Sydney, my last meal...

It is seemingly a testament to the Aussies love for thier beers and that they are certainly not wimps in that department, as I could not find any non-alcoholic specimens to save my sober soul! being the designated driver in the bunch- a D.A.M.M.(read-drunks against mad mothers) dropout of 18 years, I have practically been on a constant I.V. of iced tea since the plane landed. Tonight's bites started with a "tall boy" of lime infused Black Tea sporting a fragrant herbal note. Funny, as the Asian server did not know what it was??? Go figure! Arugula is everywhere! Rocket as it were. If I have had it on one dish, I have had it on all of them. Citrus anf Fennel cured Salmon, done in house and paired with a light & refreshing salad composure of shaved fennel, oranges and arugula all dressed with evoo. Lacking seasoning, it was a nice combination for the perfumy fish. Identical to a dish that I opened up the club with, and had done many a time prior more than 11 years ago. Maybe it is now considered a classic? Next, a playful verbage, one that has been exploited the world over~ A savory "Tart Tatin", with caramelized shallots and ash covered goat's cheese. Served warm with semi tender baby leeks, baby greens and sun dried tomatoes. Again, without seasoning on the salad, it was still nice and pleasant. The real downer in this dish was the puff pastry bottom, which was underbaked, and chewy. The cheese smooth and subtle, it allowed me to enjoy the shallots that although could have a bit more glaze and ooze, fared well. Enter the barramudi! An Aussie hometown hero of sea bass characteristics. Pan roasted, skin on, it had been left a little too long on it's side in order to srispt he skin, and had developed an almost rancid flavor and muddy taste. The dill risotto was nice and not too overpowering as it can tend to be. The baby fennel the menu boasted must have been a premature misfire as it was not at all present. The baby carrots and rabe- the entremetier must have heard "CRUDITE" instead of "fire the veg of the day"- you do the math! The gribiche sauce served over the top was tasty and helped witht he deep flavor of the fish. After tasting everything together, then separately and moving back to the fish, this time removing the skin, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that it wasn't just the skin. As when the Iron Chef America loses a battle, the Barramundi will live to fight another day. Why do I write of these experiences one might ask?...to inspire others, to create and provoke thought about our craft, to fulfill my inherited passion, desire and ability to write, to push those around me to do better, and most importantly, to remind myself of why I started cooking and that we can not take the littlest of tasks for granted and realize that we are only as good or as bad as our weakest link, hence our last Barramundi.


Sydney, day 6...

after another morning episode of the day past, and another cappuccino, pain au chocolat, beautifully ripe melon and some halfway decent bleu, we ventured out again into the urban jungle to see what we could find. Unfortunately, most shops and eateries were closed, with the only ones open were either more "tourist-nazi" safe havens or something too much of a repetitive resemblance of my past discoveries. As it were, we ended up catching some "Mexican influences" at a local cafe. Marginal, yet satisfying and tasty. It fit the bill of serving the empty stomach and light headedness of not eating all day. After some healthy downtime immersed in the Nasty Bits, catching parts of more rugby or soccer and fear factor, and watching a thunder and lightning storm roll in, I decided to venture out into the night to find some new food, new inspirations and new hope. We'll see.

Sydney, day 5...

In the sense of the word; confinement! All of us except yours truly are under the weather down under. It's like our Disneyland nightmare all over again, yet not quite as sever. Let's just say that we all had a bug that we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy...well, maybe a little bit. Between trips to the pharmacy, the internet cafe and the Aussie post to send back some food treasures (see day 4), there just didn't seem to be the opportunity, in good taste anyway, to go eat(no pun intended). So most of the day and night, we were feeling victims of a medical "lock-down", confined to watching rugby, news and vice President Cheney's motorcade swoop past our hotel. Highlights after some personal reflection, appear to be a "degustation" menu via room service (rib eye, crispy potato wedges, salad, steamed vegetables and tiramisu) while watching Devil Wears Prada...still- can't complain about being in Australia. Yes, being sick is uncomfortable, but no matter how you look at it, we are in Sydney and enjoying life. My food experiences thus far are amazingly, yet not surprising, turning out to be that of "at any point" in my life~ there are good times and bad, great days and terrible ones. There are days when the kitchen can't seem to put out any dish less than royalty worthiness, and those that it is all we can do to keep our heads above the stock. There are so many things that contribute to great cooking, and to think that moods, weather, mental stability, body and soul, biorhythms and the like don't play a part, is clearly naive and irresponsible. This is a part of life. The fact that I am 7500 miles and 14 hours away makes no difference. Keep the faith, for tomorrow is a new day where new ideas, concepts and experiences are to be found.


