Saturday, August 30, 2008

Julie's Garden

Pioneer Square is overrun with Thai, Phở and Teriyaki places. It leaves little room for Chinese (of course, that could be said for Seattle in general). But it's not to say P-square is devoid of Chinese; it does have Julie's Garden.

It's odd; it's just a couple blocks from the office, but nobody at work had heard of it. I admit, my awareness is recent too. It's just across the street from Phở & Bubble Tea Express, and next to Cafe Paloma. How did I not see it? Well, it's certainly not ostentatious.

Julie's Garden
Julie's Garden

Now, down to the food. I've only been once, obviously since I just found it. It seems pretty americanized. I had the special, which I chose in the interest of speed (a trick which worked, btw). It was General Tso's Chicken, which is about as Chinese as I am, ie. 0%. Personally, Amero-Chinese doesn't bother me, but it is important to manage expectations. It's basically it's own category. I think I'll add a label.

General Tso's Chicken at Julie's Garden
The Special

The Special was actually more than just the sweet, breaded chicken. The egg roll, hot and sour soup, and the rice; all for $7 and tax. You might not be surprised to hear that it's not the best food ever. But it was decent, solid fare.

I will make one complaint. I asked for 5 stars. That's 5. Five more than none. But it wasn't spicy at all. Granted, my capsicum tolerance is higher than your average bear, but I should have felt something. The cloyingly sweet sauce seemed to drown out the spice altogether.

Hot and Sour Soup at Julie's Garden
Not very hot, kinda sour

The soup was pretty tasty. Again, not the best ever, but corn-starchily soupy (by which I mean, sort of thick with a nice mouth feel). There was definitely some sour going on. Again, the absence of spice reared it's bland head.

Conclusion: Yet another decent, cheap place for lunch in Pioneer Square. It's on the repeat-visit list.

[where:81 Yesler Way, Seattle, WA 98104]
Julie's Garden on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

speedi meals!

You might think it, but this is not going to become a Uwajimaya blog. I promise. But there's just so much fun stuff there. The Laws of Chance prove that two Uwajimaya finds are going to come up in a week sometimes. Maybe. I don't know. My stats professor wasn't very good.

So check it out. Fried rice noodles in a box. It's about two dollars, and it takes two minutes to nuke. I think that makes it a twofer. Does that make this twofer tuesday? [dude, it's Wednesday. -ed] Can we all agree to never use the word 'twofer' again? Ok, good.

Fried Rice Noodles from Speedi Meals
Fried Rice Noodles in a box

What we're talking about here is some major convenience food. It comes in a pouch, in a box. You take it out, stick it in a bowl, and nuke it for 2 minutes. Then, as you can see, you cover it in hot pepper sauce to cover the flavor. The smell is reminiscent of canned dog food.

Fried Rice Noodles, prepared Speedi Meal from UTCF
Fried Rice Noodles in a bowl

But you know me. A slight dog-food smell is not enough to dissuade me from dropping some science. And by science I mean I tried another flavor. It's not exactly science. More sort of... obstinance. Obstiscience then? But it did mean I hit on the good flavor: Cantonese Glutinous Fried Rice.

Cantonese Glutinous Fried Rice Speedi Meals from UTCF
Cantonese Glutinous Fried Rice in a box

I actually liked this one. I'd get it again. It's much less dog-foody. Ricey. Gluteny. Fake meaty (also gluteny). What more could you want?

Cantonese Glutinous Fried Rice, prepared, from Speedi Meals
Cantonese Glutinous Fried Rice in a bowl

And there are are some mushrooms or something. I think I need to keep some of these on hand. You never know when you're going to be trapped in your apartment with no rice.

Monday, August 25, 2008

lunch at the Athina Grill

I said I might go back to the Athina Grill for lunch. I bet you never thought I'd do it this soon. Ha! Shows what you know. This might be diligence on my part, or it might be a certain girlfriend of mine who loves Greek food, and has already decided that we will become regulars.

