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December 22, 2011 7:30 AM

Labuznik's Peter Cipra, his roasted pork recipe, remembered

Posted by Nancy Leson

In the cookbook "Tom's Big Dinners," Tom Douglas devotes a generous chapter to the late, great Seattle restaurant Labuznik, closed when owner-chef Peter Cipra retired in 1998. Under the heading "Remembering Labuznik," Douglas writes:

"Everyone needs a home-away-from-home restaurant, where the only difference between eating there and at home is you don't have to cook or do the dishes. For me it was Seattle's only Czech restaurant, Labuznik. There the waiters knew I liked my martini wet and my roast pork with extra gravy. They knew there wasn't a choice between soup and salad: I wanted both. They knew I always wanted a side order of sweet carrots and creamed spinach instead of dessert. In fact, Labuznik was the kind of restaurant we all dream about finding, where the waiter brings you what you want before you ask for it. For me, Peter Cipra was Labuznik."

"Peter had the same respect for potato that he did for lobster," chef Scott Carsberg said of Cipra, who died last week at 68 of pancreatic cancer. (Read the full obituary here.) "He was old school, and it was very real. In my life as a cook I can name five people that I really respect, and he was one of them."


A young Peter Cipra, behind the stove, doing what he loved. [photo courtesy Susan Cipra]


Seattle architect Peter Miller recalls of his friend's devotion to doing things right at Labuznik: "He did all of his own butchering, all of his own stock, all of his own pastries. There was Peter making every single meal, every pepper steak, roasting his own peppers, making his own sauces. His pork!"

Ah, his pork. Like his Tournedos Rossini -- and Cipra, himself -- it was legendary.

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November 14, 2011 12:09 PM

Restaurants Unlimited introduces iPad wine list at Palisade

Posted by Nancy Leson


"Sorry, we're out of that bottle."

How many times have you heard that one after spending time perusing a wine list? According to Yashar Shayan, you won't be hearing it at Seattle's Palisade restaurant, thanks to an investment by parent company Restaurants Unlimited in a fleet of iPads outfitted with a SmartCellar app.

The technology is meant to appeal to both hardcore wine geeks well-attuned to terroir and novice wine drinkers who may (initially) be uncomfortable with the ministrations of a certified sommelier like Shayan.

Palisade's "paperless wine menu" is a pilot program for RUI, a company boasting 20 restaurant brands at 46 locations nationwide. The new touchpad database now in customers' hands is searchable by categories ranging from verticals to vineyard, pinot noir to price-point. It was in testing mode for several weeks before going live in late October.


As the restaurant's wine director, Shayan's duties include choosing new wines, researching them and educating the waitstaff, as well as overseeing the enological input on the iPads. And after hearing about the technology from his fellow "somms" who've been using it in one form or another in urban centers elsewhere, he's excited to be part of the trend.

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September 29, 2011 8:02 AM

Seattle's singing waiter: Phillip Lomax has the X Factor

Posted by Nancy Leson

Millions had a chance to watch Seattle waiter Phillip Lomax strut his stuff last night on the X Factor, doing a Frank Sinatra impersonation with a hat to match. Thanks to his 1000-watt smile and enough confidence to light the Space Needle at night, Simon Cowell and company were convinced that X marked the spot -- at least as far as the preliminaries go. "There is an issue with your voice when you push it," Simon told him, "but you're interesting, I like you."

I like him too. Why? Because, like many students from Cornish College of the Arts who moonlight at night at the tiny Thomas Street Bistro on Capitol Hill, the 21-year-old didn't miss a beat at a birthday bash I attended on Bastille Day. In addition to waiting tables, he snapped his fingers, struck a pose and sung "Fly Me to the Moon" in honor of my octogenarian pal Rudy Perez. Too bad I didn't videotape that, but you can watch the X Factor version right here: Swing it, Phillip!


Birthday boy Rudy Perez (left), Thomas Street Bistro owner Adam Freeman (center) and Phillip Lomax. [photo/Nancy Leson]

[UPDATE 9/29 10:15 a.m.] Just in case you had it in mind to flock to Thomas Street Bistro for a sighting tonight, while he was singing up a storm on Bastille Day, as noted, according to an update on Phillip's X Factor-USA Facebook fan page, he's no longer working there.

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August 16, 2011 7:00 PM

Talking tofu in Seattle: trust me, you want some

Posted by Nancy Leson

Let's talk tofu. I used to wrinkle my nose at the thought of it, just like many of you. "Bland!" I'd cry. "Boring!" I'd insist. "Soybean curd? Forget it!" But that was back before I knew better.

To live in and around Seattle, and to ignore the tantalizing textures and downright deliciosity that is tofu, is a mistake you should not make. Why? Because there's so much more to tofu than those little white cubes floating in the miso soup served with your sushi combo. And more ways to eat it than you might imagine: fried and chilefied for snacking, knotted into tofu-noodles, softly floating in scintillating stews and ginger-syrup sweetened as a silken dessert.



Who says tofu is boring? Not me! And you won't either, if you try this hotpot at Seattle's Northwest Tofu, chockfull of treasures including tofu noodles and 5-spice tofu. [photo/Nancy Leson]

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August 2, 2011 7:00 PM

Feeding Seattle's homeless: a decade of doing "good"

Posted by Nancy Leson

In 2001, John Platt and Paul Butler had an epiphany: They could help feed the homeless. As owners of St. Clouds bistro in Madrona, Platt (who knows his way around the kitchen) and Butler (whose contribution to the cause is a central spot in the dish-pit) remain committed to that goal. On Aug. 17, they'll celebrate the 10th anniversary of their "Homeless Cooking Project."

What began as a half-cocked effort to feed 125 residents of a nearby tent city has blossomed into a monthly community celebration providing a restaurant-quality meal to 450 people at seven shelters throughout Seattle.

On the third Wednesday of each month, a small army of volunteers descends on St. Clouds. Troops show up at 9 a.m. with paring knives and cutting boards, fresh produce and other staples. They're done by 1 p.m. Old hands know the drill. New recruits ask, "What should I do?" Platt -- a former high-school principal -- is the friendly taskmaster who provides the answer: "Good."

This week, I threw a few more questions at him.


John Platt, in the kitchen at St. Clouds in Madrona. He and co-owner Paul "Pablo" Butler lend a hand -- and their restaurant kitchen -- to help feed Seattle's homeless each month. [Seattle Times/Jim Bates]

Q: First you gave Seattle a restaurant named for the orphanage in John Irving's "The Cider House Rules," providing "a place where orphans come to find a sense of home and family." Next -- saints preserve us! -- you made it your mission to help the homeless. What do you recall about preparing that first meal for tent city when it was located at St. Therese Catholic Church?

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July 21, 2011 8:01 AM

Coming over haute at Crush: Jason Wilson gets happy (hour)

Posted by Nancy Leson

I generally leave the happy hour news to my cocktail-hoisting colleague Tan Vinh, but I can't help but share this tasty tidbit: Just in time for another three minutes of summer, James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson has launched a happy hour Sundays through Fridays at his lovely dinner house Crush.

Which means if you're one of those people who say, "Isn't that the haute house off 23rd and Madison, where I'll pay big money for fine food and wine I wish I could afford?" your conscience can counter with, "Well, I guess he's attempting to lure in a broader range of patrons by providing a small-bites menu of fancy foodstuffs that show 'em what he's got." And guess what? You'd be right.

That new happy-hour menu ($4-$12) includes everything from housemade chicharones ($6) to Painted Hills shortrib sliders ($11), because how can they call it a proper happy hour without sliders? And trust me: If you've ever tasted Wilson's short-ribs (I have) you'll be wanting those beef-filled mini-buns.


Clockwise from bottom left: mascarpone potato croquettes, salmon gravlax, chicharones and Painted Hills shortrib sliders. [photo courtesy Sean Balko]

But wait, there's more!

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April 14, 2011 11:59 AM

Thundering Hooves expats back in biz as Blue Valley Meats

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last month, following the abrupt closure of Thundering Hooves -- the Walla Walla company known for its sustainably raised meats and poultry -- I asked the question: "Where's the grass-fed beef?" Chefs, restaurateurs, ranchers and readers were quick to provide a response.

This week, Keith Swanson, former sales and marketing manager for Thundering Hooves, got on the wagon and provided me with another answer: Walla Walla's Blue Valley Meats, whose initial inventory includes (wait for it) Thundering Hooves meat, much of it discounted for quick-sale in what he's referring to as "phase one" of the start-up.


Moooo-ve over, and say hello to this grass-fed calf, say the gang at Blue Valley Meats.
[photo courtesy Keith Swanson]

Swanson and his new business partners met at Thundering Hooves, a fourth-generation family farm whose family members include his wife, Clarice. After parting ways with his in-laws in January, followed by the shuttering of their company, Swanson -- who lives with his wife and children on their own 10-acre family farm -- recognized that he and Clarice loved the business, the lifestyle and the connections they made with customers throughout Washington and Oregon, and wanted to jump back in as soon as possible, he said.

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March 30, 2011 11:32 AM

Scott Simpson: chef, burger man, creative genius, dead at 38

Posted by Nancy Leson

Chef Scott Simpson died early this week. My heart goes out to those closest to him, and to the many fans -- myself among them -- who knew Scotty as the creative genius behind the recently relocated Lunchbox Laboratory, the short-lived restaurant Fork and the original Blue Onion Bistro. More later.

UPDATE: 3/30/11 11:50 p.m. Read Scott's obituary, here.


Scott Simpson, seen at his original Lunchbox Laboratory in Ballard. [courtesy Allegra Waggener]

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March 18, 2011 5:35 AM

Thundering Hooves silenced, so where's the grass-fed beef?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Thundering Hooves, the Walla Walla ranch known for its 100-percent grass-fed beef -- and sales of other organic meats and poultry -- has ceased operations. Like many on the company's mailing list, I got the memo this week from Joel Huesby, the visionary behind the fourth-generation family business. His Thundering Hooves newsletter marked "Final Edition" carried this explainer:

"Due to unfortunate financial circumstances Thundering Hooves LLC is ceasing all operations immediately. We are extremely sorry to inform you with this news and for any inconvenience this may cause you. There may be a limited amount of inventory that will become available. Check the website for updates. Thank you all for your business, your confidence in us and our products, and your friendship."

What followed was an outpouring of love on the company's Facebook page and a veritable e-mail stampede from Eaters who sent me links to the newsletter, crying: "What happened? I loved my Thundering Hooves meat!" "So sad to hear about this. They provided great tasting sustainable meats." "Any idea what's going on here? We love Thundering Hooves and will be very disappointed to see them go!" There was also this astute observation from a friendly vegan who wrote, "I figure if even a vegan has heard of these people, they must be pretty popular around here."


Close your eyes, vegans: there's the beef. Joel Huesby, in his meat locker at Thundering Hooves.
[Seattle Times/Alan Berner]

As Washington's premier grower and producer of sustainably raised beef, fed on pastureland that's been in the family for over 100 years, Thundering Hooves has been the marquee-name on many a Seattle restaurant menu. For all the reasons why, read this informative case study. Or take a couple minutes and let Joel explain:

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March 8, 2011 7:00 PM

Eltana wood-fired bagels rise and shine on Capitol Hill

Posted by Nancy Leson

Stephen Brown, the visionary behind Eltana Wood-Fired Bagel Cafe on Capitol Hill, grew up in Toronto, where a vibrant Jewish community supported dozens of independent bagel bakeries. But Toronto bagels were nothing like the orbs that rocked his world when he arrived in Montreal as a college student. There, he feasted his eyes on the original Montreal bagelry, founded in 1919.

"There was room for four or five people to stand up" at Fairmount Bagel, Brown remembers decades later, describing a "hole in the wall" dominated by a wood-fired oven where bagels came out "skinny and irregular, with large holes in them, less like a hunk of bread and more like a chewy pastry."

Daniel Levin grew up in Ravenna a block from Seattle's premier bagel bakery, New York-styled Bagel Oasis. As a bagel-loving bar mitzvah boy in a city known for its puffy supermarket bagels, he worked at Madison Park Cafe, helping with catering, and later worked his way through college bussing tables there. Until last spring, Levin knew nothing about Montreal's bagel culture. He was about to learn fast.

Four days after signing on as co-founder and No. 1 employee at Eltana, Levin, 25, flew to Montreal to begin a monthlong internship at St.-Viateur Bagel -- Fairmount's top-notch competition. There he worked side-by-side with two lead bakers from Colombia and Poland. "Combined, they had over 50 years bagel-baking experience," says Levin, who today leads an international crew at Eltana -- a made-up name meant to evoke something warm, mysterious and Middle Eastern.


Wood-fired bagels on display at Eltana, located at 1538 12th Ave, on Capitol Hill [Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

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February 9, 2011 12:30 AM

Food, fun, friends filled the creative life of Joe McDonnal

Posted by Nancy Leson

Joe McDonnal was the Merlin of memories -- a cook, a caterer, a restaurateur, a creative artist with an eye for design and a man who made magic wherever he went.

Parties? He threw a few. Like the time he catered a leap-year birthday bash at his Market Place Caterers, purposely flooding the long entry, then placing steppingstones in foot-high water, inviting guests -- men in tuxes, women in heels -- to "leap" their way in.

