December 16, 2018

Mad Homes

There are interesting artistic endeavors happening all around the Seattle area, and I’m grateful for friends who keep an eye out for openings/installations/performances that would be fun to go check out.

Thanks to Jessica, a bunch of us trooped off to Capitol Hill to walk through Mad Homes, an offshoot of the MadArt Series that has been making an appearance in Madison Park for the last two years. This version took place in several unoccupied (and one occupied!) structures slated for demolition. In some cases, there were large pieces of art outside on the lawn…

Meg Hartwig: Field Dressing
…and in a couple of instances the art encased the structure itself:
 

SuttonBeresCuller: Ties That Bind

 
 I love that the entire house was cris-crossed by strapping line, and that the same strapping line extended throughout the house. You see it incorporated into the piece below, painted on the stairs themselves:
 

Jason Puccinelli & Elizabeth Potter

 
The same concept of an image appearing from a particular perspective is used in the second piece, a series of larger and smaller globes staged at various heights:
 

Jason Puccinelli & Elizabeth Potter: Philtering

 
A couple of my other favorites included this piece composed of string:
 

Allyce Wood: Habitancy

 
And most envelopingly, the room entirely wallpapered and floored in shirts:
 

Luke Haynes: Interiors #1 (Wall Clothes)

 

Although Mad Homes is no more, keep an eye on the MadArt website for art popping up in the future. Who knows where next you might see a structure encased entirely in shrink wrap?

Not-Your-Usual Summer Activities, Part II

In the spirit of more summer activities that might not be on your radar…

Last Saturday night Aran and I communed with a smattering of other people on the beach at Carkeek Park to watch the sun go down over Puget Sound and listen to a piece by Nat Evans composed for the occasion. You can read the write-up about it here, in the Seattle Times article where Aran first heard about this happening. It was the perfect setting, the tail end of a beautiful summer day, and there we were perched on the end of a log watching this sunset emerge, and listening to the composition. It’s not something that I would probably have chosen otherwise – I usually favor more melodic, traditional music – but sitting there on the beach and knowing that others around me were doing the same thing, it felt just right. Incidentally, we didn’t hang around to view the sculptures referenced in the article, but spotted a few as we made our way into the park and on to the beach, and I would encourage you to go check them out.

If you happen to be downtown today at lunch, you might spot me in the crowd at Westlake Center taking in the classic soul and funk of Wheedle’s Groove. The concert is part of the Out to Lunch series offered by the Downtown Seattle Association and the Metropolitan Improvement District, and one of the things in that nifty brochure that I mentioned in last week’s post that I’m actually going to do.

Sadly, another event will keep me away, otherwise I would definitely be at the Moon Viewing at the Japanese Gardens next Saturday night, August 13. Check out Brown Paper Tickets for a full description of all of the activities involved, including a Tsukimi Chakai (Moon Viewing Tea) in the Shoseian Teahouse and a chance to hear haiku about the moon and enter your own haiku in the Moon Viewing poetry contest. I’m a fan of anything that involves the space being “magically lit with lanterns, luminaries and floating boats.”

Picnicking with William Shakespeare

If you’re like me, you receive the brochure from the City of Seattle at the beginning of the summer – the one with all of those great summer activities like concerts at City Hall, or dance lessons at Freeway Park, or the Night Market at Hing Hay Park in the International District – and you set it in a Very Important Place to be perused and those great summer activities calendared… at some later date. Or Seattle Magazine’s June 2011 issue of “Summer Cravings,” which should have been my roadmap for the summer because of its food focus and tips on all sorts of different places to eat in Seattle and further afield. I have the best intentions for all of those things, and yet somehow summer seems to slip away with too many activities left undone and food left unsampled.

I am pleased to report that due to the diligence of my SO, one of the things that DID happen this summer was Shakespeare in the Park. It has been on my radar for what seems like forever, but I just never got around to doing it.

So it was that last Sunday afternoon, three of us were camped out on blankets at Discovery Park in Magnolia, having arrived early to stake out our territory. We were there for a performance of Antony and Cleopatra by the actors of GreenStage, one of a couple of different Shakespeare-in-the-Park-performing groups in the area. GreenStage and Wooden O put on an impressive number of performances, something like 70 shows all the way from West Seattle, to Mercer Island, to Redmond, to Lynnwood. Even with minimal staging, this talented troupe from GreenStage managed to put on an utterly engaging show – and that’s saying a whole lot given the 2+ hour length and especially hard ground under our picnic blankets.

Which brings me to one of the great joys of things like outdoor theater, movies, and musical performances: The picnic aspect. I confess that it’s a big part of the appeal for me, and I embraced the chance to fill our retro picnic basket with tasty salami, Leyden cheese hoarded from a visit to the James Ranch in Durango, CO (thanks, Dan and Becca!), freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and summer salads. Food eaten in the out-of-doors always seems more interesting, and the act of organizing it all into a basket and packing it off to be laid out on a blanket in the grass, makes it even more so for me.

