Happy National Doughnut Day! {2015}

My Top Pot favorites: frosted doughnuts! (Not pictured: my other favorites: the maple bar)

My Top Pot favorites: frosted doughnuts! (Not pictured: my other favorites: the maple bar)

Do you know what tomorrow is? It’s National DOUGHNUT Day!

We’re doughnut lovers here on Megan’s Island and I combed the archives for some great reads and recommendations to celebrate National Doughnut Day as the sweet delight that it is.

I’m not sure where I’ll indulge in celebration on Friday, but a new Seattle-based doughnut-ery (that’s a thing, right?) has opened up and Brandon and I plan on visiting this weekend: Rodeo Donuts. Rodeo Donuts has been operating out of the Ballard Cupcake Royale and is starting to sell out of the Capitol Hill Cupcake Royale starting tomorrow! The Rodeo Donut bakers are also bakers at Cupcake Royale, and they make brioche doughnuts that look amazing. Just look at their Instagram feed! It’s the food porn I look at every morning on my way to work. Their flavors rotate daily and once they’re out for the day, they’re out for the day. This peanut butter chocolate fritter had Brandon drooling this morning.

Top Pot is using National Doughnut Day to raise money for Northwest Harvest. While it will decrease our chances of winning, I’d encourage you to stop by a Top Pot cafe tomorrow for a celebratory doughnut and spend an extra $10 on a raffle ticket to win a grand prize of a four-night stay in Hawaii, complete with airfare! Here are the specifics, from the Northwest Harvest website:

Tomorrow: National Doughnut Day!

Tomorrow: National Doughnut Day!

Join us on June 5 from 6-10 a.m. at Top Pot Doughnuts locations around the Puget Sound! We’ll be celebrating National Doughnut Day and collecting donations of non-perishable food items in addition to money.

As part of the celebration, we will be raffling off a four night stay in Hawaii complete with airfare. Tickets can be purchased until 5:00 p.m. June 6 at any Puget Sound Top Pot Doughnuts for $10.

Must be 18 or older to purchase tickets. Winner will be drawn 9 a.m. Monday, June 8 at 711 Cherry St., Seattle 98104.

Happy celebrating! Nom, nom, nom.

Cookbook feasting {Weeks 1 and 2}

Our resolution to try out new cookbooks and recipes is off to a great start!

{Week 1} Pure Flavor

We kicked off this cookbook and recipe challenge with a cookbook by Kurt Beecher Dammeier, mastermind behind some of my favorite Seattle-area spots: Beecher’s Cheese, Pasta & Co., Bennett’s, and Liam’s. During the first week of the challenge I even stopped by Beecher’s (they give free cheese samples!) and Bennett’s (it’s VERY close to my house and has an excellent happy hour!).

We made the tomato-cheddar soup (p. 21) and were only somewhat impressed by it. It seemed to be way too watery and the “semi-hard cheese” that I used wasn’t right. This made far more than 4 servings and we put the leftovers in the freezer for another day.

Beecher's Tomato Soup

Beecher’s Tomato Soup

We also made the Bennett’s Cobb salad (p. 54). We opted for an apple cider vinegar salad dressing instead of the recommended lime jalapeno dressing and I think that was a misstep on our part. It was too sweet for the curried crab. Speaking of the crab, everything about it was wrong. We followed the recipe to a tee and it wasn’t good. The curry clashed with the crab and they all clashed with the capers. I would not recommend this recipe. We were able to add chicken instead of crab for our lunches the next day and it was far superior.

Bennett's Cobb Salad

Bennett’s Cobb Salad

Brandon also made an apple crisp for my “A” party for my Pretty Little LiArs pArty. It was delicious!

