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Da Pino, Seattle, WA, tasted on Monday, September 19, 2006 I've found myself with the ability to go out to lunch a lot lately. Combine that with the uprising on the comment thread suggesting contestants for the 2006 Recipe World Championship, and today we get back to our 'bread and butter' of relaying our eating experiences in word and image. Since lunch is an essential meal, and in many parts of the world, the main meal of the day, giving it some visibility on the site seems like the right thing to do. Seattle is filled with many potential lunch destinations. When it comes to small places serving yummy Italian sandwiches, Salumi is clearly the most famous. Being the father of Mario Batali probably helps. And to be clear, Salumi  is quite good. But the fact is, famous son aside, Salumi benefits from being in Seattle. In Boston where I grew up, delicious Italian delis are seemingly everywhere. That said, being few and far between isn't a negative, just a statement of context. But Salumi doesn't stand alone. Da Pino Italian Cafe is the retail face of Rogano Sausage a provider of house-cured Italian sausages and meats. It's tucked away almost unnoticeable under its small and unassuming signs. But inside, what awaits you, is frankly, simple and fantastic.

So today we went to lunch at Da Pino. The cafe is small and adorable. As you drive looking for it you can almost miss it. Inside the salmon walls house a cozy kitchen and a bunch of tables usually with some old guys sitting there eating their lunch. There's a display of various wines available, a case with all the house cured meats ready to take home, and of course Pino behind the counter, taking your order and making your lunch.

We started off with the Insalata Verde. Mixed green salad with homemade dressing. The salad dressing was good. A simple balanced vinaigrette. Had some punch according to Debbie. I always look forward to the Affettato Mista Della Casa, Cold Cuts Pino Style. This really is the iconic representation of what Da Pino is all about. It's his selection of the best cured meat he has sliced up and served with a sliced baguette as well as some olives and  pickles. Today's selection included Copa which was very smooth and beautiful, Salamino in a Cacciatore style which was peppery but very clean, Wine-Cured Salami which had a heartier (and I suppose "dirtier" in a good way) flavor, and a thick and nutty Mortadella. Our favorite was the Wine-Cured Salami which just filled our mouths with flavor. The baguette was warm, the meat selection was fantastic. We were super happy.

We followed up our first round by splitting an order of one of the day's specials - Salsiccia Nostrana, Pasta with Sliced Homemade Sausage in a Marinara Sauce. The sausage was warm and round and slightly spicy. Little savory bursts to cut through the velvety almost but not sweet beautiful velvety red sauce. The pasta was perfectly cooked. Tender with some bounce. Some velvety chocolate mousse cake helped finish off our meal. That was an improvised ending on our part as it wasn't part of our original order. It felt like the cake was was calling to us in the display case.

So, while it's still the Pacific Northwest, and there aren't many Italian delis around (especially ones that cure their own meat with such care, love, and attention to detail), Da Pino is not only great here in Seattle, but could hold its own even on the east coast. And if you don't have time for lunch, just take home some cured meat and enjoy it at your own pace. I promise it won't last long.










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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