Redmond Lights Festival, Chain Restaurants and Indians

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

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. is now Chef Seattle!

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 24, 2008 : 4:50 am

If you’re a fan/follower of, you’ll obviously noticed that we have now switched over to Chef Seattle! It has been a project we’ve been working on quite hard over the last month, but we’re finally ready to unveil the new look and feel today.

The reason for changing the name and domain over was due to a variety of reasons. The primary reason however, was that too many people were confused by our domain,, while our focus was on restaurant reviews. Many of the people we talked to in person thought we sold coffee or were in the coffee business.

So, we decided to fix the issue and do away with the whole “Coffee Cabal” thing, along with and are now simply Chef Seattle. We hope you enjoy the new site and apologize for any loose ends we miss here and there. There’s a bit of tweaking that is going on still and you’ll see some various design changes over the coming weeks. If you encounter any broken links or pages, we would be very grateful if you posted a comment or sent an email.

In the meantime, the direction of the site is going to be entirely focused on restaurants and food now. We plan on doing video interviews with local chefs, farmers, and just about anything related to food. The review pages are going to be revamped to be more efficient and look better. User reviews, a sore must-do in our sides, will be up in about 3-4 weeks. We know that’s been promised forever, but this is the real deal now. In the meantime, we do have a forum up that we encourage you to join! There will be prizes, coupons, gift certificates that we’ll be giving out through there as part of fun community events and competitions.

-Grant and Steve

Join up for the Walk for Rice on June 21st!

Categories: charity,news,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ June 19, 2008 : 3:17 pm

The Asian Counseling and Referral Service in association with several corporate sponsors, will be hosting their annual Walk for Rice at Seward Park on June 21.

The Walk for Rice is a free 2.5 mile run/walk-a-thon to raise money for the ACRS Food Bank. Their goal for this year is to raise enough money to purchase 350,000 pounds of rice.

The event was first established in 1991 by members of the Asian/Pacific American community to draw more attention to the ACRS Food Bank. One of their biggest concerns is the lack of resources to purchase specific staple foods, such as rice, tofu and vegetables, that are not available from conventional food banks.

Currently, the ACRS supplies food and support to over 5,000 low income Asian/Pacific Americans. More than half of the clients of the ACRS are children under the age of 18 or elders over the age of 55. The ACRS Food Bank is the third most used food bank in King County and it is the only provider in the State of Washington that regularly distributes food that meets the daily requirements of Asian/Pacific Americans.

In addition to the Food Bank, the ACRS also tackles many other problems for the Asian/Pacific American community. It was formed as a grassroots organization amidst problems stemming from misdiagnosis and inappropriate care from hospitals and service providers due to a major culture barrier. The ACRS works as an intermediary, offering assistance in legal issues, health care, and naturalization.

Presently, the ACRS has a staff of about 140 people, most of whom are bilingual. The organization collectively speaks 30 different languages and dialects.

Every year, the Walk for Rice has slowly gained more traction as its doubled is previous fundraising goals every year since 2005. Aside from the 2.5 run/walk-a-thon, the event also provides several entertainment events and other competitive team activities. Free drinks and promotional items are available for everyone at the event.

The registration opens at 8am and the run/walk-a-thon begins around 10:30am.

To find more information about the walk for rice and the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, go to or

Emerald City Comic Con

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ May 12, 2008 : 5:03 pm

Emerald City Comic Con

Last Saturday was the Northwest’s biggest pop culture event, the Emerald City Comic Con. Comic and sci-fi fans alike, all gathered for a great opportunity to find some great deals on rare comics as well as meet and get autographs from their favorite artists and television stars. As I took the climb up the escalator, the large adorning banner welcomed us and flashes of my childhood came racing back.

Imperial Stormtroopers keeping the order of the crowd

Then I saw the line forming in front of the door, that made it looked more like an exclusive movie premiere. To make sure the line didn’t get out of control, the Washington State convention center hired the only people to keep these people in line: Imperial Stormtroopers of the501st Legion. For a few moments, it was a bit humorous as it seemed like we were cattle being herded on to the truck. The menacing presence of the troopers were broken up by the distinct piece of paper on their back saying, “Take your picture with the 501st at booth 126.” That was a cool story in itself, but I’ll get to that later.