Dinner @ Rockpool...

Rockpool, one of the highest rated establishments in the city. We approach...understated. Inside...sleek, sexy, cool and honestly, a bit cold. Vision...Hollywood Hair Salon for the jet setters. Flashy yet still containing personality. Perhaps it was the mood, the time of the evening(a bit early) or the fact that my kids didn't want to be there and my wife was sick~ whatever the case, it was less than anticipated. It seemed odd to me that none of the staff ever made mention of recognition, or made any correlation of the relationship I had with the Chef de Cuisine (his cousin works for me in Seattle) nor the fact that as a visiting chef in Neil Perry's restaurant would perhaps warrant a curiosity and comment. especially since we were one of the first guests in the place before things got hectic,, but in all reality, and all things being equal, in the whole scheme of things, does it matter, as who am I? No worries, I didn't come for attention, nor feel I deserve it. On to the food...we were tempted with the 9 course chef's tasting menu or the choice friendly 5 course version. Since the whole table HAS to order the 9 course if desired, a practice that I can not stand nor understand, we opted for the lesser of the two culinary evils. A smooth parmesan and zucchini mousse(foam) in a crisp feuille de brick shell graced our table as the amuse du soire. Do they say that here? A fun scooby snack as it were. My first course was a fresh crab salad with shellfish jelly, a matignon of butternut squash, papaya, chervil pluche, lobster gelee and an olive oil dressing. There was a lone ranger quail egg, split and left for dead with it's yolk used a "deviled" spread on the plate. Superb and tasty. Next was a pan roasted jumbo prawn with two very nice and flavorful goat cheese tortellinis adorned with pine nuts and raisins in a beurre noir...yes, black, although surprisingly not bitter! A fried crouton acted as a barrier to the likes of the fence between Mexico and the US. This dish was good, but by no means was it deemed astonishing. My following concoction was another shellfish offering, a scampi if you will cooked sous vide style with romano beans, brunoise carrots and herbs. very tender and moist. All of this sat in a pool of tarragon perfumed shellfish nage. At this point I am asking myself~ Where is the foie gras? Where is the caviar? Where are all the cool new indigenous ingredients? I guess that spending $150.aud does not warrant it, thus needing to cough up the additional quarter to achieve such pleasures. And to think that we give it away ion my kitchen. Different style perhaps. The final savory course was a slow cooked (sous vide again I suspect) veal loin, cooked and seasoned perfectly, with two purees; one mushrooms and one parsley with sauteed wild mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. On the side, a radicchio and baby romaine salad was served as well as a ultra thin sliced potato gratin with caramelized onions. Odd since we were nor ordering a'la carte. Isn't that why you are doing a degustation? Shouldn't it have been incorporated into the menu creations? Still, it did not deter me from eating and enjoying it. Again, different style. That is what makes it so cool. By now, my kids are both ready to fall asleep at the table or create a scene just to get me out of there. Dessert was a chocolate-hazelnut-coffee dome, in mousse format with a caramel center and ganache coating. It had a crunchy cocoa-crispy like base and some strewn around as well. A somewhat caramel-cocoa swipe became the platform for the artwork with a hazelnut dipped in sugar caramel sporting a long "tail" made up the presentation. A few pet peeves...1st; No ice cream or sorbet. Bummer. 2nd; Although the dish had crispies, there were no cookies or wafers or other little fun crunchie to admire and eat. 3rd; the hazelnut-everyone knows you can't eat the damn things without practically breaking a molar so why use them? Flavor wise however, it was a good tasting and solid dish. I opted for an espresso to savor with the mignardises (which bordered on the best of the offerings)-fresh lemon marshmallows, salted caramels, chocolate-hazelnut truffles and raspberry filled almond macaroons. Other than the truffles being too cold and dense, they were great. I enjoyed what I consumed and only wish that it were under different circumstances, so that perhaps this would reveal a more glowing recap of my experiences. Do not get me wrong, this is a great restaurant with a great chef who is very successful, and one that I would be honored to cook aside. I simply place the blame on myself for trying all to hard to stuff the square peg into a round hole. Timing is everything...isn't it? Too bad that after all this, the only real connection to this restaurant; James McEnerney, cousin to our newest addition to our kitchen from abroad was not in. So I guess another visit to this beautiful and cool city is in order.

