Seal Meat or Burger King?

Categories: news — Tags: , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 12, 2008 : 4:20 pm

I swear on my cookie jar that the title of this video is Whopper Virgins. Apparently, in their quest to prove the ultimate blind taste test, Burger King decided to visit third world countries and offer fresh made Whoppers and Big Macs to various tribes and cultures that had never eaten a burger, let alone American food. They visit an Inuit tribe in Iceland, a Hmong tribe and other third world countries as part of this pseudo-art documentary.

I think Seattle Tall Poppy put it best when they said “The shot of a custom-made Burger King grill…being airlifted by helicopter is priceless“.

Seriously, I’m all for introducing cultures to each other around the world, but do we really have to have Burger King touch the lives of native tribes for us?

:: slaps forehead ::

Trying out Butternut Squash Lasagna

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 11, 2008 : 6:16 pm
Butternut squash lasagna

Butternut squash lasagna

Before I start my post, I want to credit Patricia at Cook Local for finding this interesting butternut squash lasagna recipe, which originates from Coconut and Lime.

The recipe calls for lasagna made with butternut squash, rainbow chard and (surprise), no tomato sauce OR meat. My first reaction is probably like yours: Whaaat? Vegetarian lasagna, that’s common enough, but no tomato sauce? This was going to be interesting, as I’m a huuuge fan of lasagna and as such, am very particular about how it tastes. In fact, Steve often cracked jokes about my food fetish because I would volunteer for lasagna duty every time we reviewed an Italian restaurant.

I won’t repeat the recipe, as I’ve linked to both blogs, who do the art of cooking more justice than I to begin with. That said, it’s a fairly straight forward lasagna recipe that consists of baking and mashing the squash, making a chard and ricotta mix, heating a milk-based sauce and then combining into layers.

I tripped up on the layering stage of making my lasagna, as my pasta somehow managed to break down into dozens of smaller parts while boiling(!). I’m sure my head added to the steam coming from the pot because I specifically tried to avoid the specific brand of pasta that I used, as I had bad experiences with it before. MY supermarket, PCC, only carried one brand for lasagna however, so that’s what I ended up being stuck with. Bah!

So, that turned into a challenging mix-and-match puzzle for a few minutes while I wrestled with the mashed butternut squash. Even though Patricia warned against it, I tried using a spoon at first, but gave up soon after the first layer and just used my hands instead. Sometimes I just have to fail in order to believe. :)

The end result was a lasagna that was rich, creamy and smooth – and much better than what I would have guessed! I thought the rainbow chard might overpower the dish beforehand, but it was subdued fairly well. I feel there was room in the recipe to add more herbs however; and perhaps even tomato sauce. But at that point, you would diverge from the uniqueness of the dish and be making a traditional lasagna (well, mostly).

Well, all this talk of food makes me hungry, so I’d better run off to the kitchen now. :) Thanks again to Patricia from Cook Local and also Coconut and Lime for this cool recipe.

Sometimes, it’s the Simple Things

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 9, 2008 : 11:59 pm

After putting some long hours in at work, I’m am sometimes tired to the point that I don’t even want to drive and grab take out, let alone cook. This often leaves me with an dilemma of epic foodie proportions where I have one of the following choices:

1) Order delivery. In my area, means Papa Johns, Pizza Hut or Garlic Jims. I don’t exactly call myself the healthiest person in the world, but this is often a cry of last resort.

2) Suck it up and get take out. Normally this means whatever teriyaki restaurant is still open, such as Nasai Teriyaki or Yummy’s Teriyaki. Often, it takes me so long to debate that the restaurants are about to close when I finally head out. Thus, this option can lead to yeech – fast food.

3) Go Iron Chef-fu, featuring mysterious ingredients from the cupboard. I almost never have anything in the freezer and rarely have produce or meats just sitting around, which means my ingredients are often limited to herbs, condiments and canned/dry foods. This often leads to some form of crazy ramen fusion that is not for the faint of heart:

– Ramen, tomato paste and onions
– Ramen, smoked salmon, peas, milk, butter
– Ramen, cheese, tuna, seaweed
– Ramen, miso, green onion, sardines

If you think some of these sound bad, then you would be absolutely correct. However, though I may appreciate fine food, I also appreciate not starving even more.

So among my options, which one do I pick the post? Well, let’s say I always have packs of ramen available in the house for food emergencies. I do have to say one of my roommates takes the cake, as he goes for option #4 – cereal for dinner. I’ve ate lots of heinous foodstuffs in my days, but cereal for dinner is something I cannot pull myself to do. Perhaps you even, but not me!

If I can’t bring myself to torture my palate with “mystery ramen” night, then a simple pleasure that I treat myself with is a regular grilled cheese sandwich. No need for a fancy French gruyere, just some good old fashioned Tillamook cheese, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

In fact, that’s just what I had tonight, though I still had a bowl of hearty minestrone from an earlier batch. Grilled cheese sandwich in a tomato based soup? Dee-lish!

