Bakery Nouveau featured

Seattle is a food lovers dream city.  Here is one of several posts on my blog related to Seattle.  
During the visit I was allowed to photograph Bakery Nouveau in operation.  As a result of that wonderful experience, some of my photos from the bakery have been included in a new book, “The Pastry Chef’s Apprentice.” 
Chris (from Bakery Nouveau) sent me a copy of the book.  I opened the book and smiled…just smiled.  The book contains wonderful recipes, adapted for home preparation.
Thank you, Chef Leaman, and all Bakery Nouveau employees for allowing me to invade your space on that beautiful July day in Seattle. 
the book!

 photographer credits:

 Chef scooping cookie dough:

 French macarons…..macarons:

Click HERE to see other images from my visit to Bakery Nouveau, West Seattle, Washington.
24,041

‘theo’ artisan chocolate tasting and factory tour

With a little help from my GPS friend, and two trips around the block searching for a parking lot (which I finally found directly across the street from theo, hidden behind the trees!), I arrived at 3400 Phinney Ave N. – the home of an artisan chocolate marketed as ‘theo.’

The cool July morning was on the edge of brisk.  I stood on the sidewalk with a growing multitude of eager men, women, and children, waiting for the door to be unlocked at 10AM.  After a last minute decision to visit the chocolate factory, I knew I did not have a tour reservation.  I entered the store along with all the excited chocoholics, added my name to the wait list, and hoped for the best.  Just before the chocolate tour began, my name was called, I was given the blue hair net, (paid my $6) and off I went, saying a little prayer of thanks for my good fortune.

We were guided through the door, down the hall to the right, under the brick arch, and into a room lined with chairs, yellow tape lines on the floor, and a lively tour guide welcoming us into her arena.  She entertained us with her enthusiasm for the chocolate production process and educated us via her tantalizing voice, pictures of chocolate production, and….are you ready….chocolate samples to taste!

As an aside, theo is not a person.  Theo is the partial name of a tree.  Education…

Always taste chocolate from darkest to lightest, our guide stated; following this method, the sugar content of the lighter will not interfere with the tasting of the darker chocolate.  Education…
(I have read conflicting information related to tasting.  Other sources state that chocolate should be tasted from the least % cacao to the highest % cacao.) [comment from theo: It is true that there is some debate about whether to go from dark to milk or vice versa. We find that for Theo chocolate, going from dark to light works best because sugar, as well as strong flavors (like curry) can muddy the palate.]

We began tasting with a 91% cacao content chocolate / single origin, meaning all the beans came from one place – in this instance a co-op in Costa Rica.  We were encouraged to hold the morsel of chocolate in our mouth, and let it melt slowly.  The tour guide explained that the longer we held the chocolate on our tongue, the  more flavor we would experience.  I must confess that I didn’t hold my morsel long enough to sense all the nuances of the sample.  Maybe next time…

Next we sampled a 74% cacao content chocolate, made from Madagascar, single origin beans grown in the red soil of the land.  We were encouraged to sense the tartness of this chocolate.  (I’m beginning to think I’m on a wine tasting tour.) [comment from theo:  We generally share that the flavor is influenced by 'terroir', which includes soil, weather patterns, production  methods, etc. Flavor is not influenced by surrounding crops necessarily, but environmental and human cultivation techniques.]

The next tasting was a 70% cacao, flavored with mint and marketed in a green wrapper.  Image the very best Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies on overload.  This was delicious, imparting its cooling, cleansing freshness.

There are 20-40 cocoa beans in one pod, which is approximately the size of an American football.
One bar of chocolate is comprised of 2 to 4 pods, or up to 160 beans.  Education…

The cocoa beans are removed from the pod, and allowed to dry.  Fermentation takes place, just as in wine, cheese, and bread.  Dried beans are bagged in burlap and readied for shipment.  Education…

Next sampling was a 45% milk chocolate flavored with Chai Tea.

