Friday, June 27, 2008

First bite: Alcatraz

There's no escaping that this charming restaurant has gone with an unfortunate name long associated with that rock in San Francisco Bay.

But let's get beyond that because this is a place worth going, on the corner of Rainier Avenue South and Othello. (7300 Rainier Ave. S.; 206-760-1388 for take-out orders)

Tacos were taco truck-riffic: I especially liked the sauteed fish taco and the corn tortilla heaped with nopales, the tender cactus.

This place serves goat, too. Not just on weekends like many Hispanic spots in Seattle, but daily. I'm looking forward to returning to try the tortas and an intriguing dessert: corn on the cob with mayo. 

Wish I had some pics to share of the lunch I ate there yesterday, but my kid's got my camera. In Germany (where she has discovered: "Hey, beer's cheaper than bottled water.")

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Coffee plus gelato equals tastiest buzz ever

Met up with an old friend from Spokane in downtown Seattle the other day, at Gelatiamo, and went -- without hesitation -- to my fave combo. An affagato, a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of chocolate gelato. Mmmmm!

My friend just finished a year as house Mom for a sorority at the UW, and is doing it again next fall at Wazoo. Of course she's writing a book about all the crazy hijinks. I can't wait to read it. Maybe while sitting in a sidewalk cafe enjoying my afternoon affagato. Ciao!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

First bite: Branzino

It's easy to make food taste great when you saute or sear it, the grill caramelizing the sugars on the surface of the protein. But it takes a special skill to make it right when you gently poach or bake things, especially fish.

This halibut at the brand new Branzino in Belltown looks a little pale, right? But it was fantastic, so tender and moist. Mmmmm. I really liked this place, opened by the man who launched Il Bistro so many years ago. Read more about it in my Wednesday col in the P-I.

Market report

I'm trying to hit all the neighborhood Farmers Market as the season heats up. (If you can call 60-degree temps heating fricking up!!) 

The Phinney Ridge market is fairly new, but already mighty impressive. I bought the most incredible strawberries there last week. Why oh why have we been brainwashed into thinking the red-on-the-outside-white-on-the-inside berries are worth spending one red cent on??? Taste a summer sweet strawberry and it's hard to go back!

At the West Seattle market on Sunday, I picked up some fiddlehead ferns, which are some of the funniest looking things I've ever put in my mouth, but super yummy!! From Seattle's premier forager, Jeremy Faber. I sauteed them with tuna and capers and tossed with pasta, served with a salad of the most tender lettuce. Another market score.

What's your favorite farmer's market? Doesn't have to be in Seattle. For instance, it's tough to beat the scene on Saturday at the Ferry Terminal on San Francisco, right? FWIW, I've become a little jaded about Pike Place Market, which only has true farmers representin' a few days a week, and only during the summer. Otherwise, it's the same stuff you can buy at the supermarket. 

Let's talk pork

Ran into the man behind Wooly Pigs at West Seattle's Farmers Market on Sunday, and bought a $40 Berkshire shoulder. Sure do wish I had a pit to barbecue it on, but instead, I'll probably slow roast and finish it with tomatillos/jalapenos, salsa verde-style.

I truly believe these high-end hogs are the future of competition barbecue. For all the money spent on rigs and all the hours spent concocting sauce, the quality of the pig has been given little thought. The winner of this year's Memphis in May competition, however, did talk about working with a farmer to get the right kind of finish on the hog. So....

On a completely unrelated, yet still porky note, my pal (the original Big Eatin Buddy) Ken called from hiking to the high point of West Virginia (I think it's a mall... just kidding, Kenny!) to report that he had stumbled upon the pig palace of his dreams. Check out Fat Boys Pork Palace the next time you're in W. Virginny. 

Monday, June 9, 2008

Get the picture? New Belltown gastropub comes into focus

Spur Gastropub is set to debut this summer in the old Mistral space. Spotted this call for artwork to fill the walls on an artist's trust site.

Just when I was starting to get alarmed that there was nothing new to review! There's also the brand new Branzino on Second Avenue and Spring Hill in West Seattle. Sweet lover's will be tickled to hear about a new candy shop on top of Queen Anne, Chocolopolis. 

So far, I'm way underwhelmed with the new Portage Bay Cafe in South Lake Union. And cannot wait to see what they do to make Taste at the Seattle Art Museum more warm and fuzzy.

What's new in your neighborhood?

Congrats chef Holly Smith!

Winner of this year's James Beard Foundation award for best chef in the Northwest. 

The chef behind Cafe Juanita had been a finalist for the past four years, so it was definitely time for her to win the prestigious honor. 

I followed "live" blogging of the event on, but the entertaining chatter didn't go beyond NYC stuff. I've eaten at Momofuku Noodle Bar, so I was excited to see chef David Chang recognized as best chef in the center of the restaurant universe. (If you go, do not miss the shrimp and grits with Tennessee bacon.

Don't you think it's about time Food Network started telecasting these "Oscars" of the restaurant world? Would you watch?   

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A scoop?

In the dog-eat-dog world of Seattle food writing, it's bloody hard to be the first to break big food news! I thought I was the first to hear about Cafe Juanita's chef Holly Smith launching a gelato cart, but no sooner had she given me the scoop during an interview and then her PR firm issued a news release. 

Hats off to the bloggers, the scrappy food journos who are so plugged in and work the beat like a dozen egg whites in a copper bowl!

But I just heard a little something/something: Charles Walpole -- formerly at Mistral and then at Novelty Hill-Januck winery -- is now sous-chefing at How to Cook a Wolf, replacing Jason Stoneburner.

Not headline worthy, but a little bite, never the less. I haven't been back since reviewing, but recently heard some unsavory reports about Wolf. Let's just say the kitchen staff was doing a Gordon Ramsay imitation and the front of the house was less than gracious. Yes? No? Maybe?

McD's asks: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

This is my favorite puzzle, and I've got to give Mickey D's a big high five for its brilliant marketing scheme to introduce the new "Southern-style" sandwich. Check out this cute video.

But I've got to point out that when it comes to the question of which came first, McDonald's swiped this sandwich from Chick-Fil-A, one of the greatest, most underappreciated chains in the US of A. 

We need Chick-Fil-A on the West Coast, and In-n-Out in the Northwest. Any other fast food wants/desires?