Seal Meat or Burger King?

Categories: news — Tags: , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 12, 2008 : 4:20 pm

I swear on my cookie jar that the title of this video is Whopper Virgins. Apparently, in their quest to prove the ultimate blind taste test, Burger King decided to visit third world countries and offer fresh made Whoppers and Big Macs to various tribes and cultures that had never eaten a burger, let alone American food. They visit an Inuit tribe in Iceland, a Hmong tribe and other third world countries as part of this pseudo-art documentary.

I think Seattle Tall Poppy put it best when they said “The shot of a custom-made Burger King grill…being airlifted by helicopter is priceless“.

Seriously, I’m all for introducing cultures to each other around the world, but do we really have to have Burger King touch the lives of native tribes for us?

:: slaps forehead ::

Pad Thai with Prawns – in Pictures

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 26, 2008 : 4:46 pm
Traditional pad thai with spring rolls

Traditional pad thai with spring rolls

I know, it’s close to Thanksgiving and I’m somehow putting up pictures of pad thai that I made last week of all things. Truth is, I have never actually cooked an entire turkey, partly due to the fact that I’ve never had the need to: it’s always been cooked by someone else at whatever party or event I’ve gone to. The major reason though, is that turkey is huge and I tend to pick and fork my way through rationed amounts of food – which is why I know pad thai and not giant birds. :)

So, here’s pictures and my pseudo ingredients for pad thai. While I’ve been making pad thai for quite some time, I’m constantly adjusting the recipe and have drawn much inspiration was drawn from various websites, especially Chez Pim. Ironically, I have two Thai cookbooks that have pad thai recipies, but both raised my eyebrows for a lack of tamarind (I call it the Thai secret spice) and a complete lack of proper stir fry instructions.

Not everyone is a big fan of fried tofu, but I (supposedly) hear it’s commonly used by the street vendors in Thailand. You can get the tofu at any Asian grocer, like Uwajimaya or even some places like Central Market. Whole Foods and PCC have tofu, but not the light and fried kind. Note: In my experience, tofu goes bad very fast (even with my Sub Zero), so plan on using it soon afterward.

Rice sticks soaking in water

Rice sticks soaking in water

First, soak thai noodles / rick sticks in water for about 45min or until limp but not soft. This alone might be one of the most important aspects of pad thai, as taking out the rice sticks too early leaves you with cardboard like noodles, while soaking too long makes for an incredibly difficult stir fry that clumps together like play dough. I use about a quarter of a packet, which serves 2 and is just the right amount for a wok to handle. If you are cooking for more, soak half the packet.

In the picture, I have the “pink” packet as I like to say, because the common distributor around Seattle seems to come in pink or blue. Blue is the slightly wider rice stick and pink is the smaller one. I normally use the “blue” noodles, but it’s more of a preference than anything. You can also buy the shopper friendly “Pad Thai Noodles” package that they sell at all the major grocers. It just costs about double what you would pay otherwise for the convenience.

Pad thai ingredients

Pad thai ingredients

Next are the ingredients, which include: fried tofu, green onions, sliced white onions, thai chilies, lime wedges, freshly shredded carrot, mined/diced garlic and bean sprouts (not pictured). I don’t measure ingredients, but I can say that about 1/3 cup of each is what you’re aiming for, short of the chilies, garlic and limes.

The trinity of thai sauces: fish oil, tamarind paste and sugar

The trinity of thai sauces: fish oil, tamarind paste and sugar

I call this the holy trinity of pad thai, as these are the most important elements of pad thai! You’ll often see substitutions, like white rice vinegar instead of tamarind or peanut oil instead of fish oil, but you’ll never quite accomplish true thai flavor if you go that route. Even worse, some recipies like Chez Pim points out, call for ketchup or as I’ve seen, peanut butter. Never, ever, do that! I admit in my earlier cooking years to trying one such heinous recipe when I was ravenously hungry, but quickly ruined any appetite after a taste of bastardized thai. Don’t even get that quick and easy “Pad Thai Mix” that rests in a nice little squeeze bottle container; it will just never compare.

The sauce is simply half cup each of cane sugar, fish oil and tamarind paste. If you use white, refined sugar, take it down to about 1/4 cup. Having experimented with the sugar amount, you can increase the ratio of sugar, which is what many Thai restaurants in Seattle do, but I think it makes pad thai far too sweet. That’s one reason why I use cane sugar instead.

You can find both fish oil and tamarind at Uwajimaya (I swear they are not an advertiser for us). The tamarind is often not labeled in English, so ask your friendly clerk if you can’t find it. Be sure to get the paste and not the root for purposes of this dish.

