Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Best Seattle Things I've Eaten (So Far) in No Particular Order

1. Lunchtime Bahn Mi at Pho Bac
Not far from the office is a little Vietnamese spot with the best sandwich you can buy for $4. It's become an addiction at work, and all anyone has to say is "Bahn Mi?" around 1pm and we're all gathering up our coats and badges and walking toward the elevator. I once brought takeout back to the office after a doctor's appointment near the place (I swear that's not why I picked my doctor) and discovered I had committed a serious offense. I could write a whole post about this place but I'm worried more people in South Lake Union will catch on and then we'll never get a table.

2. Foie Gras Milkshake from Nosh food truck
Okay actually it wasn't as amazing as I thought it would be. It was kind of liver-y but mostly vanilla. Extremely rich (not to mention ELEVEN DOLLARS). But like Everest, I did it because it was there. Or something like that.

3. Hand-shaven Dan Dan Noodles at Seven Stars Pepper
I did not know that noodles could taste like these noodles do. Usually I am the only white person here which is an excellent sign.

4. Dungeness crab dip at Alibi Room
Usually I skip over crab dip on a menu because I'm from the Midwest and the crab dip there is about as real as those Louis Vuitton purses you can buy on the street. Real-crab crab dip is a dip to behold. This place does a really nice one, even though they're a pizza joint. And they do really good pizza.

5. Scallops and Rice Pilaf at Fall Fisherman's Festival
A drunk Italian guy in line ahead of us insisted that we order these scallops and not the ones with bacon. This was a big gamble on our part, but the dude wasn't kidding.

6. Chocolate chip cookie from DiLaurenti's
My friend Brianna (who I think used to work here) tipped me off to these. They always taste like they just came out of your grandma's oven. If your grandma made chocolate chip cookies. I'm actually not sure that either of mine did.

7. Roast Pork Sandwich at Paseo
I came here as a tourist and made the trip back as a newly-minted local. Same process both times - you wait in line at what seems way too early to be ordering lunch. You place your order and load up on wet naps, maybe grab a table if you're lucky. The sandwich arrives - you pick it up as it's passed over the counter, marveling at how heavy it is. You take a bite and your eyes swell with tears. What is this? Has God himself assembled this sandwich? How does a thing like this exist? What in my life have I done that is of equal importance to this sandwich? Nothing, that's what. Because it's the best sandwich anywhere, ever.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The First One's Free

Raw footage.
Metropolitan Market is a local version of Whole Foods, except it's a little cheaper, open 24 hours a day and per Washington's lax liquor laws, sells booze. It's a few blocks from my new place in Queen Anne, and I'd be there all the time if it wasn't for the Safeway just a block away. Last week something arrived in the mail that was well worth the extra blocks to get to MM - a 'buy one get one free' coupon for aged top sirloin steaks. A beef BOGO.

Kevin and I have been eating a lot of frozen pizzas. We had a hard time getting into a habit of cooking meals regularly and find we can talk each other into going out for Thai food pretty much any night of the week. But when you're offered two premium steaks for the price of one - well what else is there to do?

La vaca.
He did the dirty work and picked up the goods. We didn't have a plan in place per se, so when I got home googling commenced and it was decided that the Alton Brown Broiling Method would be applied. Alton recommends broiling directly on your oven rack, starting in the middle then moving the meat up to the top position. The steaks got a rub down in olive oil, salt and pepper, made the magical journey through the stages of the oven, and finally spent a little time resting while we put together the makings of Ridiculously Good Steak Tacos.

Steak excitement.
Such steaks were maybe never meant to be eaten in taco form. The sirloin's 'skirt' or 'flank' brethren are most often recommended for taco use, but we didn't worry about any of that. We had meat and we wanted tacos. And they were Ridiculously Good Steak Tacos. The leftover meat also made for Ridiculously Good Breakfast Tacos the next morning.

No disrespect to Pad Thai, but it was way more exciting than takeout.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Crashing the Garden Party

I found a mention of Serafina Osteria's garden party on some twitter feed of things to do in Seattle and I didn't read much more than "sangria" and "pig roast" before I clicked "I'm Going" on the Facebook event. So I guess I bought my way in and didn't technically 'crash.'

