November 2008 Archives

Black Friday: Buy More Stuff!

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Busiest shopping day of the year, nexus of downtown Seattle commerce, the hard core of the retail core: Westlake Mall. And what do we have? Well, people doing their holiday shopping, of course. And getting ready for the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas Tree. But who are those spoilsports with the signs, already? Ah, that would be the protestors, the anarchists, the enemies of the public good. So nicely dressed, too. So polite, so well-groomed. Those signs, what do they say? Down with the capitalist state? No, they signs are actually encouraging commerce. "Buy More Stuff," they implore. "Hurry," they urge.

Irony, how clever! Performance art, for the third year running! A theme song! Who'd have thought up such an ironic and clever protest against consumerism? (Connect the dots, if you will; you'd be right.) Yet here's the surprise: in today's sputtering economy, consumer spending is just what we really need. We're all in on the joke.

"Greeted As Liberators"

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Tanks%20liberate%20Paris.jpgThey didn't come in tanks this time, and they didn't bring cigarettes or nylons, but they were cheered nonetheless. Soldiers without uniforms, community fighters, partisan organizers. Even those who had profited mightily by their collaboration with the Interim Government expressed joy and relief. The old leader's lieutenants, hunkering in buildings guarded by metal detectors, no longer issued orders or directives or regulations. The one referred to by the populace as Baby G left without fanfare on a foreign trip; no one noticed he was gone. Nor that he had returned. Eight years after the coup that brought him to power, it was all but over.

Plans were announced for a formal transfer of authority, but it was quickly clear that the new leader was already in charge. He held news conferences and appointed his own lieutenants. He even spoke in complete sentences, which confused his enemies. Foreign dignitaries bowed and scraped; the palefaced president of Italy, jealous, even called him TO, the Tanned One.

To gain power, the Tanned One had fought a series of duels. First against his own partisans, then against Baby G's anointed successor. He vanquished them all, and his partisans, unable to celebrate his victory with cigarettes, allowed themselves the simple human emotion of relief. The vanquished, for their part, resorted to distilled spirits.

turkey-crafts-1.jpgIt had been a long eight years. Baby G's friends and associates had amassed unimaginable riches while squandering lives and treasure in a distant desert. Dissent was suppressed, phones were tapped, travel was made increasingly uncomfortable by a new army of safety goons. The nation's business, booming at first, slowed to a crawl. The Earl of Enron collapsed first. Then the Dukes of Detroit complained no one would buy their cars. The Barons of Wall Street, having run out of real money to steal, made up imaginary contracts and sold them to each other. When that stopped working, there was no more money at all.

Fortunately, there were still turkeys. The leader of the turkeys made an impassioned speech, asking for self-sacrifice. Noble birds, they went to their fate without complaint. A far, far better thing than they had ever done.

Cross-posted on Daily Kos

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The bar at El Gaucho Bellevue; ceo Chad Mackay with dad (and chairman) Paul.

In terms of opening a new luxury restaurant, it may not be the best of times, but it's probably not the worst of times, either. And if anyone's going to straddle this tale of two cities, be they London and Paris or Seattle and Bellevue, let it be El Gaucho.

Long has it been said that there's no "there" there, but now there is: City Center Plaza, a vast open space in the heart of Bellevue's commercial center surrounded by 150 stories of high rise offices and condos, with more abuilding. Enter the revived power lunch, and enter El Gaucho's new Eastside showcase: a multi-level, 200-seat eating emporium that's designed to be "swanky, spirited and nostalgic."

For the first time since Paul Mackay brought back the legendary El Gaucho name 12 years ago, there's daylight at an El Gaucho, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the plaza. And a built-in clientele: in addition to the fat and fatter cats (who watch the mice who toil in all those cubicles, who show who's boss by where they eat), there's the Ladies Who Shop and the Ladies Who Lunch. (No office buildings or LWS/LWLs in Belltown, obviously.)

Granted, all this was penciled out in the Age of Optimism (the press release went out well over a year ago): 12,000 square feet under a 26-foot ceiling, for a cool $4 million build-out. Come the grand opening, the google map still shows a parking lot and everybody's wondering when, if ever, Microsoft plans to move in upstairs. But "the Gauch" has a loyal following. Those Wicked Shrimp, those crab cakes, those steaks, those tableside flames, they help nervous prom kids celebrate and help strutting celebrities spread the wealth.

