Rick Moonen’s Ode to the Ocean

When we went for our trip to Las Vegas this summer, we wanted to get away, but we also wanted to visit a particular restaurant; Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood. We wanted to go not just because it’s consistently recognized as being one of Las Vegas’ best restaurants, but also because of the principles and ideals it and its chef/owner Rick Moonen holds.

Last year I had the good fortune to attend one of Amazon.com’s Fishbowl events. Fishbowls are small gatherings where visiting authors chat about their books and do a signing. The Fishbowl I went to welcomed Rick Moonen to celebrate his book, Fish Without A Doubt. As a food nerd, I enjoyed the event because Chef Moonen talked about his history as a chef, the opportunities and challenges with writing a book, and also his personal responsibility to be mindful of the ocean and the catch that comes from it. Coming from what the Seafood Choices Alliance named in 2006 as the ‘Seafood Champion‘, his words hold much weight. He was engaging in that tough, yet amicable New York way. His enthusiasm for cooking and sharing what he knows was apparent. We chatted briefly about seafood and where he planned on dining while in Seattle. He said that Steelhead Diner was on the docket and I mentioned how I was a fan. Armed with his business card, he said to stay in touch. Cool.

Here are the three cool things about Rick Moonen and his RM Seafood:

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Las Vegas’ Lotus of Siam

This past summer, we took a quick trip to Las Vegas. Why would we want to go out to the desert with its 100 plus temps? Was it the gambling, the shops, being poolside? Nope, it was none of those; it was for the food! Las Vegas is deliberately building up its reputation as one of the world’s great restaurant cities. With big name chef firepower like Thomas Keller, Bobby Flay, Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, and many more – food fans have been flocking to Vegas in droves. But amongst these bright shining stars, one restaurant is standing amongst them but with much less celebrity. Their status is earned for the best of reasons; its food. The place is in a strip mall and it is awesome. I discovered something a lot of other people know; Lotus of Siam is a restaurant to visit, and visit again.

When I was planning on visiting Las Vegas, I wanted to keep the process rather organic. Mostly ask friends and visit restaurants suggested by word of mouth. With a place like Las Vegas, I knew that there would be a ton of outlets to tout restaurants. I didn’t want to get caught up in the noise, so I figured asking around would cut through the fat. Thank you Twitter. With one quick Tweet, I was on my way to Lotus of Siam. I received a bunch of messages to visit Lotus of Siam. I also asked other food friends whose insight I respected; their response was to go to Lotus of Siam. From executive chefs, to food writers, to Vegas aficionados, they all mentioned the place. And my friend, The GastroGnome, said that amongst all the restaurants in Vegas, go to Lotus of Siam. Okay then, Lotus of Siam it is.

Here are my three cool things about Lotus of Siam:

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Seattle’s Mobile Chowdown

Update – The next installment of the Mobile Chowdown is here! Click for more info.

This is an idea that has been floating around for sometime amongst some of our local streetfood vendors for some time. A ‘streetfood festival’. A one-stop shop of the local purveyors of mobile cuisine in Seattle. A Mobile Chowdown that will commence this Saturday, October 11!

This is all sorts of cool because the Mobile Chowdown will be the first time that all of Seattle’s streetfood vendors will be in one place together. And the place will be in the Interbay neighborhood off of 15th at 16th and West Bertona. Interesting location for an event like this; though, Mobile Chowdown’s Twitter feed stated that it was a good spot for the various trucks to park and share their goods. Plus, the Interbay area ties together Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Ballard.

Who will be at the Mobile Chowdown? Here’s the quick list linked to their Twitter handles:

  • Skillet – Purveyors of delicious burgers and bacon jam. I hope they are serving poutine. Notable for their Airstream trailers throughout town.
  • Parfait Ice Cream – Artisanal ice cream that is delicious. The Fresh Mint & Straciatella is a home run.
  • Maximus/Minimus – Pulled pork sandwiches in either a spicy (Maximus) or sweet (Minimus) sauce. They also serve up tasty veggie chips. And their truck is a sight to behold.
  • Marination Mobile – Often found on Capitol Hill, the Marination Mobile serves up Hawaiian and Korean streetfood.
  • Gert’s BBQ – Southern soul food (amongst their many catering items). Be sure to grab some of their ribs.
  • El Camion – A taco truck, they’ll be serving up Mexican cuisine goodness.
  • Dante’s Inferno Dogs – Announced yesterday, Dante’s will provide their hot dogs.

Karen Robinson of Seattle Magazine wrote up some good stuff about the Mobile Chowdown and even touched on the trivia contest that they’ve been having about the event. So be sure to follow the status of Mobile Chowdown on their Twitter and their Facebook event page, this should be a fun event! Be sure to bring cash and an empty stomach. See you in the parking lot this Saturday from 11am to 3pm for the Mobile Chowdown.

The buried treasure at Big John’s PFI

Big John's PFI

After a recent dim sum outing with my Mom, we went for a short drive on the Dearborn side of the ID. With a quick throwaway comment, she said, ‘there is a really great cheese shop right around the corner from here.’ What? Seeing as how I never heard about this, I was a bit surprised by her comment and had to check it out. Besides, we were in a weird part of SoDo that’s very industrial. How could there be a gourmet food store here? Low and behold there it was, Big John’s PFI.

Off of 6th and Airport Way lies Big John’s PFI. In an unassuming brick building; you wouldn’t see this treasured gem but for it’s red, white, and green awning. To say this place is hidden would be an understatement. Intrigued and curious about how my mother knew about this place and I didn’t, we looked forward to what Big John’s PFI had in store for us.

We were blown away. As soon as you walk in you’ll notice a massive cheese case to your right. About 30 feet of goat, sheep, and cow’s milk bliss of cheese and all different types. Looking left you’ll see big five-gallon jugs of bulk goods. And this isn’t just crappy trail mix in bulk like other grocery stores. Big John’s has the good stuff; emmer, roasted fava beans, dried spices, a load of different types of rice, oats, and bunch more. At dirt cheap prices. I was in food retail heaven and I wasn’t even 10 ft. into the store. I couldn’t control my excitement.

The decor of the place is kind of an antithesis to Whole Foods gloss; concrete floors, fluorescent lights, and haphazardly arranged aisles. But the whole of the place is charming. The staff is super helpful and available, and the selection of foodstuff throughout the shop is off the charts excellent. This is where Big John’s PFI really shines; their products are diverse, which gets your culinary curiosity going. A lot of the products are super hard to find elsewhere. Much of their line leans heavily on Mediterranean products. With an entire aisle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, what’s not to love? Their wall of pasta has a great assortment of shapes and at great prices. And there is an aisle of just jam! If anything, go to Big John’s PFI for the bulk foods, but definitely stay to look at the random grocery items.

I’m so thankful that my Mom introduced me to this culinary treat in Seattle. I would have never known about Big John’s PFI otherwise. It is a family-owned shop that is hidden and without advertisment, but they’ve been around for almost 40 years. Surely, places like this have helped to shape the food scene of Seattle and I’m anxiously awaiting my return visit.