Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kisaku

I haven't been eating sushi for very long, maybe 3 years now and it was only 2.5 years ago that I made the leap from lame sushi eater to adventurous sushi eater. Once I started, I found myself craving it on a regular basis. It was the hardest thing to give up while vegan. When I started eating meat, I was excited to get my hands on some good sushi. And yet, I was thwarted because I was living in Atlanta and its not exactly a sushi hub. I was really looking forward to come back to Seattle, to be back on the water in sushi country, where I would have my pick of local sushi joints, swanky sushi joints and everything in between. Right before I left Atlanta, I got into a bit of Sushi mania and soothed the savage beast with wildly successful trips to MF Sushibar (Atlanta) and Domo (San Francisco), which easily are my #1 recommendations for sushi in each of those respective towns. I was excited and enthusiastic to find "my" sushi place in Seattle, where I had only been able to try a few spots (due to veganism).

Saturday night turned out to be the perfect opportunity for my initial foray into the Seattle sushi scene. My friend Colin and I both decided that Japanese/Sushi sounded like the perfect idea for dinner. While he perused my copy of Seattle Metropolitian Magazine's Met 200 and made suggestions, I hopped on Urbanspoon and located the most highly ranked sushi place in Seattle, I figured starting at the top was as good a place as any. Kisaku. Not only is it the most highly rated sushi place, it is #3 on the all restaurant list. I was simply in the mood for good satisfying sushi and I called Kisaku, thinking there was no way they would have a reservation as it was 7pm already. Not only did they have a reservation, but they had primetime 7:30 available for the taking. We snapped it up and jumped in the car to hightail it across town.  Kisaku is located in a hard to find spot, if you are not familiar but luckily for me, I know the cluster of shops, restaurants and coffee shops that is considered Greenlake, but is more Latona, more "random spot in the middle of the neighborhood". We made it on time, whipping in the door at 7:29 and were instantly seated in the very clean, elegant (especially compared to many hole in the wall sushi places I am use to) and full with groups of people, couples and very happy looking customers.

But honestly, neither of us were in a particularly adventurous mood and all I really wanted was a nice selection of my favorites. Unfortunately for me, Colin doesn't like Unagi and so one of my favorites was out. We tucked into some edamame and I appreciated that the server brought me a salt shaker after I asked if they could make sure that the edamame were really salty. No matter what, I always want more salt (that's what running will do!) and so it was nice to be able to apply and reapply the salt while we worked through the bowl. I don't actually think its possible to mess up a bowl of edamame, so this is not much of a comment on the food. We bee-lined for the "rolls" section of the menu and discussed possibilities. We decided on 4 rolls for the two of us: Spicy Tuna Roll (my personal favorite), Spider Roll (second favorite), and two unique rolls, the Devil's Vegetable Roll (which is quite pricey at $7.50 for an all veggie roll) and the Garden Roll (both vegetarian options). The sushi came pretty quickly and my excitement mounted. I was sure with such a high level of approval that these options, though very basic, would wow me. And they did. But not in a good way.

The Spicy Tuna Roll was not spicy, the fish/shellfish was not flavorful and disappeared to the point of wondering if there was fish on them at all. The vegetable rolls were mono-dimensional and unexciting. I imagine that if I had tried a wider breadth of items on the menu, I would have found something that impressed me, but I was shocked that these particular items produced not even a blip on the radar. Worse still, after the rolls, I was still hungry and yet, unwilling to try anything else. It wasn't worth the price, I was that unimpressed. Instead I went home and ate a cold baked potato w/ some almond butter (to make sure I wouldn't die on my long run the next day).

I came in with expectations and faith of over 300 recommendations and was unmoved in the actual trying of it. It was not bad. If I lived around the corner, I might be willing to give it another try in a pinch. And while most restaurants really "deserve" several tries, when it comes to sushi there are so many good choices that it is easier to just move on to the next if one doesn't have a righteous experience. I had better sushi at sushi happy hour at Nijo (which was delicious, fresh (fish) and inexpensive, though not convenient-Post Alley). I had better sushi (though considerably more expensive and much more a scene) at Red Fin. After Kisaku, I still haven't found "my" sushi but I'll keep looking. My recommendation: start somewhere else on the list, but try it at some point. Its middle of the pack right now. And at some point, I'll go back and give it another shot after I have surveyed the rest of the Seattle sushi scene.

Kisaku on Urbanspoon

Sunlight Cafe

I have been to Sunlight Cafe about a dozen times in the past year since moving back to Seattle. I've known of its existence for much longer, but previously had never tried it. I remember being in high school and passing the hippie hangout thinking it probably was a mecca for wheat grass shots, alfalfa sprouts and rubbery tofu. I was not the eater then that I am now. When I moved back to Seattle, I found a list and sought out all of the vegetarian/vegan specific restaurants in town. Living in Ravenna at the time, I hit up Sunlight Cafe and quickly found that it became my go-to restaurant for a quick lunch or dinner or even brunch with friends and family. When I moved to West Seattle, and subsequently stopped being vegan, I frequented it less and began exploring the Seattle food scene and taking every opportunity to try new, different and tasty restaurants. I tried whenever I could, not to duplicate. Sunlight Cafe slithered off into the nether realm of my food world, cast out of the nearest orbit but not exiled completely. And then I went even further away to Atlanta and it, like all of my Seattle life, was temporarily forgotten or paused. When I came back, something unpaused quickly, some did not. I hadn't thought about Sunlight since I was back and then it hit me, no it struck me: I was craving Sunlight Cafe.

I yearned for a crisp, hearty, perfectly dressed with Herbal dressing Blushing Lettuce Salad. I wanted nothing more than their Savory sauteed tofu. With the holidays and the snow, all I wanted was my "comfort food" aka incredibly healthy, clean, wholesome food. That comforts me, uplifts me. I was dreaming of that salad and made it my mission to get my mouth on it. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to find a partner in crime for lunch and we headed over to Sunlight. My friend Colin got the sweet potato cakes, which have an awesome curry kick to them not for the faint of taste bud as well as the steamed vegetables with brown rice, tofu and peanut sauce. He was impressed, satisfied and delighted. Sunlight makes delicious, simple and healthy foods. Whether you are looking for a vegetarian burger or a helping of veggies with hummus so large it takes 4 people to finish it, Sunlight is the perfect go-to, low key, down home, vegetarian food restaurant. This is the kind of place to go in your Seattlite uniform of jeans and Patagonia/Columbia/Northface coat and snuggle down in a cozy booth and linger for a while, unstressed over whether or not the food is coming slowly, as it is prone to. The menu is extensive and not only offers said savory sauteed tofu, but also options for organic greens and things such as a heel of their homemade bread. While you will find nothing profound or moving about the food at Sunlight Cafe, it is consistent, comforting (if you are comforted by healthy foods like I am), hearty and delicious. I highly recommend not making the error I did for all those years I passed this place by under the auspice of "I'm not vegetarian" and try it out.

