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All You Can Eat

Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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April 30, 2008 3:00 PM

Oh yes, he Cannes.

Posted by Nancy Leson


If you haven't read Greg Atkinson's Pacific Northwest magazine story this week about going to culinary school, what are you waiting for? And for every one of you who ever thought of ditching your career in [fill-in-the-blank] to study culinary arts -- something I regularly hear folks tell me they're longing to do -- comes the following success story, courtesy of today's press-release from the PR-wonks at Edmonds Community College:

"Edmonds Community College Culinary Arts student Robert Schaudt, 36, of Bellevue will help prepare food for guests attending the Cannes International Film Festival in May as part of the American Pavilion culinary team.

The team, which serves press, filmmakers, stars and industry professionals, prepares up to 1,000 meals per day during the festival in France. Schaudt was one of 35 culinary students selected for the program from a pool of 1,200 applicants.

While earning his two-year culinary arts degree, Schaudt works as a chef at Dan Thiessen's O/8 Seafood Grill in Bellevue. Afterward, Schaudt plans to open his own restaurant serving tapas, desserts and wine. Schaudt's favorite dessert? Chocolate lava cake.

Before coming to the college, Schaudt sold cars. `I was making great money, but it wasn't my dream,' he said. `My wife encouraged me to go back to school for a career I really loved and I have passion for food and wine.'"

Hey, congrats, Robert! And please tell Julia Roberts that I don't care how popular "My Best Friend's Wedding" was: No real restaurant critic could be that thin!

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April 30, 2008 9:15 AM

Cooking on the cheap (OK, inexpensive) -- and on the fly

Posted by Nancy Leson


In today's NWFood&Wine pages, we discuss ways to eat well on the cheap -- an idea started right here on All You Can Eat. Today, I'll add to that (and hope you will, too), by turning you on to one of my favorite quick-and-easy meals: one that can be put together in less than a half-hour, prep time included and can be prepared with everything from rotisserie chicken, to tofu and vegetables, to the sale-priced flank steak I bought at QFC yesterday, or with leftover whatevers. It's my take on Vietnamese Summer Rolls, a roll-your-own extravaganza of deliciousness:

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April 29, 2008 4:01 PM

I scream, you scream: Where's the free ice cream?

Posted by Nancy Leson


So, what are we, chopped liver? That's what my one of my pals wanted to know after she went online today, hot on the trail of a free scoop from Ben & Jerry's. She told me the company was giving away free ice cream today at selected "scoop shops" in honor of its 30th birthday , yet she was dismayed to find the Ben & Jerry's website listing only three franchises doing the giveaway. Worse, the closest one (by far) was in Kirkland. Now, what was that they used to say about "never trust anyone over 30?"

But wait a minute, I wondered. Isn't there a Ben & Jerry's in Ballard? Nope: closed. What about University Village? Gone. (After a call to U-Village management I was told B&J is relocating to Green Lake and expected to open there sometime next month. Meanwhile, the former Ben & Jerry's is set to become a Red Mango, but that's not expected to open till summer's end.)

As for the dearth of Ben & Jerry's locally? Oh, well. I guess Seattleites are just too busy knocking back frozen yogurt, hitting up their neighborhood Baskin-Robbins , eating Chunky Monkey in the comfort of their living rooms or spending their hard-earned cash on creamier, dreamier gelato. And speaking of which: Seattle's own Maria Coassin is celebrating the "grand re-opening" of Gelatiamo this week (after its remodel early this year) by offering a complimentary gelato to all comers on Thursday, May 1st, from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. Stop by her Third and Union store then, and remember: it's gelato. So, no screaming!

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April 29, 2008 11:50 AM

Restaurant Gift Certificates: Use it or lose it!

Posted by Nancy Leson


Often enough, after I write about a restaurant closure, I hear from someone who's royally bummed because they've been sitting on an unused gift certificate that's become terminally unusable. In a comment on my earlier post about the closure of Ballard's Market Street Grill, SeaG noted:

"What? MSG closing? A sad surprise. Any word on how they'll honor gift certificates? I was given some awhile ago from a friend and have been too busy to use them. (sniff)"

The same thing happened recently when I wrote about the closure of Kirkland's Mixtura: I got an e-mail from a reader lamenting the fact that she, too, had failed to use a gift certificate before the restaurant closed shop for good. Amazingly enough, she later wrote back and told me that after contacting the owner of the restaurant, he promised to make good on it and refund her money.


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April 29, 2008 7:00 AM

Use, reuse: One (wo)man's trash is another's treasure

Posted by Nancy Leson


It is easy being green -- most of the time. And though I'm far from a maniacal recycler, there are some things I just can't bear to throw away. Like those square-ish bottles the cheap-but-delicous Trader Joe's Balsamic Vinegar comes in. When the balsamico runs out, it makes a great bottle for leftover wine. That way, when I'm cooking and I need a little wine to deglaze a pan -- voila! There's always some ready to pour:

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April 28, 2008 10:08 AM

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: on-air or in person, she's Splendid

Posted by Nancy Leson


Not too long ago, I was running errands on a Sunday and listening to Lynne Rossetto Kasper's weekly radio show, "The Splendid Table," which airs on KUOW from 2 to 3 p.m. My favorite part is at the end, where she does a Q&A with with listeners and proves she's a pro by riffing on anything she's asked -- complete with that great laugh of hers. (Really, you've got to listen. It's like hanging over a fencepost with your food-savvy next-door-neighbor, only better).

