Today: November 4th, Voting Day!

Categories: news — Tags: , — Posted by: Grant @ November 4, 2008 : 2:27 pm

As if you needed to be reminded, given that this is probably one of the biggest elections in decades – today, November 4th, is voting day! Do your part as a patriotic hot dog waving and apple pie eating foodie and get out there and vote.

Veil is Closing

Categories: food,restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ October 31, 2008 : 12:43 pm

Wow. Veil is no more, at least according to this blog post at Eating Seattle, which was posted two weeks ago. It would seem that Veil and owner Shannon Galusha might be one of the first casualties in this slowing economy. From my talks with other restaurants in the area, the downturn has been close to 40% and even up to 70% drop in revenues, in an industry where single digit profit margins are the norm.

To me, Veil was always an enigma of sorts. It was as if an alien spaceship landed in the middle of Safeco field, bringing with it an odd assortment of delightful creatures. Some came to worship, others threw judgement. All had validity. Then like a sparkle of sun on a wet October morning, the aliens just as suddenly vanished — and presumably, went to a place more receptive. Say… lower Manhattan?

That’s really what Veil was; a New York dining experience in upper Seattle. Were we ready? Maybe not. Was it foolhardy? Perhaps. Risky? Yes. Dangerous, even? A resounding salted peanut butter ice cream yes.

Mince words I won’t, when I say that I thought the ambiance was two parts Ikea, one part illicit drugs and a healthy shake of pretense. But I’ll still miss Veil. Not because I frequented the restaurant, but because it was pushing Seattle. Between Veil at $30 per entree and three-course homogenized food slosh for $9.99, I’ll take Veil, thank you very much.

Not everyone agrees, even here at Coffee.net. Steve was thoroughly put off, due to his war-ration sized trout skin. But even Steve showed respect where due, with his food score of 9 – a rarity in Steve’s rating world.

The question now is who’s next on the block? Many new restaurants have opened in the last two years with the boom, so it’s scary to think who might be next.

I’ll leave you with this final picture of Veil, as a toast.

Eating our way to the University District

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ October 30, 2008 : 5:33 pm
A tasty looking burger from Orange King

A tasty looking burger from Orange King

It’s been pretty slow on the site these days, but we’re still alive and slowly making our rounds in “West” Seattle. And by West, I mean everything not on the Eastside.

There are going to be lots of changes coming to the site real soon. Our focus has been a little scattered, so we’re going to adjust our lens and focus on one thing – Seattle restaurants. We’re going to combine some of our topics together but also bring in more content about what we all love – food!

After lots of internal discussion with ourselves, consultants, restaurant owners and staff – we’ve finally come to a conclusion on how we’re going to do user reviews as well. Yelp and Citysearch already have the mass food review market taken over, so we’re going to have limited user reviews from a select handful of experts. How are we going to pick experts, you ask? Well, we’re in the process of making contacts with well known local foodies and trying to enlist their help for our project. In addition, we’re opening up a forum on the site so that everyone can contribute their thoughts, reviews and opinions as well. From that pool, the passionate and the proficient will be tapped as a guest reviewer.

We apologize for all the delays, but hope you’ll stick with us just a bit longer as the new look and feel all make their way in.

Your fellow foodies,
- Grant and Steve

How Not To Spend Friday

Categories: charity,news — Tags: , , , — Posted by: Grant @ September 5, 2008 : 10:17 am

Steve and I are off to get our King County Food Handler’s Permit today in order to do serve up a surprise coffee taste testing at tomorrow’s Harvest Fair being put on by Seattle Tilth. It’s running 10am to 5pm and located at Meridian Park, behind the Good Shepherd Center (4649 Sunnyside Ave N) in Wallingford.

In the meantime, I’ve been calling restaurants non-stop to try and build a flyer of restaurants that support organic, locally grown, sustainable and/or seasonal produce/proteins. I have to say once more that calling restaurants is not fun. Anything other than the words, “I’d like to make a reservation…” will immediately cause the wagons to circle about 50% of the time and shut you out. The other 30% of the time I am getting through, I get to play phone tag or leave voice mails.

