An Obsession with Fish Tacos

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 3, 2008 : 2:32 am
Some home made fish tacos

Some home made fish tacos

I’ve had an interesting path in life that led to my eventual love affair with fish tacos. It started in the town of Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. Back then, there weren’t a huge amount of Mexican restaurants, short of chains like Azteca, Chevy’s, Mazatlan and the various fast food establishments. When a Taco del Mar opened up around high school, I dropped by and was intrigued by the fish tacos being advertised.

A friend who was with me scoffed (and happened to be part Hispanic), claiming that fish tacos were a Western invention and not “authentic” Mexican food. Of course, I know that’s complete bunk now, but being an impressionable 16 year old at the time, I believed him and opted for a chicken burrito instead. It would be years later on a plane ride to LA, that I had a pleasant conversation with an elderly gentleman on his way to Mexico, who happened to be a historian of sorts. He explained the rich seafood tradition of the country and also that I absolutely had to try some the local seafood should I find myself there – but especially in Ensenada, the home of the fish taco. So, I did.

While stopped in a port city on a cruise, I walked straight past all the drunk college kids at the Hard Rock and went straight into the inner parts of the city with my two years of fragmented high school Spanish and sense of adventure. After a moderate walk, I found what seemed like a restaurant popular with the locals, found the “tacos de pescado” on the menu and have been hooked ever since.

I’ve heard claims from some uppity California folk that Seattle has no good fish tacos. Oh please. I would easily eat at Ooba’s, Cactus or Agua Verde any day, though I might avoid certain others – at least for the fish tacos.

Pico de gallo ingredients - onion, cilantro, tomato

Basic pico de gallo ingredients - onion, cilantro, tomato

It would seem to me that fish tacos depend on three absolute things to work well: the sauce, the pico de gallo and the battered fish. I almost don’t want to include the pico because that is near impossible to mess up, though it has been done before. This really leaves the fish – which is really just a beer battered white fish – and the sauce, where in my opinion, the magic happens.

I wanted to experiment for myself on what exactly goes into the sauce for fish tacos, and found via Google that common ingredients are: sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt, lime and chipotle. As with all recipes, the formulas vary, but these had the most mention. So, I ran off to the store and grabbed a few ingredients and tried my own concoctions.

Sauce #1: Organic limes, Nancy’s sour cream, organic mayo
This was my baseline sauce. While it wasn’t bad, I felt it was a bit simple in terms of flavor. The problem I found is that the sour cream and mayo make for a chunky sauce, so it took a high ratio of lime juice in order to make it a spoonable sauce rather than globs of stuff. As such, it was pretty heavy on the lime side – which as a lime and citric fruits lover – says a bit. If you use lime in your pico, then this might be just a bit too tart for taste.

Sauce #2: Organic limes, Nancy’s sour cream, lemon-pepper mayo, Rachel’s Kiwi Passion fruit Lime yogurt
I like Rachel’s yogurt, which I saw once at Whole Foods and buy on occasion. My thinking was that it would work great for sauce because the yogurt is naturally a bit more runny than normal. The end result worked well; much more balanced and with less lime use and about equal parts of cream, mayo and yogurt. This is a good mix of tart, sweet and still a smoothness that I think compliments the fish and other ingredients well.

Sauce #3: Organic limes, Nancy’s sour cream, Greek God’s honey yogurt, chipotle peppers
If you haven’t had Greek God’s brand yogurt, here’s a warning: it is rich. If you have any concerns about your health at all, don’t even come near this stuff. If you closed your eyes, you might think you were eating a soft and lighter version of cream cheese. But man is it good! This ended up tasting as a complete contrast to sauce #2, as the flavor was much more in your face, with a distinct, velvety kick that had big American taste all over it. It made me feel like the fish and other ingredients were a delivery vehicle for the sauce.

I liked #2 the best, for an overall package, but Steve was floored by #3, which he thought was easily good enough to serve in a restaurant. So, while sauce is obviously subjective as well, I’m going to keep tinkering around to try and find the “best” fish taco sauce around. If you have any fish taco recipes of your own however, I would loooove to hear them!

(In case anyone wonders: I used pico, green and red cabbage, shredded carrots and Pumpkin spiced beer battered cod as other ingredients. And since you’re going to ask, the Pumpkin spiced beer was not some culinary experiment, but just what happened to be what was left in the ‘fridge.)

