Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Here's looking at you kid!

This hopeful image is of one of the Fannie Williams Elementary students in New Orleans who will benefit from the fundraising effort cooked up by the 5 Spot team. Details are in the entry below.

Don't forget New Orleans!

These photos were taken this fall in New Orleans, two years after Hurricane Katrina forever changed the face of that great city. Two years and you still see startling scenes like these.

Oh, much of the city is back, welcoming tourists, trying to get on with life. The city has got such spirit. And incredible food made with tons of heart. That's what drew Dave Kearns and chef Brandon Karimi-Naser from 5 Spot, who traveled down NOLA way in September on a CHOW food-sponsored research trip.

After a tour of the Lower Ninth Ward, they were moved to do something. I've written about the fundraiser they cooked up for Wednesday's P-I, and I promised to share a couple of pics. This is one of those instances where photos cannot substitute for being there. The scope of devastation is unreal. Consider the entire Belltown neighborhood wiped out, and still in bad shape two years later.

It sucks.

Still, it's great comfort to know there are people like Kearns and his crew who are willing to remember, however painful. I hope to do my part sometime in 2008. I've got New Orleans on my airfare alert and when the numbers are right, I'm going. And taking my credit card to pump some money into that economy. Care to join me? I know a lot of really good places!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Had such a blast Sunday, baking cookies with Claire and Ms. B, le frosting artiste.

Back in the Spokane days, I talked B into helping me make gingerbread houses that were auctioned in a charity event. It was quite the ordeal. Royal icing is a royal pain.

We re-created the Spokesman-Review building, including the turret (used a Pringles can) and the publisher ended up buying it. He collared me in the hall the following spring to say that after storing it in the attic, mice got to it. The SR tower was critter fodder. HA!

I never/ever bake... except this time of year. Sure wish I had learned to make the delicate Icelandic butter cookies that were my late mother-in-law's specialty. I just tried making my Nana's date-pecan bars for the first time and they turned out great!

I love it when traditions evoke memories of dearly departed. Talk about some tasty nostalgia. Still, I also love trying something new, too. Made the outstanding chocolate cookies that were in Rebekah Denn's fun story in last Wednesday's PI, and am fixing to bake "Peggy's Cheese Biscuits" passed along by Susan Phinney.

What are your holiday baking plans?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wooly Pigs coming to Seattle

Got this e-mail from Heath Putnam at the increasingly famous Wooly Pigs, a farm near Spokane:

"Wooly Pigs will be in Seattle at the U-District Farmers Marketstarting Saturday. We plan to be there every Saturday.

Our plan is to sample and retail our USDA pork, and try to sell as many custom hogs (halves and wholes) as we can. We plan to deliver those to Seattle customers. We've started retailing to people in the Spokane area. Typical responses are that our pork is the best they've tasted.

That's not by accident: mature Berkshire hogs, fattened on barley & wheat, and given ample forage and hay taste fantastic. But it costs alot of money (especially with barley, wheat and fuel so high) to raise hogs this way, so most farmers cut corners. We simply haven't cut any corners on the hogs. I challenge anyone to find better pork on the West Coast. I honestly don't think anyone on the West Coast has bacon this good. Foodies should be interested in our bacons - shoulder bacon, jowl bacon and normal bacon (belly)."

To reach Heath and make specific requests, log on to his entertaining blog: http://woolypigs.blogspot.com/

Ravioli sandwich? That's right!

Talk about your carb-loading lunch, I had an open face ravioli sand at the Pasta Bar in the Market today. Tender pasta pockets filled with a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage gently laid on toasted garlic bread that's drizzled with a little pesto and some marinara. A little shredded mozz on top, bang into the hot oven. (Just like Quizno's, I ribbed owner Brian LoPriore... who sings along with Frank Sinatra songs while he works. Yeah, he says, but except we got flavor!)

It's not on the menu because it's a pain to make, but it's awfully darned tasty. You can find the Pasta Bar next door to Pike Place Chowder.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Finally! Sushi my kid'll eat...

My darling daughter isn't as picky as she used to be -- when all she would eat was pasta with olive oil and pizza. I once tried to bribe her to try sushi, said I'd buy her anything she wanted at FAO Schwarz. Bad Mommy! Well, she'll always have that to hold over my head.
But she's just crazy about the sushi pictured above. Which is actually chocolate! A sweet idea from a California-based company called Koo-Ki Sushi. I had a dessert like this at Flying Fish last spring and loved it.
As far as the true blue raw fish dish goes, people are always asking where to find Seattle's best sushi and I've got to say: I'm still searching. Where can I get my hand roll on?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pecan pie with a twist

Sure do love Elise Fineberg's pastries at Taste at SAM, so creative and playful. She mines childhood classics and gives them an unexpected turn.

I had lunch at Taste today just so I could try her harissa-spiked pecan pie (brilliant!) served with Beecher's Flagship cheddar ice cream. (How freaking cool is that?!) My sister got in touch with her inner Campfire girl and got the s'more, which was terrific too.

If there's a more innovative pastry chef in Seattle, I want to hear all about it. Do tell!

Here's what I've been eating lately...

OH my gawd! I feel like I'm wearing a sumo wrestling costume, but it's just that time of the year. Today, I had two lunches. Oh, no, I'm not crying. Just need to dust off my health club card and get back on that horse, and by horse I mean incredibly monotonous, borrrring stationery bike and --- YAWN --- stair climber. Yeah, right!

I've been on an incredible roll lately, though. I'm reviewing Quinn's in Friday's P-I and I loved it! Really enjoyed Trellis (fig and proscuitto starter pictured) and am finding lots to like about old-school Maximilien at the Market (seafood special with loads of chanterelles pictured).
Heading out to the brand new Txori in a bit for a bite. So pumped up about the new Joule in Wallingford... also had a great Thai meal in that neighborhood at May. Art of the Table's on my to-do list. Any other new venues on the horizon?

Pigging out!

Served a double dose of pork for Sunday dinner, a Kurobota-style ham from Snake River Farms and a shoulder I slow roasted with minimal seasoning. Really impressed with the ham, striking that perfect harmony of salty and sweet, the meat was so tender. Mmmm.

Cooked them both in the same roasting pan and, man, did that make a killer gravy! Over Yukon gold mashed potatoes. Mercy!