I can't say I disagree with her. Lunch was doubly tremendous. The first tremendous came in the form of fantastic flavors all around. The second tremendous related to proportions. The aforementioned girlfriend, Rakka, was super hungry and ordered the two of us about four peoples worth of food. It was a bit excessive, really.

Still, it's good for the blog. I get to talk about way more stuff than I would otherwise. Like all of these spreads:

Hummus and baba ghanoush, and terokafteri and dolmades with tzatziki at the Athina Grill
Hummus and baba ghanoush, and terokafteri and dolmades with tzatziki, oh my!

They were all good. The dolmades were maybe a little plain. But the hummus was nice and smokey, and the terokafteri (hot cheese spread) was crazy delicious! I'd never had it before; it's closely related to pimento cheese spread [1][2]. In fact, I think terokafteri might be the inspiration for the southern classic.

All of these spreads are good on fries. Which brings me to the main course. At this point I was close to stuffed, but I had ordered the eggplant and smoked mozzarella pita. There was nothing to do but solider on. It was worth it. The sandwich was fantastic and tremendous, or fantendous, as I like to say. They offered to put some feta on top. This is a mod I heartily support; never say no to feta.

Eggplant Pita with fries at the Athina Grill
Eggplant pita with fries

Rakka had the falafel pita, which she was kind enough to let me try. It needs a goofy made up adjective too, but I limit myself to one of those per post. Let's just say it was tremastic.

So, in the end, the two of us condensed a day's worth of eating in to one meal, for about 35 dollars. I think I'm going to like being a regular at the Athina. See you there.

[where: 528 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109]
Athena Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 24, 2008

royale with cheese

royale with cheese
Originally uploaded by leff

Cakespy Jessie, and cakespy cuppie both had birthdays this month. (you have been reading cakespy, right? If not, get over there right now!) So Cupcake Royale introduced a new cupcake for her, the Royale with Cheese. I can't think of anything more appropriate.

I need to say this one more time, just so everybody hears it: Happy Birthday Jessie and Cuppie!

Now, a word about sweet cuppin cakes:

The cupcake is pretty tasty, but it's coconuty, which has never been on my list of favorite flavors. Just, you know, a personal preference. The Skagit Valley Strawberry (pictured at the back) tastes exactly like strawberry ice cream. Like, exactly. It was uncanny. Uncanny good!

I have to say, before you go rushing out to the cupcake store with a fist full of dollars, that the cake at CR seems dry and lifeless these days. If you're an icing person, this mayn't be a problem. If you're a moist cake fancier, like me, you might be just a little let down.

[where: 2052 NW Market Street, seattle, wa, 98107]
Cupcake Royale (and Cafe Verite) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Japanese Curry: a tasty kick to the head

I only promised this post recently, but some of these pictures are a year old. I'd like you to know that this much planning and forethought goes in to every post on this blog. I frequently consult psychics so that I can start reviewing restaurants long before they even open.

Anyway, to the task at hand: Japanese Curry Sauce Mix. Probably not something you've spent a lot of time with. I suspect that this is true even if you're Japanese, but I could be wrong. If you haven't had it, Japanese curry is thick, sweetish, dark brown, and very unlike any other curries you've tried.

My interested started when Uwajimaya put huge stack of it right in the middle of everything with a sign saying 'nearly free' or some such. How could any self respecting curry fancier resist?

three (0f four) contenders

So I picked some up. It was from S&B. I made it with tofu and peas. It was ok tasty, pretty bland, actually. But it... I was going to say 'hurt', but that's not right. It made my head feel reeeaaaaly weird, like the back of my brain was getting squished by a brick. It was a curry version of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. An... interesting experience, but not one I wanted to try again in a hurry.


Later I tried some Golden Curry. I realized later it's also from S&B. Right about the time I started to notice that brick pushing down on my brain stem again.

I liked the experience of eating the curry though. It was the after effects that I wanted to avoid. Maybe switching brands would work? It did, after a fashion.