Sure, you can drop a bundle, but lunch prices are reasonable. Service begins December 2nd.

El Gaucho Bellevue, City Center Plaza, 10903 NE 6th, Bellevue, 425-455-2742 El Gaucho Bellevue on Urbanspoon
(There's a driveway off 108th NE, just north of the Transit Center; better yet, read the directions on the website.)

Cornichon Speaks!

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Last-minute notice: Cornichon is on the radio this afternoon, Tuesday, Nov. 25th, at 5:30 Pacific Time, interviewed by fellow-francophile Maribeth Clemente for her show Travel Fun. It's on Colorado Public Radio's Telluride affiliate, The other guest is Clotilde Dusoulier, creator of the lovely Paris blog Chocolate and Zucchini. I talk about wine, travel, France, red cabbage, and so on.

Something Delicious This Way Swims

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Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez of Harvest Vine and Txori does not take his responsibilities lightly. He is not only Seattle's pre-eminent Spanish chef, he is one of the city's great chefs, period. There's incessant pressure, however, to innovate, to renew, to surprise. Potato omelet, salt cod, even octopus: been there, eaten that.

But what about lamprey? Not eel, actually. At least not the tiny little squiggles called gulas, but the big fellas, lamprey. Look like eel (long, basically) but not. More primitive, no bones. You eaten those?

Born in freshwater, in the rivers of France, Spain and Portugal, lamprey slither out to the Atlantic and are easily captured in the shallow waters of the Bay of Biscay. A "meaty" fish, fit for a king, it's said. Sadly, they're considered pests in the Great Lakes, where they feed on trout.

Somehow, Chef Joseba has got his hands on a shipment of lampreys, from the Yukon, no less, Arctic lamprey (Lampetra camtschatica if you will), and will be cooking them up for the next three or four weeks at his flagship restaurant, Harvest Vine, in Madison Park. These bad boys are dipped through holes in the ice at Graying, 400 miles up the Yukon River. They travel under ice for 2,000 miles to spawn. (Great pic on Nancy Leson's Seattle Times blog, "All You Can Eat.")Preparation will vary from one week to the next; the default is to poach them in a spicy tomato sauce. Price will vary as well, but expect to pay about $15 for an order.

Harvest Vine, 2701 E. Madison, Seattle 206-320-9771. Harvest Vine on Urbanspoon

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Shavonne Maes with Pike Pub's first bottle of Entire, owners Charles & Roseanne Finkel

By the time you read this, alas, there will be virtually none left, at least not at the Pike Pub & Brewery where it originated. Not that the total production of 100 cases of 12 22-ounce "dinner size" bottles) was all that much to begin with. Ten cases reserved for the pub's walk-in customers, almost half of which were sold, at $9.99 apiece, by the end of Monday's lunch rush. The rest are being distributed to bottle shops and high-end taverns, along with a few draught kegs. Pike Pub will tap its own quarter barrel at precisely 11 AM on Friday, November 28th. Be there.

At the heart of the brew is Pike's regular 5X Stout, aged for seven months in whiskey barrels purchased from Kentucky's Heaven Hill Distilleries. To boost the alcohol, this was blended with a specially brewed batch of 12 percent Imperial Stout, then cut back to 9.5 percent with the regular 5X. The result was dubbed "Entire," evoking the tradition of blending dark, aged beers with lighter ales, a common practice in Dickensian London.

It's been the talk of the beer blogs for the last couple of weeks, so Cornichon ambled down to the pub and brewery when it opened this morning and bought the first bottle to be sold commercially. Almost black, the stout smelled like espresso; it had a rich and creamy mouthfeel with virtually no carbonation and big, wine-like flavors. Hoppy, too (Yakima Valley, Willamette, Goldings and Columbus). Terrific with a burger, though it really merits a juicy steak. A beer worth laying down, too; it will improve with a year or two of age.

Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, Pike Pub's owners, have been in Seattle for 30 years. Owner of a wine distributorship in Oklahoma, Charles was recruited by Chateau Ste. Michelle to be its national sales manager. He went on to found Merchant du Vin, the nation's first importer to focus on specialty beers. In the late 1980s he launched a brewery in the Pike Place Market, followed by a brewpub. Having sold everything, "retired," and embarked on bicycle trips to the food capitals of Europe and Asia, the Finkels ended up buying the place back two years ago, with Roseanne as president. They hired a serious brewermaster, Drew Cluley, and quickly restored Pike Brewery to prominence. The family-friendly pub features a dozen or so brews on tap, a vast array of bottles and mixed drinks. Down in the brewery, several bourbon barrels stand alongside the stainless steel trappings of a craft brewery that produces 9,000 barrels a year. (At 15.5-gallons a barrel, that's about 1.5 million 12-ounce glasses or bottles of beer. Sounds like a lot, but Budweiser probably spills more than that.)

Rose Ann is one of Seattle's most prominent foodies. She and a couple of pals owned Truffles, a specialty food store in Laurelhurst; she was chief operating officer of Merchant du Vin, started Seattle's Slow Food convivium, and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. In addition to his passion for craft beer and fine wine, Charles has a remarkable talent as a graphic designer, specializing in marketing materials for breweries. He's also a writer, photographer and world traveler; his design shop website is a hoot.

Pike Pub & Brewery, 1425 First Avenue. 206-622-6044 Pike Pub & Brewery on Urbanspoon

frustration-798907.jpgGet this, from a journalist who should know better:

I go into restaurants these days, look around at the tables often still crowded with young people, and I have this urge to go from table to table and say: “You don’t know me, but I have to tell you that you shouldn’t be here. You should be saving your money. You should be home eating tuna fish. This financial crisis is so far from over. We are just at the end of the beginning. Please, wrap up that steak in a doggy bag and go home.”
Friedman titles his NYTimes Op-Ed "We Found the WMDs" ... in our own backyard (the seeds of the financial crisis). This apologist for invading Iraq now wants to solve the problem by blowing up the restaurant industry. How misguided can you get? (Similar comment string online.)

What's to be gained if "young people" go home to their rat-infested hovels and eat canned tuna? The economy doesn't improve if consumers hunker down, it grows when people spend. Friedman can stay comfortably in his bourgeois manse, sipping from a stash of upper-middle-class beverages and eating Omaha steaks from the freezer while denying his fellow citizens the right to a beer and a pizza? Leaving aside the issue that restaurants are major employers, major purchasers of food and wine, and major consumers themselves of services as varied as the guy who brings clean laundry, the guy who adjusts the dishwashing chemicals. You tell "young people" to stop going to restaurants, Mr. Friedman, and you'll have chaos. It's a $500 billion industry that employs 15 million people, as important as automobile manufacturing. And it's working just fine without government subsidies. So please, Mr. Friedman, just shut up and go home.

Been a while since I've seen a sentence this convoluted, this downright awful, in a Major Daily Newspaper:

The menu is fairly short, and because of the constraints of the kitchen being in another part of the building, much of the offerings are dishes that can be cooked ahead and held in a serving area until they're ordered.
It's part of a 1,200-word review by our good friend, the hapless and hopeless Leslie K, describing her unhappy meals at Prelude, the glorified lunchroom at McCaw Hall. Makes you wonder: what's "fairly short"? How far away's this remote kitchen? Down the hall or down the street? What exactly gets "cooked ahead" there, and by whom? How's it delivered to the "serving area"? In tubs? On plates? Does it get stirred? Reheated? Nuked? By chefs or by servers? So many questions, so little space. Wait, 1,200 words, right? But Ms. K, still writing for the Pee Eye because her husband is the paper's graphic design editor, spends most of her generous editorial budget whining about service that's too slow or too fast, depending on her mood. Newspapers are cutting back, we understand. Fewer editors, smaller news holes. What a pity that the few remaining writers (whose words are actually printed) get the same laissez-faire treatment--complete indifference--as the paper's multitudinous "reader blogs" (over 250 titles, a baker's dozen about food and wine). Blogs you can take or leave; they're free. Readers who pay for print media deserve better than this.