Sunlight Cafe on Urbanspoon

La Carta de Oaxaca

There has been alot written about La Carta de Oaxaca and after two successful trips, I agree with the 89% of approving votes on Urbanspoon. But, like my trip to Cafe Presse in the snow, I have managed to have alot of luck with some of the major detractors about this restaurant. The fact of the matter is, I have walked right in and sat right down on both occasions, though I was very aware that I seemed to come in the exact moment before the onslaught of people (and thus, waiting) begins. Also, I know that unlike alot of people, I don't get vexed easily by waiting at a good restaurant, I don't lose patience with servers who are working their tails off to serve a packed house and move people through. While I do think restaurants where people are prone to linger insist a reservation system, La Carta doesn't seem to be the type of joint that that was the case, tables just turned over too rapidly for that. And there are plenty of other places in Ballard to linger over a beer or cocktail. Another thing that lends itself to rapid turnover is the high noise level and excited conversations that are not contained by the space in any way. You are not likely to enjoy this place if you try to linger for a good long time, so if that is what you are looking for, try some place else. If you are looking for delightful, authentic Mexican food, that will get you in and out in well under and hour, this is your spot. Everything about this place was genuine, unpretentious but seriously on point, even the prices, which were very reasonable at about $7-$9 per plate.

The first time I went to La Carta, I was looking to facilitate and come to encourage my move back to eating meat. And one of the things that, for the most part, is not compatible with veganism is traditional Mexican food. While, not cheese and sour cream laden, like Tex-Mex, the poor (and very American) interpretation of Latino food, there is still a stronger prescensce of lard, cream, meat and some cheese. Fact of the matter, reading the menu there was not a single thing, other than AMAZING guacamole, fresh hot, salty chips and assorted salsa bar, there would have been for little gluten-free vegan me. Thus the de-veganism fueled the desire to go to (all) the restaurants I had been missing out on and the restaurants themselves and the promises of a renewed world of taste, flavor and food encouraged me to continue on becoming non-vegan again, which was what was best for my health.

Over the two trips, I have surveyed a good representation of their offerings from the Entomatadas my mother enjoyed to the Mole Negro Oaxaqueno that my friend Colin tried to the Fish Tacos I tried on my first visit, everything has been successful. The guacamole is delicious and fresh, the magaritas crips and refreshing. I was most excited on my second visit to try the Posole. One of my favorite recipes, which was part of my culinary showcase, is Vegan Posole. I had never tried regular Posole and so very keen to understand the different flavor profiles. They are such different flavor experiences. Other than the garnish (cabbage, radish, chopped onions) and the hominy, there is not much else similar in the vegan and nonvegan versions. Which is actually a great thing. They are distinctly different and both so delicious you would want both for so many different reasons. Posole is made with pork, shreddy and tender and has a spicy but not thick broth, complimented by hominy. It was a perfect light, but satisfying soup. The Entomatadas and Mole Negro were a bit more hearthy than the soup, but still had very reasonable, some might say small, portions. I found this too be a good thing, in the past eating I always associated going out for Mexican food with huge portions and overfull bellys. But not at La Carta. I was perfectly satisfied. And I was encouraged to continue to incorporate more meat back into my diet, as my doctor had been recommending and to continue on my omnivore way. La Carta de Oaxaca didn't just provide a delightful eating experience, it helped me change my ways for the better.

La Carta de Oaxaca on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Warm Winter Salad and Christmas Eve Dinner


I really don't know what kind of foodie I am since I failed to record in any way my Christmas Eve dinner. I think I got caught up in the festivities, the craziness, the hodgepodge and the "doesn't this just figures" like the lights going out and my uncle's fiance's cat having to be taken to the vet to be put down. No pictures, no recipes but I have recreated (and expanded to full on meal size) a brussel sprout recipe (shocking I know) that I made. On Christmas eve we enjoyed Prime Rib w/horseradish, Roasted Root Veggies (Parsnips, Blue Potatoes, Sweet Potato, Onion, Whole Garlic, Carrot tossed in a very light fresh herb, balsamic and olive oil mixture), Lemon-y Brussel Sprouts with Carmelized Leeks and Salad with my mom's lemon dressing. We also enjoyed Carrot Cake and Chocolate Mousse cake from Whole Foods for dessert and Mary's Gone Crackers with Fig Onion Jam and amazing Goat Cheese for appetizers. The Roasted Root Veg was delicious and managed to accommodate surprise guests, late guests and hearty appetites as well.

Despite having been very good and eaten great (healthy) foods over the holidays, post-Christmas I was looking back to my routine of having a good hearty salad at least once a day. The problem is, with winter, snow and cold, the last thing that is satisfying is a light raw salad. I wanted my greens (ok, almost everything I eat is vegetable based but still...) but I wanted something warming as well. I was out running when this salad came into my brain as I slushed through any number of now melting snow drifts, soaking my feet. I created a fresh, crisp but more importantly warm winter salad of kale, garbanzo beans and tomatoes.


Warm Winter Salad

Ingredients:


1 bunch Kale, wash and rough chop
½ pint cherry tomatoes
.25 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and dried
.25 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:
In a dry skillet or non-stick pan, toast the garbanzo beans over medium high heat. Keep pan moving so garbanzos don't stick. Toast for a few minutes until the beans start to get a golden hint and are fragrant.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the skillet and heat. Add kale and coat with oil. Wilt for 2-3 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the cherry tomatoes begin to burst. The greens should be crisp tender.

Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and toss goat cheese with the mixture.



The brussel sprouts I cooked on Christmas Eve might have rocket launched themselves into the number one spot on ways to cook Brussel Sprouts. In order to reduce the following recipe to make that, simply remove the cabbage, green beans and tofu and make according to the same directions. The following recipe I cooked up (or kicked up) in order to make my favorite food into a main dish and thus allow me to eat more, but still have other elements to make sure it was a balanced meal.

