Saturday, March 29, 2008

Best Potstickers in the World?

Recently I was invited to the Dunham Winemaker Dinner hosted at BOKA restaurant in Seattle by my dear friend Kathy McLean. I was talking to new friend Kathy McGoldrick about my recent trip to Honolulu and my love for good Ramen. Eric Dunham, the winemaker, told us we just had to try SZECHUAN NOODLE BOWL in Seattle's International District.








So we all decided right then to make that our next outing.

It took about a month to get all our schedules worked out, but we finally managed to find our way to their tiny storefront pushed up and under the I-5 overpass with parking beneath. The pillar supports of the freeway here have been painted Chinese lacquer red & yellow-- and golden koi fish fancifully dance up the columns.

Walking in, you knew immediately this was a find! There were only 7-8 tables, the place was clean and overly brightly lit with fluorescents, and the smells were wonderful. All good signs. Better still—two Chinese women were occupying one of the precious few tables and making fresh dumplings and potstickers right in the dining room!

I sat down with Kathy McGoldrick and her son Corydon visiting Seattle from college with his gorgeous girlfriend from Honolulu, Melissa. The forecast threatened snow and the steaming pot of good jasmine tea set before me was perfect. I immediately noticed when I sat down that the linoleum covered floor tilted backwards at a rakish angle-- a geological reminder that we are over-due for our next earthquake.

We decided not to order anything while we waited for our dining companions Kathy McLean, and famous Chef Monique Barbeau to arrive. In the meantime, I think we drank about 40 pots of that delicious jasmine tea.

After Monique and Kathy arrived and were properly hugged all around, Monique let us know that another good chef friend of hers was to join us: Chef Danielle Custer –and coincidentally like myself—a fellow Food & Wine magazine Best New American Chef (1998) and she was also a James Beard "Rising Star" in 1999. She currently oversees the food services of the Seattle Art Museum, and TASTE restaurant.

We immediately ordered a plate of the scallion pancakes. It arrived crisp and cut into sixths, a little bit tough/chewy (as if the batter had been slightly over-worked?), and just a little bit on the greasy side. In other words-- delicious! With a dollop of intensely red garlic chili sauce they were perfect. Approving moans and groans were heard all around the table.


No longer strangers, when the second plate arrived elbows were flying and the second pancake disappeared as quickly as it hit the table.

Next came the potstickers. I had never seen potstickers rolled into shapes such as these. Almost like stubby Cuban cigars or chubby taquitos. The beauty of this shape is that it maximizes the ratio of crispness to the flip/side softness of the steamed noodle.

Most unbelievably--the plate held 8 huge potstickers!

Nicely browned, almost burnt around the edges (and like I am fond of saying) color equals flavor --and were these ever flavorful!! Pork-filled and fragrant with ginger, the light & vinegary soy dipping sauce a perfect foil.

.

These were definitely the highlight of the entire meal and worth a trip just for the potstickers. We chefs all agreed they might be the best potstickers we had ever had. The filling delicious. Well seasoned and fragrant. The wrappers handmade and nicely crisp, yet impossibly tender.


Perfect.



....Up next we ordered a variety of the Noodle Soups.

.
.I had the Szechuan Beef Tendon. The broth was rich and beefy with a few spicy drops of red chili oil pooling on the surface. Medium-spicy, the broth reminded me a bit of the Phở we used to make when I was the Executive Chef of Le Colonial, a high-end French Vietnamese place in Beverly Hills, as the soup was redolent with cinnamon, star anise, and the five spices. Steamed emerald green baby bok choy bobbed on the surface, tender chunks of braised beef took up the other half of the bowl—and weighted down—barely submerged beneath the surface—were tangles of thick ropy, doughy-thick noodles.

The noodles in all the soups here are the same - very thick, almost the thickness of udon noodles, and very floury. To my palette, and admittedly I do not know Chinese noodles that well, they seemed overcooked compared to the Japanese Ramen I am so fond of…and when I asked the other chefs later, they too had the same reaction, that the noodles seemed overcooked to our taste. I do not think they were in fact over-cooked, I think that is their style.

