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Topic: Providence Cicero

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July 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Orcas Island’s farmer-chef

Jay Blackinton on the front porch of Hogstone's Wood Oven on Orcas Island. Photo: The Seattle Times

Jay Blackinton on the front porch of Hogstone’s Wood Oven on Orcas Island. Photo: Maddie Meyer/The Seattle Times

More than a few disaffected youths have found fulfillment through hard work and a lot of them end up in restaurant kitchens. Jay Blackinton’s path to the kitchen at Hogstone’s Wood Oven, the Orcas Island restaurant he co-owns with John Steward, founder of Maple Rock Farm, took him first through the fields.

I met Blackinton when I had dinner at Hogstone on a recent eating tour of Orcas Island, chronicled this coming Sunday in The Seattle Time’s travel section. The 26-year-old’s fingers are inked below the knuckles with letters that read “So it goes” when he puts his fists together, remnants of an early infatuation with Kurt Vonnegut. His emails sign off with the 19th century socialist epigram: “The plough is a better backbone than the factory.”

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Comments | Topics: Hogstone's Wood Oven, Maple Rock Farm, Orcas Island

June 9, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Meet the new burger at The Old Sage

New on the menu at The Old Sage, a hickory and mesquite-smoked burger with root chips. Photo courtesy: The Old Sage

New on the menu at The Old Sage, a hickory and mesquite-smoked burger with root chips. Photo courtesy: The Old Sage

Up until now there hasn’t been a burger on the menu at The Old Sage, Dana Tough and Brian McCracken’s ten-month-old, smoke-fueled restaurant and bar on Capitol Hill. A bar without a burger? That’s like no S’mores at a campfire.

A burger builds trust. “A burger speaks to everyone, as opposed to say, lavender smoked pork cheeks,” said McCracken and Tough, speaking on the phone in tandem, as they tend to do. “You get someone to trust you on that level and they come in again and try other things.”

Sure, they could have copied either of the very fine burgers at their other joints–Tavern Law or Spur. But that would be so un-McCracken-and-Tough. Instead they built a new one, from the bun up.

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Comments | More in Food and Restaurant News, Restaurants | Topics: Brian McCracken, Dana Tough, hamburgers

May 29, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Chefs tell all: How you can become a restaurant VIP

David Chang, whose Momofuku restaurant realm extends from New York to Toronto to Sydney, Australia, has never been known for his softer side. His reputation for shock talk rivals that of Anthony Bourdain. In the May issue of GQ Magazine, the much-lauded, 36-year-old Korean-American chef offered unvarnished advice to diners who aspire to most-favored-customer status in restaurants.

“Would you like priority seating at busy, popular restaurants… servers to remember what you like and don’t… the choicest cuts of meat, the most pristine fish, extra courses on the house?” Chang writes. “Then you want to become a regular—or what we in the business call a PX table, for person extraordinaire. Ultimately, the experience you’re after is ‘soigné.’ That’s chef-speak for culinary perfection from your first drink to your last dessert.”

What are Chang’s tips for soigné-seeking PX wannabes?

“Avoid eating on weekends, when it’s a zoo. The best diners eat Sundays through Thursdays, earlier or later in the evening, so the staff remembers you better…

“Don’t be a (slang for male body part deleted here)….When you become a PX table at one spot, you soon become a known commodity at many others. And if you’re a (male body part) somewhere, they’ll remember you everywhere. Also, don’t do drugs in the bathroom.”

“Order like you know what’s going on…If you request well-done meat and you’re not pregnant, you have no concept of flavor. (Sorry, this is how we think.) If you send a dish back because you think something is ‘off,’ you’re probably wrong. (And the kitchen will hate you for it.) Above all, try dishes from outside of your comfort zone — those are probably the ones the cooks are most proud of.”

How does this advice resonate with Seattle chefs? Read on:

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Comments | Topics: Charles Walpole, David Chang, Derek Ronspies

April 8, 2014 at 6:28 PM

Biting Back: The Sloppy Cicero at Miller’s Guild

The Sloppy Cicero at Miller's Guild

The Sloppy Cicero at Miller’s Guild

Last May, a couple of La Mancha goats born at Mountain Lodge Farm in Eatonville were named “Providence” and “Cicero.” Not sure how the little fellows (or their mother, Cinnamon) felt about those exotic monikers–bestowed by the farm’s effervescent owner, Sherwin Ferguson — but I was tickled by the tribute.