Other recipes that piqued our interest, but we didn’t have a chance to try out: Turkey meatloaf studded with cheese curds (p. 111), Citrus-herb-marinated turkey tenderloins (p. 112), Slow-cooked orange chili pork shoulder (p. 130), Pan-seared broccoli crowns (p. 145), Broiled sunchokes (p. 147), Brussels sprouts with garlic bread crumbs (p. 150), Roasted parsnip puree (p. 152), Braised kale gratin (p. 157), Chocolate truffle cookies (p. 175), Corn, tomato and avocado frittata (p. 212), Blueberry buckle (p. 222), House herbs (my favorite!) (p. 233), and Breadzels (p. 244).

{Week 2} Dishing up Washington

I found Dishing up Washington while browsing the cookbook section at the library. We found a ton of great recipes to try and ended up actually trying several of them:

The Fall sausage minestrone with mushrooms and squash (p. 34) was good, however, I just need to come to the realization that I don’t like soup. Especially minestrone. Brandon really enjoyed this dish, so if you’re a minestrone-lover, do try this recipe!

Fall minestrone soup

Fall minestrone soup

RN74 is a French restaurant in downtown Seattle, near the Pike Place Market. I’ve only been there for happy hour, and the food that I have had there was good. Expensive, but good. If you find yourself there, you should definitely get some of their seasonal beignets. If you don’t find yourself there, you can pretend you are by cooking up the RN74 beef bourguignon (p. 166). Reserve the whole day for staying near the oven as this recipe is pretty intensive, and know that it’s worth it.

RN74 Beef bourguignon

RN74 Beef bourguignon

Hot Cakes’ original s’more cookies (p. 230). Must I say more!? We didn’t smoke our chocolate chips, and the cookies turned out great! If you’re in Seattle, you should definitely stop by Hot Cakes! Their s’more cookies are great, but I prefer their boozy shakes and molten hot cakes!

Hot Cakes s'more cookies

Hot Cakes s’more cookies

Other recipes that looked good: Seattle Winter Market Salad (p. 60), El Gaucho’s mashed potatoes (p. 86), Camp fire grits (p. 91), Egyptian-inspired chickpeas and couscous (p. 108), Winter market comfort casserole (p. 130), Honey-glazed ham with apricots, caramelized oranges and cardamom (p. 148), Skagit River Ranch pot roast (p. 164), Northwest Wild Foods’ blackberry bars (p. 209), free-form pear crostata (p. 214), and pimped root vegetable hash (p. 242).

This week we’re cooking from Dr. Weil’s True Food. Spoiler alert: we have lots of kale meals planned!

 

{Wine Wednesday} Washington wine: WTF?

WineWednesday

Are you interested in learning more about Washington wine?

My friend Zach at Vine Trainings is starting a new set of wine courses, targeting different wine growing regions and varietals. For the low cost of $45 per class, you’ll get to taste some great wines, talk about the most exciting growing regions, and even discuss the history of the industry.

When: Monday, Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Grub on Queen Anne, 7 Boston St, 98109

Why: Everything is better with wine, especially learning about wine while drinking it!

Read more about my experience with Vine Trainings on the Island!

Washington Wine Map

Shopping small

Today marks the start of the Christmas shopping season and I’m posting this from an outlet mall far, far away from Megan’s Island. This is the sixth or seventh year of this tradition and even though I’m not shopping for a new big screen TV or any presents really, I love spending this quality time with these friends, even if it is way too early in the morning.

I’m not against big box stores or easy ordering on Amazon, or even the medium-sized stores, but this year we’ve made a concerted effort to “shop small” when shopping for presents. We’re about halfway done with our holiday shopping and I’d encourage you think small when you shop this year.

To make shopping small easier for you, I’ve decided to highlight several businesses owned by some of my favorite people. Bookmark these links for the future, to shop beyond just the holidays!

Bottle and Bull

Bottle and Bull

Bottle & BullThis new Kirkland restaurant, run by my favorite restaurateur couple Jessi and Chad, opened this week. Stop by to fuel your shopping adventures or pick up a gift card to put in someone’s stocking! Experience the travels of Ernest Hemingway through your palette, eating and drinking your way through the cities that Hemingway loved to frequent; Havana, Paris, Florence and Pamplona (where he discovered his love for bull fighting!) to name a few.

