Saturday, June 27, 2009

I've been out of touch...

This past couple weeks has been a bit of a struggle. We are in the midst of trying to buy a home and still looking for that combination of affordability, close to our current life and lifestyle (schools, friends, commuter transit etc.) and a place we actually want to live. Not the easiest thing in the Puget Sound region for a single Dad and his 11 year old son & 100 lb dog. Anyway that took some precedent over the cooking and blogging and while I have managed to make it to a taco truck or two, cooking has been usually basic burgers on the grill or a quick salad. Nothing much to write about...

Then on the way to visit my Step-father in the hospital my Mum lost her footing and broke her leg in 2 places. He's 85 and she's 70 so as you can expect they needed help so the day Mum was booted out of the hospital I was in Oregon instead of the Seattle area.

As part of the help though I have been cooking up a storm and the folks live in the Willamette Valley which at this time of year is a tremendous cornucopia of fresh local produce, great locally made cheeses and meats as well as the wine for which the valley is famous. Although I have been cooing up batches of "freezer food" for the microwave after we leave, we have had a few other good experiences with our chow.

Strawberries from Unger Farms in Cornelius, OR over freshly whipped not too sweet cream - OMG these berries are so sweet. We also had them on some of my freshly made farmer cheese. I made a full 2 lb batch and used the majority on a couple of lasagnas but saved some out for toast with farmer cheese and fresh strawberries; truly a sensational dish.

Broken Halo IPA from Widmer Bros in Portland, OR - great hops and extra tasty with the Willamette Valley weather (a bit warm and humid) as well as with the "Backdraft" pizza from 3rd Street Pizza in McMinnville - a fine thin crust with Italian sausage, jalapenos and fresh garlic.

McKibben Ranch beef - we only had the ground beef but the lovely beefy minerally flavor of the all grass fed fresh ground (the ranch and processing is less than 30 miles from where we are) were delicious with Tillamook medium cheddar.

Red Fox Bakery - finally they are making baguettes and although their other breads are very fine I still hold that a bakery cannot be a truly artisan bakery w/o baking a good baguette

Gooseberries, red currants, sylvan berries, boysenberries, strawberries, green and yellow zucchini, 3 or 4 varieties of radishes and baby turnips spicy and sweet along with the numerous salad greens at the local farmer's market have kept us in fine stead and here the growing season begins early enough we can get this kind of thing by early June; most from less than 20 miles away. At home we need to get the early produce from Eastern WA so more than 100 miles away. I like the true locavorian nature of eating here.

Yesterday I whipped up 2 lasagnas, and a large batch of homemade mac & cheese. Today is it arroz con pollo and chili verde both for boil in bag type preparation.

Anyway, I'll try and get back in the swing of things when we get back next week although I may need to come back to Oregon in another week. I wonder what will be on the fresh sheet then...


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Asparagus Pie Again

I made a lovely asparagus pizza the other night; this time with button mushrooms, fresh garlic and Mama Lil's Kickbutt Goathorn peppers.

This time I put down some crumbled goat cheese, drizzled some of the spicy oil from the Mama il's peppers over (just a wee bit) then topped with the thin sliced button shrooms, slightly blanches asparagus, fresh garlic and a few of the Mama Lil's peppers. Spicy tastes of spring and tasted like a huge indulgence but was rather good for me except for the fact it was so good I ended up eating the entire thing along with some icy cold American lager as the weather was quite warm and this was after a few hours in the yard. A tasty refreshing treat all round for a Friday evening...

Take a look -


Monday, June 15, 2009

Red Mill Burgers

Hi everyone! I know I've been absent lately and I guess it is the weather and the end of the school year as well as everything else creeping up and smacking us in the virtual forehead lately that has kept me away from the keyboard. I guess it's more about making the time to get in here and write than anything else but many of you know the scheduling challenges of a league soccer playing 5th grader and his end of the year field trips, projects and ahem catchup homework assignments as well as a full time job, unusually good weather in the Puget Sound and all the attendant yard work that goes with. That's right, summer hit us about 6 weeks early this year and it has been glorious! The best late May and June I can remember since I moved here in 1992. Anyway, back to the food...

I decided to write about a restaurant that gets high praise around the Seattle area. Recently Seattle Metropolitan Magazine ran a feature of the 13 best burgers in the area and we decided to try one of them (this was my 3rd time; 1st time for 10 year old Henry), Red Mill Burgers.

I know this isn't really about frugality but we were on our way to the Sounders v Earthquakes game Saturday and we have been talking about trying the 13 different burgers featured in the article so we stopped. I was not all that hungry and certainly not enough for the burger the blurb was written about (double bacon cheese deluxe) so I went with the onion rings and Henry had the bacon cheese deluxe (the single) and fries. Henry decided against the veg on the burger as he has not gotten there yet so the tomatoes, lettuce and red onions were all left behind and the "Mill Sauce" (a chipotle mayo as I understand it) was on the side. Henry declared the burger "soooo good, you'll have to try one of these Dad" and the onion rings were once again a highlight. The rings have a thick (not too thick) batter with just a hint of cayenne that is crunchy, tasty and stays with the onion rather than dropping off onto the table. Really, REALLY good with the "Mill Sauce".

OK, so I know this is gonna sound like I have chip on my shoulder about this place but that was the all the good part so here comes the rest...

The floor was filthy, not a clean table and the place while only a couple years old by my understanding looked as if it has been open 50+ years and not just the nostalgic accoutrements on the walls either. The staff while clearly having fun with one another did not bring any of that camaraderie or happiness to serving the customers. The person that took our order clearly would have rather been eating cow patties fresh from the field rather than being there; he seemed very unhappy with his lot that day. There was little if any attention paid to the customers; I stood in line for a refill for my soda for which I was charged an extra $.25 unceremoniously along these lines...

Me: I'd like a refill on my soda please (after having waited 7 minutes in line)
Counter person: OK. OTHER PERSON!!!!! (no names)
Other person: That's $.25
Me: Fine
Other person: hands me the refill w/o a word
Me: Thank you
Other person: " "

While the food is good, the single line of service, the battered and filthy interior (unclean restrooms as well).

Overall, I'm still underwhelmed. The two times I have eaten there previously were similar, the burgers slightly better than average but still nothing to write home about and the atmosphere would be OK if it were only somewhat clean. So here goes...

Red Mill Burgers

Food - 6.5 of 10 (5.5 w/o the rings)
Service - 1 of 10
Cleanliness - 0 0f 10
Total - 7.5 of a possible 30

More soon, I'll continue to write about these spots in the article and let you know our thoughts on the burgers of the area.

Tonight, we made burgers again at home. Country Natural beef from Oregon with Tillamook medium cheddar. Way better than Red Mill...