Thursday, July 29, 2010



Svedala Bakery
, $2

When the Svedala Bakery's tiny stall in Pike Place Market shut down last November, I feared I'd seen the last of their impeccable mazarin, biskvi, katalan, and limpa. I was thrilled to rediscover Svedala at the Thursday night Queen Anne Farmers' Market. Although under new ownership, Svedala is still turning out homestyle Swedish treats using traditional recipes and high-quality ingredients. I celebrated with a himmelska, a thin slab of fudgy brownie topped with a lacy layer of caramelized coconut macaroon.

Svedala's baked goods can also be found at some Whole Foods. And on Fridays, Svedala sells smörgåsar sandwiches at Seattle's Swedish Cultural Center.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010



Mukhwas is to South Asian restaurants as starlite mints are to all-American, all-you-can-eat buffets. Dispensed from bowls conveniently placed near the register, these sweet little breath-fresheners also have digestive properties that can take the edge off a heavy meal.

In India and Pakistan, there are about a thousand different mukhwas recipes, most based on fennel or anise seeds. Mukwas can be sweet or savory and often includes aromatic oils such as peppermint or cinnamon. Some mixes look deceptively like confetti; others, like potpourri.

Although I've eaten plenty of mukhwas since starting this blog, it had never occurred to me to write about it until today, and I'm motivated mostly by the need to work through a weird experience I had on a day trip to Bremerton, WA. At a deserted downtown restaurant, I had some of the most delicious Indian food I've ever eaten, paired with what might be the most contemptuous service I've ever experienced. Our chana masala, palak paneer, and garlic naan were superlative--perfectly spiced and full of small but recognizable chunks of fresh and flavorful ingredients. Our server, on the other hand, was consistently hostile and brusque--but earned style points by having mastered the art of refilling water glasses without taking her eyes off the blaring TV on the far side of the room.

By the time we had finished and paid I wanted nothing more than to run for the door, but I made myself take a quick detour past the bowl of mukwas. Then I enjoyed my handful in the more welcoming atmosphere of the street outside. The toasted fennel seeds were so heavily candy-coated that they looked like reject TicTacs, but they were an effective antidote to the bitter taste in my mouth.

In the days since I've thought a lot about this experience and my reaction to it, and I've realized how much of my interest in food stems from its being a fundamentally social product. I work in retail food service, and I acknowledge that it's a challenging field and that everyone (especially me!) has their bad days, but I'm thinking more and more about whether anything can taste equally delicious whether served with a smile or with a snarl.

Although I usually include supplier contact information in my blog posts, I'm going to leave off the name and address of this restaurant. If you find yourself in downtown Bremerton with both a strong psyche and a strong appetite, I'm sure you'll be able to find it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Summer Treats" Mural

Across from the city hall in Bremerton, WA, there is a wall of painted murals celebrating "Summer Treats". My favorite: this blueprint for the perfect ice cream cone--including provisions for "erosion control"!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Desserts by Holly

Desserts by Holly

Pilchuck Glass School, Summer 2010

Although dessert wasn't on my mind (for once) when I jumped at the chance to attend Pilchuck Glass School, they now feature heavily in my mental scrapbook, nestled quietly but comfortably between shots of liquefied glass and other swaggering pyrotechnics. While Pilchuck is known for the quality of its food, in practice it's a matter of who happens to be in the kitchen. The sweet-toothed glass students of 2010 have an ally in Holly Fox.

I was mostly too hurried or too hungry during my time at Pilchuck to document Holly's work sufficiently, but I appreciated every installment. Working with glass did not come naturally to me, and I spent much of the session feeling anxious, frightened, and down; I cannot overstate the comfort I derived from a slice of blueberry tart, a bowl of fruit shortcake, or a pocketful of no-bake peanut butter oat cookies.

Of all the session's sweets, it's the macaroons (above) that still have their hooks buried deep in my taste buds: crisp-tender golden haystacks of shredded coconut and toasted almond slivers, skirted with dark chocolate. When I asked if she would share her recipe, Holly apologized for not having used one. The macaroons were simply an elegant response to an array of demands: some coconut and some egg whites needed to get used up and a dessert needed to get made. The way Holly tells it, she just stirred in some sugar and the macaroons practically made themselves.

Holly also gives stylish haircuts and sews stylish bags (and torn trousers). When I asked her what kind of training she'd had for any of this, she said she owed her abilities to her mother's good example. It struck me that she has experienced the same journey--from apprenticeship, to competence, to creativity--undertaken by many good glass artists.