Cousin Ali baked homemade Oreos for our little family potluck, treats so good the room got quiet while everyone focused on the flavors exploding in their mouths.

Who's doing a Christmas cookie exchange? Can I come? I miss my sweet-swapping gang, Miss Holly, MP and Sandra, who made date pinwheels that are impossible to resist.

Woodward Canyon rocks it!

I've always been a big fan of Rick Small's Woodward Canyon wines. Collected the magnums of the excellent cabernet until I decided to quit collecting. (Not enough room in my urban digs.) So, will uncork an old one on special occasions. And I'm never disappointed. INTENSE, long lingering finish, just beautifully made wine from rip-roaring delicious fruit.

When I was in Walla-squared last spring, I toured Small's estate vineyards, which had changed a whole bunch since I picked chardonnay grape back in 1989. Small is trying to put some good things back in the soil, not going strictly organic, but working on good environmental stewardship. It was thrilling to see how the land responds.

I was thinking of that gorgeous terrior while sipping a beautiful 2003 Artist's Series cab, a bottle my sis brought to dinner the other night. It was so well-balanced, so incredibly smooth and complex it made me want to start collecting again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Did you read this?

Nancy Leson's illuminating story on Seattle's culinary lineage was a great way to start Sunday.

It helped put the current restaurant scene in perspective, and it made it seem like a very small world indeed. Give it a look see.

My pie!

This is the first pie I've ever made. I'm a recovering flour-phobe, freaked by the idea of baking. But a hands-on tutorial by Kate Rowley has me inspired. Kate's married to seafood guru Jon, the all-time apple forager. They've got more than 20 heirloom varieties, we used 18 different apples in this pie, most of the names I'd never heard of. (I'll get the list.)

There's about 10 cups of apples in this pie, which turned out pretty well. Not as good as Kate's, but I can aspire. One of her secret weapons? A Veg-O-Matic! Seriously! She found it at a yard sale and snapped it up for $2. IT SLICES, IT DICES! It's incredible. Of course, they don't make them like that anymore, but you can find them on E-bay.

Kate's pie crust is bound for the glossy pages of Saveur, the test kitchen editor wrote her such a nice note. In the meantime, anybody who wants to give it a try, drop me a line: leslie.dines@gmail.com.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where am I?

This pic could have easily been snapped on my trip down South, right? But it's on Maui, brah!

I asked the cashier at this convenience store about the tradition of these offbeat peanuts and he said it boiled down to this: "They're good to snack on when you're drinking beer."

On this trip, I noticed some striking similarities between Island Time and the South, namely the absolute love affair both places have with food. Unfortunately, that doesn't often translate at touristy restaurants, where I had some really rank meals. And expensive, too. (Avoid Chez Paul's! And the nasty Aloha Mixed Plate.)

My favorite spots to grind included Mala -- the "Ocean Tavern" where my brother Chris works as a bartender (he makes the best mojitos), Flatbread in Paia (which is an outpost of a tiny East-coast based chain) and the Pioneer Inn in Lahaina Town. At that historic place on the harbor, I watched the Dawn Patrol coming in after catching their morning waves while munching on macadamia nut pancakes drenched in coconut syrup. Does it get any sweeter?

Must eat meat: L&M Salumeria, Oxford, Mississippi

Indulge me while I backtrack to Oxford, Miss., where I savored this fine plate a couple of short weeks ago.

Dan Latham at L&M Salumeria learned to cure from the main man, Aramandino Batali, when he worked with Mario in NYC. He's got the gift.

And when he was having trouble sourcing the right kind of pork, he decided to start his own operation: Pancetta Ranch.

This restaurant is definitely on the top of my list of reasons to make the pilgrimage to William Faulkner's hometown. Among the many others: City Grocery (where you can give humanitarian chef John Currence a high five from me), Ajax Diner -- loved that smoked catfish spread! -- Taylor Grocery (home of the world's greatest catfish and hush puppies), a tailgating party during football season in the Grove (look for Dave Darnell's tent and tell him I sent you), Square Books (the coolest bookstore in the universe) and Bottletree Bakery. There's much more, but half the fun is discovering a place on your own, right?

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Having the best time on Maui, visiting my bro, eating great fish like this seared ahi bruschetta at Mala on the water in Laihaina. Feasted on ono and oysters from Hood Canal, too.

But today was the best ever. Started with a nice breaky made by lovely Lala, then brother and I and Charli the dog headed out for some big time adventuring, circum-navigating the isle, up north to the insanely beautiful Olivine Pools, ran into brother's bud G at the Honolua General Store picking up some grinds.

Hit the now world famous banana bread stand at what looks like the end of the road and pressed on, passing flower stands where you leave money in a jar, stopped at galleries and snacked on coconut candy, mac nuts, then rolled into another old-time general store in lower Wailuku town and bought poke and a couple of local steaks.

While we were touring a gorgeous Japanese garden on the way up the Iao Valley, some tourists handed us a hug bottle of Hana Bay rum, so we got some guava nectar and made cocktails as the sun was setting.

And this great day isn't over yet. We're heading out to pick up our sister Laurel who decided this morning she didn't want to miss out on the fun and got herself on the plane from LA.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The in-between seasons

Cooked up a storm last night, a menu that certainly straddled the shoulder season, transitioning from summer to autumn. Now, folks in Seattle will grumble that we didn't really have a summer, but after checking the temps in Memphis and other hot spots, I say: Right on!

I picked up these green tomatoes at the farmer's market at Lake Forest Park, on its final Sunday. The chanterelles were on sale at the Met Market, the halibut was not: $20 a pound. Ouch.

The potatoes roasted in my trusty cast iron skillet were another farmer's market find. I have been absolutely blown away by the quality of the produce at these neighborhood markets. Incredible.

Anyway, I served the fried green tomatoes with an Asian accent -- spicy miso mayo. Dang good!

What are you cooking these cool nights?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Long distance information, give me Memphis, Tennessee

Yessiree, I'm going to Memphis, actually going through M'town to the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium in Oxford, Miss., where we'll be chewing over "The State of Southern Food."

