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Thursday
February

24

2005
12:22 AM




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Exciting stuff going on. We got a very cool write up from Hsiao-Ching Chou in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It describes not just the website, but some additional efforts including: the work we've done on our sister website TasteEverything, All About Apples our first cookbook with Scott Carsberg at Lampreia, and an unnamed new cookbook effort that we're plugging away on right now.

And even more press about TasteEverything from the Guardian in the U.K. Cool!

We now have our own discussion board hosted by tasteeverything. Feel free to use the board for all tastingmenu related discussions.

Had dinner tonight with a bunch of Seattle Food Bloggers. Blogs represented were:

It was surprisingly neat. Lots of people basically doing the same thing. Dinner at Malay Satay Hut was good as always.

 

Tuesday
February

22

2005
7:00 AM




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Most Perfect Raspberry Found in a Jar, tasted on February 22, 2005, part of the Independent Food Festival and Awards — I have a thing for all things sour. Candy and fruit are the most common vehicles. When it comes to fruit, Granny Smith apples (I'm told I need to try courtlands), limes, and not quite ripe blackberries are among my favorites. Raspberries are really one of the best expressions of what I like about sour fruit. I love that they're soft and meaty and filled with a very small amount of juice. And as much as I like the sugar in them, I really want them to have a healthy dose of acidity. When they're ripe and full of flavor I can eat them by the truckload.

When it comes to raspberry jam, I'm essentially looking for a truckload full of raspberries. And all my life I've been on a sort of background quest - to find a raspberry jam that conveyed as closely as possible the essence of... well... raspberries. It may seem like a simple task, but believe me, it's not. Most raspberry jams suffer from three main problems. 1) They are too gelled. Pectin is used to give Jam its gelatinous qualities. Some Jams are just overly gelatinous. They have too much structure. 2) They are too sweet. I understand that some people feel just as strongly about sour flavors as I do but in the other direction. That said, I can get a lovely strawberry jam if I want something sweeter. 3) They have no seeds. I try not to be too "judgey" on this site which given that it's the sole purpose of the site can be kind of difficult. That said, I do not understand what the point is of taking the seeds out of raspberry jam. They are such critical texture. I suppose for someone who's not as obsessed with just having a jar full of raspberries, maybe seeds are not as a high a priority. And after all, I do like Orange Juice with less pulp, so who am I to talk.

Every few months I will notice an interesting jar of raspberry jam on the shelf at the grocery store (or specialty store) and give it a whirl. And every few months I am disappointed. I think it was the fact that the Raspberry Tart Pacific Raspberry Jam had the word "tart" in the name that attracted me. I figured that it must at least be sour, and I could see the seeds through the glass of the jar, so we had a decent chance of getting something reasonable. Imagine my surprise when I got home, opened the jar, and found basically a container full of crushed fresh raspberries. Beautifully juicy. Perfectly sour. Filled with texture. Crushed fresh raspberries. Wow. I've been searching for at least twenty years, and my quest is finally complete. This stuff can be eaten anywhere you see fit, on ice cream, on toast, on a steak for all I care. (This is starting to feel a little Dr. Seussish.) And while this is a little embarrassing to admit, I've often eaten it just with a spoon. In fact, on those occasions, I've found myself down most of a jar before I realized I almost ate an entire jar of jam with a spoon. I don't know what's stopping me from just doing it. Sitting down with a new jar of Raspberry Tart Pacific Raspberry Jam and eating the whole thing with a spoon. I think society is keeping me down. 

As you may have noticed from the logo at the start of this article, we are proud to participate in the first annual Independent Food Festival and Awards. In fact, the host of the festival, tasteeverything.org, is our sister website. These awards work a little differently than most in that each jury member gets to create and give out their own award. As a member of the inaugural jury I am proud to give the award for the:

Most Perfect Raspberry Found in a Jar

to

Raspberry Tart, Pacific Raspberry Jam,
Mountain Fruit Company, Chico, California

They have a whole line of jams you should try as well. Hopefully someday I can get down to Chico and con my way into a demonstration of how the Mountain Fruit people are capable of preserving the essence of fresh perfect raspberries in a jar.