Changing papers now. They're baaaack, those clever writers from Noo Yawk, and this time they seem friendly. Last year's NY Times reporter--a year ago to the day--could only complain about Cascadia's miniburgers. This year, with Cascadia closed and a new awareness that, gee, you can use the Internets to check menus and stuff, a more reasonable itinerary: the SAM Sculpture Park, Matt's In the Market, ZigZag Café, Café Presse, Volunteer Park, Center for Wooden Boats, downtown library, Quinn's, Neumo's. Barely a whiff of condescension in the whole piece.

BN%20at%20le%20Pichet.JPGFirst Avenue, third Thursday of November. Two guys, late twenties, turn into the doorway at Le Pichet. One's in a suit, the other's got his ponytail tucked into a droopy, loose-knit scrub cap. "Okay, time to speak French," he says. And he does. Waves across the jam-packed room to a well-dressed female acquaintance. "Bonsoir! J'arrive!"

Two versions of Beaujolais Nouveau, the first wine of the 2008 vintage.Jean-Paul Brun's Les Terres Dorées is poured from bottles; Joseph Drouhin's is drawn from a cute wooden barrel. A glass is $6, a four-glass pichet $22. Some years the wine's almost undrinkable, but this year is just fine. A happy, noisy crowd. Everything's $6: grilled venison sausages with currant chestnut butter on a baguette, pommes frites, heavenly coconut cream éclairs.

But isn't wine supposed to age for a while? Some, sure, but not all. Beaujolais Nouveau is made by carbonic maceration. Instead of a slowly fermenting a vatful of juice, Nouveau grapes ferment individually inside a closed tank; they literally explode with flavor. Even in a poor year (like 2008), carbonic maceration assures a decent wine. But then, it's not about the wine, it's about the party. You drink, you nibble, you schmooze.

"Formidable!" says the crocheted cap guy to a doe-eyed mademoiselle at the bar. She's smitten.
Smitten is the word (or maybe it's tetched) for Seattle Magazine, that workhorse of the Tiger Oak menagerie. Nothing to do with Beaujolais Nouveau, mind you, but the new issue, their Best of 2008 list, reads like a goddamn obituary column.

Best coach: Mike Holmgren (all but g-gone after a dismal season). Best new restaurant: Quinn's (opened in 2007). Best dance club: Neighbours (almost gone if you believe Slog). Best music venue: Showbox (the old one that may or may not be closing any day now). Best alternative weekly: The Stranger (the only alternative weekly, if we're not mistaken). Best local political blog: David Postman in the Seattle Times (long gone, never better than HorsesAss). Best local food blog: Bon Vivant (what? only two posts since July!). C'mon, Viv, you can't live on glory forever. (Cornichon isn't the least bit jealous).

Michelin mascot Bibendum with American editions of the guide

In the beginning, they were address books for local garages, designed for chauffeurs who needed a lube job or a tire change. In fact, the books were given away free by the Michelin tire company. The hotel and restaurant listings came later, but soon took over the company.

Nowadays, Michelin ratings for restaurants (technically, they're rosettes or medallions, not stars), have become sought-after beyond all reason. Bernard Loiseau, the chef in Burgundy, mortaged his entire life to upgrade his roadside inn, La Côte d'Or in Saulieu from two- to three-star status; a few years later, he committed suicide on rumors that he would be downgraded again. Unlike the Zagat guides, which at least acknolwedges that they're based on reader surveys, Michelin speaks with an oracular voice, unfathomable and infallble.

Quelle merde, according to several top French chefs. According to press reports this week, the country's fourth three-star chef has now withdrawn. Olivier Roellinger joins Joel Robuchon, Alain Senderens and Antoine Westerman in turning returning the stars and closing their award-winning restaurants. (Westerman turned his place, Buerehiesel, over to his son.) They're getting the best of everything. On the one hand, these culinary artists retired at the peak of their powers, so they don't have to face a future of disappointed diners. And with the other hand, they're delivering a slap at Michelin for its often arbitrary and capricioius ratings.

Ironically, Loiseau's widow took the reins after her husband's death, winning back three-star status for the inn, now defiantly renamed Bernard-Loiseau.

