In the wake of the Zina Linnik tragedy, the governor was in Tacoma to toughen laws that will let police collect DNA samples from a wider array of sex offenders and let authorities publish the names of offenders on a statewide Web site if the offenders fail to tell police where they are living.
Later that night, she had dinner with several prominent businessmen including one of Tacoma’s business leaders, Herb Simon, who is credited with helping turn downtown Tacoma around. He also helped spearhead the U of W Tacoma branch and became a member of the UW Board of Regents as appointed by Governor Gregoire.
A Tacoma native, Herb Simon is a 1964 graduate of the UW with a degree in political science. In 1985 he formed an investment company –what is now Simon Johnson LLC, and invested in real estate and venture capital projects.
The Washington State Patrol is assigned to protect the Governor, and 2 plains-clothes officers sat at a table nearby, as Gregoire held court. It was interesting that after she ordered the Weathervane Scallops with succotash & apple-smoked bacon for her dinner, that several of the businesmen in attendance followed suit!
The 2 patrolmen assigned to the Security Detail (one male the other female) ordered dessert: she ordered Julia Child’s Warm Brownie Sundae with Olympic Mt. vanilla ice cream; he had the deep-fried Banana Split.
Both desserts are huge and I did worry that they might not be able to chase down any “perps” if something happened!
In ancient times, herbs were thought to be mainly medicinal… gypsies used herbs for fortune telling, and in the Middle Ages, herbs were used to preserve meats as well as to cover-up the flavors of rotting flesh, and used in religious observances. Over the centuries we had less need to cover-up the off-flavors of spoilage, and began to love the flavors herbs imparted just for themselves. Now we are coming full-circle and realizing that herbs indeed have tremendous antioxident properties, with implications that affect our health–another reason to eat more fresh herbs.
(photo shows Pacific Grill Executive Chef, Aaron Valimont, holding a bunch of Rosemary going to fight for our health!)
In a recent article found on http://www.realage.com/ there is an interesting study on the medicinal qualities of rosemary— one of my favorite herbs.
When I first started cooking professionally I was struck by what a wonderful piney flavor rosemary imparted to foods and marinades. In fact, I make an all-purpose herb infused oil that we use to marinate vegetables, meats and chicken, out of a blend of 10% extra-virgin olive oil, 90% canola oil, chopped garlic, fresh chopped Italian parsley & chopped fresh rosemary.
When I was growing up, my Italian grandfather, Frank Naccarato, used to make a wonderful minestrone soup at his restaurant on the old mountain highway that I still wish I had the recipe for. One day while making a vegetable soup for my restaurant Gordon’s in Aspen, I happened to add a bunch of chopped rosemary. After the vegetables had simmered, and the soup was ready to taste—it immediately conjured-up the memory of my grandpa’s– and I realized I had discovered the secret of great chicken soup—it was the rosemary! Every mother knows that chicken soup is good for you when you are sick. But we are just beginning to find out how good certain herbs are for us!
Now a study has found that not only is rosemary a great flavor booster– and one of the trendiest cooking herbs, but the article goes on to say: ”… the fragrant needle-leaved herb is also showing early promise as a cancer killer…in cell studies, rosemary extract has given both breast cancer and leukemia cells a real fight.”
As a way of introducing a greater use of rosemary in your diet, they suggest sticking a fresh sprig in lemonade, or steep some rosemary in hot tea, and sprinkle it on salads.
At Pacific Grill we use rosemary in many of our dishes. It is a particular favorite of mine on our Saddle of Lamb.
And don’t forget it’s the secret of great chicken soup!
References: Anti-proliferative and antioxidant properties of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis. Cheung, S., Tai, J., Oncology Reports 2007 Jun;17(6):1525-1531.
We sat in the bar, and decided to try some of their Happy Hour Menu items.
I love this elegantly retro room, with it’s tall ceilings, romantic booths, and dark moody lighting. And I was glad to see they were doing decent business for a Sunday night. I was also glad to see that Gaucho had a Happy hour Menu again, as for a while they had discontinued it…
One of my favorite people in the world (and a former server/assistant manager with us at Pacific Grill) Kari Monreal came by for a hug.
