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December 19, 2011 10:51 AM

Sample this: food-demos? Dave's Sin Dawg? Killer.

Posted by Nancy Leson

You know those folks who stand in the supermarket aisles (or, in the case of Costco, handle crowd control) attempting to convince you that whatever they're selling, you need it? Love 'em or hate 'em, I say they're doing shoppers a great service. And while I occasionally smile and say, "No thanks, I just ate!" I'd like to put in a good word for the hearty souls whose food samples end up on my family's roster of gotta-buys.

I won't be buying the WhoNu "nutrition-rich cookies" I sampled recently at QFC, nor the "blech"-inducing nutrition drink I tried at Costco (only because I was parched). But, as I've mentioned before, Heidi's Cottage Cheese Pancake Mix has been a staple in my house since the kid went crazy for it during an in-store demo years ago.

This weekend, while stocking up at my local Thriftway, what to my wondering eyes should appear but an entire lineup of Dave's Killer Bread samples. I've long been a Dave's fan, but had not yet tasted this "unfortunate find" -- as my husband refers to anything we like too much and shouldn't eat too much of:


So good, at a dollar off (I paid $4.99), I should have bought two. And so rich, there's no butter necessary. [photo: Nancy Leson]

That's Dave's Sin Dawg "100% Whole Grain Organic Cinnamon-Sugar Bread Roll" and I'm sorry to report that this high-fiber loaf, made with no animal products (hello, Vegan Score!), tastes like a hippie's version of the best rugelach I've ever eaten. A couple slices will stave off hunger pangs, and you may now consider me addicted -- a word that once applied to Dave, whose story is truly astonishing.

So, do tell: which, among the foods you've first tasted as a "sample" are on your love-it list?

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December 6, 2011 6:54 AM

Good will for the holidays? The price is right for kitchen gear

Posted by Nancy Leson

This time of year, there's a lot of talk about good will toward men (and women, and children). And, as ever, at the holidays, it's hard to get away from the word "shopping." Today I'd like to discuss both.

I'm a sucker for kitchen gear, and regularly rummage at rummage sales, put on the brakes for yard sales and rove the aisles of local thrift shops in search of a deal. So when a new Goodwill store opened blocks from my house last week, I didn't waste any time answering that siren's call. Having heard there were lines outside when the store opened, I assumed there'd be little worth buying by the time I showed up around 6pm. I was wrong.

In a quick sweep of the household goods department I snagged a sturdy 2 1/2 quart Calphalon saucepan ($6.99) that has the utilitarian look of a restaurant supply-house purchase; a copper-lined stainless-steel gratin dish ($7.99) and an 8-inch J.A. Henckels serrated bread knife (99-cents) that feels so incredibly solid in my hand I don't know how I've lived without it.



Such a deal! [photo: Nancy Leson]

As I always tell naysayers, the secret to finding great used stuff is to thrift-shop frequently, expect nothing and be surprised when you spot a "find." Sometimes, you don't find much, but when you do -- or at least when I do -- it's proof that one (wo)man's trash is another's treasure. And in this economy, we can all use a few scored treasures, right? Speaking of which . . .

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November 10, 2011 9:34 AM

Kitchen utensils: my tools of the trade. Share yours?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've got a small kitchen, but it's an exceedingly practical one. Whether I'm grabbing a bowl or a pan, a knife or a cutting board, moving from sink to fridge to the stove -- or reaching for spices -- I rarely have to take more than two steps. Four at most.

This morning, I was thinking that with Thanksgiving only two weeks away, many of you might be wondering what kind of tools you'll need to outfit your kitchen. But what I'm curious about are the ones you use most frequently, throughout the year. Here are mine, laid out on my favorite kitchen towel and cutting board.



Not a one, save for my 25-year-old 8-inch chef's knife, is expensive in the least. In fact, that spoon, in use for over 30 years, cost me a quarter at a yard sale. [photo: Nancy Leson]

I use my citrus reamer way more than I thought I would. And how I lived before owning a solid pair of kitchen shears and a silicone mat (that's the Crate & Barrel version) is beyond me. That Microplane (I have several) is "grate" for everything from grating Parm to zesting lemons. And no matter how many fancy kitchen tongs I've seen in specialty shops or used at friends' houses, none beat the utilitarian 9-inch restaurant-grade tongs in this photo, which I've cooked with for at least a decade.

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September 26, 2011 9:07 AM

Asian snacks? I'll take a (WhoNu?) Korean drumstick

Posted by Nancy Leson

I just now got around to sneaking a peek at my Sunday paper. And that's where I found a Pacific Northwest magazine article that spoke -- loudly -- to me and my family. We're big fans of Asian snack foods, including the fruit jellies, mochi balls, dried plums and wasabi peas writer Eve Tai loves too [read her story here]. And, funny she should mention it:

This summer we got together here at our house with our "judo families" -- friends from Seattle Dojo. Our potluck started, naturally, with plenty of snacks, including one the kids adored. As everyone who knows Korean food knows, fried chicken's hot stuff in Korea. But who knew that you could actually purchase a box of fried chicken snack-crackers?


