Food, blogging, and food bloggers – IFBC 2013

International Food Blogger Conference 2013 Seattle

In my eyes, in late summer/early fall 2013, there will be an inflection point in the world of food for this year. The Pacific Northwest will be the basecamp for this sea change. It also just happens to be on the same weekend. There is the delightful and decadent Feast PDX, presented by Bon Appetit; this will be the celebrity chef event driven down the I-5 South corridor to Portland. Here in Seattle will be IFBC 2013 (International Food Bloggers Conference), presented by Amazon.com. Hundreds of food bloggers will visit the Emerald City to network, eat, and converse about, well, food blogging. I’ll be attending IFBC this year and can’t wait to partake in all what the con has to offer.

Though I would love to attend both Feast PDX and IFBC; alas, my X-Man alias is not Jamie Madrox, so I won’t be attending the Portland event. My physical self will be at the W Hotel in Seattle; the home base for this year’s IFBC. This is the fifth year of IFBC and I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t attend the inaugural in 2009. That year was crazy. At that moment in time, Twitter was truly cresting among food bloggers in the Seattle area. That summer was a whirlwind of meeting fellow food lovers in person. There was a camraderie, openness, and inclusion amongst fellow like-minded food lovers that I hope will happen again. And I remember from my fellow food friends that IFBC was one of the moments where food became culture here in Seattle, fully fleshed out with faces attached to names.

While I can hope this wave of excitement will happen again for IFBC 2013, I’m instead thinking of the value that I hope to get at the conference. The agenda is great; a keynote from Dorie Greenspan, talks on relevant topics, and the opportunity to meet other great food writers is always exciting. To hear what drives other writers. What their angle is and what they focus on. What inspires them. What they hope to share from their writing. I’m looking forward to IFBC 2013 and the next steps of what results from it.

As we get closer to IFBC 2013, I’m going to zero in and blog about this event in further detail. This should be fun, stay tuned.

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If I were Danny Meyer, where would I open a Shake Shack in Seattle?

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First off, this is not to say that the rumor line is purporting that a Shake Shack is in the works for Seattle. Secondly, there isn’t a Shake Shack on the West Coast. Thirdly, this is all speculative and meant to be fun. Lastly, Shake Shack is awesome and would be welcome in Seattle. Where they may open is what we’re pondering.

I first learnt of Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack about four years ago. I was asking my friends for suggestions on places to eat in Manhattan. Amongst the usual suggestions one gets when going to the city (the Momofuku restaurants, Balthazar, Katz’s, etc) was this suggestion of a little burger joint in Madison Square Park. It was called Shake Shack and was one of the many restaurants from Danny Meyer. My knowledge of Danny Meyer (and his Union Square Restaurant Group) was nascent, but I had heard of him; that he was a restaurateur of the highest order, he wrote the book Setting the Table, and that was it. But Shake Shack was the place that I wanted to check. It was a burger stand in Madison Square Park. The lines were legendary. And their burgers and ‘concretes’ (milkshakes) were said to be delicious. We were staying nearby and knew we had to go.

Of course it was tasty. But it wasn’t just the quality of the food at Shake Shack that made it great; it was the experience. The park setting was idyllic. The lines were long but were part of the experience and was managed well by the Shake Shack staff. The staff itself was professional and courteous. It was that experience that I keep returning to. A lot of people that try Shake Shack often say that they don’t understand what the big deal is. Which is an opinion they’re entitled to, but taken with just the burger is missing the point. When Shake Shack opens up new locations, it’s part of a cultural zeitgeist and can revitalize and energize the area near where it opens. And that is why we’re going to list out places in Seattle that I think would make sense if Danny Meyer would open up a Shake Shack in Seattle.

Let’s talk about the criteria. The first Shake Shack opened up in a park. The recent openings have used existing storefronts. I’d like to take the park formula as there are a few Seattle parks that could use a shake-up. Also consider nearby food options, walking traffic, available parking, and area revitalization. Yeah, we could theorize that Ballard or Capitol Hill would make sense, but that’s too easy. And besides, this is all food nerd make-believe so we’re going the park route and what it would mean for the area. Continue reading

Porcine Party – Cochon 555 returns to Seattle

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Imagine a party. With a decadent and debaucherous vibe. A lively hum of conversation. All sorts of interesting people. Plenty of food and booze to revel with. And amongst the food, a focus on pork. And the people cooking are some of the best in the biz. The pigs they’re using to cook with are prized for unique fat and flavor. The booze has a local slant of buzzy wineries and distilleries that are so hot right now. Have that picture in your mind? Good. Because it’s real. And it is awesome. Cochon 555 makes its return to Seattle after a hiatus in 2012. The food lovers of Seattle couldn’t be happier.

We last touched on Cochon 555 in 2011. At that Cochon, the focus had the ‘555’ format; five chefs, five types of pork, and five wineries. I remember Ethan Stowell’s pork zeppole, Holly Smith’s maltagliatti, and John Sundstrom’s pork belly. And strips of bacon stuffed into Mason jars dotting every table as a snack. There were epic lines to each of the chef’s table. It was like Disneyland, but instead of waiting for Space Mountain, you waited for the swoon of pork fat. It was awesome and the Prince of Porc in 2011 was Chef John Sundstrom. And I couldn’t wait to the next Cochon 555.