At the Seattle Asian Art Museum, he created a grand illusion by lining the walls of a nondescript room with aluminum foil, lighting candles that turned that room from gloomy to glamorous for an intimate dinner party.

But his piece de resistance was The Ruins, the private dining club near Seattle Center that was the talk of the town from the moment he opened it in 1993 with his partner in life and business, Virginia Wyman.

Mr. McDonnal, 79, died of pneumonia Jan. 31 in Palm Springs, Calif.

Asked how they met 32 years ago, Wyman, recalls, "Joe was everywhere! He came to town and took Seattle by storm. At every catering job, he was in the kitchen; at every wonderful event, he was the one who created it. You couldn't not meet Joe McDonnal."


Joe McDonnal, at "home" at The Ruins in 2003. [Seattle Times photo/Barry Wong]

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January 31, 2011 7:21 AM

Rumor (Red) Mill: burger folks have eye on Totem House

Posted by Nancy Leson

The rumor mill never sleeps. And here's what came into my inbox over the weekend, courtesy of Eater Grace Jurado: "I heard yesterday that Red Mill Burgers was taking over the Totem House by the Ballard Locks. Is there anything you can tell about this rumor? I think fish dipped in Red Mill's onion ring batter would be soooo good." Whoa. Now, there's a restaurant rumor I could wrap my brain around. To say nothing of my mouth.



Want to supersize that? Sure, with a side of fish, please!

So I got right on the horn with Red Mill owner John Shepherd, who had this to say about that: Yes, he and his sister and business-partner Babe Shepherd have their eye on the prize: the fish 'n chips joint across from the Ballard Locks, abruptly closed in December. In fact, he said, they've had their eye on it for years.

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January 5, 2011 1:07 PM

Campagne closes for makeover, Cafe Campagne stays open

Posted by Nancy Leson

What did I say in my last post? It's an ever-changing world in the restaurant business, and there are big changes in store at Campagne. "I'm not ready to spill the beans" entirely, says chef/exec Daisley Gordon, who's been doing just that, culinarily speaking, for 16 years. But this much he can say: The fine-dining arm of Campagne restaurant will close after service on Saturday for a "winter remodel."

The 23-year-old Pike Place Market restaurant (born two years earlier on Capitol Hill) is slated to reopen in late spring or early summer with a new look, a new menu and a new lease on life. Meanwhile, it's business as usual at Cafe Campagne, so relax! You can still get your oeufs en meurette with a great Bloody Mary on Post Alley, as well as your steak frites and cassoulet fix, since the cafe remains open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.



Closing another door -- temporarily. Campagne, at 86 Pine Street in Pike Place Market, will close this week, says chef-exec Daisley Gordon, who runs the place upstairs, and down. [Seattle Times photo/John Lok]

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January 4, 2011 11:00 PM

What a year in the restaurant biz! So, what else is new?

Posted by Nancy Leson

The past year brought massive movement in the restaurant business. And I mean that literally, given the new-digsification of Flying Fish, Mamma Melina, Marjorie, Szechuan Bean Flower (recently re-opened in Issaquah), Sitka & Spruce, Tidbit and Tat's Delicatessen -- with more in store in the coming weeks (hello, Lunchbox Laboratory South Lake Union!).

In 2010 we witnessed the closure of a trio of Seattle originals (the original Red Robin on Eastlake, the original Alki Bakery in West Seattle and the original Lombardi's in Ballard). And we even got some originals back: witness the First Hill reincarnation of Vito's and Mediterranean Kitchen, and of Phoenecia on Alki.



The original Red Robin south of the University Bridge closed in March. A revitalized Vito's (seen in June, prior to its revitalization) reopened in September under new ownership.


Economic woes shuttered promising newbies (Wallingford's Avila, Capitol Hill's Huiyona), forced fine-dining places to scale down and go casual (see: Lampreia = Bisato), and put the nail in the coffin of old-timers: among them the ID's long-running China Gate and Ballard's 71-year-old Totem House, which served its last fish and chips last week.

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November 29, 2010 10:23 AM

Seattle seafood: the folks behind the fish

Posted by Nancy Leson

In posts to come, I hope to share more of what I learned while researching the 2010 Dining Out cover-story for Pacific Northwest, our Sunday magazine, published November 28. Perhaps you read it over the long weekend? If not, be sure to take a look here, where you'll meet some of the people who make ours such a scintillating seafood town. Among them, you might find a familiar face or two, including this one:


"Oyster Bill" Whitbeck, seen then and now: with his first geoduck, in 1976 [photo courtesy Bill Whitbeck] and hanging with the "gooeys" at Taylor Shellfish Farms late last summer [Seattle Times photo/Mike Siegel].

Though he's on a first-name basis with folks at some of Seattle's best restaurants, you may not know Gene Ikeda of Mutual Fish, whom I spent the better part of a day with reporting my story. That's Gene, below, hoisting fresh seafood in the name of good eating, while making a delivery on Capitol Hill. Tim Ferleman, a real kick-in-the-pants, is seen at right taking delivery at his homeport -- the wholesale seafood division of Anthony's Restaurants.

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November 22, 2010 11:00 AM

The carnivore's dilemma, resolved, one (Mon)day at a time

Posted by Nancy Leson

Like many of us, not every chef, restaurateur or home-cook is willing to give up meat for good. But more are joining the Meatless Monday movement. Add to the list Seattle's Linda Derschang. Beginning November 29, chefs at her Capitol Hill restaurants Oddfellows Cafe and Smith will roll out a roster of meat-free Monday specials to bolster their carnivore's card -- just in time for you to say, "If I see another piece of leftover turkey, I'm going to turn into a vegetarian!"



Vegetables (like the roasted-beet salad in the foreground, photographed at Smith for this 2008 review) will take center stage on Mondays, though carnivores not yet on the bandwagon may still fork into pork (among other options). [Seattle Times photo/Alan Berner]

To kick-start things on the 29th, Meatless Monday advocate Kim O'Donnel will be on hand at Oddfellows (1525 10th Avenue) from 6 to 8 p.m., signing copies of "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook". Kim loves to lift a bone, as she points out in her new book, subtitled "Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour." But she's making it her mission to help us take to the table -- any day of the week -- to devour "meaty" recipes like her Shepherd's Pie with Chard-Lentil Filling and Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili, perfect for a wintry Monday like the one we've got today.

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November 3, 2010 12:13 PM

T&T Seafood Restaurant in Edmonds adds daily dim sum

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've been looking longingly at the "Dim Sum Coming Soon" sign hanging at T&T Seafood Restaurant in Edmonds for nearly two months, and on Monday (quick on the heels of the happy news from Dick's Drive-In) I got what I've been waiting for: dim sum in my hometown! Wasting no time, I beat feet to T&T, a place I've been touting since it made its debut in its original location -- a rickety little cafe in Shoreline. And there awaited a world of surprises.



I beat feet to T&T for the dim sum opening-salvo Monday. Chicken feet, that is.

For a Monday, before noon, on a ridiculously rainy day, the fact that the enormous restaurant was filling up fast was my first surprise. Everywhere I looked, customers were taking chopsticks to dim sum, offered on hand-held trays and via rolling carts by servers I'd never seen before. Which is truly saying something, since I burn up most of my Chinese-food dollars right here.

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August 18, 2010 5:00 PM

Obama: "I'll have a turkey sandwich and a Jammer to-go"

Posted by Nancy Leson

There was no "royal taster" to make certain his food was not poisoned. But there was some confusion as to what -- if anything -- President Barack Obama would eat when he sat down with a group of small-business owners Tuesday at Grand Central Bakery in Pioneer Square.

Prepped for the occasion, co-owner Gillian Allen-White was told he'd likely order a pastry and some Earl Grey tea during their round-table discussion at Grand Central's flagship cafe. "I said, `Is he going to eat it?' I was picturing him with croissant flakes on his suit! They said he usually nibbles, but he won't finish it, and we were told not to be offended."

Instead, His Royal Slenderness went whole hog with half a turkey sandwich and a spinach salad, and ordered a jam-filled biscuit for the road. While it's no secret that Secret Service agents were on hand to keep a close eye on the proceedings, the food-prep "was all in real-time," insists Allen-White, who sat at the president's elbow as he ate during their lunch-time chat.



From left: Obama; Gillian Allen-White, Joe Fugere, founder of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria; U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Tiffany Turner of the Inn at Discovery Coast, talking biz at Grand Central Bakery in Pioneer Square. [Seattle Times photo by Ken Lambert]

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July 14, 2010 10:44 AM

Seafood City: Filipino supermarket to open at Southcenter

Posted by Nancy Leson

My Filiipino friends will forgive me: until I got the news yesterday, I'd never heard of Seafood City, the California-based supermarket chain set to open its 20th location -- Washington's first -- at Westfield Southcenter in Tukwila. Next week's grand opening is Thursday, July 22, and if Seafood City's far-ranging fan-base is any indication, when the store makes its debut on the mall's north side, they'll be a whole lot of excitement going on.


Seafood City Supermarket, set to open next week at Westfield Southcenter. [courtesy Seafood City]

As at locations throughout California and in Las Vegas, the 44,000-square-foot market is meant to be a one-stop shop for the Greater Seattle-area Filipino community. As the name suggests, seafood is a key component, and will be on display in a "talipapa" (open air-styled) setting. A cornucopia of produce, meats whose cuts you won't find at QFC, an on-premise bakeshop, grab-and-go eats and an adjacent number of Filipino-friendly businesses (among them the fast-foodery Jollibee) should be a big draw.

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June 29, 2010 11:18 AM

Murphy's Terra Plata on Capitol Hill: it's a win, but when?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Perhaps, while I was away on vacation, you heard the news. In the ongoing discussion of the legal wrangling between chef Tamara Murphy and the developers of the Melrose Project -- regarding the space for her Pike/Pine restaurant Terra Plata leased and later "lost" -- Murphy prevailed.

She got the good word June 15, the day after her birthday, a month after the abrupt closure of her flagship restaurant, Brasa, and only days before the debut of her second Elliott Bay Cafe at the new Elliott Bay Book Company.

After fighting for her tenant rights under a signed lease agreement for Terra Plata and winning the arbitrator's nod "on all counts," Murphy said she's "obviously pretty happy about the outcome": Terra Plata will open at the Melrose Market, albeit much later than originally planned.



When one door closes (like the one above, at Brasa, in Belltown) another opens. Will we see this beautiful iron gate on Melrose Avenue? The jury's still out on that one. [Seattle Times photo: Mike Siegel]

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May 21, 2010 10:57 AM

RezBook: Urbanspoon guys say, "There's an app for that!"

Posted by Nancy Leson

Seattle-based Urbanspoon is a restaurant website and popular iPhone app that's been shaking things up in the world of on-line reservations -- and downloaded from the Apple App store 9 million times. On Thursday, the company announced the launch of RezBook, an iPad application that takes the concept of an old-fashioned restaurant reservation-book and turns it into a slim, smart, high-tech table-management tool.

Having dealt with the Luddite version during my waitressing career (anybody got a pencil?), and seen the RezBook pilot-program in action last week at the new Madison Valley bistro, Luc, I think it's destined to become the hot new thing in restaurants nationwide.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Urbanspoon got the full-court press this week, with the Wall Street Journal calling the company's iPad-based service "a nascent but serious threat to OpenTable's dominance of the online reservations market (full story here). And RezBook wagged the tails of tech-talkers here, there and everywhere.



Urbanspoon's new RezBook application as seen on an iPad, resting in an iPad cover on the zinc bar at Luc -- one of only five restaurants presently operating the system. [photo: Lara Ferroni].

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May 19, 2010 10:20 AM

Tom Douglas says: Howzabout a real nice salmon bake?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Ever the culinary visionary, Tom Douglas has divulged plans to preside over a salmon bake meant to lure 250 locals and tourists to Victor Steinbrueck Park on weekend nights. He's thinking Native American dancers, a bonfire, $12 plates of salmon and sides -- as a festive way to make the park more attractive to folks who view it as little more than a living room for drunkards and panhandlers.

Tom says he's "desperate to clean up that corner" adjacent to two of his multitude of restaurants (Etta's and its not-yet-open next-door sibling) near Pike Place Market, and is seeking a city permit to turn the park and its fire pit into Northwest version of a Hawaiian luau. Read my colleague Emily Heffter's full report, right here. And yo, Tom: if you pull this off, I expect you to set up a stage on the first night, grab a mike and belt out "This Was a Real Nice Salmon Bake," a la Rogers & Hammerstein. I'm already working on tweaking the lyrics for you.