I'm really looking forward to this trip, though it's bound to be bittersweet because I cannot possibly go eat at all my favorite places. There just aren't enough meals in the day, nor space in my ever-expanding waistline. (Best sign I ever saw hanging in a BBQ joint: "A waist is a terrible thing to mind.")

First stop has got to be Little Tea Shop for some comfort food extraordinaire and hugs from cook/owner/cashier Suhair Lauck. I'm determined to make it to Alcenia's for some fried chicken, and Payne's for a pulled pork sandwich. Of course I'll get some of Miss Joyce's beautiful biscuits at Bryant's. But that leaves little time for Soul Fish Cafe, Beauty Shop, Fino's, Cozy Corner, Rendezvous, Buns on the Run, Gus's and the list goes on.

I've also been thinking about what I'm going to stuff into my suitcase to bring back to Seattle: King Cotton bacon, Hog Wild dry rub, sorghum, Blue Plate mayo.

See y'all soon. Come have a cocktail with me Wednesday around 6 at Encore!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pizza at midnight

Went to the GO Team at Neumo's last night, the latest I've been out on a Monday night in a long time. But when this energenic Brit-pop group started their set, my buddy wanted to bail. The floor was bouncing, could it fall in?

I listened to a half a dozen songs and then we headed around the corner to Via Tribunali, where there were still people sitting over the fine pies. They take last call for the pizza oven at midnight. It was a nice nightcap.

What's the best late-night eats in Seattle? If it wasn't drizzling, we might have run a few blocks over to Cafe Presse. How about some other spots?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A trend?

Three times the past week, I've seen restaurant owners pop a squat to visit with guests. Last night, it happened to me.

The fam and I were checking out the new Ascada Bistro in Queen Anne when the owner came over to ask how dinner was. We asked him about his Jimi Hendrix connection and he took a chair and told some tales. The skeptical journalist side of me was thinking -- can this guy be for reals? While the Hendrix fan in me wanted him to keep dishing.

You decide. Go check out those gold records. They look pretty genuine to me. Not like the "award-winning Memphis ribs" which are baked in the oven, not barbecue!!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The art of crashing a party...

I wrote a first-person story in today's Seattle P-I about my daughter's budding modeling career, which started with a chance meeting in Memphis. We crashed a party at a famous designer's fabulous penthouse, riding in on the coattails of our dear friend, party columnist for The Commercial Appeal, Michael Donahue.
This was fairly standard practice, and one of the many things I loved about living in the South, where people are gracious and generous and don't throw you out if you show up without an invite. Let me tell y'all, Southerners know how to throw a party!
I'll never forget when the designer approached me at that party and asked if I thought my daughter Claire might like to be in her fashion show. I said I didn't think so, but urged her to ask Claire. As I wrote in the story, I was just happy she didn't fall down during that fashion show. Ms. Pat Kerr Tigrett later asked Claire to be a presenter at her annual Blues Ball, an over-the-top shindig that honored the wealth of talent from that area. Her Dad and I crashed that party, too! Well, OK, we actually made it onto the guest list.
Anyway, that's the long story even longer. That really has nothing to do with food... except that I clearly remember what was on the menu at the original fete, Corky's BBQ! The party was during the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Farmers/growers star in Whole Foods slideshows

My friend, photojournalist, Kate Medley has been doing some wonderful work for Whole Foods, telling the stories of farmers/growers/producers in a series of slideshows called Farm to Market. The focus, so far, has been on the rural South, but I would sure like to see this show hit the road to this region.

I would start in the area's various cheese cellars, but this approach seems well suited to Washington's growing number of wineries, too.

Speaking of the loveliest liquid to come out of our great state, I noticed that a handful of vintners have been invited to pour at the Wine Spectator's Critics' Choice Grand Tastings in New York (on Oct. 25, if you want to enter it on your Treo).

Washington will be well represented by Betz Family, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Quilceda Creek and DeLille. My favorite producer will be there, too. I have never had a bad bottle of L'Ecole No. 41. The semillon is my go-to white, perfect with just about every kind of food I throw at it. And, I love that the price will work on my beer budget.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mmmmm.... bacon!

I've got my buddy Di trained up real good. She sees bacon, she thinks of me.

She recently bought me some bacon flavored mints. Mmmm. Bacon. And she urged me to try that bacon-garnished Manhattan at Moxie. This morning, she forwarded a link a company making bacon salt: baconsalt.com.

Man, if there's anything I like as much as bacon, it's got to be salt. I've got salt from Italy, France, Hawaii, but my favorite, the one that sits in a well by my stovetop is a blend of kosher salt and cracked black pepper invented by Mr. Nick Vergos of the World Famous Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis, Tenn. I keep nagged Nick to market this stuff, he would make a bundle.

Around our table, the fam calls this magical mixture "salt-pep", or it's more lyrical full name, Nick's super fantastic seasoning extraordinare.

I still cannot get over how so many restaurants refuse to give diners the salt/peppering option by keeping shakers/grinder off the table. And I'm not talking about shaking it before you taste the food! What about you? Pro salt or anti?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Feel good news from New Orleans

Just got an email from a friend passing along a link with photos from a beloved landmark restaurant in New Orleans, a little piece of fried chicken heaven.

Willie Mae's Scotch House was ruined when the levees broke, but through the efforts of volunteers organized through the Southern Foodways Alliance, the place is finally back open. Miss Willie Mae's great-granddaughter has taken over cooking duties, and the food looks mighty fine.

I spent a couple of weekends working on the project, meeting people from across the country who were moved to do something concrete to help get this great city back on track. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life to witness these efforts.

Here's a link to that delicious report on the ressurected restaurant.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Skillet's got some 'splaining to do!

OK, I wasn't the only food fan declaring their love for Skillet Street Food. This new operation got some warm and fuzzy ink in The Stranger and The Seattle Weekly.

But the more I learn about the violations that temporarily shut them down, the bigger my hunger to know: "What were you thinking guys??"

The red critical violations cited by the health department were:

No hot water available at the hand sink
Burger patties stored over salad
Potentially hazardous food stored at room temperature
Burger patties were above 41F
Working with raw meat without sanitizer set up

There's more on this link.

That's some pretty serious food handling no-no's and these guys should definitely know better. I talked to one of the owners earlier this week and he said addressing these issues were on the front burner.