Kathy McLean ordered the Wonton Soup Bowl. The broth looked watery but had a wonderful gingery chicken-y intensity that was both subtle and powerful. And the wonton dumplings in the soup were ethereally light and delicious. Monique was saying to everyone--"You have to try these!" Buried beneath the dumplings, were some of the additional superfluous ropy/doughy noodles an unnecessary addition that should have been avoided.

...Kathy McGoldrick ordered the Cold Sesame Noodles. Although passable she pronounced them not as good as the version her sister makes. And I had to agree.

Looking outside as the light began to fade from the sky and the cold rain began to sleet and then to snow—surrounded by friends at a communal table, the comforting sounds of soups being slurped, steam and spices rising fragrantly into the air— I was reminded how truly comforting and healing soup is.

Highly recommended for colds, which I was nursing.

Also and most definitely for hangovers!


(Photo to Rt Clockwise: Chef Monique Barbeau, Corydon & girlfriend Melissa, Chef Danielle Custer, Kathy McGoldrick, Kathy McLean)


SZECHUAN NOODLE BOWL
International District
420 8th Ave Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 623-4198
Free Street Parking Beneath I-5 Fwy
Metered Street Parking & Pay Lots


No Beer or Wine!
Service: Absent-minded and not the point.
Oh- and they only take CASH


We Go (Back) to BLACK BOTTLE

Having decided we were not ready to end the night, especially since we hadn't had a single glass of wine yet (!) we debated whether to check out Quinn’s (the hugely popular new Gastro Pub) getting raves-but Danielle has an engagement there in a few days and didn’t want to go twice in a week (“the food is really rich”)—“oh yeah...? --but we want some of their famous poutine fries,” we protested. But she wouldn’t budge so I suggested my favorite standby—Black Bottle, in Belltown, the cozy winebar that attracts a stylish crowd from the neighborhood. We literally ran to our cars as the sleet turned to snow.

Thank God there were parking spaces nearby as that part of Belltown is nearly impossible to find parking. We got a great table up front for people watching as two in our group are newly single. They serve delicious small plates and have a good wine list and full bar all reasonably priced. The room is spare but warm, tall old brick walls, bare light bulbs, long tapers, and a lazy mobile casts dramatic shadows on the wall.

We are stuffed but I tell Kathy and the 2 Chefs that we “have to order” the amazing Flatbread with Béchamel & Prosciutto. They groan but agree. We are all excited that after that alcohol-free dinner at Szechuan that we can finally have some wine and cocktails, and we order all around.

The conversation quickly turns to famous Chefs we have worked for and loved (and loved to hate), restaurant concepts we want to open—how hard it is to find good help (even in Seattle?? Yep even in Seattle!!!) other good chef gossip, life, and love.

The flatbread soon arrives to ooohs and ahhhs...

See I say-- Isn’t that the coolest presentation? I feel as doughy as all those noodles we ate-- but the flatbread is beguiling in presentation and delicious, and it too disappears in seconds.

We look outside and a full blizzard is in progress on First Avenue in late March in Belltown!

Ridiculous.

Monique says she is going to make this flatbread at her next dinner party at home. "Don’t you think they just make these all in advance," I ask?? How easy! And what a great idea. And the presentation is genius it makes you want to bring people here to order it just because it looks so cool!

I go outside in the cold and snow to make a cell phone call cause everyone around us is having so much fun it is impossible to hear. I love neighborhood restaurants like this.

When I come back inside I ask if we can't please order just one more round? I don’t want this evening of Chef talk with friends to end so soon. And certainly not after only one glass of wine. Ok everyone agrees. And I am really enjoying this Argentinean Shiraz/ Malbec blend. Soon the talk turns to love, and then of course to sex. I love this group!

