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Scott Carsberg in the kitchen at Bisato, menu board on the final weekend at Trattoria Mitchelli.

Two names from Seattle's glamorous restaurant past have resurfaced.

First, Scott Carsberg, the gifted chef who ran two of Belltown's best restaurants (Lampreia and Bisato) for two decades before dropping out of sight, is back in town. He's got a new backer, restaurant investor Susumu "Sam" Takahashi (notably in Shiro's and Kashiba), and, it seems very likely, a "new" spot in Pioneer Square.

The new location, 84 Yesler Way, is the site of the lmuch-missed Trattoria Mitchelli, which has been vacant since New Year's Eve of 2009. Longtime owner Dany Mitchell retired to become a property manager in Provence and was last heard from five years ago. Although he returned to Seattle this week to meet up with Carsberg and perhaps put in a good word with the landlord.

A native of West Seattle, Carsberg made the rounds of European and American capitals and grew particularly fond of Italian cuisine. Back in the US, he worked at Settebello before setting off on his own. Talented, meticulous, a chef whose charismatic personality was not universally admired (hey! we all know people like that!), he was nominated three times for a James Beard award before finally winning, in 2006, some 15 years after he and his wife, Hyun Joo Paek, had opened Lampreia in Belltown. Carsberg had never cooked a James Beard dinner; he did not attend the awards ceremony.

Then, in 2010, he pivoted from high-end, prix-fixe Italian dinners to casual, Venetian-style small plates; for the next two years he devoted every bit as much energy and concentration on a $10 dish as on a full-blown, five-course meal. Commendable, surely, but not sustainable. By October, 2012, after a 20-year run at full speed, Carsberg called it quits.

In the intervening years, Carsberg and his wife traveled to Korea and Japan, and he did consulting for Fran's Chocolates and Caffè Vita. Now he's ready for his comeback. There's even a documentary about the project titled "The Last Course." (I sat down with the film crew for an on-camera interview last week.)

The location of the restaurant and the identity of Carseberg's backer was first reported by the Daily Journal of Commerce.

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Vélib docking stations in Paris (2007); Pronto docking station in Belltown (2014), since removed.

No, no, not the "real" velociraptors, but Vélib, the shared bicycle program:
vélo, bike + liberté, freedom, that started in Paris back in 2007. Grew to 15,000 bikes and 1,200 docking stations around the City of Light. For its first decade, the program was run by JC Decaux, an advertising company. Then the contract was put up for bid again and the winning bidder this time was Smovengo, an ambitious startup that (among other things) wanted to add battery-powered eBikes to its offerings.

Say what you will about Seattle's mixed history with bike-share programs; Paris seems to have completely screwed this up. The original Vélib program was successful: close to 100,000 riders a day. Sure, JC Decaux made money selling ads on the docking stations (and on the public toilets it also operates). But the new guys went about the eBike project all wrong, literally getting their wires crossed, failing to maintain the equipment, and alienating their employees, The result: on any given day, only half the bikes are in working order, and the entire staff is on strike.

There's more here.

And it was just this week that we reported on a new entry in the dock-less power-assisted bicycle sweepstakes right here in Seattle.

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There's a fancy new two-way bike lane in Seattle running past my front door in Belltown, along Second Avenue between Seattle Center and Pioneer Square, part of Seattle Dep't of Transportation's "mobility improvements" plan. Much of the corridor includes protection from traffic and dedicated traffic signals (so errant motorists don't run over cyclists). Better than "sharrows," better than easy-to-ignore green paint on the roadway.

In a way, though, it's a chicken-and-egg situation. A lot of people around Seattle would like to commute on a bike (in clement weather, anyway) but face at least two barriers: lack of protected lanes for travel, and (oof!) lack of power for the Seattle's many inclines.

Thankfully, the infrastructure is coming, bit by bit. Says Sandra Wolf, CEO of German bike manufacturer Riese & Müller, it's local mayors who are leading the way. "They have the courage to move out in front," she said this afternoon, during a brief inspection of the 2nd Avenue bike path. "National politicians are often too fearful of automobile and manufacturing interests, but in Germany [she's based in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt], the political will is there."

Riese & Muller makes high-end eBikes, which sell for $4,500 and up. Bike enthusiast Davey Oil of G&O Family Cyclery will gladly sell you one. Longtime Seattle bike shop Greg's Greenlake Cycle sells bikes for half of that. And ScootAbout, which concentrates on mopeds and scooters like Vespas, offer "starter bikes" for $1,500 or so.