Cayla's got a Japanese-American mom and a Chinese-American dad, and if you're a longtime Seattleite, perhaps you've eaten at her grandparents' restaurant, Ruby Chow's. [photos/Nancy Leson]

Our Korean pal, Silver, brought the mini-drumsticks, proving, as I often say, you never know what wonders you'll find when hitting the aisles of our multitude of "ethnic" supermarkets, or any local market, really. My favorite Asia-inspired snack?

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August 10, 2011 8:25 AM

Take two Eatwhatever and kiss me in the morning

Posted by Nancy Leson

I get plenty publicity kits, and most of the time I have little interest in whatever it is some publicist or manufacturer is hawking. But this week my mail included a pack of Eatwhatever, touted as "a reliable breath freshener for many professionals such as chefs, restaurant and food critics, media, makeup artists, dentists, massage therapists and actors who have to work closely with others on-screen." Turns out it was just what the doctor ordered.


Directions: swallow a green gel cap (filled with organic peppermint and parsley oils, which head straight for your gullet) and suck on a mint (the pack includes 10 of each) and -- who knew? -- no more "P.U." [photo/Nancy Leson]

Why? Well, if you've been reading my Twitter feed lately, you'd know that my husband nearly passed out the other night when I walked into the house reeking of garlic. Again.

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August 8, 2011 9:50 AM

Chillin' with a Zoku Quick Pop Maker, and Abe Lincoln

Posted by Nancy Leson

Several months ago I was hanging in my local housewares store when I saw the perfect gift for my son's summer birthday: a Zoku Quick Pop Maker. Now, trust me: kids do not need this expensive gadget. Nor does anybody for that matter, despite what you may have read. Which is exactly what I was thinking when a lithe young woman ran into the store while I was standing there eyeing the Zoku and its many accoutrements. "You've got it!" she shouted to the shopkeep, shelling out twenty bucks for a storage container for her Quick Pops while simultaneously rhapsodizing about the product.

I overheard her carrying on, at length, about how her boyfriend's family bought her a Zoku. And about how, ever since, she'd been blending bananas and other fruits, pouring the mixture into her prized Quick Pop maker (kept cold in her freezer), and only minutes later -- voila! -- a nutritious, low-cal treat. I was sold. And I promised myself this would be a far better gift than the latest video game for a 13-year-old who loves to experiment in the kitchen. I was right. Nate loves his Quick Pop Maker.


Take OJ, add strawberries, quick-freeze. Ask dad to pose with fruit-pop. [photo/Nancy Leson]


That said, I refuse to buy the storage container when a plastic bag will do. That, he can save his allowance for. After all, my present good fortune aside, I grew up as the oldest of four, in a household where pennies were pinched till Abe Lincoln screamed. In fact, I still recall getting my butt kicked for coming home from the store with the milk my mother asked me to pick up -- and an "extra" box of Crayola Crayons. Which were later marched back, "Right now!" my tuchis still stinging.

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July 13, 2011 11:50 AM

Holy smoke! That's some pig

Posted by Nancy Leson

While shopping for fishing supplies at a joint called Ranch & Home in the Tri-Cities last week, I came across something that made me stop, look and laugh out loud -- before pulling out my camera. I'm not the type to plant pink flamingoes in my yard, but I'd consider planting this porcine Traeger next to my trusty Weber grill, just for grins.



Got ribs? I'd have to have to rob a bigger piggy bank than the one I've got to afford this sassy smoker. [photo/Nancy Leson]

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February 16, 2011 11:10 AM

Vinegar love: a delicious fix, culinary and otherwise

Posted by Nancy Leson

Yesterday, I enjoyed the company of the world's next food star, 13-year-old Abigail Fishman of Port Angeles. (You don't know her yet, but trust me, you will.) Together we played "Me and My Shadow" -- with Abigail tagging along as I interviewed the subjects of an upcoming profile, proving her proficiency playing "Name that tune!" when I taped my KPLU radio show, sitting in on a meeting at The Seattle Times office, touring the premises, and not incidentally eating a lot of banh mi.

At day's end, this eighth grader-extraordinaire handed me a much appreciated gift: a bottle of her favorite vinegar. "It's amazing! I put it on everything," she said, having no idea that vinegar is my idea of the best hostess-gift imaginable. And this morning, after tasting the stuff from a spoon, I'm now as addicted to that fig-flavored balsamico as she is, and more than happy to add it to my collection. (Hey, Abigail: Try it on vanilla ice cream with a hit of freshly cracked black pepper, or in a glass of sparkling mineral water!)



