April 2006 Archives

Bond: Liver let die?


Psst! Bond, James Bond, over here! Do what you like with the girls, shake or stir your vodka martinis however you wish, but keep your mitts off my geese!

This is patently absurd: based on a blatantly terrorist video produced by PETA and narrated by Bond2's Roger Moore, the Chicago city council votes to ban the goose liver delicacy known as foie gras

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Contended geese--foie gras on the hoof--along the Dordogne River in southwest France.

Aside from being woefully misguided, the council's action goes zooming down the slippery slope of government intervention in your dinner plate. (It's apparently no longer enough that the gummint wants to be in your bedroom and your medicine cabinet.) Feeding ducks and geese with softened grain (gavage in French) has been practiced since Egyptian times as winter approaches to encourage the natural accumulation of fat in the goose's liver: fuel for the winter. The animals welcome the attention. It's like feeding apples to a horse...or to a suckling pig.

What's next? A prohibition on actually eating said suckling pigs? Pulling the plug on trout fishing ponds? Keep it up, you'll get to a caveat on carrots and an embargo on endive. Now, if they want to do something useful, they could criminalize quail hunting ...

Notes from an "elder statesman"


That happy little pickle dancing at the center of plate, that's Cornichon! Seattle Times freelancer Providence Cicero surveys local food blogs, calls me "an elder statesman among bloggers." Always thought of elder statesmen as people with a more distinguished head of hair, but appreciate the recognition.

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But enough about moi. Hero of the hour is Alex Golitzin of Quilceda Creek Vintners, whose 2002 and 2003 vintages of cabernet sauvignon have just become the first two wines from Washington State ever to be awarded a perfect 100-point score from guru-critic Robert Parker. Have been a fan since a wintery morning in 1982 (dammit, I'm going to play this elder statesman thing for all it's worth) in the living room of the Golitzin home overlooking the Pilchuck River and tasting his "homemade" 1974, 1975 and 1976 vintages. Stunningly good, full of finesse, balance, complexity. Eagerly awaited his first commercial release, the now-legendary 1979 vintage, whose bottles were stacked up behind chicken wire in the garage. Couple of months ago, opened a bottle of Quilceda's 1981: no less stunning. Gotta add, as a proud dad myself, that the lead winemaker for the 2002 and 2003 wines was Alex's son, Paul.

Couple of updates to recent posts: The Stranger discovers Cascadia's miniburgers, fails to mention ill-mannered bar patron ... Seattle Weekly's Roger Downey spews venom at the Washington Wine Commission's botched "Taste Washington" event ... As expected, Tini Bigs renames the Vulcan, its spicy chocolate concoction. Press release credits Cornichon with the new name, Burning Man Tini. Forgive me, Larry Harvey.

First-Person Food

What's that, you ask? First person: if you grew it, found it, caught it or shot it yourself, there's no intermediary. If you know the person who did, no more than one degree of separation, that qualifies. In an urban environment, you really can't do better.

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Michael Pollan's reading at Elliott Bay Books last week.

Nature writer Michael Pollan's new book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, sets up the challenge: at the end of the industrial food-chain (corn fields, feed lots, chicken factories) is nothing more than an industrial eater with a diet of "amalgamated, irradiated, barcoded fecal spam." The solution: eat local.

Belltown's concrete doesn't present a problem. There's water at our feet, agricultural Bainbridge and Vashon islands a ferry ride away, and a few surviving family farms to the north, south and east. Not always easy for most of us to go that far to pick up dinner, true. So who better to introduce us about first-person food than restaurant chefs?

Shall we get to work on a cookbook concept? "First Person Food: How urban Seattle chefs are teaching us to think globally, eat locally and vote with our forks."

Who'd you like to see in that group? Have a few Belltown candidates, would welcome your suggestions.

Pig Tails


Tamara Murphy of Brasa is the most courageous chef in town. Like many restaurateurs, she wants to feel more connected to the sources of her raw materials. Like her Belltown colleague Chris Keff of Flying Fish, she's particularly impressed by the humane and sustainable practices at Whistling Train Farm, the family farm in Auburn that supplies the suckling pigs for Brasa's signature dish, roast pig with chorizo and clams.

Murphy's passion goes well beyond the fashionable quest for heirloom vegetables. Back in January, she starts a blog, "The Life of a Pig," that follows a litter of piglets from birth to ... well, we know where this is going: to slaughter to kitchen to table. Weekly entries chronicle their lives as they romp, feed and grow.

