back!
Last night I took advantage of one of the few nights that we are home this week to make a good old-fashioned Steakhouse Dinner. On the Menu: Steak Bordelaise, Parsleyed Potatoes, Creamed Spinach and a Wedge Salad. First I head to the store to pick up as few things that we didn’t have: two large containers of spinach (anyone paying attention would have thought I was Popeye or something but you need A LOT of spinach to make a cooked spinach dish anywhere near substantial), 3 bottles of wine (a mid priced Merlot from the Columbia Valley in lieu of the more expensive Burgundy for cooking a drinking), a less expensive Merlot for after the first bottle runs out, and a bottle of Port. Normally a pretty speedy shopper (I like to organize my grocery list by department to minimize all that inevitable back and forth which invariably brings on grocery store road rage) but, having never bought Port, I spent an inordinate amount of time starring at the pitifully sparse Port section trying to decipher the labels, balancing cryptic descriptions (“good with chocolate, notes of charcoal an raspberries”…uh…this is supposed to go in a steak recipe so is this a good thing or a bad thing?) with prices ranging from a paltry $5 to upwards of $30. Having never had Port, I couldn’t justify being a balla’ about this (would I even like Port? I don’t want to spend half my drinking budget for the week on something that will sit in the cupboard for years. I settled on a “Tawny” port which cost $14 on sale from $18. A pretty safe bet.
Back home, all burners on full-bore, I timidly tasted the sauce which consisted of butter, shallot, 1/4 cup Merlot, 1/2 cup Port and beef stock. Sweet. I have made lots of wine based pan sauces but never one that was that sweet and I was skeptical at first. Added more salt. Better. More butter. Better. Smothered on the steak with a chaser of potato, so crispy and buttery and creamed spinach, rich and delectable, it was HEAVEN. I am a Port convert. My next project will be a chocolate Souffle.