Eastlake’s Tako Truk

Tako board

If there is one thing that the Seattle food scene is lacking, it’s a variety of good streetfood sources. Take Skillet out of the equation and we’re left with gut trucks and hot dog stands. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s not enough. Look at Portland – they have an abundance of choices, and I’ve enjoyed what I had on a recent visit. That’s why this article by The Stranger’s Jonah Spangenthal-Lee is pretty cool. It’s great that folks are being proactive about the streetfood scene in Seattle. What’s even cooler is that a new streetfood spot has already opened up and is flying completely under the radar. Say hello to Tako Truk.

Early in May, my friend Bryan sent me a message to talk about a new food tip. A friend wanting to talk about food? Of course I’ll call him back! I’ve known Bryan for about 20 years now and it’s great to have a friend that you can really talk about food with. That’s why I was very curious to see what was in store.

He mentioned that he was opening a new taco stand with his friend Cormac in the spirit of a streetfood stand. The name? Tako Truk. But they wanted to do something different; interesting, creative, and delicious food. Stuff that the Seattle food scene isn’t really doing. Bryan and Cormac had a mutual love of streetfood; it could be in Mexico, Vietnam, New York, wherev – they just loved the vibe and feel of being in a city and indulging in some good food. So armed with this, they were ready to do their spin on things. Oh yeah, his friend Cormac Mahoney? He’s the same dude that also happened to be the former chef at Sitka & Spruce. Streetfood, good chef pedigree, and tacos? I’m down.

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Celebrating National Doughnut Day in Seattle

When I was in high school my diet pretty much consisted of milk, cookies, and donuts. How I was able to clock in at 165 for those years is still a scientific miracle. If you were to look back at foods that you could identify with at points of your life, my teenage years would include donuts, college = teriyaki, post-college = unbelievable amounts of beer. And pizza. The last few years? Still to be determined. Donuts brought me to where I am today and they are part of my food DNA. Which is why I’m excited to find out that next Friday is National Doughnut Day.

It took the good folks at Seattlest to bring to my attention that Tangletown’s own Mighty-O will be celebrating National Doughnut Day by giving out free mini donuts. (Doughnuts and donuts are the same thing; the shorter version is pretty much colloquial; both are fine. Stop being uptight, no one likes a grammar nerd.) Of course, this is cool and free food is the best kind.

I love donuts and it’s awesome that Seattle has two of the finest purveyors of donuts around; Mighty-O and Top Pot. What’s great is that each is very different.

Mighty-O exclusively plays in the cake donut world. Dense, yet still light, and satisfying. They also are very proud at being organic, vegan, and using natural ingredients. Noble indeed. If I had a favorite Mighty-O flavor it would be the Vanilla Cake Cinnamon Sugar. Simple, delicate, and awesome.

Top Pot is different because they play in the entire world of donut goodness. Cake, fried, they do all the good stuff. With several locations around town, you won’t have to search very far for your donut fix. I like a lot of their stuff. When I feel overly ambitious, I’ll go for the Boston Cream Pie; a calorie-laden treat consisting of a chocolate-topped, custard-filled yeast donut. Delicious. But my de facto favorite is their Apple Fritter. I first had it at a Starbucks (back when I still went to SBUX, I think my last visit was in ’04), and they offered to heat it up. A warm donut? Of course! Back to the high school connection, I would always microwave my maple bars before school. About 13 seconds to heat up and soften the maple and you have a warm doughy delight. But back to the Apple Fritter – heated up a touch, it’s gooey, pliable, and delicious. Plus, it has apple, so it’s healthy.

Enjoy National Doughnut Day! It always falls on the first Friday of June, so be sure to swing by your local doughnut/donut shop. In fact, get a dozen to bring them into the office. You’ll be the hero for the day and make the workday that much more enjoyable.

Seattle’s Farmers Markets

Another thing that I love about summer besides grilling, is the abundance of local neighborhood farmers markets that sprout throughout the city. Search here to find the market closest to you. In the past few weeks Capitol Hill and Wallingford have ushered theirs in, while Queen Anne and a few other start up in June. I love farmers markets for what they are; a chance to get great stuff from our local neighbors, support the community, and best of all, be outside!

What’s great about all the farmer’s markets around town is that each of Seattle’s distinct neighborhoods have their own. Live in Columbia City? You’re good. Phinney Ridge? Of course. Magnolia? Another reason to never leave your enclave. They roll throughout the summer and you’ll pretty much be able to go to a farmer’s market every day of the week at almost every hour of the day. Don’t believe you could get fresh local produce from a farmer at 11am on a Tuesday? Go to Pike Place Market.

