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November 7, 2011 10:08 AM

Talk about Seattle and food? Will do, November 10. Coming?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Whatcha doing Thursday evening? The Seattle Times, in conjunction with the Seattle Public Library, is hosting a conversation about my favorite subject: our local food scene. Join us from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Microsoft Auditorium at the Central Library (1000 Fourth Avenue) where I'll be taking part in what will surely be a lively discussion -- with Q&A after. You'll find me on stage with a quartet of food-crazy folks whose names, faces and bylines should be familiar ones.


We eat. We write. We talk. We want you to come join us! The evening's free. More info here.

Above, from left, our panel moderator and former Seattle Times food writer Karen Gaudette (now writing and editing for PCC Natural Markets); Kathy Casey (chef, mixologist and entrepreneur whose recipes frequently appear in the Seattle Times); Greg Atkinson (the author, chef, radio commentator and soon-to-be-restaurateur, who regularly writes the Taste column in our Pacific Northwest magazine) and Matthew Amster-Burton (who's penned his share of Seattle Times features and restaurant reviews and authored "Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater").

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September 26, 2011 12:05 PM

"Tomatoland" author Barry Estabrook in Seattle

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's not easy being green. Unless you're a Florida tomato: a crop that accounts for one-third of the fresh tomatoes grown in the U.S. and 90 percent of the tomatoes sold nationwide throughout winter months. As James Beard Award-winning investigative journalist Barry Estabrook tells it in "Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit," the Florida tomato industry is ripe with agricultural-, environmental- and some very personal horrors that come at a cost none of us can afford. But the good news is he and others whose fine work he's chronicled are helping change that.


Read it, and weep.

This week, Estabrook travels to Seattle, where tomorrow, September 27, he'll speak at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Continue reading this post ...


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May 24, 2011 11:01 AM

World MS Day Seattle: Teach your children, lend a hand

Posted by Nancy Leson

William Khazaal has been a busy guy. Last time we spoke, he and his mother and sisters were preparing to reopen Phoenecia, bringing new life to their Alki restaurant following the death of the family patriarch, chef and restaurateur Hussein Khazaal. Since then, William's been hard at work at the University of Washington, studying entrepreneurship and marketing at the Foster School of Business.

This week, the father of two is celebrating his 37th birthday, and with the help of scores of Seattle restaurants and other supporters, is raising funds in honor of World MS Day. Dine out at participating restaurants Wednesday, May 25, and a portion of your bill's proceeds will support the publication and distribution of "The MS Children's Book" -- a kids'-eye view of what it's like to live with Multiple Sclerosis. Additional funds will help organizations fighting the neurological disease: the National Pediatric MS Center, the National MS Society, and the CCSVI Alliance.

"When I was diagnosed in 2009, my eldest son, Gabriel, who was five at the time, was scared," William recalls. "He'd see me at my worst, on days when I had no energy, and he'd ask questions like, `Are you going to die?'" MS, William says, strikes everyone differently, but for him the disease can sometimes feel like having a monster on your back. And that's exactly the way it's portrayed in his "Dr. Seuss-y" book, which is designed to provide greater understanding for children like Gabriel, whose lives are affected by MS.



Scenes from The MS Children's Book: making "scary" not so scary. [courtesy The MS Children's Book]

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January 11, 2011 7:00 PM

Michael Pollan "In Defense of Food: The Omnivore's Solution"

Posted by Nancy Leson

When Michael Pollan arrives in Seattle this week to talk food politics at Benaroya Hall, he'll be preaching to the choir. Here, many of us dine with religious fervor and pray at the altar of neighborhood farmers markets. Our bible? Pollan's books: "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food."

His commandments: "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual" in which he leads us not into temptation, decrying "Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk," "If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't" and (bless him!) "Have a glass of wine with dinner."

He's a star of stage and screen -- witness the Oscar-nominated documentary "Food, Inc." But he's also the kind of guy you'd want to invite to dinner. Now, before you rush out to buy a couple of grass-fed Thundering Hooves T-bones, hear this:

"I'm not that hard to please," insists one of Time magazine's most influential people of 2010. "I never ask the provenance of the meat, or 'Is this organic?' I pretty much eat what people put in front of me."



Michael Pollan returns to Seattle this week to speak at Benaroya Hall Saturday, January 15.
[Seattle Times/John Lok]

Pollan's son, Isaac, was one of those finicky kids who ate only white food, a common childhood quirk that piqued Pollan's own interest in how -- and what -- we eat, notes the University of California, Berkeley, professor. Isaac's teenage turnaround was precipitated by an internship at "our local luncheonette" (cough, Chez Panisse).

Continue reading this post ...


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August 26, 2010 9:22 AM

Seattle chefs dish it out for Shorewood Culinary Arts kids

Posted by Nancy Leson

Six Seattle chefs are putting the "fun" in fundraiser, lending a hand to high schoolers at the Shorewood Culinary Arts program by preparing a special Harvest Dinner Friday, September 10. Taking part are some of the best in the business:


From left: Maria Hines (Tilth), Holly Smith (Cafe Juanita), John Sundstrom (Lark/Licorous), Jerry Traunfeld (Poppy), Dana Tough and Brian McCracken (Spur Gastropub/Tavern Law)


The event begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails at a private home in Shoreline's Innis Arden neighborhood, where the high-profile chefs will prepare an intimate dinner for 50. Proceeds from the a multi-course meal fund the high school's long-running culinary arts program and a major expansion of its Master Gardener's Youth Education Garden located on the Shorewood campus. At $200 per person, the price may sound steep, but considering the talent on hand and the cause that inspired them to be there, it's a ticket worth securing -- via the King County Master Gardener Foundation Web site, here.

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August 20, 2010 12:37 PM

Seattle Restaurant Week: Round 2, Food Lifeline and you

Posted by Nancy Leson

More than 120 Seattle restaurants are gearing up for round two of Seattle Restaurant Week set for Sundays through Thursdays October 17 through 28. (Yeah, yeah, I know: that's two weeks, but who's counting?)

Restaurant Week made its debut in April, with 106 restaurants throughout King County offering $25 three-course dinners while some added $15 three-course lunches. To celebrate the upcoming fall promotion -- and convince you to mark your calenders -- the group is holding a fundraiser next Tuesday, August 24 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Show up (at the corner of Western Avenue and Broad Streets) and you'll have a chance to rub elbows with 100-plus chefs as they gather for a photo-shoot and take part in a community food drive to benefit Food Lifeline. Representatives from the local hunger-relief agency will be on hand to accept donations of non-perishable food items or monetary contributions.