Sushi and Beer Articles Posted

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 3, 2008 : 10:26 pm

For our blog readers and RSS guys, I wanted to make a quick post to let you know that we have two recent articles posted on the website. The first is titled 7 Quick Tips to Become a Sushi Snob and the second is an interview with Laughing Buddha beer, a local asian inspired microbrew.

The beer article was inspired from our summer trip to the beer festival at St. Edwards State Park, across from Bastyr University in Juanita. We were lucky enough to grab a few quick tastes before their line stretched nearly 50 people long past the other local brewers. They had some flavors that complimented well for a hot sunny day, with mango and ginger flavors. There were a lot of fruit styled beers that day, such as blueberry and peach, but I actually found the taste rather off-putting. There was an Aprihops beer from Dogfish Head that I was smiling over as well.

More interesting, the sushi write-up was more of an ad-hoc diversion, due in part to a review that I read of Mashiko’s on Citysearch. The gist was that Mashiko’s was given a one-star review from a reviewer who complained that the sushi was worse than Sushiland, the spicy tuna rolls were lacking and that the service was slow. Reading over the review, it occurred to me that lots of self-proclaimed sushi snobs aren’t exactly well versed on their, well, snobbery. So, I felt I had to address something and write a better guide on how to act like the know-it all sushi snob instead. Of course, the previous statement is a bit tongue in cheek, but there are good points in the article that any sushi lover can benefit from – so check it out.

On tour at the Red Hook brewery

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ August 12, 2008 : 1:20 pm

Bryan taking his first few sips of Blonde Ale

You a fan of ESB? How about IPA Long Hammer? If beer is your forte, you should definitely head on out to Woodinville to check out the Red Hook Brewery. Like two beer-crazed enthusiasts, Bryan and I headed down here to go on a tour of the plant and “sample” a few beers for the mere cost of one measly dollar.

When I heard that Red Hook was in Woodinville, I thought it was a bit odd as most of the places in that area specialize in wine. But, if you’re a bit worn out from too much wine, (Fellas, do I hear a yes?) this place is a great change of pace.

As we made our way to the parking lot, you’ll be put in awe by the size of the place, as it looks more like a large home rather than a plant that brews beer. The large skybridge caught my eye as I figured they use that to ship the beer over from the plant to the shipping area.

As I passed by some people on my way to the door, I could smell that distinct smell of beer. Once we got through the door, we formed up in a large line with several other people, as Red Hook runs a tour every hour until 5pm. Crunched up against people, we finally heard six wonderful words that got our tour under way.

“Who’s ready to drink some beer!”

Of course, the crowd responded with a fervent “Hell yeah!” and up the staircases we went. I thought the tour would be something more on par with a scene from the campy 80’s movie,Midnight Madness sans the absurd frat guys, Scott Baio and a really young Michael J. Fox. I hoped to get an awesome look at how they brew their special beers such as ESB and Blackhook, but unfortunately we ended up funneled into a room that had an 80’s style ceiling where we would spend most of our time in.

As we all dropped a dollar into the bucket by the bar, we were all issued a small glass cup that also was a take home souvenir. It held about 2-3oz and would be our designated taster cup. Each of the five beers, Blonde Ale, ESB, Late Harvest, IPA Long Hammer, and Blackhook, were all available to try. The tour guide slowly takes us from one beer to the next with a little bit of history and lot of jokes added in, to educate us more about each specific beer.

The Blonde Ale is a light beer, a mix between an ale and a lager. The ESB (Extra Special Bitters) is their signature beer, first served in 1987. Unique in look and taste, the ESB is mix of bitter hops and caramel malting. The IPA (India Pale Ale) Long Hammer is a very hoppy beer that is an acquired taste. The Late Harvest is their newest beer to hit the market and we were some of the first people to test it out on the tour. The Blackhook is a dark porter that has a chocolaty aroma, coffee like taste, and very smooth finish.

A shot of the brewing tanks where the first steps in making beer take place

The plant has several large tanks that brew hundres of gallons of beer every 4 hours and are then transferred to the fermentation tanks. Each tank is extremely huge and they said that if you were to drink 3 bottles of beer a day, it would take you roughly 33 years to finish just one of those tanks.