In typical fashion, I overbooked myself. Seattle's Gay Pride parade was the same day and would be the perfect place to test the camera I'm shooting (colors! a variety of skin tones! thrusting!). Also, the forecast called for 85 and sunny with a 0% chance of my temporary apartment being air conditioned (apparently nobody has central AC here). I did what any enterprising young lady would do and I put on some sunscreen, clinical strength deodorant and wore the only thing in my closet that seemed appropriate for both - a striped maxi dress.

It says everything about Seattle that I've been here for exactly two weeks and I've already seen two parades with naked bicyclists. The Fremont solstice parade was the first, and that's sort of their 'thing,' painted naked bicyclists, so much so that on the local news the night before the anchor reminded us that body paint doesn't count as sunscreen. I guess I wasn't totally shocked to see nude cyclists at the Pride parade either, but boy are some people eager to strip down and hop on a bike. Maybe if it was cloudy ten months out of the year where you live, people would ride bicycles au natural there too.

The Pride parade was sweet, and weird, and colorful and festive, with big contingents of marchers from the corporations that call Seattle home, like Starbucks. The police and fire departments had marchers too, some of the uniformed men and women walking hand in hand with their boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives. It was pretty touching. And then there was gay Batman on rollerblades.

Mixology as a sport:
lllet's get ready to muddle!!
A few blocks north of the parade route I hopped on a bus and arrived at Serafina, a charming little Italian restaurant on the east side of Lake Union. When I walked onto the patio I noticed first that the pig was buried in "La Caja China" and not available yet for photos (damn it) but there was a kind of Iron Chef of mixologists going on in an adjacent building (awesome). The room was crowded and it was hard to get a view of the action but man, if mixology is now a sport then count me as a fan. Outside I had a glass of perfect sangria with bite size chunks of boozy melon, took some photos of a guy breaking down a massive salmon with a knife, and talked to a couple who had just moved from my birthplace, Iowa.

I traded some food tickets for a generous piece of grilled salmon (not that one, a different one) and some asparagus. As someone who grew up in landlocked states, I can tell you honestly it was one of the best pieces of fish I've ever had.

Every day is like this in the summer.
I'm getting the impression that Seattle doesn't take summer lightly. I guess when it's dark for months on end, the sun finally coming out is a Big Deal. And here's a little-known fact: when it's nice out in Seattle, it's flat out perfect. They're like that meme I'm too lazy to look up. They don't always do sunny, but when they do, they do it right. Or something to that effect but funnier. You know what I mean. Now if they just had central air they might be onto something here.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Skyline Time

Former Cincinnati residents eat frozen Skyline.
I didn't like Cincinnati chili when I moved there after high school. I'd see the lines forming outside of the late-night window in Oxford after the bars let out and I'd think, "Why?" But enough of my native Cincinnatian friends dragged me there consistently over the years, that I think I built up a kind of critical mass of it in my system. Suddenly I started craving it all on my own.

Cincy's is a Cincinnati-style chili parlor in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. I know, I was shocked too. Located on a side street in downtown, it's a stone's throw away from the iconic Woolworth's lunch counter that's now commemorated by a civil rights museum. The restaurant is small, but it was packed on a Friday at lunch (they're only open for lunch). The place shows its age. There are faded Bengals and Tallstacks posters on the walls. It doesn't look anything like a Skyline Chili, isn't trying to look like a Skyline, and in fact from the street it barely looks like it's open for business. The comments in the local Yelp reviews are funny. "The cheese was processed!" "The chili wasn't spicy at all!" Yep, that's good old Cincinnati chili at its finest.

How I Knew I Wasn't Actually at a Cincinnati Chili Parlor in Cincinnati:
  • It took more than 40 seconds to get my food.
  • My waiter, bless his heart, called my coney a "chili cheese dog."
  • Lunch cost almost nine bucks.
  • My chili arrived with a completely reasonable amount of cheese.
I was impressed by the North Carolinians around me as plates of chili came out one after another from the kitchen. I kinda thought they'd all order sandwiches. I didn't give them enough credit.

I got my small three way and cheese coney (they do offer it with mustard and onions on the menu) and - thank god - a package of oyster crackers. At first glance it seemed there wasn't quite enough cheese on my little three way, and my coney was suspiciously hot-dog length, but when I twirled a bite of spaghetti around my fork, I got a whiff of the cinnamon in the chili and it smelled like the real deal. I actually closed my eyes and for a second, could convince myself I was in a booth at the Skyline on Ludlow and it was 2:30 in the morning.