And get this: In exchange for every item collected or dollar donated you'll receive a raffle ticket. The prize, drawn at 11 a.m., is $1000 in gift certificates from participating restaurants. The Seattle Times is an organizing sponsor.



For the inaugural Seattle Restaurant Week, chefs gathered at Gas Works Park. Recognize anybody? I do. [photo courtesy Seattle Restaurant Cooperative]

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June 8, 2010 12:43 PM

Pink Door's "la padrona": I have MS, and life's still a cabaret

Posted by Nancy Leson

For the Pink Door's "la padrona" -- stage name Jacquelina di Roberto -- life is a cabaret: literally. At her Post Alley trattoria, Jackie Roberts opens the pink door to anyone willing to step through it and buy into the magic. That magic, the one she's been selling for nearly 30 years, is food, drink and entertainment. The Pink Door's mood owns the spotlight here in Pike Place Market, taking its musical cue from the theater, cabaret culture, bawdy burlesque.

Why, yes, that is a trapeze artist swinging from the rafters while you eat your antipasti. And no, this is not Teatro ZinZanni, but its lower-key forerunner: a ristorante e bar known for its flamboyant owner, its romantic rooftop overlooking Elliott Bay and its enormous entertainment value. Willkommen to the Pink Door, kept very much alive by a padrona whose taste for life is insatiable, though that life has taken a turn since she was diagnosed six months ago with Multiple Sclerosis.



The Pink Door's Jacquelina di Roberto says, "Life is a cabaret. Or a cabernet. Whichever comes first!" [photo of Jackie by Steve Smrstik]

Continue reading this post ...


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June 7, 2010 10:12 AM

Monday, Monday, so bad to me

Posted by Nancy Leson

Don't you just hate it when you eat an absolutely delicious dinner and next thing you know it's the wee hours and you're clutching your stomach and saying, "Uh-oh!" That was me early this morning and I have no one to blame but myself: I ate at home. So I plan to spend the day laying low, knocking back tea and saltines (or any other recipe for revival you might suggest).

Which is too bad for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I was planning on telling you all about Jackie Robert's Festa per la Salute! -- a "party for health" (I'll drink to that) and upcoming fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis to be held at The Pink Door in Pike Place Market Sunday evening, June 27. Jackie and I had a long chat late last week, and I'll tell you more about what's up when I'm up.

However, I did arise long enough to look at today's Seattle Times, where I read my pal Marc Ramirez's story about Seattle's urban farms. Go make yourself a cup of tea and you can read it right here. We'll talk soon, OK?

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March 31, 2010 9:15 AM

Tickets Paramount at Seattle Weekly's eat & drink award-fest

Posted by Nancy Leson

Hey kids! Those Voracious types at Seattle Weekly are putting on a show at the Paramount Theatre April 14. They're calling it the inaugural Voracious Tasting and Food Awards. The food-focused festivities begin at 7 p.m. with plenty of schmoozing (chefs from 40 restaurants are providing the "tasting") and boozing (with a lineup of cocktail movers and shakers doing their duty at the open bar).

In addition to the presentation of food awards for innovation, sustainability and for livin' la vita e Pellegrini, they're promising an Iron Chef-style showdown pitting a pair of International Culinary School students from the Art Institute of Seattle against a couple of pros. Spinasse's Jason Stratton and culinary scholar Sara Harvey will take on Emmer & Rye's Seth Caswell and Joshua Schimmel-Bristow.

A portion of your $25 advance ticket benefits the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance. Buy it here by April 12, otherwise it's $35 at the door on awards-night.



As the late Angelo Pellegrini might say: "Food? Wine? I'll drink to that!"

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January 28, 2010 11:19 AM

Raising dough for Haiti: generosity comes in small slices

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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

Continue reading this post ...


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January 27, 2010 2:22 PM

The State of the Onion. I mean Union. Listen, talk, eat, drink.

Posted by Nancy Leson

Tonight at 6 p.m. the Seattle Times is hosting a live discussion of President Obama's State of the Union Address, bringing together op-ed columnists from the Seattle Times, The Kansas City Star and Florida's Scripps Treasure Coast newspapers, plus politicians who sit on various sides of the fence. You can join the discussion via seattletimes.com or Twitter (details here).

OK, now that I paid my dues to the paper that pays my dues, here's another idea. Why not listen to the live address at a far more local Capitol Hill address: 1117 12th Avenue -- home to Seattle's Cafe Presse. Forget Euro-football, for tonight at least. Chef/owner Jim Drohman's inviting all comers to watch Obama's live broadcast. While you're at it, feel free to spoon into some French onion soup, nibble charcuterie or knock back whatever else FLOTUS your boat from his casse croute menu. No cover, says Big Jim, though you'll have to pony up for food and drink. And as ever, the political discourse is free.


Jim says: "We'll watch. We'll eat. We'll drink. We'll talk -- perhaps over a small pichet?" [Seattle Times photo/Ken Lambert]

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January 20, 2010 12:08 PM

More Seattle-area restaurants for Haiti relief

Posted by Nancy Leson

Yesterday, I offered a list of local restaurants holding fundraisers for Haiti. And as I anticipated, many more were in the works. Here's an update:

Purple Cafe & Wine Bar and Barrio restaurants are accepting donations for UNICEF's Haiti relief fund now through Sunday, January 24. Corporate owners Heavy Restaurant Group will match a percentage of those donations.

Thursday, January 21: Pan Africa Restaurant near Pike Place Market is hosting a fundraising dinner. Call 206-652-2461 for reservations.

Saturday January 23: ART Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle will donate 10 percent of all dinner bills (before tax and tip) to Red Cross. Monies raised will be sent as part of a large corporate donation from Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.

Sunday, January 24: A number of area restaurants, including Quinn's Pub, Restaurant Zoe, Dinette (mentioned yesterday), Le Gourmand and La Rustica will donate a percentage of the night's proceeds for a group donation to NetHope. Skylark Cafe & Club will donate a portion of brunch proceeds. More on that effort here.

Monday, January 25: Bengal Tiger Cuisine of India is hosting a buffet dinner from 5-10 p.m. ($14.95 per person), with 50 percent of proceeds going to World Vision.

Wednesday, January 27: Sushi Joa on Mercer Island will donate 20 percent of all restaurant sales to the Red Cross.

