October 2009 Archives

MadWine.com, the Seattle online wine shop, has rolled out its new website just days after Amazon.com bailed out on the whole concept of selling wine on the Internet.

MadWine (no relation to MadPizza) was taken over earlier this year by TMSA Holdings, a family enterprise that got into the wine biz by puyrchasing SODO's Esquin Wine Cellars back in 1997. Chuck LeFevre, who heads the company, installed his daughter Alisha Gosline (at the left in the family photo, taken by Jeff Hobson at Esquin), to manage the retail wine shop. Another daughter, Stephanie Burkhart, will run now the online business.


Esquin has grown tenfold since LeFevre took over; it claims a customer base of 22,000 today. TMSA is hoping for similar growth in its online business. It's also hoping to offer more Washington wines than any other retailer. They're already at 73 web pages and counting.

Amazon said it was discouraged by the regulatory and logistical hurdles of selling wine online and distributing it in the real world. MadWine doesn't seem to have the same qualms, although (for the time being) it's only shipping, via FedEx, to the two dozen or so "reciprocal states" that permit delivery of wine shipped from outside their borders. No such issues for local delivery, on the other hand.

Right now the hitches and glitches are all technical: the site works properly with Internet Explorer but not Firefox, for example. And a search for red Burgundies gets you white Burgundies. And the larger categories alphabetize wines by specific price point, so you can't easily compare $8 and $12 bottles. One assumes this, too, shall pass.

After all, Wines Till Sold Out, wtso.com, has been around for a while, selling off "lots" of wines every day, all day. More about it here.

We Had What She Had

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New York deli, you're talking Katz's. Crowded, noisy, a barn of a place with celebrity photos plastered along one wall and a counter along the other where you line up to buy a hot dog and a beer, or a bowl of matzoh ball soup, or (as almost everyone does), a sandwich of pastrami or tongue. Cut fresh by a man who knows his business, served with a couple of sliced pickles on the side. Extra mustard's on the table. Harry met Sally here (met her for lunch, actually); Sally demonstrated how a woman fakes an orgasm, and Estelle Reiner (mother of director Rob), sitting at the very table where I wolfed down a splendid tongue sandwich, delivered the immmortal line, "I'll have what she's having."

But the old-fashioned delis are an endangered species. Jewish immigrant families, once their mainstay, are more assimilated, no longer as insular. David Sax, a Canadian, has written a nostalgic book and a blog called Save the Deli. Katz's has been around since 1888, and it's their only store. The best in town, but how long can it last? Sax is optimistic; his book is doiing well.

Katz's Delicatessen, 205 E Houston St, New York City   Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

Dites-Moi, Pourquoi?

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Perol%20at%20lectern.JPG Atout%20France%20slde.JPG Jerome%20Touze%20of%20WAYN.JPG
Atout France Director Jean-Philippe Perol, the new logo, WAYN's Jérôme Touze

Cornichon is in New York City this week for French Affairs, an annual confab organized by the French Tourism Development Agency. Last year, in Chicago, when this was still called Maison de la France, the big news was a promotional campaign called "Rendez-Vous in France." This year, they've reorganized. The Tourism Ministry no longer reports to Culture but to Finance. (Tourism is France's largest single generator of foreign revenue.) It has a new name: Atout France, which is a bit of a pun: un atout in French is your trump card. (In English, on the other hand, a tout is a pretty unreliable guide.) So what are they thinking?

Confusingly, the atoutfrance.com website has nothing to do with the agency; the official site is franceguide.com. It's full of useful tidbits, even includes videos, Twitter and Facebook links, but suffers from information overload: too many destinations, too many ad banners, too many promotions, too many links to tour operators and suppliers.