We make plans to get together again soon, but three of us have to drive to Tacoma and it is really snowing hard now, so 2 glasses of wine is going to have to be plenty for tonight.

We exchange hugs and business cards and conspire to get Danielle down to Tacoma for a night at Pacific Grill to further plan our next food ventures and dream our dreams.

We are all very like-minded and supportive. It is one of the things I love about chefs--the camaraderie! And who knows—maybe we will all someday work together on a project?

Now that is a dream worth dreaming!

Friday, March 21, 2008

What the Governor Ate

This week we were honored to serve Governor Christine Gregoire dinner here at Pacific Grill.

In the wake of the Zina Linnik tragedy, the governor was in Tacoma to toughen laws that will let police collect DNA samples from a wider array of sex offenders and let authorities publish the names of offenders on a statewide Web site if the offenders fail to tell police where they are living.

Later that night, she had dinner with several prominent businessmen including one of Tacoma’s business leaders, Herb Simon, who is credited with helping turn downtown Tacoma around. He also helped spearhead the U of W Tacoma branch and became a member of the UW Board of Regents as appointed by Governor Gregoire.

A Tacoma native, Herb Simon is a 1964 graduate of the UW with a degree in political science. In 1985 he formed an investment company --what is now Simon Johnson LLC, and invested in real estate and venture capital projects.

The Washington State Patrol is assigned to protect the Governor, and 2 plains-clothes officers sat at a table nearby, as Gregoire held court. It was interesting that after she ordered the Weathervane Scallops with succotash & apple-smoked bacon for her dinner, that several of the businesmen in attendance followed suit!

The 2 patrolmen assigned to the Security Detail (one male the other female) ordered dessert: she ordered Julia Child’s Warm Brownie Sundae with Olympic Mt. vanilla ice cream; he had the deep-fried Banana Split.

Both desserts are huge and I did worry that they might not be able to chase down any “perps” if something happened!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Secret of Great Chicken Soup

In ancient times, herbs were thought to be mainly medicinalgypsies used herbs for fortune telling, and in the Middle Ages, herbs were used to preserve meats as well as to cover-up the flavors of rotting flesh, and used in religious observances. Over the centuries we had less need to cover-up the off-flavors of spoilage, and began to love the flavors herbs imparted just for themselves. Now we are coming full-circle and realizing that herbs indeed have tremendous antioxident properties, with implications that affect our health--another reason to eat more fresh herbs.

(photo shows Pacific Grill Executive Chef, Aaron Valimont, holding a bunch of Rosemary going to fight for our health!)

In a recent article found on http://www.realage.com/ there is an interesting study on the medicinal qualities of rosemary-- one of my favorite herbs.

When I first started cooking professionally I was struck by what a wonderful piney flavor rosemary imparted to foods and marinades. In fact, I make an all-purpose herb infused oil that we use to marinate vegetables, meats and chicken, out of a blend of 10% extra-virgin olive oil, 90% canola oil, chopped garlic, fresh chopped Italian parsley & chopped fresh rosemary.

When I was growing up, my Italian grandfather, Frank Naccarato, used to make a wonderful minestrone soup at his restaurant on the old mountain highway that I still wish I had the recipe for. One day while making a vegetable soup for my restaurant Gordon’s in Aspen, I happened to add a bunch of chopped rosemary. After the vegetables had simmered, and the soup was ready to taste—it immediately conjured-up the memory of my grandpa’s-- and I realized I had discovered the secret of great chicken soup—it was the rosemary! Every mother knows that chicken soup is good for you when you are sick. But we are just beginning to find out how good certain herbs are for us!

Now a study has found that not only is rosemary a great flavor booster-- and one of the trendiest cooking herbs, but the article goes on to say: ”… the fragrant needle-leaved herb is also showing early promise as a cancer killer…in cell studies, rosemary extract has given both breast cancer and leukemia cells a real fight."

As a way of introducing a greater use of rosemary in your diet, they suggest sticking a fresh sprig in lemonade, or steep some rosemary in hot tea, and sprinkle it on salads.