Wednesday, January 27: LTD Bar & Grill is hosting a fundraiser from 5 p.m. till close. All proceeds from draft beer sales will be donated to Mercy Corps. There will also be raffle prizes, donation jars and complimentary snacks!

Sunday, January 31: Mercer Island's Cellar 46 wine bar and restaurant is hosting "Turning Wine into Water" -- with all proceeds from wine sales sent to Haiti for water, food and medical supplies. The event begins at 5 p.m. and includes live music, food, wine-tasting and a wine auction. Individual donations will be collected at the door.


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January 19, 2010 8:16 AM

Haiti relief: help Seattle restaurants help raise funds

Posted by Nancy Leson

This week and next, local restaurants are extending a hand to Haiti with a variety of fundraisers and other ways to donate-by-dining. I expect there are many more restaurants with plans to help those who are helping raise funds -- and hope -- for the earthquake-ravaged country in the days and weeks to come. Please feel free to add to the list via my comments-box, or contact me directly via e-mail at nleson@seattletimes.com with details of events not listed. I'll add them in an update. [1/20/10 12:10 p.m. list updated here.]



Amid the catastrophe: Smiles of joy and celebration when Gladys Louis Jeune is pulled from the rubble of her home in Port-au-Prince (AP photo/Patrick Farrell).

Here's the list (as I know it) so far:

Continue reading this post ...


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January 14, 2010 9:49 AM

Red Mill Burgers donates profits, I donate onion rings recipe

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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



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

Continue reading this post ...


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January 12, 2010 9:00 AM

A little bird told me: let's tweetup at Renton's Senior Center

Posted by Nancy Leson

Hey, what are you doing January 29? How about meeting me at the Renton Senior Activity Center where I'll be lending a hand from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m., doing my part to contribute to the Seattle Times Fund for the Needy. Now in its 30th year, the Seattle Times annual fundraiser benefits 13 local, non-profit agencies -- Senior Services among them.

Together we'll chat with Southend seniors, serve lunch, work in the coffee shop and assist with administrative tasks. The center can accommodate only 25 volunteers, so the first to answer the call via Twtvite (it's like Evite, only tweetier) are in. I'll be sending out a link to the invitation in a bit on my Twitter feed, so stay tuned.

It's about time I met some of you in person, don't you think? And I love the idea of my Twitter community helping me help area seniors. What's more, I'm thinking that after, I might finally get my chance to check Uwajimaya's new Renton location, open since July. (You in?)


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January 11, 2010 3:28 PM

Jane and Michael Stern talk Roadfood: tonight and tomorrow

Posted by Nancy Leson

Before there was Chowhound, Yelp, the fooderati on Twitter and that spiky-haired blond guy on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," food writers Jane and Michael Stern made it their mission to take our tastebuds on a cross-country tour. Armed with prodigious appetites, useless roadmaps and plenty of Alka-Seltzer, they've spent more than 30 years on our highways and byways, eating as much as 12 meals a day during some 200 annual road trips.

They've made it their mission to stop for the likes of chess pie and pig's ear sandwiches along every turn in the road. She hates ketchup. He loves kishke and together they've traveled to joints with names like Putz's Creamy Whip, fending off waitresses offering "Jewish tea" (er, that's "Do you wish tea?") and attempting to avoid the worst of the no-tell motels.

When they're not on the road, gathering material for their Roadfood books and Web site, they're on the radio -- dishing with Lynne Rossetto Kasper on "The Splendid Table." You've read their columns in "Gourmet," seen them on "CBS This Morning" and portrayed on the Lifetime movie "Ambulance Girl," based on Jane's memoir of a food writer turned small town EMT.

Today, they're in Seattle talking about their favorite subject: eating. And it's not too late to join the conversation tonight at 6 p.m. when they're hosting a benefit dinner for Seattle Arts & Lectures at the Palace Ballroom. Or you can catch them tomorrow, January 12, when they'll be yukking it up with a lively lecture at 7:30 p.m. at Benaroya Hall (tickets available at the door for both events, or via the SAL Web site: details here).



Jane and Michael, doing what they do best (AP photo/Jim Cooper).


Last week, I had a chance to chew the fat with my fellow food-loving fressers, comparing notes on eating for a living during a coast-to-coast phone chat from their home base in Connecticut -- with Jane's French bulldog Elmer listening in. Here's what they had to say:

Continue reading this post ...


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December 8, 2009 5:07 AM

Guy Fieri Roadshow: Q&A with Food Network's dive dude

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's 9 a.m. on a Tuesday and Guy Fieri is on the phone. You might know him as the "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" dude. The one with the spiky blond hair, the classic cars and the penchant for driving -- then diving -- face-first into gutbusters like the ham-and-egg-stuffed "Chinese pancake" at Seattle's Voula's Offshore Cafe. When we talked, he was six shows into his month-long, 21-city culinary rock 'n roll roadshow, set to park at the Moore Theatre December 11 (ticket info here).



Guy Fieri, hitting the culinary road-tour. Photo courtesy Alan Poulin


And no, he hadn't had enough coffee yet when I asked:

Q: Where are you?

A: In a car in L.A. going to do voice-overs for Triple D [that's shorthand for the show that made Voula Vlahos, among other local restaurant owners, a national sensation], then it's off to a whirlwind of attorneys -- the price is right! -- and I'm flying to Milwaukee.

Q: You hawked pretzels from a three-wheeled bicycle cart as a kid. And later you studied as an exchange student in France. So I have to know: When it comes to mustard, what's your squirt: French's, Gulden's or Grey Poupon?

A: As a kid, with my Awesome Pretzel business it was French's all day long. You can't get away from that color. For a traditional deli sandwich, you go with Gulden's. But [after] living in France, it's Grey Poupon. It's impossible to choose. If you looked in my fridge you'd see maybe 12 different mustards.


Continue reading this post ...


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November 23, 2009 8:14 AM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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

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

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November 12, 2009 10:56 AM

"Food for Thought Live!" on stage: Listen tonight on KPLU

Posted by Nancy Leson

Well, I'm heading out to rehearsal for tonight's fun-filled stage-show production of "Food for Thought Live!" at the Museum of History and Industry. I'll be performing with a cast of crazy characters -- including my radio sidekick, Dick Stein (you may know him as "Jimmy Jazzoid, DJ Detective!"). Too bad the show's sold out (thanks, KPLU listeners) but you can tune in to KPLU (88.5 FM) tonight at 8 to hear the live broadcast -- available via podcast, later. We'll be taking to the MOHAI stage for food-centric skits, songs (with the Fabulous Fenderskirts), yakking it up with chef-celebs (Tamara Murphy! Thierry Rautureau!) and with our audience. Wish me break-a-leg!


