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Posts Tagged ‘Funtastic Foodie’

How Fast Can You Type? Blogging with the IFBC!

photo (20)IFBC is testing our blogging skills!  Today’s first seminar is Live Food Blogging with Grocery.  We are sitting here with 15 sample food items in front of us.  Each brand has no more then 3 minutes to talk about the product and answer questions, while we blog or tweet about it!   Oy!  How fast can you type?   Wait!  Slow down please!

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“Chef in the Vineyard”: fresh and simple recipes from great wine estates

Chef in the Vineyard by John SarichAt yesterday’s IFBC kick-off event at Ste. Michelle, we were each given a copy of John Sarich’s fifth book “Chef in the Vineyard”.  Beautifully photographed, the book is a visual tour through Sarich’s ten favorite wineries.  With over 140 recipes, each is complemented with the author’s wine recommendations.  The recipes are easy and make great use of Pacific Northwest ingredients.  On first go through, I loved the history and information that John shared about each winery.  This is a man who clearly loves what he does and his passion is evident through his writing.  I can’t wait to immerse myself in his recipes and pairings.  From experience (I have John’s other four books), his recipes are easy to make, use readily available ingredients, are extremely flavorful and great to share with family and friends.  His pairings are usually spot on for my palate.  With more cookbooks on my shelves than I like to admit to, this is a welcome addition and I suspect will become a cooking staple.

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Food, Wine & Film – Kick Off to the IFBC – International Food Bloggers Conference

IFBC 2013 Logo  Revving up for this weekends International Food Bloggers Conference here in Seattle!  IFBC is always a favorite:  great speakers, extremely informative seminars, tastings of amazing new products and a sell-out crowd to network with.  What more could a blogger want?

Today’s pre-conference kick-off events start with a wine & food pairing by Chateau Ste. Michelle Culinary Director John Sarich out at the Woodinville winery.  Why would a Seattle based blogger who has been out there many times want to attend?  John’s passion is always catchy and inspiring.  Washington’s oldest and most award winning winery is set on a gorgeous property, which really shines on a clear, sunny early fall day like today.  There is certainly a wine to fit every palate and I always enjoy John’s inspired guidance on dishes to pair with each blend.

This evening I’ll be attending the first preview screening in Washington State of the documentary GMO OMG – a tale of a six-year olds journey from kitchen table to Monsanto’s doorstep.

Here’s a shout-out to fellow-attendees – can’t wait to meet you!


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Inspired by Barbara Fairchild – A Weighty Look at Decades of Desserts

One of author Barbara Fairchild’s first answers during a Q and A session at Grand Central Bakery, where she introduced her new book Bon Appetit Desserts, was that her weighty tome tips the scales at a whopping 8 pounds.  She also pointed out that if you purchased two books, you could use them as literary barbells to help work off the weight you would gain by cooking through the recipes.  Well Barbara – you were right.  This book will send you straight to the gym, as it contains so many great recipes culled from the magazine’s archives.

Barbara is a delightful, down to earth woman, who will be stepping down as Editor in Chief of one of America’s favorite cooking magazines, after 30 years.  The word has come down from on high that the editorial offices are moving from Los Angeles back to New York and Barbara has decided to stay put.   However, she is justifiably proud of this book which has recipes for just about any sweet you can imagine and is bound to become a staple in many kitchens.

During the evening, we sampled our way though treats as basic as classic Chocolate Chip Cookies (p.530) to a Chocolate Caramel Sliced Cookie  (p.602) topped with sea-salt that will be joining my holiday repertoire.  There was an amazing Lemon and Pistachio Praline Meringue Torte (p.166) that normally wouldn’t have called to me, but once I took a bite I couldn’t put my fork down.

