Friday, July 16, 2010

What Would Alix Do has moved!

You may have wondered why you haven't seen much from me lately... Turns out it's because I've been busy in my new neighborhood, sprucing up the place and getting ready for you to visit me there.

Come find What Would Alix Do at under the WWAD tab, and check out recent posts on The Tin Table, Cantinetta and my adventures at Burning Beast.

Oh, and a favor to ask: In my migration from Blogspot to WordPress I've lost my original email subscription, so please take a minute to re-subscribe to new blog posts, or subscribe for the first time if you haven't yet. (Really? Not yet??)

Thanks, all!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Mindful eating DOES include
Ginger Chocolate Chip Bars

I’ve been lucky, food-wise. I didn’t have any food allergies growing up, and don’t seem to have developed any as an adult. Just the usual stuff about getting older and being more careful about what I eat -- the results of a recent cholesterol test suggest that perhaps I be a bit more restrained on my intake of pork belly and foie gras -- but otherwise I’ve been able to amble quite happily through all kinds of eating. I haven’t had to structure my choices around shouldn’t or can’t; more likely it’s “I tried the tripe pho and it just really wasn’t my thing.”

Interesting, then, that within the last several weeks I’ve been spending time with two people for whom gluten intolerance is a real issue. My first thought was: Horrors! No bread or pasta? (and as a big baker…) No baked goods!? My first reaction was shouldn’t and can’t, when really it just means thinking a little bit more about what you’re eating -- not a bad thing for any of us. That might include seeking out restaurants with good wheat-free options, and as you might expect this is a task that I plan to embrace with great enthusiasm. Already we’ve had a great meal from the gluten-free menu at Tango on lower Capitol Hill. And I was impressed to learn, during dinner at Volterra in Ballard, that they have started making gluten-free pasta and you just need to let them know when making your reservation that you’re interested in said pasta. I also hear tell of a fantastic little spot in Greenwood called Wheatless in Seattle, though I have yet to check it out…

With my gluten antennae firmly in place, last week I moved to a more advanced level of food awareness when I, along with my visiting mother, moved in with my nieces for the week. I knew that the youngest had recently been put on a diet that excluded the broad categories of gluten and dairy, but when I arrived and read through the list of can’ts there were also things like onion and garlic. So I went back through the recipes I had carefully amassed to see what could work with these new restrictions and sure enough, I had to shift my thinking once again. It’s good for me, this business of eating mindfully. Or at least mindfully in a way that doesn’t just include appreciating fresh ingredients and careful preparation, but also the specific components of each meal.

I am pleased to report that this meal of marinated flank steak, roasted asparagus and red potatoes that look suspiciously Yukon Gold-y was a big hit, and was delicious (if I do say so myself) while meeting all dietary requirements. Luckily the hectic schedules of two very busy girls meant that someone else preparing the food was sometimes the better option, so the chicken teriyaki at Himitsu and gluten- and dairy-free pizza from Garlic Jim’s also figured prominently in my week.

Remember my initial reaction and the horror at no longer being able to bake if gluten-restricted? I had been doing some research over the last few weeks, reading about all of the ways to replace wheat flour in various recipes. While I may eventually make my own flour mixture, for the moment I’m using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour with great results. One square of these Ginger Chocolate Chip Bars is about all my youngest niece can have for the moment, until dairy is less of an issue, but the successful substitution of the non-wheat-y flour means that they are good to go for the gluten intolerant of the world. And quite delicious, if I do say so myself.

Ginger Chocolate Chip Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°. Use cooking spray to coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line it with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into 32 bars.

[Thanks to Real Simple for the original, wheat-y version of this recipe]

Friday, May 7, 2010

Columbia City: Lottie’s Lounge & Full Tilt Ice Cream

There isn’t anything fancy about Lottie’s Lounge, but being there for one recent happy hour did make me a little sad that I don’t live in Columbia City and thus probably won’t be making it my regular hangout. My neighborhood tour guide for the evening told me that Lottie’s had experienced a revamp not too long ago, and they seem to have struck the right balance of casual and accessible, while being warm and inviting. I'm a fan of the exposed brick wall juxtaposed with another that’s a sort of pumpkin orange, and black and white prints that echo the black and white checkerboard floor. The old timey fixtures over the bar and restaurant space and super-friendly bartender and server make it the kind of place that you want to hang out for a while.

Luckily, the price point at Lottie’s makes that entirely doable. And yes, that is a bloody mary you see in the photo, just the right thing to go along with their slightly upscale selection of sandwiches. That evening we sampled the B.A.T. with crispy smoked bacon, arugula, tomato and garlic-shallot-sage butter, and the Roast Beef Dip with melted provolone and grilled onions, served with mushroom au jus for dipping. You know how the wrong bread can really kill a sandwich? The good news is that the opposite is equally true, and it was the mini baguettes from neighbor Columbia City Bakery that really puts these over the top.

I’d heard about Full Tilt Ice Cream, that funky shop with locations in White Center, Columbia City and the U-District, for a little while now. But it wasn’t until I was at a friend’s party where one of the owners of Full Tilt also happened to be in attendance and happened to have brought some fantastic ice cream, that I really thought about making a trip there.

How fortuitous, then, that even after a bloody mary or two and a couple of great sandwiches, my CC tour guide was up for a walk down the street to Full Tilt. The salted caramel ice cream was fantastic -- dare I say maybe even better than Molly Moon’s -- but it’s the super-casual vibe of the place that makes it so fun. I mean, great ice cream and classic video games like Ms. Pac Man? Who wouldn’t love that?

