Three Cheers for Seattle!

Nominations for the James Beard Awards were released today...and in case you missed it, Seattle has a nice spot in the limelight.  

The list is filled with familiar faces, but I especially want to congratulate fellow blogger Heidi Swanson (101 Cookbooks).  Her book, "Super Natural Cooking" is filled with stunning photography and delicious, straight-forward recipes.  It received a nomination in the Healthy Focus category.  Kudos Heidi!  

And now, without further ado, here are the Seattle nominations:

Sara Dickerman
Slate Magazine
"A Chef's So-called Life: What Movies Get Right-and Wrong-About Life in the Kitchen"

Tom Douglas

Owners: The Canlis Family

Maria Hines

Holly Smith
Cafe Juanita

Ethan Stowell

Jason Wilson

304 Sixth Avenue, Seattle
Owner: Jean Nakayama
With a rich history that stretches over a century--it has been around through both world wars, Japanese Internment, and has even seen one of its former dishwashers become the Prime Minister of Japan--Maneki is the only surviving restaurant from Seattle's once-bustling Japantown.  Comfort food dishes like agedashi tofu and takoyaki share the menu with sushi and sashimi, satisfying homesick Japanese locals and introducing a new generation to traditional and Japanese cooking. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Kiss Me, I'm Irish!  

I spotted this guy stuck to a telephone pole over in Eastlake.  He's looking a little worse for wear, but charming none-the-less.  Here's hoping you fare a little better tonight...


A Taste of Home at the Polish Bazaar

I spent weeks taking scuba diving classes and when it came time to practice our skills in the water (first a pool, then the open water), they paired me with a beautiful girl with a ready smile. Lucky for me...she was an Oceanography major at the University of Washington, who took up diving to study our underwater habitat. Ala and I became lifelong friends...and over the years, her family has become an extension of my own.

We have many treasured memories together, but what I love the most, is her family's connection to the home country. One by one they emigrated from Poland. First Ala's mother arrived, and her sisters followed soon after. After a few years and the addition of spouses and children, they began to build a community. Poles from the home country found each other and together, they maintain many of their cultural traditions.

The gathering spot for these festivities?

Look no further than The Polish Home Association over on Capitol Hill.

Oh, if those walls could talk! Ala's father built the bar in the basement, and every Friday night you can satisfy your Polish food cravings with pierogi, stuffed cabbage and borscht. Ice cold vodka and imported beer are never far behind. Before long, you just may find yourself belting out a rousing chorus of songs from the hill country!

Yes, the Polish Home Association is where Ala was married. And in the weeks leading up to her wedding, the ladies would prepare food in the large commercial kitchen. I came to help. Whether I was washing dishes or carefully pinching the tops of pierogi dumplings, being surrounded by these women, animated and talking nonstop--some in English, most in's one of my fondest memories.

Polish weddings are quite different than American weddings. After the ceremony, we arrived at the Polish Home for cocktail hour. 350 people descended on the lone bartender and with a line snaking half way around the room, I jumped behind the bar and gave him a hand. Cocktail hour was followed by a long and leisurely dinner with delicious bites from the home country...all prepared by hand. Roladen--thinly sliced lengths of beef, smeared with mustard, salt and pepper, lined with a pickle spear, rolled like a stuffed cabbage. This is seared and then baked. Delicious.

For three weeks that summer, the women who gathered in the basement kitchen made over 1,500 pierogi. At the wedding, they were gone in a flash!

After the dinner hour, came the video presentations, dancing, and then....dessert hour. This included the wedding cake AND desserts made by the ladies of the Polish Home Association (poppy seed stuffed cookies and cakes, etc.)

American wedding receptions are typically 3-4 hours (to make room for the wedding following this one....), but Polish weddings are an all day...and night affair. Dancing and drinking went well into the night and the ladies had a plan for this. After the dessert hour, tables were spread with yet another course! Just a little something in case you were hungry after all that dancing...I left around midnight (10 hours after arriving) but rumor has it that the festivities (and more food!) went on until well after 4:00 am. I have no doubt.

Today, the Polish Home comes alive again with their Annual Bazaar. The ladies are busy months beforehand, importing cut crystal and a wide variety of the famous Polish pottery. Bargains are here, for sure! Ala's mom imports treasured foods from Poland. For one day, everything from sausages, cheeses, candy and snacks can be found right here. And if it's pierogi you're craving, you can pick up a bag of the frozen dumplings, or dine on site. Today, the kitchen is filled with prized family recipes and treasured tastes from the home country.