Mix well, then heat in small sauce pan on low heat. Keep it ready, because you’ll be using it soon.

Tofu and onion stir fry

Tofu and onion stir fry

I start with a few tablespoons of sesame or peanut oil on a high heat wok. I’ve done olive oil before, but you need to keep the wok on med-high so you don’t burn the oil, though that depends on your burner and what type of olive oil you’re using.

Tofu tends to take awhile to warm up, so I like to toss that in first along with the onions. As with any stir fry, work the wok fast so the food doesn’t stick and burn. If you have chicken, you can toss that in after about a minute or so after the tofu. I used prawns, which are far more heat sensitive, so I added that farther into the dish after the tofu and onions were cooked. With such a hot wok, I don’t like to add garlic at first because it quickly caramelizes and turns into bits of burnt coal if you’re not furiously stir frying. Right before adding the noodles is often when I add garlic, as that’s when I also turn down the heat to med or med-high.

Adding sesame oil to shrimp and rick sticks

Adding sesame oil to shrimp and rick sticks

After about 2-3 minutes, I add my prawns, garlic and a bit more oil if necessary. Splash a few spoonfuls of sauce onto the mix and stir fry until shrimp is almost (but not quite) pink. At that point, turn down heat and add rice sticks.

Adding rice sticks and green onions

Adding rice sticks and green onions

When adding the rick sticks, I turn down the heat a little because I have an enormous problem with my noodles sticking together at highest heat on my burner. You may or may not encounter this problem, but if you find that you do, try turning down your heat. You can also add more oil or a splash of water to help aid things along as well.

At this time, I also add the green onion and about half the sauce and stir pretty vigorously, getting it mixed in. The trick of the game is that the longer the noodles stay in, the softer and mushier they get, so you want them in and out fairly fast while getting them cooked. Keep the heat high as possible and stir for about two minutes, then add the rest of the sauce.

Adding egg to wok

Adding egg to wok

This part is optional, but you can lift the noodles and crack an egg to one side of the wok and let the egg cook. When it’s fairly opaque, you can put the noodles back over it and then gently stir it around at first, then faster when the egg is cooked through.

Plated pad thai dish

Plated pad thai dish

Plate and garnish with shredded carrots, bean sprouts, red cabbage (not pictured), lime and if you really want to be authentic, a banana. I added some lumpia rolls that I um, er, undercooked, which I found out a few hours later (oops), but otherwise, a successfully made pad thai dish! :)

Oh yeah, since I won’t be posting tomorrow, Happy Turkey Day!

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.

Hoopless in Seattle

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ July 3, 2008 : 12:15 pm

It’s D-Day plus one. The city of Seattle settled their lawsuit with the Sonics ownership group only a few minutes from Judge Pechman’s decision on the case.

Right now, Clay Bennett is probably singing the lyrics to a famous John Denver song. “All my bags are packed. I’m ready to go.” Bennett stated in his press conference that the relocation will commence immediately with the Sonics players being the first to move to OK City. In the most appropriate fashion, thunder and lightning dominate the sky as if God himself is not pleased by the outcome of the Sonics leaving the city.

Mayor Nickels, Nick Licatta, and Frank Chopp are also singing, but it’s the lyrics to another song. “MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! MON-NEH!,” as the city got $45 million out of the deal with Bennett’s group. Another $30 million is expected to be received in 2013, if the state legislature approves $75 million in funding by next year and the city fails to bring in another team.

After hearing about this, I’ve only got one thing to say.

You have got to be f***ing kidding me.

During the opening statement of the city’s Paul Lawrence stated that the value of the Sonics in Seattle could not be quantified, there’s no price tag you could put on it.

Not according to Mayor Nickels. $45 million sounded pretty good to him. Now the city walks back with its tail between its legs and its wallet jammed packed with money.

In a press conference at 5pm yesterday, Mayor Nickels stated that he is confident that this is the best opportunity for keeping the NBA is Seattle. That’s just doesn’t make sense at all to me. To keep the NBA in Seattle, we have to let it leave. Now I know of that elegant old statement “If you truly love something, let it go, if it comes back it’s yours,” but that just doesn’t apply in this case. Don’t believe me, just give Kansas City a call. It’s been a long time since the Kings packed up their bags and headed up to Sac-town and they still don’t have an NBA team. New Orleans just recently got a team after the Jazz left in 1979. 1979!!

