Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Eastside Dining Experience - The Flat Iron Grill in Issaquah

We here in Redmond are always looking for new places to dine and we're willing to drive a little ways to do it. A pleasant drive along Lake Sammamish - east or west side - will bring you to Issaquah and a new restaurant called The Flat Iron Grill.

Located in quaint Gilman Village it is the site of the former Iris Grill. My one visit to the Iris Grill left me with a few real obvious impressions - mediocre and overpriced cuisine, shaky service & LOUD. The reason it was noisy wasn't because it was crowded but because the space is large with cathedral ceilings and nothing to absorb sound. The Iris Grill tried to cover it up with piped in music but it actually made it worse.

The Flat Iron Grill has done quite a bit to remedy that situation by using multiple sound absorbers in the form of curtains, carpet and actual sound absorbing boards hung on the ceiling. The restaurant will still not make your quietest dining experience list but it is vastly improved. My dining partner and I never had any difficulty having a conversation or talking to our waitress.

The improvements help not only with the sound but also with the general ambiance by making the area feel warm and inviting. They have done the walls in warm brick colors and decorated with a lot of iron memorabilia and knickknacks. The overall impression is comfortable and pleasant.

Our reservations were for 730P on a Friday night and our table was ready when we arrived despite the fact that it was a quite busy. The service was pretty good overall, our waitress approached our table immediately to say she would be with us very soon, she had just begun to cross the line to "too long" and I had actually just opened my mouth to say something about it to my partner when she came back. The rest of the evening she was flawless.

They have an interesting wine list with some labels we were not familiar with. We tried the Haystack Needle Tempranillo '07 from Washington at 8.50 a glass and were moderately happy with it. As an appetizer I couldn't wait to try the Figlets - figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in nueske's smoked bacon - and they were very tasty. I could have used a skosh more sauce for rolling them in though.

Other appetizers included House made Mozzarella, Grilled Oysters and Salsify Flan plus a number of others. You could easily do a series of tapas for a meal at the Flat Iron Grill. Prices on the starters range from $8 to $16 a plate.

For our entree my partner chose the Jambalaya with chicken, chorizo and a selection of shellfish at $24 while I went with the Muscovy Duck served with sweet potato gnudi, roasted fennel, and arugula and blood orange marmalade butter sauce for $25. The Jambalaya, although it looked fairly unremarkable on the plate, was given two thumbs up by my companion and my taste was pretty good. The duck looked marvelous on the plate and was perfectly cooked but the topping was too salty. It might have been saved with a counter of the sweet marmalade but there was too little of it on the plate to make a difference. In fact, if I might just say, there were more words in the description of the sauce than there was actual sauce on the plate.

Overall though I give this new restaurant 3 stars out of 5 and I will definitely go there again soon even if it is just to eat some more of those Figlets. It is not inexpensive and you can expect to pay over a $100 for dinner for two with wine. There is also outdoor seating for those few warm nights on the Eastside in the summer. Go and enjoy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Honey-Soy Broiled Black Cod

Last year my husband and I went to the Boat Show at Shilshole Marina in Seattle. After the show we went to Ray's Boathouse and hit the bar upstairs for some outstanding sunset views and some grub. We ended up having a number of appetizers rather than entrees and one of those included a sample of smoked Sablefish.

Sablefish is also known as Black Cod and I was floored when I tried it at Rays for the first time. It is the silkiest tasting fish I have ever had. It practically melted in my mouth.

That's why when I was visiting Gemini Fish Market in Issaquah this week and spotted black cod in the case I jumped on it. Even though I never cooked black cod before I thought that most of my salmon recipes would work well with the fish because both have a high fat content. I brought out one of my favorite cookbooks, Salmon by Diane Morgan, to find the perfect match.

First I Googled black cod recipes and I found out that many chefs are using a Japanese approach to preparing this increasingly popular and sustainable fish. That included a very interesting looking recipe from Iron Chef Morimoto that I would like to try sometime. But for this time around I wanted to make it as simple as possible because my biggest fear was ruining this perfect piece of fish.

In Diana Morgan's book I found a recipe for Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon that definitely has a Japanese flair. It looked simple enough that not even I could make a mess of it and perfectly transferable from salmon to black cod. The results were beautiful and it was a huge hit in our house.


1 lb black cod fillet cut into 4 pieces, skin on

2 T soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup mirin

1 tsp peeled and finely grated fresh ginger

For Sauce

4 tsp wasabi powder

2 T fresh lime juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup honey

Combine 2 T soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin and ginger in small bowl. Pour over black cod fillets in small bag to marinate for 30 minutes. Do not marinate longer than 1 hour because it will begin to cook the fish.