Grilled cheese sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwich

Redmond Lights Festival, Chain Restaurants and Indians

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ : 8:05 pm

Last night, I headed out to the Redmond lights festival, which is a walk along the Burke Gilman/Sammamish River that ends up at the Redmond Town Center. I’ve been a little leery of RTC lately because of some political issues lately, but they’ve seemed to be getting better according to a popular Redmond blog that I keep up with.

Anyhow, the festival was fun, with the sparkling of blinking red lights that everyone wore, holiday music, and general holiday mood. With the sour economy, it was nice to see everyone just out and having fun. Of course, it helped that there was free food involved, as there were lines 50 people deep for even some simple foods like Panera Bread cookies. Even though the lines were long, we (Steve, my girlfriend and I) had no problem waiting around and enjoying the scene. If we can camp out at Black Friday at 3am, we can wait 10 minutes for free food. :)

Most of the food vendors were those directly in Redmond town center, like Thai Ginger, Mefil (I always wondered if this name was a clever play on “Me Fill”), Ruby’s, that new sandwich/soupy Italian chain that replaced Cosi (THANK YOU), and Todai. Also there was Canyons, Azteca and Qdoba, which are close by.

For various reasons, we don’t review chain restaurants as a rule on Chef Seattle, but it’s events like these that tend to put some things into perspective on the roles of big food chains. What I mean is that when a large business gets involved, they have a marketing budget to sponsor events like the Redmond festival, because marketing and branding is what chain restaurants do best. Small, independently owned restaurants often don’t have the budget, manpower or – and I think this is the primary reason – foresight to sponsor these type of events. I love my small restaurants, but having talked with many chef/owners, I say it with love when I say they know food, but suck at self-promotion.

The only independent food vendor passing out free food here was Mefil, while every other one was a chain of some kind – though Thai Ginger and Canyons are both Seattle-based chains. I’m going to single out Mefil for a second, because as an Indian restaurant, I have to say that of all the various ethnic restaurants owners, Indians are the best pound-for-pound marketers. There’s often a good reason for that though, which is that many Indian restaurant and business owners are often highly educated individuals, with MBAs or other post-college education.

When I was volunteering at a food bank warehouse a few years ago, I had an eye-opening discussion with an Indian fellow – Gugan, I think his name was – who was working off 20 hours of community service. He told me he sold liquor to a minor, as it was Superbowl weekend and his store was packed with people out the door.

Explaining, he told me he owned seven convenience stores and managed all of them by himself, employing friends and family. Apparently, he had an MBA and wanted to start an integrated chip design outsourcing business when he came to America, but found he could do quite fine selling drinks and snacks to the masses. When I asked him about restaurants, he was pretty adamant that it was the same for that niche as well, with many well qualified owners doing it because they money made it worth it.

After he left for the day, he offered me free Slurpees anytime at his stores, though I never quite took him up on that offer. :)

Seattle Food Drives

Categories: charity — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 5, 2008 : 11:44 am

I remember as a kid looking outside during the winter and hoping it would snow. I made the mistake of bringing that up to my grandpa however, as he looked me in the eye and scolded me, saying that I should think of all the homeless people that are going to freeze.

As you can probably tell, my grandpa was a nice guy at heart, but had a certain way about conveying the message. But, to his credit, I never forgot that lesson about snow or thinking about those less fortunate.

If you’re doing well and getting by, consider those less fortunate, especially in these rough times. Children and families are a large part of the homeless population, while medical bills are the number one reason for bankruptcy, so the true face of hunger isn’t exactly that stereotype of the old grouchy guy with the bottle of 40.

Here’s a list of food drive locations around Seattle:

University Food Bank
December 12th to 24th, food barrel locations all around the University of Washington.

Northwest Harvest
8th Annual Hometeam Harvest event this Sat, December 6th, from 7am to 3pm. Locations are:

ALL US Bank locations
Everett Mall
Northgate Mall
Redmond Town Center
Tacoma Mall

West Seattle Food Bank

Asking for holiday foods that include:
* Frozen turkeys
* Hams
* Stuffing mix
* Mixed salad greens
* Canned cranberries (whole or sauce)
* Canned gravy
* Yams or sweet potatoes (fresh or canned)
* White potatoes
* Pumpkin or apple pies
* Dinner rolls (frozen or packaged)

Metropolitan Market
2320 42nd Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98116

West Seattle Thriftway
4201 SW Morgan St
Seattle, WA 98136

PCC
2749 California Ave SW
Seattle, Wash. 98116

Don Jones Foundation
Toy and coat drive to sponsor families of the Ballard Food Bank. Event is on December 7th and at the Ballard Brothers Seafood and Burgers:

5305 15th Ave. NW (South of 15th and Market)
Seattle WA

Seattle Human Society – Pet Food Drive

Don’t forget pets! The Seattle Human Society is taking pet food donations at just about every Safeway grocery store in the area. You can also drop off dry or canned food at their offices in Bellevue:

13212 SE Eastgate Way
Bellevue, WA 98005

Seattle Food Banks

White Center Food Bank
10829 8th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98146

Rainer Valley Food Bank
4205 Rainier Ave S
Seattle, Wa 98118
(Donation times: Wednesdays and Saturdays 8am-2pm, Fridays 8am-11am)

Food Lineline
Needs volunteers for food packing
1702 NE 150th Street
Shoreline, WA 98155-7226

North Helpline and Lake City Foodbank
Need volunteers Friday afternoons from 1:30 – 3:30pm for unloading food trucks
12707 30th Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98165

If we missed any, please let us know. Thanks.