Sydney, day 4...

The day started out early with a walk to the ever popular Sydney Fish Market. Not as bountiful as the Pike Place Market in Seattle, yet attractive and exciting just the same. This trip turned out to be all about the ingredients. One stop in the market in particular; Blackwattle Deli, became a favorite from the get-go with it's lengthy artisanal cheese counter, stocked full of local fare as well it's French and Italian contemporaries. We tried several from Adelaide, New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia. Woodbridge Farms had a nice array of Camemberts, Triple creams and Goat Cheeses. This shop also sports some very interesting boutique products from many local producers. First up...Olive Oil. I sampled two of interest; one, a silver medal winner from Wagga Wagga(NSW) called Wollundry Grove, which is grassy, herbaceous and quite bold in flavor, and another organic variety from Preston Valley in Perth, Western AU named Kailis. Next was "signature series" condiment from Tetsuya Wakuda- a black truffle "salsa" as it is dubbed, but really a spread or something perhaps to be whipped into a sauce a'la minute laden with porcini, olives, truffles, anchovies and evoo. I will need to try this when we get back home. Then I purchased some organic Woolloomooloo whole bean coffee, a mainstay with the regulars. Some locally made Macadamia Nut Honey, Caramelized Honeycomb Chocolate and Banana-Chocolate Pastry treats proved to be quite exciting as well. Next up was some unique and tantalizing spice rubs produced in Victoria and NSW. One, a variety of Dukkah of earlier mention and an "outback bbq" collection of an almost Morocco-meets-the Southwest" version. Ready to depart fully loaded with contraband, a small condiment caught my eye...a wonderful accoutrement for cheeses and charcuterie-a spiced pear with black pepper and lemon and a cabernet sauvignon blend from one of the top local artisanal producers in AU; Maggie Beer. there were a good solid handful of Asian ran fish stalls complete with many a variety of species, sizes and colors. Whole N.Z. Tai Snapper, Yellowtail, Kingfish, Octopus, calamari, Cod, Bream, Atlantic Salmon, Tasmanian Sea Trout, Oysters, Sword, Marlin and a plethora of Shrimp, Prawns, "Bugs" (or small slipper-style lobsters) from Balmain and Moreton Bay, as well as large Aussie Lobsters. There were beautiful Parrotfish, Barramundi and little spearfish. If I had the means of preparing them, I would have bought one of each! I guess I will surely have plenty of things for my fish monger to chase after. Lastly, we visited the Sydney Seafood School where they have many local chefs and celebs come to teach classes, give demos and taste new food combinations. The woman who runs the place; Roberta Muir, holding a degree in gastronomy, was gracious enough to give us a tour. Maybe I could squeeze in a demo before we depart to Brisbane-exciting notion but probably wishful thinking. Tonight- dinner @ Rockpool with Neil Perry!

Elsa's Story (banana-chocolate pastry bites)
DeliCasey's Chocolates (caramelized honeycomb chocolates and others)
Maggie Beer (pear and cab pastes)
Superbee Honey (australian macadamia nut honey)

Sydney, day 3...