Only way a team is going to get here is if a team goes up for sale or the league creates another expansion team. Stern has already been stated on the record as saying that “the league is not looking towards expanding domestically.” So essentially, we need to have the blind faith of someone like Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams. “Build it and they will come.” That’s a lot of good faith for the tax payers, the politicians, and the fans. And as we’ve seen recently in the NBA, the word “good faith” does not go a long way around these parts or Oklahoma City.

The NBA and David Stern as a commissioner is a pathetic joke as well. Several months ago they said that a renovated arena could not work as a viable venue for an NBA franchise. No less than 5 minutes after the settlement is reached, the plans are perfectly fine for an NBA team. It just shows you that the league and commissioner don’t really care about the fans, the history and the emotional attachment. 41 years ago, a burgeoning basketball league asked the city to make an emotional investment. We did. Now that same league is abandoning us making our investment amount to nothing but pain and anguish.

The whole situation reminds me of a sunflower plant that was given to an acquaintance of my by his ex-girlfriend. After a long period of neglect, it turned extremely brown and just died. He tried to revive it, putting it out on the deck and watering it, but we all knew it was already too late. Much like the Sonics situation, the people who could have done the most to save the team, stepped in way too late to keep the team here. All of this could have been prevented if people like Howard Schultz, Governor Gregoire, and Mayor Nickels, had a little bit more patience and the vision to see what would happen. Now all the politicians are on the hot seat, especially Gregoire who’s up for re-election. With such a close win in her last campaign, there’s enough Sonics’ fans to make her chances doubtful. Awake a sleeping giant and it will crush you.

The only bright spot in this so-called victory for the city. (In my opinion, it’s more like a Pyrrhic victory) The city gets to retain all the memorabilia, name, records, and trophies from the Supersonics. Of course, OK City will have duplicates made that will be hanging in the Ford Center. Bennett referred to them as “assets we want to have.” And therein lies the problem, he’s a businessman who never cared one bit about the fans up here. He talks of a poisoned well, but he’s the person who tainted it in the first place.

We can get another team, but it’s never going to be the same. You can shatter a glass bottle, try to glue the pieces together, but it’ll never be the same bottle. The mayor talks of keeping hope alive for another NBA team, but in reality it’s really hopeless, or how the PI eloquently dubbed it “Hoopless.”

Join up for the Walk for Rice on June 21st!

Categories: charity,news,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ June 19, 2008 : 3:17 pm

The Asian Counseling and Referral Service in association with several corporate sponsors, will be hosting their annual Walk for Rice at Seward Park on June 21.

The Walk for Rice is a free 2.5 mile run/walk-a-thon to raise money for the ACRS Food Bank. Their goal for this year is to raise enough money to purchase 350,000 pounds of rice.

The event was first established in 1991 by members of the Asian/Pacific American community to draw more attention to the ACRS Food Bank. One of their biggest concerns is the lack of resources to purchase specific staple foods, such as rice, tofu and vegetables, that are not available from conventional food banks.

Currently, the ACRS supplies food and support to over 5,000 low income Asian/Pacific Americans. More than half of the clients of the ACRS are children under the age of 18 or elders over the age of 55. The ACRS Food Bank is the third most used food bank in King County and it is the only provider in the State of Washington that regularly distributes food that meets the daily requirements of Asian/Pacific Americans.

In addition to the Food Bank, the ACRS also tackles many other problems for the Asian/Pacific American community. It was formed as a grassroots organization amidst problems stemming from misdiagnosis and inappropriate care from hospitals and service providers due to a major culture barrier. The ACRS works as an intermediary, offering assistance in legal issues, health care, and naturalization.

Presently, the ACRS has a staff of about 140 people, most of whom are bilingual. The organization collectively speaks 30 different languages and dialects.

Every year, the Walk for Rice has slowly gained more traction as its doubled is previous fundraising goals every year since 2005. Aside from the 2.5 run/walk-a-thon, the event also provides several entertainment events and other competitive team activities. Free drinks and promotional items are available for everyone at the event.

The registration opens at 8am and the run/walk-a-thon begins around 10:30am.

To find more information about the walk for rice and the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, go to www.walkforrice.com or http://www.acrs.org.

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!

PCC Baking Class

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ April 16, 2008 : 2:27 pm

Baked pastries
(From left to right: Rustic berry tart, Poppy seed poundcake muffin, orange cranberry scone and snicker doodles)

“Ouch,” I mutter, as I look at my thumb after nicking it on the carrot grater. It looks a little pink, but there’s no drippage. That’s good, because I’m sure the rest of the PCC Sweets and Treats baking class isn’t going to appreciate me modifying our carrot cake recipe to include a few drops of blood. Then again, my recipe sheet is splattered silly with a murderous orange color from the carrots I’ve been grating, so perhaps no one would notice anyways.

