Back in the {blogging} saddle…

Seared foie gras with cherries

Seared foie gras with cherries, Loulay Kitchen & Bar, Seattle, WA

In case you were concerned, like my mother was, about why this blog has been so quiet lately, I have a lame but entirely honest excuse — life got crazy.

At first, in mid-February, I became so bogged down in planning my birthday party (yes, I know that sounds ridiculous but it’s my favorite holiday and I take it seriously) that I had no time for cooking projects, let alone photographing and writing about them. I was too immersed in making this year’s birthday extravaganza as awesome as possible. (Not to brag, but I totally succeeded.)

My theme, The Drunker Games, was a play on the Hunger Games and involved 14 adults, a city park, oranges in nylons and other strange and unusual field day games. There was one true winner, lots of beer and plenty of laughs.

Then came my actual birthday, which I celebrated by taking a trip to the Oregon coast with my husband. Immediately following that was a long weekend in Seattle with a co-worker, which involved a lot of eating under the guise of work/sales calls (18 restaurants capped by an all-you-can-eat crab dinner).

And then it was March….I don’t even remember March. I had to look through my pictures to try to figure out what I did.

Apparently it was a whirlwind of weekend hikes and wine trips inspired by the incredible sunny weather. I didn’t do much cooking but I did do a lot of living.

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Day 1 in Seattle and Vashon: Doing what we do best…eating!

Brunch at Joule, Coulotte with eggs

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my husband and I drove up to Vashon Island from Portland to spend Labor Day weekend away from the city. On our way up, we made a side trip to Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood for brunch at Joule. We had both heard rave reviews about their food but had never been in before. In all honesty, I went in with fairly low expectations simply because of the hype but was totally blown away.

First of all, I loved the concept of their brunch menu. You can pay $17 for a walk through their buffet and you get to order an additional entrée as well. For $12 you can do one or the other, but it was well worth the money to try both. The bonus is that you get the best of both worlds — you get to eat something immediately (and we were SO hungry after the three-hour drive) but you also get a hot dish made to order, which can’t be beat.

The buffet isn’t the basic cafeteria-style line up of eggs, pancakes and toast. Instead it’s a small table of fabulously prepared items, all based on a theme. While we were there, the dishes were southwestern inspired: peaches in habanero syrup with cilantro, jalapeño pimento cheese with homemade crackers, green tomato jam, corn salad, corn bread, pickles and more.

I filled my plate and cleared it in record time. Everything was so good, but the peaches were the winner, perfectly ripe, sweet and spicy.

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Celebrating love with an island getaway

Ferry to Vashon Island

Vashon Island is definitely not a tropical island!

Last weekend my husband and I hit our 7th year marriage milestone. To celebrate, I forced him to make my favorite dinner ever — chittara pasta with roasted cauliflower, chili flakes, bread crumbs, Parmesan and a LOT of olive oil. (Side note: This was the first time I’ve actually watched him make this dish and I have to say after I saw the sheer amount of oil in it, I almost wished I hadn’t helped him make it. My god!)

But besides a fantastic dinner and a bottle of bubbles, we laid low for the day, saving our energy for this weekend instead. My husband took a very rare Saturday off and, thanks to Labor Day, we have two blissful days planned on Vashon Island in Washington.

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Crossing Bridges for Beers

Walking Man Brewing, Stevenson, WA

A full line-up of hoppy, malty goodness from the Walking Man Brewery.

A few weeks ago it was my husband’s birthday. We didn’t have anything exciting planned so I proposed a beer tour, working our way east from Portland toward the Columbia River Gorge. (So, yes, if you’re keeping score, I chose my favorite activity for my husband’s birthday and then made him drive so I could imbibe the lion’s share of beer. I know, I know, I am a terrible wife. But he still loves me, so it’s all good!)

Anyways…Usually when we drive to the gorge, we drive on the Oregon side of the river out of convenience sake. To try something different, I suggested this time we take Highway 14, on the Washington side, instead. It was a surprisingly good choice.

Even though we were headed in the same direction, being on the other side of the river made for a completely different view. In fact there was a moment when I almost felt disloyal to Oregon, thinking, “Wow, the Washington side is a much prettier drive!” But then my husband reminded me the reason for that is because we were looking at Oregon from across the river. I felt much better (though a little slow!) after he said that.

At any rate, the scenery was so gorgeous that we pulled over near Cape Horn so I could take some pictures.

The left-hand coast is Washington, across the river is Oregon.

Columbia River Gorge. The left-hand coast is Washington, across the river is Oregon.

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An IPNC Interlude — please pause for wine

Grand Dames Dinner IPNC 2014

Iberico de Bellota pork cheeks, served with polenta, thyme and blackberries. Chef Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita. IPNC 2014. Grand Dames Dinner.

If it’s seemed a little quiet over here recently, there’s good reason. I spent Friday night at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon for the International Pinot Noir Conference. Yes, I stayed on campus — in the dorms even — with three co-workers.

It always seems like one night shouldn’t be so exhausting, but somehow, every year, IPNC knocks me out of commission for a while.

Maybe it’s due to eating super rich food all day (foie gras, Iberico pork, veal sausage and more foie gras) or because we drink wine from 3pm till 3am 8am. (Yes, we partied like true college freshmen this year. I saw the sun rise and everything.)

Here are a few pictures from this year’s Grand Dames Dinner, which is set in the middle of the Linfield College campus. Four chefs (all women this year which I thought was awesome) put out an amazing dinner for around 500 people. There’s a reason this is one of my favorite events to “work.”

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We didn’t just stuff our faces in Texas (and evidence to prove it)

Austin Motel

In case you couldn’t tell, when my husband and I travel, our trips revolve around food. When we each made our lists of “what to do” in Austin, my husband’s list was fine-dining focused (Qui, Uchi, Barley Swine) while my list was mainly beer (Craft Pride, Hops & Grain) and food carts. But at the very bottom of my list was a separate (tiny) category called “Things that don’t involve eating.”

On that list, there were three items: visit the Barton Springs Pool, walk down 6th Street and hike around Lady Bird Lake.

I am happy to say we did all of those things and more — which is kind of shocking considering how much time we spent eating!

We checked out the Texas Capitol Building, which sprawls across the metro area.

Everything really is bigger here in Texas and the Texas Capitol Building in downtown Austin is no exception!

Everything is bigger here in Texas and the Capitol Building in downtown Austin is no exception!

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