Many of the recipes are ones that I remember from the 30 years that I have subscribed to Bon Appetit.  Some I wish I had saved and are now found thanks to this book, and others are snippets buried in files that I can now toss.  During the evening, Barbara shared reader’s comments, focusing at one point on a cake that had been on the cover in the 1980’s and been a clear reader favorite:  the Spiced Chocolate Torte Wrapped in Chocolate Ribbons.  OMG – do I ever remember that cake!  It became a legend in our household.  Many moons ago, it was the day of the first dinner party my hubby and I ever had.  THE CAKE was on the cover of Bon Appetit and I decided to blow everyone away by making it for dessert.  8 hours later, and a scant hour before company was to arrive, I finished.  Great – but had I started any other part of the dinner – no.  My husband dashed to the store to pick-up a pre-roasted chicken and some other pre-cooked items in a valiant attempt to salvage the party, his tearful very stressed out wife, and the evening.  Many lessons were learned that night….

Bon Appetit Desserts is priced at $40 and includes a years subscription to the magazine with purchase.  It would make a wonderful holiday gift for aspiring to experienced cooks.   Let me know what you think and your recipe favorites!





Food Photos by Norma Rosenthal; Barbara Fairchild & Norma taken by Alicia Arter.

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Threatened Lawsuit Inspires Need for New Burger Name

Just a follow-up to my recent post on the duo of new sandwiches at client John Howie Steak, recently introduced by Executive Chef Mark Hipkiss.  Much to Mark’s surprise, the enormous 12-ounce prime chuck burger patty topped with Kurobuta bacon and onion rings, then encased between two grilled cheese sandwiches, has now been the cause of a threatened lawsuit.  Not because of any ill health effects, mind you – but because of the name.

The “Heart Attack Grill” in Arizona caught drift of the new hot-kid-in-town burger (formerly known as “The Triple By-Pass”) up North.  Apparently ownership of the name belongs to them.  The burger itself bears no resemblance in content, only in designation.   After some lawyer to lawyer talk, the burger is now looking for a new moniker.  The menu at John Howie Steak presently reads “What’s that burger”, which is….well, shall we say non-descriptive?

Hipkiss and proprietor John Howie brainstormed and after failing to come up with anything fitting, decided to turn to the friends and fans of said sandwich.  A contest has just been launched for a new name.  Beginning immediately, name submissions can be made by e-mail to and must be received by midnight October 30th, 2010.  Entrants must be a minimum of 21 years young and should include their name, address and phone number along with a suggested new name for the burger.  Make sure that the subject line reads “John Howie Burger Contest”.  A winner will be announced on November 1, 2010.

And what’s the prize?  Fittingly, a party for 6, which will include 6 of the newly named burgers and 6 pints of John Howie Steak Amber Ale.     ~Norma

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Helping the Hands That Feed Us: Volunteer Park Cafe

Fellow blogger Seattle Tall Poppy has shared news about one of my favorite places, Seattle’s Volunteer Park Cafe, which is tucked away on Capitol Hill.   This sustainable, enviro-friendly restaurant has been a neighborhood staple for over 3 years.

According to Seattle Tall Poppy, a dispute has arisen with the next door neighbor who has been fighting the instillation of the Cafe’s outdoor garden and patio. During the battle, he discovered the original use of the property was never converted from a market to a cafe, so he’s attempting to shut them down.

When the owners of Volunteer Park Cafe signed the lease, they signed with full intention of operating a restaurant and never looked into the land use designation.  As small business owners in a tough economy, this battle has resulted in mounting legal fees and at this point, the city has not scheduled a critical land use hearing.

Here’s where you can help in getting the city to schedule a hearing.  You just need to take two quick action steps:

1.        Comment ONLINE – click on link below

Then click on “comment on Application”

REQUEST a formal public hearing

Let them know you’re a friend or neighbor and how much you love the café

Let them know you are in support of the zoning change to a Restaurant

If you have issues with the website link, email  Refer to Zoning

Project  #3011437

2.      CALL  CITY PLANNER SCOTT KEMP  206/233-3866

Refer to Zoning Project #3011437-Volunteer Park Cafe

REQUEST a formal public hearing

LET SCOTT  KNOW you’re a friend or neighbor and how much you love the café

LET SCOTT KNOW you support the zoning change to a Restaurant

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When Culinary Insanity Meets the Menu at John Howie Steak