Day 3 found us starting out very early for a ride out into the bush. Nothing death defying or thrill seeking mind you, but awe-inspiring nonetheless. So, with my only culinary adventure this morning being a double cappuccino from the automated barista in the trusty executive lounge, we boarded a bus-like 4x4 SUV and headed out to the Blue Mountains. With the exception of the buffet lunch we had; a saurbraten ragout, cabbage slaw and mustard infused potato salad, there was not much good food to be had. You could have sworn we were sitting in the Austrian Alps or the Black Forest in Germany. After hours of driving, gazing at koalas, roos, wombats and wallabys, and many twisty turns in the rocks, we headed back to Sydney. Not long after we returned, the boys and I headed out for some bites in the local food scene. Flanked by my posse, I twisted their arms to accompany me into a little spot called Sushi Arigato on Stanley Street. It was early yet, the place empty but we ventured in anyway. I actually told them that this was a little appetizer as a prelude to pizza... they bought it! The sushi arrived in waves...Ahi Tuna rolls,(ok), but when I added some of the ginger mayo and wasabi~ it came alive! Shark Fin and seaweed was cool, yet flavorwise, a little more of a novelty. Crunchy and light, but still tasty. Spider rolls with Softshell crab, tofu, cucumber, rice and ginger followed with a very well rounded flavor and thankfully, not greasy. The best of show however goes to the Smoked Eel! The rice was warm, moist and full flavored. The eel was so tender, succulent and scrumptious, I almost had to fight off my 9 y.o. hired gun with my chopstix. We also ordered up some crispy fried chicken with a sesame crust to keep them occupied. It was cooked very well and quite good, but heavy. Next stop, I manned up with some pizza. I know it seems perhaps sacrilegious to marry the two in virtually one sitting, but what the hell...I promised them. Besides, there are sooooooo many cool little cafes, bistros, pizzerias and ethnic eateries that I want to try and suck up as much as time and my credit card will allow! We narrowed it down to a little Italian joint called Spigolo, a ristorante, trattoria & pizzeria on the same block. We were welcomed by a "mama leone" figure, or so it seemed, a friendly woman who looked like she would give up her first born for you or kick your ass if you got out of line. Unfortunately, that true hospitality stopped with her. I have seen that old-world Italian or French "cold shoulder" style of service before where the service thinks that they are doing you a favor by allowing you to sit at their table and they could really care less if you did. It is tolerated, becomes accepted and hell, is practically encourages that tends to personify the character. It doesn't fly in my book. A tip is for service. They paid for it. The food was tasty, thankfully! Ordering way more than we could possibly consume, we forged ahead with a basic Caprese Salad of fresh Mozz, sliced tomatoes, basil and evoo. Good, but needed love. Fleur? Balsamic? Fresh Cracked Black Pepper? Our pie was a Pollo de Pesto- a nice combo of roasted chicken, tomatoes, Reggiano Parmiginao on a very thin crust, blasted to perfection in a wood fired oven. That was enough! Oops...forgot, we ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara. A very traditional rendition except using bacon instead of pancetta(no worries, yet it would have made it extraordinary), parmesan, black pepper, and egg. As we pushed ourselves out past the sidewalk tables filled with the "sex in the city" crowds, we could not help but notice the sleek place next door...La Mint. An ultra cool looking France meets Vietnam fusion hang out. Tomorrow perhaps, but that's another story.


Sydney, day 2...