Alas, it wasn’t to be as Cochon didn’t swing through Seattle in 2012. But the porky people at Cochon are returning to Seattle this weekend and they’re turning up the volume. They are referring to this year’s event as the 5th Anniversary Tour (pdf). This time there will be even more chefs featured; instead of the five of years past, there are no eight that’ll do their thing. They are:

A highlight of Cochon 555’s is to see what the chefs will do with their pigs. Be assured that each dish is unique from one another and taking it further; because of the various breeds of pigs, the flavor and texture will be different from one to the next. To get a gauge of the types of pork you’ll taste, check out what each chef is making and be mindful of the fat levels and richness from each one. Some pork will have a real milky fat, while others are very full and rich. God, I love pork.

Here is the breakdown of the event; it’s this Sunday, March 17th, with VIP starting at 4pm, and general admission at 5pm. The host for this pork gitdown is the Cedarbrook Lodge in South Seattle near Sea-Tac Airport. This page will give you all of the information you’ll need. And if pork isn’t your thing (impossible), there are a bunch of other things going on: butcher demo, bourbon tasting, mezcal tasting, a ton of wine, lots of beer, and so much more fun to celebrate with pork. In fact, if I was a playwright, I’d write a sequel to Die Fledermaus where pork is the source of all the fun.

Look forward to seeing you around the table, I’ll be the guy stuffing my face with crispy skin, pork fat, and trotters. Oh yeah.

Another Round at Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen

Another Round is a series of posts that take a look at the wine and drink lists of area restaurants. The series will consider the story that the restaurant will have in the curation of their beverage list. Ballard’s Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen is in the crosshairs this week.

When Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen, it opened up with much fanfare. From the guys that brought the Matador restaurants throughout the Northwest, they’ve opened up the sprawling Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen off of Shilshole Ave. in Ballard. Much of the local media has covered the restaurant and the food experience, but their wine and drink list has yet to receive much review.

With a name that includes the word ‘Whiskey’ in it, know that you’re in good hands with brown liquor. The drink list is broken down into ‘Libations‘ (wine, beer, house cocktails, etc) and ‘Whiskey + Spirits‘ (whiskey and spirits, natch); both lists are robust. As befits a restaurant whose food menu leans heavily towards barbecue and items imbued with smoke and comfort, the drinks are lined up to balance with those flavors. You want a beverage with a to match that heft. Expect power, strength, and richness with the wine list. And a lot of brown liquor. Here are some highlights:

  • Bottles of white wine range from $24-100; mostly domestic
  • Bottles of red wine range from $27-220
  • By the glass program – white wines $8-10; red wines $8-17
  • They have a house bottle called ‘Kickin’ Boot Syrah’ made by Darcie Kent Vineyards; a winery in California.
  • Cocktail list is whiskey-prevalent

The decor of Kickin’ Boot reminds me of Back to the Future Part 3; it’s a bit of the Old West, but with an element of frivolity. High ceilings, windows, aplenty, and TVs everywhere, one could find themselves amongst many a bro. Not that it’s a bad thing, Kickin’ Boot clearly has a formula and they’ll do quite well with it. Heck, the restaurateurs have a formula with Matador that is rolling like gangbusters. I’d imagine that Kickin’ Boot will be packin’ ’em in and servin’ ’em up like crazy.

 
Kickin' Boot Whiskey Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Another Round at Lecosho

Another Round is a series of posts that takes a look at the wine and drink lists of area restaurants. The series will consider the story that the restaurant will have in the curation of their beverage list. Though the sightglass this week is Seattle’s Lecosho.

Located on the Harbor Steps up from Seattle’s waterfront, Lecosho has been open since September of 2010. With a name that is Chinook for ‘pig’, one would think that it would be a porcine mecca. One would be wrong. While pork is featured, it’s not exactly the driving force. You could say the same for the wine list. It’s not featured on their website and the list itself feels small with only a few dozen bottles in total. Not small, but not large either. But their porchetta is the star of the show and the wine follows in line.

Here is what I gathered from the wine list:

  • White wines range in price from $39-90 a bottle. French and Washington wines dominate the list. Thoughout the list are unique varietals with a hallmark of acidity (always good to balance rich dishes).
  • Red wines are between $35-98 for a bottle. Wines from the Northwest and Italy are prevalent with acidity and fruit-forward flavor profiles as the name of the game.
  • The wine-by-the-glass program has less well known varietals and white wines are priced between $7-10, with reds between $8-13.
  • Sparkling wines are between $47 (for a a half bottle) to $112.

The drink list is also not on their website, but they do feature the Martinez; an under-rated cocktail that is purported to be the precursor the Martini. And it was an excellent cocktail; the balance of the gin with the sweet vermouth offers a beguiling tone.