A "small" sampling of vinegars from my collection: a bottle for every (and any) occasion.


So tell me: If I went rummaging around in your kitchen cabinets, what would I find, vinegar-wise? The bottle that gets heaviest use in my house:

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December 22, 2010 10:27 AM

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire?

Posted by Nancy Leson


Dotty DeCoster is perplexed.

"We are quite surprised to find that roasted chestnuts are not appearing this season," she wrote this week. "We checked with the Sorrento Hotel, for instance, and their chef has chosen not to include them in holiday menus. We used to find them in front of the Olympic Hotel (oh, yummy) for charity; but no sign this year. The Public Market doesn't show them in a search -- or anywhere you'd expect them. And the guy who sold them at Westlake isn't there this year. Any idea why?"

Hmmm. Let me venture a guess. Perhaps because those marron-loving French people have eaten them all? Despite the famous Christmas song we know and love so well, we, here in the Northwest, don't have the kind of chestnut-eating culture as the Europeans, or even the New Yorkers (I'll take roasted chestnuts there over a boiled Sabrett any day). But thankfully, there's still hope for us yet!



I found these roasted chestnuts (left) at an open-air Christmas market in Chartres less than two weeks ago. And every where I looked in Paris -- including the snow-covered streets of the Monmartre -- I found them for sale by the pound.

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October 20, 2010 9:46 AM

Pot, or pan -- a love affair: Stein's, mine, yours?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Pot's in the news again today, and my KPLU radio-sidekick and I thought we'd get in on the discussion, adding our two-cents worth on Food for Thought. I know that you know that I love my Le Creuset -- in particular the 5 1/2-quart workhorse I used for making double-loaves of no-knead bread, as well as any number of soups and stews.



My version of Jim Lahey's Irish Brown Bread (left), and a big pot of spicy carne adovada (right).


L'adoration for my Dutch oven aside, these days I'm showing extra love for my heavy-duty Lodge skillet -- the honking, fries-a-whole-chicken-in-one-fell-swoop version I purchased (for about $60) at the Seattle Restaurant Store (I've also seen them at local sporting-goods stores). Trust me, you need one. Put it on your wish-list. Mine's almost 14-inches across and has both a pour-spout and an "assist" handle. Here it is in action:

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August 12, 2010 11:19 AM

Basil's sweet perfume: it hits me where I live

Posted by Nancy Leson

Forty-eight hours ago I was standing in my husband's cousin's garden near Chicago admiring her herbs and tomato plants. As I stood there "enjoying" the humidity and sweltering in the noonday sun, I thought about the state of my own garden (disastrous) and the fact that I'd just spent a week sleeping in an un-airconditioned apartment in the heat of a Chicago summer, so help me God.

Quietly chanting, "Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?" I smiled broadly, knowing that in a very few hours, I'd be flying the not-so-friendly skies, heading home. Home! Where, according to the pilot who flew me there, "It's 61 degrees in Seattle." Home! Where my sunny kitchen awaits even when it's foggy, perfumed by the sweet summer scent of fresh basil -- courtesy of my good friend Trader Joe.



Wake up and smell the basil!


No offense to those of you who've found the time and the energy to fight the elements this summer and coddle your homegrown edibles outdoors, but I've long been a fan of TJ's fresh basil plants, including the one you see above. It's been on my kitchen counter providing me with fragrant herbs for months.

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July 19, 2010 3:52 PM

Garden Green Garbanzo beans: straight from the freezer

Posted by Nancy Leson

Remember last year, when we talked about fresh garbanzo beans after I saw them for sale at PCC? Well, after I wrote that post, I heard from Doug Moser, of Idaho-based Clearwater Country Foods. Doug's a fourth-generation Palouse farmer and a do-it-yourself marketing man who's made it his business to make a name for his trademark greenery: flash-frozen Garden Green Garbanzos. (An impressive feat, given what he went through before making his breakthrough. Read all about the long row he hoed here).

I heard from Doug again last week after I wrote about making edamame hummus using shelled frozen soy beans. "Green Garbanzos are being sampled this Sunday July 18th in your local Costco freezer section," he wrote an an e-mail. "Check them out and please spread the word!" But here's the kicker: I didn't see Doug's e-mail till today. And in an odd coinkydink, I made a speed-run to Costco Sunday where I purchased his garbanzos, whose "Garden Green" label touts the legumes' health benefits.



Garden Green Garbanzos: so good, and so good for you.


I shelled out $7.29 for a three-pound bag: enough to make enough Garden Green Garbanzo-fied hummus to feed a small army -- though there are many other uses for the new product, whose big-time roll-out is now underway. So, what did I think?

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May 28, 2010 12:40 PM

Sitka & Spruce: a wonderland, open at the Melrose Project

Posted by Nancy Leson

With all the craziness going on at the Melrose Project -- the delays, the lawsuit, the discussion regarding who may or may not be putting a garden on its roof -- there is indeed a stunning amount of great news emanating from the fabulously refurbished building between Pike and Pine.

