How to Eat a Dozen Eggs

Oh, no! So you bought too many cartons of eggs for the neighborhood Easter hunt. What are you going to do with all those extras? Here are a dozen ideas, with suggestions for new ways to cook eggs and tips from a few master chefs, as well as a couple of Seattle restaurants worth checking out. Now, let’s get cracking!

The first egg: Start your day as Chef Thomas Keller does, with a pair of boiled eggs. He cooks his for just five minutes once the water starts to boil, resulting in a creamy yolk and perfectly set white. But be sure not to boil your eggs too long, or you’ll get an unappealing green band around them from the iron in the yolk and sulfur in the white reacting to the long cooking time. Even at home, Keller also employs another handy tip that he learned during his training: If you’re boiling more than one egg, crack them into individual bowls in case you accidentally drop a piece of shell. It’ll make it a lot easier to fish it out.

The second egg: Deviled eggs are a classic Easter treat, but you can hard boil your eggs without ever having to put a pot on the stove. In this genius technique I learned from a recent article on Food52, just bake them in the oven at 325 degrees for about 28 to 30 minutes, which will give your eggs a firm texture without being overcooked. Talk about new ways to cook eggs!

The third egg: A classic bechamel sauce, made with butter, flour, and milk, is a great starting point for some hearty mac-and-cheese. But in Chef Wolfgang Puck’s version, he adds a couple of egg yolks into the bechamel to make it even richer. If you want to turn your bechamel into a Mornay sauce, just add some grated cheese, like cheddar, fontina, or mozzarella.

The fourth egg: Make a perfect poached egg with the help of tips from Kenji Lopez-Alt’s phenomenal cooking resource The Food Lab.

The fifth egg: Turn those poached eggs into eggs benedict by serving them on an English muffin, topped with Hollandaise. To make the sauce, whisk egg yolks with water over a double boiler to create an emulsion. Then mix in lemon juice as well as warmed, clarified butter. Sometimes, the sauce will “break” and separate as it’s cooking. Keller explains that this can happen if the heat is too high or there isn’t enough water. But you can fix it by starting with a new egg yolk, and then slowly incorporating the broken sauce.

The sixth egg: There’s no wrong way to scramble an egg, but Keller advises that a common mistake is cooking it in a pan that’s too hot. “I can’t stress enough the importance of treating eggs gently,” he says. Once the egg is fully scrambled, you can stop it from overcooking by mixing in some butter or crème fraiche. And a bonus – it will make your breakfast even richer.

The seventh egg: Sure, you can always make an egg scramble at home, but when I want a hearty omelette I head to Pete’s Egg Nest in Greenwood. I’m partial to the bacon, avocado and cheddar scramble, but you can mix it up with any of your favorite proteins, including gyro meat, chorizo, and country sausage.

The eighth egg: Italian chef Massimo Bottura says that preparing sole with tomatoes, lemons, and olives is a tasty way to create a Mediterranean-style dinner. To steam your fish properly, try cooking it en papillote, or in parchment paper. But make sure your wrapper has a tight seal by using an egg wash and pressing the seams together. The same technique works well if you’re making dumplings.

The ninth egg: Cook some perfect fried eggs using a technique I learned in a video by the French chef Jacques Pepin.

The tenth egg: Try the Georgian specialty known as khachapuri at Skalka in downtown Seattle. Their dish called adjaruli is a buttery bread boat that’s filled with melted cheese and topped with a runny yolk.

The eleventh egg: For dessert, how about a crème anglaise? Keller shows how you can make this creamy custard by tempering, or slowly cooking, egg yolks with sugar, warm milk and cream. If your heat gets too high and the eggs start to curdle, you can fix your sauce by running it through a blender and then straining it through a fine-mesh sieve. Crème anglaise is often flavored with vanilla beans and can be served over ice cream, cake, or fruit – or just eaten with a spoon.

The twelfth egg: With your leftover egg whites, try making some delicate, crispy meringues. Beat your egg whites with sugar and vanilla over a double boiler, then whip them in a stand mixer with confectioners’ sugar for about 15 minutes. Then, spoon your meringues onto a baking sheet and cook them in a low-temperature oven for about 45 minutes. I don’t think the egg-sact cooking time is critical, but make sure the interiors are soft and that they have an almost marshmallow-like texture. But don’t worry if your dessert doesn’t come out right. Just reach into your Easter basket and eat the eggs that are foil-wrapped and made of chocolate.

What are your favorite new ways to cook eggs, and where do you like to eat them when you’re not at home? Leave a comment and let me know!

To get updates on new posts, you can follow me @seattlefoodhound on Instagram, or @seafoodhound on Twitter.

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What I Ate: Eggs benedict at The Lemon Tree in Bend, Oregon

Try new ways to cook eggs like making a delicious Hollandaise sauce for your benedict

Seattle Restaurants Finding Themselves Reinventing the Meal

Mark Canlis never expected to be running a drive-through burger joint out of the parking lot of his namesake fine-dining restaurant. But in the early days of the pandemic, that’s exactly what the Canlis owner and his team found themselves doing, selling cheeseburgers to over a thousand customers a day and creating traffic jams near their Queen Anne location. Like other Seattle restaurants innovating over the last year – but perhaps more dramatically – Canlis has continually reinvented itself as state regulations surrounding capacity limits for indoor and outdoor dining as well as rules for alcohol service have repeatedly shifted.

