Decision ’10: Dick’s Drive-In and Marination

We’re in the midst of another election period. Votes will be cast and like any election, there will be a hard-luck loser and a winner. However, what makes this ballot stuffing experience different is that we are dealing in the world of local food, not local politics. Some big decisions are ahead for two local favorites and your voice needs to be heard. Because if the breaks go the right way, Dick’s Drive-In and Marination will have a decidedly different future.

Photo from Trip Advisor

First up, is the big decision ahead for Dick’s Drive-In. We’ve touched on the cultural impact that Dick’s has in Seattle, and the latest development for the local burger fave is their first new drive-in restaurant in over 30 years. Two nights ago, news releases announced the big decision for Dick’s to expand. It breaks down like this; Dick’s is putting it to a vote for where they should open up their sixth location. But that’s where it’s nebulous, they are regions:

  • North – Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Edmonds, South Everett
  • South – West Seattle, South Seattle, Renton, Burien, SeaTac, Tukwila
  • Eastside – Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Bothell, Mercer Island, Issaquah, Sammamish

Well, dear reader, I’m casting my vote to the North end and here is why; I’m an unabashed Northender. I grew up there and understand the draw that a place like Dick’s will have. A suburb like Lynnwood would actually appreciate having an institution like Dick’s. This is a biased opinion, but I would love to see a Dick’s north of 175th. I’ll draw a line in the sand and say that I don’t think a place like Dick’s would go over on the Eastside. I’m generalizing here, but the Eastside has a polish and air about it that doesn’t lend itself to greasy hamburgers. Besides, would Dick’s really want to be a part of the bridge and tunnel crowd? I’d hope not. So do the right thing and vote North, or South, but really I just don’t want to see Dick’s on the Eastside… makes me shiver just thinking about it.

Photo from Herbivoracious

Next up, is the vote to be cast Marination‘s way. This is for a contest that the Food Network is having for next season’s The Great Food Truck Race. For the contest, the Food Network is putting up to a vote which food truck should win. Fans can vote through the website or by texting. And the winning truck gets $10K and the chance to get featured in the next season. Democracy is great and may the best truck win. Which is where Marination comes in. You see, the truck in first place right now is from Oklahoma City. I’m sure they are a very nice food truck, but they are from OKC. Which means they have the stink on them, again this is a biased opinion.

As a jaded Sonics fan, I cannot stomach having something (anything) from OKC beat out something from Seattle. So that is one of the reasons why we must vote for Marination. Another is that they serve really great food and have already been anointed by Good Morning America as one of the country’s best food trucks. One more reason why you should vote for Marination is that they are the only Seattle truck within striking distance of the top (they’re currently in 5th place). Many of our other great local trucks are up for vote, but I’m backing the horse that has a shot of winning.

Here’s how to help: one way is to go to the Food Network’s site and vote for Marination. You can vote for them up to 10 times daily. The other way to vote is by texting FT44 to 66789. You can do this 10 times a day. Go vote now! What’s also very cool is that Marination will donate $5K to breast cancer research if they win. Keep up to date with Marination by following their twitter page. They also have a YouTube channel to document their daily goings on.

There you have it. Two monumental voting endeavors that directly affect the Seattle area. So do the right thing and make your voice heard. Particularly if it’s for the North end for Dick’s and Marination for the Food Network.

Jollibee and Chowking coming to Seattle!

If Filipinos are led by their stomachs, then my belly and the rest of me will be finding its way to Southcenter often. Why? Because Jollibee and Chowking are opening up at the new mega-grocery store/eatery, Seafood City Supermarket, coming to the Westfield Southcenter in Tukwila later this summer.

The murmur that Seafood City would be coming along with Jollibee and Chowking (their Manila website) started on their Facebook page this past winter. As soon as I learned that this new grocery destination would have two of my Filipino fast food faves, I was already anticipating going to Tukwila for some Chickenjoy from Jollibee and Halo Halo from Chowking.

I know what you’re thinking; fast food? Wha? Yeah, it’s a little different from my normal food leanings, but for Filipinos local and from afar, this news is exciting. The Filipino population in the Seattle metropolitan area is large and hungry! We love to eat and having the opportunity to have some food that reminds many of home is always welcome.

