Thursday, November 12, 2009

What a welcome home: with wine!

I'm grateful for my building that offers a seasonal wine tasting, especially tonight. It was exactly what I needed after a long day at work. Now time for bed.


For some reason or another, I've never tried any of Ethan Stowell's restaurants. Ethan is one of Seattle's most renowned chefs and his restaurants, Union, Tavolàta, How to Cook a Wolf, and Anchovies & Olives are some of the hippest places to dine. Tonight, I finally got to try Tavolata, and in the kitchen was Ethan Stowell, the man himself. I had actually seen him speak on a panel a couple of nights prior at Foodportunity. I tried pork cheeks for the first time, and while I thought I loved pork belly, the tender richness and tastiness of the pork cheeks give the belly a run for my favorite pig-part. Dessert was a ginormous helping of homemade donuts with a hint of lemon. Between the pork and a few of the donuts, I was sent home with basically a full meal for the next day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ballard Bargain Happy Hour

It's no secret. I love happy hour.

I love being able to eat good food and sip good drinks at a bargain price. And one of the best places I've found is the Hi-Life in Ballard. In the effort of full disclosure, I will admit that what puts this place over the edge is its stumbling distance proximity to home in case happy hour escalates to downright jolly. And it's a little too easy at the Hi-Life, with their $3 specials, both for drinks and food, including full-size salads and pizza, tasty sliders, mac & cheese, and generous pours of wine and beer. I can easily get out of there fully satiated for $11, including tip.


This is when blogging every day can get real personal. Yesterday, I took a break from writing (and socializing and other activities) and really began cleaning and purging stuff that was no longer needed. I guess as you clear things out, you're also enabled to see things more clearly, and I ended up finding some unexpected details about a betrayal in my life. Of course, all sorts of emotional distress ensued, feelings that I thought I been getting over, and I was set back to where I was a year ago, remembering details, details that puzzled me but I hadn't give a second thought before, and realizing how blind I was at not seeing what was actually happening right under my nose. It was a tough night.

This morning I turned on the Today Show, despite wanting to cut down on television, something inside suggested this morning might be important to watch. And then they had a teaser about a woman they were going to interview, who had overcome the adversity of an abusive relationship, divorce and addiction to food, which hit close to home and they had my attention. I saw pictures of the woman's before pictures and holy cow, it was Amy Barnes, a former colleague. I'd always known her as a fit, confident woman (the after), but I recognized her pictures from the website of her new company, Inside & O.U.T. Fitness. I had no idea about her past, that she also came from an abusive relationship and suffered an addiction to food. We had some interesting parallels.

Did that include an addiction to food? Uh oh.

Well, I love food. I eat food, I have a food site, I write a food-based blog, I go to food-related events and my travels do tend to be based on finding the best food.

Really, an addiction? I kind of saw this as more of a celebration. More to explore.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yucatan Yumminess

I was really happy today to find out my dear friend, Julie, would be joining me for Christmas in Mexico this year, and even more excited to find out that we will be there for her birthday, too. Part of the time, we'll be in Playa del Carmen, and I can't wait to take her to my favorite empanada shack, Las Commerciales located on Calle 8 Norte and 26th Avenida Norte, maybe half a block from the Walmart (don't judge, that's where my shuttle would stop).

I was walking toward the beach and happened to see a neon orange sign:
Empanadas $5
And like a beacon, I found myself at the counter in less than a blink. These delectable yummy treats were hand-made to order, and at 5 pesos a piece (less than US$.50), I could "splurge" on 3 of them. They were wonderfully moist without being too greasy, and the homemade sauces that accompanied them (a tomato-based sauce, a tomatillo sauce and a crema) added just a hint of heat, color and delightful flavor that my tongue was nothing less than overjoyed whenever I took a bite.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

City Where I Left My Stomach

A bunch of my Twitter friends are in San Francisco for the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival and reading their tweets is getting me nostalgic (and hungry) for my old home town. I'm planning on spending Thanksgiving week, which will be the first entire week I've spent there since I moved to Seattle over 5 years ago. Some people have asked me for suggestions on where to dine, and aside from some of the more famous and more obvious places (Tadich Grill, Top of the Mark, Slanted Door), I'd like to share a few of the establishments and dishes that I personally long for:
  • Tu Lan (Civic Center, 6th & Market) - I have such incredible memories of this dive Vietnamese Restaurant, from being a financially-challenged college student to breaking Imperial Rolls with a bunch of Secret Service agents. This is a place that is so good, that not only was it reputed to be Julia Child's favorite Vietnamese restaurant (before Slanted Door ever opened), but one time there was a fire in the adjacent apartment building and the last people to vacate the restaurant were the customers because they really wanted their food. They even ate heartily as firefighters put out the fire and sadly, hosed down the building and the restaurant had to close down for months. I don't know if this is the best venue or not to mention how much grease I saw swept out from the floor of the restaurant during news reports. That said, my typical order is shrimp fried rice and imperial rolls. And just FYI, those imperial rolls are so good, I've had requests to fly them with me across the country.
  • Ti Couz (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - I love the Brittany-style crepes, made with buckwheat that adds texture. My favorite is a dessert crepe with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and almonds.
  • Tartine Bakery (Mission, Guerrero & 18th) - It doesn't matter how long the line is (well, maybe in a rainstorm), all the pastries are worth it. I couldn't even begin to make a suggestion here, except to get one of everything.
  • Pancho Villa (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - Every SFer has a favorite burrito-shop and this one happens to be mine. Everything's fresh, in this assembly-line style eatery. Will probably be one of my first stops when I go back home.
  • Yum Yum Fish (Sunset, way out) - If you're willing to get on the MUNI streetcar for about as far west as you can go (or have a car, or better yet, a friend with a car), Yum Yum has quite possibly the freshest sushi possible this side of the Pacific. So fresh that it's actually a fish market that other restaurants order their sushi from. The market just has a few tables, I mean, most people don't want to dine in the middle of a fish market due to smell, but the freshness and the unbelievably cheap prices make it far worth it.
  • Pakwan (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - Best Pakistani/Indian food in town in this cheap and casual restaurant. My understanding is the owners are Muslim, so they don't sell alcohol, but that doesn't stop diners from byob'ing, and there's a liquor store across the street.
  • Shalimar (Tenderloin) - My other favorite Pakistani/Indian restaurant, although unless you're a local or have really good street smarts, you're just as well off going to Pakwan, in a better neighborhood.
  • City View (Financial District, Commercial & Kearny) - Something I miss from San Francisco is stellar dim sum, and at this place with stellar prices. More casual than Yank Sing at Rincon Center, but still appropriate for a special occasion.
  • R&G Lounge (Chinatown, Kearny & Commercial) - I'm grateful to Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show for reminding me about this, one of my favorite lunch places when I worked downtown. My personal favorite is the salted fish & chicken fried rice, but that's probably too funky for most. I can, in good faith, recommend everything here.
  • House of Nanking (Chinatown, Kearny & Columbus) - Be forewarned that the gentleman taking your order may tell you you're ordering the wrong thing and then make suggestions on what you should order. LET HIM! Think of it as going to a roadside diner with a snarky waitress bickering with the chef, it's part of the charm of this place and when you get your food, you'll be grateful. And who knows, when you walk out and look across the street to Cafe Niebaum-Coppola, you just may see a famous actor meeting with an even more famous movie producer, which I happened to last time I was there.
  • Caffe Greco (North Beach, Columbus & Vallejo) - The quintessential caffe in this Italianesque neighborhood.
  • Suppenkuche (Hayes Valley, Hayes & Laguna) - I used to work for a German company and this was by far the best to take my German colleagues. Get anything with the herb & cheese spaetzle, I would usually settle for the Jagerschnitzle.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Favorite Home-Cooked Meal

While I love any opportunity to hang out with friends, I feel grateful my happy hour was canceled with my fantasy football co-owners. Granted, we need to strategize our team for this weekend, it's been so nice to be able to enjoy a quiet evening home. However, because these evenings have been so few and far between, the culinary selection in my own kitchen is quite limited. Luckily, with a few staples, I was able to make one of my favorite meals: breakfast for dinner.

