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 -
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
his adventure in the Master Chef contest.
- Focusing on Chinese food. This is a
- 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
New York right
now, but it's a start.