Coloring Nature

Coloring Nature

Coloring Nature. My friend Cari and her husband own this organic landscaping company. Beyond landscaping, they offer holiday wreaths, succulent logs, floral design, corks, and occasional classes. You can find Coloring Nature online and at the Fremont Sunday Market.

Coloring Nature

Coloring Nature

Coppersmith Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy is my favorite physical therapy clinic for all that ails me. In fact, I’ve been a loyal customer for more than 30 years, since the clinic is owned by my parents. If you have physical therapy needs, I highly recommend you head to Coppersmith PT! (Thanks for being blog readers, Mom & Dad!)

Dailey Method. The Dailey Method is a unique combination of ballet barre work, core conditioning, muscle strengthening, yoga, and orthopedic exercises. Owners Brenda and Michelle are killer yet magical instructors and they offer online purchasing options as well as gift cards. They even feature local businesses (like Little Britches Bakery) in their lobby. Extra shop small points for the Dailey Method!

Davenport Cellars. I love myself some wine and Davenport Cellars is run and owned by two of my favorite winemakers. Not only are their wines fantastic, their price point can’t be beat. My “favorite” bottle of Davenport flips on a weekly basis, from the Cab-dominant Continuity to the Merlot-dominant RHD. I have recruited several friends to join the Davenport wine club and I’d encourage you to head over to Woodinville, taste some wine and support Washington winemakers and this small business.

Davenport Cellars

Davenport Cellars

Style By Wendy helps those who feel outdated, frumpy, or insecure to discover more confidence in their closet. Whether it is a closet clean-out, creating outfits with your clothes, personal shopping, or determining your color wheel, Wendy makes you feel good about yourself and what you wear every single day. 

Libby's Paper Party Hats

Libby’s Paper Party Hats

Libby’s Paper Party Hats. My dear friend Libby (and future business partner, if everything goes as planned!) makes paper party hats, banners and more, selling her wares on Etsy. Libby’s paper party hats are beautiful and crafted with talent and love. I received a my very own University of Washington-themed paper party hat for my 31st birthday. It’s great, isn’t it!?

Me & my dead duck friend. Hat from Libby's Paper Party Hats! Thank you, Lib!!

Me & my dead duck friend. Hat from Libby’s Paper Party Hats! Thank you, Lib!!

Little Britches Bakery. Shameless plug right here! Little Britches Bakery is my part-time gig and my creative outlet. It isn’t a real bakery, instead its completely inedible, practical and completely usable baby gifts that look like your favorite bakery treats. (They’re “too sweet to eat,” get it!?) You should for sure follow Little Britches on Etsy, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and think of Little Britches next time one of your friends announces a pregnancy. I ship anywhere in the US and offer completely customizable baby gifts!

My Little Britches Bakery onesie cupcakes

My Little Britches Bakery onesie cupcakes

Vine Trainings. The perfect party: you, your friends, and some delicious wines. My friend Zach teaches Vine Trainings classes, including a minimum of seven wines, several hours of personalized and hands-on instruction, and a whole lot of fun. All you need is seating for 10-12 people and somewhere for the wine glasses! Prices start at $35/person, and the specific wines and styles are customizable and negotiable. I wrote about Vine Trainings earlier this year.

Our Vine Trainings set up

Our Vine Trainings set up

Seafood Lover’s Pacific Northwest. I may link to Amazon, but you can find this at a local independent book seller. (We bought our copy at the University Bookstore.) This is my friend Karen’s first book and she set the bar high for her upcoming projects! Her book is great– it has a little bit of everything: recipe, recommendations, lore, and more! The book has inspired Brandon and I to explore the well-known gems and the diamonds in the rough that we had no idea about. After hearing about all of Karen’s oyster experiences, I’m going to give them another shot! Spoiler alert: we bought extra copies for Christmas presents!

Seafood Lover's Pacific Northwest

Seafood Lover’s Pacific Northwest

I have several photographer friends and would recommend any and all of them. Here are the local Seattle-area photogs: Erin Schedler PhotographyKristi Waite Photography, and Mike Fiechtner Photography (you’ll see our wedding photos on the home page!).

