May 29, 2005

Defeat? Dey stomp de grapes!

JUNE 9th UPDATE: Marc Jacotin, Consular assistant at the French Consular Agency in Seattle, will talk about the future of the Europeean Constitution after the NO votes by France and the Netherlands; Saturday, June 11th, at noon at Crepe de Paris. Contact the Alliance Francaise for reservations.

JUNE 8th UPDATE: Winemakers were the most vociferous French profession in their condemnation of the constitution. Decanter has an analysis.

France is voting today on the European Union's new charter. You'll read the results in Monday's papers. My guess: the no votes, fueled by protectionist, anti-globalization pessimists will win.

UPDATE: The referendum went down to crushing defeat.

UPDATE: Andree Chalm writes (in French) from her crowded polling station in Paris.

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Just look at what's happening in the vineyards: unreported in the US press, a group called CRAV (Commitee Regionale d'Action Viticole) has been staging rallies across the Languedoc region in the south of France and, most recently, commando raids on corporate wineries. (Here's a video clip from French TV.)

What's it all about? Not terribly clear, any more than the WTO protests back in Seattle. The Languedoc region produces a third of all French wine, exports are down and the local wine growers want the government to do something about it. So, in the best "direct action" tradition, they've been vandalizing supermarkets, shooting up tanker trucks, attacking trains and draining the vats at the region's largest winery.

What the Languedoc vignerons don't want to admit is that their wine doesn't sell because it can't compete. Quality isn't all that high; price isn't all that low. And with the advent of cheaper wines from South America, the growers feel, well, squeezed. They want help, so they're stomping their feet like spoiled children.

Still, if French voters say "no" to the European Union's constitution, logic dictates that they'll say "yes" to the petulant growers. I'm not sure that it's going to solve the problem.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 5:09 PM | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

Quiz question!

Answer this one: from which virtually unknown restaurant dining room did I shoot this picture? Downtown skyline, Mount Rainier, Elliott Bay, Olympics. By the way, I had an assortment of Mediterranean appetizers and a chicken tagine, accompanied by a delicious Oregon pinot noir.

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I'll post the answer--and report on the lunch--over the long weekend. Meantime, send your guess to my regular email. [I've turned off the blog's "comment" feature because of spammers.] Winner gets a bottle of wine!

Posted by Ronald Holden at 6:16 AM | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

Does this research make me look fat?

Couple of weeks ago I wrote about the government's new food pyramid and predicted that it wouldn't take long for people to make fun of it.

Sure enough, from cartoon strips like Cathy to online journals like Slate, the laughter began.

What I hadn't expected was the next round, transparently orchestrated by the food lobby: that it's okay to be fat. Riiight.

Now, Puliter-prize winning journalist Gina Kolata provides an update: the food lobby twisted the research. Read her story here.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 8:51 AM | TrackBack

May 23, 2005


It's called Quorn, made from "mycoprotein." Never heard of it? Could be because it's an entirely new food, sort of but not exactly like mushrooms.

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At the supermarket, you can find Quorn in the frozen-food case, next to more familiar meat substitutes like Boca Burger, Garden Burger and Morningstar (now part of Kellogg's, by the way). I cooked up a Quorn patty with asparagus; tasted like chicken!

Here's the point: the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a radical, anti-wine, anti-pleasure, anti-consumer outfit, has filed suit against Quorn, claiming it's not food. Seattle's own Sara Dickerman, who often writes for The Stranger, has details in an excellent Slate column.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 6:30 PM

May 21, 2005

Through a glass, Darclee

Hundreds of thousands of kids are graduating from college this month, but only the skilled, the fortunate and the lucky few will find the perfect job. What job is that, you ask? A job that can't be outsourced, a job with seemingly unlimited openings: coffee house guitar player.

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Yes, even here in Belltown, where we pride ourselves in doing things differently, where you're not likely to hear the twangy chords and plaintive lyrics to "House of the Rising Sun," we see the evidence: hand-lettered signs announcing live music (pick your time, name your day) inside traditional diners and newly-minted espresso stands.

Latest example: Cafe Darclee, a comfortable new creperie at Fisher Plaza. Guitar from 7 to 9 on Saturdays. Not that there's anything wrong with music, mind you. And Cafe Darclee has surely earned the right: it's named for a noteworthy Romanian soprano, Hariclea Darclee, whose verismo singing dazzled European opera houses at the end of the 19th century.


What sets Cafe Darclee apart isn't the music, though; it's the crepes. Genuine buckwheat crepes, just like you find in Brittany. Typical is a "Complete," a buckwheat crepe filled with eggs, cheese and ham, for $6.75.

The canal-side crepe stand in Brittany that I wrote about last month was charging just two euros, under three bucks. On the other hand, no live music. Just cows.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 6:57 AM

May 19, 2005

Urban Urrps

Who are these guys? Spate of busboards lately promoting something called Seattle Urban Pages "because you haven't moved to the suburbs." A 216-page directory calling itself the "guide for city dwellers." But sheesh, this is downright awful. The first piece of editorial copy lists Happy Hour spots in Belltown; one of them has been closed for months. Dozens and dozens of typos and outdated listings.


Should be better, more current online, right? Wrong. First sponsored link has a typo, next goes to a dot-com instead of the correct dot-net. Frustrating.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 2:18 AM

May 16, 2005

Wine wins!

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Flash: US Supreme Court decides in favor of wine. Specifically, the court struck down a ban on interstate shipment of wine. Great news for small wineries, internet buysers, wine lovers everywhere.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 4:29 PM | Comments (2)

May 14, 2005

Spicing up 5th Avenue

An elegant new restaurant, named Spice, is now open at corner of 5th & Bell where Chin-Chin's used to be. It's good news for the neglected eastern edge of Belltown, under the monorail.

