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All You Can Eat

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

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August 30, 2011 7:00 PM

Rosella's closure bears fruit: NW produce families unite

Posted by Nancy Leson

Ron Rosella grew up in the wholesale produce business. Now 71, it's his name that -- until last week -- could be found on a fleet of trucks that ply our roadways. "Roll with Rosy," read the legend on back, nodding to the nickname given him and his late father, Michael, who founded Rosella's Fruit & Produce near Pike Place Market in 1942.

Rosy's trucks are no longer rolling. Today, Ron, along with 18 of his employees -- his daughter among them -- is on the payroll of another family-run outfit: Pacific Coast Fruit (PCF), a Portland-based wholesaler 10 times Rosella's size.

Difficult though it may be to shutter the family business after six decades, the time was nigh. After a lifetime spent pushing mountains of produce in a cutthroat industry whose margins are slimmer than a cucumber slice, it was time for a change.


Ron Rosella and his daughter, Sumitra. Second- and third-generation produce purveyors at Rosella's Fruit & Produce, photographed their first week on the job at Pacific Coast Fruit, in Kent. [Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

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April 26, 2011 11:35 AM

Kim Ricketts: she made books cook, and will be missed

Posted by Nancy Leson

She was the force behind Kim Ricketts Book Events, bringing books to life and introducing them to everyone from her three children to a cast of thousands. Kim Ricketts' passing Monday, after battling a tough cancer diagnosis, drew tears from Seattle's food community. It also brought words of warmth from the broad circle of fans who appreciated Kim's kindnesses, her intellect and her humor. Among them, chefs and cookbook authors from near and far who came together to host the "Cooks & Books" dinner events dreamed up and facilitated by the woman who knew how to think big and make the wide world of books a very personal place for each of us. A memorial service is pending, as is a lengthier Seattle Times tribute.



Kim Ricketts reading in bed (left) taught her children well. The rest of us, too. In photo at right she's flanked by her daughter Whitney Ricketts (left) and author Kathleen Flinn last month at a Kim Ricketts Book Event at the Palace Ballroom [photos courtesy Ricketts family].

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April 7, 2011 6:30 AM

Mighty-O, Top Pot, People's Cake: Food Network challengers

Posted by Nancy Leson

When it comes to Food Network challenges, Seattle takes the cake. Seattle pastry chef Kaysie Lackey -- owner of The People's Cake -- won FN's "Extreme Cake Challenge" (twice!) last year and has two $10,000 checks to show for it. Perhaps you saw her last Sunday on the premier episode of "Last Cake Standing," a new six-week series pitting Kaysie against seven contenders from across the nation. Spoiler alert for those looking forward to re-runs . . .



Kaysie Lackey: Extreme-ly talented creator of cakes and owner of The People's Cake. [photo/Kevin Fujii]

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December 22, 2010 8:23 PM

Sad day for Sally Jackson: cheesemaker to call it quits

Posted by Nancy Leson

First came the bad news for Estrella Family Creamery -- the Montesano cheesemakers were shut down by the FDA in October, and continue to fight for their farm and their right to sell their prized cheeses. Now comes word that Sally Jackson, the Oroville cheesemaker whose name has been associated with some of Washington's finest milk product for 30 years, will shut down her business. That sad news (read it here) comes in the wake of the FDA's confirmation that Jackson's cheese, made from unpasteurized, raw milk, had sickened eight people in four states.

As reported in the Seattle Times last week, Jackson had agreed to a voluntary recall of her cheeses. But today, the Associated Press said she plans to shutter her business after state officials ordered an upgrade to her aging cheesemaking facility -- a cost that would be prohibitive given a taxable income of $12,000 per year. "My argument then was that I have never made anybody sick in 30 years," Jackson said. "That's what breaks my heart now, that this is how it ended."

Chef Bruce Naftaly took the news hard when he learned of it -- and of the earlier recall -- this evening. "Her name's been on the menu from Day One," said Naftaly, whose Ballard restaurant Le Gourmand opened in 1985. He's been crediting his purveyors on his menu since long before it became fashionable to do so, and recalls the days when Sally and her husband Roger would send postcards, letting their customers know when to expect their monthly deliveries. "They didn't even have a phone," he explains, adding that he's been buying their cheese since the '70s." But they did have a brown Swiss cow named Brenda.