And yet there's much to admire. France was the first country to target a wide variety of niche travel markets: gay & lesbian, Jewish, religious, Hispanic, luxury, first-timers, retirees, French expats. Theme travel, too: culinary, wine, ski, spa, and so on. There's no comparable agency promoting the entire USA; individual companies (airlines, hotel chains, Disneyland destinations) and individual states and cities are expected to do their own marketing campaigns. The Sarkozy government pitched in to help France's embattled hospitality sector by cutting the VAT on restaurant meals by 75 percent, but hotel revenues, in the world's most visited country (77 million foreign tourists a year) are still down 13 percent. You get the feeling, with some 14,000 disparate events scheduled for 2010, that the whole country is scrambling.

Fewer Americans are heading to France, even though, in tough times, the preference is for the familiar vacation destination. Trouble is, the greenback is way down, worth only two-thirds of a euro. And the tour operators in attendance here, an older group, reflect the aging American traveler to France: over-50 repeat visitors. "The challenge is generational," says Patrice Doyon, Atout France's deputy director for strategy and research. "We have to make France attractive to younger people and first-tme visitors."

Which is why, at 8:30 in the morning, a roomful of mature adults are listening to the 29-year-old founder of WAYN.com (for "Where Are You Now?"), a Frenchman named Jérôme Touze, try to explain how social marketing works...and how it can help the tour operators build new business. Facebook use was up 217 percent last year; Twitter grew by 1,298 percent. It's a train the travel industry needs to ride.

One hopes that the country which built an incomparable TGV network (to continue the railroad metaphor for a moment) wouldn't be left standing on the platform. But it's hard to change course when you've got those 77 million reasonably content visitors spendng all that money every year. Atout France needs more than an ace in the hole or a trump card up their sleeve to compete with the global recession and the effect of $100 a barrel oil prices on airlne tickets; they need to lose that French sense of entitlement.

Gutierrez%20as%20Violetta.jpg Speight Jenkins steps out from the wings just before La Traviata's opening curtain to announce that the star of the show, soprano Eglise Gutiérrez, is suffering from a cold...but will perform regardless. Knowing murmurs (and not a few coughs) rustle through the audience: in the opera, the soprano's character has consumption and expires. Was this a pre-excuse for a sub-par performance?

(In the Seattle opera photo by Rosarii Lynch, a sickly Violetta confronts the mirror shortly before she succumbs.)

Early on, it didn't go all that well. Gutiérrez sounded quite tentative in her first duet with tenor Francesco Demuro (whose North American debut at Seattle Opera was being touted as the second coming of Pavarotti) and he, too, seemed to be holding back. But once Gutiérrez warmed up, she was unstoppable. Her coloratura E-flat at the end of Act I was downright explosive, sending shockwaves through McCaw Hall.

The note isn't in the score, and Verdi discouraged his singers from adding it. The gold cast Violetta, Nuccia Focile, a more experienced singer and better actress than Gutiérrez, doesn't stretch for it ("it's out of character.," she says). But there's no denying the power of that note, delivered at the end of what could well be Verdi's longest dramatic aria. For his sickly playgirl heroine, he wrote a 20-minute solo that begins with her doubts and confusion over Alfredo, the admirer she just met ("Fors'e lui?"), then her resolve to keep on partying ("Sempre libera"), only to be turned on again by the torment and delight of true love ("croce e delizia al cor"). Verdi is at the peak of his genius here, even without the E-flat.

For his part, Demuro's an earnest performer, by turns subtle and expansive, an ideal tenor, from a director's point of view, in an opera world full of self-absorbed divas and one-note wonders. In his duets with Gutiérrez, he seemed to defer to her (knowing that her health was frail); no such restraint in his Act II solo celebration of domesticity with Violetta. Ever the courtly southerner, Dallas-born Speight Jenkins respects a lady who doesn't over-promise and admires a gentleman who minds his manners onstage. The rest of the opera goes down like a throat lozenge; it really is a case, as Violetta sings, that "Pleasure is the best medicine."

Gutiérrez sings again Sunday afternoon at 2:30. Tickets: SeattleOpera.org

PS: La Traviata is the sort of story (courtesan with heart of gold but deadly disease) that lends itself to range of stagings. Check out this one set at the train station in Zurich, Switzerland, where the cast mingles with commuters on cellphones.