I look closer just in case. Awesome, no blood, no foul.

I wasn’t able to snap a picture of the oh-so-delicious frosted carrot cupcakes, as my hands were covered in all sorts of flour, sugar, carrot bits and other random baking ingredients that dissuaded me from shoving my hands into my pockets. With all the bakeries left over, most everyone grabbed a to-go box of goodies to bring home, so that’s what you see in the picture above.

Baking has always been a weak point in my culinary arsenal (I can make cookies?), so I decided to attend a class at PCC Natural Markets down in Issaquah. The class was a solid 2.5 hours from 6:30 – 9pm and completely hands-on, so I figured it would be a great way to ramp up my baking skills. We were given a recipe list of about 10 various items and put into teams to create each one, so it also turned out to be a nice meet and greet of sorts with strangers with the same love for food.

One of the first things I learned with baking is that it is definitely a science, as opposed to an art. That’s not to say there’s no creativity, but there is certainly procedures, measurements and scientific principles that apply to baking quite firmly before the experimentation comes in. Unlike conventional cooking, when a baking recipe calls for two cups of an ingredient, it’s quite important to use two cups – otherwise bad things can start to happen. Especially if we’re talking about flour.

Leavening is the holy grail of baking, as the rise of the dough and mixture is the difference between a tough rock or a soft, fluffy piece of heaven in your mouth. Common leavening agents include yeast, yogurt, butter, baking powder, baking soda and the act of creaming. Using any one of these methods is almost always required in baking pastries or cakes, which likely explains some of the failed mishaps I may have had in the kitchen before. Case in point, I generally reduce the usage of butter in my dishes for a more healthy approach, but I realize now that butter actually helps the dough rise in addition to giving it that savory taste, so I have to put in a leavening substitute for the butter as well.

Another important thing I learned is that my big silver bowl and a whisk isn’t going to cut it if I want to do any serious baking. A professional mixer turned a stick of butter and cream cheese packet into an instant frosting after about a minute of beating; something that would be impossible by hand, short of 10 cans of Red Bull to the tune of Chariots of Fire. That means have to go run to Sears, Bed Bath and Beyond and some other stores later this weekend to pick one up, so hopefully it’s not too expensive.

If you ever shop at PCC and wonder about the classes, I can tell you they are definitely worth it. Our instructor, Krista, was great and the setup they have is very professional. There were two assistants that circle around helping with the class and helping with prep work. Three big LCD screens display the two cooktops and the center preparation table so you can see all the action while sitting in your seat. The best part is that the price of the class is a mere $30 (for our baking class at least), while you get the enjoy food, learn and also have fun at the same time. It’s a great deal, so I’ll certainly be going back for more classes in the future.

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.

Northwest Seafood @ Culinary Communion

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ April 10, 2008 : 2:05 pm

Zach of Culinary Communion

(Above: Zach, cooking instructor at Culinary Communion))

I had a great time last night attending a Northwest seafood cooking class at Culinary Communion located in Beacon Hill. It was a 3 hour adventure of chopping, boiling, juicing, cutting, mincing, washing, slicing and more importantly – tasting!

Our cooking class was led by Zach, new Culinary Communion instructor who just moved back from Vegas not too long ago after being sous chef at Guy Savoy (if I recall correctly) at Caesar’s Palace. His credentials also include being a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and chef at Cascadia in Belltown a few years ago. Zach is a great teacher and friendly guy, so he’s highly recommended if you ever decide to take a cooking course at Culinary Communion.

Salmon, oysters, crabs and clams

We started off the night with a huge table filled with fresh seafood that included whole Canadian king salmon, Manila clams, pacific halibut, Penn Cove mussels (plus two other varieties I forget) and live dungeness crab. Zach walked us through the varieties of sea life, methods of cooking and also great tips on places to buy seafood. He stated that for the regular consumer, Uwajimaya provides great, fresh seafood in addition to excellent prices. For whatever reason, I was never sure of the seafood at Uwajimaya, but I think I’ll give it a shot with Zach’s recommendation.

For those in the city, Zach also mentioned that while the Pike Place fish tossing troupes might seem like a tourist trap in terms of price gouging – they are more than willing to negotiate prices with locals if they think you know about the gig.

