Coffee.net is now Chef Seattle!

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 24, 2008 : 4:50 am

If you’re a fan/follower of Coffee.net, you’ll obviously noticed that we have now switched over to Chef Seattle! It has been a project we’ve been working on quite hard over the last month, but we’re finally ready to unveil the new look and feel today.

The reason for changing the name and domain over was due to a variety of reasons. The primary reason however, was that too many people were confused by our domain, Coffee.net, while our focus was on restaurant reviews. Many of the people we talked to in person thought we sold coffee or were in the coffee business.

So, we decided to fix the issue and do away with the whole “Coffee Cabal” thing, along with Coffee.net and are now simply Chef Seattle. We hope you enjoy the new site and apologize for any loose ends we miss here and there. There’s a bit of tweaking that is going on still and you’ll see some various design changes over the coming weeks. If you encounter any broken links or pages, we would be very grateful if you posted a comment or sent an email.

In the meantime, the direction of the site is going to be entirely focused on restaurants and food now. We plan on doing video interviews with local chefs, farmers, and just about anything related to food. The review pages are going to be revamped to be more efficient and look better. User reviews, a sore must-do in our sides, will be up in about 3-4 weeks. We know that’s been promised forever, but this is the real deal now. In the meantime, we do have a forum up that we encourage you to join! There will be prizes, coupons, gift certificates that we’ll be giving out through there as part of fun community events and competitions.

-Grant and Steve

Real Wasabi Paste – Not Horseradish and Green Food Coloring

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 7, 2008 : 7:30 pm

Following up on our recent sushi article, here’s a picture of some real wasabi paste, rather than the green dyed horseradish stuff that you get in sushi restaurants. These wasabi tubes were purchased from Pacific Farms, a company based in Florence Oregon that until recently, grew their own wasabi. The website is somewhat vague about where their obtain their wasabi now, but they were one of the few (if only) commercial growers of wasabi in the US.

From the picture, you can see the texture is more chunky with fibrous root material. The green is more of a pastel shade and less tennis ball green that you get in restaurants. The taste is immediately discernible, as there is a subtle, yet sweet flavor. The “kick’ that wasabi is known for is more powerful as well, though in a dull and prolonged manner versus the sharp, eye-watering kick of horse radish.

In reality though, real wasabi paste is more of a novelty if you aren’t making your own sushi, as you’ll be hard pressed to take your own tube of wasabi into a sushi restaurant without looking quite odd. In addition, real wasabi only keeps fresh for so long before spoiling, so you either need to use it quite quickly in the refrigerator or keep it in the freezer for storage.

Nonetheless, it was a fun lesson in learning what real wasabi tastes like. You might be able to get real wasabi in high end restaurants outside of Seattle, but we don’t know any Seattle restaurants that actually offer this, due to the price and extremely low demand.

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.

Veil is Closing

Categories: food,restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ October 31, 2008 : 12:43 pm

Wow. Veil is no more, at least according to this blog post at Eating Seattle, which was posted two weeks ago. It would seem that Veil and owner Shannon Galusha might be one of the first casualties in this slowing economy. From my talks with other restaurants in the area, the downturn has been close to 40% and even up to 70% drop in revenues, in an industry where single digit profit margins are the norm.

To me, Veil was always an enigma of sorts. It was as if an alien spaceship landed in the middle of Safeco field, bringing with it an odd assortment of delightful creatures. Some came to worship, others threw judgement. All had validity. Then like a sparkle of sun on a wet October morning, the aliens just as suddenly vanished — and presumably, went to a place more receptive. Say… lower Manhattan?

That’s really what Veil was; a New York dining experience in upper Seattle. Were we ready? Maybe not. Was it foolhardy? Perhaps. Risky? Yes. Dangerous, even? A resounding salted peanut butter ice cream yes.

Mince words I won’t, when I say that I thought the ambiance was two parts Ikea, one part illicit drugs and a healthy shake of pretense. But I’ll still miss Veil. Not because I frequented the restaurant, but because it was pushing Seattle. Between Veil at $30 per entree and three-course homogenized food slosh for $9.99, I’ll take Veil, thank you very much.

Not everyone agrees, even here at Coffee.net. Steve was thoroughly put off, due to his war-ration sized trout skin. But even Steve showed respect where due, with his food score of 9 – a rarity in Steve’s rating world.

The question now is who’s next on the block? Many new restaurants have opened in the last two years with the boom, so it’s scary to think who might be next.

I’ll leave you with this final picture of Veil, as a toast.

Eating our way to the University District

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ October 30, 2008 : 5:33 pm
A tasty looking burger from Orange King

A tasty looking burger from Orange King

It’s been pretty slow on the site these days, but we’re still alive and slowly making our rounds in “West” Seattle. And by West, I mean everything not on the Eastside.

There are going to be lots of changes coming to the site real soon. Our focus has been a little scattered, so we’re going to adjust our lens and focus on one thing – Seattle restaurants. We’re going to combine some of our topics together but also bring in more content about what we all love – food!