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October 26, 2010 12:34 PM

Estrella Family Creamery: whey-ing the woes

Posted by Nancy Leson

"Feds seize Estrella's cheeses" read the headline in the print version of today's Seattle Times. "Estrella Family Creamery shut down by FDA after bacteria found" says the online version of the ongoing story pitting Food and Drug Administration officials against a small family farm known for its award-winning raw-milk cheeses. It's a story that has everyone from food-safety attorney Bill Marler to local-food bloggers weighing in, and one that has the Estrella family's business -- shuttered by the FDA last week -- on the line.

This may not mean much to you -- if you're not a fan of the Estrella family's cheeses: the very cheeses I regularly stand in line for at local farmers markets. Among them: these deliciosities, purchased at the University District Farmers Market Saturday before last, which I felt obligated to toss in the garbage after reading the FDA report (but not before enjoying them with dinner guests Saturday night).



Into the trash? A sad day, indeed.

And I'm not the only one removing those beloved cheeses from the shelf after the FDA asked cheesemakers Kelli and Anthony Estrella to initiate a recall (they refused). "We're not the type to panic, but we want to be safe," says DeLaurenti co-owner Pat McCarthy, who today has several Estrella cheeses in house but has pulled them from his cheese case.

That said, McCarthy and DeLaurenti cheese-buyer Connie Rizzo are not happy to have to ditch the product. The FDA "pulled every single cheese they make," Rizzo said today. "Not the ones that are suspect. They've closed their business down -- and that's unfair." "I feel terrible for the Estrellas on a lot of different levels," adds McCarthy. "They've been friends of ours for years. I feel bad for them, and for their family. I have a sense they have no control. They've worked very hard. And to have their business taken away, summarily, that doesn't seem right to me. Particularly in light of the fact that no one has gotten sick."

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February 23, 2010 4:42 PM

Seattle Farmers Markets: nice work -- if you can get it

Posted by Nancy Leson

When I was strolling around in the sun at the University District Farmers Market last Saturday, telling myself how lucky I was to be alive and well and living in the Pacific Northwest, I was thinking about how great it would be if every shopping experience was like that one. Of course, I may not think so if I had to run the place -- let alone six other markets comprising the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance. But if oversight of seven Seattle farmers markets sounds like a great job to you, perhaps you're the "highly qualified individual" they're looking for to take on the job as operations manager. Maybe you're the stand-up guy or gal "who has a demonstrated history of progressively responsible experience managing non-profits, farmers markets, small business or special events, and superior supervisory and leadership skills." Interested? Know anybody who might be? Here's a link to the job posting -- with the details and qualifications spelled out.



Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance Director Chris Curtis Wants You! (or someone you know, maybe?)

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November 19, 2009 3:17 PM

Burglarized food bank gets help from United Way -- and you?

Posted by Nancy Leson

First came the outrage: who could be cruel enough to steal nearly $2000 worth of food from a food bank?

When the Rainier Valley Food Bank staff arrived early Wednesday morning, they found the lock on their storage container cut. Missing, according to a Seattle Times report, was several hundred pounds of produce plus 30 crates of canned fruit, soup, chips, peanut butter and vegetables collected by volunteers last weekend in preparation for the coming Thanksgiving holiday. The need is particularly dire: this time last year, the food bank served about 5,000 people a month, but this year, the number has risen to approximately 10,000 says executive director Sam Osborne.

But good news has followed the bad.

Today, on the tenth and last day of United Way's Give 10/Tell 10 campaign, every dollar raised will go directly to the Rainier Valley Food Bank. What's more, according to United Way staffer Madeline Moy (who asked me to help spread the word), the non-profit plans to match those donations dollar-for-dollar. So quick! Tell your friends, your family, your social network-pals: donate right here via the United Way website.

UPDATE: 11/19/09 5:11 p.m. PCC Natural Markets also put their money where hungry mouths are today with a donation of more than $1,000 worth of fresh, organic produce to Rainier Valley Food Bank. With the assistance of produce suppliers Organically Grown Company and Peterson Fruit Company, PCC will deliver a shipment directly to the food bank on Friday -- a day before the food bank's planned Thanksgiving distribution. Through the generosity of shoppers' donations, thousands of pounds of staples are distributed to local food banks each month courtesy of the Seattle-based co-op's Food Bank Program.