Makin' Bacon & Jammin' Lamb

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Keith%20Luce.JPG Alvin%20Binuya%20Ponti.JPGIt's going to be hog heaven at The Herbfarm next month, when chef Keith Luce (photo far right) launches a new, nose-to-tail dinner menu, Makin' Bacon. It's not about 'the other white meat,' that bland industrial pork we've come to disdain, but heritage pigs and old-time curing skills.

In the nine-course dinner, pork will come in many guises, both fresh and cured, from hand-tended heritage hogs, including The Herbfarm's own Mangalitsas, an old, central European breed known as "Wooly Pigs."

"This is some of the finest pork ever," says Luce. The pigs are fed a diet of hazelnuts and native acorns, which gives them the depth of flavor that you find in places like Spain. "The meat is remarkable," agrees Herbfarm's owner Ron Zimmerman. The Makin' Bacon menu runs from November 6th through 15th.

Meantime, along the Ship Canal, chef Alvin Binuya is beginning the transformation of the menu at Ponti with a few new items for this weekend's Lamb Jam and next month's Dine Around Seattle. For Lamb Jam, Binuya has been designated a "leg man" and will be cooking up Oregon lamb-water chestnut pot stickers with a black vinegar-scallion dipping sauce.

Lamb Jam is this Sunday afternoon, October 25th, from 3 to 6 at the Bell Conference Center. Cost is $30, Brown Paper Tickets has, you know, tickets, if there are any left.

Ponti Seafood Grill, 3014 3rd Ave N, 206-284-3000  Ponti Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon

The Herbfarm, 14590 NE 145th St., Woodinville. 425-485-5300  Herbfarm on Urbanspoon

Fresh Bistro, an offshoot of SODO's splendid event space Herban Feast, has been open in West Seattle since May. Exec chef and co-owner Dalis Chea (also exec chef at Feast) showcases a new Happy Hour schtick: Big Bento, that combines all the items on the Happy Hour menu for a $10 savings. Best news: Ben tolls twice nightly, 4-6 Monday-Friday, 9-11 Monday-Saturday,

Tasting notes from Heed the Hedonist's Hedonista:

Personal favorites include the Shiso Crusted Honey Pecan Prawns (at first glance, the sriracha foam seems a bit odd and out-of-place, but it actually works, and the the green mango slaw is a nice complement); Braised Baby Octopus (fabulously smoky with a nice, not-chewy consistency); Crispy Pork Belly Banh Mi Sliders (spicy with a light greens mouth feel); and the Sweet Potato and Dungeness Crab Cakes (really liked the chipotle remoulade and smoked paprika & chive oils).

The Kalbhi Marinated Grilled Kobe Style Flank Steak was deliciously marinated, but a couple of the cuts were a bit too high in fat content for my taste (LOVE the cucumber pickle side, however). And the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup – with its apple cider gastrique and crispy brussel sprout greens – was quite tasty with great texture from the greens, but the gastrique gave it a sweet taste that didn’t really go with the rest of the bento bonanza. (Would really like to see a miso, phở, sweet ‘n’ sour, or wonton soup here.) The Fresh Bistro Salad was your basic salad – feel free to request your poached egg on the side, if you don’t care for it placed directly on your greens.

Wash it all down with their signature vodka-based (and very fruitful) "Mural" - named for the condo building Fresh Bistro calls home. You might need two Murals, 'cause there's a %&#*! lot of food in this bento.

Fresh Bistro, 4725 42nd Ave SW, 206-935-3733  Fresh Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Focile & Pittas, top; Guitérrez & Demuro, bottom. Seattle Opera photos by Rosarii Lynch

It's the original Anna Nicole story: first you party, then you die. Yes, there's torment, but pleasure comes first. A familiar operatic plot (Moulin Rouge, La Bohème), telegraphed by the heroine's consumptive hack as the curtain rises: she's a-gonna croak before the night's out.