Northwest Salmon Bake? Aloha, oi!
[Tom Douglas, Seattle Times photo: Greg Gilbert; Don Ho: Associated Press, 1977]

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March 2, 2010 9:30 AM

Gene Porter, the man behind "The Man" dead at 71

Posted by Nancy Leson

The first time I met Gene Porter, the man behind "The Man" at Dixie's BBQ in Bellevue, I was eight months pregnant and looked it. As he approached my table, his battered pan of hot sauce in hand, he shook his head in the universal sign that said, "Uh-uh." His reasoning was, if he gave me what I was asking for -- a chance to "Meet the Man" (his signature sauce) -- I'd be meeting up with my obstetrician sooner than planned. But he caved when I begged, and allowed me a toothpick bearing a trace of his fiery fuel. A month later, Nate was born. On Sunday, Gene Porter died of cancer. May he rest in peace. Dixie's is closed this week while family and friends mourn his passing, but longtime customers can expect to meet up with the man's Man thereafter.


Meet "The Man" when you're 8-months pregnant? Gene said, "No, Baby!"

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January 28, 2010 11:19 AM

Raising dough for Haiti: generosity comes in small slices

Posted by Nancy Leson

There's a reason they call it the service industry. Area restaurants -- large and small -- have reached out to Haiti, offering financial aid (with your help), as mentioned in previous posts. From pho stops to bakeshops, neighborhood bars to neighborhood bistros, its heartening to see the local aid effort take off and deliver.

For those who feel Haiti would be better served if we all just sent a check directly to a charitable organization -- rather than help fund these fund-raising efforts by dining out -- I say, consider this: It's all about community, and if there's a more generous community than the local food community, I've yet to meet it. Need proof? How about this good news:

Family-run Bob's Bakery on Vashon Island raised $12,000 on two successive Sunday drives, says co-owner Jill Beytebiere, who, along with her baker (and husband) Paul, graciously accepted a $4000 matched donation from a regular customer who wishes to remain anonymous. That $12,000 will go to four child-centered Haitian organizations. "Our children have been to Haiti," and seen the orphanages there, says Jill. "So we know first hand what they do." For more on the Beytebiere's ongoing efforts, here and in Haiti, watch this video:

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January 14, 2010 9:49 AM

Red Mill Burgers donates profits, I donate onion rings recipe

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's been 15 years since John and Babe Shepherd opened Red Mill Burgers on Phinney Ridge. In the years since, the brother-and-sister team opened a second location at Interbay and continue, in my opinion, to serve some of the best not-so-fast-food burgers -- and certainly the best onion rings -- in town.

Beg to differ if you must, but there's no denying this: unlike the Rolling Stones (their favorite musicians) the Shepherds get great satisfaction -- by selling burgers. Thanks, in no small part, to the support they've received over the years from Seattle's burger-loving community. And to honor their commitment to the city that keeps them rolling, they've got a plan for paying it forward. Here's how you can help:



My standing order: a Double Bacon Deluxe with cheese, and Babe's Onion Rings

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January 12, 2010 11:04 PM

Keff takes flight: Flying Fish moving to South Lake Union

Posted by Nancy Leson

In 1995, chef Chris Keff opened Flying Fish in what was then a burgeoning business district in the heart of Belltown. Fifteen years later she's flying out of there, setting her sights elsewhere and readying "The Fish" -- as we've come to know and love it -- for a big move to another up-and-coming neighborhood: South Lake Union.



Christine Keff, at Seattle's Flying Fish in Belltown. (photo: Mark Bauschke).


Flying Fish is slated to make the move this spring to the Westlake/Terry Building at Westlake Avenue N. and Thomas Street -- also home to neighboring Portage Bay Cafe.



See that corner? Now envision it with a neon sign that says: F-L-Y-I-N-G F-I-S-H.

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January 8, 2010 2:24 PM

Jodi Bardinelli, a life lost, remembered and celebrated

Posted by Nancy Leson

In 1989, Jodi Bardinelli introduced me to Martha Stewart -- by way of Martha's recipe for old-fashioned bottom-crust apple pie. It's one I've since replicated in one form or another many times. "Oh my God! This is delicious!" I said when she brought that just-baked pie to work at Saleh al Lago, where we met waiting tables.

Jodi later introduced me to her daughter Jessi, then a second-grader, who today tends bar at Russell's in Bothell. And later still to the peripatetic Italian restaurateur who'd become the father of Jessi's baby sisters, Ornella (now 20) and Oriana (17).

In the years since, we've shared recipes and cookbooks, tales of love and marriage gone awry, and not a few laughs over what Jodi always referred to as "two-cocktail stories." But I wasn't laughing when she called in November to tell me she was sick. "How sick?" I asked. "Sick sick," she answered.



Jodi Bardinelli (photo courtesy Jay Moritz)

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December 15, 2009 5:37 PM

Seattle Weekly's new critic Jason Sheehan, comin' over hot!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Local writers hoping to step up to the plate and take Jon Kauffman's soon-to-be-vacated job at Seattle Weekly were surely disappointed to hear today's announcement: they've hired an outtatowner to take his place. Good on them if the guy's half as talented as the Weekly's food dude, who arrived from the Bay Area a few years back and is set to return shortly. Today in his Voracious blog-post Kauffman introduced us to his successor Jason Sheehan, the James Beard Award-winning food writer at the Weekly's sister-paper, the Denver Westword and author of "Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love, and Death in the Kitchen."

After eight years of professional fork-lifting in Denver, Sheehan told his Seattle counterpart he "can't wait for the opportunity to start causing trouble in a new time zone." Describing his life on Mountain Standard Time, Sheehan writes: "There have been midnight pho shops and dim sum breakfasts, homebrew whiskey, Ghanaian house restaurants and a completely unreasonable number of tacos. I've drunk Vietnamese snake wine and hundred-year-old bourbon, eaten with gangsters, been thrown out of diners, breathed liquid nitrogen, eaten fire and seen the sun come up with smoke on my breath and barbecue sauce in my hair."

Sounds like a guy I'd love to lift a glass of Vietnamese snake wine with over a midnight bowl of pho. But for now I'll raise a glass of Osake Junmai Ginjo Genshu in his honor. Sheehan arrives mid-January.

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December 7, 2009 12:17 PM

Chiso to stay in Fremont, Taichi to move Kappo in spring

Posted by Nancy Leson

Taichi Kitamura, the sushi chef who opened Fremont's Chiso restaurant in 2001 and later thrilled omakase fans with his intimate upstairs addition Chiso Kappo, expects to be slicing raw fish and dazzling diners with his kitchen skills at a new restaurant on Eastlake this spring. Chiso will stay in business under new management, with many of the familiar faces in the kitchen and dining room.

Taichi plans to remain upstairs doing his one-man voodoo at Kappo pending the sale of that secondary space. [Tapas bar, anyone? Joseba?] "It's safe to say I'll probably be up here till the end of February," he told me today. After that, he's hoping to take a much needed vacation before the debut of his new Kappo in the Ruby condo complex, also home to Ravish -- the "naughty little sister" of Ravishing Radish Catering.



Taichi Kitamura at Chiso in Fremont. [Seattle Times/Thomas James Hurst]

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November 19, 2009 10:05 PM

Jonathan Kauffman to leave Seattle Weekly for SF Weekly

Posted by Nancy Leson

There are few food writers as talented as Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman, and I was sorry to read the announcement today that he's blowing out of town, heading back where he came from: San Francisco.

In a brief post on Voracious, Kauffman wrote:

I'm both sad and excited to announce that on January 1, 2010, I will be moving back to San Francisco to become the restaurant critic for the SF Weekly. For the past three and a half years, I've had the privilege of writing about food in Seattle at a time when this city's restaurant scene is exploding. Covering everything from the Korean suburbs to the newest crop of artisanal butchers has been a blast, and I'm sad to leave a paper that I think is producing some of the sharpest, most interesting writing in Seattle. At the same time, I'm excited to return to San Francisco. Not only is it another one of the nation's best restaurant cities, it's the place where I learned to cook, where I ordered my first bowl of pho, where I ate my first bowl of octopus-shrimp cocktail off the side of a taco truck in a grim Oakland parking lot. My roots there run deep.

Meanwhile, as his Seattle fans weep, the folks at SF Weekly are ordering Cantonese seafood in his honor. John Birdsall, editor at Voracious' sister-blog SFoodie, posted the news in San Francisco minutes after Kauffman pushed the "send" key on his preliminary farewell post.

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November 10, 2009 11:49 AM

Greenwood, Everett: fires devastate restaurant community

Posted by Nancy Leson

Residents and business-folk in Greenwood are reeling from a devastating string of arsons in which the restaurant community has been particularly hard hit. On October 23, a fire set at the Green Bean Coffee House near 85th and Greenwood also destroyed the adjacent Szechuan Bistro, C.C. Teriyaki and Pho Tic Tac. Three more fires set late Sunday and early Monday have the neighborhood unnerved. The latest arson extended to Greenwood's popular Mediterranean bistro and take-out shop Olive You, which suffered $20,000 in smoke- and fire-related damage. And on top of that came Monday's news of the total destruction of Emory's Lake House on Silver Lake in Everett after an early-morning fire. That news hit me on both a professional and personal level.



Emory's Lake House, before the fire. [Seattle Times/Ellen Banner]

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November 3, 2009 10:45 AM

Foodportunity opportunity + Emmer & Rye @ Art of the Table

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you're a food-blogging Tweet-and-greeter, chances are I ran into you last night at the second Foodportunity event at the Palace Ballroom. These food-networking shindigs, put together by Frantic Foodie Keren Brown, are a lot of fun for a social butterfly like me, and they're open to the public, so stay tuned for the next one. While there, I heard Ethan Stowell tell an audience he prefers not to read blog-reviews while Kurt Dammeier swears he loves them.



Panelists (from left) Kurt Dammeier, Tamara Murphy, Ethan Stowell
(photo/Nate Naismith, Far Sighted Images)


I learned that a very excited Seif Chirchi and Rachel Yang of Joule just got back from filming "Iron Chef" in NYC -- in time to make apple head cheese for the masses (they even brought the head). And also that Jackie Cross is keeping her fingers crossed that her darling daughter, Miss Loretta Douglas (who's got a restaurant nicknamed after her) may soon be cookin' on local TV, something she proved she could do on King 5 last summer.

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October 30, 2009 11:00 AM

Ashley Merriman, 86'd from Top Chef, exits Branzino

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you've been following Seattle's contenders on "Top Chef" this season, you likely know Ashley Merriman, chef-exec at Belltown's Branzino, has been eliminated. Last week, she severed ties with Branzino -- ties that have been tenuous over the past months.

"I left Seattle in August," said the chef, now living in NYC where she's finishing her commitments to "Top Chef" (which includes filming a reunion show) and lending her friend Alexandra Guarnaschelli and the owners of Butter a hand as they prepare to open a second restaurant in Charlotte, NC (perhaps you've seen Alex's TV appearances on her new Food Network show, "Alex's Day Off").

Merriman worked for Guarnaschelli at Butter for two-plus years before moving to Seattle in 2005, and will be working there again full-time come January. Here, she cooked alongside Maria Hines at Earth & Ocean, and later with their friend Dana Tough (of Spur and Tavern Law) at Hine's Wallingford restaurant, Tilth. Prior to taking the reins at Branzino, she was Tamara Murphy's sous at Brasa. Balancing her gig as executive chef at Branzino with her role as a "Top Chef" contender has been difficult, Merriman explains.



Ashley Merriman (photo courtesy Bravo TV)

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October 26, 2009 1:37 PM

Harvest Vine: What's going on? Owners divulge divorce details

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's true. Chef Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez and his wife and business partner Carolin Messier de Jimenez, owners of Harvest Vine and Txori, have filed for divorce. Their business -- which began as a catering concern, grew into a minuscule Madison Valley tapas bar, expanded not once but twice and begat a Basque-style Belltown pixtos bar meant to help finance the dream of a 12-acre chateau in Southwest France -- is now run solely by Carolin. Meanwhile, Joseba, who proudly wears a Basque's beret and his heart on his sleeve, is wearing a new hat: one that has him overseeing their restaurants as founder and "consulting chef."



Internationally renown chef Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez, wearing his heart on his sleeve.

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October 23, 2009 1:00 PM

Chow vs. Chao, Cafe Soleil vs. Grouchy Chef, kare vs. curry

Posted by Nancy Leson

This week the food mavens at the alt-weeklies are hard at it. At the Stranger, Bethany Jean Clement puts a lid on the story of the antagonism that is Chow vs. Chao (in which Peter Levy, now sole owner of Chow Foods, filed a lawsuit against the owners of Chao Bistro-Bar for alleged trademark infringement). In yesterday's update on the subject, she explains, "Chow Foods owner Peter Levy, sounding profoundly weary of the entire matter, said via telephone, `Am I going to drop the lawsuit? Yes. I'm just done. I've got more significant concerns than this. I'm fine with what they're doing -- good luck to them.'"

Over at Seattle Weekly, Jon Kauffman gives some deeply-researched juice to Seattle's yoshoku scene in a dual review of the Cutting Board and Fort St. George. "Both serve yoshoku cuisine, a style of Japanese food in which nostalgia, outsiders' fantasies, and sometimes even good taste come into conflict," Kauffman explains, adding "Yoshoku dishes are Japanese interpretations of Western ones," and that the cuisine -- known for such dishes as kare raisu (say it slowly while affecting a Japanese accent and you won't need a translator) -- dates back more than a century.

