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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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August 29, 2008 11:00 AM

I'll be the judge of that: part two

Posted by Nancy Leson

This week, Columbia Crest Winery, in conjunction with the Food Network, announced the winners of their national "Flayvors of Washington" recipe contest: Teresa Ralston, a homemaker from New Albany, OH, won the grand prize: an all-expense-paid trip to NYC where she'll cook with Columbia Crest's new red-headed spokesboy Bobby Flay. Ralston beat-out second-place winner Zoe Doll (a pianist from Clifton, NJ) and third place-taker Edwina Gadsby (a retiree from Great Falls, MT). But talk about "winner take all": that would be me.



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August 29, 2008 7:22 AM

Sub-stantial sandwiches

Posted by Nancy Leson

Over the past month, I've been out eating sandwiches for today's sub sandwich round-up in Ticket, which you can read right here . And yes, I've gained a few pounds. You'd have, too, if you'd eaten some of this stuff:



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August 28, 2008 4:01 PM

Who needs lemonade?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'm one of the gazillion parents looking forward to next week, when our darling children go back to school and we get to go back to the business of doing business -- without wondering how we're going to entertain the kids. Actually, Nate's been pretty good this week, hanging with his homeboys (and girls), playing (a little too much) Mario Kart and behaving when I give him the evil-eye -- the one that translates as "Don't bug me! I'm on a work phone-call!" Then, about an hour ago, he told me he was going outside to pick blackberries. And a while later he came into my office and asked, "Mom, how do you spell produce?" Face in the computer, hard at work, I told him: P-R-O-D-U-C-E. And the next thing you know, I looked out the front window to find this:

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August 28, 2008 7:06 AM

I'll be the judge of that: part one

Posted by Nancy Leson

Since doffing my restaurant critic's hat and its attendant anonymity, I've been able to take part in some seriously fun food events. Including a couple of cooking contests -- like "Ready, Set, Go. . .Cook!": an Iron Chef-style competition held last Saturday at the U-District Farmers Market. That test of taste pitted Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez (chef/owner of Harvest Vine and Txori) and Jason Wilson (chef/owner of Crush) in a fight to the knife-wielding finish. I got to wield a fork. Nice work if you can get it, huh?

The chefs shopped for 15 minutes and spent another 45 creating a multi-course masterpiece of market-fresh memorables using their own salt, pepper and olive oil and a single "secret" ingredient from home. In the end Joseba won by a mustache hair: 81 points to Jason's 80. Clearly, there were no hard feelings:



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August 27, 2008 10:38 AM

Call me well-grounded: DIY burgers

Posted by Nancy Leson

After the latest go-round of ground-beef scares, and many years of thinking about doing so, I finally purchased a grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer (as I discussed this week on KPLU). I tried it out for the first time last weekend, when I decided to make some homemade burgers -- a family favorite. When my husband makes burgers, our son calls them "Dadu Deluxe" -- after a certain fast-food chain. But since Dadu was out of town on an extended business trip, and I've been pretty cranky and short-tempered in his absence, I figured I'd get on Nate's good side (and one-up his dear-old-dad) with my own version, the Mamu Deluxe:


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August 26, 2008 9:28 AM

Asteroid to crash?

Posted by Nancy Leson

"Please come to Asteroid's closing party" -- said the e-mail invite from the longtime anti-war activist who did big business out of a teensy Wallingford shack before blasting off to fancy new digs in Fremont in 2006. Oy! I thought: another one bites the dust. Then I grabbed the phone and hit speed-dial for Marlin Hathaway, owner of the Italian ristorante with the otherworldly name. "So, are you sorry you moved the Asteroid?" I asked the outspoken purveyor of pasta and "progressive" politics, "Absolutely," he said.

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August 25, 2008 1:29 PM

And now, from the "waste no time" department: Pearl set to open in Trader Vic's space

Posted by Nancy Leson

Wondering what's to become of the 7800-square-foot Trader Vic's restaurant and bar? I was, for about two minutes. Then I read between the lines of a press-release sent today, crowing: "Pearl Brings Lustre To Bellevue's Dining Scene: Dynamic new restaurant at Lincoln Square set to open late fall." Oddly enough, there was no word in the release about Trader Vic's -- whose closure I'd chronicled early today. But Pearl's address -- 700 Bellevue Way NE., Suite 50 -- sure looked familiar.

