Monday, March 28, 2011

Gov. John McGraw

By Karen

While discussing Seattle's eclectic history today with my boss, the topic of the city's checkered past in its treatment of Chinese residents came up.  Just over a century ago, bands of vigilante citizens would get together and hold race riots to round up and attack Chinese residents to "encourage" them to return home.  This reminded me of an article I read about former Washington Governor John McGraw, who was recently honored with a statute in downtown Seattle.  At a time when the Chinese were not popular, he had the courage to stand up to the mob to defend those who were being treated unjustly, even risking his own life.  An inspiring reminder to stand up for others and to fight for what is right.

Photo Credit: Seattle Times
Excerpt of article from the Seattle Times:
After running away from home in Maine, McGraw made his way west and ended up in Seattle, taking a job as one of four officers in the Seattle Police Department, Pattison said. He became police chief and later sheriff before being elected governor in 1892. He served just one term, from 1893-97.

Pattison said McGraw's proudest moment came in 1886 — 125 years ago this week — when as sheriff he repelled vigilantes who were trying to round up Chinese laborers in Seattle and send them back to China.

When the vigilantes from outside Seattle arrived, McGraw deputized 400 citizens to protect the Chinese. After some of the Chinese workers were put on a passenger ship to take them back to China, McGraw boarded the vessel and said it couldn't leave.

He told the Chinese that he would protect those who wished to stay in Seattle. Gunfire erupted, and a bullet went through McGraw's hat and two through his coat, Pattison said. The vigilantes finally ran away.

"The city of Seattle has done a wonderful job expanding and upgrading McGraw Park," said Pattison. "The land was bought after he died, entirely with private funds, and the statue was commissioned and erected with private funds as well — it was then turned over to the city."

After he was governor, McGraw worked with the Alaska gold rush, was president of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and president of First National Bank, Pattison said.

"But he told his daughter, Kate McGraw Sanford, my great-grandmother, that of all his accomplishments in life, he was most proud of standing firm against those who tried to extract Seattle's Chinese American community — which he viewed as against the Constitution and their right to liberty."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A few updates

By Karen

It's been a busy holiday season these past few months.  With Valentine's day around the corner, is it finally time to put away my Christmas tree?   A quick recap of holiday highlights in photos:

Thanksgiving in Portland

Xmas in Seattle at James's brother's house

Xmas in Portland at my parent's house
With the grandparents and all the cousins

New Year's at Ky and Tina's place on Queen Anne

James's 29th birthday celebration at Delancey

Chinese New Year's in Richmond, BC

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Tale of Two Tartares

By Karen

There were times when the thought of eating raw beef would send shivers down my spine, but times have changed, and now steak tartare is a delicacy that I really enjoy. 

Two of my favorite restaurants in Seattle have two very different and very delicous preparations of steak tartare: the French-influenced style at The Walrus and the Carpenter (which I had this summer as a part of my birthday dinner) and the Korean-influenced style at Kaya, which I have had a few times (most recently again this past weekend with my parents who were visiting). 

The French and Korean styles of tartare both feature seasoned raw beef topped with a golden-yellow egg yolk, but taste completely different.  Here is a comparison tartare lovers in the Seattle area:

French-American Steak Tartar at the Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard ($12)

The beef in The Walrus and the Carpenter's  tartare is finely minced and seasoned with mustard, cornichons, and herbs.  The texture is smooth and creamy, and goes fantastically well with the savory oiled toasts that accompany the tartare. 

Korean Steak Tartar at Kaya in Shoreline ($15)

The beef in Kaya's tartare is julienned into small strips and seasoned with  sesame oil, garlic, and pine nuts.  Strips of asian pear accompanying the tartare get mixed into the beef and egg yolk, adding a light sweetness to the dish.  Compared to the tartare at the Walrus and the Carpenter, this dish is lighter in beefy flavor and has a more distinct texture.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday festivities in and around Seattle!

 By Karen

A tiny little tree for my tiny little apartment!