Brussel Sprouts, Red Cabbages, Green Beans and Carmelized Leeks

Ingredients:

2 cups brussel sprouts, halved
1 cup red cabbage, rough chopped
1 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
1 large leek, trimmed, cleaned and rough chopped
3 oz. baked tofu, cubed (savory flavor recommended)
1 lemon
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:
In a steamer, bring to a boil 3-4 cups of water and steam brussel sprouts, cabbage and green beans for 1.5-2 minutes, until the vegetables brighten and crisp. Remove from heat and shock in cold water to stop cooking. (You may also parboil) Set aside.

In a skillet or non-stick pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute leeks for 5-7 minutes, until they begin to caramelize. Add tofu into the skillet and cook until browning. Add back the brussel sprouts, cabbage and green beans and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few more minutes until the veggies are crisp, golden and toasty.

Remove from heat, squeeze the juice of the lemon over the mixture and toss. Adjust salt and pepper and serve.

One cool last tidbit: I have created a Tastebook of all of my recipes from this year, so that anyone who is interested in having all my original recipes in one place, categorized and with lots of pretty pictures, can now do so on Tastebook. There is a link to the right top. Or better yet, go there and make your own!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cafe Presse

I went out in between the massive snow storms here in Seattle to try Cafe Presse. While I could imagine the wait for a cozy table at this popular restaurant, we had no trouble getting a table. Everything on the menu looked delicious and I smiled at the fact that the menu was in French with smaller English descriptions. We settled on a butternut squash soup, red potato and cabbage salad and pork loin over cauliflower potato gratin. The soup was thick, rich, smooth but not heavy. The salad was complex, with perfectly cooked potato, red cabbage, walnuts and just a slight sprinkle of cheese and a delicious grain mustard vinaigrette. The vegetables were not overpowered by the additional ingredients. The pork loin over gratin could have easily been an overpowering,heavy dish. However, the spice brine on the pork loin (which was cooked to perfection) made it taste very light and fresh and even the gratin was not overly heavy or cheese laden. They stuck to the French roots on this gratin and didn't americanize it by cheese-ing it to death. There is an extensive bar and the atmosphere is one that lends itself to lingering. The waiters are patient, helpful and don't rush you out. Having spent time in France and liking the experience of cafe's there. This is the closest I have come in the states to mimicking that. While I am sure I could go on with much more profound and in depth commentary on Cafe Presse, I think that it can be simply summed up this way: this is my new go-to restaurant.

Café Presse on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fresh baked: Muse in Movement

I have been doing a great deal of work on my new blog, trying to shape it and refine it to reflect what I want it to be. I desire to increase its readership and bring my food to the world. In the transition, I have worked on separating the foodie parts of my blog, from the running part. While for the most part, I think this is a good idea -especially since neither part is going away- I realized today while out running in the deep snow and cold, that they cannot truly be separated. Running and food for me are intrinsically linked,  I have come into my culinary own in a large part because of my running. I find my inspiration on the road, I design recipes on the road, I became motivated to become a holistic natural chef because of my running. And so, should that get lost as I try to refine my own work? Of course not! To take that out, would mean removing what makes my perspective unique. When I think of my audience, I think of not just your everyday foodie, I think of a big group of ultrarunners sitting around a communal table after a 30 mile training run. I think about what kind of food will delight not just paletes, but nourish the body that will enable use to live, run and just be healthy. That is what matters to me. So while things may change, some things stay the same too.

I spent about 2 hours running around in the snow. It was delightful, it was challenging. It is one, if not the, biggest storms that has hit Seattle in a while. It snowed on Thursday, then an even bigger dumping last night, complete with Blizzard Warning. Thus, there was plenty of snow on the ground. While I didn't have the opportunity to get Yak-Traks or put Sheet Metal Screws, I decided that I would brave it anyways.  I ran around without aim, slipping, sliding, working hard and being silly. I was working up quite and appetite when the snow started falling really hard. I searched myself for what sounded good, warming and satisfying when it came to me. What is better on a cold day than a nice thick soup and a cheese toastie? Not much! So, I popped into the PCC on the top of the hill (thankfully, I was carrying my fastpacking backpack) and grabbed some ingredients, loaded up the pack and continued on home as the storm worsened. Inspired by the snow, I created a Chili-spiced Double Squash Soup and Double Tomato & Swiss Cheese Toastie. While the weather outside is frightful and has me snowed in, the food in here is so delightful.


Chili Spiced Double Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 can pumpkin puree
1 can butternut squash puree
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 large leek, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons agave nectar
salt
pepitas, toasted
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
⅙ avocado, diced

Directions:

In a good size stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the leeks and carrots. Saute until the start to get tender. Add the stock and the squash purees and stir to combine. Add in the chili powder, cumin, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, for a minimum of 15-20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender or in a regular blender, puree until smooth. Make sure if you use a blender that you cover the top with a dish towel and start blending on low so that the hot liquid doesn't come flying out and scald you. Return to pan and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

In a small dry saute pan, toast pepitas until golden, keeping them moving in the pan constantly. Serve soup and garnish with toasted pepitas, diced avocados and cilantro.


Double Tomato & Swiss Cheese Toastie

Ingredients:

3 slices tomatoes
3 slices Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons Sun-dried tomato pesto
1 pita

Directions:
Slice pita open, keeping one side attached. Spread pesto on one side, place tomato on top and cheese on top of that. Heat panini press or cast iron sandwich press to medium high. Grease both sides and place sandwich on grill. Grill (flipping once) until golden, toasty and melty.

Enjoy with a warm bowl of soup.

I really think that what I love about cold days and getting cold, is the warming up and relaxing part afterward!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bunkerdown Brussel Sprouts & Other Roast Veg


There is a huge secondary storm rolling into Seattle this evening and in preparation I headed to the grocery store in order to buy enough Brussel Sprouts to help me ride it out. Actually, I picked up my mom and took her to the grocery store because her car was already stuck in her garage which is at the bottom of a steep driveway. I did however want to pick up more Brussel Sprouts. I didn't eat any yesterday and so I had to pick some up! When I got to the co-op, I learned the Brussel Sprouts were snowed out. Not snowed out as in destroyed, but snowed out of delivery (phew!). That meant I probably would be able to find some, somewhere. And I did, naturally. Thankfully, it was at the second grocery store that we needed to go to anyways. Otherwise, I would have raced against the storm clouds that were zooming ominously across the sky towards us to find some.


