Thursday, March 29, 2007

road food (oregon coast trip)

My so and I went on a Goonies trip this week. That means driving up and down the Oregon coast, which is fantastic. Since this isn't strictly a Seattle food blog you get to hear about it. The food parts anyway. (If work is really boring today, you can read more about the Goonies parts)

Astoria, OR. Home of tasty mexican

We learned that Astoria sports some incredibly tasty Mexican food at El Ranchero Dos. Of course, it was about 3pm and our first meal of the day. Our judgment may have been... off. I think I would have enjoyed eating a phone book at that point.

Pizza a Feta (Cannon Beach, OR) makes crab pizza

Cannon Beach (home of Haystack Rock, the famous 'Goonies Rock') is an 'upscale resort town', so it's full of over priced surf and turf restaurants. Like Doogers. Which I went to once, and that was enough. Instead Rakka and I wandered around until we found Pizza a Feta. We fell prey to the Coastal Seafood Fever, or CSF, and ordered the crab pizza. Rakka loved it. I thought the crab was good and the pizza was good, but they didn't much meld together. The crust was fantastic.

This is where cheese comes from

Since it was only another 30 miles south (of Cannon Beach) we just had to go to Tillamook, home of Tillamook cheese. They don't have factory tours, they just have a factory with windows. You can walk around the observation deck and watch what goes on. Of course, most of the stuff was closed down for maintenance. They were doing some packing though. I got some video of the magic cheese rotator.

They also have free samples, and a store. At the store you can buy Tillamook cheese at grocery store prices. In other words, no factory special discount.

free samples! the extra sharp cheddar is the best!

Of course, Tillamook also makes ice cream. Since we were on the Goonies tour we got some rocky road.

Oh, and there's a cafe.

the ice cream counter is in the background

I got the grilled cheese. (what else?)

grilled cheese, a pickle and some chips. classic.

Rakka got the 'gobbler', which was a grilled cheese with turkey on. I think she was expecting some fancy stuff like lettuce. It didn't happen. But it was, what, four bucks. Mine was the best grilled cheese I've had in a while. The homestyleness was refreshing after the fancy grilled cheese sammiches that Seattle is famous for.

To sum up, the Oregon coast was not only fun and beautiful, it was tasty too.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

kao soy at thaiku

Kao Soy, yellow curry soup, from Thaiku is my favorite meal in town. It's so coconut milky, noodly, pickled mustard greeny, and yellow. Oh, and it comes with special hot peppers, which are smoky.

kao soy, very yellow curry

I love the pickled mustard greens especially. They're just pickly enough, and they go with the curry very well. I think Thaiku does something special to them; the ones you can get at Uwajimaya are not the same. I was disappointed.

Thaiku on Urbanspoon

I'm usually at Thaiku for lunch on a weekday. It's nice and laid back then. If you go at 8pm on a Friday night you'll be standing at the bar for an hour before you get a table. The decor is kind of silly. It's just a bunch of random Thai imports jammed in to corners, and there's a little divider wall made out of the stuff (pictured below).

made fancy with brik-a-brak

I'm the type of person that tries to order something different every time I go back to a place. I *heart* variety. So it's saying a lot that I can't stop talking about the kao soy. I can't stop ordering it either. It's only during Thaiku-once-a-week phases that I can bring myself to order anything else. It's kind of sad really, because everything else is really good too.

gotta love a restaurant where all the condiments are spices

I have to say, as good as it was this last time, there was less of it. It wasn't just because I was extra hungry or something; my coworker who ordered the same thing (yes, my enthusiasm is catching) mentioned it too. Ballard prices seem to be going up recently. Maybe this is their way of keeping it under ten dollars.

I love the tofu, but there's chicken too

Ok. I have to finish this post right now. I keep looking at these pictures and it's making me ravenous... I must... resist... out of sight... out of...
*chair scooching sound*
*sounds of running*

*door slams*
*car tires screech off towards Ballard*

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ferry food

This restaurant has a motor

When my gf suggested we take a ride on the ferry this weekend I suddenly developed a need to purchase food while moving. Luckily the ferry was happy to accommodate. They have a whole cafeteria on there.

Cafeteria, the good ship Tacoma

I take the ferry a lot, at least for someone with no reason to. At about $7 for a walk on round trip it's a great, and inexpensive, way to have a nice little boat ride on the Sound.

it's cafeteria style all the way

The food is as basic as can be. The sandwiches are meat product (cow, chicken, veggie) on bread. There are tater tots, hot dogs and big soft pretzels. There are three kinds of soup, one of which is chili, and another of which is Ivar's clam chowder. Ahh. Branded soup.

how many restaurants can boast a view like this?