Today, Canlis operates a “yurt village” in its parking lot and is gearing up for the May 3 launch of “Camp Canlis,” which will include casual barbecue-style dining by a campfire as well as care packages you can ship to loved ones.

In a webinar hosted by the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP earlier this month, Mark Canlis said that he knew from the beginning of the pandemic that the restaurant was going to have to evolve to survive. But he focused his team on thinking creatively about what they could do next, not on what had been taken away from losing on-premises dining. “This is an amazing opportunity for something,” he recalled thinking at the time. “I don’t know what it is, but we’re going to figure it out.”

Mark Canlis said that many of the incarnations of Canlis during the pandemic – which have included a bagel shop, a meal delivery service, a drive-in movie theater, and a community college – were “miniature trainwrecks.” And some of them bled cash – a $14 dry-aged burger wasn’t sustainable, his accountants said – or made them look unprepared or unpolished. But taken as a whole, Canlis’s continual reinventions were successful in preserving jobs for most of the restaurant’s 115-person staff and helping it break even for the year, he said.

Canlis’s reputation as a fine-dining destination likely made its pivots easier, as curious customers kept coming back to see what the restaurant would do next. But nearly every dining establishment in the city has had to consider new ways of operating over the past 12 months. While almost everyone is packaging their meals for at-home dining and developing to-go cocktails, others are experimenting with creative ideas, revamping their menus and trying to transform themselves into a retail shop, a night market, a cooking school, or even a wholesale distributor.

Here are some of my favorite examples of Seattle restaurants innovating during the pandemic:

  • At Addo in Ballard, chef Eric Rivera offers a dizzying array of take-home tasting menus, including a pair of Easter-themed dinners. Choose “Good Bunny” and you’ll get a healthy-sounding butter lettuce salad, roasted ham, and strawberry shortcake ice cream, while “Bad Bunny” includes rabbit pate, a spicy rabbit leg confit, and foie gras and peanut ice cream. Rivera also sells retail items including canned and fresh seafood and Puerto Rican sazon and adobo spice blends. And he’ll even collaborate with you so you can create your own custom hot sauce.
  • Lady Jaye in West Seattle hosts a quarterly night market, which in March included an outdoor grill with Wagyu cheeseburgers as well as beef, whiskey, and crafts for sale. A couple days before that, the restaurant gave away 100 German bratwursts and chocolate chip and sea salt cookies to customers. And its “General Store” sells smoked and raw meats, including cuts such as bone-in ribeye and prime tenderloin, on Wednesdays through Sundays.
  • Jack’s BBQ, now with four locations in Seattle, hosted an online “BBQ camp” on Zoom with classes on the basics of smoking meats as well as an in-depth look at smoking ribs. And local chefs including Matt in the Market’s Matt Lewis, Osteria La Spiga’s Sabrina Tinsley, and Rupee Bar’s Liz Kenyon, among others, have partnered with Sound Excursions for online cooking classes in making jambalaya, pasta, curry, and more.
  • L’Oursin, a French bistro in the Central District, has shifted focus to become a retail market, selling wine, prepared foods, produce, cheese, and more. It also offers “Le Plateau Royale,” a 90-minute seafood tower for two that’s served on its covered patio. And in a transformation almost as dramatic as Canlis’s, the restaurant also operates Old Scratch, a counter where you can order fried chicken sandwiches or burgers for pickup or delivery.
  • Other Seattle restaurants innovating during the pandemic have also completely revamped their menus, often extending or shifting their hours as they pivoted from high-end dining. Manolin in Fremont, known for its seafood small plates, experimented with selling tacos last fall and is now serving bagels and smoked fish Thursday through Sunday mornings as The Old Salt. Meanwhile, Eden Hill Provisions, a restaurant specializing in creative upscale fare, now offers burgers, fries, and salads for pickup, and has bottles of wine, condiments, and pickled products for sale.
  • Want to stock your freezer with products from your favorite restaurants? For a while during the pandemic, Circa in West Seattle sold quarts of homemade frozen soup (but now only offers it heated). At Dacha Diner in Capitol Hill, you can buy frozen pelmeni (meat) or vareniki (cheese) dumplings. And you can purchase frozen soup dumplings as well as sauces from Xiao Chi Jie in Bellevue.
  • If you’re cooking at home and want to skip a trip to the fish market, Anthony’s Restaurants sells fresh and frozen seafood on Fridays from its wholesale distribution dock in Magnolia. This week’s offerings include halibut and lingcod fillets from Sitka, Alaska, as well as steelhead fillets from the Columbia River.
  • And if you want to fill your kitchen with fresh meats and vegetables, sign up for the CSA program run by Hitchcock on Bainbridge Island. You’ll get a weekly delivery of organic produce from around the Olympic Peninsula, housemade charcuterie, soups and stocks, baked goods, and more.

In a future post, I’ll be examining how successful the transitions have been for Seattle restaurants innovating during the pandemic, and considering the long-term implications for their businesses as the pandemic starts to wind down.

What are your favorite examples of restaurants reinventing the meal during the past year? Leave a comment and let me know!

To get updates on new posts, you can follow me @seattlefoodhound on Instagram, or @seafoodhound on Twitter.

