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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 6, 2009 2:46 PM

Can o' worms: Eat "right" or else? I don't think so.

Posted by Nancy Leson

I love it when readers get riled up, as some did after I gave the big nod to pancakes in a can. Some of you agreed that the organic pancake-mix Batter Blaster is not only a blast -- but a must-have on summer camping trips. Some took me to task for promoting it. Others voiced concern that Seattle's recycling laws may render the product (with its "recyclable" plastic cap and steel can pressurized not by aerosol, but by the CO2 in the batter) unwelcome here in the most emerald of cities. I'm still working on getting answers to that one from the City of Seattle and the brass at Batter Blaster -- who FedEx'd two cans to the recycling gurus yesterday. Verdict pending.

Meantime, I need to talk to you about something that riles me up: the pervasive attitude that educated consumers must be 100 percent clean and green in the kitchen. If not, suggest the righteous, we don't deserve to breathe the air we share with Alice Waters and Michael Pollan -- esteemed by our Slow Food nation for what they've brought to the table. Nor are we doing our part for our children, ourselves and our planet. P.S.? B.S.

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July 29, 2009 1:21 PM

Ice? Nice. Frozen fruit's a real refresher, too. Your ideas?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Keeping a well-stocked freezer is an imperative this week, and having recently cleaned out ours, I'm here to prove it's now stocked with the bare necessities.


Miller time? Not yet, but that spumoni's looking pretty good right about now.

My friends, however, are apparently concerned about the state of my near-empty freezer, and feel it's their duty to do something about it. My pal Missy ("Melissa A. Trainer" to those who know her by-line and her blog, Hooks for Cooks) shot me an e-mail this morning suggesting I might want to take her advice and hook up with a refresher that requires no cooking -- if you don't count the simple process of making simple syrup: fresh fruit popsicles.

Great idea! And as it happens, I've got a quart of blueberries waiting for some attention, so maybe I'll tweak that recipe and give it a go later today. If I can summon up the energy.

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July 28, 2009 9:58 AM

Here's what I crave when it's hot out. You?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last night, after a day's worth of sweating over a hot keyboard, there was only one thing on my mind: South Korea's summertime sensation, mool naeng myun -- cold soba noodles in an icy beef broth with pickled cucumbers, hard-cooked eggs, sweet Asian pear and daikon radish. So I made a beeline for Kaya, my new favorite Korean restaurant, across from Aurora Village on Highway 99 in Shoreline.

"Bet they're moving a lot of soondoobu today," I told my friend Clint, who came along for the ride. I was joking. I mean, who'd want a bowl of hot stew on a day like yesterday, or today for that matter? The joke was on me of course, because the place was packed with brow-swiping diners eating a variety of hot spicy stews and firing up the tabletop grills for barbecue. That said, I noticed the pregnant lady sitting across from me (bless 'er, in this heat!) was on the same page as I was: the one that said, "I'll have the mool naeng myun, please -- with extra ice."



Ohhhhhh, what a relief it is!

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July 8, 2009 8:59 AM

Got leftovers? I'll share mine, if you share yours

Posted by Nancy Leson

"The Question of Leftovers Is Ever Fresh" according to today's New York Times. I won't disagree. The story, focusing on our eating habits and collective food collections, is a tale of leftover largess well worth reading. Highlights include a Frenchwoman's penchant for serving (and serving, and serving) lentils, the custody rights of a neighbor's gift of Costco-bought cheese, and songstress Patti LaBelle's cast-iron grip on her Tupperware collection -- as well as other leftover-food for thought.

Unlike my best friend, who regularly rummages in her fridge in search of a leftovers-lunch or fixings for what she calls "fuzzy-food night," I am not big on do-overs -- unless it's Chinese takeout, which I'll eat hot or cold, sitting down or standing at the sink, chopsticks in hand. But I proudly admit to saving the schmutzy schmaltz from a roast chicken's roasting pan to use as a "leftover" sauce tossed with pasta, and simmering the bird's spent carcass to make broth -- best eaten with a handful of fresh Chinese egg noodles boiled for the occasion.