“How’s it going?” I asked her.
“Really intense –the training”, she replied—“ it’s a lot to learn!”
Then charming Hostess Christina Vaughon came by to say hello and to meet my brother.
I ordered a draft beer, and Steve had a glass of red wine.
I was starving, so I immediately told the nice Bartender, Sylvia, to bring me the Tuna Tartare [$9.95]. It arrived on a plate all in components: salt, chile pepper, capers, pine nuts, onion (and oddly) –diced pear– the Bartender explained it also had splash of soy sauce on it.
I tried to toss all the ingredients together which was awkward, since the appetizer arrived on a flat plate with a tiny cocktail fork, a spoon and a dinner fork. It was difficult to accomplish, but tasted ok-to-good, on the toasted sliced crostini that accompanied the tuna. (Although I needed to ask for more crostini to finish the dish). There were about 3 too many ingredients in the dish for me (capers, pears, and pine nuts??) for it to truly be great. It was confused from inception–and the soy sauce unnecessary.
Oliver and I ordered the 1/3 lb El Gaucho Signature Certified Angus Beef Cheeseburger [$5.95]. You can add avocado, or bacon or fries—each for an additional dollar.
I decided to have mine with just fries.
Several minutes later, the Bartender arrived to explain that they had just “run out of fries” !!!
She offered mashed potatoes but there is something inherently wrong and unappealing and un-American to eat a burger with mash.
“Huh? Don’t you have potatoes in the kitchen?” I asked. “Just cut some potato!” we laughed.
They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) so I ordered the side of “skillet hashbrowns”(sp) [$6]. Oliver ordered a side of asparagus.
The impressively gigantic burger arrived, with the side of hash browns. The red onions on the side looked slightly sad and a little brown around the edges, and of course tomatoes are out of season –so I didn’t expect them to be good anyway. The beef was mushy and under-seasoned, and had picked up no discernible char-flavor from the grill. Of course I ate the whole thing anyway, but I was less than impressed. I do have to say for the size it is a bargain though. Next time I’ll ask them to really char the meat–and season it.
The hash browns were also disappointing. They were literally smothered in cheese (more like a potato gratin) and were almost as mushy as mashed potatoes—and almost white-hot with cayenne or white pepper. Not send-back-bad …but still, most customers wouldn’t expect the hash browns to be spicy. And the presentation was gloppy and unappealing.
I have to say: in my book, the only thing worse than over-seasoned food is bland, under-seasoned food. But someone here (hello Chef?) needs to taste the food after it is made to make sure seasonings are spot-on.
Steven ordered the Steamed Manila Clams [$7.95]
The clams arrived with a huge silver sauce-boat of butter. It was easily enough drawn butter to feed a party of 20. An extravagance. The tiny manila clams were steamed with some garlic and white wine and Steve pronounced them “delicious.”
Generous Bartender Sylvia poured me a glass of red wine “on the house” to make up for the French fries I assume. If it is one thing Gaucho always does right is take care of their customers!
In the background, the piano-man was singing another song about love gone bad, glasses tinkled in the dining room, and another fat steak hissed as it hit the grill.
I walked out into the cold drizzling night, stuffed from the sheer size of the burger. Next time I’ll know to split it with a friend so I am not tempted to eat the whole thing. I’ll be back.
[P.S. I have since been informed by Hostess Christina, and Waiter Kari, that I was mistakenly served the “Southwest Scalloped Potatoes“, instead of the Skillet Hashbrowns that I had ordered. That would explain while I felt disappointed with my “hash browns”. However I still feel the presentation sloppy–the scalloped potatoes overcooked & mushy, and they were still over-the-top spicy …with way too much white pepper and/or cayenne!]