In the kitchen with Stein and Leson, cooking up some "Food for Thought."

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November 9, 2009 1:04 PM

Duke's giving it away again: chowder to the people

Posted by Nancy Leson

Quick on the heels of his latest giveaway (9000 chocolate chip cookies, doled out in the two weeks prior to Halloween), Duke Moscrip plans to shower the people with "Award Winning Clam Chowder." In honor of International Chowder Day (say, Duke, what other nations are involved?) Chowder House crews will be dishing out 1,000 complimentary cups of chowder on Thursday, November 12 "all day, all night at all six Duke's locations" -- while supplies last. Armed with the knowledge that there's no such thing as a free lunch, I shot Duke an e-mail and asked, so what's the catch?


Don't hide! Come out and get some chowder, says Duke.

Continue reading this post ...


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October 29, 2009 1:38 PM

We celebrate Northwest oysters, Louisiana's get raw deal

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

Continue reading this post ...


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October 15, 2009 9:55 AM

Food Summit at Town Hall Seattle: food politics, discussed

Posted by Nancy Leson

You've sat alone and read "Fast Food Nation," devoured "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and read with awe a novel(ist's) take on eating local in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." Maybe you've viewed "Food, Inc." or sat around a table with friends and family discussing the state of our food systems and farm-workers over a cup of fair trade coffee and homemade bread. Or perhaps you've done exactly none of that, yet want to learn more about how we we can better the way we eat. Well, then: you're invited to the Food Summit at Town Hall Seattle, held Wednesday, October 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. That's when Erika Lesser, executive director of Slow Food USA leads a discussion that examines the question: "Good, clean, fair food: Can we have it all?"



Boiling and canning cane sugar is a slow food process, but it's one well worth waiting for.

Continue reading this post ...


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October 7, 2009 1:00 AM

On stage at MOHAI, it's Food for Thought Live! You coming?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Say, what are you doing Thursday, November 12 at 8 pm? That's when my jive-talking radio sidekick Dick Stein and I -- and not a few of our talented friends -- will take to the stage at Seattle's Museum of History & Industry to cook up some fun with a live radio broadcast. So, how do you get a ticket to "Food for Thought Live!" -- an evening of food-focused skits (lard balls, anyone?), juicy jazz (the Fabulous Fenderskirts!) and (if I know Stein) a whole lot of chop busting? You've got to support 88.5 KPLU during their fall fund drive, October 7-12. Operators are standing by, so call 800-NPR-KPLU or pledge online. Call before midnight and there's a Ginsu knife with your name on it! Or something like that.



Stein and I, taking a wok on the wild side in his well-equipped kitchen.

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August 24, 2009 10:41 AM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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



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

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August 13, 2009 2:57 PM

Is Seattle the "Big Cheese"?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Kurt Dammeier, the big cheese from Beecher's (among local food ventures old and new) sent news announcing the American Cheese Society is holding its 27th annual conference a year from now. Oh, and by the way, he said: last week at the 2009 cheese conference in Austin, 1,327 cheeses were entered in the annual competition and five out of six Beecher's entries were flagged as winners.

As co-chair of next year's event, the not-so-stinky-cheese man wants me (and by "me" he means "you") to know the public's invited to the "Cheese Oscars" at Benaroya Hall during the four-day shindig on August 28, 2010. (Way to keep ahead of the "save the date"-curve Kurt!) That's when 1000 paid-up ticket-holders can stroll the red carpet leading to "a food, wine and cheese extravaganza," said Dammeier, who's talking 1300 cheeses -- one of which, I hope, is the Willapa Hills Ewe Moon I ate for lunch today along with a can of Roland's spicy octopus with vegetables ($2.25 at Big John's PFI). So, is Seattle the nation's "Big Cheese"? Dammeier thinks so, as he explains with this fun video-postcard from our fair city. What do you think?


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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 31, 2009 9:46 AM

Bumbershoot "Food for Thought" contest deadline looms

Posted by Nancy Leson

Just a reminder to those of you who haven't already put your fingers to your keyboard. The deadline for Bumbershoot's "Food for Thought" contest, is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, August 2 (for all the details and an electronic entry form, open this link). To enter, compose a short essay (500-word max) focused on a memorable food experience -- pleasant or not so much.

The winning entry, judged by Tom Douglas and Kathleen Flinn, will be read by Flinn (author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry") as part of Bumbershoot's literary feast "F is for Food," held Saturday September 5th (noon-1:15 p.m.). But wait! There's more! The Seattle Times will publish the winning essay and treat winner and a guest to a Bumbershoot extravaganza: two Platinum VIP passes. I'd sure love to see one of my Eaters win, so get on it, folks.



Here comes the judge(s). Photo/ www.bumbershoot.org


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July 21, 2009 11:55 PM

Bivalve Bash: fun in the sun on Samish Bay

Posted by Nancy Leson

Sure, you can go to oyster bars all over town and knock back a dozen oysters on the half-shell, eat clams and mussels steamed at restaurants everywhere and bake yourself some fresh berry shortcake at home. But when it comes eating all of the above -- and then some -- there's no better place to do so than the annual Samish Bay Bivalve Bash and Low-Tide Mud Run, set for Saturday July 25 at Taylor Shellfish Farms in beautiful Bow, Washington. Trust me: you can get mighty hungry and work up a mean thirst after watching hundreds of runners get stuck in the muck on the Samish Bay mudflats (wanna run? quick! register here).



Ready, set, go! (photo/Jon Rowley)

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July 14, 2009 12:34 PM

"Food, Inc." screens at Guild 45th, compliments of Chipotle

Posted by Nancy Leson

So, you think fast-food chain restaurants are all "bad"? There's one that's doing its part to do good -- by screening the critically-acclaimed film documentary "Food, Inc." in 32 cities nationwide: Chipotle Mexican Grill . Chipotle promises "Food With Integrity" and its mission is to change the way Americans think about and eat fast-food. Putting their money where their mouth is, they're encouraging everyone to go see the movie and consider its implications, offering free admission to Seattle's Guild 45th Thursday July 16 at 7:30 p.m. Seats are first-come first-served, so be sure to show up early if you hope to score one. Might I suggest a taco or burrito before or after? Perhaps at your local Chipotle?