In the case of Jollibee they’ll have the standards that have made them in the Philippines a quick eatery. Chickenjoy (a plate of fried chicken), Yumburger (their hamburger), Palabok (a Filipino noodle dish that is an amalgamation of flavors and textures), and a bunch of breakfast options. Yup, I’m looking forward to going and dragging my friends along with for the eating. It may remind you of McDonald’s, but would you see Ronald do this?

As for Chowking (which is actually a subsidiary of Jollibee), I am absolutely excited to have their Halo Halo a short drive away. I’ve shared my love for Halo Halo before, and when I eat at Chowking in the Philippines, it’s one of my favorite things to do while I’m there. It is fast food, but something about their combination is divine. Word off the street is that they have a special formula for their ice. This is the key to good Halo Halo. (ed. note – apparently they’ve already opened!)

Seafood City is opening up next week on July 22. Their Facebook page has been dropping all sorts of information and my friend Nancy Leson is planning on visiting Seafood City soon. The market will have all sorts of different eateries and a grocery store that purports to serve unique food, but I’ll most look forward to going to a couple of places that remind me of eating in Manila. (I’m crossing my fingers that their transition to Seattle is as good as what I have had in the islands.) And for this food loving Filipino, that’s a good thing. I think the thousands of other Filipino and Filipinas in the area would agree. See you in Seafood City in the near future.

UPDATE – Jollibee is opening Thursday September 16!

Seafood City Seattle
1368 Southcenter Mall, #100
Tukwila, WA 98188

Joule’s 3rd Annual Urban BBQ

Joule is at it again. Seif Chirchi and Rachel Yang have kicked off the 3rd edition of their Urban BBQ at their Wallingford restaurant. And eaters of Seattle can now rejoice because on every Sunday from 3-9pm, Joule will be opening their doors for some enticing dinners.

For the past few summers Joule has treated us to their Urban BBQ; a special Sunday dinner series with themed menus different from their usual fare. Last summer, Korean streetfood, JFC (Joule Fried Chicken), and Food on a Stick were a few of the dinners. We went to a bunch and are already looking forward to attending a more this summer.

After this past Sunday they’ve gotten rolling on the 2010 iteration of their Urban BBQ. This year, they are bouncing around across the globe for inspiration. Yesterday’s interpretation was of Seattle and from the looks of their Facebook page, the dishes sounded excellent. Take a look at the list below to see where they’ll be hitting the world next. I’m keen on the Rio de Janeiro, Havana, and Halong Bay days.

What I really like about Joule is that they continue to create new and unique dining experiences at their restaurant, which all showcase Rachel and Seif’s depth of talent in the kitchen. Joule is one of our favorite places to eat in Seattle and with fun and creative events like their Winter Supper series and this summer’s Urban BBQ we’ll continue to go back again and again for a uniquely delectable experience. See you around the table at Joule sometime this summer.

  • June 6 – Seattle, WA
  • June 13 – Austin, TX
  • June 20 – Oaxaca, Mexico
  • June 27 – Havana, Cuba
  • July 11 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • July 18 – Marrakech, Morocco
  • July 25 – Marseille, France
  • August 1 – Sicily, Italy
  • August 8 – Phuket, Thailand
  • August 15 – Halong Bay, Vietnam
  • August 22 – Busan, Korea

Frost Doughnuts in Mill Creek

Donuts are one of the foods that reach down to the very core of my food-loving self. If I were to classify the foods that got me to this level of food geekdom it would be fried chicken, dim sum, ice cream, chicken adobo, and donuts. Perfectly healthy. Perfectly awesome. Growing up, all of these framed my love of food.

In the case of donuts, the local grocery store did the trick; grab a couple of maple bars, maybe a bismark and I’d be rolling. And if I could hit that maple bar in the microwave? Hell yes. But as I’ve developed my palate and started thinking about what I eat, the grocery store donuts don’t really cut it anymore. Odd, off flavors, inconsistent, super sweet. Locally there were some OK donuts; Top Pot is pretty good – but the Surly Gourmand isn’t a fan. He did turn me on to a place in New York called the Doughnut Plant. Which has some of the best donuts (heck, best eats) I’ve ever had. But since I don’t live on NY’s Lower East Side, I needed to shift my attention and cravings to local offerings. And I’m happy to say that I think I’ve found a donut place that I’m happy to indulge in on a regular basis. Frost Doughnuts, welcome to my food decision-making process.