(Note: I got mine at the Wholefoods in Bellevue, WA. Not all Wholefoods have it, but I bet they can order it. I also found it online here.)

Thirty food bloggers made up this year's awards jury. Check out the entire list of awards for more great food you may not have heard of.

Monday
February

21

2005
12:04 AM




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Depressed in Seattle Round #2, February 21, 2005 — A couple of days ago I wrote about how depressed I was about the state of food options in Seattle. I wrote about the fact that while there are restaurants that I think are truly world class (or even just great), they are few and far between and I wish there was more diversity here. I got comments from several people agreeing with me. But the following comment really made me think. I'll repost it here for you to read:

Interesting rant. I can think of a number of things Seattle falls short on. I mostly chalk it up to the size of the city though. Perhaps I'm being an epicurean relativist, but how would you compare Seattle cuisine to other cities in America of similar size? Seattle is the 24th largest city in America. Here are the +/-5 list of cities:

  • Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Fort Worth, Tex.
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • El Paso, Tex.
  • Boston, Mass.
  • Seattle, Wash.
  • Washington, DC
  • Denver, Colo.
  • Nashville-Davidson, Tenn.
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Oklahoma City, Okla.

Only having eaten in 6 of the 11 cities listed, my initial assessment is that Seattle compares favorably overall. In comparison, Seattle is the 605th largest city in the world. The +/-5 cities surrounding it are:

  • Bengbu, China
  • Bucaramanga, Colombia
  • Wuhu, China
  • Qinhuangdao, China
  • Bandar Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
  • Seattle, USA
  • Chon Buri, Thailand
  • San Nicolás de los Garzas, Mexico
  • Banjarmasin, Indonesia
  • Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Valenzuela, Philippines

I haven't eaten in any of those cities, but none really pop out as well-known culinary meccas. Again, I would hazard to guess that Seattle compares favorably. There are some things that leave me bemused, though, like how Chinese food in Seattle could be so mediocre given its geography and demographics. But even with such shortcomings as surprisingly weak Chinese, pizza, and lack of a really good deli, I find that for what I would expect of a city the size of Seattle that things aren't so bad. I suppose it would be interesting to do this comparison using COLA as the measure instead of population. Perhaps money might be more of a factor. However, Boston's no great culinary shakes either and the COLA there is similar to here, so maybe that's not a good measure either.

This is really an excellent point. And while it doesn't make the food situation any better, it does put it in perspective. Though to be clear, there's maybe even a more appropriate measure (at least in the U.S.) that correlates to food worthiness... media market.

According to the Media Info Center the top 30 TV Markets in the U.S. Ranked by Household are:

Rank
Designated Market Area (DMA)
TV Households
% of US
1   New York 7,376,330   6.8041  
2   Los Angeles 5,402,260   4.9832  
3   Chicago 3,399,460   3.1357  
4   Philadelphia 2,874,330   2.6513  
5   San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 2,440,920   2.2516  
6   Boston (Manchester) 2,391,830   2.2063  
7   Dallas-Ft. Worth 2,255,970   2.0810  
8   Washington, DC (Hagrstwn) 2,224,070   2.0515  
9   Atlanta 2,035,060   1.8772  
10   Detroit 1,923,230   1.7740  
11   Houston 1,848,770   1.7053  
12   Seattle-Tacoma 1,685,480   1.5547  
13   Tampa-St. Pete (Sarasota) 1,644,270   1.5167  
14   Minneapolis-St. Paul 1,635,650   1.5088  
15   Phoenix 1,561,760   1.4406  
16   Cleveland-Akron 1,542,970   1.4233  
17   Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 1,510,740   1.3935  
18   Denver 1,399,100   1.2906  
19   Sacramnto-Stktn-Modesto 1,278,430   1.1793  
20   Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 1,263,900   1.1659  
21   St. Louis 1,202,170   1.1089  
22   Pittsburgh 1,175,410   1.0842  
23   Baltimore 1,083,030   0.9990  
24   Portland, OR 1,073,210   0.9900  
25   Indianapolis 1,038,370   0.9578  
26   San Diego 1,029,210   0.9494  
27   Hartford & New Haven 1,001,320   0.9236  
28   Charlotte 986,830   0.9103  
29   Raleigh-Durham (Fayetvlle) 947,750   0.8742  
30   Nashville 904,380   0.8342  

 

Now, I don't want to spark a big war about my equating "cosmopolitan-ness" with a bounty of good food. Of course Memphis (#43) has great barbecue. But my issue isn't about a city having depth in a local specialty, it's about having depth in its breadth. That's the true measure. Most people in... oh say... Seattle, for example, can't jaunt down to Memphis every time they want ribs. But looking at the list above is very edifying. Seattle may be the 24th largest city in the country, but it's the 12th largest media market. I think that's a closer indication of what's really the issue.

OK. So here's my off the cuff, sometimes completely uneducated, and unfair observations. Seattle probably beats some of the cities above it on the list - Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, and Houston come to mind - in terms of having tons of great food. And yes, I say that never having been to Detroit (let the flames begin). But, I'll also bet that Miami and maybe even Sacramento have just as good food (or maybe even better) than Seattle. I'll also claim that Portland, all the way down at #24, is probably pretty close too.

So, what does this prove? Nothing really. That said, the perspective is helpful. Though it doesn't excuse people in Seattle for taking for granted the few gems they have, or for settling for less (as it seems they often do). I will keep trying to fashion the right algorithm to determine a city's true food worthiness. And even that might be a waste of time as it turns out that there are simply not that many cities that would meet my needs all on their own (New York, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, etc.). More travel appears to be in order. And instead of always going for the relatively "rich" outposts I just listed, I really am going to try and expand my horizons in my own neighborhood. Vancouver, Portland, Enumclaw... OK. Maybe not Enumclaw.

 

Wednesday
February

16

2005
12:47 AM




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10-bittersweet hot chocolate.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Hot Chocolate Tasting, Round II, tasted on February 5, 2005 — A few weeks ago we had our first blind taste test of various hot cocoas. It was surprising despite how many we tried, how few we liked. We agreed that we needed to do at least one more round of blind tasting and then proceed to a sort of "world championship" where we combined our favorite cocoas with our favorite recipes. Impatience got the best of us. We headed straight for squaring off our favorite recipes. And since not everyone prepared equally, some of the recipes weren't quite fine tuned enough. While we did have many entries, ultimately there were only three that mattered. These three were also the ones that were preferred the most by the tasters.

Before we get into them, there is an issue of style. There are two (maybe three) archetypes that I know of for the perfect hot chocolate. And at a certain point you have to acknowledge these as they play such a key role in how you judge which hot chocolate you like best. The first is the classic hot chocolate. This is a sweet beverage. Sweet like milk chocolate. This is what most cocoas on the market target in terms of their flavor profile. Think hot chocolate milkshake. Very creamy. Lighter in color. Very sweet. This actually is the kind I prefer. It's not that I don't appreciate alternatives, it's just that this type of hot chocolate gives me the most pleasure. The next archetype is what I'll call the bittersweet hot chocolate. This is a darker hot chocolate. Maybe thicker. Not nearly as sweet. Not creamy per se, but likely silky. This is essentially drinkable chocolate. The new Chantico from Starbucks is a good example of it. People who eschew milk chocolate love this type of hot chocolate. The last is what i'll call spiced hot chocolate. This is basically a bittersweet hot cocoa with some added texture and flavor. It could be cinnamon, hot chilis, something complementary. Mexican hot chocolate typically lands in this spot from a flavor perspective. The texture is often a little rougher. I realize, my three archetype taxonomy is a bit of an oversimplification and there are all types of variations, but these are basically the three that I've encountered the most: Classic, Bittersweet, and Spiced.

First, we only had representatives of the first two. Alex took a stab at making a spiced hot chocolate but he overdid the cinnamon and it really didn't meet the bar, so it's not worth discussing here. (Though there was some unfortunate imagery that Peyman decided to illustrate involving the texture of Alex' cocoa.) That said, we did have two excellent representatives of the classic and bittersweet hot chocolate archetypes. Ken delivered the classic and DebDu delivered the bittersweet. I made a bittersweet as well though I was intending to make a classic. The main thing we got from mine is a technique that I'll describe later. It's also important to note that the folks in the room were relatively divided in terms of which flavor profile they prefer. I'd say most prefer a bittersweet or spiced, while a couple of us like the classic. Of course, I really enjoy both as they're really essentially different beverages.

Now DebDu was the perfect hostess (as usual) and prepared all sorts of accompaniments including two kinds of fresh marshmallows courtesy of WholeFoods, fresh doughnuts from Mark Bittman's cookbook, fresh Orange Madelines from Daniel Boulud's cookbook, and fresh whipped cream. We really couldn't have asked for more. But there was more. Peyman took the doughnut dough, wrapped it around some fresh banana and deep fried it. Mmmm... fresh banana doughnut.

OK. There were two basic hot chocolates that rose above the rest. The first was Ken's. It followed the classic archetype. He started by melting a bunch of Scharffen Berger into milk. But it was way bitter for his taste so he added more and more sugar. When that didn't do the trick he started putting pieces of Hershey's milk chocolate wholesale into the mix. In the end, he ended up with a superlative Classic Sweet Hot Chocolate. The recipe is as follows:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 90 grams Scharffen Berger Semi Sweet Chocolate (this is a chunk-and-a-half of a five chunk bar)
  • 130 grams Hershey’s Milk Chocolate (3 out of 4 chunks of a large Hershey’s bar)
  • 2 teaspoons Natural Demerara sugar (any natural raw sugar will do the job)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat until melted and blended.

DebDu provided an excellent rendition of the Bittersweet Hot Chocolate archetype. Here's her recipe:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons McNess hot cocoa mix
  • 2 small handfuls chopped Scharffenberger semi-sweet (62% cocoa) (about ¼ cup)
  • 1/3 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Cook slowly, whisking regularly
  • Bring to a boil
  • Remove from heat when the mixture begins to thicken
  • The cornstarch may seem a bit unorthodox, but this is the method Jacques Torres uses to make his hot chocolate so thick

Finally was my modest contribution to the tasting. To be honest, I was going for a classic sweet hot chocolate but ran into the same trouble as Ken. I couldn't add enough sugar or milk chocolate to sweeten it to my liking, but the fans of the bittersweet archetype liked it quite a bit. I think DebDu's recipe does a great job showing how to nail that, so there's no reason to include my recipe.

I did do one small thing which I thought helped quite a bit. And to be clear, this is completely unoriginal. When I had my most perfect cup of hot chocolate ever it was at the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia. I got a teapot full of cocoa with a cup to pour it in. At the base of the cup was a small dollop of whipped cream flanked by a curl of white chocolate and a curl of milk chocolate. At first the cocoa covered those ingredients as I poured it in the cup. But after a three-count, the whipped cream rose to the top as if gasping for air. By this point the chocolate curls were almost completely melted but you could see their cream trails in the liquid. Bottom line, this little bit of alchemy and timing made for the best sip of hot chocolate I have ever had. Thick, creamy, unevenly sweet in a good way. Awesome.

So without the finesse of chocolate curls (these were more like shavings) I tried the same thing during the tasting. You may ask why I used store bought aerosol whipped cream when fresh was available. I certainly love fresh whipped cream and it was available. But I remembered that the dollop at the Inn had a firmer consistency that I thought could only come with the help of some sort of gas injection. I thought I would compromise and buy some fancy organic aerosol whipped cream at the Wholefoods. But instead of being embarrassed I should have just held my head high and used my personal favorite - Reddiwip (I confess I had no idea how to spell it until I looked them up on the web). Yep, I love Reddiwip. I find it delicious. I often eat it straight out of my palm or just spray it straight into my mouth. It's fantastic. Peyman who I think just doesn't like aerosol whip in general hated the taste of the one I bought. And I didn't like it as much as I would have since it wasn't my favorite Reddiwip. That said, despite the whipped cream mishap, it was clear that the whipped cream with shaved white and milk chocolate had it's desired effect. The "Pre-Whipping" of the hot cocoa was a hit in my opinion. Even with my not super, but not bad hot chocolate it just elevated the cup to a new level of enjoyment. Especially for that first 1-2 minutes of drinking. Timing is key as you need to basically hand the person the cup right before you pour the hot chocolate into it. But still it was clearly worth it.