OK, I admit it: this "before" (Sunday night) and "after" (Wednesday morning) situation below looks mighty promising. I'm envisioning cold lamb roast, sliced, with a little TJ's spicy tomato chutney, stuffed in a kaiser roll:


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July 6, 2009 1:06 PM

Remember me? Man, that vacation was fun.

Posted by Nancy Leson

When it comes to vacations, that was one of the best I've had in a very long time. "Long time" is the operative word. Having three weeks off allowed me to both vacate (to Orcas Island) spend time with family and friends (at my home and elsewhere), and ready the house for the remodel (slated to start this week). Among the many highlights of the vacation was lots of good food, of course. Some of it was so good it made me feel like dancing. Clearly, I wasn't alone:



Taking it to the street -- the Solstice Parade on Orcas Island

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June 4, 2009 2:31 PM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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



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

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March 25, 2009 11:05 AM

Who needs oatmeal? Uh, me. And that's no Jamba jive

Posted by Nancy Leson

In my last post, I posed the query "Who needs oatmeal?": an interesting question for someone like me, who famously doesn't "do" breakfast. Yesterday, after a visit to Swedish Medical Center ("Perfect!" said the happy radiologist, after looking at my x-rays), I realized something. "Perfect," despite what she said, far from describes my body. Granted, as illness and disease strikes closer to home among family and friends, I recognize that I've been blessed with (relative) good health. That being said, I can't help but ask: What's this business with my left knee? -- which has started doing some strange outta-whack-joint thing that has me yelping momentarily then screaming, "Get me a glucosomine-cocktail, stat!"

It could be middle age. But it's more likely the fact that I'm toting around a body that's bearing-up under many years of hefty caloric intake and a predisposition for high-fat cheeses. I need to eat better. And if there's one thing I've heard over and over again when it comes to eating "right" it's this: eat a good breakfast. And by "good breakfast" I don't think they're talking about leftover Chinese food. Oatmeal, on the other hand, is a nutritious choice. What's more, it's filling, so I'm far less likely to reach for leftover moo shu pork or imported triple-cream cheese come 10 a.m. -- four or five hours after I've awakened, gotten down to work and had nothing but coffee to keep my body going.

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February 4, 2009 8:41 AM

Reuben-ask: She wants a "great" sandwich. Where to go?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Kathy Thorsen sounds like my kind of Eater. One who posed a question I'd like you to help answer: "I'm controlling kind-of-high blood pressure with low sodium, lots of exercise and `meditation,' and have decided my reward should be an occasional splurge on a great Reuben sandwich -- my choice over Chocolate Decadence any day. Do you have any recommendations?"

I'm with Kathy: I'll take a decadent, well-stacked Reuben over Chocolate Decadence any day of the week. And on any day of the week I can get my hands on a prize that looks exactly like this, made from a hunk of beef "corned" in Brooklyn and sliced before my eyes in Pike Place Market at I Love New York Deli, the kiosk next to Daily Dozen Donuts:


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January 26, 2009 10:57 AM

Bagels, lox, schmear: the bicoastal version

Posted by Nancy Leson

Good morning!

And a grand one it is. Here's why: one of the last things I did before leaving NYC yesterday was have brunch at Barney Greengrass. Then I stopped at H&H Bagels and stocked up on hot, fresh, just out-of-the-oven rounds and schlepped them on the plane (along with a loaf of "real" rye bread and a huge kasha knish from Barney G's). When I toasted a bagel for Nate before school this morning, I said, "Enjoy it! And pay attention because that is what a bagel is supposed to taste like." Then, a few minutes ago I toasted one for myself. Eating a great bagel at home is a thrill, but I've got to be honest: it's not the same as eating one at Barney Greengrass, where they'll hook you up with belly lox and a schmaltzy piece of kippered salmon with all the trimmings:



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December 26, 2008 1:00 AM

All I Could Eat, and then some: A Year of Great Eating

Posted by Nancy Leson

"So?" everyone wants to know. "How is it, now that you're no longer a restaurant critic? Don't you miss going out to all those restaurants?" I've heard that a lot since I've ceded the lead critic's position to Providence Cicero -- whose Best Bites appear in today's Ticket. My answer to that constant query: "Not on your life!" I'm still getting out to the hot new restaurants, and returning far more frequently to old favorites. As the voice behind All You Can Eat, I'm happy to say I'm no longer tied to a weekly dining-out schedule or a professional fork-lifter's critical agenda. Instead, I get to share my thoughts on eating, feeding and reading and call it "work."