Clear skies and sunny. In a word...beautiful! As I have mentioned previously, the food in the "executive lounge" at the hotel, where no executive would probably ever eat, and is by no means of executive worthiness, is mediocre at best. And although I am in constant search of something better, not bigger or fancier mind you, just well prepared in an honest and heartfelt manner by someone other than corporate America! After only two days, this is starting to grow on me. It is serving a medial purpose of energy and sustenance to propel me out into the day. Enough said. After a marginal-at-best workout in the gym, I became thoroughly immersed in Bordain's "The Nasty Bits" while my boys swam and displayed childly behavior(naturally) for the better of a couple of hours. It seems weird writing things that I or my team are not cooking. The mere fact that I am not in the kitchen is seemingly void of truth and honor. Yet I suppose, it is on trips and excursions of this nature that encourages,~ in fact it drives the search for inspirations of the new and ideas to keep things interesting for those back "home" in our kitchens when we return. Next on the horizon...food experiences to be found and had. After hours of walking past numerous tourist magnets, intriguing architecture and a cool drink bar called Minus 5, which sports an extremely unique lounge made up of hand carved furniture, glassware, tables and the sort made of huge blocks of ice, where they dress you in garb to the likes of the North Face and you sit in an almost sub-zero climate nursing your favorite libation,... I came across a very tasty sandwich, made fresh to order by some local hipsters. It was a Moroccan flavored and influenced Roasted Lamb and Chicken(they ran out of the lamb) concoction with some spice rubbed grilled eggplant, grilled sweet potatoes, peppers, arugula and savory minted yogurt on a freshly baked Turkish "ciabatta style" loaf. Chased down with an organic sparkling under-age version of a passion fruit-orange blended seltzer, it was an awesomely welcomed departure from Subway! As for later night eats...we laid low, had some greasy chicken and burgers, as well as a pulled pork standby that was definitely not my most favorite, all dripping with sauces and moisture that made for an easy night. Sushi is in my sights.


Sydney, day 1...

We were awake off and on throughout the night for 14 plus hours. After a long drive to Portland from Seattle, then a flight to Santa Ana and then to L.A. and on to Sydney, we finally reached our destination with some tiresome, but excited minds. We were in Australia! It's 6:32am, warm and sunny, the warmth beaming down on us, we ventured outwards to the city to check it out. After some snooping around at the harborside shops, we settled upon a basic "tourista trap" called Nicks. Not very soigne, but doable. Your basic place that is meant for those that are here for a few days and never for the locals. Oh well. After hitting some shops and figuring out what we wanted to do, we were directed to the local Hardrock Cafe, as we always enjoy picking up propaganda, paraphernelia and marketing pieces to help in the supporting of the hella-rich CEO's and VP's to make their billions. Oh well. On our way there, we stumbled upon a great little area that was just full of little specialty niche, and full of personality eateries that seemed just flat out cool. Literally, they were door-to-door! Place upon place. I decided to settle upon a place that was duibbed as "Sydney's Most Imaginative" Restaurant. My kids were not really having any part of it. I wanted to just have some tastes of some local foods that could help me understand what Syndey and the land down under was about. The Place is called Voiaj, pronounced voy-age. Chicy, yet very Middle easter meets the "bong shop" or Buddahist Lounge! Ok. The table was set ina very "artsy" fashion almost like that of a thrift shop or flea market gathering. There was olive oil and Dukka on the table, a blend of Middle eastern spices of Almond, Macadamia, Mint, Sesame, Anise and herbs in which to smear the sesame bread into after dunking it into the olive oil. Tasty! We then had a chilled soup of Fijian Mango with Cucumber, Yogurt and Chilies, which had a rich and deep flavored nuance to it. It needed salt, which it's share was given to to my next dishes. Ouch! Next came a series of tastes from Middle Eastern, Northern African and/or Asian decsent. Grilled Balmain "Bugs", or little lobsters, which was served with a baby Bethonga Watermelon, Fennel Puree and Avocado Oil. It was very salty. So much so that it became hard to finish. Tasty, but ease up already. The meat was firm witha bit of a tooth. Could have been a bit less done for me, but good. Had to try the Sesame crusted Crocodile, with Ivory Coast Tropical Fruit Sauce, actually a salsa/relish kind of concotion. Very fitting for the croc, as it was a bit mild and needed the fruity and acidic accompaniment. Fried was fine, but perhaps a more interesting method could have been appropriate? I also had an order of New Zealand Wild Boar Terrine brought out, with a Whiskey "kick", wrapped in pancetta, nice and fine. Terrine was done well. Very moist and flavorful. It was embellished with a spicy Chili Relish, crisp Taro Chips and a overly sweet Apple Sorbet. Not sure wher that came from, but I give it to them to try. Next was the Egyptian Dukka crumbled Goat Cheese, which went very well with the cheese, but again, someone's hand in the salt was way to heavy. Maybe that hooka on the next table was not just a prop! The dish was served with fried Zucchini Blossoms, Beets, Oranges and Arugula. A very nice salad in and of itself. I noticed that the frist courses, called entrees are like our appetiozers in the US. The Entrees are called Main Courses. Oh well...no worries. I was eyeing a superb looking tagine of Lamb at the next table, but I had to call it a night as I was too full. I am planning on comeing back as it looked so succulent. We walked across the street on our way back to the hotel only to find another place that I am already anxious to try for lunch tomorrow. Stay tuned for day 2.


