September 2007 Archives

Ah, those Frenchies

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Now that Air France has that daily nonstop from Paris, Seattle is on the French radar screen. Le Monde, the largest French daily (circ. about 500,000), takes aim with a travel piece this weekend, full of helpful advice for French travelers.

(Parenthetically, today's Wall Street Journal profiles a French couple who've retired to the Atlantic coast of Morocco, where French is widely spoken and the livin' is easy.)

As the salmon fly overhead, Tom Douglas is on hand to remind Le Monde's reporter that Americans aren't used to shopping in public markets; Seattle's an exception. One of the market vendors is a French guy, Pierre-Louis Montheillet, who points out that he didn't need a diploma to sell the goat cheese he makes in eastern Washington. Though Starbucks is acknowledged, Le Monde prefers Caffè Umbria in Pioneer Square.

Other tips: for lodging, the Alexis ("closest to the ocean"). Recommended at the Market: lunch at Lowell's ("everybody eats there"). For those who have an extra hour or so, Le Monde suggests taking the water taxi to Alki to "eat at Sally's on the Beach [sic], a little West Seattle restaurant with great views of downtown."

After reading (and even writing) oh-so-many mealy-mouthed paeans to the bistros and brasseries of Paris, it's refreshing to see the tables turned, as it were.

Ceci n'est pas un Croque

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Magritte references aside, can we catch a break in the 2500 block of Fourth Avenue, please? (See previous post about a sidewalk sale across the street.) We opined back in December of 2005 that Boulangerie Nantaise bakes Seattle's best-tasting baguettes. Still true. But it turns out they don't know squat about sandwiches, whether it's how to spell 'em or how to make 'em. Shoulda gone online, where they've at least posted a picture of a toasted ham-&-cheese panino. Had we but known, had we but known.

Boulangerie Nantaise, 2507 Fourth Avenue, 206-728-1874 Boulangerie Nantaise on Urbanspoon

Belltown Bazaar

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Are we in White Center? Baghdad? No! We're at the former Sub Pop Records headquarters, 4th and Vine. Some kinda home furnishings store, Medallion Imports, selling crap on the sidewalk, for God's sake. What has Belltown come to?

Miniburgers & Alpines: Growing Up

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Cascadia's new Happy Hour opens at 5PM Wednesday. As they say on TV, "This is an early review."

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. "Two miniburgers and an Alpine, please"--Seattle's best Happy Hour treat for the grand total of $5.50 only two years ago--is no more.

Oh, how we have loved them, those bite-size, one-buck burgers! And they're not exactly gone, as in g-gone [sniff!] for good; they've just [sniff!] grown up, and they're gonna cost $2.50. For years, we have sipped them, those sweet, tangy Alpines, and they're not g-gone, either; but they've grown up, too, up from $3.50 to $4.50, now priced at $5.50 during happy hour, $11 after 7 PM.

Ahh, but in their place, but in their place!

Vodka-cured salmon, the vodka being saffron-infused, from Oregon's new craft distrillery, Sub Rosa. A lavish plate of market charcuterie. Alaska spot prawn sashimi. Bowls and baskets of olives, crackers, poppadoms and tapenade. A whole new line of classic cocktails (Side Car, El Diablo, Champs Élysées) not to mention Planet C (with Subrosa's tarragon vodka) and Brooklyn-to-Belltown (with Rittenhouse Rye--I'll pass, thanks, not being a fan of Peychaud bitters).

Yes, this is the revitalized Cascadia (pronounced "dead" lo this past weekend by a myopic observer of Seattle's restaurant scene). Some, no doubt, will miss the lobster topping on the miniburgers. In their place, make room at the bar for fans of Satan's Whiskers (Plymouth gin, vermouth, Grand Marnier).

Count us in.

Also making its debut today: the full-color, print edition of Delicious City, yours truly as editorial director. And if you don't live in the downtown Seattle distribution area, you can read it online at

Culture Gap Wars

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Uh-oh. Truly insipid story in Monday morning's Pee-Eye headlined "College freshmen, profs often befuddled by culture gap." Example: today's 18-year-old freshmen don't know about Apartheid, haven't seen the Godfather movies; their profs have to give mini-history lectures and take in Superbad to learn what the kids are talking about.

Within minutes, three dozen or so thoughtful comments, most of them asking WTF.

