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Speechless in Seattle

Well, we're back from our Seattle trip and it was a food lover's dream. We had such a great time and of course, I selected several restaurants before we left for us to try. I mainly used the awesome Urban Spoon website to find the restaurants. Check them out, if you don't know about them. More on the restaurant scene later.

Tilth on Urbanspoon

First, I want to show you some pictures from my favorite place in Seattle - the famous Pike Place Market on the waterfront. If only I had a kitchen in Seattle! What a place. You have to see it to believe it. After wandering through the vendors, practically speechless, we went and sat and had a bowl of salmon bisque and an ice cold beer and looked out over the ocean.

And here is one of my favorites, the Papparadelle's Pasta display at the Market, which has every kind of beautiful pasta you can imagine - notice the Dark Chocolate Linguini at the top on the right! I mentioned this pasta resource in my previous post when I made Orzo with Roasted Carrots with their Asian orzo blend. Check out their web page if you are not familiar with their pasta.

We had some excellent meals in Seattle, but the place I wanted to try the most was Tilth, which I posted about before we left. This restaurant was declared by Frank Bruni of the New York Times to be one of the top ten new restaurants in the nation. Well, my expectations were high. And the chef/owner, Maria Hines, was cooking some of her food by the method of sous vide, which is finally coming on the scene here in this country. This method of cooking involves vacuum sealing the food and placing the bag in a special immersion circulator, which cooks the food at a low temperature for a very, very long time. Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter are both using this method and are fans. The thinking behind this is that when you can smell food cooking and the steam is coming out from the food, you are losing flavor. So I was very excited to try food prepared this way. However, I was disappointed in both dishes I had that were cooked this way. First, I had the baby turnips.

Julia Child would not have liked this at all. She was famous for saying that the American way of cooking vegetables just until they are crisp was ridiculous and never brought out the real flavor of the vegetable. She said that the way Americans cooked green beans left a raw, grassy flavor that did nothing for the green bean. She was right. When I tasted the baby turnips, I expected the rich, creamy flavor of a well cooked turnip. These were way underdone and pretty tasteless. I, too, think this is a big mistake. And I'm not talking about cooking your vegetables to deathly mushiness. Just cooking them until any "raw" taste is gone. I guess it's a matter of taste, but the French don't cook vegetables this way and neither do the Italians. In fact, Guilano Bugialli says that the biggest problem in American restaurants is that they undercook the vegetables. Amen.

I know this is viewed as Nouveau American Cooking, but it's just plain wrong. I've been to too many restaurants lately in my travels the past ten days that served oh so trendy undercooked vegetables, the last one being a very moderate place off the highway as we were picking up our sons from camp. The veggies were the same as Tilth's.

Then I had the Sablefish.

This lovely fish was cooked sous vide and although the texture was really nice, it was also really bland. I just wasn't impressed. I also tasted my husband's duck ragu and frankly people - I can cook a tastier, richer ragu than that. But gee, the service and wine list at Tilth were really, really good.

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Reader Comments (8)

bad bad dinner

just NOT ok

but that market looks amazing. really truly amazing... i wanna go...

July 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercook eat FRET

I'd be speechless in that market too! The photos of the fish are amazing.

I've also had a look at your paintings. I love the house in San Giminiano - you are very talented.

So pleased I've found you.

July 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercasalba

CEF: As a foodie, you would love Seattle. GO!
Casalba: Thanks for the kind words about my paintings.

July 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthe italian dish

Elaine, Welcome back! Enjoyed your pictures very much, I'm such a big fan of the Northwest, but I don't think I'd be a fan of anything "sous vide" it looks very bland just like you said. BTW, Your art is wonderful! Very talented, you are!

July 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterProud Italian Cook

I'm in the Seattle area. I agree with you completely about vegetables being undercooked.
I had the opportunity to meet Marcella Hazan's son, Giuliano Hazan,and he cooked vegetables for us while he shared his recipes. He also said Americans tend to undercook their vegetables and that Italians prefer them cooked. Up until that point I thought I was the only one who didn't prefer a blanched green bean.
So happy to hear you love the market. I do too!

July 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngelnina

Dang! Are those lobster tails like 14 lbs each? Holy Moly--what a feast one could have with those. I'm so glad you had an amazing time.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan from Food Blogga

I am so sorry that your experience at Tilth was such a downer. We only go there for special occasions and it has been at least six months. She wasn't using that method when we went last and everything we had there was superb. I would have been disappointed as well if that had been served to us. Hopefully, this phase won't last because the meals we had there the last two times we went were bursting with flavor and the textures were amazing. It sounds like the rest of your trip was a success.

August 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa

Actually, the body of water that you were viewing from the Market is an ocean inlet or sound. So if you return to Seattle and want to blend in, refer to it as the Sound (aka Puget Sound) and you will fit right in!

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusanK

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