Couple of years ago, the great Sicilian soprano Nuccia Focile wheezed and expired as Mimi on this same stage. She returned to town as Nedda and got herself stabbed by Tonio in Pagliacci. Now she's back, no less doomed and even more delicious as Violetta, the courtesan who inspires love, betrayal and some of Verdi's most glorious music. "Sempre libera," she proclaims, opting for a carefree life of opulent ballgowns and lavish parties, but she gives her heart to Alfredo and finds true love. Then the lovebirds are betrayed by Alfredo's uptight father; by the time things are straightened out, it's too late.

An opulent and lavish production, this Traviata, from San Francisco Opera, bathed in rich orchestral tones under the baton of Brian Garman (whose day job is directing Seattle Opera's Young Artist Program). American tenor Dimitri Pittas is a stocky (rather than saucy) Alfredo, overshadowed by his sonorous father, baritone Charles Taylor (last heard in Seattle as Amonasro in Aida). But the show depends on the performer who sings Violetta, and it's as a dramatic actress that Focile creates her character, well aware that her life will be short, torn between the pleasures of endless parties and the deep love she feels for Alfredo. Focile's vocal talents give particular poignancy to her Act I aria, "È strano! È strano!" in which she acknowledges both the burden (croce) and delight (delizia) of love. (There's even a blog titled Croce & Delizia; it's about baking cookies.) Focile's voice is on the light side, as Violettas go (compared, say, to Callas), but her phrasing is impeccable. She doesn't try to impress you with knockout high notes; she stays in character: a brave woman with a fatal disease, alone in "the desert of Paris," a little terrified that she might be able to escape her life as a courtesan through the redemptive delight of true love.

UPDATE: Silver cast shimmers, according to early reports. Eglise Guitérrez, local favorite, in fine voice, and tenor Francesco Demuro making his North American debut to standing ovation.

Seattle Opera presents Verdi's La Traviata, through Oct. 31. Tickets start at $25. Box office: call 206.389.7676 or 800.426.1619, or purchase online.

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Whole%20Foods%20Interbay-1.JPGMost all the neighborhood farmers markets have closed up shop for the season, with many vendors wondering if it's worth the trouble. Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman got some of his facts mixed up, but he was right on the money about the precipitous decline in both traffic and revenues. The newly independent Queen Anne Farmers Market, for example, where Cornichon worked almost every Thursday afternoon this summer (selling Sorrentino's fresh pasta), saw less than half the sales volume of previous seasons.

Don't blame it all on the recession, though. New supermarkets are capitalizing on the locavore mania, even as long-established chains like Safeway are touting lower prices (by putting its cashiers in garish banana-yellow shirts, for heaven's sake). Whole Foods, often called Whole Paycheck, is fighting on both fronts, with its 365 line of "everyday" items (including coffee and canned goods), and locally sourced specialty foods like Procopio gelato. The newest Whole Foods, at Interbay, though barely three miles from its two-year-old Westlake store, gives Fremont, Ballard and Magnolia families easier access. There's a new magazine, the whole deal, to compete with Metropolitan Markets glossy giveaways.

One wonders where it will all end, this competition for food dollars. With junk on our plates, masquerading as dinner? Or will we rise to the opportunity and renounce the false gods of cheap garbage? It depends on how hungry you are, and how desperate.

That cavernous space in Fremont where Circus Contraption performed? Part of the old Red Hook brewery, adjacent to Theo's chocolate factory? Well, there's good news: the space is alive and well and once again in use as an entertainment venue. The current show (running tonight through November 21st) is a spin on Teatro Zinzanni's dinner-as-theater shtick; here it's called Cafe Nordo, a floating restaurant run by a fictional martinet chef named Nordo Lefeszki.

