December 29, 2004

Help is on the way


The need for food and water cannot be overstated. The International Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, CARE, and many others can accept donations of money online. Your good deed for the day, for the season, for the year ahead.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 9:29 AM

December 26, 2004

After the feast

Dinner's over, ate a ton.
Tree's been plundered, dishes done.
Have a brandy, anyone?

Playing X-Box, ain't this fun? Oops, game over? Your guy won. Present's perfect! Gotta run!

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And if it ain't fried, he ain't eatin' it!

Posted by Ronald Holden at 2:11 PM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2004

What's in YOUR bottle?

Quick! What do these words have in common? Erbaluce, greco, pigato... Drawing a blank? How about these? Sapervi, baga, fer... Still nothing? OK, I'll make it easy: grenache, malbec, gamay.

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Yup, all wine grapes. Just different varieties of vitis vinifera, the European and Middle-Eastern plant whose juicy fruit, when ripe, ferments into wine. For those who might think it's cab or chard, here's news: there are over 10,000 varieties suitable for wine production. The most widely planted, according to Jancis Robinson, MW: airén, garnacha, rkatsiteli, ugni blanc and carignan.

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This isn't esoteric wine-speak, you understand. One of the glories of wine is that leads to pleasure ... and, on occasion, to serious inquiry.

Steve de Long, an architect, has put together a chart showing 184 grape varieties, from the lightest-bodied whites like palomino to the heartiest of reds, like baga, along with their aromatic characteristics, the regions in which they're grown, and the names under which they're usually sold. An accompanying booklet provides cross-references, so you'll learn that the juice inside that bottle of Gavi from Piedmont is from cortese grapes.

The newly released second edition of the 24x36-inch chart, suitable for framing, costs $35 and can be ordered from Steve's website, Go for it ... you won't be sorry.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 5:36 PM

December 18, 2004


Ten o’clock on a Friday night at Alexandria’s. A line of Escalades and Hummers waiting to be valet-parked. A clutch of folks waiting to get in. Every table filled. Jazz sextet blowin’ up a storm. Two and three-deep at the bar, where Alberto Meza had to hire a back-up barman and two barmaids just to keep up.

Executive chef Michael Franklin has gone home for the day, but he’s left the kitchen in good hands. Ernie Buchanan, in a bright red cap, is quarterbacking. He’s part of the Buchanan clan: Alexandria’s owner is Jim Buchanan, with his younger brother Joseph serving as operations manager. “I’m Jo-Jo’s first cousin,” says Ernie.

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At the hottest station in town stand Chef Keith Hammond and veteran line cook Erin Brown. Both six-burner gas ranges are going full blast, pans lined up on the blazing front burners like the wheels on a cockeyed locomotive.

Here, in the hellish brimstone of a commercial kitchen, there’s no time to read restaurant reviews. This is combat. It’s Joe versus the Volcano, or Erin versus the Vulcan, as the case may be.

Catfish, shrimp, the signature Seafood Pan Roast, pasta dishes: Erin spins and flips, stirs and stabs, tosses a handful of noodles, pokes a fish filet, checks the oven, and shakes his flaming pans like a sexton ringing changes.

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Out slide chicken, prawns, collard greens. A corps-de-ballet of servers maneuvers in and out, picking up their plates and pivoting into the dining room.

Three young women recently arrived from the Sonics game find perches at the bar and order Grey Goose martinis. “The best in town, Alberto,” one of them says. Alberto beams. Soon enough, sure enough, a couple of really tall dudes sidle over and buy the second round.

And THAT, my friends, is Friday night in Seattle.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 9:08 PM

December 6, 2004

Waxing Lyric

No waif, this broad-shouldered soprano from Los Angeles. As Angela Meade stepped onstage, draped in black fur, to sing the magnificent aria Casta Diva from "Norma", she must have realized that the audience would automatically compare her to Jane Eaglen, or to Christine Goerke, whose Norma electrified Seattle two seasons ago.

A most favorable comparison, it turned out to be. The 27-year-old singer was honored with bravas from the house and a shared first-place finish from the judges in the Metropolitan Opera's northwest regional auditions held yesterday at Meany Hall.

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Sharing first place was a 27-year-old baritone from Denver, Jordan Shanahan, whose effortless style and lyric power called to mind great Welsh singers like Bryn Terfel.

The winners collect $5,000 apiece and move on to the semi-finals in New York City next March. Good luck!

Posted by Ronald Holden at 1:58 PM

December 4, 2004

Feeling Meaty

Cast a glance into the ferociously hot oven at the Buenos Aires Grill and you'll see sizzling steaks. That's what meat's all about, right? Primal urges.

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Soon enough, that hunk of meat comes to the table, accompanied by grilled vegetables.

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Good news: proprietor Marco Casas-Breaux, who also owned Madrid 522, is taking over the Harbor Steps space on First Avenue vacated by Wolfgang Puck and will transform it into another south American restaurant called Ipanema. Meantime, tango dancers Patricio and Eva perform at the Buenos Aires on weekends, adding a note of elegance and sophistication to those primal urges. Bravo!

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Posted by Ronald Holden at 4:43 PM

December 3, 2004

Feeling fishy

Listen to this: PETA, the rabid anti-fur folks, don't want you to eat fish. According to their new website, a fish is a sentient being.

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I asked Belltown's premier sushi chef Shiro Kashiba what he thought of the edict. "Huh?" replied Shiro-san, eying the giant live sea-urchins atop the counter. Case closed.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 5:41 PM

December 1, 2004

Oysters, Oysters, Oysters!

UPDATE 12/29/04:: Terrific article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Chris Keff and Flying Fish.

CORRECTION: Reported demise of oyster happy-hour greatly exaggerated! Frenzy to continue, 5-6 PM weekdays, at least through April!

Prayers answered; somebody gracious [up there] or crustacious [down there] must like me. Earlier post follows:

November 2004 is over, which means that 25-cent happy-hour oysters at Flying Fish are only 11 months away. In the meantime, be glad there's a restaurateur like Chris Keff who understands shellfish ... and who gives us this annual, month-long bonus.

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In return, one doesn't complain about the price the rest of the year, which is still a modest $18 for an assortment of 12. In Paris, for example, oysters are plentiful year-round, yet they run about 20 euros [$25] a dozen. Have been saving up my oyster pictures from France, by the way ...

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Are you a Nawlins-style oyster-eater? With red sauce and Tabasco? Then drink Manny's pale ale. A Londoner, with horseradish? You'll like the porter. One of those French gastronomes, partial to fresh lemon and mignonette? Then a glass of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand will do nicely.

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Posted by Ronald Holden at 4:45 PM