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Murphy down on the farm with piglets ten days ago; loins on the grill tonight.

She writes: "As a chef I am so thrilled to have this opportunity to actually feed them product that will change their flavour. Not only do our pigs get to root in the dirt for bugs, and plants, but items such as sweet potatoes, apples, nuts and berries will be a part of their diet, This is a good life for a pig."

As the piglets approach 100 lbs, it's time for their trip to an approved slaughterhouse in Puyallup. Murphy follows, watches, snaps photos (which she doesn't publish), pokes their livers. An hour later, the piglets are in her walk-in cooler at Brasa. And tonight, 130 guests sit down to a banquet celebrating the piglets' lives.

Nothing is wasted. Trimmings, fat, hearts, livers, kidneys and tongues go into an "everything pig pate." Shoulders, heads, trotters and hocks become a traditional posole. Loins are grilled, riblets smoked. Cracklings from the fatty skin accompany the salad course. Pork belly becomes bacon brittle, served with dessert.

There's even a perfect wine, a pinot noir from Oregon's EIEIO & Co. called, would you believe it, Life of a Pig. $35 a bottle, autographed, simply, "Tamara."

Brasa, 2107 3rd Ave., 206-728-4220

Life of a Pig wine.jpg Brasa on Urbanspoon

Hu's on first


Prez Hu of China is guest of honor at state dinner chez Gates tonight. Typical chicken-shit: Gov. Gregoire is official host but event is privately financed. Saving grace: decent wines! Would be hard-pressed to find two more worthy representatives of Washington viticulture than this pair:

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* Chateau Ste. Michelle, the 2003 Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay
* Leonetti Cellar in Walla Walla, the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

Both wines come from mature vineyards with well-identified characteristics; both exhibit the subtle signatures of their terroir rather than the flashy hands of a splashy winemaker. Elegant apple and citrus for the chard; ripe berries and cedar for the cab.

How civilized that our business and political elite can sit down with a visiting potentate without false modesty or phony displays of temperance, even if they did have to drum up corporate underwriting. Ya think the earnest voices protesting Hu's visit could raise a glass to the notion of cooperation, consensus & comity?

Fish food

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Did I read this right? History prof in Georgia named Stephen Mihm writes, in the New York Times, that prisoners fed healthy food are less violent. Check it for yourself here.

Salmon at Georgian Room.jpg Lomi Lomi Salmon at AIS.jpg Salmon, yellowtail etc at Saito1.JPG

If Prof. Mihm's theory is correct, it would explain why people in Seattle--occasional exceptions aside--are so damn nice: it's the omega-3 in all the salmon we eat.

Meaning of Easter

Did you know this?

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Germany's Easter Hare, Spain's Easter Hams

According to today's missive from the Writer's Almanac, the word "Easter" comes from an ancient pagan goddess worshipped by Anglo Saxons named Eostre. According to legend, Eostre once saved a bird whose wings had frozen during the winter by turning it into a hare. Because it had once been a bird, it could still lay eggs, and that hare became a cute rabbit, our Easter Bunny. For its part, Wikipedia call this interpretation "fakelore."

I know about the paschal lamb, but whence cometh the Easter ham, adored around the world?

Squawk and Awe

Me, when I want eggs, I buy them at Trader Joe's for 99 cents a dozen. When landscape designer Jennifer Carlson wants eggs, she reaches into her chicken coop. Not on some farm out in Snohomish County, either, but her backyard in Magnolia. City of Seattle lets you keep three hens on a typical, 5,000-square-foot residential lot.

hen.gif Chicken coop slide.JPG Jennifer Carlson.JPG

Under the auspices of Seattle Tilth, Carlson was teaching an Easter weekend class in chicken-coop building at the Good Shepherd Center, explaining everything from construction techniques to sourcing chicks to a dozen or so intrepid urbanites. Why raise poultry in the city? Aside from the obvious (fresh eggs) and the politically correct (recycling), there's this: chickens are funny. They bring a sense of humor to daily life.

No, you don't need a rooster. No, bird flu isn't a danger. Yes, chickens recycle kitchen waste. Can't see doing this on my balcony in Belltown, even though Carlson makes it sound inviting, if not necessarily cheaper; a dozen store-bought eggs a week is only 50 bucks a year, after all. But fresh eggs are sooo much tastier. "It's a lifestyle," Carlson says.