Serving%20chicken%20soup.JPGIn actuality, the project was created by Terry Podgorski, and is performed by a cast of semi-professional entertainers. In a tent-like setting (the tent being suggested by strings of lights and transluscent panels hanging from the ceiling), the tuxedoed & feathered cast performs "Henrietta," the saga of a hapless, happy hen. "A hen is the egg's way of making another egg," says one character, energetically whipping eggwhites. "And what makes a good egg? A good hen."

One could be critical and complain that it's all a bit self-conscious and pretentious, but that would miss the point. This is about self-conscious and pretentious attitudes toward food and drink. (Just look at this pompous website.) Podgorski was the only non-performing member of the old Circus Contraption troupe; his wife, Kari, was one of the troupe's trapeze artists (sorry, aerialists). A young woman named Annastasia Workman does double duty on piano and accordion to provide an appropriate and most welcome musical atmosphere while the cast lays an unending series of egg jokes, chicken jokes, "drunken" monologues and heartfelt tributes to Henretta.

You shouldn't come to Cafe Nordo expecting haute cuisine, but it does rise to the level of good, neighborhood bistro fare. There's an opening shot of pureed parsley, followed by a poached egg in a basket of shredded parmesan, then a dumpling in chicken broth (poured with aplomb from watering cans) before Henrietta herself arrives, fork-tender, stuffed with cheese and roasted peppers. Along the way, you're treated to several glasses of decent wine (Blanquette de Limoux, a riesling from Parejas Cellars, red from Stella Fino). There's a caterer in the back somewhere, using a kitchen attached to Theo's, one assumes, but every member of the staff, in full character, insists that it's really "Chef Nordo." Says Erin Brindley, managing director of the old Circus and co-producer of Nordo, "It's a restaurant until proven theater." Works for me.

Cafe Nordo presents The Modern American Chicken, 3400 N. Phinney N, 206-790-5166. Dinner performances at 7 PM, Thurs, Fri & Sat through November 21. $85. Reservations through Brown Paper Tickets

Murder on the Gourmet Express

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Wringing of hands, gnashing of teeth, even a tear or two: Gourmet, our beloved bible, has gone to the glossy Recycling Center in the sky; Saint Ruth will no longer guide our whisks; woe unto us all.

Every blog worth its salt has posted a nostalgic obit lamenting Condé Nasty's decision to kill its golden goose. So let's let Cornichon be contrarian and spread the blame around.

Who killed Gourmet? We could start with Julia Child, whose TV show three decades ago gave birth to Food Network, whose cookbook gave birth to Julie Powell's massively boring blog and movie deal. Rachael Ray and her chatty ilk, too, for building an audience of culinary voyeurs.


We could add Diane Werner (right, at a Costco book-signing in Seattle), the doe-eyed, earnest and hardworking food director of Readers Digest publications like the 738-page, loose-leaf Taste of Home Cookbook cookbook; Taste of Home magazine, (the number one cooking magazine in the country), and TasteofHome.com website with hundreds more recipes, all submitted by home cooks from the heartland. And its online cousin, Seattle-based AllRecipes.com.

We could add Barnaby Dorfman (quoted at length in Time this week) and Sherri Wetherell of Seattle-based Foodista.com while we're at it, building a collaborative online audience to compete with top-down diktats delivered monthly by the Postal Service.

If we wanted to be snarky, we could even blame Saint Ruth herself, whose best-selling family memoirs were filled with lust and regret, but nothing revelatory about food or wine. Or Food & Wine, or Bon Appetit or thousands of narrowly targeted food mags, from Cooking Light to Cooks Illustrated, from Saveur to Edible Seatte (to which Cornichon is a contributor).

Websites without end, as well, from Epicurious.com to eGullet to ChowHound, to thousands of individual food blogs (some with amazing photos, great recipes, and a distinctive voices).

Gourmet-dot-com, the website Gourmet belatedly rolled out to create an online presence, was over-produced to the point of stasis, even though Barry Estabrook's Politics of the Plate was both thorough and thoughtful. But who wants to subscribe to a monthly hunk of paper when there's Hogwash to be had for free?