I heard a fair bit about Frost before visiting. They were talked about on Twitter often and were recently a hit at the Seattle Food & Wine Experience. What I like about them is that they opened up in the North End, particularly Mill Creek. I have a soft spot for places that open up in Snohomish County; good for the area and good for me when I go back home. But I reserved my excitement for Frost. I knew that donuts could be great, most are good, many are awful. Where would Frost fit?

Well, when I finally visited, I really enjoyed their donuts. Jonathan Kauffman (formerly of the Seattle Weekly) wrote a great post about the Frost experience and what he had. I did love their cruller; that thing is like a delicate drop of fried heaven. And they have a lot of clever and creative flavors. For bacon lovers, they have a bacon maple bar. Sweet, savory, bacon-y, what you’d expect with a bacon donut. On their menu, they mention a bunch of their flavors that are unique. When I visited in March, they had a few flavors that were St. Patrick’s Day inspired. One thing to consider, these donuts aren’t cheap. It’s a premium product, so be prepared to shell out a couple of bucks for some of these donuts.

A few other things to know about Frost; they donate their end of night donuts to a local food bank. Very noble and I would like to see more restaurants/eateries do this. The place has a lot of polish to it, so you can see that they have grand goals with branding and merchandise. And be prepared for a lot of brown & pink when you step inside. And if you do make the trek to Mill Creek for Frost’s donuts, be sure to check out their Twitter for the latest.

Another thing for donut lovers to keep an eye on; the unbelievably talented Lara Ferroni is working on a donut book. And yes, it’s just as awesome as you’d think it’d be. And lastly, another link for people to go nuts over donuts. My friend Tracy Schneider went crazy with donut posts lately. If you want to learn about the fried deliciousness of donuts, check out her Choice Morsel blog.

Frost Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

The evolution of Spring Hill

My first stab at writing a restaurant ‘review’ was about West Seattle’s Spring Hill. Looking back on that post, it wasn’t one of my stronger posts and it didn’t do too well at talking about Spring Hill. Since then my voice and style has changed, so I’m going to take another stab about the place. This is because, over the course of the last year, Spring Hill has evolved and become an unbelievable restaurant that should be propped up with the other greats in Seattle. In short, they have become one of the best restaurants in town.

And it’s not just Spring Hill’s food. Which is unique, delicious, and a reflection of chef Mark Fuller’s vision and talent. If you’ve been paying attention (or are an obsessive food nerd like me) you’ll notice all of the cool stuff they’ve been up to. Which is why their status has vaulted in my mind. From trying out new things with their menus, to hosting great events, and surrounding themselves with unbelievable talent, Spring Hill has elevated their game and should be recognized for being aggressive with their business.

Here are three cool things about Spring Hill:

John Howie’s lack of buzz

A thought has been bouncing around my head since a book signing at John Howie’s Sport Restaurant in lower Queen Anne; why is it that this chef, who has four very high-profile restaurants in the Seattle area, have absolutely no buzz?

I will admit, it’s been years since I’ve been to any of John Howie‘s restaurants, so I can’t fairly comment on the food or experience. But something must be working. He has four restaurants; SeaStar in Bellevue, SeaStar Seattle, Sport Restaurant in lower Queen Anne, and the recently opened John Howie Steak at the Bravern in Bellevue. And these aren’t little neighborhood bistros. These are massive 20,000 square foot dining palaces, so he obviously has a formula that works. But with the opening of John Howie Steak, I wouldn’t have been tipped off to it, if it weren’t for the TV commercials. Commercials for local restaurants! Weird, but effective; it has me talking.

For me though, Chef Howie’s newly opened place still didn’t resonate with anticipation. Maybe it has something to do with a big part of fooders being in Seattle while he carved his niche in Bellevue, but from my perch, he doesn’t resonate to the local food community in the way that Tom Douglas, Ethan Stowell, Matt Dillon, or Tamara Murphy all have. When those folks open new places, the information is absorbed and shared ad nauseum. They become a part of conversation.