A couple of neat things that we learned about our various seafoods were that farm raised salmon will have white tongues as opposed to black tongues from wild salmon (go with wild salmon). For salmon (or any salt water fish), look for clear eyes as opposed to cloudy to gauge how long the fish has been dead. When preparing mollusks, press down on their lids and see if they retract and clamp back down. If they don’t, that means they’re dead and you should toss them out. An important tip- while you want to soak clams in water, do not soak mussels in water unless you want to kill them. Instead, cover mussels with a damp cloth towel and set aside until ready to use.

Salmon fillets

Among the dishes we cooked, the slow-roasted salmon was a big favorite. It featured a variety of simple ingredients such as butter, lemon, olive oil, herbs and wine, poured over slow cooked salmon fillets. Other dishes that we cooked included:red curry mussel stew, halibut seviche, New England clam chowder and biscuits, bucatini alla puttanesca (I am officially a new fan of bucatini), Peruvian ceviche and fresh Vietnamese spring rolls.

Bucatini alla puttanesca

I love the bucatini pasta because it’s a thick spaghetti like pasta that is hollow in the middle, providing more surface area for sauce delivery. If you’ve ever wondered why pasta is always shaped in odd, funny shapes, it’s all to provide extra surface area. The bucatini works great for this purpose and I can see lots of uses in the future for red and white sauce Italian cooking.

The amazing part is that most of these dishes were quite easy to make. With a dozen cooks of mixed skill, it was no trouble getting all the food prepped and cooked while coming out delicious. One of the teams forgot to add baking powder and soda to the biscuits, which caused them not to rise and turn out more like biscuitty chewables, but even then everyone had a good laugh and reached for seconds when it came around.

While I learned a whole lot from the class and Zach, the most important things I learned were:

- Uwajimaya is great for seafood.
- Use LOTS OF SALT when boiling seafood, pasta or blanching vegetables. Like, an entire cup of salt. This sounds scary, but in reality, it works great and won’t send your sodium intake through the roof.
- Ceviche is the easiest dish in the world.
- If your clan chowder is soupy, blend in a biscuit to add consistency.
- All fresh fish can be eaten raw; so don’t overcook that salmon.
- More butter the better, at least for biscuits.
- Shucking oysters is fun. Try it.

Lunch with MSG150

Categories: food,news,restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ April 1, 2008 : 2:53 pm

MSG150

Last week, Steve and I had the great opportunity to have lunch with the fun fellows over at MSG150 – Seattle International District Lunch Food. They’re a team of guerrilla food critics, scoping out and securing reviews in the International District one block at a time. Their goal is to eventually review every (yes, every) restaurant in the ID. Click to read the plan of attack for the International District.

We met with the MSG150 team last Wednesday at Sea Garden Restaurant. There, we met their entire crew: Geary, Adam, Emmett, Dave, Jeff, Erin, Rob, Joey and Doug. With nine full members coming out for a review, it made our normal coffee review team of three look paltry in comparison.

Luckily for us, we had arrived early enough at Sea Garden that the group was able to commandeer two large tables and join them together. Seating for eleven is not always easy. The servers at Sea Garden were quite hospitable to the group however and had two of them working the party for the duration of our lunch. It was a nice change to be treated quite attentively at a Chinese restaurant and Steve gave the service high ratings as a result.

It was interesting watching the MSG150 group at work, with Adam jotting down notes on a pre-made review sheet and writing down the name of dishes, prices, fortunes, table seatings, restaurant occupancy and even having a stopwatch for timing the food prep time. On their website, the team even posts links to the King County health code scores (0 being good, 100 being dangerous for your health) for each restaurant surveyed. They certainly don’t pull the punches, as Chinese restaurants, especially in the ID, are notorious for health code violations.

Going over the menu, the MSG team picked a large sampling of items from the lunch menu. Composed of individuals from a local startup, their goal with the MSG site is both an adventure and as a guide for workers in the area looking for lunch that is both tasty and a good value. Steve and I picked some dinner items, as per the normal Coffee.net style, so there was a good variety of dishes all around.

Over lunch, we bantered back and forth between the MSG guys who were all great hosts and obviously enjoying their food quest. Asking what motivated them to start, Geary simply replied that he thought it would be a cool thing to do and had no problem getting a following of co-workers to participate. When asked what they would do once their agenda was complete, they thought for a second and replied that they’d probably just go Eastward toward the East International District area, with all the Vietnamese shops and restaurants.

With almost 50 reviews on their site of restaurants in the ID, you’ve got to go and check out MSG150 for reviews, pictures and commentaries for lunch in the ID. Also, check out their own review for lunch at Sea Garden!

Thanks Geary, Adam and the rest of the MSG150 crew for inviting us to lunch and we look forward to meeting them again in the future sometime!

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