Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Making Lattes at Home

Love your corner coffee shop latte, but don't love shelling out $4 for one? Me either! Love your caffeine fix and the protein kick of milk, but don't want to put on real pants? Me either! Let's make them at home, for cheap, while we're wearing the ugliest pants we own! (You know the pants I'm talking about. Yep. Those.) Grab your favorite mug.
my favorite mug!
Mug shot

So let's talk about a latte first. It's coffee with milk. Well, technically, I believe it's espresso with milk. I like my ratio at about half coffee, half milk. Most cafés do a little latte art when they pour the milk into the coffee, but I'm no barista. I'm just a cheap frugal girl in ugly pants. We don't have a fancy espresso maker--just a nice Krupps drip coffee maker. We do grind fresh beans every morning, brew with filtered cold water, and use organic 1% milk. (Um, actually, J grinds and brews. He's the coffee maestro here. I just mix and drink.)

Now look at this! Look at all that foam! How'd I do that? I don't have one of those fancy machines! What's my secret?

It's our old friend the Mason jar! You may not be used to using this so early in the morning. It's ok. It works.
Microwave some milk in this bad boy, screw the lid on tight, and shake it like the dickens for about a minute. (If you have sensitive hands, wrap a towel around the jar first to protect your baby skin from the heat of the warm milk, you poor delicate thing.)
Pour your coffee into your mug, and then pour the milk into the coffee. Add any accoutrements you desire, and enjoy! I sometimes use peppermint syrup. Making your own flavored syrup is so easy: Heat equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, stir in a few drops of flavored extract, and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. The cheap plastic condiment bottles from the picnic section of superstores work really well. (You'll find them with the matches, skewers, and travel salt & pepper containers.) You know what else works well? A Mason jar.

Even with this newly found power of saving latte money and not putting on real pants, I also enjoy the occasional almond croissant at my corner coffee shop. Making those at home isn't as easy as frothing milk in a Mason jar, so I'll still be going to the corner shop. Just not in my ugly pants.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Best of Seattle….So Far


We love Seattle! Our neighborhood is charming, the city is clean and beautiful, and the surrounding area is breathtakingly beautiful. We’ve been happy to have several visitors since we’ve moved to Seattle, and it’s always fun to take them to our favorite places. In hopes of convincing you to visit us, I’m detailing some of our must-see spots in our beautiful new home city. 

Local Flavor
Pike Place. Obviously, this is a must-see for all tourists. My personal favorites in the market are Three Girls Bakery for brownies and bread, gorgeous and affordable fresh flowers, and anything new and fun from any of the produce stands. The huge arcade of shops downstairs is alluring, but I always get a little antsy down there for some reason, unless I’m in the secondhand book shop.
KM and I take a rest on Rachel the Pig at Pike Place
Ferry to wherever. While you're down near the waterfront, catch a ferry to Bainbridge Island or take the water taxi to Alki, but just get on a boat! Seattle should be seen from the water, and I prefer the ferries with fruit, cheese, or carbs from Pike Place.
On the ferry to Bainbridge Island

On the way to the San Juans
Central Library. I used to volunteer in the gift shop here, and the library (designed by architect Rem Koolhaas) is truly spectacular. There’s an entire level painted red. The escalator between the second and third floors is positioned beside a wall from the red room, and white globes are suspended from cutouts in the walls. Projectors in the wall display faces on the globes, and between these globes, one porthole lures pranksters like me to make creepy faces at the escalator patrons.

Kissy faces!

Woodland Park Zoo. This amazing zoo, only a half mile from our house, was one of the first in the country to design natural habitats for its residents. My favorites are the river otters, the tropical bird atrium, the meerkats, and the raptor show. I'm also looking forward to at least one outdoor concert this summer. This zoo is so cool that its website is www.zoo.org.
Did you know that owls are considered raptors?
Ballard Locks. Maintained by the Army Corps of engineers, these locks are a great place for peoplewatching, especially if you like to watch boat folk go from one body of water to another. If you prefer fish to people, you’re also in luck—the salmon ladder is awesome. Hate ugly fish and boat owners? Take a stroll through the botanical gardens.

Kerry Park. Look at this. Just look at it. It’s like a make-your-own postcard park.

In May

In September
Golden Gardens. My favorite sandy beach in town has fire pits, a great playground, grills and picnic tables, and a small but nice walking trail. It's a great place to watch the boats, birds, seals, kids with kites, kitesurfers, and the occasional wedding. We're currently aging our Christmas tree to burn here one night. I'm pining for s'mores. 

I knew those kites I keep in my trunk would come in handy!

Ez loves hats!

You're never too old to love a swing, right?


Fremont Troll. Fremont proclaims itself as center of the universe, so a lot of character flows around the neighborhood. This giant sculpture hides under a bridge and grasps an actual VW bug in his hand. 


Local Actual Flavor
Danielle was the first friend to visit, and we ate our way through Seattle. I’ve repeated most of these stops with other visitors—Aaron; Svetlana; Casey & Laura; Laura, Matt, and Caelan; Josh’s parents; my family; Kay Marie & Mike; Jen; Jeff; Aaron again!