Haven Illustrated LLC, 206-283-9102
Seattle Tilth, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N., 206-632-1999

Deliverance: rethinking the box

Axiom of food blogging: don't just write about the ham sandwich you had for lunch. So before we get started, it was a blackened herb chicken sandwich with roasted red peppers, arugula, havarti and cilantro mayonnaise on focaccia. Moist, tender & delicious. Besides, this isn't about my lunch.

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Sure, the pizza joint delivers. The corner deli might deliver, and you can sometimes persuade the neighborhood bistro to send over an idle waiter with a to-go order. Surprisingly, Seattle has only a couple of restaurant delivery companies, and they specialize in bringing dinner to your home.

But what about that staple of the American business day, the noontime meeting with a stack of box lunches delivered to the conference room? Familiar names like Gretchen's Shoe Box Express (part of Schwartz Brothers), Jackrabbit, Larry's. For local office workers, by-now familiar flavors. The barrier to entry in the catering biz is pretty low; anybody can slap together a sandwich.

Now there's a newcomer, serving commercial customers exclusively, B2B Delivery, whose original plan was simply to deliver Costco pastries and pizzas. Early customers wanted box lunches as well, but B2B didn't want to operate a kitchen or commisary. So owners Jeff Pollak and Martin Yamamoto set out to in search of the best deli sandwiches available. What they found was Big Mouth Catering in Bothell. Home run! Staff consensus at my condo: best box lunch sandwich evah!

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B2B's business plan: high quality (Alki Bakery's coming aboard shortly), low prices (because they don't hold inventory) free delivery in downtown Seattle and Bellevue (in a couple of Hyundais), build repeat business. So get started and tell the boss to set it up, okay?

B2B Delivery Service, 206-464-4222

One lump or two?


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Camel is Mona, dude is Barry, location is across from San Juan Winery on Lopez Island. Latte, if you look closely, is from Tully's. As for the matzoh balls, they appeared--unrelated to the camel--in the course of a very pleasant seder in Seattle. You want more information? Really? Read it here.

Yellow Polka-Dot Martini


The martinis already come in a bewildering array of colors & flavors at Tini Bigs, and they're adding even more. Owner Keith Robbins and GM Patrick Haight, authors of a comprehensive book of martini recipes, have come up with five newcomers: aloe vera & Bombay gin; pomegranate & ZipFizz powdered energy drink, green tea & ginger; roasted red peppers; and chocolate & chili pepper.

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Patrick Haight with aloe vera; chocolate & chili "Vulcan" martinis

Gulp. The aloe-tini smelled like hand lotion, the pomegranate concoction reminded me of grape KoolAid. The one based on green tea tasted medicinal, perhaps from the overly sweet Yazi Ginger Vodka. Wanted a skewer of shrimp to stir this one, to complement the lime and ginger flavors. A ceviche cocktail, perhaps.

Best combo was the Vulcan, though name that may not make the final cut when the winning drinks are released on Tuesday. [Burning Man-tini, anyone?] Good stuff. Starts with an infused pepper vodka called Mazama, gold-medal spirit from the artisanal Bend Distillery. Add some Godiva liqueur. Rim the glass with cocoa and powdered chilis. Float some cream and a pepper on top, and voila! the perfect dessert.

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Cheers, ladies!

Tini Bigs, 100 Denny Way, 206-284-0931 Tini Bigs Lounge on Urbanspoon

Too much, too late


What's wrong with Seattle journalism? Look no further than the front page of today's Seattle Times and its pathetic story, headlined "They Needed a Six-Bedroom House".

Memo to the Times city editor: the time to run this would have two weeks ago, when it just might have been useful. But then, you guys were too focused on screechy-preachy pieces about the teen dance ordinance, weren't you? Better late than never? Nonsense.

Blue House on Capitol Hill
photo by Jimmy Clarke

The Stranger got it right the first time, without tone-deaf "Merry Prankster" references, thank you.

Celebrating Seattle's black chefs

New York Times, with annoying & typical provincialism, claims that black chefs are "struggling" [free registration required]. Not so in Seattle, where a culinary star like Daisley Gordon shines at Campagne. More to the point, a baker's dozen black chefs gathered last night to present "Food As Art," a celebration of African-American culinary expertise, annual fundraiser for the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas.

Daisley Gordon.JPG Campagne stuffed gougeres.JPG

Subject of a splendid profile in the Seattle Times last month, Gordon shakes his head at the implications of racism in the New York piece. "Coming from Jamaica, all I ever saw were possibilities," he says.