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and I hope you take some time to “shop small” this holiday season!

Hello, Fran’s Chocolates!

For Brandon’s birthday I gave him a chocolate tour of Seattle, led by yours truly. We haven’t had a chance to fully fulfill the tour, but he got a sneak peak of it a few weeks ago when we attended the grand opening of Fran’s Chocolates new space in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle.

My friend’s fiancé is an architect who designed the outside of the space. They tipped us off to the grand opening event. Thank you, S&J!

The new Fran's in Georgetown

The new Fran’s in Georgetown

Once we got inside, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It was classy and lovely and smelled deliciously of chocolate. I guess I was expecting more of a Willy Wonka type factory.

Inside Fran's

Inside Fran’s

I’m looking forward to returning to Fran’s during official business hours and seeing the production line in action…and eating more of these!!

Milk chocolate sea salt caramels...One of my favorites!

Milk chocolate sea salt caramels…One of my favorites!

Visit Fran’s for yourself. All the information you’ll need can be found here: https://www.franschocolates.com/

(No, Fran’s didn’t pay for me to be there or for me to write this post. They did give me multiple samples of chocolates and caramels and didn’t judge me when I went back for seconds. Thanks, Fran’s!)

The chocolate samplers

Tasting chocolate is a tough job, but some’s got to do it!

Happy birthday, UW!

Today is a very special day for the University of Washington: birthday number 153!

DawgDash

In honor of the UW’s birthday and tomorrow’s homecoming game against Arizona State, I put together a collection of blog articles as a tribute to my alma mater…

Goooooo Dawgs!

W

Happy birthday, UW!

{Wine Wednesday} Brandon crushed it!

WineWednesday

Editor’s note: Today’s Wine Wednesday post was written by Megan’s Island resident (and my husband) Brandon. His writing is great, but his photo skills could use some work. I still love him. — M.

Hello Megan’s Island Blog!  I’m excited to be you guest blogger for Wine Wednesday.

This past Saturday I did something that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  I joined a crush volunteer team at one of our local Woodinville wineries.  The experience wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be, to say the least.

Lots of grapes to sort!

Lots of grapes to sort!

It started out promising when I showed up and they had donuts and pastries for breakfast.  It was a 7:45 a.m. start time, so this was great.  Most importantly, I learned that we would be working with cabernet sauvignon grapes.  No lousy white wine grapes here!  I found out that we would be helping with about 10 tons of grapes or about 3.5 acres worth.  That is a lot of grapes!  When I say “we,” I’m referring to me and the nine other volunteers, most of who were experienced in this but a few were rookies like me.  The wine maker and 4 or 5 winery employees showed us the ropes.

There were essentially two jobs that needed to be done, both of which involved picking stuff out of the grapes.  The grapes arrive at the winery in big bins.  With the help of a fork lift, the grapes are dumped into a hopper and then slowly release onto a vibrating conveyor table.  It is similar to a conveyor belt but instead is a solid piece of stainless steel that is constantly vibrating and sloped slightly downward so that the grapes make their way down the line.  The first set of volunteers is stationed here and pulls out everything they spot that shouldn’t be there.  This primarily includes leafs and grapes that aren’t fit for wine – those that aren’t ripe, those that are too ripe and have turned into raisins, and those that are damaged by birds or whatever.  This group also removed a few bugs.  Remember that these grapes are in bunches and come straight from the vineyard where they’re cut from the vines.  We were told that our grapes were pretty clean, that the vineyard crew did a good job of selective cutting and screening.