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October 29, 2009 1:38 PM

We celebrate Northwest oysters, Louisiana's get raw deal

Posted by Nancy Leson

Yesterday's e-mail inbox included a note from a guy who grew up in Louisiana, lived in Seattle for 16 years and is now back in New Orleans, where yesterday's front-page news in the Times-Picayune included this headliner: "Louisiana blasts new FDA rule requiring oysters to be sterilized to prevent rare bacterial illness." The story said, in part:

"The rule will essentially eliminate raw oysters -- at least as Louisianans know them -- from restaurant menus for seven months of the year. Even oysters that will eventually be cooked during those months would have to go through the same cleansing process before being added to any dish, a move some say would undermine the culinary integrity of some of New Orleans' most famous delicacies."

The reason behind this politically and emotionally charged move, defined by one oyster industry representative as "a nuclear bomb," is to reduce the rare but potentially fatal bacterial illness Vibrio vulnificus, contracted by eating raw Gulf Coast oysters.



Louisiana oysters and a cold Abita, which I knocked back in New Orleans early this month.


Meanwhile, here in Seattle and throughout the Northwest, restaurants are celebrating the joys of slurping raw oysters. Special events include tonight's oyster fete at Cafe Campagne, oyster promotions at Anchovies & Olives and Flying Fish (which just inaugurated its annual weekday oyster happy hour from 4-6 p.m.) and the upcoming Oyster New Year's at Elliott's Oyster House (where you can down umpteen rounds of briny bivalves November 7).

All of which might lead you to ask of that FDA ban, "Will Northwest oysters be affected?" and more importantly, "Are our oysters safe?" The short answers: perhaps and yes, according to Robin Downey, executive director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association.

While we occasionally see an increase in oyster-related illness locally due to the naturally occuring bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus, "We do not have the Vibrio vulnificus virus found in warm Gulf waters," said Downey, who represents 140 Western shellfish companies that produce 94 million pounds of live oysters a year, an $84 million business.

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September 21, 2009 8:05 AM

Good morning -- for Northwest flour power

Posted by Nancy Leson

It'll be a busy day for me, getting back to the blog after a three-week break for other business. But as I roar around getting the kid off to school and knocking back my second cup of coffee, I want to make sure you don't miss today's front-page news: Melissa Allison's dateline cover-story from Reardan, Lincoln County, profiling Pacific Northwest wheat farmers who've banded together to market their flour under the name Shepherd's Grain. Seattle bakeries (among others) have taken to the local product, and so can you: it's sold under the Stone-Buhr label and available at local supermarkets. And in case you're wondering, it makes a fine pie crust -- like the ones I rolled out this time last year to make the best of my homegrown cherries and the fabulous fall apple harvest.



Meet your local wheat, courtesy of farmers whose grains reign.

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August 24, 2009 4:28 PM

Jack London: sustainable farmer. Seattle: vertical farm town?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Bob Koreis of Vancouver, Washington isn't so impressed by the idea of vertical farming -- as espoused by Columbia University professor of public heath Dickson Despommier in today's New York Times. After reading my post on the subject Bob wrote suggesting "we just need to take care of the soil" instead. He also passed along some information that was surprising and fascinating news to me: Jack London -- yes, that Jack London -- was a sustainable farmer! Dan Albert, on the other hand, thinks vertical farming may be more than just the call of the wild. He suggests it's closer to becoming a reality than one might think.

"Our firm, Weber Thompson is actually working on bringing that concept to Seattle," Dan wrote in an e-mail. The company's "Eco-Laboratory" has won two major design competitions and has received praise for it's viability by none other than Professor Despommier, who's writing a book on the subject. Dan invited me to view the Eco-Lab design and informed me Weber Thompson presented the project to Seattle City Council late last month.


If you were here in this Eco-Laboratory you'd be home already -- in an urban residential complex with its own vertical farm. (graphic/Weber Thompson)

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August 11, 2009 10:30 AM

Slaughterhouse High-Five

Posted by Nancy Leson

Hey, if you haven't already seen Maureen O'Hagan's front-page news on the drive to provide "Mobile Meat Processing Units" as an assist for Puget Sound farmers raising livestock, give it a read. Thoughts?

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February 18, 2009 12:37 PM

Shigoku oysters. Hot stuff. Can't get enough

Posted by Nancy Leson

Don't look a gift box in the mouth. That's what some of the city's top chefs have been saying -- once they're lucky enough to get their hands on this:


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July 29, 2008 11:15 AM

It's in the bag!