Lottie's Lounge on Urbanspoon

Full Tilt on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It’s my party, and I’ll charge if I want to?

Dear Alix,

My birthday is just around the corner and I need to come up with a plan. Since it generally falls on or near Memorial Day I tend keep it low key as many people leave town; small groups over to my apartment for drinks, meet friends out at the bar, nothing major.

This year I have come up with something a little more fun. I would like to host a dinner party for about 20 guests.

The party would start with a cocktail reception in my apartment and then move across the hall to a vacant unit for a seated dinner. I would rent the necessary tables and chairs and set up, what I believe to be a great dining room with minimal decor that would allow for maximum impact. Being that I am in the event planning business I have access to discounts on most items, including a great caterer, rentals, and wine and I am positive it would be a great party.

So here is my question: Is it appropriate to ask my invited guests to bring $30 per person to subsidize the costs of this party? I would love to be able to pay for this all on my own, but being 26, going on 27, and in the event industry, my pockets are not that deep!

$30 for your thoughts,

- Penny-less Planner

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear Penny-less Planner,

Ooh, that’s a tough one, and I know whereof you speak: That desire to throw a fabulous party, if only you had the cash to make it spectacular.

The only catch is that really, you can’t ask your friends to pay to attend your birthday party. Unless you put a bit of a twist on it, of course…

How about making it a fundraiser instead, where you donate all proceeds from the dinner to a particular cause or charitable organization? In inviting your 20 favorite people, you could explain that you want to spend your birthday with them, have the chance to throw a great party, and benefit a worthy cause all at the same time. Perhaps you could let them know that in lieu of a birthday gift the suggested donation for the evening is $40, but if they felt inclined they might give more. And depending on the selected organization you might even have a thematic d├ęcor element present itself. Zebra-print table runner in honor of the Woodland Park Zoo?

If all goes well, you’ve covered your costs and you have at least $200 to donate to a good cause. Maybe you really can have your cake and eat it, too.

Happy early birthday, and good luck!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Modern dance gets personal

You know those times when you haven’t traveled far from home, yet you experience something far afield from your everyday? One of those for me is the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe. Although I grew up going to the Spokane version, I guess I just hadn’t been to a fair in quite a long while because it all seemed very foreign. Amazing that just a hop, skip and a jump from my usual urban Seattle life were blue-ribbon canned vegetables, pot bellied pig races, deep fried Snickers bars and towering carnival rides. I love that this kind of thing is easily accessible and exists so close to me, if only for a couple of weeks a year.

I had another one of those experiences lately when I got to be a part of a sliver of a new work by much-acclaimed local contemporary dancer, KT Niehoff. You might recognize her name as co-founder and former director of the newly relocated Velocity Dance Center, or as Artistic Director of now 12-year-old collaborative troupe of dance professionals, Lingo. It’s through Lingo’s newest project, A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, that I had a recent and very personal look into the world of contemporary dance. Glimmer, as described on her website:

“In 2006, KT began investigating the relationship between audience and artist with the primary goal of creating a more tangible intimacy between the two. This search has led her to seek out more potent environments that ask the performer and the witness to confront each other as unique individuals who bring to the exchange their personal histories and desires. A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, in all its forms, is an outcropping of this search.”

Cool, huh? Especially once you learn about all of the facets of the project: a culminating performance at ACT Theatre; for those same ACT performances, pre-show (!) cocktails with a cast member; dancers as kinetic sculptures throughout the Seattle Art Museum; and something titled One Performer/One Recipient/Many Locations. It’s that last piece in which I got to participate and let me tell you, really hit the mark on the tangible intimacy described above.

In a nutshell, the Glimmer cast was tasked with creating 30 solos for individuals, to be custom-made based on interactions with each person and performed in public locations throughout the city. The process began with a questionnaire -- things like sweet or savory? what items are currently in your pocket? what is the last thing you lost? what is a Seattle location you love? -- followed by more detailed conversations to really get a sense of the person. My friend was the one who sent in the questionnaire and got to experience this whole process, and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the performance.

And the performance? Wow. It turned out that Glimmer cast member Kelly Sullivan invited us into her home for the experience, yet another step in that intimacy for which the project was striving, I thought. Her dancing was powerful, vulnerable, beautiful and spot-on given my friend’s reaction as the solo finished. I was grateful to have been included in something so unique and magical, and again, amazed that this whole world of dance exists all around me. It just happens to be a community that I’m not very familiar with, that I don’t plug into on a regular basis.

If you didn’t luck into participating in the one-to-one performances, or seeing the dancers at SAM, you still have the chance to experience the project at the culminating performance of A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light at ACT through May 15. Can’t wait to see what this piece of the project will look like…

One of the surprising and wonderful outcomes of Kelly’s performance was that we got to meet her boyfriend, Eli Rosenblatt, a very talented artist in his own right. Eli played the guitar as Kelly danced, and the two of them together were absolutely lovely -- and I thought that even before we were treated to tea and breakfast and great conversation. It turns out that Eli has quite a schedule of performances of his own, and I’m excited to add these to my plans to see Glimmer at ACT. Find out more about Eli and his music on his Monarch Duo website, and hear him this Wednesday night at Nectar in Fremont.

Who knew that such great connections could come out of one interaction? KT Niehoff, I suspect.