In Europe these days, half of all bikes sold have some sort of electric assist. As I found out a couple of years back, they've got hills in Paris, too.

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Behold these three bottles. Campari, $24. Gin, $19. Vermouth, $6. At Total, the tab came to just under $50 for 2.25 liters, or roughly 76 ounces of booze.

Your corner bar (maybe) buys the same ingredients, and once you make yourself comfortable they will combine a one-ounce shot of each, shake (or stir) vigorously (or not) and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Voilà! It's a Negroni, doh. A martini glass, perhaps, or a vaguely cone-shaped "vintage" glass of some sort. Nothing too big, mind you. A proper cocktail is not a Big Gulp. And if you want yours on the rocks, just remember that the ice will melt as you sip your cocktail and dilute your drink. A few serious bars these days are using oversize chunks of ice (think tennis-ball) in a straight-sided glass. Not so sure about that.

More troubling than the oversize ice cubes is that more than a few bars are mixing their Negronis ahead of time so they can a) "age" the Negroni in a small barrel, b) make sure you, the customer, can't watch the bartender short-pour the expensive Campari or observe how much (or little) cheap bar gin goes into the mix, c) upsell the damn cocktail automatically because "barrel-aged" sounds classier rather than upselling on the basis of a more expensive gin. Look, I've worked as a bartender; I know how easy it is to fudge.

So here's what I'm going to do: combine these three bottles. No "aging" that rounds off the bright flavors of the Campari, either. I'll have 2.25 liters, roughly 75 ounces of Negronis pre-mixed. I can keep the mix in glass containers in the fridge and won't need to ice down a whole cocktail set-up. I can even pour a short snort if I want one after dinner or before bed. (Yes, Negronis make a terrific nightcap.)

Let's recap. I have 75 ounces, and a proper Negroni is a 3-ounce pour. So 25 drinks for $50. In other words, I get my corner bar's 3-ounce, $12 Negroni for the entirely reasonable price of $2.

Just think: you buy a really nice bottle of wine (Clos de Betz, maybe? $70. or Efeste Final Final, $30) and pour a 5-ounce glass for yourself at home. that's $14 for the Betz, $6 for the Efeste). Order those same bottles at a restaurant, the price will be double (if you're lucky).

Ah, but Ronald (you say), we know you buy your "house" wine at Rite Aid (Chilean merlot in a 3-liter box from Corbett Canyon). Roughly 100 ounces, roughly ten bucks. I can drink two 5-ounce glasses for a buck.

Back to the Negroni. The finished drink on the right is not, technically, a Negroni. It's called the Belltowner, an $11 item at the spanking new Zane+Wylie's Steakhouse that Kevin and Terresa Davis opened this weekend. Not even a full website yet! (Facebook page here.) Aloo Gin (from Oola Distillery on Cap Hill), Campari from Milan, and Brovo's "Jammy" vermouth out of Woodinville. On the sweet side, to be sure. Pro tip: Z+W is the real deal, a "Seattle" steakhouse, not all overpriced "Chicago" or "Noo Yawk."

Damn, now I'm thirsty.

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JuneBaby, on NE 65th in Laurelhurst, was named America's Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. It owner and chef, Edouardo Jordan, was also named Outstanding Chef, Northwest for his work at his other restaurant, Salare, which is all of two blocks away.

Restaurant kitchens have evolved over the years, but they still don't reflect America's racial makeup. Plenty of women these days are exec chefs, run kitchens, and own restaurants. Asians, too. But you can count on one hand the prominent African-American restaurateurs in Seattle: Daisley Gordon, Wayne Johnson, Donna Moodie, Makini Howell. Nationally, the figure is a dismal 15 percent of back-of-house employees. African-Americans are twice as likely to be dishwashers as managers. So it's a tribute to his talent, enthusiasm, and people skills that Edouardo Jordan has succeeded in opening Salare, Seattle's hottest high-profile restaurant, named as one of the top new restaurants in the entire country by Eater.com.

"The road I traveled was not easy," Jordan says, shaking his head at the unrealistic ambitions of all the young cooks he interviews. "They want $17 an hour and a three-day week. But if you're still trying to learn, you've gotta work!"