Place all ingredients for sauce in small saucepan, mix, and heat over medium-high heat until it boils while stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and turns syrupy. Set aside and keep warm.

Place black cod fillets on cookie sheet skin side down. Put under broiler (about 3 to 4 inches below heat) and cook until it begins to color - about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn over so skin is up and broil another 3 to 4 minutes. Don't worry about skin burning since you will remove it before serving.

Remove fish from broiler and pull skin off the back. Place perfectly cooked fillet over bed of steamed rice and pour a nice dribble of the sauce over the whole thing. Enjoy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Spinach Caprese Salad with Garlic Croutons

Now that our Farmers Market in Redmond is open we have an opportunity to get lots of fresh produce, cheeses and bread. All of those delicious things are available in this terrific summer salad. If we can't get rid of the rain then we can pretend it's summer by eating it on a plate.

Nothing says summer more than a warm tomato and this salad has them in spades. Since it's a bit early yet for big fresh summer types I used sweet cherry tomatoes. Fresh mozzarella is available at a number of stalls at the market and you can find organic. The bread can also be purchased from the market - you can just use the leftover heel for the croutons.

This is an easy recipe to make. Start by preparing your croutons:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice up enough 1/2 inch squares of white bread for as many salads as you are making. Take 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, mince and add to a small pan of extra-virgin olive oil (2 T) over low heat. Cook until the garlic is just translucent. Spread croutons on cookie sheet, pour oil over croutons through a sieve, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and then turn to coat before placing in the oven. Bake for ten minutes or until croutons are crunchy and lightly golden.

For the salad take about a cup of cubed fresh mozzarella and drizzle with1T olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Toss together in bowl and set aside to come to room temperature.

Take about a cup and a half of cherry tomatoes cut in half and place in bowl. Chiffonade 2 Tablespoons of fresh basil and toss with tomatoes. Drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.

Combine the mozzarella and tomatoes together and then distribute on top of beds of baby spinach. Drizzle the remaining dressing from bottom of bowl on to salad and top with croutons. Ta dah!

Cowboy-Braised Short Ribs with Baked Black Beans and Cornbread

There really is nothing better than a well braised short rib so when I order from Thundering Hooves I always make sure that I get a few. It is also a good idea to eat your favorite cuts when you've cut your consumption of red meat. Eat what you like!

My mother has a fantastic recipe for short ribs that I've made many times that has a tomato based sauce with lots of onions and served over mashed potatoes. I have also braised my short ribs in wine and those have all turned out exceptionally tasty. But I was inspired to try something new and entirely mine this time around.

Our neighbor in the Methow Valley operates his own back-country packers outfit and has a herd of about 50 horses right below our humble cabin. He is required to cook for his guests in old cowboy fashion and it's usually all about the meat. Our own camping experiences have allowed me to experiment with cooking over a fire and it can be romantic for some and dirty for others.

I love doing a steak with a good rub and I found an excellent combination that included ground coffee, brown sugar, paprika, pepper, salt, etc. I called it my cowboy rub and it tastes beautifully over a fire or on a grill. I decided to try similar flavors in a short rib recipe - coffee, barbecue sauce, etc .

The results were sensational and could be easily transferable to a real camping situation. In fact, I would suggest you cook them a day ahead, remove the rendered fat from the surface of the sauce after it has cooled, and then reheat over the campfire. Preparing short ribs a day ahead for the purposed of removing the fat is common practice.


6 short ribs (about 4lbs)

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 T olive oil or 2 T rendered bacon fat (I used the 2 slices of cooked bacon in my baked black beans!)

2 onions thickly sliced

2 carrots sliced

2 celery stocks chopped

4 cloves chopped garlic

1 cup of your favorite bbq sauce (here is where you can add your own take - sweeter, hotter, etc.)

2 cups brewed coffee

1 cup beef broth

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat oil in large dutch oven (cast iron preferred). Season the short ribs with salt & pepper. Brown ribs in dutch oven on all sides over medium-high heat. Remove ribs, set aside, then add onion, carrots, celery to hot pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Put ribs back in pan and add barbecue sauce, coffee and beef broth. Cover pan and place in oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until falling off the bone tender. At this point you can cool for serving the next day or you can skim the excess fat off the surface of the sauce. If you'd like a thicker sauce you can remove the ribs, stir in 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with cold water, when thickened put ribs back in sauce. Can be served with baked beans and cornbread.