Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Din Tai Fung

Looking for a family style dinner in North Seattle, I suggested that we try Din Tai Fung.  I have eaten there a few times with other couples and felt our combined appetites didn't allow enough of a range of dishes.   I wanted to try with a larger group and the foodie parents being in town was a great excuse.

We arrived around 6.30pm and had barely a moment to watch the dumpling rolling line chefs before we were whisked through to our table.  First impressions are that despite being in a high end location Din Tai Fung has the noisy crowded ambiance of every dumpling shop I've been to.  Tables are fairly close and as a single large space, sound carries.

We took the waiter's advice and ordered the signature soup dumplings, vegetable potstickers, spinach and sauteed string beans. First to come out was the seaweed and beancurd salad.  I loved it but Ingrid wanted more seaweed.

Seaweed and Beancurd
Salads in the cabinet
Plum wine, Ingrid and Wren.
 While we were waiting for our food, the waitress brought us small sauce bowls with freshly grated ginger and showed us how to mix up dumpling dipping sauce with soy sauce and vinegar.  While waiting for the first dumplings to arrive I kept dipping my finger in it and licking.  It was delicious.

Dipping sauce.
The restaurant interior is busy but food comes fast.
While DTF is known for dumplings, its greens are remarkable and should not be missed.  The sauteed spinach with garlic was one of my favorite plates and Ingrid kept talking about the string beans.  Not a single bean was left. Order the String Beans, I tell you!

 Okay, dumplings.  We ordered the vegetarian dumplings for our vegetarian.  They were light and perfectly cooked.  Two people loved them but they were much more 'healthy' than the pork dumplings.  I was surprised how much filling they had in them. Delicious.

 The dumplings come in large steamer trays, carried in stacks to the tables.  Its exciting to see the servers walking around with the tall stacked boxes, hoping one is coming to your table.  The rice & pork shao mai (10pcs) was very popular.  It was great to have the explanation of how to eat soup dumplings - put them in a spoon, poke them and then eat the cooling soup and dumpling in a hearty SLURP.

 These were the vegetarian fried noodles.  It was okay but not as wonderful as the other dishes.

 Now onto the soup dumplings.  These are the signature, famous, must-not-miss dish at Din Tai Fung.  Unfortunately, they are only available in pork so we had some ethical quandaries.  I just wanted to say that those who ate them felt that the pigs did not die in vain.  I would order the greens again in a heartbeat.  I wish they had a few more vegetarian dumpling options.  Overall, it was a lovely family meal and we ended it off with a trip to Molly Moon's downstairs.

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Dad, popping the soup dumpling in his spoon.  He really enjoyed them.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Wonderful Gluten!

Yesterday, I had the bright idea to juice-fast but was seduced from the liquid path by a trip to the thrift store.  I was walking the aisles hoping to find a raclette (miracles do happen at Goodwill) when I saw an appliance on the American end of the culinary spectrum:  a bright yellow pretzel maker.   I put it in my cart and wandered around for a while failing to find a raclette.

The background to the pretzel impulse was a family trip to a gastropub.  Hot pretzels with mustard or, god forbid, liquid cheese dip, proved popular.  The yellow pretzel appliance implied that I could make delicious carby-twists at home.  Then I got thinking.  Surely the appliance would only cook the pretzel.  There were little pretzel-shaped depressions in the non-stick base which would, presumably guide me to shape my dough but nowhere was there any dough extrusion equipment.  I googled and my suspicions were confirmed - the one star reviews said "This is fine for people who like to make bread!"

"Well, hell yeah!"  Father than act as a deterrent, I was now inspired.  I like to make bread.  I could make pretzels.

On return from the thrift store I found the family in their usual head-down-in-electronics mode and dragged Frost into the kitchen to make pretzels with me.  We pulled up the first recipe and Frost read it out while I ran around the kitchen grabbing ingredients.  Yes, don't ask me how we happened to have non-expired Active Dry Yeast and cows milk and barley malt syrup in the house at the same time.  I have already spoken about miracles once in this post so I won't go there but it happened.

It turns out pretzels are a lot easier than bread.  You throw the yeast into warm milk, add flour and sugar and stir, bang it about a bit and let it double in size.  Then, bang it around a bit more, make 30 inch long worms in pretzel shapes, dip into boiling water with baking soda and malt in and bake for 12 minutes!
The first pretzel worm being formed (30 inches is long!)
Frost forming his pretzel

Wren with the malt soda bath "It looks like erupting root beer"  (don't know what that expression is on Wren's face)
The fattest pretzel.  Others were better proportioned
Eating pretzels with mahjong

  • We had pretzels in 90 minutes 
  • Frost learned to knead dough
  • Josh tapped into his long-unused expertise in dipping bagels in a malt-bath
  • We used the Murray River Gourmet Salt Flakes we've had for ages.
  • It was fun to make pretzels.
  • It was fun to eat pretzels.
  • The kitchen was a mess.  Dough is basically glue.
  • I ate 1.5 pretzels on a juice fast day.
  • The family divided along the yellow mustard vs dijon mustard lines and as usual Josh was the only one on the yellow-mustard side BUT there was no smooth dijon mustard so our pretzels were, to an extent, unrequited.
 We ate the pretzels while learning (re-learning) to play mahjong.  This was surprisingly complex.   More on that later.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Marinating on a rainy Friday

I took a day off on Friday and Wren and I went for a walk and lunch in West Seattle.  West Seattle is a suburb of the city but it has this bridge over water and you have to navigate around downtown and various spaghetti junctions to get there so it feels like a day-trip to us north-siders.