Cornichon goes in search of answers. Not the reporter's fault, surely. She's just following orders. So who assigned this drivel? We send an email to reporter Christine Frey, which bounces back as follows:

I am no longer working for the Seattle P-I. If this is regarding a higher education story, please contact education editor Scott Sunde at or (206) 448-8331.
We send email query and leave voicemail with education editor Sunde seeking clarification. Email reply in due course:
I don't know what story you're talking about. She gave notice several weeks ago and is going to graduate school

Meantime, an early version of this post appears over at, where it begins to draw comments of its own, including this:

Geez, Ronald, have you ever written a complimentary thing in your sad little life? Everybody else is beneath your vast intellect, every story written doesn't measure up to your highly polished writing skills, and all but a few restaurants don't even approach your gastronomic standards.

Meanwhile, you've obviously reached the pinnacle of the profession, writing for this sad little blog that gets almost no reaction to anything that appears in it.

Hey, I never said I deserved a Pulitzer. OTOH, thanks for the comment about intellect, writing skills and gastronomic standards. Thank goodness I'm not reduced to writing about dead gnats, like that defrocked freelance blogger Leslie Kelly.

Seattlest responds by considering a proposal to ban anonymous guest comments, but then we'd never know what our anonymous guest readers were thinking, would we?

To the Tables Down at Starbucks

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It's not really that far from New Haven to New York, but when the path leads from the Skull & Bones "tomb" at Yale to a Starbucks on the Upper West Side, it's a life journey worth describing. Which Michael Gates Gill does in Starbucks Saved My Life.

A story of more than passing interest to me because the author, son of the respected New Yorker writer and editor Brendan Gill, was classmate of mine at Yale. Also in that cohort: Presidential adviser David Gergen, New Yorker theater critic John Lahr, Yale President Benno Schmidt, Oklahoma governor and US Sen. David Boren. Dick Cheney, too (never knew him; he soon flunked out); Sen. Joe Lieberman was there, too, one class back.

"Gates," as he was known, was even then a larger-than-life figure, with a Dylan-Thomas-like propensity for excess. He continues to cut a wide swath after college, but adversity eventually undermines his comfortable existence: he loses his high-level job in advertising, he loses his wife and family, he loses his health insurance.

Bummed, he feels more and more like a bum. He finally claws his way into a menial job at a Starbucks in a mean part of town. And he finds redemption as a barista.

So what was Gill's original sin? To be born into privilege, it would seem. This is a real-life John Cheever kind of story, of mortals confronted not with their mortality so much as their self-awareness. "There but for the grace of God go I," we think, should we even deign to notice the panhandler, the derelict on the bus. But it's the wrong response. As Gates discovers, we find ourselves changing places with the derelict and--surprise!--not nearly as miserable or self-pitying as we might have expected. (A perfect movie role for Tom Hanks.)

Gill's message, rather, is an affirmation, familiar to saints and sinners alike: "Here, with the grace of God, go I."

Somebody Give That Woman a Fly-Swatter

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You know the type, the ultra-picky customer whose complaints ruin dinner for everyone in the restaurant. The self-appointed lightning rods for tough steak, spilled wine, fallen soufflés, incorrect checks. Waiter, there's a fly in my drink! Miss, there's no gremolata on the osso buco! You want to find her car in the parking lot and let the air out of her tires, or send a mash note to her table: "STFUA!"

Leslie Kelly, Seattle's sorriest excuse for a restaurant writer, finally jumps the shark with the most self-absorbed, petulant, infantile item in this morning's Pee-Eye: finding a fly--nay, not even a house fly but a moustique, a fruit-fly, a gnat--next to her drink at Qube. From this single transgression, this one perceived slight to her fragile ego, she extrapolates the need for a Diners Bill of Rights and the complete downfall of Western Civilization.

Just look at the threat presented by this monster. (Link is to a post on Kelly's blog, aptly named Whining & Dining.) From her account the fly wasn't even in her drink, but had expired harmlessly. Would that barfly Kelly would do the same. Quietly. And soon.

Down and Out in Seattle & Bellevue

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No, this isn't George Orwell's sad tale. Cornichon is a professional on a closed course. Do not attempt.

