August 2008 Archives

Elk%20tacos.JPGUrbanites we are, talking, eating and navel-gazing as if our existence in the Big City were the highest form of life known to man. (And, hey, it's not just here in Seattle. Could just as well be Noo Yawk or Paree.) To become aware of our intellectual provincialism, you have to cross the Cascades.

Beyond the mountains lie the fields and vineyards whose bounty feeds us, but, even more important, the real strength of this land: Wazzu, Washington State University, whose scientists and researchers bridge the gap between agricultural theories, laboratory tests, and farmland practices.

At a gala celebration in the lobby of Benaroya Hall, "A Taste of WSU" presented a tables staffed by a dozen chefs whose dishes used local ingredients (salmon, elk, lamb, cheeses, shellfish, vegetables). Surrounding them were show-and-tell displays of academic projects, from endangered species recovery to methane digesters, that have a direct impact on the food we eat.

The danger, not to be underestimated, is Frankenfood, when technology trumps terroir. But "Food Science" is not an automatic non-sequitur. For every project like "Automation & Mechanization" there's another on protecting bird flocks, or compost research, or pesticide safety. Climate-friendly farming and low-impact storm-water systems are getting attention, along with humble crops like peanuts (a potential biofuel, not to mention delicious). WSU runs a program, for example, that helps ensure sufficient grazing habitat for elk, and Oceanaire's Eric Donnelly produced some elk tacos to demonstrate the program's viability.

At the center of the room, the Seattle chapter of Chefs Collaborative. (VP Zach Lyons, a food and ag writer and familiar figure at farmers markets, was the event's lead organizer.) The concept of connecting our state's top ag research institution with some of Seattle's top chefs: sheer genius...if you pay attention.

Just as wine is made in the vineyard (with a little help from the folks in the cellar), dinner is made on the farm (with just a little help from the folks in the kitchen). It's heartening to know that we have professors who study ways to improve transportation, keep bees healthy, reduce rural poverty, and provide technical assistance to small farmers, and that (once a year, at least) there's a forum where they can see the results: on the plate.

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Kushi are Japanese skewers, bamboo or metal. Threaded with a sardine, a prawn, peppers, pork belly or chicken hearts, they're grilled over makeshift charcoal braziers and served up to passersby in Tokyo. In Belltown, you get to sit. In fact, you'll be served on the new open-air deck along Second, a 40-seat expanse at sidewalk level, while executive chef Billy Beach grills your mushrooms or gizzards (over imported coals) inside.

This is Kushibar, from the folks who brought you Umi Sake House. It opens to the public next week with an ambitious menu of more than 80 items on skewers and 20 or so bowls of soups and noodles. I'm looking forward to stir-fried yaki udom "street style" as well as the usual suspects (chicken broth with pork, corn, egg, scallions). Skewers will cost $2 to $5 apiece, with happy hour combo platters available. Ramen will run $8 to $15. House beers on tap include Sapporo and Oly (now part of Pabst, alas).

Official opening (with liquor license) after Labor Day.

Kushibar, 2319 Second Avenue, 206-448-2488 Kushibar (opening soon) on Urbanspoon

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Snack%20hole-1.JPGStory looks harmless enough: local entrepreneurs use an exotic sweetener to flavor their line of diet soda. That's the line Pee Eye reporter Andrea James swallowed in her piece today about a local soda called Zevia.

Here's the part the paper doesn't tell you: Zevia is one of the greatest "second act" stories of personal redemption in local history. It's also demonstrates how to avoid food labelling laws.

First things first: the cast of characters. And are they ever characters.

Derek Newman, an attorney and one of Zevia's three founders, was once the lawyer for Seattle's king of internet porn, Seth Warshavsky. Okay, so he was no doubt doing his duty as an ambitious young lawyer, upholding his professional oath to serve his client to the best of his abilities. And don't forget, that was 10 years ago.

Ian Eisenberg, another founder, is the son of Joel Eisenberg, the Seattle-based king of phone sex and sometime Warshavsky partner. Ian's own ventures include a decade of tech and internet startups like the failed Blue Frog Mobile, preceded by shady direct-mail dealings that ended with an FTC injunction to reimburse $24 million to defrauded consumers. Oh, and there were the offshore gambling websites, too, but they never amounted to much.