I also love farmers markets because they truly enrich our area. Of course they are local businesses, but they also help support our local restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores. Farmers markets are pretty much the farm’s retail face. A great chance for them to showcase their goods to us, but they also supplement a large part of their income by providing produce, cheese, meats, etc to our local restaurants and food shops. The food scene around town is very insular and circular; everyone pretty much helps out everyone else, and I love it! That’s why I like going to these markets; I always feel that I’m part of something bigger, all for the quest of good food.

The funny thing about my favorite farmers markets is that my favorites are the three that are year round. The market’s in Ballard, West Seattle, and the University District are those that I most often frequent, and a big part is that they are the homebase or the places I can always turn to. I do look forward to visiting some of the seasonal markets, but I’ll always stand by the Big Three. Here are the reasons why I like them so:

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Summer grilling

Summer is so close I can taste it. The long nights, flip flops (but never with jeans), baseball in full swing, summer movies: all of these things fit the bill for summer. Grilling is part of the fabric of summer; parties are centered around the grill, the allure of the flame is like a magnet for guys, given the potential of what to do with it. Take everything that comes under the umbrella of the grill and you have something that I love. In fact, I’ll do it in the winter. However, I know that most won’t plan on grilling under layers of fleece or raincoats, so the summer is the season. This is my little intro on getting the best food experience over an open flame or smoldering charcoal.

First, let’s get something out of the way; a BBQing isn’t the same as grilling. Barbecue uses long periods of methodical cooking with indirect heat from smoke. Grilling uses high heat for shorter bursts of time. Think they are the same? Mention you’re having a BBQ in front of a pitmaster and see what they say. Okay, got that out of the way; let’s talk about the act of putting food to flame.

Things to do:

Gas or charcoal. – I prefer gas, because I love the convenience and speed of getting rolling. It’s super easy; ignite, wait, and in about 15 minutes your outdoor cooking adventure can start. Though charcoal burns hotter, I don’t like the wait of having the charcoal hot enough to start. More power to those that love the gamesmanship of charcoal grilling. Not for me.

Preheating – When using a grill, (and like most cooking) the idea is to get the cooking area properly heated. Most grill grates use cast iron and will need time to get warmed up. You also want to load the grates with heat to get those sear marks. In fact, using an aluminum tray to cover your cooking area will help.

Fun things to try on the grill – Here are foods that are awesome to give a try: watermelon, bananas, avocados, green onions, apples, peaches, pineapple, oranges, iceberg lettuce wedges, hard cheese,. The key with all is high heat and timing. Just put them on long enough to get grill marks.

Things not to do:

Pressing down on burgers – This drives me nuts. Everytime a burger gets pressed down, the juices in the meat get squeezed out and you’re left with a dry burger. Don’t press. It doesn’t look cool. It’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing. And don’t leave the burger on there so long that it overcooks and becomes a weird meat coaster. Not good.

Poke your food – This is the hardest to adhere to, because it’s natural to poke and prod. This won’t help the food cook faster. The saying goes, “set it and forget it.” If you really want to know when things are done get an internal thermometer. A thermometer also helps to avoiding over or undercooked food.

This should be a primer for your summer grilling adventures. Not really breaking any new ground, mostly just gentle nudges of how to be that grillmaster all of us want to be. And there are a ton of resources out there on how to work the grill! Websites, books, tv shows (video plays); you name it! Enjoy your time in front of grill! We’ll be sharing all sorts of stories this summer. See you around the picnic table.

Photo from MyColoringPages

Seattle Cheese Festival – May 16 and 17

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend and you love cheese, you’d be hard pressed to find something cooler or more fun than the Seattle Cheese Festival at Pike Place Market. I’d highly suggest going.

Seattle’s venerable Pike Place Market will be hosting the 5th Annual Seattle Cheese Festival this. It’s spread over Saturday May 16 and Sunday May 17 and it’ll be a blast. I’ve gone to a couple of events in the past and have always had a really good time. The organizers have outdone themselves by having some cool stuff going on besides sampling the over 200 local, regional, and international cheese producers. There will be a fresh mozzarella making demonstration put on by DeLaurenti. Awesome. There will also chef demos throughout the weekend. Rad. And be sure to donate a couple of bucks when you’re at the Cheese Concourse; it goes to a Cheese Scholarship!

