1001 Restaurants (Blowing my own Trumpet)

Pardon the interruption from the shameless self-promotion department. About a year ago, thanks entirely to the benevolent intervention of my dear friend Nicola, I was asked to be a contributing writer for a forthcoming publication, 1001 Restaurants to Experience Before You Die. It was an interesting project: given the inherently ephemeral, trend-driven nature of restaurants, was it possible to compile a book of restaurants that would still feel current in five years’ time? Ten? The editors were looking for places that were iconic. My task was to write a one-page blurb about the restaurants in a way that would evoke the dining experience and personalize it for readers. The book was intended to be not just a coffee table browse (although it certainly was that) but a bona fide guide to dining all over the world. I would be the only Seattle contributor. Continue reading

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Shrimping in the Hood Canal

Like many of the best things I have done, the decision to go shrimping was hatched around my dinner table, during an impromptu Sunday night dinner party. My friend Larry, a self-described Shed Boy (he has forsaken a traditional career to live meagerly, work less, and create things), abruptly announced—he is usually abrupt—that he and his friend Steve were going shrimping for Hood Canal spot prawns that Wednesday. Did I want to come? I had been in a bit of a funk for a while, not writing, hardly cooking, and feeling aimless. I missed London. But spot prawns are a rare treat, seldom available far from their natural habitat (they deteriorate quickly). When I tell people that I have never had seafood as exquisite anywhere as in the Pacific Northwest, spot prawns are one of the local delicacies that top the list. Continue reading

Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins

DSC_0876bLate spring in the Pacific Northwest has been unusually warm and sunny this year. In the last weeks of May, early strawberries start appearing at farmers markets, and by June, on sunny Saturdays, I find it near impossible to resist the siren call of U-Pick strawberries. For two Saturdays running now, I’ve driven to Carnation, where my favorite U-Pick farms grow strawberries and raspberries. A paradisical verdant valley fringed by jagged snow-tipped green-black mountains, Carnation feels almost ridiculously pastoral, an urban dweller’s fantasy of country living just 40 minutes outside of Seattle. I would have gone strawberry picking simply because Carnation is so darned pretty, but it turns out that Harvold Berry Farm grows the serious strawberry aficionado’s strawberry, Shuksan strawberries. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Szechuan Chef

Living in London for three years has wholly transformed the way that I think about food in the United States. When I go back to visit, I have no interest in fine dining. I want the food I can’t eat in London. Period. Give me proper Vietnamese food, give me Mexican food, give me homestyle Southern cooking, sushi, and yes, give me Szechuan food.  This last may perplex English readers. There are some excellent Szechuan restaurants in London. However London does not have Szechuan Chef, and, more importantly, London does not have Szechuan Chef’s Szechuan style crab. Continue reading

Cranberry-Plum Coffee Cake with Ginger and Macadamia Streusel

I’m back in Seattle in the fall, which is one of my favorite times of the year here. Since I arrived last week, at least four separate people have told me that I just missed one of the most spectacular summers in Seattle, but I don’t mind; the skies are dramatic, the leaves are turning, and the Puget Sound and lakes reflect the changeable light so beautifully. I am also house-sitting for a co-worker who has a GORGEOUS home, with incredible views, and a newly remodelled kitchen. Sometimes I love my life.

A friend visited me from Portland this weekend, and on Friday night she tipsily said, “Let’s bake something tomorrow.” (When my friends drink they fantasize about cooking.) Saturday was properly chilly. We went to the farmers market in the morning in search of inspiration and found it in just-picked greengages, damsons, and cranberries. And – in the most beautiful fresh ginger, which was green, rose-pink, and bone-white, and looked like living coral. I’ve never seen anything like it. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Bako

Into every life a little rain must fall. That’s how I feel about my dining and drinking experiences in Seattle, which were almost uniformly stellar, with one singular exception, Bako. Bako opened recently, with plenty of fuss and fanfare, as a self-proclaimed “upscale” Chinese restaurant on the north end of Capitol Hill. I thrilled to fancies of Hong Kong-style visionary culinary excellence. What I ate, instead, was uniformly brown, bland, and soggy. In fact, I disliked everything about Bako, from the mustaches on the bartenders (please, hipsters: shave for 2012) to the self-consciously sleek interior, to our irritatingly perky, alarmingly ditzy server. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Il Corvo

I liked everything about Il Corvo before I ever ate there. The story: a fastidious craft-oriented pasta geek leaves his slick exec chef position at a trendy restaurant to set up what is, essentially, a pop-up in a gelateria. The concept: a few dishes prepared fresh daily by hand, using lovingly-accumulated antique collectible pasta-making equipment, priced within easy reach of budget-constrained diners like me. The principles: Il Corvo’s only open for lunch, Monday through Friday, so that chef Mike Easton can spend time with his family. This singleness of purpose bespeaks a degree of confidence Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Brunch at Skillet Diner

Four years ago, when Skillet Street Food’s shiny silver airstream trailer first appeared, in Seattle’s Lake Union neighborhood in a parking lot near a construction site (if I remember correctly), I went the first week they opened. Delicious food that’s bad for you, cooked with heart. I was smitten. Poutine! My god! French fries with cheese curds and brown gravy! And bacon jam! It was a sunny day and I took the afternoon off from work and played Cornhole with Skillet’s genius co-founders. (Never heard of Cornhole? Nor had I. It’s seriously fun.) So perhaps you can understand my level of excitement when friend Z reported that Skillet was opening a diner (a diner!) a mere THREE BLOCKS from where I used to live in Seattle. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – King Noodle

When I have a hangover, there is one kind of food I want to eat and one kind only: spicy noodle soup. Preferably with lots of meat in it, and extra chili peppers.

Those of you who have been following my Seattle exploits (now sadly behind me, like a distant dream) will not be surprised at all that by Saturday (after I concluded my second cocktail crawl), I was so toxic that noodle soup was not merely an option, it was a necessity. I was eager to try King Noodle, which had gotten rave reviews Continue reading

Seattle Cocktail Crawl (Part 2)

I am pretty resilient. Still, at my advanced age, it’s hard to do two consecutive cocktail crawls. (If we’re going to get technical about it, this was my third straight night of boozing.) But friend K came up from San Francisco, friend S was raring to go, and let’s face it, drinks in Seattle still cost half as much as they do in London. So I was prepared to sacrifice my liver to the greater good. Continue reading