Inspired by my cute little three-foot tree (and a bout of insomnia), I thought I'd share some of my favorite things to do in Seattle to celebrate the season.  (Warning: I love cheesy holiday stuff!)

1. Nutcracker by the Pacific Northwest Ballet at McCaw Hall:

The gorgeous set before the performance
The Nutcracker is  one of the most popular ballets in the world.  It is not the most high-brow of ballets, but is one that can be enjoyed by almost anyone regardless of whether they are young or old and whether it their first ballet or their fiftieth.  I began attending the Nutcracker in high school, when my dear ballerina friend Natalie performed in in local productions in Portland, and my friends and I would go to watch her perform.  PNB's production of the Nutcracker is one of the most extravagant, beautiful, and fun productions of the Nutcracker I have ever seen.  It was thus no surprise to me that the New York Times recently reviewed PNB's Nutcracker to much praise.  The dance, the music, the sets, the costumes, and most of all, the story embody the holiday spirit like nothing else! Tickets range from $23 to $118. 

2. Christmas Ships by Argosy Cruises: 

The ships from Alki Beach
Seattle's landscape is defined by its lakes and surrounding waters, so a wintertime celebration on the water seems like the only proper complement to summertime's famed Seafair.  A few years ago, James surprised me by taking me out on the Argosy Christmas Cruise, where a choir on board a lead boat sings holiday songs that are projected over the water to various points (and people) on the shore.  The lead boat is followed by a parade of private boats decorated with lights.  Last year, James and I went with our friends Tim and Dimay to experience the Christmas Ships from the shore, and it was almost as fun as being on the lead ship itself (without the cost!).  The Christmas Ships take a variety of different routes, but the routes with the greatest parade of boats are the ones that are on Lake Washington.  Tickets for the lead boats range from $25 - $35 for adults and $12 - $19 for kids, but viewing from the shore is free! 

3. Garden D'Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens:  
A glimpse of the light spectacle
I have never seen the Bellevue Botanical Gardens during the day, but on winter evenings, it is a sight to behold.  The entire garden is covered in thousands of elaborate plant-themed lights, creating a unique and beautiful spectacle.  Tickets are $5.

4. Zoolights at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma:

If plant aren't your thing, Zoolights offers spectacular animal-themed lighting displays.  I loved going to the Zoolights at the Portland Zoo growing up, but have never made it to Zoolgihts at the Point Defiance Zoo.  However, my good friend Steve has been there, and and highly recommends it!  Tickets are $6.50 - $7.50.

5. Christmas Lighting Ceremony in Leavenworth: 

Downtown Leavenworth in the fall (photo c/o Phong and Duyen)
Every city has a tree lighting ceremony, but few go all-out like they do in Leavenworth, WA, a Bavarian-themed town set in the mountains about two hours east of Seattle.  When James and I went to Leavenworth in the wintertime a few years back, the sight of the adorable Bavarian buildings covered in snow already make it seem as though we had been transported Santa's Village in the North Pole.  On top of this already picturesque setting, the town hosts a ton of holiday events, including tree lighting ceremonies every weekend and performances every evening.  If you decide to go, make sure to check road conditions through the passes.  Free!

6. Snowflake Lane in Downtown Bellevue:
The corridor between the Bellevue Square Mall and Lincoln Square Mall fills with with foamy faux snow and real-life toy soldiers marching down the street with drums at 7:00 PM every evening during the holidays for a 15-minute show.  While you may not want to go out of your way to watch this show,  it is definitely worth stopping by if you happen by to be at the mall or in the area!  Free!

7. Ice skating at the Bellevue Downtown Park:
Skating with my friend Jennie, who can do all sorts of cool tricks on ice!
Something about gliding on ice can bring forth a sense of adventure and excitement in some... but for others, it can bring out a sense of fear and loathing.  I took a few ice skating lessons when I was a kid, and love the thrill of zipping around the ice, but James had never gone ice skating before until I dragged him a few years ago.  While he is otherwise incredibly coordinated on dry land, his internal gyroscope seemed to be completely thrown off the moment he set foot on ice.  Luckily, we went again last year my good friend Jennie, who was formerly a competitive figure skater.  She taught James a few tricks, and he finally started to get the hang of it!  If ice skating sounds like fun to you, the rink in the Bellevue Downtown Park is a must-do!  Tickets are $10 including skate rentals.

