Thursday, May 29, 2008

Craving a bite of Buenos Aires

Watching the touching documentary "Cafe de Los Maestros" at the Seattle Film Festival last week, stirred my yearning for all things Argentinean. I spent 10 days in BA a few years ago and fell in love. It's like Europe, but way cheaper. (At least it was then, when a meal for three at a four-star restaurant was $50!)

So, I was thrilled when I was invited to meet up with some budding wine importers at the Argentina Steak House in downtown Seattle. The place certainly smells like the real deal, meat cooked over wood and charcoal. But I made the mistake of ordering empanadas, which were deep-fried not baked. That's not to say they were terrible, but even the bartender chided: "You should have ordered the steak sandwich."

Next time!

Speaking of exotic travel, where's everybody going on their summer vacation? 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones!

Went to a Saturday morning showing of this blockbuster with my buddy Dan Webster, the movie critic for The Spokesman-Review. He was over for the Seattle International Film Fest, and I tagged along to a couple of those indy films, too. (Loved "Cafe de Los Maestros" and "Tropa de Elite", the latter a Brazilian movie that's a total thrill ride about drug dealers and corrupt cops.)

Indy was good fun, loaded with chases and special effects. My favorite part, though, was the credits. My sister, Laurel Kelly, worked on the movie. (She has been doing hair in Hollywood for more than 10 years.) Yay! Hooray! There was her name up on the big screen!

She spent five weeks on the Big Island last summer, working on the movie, sworn to secrecy. Nobody could even bring a cell phone on the set if it had a camera. Very hush/hush.

Here's her not-so-dirty inside dish: Harrison Ford was a gentleman and Shia LaBoeuf was a sweetie. 

Movie treat update: I was happy to see they actually pop popcorn on site at the spectacular Cinerama. But still bummed that the candy selection in Seattle is so boring. Where's the Theo's chocolates? Or Fran's? You hear me Paul Allen? Why not bring in some goodies worthy of the fine theater you saved from the wrecking ball?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Top Pot needs to stick to doughnuts

Went to the new Queen Anne Top Pot for lunch the other day after seeing on the sign "sandwiches". These were pathetic, pre-made "sandwiches" in name only. Chewy bread, meat, cheese -- not the pepperjack the menu described either -- no mayo, no seasoning of any sort.

It might not have been so insulting had the counter jockey been pleasant, but he was an absolute snot. Why do people like that work in the service industry? 

My buddy and I bailed after one hugely disappointing bite and went to lunch at Tup Tim Thai, which was jam-packed as usual, but still got our delicious lunches out in a jiff. 

I was so annoyed at the Top Pot fiasco, I thought about calling to register a complaint, but what good would it do? Would the snotty barista/cashier/busboy get it? Doubtful. Whenever I've been in there before, the service has been friendly and gracious. Hate, hate, hate to see a bad apple spoil the Top Pot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Don't read Joe's story on an empty stomach!

Ran into The Washington Post's food editor Joe Yonan at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest last week. We were both enthralled with the team from Norway, the head pitmaster is an Oklahoma native who has been living in the land of fjords for more than 28 years. 

Yonan's excellent account of the "Super Bowl of Swine" aka "Smoke on the Water" is up on the Post's Web site today. Be sure and take a look at the mouthwatering video! 

Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Part 1


It's been a few days, but I'm just coming out of my smoky pork hangover. The Super Bowl of Swine was everything I hoped for and more. 

More silly/frat party like antics, rivers of beer, cocktails famously known as "Pink Panty Pulldowns."

The dirty fun turns serious on Saturday, the day of reckoning. I was blown away, tasting some of the meat from Grand Champ's whole hog.

But my favorite bites came from the third place shoulder team, the Que's Brothers. The guy on the right is on that team. So's my bud, Commercial Appeal drama critic, Christopher Blank. The Que's Brothers head cook, Willie Wagner, owns a BBQ restaurant in Chicago -- Honky Tonk BBQ -- and he knows his stuff. I heard part of the finals presentation, where he revealed that he cooked the shoulder in banana leaves to keep it moist. Brilliant!

Reminded me a little bit of some of my other fave BBQ: Can you say Kahlua Pig?? I'm going to Maui in September and I'm determined to find the island's best BBQ'd pork. Any suggestions?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Part 2

Had such a blast at the world's biggest pig roast this weekend in Memphis, the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. 