We saw the roaster and the winnower (the machine that removes the husk from the bean).  At this point, we tasted cocoa nibs, which are 100% cacao.  I enjoy baking with cocoa nibs, including them in shortbread, granola, and cookies to name a few items. Next we tasted 70% cacao nib brittle.

The nibs are placed in the auger to be stone ground.  The dispensed product resembles chunky peanut butter and is called cacao liquor.  Steel balls are added; they spin and pulverize the cacao liquor to yield a silky smooth molten textured chocolate.  This process establishes the ‘melt in your mouth’ feel.

Next comes the mixer and then the refiner and then the conche where the spray releases acidity.  In this holding tank, the chocolate awaits formation into bars.

Theo’s production process does not remove the cocoa butter; thus, yielding a smoother chocolate.  Education…

70% cacao chocolate with toasted bread crumbs was next on the tasting list.  Theo incorporates the Essential Baking Company’s toasted bread crumbs into chocolate, and they produce a chocolate bar with a texture that was delicious.  We were told this is the perfect chocolate bar to pair with wine.

We next sampled a tray of assorted chocolates flavored with such additions as caramel, or salt, or figs, or basil,  just to name a few.  There was also a a lemon-white chocolate treat on the tray, and for the vegan taster, there was a blueberry almond ganache.

The final chocolate we tasted on the tour was a 45% cacao, packaged as a tribute to Jane Goodall.

Back in our original meeting room, we removed our hair nets, asked a few final questions, and were directed back into the showroom.  Placed on easily accessible tables, samples of many, many Theo chocolate bars were steeply piled and waiting for eager tasters.  I tasted a spicy chili chocolate that had a kick on the tongue, and a lingering effect in the throat.

Disclaimer:
As you can see, we tasted many chocolate varieties.  If I have misstated facts above, please forgive me, or let me know and I will correct the post.  I was taking notes and eating chocolate during the tour.  At that particular moment, the tasting was more important than the note taking.

This was an excellent opportunity to sample a huge variety of chocolates.

thanks, Audrey at theo, for helping me keep the facts correct

Click HERE to see pictures from the tour.

relaxing after Pike Place Market tour

After two hours following an entertaining Savor Seattle Food tour guide through Pike Place Market, I welcomed the opportunity to sit and relax.  

I spotted ‘Le Panier – Very French Bakery‘ earlier in the day while walking through the market.  Relaxing on the high stool, resting my camera and bag on the bar height ledge, I sat and gazed out the open air window.  Market-goers strolled by the window, many consuming a sample of the diverse selection of food found in the market area.

Choosing a sample of Le Panier creations was difficult.  Patrons standing behind me in line silently hoped that I would make a decision rather than continue to stand and gaze at the selections in the display cases.  I chose -

  • Crunchy, crusty, orange-ganache macaron
  • Petite lemon Tartlett aux citron – small tart with lemon creme
  • And, my favorite of the three, which was so moist, rich, and flavorful was the friand – a petite buttery cake with almond and vanilla.  
I saved the last bit of lemon tart only to set up this shot, after which I quickly consumed the bite.
If you find yourself in Pike Place Market, I highly recommend relaxing at Le Panier.
Here’s the link to my blog post detailing the culinary delights I sampled during the Pike Place Market Tour.

first view of Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA

The Pike Place Market tour was to begin at Starbucks (not the original one) located at Pike Street and 1st Avenue.  I arrived early, not knowing where to park nor where to walk nor where Pike and 1st intersected.

Who would travel without GPS assistance?  The handy little device directed me to The Public Market Parking Garage, conveniently located at 1531 Western Avenue.  I paid $15 for parking.  Some may consider this pricey; however, Seattle traffic is intense.  For a non-resident such as me, the ease of access was worth the dollars.  A nice young lady, walking her bicycle, escorted me up the elevator to the 7th floor.  From this landing one can view the shipping yard and the market wall.  Little did I know what awaited on the other side of that wall.

