March 2008 Archives

Does Dan Savage know about this?


Sloggi%20underwear%20in%20France.JPGBy all appearances, The Stranger's blog, Slog, has morphed into upscale French underwear. Came across this display at the Galeries Lafayette in Biarritz. Just how pricey? Well, 43 euros is $65. For one pair! Same brand is also available in white cotton briefs, $54 for a three-pack, but not nearly as sexy.

Surprisingly, there's a sexy-Sloggi website. Safe for work, too.


Seems the concierge at the elegant Hotel du Palais, overlooking the Bay of Biscay, doesn't want to put all his Basques in one exit.

Cashew-crusted%20halibut%20on%20mixed%20greens.JPGDinner at McCormick & Schmick, the seafood chain, to kick off eight-month halibut season. Exec chef in Seattle, Eric Naruszewicz, a Boston transplant who was quick to get the hang of local seafood, crusts a halibut filet with curried cashews, serves atop field greens with honey-mustard vinaigrette, Asian pears and red grapes.

There's lots of halibut out there, a whopper of a fish (up to 8 feet long, 4 feet wide, 600 pounds) that lives in deep, cold Alaskan waters. Lives forever, almost. Ugly as sin (flat, eyes on one side) but often considered sacred (the "hali" part derives from "holy," historically eaten on feast days).

Steaks and filets, to be sure, but the best part is the cheeks. Low in calories, high in protein and omega-3 acids. Healthy. tasty critter, flakier than tuna or swordfish. Takes well to grilling, poaching, baking. Holy flatfish!

Off to France this afternoon. Look for posts from the Basque Country, then from Lyon.

Beer%20Wine%20cover.jpgHe's Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head brewery; she's Marnie Old, director of wine studies at the French Culinary Institute. They've teamed up to write a warm-hearted, delightful book that tweaks the boy-girl, beer-wine stereotypes without dumbing things down.

The publishers are giving away free copies to the first 10 people who write and ask. Send requests to inyourglass [at]

How did we get to this beer=populist, wine=elitist standoff, anyway? (Long post on Slate last year.) Wine is a symbol of culture, says Marnie. Beer was the catalyst for civilization as we know it, says Sam. They're both right, of course.

Rather than rehash old ground, however, the book (beautifully produced by DK Publishing) comes up with both wines and beers that match up with food. Vegetable pairings, for instance. With eggplant parmesan, Negra Modelo beer or Concha y Toro merlot. Lobster with Heineken or Domaine Matrot Meursault. There are plenty of suggestions (with recipes) for beer versus wine parties at home.

In the end, Sam says "maybe wine's okay." Marnie says "maybe beer's all right." And the point is made: most beers and most wines are undistinguished, but the quality lies with the artisanal stuff.

Tasty bottles, whether based on grain or on grapes aren't always easy to find. The Local Vine, right here in Seattle, is listed as a wine resource, a welcome surprise for owners Sarah Munson and Allison Nelson. No such lucky mention for Seattle-based Merchant du Vin, the country's first specialty beer importer, founded 30 years ago by Charles Finkel, who loves both wine and beer.

There's a beer & wine taste-off featuring the authors on Friday, April 11, at the Columbia Tower Club. $35 for small bites + a signed copy of the book. (Note to boors, be ye swillers or swirlers: there's a dress code.)

James Beard Nominations

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Tom%20Douglas%20carves.JPG Maria%20Hines.JPG Ethan%20makes%20gnocchi-1.JPG

Just announced, the 2008 James Beard award nominations and Seattle does just fine, thank you. Tom Douglas, left, is one of five nominees for outstanding restaurateur in America; Canlis a nominee for best restaurant service, and four Seattle chefs in the running for "Best Northwest Chef:" Maria Hines, center (Tilth), Holly Smith (Cafe Juanita), Ethan Stowell, right (Union) and Jason Wilson (Crush). Winners to be announced early June.