And, go figure. Both of those stories come to play at a little Japanese restaurant in Mukilteo, Cafe Soleil. Not to be confused with the charming little Ethiopian cafe in Madrona, and other same-name restaurants nationwide. That lawsuit, one can only pray, will not be forthcoming.

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October 23, 2009 1:00 PM

Chow vs. Chao, Cafe Soleil vs. Grouchy Chef, kare vs. curry

Posted by Nancy Leson

This week the food mavens at the alt-weeklies are hard at it. At the Stranger, Bethany Jean Clement puts a lid on the story of the antagonism that is Chow vs. Chao (in which Peter Levy, now sole owner of Chow Foods, filed a lawsuit against the owners of Chao Bistro-Bar for alleged trademark infringement). In yesterday's update on the subject, she explains, "Chow Foods owner Peter Levy, sounding profoundly weary of the entire matter, said via telephone, `Am I going to drop the lawsuit? Yes. I'm just done. I've got more significant concerns than this. I'm fine with what they're doing -- good luck to them.'"

Over at Seattle Weekly, Jon Kauffman gives some deeply-researched juice to Seattle's yoshoku scene in a dual review of the Cutting Board and Fort St. George. "Both serve yoshoku cuisine, a style of Japanese food in which nostalgia, outsiders' fantasies, and sometimes even good taste come into conflict," Kauffman explains, adding "Yoshoku dishes are Japanese interpretations of Western ones," and that the cuisine -- known for such dishes as kare raisu (say it slowly while affecting a Japanese accent and you won't need a translator) -- dates back more than a century.

And, go figure. Both of those stories come to play at a little Japanese restaurant in Mukilteo, Cafe Soleil. Not to be confused with the charming little Ethiopian cafe in Madrona, and other same-name restaurants nationwide. That lawsuit, one can only pray, will not be forthcoming.

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October 6, 2009 7:15 AM

Binuya goes full circle: chef returns to Ponti Seafood Grill

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last month, I was sorry to report the closure of Madoka on Bainbridge. Turns out Richard Malia, owner of Ponti Seafood Grill, has benefited from that bad news. He's since hired back the chef who brought early acclaim to his Ship Canal-side restaurant and says he's "excited and proud" to have Alvin Binuya back at Ponti -- this time as his business partner.

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October 5, 2009 9:32 AM

Gourmet magazine on "close" list says Conde Nast CEO

Posted by Nancy Leson

It seems like only yesterday (actually it was only yesterday) that a friend stopped to ask, "Did you go see Ruth Reichl at Third Place Books the other night?" I hadn't. She was there, representing Gourmet as its longtime editor, promoting the 68-year-old magazine's latest cookbook. And now comes news that there's truth to the rumors I've been hearing: Gourmet is one of the magazines on Conde Nast's chopping block. What a sin and a shame -- as my friends and other food lovers across the country are reporting this morning.


What next! Gourmet is no longer the apple of Conde Nast's eye. I'll miss it.

Here's the internal memo from Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend:

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October 1, 2009 5:39 PM

Tamara Murphy to open Terra Plata: new Pike/Pine restaurant

Posted by Nancy Leson

Tamara Murphy's at it again. It's been a decade since she opened Belltown's Brasa and nearly a year since the celebrated chef breathed new life into Pioneer Square's Elliott Bay Cafe. Now she's back for another helping of the Seattle restaurant pie -- with Terra Plata.



Tamara, hanging out at Brasa with sculptor Carla Grahn's fine artwork (Seattle Times/Mike Siegel 2007).

Her restaurant-to-be stands in a prime Capitol Hill location: 2,200-square feet of space at the Melrose Project, a merger of two historic buildings presently undergoing redevelopment between Pike and Pine streets.

Murphy gets the point (seen in this architectural rendering, courtesy Melrose Project LLC).


Terra Plata will stand at the apex of the triangular building, and Murphy's jazzed to count as her new Melrose Project-neighbor another culinary icon, Matt Dillon -- whose Sitka & Spruce will relocate from its unlikely little Eastlake location.


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September 29, 2009 6:31 AM

The Next Iron Chef: Holly Smith -- and Daisley Gordon

Posted by Nancy Leson

Seattle chefs Robin Leventhal and Ashley Merriman are still packing heat in the kitchen -- and captivating viewers of "Top Chef: Las Vegas." Meanwhile, Cafe Juanita's Holly Smith is one of 10 contestants set to compete on season two of "The Next Iron Chef" -- premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.



But get this: if Smith lives to see the second episode (bet on it), we're in for a Seattle two-fer Sunday, October 11: That's when Campagne's Daisley Gordon takes on Bobby Flay on "Iron Chef America." The show airs at 10 p.m. following round two of "The Next Iron Chef."

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September 23, 2009 1:28 PM

The Swinery: Mom & Pop butcher shop open in West Seattle

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last night, while I was treating myself to dinner at Seattle's first and only sustainable sushi bar, Mashiko, West Seattle was digesting its first taste of Seattle's first and only sustainable butcher and meat shop, The Swinery.

Seated next to me at the sushi bar were a couple who'd just come from a reading by Seattle author Robert Spector. And when I asked to take a look at his new book, "The Mom & Pop Store: How the Unsung Heroes of the American Economy are Surviving and Thriving," I had no idea that several West Seattle businesses -- including Mashiko and the Husky Deli -- were profiled within. (The author discusses the book again tonight at Town Hall.) Reading Spector's intro between bites of kona kanpachi and rainbow trout sashimi, black cod chawanmushi and matsutake tempura, I learned he was the son of a New Jersey butcher who, along with extended family, worked in the family store.

I'll bet you a sustainably raised pork chop that had The Swinery opened sooner, he'd have included West Seattle's latest entry into the world of mom and pop-shops in his book. What a story Spector could have told!

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August 27, 2009 9:27 AM

Rover's chef to hang his hat at bistro Luc: wanna invest?

Posted by Nancy Leson

For years -- years! -- I've been hearing rumors that Rover's jaunty "Chef in the Hat," Thierry Rautureau, has longed to hang his chapeau at a little bar-centric bistro, something far less formal than his four-star restaurant, Rover's. Maybe you've heard those rumors, too: that he's planning to take over the Falling Waters space (didn't happen), spending time in the company of real estate brokers (I've seen that with my own eyes) or chatting about the idea with other chefs who've gone beyond the "one, singular sensation." In the end, it turns out he need to look no further than the nearest corner.



Break out the Champagne: "The Chef in the Hat" is opening a new bistro!

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August 25, 2009 9:46 AM

Be fruitful and multiply: share the harvest

Posted by Nancy Leson

Mother Nature's done her thing this summer, and those of us lucky enough to have fruit trees at our fingertips don't have far to go to grab a bowlful of plums or a crisp rain-kissed apple. But what do you do when your trees are bearing more fruit than you can -- or want -- to eat? Well, you can always share with friends and neighbors, or bring a bag, box or bowlful into the office. Or, you can reach out to the broader community as Marc Ramirez explains in this story in the Seattle Times today profiling a new community resource: City Fruit.



Our alkmene apple tree got a much-needed drink this morning. Thanks, Mother Nature!


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August 24, 2009 10:41 AM

Vertical farming not pie in the sky, plus Skagit Valley love

Posted by Nancy Leson

As I sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the paper this morning, I couldn't help thinking about the green beans I ate for dinner last night -- grown in local soil by a local farmer and bought on Saturday at my local farmers market. Nor could I stop thinking about the farmers I've come to know by name and by face, including those who work the land, grow the crops and raise livestock in the stunning acreage we know as the Skagit Valley -- a place that always makes me say, "Is this gorgeous, or what?"

Those thoughts were prompted by an op-ed piece in today's New York Times, "A Farm on Every Floor," which began "If climate change and population growth progress at their current pace, in roughly 50 years farming as we know it will no longer exist. This means that the majority of people could soon be without enough food or water. But there is a solution that is surprisingly within reach: Move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings. It's called vertical farming."



Nate O'Neil of Frog Song Farm (left) farming horizontally on Fir Island. You'll find him upright on Saturdays, selling organic produce at the Edmonds Farmers Market. (Seattle Times/Harley Soltes)

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August 14, 2009 6:50 AM

Hussein Khazaal tribute: family celebrates his life today

Posted by Nancy Leson

For those who call Phoenecia at Alki their home away from home, owner Hussein Khazaal always had "something special": a complimentary bottle of wine or a special dessert to celebrate a happy occasion, or a recipe for soup brimming with kale and lemon, sure to cure the worst cold.

In recent weeks it was the sweet red "magic sauce" he'd proudly concocted, ladled over the lamb or salmon that were staples on his Mediterranean menu. "I could open a restaurant downtown and just serve this!" he said, as excited about his latest special as he was when he opened the original Phoenecia in West Seattle's Alaska Junction in 1973.

Born in Southern Lebanon, Mr. Khazaal, 63, died in his sleep of natural causes Saturday (Aug. 8) after another busy night at Phoenecia. His generosity knew no bounds, say those who knew him best.

Son William Khazaal, 35, recalls the year he was 10, when the family moved to a poor African village for a year. His parents ran a small store, and when he asked if he could help, his father installed him outside with several boxes and a directive: "There was a lady walking by without a shirt on," William remembers, and his father reached into a box and gave her one. "He told me, 'everybody should be able to have a shirt on their back,' " and instructed his son to make it so.

A devout Muslim, Mr. Khazaal made certain his children had private-school educations, said his daughter Sonya, 31. "I went to Holy Rosary and Holy Names, and he drove me to school every day," she recalls. "And every day, without fail he'd tell me, 'You've got to be a good honest person because this life is just a test -- and you're going to Heaven.' "

Six weeks ago William was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. "I was devastated," he said, "but Dad would just say, 'Don't worry!' 'Don't worry' was the only thing he said more than 'I love you.' " William embarked on a special diet, and his father had prepared every meal for him since, he said.

"When I told him I have to find a way to eat chicken" -- a meat he abhors -- and medical professionals suggested combating low cholesterol levels by eating squid, Mr. Khazaal filled his son's fridge with a "special" sauteed chicken dish and his freezer with enough calamari to last 10 days. "He made having MS like treating the flu," William said.

Mr. Khazaal treated his wife of 40 years, Inaam, "like a princess," said the couple's youngest daughter, Nadia, 26. Her parents would have celebrated their 40th anniversary today.

Yes, he was a romantic, agrees family friend Dianne Trani, co-owner of Gaspare Italian restaurant in Greenwood. "Hussein was a yenta -- a matchmaker," said Trani, who remembers meeting Mr. Khazaal in 1988. "Hussein told Gaspare he ought to settle down and get married -- to me!"

Before he married Dianne and opened his own restaurant, Gaspare Trani worked for Mr. Khazaal at La Fontana, which shared space in the Hansen Bakery complex with Phoenecia after it relocated from the Admiral District to Lower Queen Anne in 1980. (The complex was later razed, and in 1992 Phoenecia relocated again, to Alki Beach.)

Mr. Khazaal was "the best kind of guy there is," Dianne Trani said. "He was a kindly uncle to everybody," always there to lend a hand to anyone in need.

And she means that literally. Gathering with the Khazaal family last weekend, Dianne recalled that while working at La Fontana, Gaspare wore a cast after injuring his hand. "And every day," she told them, "Hussein would come to Gaspare's house and tie his shoes."

The family has yet to decide the fate of the veritable one-man show that was Phoenecia. "I've been working with my father since I was a teenager," said Nadia, who recently earned the master's degree her father always wanted her to have -- then used it to work beside him at his restaurant.

Her brother recalls how patrons would sometimes ask of their father's food, "If it's 'special' why is it for everyone?" "It was special," William said, " because he wanted it to be special."

A celebration of his life will be at 6:30 p.m. today across from Phoenecia, adjacent to the Alki Bathhouse.

In addition his wife, three children and four grandchildren, Mr. Khazaal is survived by six siblings: sisters Mariam, Wafaa, Joumana, Ilham and Jamal, all of Lebanon; and a brother, Abdul-Raheem, of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Kind remembrances of the man and his restaurant are most welcome here on the blog.

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August 10, 2009 10:15 AM

Hussein Khazaal dies, Phoenecia at Alki closed for now

Posted by Nancy Leson

Sad news reported in the West Seattle blog: Hussein Khazaal, owner of Alki's popular Phoenecia restaurant, died unexpectedly on Saturday. Khazaal's family -- and those of us who knew the man and his restaurant -- mourn his loss.



Hussein Khazaal, with his granddaughter Laylah (Khazaal family photo).

As I wrote in a P.I. review in 1997: The original Phoenecia "opened on West Seattle's California Avenue in 1973, introducing ambitious diners to the then-exotic joys of eggplant and tahini. Word spread like hummus on warm pita, as did the reputation of the Lebanese chef who ran a one-man show and gained a loyal following." In 1980, Khaazal relocated his restaurant to the Hansen Bakery complex on lower Queen Anne, where his Mediterranean cuisine garnered further attention. And in 1992 he moved again, back to West Seattle, across from Alki Beach where he continued to charm and delight his regulars until his passing.