Afternoon starts at 0/8 in Bellevue with lavish spread and tasting of the entire Moët Hennessy portfolio. Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, always gets you off on the right foot. Follow up with Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial Rosé. Outside, three bars sculpted from ice blocks. Sample a three-olive, Chopin vodka martini. Sample the Belevedere & Grand Marnier cosmopolitan. Back inside, sample the crab cakes. Taste chardonnay from Cloudy Bay, tokai friulani from Livio Feluga. Validate parking, head back across the water.

At The Ruins, liquor rep from Remy Cointreau introduces new liqueur from Macallan called Amber. Sit down to flight of seven drinks featuring Amber, from variations on martini to riffs on coffee nudge. Most taste like maple syrup or pecan but the Rob Roy from El Gaucho actually tastes like whiskey.

Now come five dishes flavored with Amber. Four desserts that taste like maple syrup. One savory item, from Veil: a seared scallop with Amber-flavored foam. (Amber-flavored majesty, right?) Delicious! Then three food & Amber pairings. Me, I'm down with El Gaucho's take on French toast with Amber-flavored coffee, but the other judges (six women; Cornichon's the only male) pick Mona's maple bar stuffed with foie gras dunked in, well, you know, Amber-flavored coffee. (Don't try this at home. Please!)

Still upright, I take a bottle of Amber to Mondello in Magnolia and pass around samples. Every woman at the bar loves it, confirming the brilliance of Amber's marketing. Home to Belltown. Good thing Cornichon is a professional on a closed course.

The Free Market Speaks


No rest for the wicked Bushies. Greenspan bails, Hagel bails, Chaffee bails. Hess Oil signs a side deal with the Kurds. Polluters signal their willingness to cooperate with the EPA. Coke sales are down in high schools. What else can collapse? (The mine safety program?)

Now, over a morning espresso, news of the ultimate indignity: the grocery industry wants more regulation.That's the big boys, Wal-Mart, Safeway and Kroeger complaining that laissez-faire has gone too far. That's their suppliers, Kraft and Coke, complaining to the refs about blind tackles and failure to call overseas offsides. The official announcement, according to this morning's Wall Street Journal, is expected tomorrow.

Americans don't want a go-it-alone, Wild West mentality when they shop for meat and potatoes. Personal responsibility is all well and good, but it's no defense against predators, and the food industry has been listening to its customers. Seems the free market has spoken, Georgie, and it wants the government to watch the scales again.

We Told You, Don't Call Us


Food Network auditions earlier in the week, you'll recall. (Don't remember? Click here.)

We now have follow-up reports from a couple of contenders who got callbacks, starting with Yakima Valley's John "Chef Big John" Caudill:

My demo went very organic heirloom tomato salad, with arugula, fresh figs and a basil studded, broken vinaigrette...all topped with a pan roasted, chili spiced rubbed, rare duck breast. The plate was beautiful with the multi colored tomatoes and the rare, pink duck. Jennifer Sullivan, the casting director, began to drool, so we both dug in to the sumptuous warm salad.

And what about the Consolidated Restaurants "brothers" Jeremy Anderson and Eric Hellner? This report from PR rep Katie Wilkinson:

Jeremy did his thing and all went well. Then Eric went and all was equally fab! It appears Jenny wants them to take the next step together, which is a three min. demo tape and plans to pitch them to exec producers!

Jeremy made Tenderloin Stuffed King Crab Tails with fall vegetable succotash and grilled asparagus (want a pic?)

Jenny ate half of Jeremy's dish even though she was full and it was cold and the end of a long day of seeing chefs and their food. And most of all- She loved it!

Eric did oysters and highlighted our wonderful Northwest specialties!

November's tapings in New York are just around the corner, but here in the provinces, the wait goes on.

And BTW, Rachael Ray is looking, too.

It's Bordeaux in a Box

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No question about it: there's too much Bordeaux on the market. The answer: find new ways to sell it. Howard Goldberg, who once wrote for the NewYork Times, thinks the answer is for Bordeaux estates to sell shrink-wrapped, powdered wine, which could be reconstituted (with designer water, to be sure) into vino. Great idea, Howard; we'll get back to you.

Seriously, it's time for international action. Justin and Andy, what's your plan?

