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Happy Hour Oysters at Whole Foods

25 Jan

Every so often Whole Foods has a happy hour where the oysters are 69c.

It goes from 5-7 but apparently they usually run out long before 7 and the queue starts forming around 4:30. So I told James to leave work early and got in line (I was about 5th from the front). James joined me shortly after and I’m pretty sure that at 5pm the line was all the way to the back of the store. The employees handed out little food samples, which was nice of them.

We ordered 4 dozen oysters ($33.12!) and a bottle of wine (no restaurant markup and no corkage!), got our number and headed to the cafe area. This was half our order:

They were enormous. We struggled to finish them and should have just ordered 3 dozen. A lot of the oysters had bits of shell in them, but for 69c it’s not a big deal and it was understandable given how fast they were shucking.

There were some women hanging out at the tables when the first lot of oyster-orderers started looking for seats. They weren’t eating and it turned out they thought they could just camp a table and order from there at 5pm. The women had to go to the back of the line, which was so long they still hadn’t made it to the front when we finished our oysters and wine. *smile of justice*

Here were the hardworking shuckers.

I overheard them saying that Whole Foods had set aside 200 dozen oysters for the happy hour. Eep!

Like I said earlier, the line was still going strong when we finished. The ordering process was quite fast but the bottleneck would have been waiting for the oysters and finding a table. For cheap oysters across the street from us it was definitely worth going and definitely worth getting there early.

I would have preferred to be able to take our oysters home but it was eat-in only; probably to prevent people from getting Whole Foods to cater their oyster party by ordering 20 dozen.

I was going to finish by writing “I’m soooo there for the next one” but then I looked it up and the next happy hour is the 30th of January. I don’t know if I can hack eating monster oysters every week!

Various Tasty Treats for Christmas

23 Dec

We’re having a low-key Christmas this year – the original plan was to go snowboarding but it’s looking like conditions will be pretty crap, so it looks like we’ll be having a potluck dinner with friends. But a low-key Christmas doesn’t stop me from ordering some December-only food!

Virginia Ham

Chuck introduced us to Virginia ham last year and we love it! It’s so full of flavour and James keeps slicing and slicing but the ham never seems to get smaller.

We learned from last year’s Ham That Lasted A Thousand Years so we ordered a smaller, boneless one this year that takes up less room in the fridge. We’ve been enjoying many salty ham sandwiches.

James: (half-talking to himself) Kaye, you are worth more to me than all the hams in the world.


Christmas Desserts

I picked up some Christmas pudding from a fancy food store in Queen Anne. Apparently this is not a traditional Christmas dessert here, so you can’t buy them in Safeway like you can back home.

I also impulse bought some stollen (one loaf for us and one loaf for potluck). I prefer the Aldi one I used to buy in Melbourne, maybe because it had a stronger marzipan flavour.

Rachel’s Ginger Beer

Rachel’s Ginger Beer is one of the best things about living in Seattle. This is the only thing on my list that isn’t only for the holiday season – every month we go and re-fill our growler of ginger beer. I can’t remember how much the 64oz refills are … I think $21 or $23.

They have lots of amazing flavours like blood orange, hibiscus and white peach. My favourite is the original, though this month we got the new guava flavour which is also delicious – it’s like a slightly sweeter version of the regular ginger beer.

It’s the best drink I’ve ever hard – sharp, refreshing and with a definite ginger kick that sears your throat. Chuck also loves RGB and I told him that it actually ends up being pretty good value for us because a little goes a long way, but Chuck said he can’t stop at one and keeps drinking until the back of his throat is all raw.

I was a little bummed out because we hadn’t discovered RGB in time to show it to Cat, Scott, James’ parents and my parents when they visited. But also, it’s so good that maybe it’s for the best that they never tasted it because then they’d know what they were missing. They would know how empty their lives were.

So anyway, those are my little Christmas food indulgences. =) James has taken the rest of the year off (personal leave in the US is use it or lose it! Eek!) so we’re spending a lot of time bumming around and eating. We also went snowboarding on Saturday and are sooo sore. Mike isn’t sore at all! Why are James and I in so much pain?!

Chocolate Making Class at Chocolate Box

23 Jan

A couple of weeks ago a friend turned 30 and to celebrate his girlfriend took a bunch of us out to a chocolate class at Chocolate Box in Downtown Seattle.

They had a class area set up in a little nook at the back of the store. You can see on the shelves that they also sold wine. The guy explained that they can’t compete on price with the big stores so they focus on selling chocolate and wine from (mainly local) small producers.

To begin with they gave us some hot chocolate with marshmallows. The photo made it look a bit gross but it was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!

It’s made from melted chocolate, not cocoa powder, and it was really rich – more chocolatey than milky. The marshmallows were also really good – apparently they’re made by hand by some local company. By the way it’s a small cup (maybe shot glass sized), not giant marshmallows.

At the start of the class we learned about how chocolate is made (from a fruit!) and what it goes through to become a chocolate bar. You can wiki the process if you’re interested but this is one of the steps – the cocoa nib. Please forgive my gross gym calluses.

The nib is pretty much a health food but it is super gross. Apparently some people don’t mind it but I found it really bitter.

