It's Work

Chocolate Party, hosted by Seattle Metropolitan magazine & Verizon

I recently went to a dinner at a friend's house and unfortunately, it was only a cameo appearance. I was dashing off to two other events that unveiling of a new chef (meet & greet with samplings) and a winemaker dinner back at the restaurant.

As I turned to leave, I overheard someone say, "Wow. I was happy just getting invited to this potluck! It must be fun going to all those parties."

I didn't have the heart to tell's really not that exciting.

It's work.

Before I got into this business, I'd go to these events...and always have a great time. I didn't know Ethan Stowell from Tom Douglas. As long as the food was good, I didn't care who the chef was.

Back then, I also didn't know half the people in the room. I was free to mingle about and strike up conversation with anyone...on any subject. Now I make a point of watching what I say.

Gone are the days when I could drink a little too much free wine. Now I must maintain composure.

It's work.

I'm starting to understand what life is like for those attending the Academy Awards. Society pages feature those same people at a ton of glamourous parties throughout the year. Why do those celebs look so natural out on the red carpet? It's just another event. I get it now.

As much fun as these parties sound, when you attend 5 in 3 days...I have to say, they loose their appeal quickly.

In a working capacity, events are like speed dating. Everyone works the room, hoping to meet a ton of people and have brief---but meaningful conversations. Kiss, kiss, I'll e-mail you this week...and a vague...let's get together for coffee/lunch/cocktails/dinner. Yeah, I know the drill.

I'd like to say it's all fun and glam, but it's not.

It's work.

Volunteer Park Cafe

Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA

Volunteer Park Cafe is a great neighborhood spot. The minute I walked in the door, I was plotting my return! The sandwiches are amazing....and my friend summed it best, "I want to try everything on the menu!"

The decisions are tough...but oh so delicious!

I Have a Dream

For the past few years, I've had this nagging urge...

It bubbles to the surface every now and then and leaves me restless for days...or even weeks at a time. This reoccurring thought will not be quieted, forgotten about, or cast aside. I've decided to put momentum behind this dream...and carve out a plan.

I'm going to travel around the world.

Although I'm filled with nervous energy at the daunting challenge ahead of me, I know I must go forward. It's not the sensible thing to do. I should settle down, start a family, and think about saving for retirement. I know all that.

All logic aside....I'm going to indulge my inner voice.

It's funny. There's this saying, "You have to decide to decide." The moment I made the decision, things started to come into alignment. Although my departure is probably two years away and I still have to chart my course, all those niggly details on the home front are starting to fall into place. My friend Tamara has offered to be a steward for my furniture that's worthwhile. I know where my bulging cookbook collection will reside. The rest...suddenly went from treasured possessions to just stuff...and a burden I'll happily leave behind.

It sounds so grandiose to say, "I'm going around the world."

The truth of the matter is, at this point, I'm still trying to narrow the dream down to....Northern Hemisphere or Southern Hemisphere?

If you've got a favorite place....let's hear it! I'm taking any and all suggestions.

New Man in Town

Jonathan Kauffman's the new food writer over at Seattle Weekly..and I adore him! He skips the highbrow and the hot & trendy....and goes straight for the ethnic side of life. This is my kind of guy....

Jonathan's seductive reviews have sent me into areas of the city I never knew existed. Based on his recommendations, I've ventured new territory in search of damn fine Mexican food (Yes, it can be had in Seattle!), as well as Indonesian, Korean, and Taiwanese.

He's also managed to expose the city to salumi--beyond Mario's dad. When the lines get the best of you over at that other place, consult Jonathan's list. Da Pino and others are waiting for you with open arms!

I follow Jonathan's reviews like a crack addict lookin' for a fix.

This week it's Eritrean and Ethiopian:

"The scent of fresh ginger glimmers in the mild turmeric-tinted split peas and brings out the sweetness of carrots and cabbage. Okra is stewed with berbere until the pods' slimi-ness melts away, and the red lentils are imbued with even more of the ruddy spice mixture. Enough spice, in fact, to make you reach for your beer."

After a description like that, I bet you can guess where I'm going for lunch!

Even if you don't live in Seattle, if you've got an interest in foods from around the world, Jonathan is your man. His descriptions are so vivid and informative, they're worth a read....wherever you are.

Valentine's Day + Restaurant = Romance?

Here's a tip from me to you: NEVER eat out on Valentine's Day!


All hell breaks loose.

Whether you as a dining patron know it or not, there is chaos happening somewhere.