Both guys seem to have settled down, raised families (pictures of the kids on the Zevia website), and turned their lives around. What could be more American, right? We love these stories of sin and redemption, these come-back kids! Writes Newman on the Zevia blog" I have never been so satisfied professionally as I am here at Zevia." Wow.

So...what's in the can? Regular soda has to list the high-fructose corn syrup. Diet sodas that use artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharine must mention them as well. But Zevia is made with stevia, a South American plant with a sweetish leaf and a metallic aftertaste, used as a sugar substitute by the earnest people who frequent health-food stores. But stevia's not approved by the FDA as a food, so the Zevia folks pitch stevia as an "all natural," zero-calorie dietary supplement, a trick that legally prohibits them from listing their ingredients. By the way, stevia is banned in Europe.

[CLARIFICATION: it's not ingredients they can't mention but calories, carbs, sugars and fats. Here's the back label.]

The whole Zevia concept, in fact, is a stroke of genius: diet soda as a dietary supplement! Of course, you can't sprinkle Zevia on your cereal like sugar, you have to, like, drink it, at $1 a can. Now, that's professionally fulfilling, alright.

You gotta hand it to Newman and Eisenberg for their ingenuity. And to the Pee-Eye for its unquestioning, starry-eyed profile. Gulp!

In other countries, in other cultures, it's known as the Feast of the Assumption, Maria Himmelfahrt, Fête de l'Assomption. In Italy, a country no less religious than France, it's known simply as Ferragosto--a nationwide summertime fair (think Fourth of July plus Labor Day) originally under the patronage of the Roman Emperor Augustus. All over Italy, life stops. Not just for a day or two, but for a week at the very least.

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This year, Osteria La Spiga. staked its claim to the leadership of Seattle's Italian restaurant community by turning itself into a Ferragosta village. It's a big restaurant (6,000 square feet, seating for 174), and they set up a dozen food stations, starting with antipasti at the bar, ending with grilled skewers of meat on the patio out back. In between, prosciutto and mortadella, pasta with truffles, a seafood frito misto,, roast suckling pig, assorted cheeses, and, for dessert, deepfried bomboloni (donuts filled with pastry cream).

Running a restaurant as big as La Spiga is no mean task, and it's not being mean-spirited to say that it hasn't always been a total success. A staff of close to 50, multiple spaces (bar, main dining room, upstairs private dining, patio). On paper, a place that size should gross well over $1 million a year, but training servers to sell and deliver (and kitchen staff to execute) at that level often stumps the best of them. Complaints about La Spiga's inability to keep up boiled over earlier this year in The Stranger, with Bethany Jean Clement basically retracting her original, gushing review, and La Spiga's chef and co-owner Sabrina Tinsley responding, basically, that the critics misunderstood the nature of Italian food.

But restaurants are more than just public kitchens, they're public living rooms; it's not (just) about their food, it's (mostly) about their hospitality. So it's a pleasure to report that La Spiga's hospitality, for Ferragosto, was as warm as can be. And, relieved of the demands of a regular crowd of fussy, impatient diners, the kitchen was able to concentrate on a dozen or so perfect dishes that showcased the delicious simplicity of northern Italy's Romagna region.

Maybe that's the way to go: dump the menu, just let your guests wander through the house, plate in hand, and help themselves. Certainly, anyone who's ever put on a backyard barbecue knows the drill.

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Osteria La Spiga, 1429 12th Avenue, 206-323-8881 Osteria la Spiga on Urbanspoon

100 Clams for 100 Clams

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University Village ain't no real village, and it's tempting to assume that its various eateries ain't no real restaurants, either. After all, who goes to a mall for the food, other than overstuffed flatland touristers? But while the overall level of U Village gastronomy offers no particular challenge, it does at least provide familiarity and comfort, exactly the right niche for Atlas Foods, part of the Chow Foods mini-chain of six neighborhood restaurants (5-Spot, Coastal Kitchen, etc.).

Some time back, Atlas repositioned itself as a seafood house. Sure, the menu still has plenty of faux-southern Billy-Bob platters to satisfy the mall-cruising mastodons, but there's a commitment on the fresh sheet to food that swims to the plate.
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The current promotion involves clams: clam hash at breakfast, a clamwich at lunch, a redundant "clams vongole" at dinner. All in good fun, Atlas even staged a clam-eating contest (100 manilas steamed with jalapeno, cilantro and garlic) this weekend. Four heats of four eaters, followed by an eat-off of another 100 clams.