The flavor was right on, but of course, there were some differences. The noodles Cincy's uses are thick, and more pasta-ish than Skyline noodles. And of course, the cheese. I realize how silly it is to quibble over processed cheese, but the texture of Skyline's shredded cheese is like nothing else. Actually, that's probably for the best. Cincy's gets some key things right, including the York peppermint patties at the register.

Cincinnati friends, do something for me - go to your favorite chili parlor this weekend. Blue Ash, Dixie, Camp Washington, Gold Star, I don't care. Just go, maybe bring someone who's new in town, and lift a forkful of authentic Cincy chili in honor of everyone you know who moved somewhere else.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Green BEAN Delivery: When Life Gives You Lemons. And Zucchini. And Bibb Lettuce.

I love grocery stores, but I have terrible grocery shopping habits. I wait until the situation is dire, when my coffee maker is coasting on fumes, after I've scraped the last bits of almond butter from the jar, to make the trip.

Some people are disciplined grocery shoppers. They make a "budget," I guess, before they enter. They only go grocery shopping once or twice a week. They buy ingredients with more than tonight's meal in mind. They find a good deal on free-range chicken and put it on the menu, or they see some perky looking kale and whip up a salad. Me, I head for the freezer case. Or I buy a bouquet of cilantro and only make one batch of guacamole before the rest of it turns into brown slime in my refrigerator. I try, I really do, but lately I've been leaving TJ's with more frozen pizzas and coconut-mango popsicles than actual fresh food.

For those of us who don't buy as many fresh vegetables as we should, who in moments of weakness allow the ketchup on the side of a grilled cheese sandwich to pass as the night's serving of vegetables, for us there is Green BEAN Delivery (Biodynamic, Education, Agriculture and Nutrition. Clever, right?). You've probably heard of it, this is the service that loads up a bin full of organic produce every week (or every other week) and delivers it to your door on a day of your choosing. You can customize your order or leave it to chance.

I tried out a bin recently. Green BEAN sends you a list ahead of time of what you can expect to see when it arrives. When mine arrived, I became the proud owner of a well-rounded assortment of vegetables including squash, zucchini, some mushrooms, a head of local bibb lettuce and some on-the-vine tomatoes, among other things. Panic washed over me. What to do with it all?

I went to the place I go to when I feel lost - Google. Plotting out a week's worth of recipes, I started with the zucchini.

It's been an awfully long time since I met a real zucchini face-to-face. I found a recipe on the Kitchn quickly enough for a Mediterranean yogurt spread using zucchini, greek yogurt and the lemon that was also included with my bin. If you find yourself in possession of these ingredients, I highly recommend trying this out.

There, one ingredient down, one delicious dip whipped up and ready for a few day's worth of snacking. As my week went on, I made thick sandwiches loaded with vegetables. I made salads and soup. I ate sliced peaches with my breakfast. When fresh produce is close at hand, it turns out to be quite easy to find things to do with it. 

Green BEAN isn't terribly cheap - a small produce bin costs $35 every week. I didn't do any precise math here, but I'm willing to bet you could get more produce for your dollar at Daisy Mae's, and there you'd be able to pick out and inspect everything ahead of time. I doubt you could make it out of Whole Foods with everything I got in my bin for $35 though.

However, Green BEAN really can't be beat on convenience. All of the produce I received was in great shape and stayed fresh through the week. Spending a little money on the service might pay off if it replaces a lot of repeat trips to the store to find something - anything - for dinner. You can invest a little more and make Green Bean your primary source for groceries - they stock tons of pantry items, proteins, dairy products and local items like Carriage House Farm honey.

Disclosure, my produce bin was provided at no cost. It was pretty darn nice of them to do it. They've also generously provided a discount code for all of you to use if you'd like to try out the service - use the code "15CPml" and they'll knock $15 off your first bin. The code is good for a week so don't slack off.

Many thanks to Green BEAN for the opportunity to try the service!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Silence of the Lamb Meatballs

My sister and I agreed to host a birthday dinner at my place for Dad this year in lieu of fancy presents (we still got him a robotic walking crab, just in case). Should we grill? Should I make some of Ina’s buttermilk ranch dressing and serve it over big wedges of lettuce? Will I need to scrub my bathroom floor? We settled on lamb meatballs.