That sounds like criticism, but it's not. The simple construction, combined with the ambiance, makes these sandwiches literally taste like vacation. I can't praise that sensation enough.

a simple but good chicken sandwich

The food is decent quality and fairly priced. Sandwiches run at around six dollars, which seems a lot considering the ingredient list is, literally, two things. But my gf and I had the light lunch you see pictured above (2 sandwiches, 1 cup of soup, 1 drink. we share, isn't that cute) for seventeen dollars. Which is actually really good for Seattle. And out on the water! It's like they're giving it away.

the ivars clam chowder has fantastic view

When you get right down to it, the food is not what it's about. It's about the best view in town (more of town really). It's about the brief escape from the hustle and bustle. It's about a little taste of vacation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Is Vera's a diner for breakfast lovers, or a breakfast place for diner lovers? I'm never sure. If you love both, like I do, it doesn't really matter.

ooh, what a sign!

For those who view breakfast as a step towards cardiac arrest, Vera's is the place. If your order isn't engulfed in cheese it's probably drenched in hollandaise sauce. This is the type of good thing that it's really easy to get too much of. But when you need it, you need it.

you can tell these are huevos rancheros
by the tiny bit of tortilla visible in the lower right
(if you know what you're looking for)

My favorite thing is the Veggie Benedict. It's the normal Eggs Benedict, but with portobello mushrooms in place of ham. They have the ham kind too, of course. It's easy to be vegetarian here, but it's really easy to not be. Vegans will have a bit of a problem; and by that I mean they will eat toast, which they will have to special order with no butter. Sorry guys, dems da breaks.

My other favorites are the artichoke omelet and the huevos rancheros. I've had good reports on the diner type sandwiches, like the turkey and the... what's the one with corned beef and chicken? I've had bad reports about the dinners. A friend got the lemon chicken one time and it was pretty much just some chicken on a plate. Not bad chicken, but next to the breakfasts... what can you say?

the essential lunch counter

There aren't a lot of "proper" diners in Seattle. While Vera's doesn't have the full on New Jersey Diner exterior, the interior is perfect, and it does have the sign. It's definitely the most dinery diner I've found in town. So dinery, in fact, that it's cash only! I put that in bold because it's so uncommon these days. Especially for a restaurant that can be described as "in the heart of" something (Ballard, in this case).

As much as I love it, the food is too rich to eat every day. So maybe it's a good thing that prices walk the line between $ and $$. The quality and quantity totally justify it, but my cardiovascular system thanks Vera's none the less.

Vera's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 16, 2007

theo chocolate factory

Theo Chocolate makes chocolate. I mean they really make it. From beans. Most chocolatiers buy pre-made chocolate and melt it back down, but Theo goes the whole nine. They're the 11th largest chocolate maker in the country, so they say. They do it in the old Red Hook building in Freemont.

Call in advance, tours fill up quick

And they have factory tours! Twice a day, everyday. With simply gobs of free samples! For five dollars!

hair nets are not optional

The owner travels around the world, tasting beans and making relationships with growers. They do use some fair trade growers and some organic ones, which is awesome, but their primary concern is quality. The relationships with the growers are pretty tight too. They test all the bean shipments when they come in, and let the growers know immediately so they can correct the problem and protect future shipments. I don't know why, but I didn't expect that level of intimacy between the grower and the buyer. It's cool though. And it certainly seems to be paying off for them. Their choc is good.


If you're into this kind of thing, the factory tour is really fun. It's one thing to watch a tv show about a food factory, it's quite another thing to be there. Theo is a rather small scale plant, but still the machines tower over everybody. Their weight is measured in tons.

an extrusion press thingy

And yet, when it comes time to make the bars, they just pour chocolate in to the little plastic trays at the workstation in the foreground (below). The guide said that that station is a bottleneck, actually, and they're getting a bigger one.

We didn't talk about it, but I think the liquid chocolate gets to that workstation via that shiny metal tube coming down at a diagonal. There's a nozzle at the end that pours the stuff out on to tempering station (in the far foreground). Huge meets human scale again; they're pumping chocolate, which is food, around through the ceiling or whatever but it comes out on to a 2'x3' slab of metal that some guy stands in front of with a hand scraper.

the factory floor

In addition to making chocolate bars, Theo's also makes a variety of confections. They gave us a few to try. The mint one blew me away. It was like eating a roll of fresh mint leaves lightly dusted with coco powder. So good. They had peanut butter and jelly ones for sale, but by the time we got back to the store section I was actually so stuffed with free samples I couldn't even make it to the counter.

the confection kitchen, that's the enrober

that's a lot of sugar
(it's cane sugar used for the confections,
the pure chocolate bars get beet sugar)

They make bunches of kinds of chocolate bars, which they sell in lots of stores around town (PCC, Metropolitan Market, others). They let us compare and contrast a few of their pure chocolate bars. Their biggest seller is the Ivory Coast, but I loved the Madagascar. It has the really sweet, tart cherry flavor. Incredible.