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July 9, 2009 1:21 PM

Carole King rocks WA Wine Weekend for Camp Korey

Posted by Nancy Leson

So, what would you do if you came into an unexpected $1000? In this economy, I'm certain most of us would be far more inclined to pay the bills -- or sock it away "just in case" -- than spend it on a day of food, wine and song. But imagine for a minute that you were well-off, or exceedingly generous, or both. And that you could afford to spend Saturday at the Washington Wines Festival, a benefit held on the verdant campus of Carnation Farm.

Once there, you can drink wines from 50 Washington wineries, eat fancy foodstuffs and donate your money to a seriously worthy cause: Camp Korey -- offering free, medically-supervised week-long summer camps for children with life-threatening illnesses (funds will also support the Washington Wine Education Foundation). Now, what if, come evening, you could settle in with a glass of wine and listen to the woman who recorded the first album you ever bought with your own hard-earned babysitting money as she sits at the piano singing, "Tonight you're mine, completely. You give your love so sweetly. . ."


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June 12, 2009 1:13 PM

What's in it for zoo: 3-year-old hosts fundraiser at Elemental

Posted by Nancy Leson

It's not uncommon to find a young boy holding a wild animal close to his heart. Lions and tigers and bears -- among other stuffed animals -- are beloved by "kids" of all ages. My husband still has scores of his childhood friends whose fur coats resemble that of the latter-day Velveteen Rabbit. A lucky few (see: Toy Story) reside alongside our son's prodigious wildlife collection today. But 3-year-old Lucas Engles-Klann's adoration of animals goes well beyond inanimate objects-of-affection. Which is why the self-proclaimed vegetarian is hosting his second annual Woodland Park Zoo fundraiser, to be held Sunday June 28th from 3 to 9 p.m. at Elemental and Elemental Next Door.



Domestic wildlife, beloved by kids of all ages.

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June 1, 2009 5:15 PM

Basketball queens stormin' Queen Anne pizza parlor

Posted by Nancy Leson

Who: Pagliacci and Seattle Storm
What: Storm serving slices - Seattle Storm players will be serving slices @ QA Paliacci
When: Wednesday, June 3, 5p.m.-6p.m.; during that hour, buy a slice and get the second for $1.50
Where: Queen Anne Pagliacci (550 Queen Anne Ave. N. Seattle)
Why: Pagliacci and Seattle Storm each celebrating big anniversaries: This year Pagliacci celebrates its 30th and the Storm celebrates its 10th WNBA season in Seattle.

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May 27, 2009 8:12 AM

Bourdain vs. Batali at the Paramount. After?

Posted by Nancy Leson

My Seattle Times sis Nicole Tsong interviewed Tony Bourdain in advance of his Paramount stage-dance with homeboy Mario Batali, May 30 (ticket info here). And now, inquiring minds want to know: If you had the pleasure to take them out to eat and drink after the show (and I have reason to believe it would be), where would you go? My vote: the counter at Elemental @ Gasworks, where we'd let Phred and Laurie have their way with us.

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May 20, 2009 9:57 AM

Mangia Mangalitsa at Monsoon and Spring Hill event-kickoff

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've already told you about the famous Wooly Pigs -- prized for fat so luscious it's known to cause those who've tasted it to burst out in song. Wanna taste some? Check this out: sibling-chef team Eric and Sophie Banh along with Monsoon's Johnny Zhu, and Food & Wine's 2009 "Best New Chef" Mark Fuller of West Seattle's Spring Hill are hosting the first of a series of monthly themed dinners. Those multi-course meals commence at Monsoon East on Capitol Hill May 27. The theme for their kickoff event? Mangalitsa pig.



We serve no swine before it's time: the "before" shot (photo: Wooly Pigs)

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April 28, 2009 7:06 AM

Dining Out For Life -- Leson's restaurant parlor game (play along!)

Posted by Nancy Leson

On Thursday, April 30th, restaurants around town are banding together once again to help in the fight against HIV and AIDS, donating 30 percent of all proceeds to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. Dine out for life at participating restaurants and you, too, will be donating to the (local) cause. I just had a look at the big, long list -- one that includes restaurants I've never been to, plenty I haven't been to in way too long, and others I regularly frequent and never need an excuse to go back to. Which got me thinking: let's play a parlor game! Grab a pen and paper (in case you forgot, a pen is a writing implement with ink in it, paper is a small portable surface made from dead trees). The rules?

1) Review the Dining Out For Life participants: open this link
2) Make three lists, choosing five restaurants for each for a total of 15 restaurants.
3) Compile your three lists with these thoughts in mind:

"I've never been, but hope to change that, soon."
"I've been away too long and meaning to get back."
"I eat here often"

OK, ready? I'll show you mine, if you show me yours:

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April 21, 2009 8:55 AM

Urban Eats Nosh-a-thon. I'm going to Tukwila. You?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'm not much for launch parties. Or any big-honkin'-parties whatsoever. But the Urban Eats Nosh-a-thon -- a kick-off event for the latest in a line-up of month-long, 3-course-for-$30 restaurant promos -- sounds like something I shouldn't miss. The entry fee ($30) is a donation for the job-training program FareStart (and you know how much I love FareStart), but that's not why I'm driving to Tukwila Saturday to party down from 1 to 4 p.m.

Sure, I'll be sipping wine and snacking on foods prepared by 10 chefs culled from Urban Eats' 48 participating restaurants (see full list below). And though seattletimes.com is sponsoring the Urban Eats promotion -- set to offer dinnertime discounts May 3-31, exclusive of Mother's Day -- I won't be heading south because The Boss insisted I should. I'm going because the Nosh-a-thon (details here) is being held at the Basco Kitchen Design Showroom. And because this meet-the-chefs-event will have them cooking -- LIVE from TUKWILA! -- at 10 of Basco's 15 demonstration-kitchen stations.

While I'm there, I can ogle the goods, and by goods, I'm not talking about whatever nibbles the chefs from joints like Palace Kitchen, Taberna del Alabardero, The Georgian and Dulces Latin Bistro are cooking up. I'm talking about the showroom's showy appliances -- each set up in its own little version of somebody's "dream kitchen." Mine, perhaps? The very kitchen we were chatting about last week when I told you about my upcoming remodel.

That post had nearly 50 of you (and counting) responding on-line with your heartfelt and instructive do's and don'ts -- calling a spade a spade (or more precisely, a lemon a lemon), telling me what's worked for you, and what hasn't. One of you (signed in as -- love it! -- "Go Away I'm Cooking") even suggested I check out the Basco showroom. So, how can I resist?