The following letter from the Khaazal family, dated August 8 is posted at Phoenecia:

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August 5, 2009 12:38 PM

Sam Sifton replaces Frank Bruni as NY Times resto critic

Posted by Nancy Leson

Here's the much-anticipated in-house announcement from New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, regarding who'll be wearing the restaurant critic's shoes now that longtime critic Frank Bruni's out and about. And the big fork goes to . . . editor Sam Sifton, as noted in the Times blog Diner's Journal.

To the Staff:

In the weeks since the announcement that Frank Bruni would be hanging up his napkin, we've received numerous applications for the job of NYT restaurant critic. We narrowed the list, and then narrowed it some more. We had some really impressive candidates, writers who know their food and have interesting things to say about the way we eat.
Then we threw out the list and drafted Sam Sifton.
The choice is both obvious and eccentric.
It is obvious because, as a brilliant editor of the Dining section, as an occasional essayist on food for our magazine, and as a writer of discernment and wit and erudition, he is the best candidate any of us can think of. This is a marquee job for The Times, and our next critic will have the unenviable job of following Frank Bruni. It is an obvious choice, too, because the prospect of reading Sam on a regular basis brings big smiles to our faces. Joe Lelyveld used to ask of any prospective appointment or promotion, "Where's the lift?" On this one, the question pretty much answers itself.

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August 3, 2009 10:16 AM

Stratton at Spinasse: "I feel like I've won the lottery"

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's been a year since Spinasse made its much heralded debut. Back then, celebrated pasta-maker Justin Neidermeyer -- dubbed "a boyish Pavarotti"-- presided in a kitchen built to remind him, and those who came to taste his wares, of his beloved Piedmont. Neidermeyer has since taken his last curtain call, his sights set on a return to Italy, and today Spinasse's kitchen is firmly in the hands of Jason Stratton, who was there in the Capitol Hill cascina at the start.


Jason Stratton: now the creative artist in the kitchen at Spinasse.

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July 27, 2009 5:19 PM

Seattle's first sustainable sushi bar: Mashiko rises to the bait

Posted by Nancy Leson

Hajime Sato -- a self-described "sushi whore" -- has seen the light.

Mashiko, his West Seattle restaurant, celebrates 15 years in business in September. He'll turn 40 in October. Now, he said, is the perfect time to come clean.

"I've been teaching sushi-making for seven or eight years. I teach about eating sustainable fish, but in my restaurant I use fish I know I should not be using. I feel like a hypocrite. I want to sleep good at night!" Soon enough, he'll be sleeping peacefully.

On August 15, Mashiko will be reborn as Seattle's first fully sustainable sushi restaurant. Which is to say that Sato will just say no to endangered fish and other seafood caught or raised using non-sustainable practices. He's 86-ing sushi bar-staples like Atlantic salmon, black tiger shrimp from Southeast Asia, farm-raised unagi (freshwater eel) and hamachi (Japanese amberjack) -- while proudly waving the oshibori of conservationism.



Hajime Sato: the first cut is the hardest (photo/Jessica Oyanagi)


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July 22, 2009 4:10 PM

Owners to close The Jones, reopen as Roosevelt Ale House

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last week, Scott Simpson and Michelle Steele had two big announcements. One was the birth of their daughter, Lila. The other was their plan to turn their bistro and lounge into a neighborhood ale house. "Tuesday, July 28th will be the last day of business for The Jones," they told patrons in an email. "We will be closed for a couple of weeks while we thrash about with lumber, nails and paint, re-opening on Friday August 14th as Roosevelt Ale House."



Scott and Michelle, with their "second" baby, Lila (photo/Kate McElwee)

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July 16, 2009 8:45 AM

Maritime Pacific Brewing Company: Jolly good move

Posted by Nancy Leson

My friend Dave, a longtime fan of Ballard's Maritime Pacific Brewing Company and its adjoining Jolly Roger Taproom, nearly had a heart attack this week as he was driving down NW Leary Way. Here's why:



Sign 'o the times? Not exactly.


Is it any wonder he was preparing to cry in his beer after finding his favorite drinking-hole for lease -- with an October date slapped on the side for all the world to see, no less? What with all the news of economic woes coupled with the many retail and restaurant closures we've seen lately, Dave was convinced the next time he drove by the Jolly Roger he'd find this:

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July 11, 2009 10:02 AM

Restaurants expect more sizzle than fizzle ahead

Posted by Nancy Leson

On Monday it was Seattle's Oceanaire Seafood Room. Friday it was Todai, the Japanese buffet in Redmond Town Center.

Two more restaurants abruptly shuttered, joining an ever-growing list of recent closures: Cremant in Madrona, Blue Onion Bistro in Ravenna, Iris Grill in Issaquah, Andre's Eurasian Bistro in Bellevue, Yarrow Bay Grill in Kirkland.

When will it end?

Soon, predicts Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Restaurant Association, who echoes the optimism he's hearing from restaurant owners throughout the state.

"Individually, there will always be operators struggling, but collectively the industry's improving," Anton said. For the first time since the economy soured, the association's "shockingly accurate" monthly surveys report that more restaurant owners expect sales to be the same or increase during the coming fiscal quarter.

"I talk to restaurant operators every day, and while they're everywhere from 'Chicken Little' to 'All roads are paved with gold,' the optimism is outweighing the pessimism, and all the data I've seen reflects that things are getting better."

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June 11, 2009 4:09 PM

0/8 guys twisting off a new cork, creating a Stir in Bellevue

Posted by Nancy Leson

When chef (and radio personality) Dan Thiessen partnered with financial-guy Matt Bomberger two-plus years ago, they twisted a cork off a new restaurant concept -- 0/8 Seafood Grill and the Twisted Cork. Conceptually speaking, it turned out to be a good idea: an elegant dining room embracing a more casual wine bar adjacent to the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue. And apparently, landlord Kemper Development was impressed enough to ink the duo another deal.



Chef Dan (right) schmoozing with patrons at the Twisted Cork [Seattle Times/Mark Harrison]

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June 5, 2009 4:48 PM

Skillet Street Food in hot water but still in the game

Posted by Nancy Leson

When Public Health Seattle-King County inspectors came to call at Skillet Street Food Monday night, they were not amused. The traveling Airstream parked near Safeco Field during the Mariner's game was unpermitted. What's more, Skillet was cited for several other red-flag offenses, and when the email alert "Food establishment closures in King County" went out with Skillet's name on it today, the blogosphere exploded with the news. "I wonder," chef-owner Josh Henderson said, "If a taco truck got shut down, would it be on all the blogs?" Not likely.



Take the bullet: this one's legal.

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June 4, 2009 2:31 PM

I scream about ice cream and (yippee!) frozen custard. You?

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you're as old as me and my radio-sidekick Dick Stein, you can recall running after the Good Humor man in search of frozen-food-fun -- as we discussed this week on KPLU's Food for Thought. But you may have noticed there's been a run on high-quality ice creameries and gelaterias in these parts, an explosion of farmers market ice cream carts everywhere and the introduction of frozen custard shops even better than the ones I recall from my youth. That so many of these sweeteries make a point of using local and organic products only adds to their infinite allure.

Speaking of which: I've yet to introduce my half-pint to the joys of frozen custard, the legendary stuff of Midwestern childhoods, now available at two Seattle venues -- thanks to this week's debut of Old School Frozen Custard on Capitol Hill. (Show up on Saturday from 3-10 p.m. and they'll sport you a free cone!) After a trip to Peaks Frozen Custard on Tuesday, I promised to take Nate there first. I consider it payback, seeing as he recently introduced me to this adorable half-pint, Cle Franklin:



Half Pint Homemade Ice Cream's Cle Franklin scoops ice cream at local farmers markets

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May 29, 2009 6:48 AM

Street food keeps truckin': Here and There -- and everywhere

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last week I was carrying on about Skillet Street Food, now wheeling and dealing outside Safeco Field on game days. And this week in The Stranger, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee offers a broad look at Seattle's growing street-food scene. One set for the imminent arrival of two high-profile newcomers: Marination Mobile ("serving Hawaiian and Korean curb cuisine") and Beecher's pig-faced Airstream (promising "the best pulled-pork sandwich you've ever had"). Meanwhile, up north in my hometown, there's another street-side sensation making the rounds. Last Saturday, while strolling past Tully's on my way to the Edmonds farmers market, it caught me eye.



Here and There, parked on Fifth Avenue in downtown Edmonds on Saturday

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May 21, 2009 1:23 PM

Corson Building: brunch, Wednesday night dinners -- yes!

Posted by Nancy Leson

The good news just in: The Corson Building is adding a la carte Wednesday night dinners and a Sunday brunch to its delicious dance-card, making it easier and more affordable for us to enjoy a meal there -- and dishes like these:


At the Corson Building, fresh ripe figs need -- and get -- no embellishment

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May 21, 2009 11:30 AM

New taqueria soon to be un-Veiled in Lower Queen Anne

Posted by Nancy Leson

When last I spoke to Shannon Galusha regarding the vacant restaurant space formerly known as Veil, he acknowledged "nothing's official yet" -- but said it was this-close to being sold and transformed into a taqueria. And when I drove by this week I found the doors open and a guy at work scraping paint off a door frame.



Aloha from the corner of Aloha and Taylor streets.

This your place? I asked. Nope. But he was there to transform Veil's uber-designed restaurant space -- now completely gutted -- into a taco-and-tequila joint. ETA? "I've got two and a half months," he said. But who's counting? According to the liquor license posted in the doorway, that would be B & B Restaurants, Inc.

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May 15, 2009 10:21 AM

Spurred on by success Spur team to open Tavern Law

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's been less than a year since chefs Dana Tough and Brian McCracken's Spur Gastropub made its daring debut, setting the town afire with such branding-iron signatures as carpaccio with deep-fried bearnaise, and pork-belly sliders. These crackerjack kids with the modern Western-themed haunt wasted no time knocking food fanatics off their Belltown bar stools -- where they'd been perched precariously already, thanks to alcohol's artful alchemist David Nelson. Now they're set to do it all over again with Tavern Law -- a "speakeasy bar" expected to open late next month at the Trace Lofts complex on Capitol Hill.



Getting Tough (left) and (Mc)Cracken in the kitchen at Spur
[photo by Kristin Zwiers]

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May 13, 2009 12:41 PM

Sand Point Grill gets new owners

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's been a decade since Seattle barmen Scott MacFarlane and Andrew Walsh opened Sand Point Grill in Laurelhurst, and two weeks since they quietly sold it to chefs Kristina and Craig Bartleson. Last night, I stopped in for dinner and found Kristina alternately working, grabbing a post-rush bite and chatting up her new customers -- old hands who treat this bar-and-grill like it's their own personal dining room. And it didn't take me long to divine that she's exactly the kind of new owner I'd want heading-up my favorite hang-out if it were sold.



Kristina Bartleson at the bar at Sand Point Grill


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May 11, 2009 11:35 AM

Why, yes. I do have word re: Perche No Pasta & Vino

Posted by Nancy Leson

Judy Klayman wrote, asking: "Do you have any word on what is happening with Perche No Restaurant post-fire? We love that place, and we are wondering if they are going to reopen. I think many readers other than me would appreciate a word about their plans, since that was such a great restaurant!"

Funny you should ask, Judy, because I just got word from Lily Kong that the Greenlake-area restaurant -- which suffered extensive damage in a February fire -- reopens Friday, May 15.



Contractors parked out front of Perche No in February, post-fire.

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May 7, 2009 6:49 AM

More chef changes at the Herbfarm: Luce on the loose?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Early this week I shared news about the appointment of the Herbfarm's new sous-chef, Lisa Nakamura. And that's when one of the city's notorious foodie-fiends dropped a gossip-bomb: He told me executive chef Keith Luce was leaving the high-profile restaurant. Which, if it turned out to be true, makes Luce's tenure far shorter than that of Jerry Traunfeld's -- who famously left the Herbfarm after 17 years to open Poppy.

When Luce arrived in Woodinville he carried four-star credentials. As a young up-and-comer he was one of Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" 1997 and later named a James Beard "Rising Star Chef." He won praise for his San Francisco restaurant, Merenda, sold it, worked in California's wine country and by the time he took the helm at the Herbfarm in October 2007, his resume resounded with impressive addresses here and abroad -- including 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Luce certainly had the proper pedigree for the Herbfarm, a fantasy land of fine foodstuffs -- offering 9-course themed dinners paired with first-rate wines from a cellar 25,000-bottles strong. The job warranted a culinarian with a creative eye, a love for the Northwest's cornucopia of seasonal wonders and the ability to run a large staff. Luce fit the profile. What's more, he grew up on a farm on Long Island, New York -- a place that may well be beckoning him home.



Keith Luce at the Herbfarm, photo: John Granen

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May 5, 2009 11:00 AM

Pazzo's: pot, so? Seattle pizza guy gets his day in court

Posted by Nancy Leson

Well, guess which Seattle Times story's getting all the eyeballs today? The one from the Associated Press running with the headline "Seattle Pizza-shop owner in court on pot charges." Read it and weep. And if you get the munchies, I know a popular pizza shop where you can get your fix.

Anybody been? How's the pizza?