In addition to the pure chocolate they have several flavor infused bars too. The vanilla amused me. But there's chai, coconut curry, bread and chocolate, nib brittle and coffee too. The coconut curry got our attention by being honestly spicy. Spice and chocolate go together really well. They where all good though.

Oh, the nibs! The nib brittle has chocolate nibs in. They're little little bits of pure chocolate from early on in the refinement process. We got to try them. They're weird. They have a really rich flavor, not sweet at all; more, sort of, olivey.


As we were milling about in the store after the tour, A said he'd be buying Theo exclusively from now on. We all agreed. I think that about says it all.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Café Moose pictures

I promised pictures of Café Moose. I went back today just to get those pictures for you. It has nothing to do with the fact that the food is great.

Here are the fresh chips. So fresh, in fact, that we were warned of their hotness.

Here are some potato and cheese pancakes, which I neglected to photograph the name of.

The huevos con nopalitos, or eggs with cactus, is really good.

And here is the place itself. Wedged between an auto repair shop and a auto sales lot.

Monday, March 12, 2007

inda bistro for lunch

There's a rule that Indian restaurants have to have lunch buffets in the all you can eat style. India Bistro is no exception.

that's some tasty looking curry
a landscape in curry

India Bistro on Urbanspoon

When you consider the food at an all you can eat buffet, you have to compare it to other quantity agnostic meal deals. It would not be fair otherwise. This is my long winded way of saying that I've had better Indian food, but not at a buffet. The quality is surprisingly high considering the sub $8 price tag for a bottomless plate of curry.

oh! chickpea salad!
There's not a ton of variety at lunch. Rice, three vegetable dishes, the standard red chicken, the lamb vindaloo, and Naan, of course. There are a bunch of salads though. A chickpea one, a simple lettuce one with a cool yogurt dressing, and two or three varieties of cucumber salad. I love salad, so this makes me happy.

more curry!
There was one vegetable dish that knocked my socks off. It was very saucy and it had some sort of dumplings, or something. I swore I would write the name down, but I've got a mind like a sieve. I did get a picture, it's the stuff in the left foreground above.

just one of several cucumber salads

The place is usually close to full at lunch time. On our last visit they seemed to get behind on the dishes and ran out of bowls. My lunch companions insisted we wait for some; this is the draw of the rice pudding. I've never really gotten the hang of the stuff my self, but I think we can take their actions as an endorsement.

To add to the general cacophony of voices during the lunch rush they play Indian dance music at high volume. It's kind of fun. I'm including this video; if you listen hard enough you can get your groove on.

Friday, March 9, 2007


There's plenty of good vegetarian Chinese food in Seattle. Bamboo Garden, for instance, has been a favorite since I rolled over the I-90 bridge with my carpet bag and my cats. What sets the Vegetarian Bistro apart is the fabulous array of Dim Sum. I can't go to the International District without stopping in for some steamed hum buns.

vegetarian bistro exterior
the "grand opening" sign is gone now

Vegetarian Bistro on Urbanspoon

I am about to sing the praises of their little morsels. I don't want to give the impression that the main courses are in any way lacking. The orange chicken is fantastic, as is the szechuan beef. And remember, this is the Vegetarian Bistro, so all meats are fake. In fact, everything is vegan. (Carnivores, stop your whining, if you take it on it's own terms you'll probably like it. The fake chicken is more approachable than the fake beef. Start there.)

tea is served, everything is green

Now, on to the dim sum. There is a lot here. They've added some items since they printed the menus, so it pays to ask for help. But be careful or they'll talk you in to ordering everything.

Every time I go I leave with a new favorite thing. This time it was the fried radish cakes. They're crispy on the outside, gooey in the middle and subtly salty. There is not a very strong radish flavor at all (which I was happy about).

fried radish cakes

The radish cakes pushed the sticky rice out of the top slot. Which had pushed out the deep fried mashed potatoes (great with just a touch of soy sauce). Which had pushed out the steamed hum buns.
Who am I kidding. They're all my favorites. All perfect in their own way.

deep fried mashed potato, sticky rice,
steamed hum buns (front to back)

The hum buns are barbecue pork in a fluffy steamed bun. And it's Chinese barbecue so it's salty and sweet and deep deep red. I could live on them.

The sticky rice is also subtly seasoned. It's got a little bit pork and veg mixed in and comes wrapped in bamboo leaves. It really is sticky enough to eat with chopsticks.

inside the bamboo leaves, sticky rice!

VDS at VB rocks. Worth going out of your way for. It's been to long since you've been to the ID. Go now.