(Note: I have been to the ice skating rink at Seattle Center during the holidays, and it seemed chaotic verging on dangerous, so I would not recommend it.) 

Enjoying the sunshine in Negril, Jamaica
If the cold weather has got you down, consider running off to Jamaica as James and I did one winter while I was in law school.  The warm sunny beaches were a welcomed escape from the gloom of wintertime in Pacific Northwest.  Jamaica is generally not a place to go to soak in the local culture - doing so can be dangerous and is ill advised.  Instead, all inclusive resorts are the norm here, and if a relaxing getaway is what you need, this is the place!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spam Eggs Benedict

By Karen

Our good friend Steve recently invited us and a couple of friends to spend a weekend at his family's beautiful lake house in Bellingham, Washington (about two hours north of Seattle).  When James and I picked up groceries for the weekend, I grabbed eggs because every proper breakfast should include eggs, spam because our good friend Soo is a big fan of the notorious luncheon meat, and English muffins because I cannot resist those delicious nooks and crannies.  It wasn't until we arrived and were unloading groceries that somebody saw the ingredients and asked "Are we going to be having eggs benedict?"  And so it was that spam eggs benedict was born. 

Spam eggs benedict is just like traditional eggs benedict, but substituting spam for candian bacon.  This modificaition really added a nice and interesting flavor to this breakfast classic.  Say what you will about spam and the rumors surrounding the mysterious luncheon meat, but it tastes great in eggs benedict!

Spam Eggs Benedict

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - melted
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 8 eggs
  • 8 slices of spam
  • 4 english muffins - split
  • Salt and cyenne pepper to taste
  1. Make hollandaise:
    • Whisk lemon juice and egg yolks together vigorously in a stainless steel bowl
    • Place bowl over a pot of barely simmering water and slowly drizzle in melted butter while continuing to whisk rapidly (taking care not to "scramble" the eggs), and continue until thickened
    • Season with salt and cayenne pepper, remove from heat, and store in a warm spot
  2. Toast english muffins
  3. In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, brown spam evenly on both sides
  4. Bring water to a simmer in a pot and poach eggs
  5. Stack english muffins with spam, poached egg, and top with hollandaise

Friday, August 27, 2010


By Karen

 Chouquettes, fresh out of my oven

One of the highlights of the trip to Paris that James and I went on this summer was discovering and tasting chouquettes for the first time (and then many times again thereafter).  Chouqettes were, like many of the best things in life, a sweet surprise (which later inspired the name of this blog).

Our hotel was located in a residential neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower, and after a day or two, we quickly made it a habit to stop by the local patisserie for croissants and espresso.  In addition to to wonderfully flakey croissants, this bakery had a number of other breads, pastries, and curious looking treats.  One treat in particular caught my eye - chouquettes.  They were small, round, and golden brown with mysterious white flecks - I knew I had to try them.

While my high-school-level French was sufficient to ask "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" ("What it this?"), it was far too deficient to understand the answer.  (Honestly, I'm not sure why I even bothered to ask.)  After a flurry of incomprehensible French, I remained undeterred and ordered two of them  (my grasp of French was also too poor to understand that the chouquettes are generally only sold in bags of ten).

It was love at first bite. The chouquettes were, surprisingly, hollow on the inside, and consisted of a light, eggy dough studded with crunchy chunks of pearl sugar.  In a word - delicious.  James and I devoured our chouquettes, and quickly ordered a (proper) bag of ten to take with us.  

During the rest of our trip, chouquettes became a constant.  After our morning espresso and croissants, we would toss a bag of chouquettes in my purse and snack on them throughout the day.  We munched on them while waiting in line at the Notre Dame, snuck bites underground while waiting for the Metro, and took chouquette breaks to recharge us on our long walks around the city. 