That news includes the recent debut of butcher Russ Flint's Rain Shadow Meats, cheesemonger Sheri LaVigne's the Calf and Kid and grower Katherine Anderson's tiny flower-shop Marigold and Mint. It also extends to the second coming of Fremont's Homegrown sustainable-sandwich shop, slated to open in June.

But the biggest news out of Capitol Hill this week -- for those of us who obsess over our foodstuffs -- was the opening of Matt Dillon's reincarnated Sitka & Spruce. When I heard-tell from a trusted source that Dillon's 12-seat butcher-block table (an extension of his open kitchen and wood-fired hearth) was certain to become the hottest ticket in town, what can I say? I just couldn't wait.

So I went. And what I found was a food-fetishist's wonderland of warmth and good cheer, and an intensely romantic space that struck me as a spiritual melding of the original Sitka & Spruce on Eastlake and its Georgetown successor, The Corson Building.



Happy customers, communing at the communal table at Sitka & Spruce -- to my thinking, the best seats in the house.


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April 14, 2010 11:39 AM

Sniffing out the top seafood shops in Greater Seattle. Yours?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Let's talk about shopping for seafood in Greater Seattle.

Commenting on my last post regarding food-gone-bad, "Ungruntled" remarked that he (or is that she?) is a big fan of the fish counter at Shoreline Central Market, where I often stop for seafood. "As far as supermarkets go, their seafood is among the best," insists Ungruntled. "It's the only non-specialty place I'll buy fish (the specialty places: University Seafood & Poultry and Mutual Fish). They're very good about letting me sniff the product before I buy (with them holding it, of course)."

Which brings me back to Becky Selengut, whose recipes for her upcoming sustainable-seafood cookbook got me on the subject in the first place. While we were yakking about vendors this week, Becky, whose preferred retail outlet is Mutual Fish on Rainier Avenue South, described to me a foray to the U-District's University Seafood .



I bought these fresh snapper at my favorite fish-stop, Pure Food Fish Market in Pike Place Market, where they always offer a free taste of their "famous" alder-smoked king salmon (knowing full well that, having tasted it, I'll then bring home a ridiculously expensive hunk). Worth it!

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April 13, 2010 9:40 AM

What to do when "good" ingredients are bad: put up a stink!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Becky Selengut was not happy. On Friday night, the chef, food writer, cooking instructor and sustainable seafood advocate stood in her Capitol Hill kitchen testing recipes for her upcoming cookbook -- tentatively titled "Good Fish." Unfortunately, the seafood she was preparing for a trio of "guinea pigs" wasn't good, and she sussed that out before plating the dish. "I lifted the lid off the pot and instantly I knew," Selengut said after the fact. "It smelled like baby diapers!"

That unattractive aroma didn't manifest itself until the shellfish, closed before they were cooked, began to steam. "I tried to [mentally] deny it, because it was somewhat of a high-pressure situation." Those guinea pigs were fellow food writers. Selengut was equal parts mortified and steamed. Her recipe, a mix of locally farmed mussels, Israeli couscous and bacon, should have tasted as good as it looked, but the mussels were "off" -- way off. Into the garbage they went.



If you could scratch-and-sniff, you wouldn't eat these mussels.

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March 29, 2010 12:46 PM

Chicken soup's on! Got any tips you want to pass over?

Posted by Nancy Leson

As Jews the world over prepare for Passover, I thought I'd join them today by making a big pot of chicken soup -- to serve later with some nice matzoh balls. Chicken soup's a funny thing, culturally speaking. Every culture has its own, and everyone swears their mother or grandmother is the soup maven who truly does it "best."

Judy Bart Kancigor, author of "Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family" is convinced her mother made the best chicken soup, and has been fighting with her cousins for years about that "fact," though she does us all the service of including her Aunt Estelle's recipe in the cookbook. Her aunt's recipe calls for 25 "bottom chicken quarters," 2 pieces flanken, the giblets from 20 chickens and 3 petrushkas (parsley roots) -- among other ingredients.

Anyway, while I was prepping my single 4-pound bird for the pot this morning, it dawned on me to answer a query from Eater "kag1984" (who regularly comments from her home in Peoria, Illinois) regarding the "best" way to make chicken stock for soup. The answer, unfortunately, is that there are far too many answers. But ever the sport, I thought I'd throw out a couple tips, and ask the rest of you to add your two-cents-worth.



My tips: keep the skins on the onions, save the schmaltz for the matzoh balls, don't be shy with the salt, and go buy some "Soup Socks."