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Some Seattle restaurants innovating during the pandemic, like Eden Hill Provisions, have completely revamped their menus

Why People Say There’s No Good Mexican Food in Seattle

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard somebody say that there isn’t any good Mexican food in Seattle. Right? OK, everyone, you can put your hands down. Although Yelp lists around 240 Mexican restaurants in the city, somehow the consensus is supposed to be that none of them are any good. But that’s entirely wrong. There’s excellent Mexican food all across Seattle, and the people who think there isn’t might be basing their ideas on a false conception of what Mexican food is supposed to taste like.

The funny thing is that I’ve heard the same sentiment about Mexican food expressed in other places I’ve lived, like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston. Why might that be?

Seattle resident Michael Kostin proposed one answer in a recent discussion in the Seattle Foodies Facebook group, responding to a parallel suggestion that the city doesn’t have any good barbecue. “People aren’t really saying that there isn’t good barbecue in Seattle. What they are really saying is that there isn’t barbecue like they remember from wherever they think they had good barbecue,” Kostin said, adding that the same theory applies to Mexican food as well as to other international cuisines. “Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.”

For Mexican food, the issue gets even more complex when you consider how diverse the cuisine is, with seven distinct culinary regions. “There are a lot of different regions in Mexico, and they have different characters and different flavors,” Seattle resident Drue Chatfield pointed out in another Seattle Foodies thread, discussing Mexican restaurants. And so, the fish tacos you might remember from a trip to Baja won’t taste anything like the black mole you might have eaten over pork in Oaxaca, and a Mexican restaurant in Seattle might specialize in one style or the other – or in something else entirely.

Both of these explanations are magnified by the recent pattern of California residents moving into the Seattle area. From 2012 to 2016, almost twice as many people moved into King County from Los Angeles County as from any other county, according to a report in the Seattle Transit Blog. And six of the top 10 counties where people lived before moving to Seattle are in California.

That means that many Seattle newcomers have fresh memories of good Mexican food – which  there certainly is a lot of in southern California. Like anywhere else with a large Mexican population, a diversity of styles is represented in that region. But some people remembering the Mexican food they ate in L.A. might only be remembering their favorite taquerias, or the beloved burritos that were filled with guacamole.

Another reason some people might think there isn’t good Mexican food in Seattle is that it takes effort to seek it out. Around four percent of the city’s population identifies as Mexican, according to the 2010 census, but they’re not concentrated in a single area. And restaurants and food trucks that represent the best of Mexican cuisine are spread out across the city.

Also, if you just want to get your food close to home, you’re likely to find a good number of Mexican fast-food or fast-casual options nearby. Taco Time has nearly 70 locations in Western Washington, including seven in Seattle, while Azteca has 11 restaurants within a 50-mile radius of the city. Most people wouldn’t put either chain in their list of the best Mexican food in Seattle.

So, when you’re looking for good Mexican food in Seattle or in the surrounding area, where should you go? I’ll suggest a half-dozen of my favorite spots:

  • Tacos Chukis, now with four locations across the city, in Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Beacon Hill, and the Central District, has spectacular (what else?) tacos, with my top choice being the house specialty that features adobada pork and grilled pineapple
  • When I’m craving an overstuffed burrito, typically with carne asada, I head to Rancho Bravo in Wallingford or Capitol Hill
  • As I wrote about a few weeks ago, my favorite taco truck in North Seattle is Loxicha, where I usually pick up a plate of tacos al pastor and a creamy horchata
  • For Oaxacan food, I like La Cocina Oaxaqueña in Capitol Hill, although others swear by La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard
  • Luna Azul in Greenwood has fantastic fajitas, mole dishes, and salsas
  • In south Seattle, the “taco bus” Tacos El Asadero is a can’t-miss spot in Columbia City that seems like it’s been around forever

And, for good measure, here are another half-dozen highly regarded places that I haven’t yet had a chance to try:

  • Carmelo’s Tacos in Capitol Hill, with one stand located inside the Hillcrest Market and a permanent restaurant coming soon
  • El Taco Loco, which you can find inside the Ballard Liquor Store on Market Street
  • Asadero, a Mexican steakhouse in Ballard and Kent that offers taco takeout boxes including one with two pounds of wagyu beef, two dozen tortillas, pints of three different salsas, and accompaniments, all for under $50
  • Carnitas Michoacan in Beacon Hill, where I have my eye on the carnitas burrito and tacos made with fresh corn tortillas
  • El Quetzal, also in Beacon Hill, with an appealing menu of tortas
  • Birrieria Tijuana in Burien, where customers line up for cheesy beef tacos to dip in consomme

Sergio Juárez, a Seattle resident from Aguascalientes City in Mexico, concurs that there’s lots of tasty Mexican food across the city. “I can pretty much find anything truly Mexican and authentic I want,” Juárez said in a spirited thread in the Seattle Foodies Facebook group. “Don’t get the hate.”

Clearly, Seattle’s no different than most big cities across America. The Mexican food in Seattle might not be what you remember from where you used to live. But there are still tons of great options for you to seek out and enjoy.

Where are your favorite places to get Mexican food in Seattle and the surrounding area? Leave a comment and let me know!

To get updates on new posts, you can follow me @seattlefoodhound on Instagram, or @seafoodhound on Twitter.

