Friday, February 27, 2009

Comfort me with potatoes

Feeling a bit blue, took myself out to lunch at Serious Pie and found solace in the great Yukon potato pizza. 

The roasted potatoes and the ever-so-crispy crust combined for a one-two texture treat. This pie had the right amount of char, not too much, just enough. And the glass of sangiovese went well with the olive oil base creation, chopped rosemary on top.

I was so tempted to offer to swap pieces with the single diner seated next to me. Looked as if he had a sausage pie. I asked if they could split one, and got the expected no can do. Still, I've got no beef.

What's your favorite pizza topping?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Possible scoop!

Just saw that Hurley LLC is applying to reactivate the liquor license at the now-shuttered Coupage, renaming the restaurant Nam Thai Cuisine.

Anybody else seen anything stirring at this place in Madrona?

I have fond memories of Coupage when Rachel Yang and her husband were in the kitchen, when the place first debuted and was packed, maitre'd extraordinaire Tewfik graciously greeting the crowds. It was the very first review I wrote for the Seattle P-I, nearly two years ago to this very day. 

I'm still in denial that it's going to all go away. My dream gig, that is. But even if/when that happens, I'm not going to quit eating. No sir/ma'am! My first post-professional meal just might be at Nam Thai Cuisine.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Walkin in Memphis/pics from my filling trip

Loved every bite of my trip to Memphis, though didn't get to see everyone I hoped to connect with. Sorry Neil, Fred, Jennifer and No Sluggo Dave, but there will always be a next time!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Justin Timberlake talks burgers...

.... at the Grammys! While he was introducing the legendary Rev. Al Green, who totally killed it!

Watch this performance and see if it doesn't make you smile.

I've been to the Shelby Forest General Store JT's talking about, with the fish/tackle/burgers, and I might have to go back there next week while I'm in M'town to see if I can bump into any superstars. Who's gonna join me? 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hey Valentine: How about a cheap date?

My round-up of budget-friendly spots for the big holiday is running in Friday's P-I. Click here to read it. 

I really love the artwork with it! Thanks Andrew.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Top Pot not so hot

Taught a class to aspiring young writers at Hugo House about food reviewing. We tasted and talked doughnuts, which I picked up early Saturday, but these good-looking pastries tasted day old and some were downright greasy.

We started a blog to record our mini reviews, calling it The Dough-Nuts. ( Just wondering if you can pick out the donuts that look out of place in this pic... because I put some Hostess "ringers" in there,  just to see if anyone would bite or if discerning palates could tell a difference. (Yes, the Hostess were gross!! Way too chemically sweet and dry.)

What's your favorite doughnut place in Seattle and beyond? 

Potatoes in space

Tried to get The Whitest Kids U Know to come out and play while they were in Seattle, but the deal fell through. Dang!

Didn't make it to the show at Triple Door either after a particularly rotten busy Monday, but watching this on You Tube made me smile.

Click here to view Space Potatoes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sweet, sweet text message

Cousin Suz is all about desserts, so I didn't take it lightly when she sent me a txt about the best lemon bar she's ever tried... from the buffet at the Tulalip Casino! (It had lemon zest in it!)

I had some awesome chocolate ganache truffles on Saturday night, while sipping pinot noir from Oregon and France at Local Vine. Todd might be the best sommelier in town, and certainly one of the cutest. Which explains why the place was packed with lovely ladies.

Opal's back, plus random rants

Opal on Queen Anne has rebranded as Opal Bistro and has a wildly eclectic menu.

The restaurant's former chef Andy Leonard is now in the kitchen at Wilde Rover Irish Pub and Restaurant in Kirkland, where the menu focuses on entrees around or under the $20 range. Was surprised to see a "fresh salmon", which is obviously farm-raised appear on the lineup. Boo! Hiss!

Ate at Monsoon East for lunch recently. In fact, it was the day the announcement came that hot shot chef Johnny Zhu is in the kitchen and I've gotta say I was less than wowed by the meal I had. First, the server brought me the veggie salad roll when I ordered the shrimp. Then, on the combo bun (or, as they called it on the menu, vermacelli noodles), the kitchen neglected to include the egg roll. When I pointed it out, the server quickly brought me a roll, and then proceeded to avoid making eye contact the rest of the meal. WHAAAAA? 

Also got ticked off when I tried to go to Seastar for dinner last night. I had called and left a message on the voicemail asking the hours. Somebody called back and said they were open daily for dinner, weekdays for lunch. But when I showed up, there was a private party going on. Don't you think you'd mention that in the message? 

Ended up driving to Cap Hill, hoping Ethan Stowell's place, Anchovies & Olives had opened. No! Ended up at a pub in Magnolia (it's a long story), which was pretty darned good, but so far away from my original intention. It reminded me, for the 2,403 time to call ahead to make sure a place is open! (Thought I had that covered.)

Last little gripe for Monday morning: Why do Irish pubs play lame-o '70s music? It's not that I wanna hear Danny Boy, but ABBA? Please! Then, the voice of reason (aka, my better half) reminds me: "We heard this kind of music when we were in pubs in Ireland, remember?"

Really did like Dahlia Lounge

It gives me no perverse pleasure to write harsh reviews, but sometimes I've got to. As a restaurant critic, I view my job as being the ultimate consumer advocate, going to a place three times to evaluate it before giving my report. 

It's a real treat to find a restaurant like Dahlia Lounge, where they're doing so many things right. Maybe that's because it has been in business for 20 years, or maybe it's been in business 20 years because it does so many things right. (Click here to read the review.)

Because I only have so many words, I didn't get to fully gush about the dramatic dining room, which reminds me of a movie set. (In fact, the original Dahlia was featured in "Sleepless in Seattle", which I caught recently while on a ski trip in Montana. Man, does Tom Hanks look young!) The paper lanterns that are strung around the current space cast this soft light that could make anybody look like a movie star. (Especially after having a signature martini made with Dry Fly gin from Spokaloo, which is where Tom Douglas's wife and business partner, Jackie Cross, grew up. My first trip to the Dahlia nearly 20 years ago, I was thrilled to see a "Manito salad" on the menu, named for the prettiest park in Spokane, heck, in the whole state, truth be told. Whew, long random aside.)

The seats are comfortable, the greeting at the front door warm. I did have to wonder how come I kept getting seated back by the kitchen, especially after making a reservation via Open But it gave me the chance to listen in on the chatter just behind the screen. (Yes, gals and guys, we can hear you!)

Would I go back and spend my own money at Dahlia? You bet. How about you?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Black truffle risotto at Cafe Kandahar

A couple of weeks ago, I took the train to Montana to ski at Big Mountain, and had a killer dinner at Cafe Kandahar. A truly impressive tasting menu from chef/owner Andy Blanton.

I knew I was in good hands when I looked at the menu and saw the pork chop was sauced with  "debris." Hmmm. This chef obviously has cooked in New Orleans, where debris crops up on menus, high-brow and low.

Sure enough, Blanton cooked for Frank Brigtsen who has a pork with debris on the menu at his restaurant. (Debris is the tasty bits scrapped from the roasting pan.) 

The dish pictured above was a deeply complex black truffle risotto, just one of the dishes that blew me away. If only this place wasn't a 14-hour train trip away!! 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Enough already with the Recession Specials!

I am so fed up with the current marketing blitz: 

Prices that won't break the bank!


A $30 dinner ain't no real meal deal. Diners are not going to be enticed out by discounts like these. How about throwing out some real bargains? And, please, don't remind us that you're doing it because we're on a sinking ship.

I don't know about everybody else, but going out to dinner is a pleasant escape. I don't want to be hit over the head with recession specials!! 

UPDATE: OK, after the comments, let me clarify. It just bugs me to see restaurants using the recession as a marketing gimmick without offering any true bargains. My e-mail inbox is OD-ing on subject lines that hawk recession specials. 

When my expense account dries up and blows away, I'll still go out. It's not just my job, but my hobby. And I'll go to a place that offers a good deal that's not tied to the economic downturn. Like Machaivelli, where I went with my accountant to celebrate getting my taxes done early, and got a veal piccata for under $20.

No-knead update

Thanks for the comments/suggestions/encouragement on improving my bread-baking!

While the loaf was darned homely, it tasted OK enough to serve it at a family dinner last night, and toasted up pretty well this morning.

I'm going to check out Alton's recipe. Did I mention, I interviewed the fabulous Mr. Brown while I was working in Memphis? Nice guy. Very clever.

Where can I buy some "artisan" yeast in Seattle? Or, at least something I can be assured is alive and active? I used Fleishmann's Rapid Rise, expiration date March 26, 2010. I've read other recipes that say salt can kill yeast, and that recipe calls for mixing yeast and salt together. Could that be it?

So many questions. Why the heck don't I just go buy bread at Macrina?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pam's Kitchen heats things up

Pam's Kitchen is open for lunch just Fridays, so the place gets slammed around noon. I got there a little early and found the door locked. Right, it opens at noon. 

Kinda quirky, but OK, chilling in the cold made the fiery fare even more welcome when it was served. They were out of several items from the get-go, which isn't the best sign, but again... you accept things are going to roll Island-style here. Meaning, relax. Sip your bitter bark cooler. It's all good.

It was, too, the Jamaican Jerk chicken, the lamb roti, the spicy green beans and callalou, the spinach made creamy with the addition of coconut milk. This was a meal at which I had a bottomless pit in my stomach so I could keep on eating. But, I guess that's why there are to-go boxes.

Pam's Kitchen is located in the U-District at 50th and University Avenue. 

Spectacular lunch at Salumi

Baby Girl and I had a couple of fantastic sandwiches at Salumi last week, which wasn't surprising, as it's one of the few places that not only lives up to its considerable hype, but often exceeds expectations. 

So, as much as I liked the sandwiches, I was floored by a dish that should come with a warning label: Caution! Addictive!! I can't remember its official name, but I'm going to call this occasional special Irish-meets-Italian scalloped potatoes: slices of spuds soaking up heavy cream, bits of pancetta adding salty goodness. Yum!

I hadn't been to this Pioneer Square hot spot -- yes, the lines are still out the door -- since I met Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus for a Grand Salami last summer, but I'm taking a vow not to wait so long before my next meal there. 

No-knead bread?

How about no-rise bread? Why, oh why am I such a failure as a bread baker?

I followed the Bittman recipe, but my no-knead break looks like a brick, not a lofty loaf. Grrr! Should I just give up? Keep practicing until I get it right? Anybody have similar flour phobia?