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May 4, 2009 11:54 AM

The Herbfarm sprouts a new sous: Lisa Nakamura

Posted by Nancy Leson

Word just in that Lisa Nakamura, late of Bin Vivant, is the new sous-chef at The Herbfarm:



photo credit: Christine Gaillard


She'll bring years of experience (including three spent at Napa Valley's much vaunted French Laundry) to Woodinville, where she'll have the opportunity to marry her skills with those of executive chef Keith Luce.


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April 30, 2009 5:25 PM

Sorrento's hunt over: Matthew Mina new member of the club

Posted by Nancy Leson

As far as publicity stunts go, the Sorrento Hotel's month-long hunt for a new executive chef was a rousing success -- says the woman who was there Tuesday night for the final installment of "The Hunt." That's when two chef finalists wooed a panel of judges and other guests, facing off before a hungry audience in a kitchen-classroom at Seattle Culinary Academy.

Taking their cue from TV's "Top Chef," Christopher Jensen (presently the Hunt Club's "interim" chef-exec) and Matthew Mina (a Bellevue native, lately of San Francisco) -- who beat out two other semifinalists last week -- showcased their talents in a dining duel. Mina was named the Hunt Club's new executive chef today:



What did he bring to the table -- besides a resume that includes sheepskin from California Culinary Academy and the CIA at Greystone and a resume sporting stints at some of Northern California's finest restaurants? This:


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April 29, 2009 10:40 AM

Chow Foods guys say: Breaking up isn't hard to do

Posted by Nancy Leson

There was an attorney. And champagne. And after a 20-year marriage, a breakup. Of course, because that's what always happens at at times like this, the neighbors started to gossip. But Peter Levy and Jeremy Hardy just went about their business -- a business that until this month included joint custody of six kids: Queen Anne's 5 Spot (opened in 1990), Capitol Hill's Coastal Kitchen (1993), U-Village's Atlas Foods (1999), West Seattle's Endolyne Joe's (2003), Ballard's Hi-Life (2004) and their latest, Mt. Baker's Mioposto (2006).

And now comes the announcement that the neighborhood restaurant kingpins are splitting the sheets: Excel spread, that is. In the settlement, Levy retains the business name Chow Foods and with it, the 5 Spot, Endolyne Joe's, the Hi-Life and that sprawling mall-brat Atlas, while Hardy hightails it with Coastal Kitchen, Mioposto and a new corporate name -- Seattle Eats. So, why are these regular Joes still smiling?



Levy, left and Hardy, in West Seattle (Seattle Times photo: Harley Soltes)

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April 27, 2009 12:24 PM

Rancho Bravo: Wallingford, Capitol Hill, Greenwood and more!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Freddy Rivas is totally jazzed about his first -- and so-far only -- "bricks and mortar" version of Rancho Bravo Tacos, open just over a month in a former KFC on Capitol Hill. It's a spin-off of his popular trailer-and-tent set-up, tucked away in the parking lot off 45th Street in Wallingford adjacent to Winchell's Donut House:



Unlike the single picnic bench at Winchell's, Rancho Bravo's new location at 10th and Pine has plenty of seats for patrons looking for an actual roof and four walls to protect them from the elements -- while they're knocking back the same great tacos and tortas they've been lining up for the past two years in Wallingford:

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April 20, 2009 12:38 PM

E. & J. Gallo crows "We'll sue!" -- The Spanish Table

Posted by Nancy Leson

And now, from the you've-got-to-be-kidding department, this just in from Steve Winston, owner of The Spanish Table: He's being sued in California Eastern District Court by E. & J. Gallo Winery -- for selling pasta imported from a 50-year-old Spanish company named Gallo (no relation):



Steve says: the rain in Spain falls mainly in Seattle

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April 20, 2009 9:27 AM

Hunt for Club membership narrowed: semifinalists named

Posted by Nancy Leson

In the ongoing discussion regarding "The Hunt" (the Sorrento Hotel's very public search for a new executive chef), Hunt Club management has reviewed resumes, held interviews and gotten a taste of what their wannabe chef-execs might bring to the table. This week the final four will take to the stage (more precisely, the Hunt Club kitchen) on successive nights -- April 21 through 24 -- vying for the job by managing the restaurant's existing culinary team and creating and preparing a four-course prix-fixe dinner. Patrons will help evaluate their efforts (want in? reserve at 206-343-6156 or www.opentable.com, tickets $95 per person, wine included). In the end, two finalists will be named before facing-off at a benefit dinner April 28th at Seattle Culinary Academy on Capitol Hill. Proceeds from that showdown ($250 per person) benefit the Quillisascut Farm School Scholarship Fund, offering culinary students and professionals an opportunity to experience the farm-to-table connection first-hand.



Down on the (Quillisascut Farm School) farm. Seattle Times photo by Harley Soltes

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April 14, 2009 9:17 AM

Kathy Casey on the move -- in more ways than one

Posted by Nancy Leson

Life's been busier than usual for Seattle's whirling dervish of Dish Kathy Casey, who has announced plans to relocate Kathy Casey Food Studios and Liquid Kitchen, moving her culinary headquarters in the heart of Ballard to a far smaller space on the nearby waterfront. "We'd been thinking we'll sell the building in five years, but then this came up," Kathy says, referring to a 2,300 square-foot location with three ground-floor waterfront bays in the "fab new development" at Salmon Bay Marine Center. "It was just like when we found this building -- too exciting to pass up."


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April 7, 2009 12:34 PM

Approval times two: the writer (Kauffman), the chef (Claycamp), that pig (Hector)

Posted by Nancy Leson

There are few food writers I'd rather read than Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman -- whose website reportage titled, "What I Saw, and Ate, at the Pig `Sacrifice'" -- in which he meets and eats a pig named Hector -- won him a 2009 International Association of Culinary Professionals Bert Greene Award for journalism Saturday at the IACP conference in Denver.

Seattle Weekly's Maggie Savarino Dutton accepted the award for her colleague, who was in Korea, presumably eating dwae-jee-bulgogi and gam-ja-gun-gol -- as well as other dishes he might not be able to find in strip malls stretching from Federal Way to Lynnwood. (I greatly look forward to reading about that in another award-winning piece of gustatory journalism, no doubt forthcoming from the talented Mr. K.)

If you've yet to read Kauffman's story starring the intrepid reporter, the aforementioned Hector and that polarizing figure, chef Gabe Claycamp, I urge you to make haste and read this right now. Then get back here for more on the subject, because when it comes to Gabe Claycamp and pigs, the story (Culinary Communion closing! The Swinery to somehow magically remain in business! Busted for selling unauthorized pork-products!) is apparently never over:

As for the latest installment in this dramatic tale of oh!: In an email sent to a handful of food-scribes this week, Gabe provided a good-news bad-news scenario, citing his "good news" first: Public Health -- Seattle & King County has granted him legal license to sell his bacon, "Period. 100% legal. No exceptions."

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April 6, 2009 5:01 PM

Another Heavy hitter added to the mix: Mike Davis of 26brix

Posted by Nancy Leson

As mentioned in my previous post about the moving and shaking going on at Kirkland's Carillon Point, Heavy Restaurant Group announced last week the ascension of former bin vivant wine director Dawn Smith, recently named wine manager for their trio of as-yet-unopened Bellevue restaurants.

Smith will be in good company when Heavy's Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Barrio and Bliss open in the Bellevue Towers mid-summer: turns out chef Mike Davis, late of 26brix in Walla Walla, will be overseeing the action in those kitchens.



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March 26, 2009 8:28 PM

"Chef Search": the Hunt Club Edition (and my dream team)

Posted by Nancy Leson

The bugles sounded the call this week: the landmark Sorrento Hotel is hunting for a new executive chef. And move over Craigslist! -- hotel management is seizing the opportunity to turn the search into competitive sport. The baby heirloom-carrot on the end of the stick? Top toque-status at the Hunt Club, the 52-seat restaurant and bar adjacent the elegant boutique hotel's inviting Fireside Room. So, who calls the winner? Management -- along with a panel of "culinary luminaries" (I was invited to partake), plus diners attending benefit dinners showcasing the work of the chef-finalists.

"I'll judge that contest!" said former Hunt Club chef-exec Brian Scheehser, who stopped by for a chat yesterday while I was dining at Kirkland restaurant, Trellis, in the Heathman Hotel. Now we're talking: There's a chef-search panelist I'd like to sit next to!

I explained to Scheehser that the Hunt Club's contest is open to any chef with previous experience managing a full-service restaurant (find all the details here). They're looking for a chef who has "a philosophy that success in the kitchen is driven by education and creativity" -- to quote the press-release. After 13 years at the Hunt Club, what do you wanna bet Scheehser could pick a solid winner. These days he's hitting it out of the park at the Heathman, overseeing a menu starring organic produce, much of it grown in his 5-acre kitchen garden:



Brian Scheehser's field of dreams


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March 23, 2009 9:28 AM

James Beard Finalists Announced

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'll offer some commentary in a bit, but here's the link to the list of the 2009 James Beard Award finalists.

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March 20, 2009 11:41 AM

Cafe Flora: the more things change, the more they stay the same

Posted by Nancy Leson

As a journalism student at the UW, my graduation requirements included a class where students were required to publish stories in the local press. Way back then, before those of us with writerly aspirations had a blog (and next thing you know a book contract), those "clips" were journalistic currency: a bridge to a career as a wordsmith.

I still remember being scolded by my instructor, "If you don't learn to write faster and do an internship in Olympia, you're going to have a hard time finding work at a newspaper!" (Headline from shortly after graduation when I got my first paid gig at Seattle Weekly: "Neener, neener, neener!") You see, I never wanted to write about politics -- though I sure wish I'd learned to write faster. My passion was food, and I recall the thrill of seeing the first restaurant story that bore my byline -- a profile of an innovative new vegetarian restaurant:


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March 19, 2009 3:33 PM

Saints preserve us! Culinary Communion closes

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's tough keeping up with the trials and tribulations of Gabe Claycamp and Culinary Communion (though Rebekah Denn continues to do a helluva job). First came the cooking school, later the secret "Gypsy" dinners. There was a big move, in 2007, to a new Beacon Hill location where the culinarily minded gathered for cooking classes from some of the city's top chefs. The new expansive "CC House" -- as friends of the family called it -- was also the site for schmooze-fests with cookbook authors. But things have been going south for Culinary Communion for some time.

First the Liquor Control Board came calling, and Gabe spread the news via e-mail. Then, just when he was close to getting his Swinery business off the ground the health department said "uh-uh." And next thing you know there's a veritable food-fight as folks weighed in on whether Gabe Claycamp is a visionary with an independent streak or a law-flouting demon in a chef's coat:


Now, quick on the heels of the news that the Beacon Hill headquarters would be home to a weekday Lunch Counter, Gabe and his wife Heidi are closing up shop at Culinary Communion. Which brings us to their lengthy missive in which the Culinary Communicators explain they are flat-broke and coming to the end of a very difficult chapter in their lives: the going-out-of-business chapter. Here's their letter in its entirety:

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March 13, 2009 8:33 AM

Mayoral agenda: Duke for mayor? And dinner with Norm Rice

Posted by Nancy Leson

You've got to love this: Duke Moscrip, best know for the chowderhouses that bear his name, is considering a mayoral run in Seattle. You can read about that here in Politics Northwest, as well as in Duke's neighborhood blog (he lives above his Alki store). An astute businessman with six restaurants to his name, Duke already has plenty of endorsements. And if you're interested in knowing how he feels about Seattle schools, or the use of taxpayer's dollars, he's got views you can use.



Duke's mugshot, circa a while back. See! He's got the wardrobe for the job

Duke won't get my vote, though. Don't worry. I'm not getting all political on you: I vote in Edmonds, where mayor Gary Haakenson isn't above offering me unsolicited dining advice:

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March 12, 2009 1:29 PM

Oh-mega! That's some chum

Posted by Nancy Leson

In the ongoing discussion of the plight of Yup'ik Eskimo villagers and the state of the salmon that has long been their sustenance (and their livelihood), its nice to know there's good news coming out of the Yukon Delta. Announced today: Yukon River king and chum (keta) salmon have record levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, as measured in tests recently administered by Bodycote Testing Group.



Our chum, the Yukon chum
Photo: Kwik'pak Fisheries

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March 11, 2009 7:00 AM

Porkfest: who won at Seattle's Cochon 555?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Inquiring Eaters want to know: Who was crowned "Prince of Porc" after going whole-hog at Sunday's fundraising porkfest, Cochon 555? I missed the fun (mistake!) so I can't give you the lowdown, but you can read judge (and "Gastronaut") Jay Friedman's take on it right here. And the winner? That would be Chow Foods executive chef Anthony Hubbard.

