September 2005 Archives

Mauro's Passion

Published today, Assaggio Ristorante Cookbook: Mauro's Passion presents dozens of recipes by Belltown's favorite Italian chef, Mauro Golmarvi, for signature dishes like insalata Francesca, sautéed gamberoni, osso buco ala milanese.

Mauro w Kristen and book.jpg Assaggio cookbook.jpg Gamberoni.jpg
Mauro with Assaggio's general manager Kristen Johnson; sautéed gamberoni

Mouthwatering photos (by Angie Norwood Browne) and plenty of good advice, like "Keep it fresh, simple and honest." And "The point is not to make your home kitchen like a restaurant kitchen. It should be the other way around."

You can pick up autographed copies at the restaurant for $24.95 (or go online to read endorsements from Mauro fans Howard Schultz, Greg Atkinson and John Sarich).

Mauro says he wrote the book for his daughter, "future chef Francesca," so she can show it to her friends and say, "This is from my father." Lucky girl.

Assaggio Ristorante, 2010 4th Ave., 206-441-1339 Assaggio Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Cocktail Hour

Behold the cocktail, embodiment of Western Civilization. Evolved from ancient technology (distillation was known to Babylonian alchemists 25 centuries ago; medieval pharmacists concocted flavored alcohols) and enhanced by contemporary imagination, designer drinks have graduated from patent medicine to emblems of sophistication.

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Unobtrusive doorway; barman Amon Mende adds fresh egg; Pisco Sour

The latest spot to cater to our fascination with retro nostrums is Suite 410, around the corner from Toi on the slippery slope between the Mariners Store and Rochester Big & Tall. Toi’s owners, Damon Maletta and Max Borthwick, had already demonstrated a knack for exotic beverages; their move to Suite 410 has left culinary pretensions behind to concentrate on beverages, period.

They hired drinks guru Ryan Magarian (remember when he was the barman at Zoe?) to develop a list of “resurrected” and “original” cocktails, and brought in Robert Hess (whose website,, is the authoritative record for cocktail recipes) to train the staff in mixological history.

The result is a lounge that’s gratifyingly serious about its drinks, not in a snobby “battle of the premium vodkas” way, but serious like great restaurants. Serving a vodka-soda would be like the chef sending out an unadorned head of lettuce.

The “chef” at Suite 410 is Amon Mende, lately at Via Tribunale and remembered by downtown imbibers as Murray Stenson’s talented understudy at Café ZigZag. No free-pours here; everything is measured into a mixing glass, some aromatic ingredients literally by the drop. Ice is added only when the blend is perfect. And worth the wait.

Suite 410 isn’t a loss-leader for a dance club with $1 well drinks, not the waiting room for a restaurant. In fact, everything’s the same price, $8.75. Steep but fair. I just hope the throngs of pretty young things packing the joint every night understand what they’re in for: a lounge with real drinks that are hand-mixed, not squirted. A round of shots? Not likely.

Classic and fanciful names alternate on the drinks list. Have you tried a Blackthorn? Gin, Dubonnet and kirschwasser: it tastes like a Manhattan. The Corpse Reviver is lemony, with gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice, Cointreau, Lillet and a drop of Pastis. The Pisco Sour uses an organic egg white; a dash of Angostura bitters floats across the top, providing a fragrant accent of … chocolate!

Amon and his coterie worship at the altar of Audrey Saunders, who opened her own bar, Pegu Club, in New York only weeks ago; worshipful review in Friday's New York Times. She’s the deity, they’re the disciples. We’re fortunate to have an outpost.

Suite 410: 410 Stewart St., 206-624-9911

Bilingual mischief in "Les Romanesques"

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UPDATE: download a PDF of the program here (750K)

It's a play in the romantic French tradition by Edmond Rostand, best known as author of the swashbuckling Cyrano de Bergerac. He wrote Les Romanesques as a twist on the Romeo & Juliet story of young lovers from feuding families: in this case, the fathers actually want ther children to marry (so they can combine their adjacent properties) and pretend to be enemies so the kids will meet in secret and fall in love; they even organize a feigned abduction so the boy can rescue the girl and resolve the "feud."

Cute premise, n'est-ce pas? and demonstrably popular: Les Romanesques was the basis for the longest-running play in American musical theater, The Fantasticks ("Try to Remember," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," etc.).