I hope so. I really don't want Skillet to be just a flash in the pan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bacon makes everything better

Yesterday was a terrible day! Just awful. The kind of bumps and lumps and deadline drama you want to put behind you as quickly as possible.

So, I went in for a little bacon therapy. Oh, I didn't intend to make a pig of myself, but couldn't help swooning over some swine in an unlikely spot: my Manhattan.

Moxie is doing the New Urban Drinks deal -- two small plates, one drink, $15. Last day to play is Sept. 30, and it's not offered on weekends.

Anyway, the place was slammed with the pre-theater crowd and it was obviously understaffed. It took at least 10 minutes for the bartender to take our order. (Heavy sigh. I'm going to say stay away from this promotion, the restaurants I've been to definitely don't seem committed to it, staffing wise.)

However, I loved the update on this classic cocktail, embellished with a bacon lollipop, thread on a skewer and cooked crisp, the bacon was then laquered in sticky sweetness. I know it sounds kinda ridick, but it was really original.

The small plates were a little lackluster and took forever to get out. If the idea of this promotion is to tempt potential diners to return, you'd think the kitchen would put a little more effort into it. There's still time, though. Is there any New Urban Drink destination that's a must? Maybe Licorous?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Where is everybody?

Walked by Cascadia last night during prime dining hours and the place was dead. Same thing goes for a recent drive-by at Coupage.

On a Saturday night when places around the city are slammed, what does it say about a restaurant that's less than half full? Trouble? Has the heat cooled?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blackberry update

Jon Rowley showed me an awesome blackberry patch, just east of the Interbay Golf, right on a side street. The bushes were loaded.

Mr. Rowley, the area's most important tastemaker whose Rolodex is stuffed with the names and numbers of the biggest names in the food world -- "Hello, chef Keller. Yes, I've got some Yukon salmon heading your way" -- has fond childhood memories of plucking these sweet/tart berries, which his grandmother would turn into the most magical elixir.

I took my bucket full and made a blackberry crisp. Because, try as I might, I just cannot do pie crust. The crisp turned pretty soupy, though it was still darned tasty. I sought the advice of experts who suggested letting the berries mascerate and drain before cooking them.

I think I'm going to try and get out one more time before the picking season's over.

Speaking of autumn, I've been busy braising and roasting. My Alaska fisherman nephew Brandon and his ship mate Robby requested meatballs when I cooked for them this past week, and I had to make my pal Anne's recipe from memory. Turned out pretty good, though something was missing.

Also made my best buddy Leita's braised rabbit pasta last week, a recipe she picked up while living in Sicily. Everybody's going to ask, so here's the skinny: I got the rabbit at Fero's Meat Market at Pike Place Market. You've got to ask for it. They keep it in the freezer.

What's on your plate during this shoulder season?

Hitting the pavement, in search of Skillet Street Food

UPDATE: After my excellent meal, and this posting, friend Curt sent a link from seattle.metblog that Skillet had been shut down by the health department. Dang it.
It reopened the next day, the day I ate there. I'm still rooting for Skillet's success, but it definitely took the wind out of my full sail.

Drove around Ballard looking for the Air Stream trailer that's home to Skillet Street Food, the Web site said it was located on 56th, but got out and walked up and down the street looking for that address. Nope. Nothing.

Then, I drove around on Market and there it was. I'm so glad I found it.

Ordered a pasta loaded with chanterelles, broccoli rabe, green beans, cherry tomatoes in a light parm cream sauce. Usually, I hate it when some menu describes a cream sauce as "light". Come on, it's cream. I love cream, but the best cream is heavy. Maybe it's because it was used lightly, not drowning in the stuff.

Anyway, I loved this dish. I took it down to Golden Gardens and sat in the sunshine and loved every freaking bite. It was perfectly seasoned, not too salty, not too little. And this generous portion with the lovely fall mushrooms was just $8!

Here's a link to this roving restaurant's home page so you can check out when they'll be in your neighborhood: skilletstreetfood.com.

Never more!

This crow kept me company yesterday during my picnic at Golden Gardens. I told him I didn't think he'd really dig my pasta.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Here's a treat

P-I photographer Mike Urban put together a tasty slideshow to go with this Friday's review of Latona Pub, reinforcing that adage about pictures shouting louder than thousands of words. Or something like that.

I especially love the shot of the sign that says the food's made "with butter and love." Hope the regulars aren't going to be upset when the place gets overrun with newbies.

I did Thai My Way!

Tup Tim Thai is one of the few restaurants I go to when I'm off the clock. The food is pretty good and the welcome is warm. At lunch, it's cheap. It's in my neighborhood.

What consistently cracks me up about the place, though, is the constant loop of Sinatra songs. I've never been in there when I haven't heard "My Way." I'm a huge Frank-o-phile, but that tune is a bit overwrought for a plate of pad Thai. That's what I used to think anyway. Now, it's just become part of the restaurant's quirky charm.

Besides Marjorie, which has the best soundtrack in Seattle, what restaurant plays music that fits well with its culinary mission? Or do you prefer the sounds of silence?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My lunch with Gael Greene

I met the legendary New York food critic for lunch in NYC in May 2006, at Momofuku Noodle Bar. We made the date after I interviewed her for a story in The Commercial Appeal about her book "Insatiable", the first chapter about her close encounter with Elvis. Seems that fling-a-ding-ding help launch her food writing career.

This wasn't just any lunch, either. We were standing on line (to use the New Yorker verbage), and bumped into a few people I knew through the Southern Foodways Alliance and Calvin Trillin rode up on his bike. I flipped! Somebody, please take my pic with Calvin Trillin.

Turns out he was meeting Randy Fertel for lunch, I know Randy through SFA, his late mother launched a little steakhouse chain you might have heard of: Ruth's Chris. Randy is a tireless champion of preserving food stories in his support of an annual documentary made by the Southern Foodways Alliance. (I got to see behind-the-scenes action on the making of "Whole Hog" a couple of years ago, and thrill to see it premiere to a wildly appreciative audience at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.)

So, long story long, we all sat together along the communal tables at Momofuku and shared nearly everything on the menu. Calvin Trillin gave me a bite of his ssam!! Hot damn! (Shameless fan alert!) Even the camera shy Ms. G agreed to have her pic taken with me. I can't imagine a more memorable meal.