The endless line of fermentation tanks

As a tip of advice, be sure to visit the brewery on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, as those are the days the bottling center are open and running. Since we came on a Saturday, that part of the plant was not active and the doors were locked so we couldn’t even take a peak inside. The closest thing we had was a diagram layout of the room and a quick explanation of the whole process.

While it may not have been the most visual tour per se, it was quite informative. The guide does a fantastic job educating people about the history and story behind each and every beer. I would go a little more into it, but that would just spoil the tour for you. I was a little disappointed that we ended up staying mostly in the same room, but I still got about 10-12oz of beer for a dollar. Add on the fact I was drinking on an empty stomach I started to feel a little buzz by the end of the tour.

After the tour, we grabbed some seats at the restaurant on the first floor and ordered up some of the biggest nachos we’ve ever seen and a few more beers for good measure.

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 :)

Suburban Rear Liftgate Won’t Unlock – How To Fix

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ June 13, 2008 : 5:45 pm

Update: This post is incredibly popular and has over 240 comments from various owners all with the same issue. Most of the issues seem to be caused by a faulty actuator (link to supplier at bottom of post), but please go through the comments and see what everyone has done to fix their rear liftgate. Thanks to everyone that has contributed!

I apologize that car repairs for a Chevy Suburban are totally off-topic for the Chef Seattle blog, but I ran across this issue the day before going kayaking and saw that it’s apparently a major issue with Chevrolet owners (Tahoe, Yukon, etc) with no documented fixes. In fact, I’m pretty sure this needs to be a recall issue (are you listening GM?). But, I believe that I found a fix for my particular problem, so hopefully this can help any other Suburban owners out there who are / have experienced the same problems with their liftgates / rear doors not unlocking.

Replaced lift gate handle the culprit?

My Suburban was working just fine up until about 3 weeks ago when I noticed that my lift gate handle had broken. One of the hinge pins had snapped (cheap plastic does that) so I had to find a whole replacement handle on eBay for $70 (dealer wanted a ridiculous $150). It didn’t help that some dealers called it a rear door handle, trunk handle or lift gate handle depending on the model year.

After I got the part, installation was easy enough: pop the panel, unbolt existing handle, pry off and install new handle, reattach handle wire and that was it.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward six hours later. I’m now at REI in downtown Seattle, where I’ve just purchased a brand spanking new 12′ kayak. The store has closed and I’m now in the garage, walking up to the ‘burb, kayak in tow, when I point my key FOB at the car as I usually do and hit unlock. Lights flash, I hear the usual “thump” sound, yank the handle and nearly fall over on my ass. I try again and realize with dread that my lift gate is stuck. Down but not defeated, I try the button to open the rear window. No luck.

I spend the next 10 minutes alternating between randomly hitting the FOB’s lock and unlock buttons, until I give up in a garage-filling string of expletives as I realize my kayak and I are SOL. Luckily, I did have a friend and an incredibly helpful REI employee there, whom all pitched in and managed to jam the kayak into the Suburban through the side door. I love my Suburban for reasons like this, though I’m slowly starting to hate GMC. More on this to come.

Chevy Suburban 2005

Here’s the Suburban with kayak inside and the lift gate panel on the floor. If you have a Suburban / Tahoe / Yukon in the same situation where your lift gate won’t open, the only way to get it open is to pry the lift gate panel just enough to access the locking mechanism. Take a long flat head screwdriver, slip it into the top section of the panel and start pulling away. The panel is made of a flexible plastic that will bend a fair amount, so don’t be afraid to put a bit of elbow into it. Seriously, I thought I was going to break my panel, but it just flexed back fine.

Once you see the locking mechanism, you’ll want to grip the back side that moves and twist counter-clockwise until the door pops open. Once you’ve done this, call GM customer service and tell them that their engineers should be fired for not having a manual release. If there is an accident, wouldn’t you like it if you or the kids could escape out the back? Yeah, me too.

Tailgate panel for Suburban

If you’re lucky enough that you can open your door (or maybe it doesn’t lock to begin with), then it’s a little easier to pull off the panel. First, take a socket wrench (9mm, I think) and remove the bolt under the leather handle on the inside of the door (the one you pull down on when your lift gate is up). After that, insert a flat head into the space between the panel and the door and pry open. There will be around 4 or 5 contact points to disconnect.