The Crumpet Shop. Oh goodness. On our reconnaissance trip to Seattle, we went here for breakfast and the crumpets blew our minds. Look at Lee's face. He is destroyed. If you’ve never had a crumpet, imagine the perfect lovechild of an English muffin and a pancake. They are round and small, but airy and slightly sweet. I enthusiastically endorse the following combinations of toppings: tomato & pesto; egg & ham; maple butter; Nutella & ricotta (I KNOW!); and ricotta, honey, and slivered almonds. They’re very reasonably priced—they top out at about $5 each.

Lee tries Nutella & ricotta
Mike, KM, and I try a few while we watch new crumpets being born

Paseo. Holy pork sandwiches, Batman. These Caribbean pork sandwiches with aioli, cilantro, caramelized onions, and pickled jalenpeños on a tasty Macrina bakery baguette may just be the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten.

Delancey. Born of Orangette’s writer and her husband, this wood-fired pizza place with stark décor is just right when you’re craving Brooklyn-style crust…and the thinly sliced Prosciutto never disappoints me. They also offer a small selection of salads and desserts, all of which have been excellent. (The honeyed pot de crème is still my favorite dessert there, but the gray salt cookie is a solid choice.)

I ate that entire pizza.

And that too

El Camion. Taco truck! It’s parked behind a pet food store off a busy street, but they have a foosball table and delicious fish tacos. 

D’Ambrosia Gelato. It’s hard for me to pass this place without indulging. Their flavors are amazing—caramel & fig, pannacotta, rum & raisins—so do yourself a favor and get a waffle cone too.

Bakery Nouveau. We stopped in here for croissants and coffee while exploring a new neighborhood—West Seattle—and really got our day off to a most delicious start with a twice-baked almond croissant and a chocolate and hazelnut croissant. They’re the best croissants I’ve ever had, and West Seattle is a beautiful neighborhood with a fun view of the city.
Seals!
Ridgeback Café. This wonderful breakfast spot is only three blocks down from our house, and we eat here more frequently than any other place, but not only because of its proximity to us. Amazing crepes (my favorite is sausage, cheddar, spinach, avocado,  caramelized onions, egg, mushrooms, with poblano sauce and crème fraiche, but the Nutella one is so good too) and waffles (strawberry is always a solid choice, but spring for the lemon pannacotta and raspberry if they have it) and Stumptown coffee. And $5 mimosas in a pint glass.


Coffee! It's synonymous with Seattle--for good reasons--and we have great roasters here, and delicious espresso drinks on every corner, so it's hard to pick. For me, Cafe Besalu really satisfies me. They serve my favorite latte and impressive pastries, and the shop is within walking distance of our house.


Within a Few Hours
Sometimes we like to take a long drive. Pick a direction!


Mount St. Helens. To the south, what's left of this giant mountain still looms large, and is literally awesome. We ponied up the cash for a family helicopter ride that took us into the crater, and we all enthusiastically agreed it was well worth the money. Fascinating. 

You should do this. Really.
We are in the crater here--that is a growing ash pile.
Olympic Peninsula. Well, if you're a Twilight fan, you can knock out Forks while you're out here, but for me, the real beauty is in the mountains and the beaches. Josh and I went snowshoeing here last year, and when the peaks came into view, I teared up. Lee and I drove out to the coast last spring, took out a baby deer in front of its mother while we were eating burgers...It was a rough start, but otherwise a really lovely drive, and a very different coastline that what we grew up with, but so very beautiful. Lee even got some wallpaper-worthy shots of the stony beaches.
Perfect for snowshoeing!

Near Forks
Leavenworth. A few years ago, this sleepy town decided to overhaul everything to create a faux Bavarian village, creating a mid-state haven for tourists, rockclimbers, and cityfolk who want to sit in hot tubs and imagine they're in the Alps. Usually we hike near here, but have eaten sandwiches and Bavarian pastries too. The Nutcracker Museum may be next on the list. This place is absolutely festive at Christmas.

Vancouver. Aaron and I made a run for the border on a Tuesday! We asked for our passports to be stamped, ate some Greek food, fell in love with these glasses, bought kiwi berries at a big market, had dessert, and then drove back to the USA. It was a great Tuesday.

Perhaps the best toy store ever!
San Juan Islands. My family and I ferried here after a rather dismal few hours on a boat trip intended to watch whales. (We saw some seals, an eagle, and tried to stay warm.) Even after being held hostage for five hours, we still enjoyed the ferry (it had an INSIDE), and we all decided that we could have stayed a few more nights on Lopez Island. We had a late-night ping-pong match, in which we learned that Lee owns his own paddles, had delicious coffee on the porch the next morning, and took a nice walk around some of the wildlife areas. On the advice of a fellow contra dancer, we stopped into Isla Glass and watched a skillful team of three make a beautiful goblet. 

The craziness of our hair is inversely proportionate to how many whales we saw

Nope. Still no whales.

Lee sure looks artsy

See? Stunning.

You caught us frolicking!

Now that you're armed with an itinerary and a menu, give us a call to reserve our guest room, and pick out a cake for your stay.