Although this particular salad didn’t make the cut for Sunday’s performance – no time for hot oil and puffing of maifun noodles – it is an excellent candidate for your next picnic. I don’t know its origin, just that it was a favorite of my mother’s and thus appeared regularly, especially in the summer. As a result, Maifun Salad also figures prominently in my childhood memories, though for many year as this mythical, too-hard-for-me-to-contemplate kind of recipe. I’ve no doubt that it was the hot oil required for the noodles, but after much cautious practice dropping a small piece of un-puffed noodle into slowly heating oil to test its readiness I got over that fear.

From then on I started making it really quite often, so often that I finally had a friend say in response to my offer to bring something to the potluck, “Are you bringing your Foon salad?” (In what I hoped was a hopeful tone rather than a resigned one.) But the funny thing about it was that having never seen the name written, I think that my friends always heard me saying I was making “my Foon Salad” rather than “Maifun Salad.” And forever after that’s how I think of it whenever I spy the card amongst the others in my recipe box.

The chicken and shrimp make this more of an entrée salad, and the maifun noodles themselves are just plain fun. As for the iceberg lettuce I know it’s not fashionable, but it seems to be just the right variety for this recipe. I’ve often thought to make this dressing and use it for other things – it’s wonderfully tangy – but somehow for me it only ever appears when maifun noodles are involved.

 

Maifun Salad

 SALAD INGREDIENTS

1 qt. vegetable oil

5 oz. maifun noodles (available at most grocery stores)

1 whole chicken breast, with bone and skin

1/2 lb. shrimp, without head and tail, cooked

1 head iceberg lettuce, sliced in thin ribbons

3 green onions, sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1/4 c. toasted slivered almonds

4 T. toasted sesame seeds

DRESSING

1 T. ginger, minced

1/4 c. sesame oil

1/4 c. rice vinegar

6 T. sugar

1 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1/4 c. lemon juice

1. Pour entire container of vegetable oil in a large pot. (A stock pot is ideal because of its size and shape). While the oil heats over high heat, break the maifun noodles into approximately four or five large chunks, depending on the size of the container. Test the heat of the oil by dropping a single piece of maifun into the oil: If it puffs up right away the oil is ready. Working quickly, drop a batch of maifun into the hot oil, wait a few seconds for the maifun to puff up, flip over to ensure that the top side got its share of the oil, then remove with a slotted spoon. Place on paper towels to soak up a bit of the oil. Once you have cooked all of the maifun immediately move the hot oil off the heat so it starts to cool. (Once cool, the oil can be poured back into the container from whence it came and thrown out, or reused if you happen to have a vehicle around that runs on such things. This is Seattle, after all – you never know!)

2. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Rub the chicken with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a cast iron skillet on the stove, sear on all sides, then roast in the oven for about 20 minutes; set aside. (Or, forget this step all together and use one of those handy roasted chickens from the grocery store. And don’t feel bad about the shortcut, either!) Once cool enough to handle, pull the chicken off the bone, discard the skin, and cut into bit-sized pieces.

3. Put the maifun noodles in a LARGE bowl or two large-ish bowls and break into smaller pieces. Then add remaining ingredients (chicken through sesame seeds) and combine.

4. For the dressing, combine all ingredients and shake well or whisk together. Pour over salad and toss.

Travels abroad: Montreal Part II

On our roam around Montreal, one of the goals was to buy a selection of local gift food that we could bring as a Christmas present to the BF’s parents in New Hampshire. We planned to add to the basket already started with two of the classics of Pike Place Market, smoked salmon and chocolate covered Chukar Cherries. We scanned all of the shops as we made our way to poutine at La Banquise, and through Parc La Fontaine that you see here at left, picturesque with the all the snow and skaters on the frozen pond. We thought that we might have to resort to something acquired at an Esso station on our drive south –which actually wouldn’t be so bad if the selection was anything like the local jerky that you can get in gas station mini marts in towns like Ellensburg and Moses Lake – but we lucked out by stumbling on Marché St-Jacques on our way back to the hotel. It’s all indoors and less rustic than Pike Place or my new favorite, London’s Borough Market, but it was absolutely the perfect solution to our gift food needs. Fresh fruit and vegetables, meets, cheeses, pasta, sweets, coffee, and tea – and plenty of it locally made.

You’ll see in the Google map mentioned in the previous post that we had done a bit of research on where to go for dinner the second night, as we’d decided that Au Pied de Cochon was the must-do and the other dinner slot was up for discussion. There seemed to be a fair number of good options, but the list narrowed significantly once we started calling around for reservations on Christmas Eve. As these things go, it turned out that the restaurant originally lower on our list because the photos on the website seemed to show food too perfectly plated, too precious, was the one open on Christmas Eve and with room for us. It also turned out that the food gods knew better than we did, because this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I should probably say “meal experiences,” though, because of course the time of year, outstanding company, warm interior, and the superb service all had something to do with that assessment.