When I returned home to Seattle, my stomach suffered withdrawals from the regular chouquette doses it received in Paris, and there were sadly none to be found in any of the bakeries in the city.  Luckily, one of the books I happened read in anticipation of going to Paris was The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, a well-known American pastry chef and author who loves in Paris.  This book is a collection of short essays with recipes that relate to each story, and was a fantastic read for its insight into finding the best pastries in Paris (and for its insight into Parisian life). 

Imagine my surprise (and joy!) upon coming home and discovering that the Sweet life in Paris had a recipe for chouquettes all along!  I have attempted David Lebovitiz's recipe several times now, and they are (surprisingly) easy to make and have turned out beautiful each time.  While the are not the same as those from the Patisserie in Paris, they still manage to hit the spot when a chouquette craving comes up.

Recipe for Chouquettes (adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup pearl sugar

  1. Position oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat oven to 425 degrees, and line baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a medium sized pot, heat water, salt, sugar, and butter, stirring until butter is melted and water begins to boil
  3. Remove pot from heat and dump in all flour at once, stirring rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan
  4. Allow dough to cool for two minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat
  5. Beat the eggs one at a time (by hand or with a mixer) until the paste is smooth and shiny
  6. Drop golf-ball sized mounds of dough by scooping with two spoons on the baking sheet, evenly spaced
  7. Sprinkle pearl sugar liberally over the top and sides of each mound
  8. Bake the chouquettes for 35 minutes, or until puffed and well browned 
  • This recipe makes about 25 chouquettes
  • The chouquettes are best eaten warm or at room temperature the same day they are made
  • Pearl sugar is an essential ingredient, and can be found on-line, at Scandinavian specialty stores (such as Scan Specialties in Seattle), or at some Ikea stores
  • I find that the best way to get maximum sugar coverage is to scoop out a mound of dough in one spoon, sprinkle pearl sugar on the dough over a bowl to collect the excess sugar, and then transfer the dough onto the baking sheet with a second spoon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ira Glass

By James

About two years ago, after I finished work, I was flipping through radio stations while sitting in some really bad traffic.  I happened to come upon NPR and started listening to a show called This American Life

The basic concept of the show was to have a particular theme, and to have usually 3-4 stories about that theme.  The particular show I was listening this particular afternoon was called Something For Nothing.  It was a simple concept that they were talking about, getting something for free, but then started going through a series of stories of how hard it is to truly get something for nothing.  One of the most entertaining that evening for me was about how some contestants could win a free truck simply by keeping their hand on a car.  Again, a simple concept, that becomes much more complicated than an average person realizes.

After listening to the whole one hour show (yes I was in traffic for over an hour), I became an instant fan of the show.  It has since become a show that I try to listen to regularly and makes sitting in Friday evening traffic much more pleasant.

On Saturday night, Karen and I got the opportunity to see Ira Glass speak at Benaroya Hall.  We found out about Ira Glass coming into town a couple of months ago and instantly bought tickets.  Despite the fact that we bought the tickets a couple of months in advance, we ended up in the upper deck, two rows from the very back.  We (and I assume a lot of people) bought tickets not even knowing what it was going to be about, but at this point we had become such big fans that it didn't matter.

It was truly strange, yet amazing, to me to think that here is a guy that I and many others have only heard on the radio.  He was having a show at Benaroya Hall talking about who knows what, and yet there we were there to see him.  The place was sold out and he received a rock star reception when he entered.  He sat down behind a single table, with just a mike and CD player.  He talked about what it takes to produce his show, his favorite clips, his funniest moments and whatever else he felt like such as what idealistic journalism is to him.  Overall it was a great talk and lasted two hours.

My personal top 3 favorite This American Life episodes:

1.  Something for Nothing - cause it's the first episode I ever heard.
2.  #1 Party School - about Penn State's reputation as the #1 party school in the nation and what life is like there from different perspectives.
3.  Nummi - about the auto industry in the 1960's and the struggles of the Nummi autoplant, which was a joint venture between Toyota and GM.