There's tons of debauchery, but it gets very serious Saturday during the judging. I followed the judges during the final round of the whole hog category and saw the team that eventually took the Grand Championship prize, The Natural Born Grillers. I've seen a few of these spiels in my three years covering the event, part truth, part BS. 

I was really impressed with the way the team leader talked about the connection with a local farmer. Many teams use commodity pork, but I think the future of competition 'cue will be artisan pigs. 

Did I mention I was on the program? Gave presentations on the regional barbecue, my fingers sticky from the pulled pork sandwich from Payne's. That's my favorite barbecue in Memphis, and I just noticed this trip, it's located on Lamar and SEATTLE. Small world!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is there enough butter in the world for this???

I'm going down South, going down South... (tribute my favorite nouveau bluesmen, the North Mississippi Allstars) for the Memphis in May World Championship Cooking Contest. Roughly two miles of competition Q on the banks of the mighty Mississip.

Yes, I plan to eat loads of smoky pork, fried chicken and drink gallons of sweet tea. 

I'm just going to miss one culinary milestone, though. The new Paula Deen buffet will launch later this month at a casino in Tunica. Can you say CALORIES?? Wow. I really can't help wonder what the butter bill is going to look like.

For my friends in Memphis, who keep up with me via this blog: Where y'all want to meet for cocktails? Wish you were going to be there No Sluggo!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chow down on chowder

Yes, Monday's barely over and I'm already thinking about the weekend. Here's one event I hope to hit on Saturday: the 12th annual chowder cookoff on the waterfront. This is the news release which found its way to my in box:

Nothing says Seattle more than the waterfront and a bowl of hot, tasty clam chowder. But which Seattle waterfront restaurant serves the best clam chowder?

You’ll have a chance to sample and vote on the best chowders around during the Twelfth Annual Seattle Waterfront Chowder Cook-Off during the Seattle Maritime Festival. Best of all – all net proceeds benefit Seattle maritime youth and community organizations.

Nine restaurants are participating in this year’s Cook-Off, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturday, May 10. Participants include: Anthony’s Pier 66, Bell Harbor Conference Center, Elliott’s Oyster House, The Crab Pot, The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar, Ivar’s, Steamer’s Seafood Cafe at Pier 56, TASTE at the Olympic Sculpture Park and Todd English’s Fish Club.

To join in the fun, purchase a Chowder Passport for only $5 at all participating restaurants or at the festival information booth at Pier 62/63 or Pier 66. Your Passport gives you the chance to enjoy a three-ounce sample of all chowders. Special chowder tasting areas will be created inside each restaurant.

The Chowder Passport includes a ballot for the People’s Choice Award. Also, you can enter to win free dinners from each participating restaurant.

All proceeds from the 2008 Chowder Cook-Off benefit the Seattle Propeller Club, which provides financial support for organizations such as the Sea Scouts, Youth Maritime Training Association, Catholic Seamen’s Club and other maritime programs.

Skiing in May

Went to Alpental yesterday, where they still have a ton of snow. Thought I might get in on a little Quartro de Mayo action in the mess hall, but I was deeply disappointed with the offerings. Just had to take one whiff of the nasty nachos to know it wasn't worth my time standing in a line nearly as long as the one at the lift.
So, No. 1 Ski Bum (my ball and chain) stopped at Triple XXX Root Beer in Issaquah. Cherry vintage cars in the parking lot, fun malt shop decor, good root beer (I ordered my without ice, 99 cents extra!), but the burger just did not get my motor running. The patties were thin and obviously not fresh off the grill. The sandwich was heaped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and "secret" sauce. The glue-ish processed cheese was what made me stop, though. Yuck.
When you're charging $9 for a burger, how's about a decent, hand-shaped patty and quality cheese? Not cheez. Please!
The topper? When the server came to collect the cash, she busted my chops for not eating my sandwich. "You didn't like it? It's supposed to be fabulous." She didn't ask: "Can I bring you anything else?" Or offer to take it off the bill. Don't give me attitude because I did not recognize the fabulous-ness of the burger.
What's your strategy for sending stuff back? Or do you just suck it up and then never come back?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Starbucks in Chiang Mai

Wonder if you can order a Thai iced tea? My niece Nicha sent me this pic from a recent trip. You can't really see it, but there's also a 7-11 in the distance. Don't you just love our global village?