But this is not the case with any of Chef Howie’s spots. I think, if anything, it cuts to the differences between Seattle and Bellevue. The food culture (and culture in general) is different between Seattle and the Eastside. The divide that Lake Washington creates, drives a stake in similarities between the two areas. In fact, most Seattleites often think that the Eastside is a whole other state. Maybe this has something to do with why I know nothing about John Howie or any of his places. If I lived in Bellevue, would I follow his restaurants like I do Tom Douglas? I don’t know.

But lots of people have said really good things about his restaurants, that they are indeed some of the finest on the Eastside, that they’ve won handfuls of awards; so maybe I should visit them again, sometime soon. However, that would require me to cross that bridge. Which for most Seattleites is often a trek not taken.

Edmonds’ Epulo Bistro

One of the challenges of heading to the north end of the Seattle area is the lack of good restaurants. I grew up in Lynnwood, and I’ve spent plenty of time in areas like Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Mountlake Terrace. In fact, I still meet old friends from high school for food and drinks in the area, but trying to choose a great restaurant to meet up is always the tough part. Though, this is no longer the case. For a new foray into the restaurant scene has arrived. That place is Epulo Bistro.

I first heard of Epulo from my friends over at Cook Local. They mentioned trying out Epulo a bit after they officially opened. I didn’t even know about the place, so it was exciting to hear of something new. In the days following, Nancy Leson wrote about Epulo and provided more context and backstory to the crew behind the restaurant. This piqued my intrigue. I knew I had to visit soon

Here are the three cool things about Epulo Bistro:

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Cool food book: Phaidon’s Coco

In the world of cooking, I’m always amazed at the ability of the chef. The culinary artists that can take ingredients, technique, and personal style to create something amazing and delicious. Their ability to elevate the food they work with is a big reason why I love food so much. We live in a chef culture where television networks create stars out of these folks; they become a part of pop culture, not just food culture. In some cases this is a good thing. Food fans will travel far and wide to experience their cooking. They’ll devour their food and their cookbooks. All of this I think is very cool. That is why I am completely taken with this food book; Coco. If you love food and chef culture, you will too.

The premise of the book is this; take 10 of the world’s true ‘masters’ in food, and have them pick 100 chefs that are emerging chefs worldwide. Coco: 10 World-Leading Maters choose 100 Contemporary Chefs comes to us from the folks at Phaidon. You may know them from their cookbooks like Silver Spoon, Pork & Sons, or 1080 Recipes, but their entire product line is excellent. I first discovered Coco on a recent trip to New York and stumbled upon Phaidon’s store in SoHo. This day happened to be their grand opening and much impulse shopping commenced. Coco was there and when I leafed through it, I instantly fell in love with the premise.

Here is a rundown of the 10 masters featured in the book:

  • Ferran Adria
  • Mario Batali
  • Shannon Bennett
  • Alain Ducasse
  • Fergus Henderson
  • Yoshihiro Murata
  • Gordon Ramsey
  • René Redzepi
  • Alice Waters
  • Jacky Yu

The format of Coco is to spend some time with each of the 100 selected chefs. There is a brief bio, some recipes, and one of the masters will espouse on their choice. What’s interesting is to find the theme that binds the choices of the masters. I love learning about food and the people that make it, so I enjoyed the write-ups. For instance, you could delve into what Mario Batali values; a sense of niches, an appreciation of history, and high standards.

What I like about Coco is that you can pick it up to leaf through a few pages at your leisure. It’s a weighty book that clocks in at over 400 pages (!), but flip through it, open it up randomly and read about a chef you’ve never heard of before. It also has the ability to be a good resource; traveling to the Bay Area? There are about five chefs doing their thing there. New Orleans? Always a great eating city and they have two representatives. Locally, Seattle is proudly represented by Kevin Davis and his Steelhead Diner. I’m a fan of the place and so is Chef Batali. You’ll find all sorts of interesting chefs and restaurants around the world, so when globetrotting strikes your palate will be ready.

One of the interesting tweaks about food lovers is that we acquire and accrue cookbooks voraciously. Chances are we never ‘read’ the entire thing. Most of the time they are used to impress our fellow food friends. But they always serve to inspire us. They give us ideas. Point us in a direction we may not have considered. And Coco is all of these things.

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:

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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