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Is this something new? A chef who cooks, a spouse who writes. ("He tastes, I type." Or should that be "He cooks, she composes"?) Twice this pre-holiday season we've seen this (welcome) phenomenon.

First came chef Andrew Dornenburg and his wife and longtime collaborator, the writer Karen Page. Over they years they've developed a giant culinary database along with an easily understood style of presenting complex information (charts, interviews and such). Starting with Becoming a Chef and Culinary Artistry, both very popular with kitchen pros, they won a prestigious award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for What to Drink with What You Eat. With this season's The Flavor Bible they've confirmed their position as masters of the gustatory universe. For each conceivable ingredient (caviar, cayenne, celery) they assign a season, a taste, a flavor "weight," a flavor "volume," a function, flavor affinities, and assorted techniques and tips, along with a shopping list of related foods and cuisines.(Caviar: Russian cuisine, Champagne; Cayenne: avoid caviar). Page and Dornenburg quote several dozen top chefs in the course of their 375 page volume; Holly Smith (of Café Juanita) and Jerry Traunfeld (of Poppy) are the two locals. Little, Brown, $35 Website & blog:

In town today (for KING TV morning show, lunch at Sorrentino, booksigning and dinner at Tavolata) are Andrew Carmellini and his wife, Gwen Hyman. Carmellini (another chef whose opinions grace the Flavor Bible, by the way) won the James-Beard-winning "best New York chef" award after six years as chef de cuisine at Café Boulud and was until May an owner and chef at a Voce. (He and Hyman wrote Urban Italian while waiting for Voce to open; there's a new restaurant project in the works right now. She's a PhD food historian with her own, much more scholarly book, Gentlemanly Appetites ) At any rate, their joint venture, Urban Italian is full of breezy narrative (sometimes even breathless) and about the midwest boy from an Italian family finding his culinary roots in the hills of Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily. Recipes and useful culinary advice aimed at home cooks, not professionals: "Do not stress out. Cooking should be fun....Don't be afraid to taste, touch, smell, feel, and make a mess. That is how you make great food." Step-by-step illustrations for making gnocchi, too. Bloomsbury, $35. Website:

It's Almost Beaujolais Nouveau Time!

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Lunch%20in%20Beaujolais.jpgIn previous years, it's been an elegant, black-tie affair. This year, it returns to its popular roots as a festival of the people. Seattle's Beaujolais Nouveau festival has long been a time to eat good food, drink decent wine and have fun. Still sponsored by the French-American Chamber of Commerce (who else?), but without the pressure of raising tens of thousands of bucks.

It's a French tradition to welcome the first wines from the new vintage – in this case, the famous Beaujolais Nouveau. The ceremonial uncorking takes place in in cafés all over France; around the world, its arrival signals the end of the harvest and the beginning of the fall holiday season.

This year's event, this coming Friday--held not at a fancy hotel but at the Lake Union Armory--will feature a “walk-about” wine tasting of regional wines from Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, paired with a wide array of food. A French-themed “village” will offer samplings of products from French restaurants and shops. Live and silent auctions as well; Cornichon has donated a pub-crawl through Belltown.

More than 400 Francophones and Francophilesare expected to attend. Price is $60 for members of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, $70 for non-members. Discounts for groups of 10. To buy tickets online for the Seattle event, go to and click on "Purchase Tickets." Do it today or tomorrow!

Joseph Conrad, the novelist, wanted "by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel... before all, to make you see." Joseph Conrad, the chef, wants to make you taste.

Joseph%20Conrad%20%26%20Janna%20Wemmer.JPGConrad the novelist wrote The Secret Sharer and The Secret Agent; Conrad the chef created a secret stash of flavored condiments. Conrad the novelist died in 1924; Conrad the chef is very much alive, and wasn't deterred by the demise of his latest culinary assignment (at Qube). Handed lemons, Conrad made lemonade. He and business partner Janna Wemmer promptly set about creating Secret Salts, a business based on his ability to impart a great variety of flavors to the delicate and flakey fleur de sel crystals from the island of Ré off the Atlantic coast of France.

So far, Secret Salts is available in a dozen or so flavors; they have nothing to do with the bitter, chemical-laced Bacon Salt that's been getting a lot of attention locally. Nor with a whole shelf of "seasoning salts" (like Lawry's) that shake up an assortment of dry ingredients.