Our first stop was a walk at Jack Block Park.  The park is one of the Port of Seattle's public access points although the discouraging Private Access only sign over the railroad cross might discourage some people.  Even in the rain and wind of a late winter day, it was popular with dog walkers heading along the paved path to various view-sites over the harbor and sound.  I discovered this spot in 2001 - a few years after it was opened and took Frost (as a baby) to look out at the ships arriving in Port.  It was closed for a while around September 11th - presumably from the possibility of a port attacker firing something from the lovely overlook.  Since then, a decontamination project removed toxic mud and old pilings and you can actually get to the beach (although Wren noticed lots of signs warning you not to fish and eat "bottom feeders".

While at the jetty view spot we noticed rows of white gourds hanging between the pilings.  I looked up what this was and found that they are nesting boxes for endangered purple martins.  They used to next in the pilings which were removed in the superfund cleanup.  The nesting boxes were to provide homes for the migrating purple martin colony.  Apparently, it has been successful and they nest in these gourds (although I would get pretty motion sick if I was a baby bird in these swinging nests.

Wren enjoyed looking at the ships and cranes in the harbor.  Seattle has huge cranes which offload massive container ships.  The scale is just incredible.  We saw overwintering birds in the harbor and Beezle chased seagulls and barked at other large friendly dogs.

After the walk we went to lunch at a great seaside Pan-asian Hawaiian restaurant called Marination Ma Tai.  Wren and I were thrilled to find Green Tea sodas and Bunderberg Ginger Beer.  He had fish and Chips and I had the sexy tofu tacos.  I am going to be brining all my overseas guests here to eat great food and look out at puget sound.  You can even get cocktails!

Recently, Wren and I have been doing science experiments from a big science kit.  I am hoping to get dad involved in this endeavor when he visits in April.  So far, we have experimented with acids and bases, invisible ink and have made ammonia gas to fume our invisible message and make it appear in blue.  Here is Wren with the US flag he painted in two solutions and made visible by applying a piece of blotting paper dampened with ammonia.

Wren: "This was done by SCIENCE!"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy Valentines Day

Tonight, my mother complained that I don't write enough blog posts.  "What's happening with the kids?" she asks?  "I keep checking the blog but you don't update?"  Its true.  Honestly, I feel like a freshman in a creative writing class sitting at the keyboard and not sure what to write about.

Thing is, the kids are no longer "cute".  They don't say and do so many endearing things but neither are they winning track events and inventing hydrogen cells.  They are just being kids.  Still, I try and get them OUT sometimes.  Last weekend I took them to a thought provoking and cute art exhibition of work by a contemporary Japanese neo pop artist.  The final room of the gallery was piles of STUFF arranged haphazardly to the ceiling.  It was the artists reaction to the tsunami.

Here is Frost at SAM Asian Art Museum (left).

But tonight Where is Frost?  He is out for a sleepover at Jacks.  This has become something of a routine.  He goes over to Jacks for Saturday night sleepovers the past three weekends.  We have definitely been stood up.  Last weekend Jack and Frost bought a cheap video game and hacked the code to make the characters have very low gravity so they could bounce and fly around in the game.  They kept hitting into things too.  Frost found this very entertaining.  He and Jack eat ramen noodles, walk the dog and sometimes go out to dinner.   Frost just sticks his toothbrush in his pocket and I don't see him again for 24 hours.   

This may be par for the course since Frost is going to be entering High School next year.  He's remarkably sanguine about it, tells me he is not working really hard now so he figures he has some excess capacity, likes reading, doesn't care about money or food (other that Toaster Waffles and lentil soup) and wears t-shirts all year.  He has only one pair of shoes and has to be reminded to shower.

Where is Wren?  Wren and Josh have gone out to a late show of Spongebob 3-D.  I refused.  I couldn't bear it.  Josh and I really wanted to see Kingsmen but its R rated and the parent guide in IMDB said there was a scene in which he was offered anal sex with a Swedish princess and decapitation so we figured we shouldn't take the kids.  Wren has been waiting for movietime in his blanket tent watching youtube and twitch videos on the iPad.  Josh was sitting next to him playing Grim Fandango on the PS4 and Beezle was asleep by Josh wearing a pink satin ribbon I dressed him up in.  Wren is concerned about the world and remains vigilant about possible failures in his parents oversight.  He worries about comets hitting earth and people having car problems on the way to pickup as well as other unavoidable things. He is easily distracted by electronics and sugar.

For Valentine's Day, I bought a box of FRANS Chocolates.  Josh chose the Single Malt Whiskey filled Dark Chocolate truffle and the Dark Espresso.  Wren had the Oolong Tea (he is obsessed with Tea at the moment.  He likes Green Tea and Rooibos Tea and various other teas).  I had the milk chocolate sea-salt caramel and the Hazelnut crunch.

