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Guest Chef Dinner at La Boucherie on August 27 – Update!!

Time for an update folks! Last week saw Danny and I testing a few recipes for the dinner over on Vashon Island.

The dinner menu is going to be the following:

Smoked Salmon, Tomato, and Horseradish Cream Napoleon

Charcuterie Plate: Head cheese, Game Pate, and Red Onion

Homemade Sausage, Piperade, and Roasted Potatoes

Chicken Leg Confit with Bacon-Dripping Lentils (pictured above)

Pork Belly Roulade with Mushroom Duxelle with Melted Leek Coulis

Lemon Chocolate Tart

Cost is $65 a person.

La Boucherie is offering 1/2 priced wine, or a $10 corking fee if you bring that special bottle.

Dinner date is this Thursday! (August 27th) Service  starts at 7pm, directions here. Reservations required. My suggestion is to allow a couple of hours if traveling from Seattle to Vashon.

I just thought I would share a few more photos from the recipe test, which happened to be one of the best “food days” I have ever had. Cooking with Danny was utter joy. I haven’t had the luck of cooking with a professional chef before, especially one of Danny’s caliber.

WOW, just wow. The speed and efficiency is simply outstanding.  4 things on the go at once, and talking, laughing and joking around. Incredible to see.

The best news? There are still some seats available for this fun evening! Email me if would like more information, or to request a reservation. matt(at)mattikaarts.com - you are gonna have to copy/paste and swap out the (at) for @.. I really don’t want emails about dodgy bank accounts, or herbal enhancement pills.

So here are some photos from the recipe test! enjoy.

Click to see more of the food photos

Wrightfood overall winner DMBLGIT June 2008

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I swear the blogging world is messed up. I entered my post on the Halibut, saffron-mussel liquor velouté, fava beans, watercress and fresh peas into this month’s “Does my blog look good in this” competition, hosted by the brilliant Tartelette.

There was some completely amazing food, and food photography, and I honestly thought I was going to get no where with it.

Turns out I was awarded Overall winner for the month!!! And I didn’t even try bribing anyone, which I am sure wouldn’t have worked anyhow, but hey.

I just wanted to say how completely stoked I am. I know everyone says this, but I honestly thought I didn’t stand a chance. I think over 100 people entered, and in my mind there was some far better food, and food photography in the competition. I am glad the judges picked me though :D

So what did I do to celebrate? Bought some scales (I have never owned any..), and went out to dinner at Harvest Vine in Seattle, which was sodding spectacular – more on that later…… OK, both of those things we had planned for today anyhow, but I took them over as a celebration for me :D I am nothing if not high maintenance! haha

Everyone should go check out the other entries – some really fantastic food, and food photography:

DMBLGIT June 2008 – hosted by Tartelette

Thanks again to everyone that entered, and the great judges this month. You have made my month!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wait that isn’t enough exclamation marks, I am far happier than that.. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that’s better :D

Spam-a-lot

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Maybe I should be happy with this, because it must mean I get more visits to my blog, but just of late I have been getting a ton of spam posts. A couple of hundred a day.  This is all pretty new to me to be honest, and I really don’t have much of an idea about how to handle it.

I know there are some spam blockers out there for WordPress based sites, but it looks like a lot give false negatives. I don’t want someone’s hard written comment to get labeled as spam, and I miss it.. nor do I want to have to troll through a spam folder to make sure there isn’t anything that it might have screwed up..

It looks like most spam I get is on older posts.. I was wondering if there was just a way to turn off commenting on older posts – no one seems to comment on stuff more than two weeks old anyhow.

I would love to hear from people about how they deal with the rediculous amount of blog based spam, yet still manage to process the genuine comments effectively. Either comment to this post, or email me at matt(at)mattikaarts(dot)com

Thanks everyone for making this blog a complete giggle to write!

Miners Lettuce Salad, with baby beets, beet greens, rapini, spring garlic

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This dish really came about from a walk around the Ballard farmers market on Sunday. A lot of stands were just bursting with vibrant greens, the most awesome spring garlic that I have ever seen. The star, the complete star is the miners lettuce. I have never used this before, and think it is the darn coolest green I have come across. Visually it is stunning, you get this nice round leaf with this awesome little “flower” (if that is what it is) in the middle. You look at it and think that the leaves might be a little chewy. You pick a leaf off and eat it, and it is nothing but soft, subtle and gentle. Just amazing.

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Cooking for 60 people. Yes SIXTY! And the White on Rice couple

Some may have noticed that this funky Englishman hasn’t been posting that much recently. There is a reason for it, Danika and I were planning a surprise Birthday party for her dad. Well, it was honestly more her than I for most of it – but I did do my bit for food of course!

I wanted to post something earlier – asking people for advice about what to cook, however I didn’t want to screw anything up, because apparently he does check this blog out every now and again.

