Proformance Racing School (Kent, WA)

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 30, 2008 : 11:37 pm

Proformance Racing School
A Ferrari 355 on the track

Last week I had the ultimate car fanatic’s privilege of attending a local Seattle racing and driving school called ProFormance Racing, located in Kent, WA. It was an introductory class that taught various driving skills during the first half of the day, such as high-eyes driving, ABS (anti-lock braking) fundamentals and braking while cornering. The last half of the day is the real treat, as you get to lap around the Pacific Raceways track with a driving coach by your side.

For those looking to improve their driving skills, it’s a safe and controlled environment, while the coaches at ProFormance racing all have years of racing experience. Case in point, trying to test your car’s ABS systems by braking from 60 to 0mph in front of your house is not feasible for most people. The walls inside the ProFormance offices are actually lined with letters from parents and teens who have used the techniques learned to avoid some hairy situations.

For the driving enthusiast, there’s no substitute for taking yourself and your car to the threshold other than taking it to the track. It showed in the makeup of the class, as we had a good mix of all sorts of sports cars: Ferrari 355, Porsche Carerra, Corvette Z06, Mini Cooper, Subaru WRX STi, Lancer Evo 6, Mazda Miata, Mercedes CLK, Porsche Cayman and my favorite – even a VW Scirroco! The two fastest drivers on the track were the Mini Cooper and a student who used one of the ProFormance racing rental cars (a Chevy Cobalt SS), which goes to show that driver skill can make up for a whole lot of horses under the hood.

More pictures from the event below – republished with permission from Pete at Red Mist Photo.

Porsche Cayman in the woods
Porsche Cayman through the wooded area

A Lotus Elise racing by
Lotus Elise racing into the straight away

Subaru WRX going into turn 9
Subaru WRX STi going into turn 9

Mini Cooper lapper
One of the “lappers” in a yellow Mini Cooper (lappers are racing school grads who just lap around the track)

Hard cornering VW Scirroco
Hard cornering VW Scirroco

Sushi Class at Uwajimaya

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 28, 2008 : 10:28 pm

Sushi class at Uwajimaya

Sushi class California rolls

Inspecting my hatchet job of the innocent sushi rolls above, I may just be a little more humbled the next time I see some perfectly cut sushi at a Japanese restaurant. Luckily, our sushi teacher Naomi from NuCulinary, was far more lenient of my aesthetically challenged California rolls, given that it was an introductory sushi class.

NuCulinary is a Seattle based Asian cooking school that offers classes for Thai cooking, Indian, dim sum as well as sushi classes of various skill levels. While I’ve eaten plenty of sushi in my life, I thought it would be neat to gain more knowledge of the skill and art that is sushi. Today was part one (basic sushi rolling) out of a three part series that culminates in learning the art of nigiri directly from chef Hajime Sato of Mashiko in West Seattle. Each class is $65 and lasts for 3 hours, which is a fairly reasonable deal as far as cooking classes go.

Not having rolled sushi before, everything being shown to me was going to be brand spanking new. I learned the proper way of making sushi rice (always important), selecting the right nori (seaweed sheets), ingredients to use and of course, how to roll sushi. As you’ve already seen though, even with years of Playdoh experience behind my fingertips, it’s not quite as simple as simply tossing ingredients on a bamboo mat and rolling it into circles. But, the good news is that looks aside, sushi is easy enough that anyone who can follow a recipe can easily pick up sushi rolling as well. As for nigiri, well, that’s a totally different story unless you happen to be accustomed to gutting and filleting 30 pound fish (and even then, that’s still a stretch!).

Some interesting tidbits I learned about proper sushi etiquette that I’ve heard before, but never “officially” until now, is the right way to eat your sushi. Apparently, the common American tradition of drowning those poor sushi rolls in vats of soy sauce is a serious faux pas to a genuine sushi chef. To the chef, this signals that the sushi apparently isn’t good enough on it’s own that it needs to be marinated in salt in order to be consumed. So just like you wouldn’t put A1 on your filet mignon at The Metropolitain, hold the soy to a minimum when possible. To impress your sushi chef, use those fresh and ample slices of ginger to soak up the liquid, then dab your rolls with the sauce to show that you know the fine line of moderation.

Another way to become part of the sushi elite is to hold off on the wasabi as well. This might not make sense, given that you are always offered a large green dollop with your sushi, but sushi purists only use as much wasabi as the chef has already put into the dish. Normally, there is just enough wasabi to help glue the fish to the rice, which avoids any overkill of wasabi flavoring. So in a nutshell – trust your chef and you’ll gain his/her respect.