Want to hear more about my Pilchuck experience?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Red Huckleberries

Red Huckleberries

Huckleberries are adorable and taste like heaven, but perhaps even better, they make you aware of and thankful for being in the right place at the right time. Since attempts to cultivate them have not come to much, luck is practically one of their flavor notes.

Many years ago on a summer trip through the Smokies my parents and I stopped at a little roadside restaurant for some lunch. When we asked about dessert our server said all of the menu items were sold out but she guessed there was a serving of huckleberry cobbler left in kitchen, just something they made for themselves out of berries from out back and not as pretty as the menu desserts, but we were welcome to try some. It was The Best Cobbler I have ever eaten. Blueberries and blackberries have a lot going for them, but somehow huckleberries manage to pack an unparalleled amount of flavor and complexity into a tiny package. Maybe wildness is the secret ingredient.

The huckleberries that grow on the Pilchuck Tree Farm in northern Washington state are of the red variety and tarter that the blues I've eaten before, but just as delicious. Like the salmonberry, the nutritious huckleberry was a major player in Native American diets. It was eaten fresh, dried, or mixed with other ingredients such as salmon roe.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010



Unlike its distant cousin, the invasive Himalayan blackberry, the salmonberry is a seasonal treat native to the Pacific Northwest. Even so, something about them--the sci-fi name? the importance to Native cuisine?--has always made me classify them as "exotic". It wasn't until I had them pointed out to me in the wild that I realized I'd actually seen salmonberries around Seattle--not flourishing in vacant lots like the blackberries, but cultivated as decorative groundcover.

The ripe berries can be various shades of golden orange or dark red and are only slightly sweet, with a mild bitter aftertaste that reminds me of citrus pith. A fine snack for hikers, they can also be made into jam, cobbler, or pemmican.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Godis Gula Snören

Godis Gula Snören
Ikea, $1.39

What is it about Ikea that short circuits my impulse control? It's like I'm a kid in a very, very long checkout line full of enticements and there's no mommy there to enforce the "one treat" rule. I go in for cheap picture frames and come out laden with gewgaws, knickknacks, and cheap candy--such as these "laces with toffee flavor".

Sadly, "godis gula snören" is more fun to say than to eat, being almost indistinguishable from Red Vines.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Higashi III

Kingyo Higashi

Nara no Kikuya

Thanks to a kitchen moth infestation, I've been rooting around in my cupboards and making lots of highly unappetizing discoveries. One exception to that grim trend was discovering a little box of sweets that I brought back from Japan nearly two years ago and then lost among my drygoods. In it I found these tiny
higashi, dry sweets made of a very special sugar called wasambon that has been pressed into a carved wooden confectionery mold, or kashigata.

Their long shelf life is one reason that higashi are so prized, and these little goldfish didn't disappoint. Not only were they non-moth-eaten, they were fresh and sweet and a perfect texture, if perhaps a little faded. They also brought back welcome memories of my visits to
Kikuya, an ancient confectionery shop in a suburb of Nara, and to Okada Seitō-Sho, a farm and factory in rural Shikoku that is Japan's last producer of wasambon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bend Bran Muffins

When I was visiting Bend, OR, for my boyfriend's family reunion, his sister-in-law kept us all fueled up with these amazing bran muffins. Vivi is a radiology tech and the recipe for "Orange Bran Flax Muffins" came from one of her patients. It was published by the Flax Council of Canada and the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission under the attention-grabbing headline, "Can This Melt-in-Your-Mouth Muffin Defeat Cancer?". I don't feel qualified to answer that one, but having eaten about 20 of these things, I can confidently say that they are a delicious way to get your roughage.

Bend Bran Muffins

1 1/2c oat bran
1c all-purpose flour
1c ground flaxseed
1c wheat bran
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 oranges, peeled, quartered, seeded
1c brown sugar
1c buttermilk
1/2c canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2c combination of golden raisins / dried cranberries / walnuts / etc

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease up either 2 12-cup muffin tins or a 9x14" baking dish. Stir together the brans, flour, flaxseed, baking powder, and salt. IN a blender or food processor, blend oranges, brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and baking soda and blend until smooth. Stir the wet mix into the dry and mix well. Stir in dried fruit and/or nuts. Divide batter among muffin cups or pour into pan. Bake muffins for 18-20 minutes or pan for 30-35 minutes. Muffins are done with a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Makes 24 servings
Per serving: 186 calories, 4g protein, 30g carbohydrates, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 18mg cholesterol, 3g fiber, 140mg sodium

The recipe also notes that while these muffins hardly qualify as "low-fat", about half of their fat is healthy alpha-linolenic acid, "the plant version of omega-3". A hand-written notation suggests that if you are doubling the recipe, replace one cup of the bran with 1/2 c gluten flour and 1/2 c almond meal.