Removing the tailgate panel

The two last things that stand in your way are plastic hinges that hold the panel to the door frame. With the lift gate open, push the panel toward the car, then spin it an entire half-circle around the hinge in the picture. After that, the panel should pull right out. Now the locking mechanism should be nicely exposed.

Unlocking the tailgate

Here we see the lift gate handle at the bottom, which is connected by a tension wire to the locking mechanism. Pulling on the handle causes the wire at the top to retract toward the right, turning the locking mechanism counter-clockwise.

Why tailgate won't unlock

However, pulling the handle does nothing when the mechanism is in the locked position, because it doesn’t engage the other tension wire / tailgate release – it just simply moves by itself. When the mechanism is unlocked, pulling on the handle will engage the release mechanism and pop open the door… when the locking mechanism is working, that is.

Properly engaged door lock

Here is a properly unlocked door: notice that the black plastic piece (on top of the copper) is slid all the way to the right. You can see that if you rotate the lower copper piece, that it will force the black plastic piece to turn, thus engaging the door release.

Tailgate won't unlock

Here is why your Suburban tailgate won’t unlock. I’ve just pressed the unlock button on my key FOB and you can see that the black plastic piece has NOT slid over to the right. This means that the door is still LOCKED as far as the mechanism is concerned. No amount of yanking on the handle will open the lift gate at this point.

Stuck locking mechanism

Zooming in for a close-up, you can really see where the problem is. Gear heads will realize this is a major problem for all sorts of reasons. First, if your door lock actuator is banging against this metal part every time you unlock your door, it will wear out the part extremely fast and you’ve got yourself a busted door. Second, even if you replace your actuator, you’ll just bust it again if it keeps ramming this part. Most importantly, the question is how this is happening to begin with? My Suburban was working fine until I put in a factory replacement handle.

My opinion is that the factory GM replacement was defective and not built to spec, because the tensioner was now pulling a few millimeters more than it should have, which resulted in my lift gate not closing or unlocking. While millimeters might not mean anything to GM, it means a whole lot of difference to the Joe Schmoe who wants to have a car that works. It may also be due to a small and very important spring that resets the lock back into place.

Door lock actuator replacement

I’ve read a whole ton of reports about Suburban lift gates, along with Tahoes, Yukons and other GM cars failing and drivers stuck with unlockable doors. I believe this type of careless “few millimeters off isn’t important” BS is likely to blame. That’s why some people may have locks that work only half the time, or some work after their actuators are replaced, but fail soon afterward. My two-cent opinion – back to fixing cars.

Relieve handle tension on lock

So what we need to do, is make some space for that locking (technically, “unlock”) mechanism to engage fully. On my Suburban, this meant giving the metal tensioner just a little more slack – 2mm would be all I need.

Removing handle wire

First, I pushed the handle wire mechanism over to the right and then pulled out the metal ball and wire. After that, I pinched the blue wire cap and pushed it out of the metal holder.

Unlocked tailgate

You can now see that there is a lot of visible space between the locking mechanism and the metal. Pressing lock and unlock on my key FOB easily moved the unit back and forth successfully, so I knew it wasn’t a problem with the actuator. Now comes the disclaimer part.

Bending the wire holder

DISCLAIMER: Attempt this section at your own risk, you are responsible for your own actions!!! Not seeing a lot of options, I decided I would take a somewhat drastic approach and bend the wire holder closer to the locking mechanism with a pair of pliers. I only needed about 2mm, so I felt this was acceptable without busting the car too much. Needless to say, this is not a graceful fix nor one I really wanted to do, but there appeared to be little other options other than cutting your own tensioner line (adjusting the line would be the most logical method, but I pinching and pulling got me no results) or finding some concrete way of bracing the line closer to the locking mechanism. If you come up with an elegant solution, please let me know.

Fixed tailgate lock

Phew, finally – the fixed tailgate lock! You can see there is just enough room for the mechanism to engage and that the handle tension wire is snugly seated into its new home. I tested the lock about 100 times to be sure that everything was working as it should and I advise you do the same once you get to this point.

Now, simply put the panel back on the same way you took it off (don’t forget to screw the bolt back into the handle) and you’re done. Have a beer and go pat yourself on the back.

If this blog post has helped at all, I’d appreciate if you left a comment to share you experiences so others in the same situation can hear what you did. Thanks.

