Yesterday I worked out of our Greenwood office, and we wanted to take one of our volunteers out to lunch. I've heard the Baranof has good diner food, but have never been there. One of my past coworkers said that the Baranof "is where drunks go to die." I don't hang out a lot at bars, but I have been to the Baranof around noon, and been in the back bar area. I was working. We were flyering the neighborhood, and I was amazed at how many people were blind-drunk in the middle of the day, no judgments, just genuine shock.
The Baranof is like a step back in time. It's straight out of the late 60s/early 70s. The dining area is covered in fishing nets, and each table has a book on end, for décor? One of my coworkers likened it to that strange place you pull over for when you're on a long road-trip. The service is terrible, and they have many humorous signs in the dining area acknowledging this deficiency. I heard that they had a salad served in a clam-shell shaped bowl. I was so there! I didn't know which salad it was, but the Shrimp Louie made sense. I went for it, and was richly rewarded.
Did I mention that the water glasses are recycled beer bottles? The food was good, and I was super excited to see that they serve breakfast all day. Some days I don't care about good service. I just want good grub. I'll definitely be back for more.
My Blue Apron Experience
My good friend Lori recently asked me if I'd like to try Blue Apron. She had a free trial she could send me via email. I was skeptical. I've had fresh produce delivered to my home before, and although I loved it, we had to cancel the service. On nights when I wasn't home to cook, things like bok choy and sunchokes went bad because my husband didn't want to cook with them. What would happen if an entire meal was delivered to our home and I didn't have time to prepare it?
The smallest plan you can sign up for is 2 meals a week, and with a family of four, that's 69.92 each week, or $8.74 per person each meal. Now I realize that eating out costs more than this, and you don't always know what you're actually consuming. However, I'm pretty good at making dinner for around $10 for the entire family, sometimes less, and we only budget to eat out once-a-week on average. Since it was a free trial, we caved and signed up.
This is what was delivered. Yes, my new running shoes snuck into this pic, but only for scale. Seriously.
Everything is packaged in a refrigerated box, so if you forgot it overnight, or weren't home, it would be fine for a bit. We received the ingredients and recipes for Dukkah-Crusted Catfish with Sugar Snap Pea & Couscous Salad and Chicken Parmesan with Fresh Mozzarella & Spinach-Zucchini Pasta. You can indicate if you don't eat a particular food, but my family is easy so we were wide open to trying whatever. The instructions recommend cooking fish first, if part of the menu for the week, to ensure freshness. We made catfish for our Sunday lunch. Here is the instruction card.
My favorite part of the entire experience was that all of the ingredients were there in the proper amount. There was no waste, and it was all "whole foods."The only things I needed other than cooking implements, that were not included in the box, were: salt, pepper, and olive oil. Anymore, almost all American kitchens have those three ingredients, so I didn't feel that was a miss on Blue Apron's part.
Here is my hubby making the yogurt sauce. We really enjoy cooking together, and I will say that having everything delivered and laid out for us almost made this feel like a date (we may need to get out more).
I loved that the red onions were sliced. For some reason I almost always chop or dice my onions when cooking, but the red onion slices were very pretty.
Here is the finished product.
The adults loved the catfish, both children ate it, but didn't like the crunch of the almond-spice crust on the fish. My husband liked couscous for the first time. I think because it was a larger grain than I usually buy. My daughter refused to eat her couscous, and my son had three helpings. Overall, I think the meal was a success, and at 590 calories per serving it's not shabby for all the butter and oil needed. We're going to make the Chicken Parm on Wednesday, and have already decided to pay for at least next week's delivery. We read what the recipes were, and they had us at "Pizza Burgers..."
Adventures in Baking...Macarons
I've been curious about macarons for a while now. I had never tried one, but everyone is taking pictures of them, because they are beautiful and come in fun colors. I never got farther than the cupcake fad (which I don't bake so much as I eat) and I'm sure by the time I post this I'll be behind the times again, perhaps flan, or did I miss that one too?
So why hadn't I tried a macaron? Well, I live outside of Seattle, and honestly haven't seen them anywhere in person. I did learn recently that Simply Sweet Cupcakes, located in Snohomish and Lake Stevens, has macarons, but I haven't had the pleasure yet. There was only one decision I could make. I needed to commit to experiment with making my own.
Now, much like I think movie critics should have a disclaimer when reviewing a horror movie when they dislike the genre, I need to disclose that I don't really like baking. I like throwing things together, and I'm not a patient or an exact cook. I found a really simple macaron recipe on Pinterest, bought the ingredients, and then procrastinated for two weeks before my 8-year-old guilted me one day into baking with her. We started by taking turns sifting the almond flour with the powdered sugar in the sifter pictured below, because I do not own a nice flour sifter. We sifted twice, which took 20 minutes. This is why I don't like baking.
Then we mixed the egg whites, cream of tartar, and extra fine sugar. I was pretty sure the meringue went awry when it turned glossy and I lost the stiff peaks my egg and cream of tartar mixture had before adding the sugar, but am now not certain. Suggestions are welcome. I did read that I should have added the sugar slowly, which the recipe did not mention. It also didn't mention slamming the tray down after piping the cookies, so this is what my cookies looked like before...
and after. We added yellow food coloring to the batter for some colorful fun.
While the cookies baked we made blue buttercream frosting and added lemon juice for flavor. The whole family agreed that the buttercream frosting was way too buttery. I'm open to recommendations there, and definitely willing to try a jam-like filling next time, or your Nana's buttercream recipe (our mixer flung butter and powder sugar everywhere).