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December 17, 2009 8:55 AM

Iconic Northwest edible gifts: what's on your list?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Eater Jan Hollingsworth needs help. She writes: "I'm traveling back to the East Coast for the holidays. What are the only gifts my dear family desires? Northwest edibles! (Suga, we southerners are sensualists.) Yes, smoked salmon and chocolate is great, but my real question is: What food items/brands are considered iconic by Northwest natives?"



Top 'o my list? Pickled raisins -- among other Boat Street treats.


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November 30, 2009 9:17 AM

Stocking stuffer ideas for cooks: here's mine, where's yours?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I am not a shopper. And holiday shopping is not my idea of a good time, unless I'm in a kitchenware shop -- where I happened to be yesterday afternoon. While there, I spent some time ogling the Bob Kramer collection of Shun knives and I even did the "Try before you buy!" with a carrot in one hand and a Bob-branded santoku in the other. But as much as I can appreciate the heft, weight and beauty of that stunning knife set, the set that came home with me was this one:



Magnetic nesting spoons, $14.95 at Sur la Table.

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November 20, 2009 9:00 AM

Wok not ready to roll? Try this trick for cleaning it

Posted by Nancy Leson

After reading my wok post yesterday, Eater Matt Aalfs sent this query:

"I have an old steel wok, maybe 15 years old, made of thin steel with a round bottom and wooden handles. Possibly due to improper cleaning, the wok has developed a brown-black sheen on the inside, which leaves a bad taste on the food and also seems to inhibit heat transfer from the wok to the food. Can this be fixed, or do I need to start over with a new wok?"

For an answer, I again turned to Grace Young's "The Breath of a Wok." Below, find her recipe for cleaning a rusted or overly sticky wok. Grace says this cleaning technique works best on a gas stove, though I'd give it a shot on an electric stove if that's all you've got, Matt. Better yet, find a friend who's cooking with gas and promise to make them something delicious after you've got your wok in working order.



Schmutz -- or patina? Patina, with roast pork and bok choy.

Now, before you toss out your old wok, try this cleansing trick:

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November 19, 2009 9:12 AM

Wok season

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've owned several woks, but never got into the habit of using them. My first was aluminum and came as part of a cheap boxed set -- with a pair of long chopsticks and a half-moon frying rack. It gathered dust in the far corners of my cupboard till I sold it at a yard sale long ago. I own a nonstick wok that's truly good for nothing, and I married into a small halfway-decent wok with a wooden handle that Mac often employs to stir-fry beef with cabbage and "brown noodles" -- one of the dishes he and Nate eat when I'm out on the town. But a week ago I treated myself to a new wok, for which I paid a surprisingly reasonable $18 at the restaurant supply store. It's the wok I've been thinking about buying since I first read Grace Young's lovely book "The Breath of a Wok," in which she describes that versatile vessel as "the only pan ideally suited for stir-frying, pan-frying, braising, poaching, boiling, deep-frying, steaming, smoking foods, and even cooking rice."



Cost? $18. Thrill-quotient? Priceless.

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October 20, 2009 2:35 PM

Talking turkey: A tale of two chickens -- $25 vs. $8

Posted by Nancy Leson

Ever wonder what all the fuss is when it comes to "fancy" chickens? You know the kind: lives down on the farm, roams green pastures, nibbles grass and organic grain, never met an antibiotic or a saline solution, spends time pecking in the dirt, basking in the sun, hiding from hawks -- you get the picture:



Down on the farm -- at Skagit River Ranch in Sedro-Woolley.


As much as I like the idea of truly free-ranging chickens raised on family farms, until recently, I've never actually bought one. Not only because they cost a small fortune, but because several years ago I cooked a $65 local heritage turkey for Thanksgiving (along with a $24 supermarket bird) and there wasn't a single well-fed mouth at that very long table who disagreed with my assessment: we all preferred the plump cheap bird to the lean, genetically superior, well-bred and thoughtfully raised one.

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September 28, 2009 8:00 AM

Picnic? At Phinney favorite it's never too late -- or too early

Posted by Nancy Leson

And now, from the better-late-than-never department, say hello to Anson and Jenny Klock -- owners of Picnic on Phinney Ridge. That's what I did late last week after a friend's eyes widened in shocked surprise when I told her I'd never been to their year-old "food + wine boutique" nor tasted their housemade pork rillettes.



Life's a Picnic -- literally -- for Anson and Jenny.

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September 25, 2009 10:12 AM

Trader Joe's: What's in your shopping bag?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Twenty years ago in a Ballard apartment, my pal Abbie introduced me something I'd never seen -- nor heard of -- before: products from Trader Joe's. She was unpacking a suitcase after a trip to California and carrying on the way some people do when they've returned from France with raw-cheese contraband. "Look at this pesto!" she said, pulling a tall jar of the deep-green paste from its clothing cushion. "And what about these sun-dried tomatoes? Guess how much they cost? Bupkes!"