Fast forward to last week when I found Gael Green's new Web site on Eater.com, and reached out. We chatted over email, and she asked me to submit a recipe. Up it went on one of her daily briefs. So cool this global village. Check out her site: insatiablecritic.com.

Here's a tease

.... to Friday's restaurant review. Maybe not the prettiest picture, but this was a spectacular meal, probably because it was such a surprise to find such sophisticated food at a casual neighborhood pub.

That duck confit salad was so delicious. The generous portion of poultry was super rich, succulent and under $12. The outstanding burgundy beef pot pie is based on a Julia Child recipe, the made-from-scratch sauce tasted as complex as the glass of Argentinean malbec I sipped with it.

Yes, that's PBR. Got a problem with that?

So, anybody care to guess where this haute low-brow fare is being served? No? Guess you'll have to pick up a P-I.

Today's dining column suggests a Diner's Bill of Rights. What do you say? When you go to a restaurant what do you expect from the waitstaff?

Cheap wine!

The venerable Eric Asimov serves up some fine selections of inexpensive wine in today's New York Times.

Love it.

It's a no-brainer to pick up a bottle of great $50, but it takes a true sleuth to come up with a cart full of affordable options. Cheers to Mr. A and his tasting crew.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Big Whine: The cranky wine guy at DeLaurenti

I was wandering the wine department at my favorite deli in Seattle, and while getting my purchases rung up. I asked Mr. Wine Guy what was his favorite Washington red under $20.

I'm sure I can't say. There are 400 wineries in the state now, it would be impossible to pick just one, he said curtly.

He could have said: Well, what do you like, a merlot? A cab? Something from Walla Walla? He blew the chance to engage a curious customer. Totally shut down the conversation. Freaking snob. That's exactly what I cannot stand about the elitist wine set. (To be fair, the much younger guy who I talked with earlier was very friendly and helpful. I don't understand what you're doing in retail if you're not about doing some selling.)

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Wine Guy, there are now 500 wineries in Washington state. And my favorite red under $20 is the Chinook cab franc.

Ooh, la la: brunch at Cafe Presse

Met some friends at this south Capitol Hill spot, just ahead of the rush hour. Very happy with the croque Madame, the classic ham and cheese sandwich all bubbling hot and a fried egg on top.

Our table shared an order of excellent pomme frites and pain au chocolat. Everything was great, except -- and this is a big except -- they kept running out of coffee. Even the server acknowledged: "We're having a bit of a coffee crisis." Hmmm. No coffee on a Sunday morning. Major bummer.

If only Stumptown Roasters were open next door, like they said they would be, last Monday. Those Portland, Ore., bean counters should be perking right along soon. I'm still shopping around for my favorite baristas in town. Any hot spots I absolutely shouldn't miss?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hey Adam, have I got an apple for you!

It's been ages since I got excited about an apple. I've given into temptation, seduced by the way a Fuji or a Braeburn or, yes, even a Red Delicious looks and then, yuck, it's all soft and mushy. Or, worse, it tastes like cardboard.

But a friend tipped me off about his infatuation with the Honey Crisp. Oh, Honey, where have you been all my life?

I snagged a bag of these grown-in-the-Okanogan beauties last night and could hardly believe it when I took my first bite. Snap! It was everything I hoped for and more.

Of course, the prices are kind of ridick... like $5 at pound at Whole Food, or $3 at Met Market. Maybe I need to make a hunter/gatherer trip to the East side of the state and stock up on some at the source.

Now, if I could only find some peaches that weren't rock hard.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Oh waiter, there's a fly in my cocktail

Went to Qube last night for the "New Urban Drinks" (one cocktail, two small plates, $15) and the service was horrendous. I was willing to cut the busy bartender some slack, this was obviously a management decision not to properly staff. Our table had to constantly flag the guy down. Can we please order? Somebody didn't get their second plate. And then...
When I pointed out the dead fly, the bartender made a face like: Ewwww!
But he did nothing about it. He didn't come back and whisk it away with a bleach-y rag. Nor send anyone on bug patrol. HELL-OOOOOO! This is a classy place, right? What in the heck is going on?
I've had some shaky service in Seattle, but this is a new low. Send me your service horror stories. I'm working on a possible story. I'm also up for the other side of the story. I know it's a very difficult job and I tip generously when I find the (rare?) good server.

Go to By's

Maybe I was just starving, but I thought the burgers and fries at this old school spot south of Starbucks headquarters on Fourth were awfully darn good.

I wrote about old-fashioned drive-ins in today's food section of the Seattle P-I, on the heels of news that a beloved institution -- Daly's -- is being forced out of its space by developers.

These deeply nostalgic spots cue some selective memories, like when you try going back, it's never the same. The place I so fondly remember was a quirky spot in Bellevue's Lake Hills shopping center called Speed's. Don't know why it was called that because they made a point of telling customers it was going to take at least 10 minutes to make their sandwich.

Is there a burger joint that still works that magic? In Seattle or beyond? Why can't there be more places that try and do it like In-n-Out? What's your typical order when you indulge?

Where'd I go for my birthday dinner?

Stayed at home. Johnny cooked a lovely dinner, an Americanized French recipe of chicken braised in red wine vinegar. There was a whole head of garlic in it. And it called for a bouquet garni, which completely stumped him.

Look it up in the index, I advised. Nope. So, turned to Julia Child's "Mastering" where she helped make sense of wrapping thyme, parsley and bay leaves in cheesecloth. Later, he confessed that he had just used thyme because he couldn't find the bay leaves and he didn't think parsley tasted like anything. No big deal, it tasted great.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hey Bub, you stink

Just had a very nice meal at a restaurant I'm reviewing, except some schlub is puffing away on a stogie. Yes, we're outside. But I believe the law is that you can't smoke within like 20 feet of the restaurant.

But there's the guy stinking up the place.

I usually hold my tongue. And my nose. Especially when I'm on the job. But I couldn't help myself. Cue hubby rolling his eyes and going: Uh-oh.

The server told the smoker to put it out, and the owner came over to our table to apologize. And give me a $20 gift certificate to come back another time. Now, that's the right way to handle a stinky situation.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Eat your heart out!