So, I am home alone (with a sleeping dog) and the burbling dishwasher and a pile of discarded food.  My family does not eat much.  They nibble a bit then say "I am full".  On the counter I can see a half eaten box of Golden Rounds crackers, 5 spears of asparagus, three broccoli florets, Chex Apple cereal, two cupcakes, a jar of honey and a dodecahedron dice.  Okay, that isn't food.  Oh, also some Green Tea Bubble Gum (Wren) and Bacon Candy (Wren, because he is still fastidiously carnivorous).

What am I going to do with my silence? My copy of Fungi magazine has just arrived so I could read that.  There is also the box of chocolates, which is now unattended, which could be eaten.  I am watching a show on AppleTV called Outlanders and am also learning how to import geocoded locations into Google Maps Pro.  This is strangely satisfying.  If I had Google Earth with KML when I was a kid, I would have mapped my world out with birds nests and hideouts.  

This Monday is a holiday thanks to America's Presidents.  We hope to go on a hike if its not raining.  Since Seattle is having one of the warmest winters ever, it will probably be nice weather.  I also plan to buy some plants and put them in our new back garden.  Tomorrow, I hope to be running around Greenlake and then take Wren to Nathaniel's birthday party.  

In the week ahead, Josh hopes to be interviewing for a new position.  He has a number of opportunities developing but he needs to know more details on all of them.  

The dishwasher is still going and I am going to watch Outlanders.   Happy Valentines Day to all.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thanksgiving break

Thanksgiving is a month past but I left this post in DRAFT mode.  Here it is to catch up family who asked what we did on this holiday.

1) I baked a pie.

2) I baked another pie.

3) Frost made cranberry sauce and was splattered in the face with burning sugar-berries during the filming of this shot.

4) The leaves turned golden overnight.

5) I baked a vegan Quorn roast with cranberry stuffing.

6) Frost printed out our Dinner Menu.

7) I set the table in the living room.

8) We ate dinner.

9) We collapsed afterwards and Josh played PS4 while the boys watched.

9) A few days later there was SNOW!

9) We went for a walk to the coffee shop.

10) Beezle got cold feet waiting outside.

11) Wren got so cold that he made a blanket tent over the vent and stayed there a long time reading and playing iPad.  He has made many similar blanket saunas since then. 

12) On Black Friday sales I bought a Bosu Ball which Wren used to launch himself through the air.  The family joined in becoming obstacles to challenge his ability to remain airborne over long distances.


New Year at Sleeping Lady Resort

During the heat of August I had the inspiration to go away for New Year to Sleeping Lady.  This was 90% because they have dog friendly room (canine companion suites) and I knew that Josh would be more likely to agree if Beezle could come and 10% because I hoped to be near snow, conceptually, spiritually. I have discovered that snow makes one feel good.  Not necessarily being IN it but as contex.  I am pleased to report that both objectives have been accomplished.

Beezle enjoying resort life.

A Room With a View
This is the view from our bedroom window.  I have just cranked the heat up to 73 degrees because it is something like 17 degrees outside.  Beezle is on the bed enjoying resort life and Josh has taken the boys to see the latest installment of the Hobbit.

The room is lovely.  It has high loft ceilings with whitewashed beams.  The beds are comfortable with amble pillows and they have nice big glasses for wine in the rooms.

Our visit here co-incided with a very cold snap.  I haven't been in such cold temperatures since I was 18 and skiing in Austria during a cold snap that caused tourists to lose fingers.  It is very cold here.  Last night it was 10 degrees F or -12 F.  I found that my fingers became disabled while cross-country skiing at 3pm.  The shadows brought bone-numbing ice and we had to retreat to the hot pools.  The weather is so cold that the rocks around the hot pools were sheets of ice from water splashing out.  Also, when I climbed out wet my feet froze to the ice and it was painful to pull them off.

This is not so fun.  Especially since the first night we didn't know we had to bring towels with us and so we had to walk back to the room wet.  Can someone say "cold"?

What was fun was cross-country skiing for the first time.  After Wren's footwear malfunction was resolved it was great.

Wren and Josh ski in the grooves

Frost skiing in his PJs and the puffy coat Grandad gave him.
The Snowshine
There are about 8km of trails in the area.  We skied for a couple of hours.

The Glorious Snow Dog

As we arrived at Sleeping Lady we met a family who have a boy in Frost's class.  They were returning from a Nordic skiing vacation in the Methow.  They said they stopped at Sleeping lady "for the food".  I can see why.  Its an all-you-can-eat buffet with good quality organic food.  The only constraint is your stomach.  This morning I found that one can eat once and return later (I went alone early and again an hour later with Frost since neither Josh nor Wren wanted to eat breakfast).  This phased breakfast approach helps if one does not have a second stomach.

All in all our first trip to Sleeping Lady has been a great success.  We are languid with cold and over-feeding and ready to return to a more temperate and active lifestyle in the city.  The dog is happy.  

This will definitely be a place to bring visiting guests in the winter season.   Visiting guests, be warned :)