Sunday, January 24, 2010


I have a thing for cheese. Could be the addictive serotonin rush that cheese can provide, could be the salt that I crave. Whatever it is, I know I could slowly, knife lick by knife lick, polish off a wheel of a really good cheese. And not be sorry. Particularly the rich, foreign ones. (Like my men, ha! Sorry).

Mr. Pants and I get through the long, hot summers (who am I kidding, I live in Seattle), I'll start again: Mr. Pants and I get through the short, tepid summers living on tomato, basil and mozzarella salads. Easy to compile on nights when we are both tired and don't feel like cooking, this dish feeds us from June to October. We like the multiple brands that are sold packed in water. These are a gorgeous, milky counterpart to the bright taste of summer tomatoes.

I've long wanted to make my own mozzarella, but never trusted myself to do so without official instructions. However, the price of good mozzarella, which supermarkets have the gall to sell at something like $5 per small container, has been an issue. But now I've found a trustworthy instructor, and her name is Julie Steil.

Steil teaches cheese making classes at River Valley Ranch in Fall City, Mr Pants and I took the excursion to Fall City (along with fellow foodie and coworker Sallie and her beau)

I wanted to tromp down onto the muddy hillside to pet some animals, but I showed restraint, and settled for manipulating cheese curds. Which is basically how one makes cheese. We made mozzarella and a Tomme type cheese, and she shows you how easy it really is to whip up several balls of ready-to-eat mozzarella or press curds into a ready to aged wheel of cheese for treat, edible in about 2 months time.

Highlights: Julie Steil. Cheese!

Disappointments: At first the class room smells like, you know, cheese. Standing up for several hours in one place can be tiring.

Mr. Pants: Talking big like he's going to be making mozzarella and Tomme every single day for the rest of his life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tavolata New Years Eve

After a couple of wintry and thrifty hibernating weeks, we had to get out.

I had gotten Mr. Pants a (much needed) massage at Banya 5 as a Christmas present, for use on New Years eve. Ok, I got myself one too in a spirit of (much needed) decadence. After being pleasantly mashed about on our respective massage tables, we walked our relaxed selves out to Belltown for New Years Eve.

We stopped at the Local Vine for a glass of bubbly, (a crisp Gloria Ferrer) and, sufficiently warmed, walked to our reservation at Tavolata.

Tavolata has been one of our favorite places since Ethan Stowell opened it in 2007. We like the hip space, warmly lit, all concrete and rounded mirrors behind the bar, and the very long wooden communal table in the middle of the room.

Stowell was there serving up dishes to diners, this New Years eve, which I thought a fine and non-elitist thing to do, (the chef of the people!). He brought us a rich, thick Butternut squash soup with radish sprouts, and crunchy croutons, (I called them genius croutons, because they WERE genius) gave the squash soup heft and texture.

Mr. Pants and I agreed that we both wanted to try the pork cheeks, and these, laid over celery root puree was exactly how I always want my meat to be, fall-apart tender and melting.

Maybe my senses were heightened from the massage, but there was divinity in the Agnolotti. It was a mixture that would seem hard to sell, but boy, did it work. Brussel sprout leaves (just the leaves, mind), quartered turnips perfectly cooked and buttery, plump little agnolotti pasta filled with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, and a generous mound of parmesan shaved over all. I appreciated that the amount of parmesan was actually enough for me, because it's rare that I get enough, usually. (I'm the biggest mouse he's ever seen, according to Mr. Pants when it comes to cheese). I'd probably eat my own hand if it was covered in melted cheese. This was a perfect dish. I thought there might have been a touch of truffle but Ethan himself said no.

We ended the meal splitting the almond cake, nothing showy or flashy here, it was rich simplicity itself with dollop of whipped cream.

Maybe it was the massage, or cake and agnolotti, (and the wine and champagne) but we returned home to our couch where I promptly passed out, oblivious to the New Years Eve fireworks.

I admit Stowell is one of my favorite chefs at the moment. Reminds me to grab Mr. Pants and climb Queen Anne Hill more often to Stowell's How to Cook a Wolf as well as just up our street to his Anchovies and Olives. Looking forward to checking out Union's happy hour, too. No doubt Ethan Stowell's eateries will help to make it a truly happy New Year.

Highlights: Pork cheek, Agnolotti, Almond Cake

Disappointments: Ummmm…

Mr. Pants: Happy!

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