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Good Mexican food in Seattle might not remind you of what you ate in other places

Regional Burgers and the Search for a Seattle Style

I’ve been thinking a lot about regional burger styles lately, mostly because I’m experimenting with cooking less meat and haven’t eaten one in over a month. And when I heard Seattle resident Kenji Lopez-Alt reference an “Oklahoma City” burger on a recent episode of the Special Sauce podcast, it raised a few curious questions. First, what the heck is an Oklahoma City burger? Did the city steal the style from Seattle along with our NBA franchise? And if the city doesn’t already have a regional burger identity, what would Seattle’s look like?

First things first. From a handful of burger roundups floating around the Internet, I learned that an Oklahoma City burger is a thin griddled patty into which onions are smashed during cooking. As the story goes, a chef at the Hamburger Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma, invented the style during the Depression to help stretch the expensive ground beef he had on hand into a bigger burger. The smashed onion patty soon caught on in El Reno, just outside Oklahoma City, and eventually became popular elsewhere in the region.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that many corners of America claim their own regional burger styles based on common toppings available locally. Sometimes these are added directly to the grilled meat, but they can also be slathered onto the bun. In your travels you might encounter a California burger with avocado or guacamole, a Southern burger with pimento cheese, a New Mexico cheeseburger with green chiles, or even a Missouri goober burger with peanut butter.

But more intriguing to me are the examples of regional burger styles that, like the Oklahoma City burger, involve transforming the meat itself, either through cooking techniques besides grilling, or by adding ingredients to the patty. Here are a few versions you might seek out on your next visit to these places:

  • The Juicy Lucy, invented in Minnesota, is a burger patty that’s stuffed with melted cheese, usually American or cheddar
  • The butter burger, a Wisconsin creation, has butter mixed into the patty before cooking, with more butter added on top of the burger as well as on the bun
  • The Mississippi Slugburger mixes bread crumbs or other extenders like flour and soy meal into the patty
  • The Connecticut steamed cheeseburger cooks the burger in a steaming cabinet rather than on a grill
  • The Frita Cubana, originally from Cuba but widely available in Miami, is a thin patty seasoned with paprika and cumin (and then topped with thin-cut potatoes, raw onions, and ketchup)
  • The Tennessee deep-fried burger is smashed to a thin patty and then fried in oil

So what’s Seattle’s quintessential burger style? There are any number of candidates for the best burger in the city. My favorites include the mushroom burger at Uneeda Burger, topped with gruyere and truffle aioli, the Big Max at Eden Hill Provisions, with patties that are a mixture of wagyu brisket, dry aged beef, and bacon, and the Rough Draft smashburger I still need to try and recreate at home.

Still, while these are all great burgers, none of them seem ubiquitous enough to represent a distinctive Seattle style. I wonder if the lack of a singular burger identity is a symptom of a larger question about what makes Seattle truly Seattle. Is there a burger we should name after Mt. Rainier? One that’s inspired by tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon? Or should some enterprising chef develop a Juneuary burger to commemorate our gloomiest season?

With apologies to the Dick’s Deluxe, maybe the quintessential Seattle burger isn’t a hamburger at all. Considering our abundance of seafood, maybe it’s actually a salmon burger. Or perhaps the regional style we should claim is the teriyaki chicken burger, influenced by the city’s large Asian population.

But until someone invents the archetypal Seattle burger, we might be left taking our cue from the Seattle Dog, which as late-night Capitol Hill revelers and stadiumgoers know, is a hot dog topped with cream cheese and sauteed onions. I’d suggest that a burger with these toppings should be known as a Seattle Burger.

And, with a nod to Oklahoma City for having its own regional burger style (and a middle finger for stealing our NBA franchise), I have the perfect name for the Seattle-style burger. From now on, let’s call it the SuperSonic.

Do you have a favorite regional burger style, or a nomination for a Seattle-style burger? Leave a comment and let me know!

To get updates on new posts, you can follow me @seattlefoodhound on Instagram, or @seafoodhound on Twitter.

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Why Asian Restaurants in Seattle Deserve Your Takeout Dollars

The past year has been a difficult one for the entire dining industry, but perhaps no group has been more deeply affected than the owners of Asian restaurants. As soon as a mysterious virus was known to have originated in Wuhan, China, Chinatowns across the country began to see a steep decline in sales, as many people falsely blamed Asian-Americans for the pandemic. According to one widely circulated statistic, 59 percent of mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants have closed during the past year. And in recent weeks, a troubling trend of violence toward Asian-Americans has only made the situation worse. Now more than ever, Asian restaurants in Seattle and other cities need your help to ensure they’re able to weather the current storm.

“Chinatown is in trouble. What’s at stake right now is the survival of Chinatown,” cookbook author Grace Young, who’s known as the Stir-Fry Guru, said on a recent episode of the Special Sauce podcast. In October, Young partnered with the Beard Foundation and several well-known chefs and cookbook authors to launch a social media campaign devoted to saving Chinese restaurants.

Over the past year, at least 17 restaurants in New York City’s Chinatown have permanently shut down, according to the New York Times, including Jing Fong, a mainstay of the neighborhood that had been in operation since 1978. In San Francisco, Eastern Bakery, the oldest bakery in Chinatown, reported a 70 percent drop in sales during one of its busiest times of year, according to the Washington Post. Nearby, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is baking at least 40 percent fewer fortune cookies than they would on a normal day. Young explained that Chinatowns in these cities and others are dependent on tourism and office workers, both of which have declined dramatically during the pandemic.