El Gaucho® Tacoma
2119 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma , WA 98402
Fulcrum Art Gallery
1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma
A few more notes about restaurants I dined at when I was in Honolulu in January. I had a nice meal at Indigo restaurant. Locals have voted it “Best Oahu Restaurant“. This tropically stylish place gets a great crowd and also features live music at night. There are two comfortable bars but try and get a seat at the more popular outdoor bar. The eurasian fusion food was delicious—especially the crispy Ahi Tempura Roll ($13) that I sampled that had been dredged in almond meal, and fried. The shaggy batter was shatteringly crisp and thin. And when I asked about the delicious pickled sushi ginger, I was told that the Chef makes his own! I’ve got to get that recipe!
Soul De Cuba
I had the Lechon Asado ($14) shredded roasted suckling pig, served over rice. It was delicious in its mojo citrus marinade, and impossibly tender. My friend, Barry Edwards ordered the Pollo Soul de Cuba ($18)
|Yard House Waikiki
A fun place to go if you are thirsty for beer is the Yard House located in the Beach Walk area of Waikiki, next to Roy’s Restaurant.. This casual restaurant chain has 130 taps and features over 100 beers! I tried a couple of the local Big Island brews—Big Aloha Blonde / Keoki Hawaiian Sunset ($5.75) being two– which were nothing to write home about. The appetizer menu was interesting, and the place attracts a rowdy younger crowd.
I had the Poke Stack, ($12.65) which was a generous portion of chopped marinated ahi between layers of crisp wontons. It was drizzled with a spicy wasabi soy. The music is loud classic rock, the beer can be ordered by the “yard” and the food was much better than it needed to be. Your over-21 year old kids will love it. Your ears may not!
I would also recommend the always reliable Keo’s for great Thai. The restaurant is justly famous for their extravagant arrangements of orchids. Located right off Kalakaua at Kuhio–every dish I tried here was delicious except for their version of “larb” ($14.95) also known as “Chiang Mai Salad“. This salad has cilantro, “holy basil” & mint and is spicy and very lime’y’ and refreshing. Unfortunately, there was way too much lime juice which further “cooked” the chicken making it mealy & dry.
Keo’s Thai Cuisine
Chandler’s Crabhouse at South Lake Union
|Had a wonderful evening in Seattle Sunday night.
Two of our Pacific Grill investors Dennis & Ida Ford invited me and my Executive Chef, Aaron Valimont, to dinner at Chandler’s Crabhouse on Lake Union. Dennis & Ida (two of the nicest people you will ever meet) just got back from two weeks in Cancun, and we laughed about Ida’s lack of tan, and my father’s insistence that that is the entire purpose of a trip to Cancun. (they stayed at my Dad’s timeshare with his wife Jeanne).
We met Dennis first at Schwartz Brothers Bakery, where he is the Bakery Manager. He gave Aaron & me a tour of the impressive facility. Schwartz Bros. provides the pastries to dozens of businesses in the greater Seattle area, including Trader Joe’s, and all the Starbucks from Everett to Vancouver WA. If you’ve had a pumpkin scone from Starbucks or the individual carrot cakes from Trader Joe’s –you’ve tasted something delicious from Schwartz Bros…
The size of the bread and dough- mixing machinery dwarfed us as we made our way through the cavernous facility. Palettes of butter stacked to the ceiling reminded me of Costco. Sacks of flour, sugar & spices, and exotic flavorings filled the air. The whole place smelled like ‘eau de cinnamon roll’, and I was starving!
After the tour we met Dennis’ wife Ida at Chandler’s. We had a great evening sampling the many crab options from their extensive menu as they are in the middle of their famous “crabfest”.
Main courses I tasted included my Ahi with sticky rice (served medium even though I ordered it rare). The fish could have been a bit hotter. Aaron also noticed his entrée of Monkfish could have been hotter. I noticed the “Poblano pepper jus” should have been thinner—as jus means juice. The sauce was an off-putting gray/green color– very emulsified and unappealingly thick. The chef should have thinned it out more. It tasted delicious however…
Ida had the Scallops & Prawns with goat cheese ravioli, broccolini, pine nuts, & sherry. The goat cheese ravioli were pleasantly hot. Dennis proclaimed his Surf & Turf delicious.
We ordered a side of Dungeness Crab Hash that was astounding in size and only $8.50!