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April 20, 2009 9:27 AM

Hunt for Club membership narrowed: semifinalists named

Posted by Nancy Leson

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



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

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April 17, 2009 10:15 AM

Mushroom Maynia: a tisket, a tasket, what should go in your basket?

Posted by Nancy Leson

There are many reasons why living in the Pacific Northwest is a thrill for mushroom lovers like me. As an infrequent forager, I'm a picker and a grinner -- a rank amateur with a taste for the fungus among us. And as such, I implore anyone who's interested in joining the hunt to be vigilant and heed this advice before pulling out your saute pan. Failing that, do what I do: depend on your accomplished mycologically minded friends to share their just-picked booty (thanks Matt and Jerry!).

During my occasional search-and-enjoy missions I've come up high and dry foraging for the mighty boletus near Mt. Rainier (though I once hit the mother lode in Northern California). I've ended up with a basketful of inedibles on Orcas Island and the Long Beach Peninsula, and (ta da!) caught the brass ring after heading I-can't-say-where on a guided chanterelle hunt, which you can read about here. Given my travels and the occasional travail (my bum's still hurting from slipping on wet leaves and falling, hard, on one outing), I'm here to report that the joys of a successful foraging foray can not be overstated as the fruits of my labor -- times two -- attest:



So, with the spring foraging season upon us, allow me to make a suggestion: Mark your calendar for Sunday, May 3, when the Burke Museum, in conjunction with the Puget Sound Mycological Society present Mushroom Maynia on the UW campus.

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April 16, 2009 2:04 PM

Can you eat on $7 a day? What if you had to? How would you do it?

Posted by Nancy Leson

All You Can Eat, like many food blogs, celebrates the ways we love to eat: at home, in restaurants, perhaps with a glass of good wine in one hand and a friend or loved one nearby. I talk with you regularly about dining out, frequently mentioning some of the city's more expensive venues: ones worth saving up the big bucks to explore. And I've turned you on to great restaurant-values and to the many cheap-eateries I frequent, whether I'm dining in or taking out.

Of course, I also exhort your support for businesses like FareStart, whose beautiful downtown restaurant employs the homeless and disadvantaged, and whose training program helps feed those in need and assists students in finding work in the hospitality industry. And St. Clouds, whose community efforts to feed the hungry include monthly "Homeless Cooking Wednesdays" -- where friends and neighbors gather in Madrona to help feed those who don't have a kitchen to cook in, or the money or wherewithal to cook. But hunger goes beyond homelessness and into the homes of many, and that's where United Way of King County comes in.

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April 16, 2009 10:18 AM

Preserve Puget Sound: eat oysters, dance with the Tall Boys at Golden Gardens

Posted by Nancy Leson

If you know me, you know I can't say no to oysters. And in this case, neither should you. The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is holding their Second Annual Community Oyster Roast on Sunday, April 26 at Golden Gardens Bathhouse, which, if you haven't been, is one fun waterfront event space. In fact, the Soundkeepers are holding two benefit roasts: one from 2 to 4 p.m. and another from 5 to 7 p.m. Your donation ($50 a head, kids 6 and under free) buys a ticket to plenty of eats (in addition to the coal-roasted oysters), drinks and live entertainment from those bluegrass virtuosos the Tall Boys. Advance tickets are available through the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (contact info here) or via Brown Paper Tickets.



See, even kids like 'em!

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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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March 31, 2009 7:59 AM

Eat it raw and Thrive: raw food stokes an appetite for health

Posted by Nancy Leson

When one of my buddies lost 30 pounds over several months by sticking to a raw-food diet, I was impressed. He looks better, feels infinitely better and was able to ditch the medications he'd been taking to control various weight-related ailments (high blood pressure, diabetes). The fact that he also managed to continue cooking great food for his family and friends during the process never ceases to amaze me. That said, when it comes to weight loss and raw foods, he's got nothing on Angela Stokes.

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March 26, 2009 8:28 PM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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

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



Brian Scheehser's field of dreams


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March 23, 2009 12:31 PM

James Beard Award Finalists 2009: the Northwest version

Posted by Nancy Leson

The James Beard Foundation announced finalists for the 2009 James Beard Awards today. Nominees and winners will rub elbows with food fanatics from across the nation at the annual awards ceremony and gala in NYC May 4 when the food and beverage industry's version of the Oscars will take place at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. And now, for the local-finalists lineup:

Among the list of "Big Names" for Outstanding Restaurateur:



Our man Tom Douglas. His competition includes nationally renown restaurateur/entrepreneurs Keith McNally, Richard Melman, Drew Nieporent and Stephen Starr

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March 19, 2009 8:57 AM

The wearin' of the green part two: Vegfest, this weekend

Posted by Nancy Leson

As we all know by now we should be eating less meat, and this weekend you can find out all the delicious reasons why at Vegfest, courtesy of those fine folks at the Vegetarians of Washington. What will you find at the Seattle Center event? 500 free samples! cooking demos! chatty docs and dietitians! -- and an opportunity to get smarter as you're working on eating healthier, on a more environmentally sound scale and all that important stuff. Says the woman who, well, you know. Fun for the family? Absolutely. Read about it here and here.

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March 17, 2009 6:40 AM

"Food as Art" showcases Seattle's African-American chefs and restaurateurs

Posted by Nancy Leson

Let's talk, say the movers and shakers behind the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas. Let's exchange ideas, encourage debate and along the way challenge our assumptions about African-American culture. The CD Forum does just that by sponsoring African-American literary, musical, theatrical and other cultural events, bringing national and international artists to Seattle throughout the year. You can show your support by attending Food as Art, the annual gala fundraiser held April 18 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, when people of every color can celebrate the high-wattage talent generated in our own African-American culinary community.


Here's looking at you, Daisley!

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March 13, 2009 8:33 AM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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



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

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

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March 12, 2009 8:52 AM

Seattle Soundbite 2009: It's only rock and roll, but you'll like it

Posted by Nancy Leson

Put this date on your calendar: Thursday, March 19. Place? the Showbox SoDo. Time: 6 p.m. Reason: Seattle Soundbite 2009 -- your chance to rock and roll (with six Seattle bands), eat "street-style" food (from 13 Seattle restaurants) and watch local musicians prove that restaurants really are hotbeds for creative-types.

Sub Pop soundmeisters The Helio Sequence will headline the show, and the local talent -- whose audition tapes bought them a shot at Soundbite -- features bands with at least one member working in Seattle's food-service industry. Among them: Bird Show of North America, Sue Quigley, Doctor Doctor, Puget Sound System and Truce, with DJ Reflex keeping the joint jumping between sets.