Monday, March 5, 2007


zeeks pizza crust
Bubbly crust. Mmmm.

Zeek's Pizza on Urbanspoon

zeeks caesar salad
Half a large caesar salad.
One large is perfect for two people.

zeeks pizza with a slice missing
A slice missing? Who did that?
I haven't even taken the picture yet!
Seattle's not very good for delivery. There might be a thai place that will maybe deliver, but for the most part it's pizza.

Luckily there's Zeeks, which is local and good. My favorite part is the ordering online. There's nothing like looking over the menu, saying "hmm. I want that." and having it show up at your door half an hour later.

They sometimes call and let you know that they got the order and it'll be about 45 minutes. That's a good sign that it'll be there in a half hour. If they don't call, count on it being more like an hour.

I suppose I should mention the food. It's good pizza. It walks the line between being healthy and being greasy cheese death. This is obviously somewhat under your control, and depends on what you order, but by default there is just enough cheese. I appreciate that very much. It's rare that the two conflicting furies get to be appeased at the same time. Yes, I do possess a 'greasy cheese death fury'. She's hard to control sometimes.

My 'heath fury', I call her Panacaera, is placated also by the big salad that often arrives atop the big cardboard box.

Now, I'm talking about the delivery, so I don't have to mention actual restaurant at all if I don't want. But I do go there sometimes (the Queen Anne/Uptown one). Somewhat like the pizza itself it walks the line between greasy pizza joint and nice restaurant. I don't know if it's just the dark wood outside, or the raised booth platform or what, but there's an odd undertone of formality there. But that could all just be in my head. You go try it and report back.

Oh, just one more thing. Zeeks is not quite as cheap as most of the other places I'll be talking about on here. Salad and pizza, which is a lot of food for two, usually ends up being about $30 before tip. It's worth it though. I'd much rather throw down $30 for one zeeks than do one of these 17 pizzas for a nickel deals that the chains run. bleh.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

tiled, brown and delicious [hattie's hat]

Hattie's Hat on Urbanspoon
When I'm in the mood to become a regular somewhere, Hattie's Hat is what I look for. It's got a honest dive atmosphere that's been cultivated for over a hundred years. It's got a friendly wait staff, and it's small enough that you can actually get to know them. It's entirely laid back. And the spot is consistently hit by diner+ fare.

You may not be familiar with the term 'diner+'. More than likely because I just made it up. But the concept isn't hard. It's just diner food that doesn't suck. I get a certain amount of amusement in ordering a hot chocolate and receiving a cup of hot water and a packet of swiss miss, but I really enjoy it made with milk and coco. You get the concept, yeah?

hattie's exterior
The exterior is subdued. It's easy to miss in the clutter of ballard ave.

Well, Hattie's does. They make all their own sauces and it shows; they do them well. The fries, ooooh! I grew up on fries like this. But where Mannie's Pizzeria (of kensington, maryland) peppered the things with big splotches of McCormick Season salt, Hattie's dusts them lightly and evenly. The effect is a subtle richness that left us wondering if they make their own season salt as well.

We always end up ordering a second round of these amazing fries.
When ordered alone they come with the seattle standard:
tartar sauce (also made in house)

It's not just fries though. All the other food is pretty good too. The veggie burgers are pretty good in a standard sort of way. The portobello sandwich is also good, but again, it didn't blow me away (I'm spoiled though, by a portobello master of a SO).

I got good reports about the turkey au jus. The jus was unexpectedly sweet, but it worked. The photo below brings up another point. The soup, made in house of course, is consistently good. That is butternut squash and bourbon soup in the background, and they seem to have salmon chowder pretty regularly.

turkey au jus
turkey au jus

Since the vegetarian sandwiches have been leaving me happy but not ecstatic I've been thanking my stars I'm eating seafood again. The tuna melt is really good. But even better is the smoked salmon ceasar. The menu doesn't say that the salmon is extra, but by the time the bill came I was so stuffed full of yummy fish I didn't mind at all.

salmon ceasar saladsalmon ceasar salad

They say the ambiance is to the restaurant as the presentation is to the food. It's the kind of knowledge you get from studying for the SATs. But it makes for a decent segue into a discussion of the interior. Wood paneling. A huge mural that could have been painted while they were installing the bar (in 1904). Linoleum tables with a faux wood grain that matches the walls in the same way that a rolax matches a rolex. A big round booth. A random fish tank in the back. A taxidermied king crab mounted on a plaque over the bar. In other words, home.

The flowers might be slightly wilty,
but that's because they're real.

The waiter caught me taking all these (crappy) photos. He asked me who I worked for. I was all "I'm just some guy. I have... errr... internet." He said "Ah, I'm not worried about press. The food here is good." Right on man, and I'll see you soon.