Seattle’s Best and I’m Not Talking Coffee Part II

If I lived in Seattle, I would have a lot to write about. My four days on holiday in Seattle were full of great places to eat. I could write about Russian Piroshki at Piroshky Piroshky, chowder at Pike Place Chowder, or one of the seven stops we made during our gourmet food tour by Savor Seattle.

Last week I posted about an amazing omakase meal in Seattle. This week I wanted to write something a little more representative about the food in Seattle. I would have to write about Tom Douglas. I didn’t know much about Tom Douglas before I got to Seattle, but with twelve restaurants, it’s hard not to learn quickly.

There’s a television show on the Food Network called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Celebrity chefs will share their favorite things to eat and the food gets profiled. Two of my food idols, Tyler Florence and Giada DeLaurentiis both give credit to Seattle and both has Tom Douglas’ name on it.

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Tyler Florence loves the pizza at Serious Pie, especially the chanterelle mushroom and truffle cheese pizza. On the Savor Seattle food tour, we stopped at Serious Pie and tried Tyler Florence’s favorite as well as the yukon gold potato, rosemary, and olive oil pizza. The pizzas were delicious for me, not as much for my friend who is not a fan of thin crust pizza. It stays on my list and next time I’ll have to try a red pizza or one with tomato sauce.

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Giada DeLaurentiis loves the donuts at Dahlia’s Bakery and I do too! My friend and I decided to stop by and share the half dozen made to order donuts. They are more like beignets. Not only are they hot, sugary, and deep fried, but they come with mascarpone cheese and homemade plum jam. We agreed, they were definitely one of the best things we ever ate.

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I was insistent that we have our final dinner at one of Douglas’ restaurants. I decided it would be Dahlia Lounge, Douglas’ first restaurant which he opened in 1989.

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They offered us an amuse-bouche, which was simply a local grape tomato dressed up on a spoon. It was very sweet and tasted like candy.

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We ordered the sea bar sampler which came with shrimp, Dungeness crab, smoked salmon, geoduck, and Albacore tuna. It was fun to try a variety of different seafoods and their unique take on it.

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We shared two entrees. One was the salmon with green beans, bacon, chanterelle mushroom, sweet corn and huckleberry. It was a nice and delicate dish.

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Our other entree was a pork chop with peaches and peppers in a romesco sauce. This was cooked perfectly and the flavors were spot on.

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We heard a lot of great things about the triple coconut cream pie with white chocolate and toasted coconut so we shared a slice. The fluffy toppings made this dessert light and delicious!

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As a friend summed it up, I experienced a Tom Douglas trifecta! The people of Seattle are lucky to have him and I’m lucky to have enjoyed some of Seattle’s Best!

Seattle’s Best and I’m Not Talking Coffee Part I

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Last week a friend of mine and I took a four day trip to Seattle, Washington. They say August and September are the best months to visit. We had planned to see some Dale Chihuly art, watch a Mariners game, and eat, of course!

Eat is what we did and we did it well. Seattle is known to have fresh seafood so we thought we would give sushi a try. Our first night out, thanks to yelp, we found Nishino. With 4.5 stars and about 250 reviews, it seemed worth a shot. Many yelpers were suggesting the omakase. Omakase means “I’ll leave it to you” in Japanese. At a sushi restaurant, you are giving the Chef the authority to serve you whatever he chooses. I have never ordered omakase and thought there was no better time like the present.

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Course 1
The first plate had three pieces of fish beautifully presented. From left to right we had smelt nanban, uni on top of egg tofu, and hamachi with jalapeño, ginger salsa and a fried garlic chip. I could tell this was a great start to an amazing meal. I am not a fan of uni, but this one was awesome. The combination of the fresh uni on the soft egg tofu was sweet and just melted in my mouth.

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Course 2
Amaebi ceviche with avocado, oranges, red onion, and jalapeño. The ceviche is topped with a shrimp head that is deep fried. I put the shrimp head aside and ate the ceviche. I was feeling adventurous so I ended eating the fried shrimp head minus the eyes. It was crispy and good.
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Course 3
Albacore tuna with an onion soy dressing on a bed of greens and lotus root chips. This was the only fish that Mori, our sushi chef said was from Seattle so I was looking forward to it. This was most delicious and next to the uni tofu was a winner.
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Course 4
Steamed Manila clams with enoki mushrooms and seaweed in a dashi broth. This dish puts your typical miso soup to shame.
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Course 5
Fried oysters and tempura French green beans. This may have been my least favorite dish although I enjoyed the variety.
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Course 6
Curry dusted pan seared halibut cheeks with cilantro aioli. I was amazed by the size of the cheeks. The cheeks on a fish are the sweetest and most tender part of a fish. I was beginning to get quite full, but still enjoyed the flavors of this dish.
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Course 7
Tuna, salmon, and scallop nigiri and tuna, white fish, and hamachi roll. We were on the home stretch now. There was no way I was going to eat the rice from the nigiri. I pulled the sashimi off and ate the tuna, salmon, and scallop. Salmon sashimi is my favorite, but I was a bit disappointed with this one. I’ve had better.
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Course 8
Mango, red bean, and raspberry white chocolate mochi ice cream with assorted fruits.
Although I was really full now, this beautiful dessert plate was put in front of us. I forced myself to eat the first bite of mochi, but I had no problem devouring my share.

This was one of my most amazing meals ever. Definitely my best Japanese meal. I loved the variety, the beauty, and the creativity of the omakase. For $60, it was a steal. I thought to myself, I could fly here to have dinner for about the same price as French Laundry! Well, that would be a little lavish, I guess it will have to be another trip to Seattle including a meal at Nishino.