To recap: pick which archetype you like, the classic sweet or the bittersweet. Choose the appropriate recipe from above. Fill the target cups with whipped cream (fresh or Reddiwip as you see fit) as well as a variety of chocolate shavings (I prefer milk and white) and pour the hot chocolate into the cups seconds before your friends, family, and/or welcome/unwelcome guests are ready to drink. I promise there will be smiles all around. And of course, for every 10 degrees the weather is below 40 farenheit, the enjoyment of the cocoa increases exponentially. That's a scientific fact!

 

Tuesday
February

15

2005
12:16 AM




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Ciao Bella Gelato and Sorbet, Florence, Italy, tasted on March 20, 2004 — Gelaterias blossom like weeds in Italy. Around every corner is another small ice cream shop with incredible variety under glass. We'd had at least one good experience randomly popping in on one of these so we thought we'd continue the practice. As it turns out, taking a hit or miss approach results in hit or miss results.

We stopped in at the Ciao Bella Gelato and Sorbet shop in Florence. The folks there were nice, and the gelato was creamy to a certain extent, but not quite as rich as I would like. I found in the fruit flavors the crystals were simply not fine enough. Among the flavors we tried were Chocolate Madness and Key Lime. With gelato, the texture is so key to emphasizing the flavor, and in these examples, it just didn't work. Believe it or not, I think your average Haagen Dazs is better than what Ciao Bella had to offer.

 

Monday
February

14

2005
12:49 AM




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Depressed, February 14, 2005 — I have to confess, I am starting to feel that Seattle sucks for food. I really do try to make this website about more than Seattle, but little things like job and family mean that travel can't be a weekly occurrence. And while I mean no disrespect to the truly high quality food experiences in Seattle (of which there are a decent handful which I have documented ad nauseum on this site), overall this city is lacking. It's depressing me. I blame the citizenry. They settle. I can't tell if it's because they don't know the difference between good food and food posing as good food, or they're just enamored of what's trendy and popular. Either way it sucks.

And if you think I'm a snob for taking this position, I really don't care. I'm way beyond caring what other people think. And in fact, I believe that the people who are settling for this appalling lack of good food DO care what other people think. They flock to new trendy restaurants like sharks to chum. They love whatever's hip and new and cool. The only care what other people think. They aren't listening to their taste buds. I am, and my taste buds are not happy. In order to please them I have to to the same 5-10 places. And while at least those few exist, diversity they do not make.

A couple of years ago I ran into Kathy Casey at the airport. She is a local Seattle "food celebrity". I introduced myself and my little website. She was nice enough. As happens whenever I meet with someone else who's into food I go through a sort of ritual where we exchange what our favorite restaurants are. This has two purposes. First it's like a sort of pH test letting me know where someone's likes and dislikes are, but even more importantly it is a good source of suggestions of places to eat. Many of the best places I've eaten have been recommended to me by others. Kathy, who has lived and eaten in Seattle for many years answered the question by mentioning to me a couple of restaurants that were brand new and "hip". She even mentioned that what she liked about them was they were cool places to be. I have no problem with people liking to go somewhere for the atmosphere. And I don't assume that just because a restaurant is popular, that it can't have great food. But to live in Seattle for many years, and be unable to come up with examples of restaurants you like because they have great food, and instead focus on where the "buzz" is, seems wacky to me.

