Trick or treat?

Gates of Hell...on Capitol Hill

Who was here?

Haunting libations...Columbia Valley's Sinister Hand

Jug o' Dead Guy

The Rest of the Story...

The big surprise I talked about here...turned out to be a big surprise for me too!

At the tail end of August, I was contacted through my blog. A writer from the Seattle Times was working on a story about Care Packages. She saw my post and asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed.

Well, one thing lead to another....

After the interview, I submitted a few of my most requested recipes. A couple weeks later, I baked up a few goodies for a photo shoot. It was a bit surreal--especially since I'm used to orchestrating these kinds of things...but when the spotlight was on me? I was nervous as hell...talked endlessly...and tried to get the photographer to talk about his recent year of traveling in Mongolia (or was it Tibet?)

When the article finally came out in was much larger than I anticipated. At nearly two full newspaper pages, even a dolt like me knows...that's a lot of real estate. And the funny thing? The only photos on the second page...are of me!

It's all very surreal.

But wait. There's more.

Five days after the article ran, I get a call from the receptionist in my office: "Mr. X is on the phone for you."

He says, "I don't know you, and you don't know me, but I saw your picture in the paper...and you're really cute."

The guys in my old office used to play jokes like that, so I kept talking to him. "What? How did you find me?"

A long story short...some stranger connected the dots and hunted me down at work. And if that wasn't a red flag, I started getting e-mails from him. "I'm married, but I'd love to have you have a boyfriend?"

I hate to say it, but this is not the first time something like this has happened to me. Without going into too much detail, let's just say...I've had more than my share of ugly experiences, thank you.

The irony is not lost on me.

I have no fear of scuba diving with sharks, crossing a demilitarized zone in a border conflict (machine guns at the ready), climbing into the jungle tree top canopy to study howler monkeys, riding out hurricanes in the Caribbean, and on it goes....

But one creepy guy who crossed the line?

For a moment there, it stopped me dead in my tracks.

While being in the public eye has its benefits, trust me, it has plenty of negative aspects as well. Luckily I count among my friends some high-profile folks who have been down this road before. One food writer told me about receiving death threats from restaurant owners who didn't like her review. A few well-known bloggers receive malicious hate mail on a regular basis. And Gluten-free girl had to change the venue of her wedding at the last minute because readers invited themselves to her wedding!

So there it is.

I'm trying to strike a balance here.

I love being able to share my insight and experiences...and yet, I'm still a little freaked out. When you share your life with the public, you share it never knowing who's out there...the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But if it weren't for the blog, I would have never had the experience of that photo shoot. And maybe I would have never bonded with my dear friend Rachel. Standing in the back of a cooking class...drinking more than our share of wine, we talked about this and that. Suddenly something I said...who knows? But she stopped mid-sentence and blurted out, "Wait! Are you Seattle Tall Poppy?" Wow. It was fun to finally meet someone who reads my little ole' blog! Since then, Rachel and I have become good friends.

Now that Shauna is on her book tour, she can attest...the best part is meeting the people who share her blogging journey. I couldn't agree more. Often times when I'm at a dinner party, I wish I could just stop the whole thing and meet everyone. I this time...this place...there's something that draws us all together. Even if it's just this one event, we all have a common bond. And I'd like to know you.

So for me, that's why I'm here. I love the experience...and the people I meet. Sure, there are a few setbacks along the way...but what journey doesn't have a setback or two? I'm still grappling with my face on a syndicated TV show that not only airs in multiple countries...but is re-run on a regular basis. Every time it airs, I get approached. "Didn't I see you on TV?" Yep. And now the paper...and a couple magazine blurbs. It's all very exciting.

Some days I wonder, "Why me?"

My friend retorted, "Because it's the Tall Poppy way!"

So I struck a deal with myself: I've decided to embrace the journey...and see where it goes. We'll chalk it up to a life well-lived.

As for being in the public eye? Well, if that brings me to you...all the better!

