Happy (Belated) 55th Birthday to Dick’s Drive-In

A major birthday happened last week for locals that many may have missed or didn’t realize. It was the 55th birthday of Seattle’s venerable Dick’s Drive-In. To quote the great Sir Mix-a-Lot, ”Dick’s is the place where the cool hang out‘. Indeed it is Mix, indeed it is.

If you’ve lived or visited Seattle for any amount of time (eight hours or 80 years) you are probably familiar with Dick’s. It is part of the local fabric. It ties neighborhoods, it is a social hub, it starts an outing, it ends an evening, it provides comfort, and it is something that is uniquely Seattle. Dick’s is our own and we all love it.

Many platitudes rang down across the blogosphere wishing Dick’s a happy 55th. Always a milestone to hit that elusive double-nickel, particularly when it’s in the service industry. But Dick’s is different, they’ve always held tight to their ideals, and this may have contributed to their longevity. Plus they’re about fresh ingredients. For instance, their beef gets trucked in everyday and they hand blend all of their shakes. They also have strict guidelines that many have strong opinions about; they do not allow substitutions and you have to pay for the condiments. And you’ll need cash; they don’t take cards or checks.

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Top Chef auditions in Seattle: Canlis

This is for you Top Chef fanatics in Seattle (or around the country); open auditions will be happening over the course of the next few weeks. Cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and a few more will be hosting auditions, check out if there is one near you.

In Seattle, the auditions will be taking place at the esteemed Canlis on Queen Anne. Overlooking Lake Union, Canlis is considered the preeminent special occasion restaurant in Seattle. It’s more or less part of Seattle royalty. They are one of the few places in Seattle that requires men to wear a sport coat. But with this refinement, you do feel like you’re part of something different from the norm. And in some cases that’s a good thing.

Given all the pomp and circumstance, it is odd that they are hosting an audition for a reality TV show. Maybe it has something to do with Canlis’ efforts to appeal to a younger crowd. I’m sure most of the Seattle viewers of Top Chef would never consider going to Canlis for dinner. So maybe getting these folks into the door is the objective.

Whatever the case may be, Canlis is the location for the auditions to the next season of Top Chef. So sharpen your knives, lock down your schtick and come with your best recipe next week to Canlis. Auditions will be on Wednesday 2/11/09, from 10am to 2pm. Best of luck!

I have to mention one last thing about Canlis because I knew nothing about this space until I read about it at All You Can Eat. Nancy mentioned briefly The Cache at Canlis and I was instantly intrigued. It is an ultra-private dining space in Canlis that is only meant for a group of 2-4 people. I did a bit of research and it’s now my mission to have a dinner there. The only hiccup is that I need at least $1K to splurge on dinner. The name makes sense – folks in Alaska use the term ‘cache’ to refer to a hidden place set up high to protect stuff from animals while camping, on hunts, or in general. Caches are usually elevated on stilts, just like Canlis is set up on the side of the cliff. Or, phonetically, cash sounds about right too.

UPDATE – The always delightful Nancy Leson of the Seattle Times has an insider’s look at yesterday’s audition. Check it out and then go support these local chefs.

Yan Yan vs. Pocky – Battle of the Ages

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Here is a matchup that will divide those that have a sweet tooth: Yan Yan vs. Pocky. That’s right – a test of wills between two Asian snacks that are similar, yet decidedly different. Some people say they like both, but as we know with food, there is always a choice to be made. Coke vs. Pepsi. Waffles vs. Pancakes. Thin crust vs. Thick crust. Now we have Yan Yan vs. Pocky.

Growing up, there were three treats that I was excited to get when we went to Uwajimaya; Shrimp Chips, Pocky, and Yan Yan. Even now, I still love all three. But because Pocky and Yan Yan are so similar, they are ripe for analysis. And there has to be a preference. You can’t think they are equals, there must be a choice to be made. Thus, each will go under the microscope.

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Eat at Mom’s

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One of the important things to consider about food is how it’s a part of culture. That it can be a part of tradition, history, and nostalgia. This is one of the things I love about food. Considering this, we must also remember those that we said farewell to. Those that left an impression which you’ll remember years down the road. It could have been the meal that you had with friends where you remember everything. Or it could be the dish that reaffirmed how food can be lyrical and sing to you. Or it could be a restaurant that for some reason, you’ll remember long after your last meal there. This is the case for a place in Seattle called Mom’s.