"Cut a hole in the box ... Put your straw in that box ..."
Now you're talking! TetraPak (the juice-box people from Sweden) have been hired by a Cordier (a French wine merchant) to "bottle" a line of boxed Bordeaux called Tandem. Reported sales in in their test market (Belgium): 1,000 units a week. Anywhere else, that would be considered a flop, but Cordier tells Decanter (the British wine mag) that they plan to expand into Canada and France next year.

It's all about the most elusive of consumers: "the young people." The French regional marketing director for wine tells the Wall Street Journal that France needs to change the image of wine. "We have ignored young people and now we are paying the price."

Says The Independent,"The wine trade needs to encourage young people to come into wine and trade up. So long as it's quality wine, selling it in a carton with a straw is one way to encourage newcomers, who may otherwise just drink alcopops, to try wine instead."

Right, at $2.50 a pop (as it were).

A more predictable reaction from the venerable London merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, whose spokesman huffed, "I don't think it is a hugely good idea. It brings wine to the level of fruit juices and you don't want to bring young people into wine in that way."

Certainly not. Good lord, no.

French Touches

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Just because it's a modest storefront doesn't mean it's a hole in the wall. Au contraire, mes amis. Two new spots in Belltown--both French--forgo pomp in favor of hospitality.

At Entre Nous, it's the sprigs of thyme in a pitcher on the counter and Brigitte Bardot on the sound system. At Le Petit Café (no website), it's a slice of lemon in the water glass, seedless grapes on the plate. Little things that enliven lunch.

Behind the counter at Entre Nous is Stéphane Obayon, born on the French Riviera, a veteran of Seattle's fine-dining scene. "You take what the earth gives you," he says. "Not fancy, not fussy, not snobby." House white (a chardonnay labelled Le Petit Bistro, of all things, bottled by Burgundy négociant Labouré-Roi) is poured into a stemless tasting glass. Salade Niçoise fills a large, undecorated bowl with albacore, vegetables and hard-boiled egg. At every table, a helpful text, "Decoding French Dining," that Stephane wrote because "There is nothing worse...than trying to squirm your way through a fancy smancy French dinner." How to dress in France (no jogging outfits), salad after your main course (because lettuce is considered "digestive"), and so on. Then, having set up a code for Paris, he lets you off the hook in Seattle: "Here at Entre Nous, we welcome you as you are - wear what you want, eat how you want, pour yourself another glass of wine and be merry!!" Happy hour from 4:30 to 6, and an evening menu of affordable tapas and fondue.

Should be a great location; he's midway between Qube (recently closed for lunch) and Così (closed period), replacing a dismal Mexican takeout called Mamacita.

'Neath the monorail on Belltown's eastern fringe, meanwhile, it's Abdul Smoum (last seen at Il Forno pizza on Capitol Hill) who brings the menu and the organic eats, prepared by his wife, Fatima. A tiny kitchen and three or four tables, Le Petit Café is adjacent to Seattle Glassblowing Studio and formerly housed Café Amore (which Sean Langan has since moved into the space occupied by Spice, half a block north). The Crêpe Florentine is filled with organic scrambled eggs, organic baby spinach, mushrooms and gruyère: everything's organic, from sweet or savory crêpes to salads and panini. But no alcohol.

Entre Nous, 216 Stewart St., 206-905-1633 Entre Nous on Urbanspoon
Le Petit Organic Café, 2229 5th Ave. 206-441-3845 Le Petit Cafe & Creperie on Urbanspoon

Ready for Prime Time?

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Ready for their closeup: Chefs Jeremy Anderson and Eric Hellner.

Back in Emeril's pre-Katrina heyday, chefs and serious foodies used to dismiss it as the Bam! network. Now it's disdained as All-Rachael, All-The-Time. You know, the Food Network, not about cooking so much as lifestyle (travel, glitz), weaponry (knife-wielding, cake-frosting) and tours of candy factories. Deliberate programming choices, made to draw viewers too sedate for Housewives and too chicken for Survivor.

But step-by-step instructions on how to boil water can only fill so many half-hours, and gonzo chef Tony Bourdain's already under contract to the Travel Channel, so the search is on, yet again, for The Next Big Cook.

So here are my candidates, buddies who could be brothers, both executive chefs in the Consolidated Restaurants organization. Jeremy Anderson heads up Elliott's Oyster House, Eric Hellner is his counterpart at Union Square Grill. We've written about their prowess more than once, since Jeremy's a whiz with local salmon and Eric certainly knows his meat. They auditioned separately but really ought to be onscreen together, a Mutt & Jeff tag-team of frat-boy look-alikes who really do know what they're doing.

