Chicken of the Woods

I’ve taken a trail near my house many times and have never come across this fungus, which was growing on a Douglas fir stump. Laetiporus conifericola has striking yellow and orange coloring, difficult to miss when approaching it. It’s said to be edible and taste like chicken or crab, thus the common names chicken-of-the-woods and crab-of-the-woods, but I’m not in the habit of eating wild mushrooms that I haven’t vetted before.

Recipe: Sautéed Chanterelles with Bacon and Cream

Now is not the chanterelle season here in the Pacific Northwest, so it was a bit of a surprise to see the wild mushrooms at Costco last week. One pound for $8.99 was too hard to pass up. Even if eating light and local is what’s called for in the warm days of summer, chanterelles and smoked bacon together are hard to beat any time of year.

Sautéed Chanterelles with Bacon and Cream

1 lb. chanterelle mushrooms
4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, sliced crosswise into ¼” pieces
3 tbsp. half-and-half or heavy cream
1 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine creams and set aside.

Rinse mushrooms under cool water to rid them of debris and pat them dry with kitchen towel. Shred larger mushrooms into smaller pieces, starting at the cap end and tearing along the stem with no piece wider than ½ inch. Leave small mushrooms intact.

Fry bacon in 12″ skillet over medium heat until crisp. With slotted spoon, remove bacon to a dish. In the rendered bacon fat, sauté mushrooms sprinkled with salt and pepper to taste, stirring occasionally, until most of their released liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to sizzle, about 10-15 minutes (depending on the their moisture content).

Add cream mixture, stir, and cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened slightly. Off heat, stir in reserved bacon and lemon juice. Remove mushrooms to serving dish and sprinkle with parsley.

Vashon’s Smashing Thai Restaurant: May Kitchen

From the outside, you would never guess what the inside is like. Curtains are perpetually drawn over windows on the storefront that’s half sheathed in plywood, half in brick, milk chocolate in color. There is likewise no indication that a restaurant occupies the space, let alone a Thai one. A small sign written in Thai and two elephant statues on the roof are the only revealing clues. More than these anomalies, the restaurant name is nowhere to be seen. But, the business is May Kitchen + Bar. Once you step inside for dinner (no lunch is served), you get atmospherically transformed to another world, surrounded by exquisite teak and mahogany paneling and furnishings that exude understated elegance and attention to detail. May Kitchen is the pride and joy of chef and owner May Chaleoy, who hails from Bangkok but now lives in nearby Burton on the island.

may kitchen

I had heard good things about May Kitchen over the past few years, not the least of which has been praise from some national publications. Its location on Vashon Island, a 20-minute ferry boat ride from West Seattle, limits the crowds that might otherwise swamp the restaurant, but many Seattleites have made the crossing to eat here. Even so, on any given night, the place will be packed, mostly with locals. May Kitchen is located on Vashon Highway, near the most popular corner in the town of Vashon at the intersection of the highway and SW Bank. My wife and I were on the island to visit good friends over the Vashon Island Strawberry Festival weekend. On the occasion of celebrating one of their birthdays, we at last had an opportunity to eat at May’s.

Festivities started with excellent cocktails and two outstanding appetizers. The first is probably their most famous. Imagine an airy mound of flash-fried watercress piled high in a nest of rice flour-battered goodness, and you have yum phak boong. By itself, the watercress was unseasoned, bland actually, but light and very crispy. But, pieces torn off by hand and dipped into a delicious, mildly spicy tamarind sauce made me swoon. A unique dish, unforgettable and deservedly acclaimed (☆☆☆☆).

Yum phak boong

Yum phak boong

Papia phak sot finds moistened rice paper wrapped around thin rice noodles, mint and cilantro, sprinkled with fried shallots. Again, an outstanding sauce, this one also tamarind-based and slightly sweet, helped make these fresh spring rolls a superstar (☆☆☆☆).

Papia phak sot

Papia phak sot

The entrées didn’t have quite the same impact as the appetizers, but not for lack of flavor.

Yum neua is Thailand’s contribution to the salad world. Lettuce, tomato and red onion with grilled beef in a tart, sweet and spicy dressing dazzles with its boldness. It’s become a favorite of mine. May’s sole problem was tough beef in an otherwise good salad (☆☆☆).

Yum neua

Yum neua

Chef Chaleoy makes her own curries from scratch, and the yellow curry in gaeng faak thong is no exception. What is basically a kabocha squash curry was overshadowed by the amount of fried tofu, one of three protein choices (chicken and pork the others). The curry sauce was exceptional, delicious enough to scoop over rice, but I wish there had been more pieces of squash to be enjoyed by all of us. (☆☆☆½)

Gaeng faak thong, red rice

Gaeng faak thong, red rice

It was really a shame that phad see iew was over-sauced. The dark sauce was too intense, calling attention to itself, an excess of salty and sugary qualities. A lighter hand would’ve made a world of difference. (☆☆½)

Phad see iew

Phad see iew

Our dessert was another matter. We shared an outstanding molten spiced dark chocolate cake reminiscent of a flambéed chocolate decadence. Hints of ginger and chiles provided enough spice to give the dessert an Asian twist, served alongside raspberries and blueberries. (☆☆☆☆)

Molten chocolate cake

Molten spiced dark chocolate cake

The limited menu has several more interesting items. May’s phad thai, for example, is served wrapped in a banana leaf. At the table, the server will add additional ingredients to the noodles one at a time. Another specialty whose name almost competes in length with humuhumunukunukuapua’a is a stir-fry of either chicken or tofu, cashew nuts and mushrooms in a roasted Thai chile sauce. Try ordering phad metmamuanghimmaphan without tripping over your tongue. Islanders are justifiably happy about having such a fine and authentic Thai restaurant on their turf.

May Kitchen + Bar
17614 Vashon Hwy SW
Vashon, WA 98070

Bernie and Hilary on the Same Ticket

Hillary Clinton will not pick Bernie Sanders as her running mate at the Democratic National Convention, but the pair of Bernie O’Malley and Hilary (one “L”) Emmer have teamed together and were named Vashon Island’s unofficial mayors for the 2016-17 term. Done obviously in fun, they capitalized on their ‘name recognition’ to run for the unofficial office and managed to raise $6,000 on the campaign trail on behalf of the Vashon Senior Center.

berniehilary - 1

My wife and I were on the island visiting friends during the Vashon Island Strawberry Festival when the mayoral announcement was made. The festival celebrated its 107th year. The grand marshall of the parade was Mary Matsuda Grunewald, a former Vashon Island resident before she was evacuated in 1941 with 110,000 other Japanese Americans to internment camps. Her family raised strawberries on the island and made the fruit an important crop before the war.

Banana Slug

For a native Northwest coast mollusk, the banana slug is only spotted in the wild, it seems to me, vastly outnumbered in urban Seattle settings by the black and red slugs. The only times I’ve seen the bananas recently have been on forest trails where they are clearly visible as they cross your path. Yellowish in color, often mottled (like an overripe banana), they’re gigantic in size as slugs go, the bigger ones reaching 6″ or so in length. This one was seen on a hiking trail not far from my house.