Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pacific Grill's happy hour menu includes grilled oysters with pancetta, left, meat candy, top, and cheeseburger sliders with garlic fries.
Photo by Janet Jensen/The News Tribune.

Sue Kidd the food writer for The Tacoma News Tribune recently wrote an article about Happy Hour in local restaurants. In case you missed the article, here it is:

Pacific Grill
Where: 1502 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma;
Happy hour: 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 p.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 5 p.m-6 p.m. Saturdays; 9 p.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Of all the restaurants sampled for this report, Pacific Grill was the one that made me want to return – repeatedly.

Four pages of menu choices – all but three of the 20-something menu items are half off – and a longer daily offering from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. makes this the tiara for every happy hour diva.

Classic grilled cheese, $6: Cave-aged gruyere sang sweet and nutty against the melody of mildly pungent vintage white cheddar. The cheese duo oozed from between two crusty pieces of grilled country sourdough. The apple (correction: tomato) chutney on the side nudged the sandwich to sublime with just the right amount of sweetness to coax alive the sharp, cheesy flavor. Crispy housemade potato chips were light and airy, leaving me wondering if they were not so much fried as they were air crisped.

How do they do that?

Barbecued oysters, $6.50: Six oysters, barbecued and served in their shells atop an attractive display of rock salt, were loaded with a smoky dose of chewy, delicious pancetta; so much so that the pancetta overpowered the brininess of the oysters. Oyster purists: Skip the pancetta.

Cheeseburger sliders, $5.50: Two juicy, sirloin burgers came perfectly grilled medium as requested. The burgers got cheesy-sweet treatment from tangy Russian dressing and pungent aged white cheddar. Nestled between two nosh-worthy fluffy dinner rolls, the diminutive sliders are small, but decadent. And they come paired with the best fries in town: thinly sliced shoestring potatoes fried crispy with whole garlic cloves and crispy-crunchy sprigs of fried rosemary and sage leaves.

Mussels and fries, $6.50: Sweet, rich and smoky comes with wide appeal. A big plate of sweet, meaty mussels swam nicely with huge chunks of applewood-smoked bacon in a garlic- and basil-scented wine bath. And it comes paired with those amazing garlic fries.
Meat candy, $3: By no means will the five pieces of meat candy fill you up, but it will leave you drooling Homer Simpson-style. I don’t know what I like better about meat candy – the chewy, sticky texture or the sweet-smoky flavor of the creamy roasted sweet dates wrapped up snug and happy inside a thick, chewy jacket of apple-smoked bacon.

Let's end our week a little more happy, shall we?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Papaya, Mango & Avocado Salad

Just in time for your 4th of July barbecue--this delicious melon salad is super refreshing and easy to make.

Find some ripe melons at your grocery store or local Farmer's Market. Papaya is particularly delicious in this tropical Thai-inspired salad.

The other day I chopped some crisp juicy watermelon into large cubes, added some cantaloupe and ripe orange-fleshed honeydew melon. Then I added some halved grape tomatoes, and avocado. The tomato is really delicious with the melons.

For a little spice I chopped a jalapeƱo --including seeds--and added some peeled and minced fresh gingerroot, chopped green onion, fresh spearmint and cilantro to the fruits. Next I carefully tossed the fruits with a good amount of a good quality fruity vinegar. Raspberry vinegar is good, or white balsamic. Add a little salt to taste and squeeze some fresh lime juice. If you want to play up the tropical inspiration find and add some chopped kaffir lime leaf to the salad.

You can turn the salad into more of a main course with the addition of some salad shrimp if you like.

Refrigerate for a little while to allow the flavors to blend, and serve well-chilled. Delicious and beautiful it will be the hit of your next summer barbecue.

Cherry Love

I get excited when Bing cherries come into season heralding the start of summer.

My Great Grandmother Cassidy lived in a beautiful antebellum-style home near the state capitol in Olympia. The front yard was dominated by a gigantic Bing cherry tree. As children we used to go visit Grandma Cassidy and I couldn't wait to climb the stairs to the grand second level porch, and reach out and pick some juicy black-red cherries. My brothers and I would try and see who could spit the pits the farthest off the balcony towards the street below. Sadly, after Grandma sold the property to the state, her beautiful mansion was torn down--along with that huge Bing cherry tree, to make room for more state government buildings.

Several years ago when I was chef of this beautiful restaurant Rix in Santa Monica CA, we came up with a great summer-y salad using Bing cherries--and we named it "Cherry Love".

The salad is on our menu now, and is very popular with our guests. It consists of baby spinach leaves, feta cheese, sweet Walla Walla onions, roasted pistachio nuts, and a vinaigrette that we make from the cherries.