It's a wonderful life, indeed. One that finds me writing monthly roundups -- spotlighting everything from great burger joints to old-school Chinese restaurants; talking about food with my pal Dick Stein each week on KPLU; and showing-and-telling you what's cooking at home after frequent forays to area supermarkets, farmers markets, specialty markets or into my own kitchen garden. I even get to yak about what I've eaten when I'm out of town on business or pleasure. Yeah, yeah: not everything I ate was wonderful (remember those spicy "Larvets"?) But much was, including the big, overstuffed banh mi from Yeh Yeh's, as well as many other gustatory delights, including these:


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December 16, 2008 3:51 PM

Those lips. Those eyes. That hat. Cracking crab with Eric Ripert and my "favorite Frenchman"

Posted by Nancy Leson

"Nancy!" said Thierry Rautureau, pronouncing my name the correct way: like the city in France. "Thees ees your favorite Frenchman!" Thierry was calling to invite himself to lunch -- with me and his buddy, New York chef Eric Ripert. Ripert, known for his lustrous head of hair, Angelina Jolie lips and sea green eyes (he'd play himself in the movie) was in town this week promoting his latest book: "On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin." We were scheduled for lunch, and Rover's chef wanted in. How could I say "Non!"? After all, Thierry is my favorite French chef. I've even got his "Pinup Boy" shot right here next to my desk at the office:


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December 8, 2008 11:27 AM

Chi-town letdown

Posted by Nancy Leson

So, there I was, stuck in Weiss Memorial Hospital, in snowy Chicago, listening to my mother-in-law kvetch about the horrible hospital food. (She wasn't kidding.) So I did what any good daughter-in-law would do: I ordered a small deep-dish sausage pizza and one of Chicago's "famous" Italian beef sandwiches from Gino's East (which, I might add, is my husband's idea of "Old Hunger"). Then I went down to the reception area to retrieve it:



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September 4, 2008 10:04 AM

We're hot on Chili's

Posted by Nancy Leson

I owe Tom Stritikus a masala dosa -- for turning me on to Chili's Deli & Mart:


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August 18, 2008 9:39 AM

What I did on my Korean "staycation"

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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August 12, 2008 8:20 AM

My hero -- sandwich

Posted by Nancy Leson


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


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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 15, 2008 8:59 AM

You Bite, I'll Bash

Posted by Nancy Leson



I haven't been to the Bite of Seattle -- coming up this weekend -- in years, but there's another annual food-focused event I haven't missed for the past four: the Samish Bay Bivalve Bash and Low Tide Mud Run, to be held this Saturday, July 19th, at Taylor Shellfish Farms in Bow. Admission is $5 (kids six and under and registered mud-runners are free), and you buy scrip for food, drink and games. The bash is a fundraiser for the Skagit Conservation Education Alliance, and helps the MudUp campaign clean and restore the water and shoreline of Puget Sound. That do-gooding aside, I go because watching the ridiculously filthy and strenuous mud run on the tideflats is a kick in the pants (though I've yet to duct-tape my running shoes to my ankles and have at it myself):


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July 14, 2008 7:30 AM

'Tis the season to get cracking: DIY Dungeness crab-feed

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last week, my heart beat a little faster when, standing in front of the seafood counter at QFC I saw that whole fresh-cooked Dungeness crab was selling for $4.99 a pound. That's six bucks off the "regular price" -- so long as I brandished the card that has that freaky disembodied voice at the self-checkout saying, "Thank you, QFC member!"

I'll take two, I told the gal behind the counter, who fished around in the cracked ice for a couple of nice-sized specimens, weighing-in at about a pound-and-a-half each. "You want me to clean those for you?" she asked. I did. And then I took them home, dismembered the legs and body and prepared the crab "Asian-style" -- which I'll describe below. Lickety-split -- so to speak -- I had an amazingly easy-to-fix and downright delicious dinner.