Aphrodisiac Absinthe

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absinth_beetle.jpg Green%20Fairy.jpg

This beetle in the bottle, Eurycantha horrida, you'll see it if you look closely, it's smiling. It's an aphrodisiac, say the makers of Absinthe. Made with artemisia absinthium, aka wormwood, a plant that produces the chemical thujone. Thirty-five psychoactive milligrams of the stuff. "If the liquor is consumed in appropriate amounts, it will help you in the bedroom, make you feel better physically and maybe even increase your creativity," says the company's press release. Who knew? Mind you, at $160 & change for a bottle (plus shipping from the UK), it's pricier than a half case of Grey Geese, though a lot less than an hour with Ashley Alexandra.

starbucks.JPG"I humbly recognize and share both your concern and your disappointment in how the company has performed and how that has affected your investment in Starbucks," Schultz told investors. "I promise you this will not stand."

So spake Howard Schultz at the annual shareholder meeting. Then he announced the solution: Starbucks is buying Clover, a Ballard company that makes coffee machines. And maybe start serving energy drinks.

Not enough. Schultz--like Bush--doesn't seem to understand that he has squandered his goodwill, that no amount of fair-trade, shade-grown coffee is going to bring harmony to the espresso battlefield, no amount of shiny new hardware is going to win back the loyalty of stockholders.

And did you have to sell the Sonics out from under us?

Schultz--like Bush--seems to suffer from hubris, from a sense of entitlement that victory should be his because he has the best narrative. So what happened?

"You have an economy that is really in a tailspin," Schultz admits.

But the small pleasurs of a latte were supposed to be the antidote to hard times; Starbucks was supposed to be recession-proof. A shame, a real shame that the green Starbucks dot, like Gatsby's green light, is tarnished, now forever out of reach.

What is Starbucks Thinking?

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Keynote speaker at the Culinology Conference: Starbucks Global VP of Food & Beverage

We're writing this some three weeks after every Starbucks in the country closed down for "retraining," but before the company's annual shareholders meeting this morning where the brass is going to spin the results of the, ahem, "transformational initiatives." [Flash: wire service update says they're buying new espresso machines! Wow!] Still, one disturbing preview emerged at an industry conference here in Seattle last week, the annual meeting of the Research Chefs of America called the Culinology Conference.

These are the Frankenfood people, the ones Michael Pollan is warning us about. On the surface, they're quite human; they appreciate good food themselves and probably feel they're actually contributing to the betterment of humankind. In fact, they're processors, flavor-enhancing middlemen in a conveyor belt that begins with genetically engineered corn and ends up in your already obese gut. And as the keynote speaker for their annual confab, they heard from Denny Marie Post, senior vice president for Global Food & Beverage at Starbucks.

Let's just accept the fact that our homegrown coffee chain even has a senior VP for Global Food & Beverage. Get over it. Our biggest concern is that she was hired away from Burger King, where she held the title of Chief Concept Officer, and her winning concept was obviously huge. On her watch, the biggest successes at BK, menu items that lifted the company out of the financial doldrums, were the 1,000-calorie Quad Stacker and the 1,230-calorie Triple Stacker With Cheese. BK execs knew that there were a lot more Bubbas out there than Jareds.

Now that she's on the Starbucks team, though, Post claims everyone wants to lose weight, and she chides her former BK bosses for being out of touch. Hence the displays of tasteless, low-fat, low-calorie, high-fiber snacks Starbucks has been tempting you to buy with your latte. (Duh, it's not the oatmeal cookie that makes you fat, it's the 700-calorie Frappuccino, my dear.) How can Post swerve from killer burgers to healthy snacks at Starbucks? We can hear her in the job interview: we're getting older, she's telling her board, and we're confronting our own mortality. We want to stay healthy! Vitality trumps vanity.