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Proprietor is the estimable Nazir Khamisa, founder of Chutneys and owner of the super-deli chain Beba's. He closed Chin-Chin's; successful at lunch, it died at night. No such danger for Spice: the lounge is twice the size of the dining room, there's a terrific happy hour, and a menu studded with enticing dishes from Latin America, Asia and India. Can it be true? Curry in Belltown at long last?

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In the kitchen, veteran Vincent Rivera has an honest-to-goodness, authentic clay tandoor oven to bake perfect naan turn out dishes like Sonoran wild boar and clay-pit rack of lamb. As Nazir puts it on the menu, "It's Not About the Heat; It's All About the Flavor!" Yes!

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Posted by Ronald Holden at 8:11 PM

May 13, 2005

Cornichon is on a new server!

If you notice anything unusual, please let me know!

Posted by Ronald Holden at 2:58 PM | Comments (1)

May 11, 2005

Gibson at Gibsons

Chicago, Carl Sandburg's City of the Big Shoulders, has painted its toenails. A carpet of tulips runs along the Magnificent Mile of North Michigan Avenue. But don't get the wrong idea. This is still a city for meat-eaters.

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Checking out the saloons, you might run into what the Canadians call "cougars." Women in their mid-to-late 30s, on the prowl. You find them in bars along Rush Street, nursing a drink. "I'm waiting for my husband," they tell you. Have a cocktail while you're waiting?

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Gibsons, a venerable steakhouse, has the liveliest bar on Rush. The bartenders, beefy fellows like their (mostly male) patrons, shake hands with the regulars, and shake the best Gibsons in town. It's a huge drink, well worth the $8.50.

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Posted by Ronald Holden at 9:57 AM | TrackBack

May 6, 2005

Rashi rules

Turns out it's the 900th anniversary of one the greatest medieval Talmudic scholars, Rabbi Shlomo Itzachaki (b 1040, d 1105), known as Rashi.

Because he lived in France, La Poste, the French post office, is issuing a commemorative Rashi stamp, and at least four seminars and and symposia are scheduled this month and next at Rashi institutes in Troyes and in Paris.

Maison de la France, the French Government Tourist Office, alert to opportunities that might attract Jewish visitors, sent a delegation to Chicago to publicize the upcoming events and a special promotion in Troyes, the city in the Champagne region where Rashi lived: a two-night package called In The Footsteps of Rashi.

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Writer and historian Tony Kamins, commissioned by Maison de la France to write a Rashi supplement to its FranceGuide for the Jewish Traveler, gave talks this week to groups in New York and Chicago.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 4:28 PM | TrackBack

May 4, 2005

Take me out ...

... to the ballgame! Australian visitor Jon McPherson, visiting his auntie Glenda, attends his first American baseball game: Mariners v Angels.

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Game's a bust, Ichiro's worst night in memory [and only a day after his Amazing Catch], but Jon does get to "Meet the Man" at Porter-Dixie's BBQ. "Holy shit, mate, that stuff'll frickin' kill ya."

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Jon did use a toothpick to daub The Man on his shredded beef sandwich. But then he [gulp] licked his fingers ...

Posted by Ronald Holden at 10:23 AM | TrackBack

May 3, 2005


Good piece in today's New York Times by Seattle's own Tim Egan on the distorted reaction to last month's "obesity report" ... namely, the notion that it's actually healthy to be a little overweight.

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It's no surprise that the food industry wants to keep you stuffed, but moving the goalposts isn't how you win the game, folks. You don't like numbers? C'mon, the scale doesn't lie. Take responsibility for what you eat, for crying out loud.

Posted by Ronald Holden at 8:52 AM | TrackBack

May 1, 2005

Shake it up, baby!


At last, a promotion with potential. The Great Seattle Shakeup, sponsored by Seattle Weekly, features 23 lounges around town. The deal is this: from 7 to 10 PM, Sunday through Thursday for the first three weeks of May, two "specialty cocktails" and one appetizer cost just $15.

So come Sunday at 7, I ditch Goldie Hawn on 60 Minutes and head for the corner barstool at Il Bistro, the Market hideaway from which I've been absent too long.

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Two fine cocktails: first, a luscious sparkling "Lascivo" made with Zardetto prosecco, Dubonnet and bitters. It's not unlike the prosecco bitter served all over Venice. The in-joke is that lascivo is Italian for "lascivious" or "randy" and Randy Brown is Il Bistro's silver-haired maitre d'.

Then it's on to the "Calvino," a long drink made with vodka, Campari and grapefruit juice. Named for the Italian novelist Italo Calvino, and refreshing as can be.

Also ordered a substantial appetizer: the flavorful bruschetta trio. Three thick slices of Tuscan bread topped with a mushroom-olive medley, a tomato-basil mixture, and goat cheese blended with artichoke hearts.

Gee, 23 places and only 15 evenings. Might not make it ...

Posted by Ronald Holden at 10:58 PM | TrackBack

Drinks by Dominic

Everyone in Seattle knows Dominic, the guy whose talents as a field marshall have transformed Hempfest from a fringe event for hippies into a music-and-politics weekend that's the single most popular festival in town. His abilities as a political activist, running the successful Initiative 75 campaign, have earned him national recognition, including a spot on the board of directors of NORML.

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Now here's something new from this laid-back advocate for legalized marijuana: great cocktail recipes! Try these ...

Boy Georgia: Stoli Peach Stoli Vanil On the rocks, in a pint glass with lemonade, orange juice and 7-Up

Copa Banana: Stoli Citros Malibu Coconut Rum Banana Liqueur On the rocks with lemonade

Oh My Godiva: Bacardi "O" Godiva Chocolate liqueur Shaken and served up

Posted by Ronald Holden at 5:34 PM | TrackBack