Eating in Olympia

November 13, 2009

There’s . . . this girl.  She coerced me into visiting her in her college town on the sound.  I guess it was a good time.  Here’s a little rehash of the food that slid past my tongue.

“Slid” is actually an appropriate word as the first full meal I had in Washington State was at McCormick and Schmick’s and we ate four pan fried oysters as well as four raw oysters.  Without saying that these tasted great, they tasted better than the rest of the meal which my girlfriend and I walked out of the restaurant unimpressed with.  I ordered the Dover Sole while the girl tried the rockfish with hazelnuts and apples.  The plates came with golden crusted fish and some leafy greens.  They both looked the same and the food tasted the same, greasy.  We were disappointed, we looked forward to this meal.  My sister used to work at this location and I remember going there at 15 years old and my parents, sister, and brother-in-law loving the food.  I think it has gone downhill.

The meal we ate at a mexican restaurant was unexpectedly tremendous. The locals call it “QB,” which made me think this was going to be an adventure at another Q’doba or Chipotle, but I was soon corrected.  I left the “Quality Burrito” very satisfied, and the below pictures show why.  We ate Sweet Potato Chili and Lime soup, Sweet Potato fries with Mango Ketchup, and then I had a Carnitas Burrito with roasted apple.  My food and the appetizers absorbed me so I do not remembebr exactly what the girl ate.  But I tasted it, and I remember liking it.

Sweet Potato soup and fries

I decided I would finnd a recipe for that soup after I ate it at QB and I think I discovered the exact recipe here.  James Peterson published it in his book Splendid Soups.  I love his books.  I am currently waiting to receive Splendid Soups in the mail after ordering it from Amazon.

Our Entres

We made a couple meals too.  One we made for her roommates as well.  I had a hankering for my mother’s asparagus cream casserole (I know, a hot dish!?), my partner made a roasted cauliflower dish with kalamata olives, garlic, and oil as a sauce, and I fried up some make-shift chicken nuggets with breaded chicken thigh chunks.  The vegetarian were clearly better tasting.

cauliflower, asparagus, and chicken nugget dinner

Then when our last night together was on its way we went down to the farmers market and decided we would make a dinner nearly exclusively from ingredients purchased there.  We decided on mussels in a chanterelle, shallot, and garlic sauce, Steelhead with tomato, garlic, and capers, and a dish that has become a staple in my repertoire apparently: celeriac salad.  I think the only things we did not purchase from the market were the mayo and dijon for the salad.  There were also some hot toddies involved.  While the brandy and tea were not local, the honey was.  This meal was fun because I got to bring it up to her bed while she was doing homework and we ate on her bed while she was in awe of how awesome I was.  Maybe I should pop that ego-bubble my head is growing.

Dinner in bed

You know what, for simply the reason of food (not to mention everything else we did, you know, the long walks on the beach, the intellectual conversations, etc. etc.) I have to upgrade this trip to fantastic.

. . . into the kitchen.

Sadly, I have a hard time affording the foodie life, I wish I had a foodie friend around here that liked to cook as much as I do so we could trade off. But that is all the more reason to explore food at my home with and for my friends, right?  I frequently describe cooking as a meditative experience anyway. Too bad the dishes afterward tend to ruin my calm.

While my jealously of people who can stare into their fridge and know what dishes are for dinner grows, so does my brain’s recipe database with the eventuality of being able to do the same. As I stated previously, two of my goals are to increase my vegetarian recipe repertoire and to gain some more accurate knowledge of Mexican cuisine (you know, beyond Taco Hell). So I worked up some recipes from James Peterson’s Cooking: tomatillo sauce and chiles rellenos.

Chiles Relenos on Tomatillo Salsa from Peterson's Cooking

Chiles Relenos on Tomatillo Salsa from Peterson's Cooking

I have a thing for tomatillos. Me and the tomatillo . . . we know how to get along. I love their combination of tomato and lime flavors. Their citrus is so blatant, but when you cook them, they calm down and just add and take on flavors. Mmm. The sauce also had poblanos and jalapenos which made it pair well with the chiles rellenos.

Man were these a production. Peterson has the cook put some cream of tartar in with the egg whites while you whip them to a fluff (without a beater I do all this by hand), then slowly fold the yolk back in. After you have roasted, peeled and stuffed the poblanos with chevre you toss them in flour and roll them in the eggs. I’m guessing this is to keep the egg lighter on the outside of the poblano, but for how much work it is without a mixer I think it might be worth it to just roll the floured peppers in beat eggs and then fry them. Placing a bed of the sauce on a plate you then set the fried peppers on top with some sour cream and serve.

While I forgot the sour cream my guests both thought the dish was good if a bit spicy (though they both admitted to being Spice Sallys). The chevre inside the peppers was perfect with the tomatillo sauce, but I think if their had been a bit more cheese (definitely if I had not forgotten the sour cream) I would not have had any spice complaints.

For desert I made a passover napoleon. My other region of interest in Mediterranean, especially Israel/Lebanon. Some have expressed that my obsession with Israel in food and religion is a little odd, I shrug my shoulders. But the reason this is a passover napoleon is that it is made with matzos because during passover, observant Jews are disallowed leaven, or yeast.

I cannot say that I know tradition napoleons well, and perhaps I should know the real thing before I adventure outward, but you should have seen the picture in the book, haha. I set out to make it. After soaking the Matzos I fried them (making some of them curl up and hard to work with) and candied them. The candy coating was simply caramelized sugar with coconut milk added. Letting them sit for some time in the fridge, I made something like a custard of coconut milk, sugar, egg yolk, and rosewater. With all that finished I sliced some strawberries in half and got to work on the delicate assembling procedure, topping it all off with some powdered sugar. It was very good, though the rosewater did not really come through and I think I needed to wait for the filling to thicken a bit more.

Passover Napoleon from New Israeli Food book

As always, if I make anything a reader would like a recipe for, just ask.  I wouldust rather talk about the process of making, eating, and the flavor than type all the technicalities in my posts.