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July 11, 2008 8:38 AM

Encounters at the counter -- the list goes on

Posted by Nancy Leson


When it comes to restaurants, I like to watch. That's why my favorite seat in a restaurant is the one in front of an open kitchen -- as I discussed with my jazz-jiving pal Dick Stein on KPLU last week. In a June blog-post, I asked Eaters which view-of-the-kitchen seats gave them a thrill, and many let me know -- some of those are included in my restaurant roundup today in Ticket. If I missed your favorite open-kitchen counter, feel free to voice your opinion right here.

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July 7, 2008 12:30 PM

Holy moley, where's the cannoli?

Posted by Nancy Leson


Jim Somborovich wrote complaining about his Old Hunger:

"I'm a long time Seattle resident originally from Detroit, Michigan. One of the food items that I miss from Detroit is a good cannoli. Yes, we have cannoli on the West Coast, but they really aren't the same as Detroit's. Maybe you know what I mean? I have been disappointed in the cannoli I've tried here and in San Francisco. A relative says the same about the Las Vegas area. Any suggestions?"

Sure Jim: Move to South Philly. Only kidding. Sort of. And yes, I think I know what you mean, because I, too, miss the cannoli I remember from my youth. I grew up in Philadelphia where Italian bakeries were a dime a dozen. Cannoli -- that crackling pastry! the delicate, lightly sweetened ricotta filling! -- remains a taste-memory I cherish.

The closest thing I've tasted to those simple sweets hereabouts were the cannoli at La Vita e Bella in Belltown. They're sold at its sister restaurant, Mondello in Magnolia. And co-owner Corino Bonjrada's mom, Enza Sorrentino, also offers traditional Sicilian-style cannoli at her restaurant Sorrentino, on Queen Anne Hill. I've had some especially memorable cannoli at Serious Pie , though those are tiny, and probably not what you're after. They taste like ricotta-stuffed rugalach, offering me something even better: two childhood taste memories in one!

Anybody else want to tell Jim where to go for a good cannoli?

In the meantime, Jim (and anyone else longing for a sweet, simple taste of Italy), here's a dessert tip for you: Go to a decent supermarket or cheese shop and buy a small container of fresh ricotta cheese. Then get your hands on some chestnut honey, like the kind sold at specialty shops under the brand name Rustichella d'Abruzzo . Now, drizzle some honey over the ricotta: it's kind of like eating cannoli filling straight-up. And if you can find some Amaretti cookies to crumble over the bowl, all the better:



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June 30, 2008 7:55 AM

Chinese-restaurant chat: Your favorites?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last week, I talked about my lifelong love for Chinese food -- and the many restaurants that serve it -- with my pal Dick Stein, on KPLU. Everyone seems to have their favorite Chinese restaurant. I've got several -- Hing Loon in the I.D. and Szechuan Chef in Bellevue, among them. The ones I frequent most are my neighborhood places, T&T Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Edmonds, where my son's always begging me to order the "House Special Crab" (a worthy splurge, and one of my favorite dishes here, too), though we more frequently choose less expensive fare, like beef with gailan and chow mein:


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June 27, 2008 10:30 AM

The Vacation, Part Three: in which Seattle chefs loom large

Posted by Nancy Leson


It's been just shy of a week since I returned from the last leg of my two-week vacation -- my family's annual trip to Orcas Island, where we stayed in this cabin on the waterfront:



We brought fishing poles and a tackle box, plenty of books, umpteen different kind of salt and my Le Creuset Dutch oven for making many loaves of "Almost No-knead Bread". . .


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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!":


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June 6, 2008 12:04 AM

Eating "ethnic": What's on your plate?

Posted by Nancy Leson


I've always had a taste for adventure, culinarily speaking, and today in Ticket I round-up a handful of ethnic eateries -- among the many that make living here such a wonderful thing. You've got to love inexpensive joints that offer everything from whole grilled squid to chicken gizzards:




And chile-stoked Sichuanese cold jelly or, for the less adventurous, dry-cooked green beans:




Or spongy injera meant for wrapping other, more colorful Ethiopian treats, available for eating in or taking out:



And what about one of my favorite underappreciated foods? Like this garlicky Korean banchan -- the many complimentary side dishes served here, alongside delicious kalbi ribs:



So, howzabout you? Which little ethnic restaurants are on your local version of the globetrotter's tour?

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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 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 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 3:55 PM

Why I love Seattle's "Little Saigon"

Posted by Nancy Leson


Twenty years ago, I got turned on to Vietnamese food after moving to Seattle. I learned about it by trial and error. To be honest, there were very few errors -- if you don't count the time I watched a little boy pull down his drawers in the aisle of a small grocery store off 12th and Jackson and relieve himself while his mother was busy inspecting the produce. Today I had lunch in a strip mall just across the street from that grocery: the Chinese restaurant Sichuanese Cuisine. I shared four generous platters of food: 20 steamed dumplings, eggplant with garlic sauce, family-style tofu with pork and kung pao fish, plus a big bowl of rice and complimentary tea -- enough for four hungry people. The cost of this fine lunch? $32:


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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 19, 2008 4:05 PM

Tutti -- what kind of fruiti?

Posted by Nancy Leson


On Saturday, I was shopping at my neighborhood QFC, stocking up on raspberries (Nate was begging to make homemade ice cream):



And while I was in the produce section, I spotted this strange fruit -- a new one on me:


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May 19, 2008 11:05 AM

The egg came first

Posted by Nancy Leson


If you've ever thought about raising chickens in your backyard, and missed reading Nicole Tsong's ode to the urban chicken coop Saturday in NW Home & Life, give it a read. I think about raising chickens all the time, because there's something really special about a fresh-laid egg, and I've got enough room in the backyard for a nice-sized coop. But then, I think, why bother? For one, between the two geriatric dogs and the four fish aquariums in need of constant care, plus the ever-propogating stick bugs in their insect cage (a birthday gift given to my son from some crack-pot friends of ours -- don't get me started), do we really need more pets?


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May 16, 2008 10:30 AM

Captain Bay-Schmith's gotta-make-it chicken

Posted by Nancy Leson


You haven't lived till you've tasted my husband's "famous" chicken:



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May 15, 2008 5:58 PM

An Urbanspoonful: lunch at Quinn's

Posted by Nancy Leson


I've got to give thanks to Julien Perry -- host of KOMO News Radio's "Go Eat!" -- for inviting me to lunch at Quinn's on Capitol Hill today. Because not only did I get to share half the menu with Julien (that's Ju-LEEN, by the way, not Julie-EN), I also got to lift a lovin' spoonful with Patrick O'Donnell and Ethan Lowry, of the restaurant website Urbanspoon:

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May 15, 2008 11:18 AM

Patricia and Walter Wells: They'll always have Paris. I'll always have Jeff Bergman

Posted by Nancy Leson


So, you think being a food writer is all about rubbing elbows with the foodarazzi, eating entirely too well, drinking fine wines and getting paid to do so. Well, if you took a look at my Wednesday afternoon this week, guess what? You'd be right!

After a day spent glued to my computer, I hit the road, headed for an intimate wine-and-horse-divorce party with Walter and Patricia Wells, at the home of one of the best cooks you probably don't know: Jeff Bergman. Jeff's grilled cheese sandwich recipe won top prize from the Seattle Cheese Festival folks (he'll be doing a cooking demo at the Pike Place Market festival from noon to 1pm on Sunday, where you might just get a taste):

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May 14, 2008 2:57 PM

Chicken -- little?