Emerald City Comic Con advertised a few variant covers exclusive to this specific con, such as the X-Men #497 and Tim Sale’s limited print of the Hulk at Pike Place Market munching on a Dick’s burger. At the onset of the doors opening, everyone rushed to the table with all of the exclusives being sold. Tim Sale’s print was snatched up and sold out within a few minutes. That booth was one of the most contested moments in the con, with people almost elbowing each other just to get to the table before all the rare stuff was gone.

One of the exclusive variants available at the con.

Other artists and writers were also on hand for the con. In the large area known as the artist’s gallery, fans asked for autographs and sketches. Keynote people included artist David Finch (Ultimate X-Men, New Avengers) whose line was exceedingly long. Other media guests such as Julie Benz (Dexter) and Wil Wheaton(Star Trek) had special Q and A sessions where you can ask them anything that your heart desires. Such as “Excuse me, Wil, How does it feel to be the worst character ever in the history of Star Trek:The Next Generation?”

Hey Boba! Smile!

Needless to say, being a big fan of Star Wars (the original, not the prequels) I had to get a pic. I was expecting something really simple, like two guys standing with you and a quick snap of the camera and off you went. Oh no, it was much cooler than that. They had people dressed up as every type of stormtrooper, as well as Boba Fett and Darth Vader. You could create any type of scenario you desired. The guy working the booth, came up to me when it was my time to go and simply asked, “What’s your concept?” Being the big fan boy that I am, I wanted to take on the Dark Lord himself and one of his minions. The end result was this great pic right here.

Steve going toe to toe with Lord Vader

The highlight of the con was the appearance of Jamie Bamber (Apollo of Battlestar Galactica) signing autographs and doing photo ops with fans as well. We were one of the last people to get a photo with him and got him to do a peace sign pose with us. Peace!

Overall, I have to admit, it was pretty fun. If you’re into comics and pop culture, the Emerald City Comic Con is one of the few times a year you can geek-out and in my personal case, reconnect with some of your old childhood memories.

Pictures from Cirque Du Soleil, Corteo – Redmond

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 1, 2008 : 10:06 pm

Tents at Cirque Du Soleil, Corteo
Tents for the show Corteo from the outside

Food Belt
Tapis Rouge tent, circular food belt of hors’ dourves

Desserts at Tapis Rogue
Intermission desserts

Tent seating at Corteo
Picture from inside the big tent

I’ve been lucky enough to have seen quite a few of the Cirque du Soleil shows, including “O” and Ka, so I was excited at the opportunity to see another show right here in Redmond. Corteo did not disappoint in the least, with a stunning display of human acrobatics, artistry and live music.

In Cirque du Soleil fashion, the show loosely follows a plot line that combines acrobatics and story telling. With Corteo, the story is of a clown who imagines his own funeral and is taken through flash backs of his life. One particular act really dazzled me, where three females, representing his previous lovers, are spinning in the air off chandeliers and performing all sorts of stunts that left my jaw on the floor.

If you haven’t seen a Cirque du Soleil show, there’s not too much time left for tickets, but you should really treat yourself. It’s just as good as any of the Vegas shows and is very approachable to all audiences, especially kids. Just my two cents :)

Pictures from Mailbox Peak

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ April 14, 2008 : 11:01 am

Mailbox Peak
(Sawyer takes a break on top of Mailbox Peak)

Mailbox Peak
(A shot from the summit overlooking the Cascades)

Just a few shots from my hiking trip this weekend to Mailbox Peak, a 6 mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 3,996 feet. This may sound impressive, but these pictures were taken by my friend Richard, as I struggled most of the way up and surrendered with about an hour left before the summit. My year as a food reviewer flashed before my eyes, with the dozens of stored pork bellies, tiramisus and butter soaked entrees clamoring for a spot to put the final TKO to my legs and knees. For the uninitiated, let me tell you, Mailbox Peak is not for the faint of heart.

Bryan might have a more interesting post (or even article) on the merits of hiking prepared, due to a rather interesting series of events on the mountain. I would personally say that my lesson learned is to scout out your destination on hiking boards, print out topographical maps and consult other errata before embarking on your trip. Especially (oh do I mean this) if the difficulty scale consistently ranks as ‘most difficult’, 4/4 or 5/5 according to the experts.

The previous week, our group had gone to the ever-popular Mount Si, located right at North Bend. It’s an 8 mile hike with about a 3,500 ft elevation gain and while not ‘easy’ (at least to an out of shape food critic), it does have great views and a trail that is readily identifiable. Highly recommended if you’re just wanting a nice hike and are in decent shape. Little Si, just next door, is a better hike for those more recreational hikers or not-so-in-shape.

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