This was my view at lunch today. Pretty sweet, yes? Every nice day in Seattle is like a gift. Yesterday, it poured all morning and then got muggy.

Anyway, packed a chicken salad sandwich, which I goosed up with this awesome miso/red pepper mayo from Trader Joe's.

Which reminds me, the TJ's on Capitol Hill kicks ass on the Queen Anne store. It's much bigger, wider aisles, nicer clerks. The guy who rang me up was telling me about how he had moved his couch and vacumned behind it and found cat toys and wouldn't the world be a better place if... Yup, I kinda tuned out after that.

Anyway, I love/love/love the sculpture park. It's in my 'hood, and I'm thrilled everytime I walk through. Even better when I've got lunch. Where's your favorite picnic spot?

What neighborhood has the sweetest berry patch?

My fingers are stained, my arms scratched. But I don't give a fig. I'm on the hunt for blackberries, and they're every-freaking-where around here.

I've picked them at Seward Park, near the foot ferry dock in West Seattle, on Magnolia, near my father-in-law's place in Shoreline. Most of them go straight into my mouth, and I've been meaning to come back with a bucket, but haven't. Until today.

Talked Baby Girl into helping me out, but she lost interest after her Chuck Taylors got muddied. Hey, kid. This is a messy enterprise, but if you want a piece of the pie I'm going to (attempt) making. Well. Then.

All the best, biggest berries were just out of reach down the road to the secret beach in Magnolia this afternoon, and the puny ones I picked were none too sweet. Where should I go for a big blackberry score. Tell me true and I promise to get you a piece of that pie.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Qube chef calls it quits

Lisa Nakamura has left the downtown Asian fusion restaurant, sous chef Joseph Conrad has stepped into the lead role in the kitchen. The restaurant is no longer open for lunch.

It's certainly just a coincidence, but it seems strange that two fusion restaurants that debuted with high profile women chefs -- Coupage being the other -- have already lost those key players. Yes, it's a high turnover business, but doesn't it make you wonder: What the heck is going on behind the scenes?

I do not hate dogs!

After a recent column about dining with dogs, people got pretty riled up. Hey, they let dogs in restaurants in Europe, why not here? some wondered.

Why do we have these silly "laws" anyway? wrote a woman whose email handle included yoga, which certainly didn't jibe with the hostile tone in her missive.

Just wanted to say, again, for the record: I'm not a hater! In fact, I recently hosted my brother Chris and his adorable doggie, Charley. She loves to go everywhere, just not to restaurants, the Mariners game or Bumpershoot.

I bet somebody would make a killing if they figured out a way around that health code, and opened a true dog-friendly Euro-cafe.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Searching for the right cooking soundtrack

Had to find just the right tunes while I was frying up some chicken (see below), a labor of love, especially considering it was a rare sweltering summer day. If you can call the mid-70s sweltering.

Turned to my Memphis collection and came up with William Lee Ellis -- "God's Tattoos" -- and Daddy Mack's "Slow Ride", a seasoned bluesman doing covers of rock classics, my buddy Billy Gibson doing his magical thang on the harp. Couldn't find "Electric Watermelon", though. The North Mississippi Allstars latest is likely in Baby Girl's messy room, as she decided she loves this funky roots blues band. Especially the super cute drummer, Cody.

What do you like to listen to while you're in the kitchen?

Excuse me, where can I find the lard?

Cooked dinner for a friend's birthday and told her she could order anything. She wanted some of that Southern fried chicken I've been bragging about.

My favorite recipe comes from a wonderful collaborative cookbook written by Atlanta chef Scott Peacock and the late culinary icon Edna Lewis called "The Gift of Southern Cooking" and it involves brining the chicken, then marinating it in buttermilk and finally frying it in lard. Yes, lard. Lard that's been dosed with country ham and clarified butter.

I knew I wasn't going to find any country ham 'round here, but I did stumble onto some local tasso, a spicy cured Cajun style ham. When I went looking for lard at Fred Meyer, I couldn't find it anywhere. Not near the oil or shortening, nor back by the butter. Some manager tracked it down in the storeroom. It's off the shelves.

Hey, I know it's not good for the old ticker, or the waistline for that matter. That's why I'm going to spend some extra time on the treadmill at the gym today.

Anyway, the chicken turned out pretty darned fabulous, crispy, intensely flavorful. Not greasy. And I served it with good-for-you summer green beans and yams that I seasoned with orange juice and a little maple syrup. We had peaches and angel food cake for dessert.

I love the idea of a special home cooked birthday dinner. For me, it was always steak on the grill when I was growing up. What's on your plate when you turn a year older?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lunch on Lake Union

Such a gorgeous day, going to try and burn it in my memory banks for those long, gray winter months. I was out running errands and wanted to grab something quick and eat someplace pretty.

The fish-and-chips window at Ivar's Salmon House has a special for about $10: alder-grilled salmon, rice, cornbread and slaw. Unfortunately, the fish was overcooked, but it still was pretty darned tasty. I made my own special sauce with tartar, Tabasco and a little lemon juice.

This is an amazing location, the cityscape looking like something from a movie at the other end of the lake. Come to think of it, I think the location for "Sleepless in Seattle" wasn't far from here.

Anyway, I e-mailed this image to my BBQ buddy in Memphis (because he's always rubbing it in when he's eating pulled pork at our favorite haunts and payback is double, right?), but he wasn't impressed. Bet he would be if I ever got him to get on a plane up here for a visit.

Not-so-random question: Salmon or catfish?

I'm so homesick for Memphis

I don't care how hot it is, I've been getting tons of mouthwatering reports from my cousin Suz, who's in M'town this week at a conference.

Naturally I gave her a list of must-do meals, and she's followed my advice a few times. Called to rave about the fried chicken from Alcenia's. She was on her way to Bryant's for some biscuits, but she got there too late. Darn. I sent her to Buns on the Run, and suggested she stop at Soul Fish Cafe on the way. She said she had just had lunch, and wasn't hungry.


I'm looking forward to going down South this fall, for the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium -- this year's focus is on the state of Southern food -- and I'm already working on my game plan for getting in as many meals as I can stomach. I don't think I'll even have time to try the new places, but if I were to pick just one, what would it be?

A big ass piece of cake

Went to the ball game the other night, and ate dinner at the Hit it Here Cafe. Which is pretty good, and not a lot more dough than the regular concession stands.