At Pacific Grill we use rosemary in many of our dishes. It is a particular favorite of mine on our Saddle of Lamb.

And don’t forget it's the secret of great chicken soup!

References: Anti-proliferative and antioxidant properties of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis. Cheung, S., Tai, J., Oncology Reports 2007 Jun;17(6):1525-1531.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

El Gaucho Tacoma

Stopped into El Gaucho, Tacoma, for a quick bite with my brother-- photographer Steven Naccarato, and Fulcrum Art Gallery Owner and glass artist, Oliver Doriss, the other night.

We sat in the bar, and decided to try some of their Happy Hour Menu items.

I love this elegantly retro room, with it’s tall ceilings, romantic booths, and dark moody lighting. And I was glad to see they were doing decent business for a Sunday night. I was also glad to see that Gaucho had a Happy hour Menu again, as for a while they had discontinued it...

Prime steaks were being slapped onto the grill with a nice hiss and a flash of flame. The polished staff was working their tableside shows, and the piano-man was crooning an old classic.

One of my favorite people in the world (and a former server/assistant manager with us at Pacific Grill) Kari Monreal came by for a hug.

“How’s it going?” I asked her.

“Really intense --the training”, she replied—“ it’s a lot to learn!”

Kari is not only beautiful and smart—she is an excellent server, always impressed with good food, and is a fearless eater—a female Anthony Bourdain—she will try anything! Love her!


Then charming Hostess Christina Vaughon came by to say hello and to meet my brother.
I ordered a draft beer, and Steve had a glass of red wine.

I was starving, so I immediately told the nice Bartender, Sylvia, to bring me the Tuna Tartare [$9.95]. It arrived on a plate all in components: salt, chile pepper, capers, pine nuts, onion (and oddly) --diced pear-- the Bartender explained it also had splash of soy sauce on it.

I tried to toss all the ingredients together which was awkward, since the appetizer arrived on a flat plate with a tiny cocktail fork, a spoon and a dinner fork. It was difficult to accomplish, but tasted ok-to-good, on the toasted sliced crostini that accompanied the tuna. (Although I needed to ask for more crostini to finish the dish). There were about 3 too many ingredients in the dish for me (capers, pears, and pine nuts??) for it to truly be great. It was confused from inception--and the soy sauce unnecessary.

Oliver and I ordered the 1/3 lb El Gaucho Signature Certified Angus Beef Cheeseburger [$5.95]. You can add avocado, or bacon or fries—each for an additional dollar.

I decided to have mine with just fries.
Several minutes later, the Bartender arrived to explain that they had just “run out of fries” !!!

She offered mashed potatoes but there is something inherently wrong and unappealing and un-American to eat a burger with mash.

“Huh? Don’t you have potatoes in the kitchen?” I asked. “Just cut some potato!” we laughed.

They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) so I ordered the side of “skillet hashbrowns”(sp) [$6]. Oliver ordered a side of asparagus.

The impressively gigantic burger arrived, with the side of hash browns. The red onions on the side looked slightly sad and a little brown around the edges, and of course tomatoes are out of season –so I didn’t expect them to be good anyway. The beef was mushy and under-seasoned, and had picked up no discernible char-flavor from the grill. Of course I ate the whole thing anyway, but I was less than impressed. I do have to say for the size it is a bargain though. Next time I’ll ask them to really char the meat--and season it.
The hash browns were also disappointing. They were literally smothered in cheese (more like a potato gratin) and were almost as mushy as mashed potatoes—and almost white-hot with cayenne or white pepper. Not send-back-bad ...but still, most customers wouldn’t expect the hash browns to be spicy. And the presentation was gloppy and unappealing.

I have to say: in my book, the only thing worse than over-seasoned food is bland, under-seasoned food. But someone here (hello Chef?) needs to taste the food after it is made to make sure seasonings are spot-on.

