While I was at McCormick & Schmick's here in Manhattan I asked bartender Cris Vegas to concoct a drink for the New York Sharks women's profootball team. It's called a NY Sharktini and will soon be on their menu. It's composed of: 1 1/4 oz Peach Vodka, 1/2 oz Triple Sec, 1/2 oz Peach Schnapps, Splash lime juice, 3 oz, white cranberry, and float of Blue Curacao. Here is a photo of this really delicious drink.
I went back to McCormick & Schmick's in Manhattan to talk with Executive Chef Chris Sellati about fish preparation. He first displayed some of the fresh fish of the day as the menu changes for each meal, to make sure that the fish is always fresh. Here are some photos of the Mediterranean Sea Bronzini that arrives already gutted and ready to "stuff" for preparation. Here is what little is needed to stuff it and here is a photo of how it is served, with this delicious sauce, rice and vegetables. The fish is broiled and thus the skin, already edible, gives just a bit of a crunch. Bronzini has been deboned as well, thus other than the tail and head, the whole fish goes down just fine. Mediterranean Sea Bronzino, by the way, is in the sea bass family. It does not have a "fishy" taste and is more on the flaky side vs tuna or swordfish.
I wanted to throw in a few photos and video from when I visited The Spa at Norwich Inn. I ate at their Kensington Restaurant. Here's is photo of one of the entrees (below). I was also there to check out same-sex weddings and did a tasting. So here is a food photo as well of an entree. I just couldn't help wanting to video the bathroom located on the main floor of the inn. It just made me laugh.
Thought I'd throw in two videos from the Flood Tide Restaurant at the Inn at Mystic. One is the preparation of a Caesar Salad and the other is when Chef Bob prepared the Bananas Foster. Both are prepared tableside.
Here at The Inn at Mystic. Photo taken from the Manor as the inn faces the Seaport. Then we are eating at their restaurant called Flood Tides. First food photo is the signature Lobster crepe. Would have posted a photo of the lobster bisque but you wouldn't be able to tell how great it was from the photo. Best lobster crepe and I dare anyone to top the lobster bisque. Chef Bob is posing with two of his entrees, one of a scallop casserole and the other is a duck breast.
Went to Mystic, Connecticut and the area surrounding. Here's a preview of the trip. In this group of photos I am at the Mystic Aquarium, in a pit area having an encounter with a beluga whale. Not sure which is the whale after eating my way around the area. Obviously, I did not take these photos. They area courtesy of SharpShooter Imaging.
And even more photos. Preparing Poffertjes in Lynden video. View from Nimbus Restaurant. Entree at Nimbus.
BELLY-NG-HAM DAY 3: FOOD FOR THOUGHT by Merle Exit
My bags are packed as I depart my sauna-style room at the Willow’s Inn on Lummi Island. Needless to say we had a tasty breakfast before our long 10-minute journey on the Whatcom Chief Ferry. It looked as if someone missed the boat as we arrived at Gooseberry Point in Bellingham.
On board Bellair Charters Shonie Schlotzhauer shared information about a 48-page brochure that she had written called, “Sustainable Connections Whatcom Food & Farm Finder” that allows consumers to easily find 132 farms, markets, restaurants, and caterers that are dedicated to food locally produced in Whatcom County. The adventurous itinerary that followed certainly allowed for experiencing this phenomenon.
It was far past the 15-minutes of traveling and feeling a little weak our first stop was to Everybody’s Store in the town of Van Zandt, located in the foothills of Mt. Baker. Jeff Margolis, who originated from Brooklyn, gave us a tour of this exotic grocery, noted for its specialty cheeses, custom made sausages and selections of international ingredients. The surprise was finding true bialys, something that tends to be a New York known “bread”.
After some cheese tasting we were taken to the back for a tour of the garden of fruits, vegetables and herbs. This was followed by further noshes of the garden’s berries and a few other tidbits to sustain us until our next venue, Cloud Mountain Farm in the town of Everson.
