Follow us:

All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

Author archives

You are currently viewing all posts written by Nancy Leson.

May 22, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Seattle chefs, ‘Top Chef’ Master Rick Bayless kick in for cancer

For the past five years, I’ve played “kitchen liaison” (or kitchen Lee-ee-son, as I like to say) at the Fred Hutch Premier Chefs Dinner and fundraising auction. I did it again last Sunday, hanging out with some of my favorite chefs, watching as they showed up at Sodo Park by Herban Feast and in a few short hours produced a multi-course meal for 300 generous donors, helping raise a whopping $775,000 for cancer research.


[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”2399847814001″/]

[In case you were wondering, that’s Skillet’s Josh Henderson with his back to the camera. Recognize the rest of those folks? That’s some bigtime talent there.]


Among the donors was Top Chef Master and keynote speaker Rick Bayless, who upped the ante on live auction number 7: dinner for two at his Chicago restaurant Topolobampo (plus first-class airfare and hotel accommodations, among other goodies). But wait, there’s more! — he said, stepping up to the plate (and the mike) as hands shot in the air while he added to the package: a behind-the-scenes restaurant tour! appetizers first at his private residence! add four more guests for a party of six!

Fierce bidding ensued, making Rick’s the No. 1 auction item of the night, raising $35,000.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen . . .



December 27, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Leson says: I’m taking a break. See you next summer!

“Hey, Hon! Do you have any thyme?” my husband asked last week while making a shopping list for our annual Christmas gumbo-fest. “No, but I will after the first of the year!” I quipped. Those are the kind of jokes I’ve been cracking frequently over the past several weeks as I prepare to take a leave of absence from my job at The Seattle Times.

No joke. I’m taking off. For six months. “Really?” my friends say, when I tell them about my plans. “What are you going to do — write a book?” No, I tell them, but I do plan to read a lot of them. What else am I going to do?

First off, I’m going to find some thyme.

Relax, already! Don’t mind if I do.

I don’t know about yours, but my spice collection is a mess. I pride myself on having every herb and spice known to man, in case I decide to whip up something exotic for dinner. Why yes, I have dried Thai galangal, Persian limu omani and Piment d’Espelette imported from the Basque Country. Now, where did I put it?


Comments | More in | Topics: Family tales

December 23, 2011 at 7:08 AM

More kimchee for me: Jeonju B’Bop Fusion Rice Bar

Ask this North End restaurant maven what’s hot, and I’ll tell you: Korean food. Travel Highway 99 from Shoreline through Lynnwood, and you won’t drive two minutes without coming across a Korean restaurant. That said, it’s easy to miss Jeonju B’ Bop Fusion Rice Bar — one of a trio of Korean eateries set back off the highway just north of 188th Street Southwest. But now that I’ve found it, I’m addicted.

Wait! Don’t stop reading because you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine, uncomfortable around kimchee and unsure what to order when much of the menu is in Hangul and much of the staff speak limited English. Consider this a culinary journey-without-a-passport.

Picture steaming bowls of soup with rice cakes and dumplings, fragrant soybean stews and rib-sticking bibimbap. No salt and pepper on the table? Reach instead for the jars of salty fermented shrimp and flaky red chilies. Need a translator? Ask those folks taking chopsticks to pork feet. Now repeat after me: “This is an adventure!”

Stone-pot bibimbap (foreground), with complimentary kimchee on the side. [photo: Nancy Leson]


Comments | More in Restaurants | Topics: Asian Restaurants

December 22, 2011 at 7:30 AM

Labuznik’s Peter Cipra, his roasted pork recipe, remembered

In the cookbook “Tom’s Big Dinners,” Tom Douglas devotes a generous chapter to the late, great Seattle restaurant Labuznik, closed when owner-chef Peter Cipra retired in 1998. Under the heading “Remembering Labuznik,” Douglas writes:

“Everyone needs a home-away-from-home restaurant, where the only difference between eating there and at home is you don’t have to cook or do the dishes. For me it was Seattle’s only Czech restaurant, Labuznik. There the waiters knew I liked my martini wet and my roast pork with extra gravy. They knew there wasn’t a choice between soup and salad: I wanted both. They knew I always wanted a side order of sweet carrots and creamed spinach instead of dessert. In fact, Labuznik was the kind of restaurant we all dream about finding, where the waiter brings you what you want before you ask for it. For me, Peter Cipra was Labuznik.”

“Peter had the same respect for potato that he did for lobster,” chef Scott Carsberg said of Cipra, who died last week at 68 of pancreatic cancer. (Read the full obituary here.) “He was old school, and it was very real. In my life as a cook I can name five people that I really respect, and he was one of them.”

A young Peter Cipra, behind the stove, doing what he loved.

Seattle architect Peter Miller recalls of his friend’s devotion to doing things right at Labuznik: “He did all of his own butchering, all of his own stock, all of his own pastries. There was Peter making every single meal, every pepper steak, roasting his own peppers, making his own sauces. His pork!”

Ah, his pork. Like his Tournedos Rossini — and Cipra, himself — it was legendary.


Comments | More in Chefs, Food and Restaurant News, Recipes

December 20, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Yesterday’s Mavens, Today’s Foodies: latkes, you’ll eat!

I moved to Seattle in 1988, and still recall that whenever I needed a taste of “home”– chicken soup with matzoh balls, a plate of blintzes — I’d frequent the deli-restaurant Matzoh Momma, late of Capitol Hill. The name lives on as Matzoh Momma Catering, with owners Pip and Miriam Meyerson presiding. From mitzvahs to mourning, feeding the needs of the community is all part of their “Jewish-lifecycle business,” as they define it.