Cupid's Soiree 02.14.07...

What is it about Valentine's Day for food? Why is it that restaurants get slammed crazy busy for dinner on this night of love-struck couples looking for culinary bliss to help serve their libidos? I am not really quite sure, but it works. Food has a way of getting deep into one's soul, and in this case, both souls, and perhaps deeper into something else. Ok, we'll keep it somewhat G-rated. For us chef's, it is a night that definitely keeps us rocking. It is a night that let's us play on the whimsy, gets our creative juices flowing and climax in culinary ecstasy! Sweaty yet...think back into the heart of the rush. It's 7pm. Tables are full. Lovers looking gleamy-eyed into one another embraced with luscious ingredients and flavor and totally caught up in the moment. It has paved the way for us to be who we are. To let loose with our ability to give good experience. In some places I have been, the owners or managers tend to play it safe, relying on old classics, and boring food parings, or even worse, just going with the flow of normal business and menus. Lame. Why not test your kitchen brigade to excel and rise to the occasion. Challenge yourself to cook new things. This is a night that promotes excitement. Hell, they are almost begging for it! Here is a look at some of the dishes we did. The flavors rocked! Rich, wholesome and satisfying. Lush and moist, full-on with love that we labored over, with copious amounts of passion and intensity. It has really only begun the process of new dish development from this special day from the heart. Enjoy...

~Cupid's Amuse~
Pt. Reyes Bleu "Truffle", Pistachio, Cocoa-Almond Pan Forte, Green Olive Jam, Balsamic

Silky Foie Gras "Mousse"
House Preserved Bing Cherries, Foie Gras-Cocoa Nib Marbre, Sauternes Foam, Saba, Fleur

"Sweet Butter Poached" Dover Sole
Paddlefish Caviar, Olympia Oyster, Yellow Finn Potato, Leeks, Parsley Water,
Meyer Lemon Oil and Micro Celery

Ras el Hanout Crusted Lamb Loin
Farro Risotto, Hedgehog Mushrooms, Demi Roots, Lamb Tongue, Parsnip Milk, Micro Kale

Sexy Red Wine Braised Beef Shortrib & Diver Scallop
Caramelized Pearl Onions, Honshimejii, Cinnamon Cap, Butternut Squash, "Oxtail Candy"
and a creamy Celery Root-Walnut Puree

"Bouche of Anise & Faberge Egg"
Orange-Olive Oil Sponge, Smoked Hazelnuts, Raspberry "Polenta", Tapioca, Kumquats
Fennel Heart and a Hazelnut-Chocolate-Coffee-Caramel filled "Package"

Degustation Series 02.12.07...