The competition will be fierce, though: celebrities like Dan Thiessen (0/8 Seafood Grill) and Gabriel Claycamp (Culinary Communion) also turning up in the lobby of the Andra, figurative toques on head, literal 9-page applications in hand.

(Equal Opportunity Employment note: application begins with "Describe your family & living situation ... boyfriend/girlfriend" among many, many forbidden questions, not to mention the mandatory Release & Waiver, whether selected or not, waiving privacy rights. It's a jungle out there, folks, ya gotta be ruthless.)

Actually, Seattle is one of five locations for open auditions, fodder for Food Network's fourth season of slice-em-up, grind-em-down boot camp. From Stars of Tomorrow to Simon-Randy-Paula, the talent contest is even more American than apple pie. Mmm...pie.

Call-backs today and tomorrow. Don't call us; we'll let you know. Don't call.

Back to the table

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Just when you think you've made up your mind about a place, about Tavolata specifically, along comes a dish of gnocchi akin to a religious experience.

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Regular readers know that Cornichon has been Seattle's lone holdout in the standing ovation for Tavolata. Ethan Stowell--who pays ferocious attention to his reviews--has not been happy with me, going so far as to purge a critical thread from one of the Chowhound discussion boards. Yet I keep going back, sitting at the bar (which most of the barkeeps keep overly bright with fluorescent, under-the-counter lighting; which rumbles annoyingly whenever they run the dishwasher), drinking what should be a foolproof Negroni. Barkeep got it wrong twice last week, though. The strottaprezzi in lamb ragù was chewy, the veal carpaccio surprisingly bland. On the other hand, I've had angelic agnolotti filled with veal brains and yummy zepole (donut holes). Ironically, Seattle Metropolitan's reviewer liked everything except the agnolotti and zepole, but dems da breaks, Ethan.

And then come the breathtaking ricotta gnocchi with beef tongue sugo. The gnocchi are cloud-like, the tongue flavorful and meltingly tender. The dish has an evocative power, taking you back into a childhood of steaming kitchens, grandmothers, great-aunts and noisy family dinners (not that we grew up with any of that, but you get the picture).

Sadly, the by-the-glass side of the wine list doesn't match the kitchen's efforts. There's a lot of ups & downs in the vineyard hills of Italy, a tale best left for another day. And the kitchen isn't perfect; a pork chop the size of an army boot was magnificent one night, dry the next. But those gnocchi are like shining stars, illuminating the way for the crew at the back of the restaurant.

So the laurels aren't unqualified, but Ethan's not waiting. Next venture, already under construction, is a wine bar atop Queen Anne, in the tiny space vacated by Lounge O. Tentative name: How To Cook A Wolf. "It's different, not just another single word like Union or Tavolata," says one of the owners. Indeed. M.F.K. Fisher's classic, published 65 years ago, gave advice not just on cooking under wartime privation but on living life to the fullest.

Breaking Eggs

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'Twas Herb Caen who coined the phrase Baghdad by the Bay, referring, of course, to San Francisco. Would have been a time when SF ("The City," never "Frisco") was still considered racy and Baghdad was considered, well, exotic.

Gourmet, the foodie life-style mag, had a piece on the (exotic) markets of Baghdad in last month's issue, assuring readers that

Unless there's an extraordinary amount of violence on the roads into Baghdad, the markets are almost always full of produce...One of the most amazing things about the city is that even when there are car bombs exploding, a few streets away there are usually throngs of people out shopping.

There's even an Iraqi blogger named Shaggy who writes Baghdad Bacon & Eggs. So much for life-goes-on.

But what about Baghdad by the Bay? Life goes the inner sanctums of its culinary palaces, at any rate.

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Consider this self-absorbed concoction, lovingly described in the food columns of the San Francisco Chronicle last week:

Before service, [Ron] Siegel, chef of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, fills [a] bong-like device with cedar shavings. He covers glass bowls with plastic wrap so tightly that you can barely see the plastic. When an order comes in, he pokes a small hole in the plastic, then places a slow-cooked quail egg, croutons and caviar on top of the plastic. After lighting the cedar shavings, he channels the smoke through the hole, which fills up the glass bowl.

When the dish arrives at the table, the diner lifts a demitasse spoon covering the hole. The smoke escapes and perfumes the entire dish.

This bong hit while the real Baghdad is being blown to smithereens. We're so sorry, Shaggy, we're so sorry.

Scoreless Tie

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Saturday's World-Cup rematch between France and Italy brings together a couple dozen Seattle restaurateurs to root raucously for les Bleus...or cheer boisterously for gli Azzuri.

The venue is a plasma TV at Sorrentino's, on Queen Anne, hallowed ground of sorts, since Mamma Enza comes as close as anyone in town to wearing the mantle of culinary Godmother. (She serves Sicilian arancini and homemade lasagna.)

Friendly rivals, it turns out, on their best behavior, since half the folks in the room, at some point since their arrival in the US, have worked for the other half. An extended international family, if you will. Alas, the play (on the field in Milan) is lackluster and defensive. Match nul or pareggio, depending on one's sympathies. So dull it could give rancorous international conflicts a bad name.

Happy Hour, Twisted

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It's a newer, thinner Dan Thiessen presiding over Bellevue's 0/8 Seafood Grill and the adjacent bar, Twisted Cork. "I stopped drinking and lost 80 pounds," he confides, no mean feat for a dude who clearly wants to become the Tom Douglas of the Eastside.

His most recent accomplishment: winning the Seattle leg of national poke championship with a three-level, "Walk on the Beach" theme: a palate-cleansing spritzer of Kestrel Viognier and Dry Soda Lemongrass; the poke itself with ponzu-spiced ahi tuna, topped with wonton and sesame seeds; finished off with a refreshing moscato frizzante from Chateau Ste. Michelle. Next stop on the poke trail: the finals, in Oahu next month.

Meantime, there's New Urban Drinks, a promotion promising a cocktail and a couple of small plates for 15 bucks. Twisted Cork offers decent ravioli and nicely spiced calamari, along with Thiessen's signature: Peruvian scallop sashimi doused with soy-miso vinaigrette and wasabi aioli. (Scallop farming is a valulable new fishery along Peru's cold coastal waters.) Tasty? Life-changing.

Then, hints of a future project nearby, something involving martinis. Not to mention his Saturday morning radio show on KVI (Tom's on KIRO, same day, but late afternoon).

0/8 Seafood Grill & Twisted Cork Wine Bar, 900 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue 0/8 Seafood Grill & Twisted Cork Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Shortrib ravioli no more

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Ravioli on the lunch menu; Lisa Nakamura in the kitchen

One of the pleasures of living downtown is the relatively easy access to finer restaurants at lunch. Alas, it's also pain in the butt for those restaurant kitchens to actually serve lunch. Fussy recipes and fancy presentation work better at dinner, where there's both the time and the money to do things right: the diner doesn't have to get back to a desk and the additional cost involved is less noticeable.

So it's a shame to note the passing of lunch at 9-month-old Qube, where we've enjoyed Lisa Nakamura's innovative dinners (even if a bit fussy and fancy) and more straightforward lunches, such as the shortrib ravioli that anchored a three-course lunch. (We've also complained, to no avail, about the price of their cocktails.) Qube's owners, Fu-Shen Chang and Kerry Huang, pulled the plug, saying upscale eating at midday doesn't work and that they don't want to fall into the trap of dumbing it down. "We might consider it again once the 1 Hotel opens across the street," Chang says. Still, don't hold your breath.

Not unexpectedly, Nakamura's reaction was swift: buh-bye. Her understudy, Joseph Conrad, takes over.

We come to Casablanca for the waters

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Quoting the Letters of Transit, er, email:

Casablanca Menu Begins
Starting August 1st the diverse delicacies of Moroccan cuisine will be showcased at Coastal Kitchen. Come visit us as the decorations go up and you are transported to the famous romantic hideaway.

So, accompanied by friends who've long lived in Morocco, we drop by. Uh-oh. Decorations, good. Romantic hideway, not so much. Diverse delicacies, no way. Of all the gin joints in the world, we've walked into this one. Rick would be aghast.

Peter Levy and Jeremy Hardy are veterans who've built a respected chain of six neighborhood eateries over the past 20 years. Think 5-Spot (Queen Anne), Endolyne Joe (West Seattle), Hi-Life (Ballard), and so on.

Many's the time we've sat at the counter overlooking Coastal's fast-paced kitchen; many's the special we've enjoyed. Until now.

Appetizers of fried kasseri and salt cod are bland and underwhelming, harira soup without flavor. A so-called tagine of lamb "simmered in a saffron-cinnamon scented broth" tastes of bitter apricots. But where's the conical tagine itself? Isn't the drama of Casablanca worth the investment in a few pieces of ceramics? A giant platter of seafood and chicken (dubbed "Here's looking at you") resembles nothing Moroccans have ever seen or eaten: rare tuna (!), shriveled shrimp, burnt chicken skewers, tasteless couscous. Couscous isn't meant to be boiled in flavorless water, for pity's sake! It's designed to be steamed over aromatic meat and vegetables.

Is this authentic? we ask the waiter. Er, no, he replies. It's apparently meant to give you "an idea" of Morocco. Disney's version of Morocco, maybe, Nothing threatening or even remotely tasty, just make-believe food. Sad to think we'll never really have Casablanca.

Alas, Louis, it's the end of a beautiful friendship. Round up the usual suspects.

UPDATE: This post also ran over on, where it produced a most interesting reaction from the PR trolls.

Coastal Kitchen, 429 15th Ave. E., 206-322-1145 Coastal Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Urban still life

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Not everyone in Seattle went to Bumbershoot this weekend. Nina Mikhailenko, the Russian artist whose oils adorn the walls of El Gaucho, the tony Belltown steak house, painted a mixed case from the wine cellar.


How much? Nina's asking $2,500. Seems reasonable, given that the bottles alone would run well into five figures.

Nina's style has its roots in a late-19th century Russian art movement called Peredvishniki, a loose group of itinerants who rebelled against the formal restrictions of the tsarist academy. Instead they painted populist themes: peasants, religious celebrations, landscapes. Her most successful works are commissions: murals of life on Pampas, bullfights, chefs, cigar smokers, jazz musicians, well-fed urbanites...and rare bottles.

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I'm Seattle's Global Gourmet for a national network of blogs, Also Director, Wine Tours, for The International Vineyard. Write to me: ronald [at]

Many of these posts also appear on, part of another network of city blogs.
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Real Absinthe -- Thujone Absinthe
Absinthe Original offers a large selection of real absinthe varieties, also called the Green Fairy, containing varying amounts of thujone, derived from wormwood. Find absinthe liquors, spoons, glasses, and other accessories. Quick worldwide shipping.

No Whining, Yelping or Zagging on this new blog: The Short List: Seattle


Recent Entries

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The International Kitchen
Cooking school vacations in Italy, France & Spain.

Links, the new food directory and recipe wiki, just launched!

The International Vineyard, a new way to learn about wine in France, Italy and Spain: three-night programs for wine lovers in less-traveled regions.

The International Kitchen, the leading source for culinary vacations in France and Italy.

French Word-A-Day, fascinating lessons about language and daily life in Provence

Belltown Messenger, chronicle of a Seattle neighborhood's denizens, derelicts, clubs, bars & eateries. Restaurant reviews by Cornichon.

Small Screen Network, where food & drink celebrities like Robert Hess have recorded terrific videos.

The oldest and most comprehensive blog about Paris, BonjourParis, produced by a stellar team of writers and editors (including occasional contributions from Cornichon).

Maribeth Celemente's blog, Bonjour Telluride, with regular updates to her shopping guides, The Riches of France and The Riches of Paris.

French Chef Sally is my friend Sally McArthur, who hosts luxurious, week-long cooking classes at the Chateau du Riveau in the Loire Valley.

Local Wine, the worlds leading Food and Wine tasting calendar. Spirits and Beer events as well. Post your own event or sign up to be notified when new events are po sted to your own area.

VinoLover, Seattle wine promoter David LeClaire's bulletin board of tastings, dinners and special events.

Wine Educator Dieter Schafer maintains a full schedule of Seattle-area tastings and seminars for amateur wine drinkers and professional alike.

Nat Decants, a free wine e-newsletter from Natalie MacLean, recently named the World's Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards in Australia. Wine picks, articles and humor; no ads.

More blogs about food wine travel.
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