The least challenging of Conrad's blends is Bloody Mary salt (great for tomato-based drinks, or perhaps for a grilled steak). Also straightforward flavors like lavender-rosemary, and olive-niçoise. Intensely flavored soy and complex blends like pineapple-cumin-chili taste terrific on pork chops; coconut garam masala works beautifully as a seasoning for Indian dishes, or even roast lamb. For the holidays, the new apple-five-spice gives a touch of the exotic to pies and stuffings. The caramel salt, a good idea on paper, is too sticky for some folks.

The salts are available online and at several farmers markets, in 3.5-ounce jars for about $15. Since a teaspoon of these condiments goes a long way, it might make sense down the road to provide an option in a smaller size, or a three-salt sampler.

Conrad the novelist gave his character Kurtz (in Heart of Darkness) those famous last words, "The horror, the horror." Conrad the chef has penned no last words, thank goodness, but "stimulate," "highlight" and "accentuate" wouldn't be inappropriate.

For comments on the morning news: see earlier posts, "The Fish, Boss, the Fish" and "The 12-Year-Old Foodie."

The Fish, Boss, the Fish!

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As long as we're talking about articles in the New York Times (see below), there's this excellent analysis by Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything) about the perils (if not downright evils) of fish farming.

Last I heard of Bittman, he was touring Spain with Mario Batali and Gwenyth Paltrow. Their show, Spain, On the Road Again, airs on PBS nationally; KCTS runs it at 11:30 PM Thursdays.

The 12-Year-Old Foodie

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It has come to this: a 12-year-old goes out for dinner on his own and gets written up in the New York Times. What next? Eleven-year-old twins visit Cold Stone Creamery? Election-withdrawal is doing strange things to editors everywhere.


"Keep Vashon Weird," says the bumper sticker. A ferry ride from Fauntleroy at sunset, a long line of cars heading south behind a Metro bus. "It's an island, man. Nobody's in a hurry," says the gent stepping off a bright blue Harley in the town of Vashon, a single blinking stoplight, half a dozen gift shops, half a dozen taverns and two hardware stores. (One's a True Value, the other's actually a restaurant.) By necessity, Vashon's 10,000 islanders are tolerant and patient.

"Keep Vashon Weird" could be the motto for The Gusto Girls, a bumptious café in a modest storefront. Chef is Jessica DeWire, who teamed up with her catering partner Kristin Baron and opened the doors two years ago. Sundays she serves four-course, prix fixe dinners. The Manhattan ($32) is escargots and petite filet, the Seattle ($29) is oysters and salmon, the Vashon ($22) is mushrooms and mac & cheese, all with salad and dessert, matching wine flights another ten bucks or so. Sit at a table, sit on the couch, sit at the bar, everyone's welcome.

Gusto Girls, 17629 Vashon Hwy SW, Vashon Island, 206-463-6626 Gusto Girls on Urbanspoon

Another face of island culture: the artisan farmer. George Pope and his wife Kristin have operated Sea Breeze Farm since 2000, selling everything from duck eggs to wine to pork chops at farmers markets around Seattle on weekends, and out of their own home at all hours. Now they've opened a genuine retail outlet and sit-down diner called La Boucherie. Braised lamb neck with whole wheat polenta for lunch, goat rib chops or a five-course tasting menu ($65) for dinner. Pope makes his own wine, too, Sweetbread Cellars, from "overseas" grapes, earnest efforts. La Boucherie sells meat from the farm as well, exquisite and very pricey ($28 a pound for lamb chops, $12 for top round, $13 for pork chops). Duck eggs are $10 a dozen, raw milk $5 a quart. George takes excellent care of his animals, in life as in death, and that's just the price you pay, period. Weird, huh? Or maybe it's the face of the future. If you've read Michael Pollan and admired his description of Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley, you'll understand. The good news is that you don't have to go all the way to the east coast to find food that's produced in harmony with the land; you just have to find the dock at Fauntleroy.