The Seattle area is predicted to get some really nice weather over the weekend, so you should make your way down to Pike Place Market with an empty stomach, ready to indulge and binge on cheese. And be patient! Pike Place Market is already busy and this event will have people coming in droves. Which means the likelihood of seeing socks with sandals and Crocs are especially high. It’ll be crowded and you’ll stand in line for cheese, but it’s all in good fun. My suggestion; truly explore the depths and nuances of Pike Place Market. Spend half an hour at Golden Age Collectibles. Walk around visit a cheese booth every now and then. Check out the craft booths. Have some more cheese. Pretty much take it all in, exhale, have a good time and enjoy being in the culinary heartbeat of our fine city.

Photo courtesy of Omar Delacruz

Stamp Out Hunger this Saturday

UPDATE: Stamp Out Hunger is on for this Saturday, May 8, 2010! Visit their site for more info and to help out local food banks. Grab stuff from your cupboard and be sure to help those in need.

If you’re like me, you probably have a bunch of food in your cupboard that you have no intention of touching. It’s perfectly fine, you’ve just moved on and have gotten lazy with it. Well, there is something you can do with those canned foods or non-perishables. This Saturday is “Stamp Out Hunger“, and it’s national! So my friends in Anchorage, Tri-Cities, Portland, and all points east can participate. Please do so, this event helps local food banks with their efforts.

Stamp Out Hungers is put on by the National Association of Letter Carriers, and this Saturday, May 9th, will be its 15th year. It’s also the nation’s largest single day food drive and the donations go to local food banks. Cool way to lend a helping hand. In fact, last year 73 million pounds of food were donated. I’m sure we can easily break that.

Here’s how to participate: Put any non-perishables into a bag near your mailbox on Saturday. (Make sure that they haven’t expired and note that glass containers are not accepted.) That’s it! Your letter carrier will take care of the rest. But make sure that your post office is participating! If not, take that same bag to your local food bank, they’ll appreciate it too.

I’ll be doing my part too. I think I have some juice, cornmeal, beans, soup, and a few other things that someone will appreciate much more than me. Please help and do your part this weekend and help Stamp Out Hunger.

Urban Eats around Seattle

You may have (or have not) heard, but Urban Eats is going on around town. What is Urban Eats? A great chance at dining deals at area restaurants. It’s another prix fixe party, and in these tough economic times, a good deal is always something worth checking out.

Urban Eats is brought to us by Seattletimes.com and rolls through May 31, Sunday through Thursday with the exclusion of Mother’s Day. 49 restaurants are taking part (49!) and they spread throughout King County from Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah and all over Seattle. If you’ve wanted to explore some new restaurants now’s a good time. And they have a contest for $100 to one of the restaurants!

The deals break down like this; you get three courses for $30. It’ll cover an appetizer, entree, and dessert. There will usually be a vegetarian option too. The promotion doesn’t include drinks or tips, but 30 bucks at some of our finer restaurants is quite a deal. Plus, most of these restaurants are small local places that help enrich the community. Always support local businesses!

For places to go here are my picks. They are based on my past history of the restaurants, what I think they are capable of, and why I think they deserve a visit.

  • Brasa – I’m a big fan of Tamara Murphy and her flagship Brasa is a standard bearer of a restaurant in Belltown. She’s recently renovated the Elliott Bay Cafe, but Brasa is her baby. The vibe is Mediterranean and I really like the layout of the space. Sprawling, but not at all large. You will have a great time at Brasa. The menu for Urban Eats looks delicious.
  • Tidbit – On the north end of Broadway lies Tidbit, a restaurant inspired by the food of Italy and Spain. We went a bit ago and had a great time. Lovely service, delicious food, and a fun environment; this is the type of restaurant all neighborhoods wished they had around the corner. And they have a Twitter feed where they drop all sorts of great factoids. Here is their menu for Urban Eats; I want to try everything.
  • Tilikum Place Cafe – I’ve only visited for brunch, but I loved it. One word could describe the Tilikum Place Cafe; charming. The vibe of the place feels super comfortable and welcoming; I look forward to going back. At the corner of Fifth and Denny nearing Cedar, this restaurant is already one of the coolest in town. Hit ’em up at a budget while you can.

Those are my three recommended places. There are several others that I have yet to check out, and I think Urban Eats will be a good excuse to do so. They include: Enotria, Portage, and Taberna del Alabardero. And there are some old stand-bys not to be overlooked. If anything, go to the Ivar’s locations for the views alone; either the Waterfront’s Acres of Clams or Lake Union’s Salmon House.

As you can see you have a ton of options to get a good meal for 30 bucks. I’ll be hitting up these places. And as always; see you around the table.