Posted by Nancy Leson


Well, Mayor Nickel's proposal to charge shoppers 20 cents for plastic or paper bags in Seattle grocery, drug and convenience stores has been approved by Seattle City Council. The per-bag charge will go into effect in January, as will a food-service ban on polystyrene clam-shells (among other take-out containers) like these:



Some of the city's restaurants and food-service operations have already gone green, using recyclable -- or even compostable -- tote-your-take-out ware, but why wait to be environmentally proactive? Yes! I can see us all now:


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July 28, 2008 9:38 AM

Smellin' the melon

Posted by Nancy Leson

In the heat -- if we can call it that -- of summer, you'd think every melon you get your hands on would taste sweet, ripe and delicious, right? Wrong. I don't know about you, but for the life of me, I can't seem to crack the code on choosing melons. I've been burnt a zillion times, having spent real money expecting a thrill, and inevitably getting something tasteless and under-ripe or mushy and over-ripe. During melon season, no less. Then, this weekend, while shopping at Shoreline Central Market, I ignored the watermelon samples over at the "Taste me!" kiosk and let my nose lead me to nirvana: a perfumed pile of Galia melons:


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July 17, 2008 12:28 PM

Cook's chorus: Porcella fella looking for a few good men -- and women

Posted by Nancy Leson


Wondering what's up with chef Kelly Gaddis now that he's closed Porcella? He's preparing for a night -- OK, a lot of nights -- at the opera. In his new starring role as McCaw Hall's executive chef, Gaddis is looking forward to running the show, catering to patrons of Seattle Opera, PNB and special-event goers at the Seattle Center performance venue. And, as a former restaurant owner, he says he's especially excited to have "an opportunity to do some great stuff that the budget at Porcella never afforded me." Meantime, though, he's in the market for rousing chorus of qualified sous-chefs, cooks and stewards to help get his show on the road. "The food and beverage contract was awarded to a new vendor," Gaddis explained in an e-mail after his first day on the job early this week. He says he's pretty much "starting from scratch" with his opening act: staffing. Anybody up for an audition? You can contact him here.

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July 10, 2008 10:08 AM

Hungry? Urbanspooners shake it up with "Magic 8 Ball" for iPhone

Posted by Nancy Leson


No one has a more primitive cell phone than mine -- and that's the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it:



Call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather take photos with an actual camera. Text messaging? Uh, what's that? "Mom! You're from the Stone Age!" says my kid -- and he's only off by a few millennia. But lately I've been considering upgrading my phone to something more, oh, 2008. Like an iPhone. Which captured my attention when it debuted last year, thanks to David Pogue's right-up-my-corny-alley music video. I laughed, I cried, it was better than "Cats"!:

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July 9, 2008 10:47 AM

Sorry! I'll take plastic: I left my eco-friendly bags in the trunk

Posted by Nancy Leson


When it comes to the mayor's proposal to put a 20-cent-per-bag fee on paper or plastic, I'm with Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who says: "We Don't Need the Bag Police." Meanwhile, I've taken to carrying a trunkful of eco-friendly bags, though I can't tell you how many times I forget to bring them into the store with me:



My burning question to Mayor Nickels is this: Will you also propose a fee -- say, a dime -- on those little frozen-food plastic bags that keep the Dreyer's strawberry ice cream from melting onto my box of Product 19? And what about the plastic bags I use to wrap meat products -- keeping the Draper Valley chicken "juice" from seeping onto my fresh ears of corn? P.S. : What in the heck am I going to do without any of those paper bags with the easy-grab handles? I use those for conveniently recycling newspapers and magazines, and for gifting my son's outgrown clothes to friends' boys who can use them?

So, here's my question to you Eaters: What do you make of this "Paper? Plastic? NOT!" conversation? Have you started using eco-friendly bags while grocery shopping? If so, which ones do you like the best?

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July 7, 2008 4:15 PM

First you can't, now Yukon

Posted by Nancy Leson

After the bad news about the king salmon fisheries on the Yukon River Delta, this good word just in from the Great North: the Alaska Department of Fish & Game are allowing a limited harvest of Yukon River king salmon, taken as "incidental catch" during the chum (keta) salmon run. Which will explain why you might find the "king of kings" on restaurant menus and at seafood counters this week. I just put in a call to a handful of restaurants I thought might have gotten their hands on the goods. No dice (so far) at Flying Fish, Ray's and Oceanaire Seafood Room. But you can grill your own at home. As I type, they're moving swiftly at Mutual Fish ($26.99/pound steaks, $29.99/pound filets), where a shipment was received this morning. And you can also find the kings at Wild Salmon Seafood Market at Fisherman's Terminal, where filets are selling for $24.99 pound. Get 'em while they're hot. Dinnertime's in the offing and they're not likely to be available for long. And if you're out and about and see the kings for sale, come back here and let me know, OK?

