Pop-up breakfast, march 1.

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Hellooo Seattle people!
You’re invited to a pop-up breakfast.

Saturday, March 1

8:00am – 12:00pm

8103 8th ave s, Seattle, Washington 98108

Come be the first to try Mae James Coffee and my (Jessie’s!) pop-up breakfast magic. Mae James carefully roasts their single-origin beans in small batches; you’ll taste the love in every cup. Sweet raised waffles done-up southern style are on the menu, and smiles are complimentary. Hope to see you there!

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Citrus salad with black pepper and tarragon.

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Helloo-oh, it’s winter. And Seattle has had some dark, short days. When I moved here this past summer, I selectively forgot about latitude, sun patterns, and the winter solstice. Why would a southern girl ever need to remember things like that? Evidently, it’s important in the Pacific Northwest. Evidently, it’s why the vampires from the Twilight series live in a town near me.

But (non-vampire) people have survived this far north for decades, centuries; I must be able to adopt the evolutionary adaptations that Seattlites use to cope with pasty skin and seven months of darkness, right? From my initial observations I’ve found that some days you have ginger cookies and milk for lunch. Some days (ahem, all days) you take hour-long baths. Some days you kayak and/or hike in the snow and/or rain. Every day you eat well.

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Never before have I been in a place that loves its seasonal food as much as the Pacific Northwest does. Winter is no excuse for bland colors. Instead, the markets burst with sunny persimmons, dark green lacinato kale and seaweed, silver-gilded oyster mushrooms, temptingly red endives, and citrus, their oranges, reds, and yellows like sweet, fragrant winter suns.

When our winter began in November, I made this citrus salad with grapefruit, tangerines, and pomegranate seeds. It was simple  and bright, a challenge to the months of gray to come. As winter has progressed, I’ve added a splash of sultry blood oranges, bit of freshly ground black pepper, handful of allspice. I need this salad like I need Vitamin D; in all its peppery, herbaceous lightness, it’s edible sun.

Postscript: As I write to you the sun is out in Seattle. In fact, the past week has been wonderfully, surprisingly sunny (three days of [foggy] sun! Sun, people!) Coincidence? I think not. Thank you, citrus salad.

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Citrus Salad with Black Pepper and Tarragon

Feel free to make this salad your own with different fresh herbs, spices, and types of citrus. For balanced flavor and pleasing visual appearance, pick types of seedless citrus with different levels of bitterness and varied interior colors.

Serves four, with leftovers for breakfast.

  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, split in two bowls
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 2 mandarin oranges, navel oranges, or tangerines
  • 1 pomelo or oroblanco
  • 1 grapefruit (ruby red looks particularly lovely)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (pink pepper would work wonderfully as well; it’s just a bit harder to find.)

Add sugar, 1/8 cup tarragon, and 1/8 cup water in a jar and shake until the sugar dissolves and tarragon bruises. Strain syrup through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve for salad. Tarragon syrup will keep for a week in the fridge and can be used as a cocktail mixer, pancake topper, etc… the sweet possibilities are endless!

Cut off the base and stem end of each citrus and peel citrus with cut side flat on the cutting board. Make sure to peel off any bits of bitter white pith. Slice citrus crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds.

Arrange citrus on a platter. Grind a bit of fresh black pepper over top, drizzle with tarragon syrup, and finish with remaining tarragon.

Boozy baked apples, coming home.

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Friends, it has been waaay too long. Four months; four-ever. I wish I had a story-worthy excuse that sounds something like “so I was riding down this dark, coffee shop-lined alley on my fixie and these hipsters in jeggings and oversized knit hats kidnaped me” or “the ship I was working on as a fisherwoman didn’t have wifi.”

But, alas, I was not kidnapped by caffeine-hyped hipsters and I gave up my dreams of becoming a fisherwoman when I was thirteen and The Perfect Storm gave me reoccurring nightmares. Instead, my only excuse is that I have fallen helplessly and ridiculously in love with my new home.IMG_8356

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Seattle is beautiful. Most days are gray, but when afternoon sun nudges its way in to the street you can’t help but smile.  Ninety-two percent of the people I’ve met are introverts involved in either a start-up or a band, sometimes both, and who love their dogs, alcoholic drinks, REI membership status, bocce ball, composting, and good food. I live in an apartment above an espresso shop and incense emporium, and when my window is open I can hear the church down the street play hymns on the hour (and coincidentally the same church Macklemore features in “Same Love.”) At night, the air smells like salt and clouds.

Put Seattle on your bucket list; you will thank me forever, I promise. Where else can the sun make you automatically smile?