Hint: Keep an eye out for the bright yellow, spiral-bound cookbook. All the best recipes are collected in this not-so-humble gem.

If you want to jump in on the fun, here's the details:

46th Spring Bazaar at PHA
Saturday, March 15th
Noon - 7 pm

Location: The Polish Home, 1714 18th Avenue, Seattle.

Admission and Parking are free.

Yes, this is the 46th Annual Spring Polish Bazaar! It is a yearly event organized by the Ladies Auxiliary.

The booths upstairs will offer Polish crystal bowl and vases, Bloeslawiec pottery, amber and silver jewlery, pottery, crafts, books, Easter eggs and much more.

Downstairs you can enjoy traditional Polish dishes of pierogi, sausage, cabbage rolls, etc. served by the young generation of waiters clad in Polish folk costumes. You can also buy home made desserts and pastries. Most of the Puget Sound area Polish organizations will have their booths or posted info. This is usually a quite crowded event, so come early!

The Grand Experiment

People are an endless source of fascination. And the randomness of an everyday encounter still baffles me....

I first met The Waffle Man at a hostel in Tucson, Arizona. He was moving around the cavernous kitchen with a single focus, oblivious to others in the room. I struck up conversation, but his responses were clipped. Clearly he was not in the mood to talk. Typically, I'm not chatty in the morning either, so why I's still a mystery to me.

With those extremely short answers, I wondered, "Was he blowing me off...or just distracted?" The puzzle intensified when he had trouble answering simple questions like, "Where is home?" I learned he was in town for a conference. He was German. When I told him I was from Seattle, he said, "Me too!" Well, not currently, but he used to live in Seattle....

The story began to unfold:

While living in Seattle, he pursued a PhD at the University of Washington. This curious mind wanted to know, "In what?"


By nature, I'm not a science buff or a math whiz so ordinarily, that would have ended the conversation right there. Except...I asked him, "What was the subject of your dissertation?"

Things came to a grinding halt. He looked at me directly for the first time and said, "You really want to know?"

Of course the conversation was quickly moving over my head, but I mumbled, "Sure, why not?"

His response sounded something like Charlie Brown's teacher, "Wah-wa-wah-wa-wah." (My eyes glazed over almost immediately.)

Hoping to get some piece of information I could latch on to, I feigned interest and said, "Hmm...Tell me more about that..."

His eyes lit up. "Usually people outside my field don't care about such things. This is really great!"

It goes without saying...he commenced with more, "Wah-wa-wah-wa-wah."

The one thing that caught my attention? The project he works on is based in Switzerland. Ah, travel. We can talk about travel! I carefully navigated the conversation to beautiful Switzerland...and the European backpack trip I took many moons ago....

Flash forward to today.

To be precise, "The Waffle Man" is Dr. Uwe Bratzler, a nuclear particle physicist who came to the US on a Fulbright Scholarship. After graduating from the University of Washington, he was offered a job in Germany at the Max-Planck-Institute for Physics (Albert Einstein was the first director). From there, he went to work at CERN--located just outside Geneva, Switzerland. Under the Max-Planck helm at CERN, he was a project leader working on ATLAS at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Dubbed the "World's Largest Experiment," both the ATLAS and the LHC are at the center of media interest these days. This collaborative project involves thousands of scientists and engineers from around the world and summer 2008, the project reaches its pinnacle. (Photo Credit: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

In relative terms, my knowledge about his project is still very limited. However, in recent months, it has received quite a bit of press in the mainstream media outlets. The New York Times followed their project. And this month, National Geographic has a fascinating piece as well.


While he's in town, Uwe will be giving a presentation at Seattle's Town Hall. If you'd like to join us, the event is open to the public and admission is just $5.

Here's the Seattle Weekly announcement:

Over in Switzerland, CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is preparing to run the most powerful machine on Earth, the large hadron collider (LHC), in hopes that smashing particles together will simulate the Big Bang and unlock the mysteries of the universe or at least a couple of them. Know as the ATLAS Experiment, the project could help determine the origin of mass, possibly by producing the Higgs boson, aka the "God Particle." It seems to me that the experiment, which will boast 40 million collisions per second, doesn't come without risks, such as inadvertently creating another universe. Here to explain why that doesn't make sense is Uwe Bratzler, Ph. D, a UW graduate and a physicist working on ATLAS, who'll explain the magic of the machine.

March 5, 7:30 pm

1119 Eighth Ave.
(206) 652-4255
$5 at the door

To learn more about ATLAS and the LHC, the New York Times has a great multimedia presentation here.

And catch BBC video here: