Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fish & Chips, Elysian Brewery

After an awesome weekend of backpacking, hiking, camping, lake swimming, and general woodsyness, down to the plethora of bugbites, my friends and I treated ourselves to an awesome viewing of the new Conan the Barbarian, wherein Jason Mamoa proves he is a foxier version of Brendan Fraser, and then headed to Elysian Brewery, where we had hoped to try their Rhubarbarella Beer. I have a love of rhubarb. Unfortunately, the Tangletown Elysian didn't have the Rhubabarella. (Headed to the Capitol Hill Elysian on Friday, which according to the website, is stocking the Rhubarb Brew... so hopefully I'll get to try it then).

Anyway... the point of this little tale (besides rubbing in how awesome my life is), is that the Elysian Brewery was a recommended stop on my Seattle Fish & Chips Tour. Unfortunately, I forgot to snag a pic. Still, here are the stats:

Fish: It was a little heavier than I would like, and very mild flavored. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly striking either.

Batter: Golden, crispy, not too greasy, but bland. I mean, I tried this fish in waves. There was an initial bite, which left little to be desired. Again, not to say it was unpleasant, it just wasn't particularly desirous. So then I squeezed the lemon, which did little to persuade me. So then I tried it with the vinegar, and still nothing. The tartar (which I will get to in a moment) was the saving grace. Ultimately, it was just like the fish needed some seasoning. or, it's the perfect pallat for a tartar lover.

: So. Good. These are like the "joe" style fry, again, or as my friends' called them: steak fries. I wouldn't call them the traditional steak fry since they were more wedge shaped than what I would consider a steak fry. But these were flavorful, not too greasy, crispy on the outside with light potato-y goodness on the inside. I think these fries with the Hale's fish would make the ultimate fish & chips. Maybe they should work together?

Tartar: Ok, so I will admit that I am not the biggest tartar fan. In fact, pretty much the only time I dig into tartar sauce is with the Fish & Chips, but in that instance, I love tartar sauce. Elysian's tartar sauce, however, was delicious on it's own merits. I wouldn't say it was particularly dill-y, no strong lemon or vinegar flavors, but it was creamy and it was not bland at all. The flavors all subtly combined--some dill, some lemon & vinegar, but perfectly blended.

and Slaw (if available): No slaw offered.

Perhaps one day I'll go back and take a picture. But honestly, their pulled pork sandwich with horseradish slaw looked more inspiring.

On a more exciting note, the beers that I had while there (despite missing the Rhubarbarella), were awesome. I had the Idiot Sauvin, made from New Zealand Nelson Sauvin Hopps. It was nice, citrusy, fragrant. And then I had the Jasmine IPA, which had a light floral taste, but not too strong. Good for me because floral flavors can often overpower for me.

Altogether a productive adventure.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brunch, Fish & Chips, & a trip to the Zoo

Last week was something of a wild time. I had just finished the Seattle Century, and then all of the sudden a friend of mine was visiting from Missouri. Friends in town, especially friends who have never been to Seattle, means less cooking and more experiencing Seattle from a foodie perspective. I happen to love that perspective, even if it gets kind of expensive. Still, it starts with brunch.

When thinking of my brunch options, tons of places came to mind, but I wanted my friend to have her choice. I suggested some of my favorites: Cafe Presse (for the croque madame), Cafe Flora, Toulouse Petit, the Hi-Life. I sent her to their websites, to their menus. In the end, she chose Toulouse Petit, and who was I to argue? It was a weekday and their menu is half-off for weekday brunch. She got the salmon & asparagus omelett with gruyere.

I got the Duck & Pistachio Benedict:

It's even better than it looks, I'll tell you. The duck wasn't greasy, but was light, spicy, rich. The holindaise sauce was awesome. The potatoes crisp on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside--their spice nicely balanced. I've been there before, a couple times. I've always done the Pork Cheek Confit (which is excellent). This was too. The Omelett, which I got to try, was also fantastic. I think I'll have to keep expanding on my Toulouse tasting.

It was a bit heavy, so we walked about 15 miles through downtown Seattle, to Pike Place Market, and then along Elliot Bay, the SAM's Sculpture Garden. We didn't want anything too snappy for dinner that day, but she did want Fish & Chips before she left. So I took her to Hale's Ales where I think, so far, live Seattle's Best Fish & Chips.

Parmesan & Panko Crusted Rock Fish with Seasoned Potatos. Also witness the Hale's Amber Cream Ale, and the Snoqualmie Stout Cream Ale.

The beers weren't as good as I had hoped, but they were alright.

I have to say that these Fish & Chips were much better than the Fish & Chips at the Lockspot Cafe, which were named the Best Fish & Chips in Seattle. Lockspot had good fish, no doubt. But the breading was falvorless and a little mushy, the fries were nothing special, and the tartar sauce was actually so boring I wouldn't eat it. It did nothing for the fish.