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July 3, 2008 4:09 PM

Cream Puff Daddy

Posted by Nancy Leson


When Karen Gaudette saw the dispatch about Beard Papa's cream puffs at Safeco Field on Daily Candy this morning, she absolutely freaked. How do I know? I got my work-mate's memo at 6:35 a.m., complete with uppercase letters and exclamation points. Karen -- who couldn't believe I hadn't heard about these sweet treats -- patiently explained that Beard Papa's have been spreading around the U.S. almost as fast as Red Mango locations -- now selling frozen yogurt at Pacific Place, Alderwood Mall and U-Village. And she's obviously not the only one who thinks the puff daddy's goodies are worth e-mailing your friends about before you've even downed your first cup of coffee.

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July 3, 2008 7:45 AM

Super! Natural.

Posted by Nancy Leson


Ooooh-EEEEE-oooh. I just found this note in an email from a reader in Darrington, with a link to the photo that ran with my story yesterday about Captain Bay-Schmith's chicken. She wrote:

"I don't mean to alarm you, however, [in] the picture of you with your BBQ, there's a face in the smoke. . .very strange yet very clear .. let me know if you see it":



Saints be! I DO see it! My husband's convinced it's the late Captain Bay-Schmith keeping watch over "his" chicken, which would only make sense. What do you think? Look like anybody you know? Elvis, maybe?

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July 1, 2008 12:00 PM

Food-shopping tips are in the bag

Posted by Nancy Leson

Reporter Ron Lieber provided a great read -- and some savvy food-shopping tips -- in a "Your Money" column that appeared last weekend in the New York Times. For the record, the best food-shopping tip I ever got came my way a couple of years ago when I was gnashing my teeth at the supermarket while trying to open a plastic produce-bag. I was cursing those unyeilding rolls found in every grocer's produce aisle when a woman squeezing the avocados beside me said, "Here, try this." I watched as she wet her fingers on some damp produce, grabbed the plastic bag I was angsting over and -- voila! -- open sesame.

Got any food-shopping tips you want to share? Let me have 'em.

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June 26, 2008 12:04 PM

Ernestine Anderson needs help: Pioneer Square restaurants offer it up

Posted by Nancy Leson


Jazz and blues legend Ernestine Anderson's home is facing foreclosure, and friends and fans are rallying to her cause. They're hoping to raise $45,000 to keep the septuagenarian singer's Central District home from being sold at auction June 30th. Dany Mitchell, owner of Mitchelli's (still known to many of us as "the Trat"), is coordinating a fundraising event. Several Pioneer Square restaurateurs have stepped up to the plate to join him. Here's how you can help:


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June 25, 2008 12:05 PM

Give us a "V": for vegetarians and vegans

Posted by Nancy Leson


Today my pal Karen Gaudette takes a look at Seattle's eating scene and finds it deliberately wanting. If you've yet to read her report on Seattle as a veritable "paradise for those who steer clear of meat (vegetarians) and those who avoid meat, eggs, milk and other animal products (vegans)," be sure to check it out. Then tell me: Where are your favorite places for a great vegetarian and/or vegan meal?

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June 25, 2008 8:50 AM

Delta blues: No commercial harvest of Yukon kings

Posted by Nancy Leson


There's very bad news this week from the Yukon River Delta. News that personally affects the Yu'pik Eskimo villagers who live there -- including my friends seen lunching at the Space Needle, whom I wrote about in an earlier post:



In keeping with the decline in numbers of last year's harvest, "So few king salmon returned to the Yukon River this month that fishery managers ordered drastic cuts to subsistence fishing. There will be no commercial harvest," notes Barry Eastabrook on Gourmet.com. Read the full story. It's a sad one for those of us who love "the King of Kings," but far more importantly, for the native villagers whose livelihoods are dependent on them.

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June 24, 2008 8:20 AM

What I did on my not-quite-summer vacation, Part One: NYC

Posted by Nancy Leson


I had a "blogmare" on the last night of my not-quite-summer vacation, involving a broken camera and a deadline. Apparently, once you've got a blog, especially one that comes with a steady paycheck and paid vacation -- as I so fortunately do -- everything and anything becomes "material": even that vacation. Which started on June 6th when I flew out of cold, dreary Sea-Tac at o'dark-thirty, arriving in NYC where the thermometer was inching toward 100-degrees.