The next version I tried was Vermont Curry from House Foods. It had a better flavor (can you believe that this whole thing started as a taste test?), and, joy of joys, no brain bricking at all!

looked better in person (bad photo by me)

The next day, as I sat perfectly still and yet poured sweat like a faucet ("I guess it's humid" I thought. Little did I know that I was foreshadowing), I decided that House was the shiznit and S&B was the shizite. So then it was time to try some of House's Java curry.

Java Curry block

They refer to it as 'Sauce mix' but it's not much of a mix. It's more a solid block of what Santos tells me is transfats, and I have no inclination to disbelieve her. Let's just take another look:

looks like milk chocolate, but it's very not

That's not a mix, or even a paste. It's a solid mass. It does dissolve almost instantly in boiling water. And then proceeds to transform into a thick stew.

Java Curry in the Pot
a bit visceral, but you need to see it

Which is actually pretty tasty. And again, no brain bricking, which is nice. But the next day was another one of those hot, humid days that left me pouring with sweat. Strangely, the weather wasn't affecting anyone else in this way. I had leftover curry for dinner that night, and another sweaty day to follow. The day after was fine, though.

looking good

It finally dawned on me: No brain bricks, but House brand curries impede a body's ability to regulate temperature. Turns the thermostat right up. The effect lasts for about 18 hours, apparently.

So, there you have it. Japanese curry sauce mixes are both tasty and more or less immediately uncomfortable. Use at your own risk (I have a few packets if you want to try them. Tell me how it goes.)

breakfast at the Athina Grill

The Athina Grill is now open for business, and breakfast. Rakka and I stopped in this morning to check it out.

Athina Grill, on Queen Anne Ave
Right in the middle of everything

It was a good call, I think. I like the place. The food is good and cheap at the same time. Really, it seems more of a diner than a grill. But that's cool; who doesn't love a diner?

Athina Grill Coffee
Did you know? Diners originated in Greece. 100% fact!

The coffee, for instance, is very much diner style. And it goes incredibly well with the Banana & Nutella crepes. Have I mentioned those yet? They're awesome.

Banana & Nutella Crepes at Athina Grill
Banana & Nutella Crepes, like starting the day off with dessert

But it's Rakka that has the sweet tooth. I'm all up ons the savory dishes, like the Greek Scrambler. Eggplant, tomatoes, onions, red pepper, with some feta cheese on top. Now that's a breakfast. Especially when it comes with home fries, and the most traditional of all Greek toasts: sourdough.

Greek Scrambler at Athina Grill
Greek Scrambler, greek flavored diner meal

The inside of the place is nice too. It's bright and cheery. The slanted clock is a delightfully pragmatic solution to some weird architecture.

Interior of the Athina Grill

To top it all off, all the sandwiches can be had with fries. Falafel and fries! That's almost as awesome as the Indian/American place I used to go to in Baltimore (nothing tops curry and fries). They also have Halibut and Chips on the menu, which seems more English, but who's counting?

I expect I'll have to go back and try some of these things. Just, you know, to satisfy your curiosity. Oh, the hardships I endure for you, my readers. ;)

[where: 528 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109]
Athena Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2008

coffee tasting @ trabant (pioneer square)

I could hardly believe it when I got the email from Alexa at Trabant. Free coffee tasting! I put my business card in the cup months ago, and I actually got picked! It's my lucky quarter. Trabant is my favorite coffee shop, so of course I jumped at it.

Coffee Beans at Trabant
It's all about the beans

You might be surprised to find out that there's relatively big fan base for $4 coffees at my job, but we're talking about a start up in downtown Seattle so you're probably not. We had no trouble filling the 8 seats, even with some cancellations. Of course, I invited Rakka, and Jessie from Cakespy came by too.

Beans and a tasting Guide at Trabant
Starting to look like a party

All the coffees we tasted (there were four) were made on the Clover machine. Since I first encountered it (at Trabant, actually) I've been a huge fan of this machine. If you haven't tried, stop reading and go do so now. Seriously, it's fantastic.