Steven ordered the Steamed Manila Clams [$7.95]
The clams arrived with a huge silver sauce-boat of butter. It was easily enough drawn butter to feed a party of 20. An extravagance. The tiny manila clams were steamed with some garlic and white wine and Steve pronounced them "delicious."

Generous Bartender Sylvia poured me a glass of red wine “on the house” to make up for the French fries I assume. If it is one thing Gaucho always does right is take care of their customers!

Nice touch.

In the background, the piano-man was singing another song about love gone bad, glasses tinkled in the dining room, and another fat steak hissed as it hit the grill.

I walked out into the cold drizzling night, stuffed from the sheer size of the burger. Next time I’ll know to split it with a friend so I am not tempted to eat the whole thing. I’ll be back.

[P.S. I have since been informed by Hostess Christina, and Waiter Kari, that I was mistakenly served the "Southwest Scalloped Potatoes", instead of the Skillet Hashbrowns that I had ordered. That would explain while I felt disappointed with my "hash browns". However I still feel the presentation sloppy--the scalloped potatoes overcooked & mushy, and they were still over-the-top spicy ...with way too much white pepper and/or cayenne!]

El Gaucho® Tacoma
253.272.1510
2119 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma , WA 98402
http://elgaucho.com/elgaucho/_tacoma/index.htm

Fulcrum Art Gallery
1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma
Information: 253-250-0520
or fulcrum@oliverdoriss.com

Steven Naccarato
http://www.stevenaccarato.com/

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Honolulu Restaurants

A few more notes about restaurants I dined at when I was in Honolulu in January. I had a nice meal at Indigo restaurant. Locals have voted it "Best Oahu Restaurant". This tropically stylish place gets a great crowd and also features live music at night. There are two comfortable bars but try and get a seat at the more popular outdoor bar. The eurasian fusion food was delicious—especially the crispy Ahi Tempura Roll ($13) that I sampled that had been dredged in almond meal, and fried. The shaggy batter was shatteringly crisp and thin. And when I asked about the delicious pickled sushi ginger, I was told that the Chef makes his own! I’ve got to get that recipe!
There were many small plates to choose from, sushi,, as well as full Entrees. The crowd-- stylish & having a good time.

INDIGO
Downtown Honolulu in Chinatown
1121 Nu'uanu Avenue Honolulu, HI 96817
Phone: (808) 521-2900
Fax: (808) 537-4164



Soul De Cuba
Had a delicious meal at Soul de Cuba, almost right across the street from Indigo, in downtown Honolulu in the trendy Chinatown. We had a rowdy group of friends, and we got even rowdier as the pitchers of mojitos kept arriving.

I had the Lechon Asado ($14) shredded roasted suckling pig, served over rice. It was delicious in its mojo citrus marinade, and impossibly tender. My friend, Barry Edwards ordered the Pollo Soul de Cuba ($18)

[see picture] which was a breaded breast, served with mango & guava salsa that also had pineapple and rum.

Soul de Cuba
1121 Bethel St
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 545-2822

Yard House Waikiki
A fun place to go if you are thirsty for beer is the Yard House located in the Beach Walk area of Waikiki, next to Roy’s Restaurant.. This casual restaurant chain has 130 taps and features over 100 beers! I tried a couple of the local Big Island brews—Big Aloha Blonde / Keoki Hawaiian Sunset ($5.75) being two-- which were nothing to write home about. The appetizer menu was interesting, and the place attracts a rowdy younger crowd.

I had the Poke Stack, ($12.65) which was a generous portion of chopped marinated ahi between layers of crisp wontons. It was drizzled with a spicy wasabi soy. The music is loud classic rock, the beer can be ordered by the “yard” and the food was much better than it needed to be. Your over-21 year old kids will love it. Your ears may not!