Bunkerdown Brussel Sprouts and Roast Veg

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato, chopped
2 small parnips, chopped
3 blue potatoes, chopped
10 cloves garlic
2 cups brussel sprouts
1 cup cauliflower
8 baby carrots, halved
3 mini bell peppers
1 cup button mushroom
2 tbsp. peri peri seasoning
.25 cup olive oil

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 375. Combine all ingredients in a large glass baking dish. Bake for 45-1hr, until the veggies are to desired level of tenderness.

Optional: 30 minutes into cooking, drizzle a combination of 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp grain mustard (mixed) over the vegetables and toss to coat. Return to cooking.


Brussel Sprout roasted to perfection


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peri Peri Roast Chicken w/ Kale Goat Cheese Pesto & Mushroom Ragu over Spaghetti Squash

After a long drive back from Atlanta and enduring everything from getting lost in Oklahoma to getting a speeding ticket in Colorado to being slowed by the snow all the way from Utah to Seattle, all I wanted to do when I got home was get in the kitchen! I recuperated for one day, but then hit the ground running with these original recipes. The chicken was moist and juicy, the Pesto was awesome and the Ragu had so many deep layers of flavor that it barely made it out of the pan and over the Spaghetti Squash.











Kale, Basil and Goat Cheese Pesto

Great over pastas, vegetables or meat.



10 cloves garlic
2 ounces basil
½ bunch of rainbow kale
¼-½ cup good olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 ounces soft goat cheese (such as Purple Haze)
Salt and pepper to taste



In a food processor, pulse together the garlic, basil and kale until fine. With the motor still running, slowly pour in the olive oil to emulsify. Once smooth and blended, add lemon juice and goat cheese and blend until incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.
Yields: 2 cups
Time to make: 15 min

Porcini Mushroom Ragu


Serve over spaghetti squash, winter squash, alternative grains, pasta, or rice.



2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small Portabello mushrooms, cleaned and diced
1 cup White Button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 ounces dry Porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 2 cups of water
½ cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
dried oregano, basil and italian seasonings, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup mushroom stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup marinara sauce
2 tablespoons Italian Parsley

In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat olive oil. Saute the mushrooms until they are coated with oil, adding more if the pan becomes dry. Add onion and garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes, until the mushrooms and onions are beginning to be tender. Add the dried herbs and salt and pepper.

Pour in 1 cup mushroom stock and stir in tomato paste and marinara sauce. Simmer over medium high heat so that the moisture evaporates and the mixture reduces, stirring occasionally so it does not burn. When the sauce has thickened, fold in the parsley and serve over starch of choice.

Yields: 4 servings
Time to make: 30 min

Peri Peri Roast Chicken with Lemon and Fresh Herbs


3-4 pound chicken
Peri Peri Spice Rub by Rub with Love or a combination of smoked paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper
Salt
Black Pepper
2 small Meyer Lemons
A Handful of Fresh Sage, Rosemary and Tarragon



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water and remove all the bits of fat hanging loose. Pat dry all over with a cloth or paper towel.

Sprinkle a generous amount of peri peri spice, salt and pepper on the chicken, rubbing it in with your fingers on the body and inside the cavity.

Wash the lemons in cold water and dry them. Soften the lemon by rolling it under your hand on the counter. Puncture the lemon using a trussing needle, fork or similar.

Place lemon and fresh herbs in the bird’s cavity. Close up the opening with a toothpick or trussing needles. It should be closed tightly but not airtight, otherwise it may burst.

Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast face down. Do not add cooking fat, as the bird is self-basting. Place in the upper third of the oven. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken over carefully so the breast is face up.

Cook for another 30 to 35 minutes, then turn the oven up to 400 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes. You should cook the bird for 20 to 25 minutes per pound.

Remove from the oven and serve!

Yields: 4 servings

Time to make: 1 hr 30 minutes

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to Cook a Wolf

Since becoming a non-vegan again, I have been looking forward to coming back to Seattle and finally being able to try How to Cook a Wolf. How to Cook a Wolf is Ethan Stowell's latest restaurant where Chef Ryan Weed, who has worked at both of Stowell's other restaurants Union and Tavolata, is running things in the kitchen. I became interested in trying HTCW long before I was able to eat anything on the menu when I was introduced to Chef Ryan Weed. Ryan introduced me to my favorite gastropub Quinn's on Capital Hill. We had met there after I moved back to Seattle, brought together by our father's significant other's who are best friends. If his recommendation in other's restaurants was a sign of what was to come at HTCW, I was in for a treat. It also turns out that Ryan and I attended the same Catholic School, St. Joes, lo those many years ago, though several years apart. I was equally as interested to recall that Ryan had portrayed Jesus in the schools annual Passion of the Christ production which includes many solo songs for Jesus. I couldn't help but look at him and hear, "oh God, I'm dyyyyyyyyiiiiiiiinnnnng" in song, in my head, which is part of one of the more dramatic songs in the play. I found it ironic that Jesus turned Chef was throwing down in a kitchen that was quickly becoming known as one of the 10 restaurants that are changing things again (Seattle Metropolitan Magazine 11/2008).

With a list of accolades and positive press forging the way, I was looking to be impressed. I was predisposed to it. I wanted to be saved culinarily and had pinned my hopes on HTCW. In some ways, that kept me from the restaurant for a while. I had built it up in my head and through a long string of disappointing Seattle eating experiences, I didn't want to destroy the fairytale. I didn't want to know if it was good or bad, real or not, I was a believer and going on faith.