To my list of namesakes, I can now add the “Sloppy Cicero,” a sandwich that recently appeared on the lunch menu at Jason Wilson’s restaurant Miller’s Guild in the wake of my 2.5-star review.

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Comments | Topics: Miller's Guild, Providence Cicero, Sloppy Cicero

January 27, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Women Stars of Food & Wine? Seattle has them in abundance

Ericka Burke of Volunteer Park Cafe is one of the "Women Stars of Food & Wine" Photo by Ernie Sapiro Photography

Ericka Burke of Volunteer Park Cafe is one of the “Women Stars of Food & Wine”
Photo by Ernie Sapiro Photography

I know it’s hard for anyone in this town to think beyond a certain date with destiny this Sunday, but, hey, what are you doing the Sunday after the Super Bowl?

February 9th is the date for “Women Stars of Food & Wine,” an afternoon soiree showcasing dozens of Northwest women chefs, winemakers and sommeliers at the newly remodeled Columbia Tower Club. Fittingly, the event supports the Women’s Funding Alliance, a group that invests in organizations “working to promote progressive change and social justice for women and girls.”

News of this foraging of female talent coincided with reading Julia Moskin’s piece, “A Change in the Kitchen,” last week in The New York Times about the ascendancy of women in New York’s top kitchens. Moskin writes:

“A leading kitchen run by a woman is no longer newsworthy. But it is not quite commonplace, either; the tag “female chef” is still applied to Anita Lo, Barbara Lynch, April Bloomfield, Dominique Crenn (the first woman in North America to have a restaurant with two Michelin stars) and dozens of others. Certainly the most visible chefs are men, a fact made clear in November by a Time Magazine spread that showcased its choice of the world’s most influential chefs, with not a woman among them.”

Thinking back over the 20 years I’ve been covering the Seattle restaurant scene, it struck me that our city has been ahead of the curve when it comes to women heading kitchens: Monique Barbeau, Emily Moore, Kathy Casey, Chris Keff, Tamara Murphy, Holly Smith, Maria Hines, Renee Erickson and Rachel Yang are a just a few prominent names that come to mind. I contacted some of them to get their thoughts.

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Comments | Topics: "Women Stars of Food & Wine", Providence Cicero, Seattle Uncorked

January 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Got Super Bowl tix? What about a dinner rez?

The dining room at Estela, NYC

The dining room at Estela, NYC

Most of us Hawks fans will be watching the Super Bowl right here at home. For the fortunate few who score tickets, getting dinner reservations in New York City might be even harder.

Tables at Manhattan’s most celebrated restaurants are tough to secure on an average weekend. If places like Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, Daniel, Del Posto or Per Se are on your wish list, you’d better know someone who knows someone, otherwise you can fuggedaboudit.

Not to worry though.  The “city that never sleeps” has thousands of places to eat. For those who are equal parts football fan and foodie, I offer,  in no particular order, a few personal favorites, where game-goers might be able to snag a last minute reservation or even dare to show up without one. Consider it a mere slice of what the Big Apple has to offer.

Estela—Fine cocktails and boldly conceived small plates from Uruguayan-born chef Ignacio Mattos.

Hearth—Marco Canora’s soulful, contemporary take on Italian cuisine is matched by Paul Grieco’s astonishingly broad beverage list.

Annisa—Anita Lo’s spectacular Asian-inflected food suits this serene West Village dining room.

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Comments | Topics: New York City dining, Providence Cicero

December 31, 2013 at 11:23 AM

2013 Date Night Dining Awards

Amuse bouche at Epulo Bistro. Courtesy: ELD Images

Amuse bouche at Epulo Bistro. Courtesy: ELD Images

Last week, as I was putting the finishing puns on my own “Best Bites of 2013,” the third annual “Date Night Dining Awards” arrived in my inbox, courtesy of Eric and Diana Denson, a pair of avid and discerning eaters (and Seattle Times readers), just regular folks who happen to eat out almost as often as I do.