Jordan is a Florida-born African-American chef whose career has taken him from St. Petersburg to Michelin-starred kitchens in New York City (Per Se) and California (French Laundry); to Italy, for hands-on experience with cured meats; and to Seattle for stints alongside celebrity chefs like Jerry Traunfeld (The Herbfarm) and Matt Dillon (Bar Sajor).
Before dinner service begins, I find the boyish Jordan (he's actually 35) sitting in the dining room of the restaurant he converted, in a five-month flurry of low-tech shop tools, out of the the shell of a truly frightening greasy spoon called Patty's Eggnest & Turkey House. Some seventy seats, including 14 at a walnut-topped communal table and another 6 overlooking the kitchen, all adorned with ceramic votives made by artist Jill Rosenast. The walls are festooned with wooden molds for corzetti (sand-dollar pasta) and a blackboard that recites daily specials.

So what will be on offer this evening, and does it answer the question, what sort of cuisine is this? Italian (handmade pasta, house-cured charcuterie)? Southern ("dirty rice," collard greens, boudin, gumbo, sweet potato fritters)? Northwest (oysters on the half shell, king salmon, fuyu persimmon)? African (egusi, dukkah, tsire)? Well, it's all those things. But a lot of it is Italian, the country cooking that Italians themselves rever to as cucina povera: the cooking of poverty. Well, not so much poverty as make-do-with-what-you've-got. Descriptors and ingredients like Tuscan kale, Calabrian chili, cappelletti, trompetti, burrata, and peperonata make appearances on the menu, which all point toward the Mediterranean.

And indeed Jordan's experience in the northern Italian village of 8,000 people called Colorno, outside of Parma, explains where his discipline comes from. He apprenticed in a highly regarded country restaurant called Al Vedel, down the road from Colorno's grand ducal palace, which houses the world-famous Alma cooking school. Al Vedel is the sort of self-reliant place we don't see in the US; for one thing we don't have a nine-generation tradition of anything, let alone handmade pasta and the in-house, artisanal production of cured meats like culatello and prosciutto. "It's all in the seasoning," Jordan explains, repeating the words of his Italian mentors: Salare, salare!

This, of course, is how culinary cultures evolve. Edouardo Jordan, brought up in a tradition of "southern" food, with its Louisiana boudin blanc, who trained at the Cordon Bleu in Orlando, finding his feet and learning his craft at Mise en Place in Tampa, then winning a coveted spot at the French Laundry. And that month in Italy, which seems to have come at precisely the right time. He arrived in Seattle at the invitation of Mark Bodinet, alum of the French Laundry, who was by then running the kitchen at Cedarbrook Lodge. On to a stint with Jerry Traunfeld at The Herbfarm, then to Capitol Hill's Sitka & Spruce before settling in as chef de cuisine at Bar Sajor.

At Salare, he would run the kitchen with two line cooks. The menu is relatively short but requires precision, since each of the baker's dozen hot-side dishes has its own specific accompaniments and garnishes. The biggest seller is usually the duck, which gets (among other things) hedgehog mushrooms. Pasta, made in house, can be cappelletti (served with squash, endives, and cotechino sausage), or trompetti (served with gulf shrimp, kale and chili sauce). When an order for oysters comes in, Jordan moves off the line and starts shucking. If it's a pasta dish, or one of the vegetables, or the appetizer of sweet potato fritters. An early reviewer claimed to hear a lot of shouting in the kitchen, but the need for "barking" orders--so common in show-off kitchens--has all but vanished. The three chefs now just get on with it like seasoned professionals, plating and sending out one dish after another without drama.

If you're not familiar with ingredients like the Fuyu persimmon (Greek), egusi sauce (Nigerian), dukkah (Egyptian), tsire yoghurt (West African), or ancient-grain einkorn, you can order them from Salare's "Garden" menu, which takes a bold step in the direction of global and vegan-friendly food culture. (Not even Capitol Hill's vegan Plum Bistro gets this exotic.) On the other hand, no one will reproach you for ordering the silky-smooth Dungeness crab with sea urchin beurre blanc and spaghetti; or the grilled salmon with broccoli, eggplant, lemon confit, and pine nuts. Still, it's the charcuterie that shines most proudly, with a "chef's selection" of house-cured meats (garnished with pickled vegetables and cornichons): rillettes and pâtés of duck and pork; lardo, salami, coppa, boiled ham.

And now, with Junebaby, he's gone Salare one better. Eater.com dropped all pretense of neutrality to describe Jordan as one of the most accomplished and farseeing chefs cooking Southern food in America. "The two dozen dishes on his dinner menu, plus a few gems from the weekend-only lunch service, convey a scholarly breadth of the region's cuisines," wrote Eater's national restaurant critic. Jordan "...wields a bull's-eye aim between tradition and modernity -- and between homeyness and professional rigor -- infused elegantly with the flavors of his African-American heritage."