It will be a while before I post the specifics, but suffice it to say that last night we went out to dinner at one of these local hotspots. I hate to say it, but it was really disappointing. Kind of all over the place. I'd been there for lunch once and I knew it was going to be like this. But the local food press (an only slightly unfair generalization) keeps raving about this place and how great it is. And sure enough, this restaurant has ticked off just about every box on the food reviewer's checklist: small plates, fresh seasonal ingredients, tasting menu, chef's table, local chef, new American cuisine, etc, etc. It's the archetype for popularity among today's traditional food media. And it was not good. And since it's passing for "good" in this town, I not only found it disappointing but depressing. It may not be fair to lay the current sad state of food in Seattle (and in America) at this one restaurant's doorstep, but it's definitely what set me off.

And honestly, what's so confounding is that good food is really timeless. It's about people not settling until they get something that's so full of flavor, they can't contain it anymore. It's about caring, and knowing the difference between something that appears special, and something that truly is. When you make special food you don't need to be trendy or hip, because flavor is always "in".

Ultimately I think I'm part of the problem. The truth is that there are two relatively food focused cities nearby - Vancouver and Portland. And to be honest I've done a poor job exploring the food they have to offer. So, consider this a formal apology, and a request for suggestions - suggestions of where to eat in the Pacific Northwest. From Vancouver all the way to Portland. I am prepared to travel and eat at as many places as I can to properly find out what this region really has to offer. If Seattle doesn't offer enough, I'm prepared to suffer through some long car trips. And given the horrors of traveling with my family at a young age on seemingly endless car trips, if that doesn't represent a commitment to seeking quality food experiences, then I don't know what does.

Various and sundry links sitting in my inbox:

  • This is not super recent, but still a good story. David Ross tells of his adventure in the Master Chef contest.
  • Focusing on Chinese food. This is a good thing.
  • Benjamin Christie is an Australian chef who asks me to link to his website pretty much every week. While the form letter is annoying, his website is actually kind of interesting, so here it is.

For some time I've also felt that the food markets of the world need proper representation. On this website we definitely spend quite a bit of time on restaurants and other establishments that prepare food professionally. That said, there is the next layer of the food ecosystem that deserves recognition. It's a modest start, but the various food markets that work to bring quality ingredients to you are a key part of the "food chain" as it were. We only have listings for Seattle and New York right now, but it's a start.

 

Friday
February

11

2005
12:03 AM




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Whether you like it or not, when you go out to eat, being a "regular" can make a difference. This doesn't mean that you eat at the same place 3 nights a week every week. But remember that the people who work there get off on making customers happy. A returning customer is typically a happy customer. And when you take the extra moment to tell them what you love about the food, they really want to go all out for you. The Los Angeles Times (free registration required) has an article all about establishing this type of relationship at sushi restaurants. The format where you're able to interact with the chef while you eat lends itself to relationship formation I think. This story courtesy of Michael.

eGullet is the premier food discussion site on the net. There are others, but none take the discussion board format this far including offering their own virtual online cooking school - the eGullet Culinary Institute. The next class "The Truth about Braising" starts on February 14th.

I think it may be time for an eating trip to Chicago. First there is a chef using inkjet printers to make flavored "paper" in his foods (free registration required). Just because it's shticky doesn't mean I shouldn't try it. Then there is the impending opening of Grant Achatz' new restaurant Alinea. And I would also like to go to the restaurant he left, now called Trio Atelier whose pastry chef just won an award.  Inkjet chef courtesy of Alex.

 

Tuesday
February

8

2005
12:52 AM




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02-a new york pizza place.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

PizzaGanza™ 2005, Seattle Edition, tasted on February 6, 2005 — It's becoming a bi-annual tradition that we try to find the best pizza a city has to offer on Debbie's birthday. Two years ago we traveled to New York City to do it right. We toured the city in a limo going from pizza place to pizza place and judging slices in 5 categories: Crust, Sauce, Cheese, Ingredient Balance, and Foldability. Needless to say there was a ruckus over the ill-conceived foldability category with people arguing over its meaning and its relevance as well as some people trying to game the system by using those points to advantage their favored pizza place independent of the foldability of their slices. Having one stupid category that requires us to calculate the results with and without it is now a tradition in its own right. This year it was "holdability" which seems a little more well-defined but probably of as little relevance. One other important tradition that's happened two out of the last three years was also upheld this year - the Patriots won the Superbowl... again!!! OK. Enough gloating. Back to pizza.