But the challenges faced by Chinese restaurants aren’t limited to reduced foot traffic. Recent incidents of racism against Asian restaurant workers have exacerbated the problem in several cities. Jason Wang, the CEO of Xi’an Famous Foods, a chain with eight locations in the New York metropolitan area, told the New York Times that two of his employees were punched in the face, unprovoked, on their way to or from work. Wang said that he’s decided to close his restaurants earlier in the evening than he used to, in order to ensure his employees’ safety. And in San Antonio, Noodle Tree restaurant was vandalized with racist messages this week, a few days after its owner gave an interview on CNN criticizing Texas governor Greg Abbott for lifting the state’s mask requirement.

Related: Omsom Starters Provide a Shortcut to Asian Flavors

I’m not aware of any specific incidents of racism against Asian restaurants in Seattle. But Asian-Americans including former governor Gary Locke marched last weekend to decry recent acts of violence in the city. One Japanese-American woman and her boyfriend were beaten in the International District in late February. Prosecutors said it was a “vicious and unprovoked attack,” although they did not classify it as a hate crime.

However, in a new national study released this week based upon police department statistics, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes was reported to have risen by nearly 150% in 2020. And though the perpetrator of yesterday’s shootings in Atlanta that targeted Asian massage parlors claims the acts weren’t racially motivated, they’re more evidence that the trend of violence against Asian Americans has continued into 2021.

A good way to show your support for the Asian-American community in the face of all this racism and violence is to spend your dining dollars at Asian restaurants in Seattle. Some of my favorites include Seven Stars Pepper in the International District, Pho Cyclo, with multiple locations around the Seattle area, and Pop Pop Thai Street Food in North Seattle. Whichever type of Asian food you pick, and whether you choose to visit a restaurant in Chinatown or in your local neighborhood, you’ll know that you’re doing some good for a community that deserves your patronage.

Which Asian restaurants in Seattle would you like to support? Leave a comment and let me know!

To get updates on new posts, you can follow me @seattlefoodhound on Instagram, or @seafoodhound on Twitter.

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For Lovers of Math and Dessert: Here’s Where to Buy Pie in Seattle for Pi Day

One of my favorite food holidays on the calendar is coming up this weekend, and it’s not too late to start making plans to celebrate. Every March 14, people who love both math and dessert have the perfect excuse to eat pastry for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as they observe Pi Day. Sure, you can always bake your own pie, but I prefer to leave this holiday to the experts. Here are a few of my favorite places to buy pie in Seattle for Pi Day, as well as a handful of restaurants that are offering specials to mark the occasion.

  • My first stop to buy pie in Seattle for Pi Day is usually A La Mode Pies in Phinney Ridge and West Seattle. I’m partial to Mexican chocolate mousse and toasted coconut cream, but you also can’t go wrong with peanut butter mousse. Fruit lovers have a variety of pies to choose from here, including marionberry and hazelnut, strawberry rhurbarb, or the signature Blue Hawaiian, which includes blueberries, pineapple, and toasted coconut. You can order a slice or two at their cafes (get there early on Pi Day before they sell out) or pre-order a whole pie to pick up.
  • At Pie Bar in Ballard, you can get slices or whole pies from their walkup window. Fruit options include berry crumble and apple crumble, or you can try one of their cream choices, like pb&j or banana cream.
  • Macrina Bakery is selling special tartlets for Pi Day, including a berry and a chocolate banana cream. Order online at least two days in advance for pickup at any of their five locations.
  • Preorder whole pies at The London Plane in Pioneer Square, or buy slices in store on either Saturday or Sunday. Their flavor options are coconut cream, raspberry rhubarb, and chocolate cream.
  • Coconut cream is also the special Pi Day flavor on offer at Super Six in Columbia City. The whole pie is topped with whipped cream, sesame brittle, and lilikoi caramel.
  • Watson’s Counter in Ballard is serving up s’mores, caramel apple, and lemon meringue pies on Sunday. The restaurant says it’ll be announcing ordering information on their Instagram feed.

Of course, if none of these choices will satisfy your cravings for pie in Seattle for Pi Day, you can always just order a pizza pie. Happy Pi Day, everyone!

What I Ate: Homemade chocolate coconut chess pie

Homemade chocolate coconut chess pie in Seattle for Pi Day

Travel Flashback: Fried Chicken at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster

Three years ago this week, I visited New York City in the midst of a late winter snowstorm, and made a pilgrimage to Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem for a decadent fried chicken lunch.

Samuelsson, the acclaimed chef who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, opened Red Rooster in 2010 after a stint as the executive chef as Aquavit, for which he was named New York City’s best chef by the James Beard Foundation. In his riveting 2012 memoir, Yes, Chef, which I finished last month, Samuelsson recounts that he wanted Red Rooster’s cuisine to tell the story “of all of Harlem’s residents – Latin, Southern, Caribbean, Jewish, Italian.” And the menu he offers today still nods toward those communities, with dishes such as sweet potato and coconut soup, bucatini with crab, shrimp, and lobster, and a grilled caesar and shrimp ceviche with green chile.