An Obsession with Fish Tacos

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 3, 2008 : 2:32 am
Some home made fish tacos

Some home made fish tacos

I’ve had an interesting path in life that led to my eventual love affair with fish tacos. It started in the town of Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. Back then, there weren’t a huge amount of Mexican restaurants, short of chains like Azteca, Chevy’s, Mazatlan and the various fast food establishments. When a Taco del Mar opened up around high school, I dropped by and was intrigued by the fish tacos being advertised.

A friend who was with me scoffed (and happened to be part Hispanic), claiming that fish tacos were a Western invention and not “authentic” Mexican food. Of course, I know that’s complete bunk now, but being an impressionable 16 year old at the time, I believed him and opted for a chicken burrito instead. It would be years later on a plane ride to LA, that I had a pleasant conversation with an elderly gentleman on his way to Mexico, who happened to be a historian of sorts. He explained the rich seafood tradition of the country and also that I absolutely had to try some the local seafood should I find myself there – but especially in Ensenada, the home of the fish taco. So, I did.

While stopped in a port city on a cruise, I walked straight past all the drunk college kids at the Hard Rock and went straight into the inner parts of the city with my two years of fragmented high school Spanish and sense of adventure. After a moderate walk, I found what seemed like a restaurant popular with the locals, found the “tacos de pescado” on the menu and have been hooked ever since.

I’ve heard claims from some uppity California folk that Seattle has no good fish tacos. Oh please. I would easily eat at Ooba’s, Cactus or Agua Verde any day, though I might avoid certain others – at least for the fish tacos.

Pico de gallo ingredients - onion, cilantro, tomato

Basic pico de gallo ingredients - onion, cilantro, tomato

It would seem to me that fish tacos depend on three absolute things to work well: the sauce, the pico de gallo and the battered fish. I almost don’t want to include the pico because that is near impossible to mess up, though it has been done before. This really leaves the fish – which is really just a beer battered white fish – and the sauce, where in my opinion, the magic happens.

I wanted to experiment for myself on what exactly goes into the sauce for fish tacos, and found via Google that common ingredients are: sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt, lime and chipotle. As with all recipes, the formulas vary, but these had the most mention. So, I ran off to the store and grabbed a few ingredients and tried my own concoctions.

Sauce #1: Organic limes, Nancy’s sour cream, organic mayo
This was my baseline sauce. While it wasn’t bad, I felt it was a bit simple in terms of flavor. The problem I found is that the sour cream and mayo make for a chunky sauce, so it took a high ratio of lime juice in order to make it a spoonable sauce rather than globs of stuff. As such, it was pretty heavy on the lime side – which as a lime and citric fruits lover – says a bit. If you use lime in your pico, then this might be just a bit too tart for taste.

Sauce #2: Organic limes, Nancy’s sour cream, lemon-pepper mayo, Rachel’s Kiwi Passion fruit Lime yogurt
I like Rachel’s yogurt, which I saw once at Whole Foods and buy on occasion. My thinking was that it would work great for sauce because the yogurt is naturally a bit more runny than normal. The end result worked well; much more balanced and with less lime use and about equal parts of cream, mayo and yogurt. This is a good mix of tart, sweet and still a smoothness that I think compliments the fish and other ingredients well.

Sauce #3: Organic limes, Nancy’s sour cream, Greek God’s honey yogurt, chipotle peppers
If you haven’t had Greek God’s brand yogurt, here’s a warning: it is rich. If you have any concerns about your health at all, don’t even come near this stuff. If you closed your eyes, you might think you were eating a soft and lighter version of cream cheese. But man is it good! This ended up tasting as a complete contrast to sauce #2, as the flavor was much more in your face, with a distinct, velvety kick that had big American taste all over it. It made me feel like the fish and other ingredients were a delivery vehicle for the sauce.

I liked #2 the best, for an overall package, but Steve was floored by #3, which he thought was easily good enough to serve in a restaurant. So, while sauce is obviously subjective as well, I’m going to keep tinkering around to try and find the “best” fish taco sauce around. If you have any fish taco recipes of your own however, I would loooove to hear them!

(In case anyone wonders: I used pico, green and red cabbage, shredded carrots and Pumpkin spiced beer battered cod as other ingredients. And since you’re going to ask, the Pumpkin spiced beer was not some culinary experiment, but just what happened to be what was left in the ‘fridge.)

Home | About Us | Seattle Restaurants | Food Articles | Blog | Friends | Charity | Advertising | Contact Us
Blogging platform by WordPress
28 queries. 0.227 seconds.