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November 18, 2011 5:02 PM

I heart bartender Robbie McGrath, and I'm not alone

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's not every day I get to read a profile of someone I adore. But I just got wind of Food Republic's big nod to my favorite bartender, Robbie McGrath -- seen lifting one below at Matt's in the Market, where, as I've mentioned before, he makes a mean Bloody Mary. Do read it. You'll learn why I'm not the only one who thinks Robbie's God's gift to daytime imbibers.



When I'm in a snit -- and in need of one -- Robbie's my man. [photo: Nancy Leson]

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May 26, 2011 6:24 PM

Michael Mina gets Murray Stenson at RN74, but that's not all!

Posted by Nancy Leson

America's Best Bartender is on the move. Yes, it's true: after nearly a decade, Murray Stenson's taking leave of the Zig Zag Cafe. You'll soon find him putting his signature on the bar at the much anticipated second coming of RN74 -- the grand restaurant and wine bar slated to open downtown June 13 in the historic Joshua Green Building at Fourth and Pike. Word regarding Stenson's defection spread like wildfire today.

Turns out the legendary bartender dished the deets on his departure in an off-the-record conversation with Seattle Times cocktail kingpin Tan Vinh in March, explaining then that his bar at RN74 will feature a shorter menu than the one at Zig Zag. There won't be any molecular mixology or "esoteric ingredients," according to Murr the Blur. Just simple cocktails that can be crafted in less than two minutes: an efficient drinks-menu, designed for a crowd that needs to move from the bar to the dining area.


Murray Stenson, America's best bartender, shaking things up at the Zig Zag Cafe.
[Seattle Times/Erika Schultz].

Stenson has received many job offers during his tenure at Zig Zag, but this move felt right, he said. For one thing, he'll get to keep his Tuesday through Friday schedule. For another, unlike other proposals he's considered, the Mina Group's came with just the right mix of top-shelf ingredients -- including a kitchen staff he trusts, and an ownership and investment group he respects.

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February 22, 2011 7:29 PM

Rachel's Ginger Beer: small batch, big jolt of ginger

Posted by Nancy Leson

A fresh-ginger jolt, coupled with the bright lights of lemon, are one of the reasons you'll find me lifting a pint of Rachel's Ginger Beer where ever I can find one. And it's also why that sparkling refresher takes a star-turn in lively libations at Lark, Licorous and La Bete, pouring it on at Barrio, 5 Corner Market Bar & Kitchen and How to Cook a Wolf.

"People are endlessly confused about what ginger beer is," says Rachel Marshall, who serves her nonalcoholic brew while waiting tables at Delancey in Ballard and dreams of the day when Rachel's Ginger Beer cranks up the volume and goes retail. "This is a soda. And the unique thing that sets ginger beer apart from ginger ale is it's significantly stronger in the ginger department."


Rachel's Ginger Beer: as the label says, its fresh ginger jolt "benefits mind, body and cocktails." I'll say!

The latest to join Rachel's fan club: F.X. McRory's, where Marshall's boyfriend and business partner Adam Peters pours drinks -- when he isn't busy helping brew beer in the borrowed kitchen at Licorous on Capitol Hill. There the pair handcrafts 30 gallons of ginger beer weekly, an amount expected to double as they keep up with the demand for their recipe for success: a mix of gingerroot, lemon juice, purified water and sugar.

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July 8, 2010 10:18 AM

Rooting for beer, here! Fill up your growler, but with what?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Just in time for the heat wave, word's in this week from the folks at RAM Restaurant & Brewery: they're celebrating summer by offering $5.99 growler-fills of their beers at eight Puget Sound locations. The deal's good through July 11. What's a "growler" you ask?