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August 25, 2008 11:59 AM

A final "aloha": Trader Vic's closes in Bellevue

Posted by Nancy Leson

Trader Vic's has seen its day -- again. The Lincoln Square restaurant closed after service Saturday -- two and a half years after its much-anticipated opening. "I'd heard rumors they were going to be closing," said a concierge at the adjacent Bellevue Westin late last night. Yet employees working at the hotel, just a mai tai splash from Trader Vic's front door, were surprised to find the restaurant's windows papered over on Sunday.

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August 22, 2008 2:34 PM

Please Mr. Postman, look and see: found any Beijing duck for me?

Posted by Nancy Leson

From my desk here at home, I can watch as Skip Nelson, my longtime postman, delivers the daily ration of credit-card offers and other unsolicited junk mail -- along with plenty of bills and the occasional letter. Sure, I'm used to getting mail from my mailman. But I must say, I was surprised and delighted this week to get a personal letter from the mailman himself. It showed up in my e-mailbox under the subject line: "Beijing Running Low on Bejing Duck." Turns out Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar (who I saw last Sunday night on TV, rushing off camera in hand, after Michael Phelps' big win) isn't my only pal keeping busy in Beijing. Skip wrote with this delicious tidbit from the Olympics city, where he's vacationing with his Chinese wife:

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August 22, 2008 9:00 AM

I'll have the salmon sushi -- medium-well

Posted by Nancy Leson

When Jon Rowley talks, people listen. Especially when he's talking about salmon. I just read his take on "Why You Should Avoid Raw Salmon" on Gourmet.com, in which he discusses (among other less than appetizing issues) a Chicago man who blamed his nine-foot-long diphyllobothrium latum (that's Latin for "Oh my God! It's a tapeworm!") on a seafood restaurant that served him undercooked fish. And that's when I determined perhaps I shouldn't be so quick-on-the-draw when reaching for the salmon tartare, the salmon ceviche or the salmon sushi I eat all over town. While Rowley doesn't suggest one should never eat raw salmon (freezing it at minus-31 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for 15 hours kills the Diplyllobothrium larvae), he explains why aficionados such as myself might proceed with caution, noting in summation:

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August 21, 2008 10:02 AM

What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Mine's cinnamon basil.

Posted by Nancy Leson


It's certainly been an ice cream summer, what with artisan-ice cream makers popping up everywhere you turn. Me? I don't feel the need to rush out to, say, Wallingford, to stand in line for a creamy-sweet concoction flavored with fresh lavender or bergamot-infused olive oil. Because I'm a do-it-yerself kind of gal. And yesterday I did it myself at home, cribbing from the Jerry Traunfeld playbook to make the most amazing ice cream, using this:



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August 20, 2008 8:10 AM

Day off

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'm taking the day off today. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll get some reading in. But then there's always that closet to clean, right?

"See" you tomorrow.

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August 19, 2008 10:52 AM

Ready, Set, Go . . .Cook! Plus, an Incredible Feast

Posted by Nancy Leson

While I'm crazy about my neighborhood farmers market -- as much for a chance to blab with my neighbors as to shop for just-picked produce -- I've been looking for an excuse to get out of my 'hood and hit the University District Farmers Market. This weekend I plan to do it in good company. You coming? I hope so.

As part of the 15th anniversary-season celebration, the U-District Farmers Market is hosting its annual Ready, Set, Go . . .Cook! competition on Saturday, August 23rd -- and I'll be on hand to judge it.

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August 18, 2008 2:47 PM

Coupage bites dust, neighbor scents air with Saffron

Posted by Nancy Leson

Ah, the tumultuous restaurant business.

First I heard from reader Steve Berg, who wrote: "I am so sad and disappointed right now. We were going to go out Saturday night to dinner at one of Madrona's nicest restaurants and when we arrived it was dark. I thought, `Private party earlier it the evening,' but it has been dark since then. No note on the door, nothing on the phone message except `full mailbox,' and nothing on the website as of yesterday. Can you tell me anything about the demise of Coupage? I'm hoping they are on vacation -- but I'm not holding my breath."

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August 18, 2008 9:39 AM

What I did on my Korean "staycation"

Posted by Nancy Leson

Yesterday I had a few hours to myself. So I went to Korea for fried chicken:

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August 15, 2008 2:41 PM

Use your imagination for marination

Posted by Nancy Leson

Eater Joel Marcus makes a mean marinade -- or so he tells me. He shared his ingredients for making a "secret sauce" for soaking everything from shrimp (ginger and orange juice), to flank steak (apple butter), to beef brisket (Pepsi!) to chicken (brined with salt, sugar and turmeric). And I'm sure he'd agree that the real secret to a great marinade -- and the answer to a quick and easy dinner on a hot day like this one -- is keeping a well-stocked cupboard. I just opened mine. . .