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April 28, 2008 7:28 AM

Breakfast: take two. Strangers eat breakfast, too.

Posted by Nancy Leson


In my last post, we chatted about breakfast, and where to get a grand-ish-slam without breaking the bank. Meanwhile, I somehow I managed to miss the fact the staff at The Stranger offered an all-hands-on-deck take on breakfast/brunch last week -- which I enjoyed with a cup of coffee in the quiet of my home this weekend. Go check out what they have to say here, then come back to me and weigh in: Where do you get your bacon/eggs/granola/huevos rancheros/fancy-Fruit-Loop fix?

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April 25, 2008 4:10 PM

Let's talk breakfast

Posted by Nancy Leson

Helen Kong asks: "What's with the Seattle brunch scam? My friends and I often complain how very few places (other than Denny's) offer something sweet (waffles) with something savory (bacon or potatoes). You always have to pony up an additional $2-$3 for the savory. Is this just standard restaurant biz?"

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April 25, 2008 9:00 AM

Shhhh! We're trying to hear ourselves eat!

Posted by Nancy Leson


Today in the P.I. Leslie Kelly poses this question in her review round-up: "So, where can diners turn for a piece of quiet?" She explains she's "searched for dining rooms that offer calm oases, venues more seductive than sedate," singling out Canlis, Cascadia, Chez Shea, the Georgian and Portage. I think we can have fun expanding on that list, and seeing as so many of you are clamoring for less clamorous restaurants, it's a timely subject.

I'll start, and send extra lovage your way in advance if you can help me come up with some more-affordable restaurants to add to my list. Are you ready, kids? I can heeaarrr you at: Beato, Bis on Main, Cafe Juanita, Dulces Latin Bistro, Enotria, Eva, Gaspare, il Bistro, Le Gourmand, Madoka, Marjorie, Maximilien, May Restaurant & Lounge, Nell's, Stumbling Goat Bistro , Szmania's and Trellis.

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April 24, 2008 4:30 PM

Market Street Grill, pizza and burgers (again)

Posted by Nancy Leson


Arnel Sta. Maria asks: "I went to the Market Street Grill in Ballard last month for the 30 for $30 to have their fantastic truffled fries with their rib eye steak. While I was there, the server said that they're going to be going under new management in a month. Have you heard this?"

Nope, Arnel. I'm professionally embarassed to say that was news to me. And for those of you who haven't been around long enough recall its grand opening, allow me to mention that Market Street Grill was among the first yupscale restaurants to scale the bar-and-bistro heights of Ballard. (Mind you, this was in 2000, back before Ballard became "the new Belltown" and way before Georgetown became the "new Ballard.")

Well, after several fruitless calls to the place over the past week, I finally drove over there to see what was up. And what's up is that Market Street has gone down -- it's been closed for about two weeks. The storefront windows are papered over, the bar and its booze are covered in construction dust and I've heard diddly-squat from longtime owner John Sillers (John? John? Whither art thou -- and Kendell?). Meanwhile, Marin Maranov, the new owner, was kind enough to stop ripping the place apart and talk to me for a few minutes about what was going on there.

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April 24, 2008 11:30 AM

Dim Sum: Tipping is not a city in China

Posted by Nancy Leson


Christine Atkins asks: "My family loves to go to dim sum about 3 times a month. I'm never sure if we're supposed to leave a tip, and if so, how much?"

As someone who always leaves a generous tip to my dim sum servers, I thought I'd pose this question to a professional. So I called Janet Lau, owner of Top Gun in Bellevue, and O'Asian in Seattle -- where dim sum is a specialty. Here's what she told me:

"Just like at any other sitdown restaurant, it is customary to pay gratuity to the dim sum servers," Janet says. She notes that the gratuity should range from 12% to 18% and that tips are usually pooled and divided among the servers based on time worked and their various responsibilites. "Looking at our records, Top Gun generates a 14% average. At O'Asian, as our customer-base is comprised of mostly business professionals, the average percentage is a little higher, usually between 15% and 20%."

And while we're on the subject: Attention trolley-pushers and tray-carriers at dim sum parlors everywhere! Non-Chinese dim sum lovers like me promise to pony-up a little "extra" if you promise to stop assuming we we have no interest in chicken feet, congee and tripe, OK?


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April 24, 2008 9:30 AM

Ooh, Ahh, 'sparagus

Posted by Nancy Leson


I was driving through Ballard yesterday, when I spotted this: Local asparagus, making its seasonal debut!

So I pulled over, went into Jimmy Wild's produce market Top Banana, bought a pound and took them home:

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April 23, 2008 4:00 PM

And the award for letters regarding restaurant design goes to. . .

Posted by Nancy Leson


. . . a guy named Scott Surdyke, who's a project manager/developer type and a self-professed "foodie." He e-mailed me (and several other Seattle scribes) with a passionate letter, addressed "To the food critics of our local media," sporting a great subject line: "In Praise of Modern Restaurants." In it, he says he's had it up to here with our Old School tastes in restaurant decor -- something he's gleaned by reading our reviews (bless him).

He's correct about me: I'm not one for "modern" decor. One look around my 70-plus-year-old house and you'd know that right off the bat. Though I was glad to hear that Le Gourmand recently updated its formerly foofy dining room. But I took Scott's e-mail in the spirit with which I'm certain he sent it. I also talked to him on the phone before posting, and he sounds like a smart, thoughtful guy -- his rant and professional attachment to the subject notwithstanding.