We tried some excellent wines—including the Three Legged Red, from Dunham Cellars, but our favorite was the L’Ecole no. 41, Cabernet from Columbia Valley, WA Wine Spectator gave this wine a 91 rating. It had gorgeous fruit, and a polished finish.
Delicious wine, a spectacular setting on Lake Union, some great crab from around the country and fantastic friends made for a perfect evening.
He had never been to LARK or Licorous, the delicious small plates/bar next door also owned by Chef John Sundstrom.
I wanted him to have one of their delicious cocktail/food pairings. John is an extremely gifted chef, he even makes his own bitters for the bar! Now that is going “above & beyond” in my book!
Unfortunately Licorous is CLOSED SUNDAYS!
So we instead dropped in on one of my favorite spots in the Belltown section of Seattle, Black Bottle –the self-described “gastro tavern”.
We were both stuffed from our crabfest at Chandler’s but I insisted we had to “taste” the flatbread with béchamel and prosciutto. We grabbed 2 seats at the bar and ordered a glass of Lyeth Meritage $9.
The flatbread comes in a cool fluted rectangular tart pan. Ours could have been cooked just a little longer. The crust a little crisper—but it was buttery and delicious, almost between a savory tart crust and pizza dough–and the prosciutto also could have crisped a bit more.
We both agreed that the prosciutto tasted domestic.
It was very lean, no delicious ribbons of fat. There were also some green herb cut into chiffonade across the top of the béchamel but it had no taste—at first it appeared to be basil, but I am thinking it must have been spinach as it lacked flavor.
Even with these minor quibbles we inhaled the flatbread.
Black Bottle is definitely worth a trip. The menu is fun and inexpensive. The bar is cozy. Exposed old brick unadorned walls speak for themselves. A steel mobile slowly rotates in the breeze casting moody shadows on the wall. Interesting lamps and candles are everywhere (even in summer) and the crowd a nice mix of the urban chic that inhabit this stretch of some of Seattle’s best restaurants.
2600 1st AveSeattle, WA 98121
A couple of years ago when my dear friend–and amazing chef-to-the-stars– Mary Beth Schulte, moved up here from La Jolla, CA, to help me open The Beach House, and later Pacific Grill, we found ourselves up in Seattle trying out the “small-plates” concept that has become so popular. I had just returned from a trip investigating tapas in Barcelona & Mallorca, Spain, and I had heard about this tapas restaurant called TANGO, on the cusp of downtown and Capitol Hill. We happened to go on a Monday night when they had half-priced wine so we immediately upgraded to a bottle of Andrew Will.
With accolades such as: Citysearch, Editorial Winner for Best Desserts in Seattle and …”If you miss the chocolate Diablo cake…you have missed the single best dessert in this city…”— Seattle Metropolitan Magazine…and featured on the Food Network television show, Sugar Rush!
The tapas were good but the dessert was GREAT–one of the best we had ever had—described thusly:
El Diablo $10
Bittersweet cube of sinfully rich dark
chocolate graced with cayenne, spicy
almonds, cocoa nibs and burnt meringue
finished with a tequila caramel sauce
So I told Aaron that even though we were stuffed to the gills—we just had to go try this dessert (again) and see if it held up to my memory of it. And boy did it ever!
The dessert is amazing looking…a huge cube of chocolate—denser than mousse almost truffle-like…yet– somehow even richer. I have no idea how they cut it into that shape. It was set atop Italian meringue that had been torched a golden brown like a campfire marshmallow.
Cocoa nibs were garnished on the plate in interesting patterns (cocoa nibs are tiny crushed nuggets of roasted cocoa beans, that have not yet been transformed into chocolate as we know it).
The caramel sauce has tequila in it (which seems superfluous as you cannot taste it), and hidden inside this impossible creation is a hint of cayenne, that begins to show itself as a slight tingling on the lips– almost an erotic tingling that makes you want to indulge in another taste…and then another.
I pushed the plate towards Aaron and told him I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. He said he couldn’t either…but then the cayenne began its sensually hot tingle– and Aaron was seduced into eating the last bite!
Tango Restaurant & Lounge
1100 Pike St. (at Boren)
Seattle, WA 98101