Well, that was then and this is now, when California-based Trader Joe's stores are an ingrained part of our shopping culture, and TJ's -- with their secretive house-brand products -- can be found all around town (the latest is slated to open in Redmond October 9). I hit my local TJ's regularly, stocking up on things I can't live without. Just about everyone else I know apparently does so, too.



"Homemade?" Uh, not exactly, but I won't tell if you don't tell.


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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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September 22, 2009 5:52 PM

Pizza flour: what to use at home? Depends on who's baking.

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's not uncommon for someone to ask me, "How's John Hinterberger?" -- the Seattle Times columnist who reigned as the voice of food and restaurants for 25 years before retiring in 1998. Sometimes I get an e-mail from a reader who's lost a tattered copy of his recipe for spaghetti with clam sauce, or a call from another who asks about a pizza joint Hint reviewed umpteen years ago ("I can't remember its name, but it was downtown and run by a guy who . . ."). Today it was an Eater who read my post extolling the virtues of local flour, then posed a question:

"Long ago, there was a John Hinterberger column where he told the story of how he found the best flour to make pizza crust. Unfortunately the smallest unit of flour he could buy was a 50 pound sack. Or maybe it was 100. He only wanted 2 pounds but bought the sack anyhow. So maybe the whole story was him trying to sell the rest of the flour to his co-workers. I searched using `Hinterberger pizza flour' but didn't see the story in the search results. Anyone know what flour he was using?"

I do. He was using Power and Mondako brand flours, a trademark now owned by Pendleton Flour Mills.



My predecessor, John Hinterberger, power-lunching at Chinook's last year.

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August 21, 2009 1:32 PM

Cheap kitchen tools rock. What are your favorites?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've got a lot of tools in my kitchen and some of the best of them cost me bupkes. There's the wooden spoon I bought for a quarter at an armory garage sale in Alaska nearly 30 years ago (still in daily use), the big flat slotted spoon from Goodwill (a buck, I think), the $1.99 wooden citrus-reamer I can't live without and the Kuhn Rikon paring knife that set me back about $10.



The cheese and crackers cost more than that knife.

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August 4, 2009 12:47 PM

Batter Blaster can o' cakes: Don't knock it till you've tried it

Posted by Nancy Leson

Call me a snob, but there's something about buying food expressed from a can that makes me shudder at the thought. Cheese in a can? Don't get me started. Reddi Whip? Can't go there, either. Blame that on the Thanksgiving one of my friends showed up with a pumpkin pie and a can of the so-called cream, proceeded to get drunk and -- Reddi, Set, Go! -- mainlined the stuff straight from the nozzle at the dinner table. (Way to teach your children well!) So you can imagine my initial reaction when I got an e-mail from the folks at Batter Blaster, promoting "the latest breakfast craze": organic pancake and waffle batter in a can.


And you thought Jiffy Pop was fun!

Their pitch? They use USDA certified organic ingredients, the product "contains no ozone-depleting CFCs" and its packaging (plastic cap, steel canister) is completely recyclable ("good news for Mother Nature"). What's more, in addition to being available at Albertson's, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway -- among other venues -- it's sold at fussy-food-shopper haunts like Metropolitan Markets and (drum roll, please) Whole Foods.

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April 27, 2009 6:55 AM

Bob Kramer on The Splendid Table, I make shrimp stir-fry

Posted by Nancy Leson

You've heard me talk about local bladesmith Bob Kramer and his much-coveted handmade knives here on the blog. Well, yesterday, while listening to The Splendid Table, I heard him chatting with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, describing in great detail exactly how he does the voodoo that he does so well. If you missed the show, here's the link. And if you missed my post of a year ago, in which I discuss Lynne's latest cookbook and what has since become one of my favorite quick recipes, here it is again:


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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 13, 2009 8:00 AM

Nancy (finally) gets a kitchen remodel: your ideas?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last week's post about Cafe Flora's remodel and their interesting use of recycled materials has given me some great ideas, seeing as we're getting ready to do a major kitchen makeover. Our house is old: circa 1930ish. And though Mac has remodeled the kitchen before in the decades since he moved in, this is my big chance to turn that space into something far more comfortable to cook -- and eat -- in. (Counter space! A garbage disposal! Be still my beating heart!)

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April 9, 2009 11:14 AM

Bacon: it's not just for breakfast anymore -- your favorite?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Jon Stewart's got nothing on my pal Mark Rahner, whose Seattle Times story about Baconnaise cracked me up this morning. And while that bit of smoky-scented reportage was a kick in the pants, I almost fell out of my seat while watching this:



And I thought I loved bacon!