Happily, the Meyersons have been the driving force behind the annual Night of a Thousand Latkes, a Hanukkah fundraiser for MAZON, a Jewish agency providing hunger-relief for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Sadly, they won’t be holding the event this year due to the recent passing of Miriam’s mother.

As for those latkes, enjoyed year-round but especially at Hanukkah — the eight-day Festival of Lights that began Dec. 20 at sundown — “You’ve got to eat them while they’re hot!” they implored, welcoming me into their home to watch as Pip fried his potato pancakes and Miriam garnished the goods with sour cream and applesauce (you’ll find that recipe here).

They made ’em, I ate ’em. Latkes, with sour cream and homemade Honeycrisp applesauce.

[Seattle Times/Greg Gilbert]

“Oil temperature is critical. Do a little drop-test first,” Pip instructs, adding a smidgen of batter, which crisped up quickly. “And salt them after,” he says, generously sprinkling the end result. “Eat!” Having never before officially met the Meyersons, I immediately felt as if they were family.

That sense of familial embrace extends to “Yesterday’s Mavens, Today’s Foodies: Traditions in Northwest Jewish Kitchens,” a community cookbook published in November by the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. Among its 250 recipes are Miriam’s mother’s hamantachen (a tri-cornered pastry) and Pip’s justly famous latkes.


Comments | More in Cookbooks, Holidays | Topics: Family tales

December 13, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Got crab? (Dungeness, that is.) Well, get cracking!

When I was a kid, we ate a lot of crab. Blue crab. I’d hang out with my siblings on the docks at the Jersey shore, catching those puny crustaceans using a simple hook-and-line baited with squished-up Wonder Bread.

We’d slowly reel in our catch, praying the creatures wouldn’t fall back in the drink. Then, we’d toss the crab into a bucket of seawater until they’d meet their maker — our mother — who’d throw in a big hit of Old Bay seasoning and steam them for us.

Today, my siblings eat those crabs by the dozen alongside pitchers of beer at crab joints “down the shore” and at taverns throughout Philadelphia. But now that I’m a hard-core Pacific Northwesterner, there’s only one crab for me: Dungeness.

Nice haul, huh? We caught these beauties Thanksgiving week off Orcas Island. [photo: Nancy Leson]

My boy, now 13, grew up on Puget Sound knowing the joy of dropping a crab ring over the public dock near our home in Edmonds. (In season, of course!) His bait might be a zip-tied chicken leg, a stinky salmon head or whatever “Come and get it!” goodies he can scavenge from our freezer or our fisher pals. Pulling in the prized Dungeness, he brings it home to mama, who boils his catch, cleans it, sautes the parts in Chinese black-bean sauce then pulls out the crab crackers so we can get cracking.

But these days, thanks to Seattle seafood marketeer Jon Rowley, mama’s got a brand-new bag. “Put down those crab crackers!” implores Rowley. Nutcrackers? Not so sweet, he says, insisting the best way to crack fresh crab is by using a slender baton and a clean sturdy brick.


Comments | More in | Topics: Seafood

December 13, 2011 at 8:14 AM

Ballard’s Thaiku and Fu Kun Wu to close December 23

The end of the year inevitably brings a long list of restaurant closures. Far too many come as a surprise. So I extend my thanks to Jon Alberts and Graham Graham for announcing the planned closure of their 10-year-old restaurant Thaiku and its bar and lounge Fu Kun Wu. The last full day of operation will be December 23, so get in there while the getting is good.

According to Monday’s news release, the closure will idle 25 employees: cooks, waitstaff, bartenders and dishwashers including some who have been with the Thai restaurant since it opened. In a follow-up phone conversation, Alberts explained “the building has been for sale for about three years, and because it was for sale the landlords were reluctant to give us a long-term lease — so there was no real security for us.”

Quick! Get over and bid adieu to Thaiku and Fu Kun Wu (5410 Ballard Ave. N.W.) before the closure.

Alberts said the landlords were unwilling to pay for building improvements he deems necessary and “it wouldn’t have made [financial] sense for us to do them” if the building were to sell in the next two years. In addition, continued rumors of the restaurant’s imminent demise (thanks to “For Sale” sign on the building) and a considerable spike in rent meant “we couldn’t come to terms, and decided to vacate.”

So, is that the end of Thaiku and Fu Kun Wu?


Comments | More in Restaurant Closures

December 12, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Ray’s chef Peter Birk now steering the ship at Harborside

I read with interest the November news that Portland-based McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants had been acquired by Houston-based Landry’s Restaurants and was set to be sold for a $132 million. But what held my interest even more, was the fact that Peter Birk had left his longtime post as executive chef at Ray’s Boathouse & Cafe to take the helm at McCormick & Schmick’s revitalized Harborside restaurant complex on Lake Union.

After 11 years at Ray’s on Shilshole Bay, chef Peter Birk has taken the helm at the revitalized Harborside at 1200 Westlake Avenue N. on Lake Union. [photo: Moffett Images]

Truth? I had no idea the dual-story McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside, which made its debut in the waterfront AGC Building in 1996, had closed in August for a major makeover. But after I showed up last week for lunch at the new Harborside (now devoid of its McCormick & Schmick’s moniker), I thought, “Now that’s an improvement!”


Comments | More in New Restaurants

« Previous PageNext Page »