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March 5, 2009 10:29 AM

A boyyyyy went back to Napoli -- and so can you, with Gaspare

Posted by Nancy Leson

OK, so he hails from Ischia -- a ferry ride away from old Napoli -- yet Gaspare Trani, along with his wife (hostess and vocalist extraordinaire) Dianne, are throwing a party at their Phinney Ridge ristorante, Gaspare, to celebrate the chef's 18 years slinging 'pisketti in Seattle, among other Southern Italian-accented eats.

That party gets rolling at 5 p.m. March 25th and the three-course menu (a bargain $22, tax, tip and beverages excluded) offers a choice of minestrone zuppa or insalata with gorgonzola (with Gaspare's excellent foccacia); eggplant parm or Naples-style spaghetti and meatballs (made with pine nuts), plus dessert (sfogliatelle). But wait, there's more!

They'll be live music, too, courtesy of accordionist Murl Allen Sanders -- with Mrs. Trani sittin' in! Make reservations, which are going fast, by calling 206-297-3600. And whatsamatta you? What do you mean you don't like accordion music? Well then, you've obviously never heard Murl:


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March 4, 2009 5:59 PM

5 Pigs, 5 Chefs, 5 Winemakers and a (pork) barrel of fun

Posted by Nancy Leson

Enought about bacon! Let's talk the whole hog. On Sunday, March 8, five Seattle chefs will compete in Cochon 555, benefiting the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance's Good Farmer Fund:



Come watch as Seattle chefs Tamara Murphy (Brasa), Johnathan Sundstrom (Lark), Jason Wilson (Crush), Matt Dillon (The Corson Building) and Anthony Hubbard (Chow Foods) go mano-a-mano for a head-to-tail confrontation with a 70-pound heritage pig. Vying for the title of "Prince of Porc," they'll attempt to prove their prowess as butcher, baker and porkilicious maker (squeeze me? Murphy's a princess!).

Event-goers can chew the fat while quaffing wines from McCrea Cellars, K Vintners, Fidelitas, Cadence Winery and Buty Winery, acting as a cheering section and screaming, "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!" before tasting the goods and helping decide the winner. Professional judges will also take to that tasty task, among them: Bacon Salt creator Dave Lefkow; the crown prince of pork, Armandino Batali; and that certified hog-wrassler Chet Gerl:

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February 19, 2009 7:17 AM

Pagliacci slices prices to celebrate the Big 3-0

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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


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February 11, 2009 4:41 PM

Pike Chocofest: foreplay for the Big Day

Posted by Nancy Leson

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

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February 5, 2009 7:26 AM

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

Posted by Nancy Leson

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


Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times


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

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February 3, 2009 11:45 AM

Love, everlasting -- might "buy" Valentine's dinner at Canlis' coveted Cache

Posted by Nancy Leson

I don't know about you, but every time I visit Canlis (where I had a fabulous birthday dinner last month), I find myself making a visit to the city's most elegant loo. And each time I'm in there powdering my nose, I can't help but recline on the fancy chaise lounge and make like Babs Streisand in "Funny Girl." You know: the part where she's playing Fanny Brice to Omar Sharif's natty Nicky Arnstein, and asks: "Isn't this the height of non-cha-lance: foin-ish-ing a bed in rest-au-rants!"



Well, the always generous Canlis family are foin-ishing some Valentine's Day fun for a special "golden couple" -- compliments of the house. Here's the deal:

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November 14, 2008 7:05 AM

Northwest authors cooking up a cookbook social

Posted by Nancy Leson

Talk about a signature event: On Monday, December 1, Tom Douglas is hosting his third annual "Ultimate Holiday Cookbook Social" at the Palace Ballroom. From 4 to 7 p.m. he'll join an impressive list of chefs and cookbook authors who'll be selling -- and signing -- their books. Twenty bucks buys one glass of wine and a whole lot of "tastes" from Tom and his friends, who will each showcase a recipe for your noshing pleasure (they'll have a cash bar if you need another nip). Tickets (call 206-448-2001 or e-mail christinal@tomdouglas.com) are non-refundable and with a group of authors like the ones listed below, it'll no doubt be standing room only. Here's who you'll be rubbing shoulders with:

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October 29, 2008 2:00 PM

Jimmy Jazzoid Goes to Hell: and I'm going with him

Posted by Nancy Leson

What are you doing this evening at 8 p.m.? Why not tune into 88.5 and listen as my Food for Thought radio sidekick Dick Stein stars as DJ detective Jimmy Jazzoid in this year's episode of "Jimmy Jazzoid Goes to Hell." Yes, folks, it's time for another exciting live-radio broadcast from the subterranean stage at MOHAI (sorry live-theater fans, the show's sold-out). Keep your ears open for my bit parts and be prepared to laugh yourself silly as Stein and a cast of kooky KPLU characters take you back to that old-timey-radio-show of yesteryear, performing with the evil Kangola Bangwacket (Katherine Banwell), that deep-throated announceer Michael (no relation) Stein and musical accompaniment from the Fabulous Fenderskirts whose lead singer is non other than -- gasp! -- Seattle's own restaurateur-chanteuse, Dianne Trani. (You may know her as the wife of Mr. Mambo Italiano himself, Gaspare Trani.) Too busy tonight? You can catch the show when it's rebroadcast Friday October 31 at 9 p.m. or listen in on your own time later via the KPLU website. Thanks! You've been a wonderful audience! Now I'm headed off to "break a leg."

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October 27, 2008 8:05 AM

Omakase prices scary? Not during Nishino's anniversary celebration

Posted by Nancy Leson

Chef Tatsu Nishino and his wife, Eri, celebrate their restaurant's 13th anniversary this week, and they're giving you reason to celebrate with them. On Thursday and Friday, October 30 and 31, they're rolling omakase prices back to $45 per person: a bargain even in this economy -- if my history of eating at Nishino during its lucky 13-year-run is any indication. It's been a year this week since I sat at Nishino's sushi bar celebrating the season with a magical multicourse meal (regularly $60). That omakase dinner, offered as a slow parade of eye candy, involved the finest ingredients -- both the raw (fresh uni!) and the cooked (matsutake mushrooms!).