Landing at JFK, I grabbed an un-airconditioned cab before arriving at the Empire Hotel, sorely in need of a shower and a cocktail so that I'd feel refreshed in time to make an 8 p.m. dinner reservation at Anthos -- the modern Greek place vying for "Best New Restaurant" at the 2008 James Beard Awards. Those awards, not incidentally, were set to be held across the street from the Empire at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, where, two nights hence, I chronicled Seattle's wins (and losses) from the comfort of . . . "Live, From New York! It's Nancy Leson's New Office!":


Continue reading this post ...


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June 9, 2008 9:17 AM

Live from New York! And now, I'm really on vacation

Posted by Nancy Leson


Hopefully, you've read my news about who-won-what at the James Beard Awards ceremony last night, and saw my dispatch from my hotel room at the Empire Hotel. Which was conveniently located across the street from Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center -- home to the "Oscars of the Food World." I flew out of there like a cabbie on a mission to report Seattle's big win last night: Holly Smith, Best Chef Northwest. And the big honor: for Jean Nakayama -- owner of Seattle's 103-year-old Maneki, an "America's Classic." I've got lots of great photos and New York stories to go with them, which I'd share with you if only I wasn't having "technical difficulties" posting the photos to my blog-site. But wait a minute! Wasn't I supposed to be on vacation? Yes, indeed, I was. And check-out time here at the hotel has come and gone (it's after noon already here). So I'll leave you with this thought: it's 90-some degrees in New York, and as I understand it, cold and rainy in Seattle. I plan to soak up some rays for you in Cape May, NJ, where I'm heading in a minute to visit family and friends. I'll tell you all about my trip -- to New York, New Jersey and elsewhere -- when I return from vacation in a couple of weeks. Have fun without me, and I'll pray for sun for you!

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June 5, 2008 11:11 AM

I'm gone fishin' -- but first, NYC and the James Beard Awards

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'm taking a two-week vacation (pray for sun!). But before I "vacate" for good, you'll hear from me Sunday night from NYC, where I'll be keeping an eye on the red carpet -- and the stage -- at the 2008 James Beard Awards at Avery Fisher Hall.

I'll be cheering Seattle's own Maneki -- honored this year as an "America's Classic" -- and keeping my fingers crossed for our local nominees. So, I'll talk to you Sunday night, OK?

And after that? This:

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June 4, 2008 2:56 PM

Portable pleasures: The truck stops -- where?

Posted by Nancy Leson


So, it's taken how many years? But Seattle's finally gotten hip to the trucked-food trip. These days you can buy pizza from a portable wood-fired pizza oven hauled on the back of a trailer. Mexican food's served out of taco trucks everywhere, including my favorite, Taqueria La Fondita in White Center:



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June 4, 2008 9:08 AM

Eat fish. Not too big. Try sardines.

Posted by Nancy Leson


Taras Grescoe wants to teach us how to eat fish, starting at the bottom -- of the food chain. Grescoe was in town recently, delving into the subject on KUOW's "Weekday" -- whose guests also included Seattle Times reporters Lynda Mapes and Warren Cornwall, discussing their impressive series on the state of our own Puget Sound. I've only just begun reading Grescoe's new book, "Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood." And like Michael Pollan's latest, "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" (urging us to "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.") it hooked me from the start.

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June 3, 2008 11:45 AM

And for pizza lovers with allergies and intolerances. . .

Posted by Nancy Leson

Janet Duran, co-owner of Haley's Corner Bakery in Kent, has the answer for pizza lovers with allergies and intolerances that may keep them from enjoying the likes of Veraci Pizza, discussed earlier today. She contacted me recently, noting that one of her customers had read what I had to say about dining with allergies, and urged her to introduce me (and you) to Haley's Corner.

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June 3, 2008 7:34 AM

Veraci Pizza parks shop in (where else?) Ballard

Posted by Nancy Leson


Ballard doesn't need another pizza joint -- as everyone who's watched the pizza proliferation there keeps telling me. But I'll bet even detractors will make an exception for Veraci Pizza, whose portable wood-fired pizza ovens make guest appearances at farmers markets and catering gigs all around town:


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June 2, 2008 12:16 PM

You call it soft serve. I call it custard.