Gourmet's ultimate sin, in this everybody's-an-expert age, was to be boring. Advertisers, not known for supporting long-term causes, want eyeballs, and eyeballs want shiny new websites, not expensive paper. While Gourmet costs millions to produce, a blog costs mere electrons, and advertisers trip all over themselves to spend online ad dollars via Google and dozens of specialized networks to reach foodies in their underwear a scant 20 inches from their monitors.

So while Gourmet's perfect-bound express rumbled through the night, bound for glory, its death by a thousand paper cuts was ultimately delivered by all the usual suspects. (Cue Ingrid Bergman's Oscar-winning tears.) Best we can say is that it had a good run and didn't overstay its welcome.

Hoppy 20th Birthday, Pike Brewery!

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Pike%20Brewry.jpgHard to believe it's been 20 years since Charles and Rose Ann Finkel opened their Pike Pub & Brewery. It's such a fixture at the Market, you'd think it's been there forever, but there was a time, not that long ago, when fewer than half a dozen national breweries supplied the market with lawnmower beer and half a dozen artisans and idealists thought were making craft beer. It was a classic struggle betwen industrial, bottom-fermented lagers and flavorful, bottom-fermented ales, between standardization and individuality. In the end, as we know, it was the consumers who won. Local artisan beers flourished, and some, like Red Hook, even formed an unholy alliance with the big boys to get national distribution.

In this fomenting vat of yeast and mash stepped the Finkels, who had decades of experience navigating the currents of beverage sales. Back in Oklahoma, Charles had been an early champion of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines and was hired to run the company's national sales effort. (His business partner Paul Shipman came along to run Ste. Michelle's marketing.) Later, Charles started a company called Merchant du Vin, which, despite its name, imported nothing but craft beer. (Shipman went on to run Red Hook.) Then the Finkels started a tiny craft brewery on Western Avenue, which over the years grew and grew to its current location, a multi-level, gravity flow, steam heated brewery and brew pub.

When we last wrote about the Pike, a year ago, it was to announce their latest stout. Now it's time to celebrate again: 20 years! Cornichon can't make it to the media party tonight, so consider this raised espresso cup our toast!

The public celebration is this coming weekend, Saturday, October 17th. There's more information in the brewery's current newsletter.

Chez Pim's Handbook for Foodies

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Pim.jpgPim Techamuanvivit is a long Thai name, so we started off with some ingredient substitution, running it through tinyURL.(yfnwm47) and bit.ly (11rrEF). Conclusion: don't try this at home; you'll lose the romance. Cooking isn't Twitter, after all.

Nah, just call her Pim and be done with it. Her blog, ChezPim, is as good as anything on the web, admired by foodies of all stripes and flavors. And now she has a terrific book, part guide, part memoir, part recipes, called The Foodie Handbook. Unlike many cookbook these days, the recipes are carefully thought out and quite detailed (the one for Phad Thai alone runs 15 pages) but they're not intimidating. There's an element of wide-eyed adoration for celebrity French chefs whose recipes Pim "adapts" for the American home cook, and the reader sometimes gets the feeling the conversational tone wasn't so much typed on a keyboard as dictated into speech recognition software, but the effect is never boring. Pim's an interesting dinner party guest who explains not just what she does but why she does it. Like all good cooks, she seems to have an intuitive relationship with her ingredients.

The pictures are particularly delightful. Pim's food closeups are perfectly composed and full of bright colors, and they're accompanied by black & white candids of Pim "at work" (drinking Champagne, visiting markets in Santa Cruz, where she lives). She's a cutie-pie, for sure, and so what if she plays to the camera?

Pim ends her book with a scattershot list of 50 things every foodie needs to do, ranging from the highly specific ("Drink a perfectly made espresso at Caffè Mulassano in Turin") to the vague and general ("Cook without recipes"). Well, we've been to Turin, and Mulassano's fine; we've cooked without recipes, too, results not guaranteed. Go Dungeness crabbing in Washington State, she says, implying that you can simply dip your bucket in the tidal waters and haul out a feast. She might want to read Langdon Cook first.