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October 16, 2008 12:51 PM

Food and travel writing: I'll go if Hugo

Posted by Nancy Leson

Maybe you've been wondering how I managed to turn a longstanding career as a waitress into one in which I get paid to eat, drink and write about food and restaurants, and perhaps you'd like to jettison your job and do the same. Have you ever dreamed of turning a travel experience into a photo-filled spread in Conde Nast Traveler, considered writing food and travel stories for a local newspaper or magazine, or envisioned your byline in the glossy pages of Saveur, Bon Appetit or Gourmet? Chances are you can't afford a trip to Tuscany where you'll travel with a professional writing instructor willing to show-and-tell you how it's done, but I'll bet you you can swing seven bucks to come listen to him (and me) discuss that very subject.

Monday, October 20, from 7 to 9 p.m., I'll be at the Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill with author, journalist and writing instructor Nicholas O'Connell. As part of the literary center's InPrint series, we'll be talking about food and travel writing, offering advice and answering questions.

And, listen up. If you come, and you don't introduce yourself, I'll be very disappointed so make sure to say hello before or after the event, OK?

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October 6, 2008 12:30 PM

There is nothing like a Dame

Posted by Nancy Leson

Seattle's got a lot of Dames -- culinary professionals affiliated with Les Dames d'Escoffier International. You may even know a few by name. Names like Fran Bigelow (maybe you've eaten her chocolates?), Gina Batali (famously seen slicing salumi in Pioneer Square), Braiden Rex-Johnson (a frequent Seattle Times contributor who riffed on "oyster wines" in Sunday's Pacific Northwest magazine) or Lisa Dupar (who's caterered a local event or two -- hundred thousand). And maybe you even know this grand Dame:


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October 6, 2008 10:02 AM

Mad about matsutake

Posted by Nancy Leson

The French and Italians can have their stinkin' truffles. I'd much rather eat matsutake. Fond of pine and fir, this magical mushroom calls the forest floor of the Pacific Northwest home -- and calls my name loud and clear this time of year. That's because October is when Japanese chefs all over town are steeping fresh matsutake in a delicately seasoned broth, serving them with gingko nuts in a small teapotlike vessel. They call it matsutake dobin mushi. I call it an edible autumnal aromatherapy session.

But this year I decided to take my matsutake obsession a step further, so on Saturday, I pulled on my boots and did something I've often longed to do: I went matsutake hunting. And whaddaya know? I found some -- at Uwajimaya:



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August 19, 2008 10:52 AM

Ready, Set, Go . . .Cook! Plus, an Incredible Feast

Posted by Nancy Leson

While I'm crazy about my neighborhood farmers market -- as much for a chance to blab with my neighbors as to shop for just-picked produce -- I've been looking for an excuse to get out of my 'hood and hit the University District Farmers Market. This weekend I plan to do it in good company. You coming? I hope so.

As part of the 15th anniversary-season celebration, the U-District Farmers Market is hosting its annual Ready, Set, Go . . .Cook! competition on Saturday, August 23rd -- and I'll be on hand to judge it.

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August 11, 2008 11:49 AM

Pam Sitt has left the building. So sue me. . .

Posted by Nancy Leson

. . .for mentioning yet another Jason Mesnick TV-celebrity-sighting photo-opportunity like these:

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July 31, 2008 12:00 PM

What are you doing tonight?

Posted by Nancy Leson


Me? I'll be volunteering at FareStart's Guest Chef Night where tonight's guest chef Seth Caswell -- late of Stumbling Goat Bistro and now president of Seattle Chefs Collaborative -- will oversee the preparation of a three-course dinner.

Meanwhile, you can lend FareStart and other deserving non-profits a hand tonight by buying a ticket to Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, held this year at South Lake Union's Naval Reserve Building. (General admission tickets are $85 and available at the door at 6 p.m.) That annual bonanza of food and drink donates 100 percent of its profits to help end hunger throughout the nation. In addition to FareStart, local beneficiaries include Food Lifeline, Solid Ground and the Pike Place Market Foundation.

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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 11, 2008 1:30 PM

Stormin' the gates: Viva la France!

Posted by Nancy Leson


The French-American Chamber of Commerce presents a weekend-long Bastille Day Festival beginning tonight at Seattle Center with the Bal des Pompier (Fireman's Ball). Always one to have a ball, "Chef in the Hat" Thierry Rautureau of Rover's will be on hand at Fisher Pavillion to prepare a four-course dinner to go along with the music and dancing, while chef Dominique Place (whose name is on the label of some of the Northwest's finest smoked seafood) will accept the Medaille de l'ordre du Merite Agricole from the French consul-general. The celebration is set to continue on Sunday, spilling out of the Pavillion and onto the lawn and the Center House with festivities for all.

French restaurants everywhere are celebrating Bastille Day Monday, July 14. Among them are Campagne and Cafe Campagne (promising to party like it's 1789 with "a full-day schedule of food, drink, music, entertainment and fun-filled debauchery"); Le Pichet (with their annual Bastille Day Bash set to last from 6 p.m. till the wee small hours); and Maximilien in the Market , offering a three-course dinner and French accordian music. And if you've been thinking it might be a good time to check out the newly remodeled Le Gourmand, chef/owners Bruce and Sara Naftaly are opening their Ballard restaurant to honor the storming of the Bastille with a special five-course seasonal prix-fixe menu ($65) served, if you like, with matched wines ($35). Or you could just check out the Monet-like garden at Le Gourmand's petite adjoining cocktail lounge, Sambar, and raise glass in a French toast to la belle France.

Anybody else out there celebrating Bastille Day? Restaurants I missed? Chime in, s'il vous plait!

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July 9, 2008 8:55 AM

Seattle chefs on fire: feel the Burning Beast

Posted by Nancy Leson

Too bad I've got other plans on Sunday. Otherwise, I'd reserve a ticket and attend what promises to be a carnivorous feast of dramatic proportion: Burning Beast. Brasa's Tamara Murphy is always up to something, and this weekend she's hosting a fire-centric festival of food and fun with help from some of her chef-buddies (Maria Hines, Matt Dillon and Gabe Claycamp among them) at the appropriately named Smoke Farm in Arlington. The event, which promise to segue into a Monday morning hangover (you're encouraged to bring camping gear and spend the night) involves lots of great eats, including spit-roasted lamb and goat, coal-roasted seafood, plus roaming musicians, storytelling and surely, at some point, a rousing chorus of "Kumbaya." Sounds like something you may not want to miss. Rebekah Denn dished more details on her blog earlier this week, and when I saw the Brasa newsletter in my e-mail box today, reminding me of what I'd be missing, I came thisclose to changing my Sunday plans. Hey Tamara! Do it again next year, OK?











































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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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