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March 10, 2009 11:06 AM

Collins Pub owner goes Public: next stop, Hudson Public House

Posted by Nancy Leson

Seth Howard's Collins Pub remains a beacon of light in Pioneer Square. And as his stepfather Dany Mitchell prepares to close his own Pioneer Square restaurant -- 32-year-old Trattoria Mitchelli -- he's opening a second pub in Maple Leaf. "I'm dumb enough to grow in a recession," says Howard, who leased the former Anita's Bistro off the busy intersection of 15th Ave N.E. and Lake City Way in late December:



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March 2, 2009 3:47 PM

Moxie sold: gets new "Signature"

Posted by Nancy Leson

Moxie, the lower Queen Anne bistro and bar, has been sold and will be reopen later this week as a Vietnamese restaurant. If that's news to you, you're not alone. Last week, Moxie newsletter subscribers received a letter from co-owners Lauri Carter and Peter Morrison, describing a change in ownership and concept, and inviting friends and fans to stop in over the weekend to meet the new owner and enjoy a champagne toast:



Lauri Carter and Peter Morrison (courtesy of Moxie)


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February 24, 2009 7:15 AM

Fire puts Perche No Pasta & Vino on ice -- temporarily

Posted by Nancy Leson

From the outside, things don't look bad at Perche No Pasta & Vino, the family friendly Italian restaurant and wine bar near Green Lake:



The view indoors tell another story: an estimated $200,000 damage sustained after a Saturday morning fire, much of it smoke-related. Downstairs on the main floor, the exhibition kitchen appears mostly unscathed, though smoke damage is apparent throughout:


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February 19, 2009 4:47 PM

Artemis to close Saturday and re-jigger

Posted by Nancy Leson

When a friend called just before noon today with the news that the well-received young Capitol Hill restaurant, Artemis was planning a transformation, I figured I'd make a few phone calls to see what was what. But first I went out to lunch. My source let fly that owners (and former Microsofties) Oscar Velasco-Schmitz and Boris Gorodnitsky were seeking to bring down their payroll substantially, had given layoff notice to staffers and were preparing to re-jigger their bistro as a bar-centric hangout. And whaddaya know? This missive just in, courtesy of Velasco-Schmitz and Gorodnitsky (thanks fellas! you make my job easy!). Here's their story, straight from the horse's mouth:

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February 19, 2009 1:15 PM

Lunch? Thought you'd never ask!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Today I'm taking my boss out to lunch. After reading my French onion soup roundup, he sent an email noting he'd never been to Cafe Presse and asked "Take me?" What could I say? He's the boss. Yet as much as I love Cafe Presse, and my boss (suck up!), I'd rather have lunch at Saito's. Why?

Because Flying Fish recently stopped serving the mid-day meal. Because Yutaka Saito is one of my favorite sushi chefs. Because (Hallelujah! and listen-up Lucy Mohl!) he's finally reopened by day after a long dry spell of dinners-only. And because my standing order at lunch -- and dinner -- always looks as knocked-out gorgeous as this:


"One good thing about it being a bad time for restaurants is that Yutaka's been able to get enough staff to open again for lunch," says his wife and chief motivator, Anita, who still harbors fantasies of opening an intimate little sushi bar somewhere other than Belltown. Saito's is serving lunch Tuesdays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. till 2 p.m. Save some uni for me, would you?

Saito's isn't the only restaurant on my must-go list to announce the advent of lunch service. Beginning March 1, Shea's Lounge (the sexy little adjunct to Chez Shea in Pike Place Market) will start serving lunch every day but Monday from 11:30 a.m. till 2 p.m. Smart move for that intimate dining space. With only seven tables and a teensy bar, the spillover from busy Matt's in the Market alone should warrant a full house.

Now tell me: which dinner-only restaurants would you love to see open for lunch?

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February 19, 2009 7:17 AM

Pagliacci slices prices to celebrate the Big 3-0

Posted by Nancy Leson

On this day in 1979, Dorene Centioli-McTigue opened the doors of the pizzeria Seattle came to know and love as Pagliacci -- which still stands today on the "Ave." Thirty years later, that long-lived store joins its siblings on Lower Queen Anne, Broadway and the UW campus, celebrating that day by throwing back prices on slices and fountain sodas. For today only, Pagliacci is selling cheese-, pepperoni- or a combo-slice for less than a buck, and offering their popular Primo for $1.05 -- just as they did in 1979.

It's been nearly a decade since a trio of savvy Seattle businessmen, Matt Galvin, Pat McCarthy and Pat McDonald, bought what was then a dozen stores selling "Philadelphia-style" pizza. They've since expanded to 21 locations, with delivery-kitchens coming over hot throughout Greater Seattle. To celebrate their continued success, as well as that of a legion of Pagliacci employees -- seen below smiling from a compostable box -- they've instituted a 30-day discount of 30 percent on 17-inch pies, with a limit of one discounted pizza per order (get all the celebratory details right here):


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February 13, 2009 12:30 PM

2009 James Beard Award restaurant/chef semifinalists announced

Posted by Nancy Leson

The James Beard Foundation today announced a list of semifinalists for the 2009 James Beard Awards in 19 restaurant and chef categories: the first cut before the final five nominees get the public nod March 23. Winners will be feted at the annual awards ceremony May 4 in NYC and baring unforeseen catastrophe, I'll be there as I was last year screaming "Tom Douglas!" during the ceremony at Avery Fisher Hall (No, wait! That's Thierry Rautureau's job):

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February 12, 2009 2:06 PM

Top Chef: Who you gonna call? And the nominees are. . .

Posted by Nancy Leson

Were you wondering who'd show up for the "Top Chef" casting-call held yesterday at Canlis?



Me too, so I went over to find out. No sooner had I parked my car (what? no valet?) than this guy came wheeling around the corner:


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February 9, 2009 12:30 PM

Eileen Mintz -- she was a doll, and we'll miss her

Posted by Nancy Leson

The last time I saw Eileen Mintz was at a press event at Canlis in which we, as media representatives, were introduced to new chef Jason Franey. In addition to her longstanding duties as the spokesperson for Salty's restaurants (and the voice behind the Salty's blog "Mintz -- Her Words"), she was a frequent contributor to the Mercer Island Reporter and the Eastside Business Journal (among other publications), a former TV restaurant-critic and a public relations maven for some of the city's best known chefs and restaurants. I always loved running into Eileen because she was -- as anyone who knew her would tell you -- the perfect cross between Annette Funicello and a the Jewish "bubbie" you wish you had. Here she is with her husband Dave on New Year's Eve at Kaspar's. Which, as it unfortunately turned out, would be the last evening she'd enjoy at a restaurant.



photo/Mina Williams

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February 5, 2009 7:26 AM

Bravo! Seattle chef sets sail. Others cast about for "Top Chef" job

Posted by Nancy Leson

When it comes to finding work, sometimes a man's got to do what a man's go to do, as today's front-page headline and the accompanying photo sadly makes clear:


Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times


Proving that point, Jefe Birkner, late of the late Austin Cantina (soon to reopen as Ballard's umpteenth sushi bar) is hitting the high seas for a new adventure: cooking on the National Geographic Sea Bird -- for cruise ship-guests sailing the seven seas. Next week, he'll be joining whale watchers in Baja, not as the ship's top chef, but as "second in command" as he describes it on his blog. Sounds like fun, huh? Clearly, Jefe's not so sure, but it beats the alternative, as he explains:

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February 2, 2009 10:12 AM

35th Street Bistro: Yes, there's still life in Fremont

Posted by Nancy Leson

I know, I know: I've been holding out on those of you who've called and written, asking what's going on at 35th Street Bistro -- closed since January 12. The answer is it's been sold, and the deal finally closed on Friday when owner Bob Day handed over his bistro's keys to new owners, Michelle and Mason Citarello.

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January 28, 2009 12:03 AM

C'est cheese: NYC chef Terrance Brennan to bring Artisanal touch to The Bravern

Posted by Nancy Leson

When Wild Ginger and John Howie Steak make their grand debut at The Bravern later this year, those local names will be in exceedingly good company. And no, I'm not talking about Neiman Marcus and Jimmy Choo.

Chef Terrance Brennan -- who's made his mark in Manhattan with his elegant two-Michelin-star restaurant, Picholine, and its fabulous wine- and cheese-besotted sibling, Artisanal -- is expanding his Artisanal brand by bringing it to Bellevue. This will be Brennan's first restaurant venture outside NYC, though not, he said, his last.


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January 12, 2009 11:21 AM

Caffe Vita's Mike McConnell: patron saint -- of Cremant?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Mike McConnell has his fingers in a lot of pies. He's the founder of Caffe Vita (now with five retail locations), the visionary behind Via Tribunali (his fourth pizzeria opened last month in Fremont) and a partner at Pike Street Fish Fry (around the corner from the flagship cafe and roasting plant on Capitol Hill). Mike's the man intent on reviving Belltown's late lamented Crocodile, where a fifth Via Trib will be part of the blueprint -- if and when the club reopens in March (keep your fingers crossed, the city isn't making it easy). And in a culinary coup de grace, he's now the owner of Madrona's French bistro, Cremant.

C'est what?

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December 18, 2008 10:52 AM

Snow Day! Speak to me: who's open, who's closed?

Posted by Nancy Leson

"Happy snow day Skilleteers" -- reads today's missive from the folks at that upwardly mobile Airstream -- Skillet Street Food, who sent out a mass e-mail saying they're staying off the road today due to snow. And another just in from Johnnie and Taiko Stroud at Sake Nomi: they're staying home and drinking sake today instead of selling it at their sake boutique and tasting room in Pioneer Square.

Me? I'm telecommuting, watching the snow fall here in Edmonds, thinking of all the restaurants I'd go to -- if only I had four studded snow tires. And I just got off the horn with Peter Levy -- co-owner of the six Chow Foods restaurants. He's home, too. "I was supposed to go have a tasting [at Endolyne Joe's] in West Seattle, but I don't think I'm going to make it," Pete said, adding he pretty much wants to punch-out the weather service folks who kept us all home last night with their unnecessarily dire warnings.

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December 17, 2008 9:08 AM

Foodista.com: a site to behold

Posted by Nancy Leson

So, are you ready to be snowed in? I am. And does this look like a soup day or what? When the weather gets like this, I get a hankering to rummage around in my fridge and cupboards, intent on finding the right ingredients for something warm and substantial. What'll it be? Well, that depends on what I've got on hand. Whatever I find, I can either head to my cookbook collection for inspiration or turn to Foodista.com. Launched today, "the cooking encyclopedia everyone can edit" is a Seattle-based Web site: a collaborative effort "revolutionizing how people learn and share about food and cooking!"

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December 12, 2008 4:15 PM

Austin Cantina: To bail, or not to bail, that is the question

Posted by Nancy Leson

Some not-so-good news just in from "Jefe" Birkner at Ballard's Austin Cantina -- seen below in happier times:



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December 11, 2008 11:45 AM

Sad news about Woodinville chef and restaurateur Jeff Boswell

Posted by Nancy Leson

Simina Bus, who acts as host and waits tables at Woodinville's Il Capretto D'oro (aka The Golden Goat), sent sad news to the restaurant's many customers via e-mail yesterday about the sudden death of her dear friend Jeff Boswell:



Photo: Betty Udeson/The Seattle Times


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December 9, 2008 12:23 PM

Bookstore bonanza, Chapter Two: In which Thomas Soukakos opens a second Vios Cafe

Posted by Nancy Leson

Thomas Soukakos, owner/chef of Vios Cafe & Marketplace -- the warm, embracing, family-friendly Greek joint on Capitol Hill -- has opened a second Vios in Ravenna:


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December 9, 2008 6:24 AM

Bookstore Bonanza, Chapter One: In which Tamara Murphy takes over at Elliott Bay Cafe

Posted by Nancy Leson

When word got out that Tamara Murphy was revamping the subterranean Elliott Bay Cafe at the Elliott Bay Book Company, I managed to miss the memo. So, last week, when a friend insisted that the James Beard Award-winning chef/owner of Belltown's Brasa was crafting sandwiches in Pioneer Square. I said, "Sure she is!" -- then I hightailed it down there to see whether truth really was stranger than fiction:


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November 19, 2008 8:00 AM

Joe Canavan was a World Class Chili-man: I'll miss him

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's been more than a dozen years since I tasted my first bowl of Joe Canavan's World Class Chili at a Pike Place Market hole-in-the-wall in the South Arcade. I recall sitting at a counter stool with a view of Elliott Bay, spooning into a Texas-size-bowl of Joe's Cincinnati red with its hints of chocolate and cinnamon, and thinking: "Wow. This stuff is great!" That was back before he moved the shop to larger, more central quarters in the Market's South Arcade.

Joe's chili was something. But the guy who made it so -- crafting the stuff with an equal measure of spices, know-how and love of the craft -- was something else altogether: a kind and curious fellow who was as serious about enjoying life as he was about his award-winning chili, as his obituary, in today's Seattle Times, makes clear:



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November 12, 2008 5:11 PM

Those apples are from New Zealand? Thanks for playing! Eat local for Thanksgiving

Posted by Nancy Leson

In keeping with today's Thanksgiving theme, the nice folks at Puget Sound Fresh have urged me to urge you to join their "Eat Local for Thanksgiving" campaign. Consider yourself urged. So, what's the deal? They want to raise awareness of the fab foodstuffs available from local farmers, ranchers, fisherfolk, cheesemongers, et al, hoping to ensure that each of you adds at least one locally grown or produced item to your holiday meal. Take the pledge (I did!) and maybe you'll win one of five heritage turkeys or a year's supply of organic milk -- no small (fingerling) potatoes. Need a few hints about local foods you might use? How 'bout these apples from the University District Farmers Market, which I baked into a pie made with leaf lard bought from a local farmer and Stone-Buhr All-Purpose certified sustainable flour, grown and milled in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and available at area supermarkets:


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November 12, 2008 12:44 PM

Nutritional count-down: menu labeling coming soon(er than you think) to a chain restaurant near you

Posted by Nancy Leson

I can hear it now: "I'll have the 1000-calorie high-sodium bacon-cheeseburger, a 270-calorie mocha, and call my cardiologist in the morning."