Menu tasting is part of the job description when you work in the hospitality world.  Today I joined two other food bloggers at client John Howie Steak during lunch to try Executive Chef Mark Hipkiss’ outrageous duo of new additions to the menu.  How do you top sandwiches which already live up to their names such as “The Ultimate BLT” or “Peppercorn Crusted Wagyu Beef Burger” with a ½ pound of ground American Wagyu red meat, tons of Roquefort cheese and all the fixings in a house baked bun?  Well – you ain’t seen anything yet – let me introduce you to the “Three Little Pigs” and the gi-normous “Triple Bypass”.

When Chef Hipkiss brought his creations to our table in the bar, every head in the place swiveled.  There was a collective intake of breath and dead silence, followed by a babble of voices asking “WHAT ARE THOSE????!!”  You could hardly miss these two towering dishes as the shear size of them was both awe-inspiring and yet, absolutely seductive.


The “Three Little Pigs” consists of three pork cuts:  a tempura Kurobuta pork loin, Black Forest ham and Kurobuta bacon.  This mountain of oink is topped with two eggs over easy, a Chipotle Ranch dressing, and enclosed in a bun.  Oh yes – and it is also accompanied by a generous portion of crispy French fries.  Once I got my lips around it, the burger was astonishing!  Spicy sweet dressing was a perfect playmate for the salty ham and bacon.  The texture of the crunchy tempura fried Kurobuta danced around the smoothness of the eggs.

Now let’s talk about the “Triple Bypass”.  Close to five inches tall, you really do have to stand back a foot or two just to take it all in.  Hipkiss, in perhaps a supreme moment of culinary insanity, has sandwiched a 12-ounce prime chuck burger, tempura fried Kurobuta bacon and – get this – ONION RINGS between two grilled cheese sandwiches oozing with swiss and Tillamook cheddar cheese.  This also comes with fries.

His inspiration?  “I was just trying to make burgers that were a little different.  You can always get the basics.  In the past I’ve played with deep fried mozzarella and even a chili relleno burger, but I thought this would bring some real energy into the room”.

Of course, no meal – even lunch – is complete without dessert.  I could only pray that my HDL good cholesterol would some how come through and save the day for me as we decided to split the Tempura Fried Limoncello Scented Pound Cake with sides of warm chocolate ganache, Mt. Rainier huckleberry topping and lemon mascarpone.  The Puyallup Fair, where you can purchase just about everything and anything fried, has never even conceived of anything this yummy.  We were served golden slices of pound cake the size of butter cubes, surprisingly light and encased in a thin layer of crispness.  I sliced off tablespoon sized portions and tried each sauce.  The chocolate was thick, dark, and after dipping reminded me of a churro.  Lemon mascarpone was rich and tart and the huckleberries were bursting with flavor.  My favorite?  Try double-dipping in the nicest sense and coat a piece of cake with both the lemon and berry sauces.

The “Three Little Pigs” is priced at $14 and will easily satisfy a linebacker.  For $16 you can get a “Triple Bypass” (no pun intended).  Right now both are available at lunch and are not nearly as dangerous when shared.  Limoncello Scented Poundcake is a good value at $8. Worth trying – absolutely – followed by a vigorous week of workouts at the gym and dining on air. ~ Norma

John Howie Steak, 11111 N.E. 8th St., Suite 125, The Shops at The Bravern, Bellevue, Washington  98004

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Dinner Without Apron Strings – Summer Recipes

With summer technically not ending until September 23rd,  I tend to cling to recipes that paint a picture using summer’s vivid reds, greens, and yellows.  With close friends coming over for dinner and one traveling all the way from France, I pictured a menu with simple prep done ahead, so we could spend maximum time catching up over a glass of wine.  Here’s my apron-less adventure:

Isa Dinner Heirloom Tomato, Mozzerella, Peach Raspberry Salad 9 10Fresh heirloom tomatoes are still available at one of my favorite hang-outs, the Issaquah Saturday Farmer’s Market, so I picked up some meaty, sweet red and yellow Brandywines; the almost nutty Green Zebras; and my true summer love – a Cherokee Purple which is sugary and rich with a hint of smokiness to it.  While I knew the colors would play beautifully together on the plate,  what was most tempting was the idea of intermingling the distinctive flavors that only come from vine-ripened tomatoes.  They were quickly sliced and layered on top of a bed of shredded Asian cabbage, alternating with slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella.   A couple of ripe peaches on the counter-top caught my eye and became a part of the salad, as did some raspberries leftover in the fridge, along with some quickly shredded basil.  Ten minutes max and a salad was ready to go, on the counter-top (room temp brings out the flavors beautifully) and just waiting to be dressed in some peppery Spanish olive oil and a bit of balsamic.

Isa Dinner Roasted Asparagus & Patty Pan 9 1 10Browsing the stalls, I found some gorgeous, hearty green and white asparagus, as well as vibrant scallopped mini patty-pan squash.  Couldn’t decide – so typical girl-style, grabbed all.  Back in the kitchen, they were quickly rinsed, trimmed, tossed in some olive oil with salt and pepper, and pan roasted in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Again, great at room temp, they were plated and set out to rest.  A loaf of crunchy artisan bread was ready to be popped into the oven to warm, leaving only the entree and dessert to deal with.  Again, sticking with a plan of no apronstrings when the company arrived, I decided that enlisting my hubby to light up the barbecue, was the way to go.

Isa Dinner Blackberry Salmon 9 10What could be more evocative of summer in the Northwest, than salmon?  We serve only wild fish at our house – no farm raised, but also no-problem.  A quick stop at any local grocery or in this case, the local seafood vendor, produced a gorgeous center cut piece – perfect for even cooking over the coals.  All I needed to make was a sauce.  Braiden Rex Johnson has one of my all-time favorite recipes in her Pike Place Market Cookbook :  Alaskan Salmon with warm Blackberry and Shallot Compote.  The fruit was literally in my backyard – wild blackberry bushes galore.  If you aren’t that lucky, this is the perfect time of year to find them in your farmer’s market or grocery.  For the 2 1/4 pounds of fish, purchased to serve 5, I used 5 medium shallots – peeled and thickly sliced; a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil; a 1/4 cup sugar; 2 1/2 cups of blackberries; and a 1/4 cup of raspberry vinegar. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the shallots, olive oil and sugar together in a bowl and then spread them on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Let them cook for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven, and scrape the shallots and syrup into a glass mixing bowl.  Then add the blackberries and raspberry vinegar, mixing them gently.  Make it ahead of time and cover.  Once the salmon comes off the barbecue – top with the sauce and voila!

Dessert?  I made tiny ice cream tarts that afternoon using 2 1/2″ ring molds.  This recipe makes enough for 6.  Purchase a half gallon of your favorite ice cream and a box of plain chocolate wafer cookies.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, while you crunch up 1 ½ cups of the chocolate wafers in your cuisinart – adding 1/4 cup sugar and a ½ stick of melted butter.  Place the ring molds on a cookie sheet or flat baking pan and press the cookie mixture onto the bottom and half way up the sides of each mold.  Bake them for 8 minutes.   Let the cookie crust filled ring molds cool completely, leaving the molds on the pan,  and place the carton of ice cream on the counter to soften for 15 minutes.  Fill the rest of each mold with ice cream and level off the top with a knife.  Pop them in the freezer for a minimum of two hours, still on the pan.  When ready to serve, warm the ring with your hands and slide out each tart onto an individual plate, pushing from the bottom of the ring mold.  Try topping them with grated chocolate, fresh berries or even chocolate sauce – whatever you have around.  Happy eating! ~Norma

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Gastronomy and Goosebumps at the International Food Bloggers Conference

The two of us are at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Theo’s Chocolate Factory in Seattle.  We just finished lunch – and what a lunch it was!  When you have 250 foodies gathered together, they’re a hard lot to satisfy.  We had everything on our bambu eco-friendly, recyclable, green plates from paper thin sliced salmon carpaccio with riccotta salata and a peppery arugula salad –  to a spicy chickpea dish with crunchy chorizo and a slightly daunting, barely-miniature grilled mini-octupus with arugula salad (there must be an assumed palate-pleasing connection by the featured chefs between arugula and those who write about food).