What I was most eager to try at the time, though, not knowing much about Samuelsson except for seeing him win Top Chef Masters, was his version of soul food. My lunch started with cornbread served with honey butter and tomato jam, as well as a plate of luscious deviled eggs whose exact preparation is lost to history. From there, I devoured his signature fried chicken and waffles, served with greens and pickles. Was there dessert? I don’t recall, but if I were there today it would be hard to pass up either the salted caramel donuts with sweet potato cream and raspberry-lime jam, or the rum-chocolate cake with roasted pineapple and red velvet cream.

In his memoir, Samuelsson explains that he knew he had to include fried chicken on the Red Rooster menu, but because he didn’t grow up eating it, he had to experiment with it during “an entire summer of my own private fried chicken master class.” The recipe he describes involves a complicated process of marinating the chicken in coconut milk, curing it in lemon, steaming it, and then frying it. The result was memorable – a well-seasoned leg with a crunchy coating and a juicy interior, served over a crispy cornmeal waffle and offset by sharp pickles.

Samuelsson mentions in the book that when he opened Red Rooster, he made a point of accompanying his fried chicken with pickled watermelon rind, an element that might otherwise traditionally have been discarded. He said that he wanted the restaurant to have a “waste-nothing mentality,” so he also used the rind as an accompaniment to an Ethiopian coffee-crusted duck, and broccoli stems for a citrus-glazed side dish. In a 2019 interview, Samuelsson expanded on the theme of food waste, noting that more than a third of edible food is wasted. He asked chefs and home cooks to think about how they might use “that one tomato that might be a little beaten up but is still packed with flavor, or avocado that’s just a little bit darker than the rest but not spoiled.”

At a time when food insecurity is still prevalent for many people, it’s worth keeping Samuelsson’s message in mind and attempting to reduce the amount of produce we waste. And hopefully soon, we’ll able to return to Red Rooster and savor his fried chicken again, appreciating even more the effort it took both to create the dish and to incorporate elements that might otherwise have been thrown away.

What I Ate: Fried chicken leg and waffles at Red Rooster in New York City

Red Rooster fried chicken

How the Rise of Ghost Kitchens May Leave Diners Feeling Haunted

When you’re craving some lunchtime chicken wings but you’re swamped at your desk with work, the easiest thing to do might be to open your favorite food delivery app. On DoorDash, you have the choice of a few well-known national wing brands, as well as Sticky Wings, Rebel Wings, and Wings & Things. But what may not be immediately clear is that there hasn’t been a sudden influx of new chicken restaurants in your neighborhood. Actually, all of these wings come from the same Seattle ghost kitchens, located in two trailers hidden in back of a strip mall, parked down the hill behind a wireless store and a mattress outlet.

The wing shops are run by a business called Reef Kitchens. It’s one of a growing number of companies that are operating Seattle ghost kitchens (also called virtual kitchens or dark kitchens). These are usually delivery-only “restaurants” that are sometimes attached to a brick-and-mortar eatery, but can also be brands that barely exist at all.

Reef Kitchens is one of a growing number of companies that are operating Seattle ghost kitchens

Another Reef trailer is located behind a barbed-wire fence in an RV storage lot in an industrial area of Magnolia. That’s where food is prepared for one outpost of the Instagram-friendly brand Man vs Fries. From there, you can order burritos with fries that are served on a “hella big” flour tortilla and topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Man vs Fries started as a Bay Area popup in 2018 and partnered with Reef to expand to cities across North America. There are now over 70 locations, including four in Seattle, and the brand has over 27,000 followers on Instagram.

Diane Lam, a restaurant owner in Portland, described Man vs Fries as “sterile” after she tried it out in the name of market research. “On the website, it looks so good,” Lam told Eater Portland, “but when it comes to your door, it doesn’t feel like anyone is cooking it.”

I haven’t had the chance to try the Man vs Fries concept myself, but I’d be surprised if it lived up to the hype. Personally, I’d rather order my takeout from local businesses like Marination, Frelard Tamales, and others, who have a track record of supporting the community and preparing fresh, flavorful food.

Ghost kitchens are projected to become a $1 trillion market over the next decade, and the NPD group, which tracks restaurant sales, says that delivery now makes up 11% of restaurant sales, up 86% since the beginning of the pandemic. Capitalizing on the trend, or perhaps driving it, big companies like Chili’s and Applebee’s have started creating their own ghost brands. Meanwhile, celebrities like Mario Lopez, YouTube star MrBeast, and Guy Fieri have begun to roll out virtual restaurants in dozens of cities nationwide, through delivery apps like Doordash, Uber Eats, Postmates, and Grubhub.

In Seattle and other cities, Fieri made headlines when his Flavortown Kitchen opened a few weeks ago, offering diners his signature fried cheesesteak egg rolls and burgers covered with Donkey sauce. But the concept actually operates out of the South Lake Union location of the Italian chain Buca di Beppo. The kitchen there also prepares orders for MrBeast Burger, Wing Squad, and Mariah’s Cookies (a virtual brand named after Mariah Carey, who’s not baking the treats herself). All of these brands are under the umbrella of a company called Virtual Dining Concepts. At Buca di Beppo, Fieri himself seems like a ghost. If you choose to eat in their dining room, you can’t order anything off his menu, and there’s no signage outside that delineates the entrance to Flavortown.