Posted by Nancy Leson


After reading about one of my favorite Sunday suppers (roasted chicken). Jane Ramsey wrote to ask if I know where she might get her hands on a true "roaster" -- not one of those dinky broiler/fryers sold all over town -- like the ones my husband smoked on the Weber last weekend:



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May 13, 2008 7:40 AM

Quick! Make this for dinner

Posted by Nancy Leson


If you're anything like me, you tend to wait till it's almost too late to decide what to cook for dinner. I'm a last-minute stop-and-shopper, prone to hitting the store on my way home from work/wherever, then tooling around the supermarket, thinking: "What looks good tonight?" Early this month, I spent $35 on "The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper" at a booksigning event. That may seem like a small fortune, but it turned out to be cheap at twice the price. Not only because it was signed by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, and co-authored by her uber-talented producer and busy working-mom, Sally Swift, but because when I took it home and read it, I realized: Whoo-wee! This one's a keeper! What's more, it's also a user -- filled with tips of the cooking-trade, laughs (yes, they discuss the "after-effects" of eating asparagus), cookbook recommendations and many, many quick-to-fix meals, including this one:


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May 9, 2008 11:15 AM

Burger Queen

Posted by Nancy Leson


There's nothing like doing research for a burger round-up to prove that far more interesting options abound than that well-publicicized "Two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun."

Over the past few weeks, I've eaten a multitude of burgers, shakes, sodas and fried sides for today's cover story for Ticket -- an expanding-pants-sizeable effort that gave me a chance to visit my old fast-food standby (Dick's), longtime favorites (Red MIll, Two Bells), a soon-to-close Happy Hour-honoree (Cascadia), and one fan-freakin-fabulous newbie (Lunchbox Laboratory).

First, I downed this beaut at Two Bells:

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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 9:15 AM

Cooking on the cheap (OK, inexpensive) -- and on the fly

Posted by Nancy Leson


In today's NWFood&Wine pages, we discuss ways to eat well on the cheap -- an idea started right here on All You Can Eat. Today, I'll add to that (and hope you will, too), by turning you on to one of my favorite quick-and-easy meals: one that can be put together in less than a half-hour, prep time included and can be prepared with everything from rotisserie chicken, to tofu and vegetables, to the sale-priced flank steak I bought at QFC yesterday, or with leftover whatevers. It's my take on Vietnamese Summer Rolls, a roll-your-own extravaganza of deliciousness:

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April 29, 2008 7:00 AM

Use, reuse: One (wo)man's trash is another's treasure

Posted by Nancy Leson


It is easy being green -- most of the time. And though I'm far from a maniacal recycler, there are some things I just can't bear to throw away. Like those square-ish bottles the cheap-but-delicous Trader Joe's Balsamic Vinegar comes in. When the balsamico runs out, it makes a great bottle for leftover wine. That way, when I'm cooking and I need a little wine to deglaze a pan -- voila! There's always some ready to pour:

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April 24, 2008 4:30 PM

Market Street Grill, pizza and burgers (again)

Posted by Nancy Leson


Arnel Sta. Maria asks: "I went to the Market Street Grill in Ballard last month for the 30 for $30 to have their fantastic truffled fries with their rib eye steak. While I was there, the server said that they're going to be going under new management in a month. Have you heard this?"

Nope, Arnel. I'm professionally embarassed to say that was news to me. And for those of you who haven't been around long enough recall its grand opening, allow me to mention that Market Street Grill was among the first yupscale restaurants to scale the bar-and-bistro heights of Ballard. (Mind you, this was in 2000, back before Ballard became "the new Belltown" and way before Georgetown became the "new Ballard.")

Well, after several fruitless calls to the place over the past week, I finally drove over there to see what was up. And what's up is that Market Street has gone down -- it's been closed for about two weeks. The storefront windows are papered over, the bar and its booze are covered in construction dust and I've heard diddly-squat from longtime owner John Sillers (John? John? Whither art thou -- and Kendell?). Meanwhile, Marin Maranov, the new owner, was kind enough to stop ripping the place apart and talk to me for a few minutes about what was going on there.

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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 22, 2008 4:41 PM

Two Bells Burgers: love 'em. You?