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August 15, 2008 11:13 AM

Urban foraging -- a berry good pastime

Posted by Nancy Leson

On Tuesday morning, after dropping my son off at camp, I was driving down the street just a few block from my house when I spotted this woman enjoying a quick snack:



So I did what any food blogger with a camera in her purse would do. I pulled over, got out of the car, introduced myself and said, "Hey, lady! Save some for me!"

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August 14, 2008 4:58 PM

I'll have fennel sausage on challah -- with an espresso

Posted by Nancy Leson

One of my challah-lovin' readers emailed, asking: "What happened to Leah's on 65th? Any word? I'm wondering if it will open elsewhere?" Nope, says owner Leah Jaffee, who closed her tiny kosher bakery and deli in February, soon to reopen as Da Pino Italian Cafe & Deli:



But there's no need to sit shiva for Leah's.

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August 14, 2008 8:44 AM

The spy who came into our kitchen

Posted by Nancy Leson

The big news in the food world this morning? Julia Child was a spy!

No!

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August 13, 2008 2:38 PM

Baker gets sliced

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's been two weeks since the latest layoffs at Starbucks, when the company passed the pink-slip to 1000 employees nationwide, including nearly 200 locally. That's when the SBUX stopped here for pastry princess Sue McCown, seen prettier in pink in June at the James Beard Awards in NYC, where she kicked up her heels with "Best Chef"-award nominee Maria Hines and PR-pal Michi Suzuki:



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August 13, 2008 9:00 AM

FareStart Guest Chef Nights: Why wait? I'll tell you . . .

Posted by Nancy Leson

In today's paper I wrote about FareStart, Seattle's much-applauded not-for-profit culinary training program. I recently volunteered my services there as a waitress at one of their frequently sold-out weekly "Guest Chef Nights." If you've never been, it's a screaming deal: only $24.95 for a three-course meal. I encourage you to check it out. Ditto for weekday lunch, another enormous value where you can eat good and do good all at the same time.

During Guest Chef Night, dinner is prepared by some of our city's finest, in concert with FareStart students and staff. And it was here that I met Seth Caswell, president of Seattle Chef's Collaborative and late of Stumbling Goat Bistro:


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August 12, 2008 8:20 AM

My hero -- sandwich

Posted by Nancy Leson


The other day my neighbor Clint stopped by bearing edible gifts -- again! Man, that guy can cook. I never know what he's going to show up with, but this much I do know: it's gonna be great. One day it's a rack of slow-smoked barbecued ribs with a quart jar of homemade barbecue sauce infused with peaches, chipotles and bourbon. The next it's homemade pho with fresh Vietnamese herbs on the side. One month it's pickled daikon; the next, preserved lemons. I won't soon forget Clint's incredible chili: it was the best I've ever tasted. His secret ingredient? Peanut butter. And then there was the pie whose key-lime custard came bejeweled with candied lime peel and crowned with meringue. It was so good, my husband nearly wept. Then, last week, just when I was clanging on the keyboard thinking, "I'm starving! What's for lunch?" Clint came knocking on my door with this:


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August 11, 2008 11:49 AM

Pam Sitt has left the building. So sue me. . .

Posted by Nancy Leson

. . .for mentioning yet another Jason Mesnick TV-celebrity-sighting photo-opportunity like these:

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August 11, 2008 8:26 AM

This wild boar ragu is . . .Hey! Isn't that Rachael Ray?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Karen Wood wrote, wondering:

"After reading your blog about celebrity sightings, inquiring minds want to know why Rachael Ray was at Volterra last week. I was there for dinner, and just as my friend and I were getting up to leave, Rachael Ray walked in with a crew of people and cameras. We didn't stay to find out, but are curious what they were filiming and too embarassed to call the restaurant since we didn't ask that night."

Ka-REN! You missed the fun part by not lingering over a limoncello:



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August 8, 2008 9:12 AM

Name one restaurant: Where do you take out-of-towners?

Posted by Nancy Leson

My cousin Paul and his lovely wife, Noelle, were in town this week from Philadelphia visiting family (me, albeit all too briefly) and friends (including Noelle's best chum from college, who grew up here). And there I was, faced with the question I'm so often asked: "If you were going to show off one great restaurant to out-of-towners, which would it be?"