So here's what we can expect from the new Starbucks marketing campaign on healthy eating: make it easier, make it positive, make it delicious. Not the absence of guilt but the promise of Top Pot Doughnuts. WTF?!

Make it delicious! Music to the ears of industrial chefs. They put down their copies of Food Processing and Food Product Design and gave Post a standing ovation.

Events for Foodies

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Ivars%20w%20ferry.gif Food%20as%20Art.JPG

March 20th: Were he still alive, Ivar Haglund would be celebrating his 103rd birthday on Thursday, probably by strumming his guitar and singing some pun-filled ditty. To celebrate, the Ivar's restaurants are selling cups of birthday chowder for 103 cents.

Ivar's, the chain he founded (to feed visitors to the aquarium), has grown to encompass 3 full-service restaurants, 3 fish bars, 24 "fast casual" outlets and 20 stadium concessions. A line of chowders from Ivar's Soup & Sauce Company is sold all over the world. And on Thursday, you can buy a cup of the stuff (your choice of white, red or smoked salmon) for a buck and three pennies.

Gotta say, it's a guilty pleasure, but we're not alone. At a buffet tasting of fancy-schmancy plates painstakingly "crafted" by seafood chefs around Seattle last month, the most satisfying item was a cup of good old Ivar's chowder.

And while we're at it, another foodie event on the near horizon:

April 5th: "Food as Art" gathers 18 of Seattle's top African-American chefs and restaurateurs for a day of tastings and demonstrations. It's an all-you-can-eat affair at the Bell Harbor Conference Center, a benefit for the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas. We wrote about this worthy fundraiser a couple of years ago.

New Queen of Chili

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Chili%20Cook-Off.JPG Eater.JPG Jane%20Hummer.JPG

The timing couldn't be better: as Bear falls, as chaos looms, what's more reassuring than comfort food? Reassuring staples like meatloaf, mac-and-cheese, or chili. Especially chili.

Every culture has ways of cooking meat in an aromatic liquid till it falls into tender pieces. Think of all those stews and casseroles, think of pot-au-feu and daube, goulasch and carbonade. Add beans and it's cassoulet, add seafood and it's bouillabaisse. Maybe not in Belltown, but there are plenty of places that cook squirrel and possum. Hunters go into the woods and return with bear, or maybe a few bunnies; it can all go into the stewpot.

Which brings us back to chili...just a highly seasoned stew, after all, although one with infinite variations. Ethan Stowell, the owner and chef at Union, has been sponsoring charity cook-offs for a while now, featuring food that everyone his or her own way, whether it's southwest chili or Cincinnati style or something altogether original. Two years ago, Steve Smrstik (then of 35th St. Bistro, now at Pink Door) won the inaugural chili cook-off using cuts of pork. Sunday night, the eve of St. Paddy's Day, the eve of the Bear Stearns financial apocalyspe, eleven local chefs gather to prepare steaming pots of their own secret-recipe chili. Three pros, eight enthusiastic amateurs, a sold-out house.

One recipe is kinda soupy, one is outright burned, a couple taste almost like spaghetti sauce, another like paprika. One is just too mild, another way too spicy, one is made with shrimp and squid (go, Oyster Bill!), one comes with dilled sour cream like a German pot roast. But three or four have a satisfying balance of juicy meat flavors and spicy chilis. Turns out that one of them used lamb and another entry, by Mangetout Catering, used venison.

Not just any venison, either, but an animal bagged by an enthusiastic employee. Mangetout's owner, Jane Hummer, added flavor by smoking the onions and spices, giving the dish additional depth and sweetness. Enough intensity, at any rate, to win the cook-off.

Probably just a coincidence, but Hummer also happens to be on the board of trustees of the evening's beneficiary, Seattle Childen's Theater. Psst, Jane: don't tell the kids you cooked Bambi.


We're not sure what to make of these cheese figures, "sculpted" by one Sarah Kaufmann, except that they gives a bad name to cheddar. Via The Knife.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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