La Boucherie, 17635 100th Ave SW, Vashon Island, 206-567-GOAT La Boucherie on Urbanspoon

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Gusto Girls chef Jessica DeWire; meats in the display case at La Boucherie.

70 Years After Kristallnacht

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Kristallnacht%20poster.JPGMy grandfather, Samson Hochfeld, one of Berlin's senior rabbis, had been dead for 17 years and did not see the mindless attack on his elegant synagogue in the Fasanenstrasse on that night, November 9th, 1938. Nor the wave of well-orchestrated destruction and killing across Germany, known as the infamous Kristallnacht, literally "The Night of Broken Glass." Synagogues and businesses owned by Jewish merchants were targets, tens of thousands were arrested and deported, dozens killed.

The response? Almost none. Germany's Nazi government took the world's silence for tacit approval, and the worst genocide in modern European history began.

Paris, no stranger to its share of the blame (the vélodrome at Drancy serving as a reminder of French complicity in the deportation of Jews), has in recent years established museums and memorials to give witness to the past. A four-month exhibit about Kristallnacht opened today at the Holocaust Museum, Mémorial de la Shoah, in the Marais.

Just as we marvel that it's been 45 years since MLK's March on Washington, we reflect as well on the unspeakable that took place 70 years ago.

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Only three weeks ago, it was Italian. Now, another country and two new languages. Talking about Navarra here, in the north of Spain. My hosts for this trip. A province the size of Los Angeles County, shaped like a trapezoid, sharing its northern border with southern France, then dropping like a diamond from the crest of the Pyrenees. Called Nafarroa in Basque, but resolutely unsympathetic to the Basque separatist movement. Navarra is a kingdom, they will tell you, even as the street signs are bilingual and the capital, Pamplona, has been known as Iruña since time immemorial. Basque influences abound in the daily language, notably the tx spelling for the Spanish ch.

Pintxos, for a start. Known as tapas elsewhere in Spain, it's how you start the night. (Txori, in Seattle, is a Basque-style pintxos bar.) The other evening, four of us stopped in Bilbao (which is Basque Country) for three small bites and two glasses each; the bill was under $40. So we went to two more places.

Rabo, the tail. Rabo de buey is oxtail, rabo de cochinillo asado is the tail of a suckling pig. Kinda tough, actually, though the rest is indescribably juicy and delicious.

Caña, copa, vaso, Vasco: the first is a glass of beer, specifically. The next two are glasses or tumblers or wine glasses. And the last one is, you guessed it, Basque. Pais Vasco is the Basque Country. Which, we remind you, is not Navarra.

Boina: the traditional Basque head covering, a beret. Bought mine at a souvenir shop for $10.

Barquito. A little boat. Also the piece of bread you use to mop up the last of the sauce on your plate.

Txupito: a sip. By extension, the little straight-sided glass from which you drink a shot of orujo. We'd call it a brandy or a grappa, except that the orujos we've been drinking (sorry, sipping) are much milder and sweeter than the Italian version.

Echar una siestacita: your afternoon cat nap.

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Will write more soon about some extraordinary wines about to be released by Chivite, the leading winery in Navarra, but first, we must eat, right?

The new facility, burrowed into the rolling Navarra hills, was designed by a friend of the Chivite family, Pritzker Prize-winner Rafael Moneo. An extraordinary barrel cellar connects the winemaking and administrative wings, which in turn bracket a vineyard, guardhouse and chapel. Can we eat now, please?

Marifé Blanco, who manages European exports for the winery, says Chivite's top-selling wine remains their strawberry pink Gran Feudo Rosado; the 2004 vintage, made from five grape varieties, was served with a lunch that featured foie gras, iberico ham, the famous red ("crystal") peppers, lettuce with asparagus and a deeply-flavored braised lamb shank. All catered by a nearby restaurant called Maher. The chef is one of the most famous in Spain, Enrique Martinez, whose grandmother started the restaurant 40 years ago. Her name? Sabina Chivite.

Could This Be Obama's Puppy?

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BILBAO, Spain--Steel covered with flowering plants, that's this Jeff Koons sculpture, titled simply Puppy, on the plaza of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum. Sure Seattle's got a Gehry museum of its own, the EMP; sure, Seattle's got Richard Sera and Louise Bourgeois sculptures, too.