But last night that changed. With the weather daunting, cold and horrible, I figured it was the perfect in at HTCW. Notorious for its long waits, I hedged my bets on Seattlelite behaviour in weather - they don't do weather- and it paid off. I arrived nearly a 1/2 hr before my mom did, due to traffic and what not and was surprised not only that they had tables available, but that they were willing to seat me without her. The restaurant itself had a cozy hominess to it, accented for me by the slightly frigid air that would come wafting in everytime the door opened (just like the drafty house I grew up in). While Chef Ryan was on his day off, I was greeted warmly by all the staff in a "we know you" kind of fashion, even though they've never seen me before. The waiters had an air of being extremely adaptable, whether service was to a full house with a wait list of 100 or to a semi-full house of those looking just to get out of the cold. My waiter was able to linger helpfully and discuss with me several wines, even going to search for one that was no longer on the menu, as he thought it just the thing for what I wanted in a wine. Though it was not in, he helpfully brought me back two wines to try, one Cab and one Pinot Nero, which he poured a healthy taste of. I ultimately chose the Pinot Nero, which was crisp and light. While I waited, I pursued the menu of small plates. I asked my waiter what he suggested was a good number of plates to order for two people. He answered that usually people get 3 small plates and 1 pasta. I inquired what a recommended amount would be for those not desiring pasta and he smiled knowingly, recommended 4-5 and said, "I think the small plate are the true stars. Pasta, while good, is not really what is unique about this place". All that said, it is very easy to be impressed and impressive with a half empty house, perhaps if I had waited 3 hours for a table my picture of the service would be quite different. But that said, knowing the reputation for a long wait, I would never show up at 7:30pm on a Thursday when there is usually a guaranteed wait and then complain that I had to wait. That is plain silliness, sometimes you have to wait for things that are amazing, after all have you ever tried to get a table at French Laundry, (not that there is a comparison here, at all)?

My mom arrived and after discovering that, while they do have hard alcohol, they don't have any Canadian or even Irish Whiskey, my mom tucked into a dark oatmeal stout beer and we threw ourselves headlong into deep conversation. She put me in charge of ordering, as much of the menu leaves a lot to the imagination in terms of what a dish actually is. Many of the items are simply a star ingredient, followed by accompanying ones. She shies away from seared items, since she is not a fan of raw meat or fish and so I decided on four items to start us off with the option to add more if we were still hungry. The items come out as the are ready and so there is no order to it, a simple "enjoy it as it comes" air. I ordered the Buffalo Mozzarella with Argula and Pine Nuts and fig paste, Roasted Beets with Shallot, White Balsamic & Pistachio, Frisée & Pear Salad w/ Parmesan and Salami and the Roasted Venison w/ Sunchoke, Watercress, Pistachio. In a lot of ways a measure of a restaurant's greatness is not how good the food is when you are focusing your attention on it and noticing it, but instead its ability to pull you out of whatever deep conversation or interaction, for only a moment to register how delicious it is and then seamlessly drops you back into your moment nearly only having one breathe passed. The Roasted Beets were tender, perfectly dressed and played extremely well with the shallots and pistachios. The Buffalo Mozzarella was a delicious and smooth bite that carried me for a second back to the streets of Venice. The Roasted Venison took a notoriously tough cut of meat and made it moist and flavorful and was complimented with a sunchoke and pistachio puree that had me making eyes at licking the plate. We finished off the meal with the Frisee and Pear Salad, that was playful, fresh and crisp. Each component was subtle and understated, yet not unnoticed, in a word: balanced.

At many other restaurants I have been, the food would have been a loss to me during such an intense and interesting conversation as we were having. I think it speaks immense volumes that it wasn't. The food was all very subtle, yet was able to draw me to notice it, even mid-sentence. Every bite built on the flavor and there was just enough to tantalize you, draw you in and leave you with an empty plate at the precise moment that you think, well just one more bite. A bite I might add that is usually one too many. It was masterful. Four plates for the two of us was sufficient and we couldn't even imagine heaping pasta on top of the small plates we had enjoyed. Pasta, it seemed, would have been immensely anticlimactic.

In the end, I enjoyed my evening in a way that I often envision dining out should be; comfortable, enjoyable, trailing off as you part feeling as if you could linger another minute or hour. In alot of ways, while I was predisposed to having a high opinion of the place, I was even more predisposed to be disappointed since I came in with huge expectations and unrealistic high hopes. They started out behind the 8 ball, trying to live up to a idealized picture that is hopelessly impossible to live up to. When I left the restaurant, I felt like I should be panting and sighing a big "phew that was close". In a way, Jesus-turned-chef & Ethan Stowell did save. They saved restaurant go-ers from a world of restaurants failing to live up to the hype, restaurants failing to deliver on their potential and failing, which is a fundamental goal in running a restaurant I would think, to beckon its patrons back through wind, sleet, snow, ice or 3 hr long waits. How to Cook a Wolf did not fail, it triumphed.
And I found myself, in all things about the evening, still able to be surprised.

How To Cook a Wolf on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Craft Atlanta

I recently saw the movie Twilight and although I enjoyed it well enough, I walked out wondering if I hadn't read the books if I would have been able to make the leaps of plot line that were done. It was like a Cliff's Notes version of the book. Tonight, I went to Craft Atlanta and had a similar experience. I kept wondering if I was missing something that I would somehow have been able to reference if I had been to the original in New York. Craft is Tom Colicchio's family of restaurants, the original Craft was awarded three stars by The New York Times naming Craft “a vision of food heaven”. I adore Top Chef and Tom Colicchio and so when my dad suggested I take Fran there for dinner, I was keen. I feel like my food sensibilities jive with Colicchio's vision of simple foods prepared extraordinarily. He doesn't try to use fancy tricks, spins or angles, he simply brings out what is good in the ingredients, spices them well and lets them shine. At least that is what I have gleamed from him in the 4 seasons of Top Chef and rudimentary glimpse into his background. And so, I was looking forward to seeing his vision at work, even if he himself had no part in the preparation of the food that would be put on my table.

I haven't had the opportunity to try many restaurants in their first week after opening (which you should note, is not the best time to visit a new restaurant since they haven't gotten things right) and so we snapped up a 6:30 table for two since my dad would be away and thus not able to take his girlfriend, Fran out for her birthday. Right off the bat, I enjoyed the ambiance with attentive, but not overbearing staff. I enjoyed the restaurant design and was pleased with the two person booth we were seated at that gave enabled us to look out across the dining floor and witness all the action. The leather booth was comfortable, the colors and textures nice and the only thing that seemed out of place were two odd pillows which I would only later assume were to rest your head on when you were bored to sleep by the food.

The menu itself was straight forward, broken down by course and then preparation and then ingredient. It sounds more complicated than it is. For example, under First Course there is sauteed then underneath that ingredients prepared using that method. Similarly, there is Salad and then a list of types of greens that were the salad highlight. The dishes are served family style and so each appetizer is perfect size to share, but more than one person would want for themselves of one item, so collaboration is essential with your dinner companions. For our main courses we had the Colorado Lamb Shoulder and Loin and the Braised Beef Short Ribs, as our meat component (as it is a la carte) and roasted brussel sprouts and Jerusalem artichokes as our sides.