I'm curious as to whether or not you'll agree or disagree with him. Is Seattle "stuck in the rustic '90s" when it comes to restaurant decor? And are we as restaurant critics/food writers showing our age when we liken restaurant dining rooms to the homes inhabited by the Jetsons and the Brady Bunch? (Wait: don't answer that last question.) Here's Scott's letter. Read it, then let me what you think.

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April 23, 2008 12:00 PM

Summer camp: Spanish omelets and "bug juice" and Peanut Chews, oh my!

Posted by Nancy Leson

I just opened the latest e-mail newsletter from Tom Douglas, which plugs the blog of one of my favorite food-fanatics -- my NY-based bargain-bites-buddy Ed Levine, whose Serious Eats is well worth talking a look at if you haven't already. And I couldn't help noting that Top Chef's Zoi Antonitsas -- who I chatted about in a post the other day -- will be a "counselor" at Tom's "summer camp" this season. Tom's ungodly expensive summer tour de forced-feeding sounds like way too much fun, and it made me think, with much longing, of my (inexpensive, and worth thrice the price) childhood summer camp: Golden Slipper.

Each year, my sisters, brother, cousins and I would spend three weeks in the Pocono Mountains freezing our tushies off every morning swimming in the ice-cold pool and mountain-cold lake, hanging out at the Nature Lodge (camp song, sung to the Supreme's tune, "Stop, at the Naaaature Lodge. . .") and gossiping about our camp crushes (Gary Discount! Camp counselor "Uncle" Alan Braverman! Swoon!). And of course, we spent plenty of time in the dining hall eating Spanish omelets (hated those!), drinking "bug juice" and waiting to hear about the evening's entertainment (like the talent show where I once got up in front of 500 people and brought the house down with an imitation of Babs Streisand singing "Don't Rain on My Parade").

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April 23, 2008 9:40 AM

What's good for you is great for them: Dining Out for Life

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you haven't already made plans -- or reservations -- for tomorrow's Dining Out for Life event, whatcha waiting for? From coffeeshops to pizzerias, neighborhood Thai joints to fancified dinner houses, more than 150 eat-and-drinkeries are donating 30% of their proceeds to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. All you've got to do is go out and enjoy yourself on Thursday, April 24th, knowing that you're helping your neighbors (and their friends at Lifelong) continue their fight against HIV and AIDS. For the list of participating restaurants check out this website.

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April 22, 2008 4:41 PM

Two Bells Burgers: love 'em. You?

Posted by Nancy Leson

There are people who go to the Two Bells , just off the corner of Fourth and Bell, to sit at the scarred bar and hoist a beer. Or meet their business-pals for the day's sandwich special (egg salad, grilled Reuben). Some even show up for Sunday brunch. I go -- but no where near as often as I should -- for lunch, to see just how well a fresh baguette can hold up to the fabulous fat that pours from the Bells' appropriately "famous" burgers. The answer: very well, thank you. Now you might suggest that a burger on a baguette is not a burger, but trust me, you'd be wrong. Besides, that baguette, baked right up the block at Boulangerie Nantaise and strengthened by plenty of whole wheat, turns what might otherwise be a glorious mess into a visually elegant one: a two thick-napkin extravaganza of beefy ground round:



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April 22, 2008 7:15 AM

Who do ya love?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last night, because our evening went sideways, timewise, my husband suggested we go out for dinner. When our son made a bid for his favorite Chinese restaurant, Szechuan 99, we agreed. The atmosphere at this little Lynnwood haunt may leave something to be desired (hello, 1970's!), but they've got several dishes we're collectively addicted to, like the tea smoked duck, hand-shaven noodles and Szechuan 99 Fish (I'm nuts about the housemade soft tofu, but my boys don't do tofu). Yet the main draw here, for me at least, is this guy, Charlie, seen here holding our fish:



The look on his face says it all: Charlie likes his job. And when a waiter is as helpful and friendly as this guy -- who frequently holds down the fort solo, but rarely stops smiling no matter how busy he gets -- it adds a lot to the dining experience. So, I'm asking: What waiter (or waitress) makes your day and keeps you coming back for more? And where can we find them?

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April 21, 2008 4:35 PM

Duskie, John, and Zoi: Top Chefs from Seattle cookin' in Sonoma County

Posted by Nancy Leson

I recently made a quick trip to Northern California to help my "wicked" stepmother, Betty, move from the home she'd shared with my (dearly departed) dad. Knowing the trip would be a lot of fun (not!), and that I'd be arriving in Santa Rosa at 8:30 on a Friday night, I decided to start the weekend right and made reservations for dinner at Zazu.

Zazu Restaurant & Farm, a short ride from the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, is owned by Duskie Estes and her husband, John Stewart -- both veterans of Tom Douglas Restaurants. It's a place I've always heard about but never been to. So while I'm sorry my stepmother had to move out of the house she and my dad shared for 25 years in Novato, I'm glad I now have a restaurant with a Seattle connection only 10 minutes from her new home in Santa Rosa. And she's glad, too, because I introduced her to Duskie, who's about as warm a human being as anyone can ever hope to meet:

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April 21, 2008 1:37 PM

Bargain dinners at home. What's cooking at your house?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'm not a big spender, but I do spend a disportionate amount of money shopping for high-quality foodstuffs. Reading my pal Karen Gaudette's front-page news today regarding the precipitous rise in food costs, got me thinking. With money buying less at the market these days, which homecooked meals do I consider a delicious bargain? Last night's dinner came quickly to mind.