As you can see from the finished project, I definitely need to try some tray slamming next time, but I will say that they tasted like little clouds of sugar, butter, and lemon. I am truly amazed at how much sugar goes into making a macaron, and am equally amazed at the experimenting that would have had to gone into creating the original macaron. Simple ingredients have been turned into something sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing. I thought about waiting until I had perfected the recipe to share, but I think that may be a whole 'nother post.
Look at all that food! The Letter Carriers Food Drive happens every year on the 2nd Saturday in May. Yup, it's always the day before Mother's Day. This food drive is a national phenomenon and honestly I don't have the numbers or information to share it's impact with you on a national scale. That said, in Snohomish County this food drive provides 50% of the food brought into our food banks through food drives. It's huge, usually over 100,000 pounds of food!
This year my kiddos and the neighbor boy went to the Paine Field Everett Post Office and help me and 25 other volunteers sort the food brought in so it can be distributed across Snohomish County. Since they worked so hard I thought dinner out would be a nice treat. So, I took them to a wonderful place my friend Lori turned me onto last year, Casa El Dorado Tortilla Factory.
I ordered one of my favorites, the wet burrito with chicken. I love a burrito, and even though the newborn sized meal felt like a brick in my gut by the end, I ate it all. I have a hard time not cleaning my plate. It's how I was raised, and Casa El Dorado has wonderful homemade salsas that I have to smother my food in, both red and green.
My daughter, who is on a recent fish kick, ordered the tacos de pescados, and despite putting a tad too much salsa verde on them, scarfed them up. I love the freshness of the food at this little hole-in-the-wall, and the customer service is always top-notch. When we walked in the owner/cashier was talking to a customer that wanted to bring in his own tamales for a tasting so that he could received tips, and I truly felt like I was in a neighborhood eatery where all were welcome.
$1 Tacos on Cinco De Mayo
When I realized that this past Tuesday was Cinco De Mayo and Taco Tuesday rolled into one I knew that I had to go to Calle for $1 tacos. I used to eat regularly at their Mount Vernon location. In fact, I scheduled my weekly Skagit County work day on Tuesday specifically so I could enjoy $1 tacos every week. The most I ever ate in one sitting was 12 (I've heard one of the co-owners holds the record at 39 1/2), which is still more than I should have eaten, but they are so delicious, and they used to have this amazing pollo blanco taco that was a creamy corn chicken delight. I'm still crushed and confused that it's missing from the menu. I've even tried their lengua, tripas, and chapulines (grasshoppers) tacos that have since been taken off of the regular taco menu and made into their own order called "Tacos Locos."
Even though Tuesdays are a Kung Fu night for my 10 year-old, we all went: my husband, my boy, my girl, and our neighbor-boy at 8-o-clock to the newer Snohomish location. Although I prefer the décor in Mount Vernon and the old-town feel walking to the restaurant, the Snohomish Calle, located in a strip-mall by the old train station, is festive and fun. It was packed, and parties were ordering tacos by the tray. I'm talking about 15-20 tacos at a time.
Since it was Cinco De Mayo, and my husband was driving, I ordered the Calavera - Wahaka Mezcal Espadin, pineapple, basil leaves, agave nectar, and lime. Surprisingly I didn't think it was very sweet, not like a margarita at least. It had a smoky flavor as well that I can only assume came from the Mezcal.
Then arrived the best part, my three favorite tacos! I should mention that growing up I thought tacos all came in hard shells, or the flour soft tortillas that Taco Bell uses. I even lived in South California for awhile but I don't recall ordering street tacos. I always ordered burritos, which I think is because I'm from New Mexico, but maybe I'm a bad New Mexican for not knowing the pleasures of a soft corn tortilla with meats until moving to Western Washington. I digress, please behold the beauty of the Chicken Tinga (smoked chipotle), Chorizada (chorizo, steak, and pineapple), and Pollo Habanero (which is actually hot, and I love spice).
These three nuggets of goodness totally made my evening. I didn't even flinch when the boys ordered a second round of tacos, because they're a $1! I highly recommend Calle, even if you can't make it on a Tuesday, tacos are only $2 the rest of the week, and their menu extends beyond that if you're strange and anti-taco. They even have a wide-variety of gluten-free options if that's a concern. So there you go, the perfect place to celebrate El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla.
I love the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." I know I'm not alone. I think every girl that experienced the same dating desert while in High School and beyond dreams of the day that John Corbett will think she's beautiful despite feeling frumpy. Maybe he'll even make you furniture, no, wrong show. Beyond the romance and amazing comedy I also love the food. I secretly wanted to try the goat's eyeball, and ever since those mean blonde girls called Toula's lunch "moose caca," I've wanted to try this dish called Mousaka.
This past weekend, the family and I wanted to try a BBQ place in Marysville that we've always been curious about, but they're closed on Sundays, Ire! We went to Kafe Neo instead. I'm so glad we did. I thought about getting a gyro, because let's face it, gyros are delicious, but I saw that they had Mousaka on the menu. Umm, yes! So I ordered it not knowing what to expect. It came out as pictured above and reminded me of a lasagna. As I took my first bite, I wondered at the thick pasta-like layer at the top. So I did what any sensible person would do and I looked up Mousaka online. It turns out that Mousaka can be made a variety of ways depending on the region, but the one that I had was a meat and tomato sauce with a layer of potatoes and eggplant, and the pasta-like layer was actually a savory custard. Awesome! My daughter had the children's chicken plate which consisted of pita, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and yogurt sauce. She loved making little pita sandwiches, and both of the guys had lamb gyros. Classic! Definitely going back.
I can count on one hand the foods I dislike, and I'll typically even eat those. Typically frugal, but I'll pay top dollar for an amazing/unique dining experience. Never passed up a free meal, which has led me to become the #36 ranked eater in Major League Eating. July 4th, 2020 will be my third time competing in the Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest at Coney Island. I've been on ESPN. That's right people, I'm an athlete.