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November 12, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Seattle restaurateurs get real with Nancy Leson at Town Hall: Come on down!

What’s hot? Oh, let’s not! Instead, join Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson Thursday, Nov. 14 at Town Hall when the Seattle Times, in partnership with the Seattle Public Library, hosts a panel of chefs and restaurateurs who’ve been around long enough to know that being great trumps being new. How do they keep it real?…

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Comments | Topics: Cafe Juanita, Hajime Sato, Holly Smith

August 19, 2013 at 11:19 AM

A fig tree grows in Seattle: the man, his mission, propagation

I adore figs. But (so far, anyway) I can’t grow them. Good thing, then, that I’ve befriended Seattle’s fig king, Bill Farhat, a retired Arabic professor who’s been growing figs in his backyard in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood for decades. I met him though his daughter, Sally, and when she told me her dad grew an astonishing amount of figs and I had to see it to believe it, she wasn’t kidding.

Bill was raised in Lebanon, where he grew up eating figs as if they were candy. (Aren’t they?) He shared a lot of information with me about growing up in the Middle East, about raising a family in the Pacific Northwest and about growing sweet figs (among other fruits, including loquats and green Persian plums) in the terraced yard he’s carefully built and tended over the years. He also told me about this great website, Figs 4 Fun, offering a wider world of info and insight for those of you who want to grow your own.

Perhaps you read about Bill in my recent Pacific Northwest profile. (If not, what are you waiting for?) But I also wanted to show you what he showed me when we took a tour of his garden in June, before his figs were ripe enough to eat. Here’s a video trio show-and-tell.

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Comments | Topics: Bill Farhat, fig propagation, fig trees

July 22, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Party animals roast pig in a “China” box — photos!

I was living la vida Gidget in a surfing town in Puerto Rico the first time I took part in a pig roast. There on the Rincon beach, a local dude dug a trough in the sand and cooked a pig in the covered pit. There was rum. And cerveza. And a roar from the crowd that drowned out the crashing waves when — 10 hours after its burial — el puerco was devoured on the spot.

So begins my latest Taste column, in which I tell the tale of a neighborhood pig roast. The one where, in a backyard bacchanal disguised as a birthday party, I join forces with family and friends to procure, brine, roast and eat a whole pig. Read the story here. And if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to pull-off a neighborhood pig roast, I’ve got the step-by-step visuals.

One 66-pound pig, brined overnight in an icy citrus bath. (photo/Nancy Leson)

One 66-pound pig, brined overnight in an icy citrus bath. (photo/Nancy Leson)

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Comments | Topics: La Caja Asadora, La Caja China, Nancy Leson

July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Door County cherries make local pit stop after hairpin turn

I don’t have to do much to get my husband all misty-eyed. Say “Door County” and away he goes, waxing nostalgic about boyhood summers spent on Baileys Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin. There, far from the urban center that was his Chicago home, he fished Lake Michigan with his favorite aunts, picked the county’s famous sour Montmorency cherries and slept, sunburned and freckle-faced, on a cot in a screened-in porch.

Which is why, 16 years ago, he insisted we plant a pair of dwarf cherry trees in our backyard: edible nostalgia.

As I explained to my radio partner Dick Stein this week on Food for Thought (listen in here), this year I bore the brunt of the picking and pitting, though Mac took to the task for the last of them and — necessity being the mother of invention — shared with me for the first time his mother’s secret for pitting cherries: use a hairpin!

Who needs a fancy cherry pitter?

Who needs a fancy cherry pitter when a hairpin will do? No hairpin? A sturdy paper clip works, too.  (Photo by Nancy Leson)

When he asked if I had a bobby pin, I was skeptical, but when I rustled up the only hairpin I had, he showed me how it’s done. “No way!” I said, pulling out my iPhone camera so he could show you:

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Comments | Topics: cherries, Death's Door, Door County

June 7, 2013 at 4:36 PM

Vegan kudos, salad days, collard wraps and other vegetation

It’s been a week!

The folks at PETA want me to tell you that Seattle was just named one of America’s top 10 vegan-friendly cities. Done. I told you to eat more collards — and showed you why you need to start rolling your own. Meanwhile, over on KPLU Stein and I talked about salads: He carried on about the iceberg variety and gave the big thumbs up to The Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman for her smartypants idea for building a better wedge salad (ditch the wedge and go horizontal) while I offered my time-tested recipe for Thousand Island dressing (you’ve got the goods in your fridge) and waxed rhapsodic about one of the best salads in Seattle. Listen in here.

The "lettuces salad" at the Whale Wins. (photo by Nancy Leson)

The “lettuces salad” at The Whale Wins. So good, I make it at home, too. (photo by Nancy Leson)

And just to keep things exciting, I got bawled out by a reader who read my cover story in today’s Weekend Plus — the one that talks about restaurants where carnivores and vegetarians can happily co-exist. Her beef? (Well, one of them):

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Comments | Topics: collards, Smitten Kitchen, The Whale Wins

June 4, 2013 at 3:09 PM

Pu Pu Hot Pot: Your ‘best’ worst restaurant names?

“Have you been to my new favorite restaurant?” a friend asked a few years back, pointing to my left as we drove up Greenwood Avenue North. I made one of the fastest U-turns of my life, then pulled into the strip-mall parking lot in front of a Vietnamese pho house. One whose name might make some folks blush.

Pho Kim Vietnamese restaurant. Gone, but not forgotten. photo/Nancy Leson

Pho Kim. Gone, but not forgotten. photo/Nancy Leson

“Dinner?” asked the gentleman behind the counter.  “No, thanks, I just wanted to grab a takeout menu,” I said with feigned innocence (just like when I was a kid calling the corner drugstore to ask, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well, let him out!”).

The next day at the office, Nicole Brodeur took one look the Pho Kim menu and cracked, “That’s where all the bitter divorcees have lunch.”

Not anymore. The name — a common one, it turns out — has since changed. And what do you know? My friends and I are not the only ones laughing, as you can see right here:

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Comments | Topics: Asian Restaurants, Ben Brusey, pho

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