The emergence of a ghost kitchen with ties to a celebrity chef seems likely to cannibalize sales from local brick-and-mortar establishments that are struggling during the pandemic. But some restaurants are fighting back by creating their own virtual brands. Green Lake’s Cocina Oaxaca is about to launch three new delivery-only brands that are run through a company called Future Foods: Daydream Breakfast Burritos, Smashmouth Burgers, and Cantina Latina. “It’s a cool way to make a little more money without modifying our menu at all or compromising anything,” Isabel Dominguez, manager of Cocina Oaxaca, told me. The Mexican restaurant already has almost all of the ingredients it needs to make burgers as well as breakfast burritos, so Dominguez says it’s a low-risk, no-obligation way to expand their business through delivery that she hopes will help the restaurant stay in business and not have to lay off any staff.

Hungry customers browsing online may not realize that these brands are connected to an existing restaurant. (Uber Eats says it now has over 10,000 delivery-only restaurants on its platform.) And in some cases, the offerings can be misleading. If you order from another location of “Smashmouth Burgers,” you might get a completely different product, because those burgers are made in the kitchen of Lunchbox Laboratory, a restaurant with locations in South Lake Union and Bellevue. Meanwhile, “Next Level Clucker” isn’t actually a chicken restaurant, just an offshoot of the vegan Next Level Burger in Roosevelt. And if you shop for vegetarian food through the “Viva la Veggie” brand, you’ll actually be getting your food from Pecado Bueno, a Mexican restaurant with locations in Fremont and Eastlake that also operates as “The Torta Shop.”

While DoorDash sometimes labels its ghost brands as virtual restaurants, the lack of transparency on most platforms might lead you to believe you’re getting something very different than what you ordered. Search for Chinese buns on Uber Eats and you might select Mount&Bao, a Lake City restaurant specializing in noodles or dumplings. Or you might choose Wow Bao, a national chain I first encountered in Chicago that’s partnered with Reef to bring the brand to its “neighborhood kitchens.” When you order from Wow Bao, your frozen potstickers or buns will be steamed in the same trailer where you’d get your frozen chicken wings.

We’re still in the early days of Seattle ghost kitchens. But big players are entering the market, like Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and has been buying properties around the country, including in Seattle. While it’s unclear whether virtual kitchens will ultimately be a boon to the local economy, restaurants that exist only as ghost brands  – whose marketing and food quality may be just a mirage – could be a scary prospect for Seattle diners.

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What I Ate: Malasaladas with guava filling from Marination

I'd rather order malasaladas from a community-focused business like Marination than patronize a company that's operating Seattle ghost kitchens

Reader Q&A: Where’s the Best Place to Eat for Under $10?

It’s time to answer our first reader question! Today, we’re tackling cheap restaurants in North Seattle. If you have a food dilemma or a cooking conundrum, send it to seafoodhound@hotmail.com. Include your first name and initial and your location, and the answer may appear in a future post.

Where’s the best place in North Seattle that I can get dinner for $10 or less? – Arthur W., Seattle

Great question, Arthur! I’ve got a few ideas for cheap restaurants in North Seattle, where you can enjoy a satisfying and filling meal for the cost of a Hamilton. And as a bonus, you’ll get to travel around the world as you zip around city neighborhoods between Lake City and Aurora.

Our first stop is a taco truck that’s located between Northgate and Lake City on 15th Ave NE, just south of NE 117th St. At Loxicha Authentic Oaxaca Cuisine, you can get a plateful of street tacos plus a drink for $5.99 (four tacos) or $7.99 (six tacos). I’m partial to the tacos al pastor, juicy morsels of pork mixed with chunks of pineapple and accented by chopped cilantro and onions. For another budget-friendly choice on the menu, try a bowl with rice and veggies that can be topped with chicken, fish, or carnitas. Loxicha is cash-only, but you might want to bring a little extra to try their creamy, cinnamon-flavored horchata ($3.00).

Next, we’ll head up to Lake City Way, north of NE 137th St., to another cash-only establishment, Man’oushe Express. Here, you’ll get a taste of the Middle East, with almost everything on the menu under $10, including flatbreads called manakish that are topped with ground lamb, zaatar and cheese, or sujuk (spicy beef sausage). I’ve tried a few versions, and they were all well-seasoned and filling. If you’re looking for Mediterranean fare that may be more familiar, try the gyro or falafel plates, shawarma sandwiches, or the stuffed grape leaves.

Further south on Lake City Way, just north of NE 110th St., is one of my favorite sandwich stops, Tubs Gourmet Subs. The Italian combo sub includes ham, turkey, salami, provolone cheese, and vegetables on a toasted baguette. Order the small version ($7.99), and it should be plenty for a single meal, but a healthier appetite might make you want to add a few dollars to your budget and go for the large. Tubs also has a wide-ranging menu of beef, chicken, and vegetarian options, as well as sandwiches that nod toward every corner of the country, like a Texas turkey sub, a Southern sandwich with ham, bacon, and coleslaw, a Philly dip, and even a Hawaiian special with ham, pineapple, and “BBQ dust.”

When I’m hungry for an inexpensive meal, I frequently turn to banh mi, and a good choice on the north side of town is Luu’s Cafe (8507 35th Ave. NE). The Vietnamese sandwiches ($5.95) are served on a French baguette with the typical accompaniments of carrots, cilantro, and mayo, but also come with a smear of pate and some additional veggies. I prefer the BBQ pork version, but you can also get beef, chicken, or vegan meatball as your protein. And if you have room in your budget (and your stomach), try a macaron, a waffle taco, or a milk tea in one of 30 flavors, including ginger, lychee, pomegranate, and sesame.