If we have cooked for these guests once, we have cooked for them hundreds of times over and again. They love us, and us them. They grace us with their presence at the chef's table as well as practically every club event that we care to offer. They are truly one of my followers, my foodies, my culinary groupies! I might not have the media knocking on my door due to the private club stigma, but I have a cluster of well-traveled, well culinary educated folks that are devoted fans. That is one of the key reasons why I have stayed this course as long as I have...(think decade plus!) Whenever these gracious and wonderful people call me to dine, it gets us giddy about the ideas of new thoughts and ideas in food. Here is the impromptu menu below. I hope you become as inspired as we were cooking it! Sorry, camera was left in the car. Enjoy...cuisinier.
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Tartare
Yuzu Pickled Watermelon Radish, Savory Avocado Ice Cream, American Sturgeon Caviar
Fennel and Micro Mauve Radish Sprouts
Fregola Sarda "Porridge"
Truffles, Duck Confit, Duck Jus and a Micro Rainbow Spinach "Salad"
Hudson Valley Foie Gras "Charlotte"
Sauteed Quince, Caramelized Onions, Spice Cake, Chili Potato Puree
and Cocoa Milk Foam
Pan Roasted Arctic Char and Grilled Carolina Sweet Prawn
Carrot-Vanilla Puree, Shallot Conserve, Chorizo Dust, Micro Celery and Smoked Corn Emulsion
Verjus-Lime Soda, Salted Melon Lollipop, Coconut Foam, Smoked Bacon Powder
Breast of Squab & Goujonnette of Sole
Crispy Squab Confit, Black Venere "Fried" Rice, Spinach and Smoked Valrhona Essence
Herb Crusted Cap of Veal Loin
Mixed Demi Root Hash, Squash Cake Croutons, Wild Mushrooms and Huckleberry Jus
Chocolate-Banana Charlotte, Rosemary Pears, Pistachio Gelato
Macchiatto Brulee, Raspberry "Polenta" and Earl Grey Sherbet
Pine Nut Tart, Poached Kumquats
Fennel Meringues, Raspberry Bon Bons, Macaroons and Salted Caramels

A Wild Ginger Experience...

Enter 02.06.07...my wife's celebration of earth's entry. The kids are together with one of her girlfriends, she and I. Where to go for something special, fun and not Mexican??? Don't get me wrong, I love Mexican and so does my family. That is the problemo. We ALWAYS do Mexican. So, being my better half's night to choose(isn't it always?) we venture off to visit Wild Ginger on 2nd & Union street in Seattle. We arrive on time. Courteous, professional and cordial. We are sat at a great table by the kitchen bar. Watching the female chefs wrestle pans and utensils and move the plates to the window faster than some of the true veterans I've watched in my career, I was certain we were in for a good time. I was not steered wrong! We ordered many different bites so we could nosh on everything. Most entrees are served family style anyhow. Right on! Starting off with a couple of Crab Cakes, nestled with a spicy aioli type drizzle and some Pot Stickers that my kids seemed to inhale before I could get a bite. I did however. Tasty. Our drinks had arrived just as the food was entering the atmosphere...cosmos for the gals, mango smoothies for the "runts" as our server eloquently and politely put it and a cool Black Iced tea done up in elegant style for moi. We ate. We laughed. We wanted more. Bring on the satay's! First Chicken, then Beef, then Lamb...each with a small dainty rice cake, sweet pickled fresh cucumbers and a spicy chili, horseradish and mustard dipping sauce, respectfully. They were tasty. My 9-year old even liked the lamb and beef. But then whispered to me "but it's not as good as our cow steak at home"...I gave him that one. The runts enjoyed their chicken nuggets, or "Nu-jheh" as she put it. We then gathered around the 7-Flavor Beef, complete with spice and heat, then Kung Pao Chicken with lot's of spice and flavor as well as sweetness. More for the less-adventuresome, but tasty. We were delivered a dish of Sambal Prawns...freakin tasty as all hell. Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic, Chili and Cilantro, amongst a plethora of other ingredients. Making room for their take on Peking Duck, with Bau Buns*(think Hombao), Cilantro, and a Plum Sauce, I was fortunate that nobody really wanted to try it(blame it on a past pet duck; Leroy!)...again, with the exception of my 9 year old. He liked it, as did I. Simple, deep flavored and luscious! They also had tempted us with tasty and flavorful sides of Chili Oil Sizzled Bok Choy and Brown Rice. We accepted gladly! They finished off the meal with a Chocolate Torte with a swirled Vanilla Ice Cream with Blackberry Sherbet inside. With the exception of the moist and awesome Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Icing and Caramelized Pineapple that Rudy labored over in our own kitchen, it would have stolen the show. Maybe next time. Service was nothing short of superb. Sharp, attentive, crisp and clean. On every detail, in spite of the fact that they were quite slammed. It was not rushed or hurried or even made to feel that they had to turn a table, like we tend to observe in some places. I highly recommend this eatery to everyone. Enjoy!