I made a version of these for a dinner party a few years ago. Someday I promise I’ll make a real meal for a party, but until then I’m going to keep making picnic foods and calling it dinner. The lamb meatballs are good on their own, but they really cry out for a thick, tangy yogurt sauce on the side. Put the whole thing on a “slider bun” and you’re ready to party.

Don’t go crazy on the cinnamon, it tends to take over and you’ll lose the other flavors. Form the meatballs a bit bigger than the suggested 2 tsp if you want something more substantial, just keep them in the oven for about 17 minutes.

I was able to source almost everything for this dinner from Findlay Market. Once you know where to look, you can find almost anything there. EXCEPT SLIDER BUNS, as a maddening search revealed. Those I got at Kroger, the kind that come in the orange plastic bag.

Deviled eggs were served as an appetizer. Pro Tip: Want to create the smell of a room-clearing fart right inside your refrigerator? Hard boil and peel a dozen eggs, put them all in a glass bowl in the fridge and don’t cover them with any plastic wrap.

The lamb meatball recipe comes from CHOW. I have lovingly copied and pasted the ingredients below.

Combine all of these things in a large bowl, form meatballs and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes:
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Serve with Fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Game On

I didn’t go to Disney as a kid. No mouse ears or photos with princesses for me, at least not until I was in high school. Instead, my sister and I would get to go to Mr. Gatti’s every once in a while. It’s a chain pizza place with an arcade attached. There, your family can gorge itself on a pizza buffet and play games for one reasonable price.

We moved away from our local Mr. Gatti’s, and it left a little pizza-slice-shaped hole in my heart. A couple years later, we were en route from Mississippi to Ohio on one of our famous cross-country trips when Mom and Dad said they had a surprise for us.

We took a short trip from the Days Inn where we were staying for the night and pulled up in the parking lot of nothing less than a Mr. Gatti’s. Kaitlin won big on that trip – we were playing an arcade version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos and suddenly tickets started spewing from the machine. We gathered them up, in long ribbons, and I think she was required to share part of her winnings with me. Our tickets didn’t even added up to a clock radio when we turned them in for prizes, but that sort of didn’t matter. I remember, indelibly, that we were winners.

I’ve done my time covering trade shows in Las Vegas and I’ve navigated the maze of many-a dimly lit casino. I like the food and drink aspect of Vegas, but I’m not a gambler so none of that has ever looked too appealing to me. Replace all of those slot machines with air hockey tables and arcade games? Now I’m interested. Turns out, there’s a place for that.

This week I was invited to take a look inside a newly remodeled Dave and Buster’s. Flashbacks to Mr. Gatti’s ensued. I was told I would be able to play skeeball if I wanted. I said yes, obviously.

I’ll admit, before yesterday I’d never set foot in any Dave and Buster’s. The lure of game play alongside the availability of alcohol was intriguing, sure, but never enough to sway me. The new look is pretty striking. Big screens, modern d├ęcor, and lots and lots of flashy games.

I sampled some of the menu items. On a scale of food court to upscale restaurant fare, it ranks somewhere around a TGI Friday’s. And sometimes, that’s all you really want. There are piles of nachos, buffalo wings, hot dogs wrapped up in soft pretzel dough, and a monstrous salad known as “The Lawnmower.” I’ll admit I have a soft spot for this kind of stuff. I blame my Midwestern upbringing, salty over-processed chicken wings and anything served with ranch sauce signals “fun” in my brain. Every once in a while I have to indulge – be it a Chik-fil-A sandwich, nuggets, an order of buffalo wings, or a road trip McDonald’s Filet o Fish. I’m not too proud to admit that I occasionally dabble in these “foods.”

Walking through the midway, I was surprised at how strong my own urge was to jump in and play. There have been some significant technological developments in arcade gaming since my Mr. Gatti’s days. Star Wars, Fruit Ninja, four-way air hockey, they’re all here, wrapped around a brightly lit bar.

The bottom line is that if you find yourself at Dave and Buster's, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the renovations and the expanded menu. The food itself isn’t worth the drive up to the outer limits of I-275, but D&B has clearly taken some care to keep its food offerings current and give the place a more modern look. It’s a Las Vegas casino experience for someone who would rather play skeeball than black jack. And if that’s you, well, you’re an arcade gamer after my own heart.

Disclosure, my meal was free. I had to leave before I could actually play skeeball.