For my family of three, I roasted a whole Washington chicken ($7) basted with a couple of tablespoons of bacon drippings leftover from breakfast. I served the chicken with Yukon Gold potatoes ($1.49) which benefited greatly, flavorwise, from being chunked and browned in the bottom of the roasting pan with the chicken drippings. And I splurged on my family's favorite green vegetable, Chinese long beans (for which I paid about $4). Bottom line: for just over four bucks a head, we had an incredibly delicious dinner. One that took little effort to prepare and provided enough leftovers to make two thick chicken salad sandwiches for lunch.

So, here's what I want to know: What delicious, inexpensive dinners are you cooking at home?

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April 21, 2008 7:15 AM

Where to eat with food allergies?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Jeff Parker wants to know: Where should he and his family dine out, given their various food allergies and intolerances? Here's his story:

Jeff's teenage son is gluten/lactose/casein intolerant, and while gluten is the main problem, he can tolerate some milk. Jeff and his wife are both lactose intolerant (they, too, can handle a little milk) and also allergic to eggs -- though when baked in a recipe rather than scrambled or in omelet form, they can digest them. To add to the difficulties finding a restaurant the entire family can enjoy, Jeff wrote, "My son is a bit tired of always ordering breakfast food (eggs and ham are safe) when he goes out to eat, and he hates all vegetables."

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April 18, 2008 4:30 PM

Move it or lose it: Restaurateurs strike a sweet deal.

Posted by Nancy Leson


When Doug Armatage bought the Fremont Classic over a year ago, he did it with real estate in mind. As the owner of Maple Leaf's A New York Pizza Place and its wholesale spin-off East Coast Pizza Dough Co., Armatage was covering his bases, concerned that one day/someday, the old building that houses the dough-that-makes-him-dough may face the wrecking ball. "I call it the lean-to," he says. "Don't lean too hard, it'll fall over." The former software salesman, who got into the pizza business four years ago, wasn't immune to the fact that all over the area, business-folks like him were losing restaurant leases to redevelopment. "That's a very distressing thing," he says. "You think, if that happens to me, I'm in trouble."

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April 18, 2008 11:55 AM

10-year-old Rialto Pasta Bar & Grill to become a Fremont classic

Posted by Nancy Leson

Rudy La Valle, owner of the little Green Lake Italian restaurant, Rialto Pasta Bar & Grill, is moving to Fremont. The retail block his restaurant sits on is slated to be redeveloped into (all together now) a mixed-use condo project. The original Rialto will close after dinner service Saturday, April 26th, so get over there and say "Arrivederci!" Green Lake neighbors. Then keep your fingers crossed that Rialto's move into the old Fremont Classic at 4307 Fremont Avenue N. (most recently owned by Doug Armatage of A New York Pizza Place ) goes smoothly.

"We've been renovating for the past two months and shooting for a May 1 opening," Rudy told me. "The ugly sheds in the front are going away in order to liberate the patio for summer outdoor dining." The heart of the menu will remain the same, though we can expect a longer list of pastas. "Moving and expanding is always a gamble," Rudy says, "but we have a strong base of support and hope to bring in a whole new crowd from the Fremont neighborhood."

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April 18, 2008 9:30 AM

Pizza. The gaunlet has been thrown. Let's discuss.

Posted by Nancy Leson

After yesterday's post about Domino's new pizza-tracking system, I knew I'd hear from pizza fans disappointed with the pie that dares to bear the name. And I'll have to agree with ffred99, who wants to know, "What happened to pizza with Character?" He recalls "wonderful" pizza with "just enough crust" to hold up the sauce, cheeses and toppings, recalling, "When you took that first bite, your eyes rolled back and you were in pizza heaven."

Oh, yeah. I remember that pizza. I grew up on it in Philadelphia. It's the same stuff ex-pat Newyawkers dream about.

There's no question that pizza in Greater Seattle is undergoing a Renaissance, with pizzerias like Tutta Bella, Via Tribunali and Pizzeria Fondi celebrating the Neapolitan ideal -- or even going it one better (as at Serious Pie). And then, of course, there are the Italian restaurants that rock out in the pizza-making department like Cafe Lago, La Medusa, and those Southend family-owned Italian joints everyone who lives down there raves about (feel free to help me out by naming them).

What aggravates me most about pizza around here, though, is trying to get a decent take-out pie for pick-up or delivery. And trying to get it at less than $20-$25 bucks (a crime!) I wish Piecora's and A New York Pizza Place were in my neighborhood, but have to settle for either Old Milltown Pizza (not half-bad, but they don't deliver) or my old-standby, Pagliacci, where the crust is nowhere as good as it once was now that they've got over 20 pizza outlets -- though their customer-service for pick-up or delivery is outstanding, and I'll give them the nod for their toppings.

So, let's go: Where do you eat pizza? Where do you take out? Best? Worst? Let's discuss.

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April 17, 2008 4:40 PM

Pizza Delivery: on track, but so what?

Posted by Nancy Leson

As a rule, I don't order Domino's Pizza, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Like today, when I opened an e-mail here at the office and found the following announcement:

"Domino's Pizza has launched another food delivery industry first: Pizza Tracker."


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April 17, 2008 7:15 AM

Waiters, write it down! (Redux)

Posted by Nancy Leson

Marcia T. e-mailed, with this important question:

"I've always wanted to ask what you thought about one of my pet peeves: waiters/waitresses who do not write down orders. While it looks impressive to take orders for groups and individuals without writing the order down, I don't enjoy them having to return to confirm what we ordered, or bring a dish that is incorrect. Such errors can ruin a great dinner.

Over the last several years I've noticed this happening more and more often, regardless of type and class of restaurant. I would say the majority of times our orders are correct, but very often we've had to return the dish, or swallow the disappointment and eat something we did not request. If there is an error, there's no proof of where it occured, and we've had to deal with some indignent waiters who insist they took the correct order when they didn't. I also find that I can't really enjoy conversations until the food comes, worried about something going wrong in the back of my mind. Am I being too nitpicky? Has this happened to you?"

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April 16, 2008 5:00 PM

Testing one, two, three: Mercury, not rising

Posted by Nancy Leson

Word just in from the fine folks at Haggen supermarkets, via a press-release dated today. They're crowing about becoming the first supermarkets in the Pacific Northwest to offer Safe Harbor mercury-tested and certified seafood, introducing Safe Harbor-certified seafood at all 33 supermarkets under the Haggen umbrella -- which includes TOP Food & Drug, Haggen Food & Pharmacy and Larry's Market.

What's the big deal? Well, In their words:

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April 16, 2008 2:25 PM

One Pot, lots of coffee people, Eritrean food and a couple of new restaurants

Posted by Nancy Leson

The invite came from the folks at Caffe Vita. Yeah, yeah, I know: I've mentioned them twice in recent posts. But what I've never mentioned before -- via print or post -- is One Pot, the communal dining experience and the guy behind it, Michael Hebberoy. I will not bother going into the dirty details of Hebberoy's life (it's already been done here, and here and here).

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April 16, 2008 8:54 AM

Airport-area brunch? Salty's and. . .?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Yo, Southenders, here's a query for you. Reader Nancy Ward is driving from Portland to meet a friend on an airport layover for brunch on an upcoming Sunday. Neither of them are familiar with the area, they don't want to be any more than 15-20 minutes from the airport, and the only place I can think to send them is Salty's in Des Moines, where they'll have a chance to catch up over a view and massive amounts of seafood -- among other eats. And yeah, there's always 13 Coins around the corner from the airport, which would be convenient, but. Any other ideas?

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April 15, 2008 6:14 PM

Geneva gets the Boot

Posted by Nancy Leson

"What happened to Restaurant Geneva on 8th Ave?" writes Catherine Hardy. "I drove by the other day and saw a sign for a new Italian place. Geneva was wonderful -- have the owners maybe opened something else?"

Well, that depends on who you mean when you say "the owners," Catherine. If you're talking about Swiss chef Hanspeter Aebersold (who bought the former Reiner's restaurant from Reiner Grubel in 1995 and later renamed the fine-dining restaurant Geneva), he and his wife and business partner, Margret, retired and are living in Mukilteo. If you're talking about chef/owner Sevala Kulovic, the Bosnian who bought the place from the Aebersold's nearly a year ago, he's since moved to San Francisco.

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April 15, 2008 8:05 AM

Reader in a pickle. Can you help?

Posted by Nancy Leson

This query in from a not-so-sour-puss named "C" who wondered:

"So, now that Farman's parent company has gone to India for cukes, is there any local jar of pickles left? I refuse to make my own (you do NOT want me near that kind of cooking, I may blow Seattle off the map!) and I don't want to buy leeetle craft jars of 3 baby pickles each at a Farmer's Market. I want a hefty jar 'o pickles, not sweet, just good mainstream dill pickles. From local farmers. Am I building cloud pickles? Barking up the wrong pickle tree?"

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April 11, 2008 12:00 PM

Diet for a Better Seattle: Quick, get over there. Or go tonight.

Posted by Nancy Leson

Whoa, I'm way late on this one, just in from my colleague Sharon Chan. Sounds like something the thinking fooderazzi shouldn't miss. Too bad I'm sitting in Edmonds, and leaving in a few hours for Santa Rosa. . .

The Seattle City Council presents noted author and activist Francis Moore Lappe talking about Council President Richard Conlin's Local Food Action Initiative. This new legislation would create a Seattle Food Action Plan, improve direct connections between farmers in the region and urban consumers including major institutions like hospitals, schools, and jails; support sustainable agriculture; aid local farmer's markets and market gardens; and more.

Two events:

AS I WRITE:
Brownbag with City Council and Lappe, Friday, April 11, noon, Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Avenue, Second Floor, City Council Chambers, Free, Open to the Public.

LATER THIS EVENING:
A Conversation with Frances Moore Lappé
April 11, 5:00pm-7:00pm, Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room, 600 4th Ave, Seattle.

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April 11, 2008 10:00 AM

Oyster Bar Round-up: Yee-haw! Get along, little kumas

Posted by Nancy Leson


Here's my April restaurant round-up: a half-dozen Seattle oyster bars where I found heaven on a half-shell.

Man, I ate so many oysters in the last couple of weeks, I almost had my fill.

I ate big ones, and small ones:



And oysters paired with beer in mini-steins:


Continue reading this post ...


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April 11, 2008 7:58 AM

Weekend project: Makin' Marmalade. Easy, schmeasy

Posted by Nancy Leson

You never know what riches you'll find at Big John's PFI. On a recent foray, I came across a can of Hartley's Ma Made Thick Cut Seville Oranges, stamped with the words "Just Add Sugar and Water." On closer inspection, it promised "6 Lbs of Delicious Homemade Marmalade in Just 30 Minutes" for $9.50.



Continue reading this post ...


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April 10, 2008 4:37 PM

Gypsy -- Busted by Tramps and Thieves?

Posted by Nancy Leson


The following e-mail message (see below) just came in from the folks at Gypsy -- Seattle's first well-publicized "underground restaurant." Big bummer, though frankly, I'm surprised the bust didn't come sooner.


"Camelot has ended.

We wake up, we go to work, we come home, we occasionally eat out. Most lives are fashioned after this pattern. Most restaurant's lives are as well: make food, sell food, clean up, go home. Sometimes, a very magical sometimes, restaurants are able to trancend the merely ordinary and in doing so, transform to some small degree the lives of its patrons.

Gypsy has been this magical place for many many people. New friends, new ideas, new love, a salon of creativity. But as with all things destined to touch hearts, evil waits to take it away. We have been betrayed. Gypsy as we know it was too scary a place to exist, so now it doesn't.

We are going much deeper underground. Those who really know how to get ahold of us, please email (please don't call us), we will start a new list, a more protected list. Dinners are cancelled for all intents and purposes. And to the traitor to the clan we offer you this: May you never sleep well, may laughter sound bitter in your ears, and may food always taste like ashes to you...this is our Gypsy curse. You have destroyed a good thing."

Comments, anyone? I'd like to "hear it from the people of the town."

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April 10, 2008 4:15 PM

My name is Nancy, and I am a Cookbook Junkie

Posted by Nancy Leson


The sky might be falling in the cookbook industry (see last post), but you couldn't tell that from looking around my house. I've got a cookbook collection that's getting competely out of hand -- and I wouldn't have it any other way. If I had to venture a guesstimate, I'd say I own more than 500 cookbooks.



Continue reading this post ...


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April 10, 2008 11:52 AM

Cookbooks, the Food Network, and Famous Guy's wives

Posted by Nancy Leson


Kevin Rochlin e-mailed me with this query:

"After browsing in bookstores and making a rough estimate of the books
covered in The Good Cook flyer (the cookbook equivalent to a record club) it
seems that 90% of cookbooks out there are either by Martha Stewart or Food
Network
stars. While I am a fan of many of the shows, I don't consider the
majority of them cooking experts and do not really have an interest in their
recipes. Do you think that the number of cookbooks by non Food Network
authors is still the same but overshadowed by FN, or has the FN taken over
the industry?"

In a word, Kevin? Yes. I do think the Food Network has taken over the industry, and there's a reason:

Continue reading this post ...


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April 9, 2008 4:51 PM

I went. I saw. I Taste(d) Washington! (And yes, I loved it.)

Posted by Nancy Leson

I don't drink alot, but I do drink frequently. And I did just that last Sunday. With a glass in my hand and my camera in my pocket, I spent several hours at the Grand Tasting at Taste Washington! -- an event that capped-off of a weekend of serious Washingon wine enthusiasm for folks from near and far. Having attended this Sip-and-Nosh-O-Rama (after a decade of ignoring it), I'm finally willing to grant the wine weenies behind Taste Washington! their exclamation point.

What a bonanza! There was food, wine, friends, fun. And if you think I sound like a tush-kissing media-type who bought into the Washington Wine Commission's hype, then you obviously weren't with me as I strolled the spacious miles of aisles at the Qwest Field Event Center, trying to curb my enthusiasm while successfully sipping my way through a crowd of 3500 attendees. Here's a "Taste" of the action:


Continue reading this post ...


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April 9, 2008 7:00 AM

Gator Aide

Posted by Nancy Leson


Late Monday afternoon, I was in a very bad mood as I was driving up Lake City Way heading into Lake Forest Park. But that all changed after a restaurant's "Grand Opening" sign caught my eye.



Actually, it was the fancy-pants trailer rig parked next to the roadside joint that caught my eye first, but it was the fact that both the rig and the shack bore the words "gator" that led me to make a U-turn. I wasn't the least bit hungry, but I knew that to drive by this place without stopping to investigate would be a crime.


Continue reading this post ...


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April 8, 2008 3:50 PM

Slurpin' with my homies, at Starbucks

Posted by Nancy Leson

In case you haven't heard, Starbucks is trying to woo you back. Or woo you for the first time. Or make you say "Whoo-hoo!" when you drink a cup of Starbucks drip coffee. And so this morning, 'round 9am, with two mugs of homemade coffee already in my gullet, I went down to Pike Place Market to get a free cup of Starbucks' new Pike Place Roast, which made its national debut today.



No, Howard Schultz wasn't there. He was in NYC drumming up business. (I did see him in the Market last week, chatting in front of a TV camera here at Starbucks, but unfortunately I didn't have my camera handy. And I've also seen him -- more than once -- eating dinner at Lark, but that's another story.) This morning, there were any number of friendly Starbucks corporate staff on hand, including this woman who works closely with Howard. Here she is talking to the TV cameras while her C.E.O. was in N.Y.C. pitching J.O.E.


Continue reading this post ...


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April 8, 2008 7:00 AM

New restaurants

Posted by Nancy Leson

Am I the only one annoyed by "Grand Opening" banners on restaurants that have been open for six months -- or more? I'm betting I'm not. Here's a prime example: Bada Sushi in Shoreline, open since September and still flying the flag seven months later. Granted, those banners are inexpensive ways to advertise a new (or newish) place. And I can appreciate that. In fact, I'll do so in newsprint -- and in a post -- tomorrow, when I rave about a place whose "grand opening" five weeks ago was clearly that.

So, here's my plan: Let's use this post as a meeting place for comments about new restaurants. See someplace new? Share the news right here. Give me the who, what, when and where -- along with the "whaddaya think" if you've eaten there.

As for those "Grand Opening" banners? I suggest we give newbies three months to keep their banners flying -- unless I hear from folks who disagree on that length and can back up why we should give 'em more or less time to fly the just-opened flag. After that, we'll post violations (Bada! You're on the list!).

OK, here we go:

NEW RESTAURANTS

Casper's Everglades Supper Shack, a Southern sensation at 15030 Bothell Way N.E. in Lake Forest Park, (206) 268-0202, www.eatmoregator.com, open five weeks. Gotta get: the gator. Don't miss: the banana pudding. Eat in or take-out.

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April 7, 2008 7:55 AM

They double-dog-dared me

Posted by Nancy Leson

On Saturday, I went to Science Art & More near 65th and Roosevelt -- which is a great store if you've got a kid who's interested in the aforementioned. While buying a flu bug (don't ask) and some petri dishes, I saw these snacks for sale by the register:


Continue reading this post ...


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April 4, 2008 4:15 PM

2008 Washington Wine Restaurant Awards

Posted by Nancy Leson

This just in from that major Washington wine event Taste Washington! , part of this weekend's festivities at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. These restaurant wine-award winners were announced only minutes ago, and if I were tech-savvy enough to figure out how to get those strange symbols off every restaurant with "Cafe" in its name, trust me, I would have. Meanwhile, raise a glass of Washington grape to . . .

Washington Wine Restaurant of the Year: Brix 25

Walter Clore Honorarium: Allan Aquila

Winemaker's Choice: Valley Café

Most Innovative Wine List: 0/8 Seafood Grill & Twisted Cork Wine Bar

Best Restaurant Event Featuring Washington Wines (Tie):
(Event) End of Summer Hootenanny at Waterfront Seafood Grill
(Out-of State Event) Walla Walla En Primeur at Andrae's
(Event Series) Best of Season at Anthony's Restaurants

Sommelier of the Year: Ole Thompson, Wild Ginger & The Triple Door

Most Improved Wine Program of the Year: Smash Wine Bar and Bistro

Washington Restaurant Association Award: Ray's Boathouse

Best Out-of-State Washington Wine Program: Andrae's of Boise, Idaho

Seattle Business Monthly Award: Steelhead Diner

Washington Wine Grand Award:

0/8 Seafood Grill & Twisted Cork Wine Bar
Andrae's
Anthony's Hearthfire Grills
Anthony's Restaurants
Barking Frog
BOKA Kitchen and Bar
Brix 25*
Canlis Restaurant
Daniel's Broiler Prime Steaks & Chops
Dulces Latin Bistro
El Gaucho Seattle
The Metropolitan Grill
The Rainier Club
Ray's Boathouse
Rover's Restaurant
Salty's at Redondo
Salty's on Alki
Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar
SkyCity at the Needle
Smash Wine Bar and Bistro
Sun Mountain Lodge
The Triple Door
Valley Café
Washington Athletic Club
Waterfront Seafood Grill
Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant and Satay Bar

Washington Wine Award of Distinction:
The Beach Café at the Point
Bella Italia
Brix Wine Café
Café Veloce
Creektown Café
Elliot's Oyster House
The Georgian
Icon Grill and Zephyr Grill and Bar
Iris Grill
The Local Vine
Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center
Palisade
Ponti Seafood Grill
Purple Café & Wine Bar
Sea Grill Restaurant
Spazzo Italian Grill & Wine Bar
Spokane Club
Steelhead Diner
Tini Bigs
Tulalip Bay Exceptional Dining
Union Square Grill
The Woodmark Hotel/Waters Bistro
Washington State Convention & Trade Center
The Yarrow Bay Grill

Washington Wine Certificate of Recognition:
Berkshire Grill
Chandler's Crabhouse
Daily Grill
El Gaucho Portland
Il Fornaio
Ivars Mukilteo Landing
Lombardi's Neighborhood Italian
Pomegranate Bistro
Swirl Wine Bar
Troiani
Windows Restaurant

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April 4, 2008 7:30 AM

That'll be two Deluxe, an order of fries and some health insurance

Posted by Nancy Leson


Saw this sign in the window at Dick's on Lower Queen Anne, and it got me thinking about my first "real" job: working the counter at Hardee's Hamburgers in Northeast Philadelphia for minimum wage, no bennies (if you don't count the discounted employee meal). I was 17, just graduated from high school and trying to save money for college. I think I lasted about a month before realizing the job wasn't for me, but not before I fell in lust with the burger-flipper, who was an absolute jerk but a terrific guitar player. I'll bet you a Dick's Deluxe I'm not the only one out there whose first job involved fast food and minimum wage (bless Dick's heart for going one better). And I'm wondering: Where did you work? And what do you remember most about it?

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April 3, 2008 3:54 PM

Live from New York, it's Ethan Stowell

Posted by Nancy Leson

When word came in last night that Ethan Stowell would be appearing live on the Today Show this morning, there was no mention of exactly what he was doing on the show. Turns out he was teaming up with chefs Michael Psilakis (of Anthos, in NYC) and Sue Zemanick (from Gautreau's, in New Orleans), cooking burgers to kick off the announcement that he's been voted one of Food & Wine magazine's "2008 Best New Chefs in America."

Couple that with his recent nomination for a James Beard "Best Chef Northwest" award for his work at Union, plus a world of good yak about his two newest restaurants Tavolata and How to Cook a Wolf, and you'd think the guy's head must be in the clouds. Actually, when I got a hold of him a few minutes ago, his head -- along with the rest of him -- was hanging out in a fancy fete-ing hall in NYC, where he and other "Best New Chefs" will rub elbows with past winners like Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Wylie Dufresne and Dan Barber.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 3, 2008 11:00 AM

Where's the Beef -- Wellington

Posted by Nancy Leson

Fella named Ryan wrote to say he's stumped. A friend of his wants to know where to get Beef Wellington in Seattle, and Ryan's drawing a blank. Me too. The only thing I can come up with is the Portobello Wellington at Cafe Flora (Where's the beef? Who cares! It's fabulous without it.) And I considered sending him to Anchorage, AK for the best Beef Wellington ever -- at the Marx Bros. Cafe, where I worked for seven years in the 80s (best job I ever had)!. But even they don't serve that classic dish any longer. Can anybody help?

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April 3, 2008 7:15 AM

The Bagel from Outerspace

Posted by Nancy Leson

Here at the office, there's often something to nosh on: Girl Scout cookies, Top Pot donuts (when someone's feeling flush), CeCe Sullivan's Times-tested recipes, strange candies brought back from exotic travels, and of course, bagels. Yesterday was a bagel day, courtesy of a features-staffer who was kind enough to bring in a dozen Safeway bagels to share with the rest of us deadline-driven drones. When the clock striked "lunch" I fished around in the paper bag -- the one imprinted with "New York Style Bagels" -- and snagged the last one. Here it is, posing on coffee saucer just so you can see its monumental scale. I measured it with a copy editor's ruler just for kicks: nearly six inches across.

Beggars can't be choosers, and seeing as this was my lunch, the bagel was a Godsend. But a "New York style" bagel? Get outta town. In my opinion, the only bagels around here that come remotely close to the real deal are the ones sold at Bagel Oasis on 65th. Anybody want to beg to differ?

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April 2, 2008 8:51 PM

Tomorrow on Today: Ethan Stowell

Posted by Nancy Leson

Seattle chef Ethan Stowell does a star turn tomorrow on NBC's today show. I'm thinking he'll be showing America how to cook a wolf -- maybe with a little handmade pasta on the side? No word on exactly what time his segment airs, but the show starts at 7 a.m.

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April 2, 2008 2:00 PM

The criticial eye: New York, San Francisco, Seattle -- same diff?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Here's an interesting query, just in via e-mail from that fine fellow Jon Rowley, who asks:

"Do you think Seattle restaurant review stars should mean the same thing here as in New York and San Francisco, or are resaurants here subjected to a lower bar?"

The long answer? Don't get me started.

Continue reading this post ...


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April 2, 2008 12:04 PM

Aw, shucks

Posted by Nancy Leson

Here it is: the cutest oyster I've seen in I-don't-know-when. Delicious, too. Any guesses as to what, exactly, I'm holding in my hand? Come on, you slurping sophisticates, impress me. Operators are standing by!

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April 2, 2008 6:40 AM

Trees, Bees and My Son's "Famous" Apricot Sauce

Posted by Nancy Leson

The weather's been nuts this last week, which has me worrying about our apricot tree and the fruit I'm hoping it will bear this summer. I love that tree. It was the "free" part of a "buy four and get one free" promotion from Raintree Nursery over a decade ago. Unlike our other drawf fruit trees (cherries and apples) the apricot took five years to produce, and when it did: Man-oh-Manischewitz! Those were some of the sweetest apricots I'd ever tasted. But what's up with this snow? On the first buds of spring, no less?

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April 1, 2008 3:10 PM

Where in the World (Spice) is Tony?

Posted by Nancy Leson

After reading my previous post about a perfect day at Pike Place Market and my aromatic trip to my favorite culinary apothacary, the question has arisen:

"Speaking of World Spice, what happened to Tony? Did he sell it? I never see him there and can't tell if he still owns it or not. I'd love to know what he is up to, nonetheless (I love his spice tome!)."

In 2005, owner Tony Hill sold World Spice Merchants to longtime employee, Amanda Bevill.

"I started working for Tony in 2002, when he was finishing his spice book. I was looking for a career change, and so was he," she explains. With those changes in mind, Amanda became Tony's apprentice. "Everything I know about spices, I learned from Tony," she says, though it probably didn't hurt that in her previous career she was a medical herbalist. "For me, it's always pretty much been all about the plants."

Continue reading this post ...


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April 1, 2008 8:30 AM

Tipping etiquette at the sushi bar? "Help, please!"

Posted by Nancy Leson

Reader Mike Lynch e-mailed me with the following comments, and a query:

"I've searched the internet and can find no definitive etiquette for tipping a waitperson while sitting at the bar in a sushi restaurant. However, since they simply don't do as much as someone who brings me several courses of food, etc., I usually tip 10-12% for average service, 15% for excellent service and 20% if the waitperson brought something extra to the experience -- mainly fun. My standard for full-service dining can be anything from 20% for expected service to well above that standard for an exceptional experience.

"I was taken to task today by a shockingly unprofessional waitress for the way I tip at a sushi bar I frequent. I must admit, though, to wondering if there is any merit to her complaint. She mostly gets 10-12% from me because she's just lousy. Today I find out her poor service and attitude were willful. Now I'm not certain which came first, the chicken or the egg, but I informed her that her tips had always been commensurate with the quailty of her service. Tell me, please, what should I be tipping when sitting at a sushi bar? Although I may feel that at 10% I've been over-tipping her, I want to do the right thing by the rest of the staff."

Continue reading this post ...


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Food for Thought | Nancy Leson on KPLU

Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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