Sorting grapes

Sorting grapes

From here, the grape bunches travel up a conveyor to the de-stemming machine, which removes the grapes from the stems.  We were told the machine wasn’t working the greatest that day, possibly because of the summer that Washington had – lots of sun.  Because of this, the grapes were left on the vines as long as possible get as much flavor as they could because they were ripening very quickly.  From my understanding they were very full of sugar but not necessarily complexity.  I was told these grapes would easily convert to a 17% alcohol if the winery didn’t cut it some.  I tasted a few, and they were very good and sweet.  The end result was that the stems were little more brittle than usual and they were breaking in the machine easily.  Because of the poor performance of the de-stemming machine, most people were stationed after this and were tasked with grabbing stems that make it through.  Apparently stems are okay in things like syrah but they not wanted in cabernet sauvignon.  After this, the grapes went into the fermentation bins where they started the fermentation process.

Hard at work

Hard at work

In case you didn’t notice, there was no “crush” by the volunteers (or the employees).  It was all about pulling stuff out of the grapes.  All in all, this isn’t a necessarily a hard thing.  However, you are essentially bent over all day and your back starts to hurt.  Everyone there experienced some level of back pain, yours truly included.  This was worse for those on the first vibrating table.  It wasn’t as bad for those removing stems because they grapes were moving up a belt, meaning they were higher in the air as one picked through them.  However, because the conveyor belt was constantly moving with “steps” carrying the grapes at a pretty good pace, some people experienced dizziness and vertigo as a result (and because many people are standing on ladders or steps to reach the grapes).  There were a few volunteers who help in this task because of this.  Luckily, I don’t get motion sickness and I was fine there.

Leftover stems

Leftover stems

The intense Washington summer also meant that all the grapes were coming in early and at the same time.  Last year the wines came in over a span of six weeks, but this year it was a little under four weeks.  Most of the other grape varietals had been “crushed” before Saturday.  This meant all the winery employees were pretty tired, but they kept a good face for the volunteers.  It also meant a pretty intense day for the volunteers.  We ended up finishing just before 4 p.m., with less than 30 minutes for lunch.

Crush: back breaking work

Crush: back breaking work

Overall, as a volunteer, the manual labor isn’t very comfortable.  The winery staff is very busy and it just isn’t fun.  It is often pretty loud, so you can’t really talk to many people either.  It isn’t what I was expecting and it wasn’t worth the three bottles of wine and lunch (which was delicious) that I received as compensation.  Maybe I was naïve in my expectations.  I am glad that I was able to help out a winery that I love when they needed it.  However, you won’t see me back volunteering anytime soon.  No one really seemed to enjoy it (lots of complaining and plenty of exhausted faces at the end) but one of the volunteers was there for the third time that week.  Another guy did it 10 times last year.

I will enjoy the bottles of wine this gets turned into when it is bottled in a few years, probably much more so than usual.  I’m glad I did it once, but I’ll stick to working on my dissertation, my house, and my pizza oven, and watching football on future weekends.

Dinner at the Old Sage

Dinner at the Old Sage

Dinner at the Old Sage

I’m a little behind in sharing this wonderful dinner we had at the Old Sage in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.

I occasionally write for Mercer Island Living, about life and businesses on Megan’s Island. Mercer Island Living partnered with Madison Park Living (another hyper-local magazine) to provide a six-course dinner at the Old Sage, with the owner. (Who, incidentally, grew up on Megan’s Island!)

Without further ado, here was the delicious spread:

Pickled Vegetables, inspired by past seasons

Pickled Vegetables, inspired by past seasons

Head of Pork (apple wood), malted mustard

Head of Pork (apple wood), malted mustard

Puffed Sour Bread, caraway, fennel pollen and sea salt

Puffed Sour Bread, caraway, fennel pollen and sea salt

Salad of Amaranths, beet root, inca quinoa, chard and urfa biber

Salad of Amaranths, beet root, inca quinoa, chard and urfa biber

Malted Emmer, mountain cheese and apples

Malted Emmer, mountain cheese and apples

Duck Wings (cherry wood), roquefort fraiche, celery, cherries)

Duck Wings (cherry wood), roquefort fraiche, celery, cherries)

Various panna cottas

Various panna cottas

The sour bread, salad of the amaranths and malted emmer dishes were our favorites. We’ll definitely be making our way back to the Old Sage and recommend that you do too!