Most restaurants...even the ones that never fill to capacity, are busting at the seams on Valentine's Day. Greedy managers take every reservation...whether they can realistically accommodate them or not. Every staff member is required to work, but it's never enough.

Don't believe me?

Well, there's the Valentine's Day where my usual 5 table section became 14 tables.

Or the year they did a big ad campaign and we ran out of the featured "Steak Lover's" special...before 7:00.

With a restaurant filled to capacity, ticket times also take twice as long....or more. The kitchen crew starts to get creative about how to rush tickets. You really don't want to know what they do to your food.

Trust me.

If you're looking to treat your sweetie to a romantic night out...pick another night. Preferably not a weekend flanking Valentine's Day, either. The crews are tired...and worked to the point of exhaustion. That week especially...they really could care less about your food.


So having said all that, you still want to do something with your sweetie, right? I mean, this is a national holiday where you are expected to spread a little love....

But this year, Valentine's Day is on a week night and you really don't want to cook an elaborate meal.

Going out was the easy now what???

Make a braise.

Nothing says love like the flavors developed in a good braise.... And it's even better the next day! You could make this dish the day before and serve it on date night.

It's the perfect solution.

Here's a recipe I've been fooling around with...and it's fabulous! This dish benefits from the slow braise--creating a tender meat that falls apart in a symphony of deep, luscious flavors. Add it to a platform of creamy polenta or mashed potatoes and you are ready for l'amour!

Slow-Braised Pork with Black Grapes and Balsamic
adapted ever so slightly from

1 3 1/4-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed, cut into 3 equal pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 large shallots, halved, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
3 cups seedless black grapes (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 large fresh sage sprigs
6 large fresh thyme sprigs, divided
3 large fresh rosemary sprigs, divided
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add pork to pot and cook until browned on all sides, about 13 minutes total. Transfer pork to plate; discard fat in pot.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium heat. Add shallots and grapes; sauté until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add sugar; sauté 30 seconds. Add vinegar; bring mixture to boil and cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add broth, the sage, 3 thyme sprigs, 2 rosemary sprigs and and pork with juices from plate. Bring to boil.

Cover pot and transfer to oven. Braise pork 1 hour. Using tongs, turn pork over, add remaining thyme and rosemary sprigs. If using, add crushed red pepper flakes. Continue braising until meat is very tender, about 45 minutes longer.

Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to platter; tent with foil. Remove herb sprigs from pot and skim fat from surface of cooking liquid. Boil cooking liquid over high heat until thickened, about 7 minutes.

Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour over pork and serve.

Note: This dish reheats beautifully.

Rush Job

Photo shoot with my hero, Mark

I received a voicemail: "Hi, this is X from 'hip and happening magazine'. I'm working on our annual Best Restaurant issue."

I breathe a sigh of looks like Chef's won another award.

Next comes the ask. This call means they want something. By now I've learned....they never call to say "Congratulations."

"We'd love to run a photo for our upcoming issue. Do you have any new shots?"


I've been bugging the Chef for 6 months..."I need new photos. I can't keep sending these old food shots...they've seen them all."

I even went so far as to interview a slew of photographers this summer.

I KNEW this moment was coming. And now it's here.

I've got nothing.

I put a quick call in to the magazine...and leave a voicemail, "How soon do you need these shots?"
Any significant delay means they may fill the space without your photos. We'll have to move quickly.

I call the Chef. I call my photographer buddy. And clear my calendar.

We're shooting new photos in two days.

The glorious day arrives and I show up at the restaurant. My photographer buddy is all set up and chef is cooking the first dish.

This is going well.

No major mishaps along the way and we get, hopefully, some good shots. I have the ability to preview photos on site, but I won't know the real story until I blow them up on a computer.

We shoot photos for five hours.

At home, I slog through the abreviated list of photos....all 868.



Out of the mass, I have to pick a short list for editing.

I analyze every shot, looking to find the most perfect ones:

I like the lighting on this shot and the front focus on that one.
But chef prefers photos that don't blur out of focus towards the back.
I wonder if I can get him to accept this photo anyway....

On this batch, the trail of oh-so-stylish sauce has run. It's now
a blob at the bottom of the shot I like best. Good thing I had the sous
re-plate that dish or all of those photos would be ruined.

And so it goes...

Tomorrow I'll review the edited photos and send them off to the magazine.

Then, hopefully, fingers crossed, we'll have something they deem worthy for print.

Welcome to a day in my world....only 528 photos to go....