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The great state of Washington also happens to have incredibly wonderful apples. A couple weeks back, I went to a farm north of the city and picked 22 pounds of the sweet red things. Since then I’ve eaten one a day, and kept the doctor away, but I still feel a duty to my new homeplace to explore its apple horizons. So I pull out the old pyrex dishes and autumn spices, pour myself a cocktail, and get to work on these boozy baked apple babies. Oats and almonds give the apples a crisp, buttery core and amaretto reduces as the apples cook, absorbing their sweetness into a spicy, caramelized syrup that tastes like home. It’s a simple recipe that takes five to ten minutes to prep. Yet time in the oven highlights each apple’s creamy interior, its tart skin, its hint of harsh minerality and the soil where it once grew. I find there is no better way to honor Washington, to honor autumn, than by baking its apples.

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Baked Apples with Ginger and Amaretto

Serves three.

  • 3 medium, firm, flavorful apples, cored
  • 2 tbsp butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp quick oats
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds
  • Pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • 1 tbsp crystalized ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup amaretto
  • 1/2 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 375º. Core apples with a small pairing knife or spoon.

In a small bowl combine butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, almonds, spices and ginger. Knead ingredients together with hands until combined. Spoon mixture into apples that you have nestles into in a small baking pan with sides. Pour amaretto and cider around apples and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with crème fraîche, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.

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Mandarin and cumin salad.

1-DSC_0109-001I moved!
Well… ahem, I speak too soon. Am moving; I’m still in transition, which is a nice way of saying that the apartment is filled wall to wall with suitcases, IKEA boxes, dirty clothes, and a collection of nude statues I forgot I had packed.

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Cosette, my new old blue typewriter. (Aie!)

Cosette, my new old blue typewriter (aie!), above. View from my garden rooftop, far above, and a sunset from Carkeek park, below.

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Needless to say I’m craving a little zen in the midst of my mess. These past days I haven’t had much time to cook and am opting for easy salads instead. One of my recent favorites is a simple early summer salad of crisp hearts of romaine, toasted almonds, and sour-sweet bits of orange sprinkled with poppy seeds. It pairs nicely with a refreshing honey and cumin vinaigrette I recreated from one I tried at Vinaigrette in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yesterday I savored my mandarin and cumin salad with Pacific salmon caught that day, sunset over the city, and a glass of chilled white wine. Wine will help the boxes unpack themselves, won’t it?1-DSC_0103

Honey-Cumin Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil or almond oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon honey
1 clove of garlic, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of salt

  1. Whisk ingredients together until emulsified and serve over salad of oranges, cucumbers, lettuce, and almonds.

Croissants and the art of living.

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In three days I move to Seattle.
Three days (!)

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I’ll live there for the next bit of foreseeable future. Beyond that, who knows. All this life and being twenty-something stuff, it’s so exciting!

Over the past week I’ve savored post-graduate freedom. From the first hour, I made it a goal to master the art of doing nothing. Yet after two hours spent thinking of everything I could be doing, I scraped my attempt at nothing-filled nirvana.

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It’s not that this Buddhist mindfulness exercise is a load of cotton candy. It’s just that, well, I’m an addict.

<meeting begins> Hello my name is Jessie. I’m a work addict.

I thrive working twelve hours straight. I love making goals. I feel guilty when I do something relaxing. Let’s just say I can get a little too intense. As a challenge to my achieving-addicted self, I decided to live the past week without big goals or many expectations.

And, oh boy, was I rewarded. This past week has been free and just darn good. Without trying to control the week’s outcome, I was able to let go of any relaxation guilt and do things (for fun!) that I was too busy to do these past four years. I drank cocktails every night. I read Catch-22 and a book on the mind-body problem. I hung out with family and friends and gave away most possessions, the ones that have been steadily accumulating in my bedroom for the past twenty-two years. I’ve been rethinking human logic as we know it, and making pastries. Lots of pastries. In doing everything, life has been simple, sweet, whole.

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Nothing lasts forever, I remind myself in my best Dalai Lama voice. In five days I will face a big, cold world with jobs and paychecks and taxes and writer-baker paychecks (that’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of my near-future state of starving artist which sounds too much like Tantalus, on account of me working with food all day long but still being a young writer and thus starving. How about hungry artist?) It won’t be so easy to be a little happy buddha when I’m working the four a.m. shift at the bakery five times a week. Or meeting never-ending editor deadlines or trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

But paychecks and plans have nothing to do with contentment. Money, work, approval from others, stubborn self-reliance makes us feel secure. Yet these things don’t actually make life good. I’m talking really good in a primal, beautiful I-might-just-crack-open-with-love-and-ridiculousness-and-everything sort of good.