But the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, as it's officially known, gave this industrial and financial center a new sense of pride and purpose. The capital of the Basque Country, Spain's fifth-largest population center (roughly the size of metropolitan Seattle), Bilbao was reenergized by an urban renewal scheme in the early 1990s that moved shipping and manufacturing into the estuary and allowed for the development of new cultural buildings along the riverfront--capped by Gehry's titanium-clad museum.

It's too easy to complain that the Experience Music Project was built on the cheap with Gehry's leftover Bilbao designs. And yet the effect of the Bilbao building's vast spaces and shimmering surface certainly do exceed whatever little aesthetic appeal the EMP offers. Hard to believe the two buildings are by the same architect. Just as it's hard to believe that a 42-foot West Highland Terrier could be lovable. Malia, Sasha, better head to the pound after all. Arf!

Obama: The Sun Also Rises

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PAMPLONA, Spain--Eight years ago, European travelers and expats awoke to the news that America had elected a new president, that his name was Al Gore. This time, however, it really is a new day.

The young and the reckless, who run with the bulls here every summer, have a fearlessness that's contagious. The city thrives on their optimism. It is Obama country.

Hemingway's novel brought fame to the festival of San Fermin and its encierro. The monument, by Rafael Huerta, honors both the bulls and the runners, making no judgment about their wisdom or their nature. It's not a race, it's a rush, and this morning all of Europe awakens once more to the thrill of the new.

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Ernest Hemingway during his last visit to Pamplona; Café Iruña interior; Spanish brandies at the bar

Pamplona is not Seattle, we can all agree. The bulls run every morning in Pamplona during the ten-day festival of San Fermin in July, which would never work in Seattle.. Blue Angels strafe Seattle every August during Seafair, which would never work in Pamplona.

And yet.

There's a huge campus in Pamplona for the Opus Dei university just as there's a huge campus in Seattle for the University of Washington. Big medical centers, check. Educated workforce, check. Nightlife, check. Green industries, check. Nearby mountains, check. Independent streak, check. Better still, Pamplona gets 130 days of rain every year, just like Seattle. This is one of those days.

Hemingway would come to Pamplona to drink and run with the bulls. Then he'd hang out at the Café Iruña and drink some more. Sounds like a good plan.

This Pig Needs No Lipstick

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Jamon.JPG Pintxos%20at%20Otano.JPG Pintxos%20bar.JPG

PAMPLONA, Spain--San Firmin was months ago. The sun has set, the bulls have long since run, but the blackfooted pigs have been busy, eating acorns and getting fat. Technically, these Basque Country hills aren't their turf, but all of Spain indulges in jamon iberico de bellota. Used to be, you couldn't get this in the US at all. Now there's one importer and a couple of online retailers, roughly $100 per pound. Sweeter, more intense flavor than prosciutto.

So call them tapas (or pintxos as the Basques do), and drink a glass of the slightly fizzy local white, txakoli. We're here in Navarra to see them on the hoof. Not the pigs, the vines. Expect reports all week.

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Enroute to an assignment in Spain, so this isn't as detailed as it would be, were I not waiting for a connecting flight.

Still, a word about a disturbing story in the Pee Eye yesterday. It seems that Taylor Shellfish is facing a huge fine, well over a million clams, for inadvertently "trespassing" on DNR tidelands.

Taylor points out that it bought the land decades ago. The tresspass charge comes from NIMBY and longtime aquaculture foe Laura Hendricks, who convinced the state that Taylor's geoducks farm on Totten Inlet is evil. Funny, just four years ago the Pee Eye ran a detailed piece about the terrific future of geoduck farming.

Want to know more about geoducks? Info here and here. Want to see for yourself? Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" series airs its Geoduck Farmer episode tonight; you can watch host Mike Rowe waist deep in mud as he harvests the giant clams in the cold waters of Puget Sound.

Nor have we heard the last of geoducks. Shellfish guru Jon Rowley says they're the next big thing for restaurant tables. Meantime, he'll be at the annual (and sold out) Oyster New Year tonight at Elliott's Oyster House, shucking East Coast Virginicas (grown on Totten Inlet, as it happens) like nobody's business.

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