I had an Asian noodle salad with a skewer of shrimp on top, the dressing was a little on the sweet side, so I asked if I could get some soy sauce. The server brought me like half cup of it.

Portions are pretty huge, including this whopping piece of cake. It might not translate, but this slice is at least 1/8 of a cake. Wonder if anyone polishes off the whole thing themselves? I'd rather have one perfect piece of chocolate at the end of the meal. Wouldn't you? What's your ideal way to end a meal?

Friday, August 24, 2007

I've been Slogged!

After Wednesday's Dining Out column "The Bark Stops Here", I got a ton of fan mail supporting my pointing out that, ahem, it's against health code to bring animals into food service areas, inside and out.

Yesterday, The Stranger's wickedly funny Slog gave me an "Amen Sista!" and the floodgates opened, some 75 comments later, I got a huge kick out of the various asides and arguements that broke out. What does peanut allergies have to do with this discussion anyway?

There were some hilarious personal jabs, like, if they didn't allow dogs in restaurants, how would I get in? And, then, to the PR twit trying to pass himself off as a legit journalist, who suggested that my reviews don't reflect a world view: Let's compare passports, huh? In the past three years, I've eaten my way around New Orleans, New York, San Fran, Napa Valley, Chicago, Miami, LA, Atlanta, back to New York a couple of times, where I actually ate lunch with Gael Greene and Calvin Trillin, then to Taylor, Mississippi for the best catfish on the planet, to Buenos Aires, and Asheville, N.C., Nashville and, of course, dear, sweet, sassy Memphis. Where you been chump?

Neely's hang with Paula Deen

Seasoned BBQ restaurateurs Patrick and Gina Neely are two of the nicest people I met while living in Memphis, often volunteering their time and talent to make that community a better place. Pat made a deep impression with his efforts to encourage at-risk kids to get better grades, treating them to dinner and a Grizzlies game.
Anyway, the pair are going to party tonight on the Food Network, with the queen of Southern cuisine, Paula Deen. They're tackling that great debate: Barbecue or fried? I'm torn. I'm tuning in. It's on at 9 PST.
What's your current obsession on that delicious channel? I'm kinda crazy about Alton Brown's "Feasting on Asphalt", and was so sorry to miss the episode through the Mississippi Delta. Guess I will try to catch it on the reruns.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fruitful trip to the farmer's market

Went to the Columbia City Farmer's Market yesterday and was amazed at the incredible variety of produce. Especially at this stand that sported a dozen heirloom varieties, mix and match for $3 a pound.

The walkways were clogged with shoppers toting heavy bags, my load included potatoes from my favorite spud man, Olsen Farms, some of those dandy tomatoes (sliced up up and had them over pasta last night, with Gulf shrimp and fresh basil... $1 a bunch), chiogia beets (the striped ones), white peaches, a $5 bouquet, arugula, the biggest head of lettuce and cookies from Columbia City Bakery.

I didn't buy any berries because I'm going to go pick my own today, the blackberry bushes around here are heavy.

What's your best score at a summer market? How'd you cook it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Headed east and found South

Was in Leavenworth this weekend for my brother Shaun's wedding, and got a chance to eat one of the best meals I've ever had in this faux Bavarian Village (where I'm drawn by family ties and the tonic effect of the Wenatchee River).

South opened a couple of months ago and the locals freaked. The portions were too small! The price was too high! The food was too flavorful! The Mexican fare that's known and loved in Leavenworth comes out of a can, and is slopped onto huge platters.

So, the young couple who own South -- the daughter and son-in-law of longtime Spokane restaurateurs, William and Marcia Bond who have made many diners happy at Luna, and more recently, Maron -- retooled. The prices now are cheap by Seattle standards, entrees in the $15 range. Starters under $10. (Don't miss the ceviche.)

And the food is fresh and wildly flavorful. Salsas pop. The mole was intense. Even the rice was deeply satisfying, cooked in from scratch chicken stock. The margaritas totally rock, made with fresh-squeezed limes.

I loved the restaurant's patio space, too, lights strung overhead, live music occasionally featured on one end of the comfy space. Grapevines are growing along one wall, I think the east wall of South.

This kind of food might seem out of place in a town built on bratwurst and beer, but Leavenworth is evolving. There are wine tasting rooms mixed in among the souvenir shops, a fabulous day spa and a sushi bar are fine additions. The place has gone global. I can't wait to get back.

Disappointing lunch at Steelhead Diner

When I reviewed this upscale diner at the Pike Place Market a few months ago, I found a lot to like. The chef grew up in Louisiana, and cooked in New Orleans, the most flavorful city in the country, so it was surprising that his gumbo and greens struck the right notes.

But yesterday, tried the new halibut preparation and it was a disaster. First, the price: $22 for a four-ounce portion. Which was overcooked and dry. There were two slices of nice summer tomatoes on top, a few slices of cukes and a sauce that was described as having watermelon as the featured ingredient. Didn't taste that. Did taste the raw garlic for hours afterwards. Major bummer.

Other disappointments: the salmon rillette I had enjoyed before, pinwheels of delicate salmon and cream cheese had been turned into salmon salad, not my favorite texture. Fried corn was on the cob, drowing in butter. Peaches on the dessert were sweet, but underripe and hard. The pecan pie filling was too heavy on the Karo. The server never brought bread. The diner's version of a po'boy was tasty, but was light on the remoulade and had pickles on it. I've been spoiled by the sandwiches down South, and I don't ever remember pickles on a po'boy.

The tab for lunch for two, no drinks: $70-something.

Didn't see the chef in the kitchen, but did spot one of the cooks eating something. Isn't there a rule against chowing in full view of the dining room?

Still, I like the energy in the room, and the chef/owners dedication to some good causes. There was a card on the table explaining the need to save the region's steelhead population.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mel Brooks at The Met

Legendary entertainer Mel Brooks has been in Seattle for the world premiere of the stage version of "Young Frankenstein" (I'm going tonight), but it's not all work. He recently had dinner at Metropolitan Grill (a steak, of course) and was happy to pose for this pic with Thomas Meehan (Young Frankenstein co-librettist), Wendy Starr (Met Grill marketing manager) and Annie Boyington (Met Grill front desk host.)