For many locals the pancakes at Mom’s were the best in Seattle. And they loved this place too. Sadly, Mom’s as we remember it, is gone. Mom’s closed down about two and a half years ago to make way for a MAC cosmetic store. Ugh. They closed for a number of reasons, but I think they didn’t fit in the image that University Village wanted for itself, so out went a place like Mom’s. It took U-Village a while to force out Denise Breen’s restaurant – a fun story I learned in my retailing classes at the University of Washington. The U-Village people kept harping on Denise to either sell or remodel, for the vibe of Mom’s is distinctively retro. But she still kept making great numbers and withstood the gloss that U-Village has come to fabricate so well. In fact, Mom’s was a part of U-Village for 20+ years before it closed. Not bad for someone that didn’t have classic restaurant experience.

So with a bit of folklore, Mom’s withstood all sorts of changes to University Village. Not many locals remember this, but in the early 90s, U-Village wasn’t exactly a place that Seattleites went to visit. Heck, I went to school there and I rarely went to visit. If you jumped in the wayback machine, the U-Village of 10 years ago is radically different than the one today. But even with those changes, people kept going back to Mom’s again and again. Many went to visit for the hand-dipped milkshakes or the turkey sandwiches. I was devoted to the pancakes.

Ahh, the pancakes. My most favorite pancake in the city. These weren’t little discs or big, dense frisbees; the pancakes at Mom’s were more like a more robust crepe. Close to food perfection, they were definitely on the thinner side, but they did have forgiving denseness. Because they were cooked on a seasoned griddle that needed a ton of oil, they had a texture unlike most other pancake places. There were also lots of small little bubbles throughout the pancakes, sort of like little receptacles for syrup. And the butter and hot griddle helped to create crispy edges all around. This was the best part about the pancakes; crispy and airy, they held up to the stampede of maple syrup and butter. The whole combination of the size, flavor, and texture was like breakfast nirvana. And it wasn’t just me. I had a friend who worked out of the country for a few years and one of the things he most looked forward to upon getting back were the pancakes at Mom’s. Imagine how crestfallen he was when he found out Mom’s had closed.

Thankfully the recipe is still out there. Denise Breen seemed to be an open and available restaurateur who didn’t mind sharing. I love that the tradition of Mom’s can be continued. Warning though, the recipe is super-idiosyncratic, so lot’s of steps are involved. I’m up to the challenge and maybe I’ll give it a spin this weekend.

Thinking of places that shaped our love for food is always wistful and nostalgic. It never hurts to look back, and I’m glad I was able to eat at Mom’s when I could.

100 Grand

 

This is my 100th post. Woohoo. A bit of a milestone if you will. I’ve been blogging for about 9 months now and we’ve touched on all sorts of stuff, but the focus of each post never really changed; each highlight fun information with food and wine. I hope you all learned something along the way.

For this my 1-large post, I think we’ll take the temperature of where we are and what we’ll be doing next. But we won’t get too far ahead of ourselves, this is a food and wine blog after all. Or should I say a food and drink blog? Hmm.

One of the things I noticed about blogging is the voracious appetite for information that people have. That is one area where I can improve; to continually update my blog and to have compelling content for you. So I’ve got a bunch of cool ideas in store for stuff. Building off the landmark Pho Week from October, I’ll be doing more stuff like that. I also want to delve into individual dishes, cuisines, or cooking styles that deserve the spotlight.

We’ll play around with more restaurants, bars and food shops. I’ve stated that I’m by no means a restaurant critic, but people always like reading perspectives. So I’ll continue sharing my experiences. But we can’t all afford to eat high-end. So I’ll also spend more time with dining deals and happy hours. Seattle (and the NW) has a lot of them, it’ll be fun to experiment.

There are food and wine events galore happening almost everyday. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share these with you. I hope I can see you at some of these events.

And I talked about being a drink blog. One of my personal goals this year was to delve into the world of whiskey. This will be a fun one to roll with. And we’ll talk about beer! I haven’t written about beer once yet, so that must change. One summer, a friend of mine and I had a goal to try a new beer every time we went out, and we went out often. I should keep that spirit with everything that I try.

Lastly, I hope to still be relevant to you. That you find the stuff on these pages interesting and informative. I love food. I really, really do. I hope I can share in this joy and make you pause and think for a second of what you do when you’re at the table. I’m always in awe of a great meal, it’s a transcendent experience and one I’ll keep reaching for again and again. See you around the table.