A Tour of Oakland Food Industries

Last week I had the privilege to attend a tour of Oakland’s Food Industry. We spent the day visiting eight food businesses in Oakland which was a mixture of new and old.

Stop #1: Hodo Soy Beanery
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Hodo Soy Beanery was founded in 2004 by Tofu Master Minh Tsai. Although I may have passed a Hodo booth at a local Farmer’s Market, I was not familiar with the company. Hodo makes soy milk, tofu, and yuba. I didn’t realize what yuba was before the tour, which is tofu skin. We visited the industrial building that was originally built in 1925 as a candy factory and now home to Hodo. The tour of Hodo consisted of an overview of the company, meeting Minh Tsai, seeing some production through a window, and sampling tofu and yuba. I really enjoyed the yuba salads and will look for it at the Lake Temescal Farmer’s Market.
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Stop #2: California Cereal Products

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California Cereal Products (CCP) manufactures and distributes rice flour, crisp rice, and corn flakes. The company has been operating in a building in West Oakland since 1994. Originally built in 1915 by the Shredded Wheat Company, the building was taken over by Nabisco in 1928 prior to housing CCP. With a long list of visitor restrictions including no cameras, no wearing of jewelry, must have sleeves and must wear hairnets, we received a presentation of the company and a tour of the plant. The building was pretty impressive designed with a gothic style building front.
Stop #3: Blue Bottle Coffee

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Founded in 2002 by James Freeman, Blue Bottle is a coffee roaster who’s business model is selling beans within 48 hours of roasting. It currently resides in a brick building in the Waterfront Warehouse District close to Jack London Square. Our tour was guided by James himself who is pretty proud to be at its current location. It was a bummer that we weren’t given any coffee, but I guess we didn’t have the time for the entire group to have drip coffee. I’m glad our bus driver was able to enjoy a cup.

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Stop #4: Numi Tea

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I was pretty happy that Numi Tea was part of the food tour. I have been wanting to visit the tea garden for a long time. The brother and sister team Ahmed and Reem Rahim founded the company in 1999. We were able to see Reem pop in and out which shows how active she is with the company. The company is located in a brick building in East Oakland which used to house part of the cotton mill factories. We had a little time to sample some tea and make purchases in the tea garden. It’s worth a visit back.

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Stop #5: Veronica Foods

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Veronica Foods is located a block away from Numi Tea. The business imports, bottles, and distributes olive oils. We had several tastings of olive oil before we toured the plant. This business has impressively spanned three generations.

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Stop #6: Premier Organics

Premier Organics is the manufacturer of nut and seed butters. Located in East Oakland on 81st Avenue, it used to be home to Mother’s Cookies. The founder gave us a presentation on the company and then we were led to a room to sample many of their products. Upon leaving, they were generous and gave us each a bag with more of their products.

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Stop #7: Dreisbach Inc.

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Not too far away in a residential area is Dreisbach Inc. The company offers cold storage for the importing and exporting of foods. This is another multigenerational business. The tour of the warehouse was impressive due to the quantity of what is being brought in and out.

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Stop #8: Linden Street Brewery

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The tour of Oakland’s Food Industry saved the best for last. We visited Linden Street Brewery in West Oakland near the Port of Oakland where founder and brewmaster Adam Lamoreaux welcomed us. Currently Linden Street is only one of two breweries in Oakland. He brews two beers and delivers to restaurants in Oakland and San Francisco. He means he. He is a one man show. About to launch a third beer he will only sell and deliver to locations he can get to on his custom built bicycle. He is also about to open a tasting room. Our tour ended with Adam pouring us his two beer which were both tasty.

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I had a great experience on this tour realizing how important it is to have businesses in Oakland. It was fascinating to hear from all of the founders of these businesses and their passions. In order to support Oakland, I will continue to eat Oakland and I hope you do too.

Farmer’s Market: Big in Marin

When the topic comes up that I travel all the way to San Rafael for bootcamp, I get confused looks. It is a 30 minute drive each way on Sunday mornings for me. The training is great and I like the small group. A huge plus is that afterwards I can cross the street and visit the Marin Farmer’s Market. Living in Oakland I feel fortunate that I have the Downtown market on Fridays, the Lakeshore market on Saturdays, and the Jack London Square market on Sundays. The Marin Farmer’s Market on Sundays is held in the parking lot of the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael. It claims to be the third largest market in California and has become one of my favorites. It might even be larger than combining the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday markets in Oakland together.

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Some of my favorite food vendors in Marin County are present including Marin Sun Farms who sells all types of meat, Cowgirl Creamery selling their delicious cheeses, and Strauss Farms that sell their milk and ice cream.

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Today I didn’t get any of the above. Maybe I was feeling a little guilty having just had a good work out. I bought some nectarines, pluots, and plums. I also got some of the last ears of corn and it was only 11am. The vendor from Brentwood claims to have picked them that same morning. They are always sweet and delicious. At 5 ears for $4, it better be.
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Photos speak louder than words so here are some additional photos of some great produce.

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I had built up an appetite and decided to grab a bite. The market has a large array of prepared food vendors including rotisserie chicken, dim sum, tacos, tamales, and wood fire oven pizza. If you know me, you probably guessed I got a pizza. Pizza Politana drags their custom built ovens to Farmer’s Markets in the Bay Area. I got a simple Margherita with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil. Yum, it hit the spot!
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The Marin Farmer’s Market is not perfect. I realize that they are missing a couple of vendors. I still have reason to frequent the Oakland markets so I can pick up my salsa from Swank Farms and my 9 grain sourdough bread from Beckman’s!