We had a Burgundy Chardonney with our appetizer that fit the dry, not to sweet bill that Fran was looking for. It also paired well with our first courses. When they arrived, they indeed came family style in larger serving dishes. The confounding thing was: in a restaurant where they are going to charge you $11 for a simple pile of arugula and Parmesan cheese, why did they provide you with serving utensils that insisted on having to use your hands to get it to your plate? Single serving utensil ( a fork to serve salad) aside, the arugula salad was unimaginative and under-dressed. I like my salads barely dressed, but I would like at least a minor indication that there is at least a light drizzle of good olive oil and some salt. The shrimp were delicious and seasoned, salted and buttered to perfection.

For dinner we tried a good Cab, which we again enjoyed by the half glass, i.e. a 3 oz pour. With a mostly satisfying first course behind us, we were looking to be impressed by our main courses. All things being equal, at this point in the evening we were simply enjoying a decent meal at what could have been any run of the mill overpriced faux-foodie restaurant. Again served family style, the portions were perfect. Our main waiter (since we had more than four) earned many bonus points for not trying to oversell on side dishes indicating pre-order that 1 first course, 1 main course and 1 side dish would be sufficient to satisfy. Fran and I shared our dishes, portioning out half of each item to our plates, this time utilizing our dinner forks to serve the food since once again the serving utensils confounding (a small fork to serve brussel sprouts?). I took my first few bites of each slowly, waiting for the flavors to dance along my palate and delight my taste buds, but all I got was a very, very faint whisper of flavor. The flavor, I felt, was there but it was just falling flat. There was no pop to the dish, there was nothing brightening the dish. I did a quick scan of the table and turned to Fran. "Salt" I said, "This seriously needs salt." If you are going to let ingredients stand for themselves, you need to make them pop. These dishes had no indication that a pinch of salt had even been in the same kitchen. The brussel sprouts not only needed salt, they needed a squeeze of lemon. Time and time again, I am reminded why people hate brussel sprouts: because they keep being served tasteless, squishy mini-cabbages like these.

I imagined in my head what the judges table would have been like if Tom had been served these dishes and I guarantee he would have said they needed salt and that they weren't anything special. While the braised short ribs were so tender I could cut them with a fork, you'd be hard pressed in a fine dining establishment to find ones that weren't. Again, salt needed. The $42 Colorado lamb was more disappointing. At least the short ribs were modestly flavorful, the lamb, which should be evoking "wow"s at that price, instead produced a more quizzical, "huh?". Our entire experience could have been salvaged if sea salt, hell, any salt was on the table. None of the waiters came back around during our meal, so we were unable to ask for any salt and furthermore, both of us felt that if the chef intended it the way he served it, than that is what he will be judged on and I am not going to insult the chef. But really, I mean (in the vein of Top Chef)... did you taste your food before you served it?

As I mentioned, our perch along the back wall, allowed us an excellent view of the dinner go-er's who all seemed to be playing out their own Cliff's Notes version of life. From the Southern Bell girl with her awkward fiancee and his parents and brother making stiff, contrived small talk to the business man who was dominating his table of four and the surrounded vicinity completely with a voice that was like a cheese grater across your ear drums, Fran and I couldn't help but fall into a heap of laughter because of how contrived it all seemed. The entire experience had so much potential and their is nothing worse than wasted potential. With a service staff that is on point from wine suggestions to leading your personally to the WC, impeccable interior design and execution and a reputation that will have foodies fist fighting for reservations, you wish there were more than just a single bright spot.

And at least there was a bright spot. Dessert. Every birthday girl wants to end her birthday with an amazing well-deserved indulgence. I was feeling trepidation about dessert since everything else had been so average, I wondered if it would be even worth the calories. Seriously. I let Fran decide on something and ordered a very safe small scoop of malt ice cream (again with the single ingredient menu options). Fran ordered a Hazelnut Cake with a honey anglaise and cardamon ice milk. With barely a half a bit, Fran was swooning and oohing and aahing over how delicious her dessert was and my scoop of ice cream, was bright, crisp and had excellent flavor.

I really wanted to like this restaurant. I wanted to be impressed. I am probably more forgiving than most would be if they paid nearly $250 (with only $30 worth of wine) for a sub par meal, that would have been probably done better at home. That is not the point of going out though, is it. Dining out is about being impressed, tasting things you couldn't possibly achieve without serious culinary mastery (or at least feel that way). I won't come down on Craft Atlanta for failing to impress me, especially in their first week.

I completely agree that it is not "fair" to give a restaurant one chance at greatness and then vow not to return. I am not vowing not to return, that would be a bit harsh. I am sure if someone else wanted to go there (specifically) and wanted to pay, I would happily go along. It really comes down to the heavy price tag, that is a huge barrier and considering I no longer live in Atlanta, even bigger. And also in life, we sometimes only have one opportunity. I do find it ironic that this is the restaurant about which we are discussing the "one shot"/ one chance judgment since Tom Colicchio and the rest of the judges on Top Chef are making decisions based sometimes not even on one entire meal, but one entire bite and their decisions make or break or at the very least change the career of those they make the judgment about. Yes, they are highly trained, that is the context, etc. But fundamentally, I do believe that we all, whether opening a restaurant or anything else in life, should strive to operate as if we only get one chance and then if we do fail in any way, be open to feedback in order to do better in case we get another opportunity.

I am not married to my opinion of the restaurant. If someone wanted to try and change my mind, then great. But I am also not going to withhold my public opinion on the restaurant just because it was in its infancy. In fact, I think putting out there early reviews is a great way for a restaurant to get outside perspective on the things that they need to change and adjust during that infancy. If everyone gave it rave reviews, what would there incentive be to learn, adapt and become better?

As I stated, I genuinely wanted and do want the restaurant to be good. Why would I want someone whom I admired to fail? Why would I want anyone to fail. As a "non-professional" food reviewer, I have the highest hope that every meal I'll enjoy will be amazing and worthy of praise.

Craft did not fail. They are just not there yet. Maybe they will be at some point. I am interested to see if they do get there. If someone wants to change my mind, I am all for it!

