Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hunger - Seattle

I recently took a trip up to visit a long time college friend who is a Seattle native. I have been up to visit him a few times before but since my last visit I was pleased to discover that he had moved to a new area which meant new adventures. Given some free time while he had to work I got to indulge in a little me time discovering his wonderful little neighborhood. This area north of downtown Seattle, home to Dave Matthews as well as the famous Fremont troll statue under the bridge (10 Things I Hate About You anyone?? before we realized Joseph Gordon Leavitt is actually smoking hot), in my opinion typifies the ideals of Seattle life. The main Fremont Ave drag is full of unique individual restaurants, yoga studios, homeopathic remedy shops, as well as a grocer and free trade coffee shop with vegan pastries. In the morning I took in Caffe Vita where I had an excellent soy latte and a slice of some kind of breakfast bread packed with all sorts of seeds and other things that I don't doubt were exceptionally healthy for me and my digestive system.

I took the next hour after that to walk the avenue looking for dinner prospects. This was how I first came across Hunger. Marketing it's self as an American tapas style restaurant the menu looked inventive and unique, but the price point was just above what I was hoping to spend on dinner that evening. Turns out I was in luck! Later that night while browsing my UrbanSpoon iPhone app I discovered that Hunger in fact had an amazing Happy Hour deal and I was just in time to enjoy a full hour of it! I quickly walked down to check it out.

Although there were plenty of available tables the tine bar was packed full of locals enjoying the happy hour specials. I was lucky enough to get a single seat at the end of the bar and settled in to check out my dining options. The Happy Hour Menu featured 6 unique sounding specialty cocktail options, a white and red wine by the glass, and about 7 tapas plates- all for just $5 a piece. I started with the featured glass of red which was a nice Chianti and perused my dining options. I have recently had a growing affinity for beets and chose to start with the Beet salad. What an exciting flavor combination. The salad was plated with paper thin disks of roasted beet on the bottom and topped with micro greens tossed in an aged balsamic vinaigrette with smoky toasted nuts and goat cheese. I think the most delicious surprise in this dish for me was the smokiness from the mixed nuts which seemed to permeate the cheese as well, overall a sweet, smoky, tangy, and fresh dish that was gobbled down (guilt free) by yours truly.

Since I was so impressed with the salad and the service I decided to keep going and ordered the Boar Sliders with Fennel slaw and the Truffled french fries. I had already struck up a rapport with the bartender who as it happened was an amazing Mixologist and had come up with some exceptionally unique and tantalizing cocktail concoctions. I asked for his suggestion of one of the features to pair with my sliders and fries and he went with the whisky rose. Normally I'm not a whisky drinker but after it was described to me I thought I would give it a try. For this cocktail the bartender combine whisky, apple juice, cranberry juice, and a house made rose water simple syrup. Wow! Shaken and poured over ice this drink is delightfully light the essence from the rose water making it exceptionally unique. Sweet but not sugary this beverage would be the perfect thing on a patio on a a warm summer day. I hope to be able to recreate it for myself because it was far to good to only have once. My sliders and truffle fries did not disappoint either. The boar was cooked in the style of pulled pork and the fennel slaw made the perfect crunchy cooling condiment. The truffle fries really hit the spot as well. And all this for $25 ++ What a steal!!!

I'm not sure when I'll be able to visit the area again, chances are it will be awhile, but I sincerely hope hope that Hunger is still going strong!

To Check out their full sample Menu click here! Hunger

Valentine's day Chocolate Tart

I realize it is a little late for a valentine's post unfortunately the time to put fingers to keys to get this recipe in just did not come between my making this decadent rich dessert and the day actually passing. None the less you can make any day romantic and special by making this tart! Even if it is just for your other soul mates- your girlfriends (women everywhere thank you Carrie Bradshaw!)

I found this on my favorite recipe web site - epicurious. It was originally from Gourmet magazine's September 2008 issue.

For crust:
  • 9 (5- by 2 1/4-inch) chocolate graham crackers (not chocolate-covered), finely ground (1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For filling:
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 65% cacao if marked), chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For glaze:
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon warm water

  • a 9-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep)

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto bottom and 3/4 inch up side of tart pan. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 to 20 minutes
Make filling:
Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate.
Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.
Make glaze:
Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then warm water
Pour glaze onto tart, then tilt and rotate tart so glaze coats top evenly. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

My experience making this dish found it to be much easier than expected. I do suggest that you make sure the graham crackers a ground VERY VERY fine and I would use more butter than they suggest my crust crumbled to easily. Pack it in very well and definitely let it cool the whole way. I may even suggest (GASP!!) purchasing the chocolate crust. I know this pretty much goes against everything I love about cooking but a nice strong crust can really let the filling shine!

Good luck and good eating!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


When you think of Peruvian cuisine what do you think of? ...... not much come to mind? That was me until last Friday night. Visiting San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood you can find just about any style of cuisine your little heart desires- Sushi, Pizza, Chinese, Indian, American Cafe fare, Classic San Francisco Seafood Melts, Bagels, and not only a Starbucks but also a Peets! West Portal Ave really has it all. On a search for Thai food (turns out this may be the one thing they no longer have) we stumbled upon Fresca, a seated Peruvian restaurant with classy dim lighting and exciting Cultural art pieces. The layout initially reminded me of a few of the small independently owned restaurants I had been to in the city's residential neighborhoods, small but busting to the brim with tables with a long bar at the back. Walking into the restaurant I could see a number of dishes on the tables of nearby diners that looked fantastic so I was confident we were in for a treat. During our short wait we perused the menu and got a feel for what Peruvian cuisine really meant. Fresh fish was by far the most prominent menu item, with multiple ceviches on their appetizer list as well as scallops, prawns, crab, and octopus dishes. Although we chose to forgo the appetizers this time around we were presented with bread in a tall cone shape metal basket. The bread was soft and slightly sweet and was served with a tangy olive tapenade. For our main courses we each went a different direction. I had the paella - aji panca spiced rice, packed with calamari, clams, mussels, prawns, fish, scallops, chicken and chorizo. Abbie had the lenguado - pan roasted halibut, crispy risotto cake, steamed spinach, aji panca beurre blanc. Andrew had the espinacas y cangrejo - spinach and crab salad, crispy avocado, feta cheese, candied walnuts, creamy tarragon dressing. And my Dad had a elegantly plated sea bass (description was not available on the website).

On presentation alone these dishes get 5 stars. Each was unique and well composed. The flavors were vibrant as well. All the seafood in my dish tasted fresh and sweet just as it should nothing over cooked. The rice was the perfect al dente texture as well. The sumptuous butter sauce over Abbie's Halibut was to die for and we enjoyed a unique treat in the breaded and fried pieces of avocado from Andrew's salad. As we enjoyed each of our dishes a new table was seated next to us and owed and awed at our plates asking what each dish was and what we suggested. Not one dish disappointed and we all left full and very happy. I hope to return soon to check out some of the appetizer dishes and intriguing sounding desserts as well! If you enjoy an excuse to explore a new neighborhood in SF West Portal is a great place to check out and Fresca will leave you with a fun new experience you won't soon forget.

Fresca has 3 Locations in San Francisco, visit the website to learn about each one!