This little experiment has inspired me to commence a Fish & Chips of Seattle Tour with the flavor, freshness, and consistency of the following items taken into consideration: Fish, Batter, Fries, Tartar, and Slaw (if available).

For Hale's:

Fish--it was light, but not bland, and sort of fell apart and melted in your mouth. Outstanding.

Batter-- excellent flavor from the parmesan & panko crust, but it didn't stick to the fish as much as I would have liked letting the fish sort of fall apart on the plate. But totally worth it for the taste. You didn't need, or really even want, to tamper it with tartar or vinegar. Nice with a touch of lemon.

Fries--I'm not going to lie, these aren't mindblowing. The seasoning is good, but not great. They are more like Joes than fries.

Tartar--Really good, sweet and tart dill flavor.

Slaw--Not mindblowing, but ignorable.

Ultimately, I think it's worth it just for the fish.

PS, we earned the Fish & Chips with another long day of walking, this time around the zoo. See the adorable Sloth Bear:

Seattle Century--Or One Life Goal Down. Snap!

I meant to write about the Seattle Century. Among the many life goals I made after graduating with my MFA, a long bike ride was one. I had originally planned to do the 200 mile Seattle to Portland, but it stupidly sold out. So, after some research, I found the Seattle Century--100 miles circumnavigating the city of Seattle, completely catered. Um...sign me up! I said. And then I signed me up.

Training was a bit of a maelstrom. As often happens to me, it seemed as though the universe was conspiring against me. My bike broke down on two long rides. I got really sick for about 1.5 weeks right before the actual ride, thereby not getting a chance to do the 75 mile ride I was suppsoed to do. On ride day, I was super nervous. I felt unprepared. And looking around the site, I felt like my equipment was all wrong. I did not have a 3000 bike, clip pedals, and I was rocking full saddle bags instead of a tiny underseat pouch.

But, you know, you do what you do. And the first 50 miles flew by--I mean, literally. 3.5 hours of rolling hills and beautiful vistas. Every 12 miles, a rest stop with PB&J and water refills and fruit. A total cinch! Plus, the 50 mile marker ended at a rest stop with fresh, local pie, next to a big open farm of baby Alpacas! The picture didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped...but it was hard to get a good pic with the sun and the giant distance I had to cover. Still. Baby Alpacas!

Unfortunately, the first 50 was the easy 50. Rolling hills be damned. At least the weather was still cool, and the hills were rolling instead of vertical.

After pie, shit got real.

You ride, unprotected from the blazing sun, on windy roads through horse, cow, and goat fields. Pretty? Yes. But man was it hot. And immediately after that, you start your first real hill. The introduction isn't too bad, but it does take you to decision time. Do you go straight and do 85 miles? Or do you turn left for the 15 mile loop to Snoqualmie Falls. I have to say, I considered taking the easy route, but thankfully I was riding with a nice guy who basically told me to buck up. And I'm glad I did. It was pretty easy at first, slight downhill most of the way until you hit the monster climb up to Snoqualmie Falls. It brought me a lot of joy to know that my first time to the falls I rode my bike:

Twin Peaks, yo!

But the hill climb tanked my legs. I stopped, drank water, stretched lightly. But after a short, but fun downhill, I still had that slight incline back to the fork in the road. And, what's worse, the hill that follows. I had to stop to stretch before I got to the fork in the road. And then I turned left, my legs like weighted hams below me trying to pedal. And this is where the biggest hill in the whole ride happens. I can't say I mastered this climb. I did crest it, eventually. And I did it faster than the people I started it with. But I had to stop a few times to drink water and stretch. There was one point where I considered crying it hurt so much. But I didn't. I didn't walk up any of it. I didn't give up. I got to the top and made it to the next rest stop where I took a long, long break. I stopped for about 30 minutes, drinking lots and lots of water, stretching, eating, stretching, water, etc. And after that I felt great. After that I finished strong. The last 25 miles were almost easier than the first 50. Partly because a lot of it was downhill, and then a lot of it was flat.

The moment of pride came at the last rest stop, where they had refreshing strawberry shortcake. I engaged in some rest stop chatter with two people who I had basically kept pace with the whole day (I saw them at most of the rest stops). And they couldn't believe how fast I was having never done a ride like this before, and in converse! Apparently they saw me ahead of them in the front 50 and were trying to catch up but just couldn't. And I finished strong and then I drank some beer, and then I went home and passed out on my couch. A total success.

Next challenge? Fiddle lessons. I got the violin and the bow sitting next to me as we speak.

Monday, August 8, 2011

a review of my book, yo

Patick James Dunagen was kind enough to review my book Your Trouble is Ballooning (see: split chap with Arousing Notoriety by A. Minetta Gould).

"Nelson's half, in turn, folds and unfolds language in a long poem-series of eight numbered sections of four parts each, testing reasoned argument against colloquial play..."

You can read the full review HERE.