Craft Atlanta on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Food Porn and the perpetual pursuit of the perfect brussel sprout


I am going to be evil for a second and post a bunch of pictures of wonderful things that I cooked while I was in Seattle & SF, including Thanksgiving dinner, but not post their recipes. Ok, ok, I apologize. I'll post the one I made today because it was so damn delicious and I am always trying to cajole people into eating brussel sprouts (and I gave the info for to the ones that aren't original). I just don't really have the time as I am packing up to head back home to Seattle after more than 3 months of working in Atlanta. I am excited, I think. I am not sad to leave Atlanta, but I am not dying to get back "home". I really feel like "home" is something I have internalized so much more in the last year that I have become comfortable and felt rooted even when I just had a backpack full of stuff and shoes on my feet. Its a nice feeling, but at the same time when you don't feel driven and compelled to be in a specific place, you have so many options open to you. And when you have infinite options yet haven't really followed your own heart or been guided by your own desire for a long time, it is hard to know which way to go or whether to just stay put. I am excited to see how things unfold. I am off on a new journey in a lot of ways and as the new year comes swiftly towards us, I am looking forward to it with great zeal.

Delicious Food from Squid & Ink in Seattle. A must get: Fried Pickles! They are delicious

Thanksgiving:

Roasted Garlic Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Amazing homemade gluten free gravy

Homemade cranberry sauce with nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon

Vibrant Green Beans with Shallots : Good enough, I would have gone without everything else just to have room to eat more!

Rice Bread Stuffing

Turkey


Homemade Spelt Bread

Homemade Spelt Bread

Mashed Potatoes w/ sauteed red cabbage, shallots and garlic

BBQ Brussel Sprouts w/ Tempeh, Apple and Persimmon

BBQ Brussel Sprouts w/ Tempeh, Apple and Persimmon

The idea for these brussel sprouts came to me in several parts and through many test kitchens. I tried a Brussel Sprout and Apple recipe from 101cookbooks and found it absolutely delicious and thus knew the apples would do well. However, the BBQ tempeh part and the persimmon parts came later when I was waiting with my friend Lauren for a pickup order for her at a restaurant and a BBQ'd chicken pizza went by. I thought suddenly thoughts about the brussel sprouts and apple flavor combo and how it would absolutely pop with a good BBQ element. I decided that a homemade baked tempeh with a BBQ glaze would do perfectly and the persimmons would freshen the dish amazingly.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup Amy's organic BBQ sauce
1/4 Agave sweetened ketchup
about 2.5 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
2 TBSP roasted & minced garlic

1 package garden veggie tempeh
1 pink lady apple, diced small
1 persimmon, diced small
2 cups shredded brussel sprouts
2 tbsp earth balance spread or olive oil, divided
2 tbsp Amy's organic BBQ sauce
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. On the stove top, bring enough water to a boil to steam the tempeh. When the water is boiling, steam tempeh for 2-3 minutes until it softens up a bit. While that cooks, combine the BBQ sauce, ketchup, soy sauce and garlic in a small bowl, stirring to combine. When the tempeh is tender and pliable, remove from steamer and crumble into a bowl, it should be smallish pieces about the same side as the dice you will do on the fruit. Pour the sauce mixture on top and stir to combine. In a small baking dish or aluminum foil mock baking dish, pour the mixture and spread until in a thinnish layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes while you cut up your fruits and veggies. You can cook it longer, but I was getting too excited to wait. You are baking it to help intensify the flavor and remove some of the liquid. Remove from oven and divide in half, saving half for later. In a skillet over medium high heat, heat 1 TBSP of earth balance or olive oil. I had to use earth balance as I was out of olive oil. Put half of the tempeh (half of the original amount, i.e. what you didn't save for later!) in the pan and cook until it starts to brown and get crispy, 8-10 minutes, it really depends on how long you baked it for. I am pretty sure as I develop the recipe further, I will find a better balance. The only benefit of baking, then crisping is that you can make extra baked tempeh for another recipe for later. Once the tempeh starts to get some crispy bits, add the apple in and saute for another 2-3 minutes, just until the apple is cooked through. Salt and pepper to tast. Remove the tempeh apple mixture from the pan and set aside on a plate. Heat the second TBSP of oil in the same skillet, no need to wash it and saute the brussel sprouts until they start to get crispy and tender, about 4 minutes. Add the tempeh and apples back and toss to combine. Heat another minute. Add diced persimmon and the remaining 2 TBSPs of BBQ sauce and cook 1 more minute until everything is warm. Salt and Pepper more to taste. Plate and top with avocado.

Serves 2 with a side of mashed potatoes or better yet, maple smashed sweet potatoes or chili spiced sweet potato fries. Or serves 1 as a single dish (if you are a hungry runner). Use the leftover BBQ baked tempeh to make a sloppy joe or as a stuffing for a stuffed bell pepper with cheese (or vegan cheese) and rice. Ummmm the possibilities.

Oh yes, in the new year look for my blog to blossom into an out and out website with searchable recipe index and all sorts of good stuff!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

CIM Race Report- The cherry on the top of my sundae


I have been MIA from blogging for the past two weeks due to spotty Internet service, forgetting my card reader in Seattle and all that happens, when I have a ton to talk about, recipes to post, pictures to share. Alas, it is just going to have to float off into the ether and be lost forever since trying to go back just sets you up for getting more behind. So instead, while I am here, I will just charge ahead boldly and get my CIM Race Report. I signed up for CIM many months ago knowing the course, liking its PR potential but at the same time knowing it was narrowly a month after the World Championship 100k and thus kind of negates those things in a lot of ways. While I definitely felt like I could go out and run forever in the subsequent weeks after the 100k, I definitely didn't wasn't feeling like dropping my mile pace down to the mid 6's was going to be all that possibly. I love CIM though and I decided to run it because I love the race, its a good course, it gave me the opportunity to see lots of friends, and finish off the year with (hopefully) a good marathon.

