the search for the ultimate margarita (and a pretty good potato salad)

P. and I aren’t good with planning. But it generally works out OK because our days are full of good surprises. Saturday, we had this vague notion that we wanted to barbecue burgers. Seattle was just about tied with the surface of the sun for ambient temperature and the oven was an arch-enemy, to be avoided at all costs.

We stopped by Exotic Meats, planning to pick up some Kobe beef burgers. While we were there, I remembered the poetic waxings about wild boar bacon over at I Heart Bacon, so we picked up some of that also. And we hadn’t had ostrich burgers in a while, so we grabbed some of that too. And then we found out that on Saturdays, you get a dollar off a pound. We also learned that there are tastings every other Saturday. We came on the wrong Saturday, but I think we’ll have to check that out next time.

We stopped by Larry’s to get some avocado and buns and sundry other stuff. Larry’s was having some big lobster sale. They had live lobsters in ice out front — $8.97 a pound. As we were walking through the produce section, I asked P., “what do you want with your burger?” He looked at me, guilty (but cute) look on his face. “Lobster.”

So, lobster it was.

When we got home, we made margaritas. We’ve been on a quest for the ultimate margarita, and I have a huge barrage of thoughts about different kinds of tequilas and citrus choices and liqueurs and sugar and salt, but that’s an entry for another day. Our current favorite is this:

4 parts citrus juice (we’ve been using three limes and a half lemon)
2 parts simple syrup (easily made by heating equal parts sugar and water until dissolved)
3 parts El Tesoro anejo tequila
3 parts Grand Marnier

Put in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice. Do a bit of shakin and pour, straight up, into martini glasses.

Then, we saw Rachel Ray making this potato salad on some block party special. No, it’s not that we were watching Rachel Ray, but the Food Network was on. She was just there. That inspired us to make our own potato salad, loosely based on that one. It was entirely based on what we had on hand, as opposed to what we thought would taste best, but it turned out wonderfully.

Potato Salad
3 russets, peeled and cubed
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 Tbl champagne vinegar
3 Tbl sweet potato mustard
1 Tbl dijon mustard
1 Tbl honey
3 Tbl olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
salt and pepper
chiffande fresh basil leaves (1/2 a bunch of so)

I wrapped the potatoes in foil and sprinkled them with a little olive oil and rosemary. I let them cook on the grill until they were soft (30 minutes or so). In the meantime, I whisked everything else together (except the basil). When the potatoes were done, I put them in a bowl, tossed them with the dressing, then gently tossed in the basil. I then let it all cool while we grilled the burgers and boiled the lobster.

Sometimes, dinner works without a plan.

a very beany salsa

When we were in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, we went to this great restaurant and tequila bar where they served this delicious bean dip with the chips (in addition to salsa). It wasn’t bean dip like we normally think of: these were whole beans, not pureed.

We attempted to make it Sunday night and were mostly successful. We also try to recreate a particular margarita that we loved, but we haven’t quite gotten that down yet. I guess we’ll have to keep practicing. Anyway, this was really easy to make and good!

1 15 oz can black beans
1 15 oz can pinto beans
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
1 jalapeno, diced (or some type of hot sauce)
chopped cilantro

I drained and rinsed the beans, then put them into a bowl. I added the other ingredients. Our limes weren’t very juicy, so I used a couple. I also forgot to get jalapenos, so instead I added a couple of flavors of tabasco (the green jalapeno sauce and the garlic pepper sauce). Once it was all combined, I let it sit for an hour or so to let the flavors meld.

Then we ate it with tortilla chips. And margaritas, of course.

Seattle Cheese Festival

I went to the Seattle Cheese Festival at Pike Place market on Sunday. It was very crowded. Too crowded to get cheese really. It’s a great idea, and lots of vendors were there, but the space needs to be about 10 times larger. We only managed to try three or four cheeses and then we had to go away to keep ourselves from stabbing people in the crowd with our toothpicks. We considered the wine tent, but the very long line did not move at all while we were in it. We imagined that the people inside the tent crossed from line to wine and thought, “woo hoo! I’m in the tent! I’m staying!”

So, we wandered off and shopped for vegetables instead. I was on the hunt for fava beans, but they don’t seem to have made the stands yet. (I hear they’ve shown up in CSA baskets in California, but I guess they have a bit of an earlier season down there.) We loaded up on tomatillos, tomatoes, onions, basil, garlic, and potatoes. I see garlic scapes abound, but I passed on them. I made them three or four different ways last year and couldn’t find a way to prepare them that I liked. I don’t know that I tried pesto though. Hmmm…

We parked in our favorite free-for-an-hour parking lot. It looks like it’ll no longer be free after June 1. This makes me a little sad for some reason.

Cherry Street Coffeehouse

I got a latte from the original Cherry Street Coffeehouse nearly every week day for a year when I worked on the same block. Coworkers and I would escape there, drink our coffee down the stairs near the painted fireplace. When we ran out of conference rooms, we’d have meetings there. When I needed to edit or write in quiet, I would sneak away with a printout or my laptop and work in the corner.

Now that I work on the East side, I rarely am able to go, but I never pass up on opportunity. A friend from out of town and I were in Seattle for a conference, and rather than make due with the Starbucks at the convention center, we drove over to Pioneer Square. My friend said she might dream about her latte forever. She made me drive her back the next day so she could have one more opportunity before she went home.

Cherry Street Coffeehouse is not just about coffee. It’s about community.

Here, there is no customer service because there is no customer. We are building individual relationships through mutual respect and forging a great community through the fire of love.

Pick up one of Ali’s cards while you’re there.

I am searching for the moment that I am so intoxicated with love that if you offered me another cup, I could not take it.

Ali, the owner, does the graphics himself, on his computer. Sometimes you’ll find a new saying on the side of the cup, or on a little sign near the lids.

It doesn’t matter how dark it gets out there, when you are the light.

Ali doesn’t just want to serve great coffee, although he certainly does. He wants to be a light in the community. He is.

Salumi (Seattle)

I have finally been to Salumi. I have been wanting to go for a really long time, and it’s amazing that I’ve never been there, since I used to work only a couple of blocks away. But somehow, I’ve never made it over there. P. and I drove over that way once and couldn’t find it (we figured we knew Pioneer Square well enough that we could drive around and didn’t need an actual address… we were wrong). It is in a tricky spot.

This time, I was with a friend and we drove around, first down third, until it somehow turned into second, and then we circled around onto the real second and I refused to give up. So, I called P., who was at work and could give us step by step directions from an Internet map. Turns out, it’s best just to park somewhere once you’re in the general vicinity and find it on foot.

It was, of course, awesome. We were completely overwhelmed and had no idea what to get. I was tempted by the potato gnocchi, being made right before my eyes. Then a guy behind the counter started talking about the oxtail sandwich and how they’re the only place in town where you can get it. And then he brought out a plate of various cured meats for us to try. They were like nothing I’ve ever had before. He rattled off the spices they used. It was a wonderous combination.

We ended up getting the oxtail sandwich and the meat plate. We wanted to try a variety. That meat plate is really big. You could easily share it. The oxtail sandwich was great on the crusty bread. And the meatballs in the meat plate made me pretty sure the meatball sandwich is just as good.

Armandino Batali wandered in from the back and we caught a glimpse of the huge operation behind the scenes. Wine was on the tables, a bunch of people were sitting at the big communal table. The guys behind the counter chatted with us as we ate — it’s just a great atmosphere.

Unfortunately it’s open only on weekdays and only for lunch. Well, it’s not that far a drive from Kirkland, right?