Dusk in Fremont

I've been spending the past few weekends holed up in a library...doing a bit of research for my trip. My reading list is quite daunting, but luckily, Seattle has a number of fabulous libraries. They're great spaces to linger for an afternoon...

Last weekend I was in Fremont and on my way back to the car, I took a long and lazy detour along the waterfront.

Is there any wonder why I love detours so much?

This way to the water...

Home sweet houseboat.

(The sign on the door...designates this spot as a mermaid crossing.)

A quiet moment on Lake Union

Headed home...

Toe to Toe with Potatoes

Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes

I must confess...even though I'm part Irish, I'm pretty fickle when it comes to potatoes. Quite frankly, they've never held much appeal.

French fries?


Baked potatoes?

No, thanks.

Roasted, boiled, really doesn't matter.

I'm not one for leaving bits and bites on my plate, but when it comes to potatoes, I'll take a pass.

So there it is.

I have no love for the spud.

But you know, the Greek do something a little different. And frankly, it makes all the difference.

One bite of these luscious lemon roasted potatoes...and I totally changed my tune. These potatoes...are in class by themselves! In the high heat of the oven, the lemon juice and olive oil permeate the flesh, teasing your palate with a hint of the Mediterranean.

And you know what?

They couldn't be easier.

If you've got company coming, or are hosting a brunch, these are perfect for entertaining. They come together in a snap, and since the oven does all the work, it's a fantastic dish to double or tripple for a crowd.

These potatoes are the ultimate in versatility too. They're a natural fit, paired alongside roast chicken...or your morning eggs. And if you're a potato fan? You'll find yourself making them again and again!

Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

8 large yellow potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme (or Greek Oregano)
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat oven to 500 degrees.

Place potatoes in a roasting pan large enough to fit potatoes in a single layer. Add 1 cup water, olive oil, lemon juice, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss potatoes until well coated.

Bake, uncovered, until fork-tender and brown on the edges, about 50 minutes. Turn potatoes halfway through for even browning; add water if all the liquid has been absorbed, before they have fully browned. Dust with a sprinkle of kosher salt and serve.

The Fog Lifter

The past few days, mornings have been shrouded in fog. In the calm, the cool, damp air drapes itself over the city. The stillness seems to beg for a deep breath, and slower movement.

Fall...and mornings like this call for homebaked goodness. The soothing scent of cinnamon is irresistible alongside a steaming hot cup of joe.

Today I cracked my well-worn copy of Cafe Beaujolais and the page fell open to this lovely Spiced Buttermilk Coffee Cake. Now I must confess, you say a baked good...and you've got my full attention. I'm hopelessly biased and just happened to have a little buttermilk in the fridge. It was fate, I tell you!

At first bite, all I could think was..."Where have you been all my life????"

The cake base is incredibly light and airy, and I love both the cinnamon and the hint of ginger. The edges caramelized beautifully...and nuts add a nice crunch. Think of this recipe when you have overnight guests. It comes together in no time, and the payoff is huge. Guests will be singing your praises all the way home!

Spicy Buttermilk Coffee Cake
From Cafe Beaujolais by Margaret Fox

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup corn oil
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk

Step 1: Make the batter and topping mix
Mix together in a large bowl the flower, salt, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, ginger, and both sugars. Give the mix a stir (to evenly distribute.) Add the corn oil and stir again. Remove 3/4 cup of the mixture, and to it add walnuts or pecans and an additional 1 teapspoon cinnamon. Mix well & set aside.

Step 2: Complete the batter
To the remaining batter, add baking soda, baking powder, egg, and buttermilk. Mix to combine all ingredients (Note: small lumps in the batter are OK.)

Step 3: Bake
Pour batter into a well-greased 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan. Sprinkle the topping mixture evenly over the surface. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Poppy's Got a New Look

Things are looking a little different around here, aren't they?

I've been wanting to make some changes for a while now and last week it finally came together. I'm so excited!