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August 7, 2008 11:13 AM

Food mags -- what's in your pile?

Posted by Nancy Leson

In my dreams I spend the lazy days of August at the beach -- with a big stack of books and magazines beside me. Believe me: those days at the beach are few and far between for this busy scribe (ditto for the "lazy" days). But when it comes to those stacks, I've got 'em in spades. There's the sky-high bedside stack. The either side of the couch and armchair stack. The piles and piles in the office stack. The magazines-to-recycle-at-the-doctors'-office stack. And then there's this spread of current culinary ink:



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August 6, 2008 12:55 PM

Food ink: Tattoo me

Posted by Nancy Leson

Call me an ink-stained wretch if you must. It would be no word of a lie. Long fascinated with the number of local food-professionals who wear their heart (among other things) on their sleeves, I've finally joined the club:



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August 5, 2008 8:14 AM

Fame Game: the Restaurant Edition

Posted by Nancy Leson


After reading my pal Mark Rahner's interview with "The Bachelorette's" losing lover, Jason Mesnick, I feel professionally obligated to post this photo of Kirkland's famous suitor, seen here posing in front of the coat room at the Metropolitan Grill :



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August 4, 2008 11:52 AM

Holy chicken mole?

Posted by Nancy Leson


When it comes to Mexican food, I usually hit my local taco bus in Shoreline for a trio of mulitas and a horchata:



Or make a quick trip to Taqueria La Fondita in Lynnwood for a sit-down version of the same. So I need your help here, since Eater Nina Peterson asked for mine and I'm way short on ideas.

Nina lives on the Eastside, works in downtown Seattle and tells me she's in search of "a good chicken mole." Any place is fair game -- as long as they've got the goods (read: complex mole, tender bird-meat). Suggestions?

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August 4, 2008 7:15 AM

Eater Feeder: Salvatore Ristorante Italiano

Posted by Nancy Leson

Each week, I highlight one of your favorite restaurants in my new feature Eater Feeder. Got a favorite? Let me know about it after reading this link.

Today's you-love-it installment comes from Marianne Moon. These days, she makes her living writing about computer programs. Yet she recalls days gone by, when she was a cook, caterer and columnist who wrote "The Taste of America" for a New York newspaper group on Long Island. So, when Marianne emailed to tell me what she loves about Salvatore Ristorante Italiano (where I'm way overdue for a re-visit), I sat up and listened:

"One of our favorites is Salvatore's on Roosevelt. Actually, I just read some very negative reviews of the place, which shocked me greatly, so it's my duty to step in and defend it. My guy and I have been going there ever since it opened -- we used to live in the neighborhood, and now, even though we've moved into the Lake City area, Salvatore's is still our neighborhood place. Favorite dish: involtini di pollo, which is absolutely delicioso! For my husband, the pasta with frutti di mare. And, as a low-carb eater, instead of the pasta that comes with just about every dish, they always give me perfectly steamed broccoli. They have two calamari appetizers -- one with red sauce and the other with olive oil and garlic. The olive oil one is second only to the calamari that we had in Florence and that I've been trying to replicate ever since. (Feh on those restaurants that ruin calamari with all that breading!)


The waiters are a delightful bunch -- the wry-humored British guy and the lovely green-eyed young man from Salvatore's village who tells us about his mother's cooking -- and they treat my 10-year-old granddaughter, who never likes anything, like the Queen of Sheba. Mademoiselle Zuzu told us, "Grandma and Grandpa, I really like this place," and then, when we introduced her to Salvatore himself, who told her she was a beautiful young lady, she just about swooned with delight. She actually eats the food there!"


So, anybody else been to Salvatore lately? Agree or disagree?

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August 1, 2008 1:22 PM

From Portage to Pig -- Just Whistle!

Posted by Nancy Leson


What happens when a "a great opportunity" falls into your hands? You take it and run with it, says Vuong Loc, owner/chef of Queen Anne's Portage, who's given new life to Greenwood's long-lived Pig 'N Whistle.



Vuong Loc, at Portage on Queen Anne. [Seattle Times/Thomas James Hurst]

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August 1, 2008 7:48 AM

Thai food shout-out

Posted by Nancy Leson


Today in my Ticket roundup, I offered a small taste of the many great Thai restuarants in and around Seattle. At Thai Tom -- a ridiculously popular hole-in-the-wall on the Ave -- I sat at the counter this close to the action:



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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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