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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:

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. 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.











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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