So I have never cooked for 60 people. I think 16 is the most, and that was more a dinner party thing. I can honestly say that I don’t entirely recommend trying to crank out food for 60 people in a small kitchen with only 3 people making the food. When we were planning it I should have realized it was a bloody stupid idea, however we just got caught up in things.

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The cost of organic food in Seattle

Danika and I have been thinking a lot about food costs of late. We all know that food costs are on the rise – mainly due to the cost of petrol these days (just another reason to eat local).

To try and cut our food bills down, which are pretty high, we decided to do some completely un-scientific research into where is the cheapest place to buy decent quality, local (when possible) organic produce.

We made notes at a range of grocery stores here in Seattle – PCC, Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Central Market (Shoreline) to be exact. We even thought about doing the same for farmers markets – but then realized that was pointless – the price difference between stalls would have completely thrown the results.

So, trying to be organized I put all this into a spreadsheet, so we could clearly see where works out cheaper. Out of those grocery stores listed, if you can find it at Trader Joes, it is cheaper there. By far. Problem is, the produce at TJs can be pretty sucky to say to least, and they don’t carry Organic Valley milk which we like (its organic, grass fed milk, at an OK price). In the battle of the "organic" grocery stores – PCC comes out tops.

I thought I would share the spreadsheet – some local folks might find it interesting. This has saved us gas miles too – we used to drive up to Central Market, thinking it was cheaper. It ain’t. So, here it is – it only covers the stuff we by most of, but hopefully someone will find it useful.

Seattle Organics cost spreadsheet (Excel)

More food posts to be coming shortly – Been a really hectic couple of weeks. Some great dishes on the way. I promise!

What is this whole tagging thing?

I must admit that I am a big time blogging newbie. Yes, Wrightfood is coming up to be a year old, but I am still not really with the program. I don’t know much about what tagging is, all I really know is that I have to answer a few questions, and then pass the tag on. Sounds like fun.

So Brittany, over at The Pie Lady passed on her "Droolworthy Blogger Award" to me. Thankfully she also explained what that meant, and what I had to do. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, shame on you. She is the pastry chef over at Crow, and also Betty – Crow is one of my favorite places in Seattle to eat. She is talented, and her food looks great. Go visit. Now.

Seems like I have answer a few questions, and pass the deal on too. So without further ado, and without a drum roll, here are the questions and answers:

1) What were you doing 10 years ago?

Lets see… I was just leaving university, and starting a computer graphics business with a friend. This led me on to working on feature film visual effects, creating sets and environments on computer. All in the space of a year. Funny though, I still see it as only a year ago.. How time flies.

2) What were you doing 1 year ago?

Rocking a new baby to sleep, and trying to work out how to sleep more, and balance this new life I have with a baby, a wife, and a job, and my love of cooking.

3) What are 5 snacks you enjoy?

Tough this one, and in no particular order..

Cheese and crackers

Cake

Toast

Biscuits – proper English shortbread and so forth

A perfectly ripe tomato and buffalo mozzarella

More cake

4) What are the 5 things you would do if you were a millionaire?

Cook for people that need food

Quit my job, and just cook, photograph and travel

Spend way more time with my family

Start a bed and breakfast with my wife Danika, and have a small side restaurant, where I would offer special dinners for the weekend

Work at restoring old Seattle properties, and stopping evil developers tearing them down, and building condo’s.

5) What are you 5 bad habits?

Bad language. Somehow I am drawn to a few select 4 letter words. It isn’t smart or clever, and I cannot break the habit.

Saying "oh Dani, this dish will only take 30minutes".. when I kinda know it is a two hour job.

Occasionally I am apparently moody. If you ask me, it is the rest of the world :D

Food snob, but in my defense I don’t preach.

Staying up too late on this darn computer

6) What are 5 things you would never wear again?

Ugly sweaters

Uncomfortable shoes

Stonewash jeans – even if they do come back into fashion

Aviator sunglasses

Bicycle clips

7) What are your 5 favorite toys?

My son, Drake

Japanese slicer (kitchen tool)

Anything involving fire (I think that must be a bloke thing)

My camera – an old Canon 10D, but I love it

Swings. Having Drake, I have rediscovered them. They are awesome.

 

So who shall I pass it on to? That is dead easy. Lara over at CookandEat. I am sure most people know her blog, and it needs no introduction, but here goes anyhow. She takes amazing food photographs. She is local to Seattle, in fact just down the street from me. She has put up with a barrage of pathetic food photography questions from me, and always done it with a smile. She has even given me a photography lesson. Her work is an inspiration for me. To make matters even more annoying, her blog is incredibly well written. So, go check out CookandEat.

Black cod, roasted beets and baby russet’s, sauteed dandelion leaves.

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A really simple, clean dish this one, inspired by what was available at the Ballard farmers market today.

As usual I made my food list for the week. This normally includes a large slab of cooking on Sunday, and some fast meals through the week, for when we get back from work. Often, I try and do something a little different mid-week to warrant another blog post.