Now, competitive eating can be a dangerous sport, but the 16 contestants all signed waivers acknowledging the risks. An Atlas spokesman said that volunteers from the kitchen staff had downed 100 clams in about three and a half minutes, but the fastest time in the prelims was 2:56. A woman from France was edged out in the first heat; so was a sixty-ish, white-haired dude; they both entered, they said, because they loved clams.

In the finals, it was all 20-something males [YouTube video except of prelims here, full final heat here]. The winner, just barely: Ryan Foss, a junior majoring in environmental studies at Western. His prize: a $100 bill.

Atlas Foods, 2675 NE Village Lane, 206-522-6025 Atlas Foods on Urbanspoon.

Shocked By "Bottle Shock"

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bottle_shock.jpg"Based on a true story of love, victory and fermentation." Oh? Movies are notoriously bad at history, no matter how much the producers spend on artificial verisimilitude. When they spend zilch, it's embarrassing. No location shots in Paris, just three or four period Citroens to represent for "France," a yellow Gremlin for California. Everything's shot in telephoto so you can't see modern-day backgrounds, except for endless helicopter shots over lush vineyards (impossibly lush, given that the story takes place in early spring).

The woozy premise behind Bottle Shock is a blind tasting in Paris, organized in 1976 by a British wine merchant, Steven Spurrier. The top white, pitted against formidable French competition, was Chateau Montelena from Calistoga. An American red, from Stag's Leap, came in ahead of the classified Bordeaux. The lone journalist who covered the event, George Taber, wrote a few lines in Time that got picked up by the trades. The news made the insular French recognize that decent wine could come from Napa, thereby Changing the Course of Western Civilization.

Alan Rickman, an excellent actor, disgraces himself by portraying Spurrier as a pompous wine snob shunned by respectable Parisian wine makers. Nothing could be further from the truth. As it happens, I worked with Spurrier on a recent project, InTouch Travel, for which we wrote this profile:


"Steven Spurrier joined the wine trade in 1964 as a trainee with Christopher & Co., London's oldest wine merchant. In 1970 he moved to Paris where he opened Les Caves de la Madeleine, which rapidly became one of the most highly regarded specialist wine shops in Paris.

"Three years later, he opened L'Academie du Vin, France's first private wine school, and went on to stage the most famous tasting in the modern history of wine, the so-called Paris Tasting of 1976, when a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from California scored more highly than some of the most prestigious wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux.

"In 1988 Spurrier returned to the UK, where he became a wine consultant and journalist."

So the notion that Spurrier was desperate for publicity is sheer invention, along with almost everything else in the film. Word is, he's most unhappy. The real story is in Taber's book, The Judgment of Paris (Scribner, 2005), which should make an interesting movie some day. Can't come too soon. As for Bottle Shock, despite its success at indie festivals (Sundance, SIFF), it has failed to find a commercial distributor.

Notes on a Whymsical Meatloaf

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Meatloaf%20san%20w%20cauli%20soup.JPGEasy to make fun of this place, what with its silly name (no connection with South Carolina radio station WHYM or the New York restaurant Whym).and Fifties decor, but hard to ignore its pride of place: the clean, well-lighted prow of Belltown sailing northward, 24 hours a day, into the intersection of First & Denny.

When it was Minnie's, this was the archetype of a shit-hole diner. The employees knew better than to eat here themselves; the restrooms were beyond Third-World. Last year, the feds padlocked Minnie's for non-payment a hundred grand worth of payroll taxes.

It was with relief that Belltown learned that the new owners would be Bridget and Neil Scott of the Hurricane Café, people who knew how to run a place open 24 hours a day. They hired a chef (Tony Sestadt), a bar manager (Terry Gatechair), built a spanking new kitchen and installed new lighting. So where are the customers? Friday night, 10:30 PM: the host is alone at the checkstand; there's one waiter, eating his staff meal. Saturday night, 10 PM: One dude, by his lonesome. Sunday night: two people at the bar, two stools apart. Lunchtime seems better, half a dozen tables. Breaded meatloaf sandwich, $9. comes with cup of gooey, impossibly yellow cauliflower soup (or salad or fries) and a very spicy ketchup that gives an element of flavor to the bland filling. In other words, food you'd order in a martini haze at 3:15 AM, when it wouldn't matter if you were the only shlub in the joint. They got it right!