New York Times food writer Kim Severson hit close to home recently when she reported, "New Yorkers got a harsh dose of calorie reality this summer when restaurants with 15 or more outlets were forced to post the calorie content of food next to the price. The resulting sticker shock has brought parts of a great city to its knees, often to do push-ups." In today's P.I., Rebekah Denn followed-up that story, giving it a local spin with an in-depth look at the changes coming down the pike for many chain restaurants in the Seattle area. Beginning January 1, posting calorie-counts -- among other nutritional analyses -- becomes law in King County. Here's a taste of what consumers will be consuming:

"They'll be faced with the 1,000 calories (and 85 grams of fat) in their BLT Salads at The Old Spaghetti Factory and the 1,910 calories in the Jack Daniel's Ribs & Shrimp at T.G.I. Friday's. At Starbucks, they'll be able to judge not just whether they're in the mood for a tall latte or a mocha, but whether they want to take in the latte's 150 calories or the mocha's 270. At Taco Bell, they can decide if the benefits of ordering a 600-calorie Border Bowl are outweighed by the 2,120 milligrams of sodium it contains, nearly an entire day's recommended allowance."

Read Rebekah's full story, plus more on the new law on her blog.

Care to, uh, weigh-in on the controversy? I'm happy to chew the fat right here.


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November 10, 2008 7:53 AM

Fast food: different nation

Posted by Nancy Leson

In 1992, Tim Pham and Judy Dinh opened Seattle Deli in Seattle's Little Saigon. Then, six years ago, they moved their ridiculously inexpensive little Vietnamese take-out joint into contemporary new digs where it's been packed with delicious food and hungry customers (myself among them) ever since.

Back in September I told you Seattle Deli would soon open a second location in Edmonds, in the Boo Han shopping complex (22618 Highway 99) only minutes from my front door. It's been open a few weeks now, and I just can't seem to stay away. Here's why: I can walk out of the place carrying this:



And for less than $20 (bring cash -- it's all they take), treat myself and my family to a weekend's worth of lunch, snacks and dinner-worthy sides like these:


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October 28, 2008 10:55 AM

Crave closes tomorrow

Posted by Nancy Leson

Robin Leventhal hasn't had it easy at Crave on Capitol Hill -- which opened five years ago and closes after lunch tomorrow. Eight months after Crave's debut, the chef was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy. Today, at 42, she feels both healthy and fortunate -- thanks to ongoing care for Hodgkins disease and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

At only 720-square-feet, her tiny restaurant at 1621 12th Avenue allowed her to employ 20 "kids" to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and eke out a living. She says it wasn't easy. "The building's old. It needs some love and has some serious issues," Leventhal told me this morning. Nevertheless, when the Capitol Hill Arts Center (from whom she'd been sub-letting) moved out of the building last summer, she hoped to negotiate a lease with the landlord for more space. With such a small footprint to work in, "I can't make what I needed to happen, happen."

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October 27, 2008 11:45 AM

All aboard the Orient Express: "Andy's" reopens

Posted by Nancy Leson

Way back in March, I told you about the sale of Andy's Diner -- closed since January -- and developer Henry Liebman's plans for South Seattle landmark. And in the wake of that post, I had a nice chance to chat with long-retired owner Andy Yurkanin who promised to take me to lunch once the place re-opened:



He'll get his chance soon, because today the famous railcar-diner debuted as the Orient Express, specializing in Chinese, Thai and American food and offering (get this!) on-site childcare. I'd meet Andy there for lunch today, but as we speak he's enjoying his retirement at his second home in Eastern Washington. "I'm sitting here at the duck club, looking out at Toppenish Creek," he said when we talked this morning. No, he's not duck hunting, just hanging out with his pal Gilbert Barthe, owner of the late, great Mirabeau Restaurant.

Meanwhile, over on Fourth Avenue South, the new owner of the Orient Express, Gun Ting (late of Wild Ginger and known as Ed to many of his friends), greets his first paying guests today.

An extra-special thanks to reader Jeri Lloyd, who tipped me off to the opening after she and her husband decided to drive by yesterday to see how the transformation from old to new was coming along. "The parking lot was nearly full and there was a `Grand Opening' banner," she wrote in an email. So in they went. Turns out they'd stumbled in to a pre-opening party, complete with a buffet (replete with clam chowder, lemon chicken and Thai red curry beef) and waiters dressed in black and offering drinks. Invited to join in the fun, Jeri and her husband were warmly welcomed, handed some plates and told to look for seats in an open railcar. "The place still has a warren-like aspect due to the railroad cars, but it's obvious a lot of work has been done," Jeri said. She no doubt speaks for many longtime Seattleites when she said, "I'm so glad someone saved the place that I wish them great success." Amen, sister.

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October 23, 2008 11:00 AM

Priceless restaurant promo: "Pay what you can afford"

Posted by Nancy Leson

When I stopped by Shell Creek Grill yesterday afternoon to introduce myself to owners Brian and Heidi Petoletti, their dining room looked like this:



And when I came back for dinner later, the place was jumping, thanks to the Petolettis, who've felt the heat as the local economy has fizzled and decided to take drastic measures to do something about it:



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October 22, 2008 10:50 PM

Canlis holds press conference: reservations required [UPDATED]

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've never been to a press conference, but I got an email today urging me to attend one at Canlis tomorrow at 11 a.m. I immediately thought: Should I take a page from the Helen Thomas presidential playbook and wear a red dress? Actually, that's a lie. What I thought was, "Aha! Now they're talking!"

That media alert swiftly got Seattlest talking, too, with blogmeister Ron Holden noting he'd been cordially invited to join brothers Mark and Brian Canlis to hear some "momentous news." And the news of the news led Ron to muse, "What can it be? Are they selling? Hiring their own new GM with an unpronounceable name?" Other food-focused scribes on the receiving end of that summons to the mount were left asking, "What could those charming Canlis boys possibly have up their well-pressed sleeves?"


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October 17, 2008 8:45 AM

Get out the vote: for James Beard Award nominees

Posted by Nancy Leson

One day, you're an unemployed cook with a resume in hand, standing downtown in Seattle under a neon sign with a dangling fish, praying some guy named Tom Douglas will give you a job. Next thing you know, you're standing on stage in New York City accepting a James Beard Award, tripping the light fantastic among adoring fans and a jury of your peers -- the nation's most celebrated chefs among them. Then, shaking in your shoes, you thank your family, your friends and your exceedingly hard-working staff. And next, you walk off that broad stage to drink Champagne wearing a much-coveted piece of "jewelry":


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October 15, 2008 12:01 AM

Veil lowers the veil: set to close Sunday

Posted by Nancy Leson

Veil -- the lower Queen Anne restaurant and cocktail lounge that would have celebrated its third birthday in November -- is set to close after brunch service Sunday. Veil's the latest in what will no doubt be a growing number of restaurant casualties seen before year's end.

"I'm still in the process of finalizing the details," said co-owner and chef Shannon Galusha when we spoke about the closure yesterday. He has private events scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights -- so if you're hoping to go for one last dinner, I'd suggest making reservations pronto. The house of high style known for its willowy fabric, Philippe Starck furniture and pretty-in-pink glow will soon be listed for sale, he said.



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October 13, 2008 9:54 AM

How to cook a new seafood restaurant

Posted by Nancy Leson

By now, these guys should look familiar:



That's Patric Gabre-Kidan on the left and his business partner, Ethan Stowell. Stowell owns Union, which Gabre-Kidan helps run. Together they own and operate Belltown's Tavolata and Queen Anne's How to Cook a Wolf. And now they've set their sights on Capitol Hill with a new restaurant specializing in Italian seafood -- crudo, branzino, fresh sardines, clams with pasta. Guess what they're going to call it? (Attention M.F. K. Fisher fans: given all the buzz about How to Cook a Wolf, it's not, as you might have expected, Consider the Oyster Shooter, Serve it Raw, nor The Astronomical Fee.) I'll give you a hint:



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October 9, 2008 6:00 AM

Going, going, gone!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Hey, you Trader Vic's-cionados: What are you doing this morning? Why not skip out on work and go buy yourself a piece of memorabilia? Today's they day they're (once again) auctioning off a little piece of your heart. This time, it's the folks over at James G. Murphy in Kenmore who'll be playing the sad tune, selling off the assets of the recently closed Trader Vic's in Bellevue. ("Do I hear $50 for this menehune? Going once. . . going twice . . . Sold! -- to the lady in the tiki-print sun dress.)

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October 7, 2008 11:45 AM

Sidewalk seating: long may it reign!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Just in time for the rain and cold, here's some happy news about sidewalk seating: Seattle restaurants should soon see more of it. "Holy Mackerel!" said Jim Drohman when I called this morning with the news that Seattle City Council has passed legislation lowering sidewalk-permit costs from $2,300 to $600. What's more, I told him, they've added a (much truncated) 10-day timeline to review permit applications.

"Having gone though the process twice over the old system, this sounds like a breath of fresh air," said the owner of two of my favorite outdoor-seating sites, Le Pichet and Cafe Presse. "I really believe that sidewalk cafes add to the vitality and the energy of a neighborhood. I know my clients love them. They make a great advertisement for your restaurant, and they attract people in. I think that's all for the good -- especially at this time, when I hear some restaurants are stuggling."

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September 30, 2008 8:50 AM

While others go East (side) Seastar comes West

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've chronicled the Seattle restaurant scene long enough to watch as hugely successful Seattle restaurants clone themselves by heading to Bellevue (see: El Gaucho, Wild Ginger, Monsoon). Well blow me over. Now the tide is turning. Witness chef John Howie's Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, slated to open in Seattle adjacent the Pan Pacific Hotel. If you're saying "Ah, hah! That spot!" then welcome to the club. That's what I said when I heard the news that Seastar will take over where Marazul left off.

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September 5, 2008 2:36 PM

Asteroid crash averted -- for now

Posted by Nancy Leson

Remember when I told you last week about the Asteroid closing? It did. And tonight the Italian restaurant is open again -- for the time being. It wasn't exactly a crash landing for Fremont's Asteroid, said owner Marlin Hathaway, though last Sunday night nearly 200 of his friends, former staff and supporters showed up to eat, drink and wish him well before he closed the place.

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September 5, 2008 1:00 AM

PCC -- and Seattle Deli? Yes!

Posted by Nancy Leson

As an equal opportunity enjoyer, I shop at supermarkets all over Edmonds where I've lived for a dozen years. I'm as likely to stop at QFC (one of the few places I can find Product 19 and a quality meat department) as Petosa's (for deli fare and kind service). I'm absolutely addicted to 99 Ranch Market (roast duck! cheap pea vines! aisles of "exotic" condiments!) and ever-impressed with Top Food (with its prodigious produce department and some of the best fresh rye bread in town). You'll find me buying fancy cheeses and Salumi's salami (sliced!) at Resident Cheesemonger, and panchan and other Korean specialties at the supermarket in Boohan Plaza.

But you should have seen me dancing around last year when I heard the news that PCC planned to open its ninth -- and largest -- store in Edmonds. Even better, it was going into the creepy old Albertson's space: the one that stood too long as a vacant eyesore next to "Robin Hoo" Lanes. (That's what my family calls the adjacent bowling alley, whose neon "d" burns out on a regular basis.):


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September 3, 2008 9:45 AM

On the move: Lampreia

Posted by Nancy Leson

In today's food section I reported details about Lampreia's impending move. After 16 years at First and Battery, chef Scott Carsberg isn't going far: just a few blocks. His restaurant is set to anchor the new Gallery building, one of only two retail spaces slated to open in the condo complex at Second and Broad (the other is a specialty foods store). If everything goes as planned, the carefully designed new restaurant should open by year's end.

Lampreia, offering Carsberg's very personal take on the foods of Northern Italy, is one of those polarizing restaurants. It has its fervent fans and its incredulous naysayers. I sit squarely in the former camp. For me, Lampreia is the answer to the question, "Where did you celebrate your birthday dinner last year, Nancy?" And this photo. . .



. . .is the punchline to the question, "With whom would you want to spend your upcoming wedding anniversary?" (My husband, by the way, would agree.) Part of the reason we're so crazy about Lampreia is that the James Beard award-winning chef is married to his restaurant -- in a way rarely seen among chefs of his caliber. As for that coveted award: he famously chose to stay in Seattle and cook, as he's done every night since Lampreia opened in 1992, rather than show up in NYC to accept it.

As both paid critic and paying guest, Carsberg has given me more reasons to sit up in my chair and say: "My God! This is the best food I've ever eaten!" than any other chef, anywhere. So I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how he ups the ante in his new location. You?

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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 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 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 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 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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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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