The one interesting thing I have learned however, is that the head/Executive Chefs apparently do take near complete control of sourcing, as I am almost always told to talk to the chef to get my questions on sourcing answered. Not having worked in an actual restaurant, it’s nice to know that the chef does get the biggest say on what they get to use. That said, I have been mainly calling contemporary style restaurants thus far, given that the chances of Red Robin using organic lettuce or your local teriyaki joint using free range chicken is slim to none.

Anyhow, enough of a break. Back to work, work, work.

Seattle to be in “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ August 11, 2008 : 11:54 am

Guy Fieri - Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Fans of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” may be happy to know that Seattle is going to be in one of the upcoming shows early next year. The show, which predictably features diners, drive-ins and dives, with host Guy Fieri, travels around the country looking for good grubbing in both the classic and most unlikeliness of places.

I mention this because we were contacted a few days ago by someone on the crew of Page Productions who was essentially asking us for some recommendations for restaurants in the Seattle area to be on the show. We thought it was pretty cool for a show on the Food Network to ask us, so we happily obliged with a list of places below. So if you see any of these on the show next year, you’ll know who got them there! :)

  • Dick’s Drive-In (We don’t need to tell you why)
  • XXX (Triple X Rootbeer in Issaquah)
  • Red Mill Burgers
  • Beth’s Cafe (12 egg omelette anyone?)
  • Gorditos (For those baby sized burritos)
  • Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken (Because everyone besides us seems to like them)
  • Market House Corned Beef (Making their own corned beef since 1948 and on our must-review list)
  • Dixie’s BBQ (“The Man” sauce is all you need to know)
  • Paseo (We just went here and the review is up soon, but those Cuban pork burgers do live up to their rep)
  • Fu Man Dumpling House (Handmade dumplings from scratch)
  • Jade Garden (Arguably the most popular dim sum in Seattle)
  • Top Gun

We even asked the crew member to send us some promotional materials that we can give away to you, our foodie readers, but we’ll see if they play ball with us. After sending a two-page, food passionate email, the production company returned the favor with a one-lined, “Thanks for the suggestions” email, ha! That’s like asking a waiter to list every recommendation across three menus and then saying, “Hmm… I’ll go with a hot dog!”

I guess I’ll refrain from the ripping unless we get some goods :)

Houston, We Have Visitors

Categories: news — Tags: , — Posted by: Grant @ July 28, 2008 : 11:52 am

I suppose most people would be really happy to have a lot of visitors to their website, but we were all pretty surprised when I pulled our website statistics and saw this!

chefseattle.com Web Statistics for July

It looks like our site is getting pretty popular now, with close to 15,000 unique visitors a month right now (July shows less traffic than June since the month isn’t over yet). We checked deeper into our stats and it looked like a full 1,000 people wanted to sign up for our site too! As the business guy for Coffee.net, I’m thrilled that we have so many people interested in signing up. As the web developer for the site, I am petrified at what this means for our user sign-ups and server load.

The graph is pretty clear that we’ve grown quite fast in the time we’ve been online. Currently, we’re in the middle of our second marketing phase, so the expectation is that even MORE traffic is going to come our way in the next 2-3 months. In the meantime, it’s obvious that we need to open up the user logins (damn the QA and testing period) or provide some sort of alternative like a forum for people to start sharing their inner foodie.

If you have comments or suggestions, we are more than happy to listen to them!

Seriously, Why Yelp Sucks

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ July 3, 2008 : 1:10 pm

Ok, the title of this blog post is a little misleading because I actually *do* like Yelp (mostly). It’s a cool idea with awesome site design and tools (unlike the unslightly Citysearch), but has some sketchy ability to reign in its own users.