Perhaps like me, you grew up eating Oscar Mayer's crispy pork-product, eventually moving up to something more locavoracious -- say, bacon from Bavarian Meats or Hempler's. If you're really hardcore, you might mail-order from Nueske's or belong to the Bacon of the Month Club, where they'll ship an exciting new artisan bacon to your door every month. (I once sent a gift of club-membership to my dad -- a real bacon fiend who wasn't beyond eating bacon for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Dare I mention it was a Big Birthday-gift? Or that he didn't live to see the next big-birthday milestone?)

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April 2, 2009 11:56 AM

You big fat pig

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've been singing the praises of Heath Putnam's Wooly Pigs since I tasted his fine swine at Monsoon on Capitol Hill, so I read with great interest yesterday's New York Times article on the subject. The story -- dateline Hungary -- made me hungry. It profiled the Mangalitsa, saved from near extinction by a Hungarian animal geneticist, and gave credit to Putnam for importing 25 of the wooly-coated piglets to our little corner of America. Today, he's producing nearly 1,200 piglets a year and chefs and food scribes across the land are taking notice, effectively turning his pedigreed porcine product into the Copper River salmon of pork.



Heath, famous for raising Mangalitsa, doing just that at the U-District Farmers Market

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March 30, 2009 6:56 AM

The (Mt. Townsend Creamery Trailhead) cheese stands alone. Your favorite?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Everyone has his (or her) favorite cheeses, and mine change regularly. One day it's the jalapeno cheddar from Estrella Family Creamery in Montesano (as fine a farmers market purchase as one might pray for). The next it's Sottocenere from Northern Italy (which met my tantalized tongue for the first time at Queen Anne's Brico della Regina Anna). Or the St. Marcellin I first enjoyed in its mother country (sold in reuseable earthenware rounds).

Then yesterday, I got word from the folks at Port Townsend's Mt. Townsend Creamery, crowing about their first-place award for their alpine Tomme-style Trailhead at the 2009 United States Cheese Championships. The competition among American cheesemakers was fierce, with 1,360 entries from 36 states, making this a proud win in its category at the largest U.S. cheese contest ever held. I immediately wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I made a speed trip to to my Resident Cheesemonger to find out:



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February 23, 2009 7:56 AM

Master (bladesmith) class: knife skills with Bob Kramer

Posted by Nancy Leson

Back in November, we chatted about bladesmith Bob Kramer, who'd just been profiled in the New Yorker food issue, as well as in a Seattle Times photo galley by my pal Alan Berner -- who took us into Bob's shop in Olympia to see how the man of steel does what he does:



The Seattle Times/Alan Berner


Well, I just got word that Bob's going into the kitchen at Kirkland's Sur la Table on March 21, offering a class in which participants (18 and older) can sharper their knife skills under the master's tutelage. Like his hand-forged knives, the class doesn't come cheap ($100, register here while spaces last), but you'll no doubt have a chance to see -- and handle -- some of the Bob Kramer originals that connoisseurs and chefs clamor (and wait several years) for:


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February 20, 2009 12:00 PM

Papa's got a brand new tote bag

Posted by Nancy Leson

Remember when I told you about my collection of eco-friendly shopping totes, and the fact that no matter how many bags reside in the back of my car, I can't seem to remember to bring the damn things into the store with me?



Well, Mark Pahlow obviously remembers. And the Big Daddy of Doodads and author of "Who Would Buy This? The Archie McPhee Story" says my post inspired the gang at Archie McPhee World Headquarters to come up with the perfect tote for forgetful folks like me. This one:



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February 17, 2009 8:48 AM

DIY coffee roasting. Help!

Posted by Nancy Leson

I recently read an article in the Jan/Feb issue of Northwest Palate suggesting roasting your own beans is not as hard as it looks, so I cut it out, intent on taking on the challenge:


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February 6, 2009 7:57 AM

French onion soup: at home and abroad -- a February favorite

Posted by Nancy Leson

The popularity of French onion soup can't be denied. It's served everywhere, and today in Ticket I wrote about some of the many great places you (and I) might go for a cheese-laden bowlful:

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February 5, 2009 11:45 AM

Useless utensils: One cook's trash is another's treasure

Posted by Nancy Leson

Look up "utensil" in the dictionary, and you'll find a definition like this one: "An instrument, an implement, or a container used domestically, especially in a kitchen." Look up "useless utensil" and here's what you should find, says me:



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February 4, 2009 2:08 PM

Pork. Chop. Why I adore Seattle's food scene

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you're one of those fabulously food-focused foodies who's dying to know what's going on with the Swinery -- Gabe Claycamp's bacon-biz-gone awry -- I urge you to take a look at Rebekah Denn's P.I. blog, where today she dishes the details by doing the journalistic voodoo that she does so well (and where readers have been chiming in on the subject, providing some "interesting" commentary on the chef/owner of Culinary Communion).