I have to send a shout out to my photographer buddy, Amos Morgan. He was at a photo shoot for an upcoming Best Restaurant issue...and spied that fabulous bunch of juicy tomatoes. The end result is what you see in the banner. Amos is a ridiculously talented photographer who used to travel for Getty Images. He's freelancing now, and doing lots of food stuff...which is how our paths crossed. If you want a peek at what he's up to, check out his spiffy website.

And a second shout out goes to Deborah Richardson. She's the Senior Designer in my office and in no time...she rounded out the rough edges, found those terrific fonts, and added the crucial finishing touches. That woman has more talent than I could ever dream of! I'm thrilled she could carve out some time and lend her talent to my little ole' blog.

Amos...Deborah...I can't thank you enough.

I love my new home!

Spilling the Beans...

Okay people. I've got a secret...and it's KILLING ME!

These past few months I've been working on a little project...and the reveal is just days away.

Yet, here I am, fidgeting in my seat like a little kid before Christmas... suppressing the chant, "I know! I know!"

Stay tuned. Details to be revealed next week!

And for a real suspense-breaker, head to your local book seller and pick up a copy of Shauna's book. It hits the shelves today.

What can I say?

I was there for Shauna's second date with the Chef, and this summer I stifled sappy tears at their wedding. I'm so honored to be a part of their lives...and the story, told the way only Shauna can's a beautiful thing. Check it out:

"Gluten-free Girl" by Shauna James Ahern

Monday: Food & Community on Capitol Hill

Those in the Seattle area are in for a real treat Monday night. The folks at Capitol Hill Arts Center will be exploring food and its role in building community. The four panelists are pioneers and provocateurs, who use food as vehicle for their craft.

Come, join us:

The Next Conversation
This episode: "Food and Community"
Monday, October 8, from 7 to 9 pm
Admission = no charge. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at the Capitol Hill Arts Center (, at 1621 - 12th Ave, Seattle – at the sign for Crave. For more information, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848

We're back with another series of wide-ranging roundtable conversations and a collection of fascinating guests.

This month we're exploring food and community. The last time we looked at food, in the spring of 2005, we brought together a food activist and an organic farmer with a poet and a food librarian. This time, we're discussing food in the context of community, and we have among our guests people at the center of Seattle's bourgeoning new world of food. We've invited an eminent young chef, a writer and restaurateur with a love for underground restaurants, a critic/producer/playwright, and to broaden the perspective, an anthropologist who combines a passion for food with a background of deep study of cultures in North Africa. There is a chance we may also be adding an art curator, but that's up in the air.

The Guests:
Writer and restaurateur Michael Hebberoy
Chef Matthew Dillon
Playwright and producer Matthew Richter
Anthropologist Roxanne Brame

Food and Community
The need to build stronger communities has become a mantra of late, especially among disenfranchised, "bowling alone," urban Americans. It makes sense; a sustainable culture is built on a structure of communication, mutual aid, personal respect, the substance of community. Food holds an immense power in our lives, and surely has a strong role to play in creating that culture. The question is: how?

A strong, resilient community is a complex organism that a need to be able to handle division and devastation as deeply as it embraces success and comfort. Many popular visions of community revolve around food, the extended family around the big dinner table at feast holidays, the potluck offerings at a church social. But can food go deeper in creating a human glue, interlocking cooks with farmers, food servers with diners and supermarket clerks, and diners with the people who pick up the garbage?

The slow food movement has grown up with this modern quest for community and seems intertwined with it. I can't help thinking, however, that some of the most communal meals are eaten at McDonald's; just watch a Little League team in a post-game gathering. Does that translate into strong community, though, or is something else needed? Do the most communal meals need to be made by the people who eat them, or can the most communal meal be a cook's gift? Does food foster conversation, or is alcohol the main agent? Or neither of these? Can a culture of respect come from ingraining in our communities a respect for the people who grow, transport, cook, and serve us food? These become critical questions if one assumes that the way humans live our everyday lives has become central to our survival.