Anybody else spot the man who made millions of people laugh around town?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A peach of a wine column

Eric Asimov writes winningly of a distillery in Oregon that specializes in eau de vie in his column today in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/15/dining/15pour.html?_r=1&ref=dining&oref=slogin), telling the story of this unusual stuff by painting a portrait of the passionate person behind the effort.

Made me want to clip the article -- yes, I get the print edition delivered daily -- and take it to my favorite wine guy down the block.

This summer, I've been obsessed with pink wines. The dry roses. Remember when we called them "blush" wines? I really enjoyed a syrah rose from an up-and-coming wine growing region in Washington state, the area near Wenatchee and Chelan.

The Saint Laurent 2006 syrah rose is wrapped up in one of the prettiest labels on the shelf, which usually puts me off a wine. Fortunately, what's inside is as gorgeous as the packaging, refreshingly fruity, but with enough snap to keep it from sliding off the too-sweet chart. It was a big hit with grilled salmon.

Another thing I love about these roses? The price. Some of the best deals around at under $20. I've got a Chinook rose chilling for dinner on the deck tonight!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fish and chips and 73 on the beach

I don't want to torture my sizzling friends in the South, but I have to share this pic from my picnic on Alki today. Absolutely perfect weather. And the fish was pretty good, too.

Finally got in to try Sun Fish, the line was already out the door about noon. Tried nearly everything that swims on that menu: salmon, halibut, cod, prawns. I really enjoyed the Sunfish Special, a grilled skewer loaded with grilled seafood.

The fries were the biggest disappointment, though. Limp and greasy. No salt. Ugh.

There were tons of people on the beach doing the cookout thing. Before it turns gray again, I'm going to drag my grill out there.

If you live in a part of the world where it's too bloody hot to cook right now, what's your game plan?

Tiki mon goes to Glacier

Every summer, hubby and his hardcore hiking buds go on some 60-mile trek, and Tiki Mon comes along for the ride.

He's filled with some serious high-end Scotch. I wish I could remember the name, but Scotch means squat to this Irish lass. On the trail, I much prefer Wild Turkey.

Anyway, this year Tiki Mon enjoyed the spectacular peaks and crystal clear waters of Glacier, the guys started on the Canadian side and worked their way south. And, no, didn't spot one single grizzly. Though, they were required to watch a cautionary video, and cook in groups.

The cooking part of the trip always fascinates me because the menus are based on what's light. Like instant mashed potatoes. Doesn't exactly stick to the ribs, does it?

If I were going out for six days and nights, I'm afraid I'd have to have a sherpa. I'd need some savory carrot at the end of a long day in the old (stinky) hiking boots. A big fat steak maybe. Or, seared duck breast with a demiglace. Forget those nasty dehydrated rice and beans.

What would be your dream meal in the outback? And what would you take to quench your powerful thirst? Gatorade or Power Aide?

Shut up already!

Tried to get into one of the restaurants along Alki Beach for dinner last night. Not a plan. Everybody else had the same idea. And quite a few places were closed on Monday night.

So, ended up at Blackbird Bistro, which I had heard was good. It was dead. There were maybe a half a dozen tables. It was obviously the line cook didn't have enough to do, so he was bitching and moaning about some chef he had worked with -- "he came in and he was so hungover, he 86-ed half the menu" "he was such a burnout, he'd come back from vacation and say he needed another vacation" and on and on it went from the display kitchen.

Guy, have a little common sense. You never know who might be within ear shot of your bad mouth. A food critic, maybe.

That bad energy was almost enough to drive me out the door. But I hung around and ordered a portobello mushroom sandwich. Not bad.

What's the most awkward conversation you've overheard at a restaurant?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I like pie!

Got invited to a friend's family picnic, on the homestead deep in the heart of berry country in Burlington. Just down the road from Sedro Wooley. My pal's sister Francis made the pies, and I was first in line for the blackberry. It was insane!
I don't think I'll be invited back because I sat in the corner and made loud moaning sounds. Like this pie is better than sex!
I also made a detour to Sakuma Bros. Market Stand, and picked up half a flat of "the world's sweetest strawberries" and made jam today. Good, but not as good as that pie!
How are you getting your pie on this summer?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

If it's 10:30, that must be the taco truck outside

I've never worked at home before, this is a whole new experience. I'm trying to get my feng shui on, right? To set up a spot where the distractions are minimal.

And, then, because we live in construction zone central, the taco truck rolls up mid-morning, like some kind of grown-up ice cream truck. You know how I know this? Because it blasts a zippy version of the tune they play when the horses are entering the starting gate.

Tomorrow, I'm going to trot down and see what they've got. Expect some pics.

Anybody have some brilliant ideas about the best way to be productive in your home office?

Local Vine mighty fine

Just had a bite and a few sips at the newest wine bar in Belltown, billed as the coffeehouse of all wine bars. Whatever that means. I didn't see a laptop in the place, though the crowd was skewing a little older than the typical scene in that part of town.

The menu is paired with the wines, which are grouped under titles like "cheerful", "bombshell" and "statuesque". Va-va-va-voom?

I had a $21 glass of DeLille's 2005 Doyenne Metier Blanc. (Listed under "centered.") God, I would love to take a Frenchman here and see what he has to say about this goofy approach. It was lovely, but didn't exactly blow my mind.

The whole thing feels a little complicated. Like learning the rules to a new game. But I'm willing to try. It's got a warm, friendly vibe. And speaking of warm, the fireplace was lit. On an August night.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A new chapter for W&D

I'm starting over, again. After launching Whining & Dining at the Spokesman-Review in 2003, it's traveled with me to Memphis and back to the Northwest, where I've been writing restaurant reviews for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. My dream job.

But anyone who has been paying attention knows the newspaper business ain't what it used to be, so I find myself a freelancer. Not such a bad thing, especially because I'll still be writing reviews for the P-I. I'll miss sitting in a newsroom, though. It's a noisy, chaotic, absolutely frenetic environment, desks crammed impossibly close. And I loved every minute of it.

Still, I'm not the kind who laments. I look forward and celebrate. With a shimmering glass of Veuve Clicquot, thank you very much. I hope some of you will come along for on the never-ending eating adventure.