Clockwise from the right: Noelani Berkshire Bacon from Swinery Meats, organic eggs from Samish Bay Farms topped with Annie's Organic Ketchup and yes, a pre-formed hash brown patty (stop judging me).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You Get What You Pay For

I've dined at Dahlia Lounge and Tom Douglas' restaurants over the years and am always impressed. However, trying November's Dine Out Seattle menu was a good example that you get what you pay for. Not that I was necessarily expecting a typical $100+ meal for only $30, but I did get used to a certain standard from Mr. Douglas, whether it's a cookie from his bakery to his pizza to the fancier Palace Kitchen. I appreciate the opportunity for people to try the famous Dahlia Lounge for a bargain price of $30 for three courses, but unfortunately I have to say the food just was not up to par. We tried the "Through the Years" and "And Now..." menus, which while inventive, were disappointing. Although the starter of the "And Now" menu of Bill Taylor's mussel's were extraordinary, the rest of the dishes fell flat. If you want to experience the true glory of what made Tom Douglas famous, save up your money and enjoy the traditional Dahlia menu. And be sure to order the mussels.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Running Into Odd "Fellows" at Oddfellows Lodge

I had to run an errand at lunch today in Capitol Hill and coincidentally, my co-worker told me she was meeting a friend at a restaurant right where I had to run this errand, so we decided to carpool. I was thinking of just going to pick up some food after my errand (Rancho Bravo, Pike St. Fish Fry, Honeyhole), but I'd been wanting to try Oddfellows Lodge ever since it opened, so here was a great opportunity. Plus, I had signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I could use the time to myself to write my future best-selling novel without my usual distractions.

Oddfellows promotes the communal atmosphere with long tables throughout the center (and individual 2-4 top tables against the walls if you'd like to keep your party more private) and it didn't take long for their plan to work. Shortly after getting in line, the gentleman behind me and I struck a conversation since it was both of our first times at the restaurant and we sat together while he waited for his order to-go. As I was trying to decide where to sit, in walked Sarah, a fellow foodie friend I recently met (assuring me this was a good place). Shortly after that, Jeanie, a very dear friend from years ago appeared. I really appreciated the idea of having community and at this particular hour on this particular day, I could turn any corner and find a friend, new and old.

In case you're wondering about the food (oh, that!), it was wonderfully fresh, but the sandwich was a little dry and the salad a bit skimpy. I would still go back in a flash, however, with friends, or meet friends.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Foodportunity vs. Football

Obviously, I love food. But did you know I also like football? It's been a long-standing love, started by growing up in San Francisco during the hey-day of the 49ers from the Joe Montana/Bill Walsh/Jerry Rice years through the Steve Young/Steve Marriucci/Jerry Rice years. I was absolutely thrilled when Jerry Rice moved up to Seattle shortly after I did, unfortunately that didn't last too long.

Living in Seattle the past 5 years, I rarely get to see my hometown team play, even on TV. (Although, probably not a bad thing given the 49ers' record.) I needed a reason to look forward to Sundays. So I was thrilled with the opportunity to join a fantasy football league at work. We hadn't been together as a group since Draft Day and I was looking forward to the opportunity to watch Monday Night Football together.

However, one of the eminent foodie events was happening, Foodportunity. For some reason, I was torn.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I seem to be getting a message from above that it's time for me to hanker down on my writing. Not only did I sign up for NaNoWriMo and was invited to sign up as a writer laureate at Hugo House, but now I've sined up for NaBloPoMo, in which I am pledging to write a blog post EVERY day for a month. So, here it is, my first blog post for the month of November. Luckily there is no theme, but anyone have any guesses on what I'll be writing about?

After a fun Halloween of tarot card reading at BonzaBash in the W Hotel, my colleague Julie and I decided to spend our tips on a fun breakfast at Hurricane. It was my first time and while very crowded, got great service from the waitstaff who were kind enough to alert us that our special requests (hashbrowns well done and a drink from the bar) would cause us to have to wait even longer. Food was good, otherwise, and I'm glad to know of a late-night place close to home besides Beth's Cafe which seems to always be cleaning whenever I come in. I don't know about you, but I really don't find the smell of ammonia very appetizing.