If you haven’t rolled sushi before, it’s definitely good fun, so give it a shot either through a class like this one or pick up one of the many books on the subject. At the very least, it will give you a much better appreciation of your sushi chef when you’re sitting at the bar eating omakase (prix fix) style!

Kayaking and Camping at Baker Lake

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 27, 2008 : 9:05 pm

This is a short video taken this past weekend of Bryan and I at Baker Lake. This was my first time attempting the kayaking and camping combo, so I was quite excited about the trip. I had never been to Baker Lake, so I took my time carefully selecting my camp gear on this particular trip, as there were quite a few unknowns to deal with. Bryan and I decided early on that though there were three managed (aka comfortable) camp sites on the West shore of Baker Lake, we would try to do the “Seattle” thing and camp in whatever primitive spot we could find while sploshing around on the water.

Gathering my gear, I quickly realized our kayaks could hold perhaps half the gear I would like to bring. Many modern campers swear by the trek lite method of camping, which utilizes the bare minimum to ensure a quick in-and-out approach. I, however, prescribe to the school of everything and the kitchen sink, which in this case would mean successfully sinking my kayak to the lake bottom the minute it touched water.

On the first night, my regrets materialized when I woke up every hour tossing and turning due to the hard sand that doubled as my bed. I shouldn’t complain however, as we snagged one of the best primitive spots on the lake, a protected sandy bed next to a creek. We even had fish biting all around our secluded point that morning, but couldn’t quite snag enough luck to have grilled trout for lunch.

We had to depart early the next day due to thunderstorms that started rolling in. It was unfortunate, as we had kayaked the entire lake that morning and our arms were sore, but rather than brace a miserable night with limited rain gear short of our tent and jackets, we packed up and took off.

All in all, Baker Lake is a great destination for a summer camping trip. It is crowded however, but there are multiple managed camp sites with quite a few spots at each site. The type of people we saw were primarily family campers and younger groups of teens on motorboats, but no unsavory elements as far as we could tell.

FYI, the video is a bit choppy, as it was taken with my new and experimental Oregon Scientific Action Cam. It’s an enclosed video camera that is waterproof and the size of a monocular that fits in your hand and can record up to an hour of video (with a 2GB memory card). I’m playing around with it for a bit, but it seems pretty useful so far.

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.

NWSource 30 for 30

Categories: restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 8, 2008 : 10:45 am

Copying the Dine Around Seattle format of 3-course meals for $30, NWSource has launched their own version called “New Urban Eats“. It features many new restaurants that haven’t been associated with Dine Around Seattle before. One of the reasons is that New Urban Eats expands beyond mainly the downtown and Belltown area to includes restaurants in the outer parts of Seattle like Queen Anne, West Seattle and even the Eastside (woot!).

Some of the restaurants include:
94 Stewart
Coupage
Crush
Moxie
Opal
Portage
Qube
Red Fin
Trellis
Yama

… just to name a few. We’ll be making our way through quite a few of these restaurants, no doubt. Hope to see you guys there! :)

Prelude to the con

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , — Posted by: steveg @ May 7, 2008 : 10:09 am

Iron Man

It’s official, Iron Man is a big hit in the box office. Collecting over $100 million in box office sales in the first weekend, the comic fan and non-comic fan alike have taken a fancy to Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of the brilliant minded, alcoholic, womanizing, multi million weapons developer Tony Stark and his journey to try to redeem part of his soul.

This is just another clear example of how geek-culture is slowly taking over pop culture and media. Some of the top grossing movies and highly celebrated shows in recent years are based upon comics or reboots of old Science Fiction shows. Marvel based movies as well as DC characters Batman and Superman have garnered recent success among the mainstream audience raking in millions of dollars.

Emerald City Comic Con

With that being said, the big event for geekdom has arrived in the city of Seattle: The Emerald City Comic Con. Over 9,000 people are expected for the event with about 160 guests signed on from the comics, television, and movie industries. I’m a big comic fan at heart and it’s surprising that the comic book community has grown so much since my hiatus. The first Seattle comic book convention I attended took place at the Seattle Center in McCaw Hall as the Seattle Comiccard. Albeit, it was a very small and only consisted of a few guests and mostly vendors. If you weren’t in the market of buying comics it wasn’t much of a place for you. Today’s comic cons are jam packed full of anime theaters, tons of guests, costume contests and panel workshops.

I’ll be on site at the Washington State Convention Center for the Emerald City Comic-con with my trusty camera and update on the event at the end of Saturday. Tickets are $30 for the whole weekend and $20 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday.

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 :)

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