Still feeling peckish? For our final stop, let’s stay in Asia and head west to Pop Pop Thai Street Food (13242 Aurora Ave. N), where several tasty entrees will feed you for under $10. Less adventurous eaters may want to order pad thai ($9.95), which comes with either chicken, pork, tofu, or mixed vegetables, or a rice dish like the spicy holy basil (also $9.95) that’s stir-fried with your choice of protein, green beans, and onions in a rich and flavorful garlic sauce. Other intriguing, budget-friendly options on the menu include a salted crab papaya salad, a Thai omelette served over rice, and a spicy chicken noodle soup with fish balls.

Happy eating, Arthur! Enjoy your excursions to the cheap restaurants in North Seattle and let us know what you tried! For more ideas, read how pop-ups are changing Seattle’s dining scene

What I Ate: Al pastor street tacos from Loxicha

Cheap restaurants in North Seattle like Loxicha will let you eat well for less than $10.

 

Why Professional Food Writing Is Just as Important as Ever

When Chicago Tribune restaurant reviewer Phil Vettel accepted a buyout last month, it left the nation’s third-most populous city without a full-time food critic. A few weeks later, Detroit Free Press dining critic Mark Kurlyandchik also took a voluntary layoff, leaving that city without one of its food writing mainstays. 

These departures are just the latest high-profile examples of a trend in food media that’s been accelerating over the past few years. As local newspapers across the country have cut costs in the wake of severe advertising shortfalls and declining subscription rates, their food sections, which can be expensive to produce, have been decimated. Many newspapers no longer have a dedicated restaurant critic, and some alt-weeklies that were mainstays of local criticism, like the Boston Phoenix, the Village Voice, and Seattle Weekly, are out of business or no longer publish articles about food. And while there are plenty of food influencer Instagram accounts, paid bloggers, and Yelp reviewers, few are serious independent journalists who have the big picture on the city’s restaurant scene that helps provide context for their opinions.

But even as the media landscape shifts, professional food journalists still provide an important service to their readers and enhance the cultural life of a community, even if their role is in flux. A recent article in Eater Chicago, commenting on Vettel’s departure, described a food critic as an “arbiter of taste” whose role is to “champion places that return value for your hard-earned money and keep you away from the spots that would fleece you.” But during a panel discussion this morning hosted by Eater Chicago, two prominent critics disputed that view, saying that food writing has expanded to wrestle with issues in American culture through the lens of dining, not just recommend or pan restaurants.  

Tejal Rao, a restaurant critic for the New York Times, mentioned “Black Lives Matter” as a cultural movement that has informed multiple pieces she’s written over the past year. “There’s this idea of restaurant criticism about being at a table tasting something and giving a bunch of adjectives. It has to be more than that or it’s really boring,” Rao said.

Devra First, restaurant critic for the Boston Globe, added that restaurants, many of which have closed or shifted to takeout operations, have been a huge story during the pandemic. She believes that part of her role is to “support and uplift” the industry, not just decide which restaurants are worthwhile. “In the moment that we’re in now any restaurant that is managing to muddle through is a four-star restaurant,” First said.

Rao’s colleague Pete Wells agrees. In an article in the New York Times last week, Wells said that with takeout and outdoor dining during the pandemic, his job has changed but the essence of his food writing remains the same: telling people about where to find great food. When he discovered a restaurant that was bringing New Yorkers joy while keeping them healthy, “I didn’t want to just report on it. I wanted to bang a drum so people would pay attention,” Wells said.

Journalists who write about food can take their reporting in many different directions. Freelance writer Korsha Wilson, who was also on the Eater Chicago panel today, pitches stories to publications about voices who aren’t already at the table. She says her mission is to “highlight the amazing work that black and brown chefs are doing in this country.”

Rao said she’s written several stories about food policy, as well as “weird” essays like the one about all the smells she encountered during a day. Other writers highlight important trends that are affecting local businesses. In one example this week, the Los Angeles Times reported on a “dine and dash” scam in which some customers are ordering takeout using fraudulent credit card numbers, or disputing charges made through delivery apps (who often side with the customer rather than the restaurant). One such scam helped put a Korean restaurant called Spoon by H out of business.

Closer to home, local food writing, in publications like the Seattle Times, Seattle Met, and Eater Seattle, helps inform readers about changes in the local dining scene. Sometimes these writers also offer their opinions about recommended spots. Just this week, I’ve learned about a restaurant that one critic thinks is the best pizza in Washington State, about a historic Japanese restaurant in the International District that’s evolved its izakaya menu to include Nashville-styled fried chicken and a teriyaki-inspired cheeseburger, and about a Syrian food cart on Vashon Island.

While there aren’t as many restaurant reviews as there used to be, and even the ones that exist don’t usually come with star ratings, local and national audiences depend on these independent voices to help them understand how the food world is changing. When social media is dominated by advertising and influencers, it’s critical for readers of all backgrounds to have trusted sources who can give them valuable information and put them at the heart of their efforts. And these food writers – even if they’re no longer just arbiters of taste – can still make recommendations on where you should spend your dining dollars.

What I Ate: Roasted beet salad from Joli

Food writing done by professionals helps enhance the cultural life of a community