Posted by Nancy Leson


Talk about "Old Hunger" (as I'm wont to do): When I was a kid, my sisters and brother and I used to beg our parents to take us out for what we called "custard" (and folks around here call "soft serve"). Our favorite custard stand was next to a toy store called Kiddie City, in Northeast Philadelphia. When I was old enough to pay for my own ice cream and living in Cape May, N.J., I regularly made a pilgrimage to a joint called Drydock, where I'd get a cone for myself and a cup for my Golden Retriever. But for the life of me I can't seem to get my hands on any quality soft-serve ice cream:

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May 30, 2008 10:30 AM

Sweet on sour cherries

Posted by Nancy Leson

When I opened my email-box this morning, I found a query near and dear to my heart -- and my stomach. "I'm wondering if you can tell me the season for sour pie cherries, and if this is something I'm likely to find at a Northwest farmer's market," wondered Debbie Jeske. Funny she should ask. The short answer? "Soon" and "yes." I know this because we have two sour cherry trees in our backyard, small-rootstock that began bearing a year after we bought them from Raintree Nursery in 1997.


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May 28, 2008 11:20 AM

Bagging a grocery-store bargain

Posted by Nancy Leson


"Skyrocketing food prices are prompting more shoppers to scout sales, clip coupons, haunt bread outlets, freeze sale-priced meat for future meals and otherwise watch their pennies, some for the first time in their lives," writes my food-page colleague Karen Gaudette in today's Seattle Times.

As you may have divined from reading All You Can Eat, I regularly balance my high-end expenses (like the prime rib we grill-smoked and served to dinner guests the weekend before last), with groceries like these, bought for a grand total of $11 at Viet Wah:


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May 27, 2008 3:37 PM

Obama loves Fran's

Posted by Nancy Leson


Barack Obama's personal aide, Reggie Love, showed some love for Seattle in a profile in today's New York Times by noting that when it comes to must-have munchies, Obama's a big fan of Fran's Chocolates. A political wonk who loves Seattle's own Willy Wonkess? Well, as anyone who's ever tasted Fran's chocolates can attest, who can blame him? (I'll admit to having eaten -- shhhh! -- not one, but two Fran's GoldBars just last week.) Meanwhile, while slurping ramen at Boom Noodle on Capitol Hill today at lunch, who do I spy walking by? Fran Bigelow and her son, Dylan, who along with his sister, Andrina, has been hard at work at their Capitol Hill chocolate laboratory turning Fran's Chocolates into a second-generation business. Dropping my chopsticks, I ran out to say hello and congrats. And yes, they said, they'd been hot-diggity-doggin' it all day having heard that their very own confections are on Obama's Greatest Hits-list.


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May 27, 2008 7:15 AM

Heads she wins, and Spring Hill has sprung

Posted by Nancy Leson


Doesn't it drive you crazy when you're looking at someone, and you know you know them, and you just can't place the face? That happens to me all the time, and it happened again last week at a Books & Cooks event, where I spotted this familiar face:



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May 23, 2008 3:00 PM

SIFF-goers, sitting on SALT

Posted by Nancy Leson


Michelle Quisenberry is a restaurateur who never misses an opportunity to promote Volterra, her Seattle restaurant whose signature Fennel Salt has found its ways into the hands of everyone from "Grey's Anatomy's" Chandra Wilson. . .:


. .to such (cough!) salt-of-the-earth types as "The Donald." (Does he look thrilled, or what?):


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May 23, 2008 11:15 AM

Salmon chanted luncheon: Gone fishin' at the Space Needle

Posted by Nancy Leson


When I cancel a date for sushi, you know I must have something really good on the line, and that's what happened yesterday when I got a last-minute invite to join a group of Yup'ik Eskimo fisherfolk for lunch at the Space Needle:



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May 22, 2008 3:15 PM

Let the (salmon) campaigning begin!

Posted by Nancy Leson


'Tis the season for wild Northwest salmon. I knew that even before I got this fishified press-kit courtesy of McCormick & Schmick's:



I've got more to say on the subject, after having eaten this today for lunch:



With these fine Yu'pik fisherfolk:



At a certain restaurant whose view looks like this:



We'll talk more about that in a bit. Gotta run to a meeting about blogging and the law ("Yes, officer? Was I speeding?").


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May 21, 2008 11:00 AM

That's Some Pig!