Chez L’Épicier is in Old Montreal, around the corner from this twinkly square and just off the waterfront. From the street we walked up the short flight of stairs into white tablecloths, dark wood chairs and floors, cylindrical mesh-covered light fixtures, and a tremendous amount of exposed brick and rough stone and masonry. The two bright blue walls, one in each of the two large rooms, added a terrific punch of color to the cozy space.

While Au Pied de Cochon was all bustle and noise and big, saucy plates, Chez L’Épicier was much more restrained in interior and food. What we originally thought might be food that was too fussy, turned out to be beautifully constructed and intricately flavored dishes, one course after another. I’m including a photo of the menu – prix fixe in honor of the holiday – because it’s too fabulous not to share. The only item not listed is the amuse bouche of beet-flavored macaroon with goat cheese, absolutely tiny and perfect.

One of the best parts about travel is happening upon the unexpected, and it was just that when we stumbled across the Sphères Polaires on our walk from dinner to a late Christmas Eve service at Christ Church Cathedral. They were enormous – you get a sense of the scale from the people standing next to them – and emitted all sorts of sounds and flashing lights. No doubt, the perfect otherworldly follow-up to our magical meal.

Travels abroad: Montreal Part I

Apparently this is what happens when two food-oriented people travel together: Much research into new and interesting places to eat, and from there the creation of a Google map to chart a narrowed-down list of possibilities. Voilà!

We started by asking different friends for recommendations of what to check out in Montreal, then did a bit more reconnaissance online to see what might fit into our two nights in the city. I have to give credit to the BF, because once we really sat down together in front of the laptop with our research overlayed on to a (virtual) map of the city, it was his brilliant idea to push-pin all of the locations on the Google map. Thus, we could see where everything was and track all of the restaurant options. The really crazy thing, though, was that we left the map public – viewable by anyone out there in the big world – and when we came back to the map a couple of days later there had already been some 75 views. The version you see now has been updated post-trip with a couple of comments and who knows, maybe others will find this useful in their own pre-trip research.

The top of our list, and a bit of a scramble with a reservation coming up very shortly after landing in Montreal, was dinner at Au Pied de Cochon. APDC showed up in every list of restaurants recommended by friends, on Urbanspoon, and on Chowhound. Clearly somewhere not to be missed! Not a huge place, it’s busy and bustle-y, warmed by an interior of wood wood everywhere: tables, floors, walls, bar. Seated across from the open kitchen, what we noticed most was that the tiny space was packed, and much more vocal and physical than what we had experienced in other restaurants. Shouting, laughing, a bit of good-natured shoving.

First for the evening was the salad special for the night, greens topped with egg, a substantial bit of goat cheese, veal, and the thinnest potato crisps. Next we had the Tarragon Bison Tongue, rare and fall-apart tender, with a delicious swipe of mustard tarragon sauce and the tiniest pickle rounds for accent.

It’s good that we chose two small plates to start, because our final selection of the evening erased any possibility for additional sampling. Our server didn’t say a peep when we asked if these three dishes were the right amount for two of us, because when the last platter arrived we saw that there was actually enough to serve several of our fellow diners. The Pied de Cochon stuffed with foie gras was over the top decadent, with that enormous leg of pig on the fatty side, stuffed with an even more rich foie gras and served with bitter greens, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms. It’s hard to tell the scale of this dish from the photo, but consider that the platter nearly spans two large dinner plates, and the spoon and fork you see here are of considerable serving size. If this last selection hadn’t been so massive we might have tried one of the other signature menu items which seems to come highly recommended – the Canard en Conserve (basically, duck in a can) – but as it was we had quite the experience at one of the best known restaurants in Montreal.

Speaking of best known… We couldn’t leave Montreal without sampling poutine, so after our stomachs had recovered from dinner the night before and we’d had a long walk through snowy streets and park, we beelined for La Banquise. With its mismatched painted tabletops and 24-hour schedule, La Banquise is the sort of casual diner-y spot you can easily drop in and out of, or hang out for a while. We sampled two different versions of the fresh cheese curd and brown gravy-topped plate of french fries, the Poutine Matty with bacon, yellow peppers, and green peppers and the Poutine Classique with just the basics, all washed down with a Cheval Blanc Blanche (a witbier). I’m told that the best poutine has cheese curds that are audibly squeaky and those at La Banquise definitely filled the bill.

Click here here for an Eater review of Au Pied de Cochon and La Banquise, as well as a bonus review of another Eater must-try, Damas.