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Food Photography

I have recently got quite a few private emails asking about my photography setup. Whilst I am completely flattered, I should really tell everyone that I am quite the hack at it – and I have learnt pretty much everything I know from bugging other people!

I started taking photographs for work years ago, but these were photographs of architecture. That meant a wide angle lens. I started using the same lens for food photography, and ran into some problems. The distortion is too great, and things started to look un-natural.

So, like everyone else, I turned to the web for help.

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The parents we never thought we would be

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When Danika was pregnant with Drake, we did a whole bunch of thinking about what kind of parents we would be. We are both pretty happy, mellow people (Danika more than me, if I am being honest), so we figured we would be happy mellow parents, and we are. From all the deeper stuff like that, we started to think about the more obscure parts of being a parent.

We got onto thinking about those annoying new parents that proudly show off their kids artwork on their fridge. Nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is the parents that thing their child is next DaVinci, based purely on the scribble on teh fridge that is quite obviously (well duh) Mum.. or Dad. What is wrong is that they force you to look at the bloody scribbles every time you go into their kitchen. "We aren’t going to be that sad we said".

Opps

That was obviously a lie. Drake did his first painting a while back, and he did it at daycare. Danika and I both work as artists (day jobs), so we obviously figured that we would get Drake doing some art, but we didn’t think it would be that soon.. I think it was around 8 months when he did his first finger painting. Drake’s teacher was super happy with Drake’s artwork that day. She of course showed it to us, kept it for a bit on the wall, along with all the other kids artwork, then gave it to us a short while ago. Now, I am not going to say anything dumb like "Drake’s was the best of the class" (it was… opps), but we rather liked it.

We liked it so much, that we wanted to display it in the house. But a small picture on the fridge didn’t quite cut it for us. We liked it a lot. We had been looking for some abstract art for our stairway for a while, and hadn’t found anything. Until that day we got handed a Drake original.

So, what arrived in the post last week was a 4ft x 4ft stretched canvas copy of his lovely finger painting. Blimey, it was big. You measure things out, and you never quite know how big it is going to be. It was bloody perfect.

So yes, we are those parents that demand you see our son’s artwork every time you visit. We aren’t going to be tacky and drag you into the kitchen to see a crumpled up scribble on the fridge door. We are going to have it so that every time you open the front door, it is there, right in front of you, hanging in the stairway.

Little person, big meal

Excuse me as I wipe the tear from eye for this one. Proud Dad time…..

Drake has been a rather tough little bloke to get eating regular table food. In fact, even since he was 6 months old he has been pretty hard to feed any kind of solid food to.. He had a major gag reflex that meant he puked whenever anything remotely solid entered his little cake-hole. He is now nearly 15 months, and it has still been quite a battle to feed him. He would eat small pieces of cheese, and would devour yogurt – but that was it.

 But not today! The last couple of days he has got much better, and today, drum roll please…

Drake ate his first real meal!!!

 Now, I can tell that you are obviously as excited, and as proud as I am. The next question on your lips almost certainly has to be “but Matt… Matt Matt Matt, what did he eat?

 Get this…. Pan seared Petrale Sole with glazed carrots and parsley. Followed by a ton of kiwi.

Not bad for a first meal!

No photo’s I am afraid. I was too busy sitting in awe.

Playing Shop

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My folks recently were going through some family photos, and we came across this one – a shot from the 1940s, back in England, of my Grandfathers old greengrocers (do Americans call them Farm shops?). Unfortunately stores like this are hard to come by these days back in England – the large chain supermarkets have undercut all of the smaller, local stores, so most are out of business. Thankfully farmers markets are still around and going strong! Anyhow, I thought people might get a giggle out of this shot of an old veg store. I can only imagine how much produce was inside, there is a storefull on the outside!

WFD: Snow Crab Legs, Amazing wilted escarole and frisee

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Ahhh, crab legs. Nothing quite says the sea like tearing up legs off a poor old crab. It has been blooming ages since I have done anything with crab, and figured this would be a rather quick meal. To be honest, this one was more down to Danika – we were in Whole Foods today, and saw some completely brilliant looking crab legs on sale, and she convinced me into doing crab tonight, when I had my heart set on some petrale sole. The sole can wait for another night, these things were bloody awesome.

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WFD: Black cod, chorizo,brussels and almonds, fennel/paprika puree

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OK – lesson learnt on this one. Bad food presentation = bad photograph. I flooded the plates with the puree. It tasted amazing, but looked, er, pretty bad. This obviously limits the photographs you can do – you don’t want to show a moat of puree! In future I would put down just enough puree to seat the vegetables in.. Oh well.

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WFD: Pan seared scallops, leeks, sage butter – I forgot the bloody Prosciutto!

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A pretty darn simple, yet tasty weeknight meal. Leeks are a great winter vegetable for me. They seem rich, but aren’t really, and when slowly cooked mellow out quite a bit and are fantastic with a simple butter/herb sauce like this one.

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