We didn't have a limo this year as I wasn't planning on leaving the house and missing the game. So instead we hired taxis to bring us our pizzas as most of the places didn't deliver. This felt decadent but actually worked quite well. The one pizza I brought (before the game started) I placed gently on the heated passenger seat of my car to keep it warm. None of the pizza's were eaten immediately out of the oven, but none of them waited for more than 30 minutes so that felt fair. The basic rules were the same as last time. Cheese pizzas only. Everyone votes in five categories. Debbie's votes count twice as she has some weird intimate relationship with pizza that none of us understand or want to get in the middle of. This time we did make one improvement; of the 12 sets of votes cast, 10 were cast blind. Only Alex and I knew the origin of each pizza as we had to distribute to everyone, but nobody else knew what they were eating. It made Allie crazy to not know, but we held our ground. (BTW, Debbie was able to correctly identify many of the pizzas blind. This amazed me. Allie came pretty close as well.)

Before we get to the results, lets be clear - there's still no world class pizza in Seattle. We're picking from the best of the bunch here and our expectations have been conditioned to be low after living for years in Seattle with its poor pizza population. We picked the list of pizza places based on what we thought were representative of the best in town. A couple of traditionally popular places (like Pudge Brothers) we dismissed as we'd been there and were not impressed. Also Tutta Bella and Post Alley Pizza were closed on Sunday. Not sure how a pizza place is closed on Superbowl Sunday but what the hell do I know.

The pizza came in two waves, first in the 1st quarter, and then in the stressful 3rd quarter which was followed by what was about to be a 10 point Patriot scoring run. First, the losers (not Philadelphia). Stellar Pizza & Ale was recommended by Michael and I had high hopes for this place. Their pizza smelled and looked great, but when we ate it, the sauce was too strong in terms of the herb flavor, and just our of balance with everything else. I'd be inclined to try them again just to see if this was an anomaly. Piecora's was greasy and not good. I always walk by Belltown Pizza on my way to Lampreia and the pizza always smells really good. Unfortunately, this pie didn't live up to its aroma and it had some weird black dust (charcoal?). While Tutta Bella was closed, the other hyper-authentic Neapolitan pizza place in town was open - Via Tribunali. Unlike Debbie I actually prefer a more authentic pizza, but this thing was kind of soggy and not great. To be fair to them, they don't offer delivery. But then again, we did eat the pizza 20 minutes after it left their establishment. Here are the results:

 

Pizza Establishment

w/o Holdability

w/Holdability

A New York Pizza Place (WINNER)

156

192

Stellar Pizza & Ale

121

152

Piecora's

117

145

Belltown Pizza

121

144

Via Tribunali

107

126

Pagliacci (WINNER)

156

187

 

Get all the data from PizzaGanza.

As you can see, A New York Pizza Place (recommended by a friend of Allie's) and local chain Pagliacci took the day. Since the holdability category was under such debate, the only fair thing to do is to count the scores without it - which leave these two pizzerias in a tie. The bottom line for me is this: Seattle is still not a town with fantastic pizza in my opinion. Pagliacci is a very decent local pizza. But for me, if I'm looking for something that tastes like I bought it at a pretty good pizzeria in New York, I'm going to A New York Pizza Place. Nothing comes closer.

 

Friday
February

4

2005
7:39 AM




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I don't know how, but for some reason while my children are among the most picky eaters I know (this is payback for something I did I'm sure) they have acquired a taste for expensive cheeses. No american cheese for them. Some tidbits from the Seattle cheese front. First, DeLaurenti market is putting on the first every Seattle Cheese Festival. This sounds like an activity my whole family can enjoy. Down the street of course is Beecher's Handmade Cheese where you can actually watch them make the cheese right in front of you. I haven't yet fallen in love with any of the cheese they make there (though I had this Jamaican variety that was pretty interesting), but the fact that they're local and making it right there in the open means I need to keep trying. And finally, there's a new cheese store right down the street that I need to try on Lake Washington Boulevard in Leschi. I can't remember the name so I'm just going to need to head down there and see what they can do for us.