After lots of internal discussion with ourselves, consultants, restaurant owners and staff – we’ve finally come to a conclusion on how we’re going to do user reviews as well. Yelp and Citysearch already have the mass food review market taken over, so we’re going to have limited user reviews from a select handful of experts. How are we going to pick experts, you ask? Well, we’re in the process of making contacts with well known local foodies and trying to enlist their help for our project. In addition, we’re opening up a forum on the site so that everyone can contribute their thoughts, reviews and opinions as well. From that pool, the passionate and the proficient will be tapped as a guest reviewer.

We apologize for all the delays, but hope you’ll stick with us just a bit longer as the new look and feel all make their way in.

Your fellow foodies,
- Grant and Steve

How Not To Spend Friday

Categories: charity,news — Tags: , , , — Posted by: Grant @ September 5, 2008 : 10:17 am

Steve and I are off to get our King County Food Handler’s Permit today in order to do serve up a surprise coffee taste testing at tomorrow’s Harvest Fair being put on by Seattle Tilth. It’s running 10am to 5pm and located at Meridian Park, behind the Good Shepherd Center (4649 Sunnyside Ave N) in Wallingford.

In the meantime, I’ve been calling restaurants non-stop to try and build a flyer of restaurants that support organic, locally grown, sustainable and/or seasonal produce/proteins. I have to say once more that calling restaurants is not fun. Anything other than the words, “I’d like to make a reservation…” will immediately cause the wagons to circle about 50% of the time and shut you out. The other 30% of the time I am getting through, I get to play phone tag or leave voice mails.

The one interesting thing I have learned however, is that the head/Executive Chefs apparently do take near complete control of sourcing, as I am almost always told to talk to the chef to get my questions on sourcing answered. Not having worked in an actual restaurant, it’s nice to know that the chef does get the biggest say on what they get to use. That said, I have been mainly calling contemporary style restaurants thus far, given that the chances of Red Robin using organic lettuce or your local teriyaki joint using free range chicken is slim to none.

Anyhow, enough of a break. Back to work, work, work.

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 :)

Interviewed by Voice of America

Categories: coffee,news,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ August 4, 2008 : 1:10 pm

Voice of America Logo

Woo-hoo, Coffee.net is going to have our 15 minutes of international, federally funded fame!

Just this morning, Steve and I were over at the Redmond Town Center by two reporters from Voice of America. The show we were being interviewed for is a weekly half-hour show called “Cultural Odyssey”, which provides glimpses into American life and culture. On this particular show being filmed, the topic is Seattle’s coffee culture, so they decided to contact us as we had a pretty big web visibility.

I agreed to the interview because I am all for publicity for Coffee.net, but also because it was pretty cool to be asked by the VOA. There’s certainly dozens (hundreds, even) of people above us in the coffee pecking order in this city, so it was a surprise to say the least. In fact, Steve and I both took a few hours to brush up on our coffee just to be ready for the interview. I even took to memorizing the odd statistics like the total exports from Brazil and Vietnam from 2000 to 2007 via the ICO (International Coffee Organization) incase we were going to have talks about the coffee crisis, robusta or other industry issues.

In any case, I thought the interview went quite well and we had a good rapport with the VOA reporters. They asked us various questions: the rise of Starbucks, the specialty coffee market, Seattle coffee consumers, the history of coffee in Seattle, how to rate coffee and various items along that line. Steve, being the “coffee as a drink” expert, handled a lot of the culture and connoisseur type questions while I answered the “coffee as an industry” queries.

Having been in front of a camera before, I was pretty at ease blabbering away to our reporters’ questions. Steve was a bit nervous at times and caught himself looking straight at the camera a few times. The only major hiccup we encountered was that right as they setup the filming equipment, the Redmond Town Center manager swooped down impressively fast to tell us that this was private property and filming was not allowed unless paperwork was filled out. To his credit, after talking to the VOA guys, everything got worked out. Joe, one of the reports, said this was fairly routine and joked that they generally don’t have problems after mentioning they’re reporters from the government. I had a good laugh at that, as it could certainly be a tongue-in-cheek reference.

For those who don’t know, VOA is a federally run news organization that has been in operation since the start of WWII. They evolved over the years from the Office of War Information to being under the US Information Agency and now run by a Board of Broadcasting Governors. As a government run news source, you may not be familiar with them, because they tend to serve audiences outside of the US, as their mission is to represent America to the rest of the world. As such, they broadcast in 45 languages over the TV, radio and internet, with a worldwide audience of 134 million people according to their website.

We were told that we would get a DVD of the show when it aired, so we’ll definitely post it up on the blog or the main site when we get it. Supposedly, the team is doing a whole slew of shows on coffee and one of them is also about what is locally known as “Sexpresso”, so perhaps we’ll add in a few clips from that section as well, for your titillating pleasures (bad puns and all).

I-90 Closed for Blue Angels

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ July 31, 2008 : 4:13 pm

I had an appointment earlier today in Fremont to interview Seattle Tilth, one of the local charity groups that chefseattle.com is sponsoring when we suddenly hit a wall of traffic on 520 east of the 405. I grimaced as I realized that I-90 would be closed part of today due to the Blue Angels doing their runs.

Luckily, after the interview in Fremont (along with a tasty review of Paseo’s, a popular Caribbean restaurant), I managed to grab a quick video from my camera of a Blue Angel screaming over us on 520. The volume in the video (be warned) actually does the sound justice, but you can probably imagine (or already know) what it sounds like in person. The speed at which the plane darts off is impressive too, to say the least!

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