What began as an apple orchard has turned into a 20-acre farm with a multitude of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. I slowly hiked up the mountain to check out the hothouses of tomatoes and peppers. Most of the tomatoes are “heirloom” with a variety of sizes and colors, all of which sported a different flavor. More of a sampling would be done during dinner as Josh, the Executive Chef of Nimbus, laced his bill of fare around this and a few other local farms. The wine grape vines were for show at this point as the growth had not blossomed as yet. However, our next stop was to the Samson Estate Winery.
Located in the Nooksack River Valley, less than 15 minutes (thank goodness) from Cloud Mountain Farm, it is a small family-owned operation noted for the raspberry and blackberry wines produced by their winemaker Rob Dhaliwal. We were led to the raspberry field and let go to pick and sample. You’d think that I was deprived of food on the entire trip the way I just couldn’t stop eating these absolutely most delicious and largest raspberries I’ve ever indulged in.
Not only were they sweet but also lacked those tiny little seeds that get stuck between your teeth. Having been joined by representatives of the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, we got the low down that 65% of all US raspberries are grown in Whatcom County. The fresh ones that you tend to buy from Driscoll may be fresh but not picked when they are fully ripened. Thus those annoying seeds are embedded. The raspberries from Washington are either sent to companies to “juice” or frozen. It means that you have to read the package to be sure that it did come from Washington. I’m still hunting for them. In the meantime, as August is the season for raspberries on the East Coast, particularly Long Island and New Jersey, I will compare them.
As far as the wine tasting, we were provided with lunch (I know that your laughing) to pair with their various wines including one regular raspberry and sweeter dessert version.
It’s off to Lynden for the Raspberry Festival. I love this town, Washington’s largest Dutch settlement with 30% of its residents still embracing their Dutch ancestry. I know that we’re there specifically for the festival, but I just needed to sample some of the Dutch fare, specifically the sweets. It was at least 15 minutes and they were making something called “Poffertjes” (little pillows)…then there was the Dutch bakery and Dutch chocolate shop. Oh yeah, the raspberries. We had a freshly made vanilla ice cream with a chunky raspberry sauce.
The Dutch chocolate shop didn’t compare to our next stop, Chocolate Necessities, back in Bellingham (Hey…more than a 15-minute ride). Kevin Buck uses the finest grade of Callebaut Chocolates for most of his creations. Aside from tasting the various cocoa percentages of both dark and milk chocolate, we went to the kitchen where he was preparing chocolates with fruit. We just had to sample those. This was the first chocolate store where I was able to taste Amarena cherries dipped in chocolate.
It wasn’t long before dinnertime at Nimbus Restaurant, located on the 14th floor of Bellingham Tower, the tallest building in Bellingham. Great views! What did Josh prepare for us? Marbled King Salmon Tartar – cherry tomato, California olive oil jam and powder. Braised Lamb Shank – grape leaf, golden raisin, pine nut “risotto”, Meyer lemon puree. “Chili Relleno” – Buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomato, Guajillo relish, basil. Crispy Pork Belly – tart cherry mustard, thyme spaetzle. Sous Vide Washington Halibut – summer onions, house cured pancetta, baby turnip confit, fava bean puree, sunflower sprouts (and, of course, more wines).
We had to pass on dessert as this final day’s venue was taking place at Silver Reef Hotel, Casino, Spa, located in Ferndale, where we were also bedding for the night. Amongst the dessert offers were: chocolate rockettes, a pastry topped with chocolate feet; a peanut butter cookie creation (created by pastry chef Audrey Hursh); and both a flaming bananas foster and cherries jubilee prepared tableside. Sparkling gets created using powdered cinnamon.
The Lummi Nation is responsible for the acreage used for this resort and operates the casino. I didn’t partake in the casino due to the smoking, nor the spa due to my time constraint as I was hosting my radio show there. You can listen to two shows about Bellingham on Whirl With Merle on www.blogtalkradio.com I did get a great night’s sleep in a most comfortable king bed, that had a chocolate on the pillow. Oy! www.silverreefcasino.com
Although I didn’t get to visit some of the other culinary delights participating I would like to thank Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Red Barn Lavender, BelleWood Acres, The C Shop and Glacial Lake Missoula Wine Company. Needless to say much thanks is given to the staff of Whatcom County tourism for assisting in my amusement and humor.