Yard House Waikiki
226 Lewers St., Honolulu, HI
(808) 923-9273

I would also recommend the always reliable Keo's for great Thai. The restaurant is justly famous for their extravagant arrangements of orchids. Located right off Kalakaua at Kuhio--every dish I tried here was delicious except for their version of "larb" ($14.95) also known as "Chiang Mai Salad". This salad has cilantro, "holy basil" & mint and is spicy and very lime'y' and refreshing. Unfortunately, there was way too much lime juice which further "cooked" the chicken making it mealy & dry.

Keo's Thai Cuisine
2028 Kuhio Ave.Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: 808-951-9355
Fax: 808-953-2325
keo@keosthaicuisine.com

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chandler's Crabhouse


Chandler’s Crabhouse at South Lake Union
Had a wonderful evening in Seattle Sunday night.

Two of our Pacific Grill investors Dennis & Ida Ford invited me and my Executive Chef, Aaron Valimont, to dinner at Chandler’s Crabhouse on Lake Union. Dennis & Ida (two of the nicest people you will ever meet) just got back from two weeks in Cancun, and we laughed about Ida’s lack of tan, and my father’s insistence that that is the entire purpose of a trip to Cancun. (they stayed at my Dad’s timeshare with his wife Jeanne).

We met Dennis first at Schwartz Brothers Bakery, where he is the Bakery Manager. He gave Aaron & me a tour of the impressive facility. Schwartz Bros. provides the pastries to dozens of businesses in the greater Seattle area, including Trader Joe’s, and all the Starbucks from Everett to Vancouver WA. If you’ve had a pumpkin scone from Starbucks or the individual carrot cakes from Trader Joe’s –you’ve tasted something delicious from Schwartz Bros…

The size of the bread and dough- mixing machinery dwarfed us as we made our way through the cavernous facility. Palettes of butter stacked to the ceiling reminded me of Costco. Sacks of flour, sugar & spices, and exotic flavorings filled the air. The whole place smelled like ‘eau de cinnamon roll’, and I was starving!

After the tour we met Dennis’ wife Ida at Chandler’s. We had a great evening sampling the many crab options from their extensive menu as they are in the middle of their famous “crabfest”.

We had jumbo lump blue crab cakes, and Stone Crab claws from Florida with a classic mustard mayonnaise sauce. Dennis ordered a crab cocktail that had Jonah crab claws (a cousin to Stone Crab).

The lump crab cakes were delicious and full of crab, but the brunoises vegetables were raggedly chopped, so the cakes didn’t really stay together very well.

Main courses I tasted included my Ahi with sticky rice (served medium even though I ordered it rare). The fish could have been a bit hotter. Aaron also noticed his entrée of Monkfish could have been hotter. I noticed the “Poblano pepper jus” should have been thinner—as jus means juice. The sauce was an off-putting gray/green color-- very emulsified and unappealingly thick. The chef should have thinned it out more. It tasted delicious however…

Ida had the Scallops & Prawns with goat cheese ravioli, broccolini, pine nuts, & sherry. The goat cheese ravioli were pleasantly hot. Dennis proclaimed his Surf & Turf delicious.

We ordered a side of Dungeness Crab Hash that was astounding in size and only $8.50!

We tried some excellent wines—including the Three Legged Red, from Dunham Cellars, but our favorite was the L’Ecole no. 41, Cabernet from Columbia Valley, WA Wine Spectator gave this wine a 91 rating. It had gorgeous fruit, and a polished finish.

Delicious wine, a spectacular setting on Lake Union, some great crab from around the country and fantastic friends made for a perfect evening.

Chandler’s Crabhouse
PHONE: 206.223.2722
901 Fairview Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109
http://www.schwartzbros.com/chandlers.cfm

Schwartz Brothers Bakery
619 S. Nevada Street
Seattle, WA 98108
For Order Desk: orderdesk1@schwartzbrosbakery.com


Black Bottle

After our dinner at Chandler’s Crabhouse I decided to drop in on a couple of other places before heading back to T-Town, with my Executive Chef Aaron Valimont.

He had never been to LARK or Licorous, the delicious small plates/bar next door also owned by Chef John Sundstrom.