And how's this for possibilities: the most sophisticated chicken sandwich you're likely to munch. Fluffy gougeres stuffed with slices of chicken quenelle (forcemeat of breast, eggs and cream poached in chicken stock) and chopped confit of duck gizzards, dressed with a mustardy aioli. Long, long line at the buffet.

Event co-chair Dana Frank admits being puzzled by the NY Times article. Didn't hurt ticket sales though. Capacity crowd of 350.

Seattle Not-Nice


"So how'd you feel about comping me two of 'em?"

Two of the six mini-burgers the dude just scarfed down at Cascadia. Cuz all of a sudden he decides they're "inedible." This after his girlfiend clicked shut her cell and alerted the barkeep the guy was enroute and "starving." Now, before we go off the deep end, these are one dollar bar snacks, the mainstay of Cascadia's happy hour.

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Barkeep demurs. "Let me know next time, I'll order them rare." Keeps his cool.

Me, on the next stool, I'm in the dude's face. Comp two bucks worth of bar snacks? "You're an embarrassment to the neighborhood," I say.

"Ten seconds, I'm going to lose my patience," sez the dude. Nine, eight, seven. Not nice, not nice.

Ejakart: Guns 'n Whores

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Fire at will.JPG Check your guns.JPG

The place: Shorty's (see below). The dog: Chicago-style, with everything (see below). The scene: Jenna Curtis, in a leather bikini, playing a video game called Target Terror. She's posing for Ethan Jack Harrington, the plein-air painter and chronicler of Seattle's street scene whose alternative, indoor work features alluring, partially-dressed women using firearms. No, not Guns 'n Roses; Guns 'n Whores. You might have seen some of the art on the wall at Whisky Bar, where Jenna works as a bartender. Or in the bar's ads in The Stranger. Or in the window of his V Gallery. "Single men and older women notice," he says. "But what sells are the cityscapes."

V, 2222 Second Ave. 206-956-3900

Doggie style

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And you wondered how Cornichon was going to segue from Chicago back to Seattle. Well, we've got our own dogs right here in Belltown at Shorty's. Chicago-style, its relishes & condiments in the requisite, frighteningly fluorescent hues, its jalapenos of mouth-searing intensity, its quality questioned only by die-hard immigrants who grew up with the Real Thing.

2222 Second Ave, 206-441-5449

Wind in the city


Chicago again, for fleeting introduction to local gastronomy: the Chicago-style hotdog. Fluorescent yellow mustard, neon-green relish, diced onion, sliced tomato, celery salt, dill pickle, jalapeno pepper, steamed sesame-seed bun. And a dog, of course.

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At Portillo's, pickle spear overwhelmed everything. But hey, only two bucks. At O'Hare, Vienna Beef dog pricier but more, shall we say, balanced. Tapas on the shores of Lake Michigan. Burrrp.

Thoughts from Seat 35-C


* Not including morning coffees, midday mineral waters, mouthwash or toothpaste, figure we tasted an average of one new beverage every business hour during our time in Spain. Plus a few repeats, retastes and second helpings. Altogether, an excellent week.

* Tailcam on Iberia Airbus from Madrid to Chicago gives sense of stability. Very reassuring after three-hour fiasco at futuristic Barajas airport where airline's (dare-we-say-it?) incompetent computer software (regularly losing reservations by the score) is matched by indifferent staff (sending platoons of confused passengers scurring across concourses). Third World chaos, unworthy of a prosperous, cultured, confident nation.

* Then I think, that's unfair. Grandparents couldn't have imagined a journey like this. Thirty thousand feet up, relatively comfortable, drinking free airline wine. Ungrateful wretch, STFUA!

* Onboard movie, Good Night, and Good Luck suggests decent people can fight the establishment and win. Doubt that any broadcasters today get the message. Nor will the out-Foxed American public even care.

Adios Espana


Made it to Madrid, final lunch together at lively wine bar near Royal Palace, El Anciano Rey de Los Vinos. Farewell toasts. Definitely coming back.

Edi, Elizabeth, Sarah, Libby.jpg Cava at wine bar in Madrid.jpg

Scorecard: 1 white, 1 cava, 1 sherry, 2 reds, plus multiple beers during televised FC Barcelona v Real Madrid match; namesakes Ronaldo and Ronaldinho scoring goal apiece for a 1-1 tie. Evenhanded result, no losers.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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