The guy also talked about distinguishing good chocolate from mass market chocolate. The main one that I remember is that good chocolate has a lingering mouthfeel – it kind of coats your mouth even after you’ve eaten it, if that makes sense. It’s also rich enough that I reeeaaally didn’t want to eat lots of it.

After the talk we made our own chocolate bars and decorated them with nuts, fruits and spices. As the birthday boy Luke was allowed to lick the spoon.

Our chocolate bars were taken off to cool while we did the rest of the class and we got them back at the end.

The top one is mine. I had cardamom, sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts and peanut butter chips.

The bottom one if James’. He used habanero sugar, peanut butter chips and dried fruit.

By the way the habanero sugar was awesome – sweet but with a spicy kick. I don’t know what you’d use it for but I was pretty much sprinkling it on my hand and licking it off.

For the next part of the class we got to temper our own chocolate and coat various things (marshmallow, tortilla chip, strawberry and two biscuits) with it. James decided to be artistic and put one of the biscuits on top of the marshmallow to form a chocolate mushroom.

There was a granite stone underneath the paper to cool the chocolate. But if we just left it like that it would have cooled unevenly so we had to keep lifting up the melted chocolate with our fingers and letting it trickle down. This is James working on his chocolate. I don’t know why he is as rosy as Santa.

To test whether it was done we had to dab some on our wrists; if it felt warm or at body temperature it was too warm, but if it felt cool then it was at the correct temperature. Mine took ages to harden, which was a sign that I didn’t temper it properly. =(

We got to keep the leftover chocolate – but it’s really rich so I’m still making my way through it a week later.

James was much better at it than me. His chocolates turned out really well – they got a nice hard shell quite quickly and the guys that worked there commented on his tempering skills. On the right you can see his chocolate mushroom.

We also got a delicious teeny, tiny cupcake while we waited for the chocolate to cool.

That strawberry in the background is one that James dropped on the ground earlier. Luckily they brought over a replacement strawberry for him.

Some of the guys forgot about their strawberries until a few days later so had to throw them out. Which was unfortunately because they were really tasty. James ate his a day after I did, but was a bit grumpy that I had remembered to eat mine but hadn’t thought to put his in the fridge. Sorry Jamesy!

Here are the guys sampling a bunch of chocolates at the end of the class. Behind the bar is where we were earlier, and in the background you can see James packing all our chocolates up.

Everyone shopped while we waited for our chocolates to cool (a lot of us had tempered poorly!). We were all given 10% off vouchers as a thank you – I haven’t used mine yet but I want to pick up some chocolate bits to use in cookies and some of the chocolates that we sampled.

Overall it was really fun! We learned some useful chocolate facts (chocolate doesn’t get better with age – the best time to eat chocolate is now!) and had a great day out with friends.

Actually now that I think about it I think we spent that whole weekend with the same group of people (snowboarding and dinner on Saturday, and on Sunday brunch, the chocolate party, and another friend’s housewarming party in the evening). Everyone gets along and we do lots of stuff together. I think we got really lucky with James’ team – living in Seattle would be much less fun if he didn’t work with such great people.

God Bless America

14 Aug

12 packs of pop tarts for $19ish from Amazon!

They are James’ guilty pleasure and after extensive taste tests he has determined that frosted blueberry is the best flavour. (Frosted cherry is second best)

Now I no longer have to see James’ forlorn labrador face when we run out of junk food. Also we have many chances to win $100.


Christmas Loot!

27 Dec

This year for Christmas I got …

Two books on breadmaking from Ivanna for my Cousin KK gift.

Cat bought me The Homesick Texan Cookbook, a wooden recipe book holder, and a salt cellar.

My $10 lucky dip gift was a USB fan.

And some Bundaberg Reserve rum from mum and dad that I didn’t take a photo of. James will likely drink some and I may attempt a Christmas pudding with it for next year.

Then on Boxing Day we did Christmas with James’ family. Liz and Andrew bought me a deep exfoliating mask from Dr Sebagh, which I’ve wanted ever since I tried a sample. They found it on my Amazon wish list and bought it for me. =)

James’ grandma got me a pretty necklace.

And James’ uncle Sandy got us each $25 Dymocks gift vouchers. It’s a bit of a tradition now for me and James to go to the Dymocks boxing day sale (20% off storewide) so I can buy a cookbook with the voucher. =) This year I narrowed it down to 3 books and James picked the one he liked the best – we got the Gingerboy cookbook.

It has just occurred to me that I am going to have to clear out some shelf room for my ever-growing collection of cookbooks. But anyway, those were the lovely, lovely presents I got for Christmas this year! =)

Donna Hay Magazines

19 Oct

On the weekend I picked up an eBay auction I won – 17 Donna Hay magazines for $26.

I’m quite pleased because it worked out to around $1.50 a magazine ($1.70 if you count the cost of my train ticket). I think this lot was really cheap because the seller specified pick-up only.

They go for a lot more than that on eBay – usually $4 to $10 (and issue number 4 – which sadly I don’t have – goes for $30+!). That’s more than retail when you include postage – so if I wanted to get rid of them I could probably make a couple of hundred dollars.

But for now I’m happy to just leaf through them and check out the food porn. Sometimes it’s nice to have actual recipe books instead of printing recipes off the net.

And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing this week while I’ve been sick. Also browsing the net and feeling sorry for myself. =(

New Experience #1: Making Vanilla Extract

20 Aug

For my first week of trying new experiences I decided to make vanilla extract (an easy one to start). I already had most of the ingredients, so all I had to do was go buy a suitable jar to store my extract in.



Vanilla Beans

I sterilized my jar by rinsing it in hot, soapy water, boiling it for 10 minutes, then drying it in the oven on lowish heat.

My jar is about 250ml, and I stuffed it with 11 vanilla beans (roughly 30g) that I halved and then split lengthwise. This is the jar with all the vanilla bits soaking inside. The liquid is fairly clear, but should darken over time as the beans infuse the vodka.

I need to shake it every week or so, and after 6 months it should be ready to use!

Lunch Today!

9 Aug

I am a leeeetle bit drunk.

Hello lunch!

Vasse Felix semillon, Holy Goat La Luna cheese, a Noisette white sourdough loaf, and some awesome, fat smoked salmon (not pictured).

La Luna is often referred to as one of Australia’s best cheesemakers, and their Holy Goat cheese has won a whole bunch of awards.

It’s priced fairly steeply compared to other cheeses, at $15, but I was in a splurgy mood.

I think I was eating the cheese wrong to begin with. I was just eating the non-rind part and thought it was a bit dry (albeit very tasty), but once you incorporate the rind the balance is much better. Also I like how the cheese looks like brains.

I don’t know if it was the booze kicking in or if it was the fact that I had a better balance of rind to cheese, but at the end I was really getting into the Holy Goat. I don’t know how it differs from regular non-award-winning goat cheese; I don’t have any other goat cheese on hand to compare and also I am not a cheese expert.

I don’t know if I’d spend $15 on it again, but I’m definitely intrigued enough to try their other cheeses.

PS – the down side to not drinking very frequently is that after a glass of wine with lunch, I needed a lie down and a shower to clear my head. I’m still feeling pretty tipsy, but less dizzy than before. That’s what I get for trying to be all fancy and mature by having wine with cheese. =(

Microplane Grater (Or How I Tried To Shop Local And Failed)

2 Aug

To make zesting citrus easier I decided to buy a Microplane grater. I’ve been meaning to get one for awhile, and while my current grater is pretty terrible at the job, it hasn’t been terrible enough to really light a fire under me. But if I’m grating 17 lemons for my future limoncello I want to get the best tool for the job.

image from Amazon

Apparently Microplane is the holy grail of zesters. And luckily it’s prety cheap – after conversion it was $18.60 including shipping from the US.

Before I bought it, I figured I would see how much it cost locally. I was willing to pay up to $30 to avoid the hassle of having it shipped to me, so yesterday I walked down to the kitchen supply store to check. The bloody thing was $40! I don’t need it immediately, and for less than half the price, I don’t mind waiting a couple more weeks.

Sorry local economy. =(

(Also, a pre-emptive sorry because in the next day or so I’m probably buying a $2 – including shipping – kitchen timer from Hong Kong)

A Variety of Epicurean Delights, Shipped From Afar

23 Jun

Vanilla Beans

Awhile ago Cat and I bought some vanilla beans from this ebay seller. 20 A Grade Tahitian vanilla beans for $11 AUD (including shipping)! Actually, the seller threw in 2 extra so we got 22, which worked out to 50c a bean – 1/6 of the cost that they are here.

As soon as they arrived I wrapped them in plastic and sealed them in an airtight jar. I need to go buy some vodka so I can make vanilla extract, and I’ll save some for baking as well.

Fleur de Sel de Guerande

Liz and Andrew went to France and Greece, and they asked if there was anything we wanted them to bring back for us. I figured wine and cheese would be too unwieldly, so I asked for some fleur de sel (which David Lebovitz has called “one of the great bargains in France”). It’s a finishing salt, used just before eating, and harvested by hand. This is what it says on the little tag that came with it:

This special delicate salt is picked up by hand at the surface of Guerande’s salt pans, in France’s Britany. It appears only some days, when the east wind is blowing, and only in a very small amount. Light, pure, it is famous for its violet flavour. Previously reserved for royal tables, it is exceptionally soluble and very rich in magnesium, calcium and trace elements. It is guaranteed completely natural.

I think I originally wanted it for a salted caramel recipe, but I won’t be tempting myself by baking anything unhealthy in the near future, so I’ll sprinkle it on some salad or steak.


In that photo you can also see the Speculoos that Liz and Andrew picked up for us too (David Lebovitz also wrote an article about Speculoos that made it sound really tasty too). It smells like a mix of spices – cinnamon and ginger are the ones I can pick out – and also like cookies. Which isn’t surprising given that it’s basically a paste version of those dutch windmill cookies.

I had some Speculoos with my steel cut oats a week ago. I had to use a fair amount to get it to taste as strong as it smelled, and I think overall I prefer peanut butter in my oats. I can see Speculoos going really well with crepes or croissants!


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