This week has not been one for instilling confidence in my marathon hopes. Last Sunday, I paced the bestest everest Jonathan to a PR at Seattle Marathon in 2:59. I felt comfortable and even though my legs had been touchy when I started pacing him at mile 8, they loosened up and we were flying. Even the final 5 miles when we dropped the pace to sub 6:20s felt good. The rest of this week sucked and even when I arose this morning, things were not feeling good. Not injury bad, but just I've put in some good work and its time for a mini-off season sore. I ate my pre-race food, banana and a vega shake and headed outside to get the shuttle. There was a long wait for the bus and I barely got onto a bus by 6am, when I had lined up at 5:30. The bus ride is 40 minutes and the race starts at 7am, so my 20 minute planned warmup was out the door. I literally had time to use the bathroom, run to the elite tent and take off my sweats and sprint out to do a stride or two before the gun was going off. I was surprised that the race started on time since there were people wrapped around the block waiting for the buses when I got on and I barely made it!

The thing about this race is that it was my first time having elite status. I didn't internalize that as pressure but I did want to make a good showing. And we're off. The thing about CIM is that it really lends itself to pushing out every drop you have and still allowing you to get to the promise land. It has great coastable downs and not severe ups. The only thing that was not looking promising was the weather. It was cold in the low 40s and very overcast. While I have been training in colder, my legs are in need of a bit more warmth than my shorts provided.

The first mile went by in 6:07. Wow, I thought I feel way comfortable at that pace, cool! But I knew I should back off to my planned 6:18 pace (2:45 marathon). My plan was the thing I would absolutely NOT recommend: run as hard as I can until I can't, then try to hang on. This strategy only applies to my situation since I knew that no matter what pace I set out at, my legs only had so many miles left in them for the year. I settled in though and my pace vacillated between 6:15 and 6:18. Whether or not my pace actually varied that much is a mystery as I simply went off what the course monitors yelled at each mile marker. I felt good and I felt hungry. Not stomach hungry, but let's see what this old dog can do against a very elite field of woman who are rested, tapered and ready for the race. I was very aware early on of the sensation that I wasn't warming up, especially in my hamstrings. I focused on staying very relaxed and was really comfortable at the sub 6:18 pace. I have to say it really excites me to know that I can feel so comfortable at that pace for so long. About 6 miles in, Sean Messiner, an amazing talented ultrarunner and acquintance from Bend, OR who works at the awesome Fleet Feet Bend came charging up from behind me, making up for lost time since he got caught in the hoarding masses at the start. He ended up PR'ing and running a 2:39, wow! I am so impressed.

I zoomed through the 10 mile mark in 1:03 and kept clipping along through the halfway mark in 1:22:30 exactly. I was on target for my not so secret heart's desire of a 2:45. I knew it was an outside chance of PR'ing by 7 minutes after the 100k, but I figured I wouldn't know unless I tried. I stayed comfortable, took a Hyper-Vespa at mile 12 and clipped along, frankly a bit bored as the course is not that stimulating. It is definitely a step down from the likes of Italy, Rhode Island and Vermont which all have been amazingly beautiful places to race. Around mile 18, I took another Hyper Vespa and a gel. The temperature actually dropped and I felt my body getting colder and colder. I managed to stay on a solid 6:18-6:20 pace and was not feeling fatigued or out of breathe at all. By mile 18, I was getting consistent calls for 6:20/mile pace which didn't surprise me as the course had leveled out a bit. My energy was great, but my legs were beginning to object. I went through mile 21 and all hell broke loose in my hamstring/glute connection. I tightened and cramped on both sides due to the cold. I considered for a minute that if I had an S!cap I would have taken it, in the hopes that it was electrolyte related, but as I was not sweating very much, it was unlikely. And since it happened in both legs, again unlikely. I was frustrated, as I slowed up in order to ensure #1 finishing and #2 not hurting myself. I reminded myself that this race was a celebration of an awesome year, the cherry on the top of my sundae and I could only do what I could do. I was in 7th place (women) at 21 but relinquished that to three strong ladies, pushing me out of the top 10, to 11th place. Bruised ego aside, there was nothing I could do to rewarm my legs. I stayed relaxed and brought it in with all I could. I knew I could PR even slowing dramatically.Mile 21 probably was nearly a 7 min/mile I am sure, and thankfully I managed to get back on track at a 6:27/mile pace which, if I could hold, would squeak me in under 2:50 and hand me an awesome PR and give me an official sub 2:50 which I had been robbed of at Breakers Marathon. I tried to push as others kicked (men) did and I pushed as hard as I could as we hit the mile 25 sign. I was at a 2:42 and change with 1.2 to go. Despite my hamstrings still not obliging, I just let it all hang out. I hit the mile 26 sign with less than 1min 50 between me and 2:50, having just hammered out a 6:10. I rounded the familiar corner to the capital and again into the women's side of the finish line, the clock shining in front of me. I sprinted, I didn't care I was driven, I would make it or die trying. I had lost my initial pie in the sky goal, moved out of the top 10, I was not giving up on what I really wanted. With every last drop of what my hamstrings had I crossed the finish line 2:49:51! A PR by 3 minutes and my first of many (I hope) sub 2:50s. I was gathered up at the finish line and taken to the elite post-race room, feeling no worse for the wear except my hamstrings. In fact, I felt like I could have gone for a jog and it probably would have felt awesome. I met up with Peter Defty, my Vespa sponsor and chatted. Peter was a great support and has helped me tremendously this year through Vespa sponsorship, friendship and just plain good conversation. I also reconnected with Kate Lindell of the San Francisco based Impalas, who coming back from injury ran her first post-injury race (and was one of the ladies that passed me in the last 5 miles) in an amazing 2:45. It was great to chat with her.

While I have a tinge of disappointment because I didn't get my 2:45, how can I be upset when I ran strong, felt great and simply got knocked by environmental factors outside of my control. I still PR'd only a month after my "A-race" 100k and finished off my year with a great showing in a very, very competitive race. All of my marathon PR's have come while peaking for a(nother) race, so I am stoked that I can run a huge PR while trying to recover from a big race. It makes me excited to rest up and get training for Boston where I will be targeting a 2:40! What a year its been, it has been a good one and I continue to grow and develop as a runner, as well as enjoy the heck out of myself!

I paused for a moment when I was still feeling less than happy with my race today and thought about my year in its entirity. I have raced well, won races on every type of terrain and distance and as I said really enjoyed myself. I won 2-50ks, 1 50 miler, 1 100miler, 2 marathons (including 2 sub 2:50's for the marathon distance, though CIM was the only official), placed in the top 10 in the world and after all that, did what I did yesterday, that is pretty cool and it makes me hungry and excited for next year. I am blessed to have had such a good year and I can only hope that I will be able to continue running long, hard, happy, fast and healthy for a long time.

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