This, mind you, is far from the first time Gabe's gotten the business from John Law, nor from interested blog-readers (see: comments on my April post "Gypsy -- Busted by Tramps and Thieves?"). It's downright exhausting trying to keep up with the gang at Culinary Communion. Don't believe me? Then ask Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman. So, rather than try, allow me to turn the subject over to chef Chet Gerl, seen here yesterday shouldering his responsibilities at Matt's in the Market:


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December 11, 2008 3:25 PM

Get 'em while they're hot: Theo chocolatier Autumn Martin takes the (molten-chocolate) cake

Posted by Nancy Leson

Bless my pal Mina's heart. And God help mine. Yesterday she showed up at my door with two tiny canning jars filled with chocolatey goodness: the dessert course served at my book-club meeting the night before. Which I'd missed, because I was busy accompanying my kid to the Greater Seattle Aquarium Society's annual Christmas potluck where I got to play Fisho and trade White Elephant gifts. (Don't ask.) Anyway, last night, when Mr. Sweet Tooth, Jr. wondered, "What's for dessert?" I thrilled his sweet little heart by offering up these:



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December 10, 2008 11:10 AM

Holiday gift baskets: the low-key version

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you're the kind of gift giver that likes to fill baskets with fussy foodstuffs, bring it on! I mean, who wouldn't want a giftable gourmet-basket filled with, say, Salumi's salami, Boat Street Pickles and Fran's Chocolates? But there's another kind of themed gift basket that doesn't cost a lot, is fun to pull together and speaks directly to the interests of the person you're gifting it to. To illustrate my point, I went into my kitchen this morning to offer up a few ideas, like this one:


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November 22, 2008 8:42 AM

Fire and nice: Berner gets the burner -- Bob Kramer and his knives, in living color

Posted by Nancy Leson

Who knew? (Not me!) Late yesterday afternoon, I was posting about blademaster Bob Kramer and his New Yorker profile, and this morning I just about choked on my coffee when I saw this:



Turns out my photog-pal Alan Berner's got the photo essay and the beauty shots to accompany it in today's Seattle Times. The photo you see here ran in print in today's local section, but -- whoa! -- the Times website has a photo gallery with Alan's extended view of Kramer at work in his shop. Check it out.

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November 19, 2008 2:57 PM

Ethiopia, injera and me: more on why Greater Seattle is an "ethnic"-food lover's paradise

Posted by Nancy Leson

Sometimes, the greatest treasures are found right under your nose, you know what I mean? You don't? Well, allow me to offer up Exhibit "A":



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November 13, 2008 7:02 AM

Just say "no" to Styro to-go -- and go buy a tiffin

Posted by Nancy Leson

Reader Nancy Harkrider, who's spent many years living in Asia, must have taken one look at this photo on the blog earlier this week. . .



. . .before hitting her keyboard to e-mail the following, in which she denounces the use of Styrofoam (she's not alone on that count) and declares her allegiance to a marvelous multi-tiered lunch-pail, the tiffin:


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October 8, 2008 12:29 PM

Oh, McGee, you've done it again: the "hottest" in pots and pans

Posted by Nancy Leson

There are a lot of people who turn to names like Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray when they're looking to buy pots and pans. I'd direct them instead to Harold McGee -- the science-minded food authority and author of that kitchenmeister's bible, "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." In today's New York Times, under the header "What's Hot, What's Not In Pots and Pans," McGee offers a very personal look at his batterie de cuisine -- which, from what I read and what I'm guessing, looks an awful lot like mine:



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August 6, 2008 12:55 PM

Food ink: Tattoo me

Posted by Nancy Leson

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



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July 22, 2008 11:55 AM

Fix-it for KitchenAid -- and other small appliances

Posted by Nancy Leson


Jay Rogers wrote, wondering:

"Do you know of any places to take my KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer to get it fixed? Sadly, when making a full batch of bagels a few weeks back, it started to groan and then quit-out on me (it is only 4 years old). It looked like a little oil was seeping out of the top and my guess is that I blew the motor. Just wondering if you have had any similar experiences with this mixer."

Funny Jay should ask. Twenty years ago I became the happy owner of KitchenAid standing mixer -- a small appliance I'd longed for but never bought because they were way too expensive. One day, while visiting a friend, she showed me her latest purchase: a beautiful cobalt blue version of the very mixer I coveted. "Guess how much it cost?" she asked. "Uh, $250?" I replied. "Nope. Half that. Want one?" "Where'd you get it?" I asked. "Don't ask. Just tell me -- do you want one?" I didn't (ask questions). And I did (want one). I got one, too. It's still in business:


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July 16, 2008 7:19 AM

I do -- use these wedding gifts. You?

Posted by Nancy Leson


Today in the Seattle Times, Karen Gaudette takes a look at hot-selling wedding gifts . Meanwhile, I took a look back, discussing which among my kitchen-worthy wedding gifts continue to get a workout more than a decade after I said "I do." On my list were registry items like these broad white bowls, used for everything from soup to prep:



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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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