I wanted him to have one of their delicious cocktail/food pairings. John is an extremely gifted chef, he even makes his own bitters for the bar! Now that is going “above & beyond” in my book!

Unfortunately Licorous is CLOSED SUNDAYS!

So we instead dropped in on one of my favorite spots in the Belltown section of Seattle, Black Bottle –the self-described “gastro tavern”.

We were both stuffed from our crabfest at Chandler’s but I insisted we had to "taste" the flatbread with béchamel and prosciutto. We grabbed 2 seats at the bar and ordered a glass of Lyeth Meritage $9.

The flatbread comes in a cool fluted rectangular tart pan. Ours could have been cooked just a little longer. The crust a little crisper—but it was buttery and delicious, almost between a savory tart crust and pizza dough--and the prosciutto also could have crisped a bit more.

We both agreed that the prosciutto tasted domestic.

It was very lean, no delicious ribbons of fat. There were also some green herb cut into chiffonade across the top of the béchamel but it had no taste—at first it appeared to be basil, but I am thinking it must have been spinach as it lacked flavor.

Even with these minor quibbles we inhaled the flatbread.

Black Bottle is definitely worth a trip. The menu is fun and inexpensive. The bar is cozy. Exposed old brick unadorned walls speak for themselves. A steel mobile slowly rotates in the breeze casting moody shadows on the wall. Interesting lamps and candles are everywhere (even in summer) and the crowd a nice mix of the urban chic that inhabit this stretch of some of Seattle’s best restaurants.

Black Bottle
http://www.blackbottleseattle.com/
2600 1st AveSeattle, WA 98121
(206) 441-1500

Seattle's Best Dessert?

After dining multiple courses at Chandler’s Crabhouse, and then stopping by Black Bottle in Belltown for an appetizer, we were now ready for dessert!

A couple of years ago when my dear friend--and amazing chef-to-the-stars-- Mary Beth Schulte, moved up here from La Jolla, CA, to help me open The Beach House, and later Pacific Grill, we found ourselves up in Seattle trying out the “small-plates” concept that has become so popular. I had just returned from a trip investigating tapas in Barcelona & Mallorca, Spain, and I had heard about this tapas restaurant called TANGO, on the cusp of downtown and Capitol Hill. We happened to go on a Monday night when they had half-priced wine so we immediately upgraded to a bottle of Andrew Will.

With accolades such as: Citysearch, Editorial Winner for Best Desserts in Seattle and …"If you miss the chocolate Diablo cake…you have missed the single best dessert in this city...”— Seattle Metropolitan Magazine…and featured on the Food Network television show, Sugar Rush!
The tapas were good but the dessert was GREAT--one of the best we had ever had—described thusly:

El Diablo $10
Bittersweet cube of sinfully rich dark
chocolate graced with cayenne, spicy
almonds, cocoa nibs and burnt meringue
finished with a tequila caramel sauce

So I told Aaron that even though we were stuffed to the gills—we just had to go try this dessert (again) and see if it held up to my memory of it. And boy did it ever!

The dessert is amazing looking…a huge cube of chocolate—denser than mousse almost truffle-like...yet-- somehow even richer. I have no idea how they cut it into that shape. It was set atop Italian meringue that had been torched a golden brown like a campfire marshmallow.

Cocoa nibs were garnished on the plate in interesting patterns (cocoa nibs are tiny crushed nuggets of roasted cocoa beans, that have not yet been transformed into chocolate as we know it).

The caramel sauce has tequila in it (which seems superfluous as you cannot taste it), and hidden inside this impossible creation is a hint of cayenne, that begins to show itself as a slight tingling on the lips-- almost an erotic tingling that makes you want to indulge in another taste…and then another.

I pushed the plate towards Aaron and told him I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. He said he couldn’t either…but then the cayenne began its sensually hot tingle-- and Aaron was seduced into eating the last bite!

Tango Restaurant & Lounge
1100 Pike St. (at Boren)
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 583-0382