This morning we learned how to put the “sex” in food blogging.  You think what you want – especially as we used all 5 senses:  look, listen, touch, taste, smell  and all with a lemon!  Kathleen Flinn, you certainly know your way around a knife.  As the presenter of this session on “Writing With Your Senses”, Kat had us all salivating with our inner writer.  We also loved Joy Victory of who has the great job title of Editor Czar (can we dub ourselves Blog Emperor and Empress?).  Seriously, Joy who was a joy, along with Barnaby Dorfman of Foodista and Matt Dhillon of, filled us in on the not-so-subtle nuances of social media.

Norma & Allan IFBC 8 10 SmallerSo, now it’s back to work.  We might have snoozed through some of our afternoon sessions after the Walla Walla wineries poured some great wines to accompany our lunch, but the cool weather at our indoor/outdoor conference is keeping us bolt upright as we struggle to manage our goosebumps.  Also, there is more than a touch of a sugar high going on here, as Theo’s has generously put out mountains of melt-in-your mouth chocolate to taste (now addicted to the beautifully balanced 70% Dark Chocolate Spicy Chili) , in case our energy flags.  The day’s seminars end around 5 pm and a dinner/reception this evening will feature James Oseland, Editor-Chief of Saveur magazine, followed by another full day tomorrow.  We’ll definately be hitting the gym on Monday….Norma and Allan

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A “Sideways” Glance

I just returned from a trip to the Los Angeles area with my husband (my “foodie” soul mate) to visit family.  Whenever we get a chance, we slip away to the nearby Santa Ynez  Valley wine country (immortalized in the 2004 movie “Sideways”)  for a day of tasting as well as enjoying the gorgeous scenery on our drive up the coast.  Rather than talking about wine today,  which could fill many blogs, I have to share a terrific restaurant find.  We were in the town of Los Olivos around noon and feeling the need for something solid, when we caught sight of a beautiful vine draped porch set up for outdoor dining.


Run…don’t even hesitate – to dine at the Los Olivos Cafe!  Besides a setting right out of a painting, this charming restaurant earns raves for service, food and an award-winning wine list.  Indoor dining looked just as inviting but with sunny, warm weather (and being from Seattle), the outdoor option was just too great to refuse.

We are “grazers” in order to try a wide variety of dishes.  Our server was thoughtful in his recommendations for both food and wine pairing, returning to check on us often – but was never obtrusive.   Alert – we almost filled up on their incredible bread and house-made olive oil, so do not let yourself be tempted beyond one basket full!  Starters worth trying – definitely the Rustic Spreads which include generous portions of the Cafe’s signature tapenade muffaletta (took us back to New Orleans) and hummus.  Great flavor in both and the hummus didn’t overwhelm your palate with garlic, as so often is the case.  The Artisan Cheese Plate had three extremely good sized portions of cow, goat and milk cheese – again, selected with great attention to quality, freshness and taste.


The indoor “wall of wines” made famous in the aforementioned movie is a guarantee that you won’t go thirsty.   Again, based on our dining choices, our server guided us, providing some sample tastes along the way.

A few more thoughts – I am sure I was a bunny in a former life (not Playboy, as in rabbit!) and the salads were .   The Cafe Nicoise featured an entree size portion of fish along with egg, olives, green beans, new potatoes , cherry tomatoes and greens, and a light vinaigrette.  We ogled another table’s entrees of Cafe Salmon and an immense 8 ounce grilled Angus burger, but couldn’t squeeze in another bite.

We would return in a heartbeat – and will!   Next time we intend to end a day of wine tasting with dinner there and perhaps an overnight at the Fess Parker Inn, which is just across the street.  Here’s the info:

Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe:  2879 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA.    Phone:  805-688-7265

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