Posted by Nancy Leson

There are people who go to the Two Bells , just off the corner of Fourth and Bell, to sit at the scarred bar and hoist a beer. Or meet their business-pals for the day's sandwich special (egg salad, grilled Reuben). Some even show up for Sunday brunch. I go -- but no where near as often as I should -- for lunch, to see just how well a fresh baguette can hold up to the fabulous fat that pours from the Bells' appropriately "famous" burgers. The answer: very well, thank you. Now you might suggest that a burger on a baguette is not a burger, but trust me, you'd be wrong. Besides, that baguette, baked right up the block at Boulangerie Nantaise and strengthened by plenty of whole wheat, turns what might otherwise be a glorious mess into a visually elegant one: a two thick-napkin extravaganza of beefy ground round:



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April 22, 2008 7:15 AM

Who do ya love?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Last night, because our evening went sideways, timewise, my husband suggested we go out for dinner. When our son made a bid for his favorite Chinese restaurant, Szechuan 99, we agreed. The atmosphere at this little Lynnwood haunt may leave something to be desired (hello, 1970's!), but they've got several dishes we're collectively addicted to, like the tea smoked duck, hand-shaven noodles and Szechuan 99 Fish (I'm nuts about the housemade soft tofu, but my boys don't do tofu). Yet the main draw here, for me at least, is this guy, Charlie, seen here holding our fish:



The look on his face says it all: Charlie likes his job. And when a waiter is as helpful and friendly as this guy -- who frequently holds down the fort solo, but rarely stops smiling no matter how busy he gets -- it adds a lot to the dining experience. So, I'm asking: What waiter (or waitress) makes your day and keeps you coming back for more? And where can we find them?

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April 21, 2008 4:35 PM

Duskie, John, and Zoi: Top Chefs from Seattle cookin' in Sonoma County

Posted by Nancy Leson

I recently made a quick trip to Northern California to help my "wicked" stepmother, Betty, move from the home she'd shared with my (dearly departed) dad. Knowing the trip would be a lot of fun (not!), and that I'd be arriving in Santa Rosa at 8:30 on a Friday night, I decided to start the weekend right and made reservations for dinner at Zazu.

Zazu Restaurant & Farm, a short ride from the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, is owned by Duskie Estes and her husband, John Stewart -- both veterans of Tom Douglas Restaurants. It's a place I've always heard about but never been to. So while I'm sorry my stepmother had to move out of the house she and my dad shared for 25 years in Novato, I'm glad I now have a restaurant with a Seattle connection only 10 minutes from her new home in Santa Rosa. And she's glad, too, because I introduced her to Duskie, who's about as warm a human being as anyone can ever hope to meet:

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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 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 11, 2008 10:00 AM

Oyster Bar Round-up: Yee-haw! Get along, little kumas

Posted by Nancy Leson


Here's my April restaurant round-up: a half-dozen Seattle oyster bars where I found heaven on a half-shell.

Man, I ate so many oysters in the last couple of weeks, I almost had my fill.

I ate big ones, and small ones:



And oysters paired with beer in mini-steins:


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April 11, 2008 7:58 AM

Weekend project: Makin' Marmalade. Easy, schmeasy

Posted by Nancy Leson

You never know what riches you'll find at Big John's PFI. On a recent foray, I came across a can of Hartley's Ma Made Thick Cut Seville Oranges, stamped with the words "Just Add Sugar and Water." On closer inspection, it promised "6 Lbs of Delicious Homemade Marmalade in Just 30 Minutes" for $9.50.



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April 9, 2008 4:51 PM

I went. I saw. I Taste(d) Washington! (And yes, I loved it.)

Posted by Nancy Leson

I don't drink alot, but I do drink frequently. And I did just that last Sunday. With a glass in my hand and my camera in my pocket, I spent several hours at the Grand Tasting at Taste Washington! -- an event that capped-off of a weekend of serious Washingon wine enthusiasm for folks from near and far. Having attended this Sip-and-Nosh-O-Rama (after a decade of ignoring it), I'm finally willing to grant the wine weenies behind Taste Washington! their exclamation point.