What the wine list is telling me is that the wines are intended to have acidity and fruit to balance the perceived richness that the menu entails. The goal of any restaurant is to have a pairing between food and wine balance, and that is what Lecosho is trying to do. It’s not exactly an exciting list, but you go to Lecosho for the notion of pork, not for wine.
Lecosho on Urbanspoon

Wine tasting with Stephen Tanzer – 2012 edition

I’ve had the good fortune of attending the annual wine tasting with the wine reviewer, Stephen Tanzer (of International Wine Cellar and Winophilia). This is the fifth year running where David Hamilton organizes the event, curates the wine with Steve, and invites us wine nerds to a decadent and entertaining night of drinking the best that our region offers. Every year, I have an idea of what to expect, and every year, I come away with something unexpected. The 2012 edition was no different.

What was once a small intimate gathering of like-minded wine drinkers has now opened up to include winemakers and a few more guests. Thankfully, it’s as intimate as a whisper, but as fun as a party. The attendance of winemakers over the years has made for an interesting dynamic; on one hand, you get insight into the style of wine and how they arrive at their bottle destination. On the other hand, there can be some awkwardness when their wine is voted on by those in the room as the most and least favorite. Even in ultra-polite Seattle, sometimes a local winemaker gets some tough love. But what’s great about having the winemakers attend is that you can speak to them as fellow wine drinkers, chat about what excites them, and hear inside information you wouldn’t get from visiting their tasting rooms or reading about their wines. We were fortunate to sit with Sean Boyd of Woodinville Wine Cellars and had a blast while talking about wine, eating good food from the Tom Douglas Restaurant team at the Palace Ballroom, and soaking in the conversation in the room that typifies this annual event. Continue reading

How to make what I made at Will Bake for Food

Another great Will Bake for Food is in the books. With a donation total of over $2500 and a wagon full of donated goods, the two Jennys have created another fun community undertaking. From the army of food bloggers that showcased their wares to the throngs of giddy customers, we had a great time and enjoyed being involved with it. Thankfully, all of the festivities were to benefit the noble efforts of the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King Country. And here is how to make the baked goods I brought to the hoedown.

  • Frank’s Granola

I’ve already shared my recipe on how to make my version of granola, so please visit the post. The key takeaway; granola is easy to make and your imagination can create any combination that you like. Feel free to add nuts, dried fruit, candy, or anything else to your mix. The important part is knowing the ratios and not adding too much bulk that it won’t brown. And keep an eye on the granola after 60 minutes; this is the moment where it’ll start turning golden brown, feel free to stir to distribute the granola.

  • Brown Butter Nordy Bars

Growing up in Seattle, shopping at Nordstrom is a rite of passage. As a kid, the opportunity of having a Nordy Bar from the Nordstrom Cafe was a highlight of these trips. It was a perfectly dense, slightly rich, and delicious sweet treat. A hybrid between a blondie and a cookie, this was one of my favorite things about Nordstrom visits.

A recent twitter chat with some friends brought the Nordy Bar back into my mindshare. Naturally, it was to be made for Will Bake for Food. I did a bit of research and landed on this recipe that seemed close. Wanting to elevate it a bit, I thought of browning the butter to add that distinct nuttiness that brown butter gives.

The Brown Butter Nordy Bars were excellent. But they weren’t exactly a Nordy Bar as I remember it. I think I’ll spend some time researching the Nordy Bar and tweaking the recipe to see if I can create that perfect snack that I had growing up. And maybe start a grassroots campaign to have Nordstrom bring it back. Stay tuned.

  • Compost Cookies

These cookies have been written ad nauseum on the blogosphere and I wanted to include my take on these delicious cookies for Will Bake for Food. Made famous by New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar, the chief baker, Christina Tosi used the notion of clearing out your pantry of various sweets and savory snacks to use in a cookie. It is awesome.

I’ve had the benefit of having the original cookie at the Upper East Side Milk Bar and through their online ordering system. But the recipe for making them at home hasn’t been crystal clear. Before the recipe was released in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, plenty of bloggers offered their take on how to make it. Some were close, but weren’t quite there. Then, the Amateur Gourmet found the recipe on the Live! With Regis and Kelly website, which is oddly random in its own right. So the recipe was available for all. Still, they weren’t quite right; they were close, but they weren’t the perfect compost cookie. I made a few different batches after reading the comments in the Amateur Gourmet posts and noticed that others shared my issue; the cookies ran, the ratios were a bit off, etc.

Then the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook came out this fall. Bakers rejoiced. I was able to see Christina Tosi recently at Seattle’s Book Larder to talk about the book and her history at Milk Bar. One of the chief takeaways that I had was her use of glucose in baked goods. This bit of food science was something she picked up from kitchen experience and cooking school and something I’ve never considered in baking (she’s a pro for a reason, folks). Glucose is an invert sugar syrup that aids in keeping the cookie crisper longer and add body and texture. I wouldn’t have known this without hearing Chef Tosi talk about her baking techniques. I now think I’ll work glucose into more of my baking.

Without further ado, here is how to make the version of Compost Cookies that I made for Will Bake For Food:

Continue reading