Posted by Nancy Leson

I haven't eaten at the Herbfarm in Woodinville since executive chef Keith Luce took the helm (have you? how was it?). But I'm not surprised to hear that the Herbfarm is growing more than herbs these days. Now they're raising Mangalitsa pigs, meant to grow up to look like this one:

Mangalitsa sow

This Wooly Pigs blog post tells the tale of Mangalitsa pigs and their cross-bred Mangalitsa-Berkshire brethren, now being humanely raised for slaughter (and the Herbfarm's famous table) down on the Herbfarm's farm. And yes, as they grow, they're porking out on organic herbs among other fine foodstuffs, so that multi-course diners can pigout on chef Luce's house-cured charcuterie. Attention Charlotte, Fern, and PETA: Yes, I've already gotten the memo, so please don't bothering harassing me!

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May 7, 2008 4:35 PM

Dutch Babies -- and my pal CeCe Sullivan

Posted by Nancy Leson


Today in the Seattle Times, you'll find CeCe Sullivan's last "Cooking School" -- a story and video presentation:



It's great fun to watch that video, and see CeCe in her element -- the Seattle Times test kitchen -- explaining how to make glorious, colorful Dutch Baby pancakes. Or at least it would be if I wasn't going to miss her so much.

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May 2, 2008 11:59 AM

Your weekend assignment: Bake this "no-knead" bread. It's unbelievable.

Posted by Nancy Leson


By now, I'm sure you've heard about "No-Knead Bread" -- the "No way! You're kidding me!" easiest-recipe-ever for making an incredible (and incredibly cheap) loaf of crusty, European-style bread at home.

Really? You haven't heard about it? Well, where have you been -- out spending $5 a loaf at artisan bakeshops? If so, allow me to turn you into a bread-making machine, because if my bread can look like this:

So can yours!

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April 30, 2008 3:00 PM

Oh yes, he Cannes.

Posted by Nancy Leson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 29, 2008 4:01 PM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson


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

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

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

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April 28, 2008 10:08 AM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson


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

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April 24, 2008 9:30 AM

Ooh, Ahh, 'sparagus

Posted by Nancy Leson


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

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

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April 23, 2008 12:00 PM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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April 23, 2008 9:40 AM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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April 21, 2008 1:37 PM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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

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April 17, 2008 4:40 PM

Pizza Delivery: on track, but so what?

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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


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April 16, 2008 5:00 PM

Testing one, two, three: Mercury, not rising

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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April 16, 2008 2:25 PM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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April 15, 2008 8:05 AM

Reader in a pickle. Can you help?

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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April 11, 2008 12:00 PM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

Two events:

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

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

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April 10, 2008 4:37 PM

Gypsy -- Busted by Tramps and Thieves?

Posted by Nancy Leson


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


"Camelot has ended.

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

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

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

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

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April 10, 2008 11:52 AM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson


Kevin Rochlin e-mailed me with this query:

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

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

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April 8, 2008 3:50 PM

Slurpin' with my homies, at Starbucks

Posted by Nancy Leson

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



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


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April 1, 2008 3:10 PM

Where in the World (Spice) is Tony?

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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

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

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March 27, 2008 4:20 PM

Off with the gloves! (Ewwww) Or not.

Posted by Nancy Leson

We eat a lot of tossed salads in my house, and when it comes to tossing them, my husband and I beg to differ. Not about the dressing, which we make with a simple mix of Costco EVOO, Trader Joe's balsamic vinegar and Diamond kosher salt. Where we differ is in the "tossing" part. When he's prepping the salad he uses a pair of maplewood bear claws. I use bare claws too: the ones attached to my arms.

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March 25, 2008 10:00 PM

2008 James Beard Award finalists: the locals list

Posted by Nancy Leson

The short list is in. The James Beard Foundation announced finalists for the 2008 James Beard Awards, to be held in NYC the weekend of June 6-8. And the local nominees are. . .

Outstanding Restaurateur: Tom Douglas (who's standing in good company with restaurant-empire builders Joe Bastianich/Mario Batali, Rich Melman, Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten)

Outstanding Service: Canlis (standing tall with the service teams from NYC's La Grenouille, Chicago's Spiaggia, St. Helena's Terra and Philadelphia's Vetri)

Best Chef Northwest: Maria Hines (Tilth), Holly Smith (Cafe Juanita), Ethan Stowell (Union, Tavolata, How to Cook a Wolf), Jason Wilson (Crush) and Portland's Scott Dolich (Park Kitchen)

Honored this year as one of Beard's "America's Classics": Seattle's century-old Maneki

And on the literary front, among the James Beard journalism awards to be presented in June, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Seattle's Sara Dickerman (nominated for Multimedia Writing on Food, for a piece she wrote for Slate).

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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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