Whym, 110 Denny Way Whym on Urbanspoon

Hempfest: They Just Keep Coming

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Well, now, we're not going to try to put this up at exactly 4:20 because that would be, you know, predictable.

Mainstream media are always trying to be funny about pot, writing headlines about plans going up in smoke, or stoners trying to keep to a schedule. Mainstream media have overt allegiances (to advertisers like Big Oil, Big Pharm) and unspoken alliances (to news sources like police and prosecutors) that makes it hard for their reporters and editors to be totally objective when it comes to drugs.

As the nation's largest protest rally for drug policy reform, the substance of Hempfest gets ignored by the daily papers and tee-vee (except for monkey-in-the-zoo photos of hippies). Policy is so darn complicated, dontcha know.

Alternative media such as urban weeklies have more leeway to challenge the status quo. Best of all, of course: The Internets. So it falls to us to point out that tens of thousands of people (young, old, weird, straight, all shapes, sizes & colors) streamed into Myrtle Edwards Park this weekend, many so they could listen to a staggering amount of music, others to hear speakers or participate in panel discussions. A relatively small number of police officers were on hand, just in case anything untoward happened; they had nothing to do but eat chicken sandwiches for lunch.

"Some people from the Edmonds PTA were here yesterday, with unfounded fears that their kids would be corrupted," said travel writer Rick Steves, one of the speakers."What they saw is that we don't have horns. Marijuana users are just like their suburban neighbors. It's a bit like the gay rights movement, except that people are still going to jail."

There. It's almost 4:20. Can we go now?

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You'd hear reports from time to time, Justin Niedermeyer sightings. Trial dinners at Sitka & Spruce, name changes (Pian Pianino, anyone?), endless postponements. All over now. The name is Spinasse, and it served its first paying customers last night.

No gaudy sidewalk treatment, just a storefront on Capitol Hill where the Globe Café once dished out vegan fare. Inside, a stage set, what Sitka & Spruce might have looked like with a less minimalist decorator. Marble-topped bar with seats for six, flanked by butcher-block working surface that doubles as seating for four more. A heavy-duty, manual pasta-rolling machine; a wall festooned with pasta-cutting wheels. Beyond the bar, framed by a proscenium of bottles and glassware, the kitchen itself, the showy domain of Niedermeyer and his crew.

Pasta, you say? Not so fast. Antipasti first: salads, cured meats, and to my delight, a traditional vitello tonatto. Love this dish when properly made, with poached veal sliced very thin and topped with a tuna sauce. (Check here for the version--since renamed veal carpaccio--at How To Cook A Wolf.) This light and refereshing summer dish adds the piquancy of tuna (blended with capers and mayonnaise) to the juicy but relatively bland meat. Would have liked a lemon wedge on the plate, but ate every bite regardless.

Pasta, next. Many, many egg yolks. Rolled, not extruded. That means no round noodles, only flat sheets, and cut by hand at that. Tajarin these were, like tagliatelle only finer, served with a basic ragù (slightly undersalted, in need of an herb or two and a crack of pepper). Or agnolotti al plin (hand-pinched), with sage butter. Or potato gnocchi with mushrooms. All straightforward Italian country fare.

Main courses on opening night: slow-roasted goat or quick-roasted chicken. A la carte at the bar, prix fixe in the dining room ($33 for two courses, $47 for four). Wine list offers 34 choices, all from top Piedmont estates, 9 of them by the glass. Especially welcome: the quartino (quarter-liter carafe), ideal for glass-and-a-half drinking with each course.

There's cheese for dessert, to be sampled on the next visit. In the meantime, Spinasse represents a major paradigm shift for authentic Italian cooking in Seattle: no longer the exclusive province of self-taught immigrants (Sorrentino), and far superior to competent but soulless culinary-school Italian (Tavolata, Branziino).

Spinasse is said to be named for a hillside in Piedmont, but there's no reference to "Spinasse" in any of my Italian gazeteers. Another Justin Niedermeyer mystery, no doubt, to be resolved in due time.