I’m finding that life is good when we are quiet, when we are confident enough to let it be good. It’s good when we set goals without worrying if we’ll achieve them in the way we think we should– the world has too much imagination to give us complete control– while being aware that, regardless of the outcome, it will be alright. I like to think of this mindfulness as an art because, through balance and awareness, we create our reality. I could’ve read Catch-22 for pleasure or spent more time with my family the past four years, but I told myself I was too busy. And so I didn’t.

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I don’t want to be a work addict. I want to make time for the things that really matter. It’s quiet these days; I’ve made it a goal to continue.

No activity is better to jump start your meditative inner-musings than croissant making. Time becomes flaky. Air wears the silky, sweet smell of butter. Your senses, your mind becomes softer, as malleable as kneaded dough. Be prepared to spend a whole lazy morning making your croissant babies and let the good life flow.

P.S. These croissants make the perfect Father’s Day breakfast! (Hint hint, nudge nudge) By the three crumbs left on his plate, I think my Dad approves.

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Chocolate Almond Croissants

Makes 16 croissants. Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking. Oxmoor House, 2003.

In May, I tried my first pain au chocolat aux amandes at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in Napa, California. I’ve been dreaming of that fancified, amaretto-scented croissant ever since. This recipe is my (very successful!) attempt to recreate Bouchon’s magic. Enjoy with good coffee.

FOR THE CROISSANT DOUGH
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted but cooled
1 cup cold whole milk
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and pinch of sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, around 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, remaining sugar, salt, melted butter, milk, and ½ cup flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Slowly add remaining flour just until dough comes together in a sticky mass.
3. On a lightly floured surface (granite, stone, or metal countertops work best because you can cool them by placing a clean ice pack on the surface 1 hour before working with dough,) roll out dough into a ½-inch thick rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to plate, and let cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the butter layer.

FOR THE BUTTER LAYER AND BAKING
1 cup unsalted butter (very important to use unsalted butter; unsalted butter usually tastes better and is of higher quality than salted butter)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk (for a golden, flaky crust)

1. Place butter on a work surface and sprinkle with flour. With a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat butter into a 6 x 8 inch rectangle with the flour worked in. If, at anytime during croissant making, the butter becomes too soft (softer than the texture of the bread dough) refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. This next step is called laminating the dough. Roll out dough into a 9 x 13c inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a ½ inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press edges together to seal. Then, with the folded side to your left, roll out the dough to a 10 x 24 inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This completes the first turn.
3. Return chilled dough to lightly floured work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns: rolling, folding, and chilling. (To complete a total of 4 turns.) After the fourth turn, refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours or overnight (or, if you want croissants later in the week, freeze dough now.)
4. To form the croissants, roll out on a lightly floured work surface to a 9 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise (forming 4 squares.) Cut each square in half (forming 8 squares.) Cut each square crossways (forming 16 triangles.)
5. Lightly butter 2 sheet pans. Working with one triangle at a time, gently stretch each triangle about twice its original length. Gently stretch the long edge. Fill croissant with a bit of minced dark chocolate, almond paste, both, or neither. Place hands at top of wide end and gently roll pastry toward you. Seal tip with your thumb, place on baking sheet and form into crescent.Repeat with remaining triangles, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Cover with a moistened kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to let rise until doubled in size (about 1-1/2 hours.)
6. Position rack in middle of convection oven (place higher if not) and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
7. Lightly brush the tops of your pastries with the egg mixture. Bake them one sheet at a time until golden brown (15-18 minutes.)
8. If you want a sweet almond crust on your croissants, take out your croissants 5 minutes before they are done. Sprinkle with sugar water and almonds. Return to oven to complete baking time. Dust with powdered sugar when completely cool.

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Ode to coffee.

mocha espresso, Cafe Vivace.
caffe macchiato, Espresso Vivace.

Seattle claims 9,368 coffee shops within its city limits. Somehow more coffee shops crop up every day.

The city’s coffee addiction is understandable. Seattle’s weather forecast for two-thirds of the year is “drizzly cold” and the only thing you want is a hot drink to cradle and imbibe. Preferably with caffeine to keep you from staying in bed all day. To stay out of bed, I’ve sipped my way around the city. And I haven’t had a bad sip yet.

So then why, in the midst of Coffee Shop Eden, is everyone here is obsessed with Starbucks? Why is there one on every block (totaling to at least 424.) Why does a Seattle woman named Beautiful Existence feel she has to prove her undying Starbucks love and consume only Starbucks items for a year?

Why?? As the Seattlite Tom puts it, “We’re addicted to caffeine. Starbucks sells candy caffeine.”