The machine itself is like a reverse vacuum french press or something. But internet enabled and programmable per bean, and we're talking micro lots here. It has this tendency to bring out the full complexity of the coffee. It's like fine wine, but it makes you jittery instead of slurry. As the coffee cools, the flavor profile changes, usually peaking between 5 and 10 minutes. You find yourself using words like 'bright', 'fruity', and 'citrusy' to describe it.

Columbia la Planada Micro Lot
This description reads like a wine bottle, and it's correct

Alexa told us a lot about the current state of the coffee industry. Fair trade, Free Trade, Direct Trade, etc. It's interesting stuff, but to be honest I kind of knew a lot of it already; after a year or so of talking to the baristas here I've kind of picked it up.

pouring coffee at Trabant
Pouring, oooh, the anticipation

Which is why I like the place so much. They're really passionate about their coffee, and it totally shows. I've never had a bad cup of coffee there. It's not to say that they don't have their ups and downs. But a 'bad' cup at Trabant would be above average at most places. Especially on that Clover machine.

Coffee Heart at Trabant
Coffee Heart by Trabant's Alexa

We were lucky enough to try:
  • Kigira AA Lot 729 from Kenya
  • Ethiopia Sidamo
  • An experimental Guatemalan roast from Onyx Coffee
  • La Planada Micro-lot from Columbia
I think we all agreed that the Kigira and the Planada were the top two. They were so different, though, we couldn't pick a definitive winner. The Onyx had great body, but Alexa said they've had it a while, and so the flavor didn't live up to it's full potential.

Obviously, I'm really excited about it (must be all that coffee ;). I hope I haven't bored you too much. Let me just say thanks Trabant and thanks Alexa!

[where: 602 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104]
Trabant Coffee & Chai - Pioneer Square on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 17, 2008

5 Spot's Oregon Breakfasts

It's taken a couple of visits, but I've finally sampled all of the Oregon Breakfasts at the 5 Spot. It's hard work, I know, but I do it for science. And I do it for you, dear reader.

Hazelnut Pear French Toast at the 5 Spot
Hazelnut Pear French Toast

For simplicities sake, I'm going to assume you know something about chow restaurants and how the 5 Spot in particular has seasonal menu's based on a theme. What you may not know (but you're probably guessing by now. you're smart like that) is that the current theme is Oregon.

Willamette Farms Three Cheese Frittata at the 5 Spot
Willamette Farms Three Cheese Frittata

We've all done the road trip down the coast right? Stopped off in Tillamook for some cheese? Of course we have. So of course we would expect some cheese on the menu. The menu delivers (but 5 Spot doesn't. I think Seattle has a law against any food other than pizza being delivered. But that's another post).

Tillamook Fields Scramble at the 5 Spot
Tillamook Fields Scramble

I won't bother detailing each dish. It would probably just bore you. Suffice it to say, the food is great, high quality ingredients, yadda yadda yadda. It's all good. The staff is friendly (and cute) and they can keep up with a full restaurant.

Pancakes at the 5 Spot
Huge, massive pancakes

Not sure when Oregon is over, so get yourself to the top of Queen Anne. If you go in the morning, don't take a lot of friends and you'll get a table faster.

[where: 1502 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109]
5 Spot on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cooking with Donald

They made a movie about me (in 1941) about my cooking skills.

I was played by donald duck. Pretty impressive, huh?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I don't know why I'm not at Roti all the time. I went for the first time recently, after a break of a year or two. Trust me, I won't take that long of a break again.

spices and poppadom at Roti
The mint sauce was really spicy

It's strange, there's are a couple really bad reviews on urbanspoon. I'm all like, what!? no you didn't! But a close read reveals those bad reviews to be all about meat dishes. I've never actually had a meat dish at Roti. I was vegetarian when I developed my love of Indian food; by default I skip to the vegetable section and order Aloo Gobhi. So maybe they specialize in the vegetarian.