What a bonanza! There was food, wine, friends, fun. And if you think I sound like a tush-kissing media-type who bought into the Washington Wine Commission's hype, then you obviously weren't with me as I strolled the spacious miles of aisles at the Qwest Field Event Center, trying to curb my enthusiasm while successfully sipping my way through a crowd of 3500 attendees. Here's a "Taste" of the action:


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April 9, 2008 7:00 AM

Gator Aide

Posted by Nancy Leson


Late Monday afternoon, I was in a very bad mood as I was driving up Lake City Way heading into Lake Forest Park. But that all changed after a restaurant's "Grand Opening" sign caught my eye.



Actually, it was the fancy-pants trailer rig parked next to the roadside joint that caught my eye first, but it was the fact that both the rig and the shack bore the words "gator" that led me to make a U-turn. I wasn't the least bit hungry, but I knew that to drive by this place without stopping to investigate would be a crime.


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April 8, 2008 7:00 AM

New restaurants

Posted by Nancy Leson

Am I the only one annoyed by "Grand Opening" banners on restaurants that have been open for six months -- or more? I'm betting I'm not. Here's a prime example: Bada Sushi in Shoreline, open since September and still flying the flag seven months later. Granted, those banners are inexpensive ways to advertise a new (or newish) place. And I can appreciate that. In fact, I'll do so in newsprint -- and in a post -- tomorrow, when I rave about a place whose "grand opening" five weeks ago was clearly that.

So, here's my plan: Let's use this post as a meeting place for comments about new restaurants. See someplace new? Share the news right here. Give me the who, what, when and where -- along with the "whaddaya think" if you've eaten there.

As for those "Grand Opening" banners? I suggest we give newbies three months to keep their banners flying -- unless I hear from folks who disagree on that length and can back up why we should give 'em more or less time to fly the just-opened flag. After that, we'll post violations (Bada! You're on the list!).

OK, here we go:

NEW RESTAURANTS

Casper's Everglades Supper Shack, a Southern sensation at 15030 Bothell Way N.E. in Lake Forest Park, (206) 268-0202, www.eatmoregator.com, open five weeks. Gotta get: the gator. Don't miss: the banana pudding. Eat in or take-out.

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April 7, 2008 7:55 AM

They double-dog-dared me

Posted by Nancy Leson

On Saturday, I went to Science Art & More near 65th and Roosevelt -- which is a great store if you've got a kid who's interested in the aforementioned. While buying a flu bug (don't ask) and some petri dishes, I saw these snacks for sale by the register:


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April 3, 2008 7:15 AM

The Bagel from Outerspace

Posted by Nancy Leson

Here at the office, there's often something to nosh on: Girl Scout cookies, Top Pot donuts (when someone's feeling flush), CeCe Sullivan's Times-tested recipes, strange candies brought back from exotic travels, and of course, bagels. Yesterday was a bagel day, courtesy of a features-staffer who was kind enough to bring in a dozen Safeway bagels to share with the rest of us deadline-driven drones. When the clock striked "lunch" I fished around in the paper bag -- the one imprinted with "New York Style Bagels" -- and snagged the last one. Here it is, posing on coffee saucer just so you can see its monumental scale. I measured it with a copy editor's ruler just for kicks: nearly six inches across.

Beggars can't be choosers, and seeing as this was my lunch, the bagel was a Godsend. But a "New York style" bagel? Get outta town. In my opinion, the only bagels around here that come remotely close to the real deal are the ones sold at Bagel Oasis on 65th. Anybody want to beg to differ?

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April 2, 2008 12:04 PM

Aw, shucks

Posted by Nancy Leson

Here it is: the cutest oyster I've seen in I-don't-know-when. Delicious, too. Any guesses as to what, exactly, I'm holding in my hand? Come on, you slurping sophisticates, impress me. Operators are standing by!

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March 31, 2008 11:22 AM

Pike Place Market: How lucky can we get?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've spent many column inches over the years writing about how much I love Pike Place Market, and it's no word of a lie: I'm crazy about the place.

I just don't get it when people tell me they only go to the Market when they've got friends or family visiting from out of town. Yes, I know there are fabulous farmer's markets everywhere these days, and there's no question that some of our amazing supermarkets are one-stop shopping places with scads of free parking, but to me, nothing -- nothing -- beats Pike Place Market.

If you haven't been there for a while (or worse, never been there), let me share my Market with you. . .

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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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