And for folks who are not from Seattle (and don't love cheese - who doesn't love cheese?) the battered James Beard Foundation is working hard to make sure their awards remain untarnished by the scandal that plagued their organization. (Free registration required.)

And finally, while I  think we may be doing a scientific pizza comparison this sunday, what better source than Boston's own Boston globe for tips on what to make this Sunday while you watch the still humble New England Patriots go for their third Superbowl win in four years. I suppose some superbowl food advice from Philadelphia would only be fair. I'll either be very sad on monday or very happy.

 

Wednesday
February

2

2005
12:54 AM




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  A Menu For Hope Click here to donate! Click to see wine info Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see wine info Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see wine info Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Click to see recipe Spanish Menu German Menu French Menu

Menu for Hope, Food Bloggers for Tsunami Relief, February 2, 2005 — I really have no way to imagine what kind of devastation the tsunami has wrought. It seems impossible to have any real perspective on this event. That said, we would like to do something, however small, from our end of the blog world. Thanks to Pim of Chez Pim for putting together this Menu for Hope - a tsunami relief tasting menu.

This recipe was adapted by me from Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia by Jeffrey Alford. This is an absolutely beautiful book. There's nothing wrong with the original recipe other than that I typically want to make these last minute and I don't have grated coconut on hand (fresh or frozen). But I do have coconut milk typically.

Mix 1 large egg. 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 cup of coconut milk together in a bowl. Once the mixture is integrated mix it well with 5 cups of freshly cooked or leftover jasmine rice. You don't want too much gloppiness as these balls need to stick together in the deep fryer. hold back some liquid or add more rice to get a good consistency. (If you have grated coconut use that instead of coconut milk and you can use only 4 cups of rice.) Let the entire mixture sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While the rice mixture gets more suitable for making into balls, make the sauce. Everyone has their own particular preference when it comes to the following type of classic Thai dipping sauce. I list the ingredients here and let you decide what quantities to use. Mix together: thai fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, minced scallions, minced cilantro, and minced chilis.

When the rice has been in the fridge long enough, heat enough peanut oil in a deep pot to cover the balls you'll form by at least a half inch. In the meantime, form the rice into 1 inch balls. When the oil is hot, gently drop the rice balls into the oil. Cook them for 1-2 minutes. They will start to turn brown. Remove them with onto paper towels and serve immediately with the sauce.

I know that there is just good wishes and positive sentiment behind this recipe and the others that make up the menu. But hopefully that can help spark some additional giving. Please do what you can and click on the links to other dishes above and especially the Unicef button. Thanks.

 

Tuesday
February

1

2005
12:01 AM




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TasteEverything.org and the 2005 Independent Food Festival & Awards, February 1, 2005 — I am proud to point to this announcement today that I think marks a new milestone for the world of food blogging. Whether you know it or not new food blogs come on the scene every day. KipLog's Food Blog continues to update the most complete list of food blogs I know of on the net.

Each of these blogs represent someone (or a group of folks in some cases) that dedicate their free time to telling the world about their food experiences. And these are not people documenting how many Cheerios they eat every morning (not that there's anything wrong with that) but rather people who are cooking, reviewing, documenting, traveling, interviewing, and most of all... eating up a storm. And in case I didn't mention it, they do all this for free. What ads you see on their sites don't likely pay for even a fraction of their groceries. None of them charge for access to their sites. A couple have been asked to publish print books for sale, but these are few and far between. And they still deliver their excellent food blogs. Ultimately, this group represents the perfect voice for the 1st Annual Indpendent Food Festival & Awards which will happen 'virtually' on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005.

I'm proud to be a part of the awards as well as a part of the sponsoring organization - TasteEverything.org. The mission is to help people share their food experiences, and the festival and awards are their first offering. I expect more to come over time.

The awards are three weeks away. I'm excited. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.


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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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