Late to the "Fill 'er up!" fold, that's exactly what I said last summer when friends (now sailing the Seven Seas in search of a cold one) showed up with one in hand. That refillable 64-ounce jug came emblazoned with the Georgetown Brewing Company's logo and filled with my beer-of-choice, Manny's Pale Ale. Cut to last weekend, when at the request of our thirsty 12-year-old, my husband hit Gallaghers' Where-U-Brew -- our local do-it-'yerself brewery and tasting room -- and came home with a root beer-filled growler.



Cold root beer's in stock at my house, but when it comes to "real" beer, my chilled pint glass awaits while sadly, my growler's run dry.

Now allow me to pop the question: What brand of beer would I find in your fridge? And when you're tapped out and on the prowl for a growl(er) where do you fill it?

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November 23, 2009 8:14 AM

Good Morning America: get your No. 1 spicy pork tacos here

Posted by Nancy Leson

Good Morning, Greater Seattle! -- now even greater since Good Morning America got a taste of Marination Mobile's spicy pork tacos and (with your help) crowned the 5-month-old taco truck "Best Food Cart in America." The local contenders waited for the good news Sunday morning with a crowd of well-wishers, and can be seen -- live from Seward Park! -- in the 4 a.m. hour when co-owners Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison joined a hard-core group of die-hard fans for a live feed in every sense of the word.

In the grand not-so-old tradition, Marination Mobile got everyone hot and bothered long before they got rolling, and those hungry for "Korean-Hawaiian Curb Cuisine" were soon in hot pursuit, following their every movement (forget the GPS, you can find them here).

Swift success culminated with the win this weekend as their spicy pork taco gained fame as Good Morning America's "Best Bite" -- an accolade sure to make those lines even longer.

Congratulations to the home team, who shared the recipe for their No. 1 pork tacos with the viewers everywhere and answered the question, "So, what's in your spicy `nunya sauce'?" with this spicy answer: "Nunya business!"

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July 31, 2009 5:31 PM

Tan takes you on a Seattle Happy Hour tour. Weigh in?

Posted by Nancy Leson

In case you missed Tan Vinh's tour of terrific happy hour-haunts in today's Ticket, be sure to take a look.

As you probably already know if you spend much time here on All You Can Eat, my happiest happy hours are spent lifting one in the comfort of my home, noshing on Planter's Cocktail Peanuts and Trader Joe's Pretzel Slims. Tan's picks offer far more exciting options for great happy hour eats, and the accompanying photo of the moules at Maximillien look like something I could dive into right about now.

Anyway, I was wondering: Did Tan miss your favorite happy hour-stop? Does your restaurant offer a happy hour he's ignored? Feel free to give it a shout-out right here. And now, it's off to get happy and enjoy the weekend. You do the same, OK?



Happy hour noshes at Maximillien in Pike Place Market
Seattle Times photo/Greg Gilbert

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June 3, 2009 9:07 AM

Did someone say "Mint Julep"? A recipe for success

Posted by Nancy Leson

Eater Cathy Sander is heading to a family reunion in North Carolina this summer where she and her husband plan to serve mint juleps -- the better to keep the relatives cool, relaxed and harmonizing. But before the trip, she asks, "Can you recommend a place in Seattle that serves great mint juleps, so we can taste for ourselves what a really good julep should taste like?"



Making your mark with a classic cocktail: the mint julep (Seattle Times/Barry Wong)

Hmmm. Come the summer-cocktail season, I head for the nearest bottle of tequila or Campari. I'm not a bourbon drinker -- discounting a certain summer long ago when I learned to appreciate that southern comfort at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, N.J. There, a tribe of elbow-bending debutantes, bellhops, and busboys (imported from "Vuh-gin-ya" to add flavor to the southern hospitality the hotel proudly professed) had that hearty hooch in their blood, literally and figuratively.