I first heard from Eric Denson at the end of 2011, the year he and his wife began a tradition of weekly date nights. “The sole purpose of Date Night is to eat our way across the greater Seattle area, focusing on different restaurants than our old favorites,” he explained. For fun, they decided to hand out awards, which they shared with me.

That began a correspondence wherein I eventually learned that the Densons have been married for 30 years. (Evidently date nights work!) From their South Snohomish County home, he commutes to work in Bellingham, she to Seattle. Besides food, they share a passion for belly-dancing, burlesque and baseball. Since 1998, they’ve had weekend season tickets to the Mariners so breakfast or brunch pinch hit for date nights during baseball season .

She collects cookbooks and (says he) is a fantastic cook. He (says she) is a grill master. Both are keen for new dining experiences but aren’t without issues: she is deathly allergic to seafood and no-reservations is a deal breaker for both. “The last thing we want to do after a long work week is drive someplace where we have to sit around hoping to get a table before we nod off.”

“I’d say we are both foodies but Diana is the one who loves dissecting the dishes,” said Eric. “I focus more on the emotional aspects of the experience, while she is the food scientist. It all fits because she is a scientist by trade and I’m a psychotherapist.”

He also takes pretty swell pix as you’ll see. I get a kick out of the Denson’s Date Night Dining Awards and thought you might too. They’ve given me permission to share. Happy New Year!

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Comments | Topics: Art of the Table, Book Bindery, Cafe Nordo

December 11, 2013 at 11:35 PM

Café Juanita, the people’s choice

The people have spoken—that is, the roughly five million people who make reservations and write reviews on OpenTable, the online restaurant reservation system. Hats off to chef Holly Smith and her team at Café Juanita, the only Washington state restaurant to make OpenTable’s 2013 roster of the 100 Best Restaurants in America.

Holly Smith, chef'/owner of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland

Holly Smith, chef’/owner of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland

The list was culled from a field of roughly 19,000 restaurants nationwide. The top 100 were selected based on reviews from verified OpenTable diners between November 14, 2012, and November 15, 2013

“It feels great to be on a list that is guest generated,” says Smith. “These reviews come only after a guest has dined with a restaurant and therefore it reflects happy guests.

It’s well-deserved recognition for the 13-year-old Kirkland restaurant, a favorite with critics from the start. In a 3.5 star review in the The Seattle Times in July 2002, Nancy Leson wrote, ” Innovation, artistry, and superior ingredients are key to the kitchen’s success.”

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Comments | Topics: Cafe Juanita, OpenTable, Providence Cicero

November 21, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Chefs Matt Dillon and Blaine Wetzel celebrate Noma’s Rene Redzepi in Seattle

Revelers under the tent in Occidental Square. Photo: Nancy Leson

Revelers under the tent in Occidental Square. Photo: Nancy Leson

Matt Dillon/Photo by Ken Lambert

Matt Dillon/Photo by Ken Lambert

Dinner under a tent in Seattle in November? Call it foolhardy, even crazy, but also call it sold out—at $200 per person no less. Four hours after Lara Hamilton sent an email in mid-October to her Book Larder mailing list announcing the November 18th event, not a ticket was left. The draw was a chef trifecta. James Beard Award-winner Matt Dillon was cooking with Blaine Wetzel of Willow’s Inn, dubbed “one of ten restaurants in the world worth a plane ride” by the NY Times.

The guest of honor was Copenhagen chef Rene Redzepi of Noma, which held the number one spot on the list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” three years running beginning in 2010. That’s the year “we went from zeros to heros,” said Redzepi in Seattle, one stop on his U.S. tour promoting his latest book, A Work in Progress. (If you missed him last night making chocolate-covered chicharones with Jimmy Kimmel and actor Idris Elba, watch it here. It’s hilarious!) Addressing the 160 people who braved Seattle’s rain and chill on Monday night an impressed Redzepi said, “This would never happen in Denmark.”

Rene Redzepi (center) signing books in Seattle/Photo: Nancy Leson

Rene Redzepi (second from left) signing books in Seattle/Photo: Nancy Leson

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Comments | Topics: A Work in Progress, Bar Sajor, Blaine Wetzel

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