To the Starbucks on every corner,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Love, Robert Frost and Jessie

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Top 3 coffee shops from the road less traveled:

Arabica Lounge: this artsy fartsy joint created by multimedia artist Jojo Corväiá is “a place for the stimulation of all senses…to revisit the fact that good quality of life is always within reach.” You’ll probably agree if your idea of the good life is sipping fantastically thick coffee next to a montage of nautical prints. Or if you like a man with a beard and dark-rimmed glasses because he will serve your coffee. Or if you want to make conversation difficult with loud alternative jazz. It’s a cool spot, a bit too cool for heartfelt social interactions. But if you want the best cappuccino in Seattle, Arabica Lounge is your place.

Caffè Fiorè: the best eco-roasters in town. As you sip in the dark, cozy coffee tavern feel sustainable with your organic bean coffee. Order the Sevilla, mocha coffee with orange zest. It rings up at a hefty $4, but the unique taste experience is splurge worthy.

Espresso Vivace: as Vivace’s name tells, the cafe brews espresso in its liveliest, creamiest, most wonderful form. Espresso Vivace’s secret is in the foam they coax from brewed coffee and milk. Foam holds complex flavor while lightening texture. My favorite is the barista-recommended caffe macchiato, coffee with a dollop of milk foam. It tastes like coffee cocoa and cream. For those with sweet teeth, the White Velvet will make you swoon.

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cappuccino, Arabica Lounge.

cappuccino, Arabica Lounge.

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How to cook a crumpet.

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What is a crumpet, you might ask, and how can I try one? Well…

the Seattle Public Library.

the Seattle Public Library.

Crumpets are a traditional British tea-time snack. The Brits lightly slather butter, jam, or marmite on these babies. But I say, ‘Merica! Let’s make crumpets economical and multicultural and throw a bunch of stuff on top so we can eat them anytime of the day! The Crumpet Shop in Seattle takes the American approach. For breakfast, savor a crumpet with eggs, peppers, and ricotta cheese or my Caramelized Egg Crumpet (see below.) For desert, nom on a crumpet dripping in melted nutella, crushed peanuts, and banana slices. Be patriotic and try your own crumpet mixology. What flavors would you combine?

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Caramelized Egg Crumpet

serves 2

obtain a couple crumpets or make them yourself
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 eggs
3 oz cheddar (Kerrygold Dubliner is an inexpensive favorite)
fresh herb for garnish (optional)

Caramelize the onion first. On medium-high heat, add onions with 1 Tbsp oil, a pinch of salt, and baking soda. Stir continually until onions are golden and tender, about 5 minutes.

Fry two eggs to preference and toast crumpets with cheese or butter. Assemble crumpets and garnish with a fresh herb (dill and/or parsley is fantastic.) Serve hot with a cup of English Breakfast tea.IMG_7773

Seattle and the crumpet.

Oh 2013. Where shall I begin?

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My brother and I arrived in Seattle on New Year’s day. Within an hour of getting off the plane, the sun decided to peak her head through the clouds. It stayed that way for four days; we’re basking in unseasonal, auspicious light.

My brother Ben, who everyone calls Bud, is moving to Seattle to get technical with Amazon’s Kindle team. He’ll live in a tiny apartment above Seattle’s best coffee shop (so the city’s foodie polls say) for the next couple years. And since I want to write, bake, and do locavore activism full-time, I have two post-graduate housing options: live in an Ikea box or live with my awesome, loving brother. I think I’ll take the fraternal option and that apartment with luscious coffee scents. Bud, I promise I’ll do all your laundry.

Now I just have to go back to North Carolina and graduate from Davidson…

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I love how a new year and a new place asks us to pause and recollect the past, meditate on the changes, and experience the momentum of life. I am feeling movement as I write to you from the corner nook of a coffee shop. Water beads on the window pane and I cradle a warm mug.

And this is where the crumpet comes in.

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To celebrate the new year, my brother took me to The Crumpet Shop. The morning was so cold it tasted bitter and wind from Puget Sound battered our Georgia “winter” coats. We arrived at the shop with pink noses and were greeted by a warmth that smells like ginger tea and orange marmalade. We ordered a crumpet with green eggs and ham from a hand-painted menu. Cats dotted the walls and crocheted snowflakes hung in the window.

It was my first crumpet and, from the first bite, I decided I would love crumpets for the rest of my life and that Seattle would be my new home. Each cranny of the spongy, irresistibly dense bread was a glimpse in to the new year. A new year including mountains, seagulls, fixies, men with beards riding fixies, Asian seafood markets, and Seattle. The city rolled off my tongue like honey atop a crumpet.

One regular got up to leave and a young guy kneading dough behind the counter exclaimed, “Happy New Year! It’s going to be the best one yet.” Yes, it will be.

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