We’ll go straight to Exhibit A. This is from an Elite (cream of the crop) Yelp member from the Seattle area, who has created a list of top restaurants in the Woodinville area (close to our neck of the woods). The top 10 restaurants this person lists are:

1. Denice’s Place
2. Mongolian Grill
3. Garlic Jim’s
4. Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill
5. Ezell’s Famous Chicken
6. McDonald’s
7. Maltby Espresso
8. Subway
9. Theno’s Dairy
10. Crystal Creek Cafe

If you’ve been in Woodinville, you know there’s also Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (our full review is coming in with our next update), yet it’s mysteriously gone from the top 10 list. However, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see it listed at #25, one spot below Old Country Buffet and one spot above KFC. That is pure absurdity. Here’s what the review actually said:

“We tried to eat at this cafe and we were told that there was a 45-60 minute wait. So…. if you ever manage to get there when the wait’s not too long, maybe the food will be good.”

The reviewer left a one star (the lowest rating), based solely on the fact they had to wait an hour to find a seat at a fine dining restaurant. This raises the hair on my neck, let alone the manager of the restaurant who is likely fuming at the mouth at the absurdity of this review.

As food critics, we understand quite well that different people have varied taste in foods (apples to oranges, what makes you happy makes you happy, etc). That said, to be a discerning diner of fine gourmet, it’s mind blowing to possibly list McDonald’s as anywhere above Purple (or for that matter, half the list, even though it’s filled with fast food already). Even when comparing similarly styled cuisine, such as McDonalds vs Red Robin, the contest is a scathing no-brainer.

This is the problem with sites like Yelp, because they provide the sandbox for which to play, but they have no way of realistically monitoring the quality of the users. Sure, they can throw out the trouble makers and spammers, but otherwise are handcuffed against taking action against users who obviously have no business reviewing food. Yelp is close to a purist’s democracy of food, which means anybody and everybody can have their time in the sun. To this extent, we have seen a small but vocal contingent of reviewers that use sites like Yelp for their own personal soapbox and often, raging bullhorn. Yelp will tell you that bad apples come with the territory, but tell that to the restaurant owners who get slammed by these self-absorbed crusaders. (In case you are curious, Coffee.net has our own system of checks and balances for these type of things currently in testing.)

Again, this isn’t meant to hark on Yelp (that was a bad pun), but to point that it’s broken in a way that is fixable. Both Yelp and Citysearch fail to understand the foodie by having no way to separate the various restaurant factors like service and food apart. Not all diners believe that eating out is a form of mind and body experience to satiate the soul. In fact, I would say true foodies will gladly make a matyr out of their ego in the quest for good eats. This is why we’ve implemented restaurants ratings based on your priorities: high service and ambiance for a good date; high food and value for down and dirty grubbing. If Yelp used this system, it would break their huge “star” brand, but it would also separate the service nit-picks from the would-be food connoisseurs.

Of course, it’s in our own interest as a competitor to Yelp, to see them go burning down in flames, but we’re not like that and know it’s not going to happen. Competition makes products better and as long as Yelp is around, we’ll have motivation to improve Coffee.net for all our wonderful Seattlelites.

June Status Updates – Want to Eat for a Living?

Categories: news — Tags: , , — Posted by: Grant @ June 25, 2008 : 8:59 am

Hey all, I apologize for the long time between the last site update, but we’ve been quite busy over the last few months ramping up the content for chefseattle.com. We decided to update the site in one very large batch, so that the changes can be seen immediately. So to answer your questions – no, we’re not dead and no, we haven’t stopped reviews. There’s over 100 new and fully written reviews waiting to go up, along with scores of pictures. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the push, but the finish line is finally in view.

Of course: User logins! When are they going to be up? Well, we’ve got them in beta testing and we’re happy to report they’re working fairly well. Probably one more month of testing and getting out the last of the features and they will (FINALLY) be good to go. We’re sorry about the delay, but we like it done right and late, rather than the opposite.