If we were on the way to Cape May, Cathy, I'd take you over to the King Edward Bar at the Chalfonte and treat you to a mint julep, but seeing as we couldn't be farther from the Mason-Dixon line, I turned to one of the Northwest's preeminent voices on the subject of cocktails for advice -- and a recipe. Here's what Robert Hess -- who goes by the handle Drink Boy -- has to say:

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April 6, 2009 11:01 AM

Flower power: bartenders pick St-Germain

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you hang out in bars (which I do, but only if there's great food involved), perhaps you've sipped a cocktail made with St-Germain:



St-Germain posing for its glamor-shot at the bar at Cafe Presse


Sophisticated sipsters worldwide have been impressed by this lovely liqueur. Flavored with fragrant elderflower blossoms, it's said to be gathered by hand in the Alps and delivered by Bohemiens on bikes, before being pressed and distilled for our drinking pleasure. (Vraiment? I ask, sitting at my keyboard with a mug of coffee hand-delivered on a donkey by Juan Valdez.)

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February 12, 2009 7:03 AM

Holy cow!

Posted by Nancy Leson

After taking a gander at my Bacon Explosion post, Seattle Times wine guru Paul Gregutt felt obligated to send along a suggestion for an accompanying beverage. So, what did he suggest? Read it and weep. I certainly did.

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February 11, 2009 4:41 PM

Pike Chocofest: foreplay for the Big Day

Posted by Nancy Leson

Tomorrow, from 6 to 9 p.m., Charles and Rose Ann Finkel of Pike Brewing in Pike Place Market are playing host to Pike Chocofest, which sounds like the perfect way to start your Valentine's Weekend if you ask me. Trust me: the Finkels know how to show folks a good time:

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January 22, 2009 9:45 AM

Stein loves his AeroPress coffee gizmo: and that's no java jive

Posted by Nancy Leson

This week on Food for Thought, my KPLU sidekick Dick Stein waxed rhapsodic over his new coffeemaker. No fancy-pants-expensive espresso machine nor sleek drip coffeemaker, this. His "fabulous AeroPress!" -- recently ordered online, cost him around $25. Stein told me the gizmo works not unlike a French-press, though he insists it's "way better" and leaves nary a speck of ground coffee in your cup. It's "the greatest coffeemaker, ever!" according to the jazzoid behind KPLU's Big Red Switch. Pitching the thing as if he were Ron Popeil, he said, "It makes the most delicious, rich, non-bitter coffee I've had anywhere."

Hmmm, I thought, recalling every similar gadget I've bought and discarded over the years. But then I remembered that Stein's the guy who turned me on to what he deems the "best cookbook, ever" -- Molly Stevens' "All About Braising." And he wasn't whistling the jazz version of "Dixie" with that recommendation. And then I got a missive from Eater Jay Milton.

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January 21, 2009 5:16 PM

Tempest in a tea coupon

Posted by Nancy Leson

David Breitborde wrote to me today regarding a coupon for a free Starbucks beverage. The Starbucks in question is in his local Crown Hill Safeway store. The coupon was on the back of a Safeway flier -- one he regularly received via snail-mail, though they're also available at the store. Here, in his own words, is his conundrum, described in an e-mail message:

"Last week a coupon appeared for a free tea drink. According to the coupon it mentioned 1 per person per visit. I came back to the same Safeway store 3 hours later. A big scene was made involving the store manager. The coupon said 1 per visit not 1 per customer. I felt that I was allowed to come back later with another coupon. The Crown Hill Safeway ran out of tea drinks on Monday."

David was teed-off on several fronts, as he later explained when we spoke by phone. One: the coupon was valid from Wednesday January 14 through Tuesday January 20th. So why were there no tea drinks available on Monday? But what really got his goat comes down to semantics, he insists. The flier read: "Store coupons redeemable only at Starbucks Coffee located in participating Safeway company stores. One coupon per visit." The word "visit" is key, he said. "It said `visit' -- not `customer.'"