At last night's James Beard ceremony, Jordan dedicated his award to his four-year-old son. "I want you to dream big, my little star. We're making history tonight, and daddy wants you to know that if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

"The future is yours, but don't forget the past."

,

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The aroma of coffee is very alluring. Even to a serial cereal (Cheerios) buyer like Nestlé. Even if Nestlé already has two iconic coffee brands (Nespresso and Nescafe). But Nestlé needs more. Needs that fix.

Fortunately, there's plenty of candy in Nestlé's pocket. Kit Kats. Here, sweet Mermaid, have some of my Kit Kats. If I give you Kit Kats, will you be mine? Not forever, Nestlé doesn't want to actually take you home. Mom wouldn't approve.

But Nestlé likes the way you smell, Mermaid. Nestlé only wants your dress, your image, your smile, your smell.

How many Kit Kats? How about a handful? A box? No? Okay, some simoleons, then? How about a billion simoleons? How about seven billion?

Happy now, Mermaid? Nestlé loves you so much.

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Leah Crocetto (Aida) and Brian Jagde (Radamès). Seattle Opera photos © Philip Newton.

It's one of the most extravagant of all operas. In fact, the sheer spectacle of Aida (that triumphal march! those elephants!) often outshines the music and singing. Not this time. Seattle Opera's current production of Verdi's masterpiece integrates the grand staging and the intimate personal love triangle. The first half is all show; after intermission, it's all about relationships.

In Verdi's time, Egypt was a metaphor for the newly unified Italian state, posing questions of private passion and political loyalty. The opera's characters can still be seen as stand-ins for contemporary politicians: the clueless warrior Radamès, the bitchy "entitled" princess Amneris, the idealistic slave girl Aida (whose father, unknown to her captors, is the "enemy" king). The questions, never fully answered: should personal loyalty (to friends, to family) outrank public duty (patriotism, service to country).

Grand opera finds artificial ways of framing these fundamental questions In Aida, the captured slave is in a relationship with the Egyptian military leader; in Romeo and Juliet, the lovers are from rival clans; in Norma, the high priestess even has children by her country's arch-enemy.

The director's job is to maintain the intimacy of the love triangle against the backdrop of pomp and circumstance, a task assigned for this production to Loren Meeker. But what about those elephants, you ask? In Portland, where the outdoor amphitheater adjoined the former zoo, they could bring in an actual elephant. Not at McCaw; not even a pony. Instead, this production uses an ornately decorated set (by Los Angeles street artist RETMA), dozens of choristers, a phalanx of supernumeraries and a troupe of dancers to portray the pageantry of the triumphal procession.

The opera's quiet moments (notably Aida's plaintive "O Patria Mia") are all the more intense for being framed by the grandiose set. In fact, a previous director of Aida called it "a chamber opera at heart." Well, that's like calling an F18 Hornet an overgrown Piper Cub; the first half of this Aida is a Blue Angels extravaganza through and through, even without the elephants. And then, as you know it will, everything gets worse and worse until Aida dies in her lover's arms at the final curtain.

Foortnote: Leading the orchestra was Seattle native John Fiore. His father George, who passed away five years ago, had served as the opera's chorus master for two decades, and young John grew up as part of Seattle opera's extended family, appearing as an onstage extra when needed and absorbing the company's culture. Fiore went on to a distinguished career as an opera director in Europe; he's currently the resident conductor at the Düsseldorf Symphony. While it's good to hear him back in Seattle, I would have preferred a less intrusive piccolo from the orchestra, and a bit of restraint from the three lead singers in their intimate moments. (Hard to do, understandably, when it's precisely that full-throated volume you want in the crowd scenes.)

I'll add a footnote of hesitation as well to the much-ballyhooed set design. Sure, you don't want to appropriate hackneyed pseudo-Egyptian hieroglyphics in this day and age (though why not, exactly?). What we get instead are vaguely Chinese abstract symbols that makes one wonder whether this is supposed to be Egypt, Moscow, Beijing, or maybe even Happy Hour at PF Chang. RETNA was scheduled to do a workshop for "local youth" but canceled and went back to LA before the premiere, so I couldn't find out.

And yes, audiences in Verdi's day expected a ballet, but, leaping lizards, as Orphan Annie would say, so many leapers! So much leaping!


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