Note: Over 80% of the commenters have reported the fault with their actuator. If you go to the GM parts department, they can be ordered for $350 (plus $150 labor to install). However, this seller on eBay is currently providing replacement actuators for around $70-$80 plus shipping. They’ve sold many actuators to people that came across this post, so if you tell them you saw them on Chef Seattle, they’ll throw in a discount. Good luck with your fixes!

A season finale to remember

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 14, 2008 : 4:55 pm

It’s been the worst season in Sonics Basketball. Posting a 20-win 62-loss record, the 07-08 Sonics have a secured the second worst record in the NBA, just behind the Miami Heat. As a 5-year season ticket holder, I was expecting the worst as I headed to the “Key” with my Dad. Visions of a half empty Key Arena to cap off the murder of one of my most beloved franchises in Seattle, would have been perfect for good ol’ Clay Bennett.

But the fans of the Sonics didn’t look at it this way. They came out in force to show Bennett, the NBA, and dare I say the world, that 41 years of basketball in a city would not die, at least not on this night.

As my Dad and I arrived at our seats, I looked around the arena it was a pretty packed crowd with a reported 16,272 in attendance for the game. There was a roar through the crowd in the first quarter that was hard for my Dad to discern. Confused, he leaned into me and asked, “What are they saying?” I immediately knew what they were saying and after soaking in the raucous crowd, my smirk ridden face replied. “Bennett sucks!”

After watching the 1st quarter, I went down to grab some food. Bennett and staff didn’t want to make what could be the last hurrah of the Seattle Supersonics a comfortable one. More than half of the concession stands at the Key were closed, funneling all of the fans into enormous lines for the overpriced food and beer. Little mutterings of “Bennett’s a slime ball” and “Gregoire dropped the ball,” could be heard through out the line. I myself was stuck in these lines, spending about a quarter of the game waiting for some chicken quesadillas and a cup of Dos Equis.

When my patience slowly changed to irritation I had to find some way to pass the time in line. As I looked up on the TV mounted on the wall, I saw the home team trailing by a significant amount of points. It looked liked the Sonics season would go out with a whimper instead of sonic boom.

But then it happened, a quiet rumble that rapidly grew into a roar that had all of us in line trying to figure out what had just happened. Then I saw it, or more precisely I saw him.

Gary Payton, the Glove.

Like myself, other people stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the screen. Then the camera faded in and lo and behold Payton was at the game. “GP! GP!” could be heard through out the entire arena. The drunk guy standing next to me uttered, “Holy $***, GP is at the game!”

By the time I had made it back to my seat, and the rally began. Behind the rejuvenated play of Earl Watson, the Sonics attacked the Mavericks. By end of the rally, the home team had turned a 9 point deficit into a 9 point lead.

As the teams battled back and forth for the lead, I looked around a starting soaking what might be my last time at the Key. Grasping for my camera, I took a few snaps of the GO SONICS banner and the Western Conference, Pacific, and Northwest Division banners. I even took the time to run (not walk) to Sonics Legends Drive and snap a few keepsakes of the retired jerseys and newspaper clippings of the 1979 Championship run. As the fourth quarter came around I sat down for one of the finest memories in my history as a member of the Sonics nation.

At the 2 minute mark, the entire crowd of 16,000 fans all got up for what could be the last 2 minutes of Seattle NBA basketball. With everyone on their feet, the noise was incredibly deafening. Key Arena looked just like it did during the great playoff runs during the 90’s. Sonics in a tight game against a playoff caliber team with every possession being crucial to winning or losing.

Then it happened.

With a driving play, Kevin Durant hit a 15 ft. jumper from the near the top of the key. The crowd erupted into a cheer that was louder then anything I’ve ever heard at a Sonics game. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought the Sonics just won the NBA championship. With the game in hand, nobody thought it could get any better.

It did.

While the referees deliberated, the crowed roared with three simple words: Save. Our. Sonics. In those three brief minutes, all the pride and love of the Sonics came pouring into the arena. Kevin Durant walked down the court stirring up the crowd waving his arms up. For the first time, Durant let it be known that he doesn’t want the team to leave Seattle either.

With the cheering, the appearance of Gary Payton, and the win, the finale of the home season couldn’t have ended on a higher note. Whether it’s the last game of the Sonics in Seattle or not, fans made sure that the NBA knew 41 years of basketball would not go quietly into the night. Sorry Bennett, you can take our team, but not the history, nor our love for it.

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