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Percinet argues with Bergamin; Straforella "abducts" Sylvette

Enter Tom Ansart of Steeplechase, a producer without a troupe ever since West Seattle's Liberty Deli shut down. His notion: perform the self-contained first act of Les Romanesques in French and in English. And what better venue than Wallingford's venerable Good Shepherd Center, headquarters for the Alliance Française in Seattle, where, as it happens, Historic Seattle has been restoring the high-ceilinged chapel as a performance space.

Ah, but can you find actors able to perform with equal competence in both French and English? As it turns out, the answer is yes. That junior year abroad, that semester in Paris, whether recent or long ago, is paying off.

The young lovers are played by Seattle University student Colton Carothers (Percinet) and playwright Darian Lindl (Sylvette); the fathers by a classically trained actor with a secret love for French language, David S. Klein (Bergamin) and by moi-même (Pasquinot); and the swashbuckler hired for the abduction by Kady Douglas (Staforella), also a professional actor. Scott Taylor, PhD, a professor of French at Pacific Lutheran University, is the director.

More about the cast here; Tom's blogged production notes here. Preview in North Seattle Herald-Outlook here.

Trivia: I performed in The Fantasticks many, many years ago, playing the same role, the girl's father.

Do come out to Wallingford and see the show!

Les Romanesques runs from Sept 22nd through October 8th at Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.


Two recent books about megalomaniacs: genial, larger-than-life luminaries of the food and wine world, Robert Parker, the American wine critic, and Bernard Loiseau, the French chef. They both tell of youthful talent that became increasingly ambitious as it ripened. Parker, the most powerful individual in the wine industry, ultimately claimed virtual infallibility; Loiseau, anointed with three Michelin stars but beset with doubts, ultimately committed suicide.

Parker book cover1.jpg Loiseau book cover.jpg

Exceptional books written by sympathetic journalists with inside knowledge. A unique perspective on the private lives of two men with very public working lives.

The Emperor of Wine:the Rise of Robert M. Parker Jr. and the Reign of American Taste by Elin McCoy
The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminksi

Bumbershoot Restrained

A light crowd at Bumbershoot, clear skies, aging rocker Elvis Costello the sole remaining star after Devo bailed. But Devo's Burritos made it over from Pullman, along with a lineup of new and returning vendors.

Bumbershoot crowd.jpg Devo Burrito.jpg

Overall, menus seemed both healthier and less expensive than last year. For every booth selling traditional deep-fried fare like Elephant Ears, there was one offering grilled fish or fresh fruit. Even the ubiquitous hot dog vendors have seen the light: I gobbled down a delicious low-fat Vietnamese chicken sausage from Frankfurter, of all places.

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As for that pink Volcano at the International Fountain Lawn, it was just a backdrop for entertainment, not the flue from one of the mobile kitchens.

cooking Thai noodles.jpg Volcano at Bumbershoot.jpg

Bon Temps, Mauvais Temps

Nawlins three-four years ago: sipping Hurricanes in the courtyard of Pat O'Brien's. Seriously doubt those times ("laissez les bons temps rouler!") are going to come round again, even though NYTimes has a story today that French Quarter seems to be relatively unscathed. Similar report on CNN. (Over in the flooded 9th Ward, rumors abound that the levee was breached on purpose, so that the French Quarter would stay dry. Strange, cynical theories, even by NOLA standards.)

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But here's a reasonable question for the disaster planners: it's no secret that many poor people in New Orleans don't own cars, or can't afford to buy gas at the end of the month. How can you order the evacuation of a city without providing transportation? Like convoys of trucks & buses through low-lying neighborhoods to take people to safety? And bring in enough National Guard troops beforehand to maintain order. Unless they're deployed elsewhere, like Iraq.

As blogs of all stripes are pointing out, the warnings have been around for years, decades. The "Corpse" of Engineers has been messing with the Mississippi River for almost a century; Herbert Hoover started it, and FEMA's incompetence this week is its direct descendant.

Slate, Freakonomics and Daily Kos seem to have the most comprehensive threads going. And even if you hate Fox News and find Geraldo contemptible, you've got to give the guy credit for ripping into Hannity & Colmes last night. Click on the thumbnail below for a link to the video. Meanwhile, observers everywhere are frustrated beyond words.

Evacuating Nawlins.jpg Geraldo-Rivera.jpg

In Sunday's grey morning light, an Op-Ed piece by Anne Rice, the city's conscience, explains all.

Further updates: read Sen. Barack Obama's speech here, and a suggestion for "flipping the rock" here.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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