Spinasse, 1531 14th Ave., Seattle 206-251-7673
Spinasse on Urbanspoon

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The past comes first, firmly camouflaged on the flank of Phinney Hill. Bruce Naftaly's venerable Le Gourmand (23 years old!) and its offshoot, Sambar. Yes, the main dining room has been updated with puppets. (Plus ça change! Carla's in the Elysée Palace; get over it.) The patio is lovely, jasmine-scented. Only four stools at le tout petit bar, where Microsofties in muted tees nibble frites délectables. An oasis. Le Gourmand Restaurant on Urbanspoon Sambar on Urbanspoon

Further down Market, a new joint, Hamurger Harry's, where Sea Breeze once wafted. Neon like Johnny Rocket's, but upscale (i.e., $10 burgers): serious cocktails, salads if you don't want fries, ESPN in place of jukebox. No website yet. Hamburger Harry's on Urbanspoon

On Ballard Avenue, the Olympic Athletic Club still awaits financing to complete its transformation into a luxury hotel. Shiku Sushi is set to open soon in place of Divino Wine Bar; sushi-master is Ken Yamamoto of Shiki, bottom of Queen Anne. Two doors down, another sushi parlor, Moshi Moshi. Hello? Hello? The London Moshi has conveyor belts; Ballard's probably not. Owner is Kevin Erickson, in the process of selling his wine bar, Bricco, top of Queen Anne. Is this the future? Queen Anne morphing into Ballard, wine bars into sushi parlors?

No Pot, Please. We're British.

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Hempfest%20shirt.JPGIt's an unspoken and longstanding trade-off: local reporters get access to cops and prosecutors (i.e., tips and leads) in return for favorable news coverage of staged events (weapons seizures, drug raids). Example:

SUNNYSIDE – For the fifth time, a drug task force has raided a vineyard in the lower Yakima Valley, this time seizing more than 4,400 plants.

The latest raid was Saturday morning near Sunnyside. It brings the total to more than 77,000 marijuana plants seized in Yakima County this season. The owner of the vineyard is being sought. A day earlier agents seized more than 19,000 plants from a vineyard near Mabton and arrested three men.

A task force supervisor, State Patrol Sgt. Richard A. Beghtol, says pot growers are buying vineyards to hide their illegal crops. However, he says marijuana requires much more irrigation than grapes, so heavy water use is often a tipoff.

Drug agents say a mature marijuana plant can be worth about $1,000.

From this modest beginning, Sgt. Beghtol extrapolates (in a breathless followup report, three days later) that Mexican criminals are investing heavily in eastern Washington vineyards.

"They are able to amass a huge amount of money and using that money to go out and buy land to do their marijuana cultivation," Beghtol said. "It's their big moneymaker."

Thus does a routine drug bust in Yakima make the national Associated Press wire. Google News Alerts promptly picks up the words "marijuana" and "vineyards," and the next thing you know, Decanter, the British wine journal, gets wind of the story and plasters it on their website: "CRIMINALS TURN WINE INTO WEED."

A break, please. Longtime Yakima Valley grape grower David Minick (owner of Willow Crest Winery) points out that the vineyards are juice-growing concord grapes, not the wine-growing varieties. So Decanter readers have nothing to worry about.

As for marijuana advocates locally, this weekend's Hempfest is promoting "industrial hemp."

Obamarama%20cocktail.jpgChasing last week's patriotic cocktail (generically in support of the US Olympics team), this week brings a shot for Barack Obama. It comes from longtime restaurant impressario Jackie Roberts of The Pink Door:

2 oz. Crater Lake Vodka (hand crafted American vodka from Oregon ) WHY? Because he loves America

2 oz. Freshly pressed grape juice WHY? Because he's fresh!

1/2 oz. cointreau WHY? Because he has a sweet side

1/2 oz. freshly pressed lemon juice WHY? Because he HAS to win Florida

Just a whisper of curaçao to make the drink green WHY? Because he is serious about the environment.

Coincidentally, we hope, it's also the second straight use of Blue Curaçao in this (Dubious Drinks) series. Anyway, dubbed the Obama-Rama, the cocktail is served up in a sugared martini glass garnished with a frozen grape and a tiny American flag, decorated with glitter bling by Jackie's own hand.

Will set you back ten bucks, with a dollar of that going to Obama's presidential campaign. Have one on the shaded view deck, or during the nightly cabaret performances.

The Pink Door, 1919 Post Alley, 206-443-3421 Pink Door on Urbanspoon

Did the les enfants drink too much last night? Things get a bit ooh-la-la down at la plage? The Ministry of Health is trying to curb teenage drinking with an over-the-top spot about overindulgence.