Those are quibbles, far outweighed by flashes of brilliance. She's skeptical about Robert Parker, she recommends riesling with Thai food. Aperitifs are like foreplay, digestifs are post-coital cuddles. She adores Armagnac. She has eaten a perfect peach.

The Foodie Handbook: The (almost) Definitive Guide to Gastronomy, 256 pages, Chronicle Books.

Fat of the Langdon

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Langdon%20Cook%20w%20geoduck%20photos.JPGCheap shot, sorry. At 42, Langdon Cook is actually trim, with wiry russet hair and bright blue eyes. He grew up in the wealthy enclave of Greenwich, Conn., prepped at Phillips Exeter, graduated from Middlebury in Vermont. An MFA from U-Dub and a post as book editor at Amazon.com followed, a genteel, Cheever-ish career path if ever there was one. Then he came to realize that his job at Amazon wasn't really to edit books but to "sell things," so when his wife won a fellowship that involved living "off the grid" in southern Oregon, he jumped at the chance. "I'd always liked the outdoors," he says of this experience, without realizing how it would change his life completely. FOTL_cover.jpg

Without running water or electricity, Lang (as everyone calls him) learned to live off the fat of the land, and in the five years since he and his wife returned from their isolated sojourn, he's become one of our foremost foragers. He began writing essays about ferns and mushrooms, birds and berries, and, after many rewrites, has collected them into a book, Fat of the Land, just published by an offshoot of Mountaineers Books. Encouraged to start a blog to publicize the book, Lang now finds himself increasingly admired by sedentary foodies whose foraging expeditions are limited to farmers markets. "I'm surprised by the foodie angle," says the outdoorsy Lang, but it turned out that the more he foraged, the more he would cook, so the book also includes recipes. Next project: a guide to North America's regional wild foods, from morels in Michigan to ramps in West Virginia.

Langdon Cook's publicity tour includes a slide show of foraged foods, here a geoduck-hunting expedition on the Olympic Peninsula.

Food is Everywhere

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Bite%20at%20Txori.JPGFood: it's not just what's for dinner, it's serious tourism.

The nine or ten million visitors who come to Seattle every year, they crowd the Pike Place Market and overrun our view restaurants (the Space Needle's Sky City, Shilshole's Ray's, West Seattle's Salty's). In terms of sheer numbers of visitors, the Market, of course, is Seattle's number one tourist attraction, but not necessarily the most highly rated. No, that "customer satisfaction" ranking, on TripAdvisor.com, is something called Savor Seattle Food Tours. Tourists, it seems, come here to eat. Three of the four top-rated attractions, in fact, are food-related. (In case you're wondering, the Market itself comes in 8th, Ride-the-Ducks is 12th, the Space Needle 20th, the Science Center 22nd, SAM 31st.)

The food tours are obviously a big hit. And now Seattle Food Tours (#3 on TripAdvisor) is branching out to Belltown. Yes, Belltown. Lola, Txori, Spur, Queen City Grill, Shiro's, Branzino, Macrina. and The Local Vine are the stops. Not a full meal at each one, mind you, but a quick hello, mayybe a glass or maybe a bite. Tuesday through Saturday, 3 to 5:30 PM, $49 per person. The Belltown Food Tour is available online at SeattleFoodTours.com.

Tea for Two

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Cornichon's regular guest correspondent Jacqueline Pruner checks in again, this time with news that she's launching her own blog, Heed The Hedonist, with emphasis on all things pleasurable. Her most recent dispatch:

Teapot.JPGThis past weekend, the Puget Sound Tea Association hosted its second Northwest Tea Festival at Seattle Center. Tea classes, lectures, tastings, and items for purchase from vendors from across the region and nation delighted tea lovers of all ages. "Teaophiles,” they call themselves.