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December 3, 2008 7:58 AM

Good Morning, Murr the Blur! Coffee with Murray Stenson

Posted by Nancy Leson

Don't you just love it when the national press gives a big-time nod to Seattle's finest? I do. When I opened my NYT Dining section this morning, there was Murray Stenson, shaking it up behind the bar at the Zig Zag Cafe for a story on the philosophers behind the national cocktail movement: one in which Murr the Blur -- whose work I've been admiring for 20 years -- plays a starring role as a neo-classicist. That role has won him much-deserved praise here, there and everywhere.



Photo: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

You never know where the next "Murr"-sighting might occur. One day I'll find him enjoying kaiten sushi at Sushi Land in Lower Queen Anne. The next he's posing, all moody-like, in Playboy. This morning, we met over coffee. My day has been made!

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May 14, 2008 10:50 AM

Dining deals: What a fine web (site) he weaves

Posted by Nancy Leson

I recently heard from a guy named Matt Arnold, who moved to Seattle several months ago for a temporary stay and as quick as you can say, "I'll have a pint of Manny's and a mini crab cake," put together a Web site for budget-conscious eaters-and-drinkers. Matt sent me a link to his site and wondered what I thought of it. Well, frankly, I thought, "I should share this email -- and his site -- with my bleaders." Matt said, twist my arm!

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May 12, 2008 12:00 PM

Drinking with wolves, or Angelo Gaja

Posted by Nancy Leson


Is that a grizzly over your shoulder, or have you just had one too many glasses of merlot? These, and other questions may be posed at the Woodland Park Zoo on May 22nd, when they're hosting a $40 reservations-only wine-and-dine event. It's a grownup's chance to head to the zoo without the kids. You can eat (salmon with the grizzlies), drink (Washington wines with the wolves), and be wary with a band of wild animals (but don't you do that all the time -- when you're home with the kids?). For more info, check out the zoo's events calendar.

Looking for a far more civilized venue to drink fine wines? You'll have to pony up 10 times as much to do so at Canlis June 10th, but what price a six-course dinner in the penthouse, paired with fantabulous Gaja wines, enjoyed in the company of fourth-generation Piedmont winemaker Angelo Gaja? (Answer: $395 per person, plus tax and tip.)

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May 8, 2008 4:21 PM

VesseI: Is the ice slippery at "Best Bar in America"?

Posted by Nancy Leson


About two weeks ago, a well-connected restaurateur sent me an e-mail asking, "What's up with Vessel?"
Rumor had it the high-end cocktail lounge in Seattle's historic Skinner Building was going to close.

Vessel -- famous for its decor, its ice cubes and a disdain for vodka, just named among the "Best Bars in America" by Esquire magazine, home to Seattle Magazine's "Best Bartender" Jamie Boudreau, imported from Lumiere in Vancouver, B.C. -- closing?

boudreau2.jpg

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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 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:


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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.


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March 31, 2008 2:30 PM

Lifting one @ Pike Place Market

Posted by Nancy Leson

By the way: that $2 beer I was sipping at Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar (see last post)? It was the very local stuff, fresh from Pike Brewing Company -- one of 10 tap beers (if you include the "root" variety) served at the oyster bar.

Coincidentally (or maybe not), Pike Brewing's owner Charles Finkel just shot me a press-release touting the Market brewery and pub's upcoming celebration: a "Repeal Party" to be held a week from today. Here's their news:

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March 28, 2008 6:31 AM

Coffee Talk

Posted by Nancy Leson

Trouble sleeping last night, so I finally gave it up at 5 a.m. -- an hour earlier than I like to get up. I went downstairs to do what had to be done: I made coffee. My morning coffee ritual is pretty sacred, and it's just that -- a morning thing. You won't find me in a coffee shop or a drive-through buying $3 lattes, and I rarely drink coffee of any sort later in the day. But each morning, I make coffee at home, or my husband sets it up for me if he's awake first. He's a tea drinker whose idea of a perfect cup starts with a trip to the Teacup on Queen Anne, involves a Chinese cast-iron teapot, and ends in a chair with the paper in hand and a very satisfied look on his face. He calls it "the only civilized hour in the day." He's right.


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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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