Last but not least, some changing of the guard at Coffee.net. Bryan will be leaving us soon to make the world a more energy efficient place, so we will be missing him and his quirky sense of humor. Robin is headed off to grad school for urban planning in Virginia, so we wish her the best of luck designing our new city infrastructure in the years to come.

What this also means is that there will be a job opening at Coffee.net sometime in the future! If you might be interested, ask yourself this:

  • Are you green and socially aware? (Bonus) Charity, voluneering background?
  • Do you have a passion for food? Will you eat anything? (Bonus) Culinary or food service experience?
  • Can you communicate well in writing? (Bonus) Possess editing skills?
  • Do you like working in a small business environment with quirky workers with a sense of humor in a company that at least two years from being profitable? (Ha!)

If so, you might be just the person we’re looking for. Interested parties can send a resume/CV and writing samples to grant (at) coffee (dot) net.

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 www.walkforrice.com or http://www.acrs.org.

Black Cod Kasuzuke Recipe

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ June 12, 2008 : 8:32 am

Black cod, also known as sablefish or butterfish, has a naturally oily meat that flakes apart with buttery smoothness and flavor. I prefer black cod over over Chilean sea bass, especially due to the overfishing that sea bass has seen over the recent decade (grocery stores like Wholefoods offers sustainably harvested sea bass). Black cod is mainly fished out of Alaska and Canada, both of which have generally good sustainability practices for their fisheries.

One of my favorite dishes in the world is black cod kasuzuke. Traditional recipes marinate fillets of black cod for up to seven days in sake, mirin (Japanese cooking wine), brown sugar and miso. Like yourself though, the idea of marinating a meat for seven days, while appetizing, is a little too long for my taste (literally). In my experiments, I’ve found that you can achieve a restaurant quality flavor in three days and if you’re really impatient, perhaps even two days. To those of you who think you can get away with marinating for a few hours in the fridge – don’t even think about it (you’ve been warned).

Black cod recipe ingredients

Ingredient List for: Black Cod Kasuzuke

- 4, 3 oz black cod fillets
- 1 cup sake (I use sweet sake, you can use dry)
- 1 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3T miso paste (I prefer white shiro)
- DO NOT ADD SOY SAUCE

Boiling mirin and sake

On high heat, combine sake and mirin in a pot and bring to boil. Don’t leave the pot because it will boil quite fast. Once boiling, immediately turn heat down to simmer and let stand for 2-5 minutes. Depending on how strong of alcohol flavor you like to your fish, you can let it simmer for longer to take out more alcohol flavor or take it off earlier for a stronger taste. I like to take it off around 3 minutes.

Brown sugar with sake and mirin

Reduce to low heat. Add brown sugar, stirring until well mixed. If you don’t have brown sugar, then you can use white sugar, but only use 1/4 cup instead, otherwise you’ll be eating candied fish.

Adding miso to kasuzuke sauce

Add miso paste and mix in well. You may find chopsticks helpful to help poke apart the clumps of miso. I use white shiro, but that’s also because I have access to dozens of varieties since I’m within close driving distance of Uwajimaya. You can use most types of miso, so if you have some generic yellow miso sitting in the fridge, feel free to use it, but the general rule of thumb is: the darker the miso, the heavier the taste and vice versa. Because black cod is so buttery, I find a light miso works best, but your own taste may prefer a salty version. In any case, DO NOT ADD SOY SAUCE. Miso is made with fermented soy beans and is naturally salty, so there is no reason to use soy sauce as I’ve seen in some recipes.

Marinating the cod

Let the sauce cool, place fish in a wide, shallow pan or container and then pour in sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and then toss and forget in the refrigerator for three days.

Cooking Instructions

Place fillets on tray and bake in oven for 325 degrees for 15 minutes. While grilling might be possible, I don’t recommend it unless you foil your fish – otherwise it will come apart very easily.

Garnish with some chopped green onions and serve. Enjoy!

I almost forgot – if you’re too lazy to make your own black cod kasuzuke, Seattle is lucky to have a score of restaurants that make an excellent version. Here’s some restaurants to name a few:

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