It may not be surprising to hear that I skipped breakfast after that long night of the Dessert Crawl. However, there was this raspberry muffin at Fairhaven Village Inn that was baked with those fresh raspberries.
Whatcom County had hosted an adventure FAM. I think that they might have mixed it up on this culinary tour as we walked what felt like a mile to our next stop. Or were they dangling food in front of us in order to get us to move? We walked along the serene waterfront boardwalk, encountered some seaweed people, kids climbing rocks and stopped at a coffee house. I guess it took at least 15 minutes because a nosh was offered with our coffee and we were feeling a little weak.
A quick tour of downtown Bellingham (by van) before sailing off to the most northeastern island of the San Juan Islands.
Food became an adventure for me boarding the 50-foot Happy Talk yacht destined for Lummi Island with a population of about 800. Captain Charlie DeWeese, of Sail Away Charters, informed us that his crab pots had captured our lunch. Bound by my life jacket I schmoozed with my group and partook in the crab salad with a poppy seed dressing, fresh rolls with rosemary and sea salt (I suppose Rosemary wasn’t too happy about that) followed by a tasting of fruit tarts.
I did my utmost not to panic when we were informed of the transfer to a rowboat in order to get to shore. “The next step is about 10 inches down”, I would hear. Now youtubing my getting on and off the boats would have been amusing.
We are now checking into the Willows Inn, run by husband and wife Riley Starks and Judy Olsen. Riley informs us that we will be doubling up on rooms. Something about a last minute decision on a wedding party. I was given my own room due to another error…Riley was first informed that there would be a male writer on the trip. He didn’t show but assumed that the name “Merle” was male. The room was quite nice but lacked air conditioning in this hot weather. No phone or television.
Riley introduced us to a tank of spotted prawns, indigenous to the area. We said, “hello” as our lips smacked knowing that they would eventually make their way to our stomachs that evening. Nettles Farm is their source of food with organic vegetables, fruit, eggs, chickens and even a few pigs (who we were beginning to resemble). Owning the farm makes it even easier.
We’re feeling a little weak, so it’s on to Willows Inn’s Taproot Pub for dinner, which was prepared by Chef Vincent. Sitting on porch allowed for a great view of the sunset. I forgot to mention that wine was being paired with all of our food. I skipped most of it due to that fact that I get drunk on Scotch tape. The menu here is always a five-course fare and changes each day.
Course 1: favas fritto, spot prawns, asparagus & herb relish, béarnaise aioli. Fava beans, in their pods, were lightly breaded and fried. The “meat” from the spotted prawns were pieced, rather than whole.
Course 2: shaved zucchini, squash blossom & pecorino salad, sherry vinaigrette, poached egg, caper berries. The raw zucchini was tossed with the salad. I could view the squash blossoms when I was at the farm and was wondering if they would be used in the meal. Vincent placed a poached pullet egg on the side along with a caper berry. The berries are not the same as when you get “capers”, which are small berries that are usually “brined”. A caper berry is much larger and has more of an “olive” appearance.
Course 3: potato & turnip soup with greens, radish, buerre fondue. The potatoes and turnips were cooked in a chicken stock and the put into a food processor. Radish was used more for show and color. Buerre fondue is butter that is warmed and whisked into a creamy state. The fondue as did the radish lay atop the soup.
Course 4: bacon wrapped king troll caught salmon, polenta & peas, bordelaise sauce, parsley salad. I asked Vincent if a troll caught the salmon. The bacon is made on the premises. So much for meeting the pig. Fresh peas, cooked just enough to give that raw flavor.
Course 5: carrot cake, cream cheese ice cream, meyer’s dark rummey carrots. The carrot cake was individualized in more of a muffin shape. I could taste the carrots vs the spices. Rather than a cream cheese frosting, Vincent decided to prepare cream cheese ice cream to accompany it. A baby carrot (a real one) was cooked with the dark rum for an added sweetness and sugary texture.
Did I tell you that you can find a whole bunch of information by going to www.bellingham.org