Or maybe they went through a bad patch during my absence. If so, they read those bad reviews too, and took them to heart. "No garlic flavor on the garlic naan" you say? Well now days there's about 6 cloves per, in big tasty chunks.

interior at Roti
sets up some atmosphere

This time, the Matar Paneer was pretty fantastic, with pleasantly toothy goat cheese and scrummy sauce. I even enjoyed the Aloo Saag, which is something I normally don't do. My dining companion, a huge fan of Indian food, rated the meal in her top 3, nation wide.

channa kabob at Roti
Channa Kabob (chick pea paties) make for yummy appetizers (2 of 4)

So, a note on the price. Yes, it's a little too pricey for this blog. Again. Sorry, this keeps happening. The prices are only just over the line, and it's really good, so just save up an extra buck fiddy and get on with it.

Table full of food at Roti
Aloo Saag and Matar Paneer, so nice

Finally, the place is nice on the inside. Lots of nice details. I even took a picture of the ceiling (though I didn't come out). The serving bowls are fancy metal things. I really love the heavy steel water glasses; they make water fun!

[where: 530 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109]
Roti on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

my new favorite thing [annie's shitake & sesame vinaigrette]

It's got everything I love: mushrooms and vinegar. What more could you want? Sesame oil? Sure throw that in too. It's kind of japanesey, but it's a great dipping sauce for crusty bread. Better that way than on a salad, actually. It's Annie's Shitake & Sesame Vinaigrette.

How did we ever live with out it? (oh, crap, I can buy it by the case; time to clear out the pantry.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Juicy Sandwiches and Surly Waitresses at Grand Central

Look, I know it says 12oz on the menu. You know what a tall is. There's no reason to get snippy. It's not like the coffee is something to write home about anyway (unless you enjoy talking about bland coffee. Which apparently I do).

Chicken Salad Sandwich at Grand Central Baking Co.
the chicken salad was juicy

But enough complaining. Now to the good at Grand Central Bakery. The sandwiches. They were good (see, I told we'd be getting to the good stuff soon). One of our party got the soup, just as an excuse to get a whole baguette to go with it. The bread, you see, is also very good. It's their specialty; they're a bakery.

Sandwiches at Grand Central Baking Co.
turkey curry, turkey, and chicken salad (clockwise from top left)

Ok, so bread: good. sandwiches: good. coffee: bland. waitstaff: surly. What else? pickles? Ok, they were very crisp. We all agreed that you can't get pickles this crisp in the supermarket, but maybe you could at a farmers market. Exciting, isn't it?

Interior, Grand Central Baking Co.

And that about sums it up. It also closes out the 1 day Portland trip. Back to Seattle next time. Next up: Grand Central Bakery (not really, but apparently I went all the way to Portland to try a place that is also two blocks from my office. hooray me).

[where: 2230 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR, 97214]
Grand Central Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Saint Cupcake

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so sweets have to be especially good to really get me excited. I'm excited about Saint Cupcake.

Saint Cupcake dots
Mmm. Dots.

It's because the cake is so moist and delicious. A lot of people focus way too much on the icing. Bah! I say. Without a good foundation a cupcake is nothing. Icing shots be damned!

Saint Cupcake Exterior

The icing is good too. It's only as sweet as it needs to be, is the thing. I like an icing that doesn't hurt my teeth.

Saint Cupcake Interior

I don't know why cupcake places are always pink and frilly. Are they not manly? Is that it? Are us hairy chested macho men going to have to take cupcakes back from the ladies? I hereby proclaim the start of the start of the mancake revolution.

I'm kidding. mancake? That's gross.

Saint Cupcake box
A whole box of them!

Ok. Enough distractions! The important thing here is cupcakes. And they are good. Saint Cupcake is my new favorite cupcake place. I wish it wasn't two and a half hours away.

[where: 407 NW 17th Ave, Portland, OR, 97209]
Saint Cupcake on Urbanspoon