The reaction? Number one: attempts to download the soundtrack (by Brazilian composer Silvano Michelino). Number two: indifference. Sounds like "Your Brain on Booze" isn't a particularly effective way to change behavior.

Darrin%20floats%20blue%20Curacao.JPG RWB%20Martini%20at%20McCormicks.JPGIf this sounds snarky and needlessly mean-spirited, just blame the Chinese. In any event, the marketing wizards at McCormick & Schmick decreed that there would be cocktails with an Olympics theme, so the "Red White & Blue Martini" came into being.

Fortunately, barman Darrin Bengston knows his specific gravities. Raspberry purée into the bottom, followed by a shaker of Stoli Vanil and Stoli Blueberi. Float an ounce of Blue Curaçao, and voilà! The blue settles midway down the glass. Tastes like an eight-dollar popsicle.

Fortunately, too, McCormick's still has its after-10 PM happy hour menu, tasty plates under $2. McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon


It's the most extravagant of all operas. In fact, the 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 is a finely integrated staging and immensely satisfying night of theater.

All three leads sing with impressive musical power. Soprano Lisa Daltirus, who won plaudits here as Tosca earlier this year, returns as the doomed Aida. Tenor Antonello Palombi, who who dazzled Seattle audiences as the tragic clown in Pagliacci, is an impressive Radamès. Seattle's favorite resident mezzo, Stephanie Blythe, makes Amneris into a figure of Wagnerian stature.

08%20Aida%20rl%20364-1.jpgIn 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 slavegirl Aida. 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 skillfully handled by Robin Guarino. But what about those elephants? In Portland, where the outdoor theater adjoins the zoo, they've brought in an elephant or two over the years. Not at McCaw; not even a pony. Instead, this production uses an ornately decorated set, 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, Guarino has called Aida "a chamber opera at heart" in a couple of interviews. Still, that's like calling an F18 Hornet an overgrown Piper Cub; this Aida is a Blue Angels extravaganza through and through, even without the elephants.

Seattle Opera presents Aida, McCaw Hall, through Aug 23rd. For tickets, call 206-389-7676 or go online.
Seattle Opera photos © by Rosarii Lynch.

Pizza Man: Life is a Circle

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Agostino_w_pizza.JPGSeattle certainly doesn't lack for pizza parlors. In the Belltown Court complex, for example, three places on the same sidewalk: Belltown Pizza (the building's original pie-maker), the recently-opened Branzino (pizza appetizers), and La Vita è Bella (which added a pizzeria six or seven years ago).

There's a true Sicilian, Agostino Trentacoste, once again standing in front of La Vita è Bella's pizza oven. He had crossed paths, briefly, with original chef, the legendary Mamma Enza (now at her own restaurant, Sorrentino, on Queen Anne) before moving to Hawaii three years ago. His Sicilian pizzas are thin-crust, not overloaded with toppings.

There are over 300 pizza places in Seattle, and only 20 or so are called Domino's. That leaves a lot of room for individuality. If you've moved to here from out-of-state, you no doubt grew up with whatever style of pizza dominated your home town, which would have depended on which Mediterranean immigrant community settled there (northern Italian, southern Italian, Greek, even French); Trenton isn't New Haven, Chicago isn't LA. (Obsessive foodies: discussion of regional pizza styles here.) Most Americans want a ton of toppings and a mountain of gooey cheese, but traditional Italian pizza is humble food for poor folks. A dollop of tomato, a bit of cheese, some herbs. Tastes better if the dough is freshly made, even better if the oven is wood-fired.

Perhaps it's the simplicity: Seattle's Neapolitan pizza empire, Via Tribunali, is growing apace. Coffee king Mike McConnell (founder of the Caffè Vita chain) and his chef, Dino Santonicola (a true Neapolitan), have three stores going (Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Georgetown), and a fourth, at 43rd & Fremont, about to open. And, yes, another in Belltown, where Crocodile once lurked. McConnell's original backer for the pizza ventures was none other than Peter Lamb, the restaurant guru whose most recent venture is Branzino. And Via Tribunali's lone non-pizza offering is a lasagna, which they outsource to the city's preeminent lasagna-maker, none other than Enza Sorrentino...who also happens to have a wood-burning pizza oven.

La Vita E' Bella Pizzeria on Urbanspoon Via Tribunali on Urbanspoon Sorrentino on Urbanspoon

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

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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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