 

Celebrating our third anniversary

Brandon and I celebrated our third anniversary last night at Salty’s, the restaurant where we had our wedding reception three years ago today. We like to go back to Salty’s each year to celebrate: anniversary number one: all-you-can-eat brunch and number two: a romantic dinner.

We also like to take photos with our year numbers, in their traditional gift themes:

Year one: Paper! (We have a better photo somewhere, but haven’t been able to locate it)

Celebrating our paper anniversary

Celebrating our paper anniversary

Year two: Cotton

My cotton #2 for our second anniversary dinner

My cotton #2 for our second anniversary dinner

Year three: Leather (We finally got a tripod, so we could take photos of ourselves! We also took the “3” to Montana and took photos at the wedding photobooth and with the wedding photographer.)

Leather anniversary at Salty's

Leather anniversary at Salty’s

Photo check in the rain. We got married right in that very spot!

Photo check in the rain. We got married right in that very spot!

So windy! Enjoying the elements on our third anniversary

So windy! Enjoying the elements on our third anniversary

Cheers to three years together!

Cheers to three years together!

Salty’s was doing something fun last night: a fall equinox luau, so we were able to enjoy the following:

Salty's Luau Feast

Salty’s Luau Feast

Kalua Pork Slider
hawaiian sweet roll, chipotle pepper-spiked slaw

Chile-Rubbed Mahi
tropical fruit salsa

Prawn and Portuguese Sausage Kebobs
sweet peppers, maui onions, passion fruit glaze

Corn on the Cob
tossed in chili lime-infused butter

Pea Salad
bacon, jicama, snap peas

Asian Chicken Cabbage Salad
grilled chicken, red and green cabbage, hearts of palm tossed in a soy-ginger dressing

Assorted Fruit Tartlets
passion fruit, coconut crème, lemon

Tonight we made Smitten Kitchen’s chicken marsala and it was delectable. (Brandon even asked why we didn’t have chicken marsala every night!) We paired it with the 2010 Robert Ramsay Par La Mer. Cheers to three years and wine Wednesday!

Third anniversary dinner: chicken marsala

Third anniversary dinner: chicken marsala

I’m sure you’re wondering about gifts… I bought Brandon some suede slippers and he bought me a blue leather case for the new Kindle I’ll be getting for my birthday. (EEEE!)

Salty's Luau

Salty’s Luau

Goodbye, summer

While I’m excited for the fall, today is a little sad: it’s the last day of summer. Between work and Brandon’s big test, we started summer a bit late, but tried to enjoy every minute of the short summer we did have.

Here’s a look back:

Visiting a new-to-me state: MONTANA for Brandon’s brother’s wedding:

The happy couple

The happy couple

A mama mountain goat and her baby at Glacier

A mama mountain goat and her baby at Glacier

We weren’t able to make it raspberry picking, but the blueberries were delicious!

Blueberry picking in North Bend

Blueberry picking in North Bend

I WAS ON TV!!!! And crafted with a new medium: AstroTurf!

Looked good on TV!

Looked good on TV!

The pizza oven finally became a reality!

A wonderful shot of the flames leaping toward the pizza

A wonderful shot of the flames leaping toward the pizza

We visited Carmel for another wedding, more wine and wonderful extended family time:

We visited Carmel

We visited Carmel

We gardened and grew basil-mint! And figs. And lots of herbs. Next year we’re going to have raised beds and plant lots of veggies!

Our basil-mint bush

Our basil-mint bush

We enjoyed Seafair, the Blue Angels (from land and sea!) and had a nice little staycation. (I forgot about that post and re-discovered the photos in my phone. I’ll work on that post next!)

SeaFair 2014: The Blue Angels from I-90

SeaFair 2014: The Blue Angels from I-90

Have a wonderful last day of summer — we’re going to grill some kalbi steaks for steak salads.

We’ll see if we can’t enjoy a few more dinners out on the patio. Cheers to fall!

My happy place: Our backyard

My happy place: Our backyard