Tea drinking has experienced a resurgence in recent years, says Julee Rosanoff of the Perennial Tea Room in the Pike Place Market. What with all the news about its health benefits, and the growing availability of fine teas in the United States, this ancient drink is more relevant than ever. "This region has a tradition of embracing quality in food and drink," Rosanoff explains, "which makes it a perfect locale for a tea festival.”

Tea has its own subtleties and nuances, much like a fine wine, French cuisine or a good cigar. A tea’s flavor varies depending on the ingredients, processing methods and the geographical region and culture of its origins. The festival presented a good opportunity to stock up for the cold and grey winter weather months ahead.

Missed it, you say? You should be absolutely green with envy!

Thanks, Jacqueline. We're green with envy for your new site, too!

Starbucks%20in%20French.JPGThe trade papers are repoorting that the French are shocked, shocked to learn that Mickey D is moving into the Carrousel du Louvre, an upscale, underground mall that connects with the Musée du Louvre.

Now, when Starbucks moved into France, they had to educate the public with signs like the one on the left, explaining what these pseudo-Italian dinks were. It seems to have worked; the French (and the Brits) are now the best European Starbucks customers.

But Mickey D? Well, I've got news for you, Chain Leader. McDonald's has been in France since forever; over 1,000 stores already The guy who brought McDonald's to Europe in the first place was a Frenchman. McDonald's management in France is enlighted: they serve beer and wine!

And don't get me started on the existing Carrousel tenants.Museum gift-shops, jewelry stores, perfume, sure. Lalique, Swarovski, l'Occitane, and so on. But also a post office, a bank, a mini-mart and a food court (run by the Italian roadside chain, AutoGrill). So it's not the end of Western Civilization as we know it, mes amis. That happened long ago, 2004 in fact. Check it out.

A symphony (cacaphony? drumbeat?) of programs for foodies coming up in the next few weeks. It's a full menu of useful evenings.

We begin with a first-time effort called SLASH, acronym for Seattle's Land and Sea Harvest Festival. It's co-sponsored by the new bible of local food, Edible Seattle (Cornichon's a contributor to the current issue) and Herban Feast, the lofty culinary venue in SODO. Takes place Sunday, October 11th from noon to 5; Proceeds benefit FareStart and Food Lifeline. Admission ($50) includes a smorgasbord of delicacies prepared entirely from local bounty. For tickets, click here.

Then it's on to "You Are What You Tweet," an evening at the Mayflower Hotel organized by PR maven Karen Rosenzweig (who bills herself as The Incredible Chef) to encourage more use of social media, especially Twitter, by restaurants. It's on Monday, October 19th, from 6 to 8:30. Tickets ($50 for another week, then $65) here.

Next, an evening described as Food Summit at Town Hall, co-sponsored by Slow Food Seattle and the Farm Worker Justice Project. Erika Lesser, executive director of Slow Food USA, will lead a panel discussion titled "Good, Clean, Fair Food--Can We Have It All?" It's on Wednesday, October 21st from 7 to 9. Tickets ($10) here.

And last but hardly least, Foodportunity, the second of Keren Brown's networking events for members of the Seattle food community. (Brown's a tireless promoter; she also organized FoodSnap, high-level workshops with New York food photographer Lou Manna and writes her own food blog.) By the way, Brown's first event, back in September was also about social media (with Cornichon on the panel); Rosenzweig was in the audience and was inspired to create her own venture as a result. The next Foodportunity features successful three local restaurateurs (Ethan Stowell, Thierry Rautureau and Kurt Dammeier) with tips for "making it" in Seattle. Monday, November 2nd, 6 to 8:30 PM at Palace Ballroom. Tickets ($25 plus tax for another week, then $30) here.

And if it's just dinner you're looking for, there's Urban Eats all month, featuring three-course meals for 30 bucks at 39 local restaurants. Used to be, this was a bargain, but these days, frankly, you can stay under $30 at almost every dinner house in town. Yeah, Urban Eats is on Facebook. Twitter, too.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2009 is the previous archive.

November 2009 is the next archive.

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