As I opened the door, and proceeded inside, I was instantly overwhelmed.  There, displayed as far as the eye could see, were shelves and rows and racks and benches heaving with a food lover’s ‘stuff.’  Knowing I could not loiter, I moved along to the assigned destination, all the while assured that before me lay a day of sensory overload.

Pause for a personal endorsement -
I highly, highly, highly recommend the Savor Seattle Food Tours.  I can triple highly recommend this business since I participated in three of their tours.  All were equally informative, led by knowledgeable tour guides, entertaining, and well organized.  All three offered an ample array of tasting opportunities.

Once equipped with communication devices, and served a taste of pomegranate iced tea at Starbucks (dark brown exterior building and brown logo rather than the traditional green), the “Pike Place Market:  Classics Food and Culture Tour” began.

Keep in mind that we were only tasting at all the stops, so portions were small yet quite adequate.

Daily Dozen Donuts -

  • small, just baked and still warm, sugar-cinnamon dusted donuts

MarketSpice -

  • their signature tea: cinnamon-orange, naturally sweet iced tea (very good)
  • smoked salt (reminded me of a grill; later returned to the store and sent my brother’s samples of the salt)

Pike Place Fish – The tourist attraction, and tourists were thickly packed around the long counter.  Yes, we saw the fish fly directly into the hands of one from our tour.    We tasted three smoked salmon samples; all were absolutely delicious!  I think these were the three:   

  • Alderwood-smoked Garlic and Pepper Salmon
  •  Alderwood-smoked Salmon
  • Alderwood-smoked Salmon Belly Strips (an alternative to beef jerky)


Frank’s Quality Produce -

  • thinly sliced, juice dripping plums 
  • round, plump bing cherries

Pike Place Chowder -

  • the award winning clam chowder was thick and rich and just perfect; 
  • the seafood bisque was not my favorite because it was too fishy, which is what one would expect of seafood bisque

Chukar Cherries -

  • savory peach-cherry salsa which was delicious with chips
  • dried bing cherries; I returned to purchase these for my granola recipes
  • black forrest chocolate cherries 
  • mocha cherry 
  • a raspberry truffle which is a dried cranberry coated in white chocolate and dusted with red raspberry powder
  • milk chocolate honey pecans (Yum, yum, yum to all these items.  I think I have listed the cherry-tastings somewhat accurately; we tasted so many!)

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

  • made-on-the-premises cheddar cheese, cubed and served on crackers
  • award winning macaroni and cheese
  • Serious Eats great blog post – click here 

Piroshky-Piroshky

  • Apple cinnamon roll
  • Savory Russian Smoked salmon pate piroshky

Etta’s Seafood Restaurant – a Tom Douglas restaurant

  • Mini Dungeness crab cakes 
  • Lemon tart 

The guide shared vendor trivia as we walked along the tour route, as well as history/trivia of the area.

As you can see, we tasted so many different delicacies.  The list is long, and maybe it’s only important to me (and the vendors), but I wanted you to experience the tour, virtually.  Alone, I could have walked through the marked, looked around, and wondered.  Led by the tour guide, we were escorted around, and in front of, and behind.  And we were fed instantly; no waiting in line, no overstuffing, and no doggie bags.

I’ll post information related to the other tours soon, as well as a link to all the pictures.

food adventures in Seattle, WA

I’ve just returned from a few days visiting Seattle, WA.  Seattle is a food lovers town.  I participated in a few city tours around Pike Place Market, and tasted many, many dishes of the Pacific NW.  I’m in the process of editing (many) pictures, and I’ll post a link soon.  Also, I’m compiling a list of food tasting opportunities, along with web site links.  Many offer internet sales, and one would be well served to buy from these home-grown vendors.

I also visited Bakery Nouveua in W Seattle.  Watch for a full post related to that experience very soon.