The Happiest Hour at Troiani

July 29, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, well-known Seattle p.r. maven Lori Randall (Randall Public Relations) and I met up for some female networking at Troiani Ristorante Italiano.

I hadn’t been there in years; located in  Seattle’s Financial District, at the corner of Third Avenue and Marion Street, it’s one of those places that lies just a little outside my normal flight path.

It’s frequented by stockbrokers and lawyers, as attested to by one of Lori’s recent press releases which says, “For those working on East Coast time, Troiani continues to offer its Broker’s Happy Hour from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. along with its West Coast Happy Hour from 3 p.m. to close.”

My loss for passing this by until now, for Troiani pumps out plentiful plates at plenty reasonable prices.

As we bellied up to the bar, we sampled through the following four plates, moving from upper left to right. Porchetta Sliders (three for $4.50) consisted of shaved, roasted pork; sweet-and-sour peppers; and garlic aïoli. Pancetta-Wrapped Prawns ($3.00 each/four for $10) were giant charcoal-grilled, pancetta-wrapped prawns with golden-raisin/scallion pesto sauce. Caprese Skewers (two for $2) were simply bocconcini (miniature mozzarella balls) interlaced with grape tomatoes and served over a bed of lightly dressed arugula and basil. Calamari Strangolanti ($7) was a portion large enough for an entrée–the tender calamari circles and tentacles sauced with olives, tomato, capers, garlic, chili, lemon and served with grilled ciabatta.

Wines by the glass are reasonably priced and thoughtfully chosen; pours are generous, which makes Troiani Ristorante Italiano an excellent choice for a sip and an app.

Happy Hour at Troiani

Outdoor Dining at Steelhead Diner

July 29, 2009

Tucked back behind the main dining areas at the ever-popular Steelhead Diner in the Pike Place Market you’ll discover a small outdoor patio with just about four tables and a couple of overhead braziers to keep away the cool Northwest chill. Peekaboo views of Post Alley (depending on where you’re sitting) tantalize at this secret aerie; if the floor were just a few inches higher, you could even see Puget Sound.

Steelhead Diner Spring Mix Salad

But chef and co-owner Kevin Davis’s food is enough of a view. Here’s the Steelhead Diner House Salad–iceberg lettuce kicked up to the highest notch thanks to the addition of chopped hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, red onion, avocado, crispy bacon, and blue-cheese crumbles with Lorenzo dressing (the best Thousand Island you’ve ever tasted, more like a Remoulade sauce).

Steelhead Diner Grilled Alaskan Salmon

And here’s the nightly salmon dish–Copper River king the night we visited–perched on a pond of herb-rich green sauce enlivened with tender artichokes and preserved lemon. Yum!

Steelhead Diner Whole Idaho Rainbow Trout

Whole Grilled Idaho Trout couldn’t have been prettier, served with roasted chestnuts and swimming in a pool of cracked-sage brown butter.

We paired our fish with Mark Ryan 2006 Chardonnay, whose fruit comes from two renowned Washington-State vineyards: Conner Lee and Stillwater Creek. This not-overly-oaked white is balanced, yet focused, with pleasing citrus and tropical-fruit flavors and medium mouthfeel that enhance seafood entrées instead of overwhelming them.

Steelhead Diner Chocolate Mousse

Dense Chocolate Mousse and strong cups of decaf brought our outdoor repast to a sad, but inevitable end, and made us hungry to head back to Steelhead Diner soon.

Pondering the Pink Door

July 26, 2009

The Pink Door\'s Antipasti Plate

One of our perennial favorites for outdoor dining is the long-running Pink Door, where the Antipasto of the House platter never fails to delight with a lovely array of shareable foods: tapenade and bean salad, roasted red peppers and grilled veggies, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.

The fruit- and vegetable-decorated oilcloths that festoon the tables add a festive touch to what I’ve referred to in my “Pike Place Market Cookbook” as “a garden party with 100 of your most attractive friends.”

Here’s the Pink Door’s spicy rendition of Squid Ink Spaghetti del Pescatore brimming with a boatload of shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels.

The Pink Door Seafood Pasta

And here’s the Fish of the Day. . .halibut in a tomato-y sauce teaming with Market-fresh veggies.

The Pink Door Fish Dish of the Day--Halibut

Swordfish with Grilled Eggplant and Green Pesto was another toothsome dish that we savored under the stars. . .

Swordfish at The Pink Door

While we enjoyed the happening scene.

The Pink Door Patio

Etta’s New Mussel Dish

July 23, 2009

You know we’ve blogged frequently about how much we enjoy eating Saturday or Sunday brunch at Etta’s Seafood restaurant, just north of the Pike Place Market.

Here’s a new dish we’ve tried recently. . .Etta’s Penn Cove Mussels (or clams or a combo–your choice) come with a rich Spring Garlic and Washington Chardonnay Sauce and plenty of crunchy croutons.

The broth is to die for–redolent of the Chardonnay, buttery, perfect for unabashedly sipping with the soup spoon that accompanies it.

Etta\'s Penn Cove Mussels

With a side of Yakima Asparagus (perfectly grilled to tender-crisp), I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Which is the reason this qualifies as my Dish of the Day.

Get Fruity at the Market

July 19, 2009

Summer Sundays on Pike Place

With the three organic farmer days (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays) in full swing in the Pike Place Market, it seems like an abundance of riches to add festivals, the Sunset Supper, the annual Home Tour, and a Day of Puppetry (day and time TBD) on top of it.

But the Market is all about exciting experiences, and so you can plan your calendars, here are upcoming dates which give you a good reason to visit the Soul of Seattle.

Sunday, July 26: Fruit Festival

Friday, August 14: Sunset Supper

Monday, August 17: The Market’s 102nd Birthday Party

Sunday, September 20: Buskers’ Festival

Sunday, September 30: The Home Tour

Saturday, November 28: Magic in the Market Kick-Off

The Inimitable Matt’s in the Market

July 16, 2009

Many people still don’t realize that Matt Janke, the irrepressible owner of Matt’s in the Market, sold his namesake restaurant many moons ago, leaving the popular Pike Place Market resto in the very capable hands of Dan Bugge, former fishmonger at Pike Place Fish who used to eat at Matt’s every day at lunch and grew to love the place so much, he bought it!

Which is one of the reasons that Bugge and his public-relations representatives decided they were long overdue in hosting a dinner for local media. The other reason was to test-drive dishes for their upcoming appearance at the venerable James Beard House in New York City on October 1.

So on a summery Monday evening, about 30 of us gathered in the restaurant (which was closed to the public) to see what Buege and his executive chef, Chester (Chet) Gerl would cook up.

Among my favorites of the five very generous courses was this octopus dish. Served with salsa verde, Olsen Farms papas bravas (buttery roasted potatoes), and a spicy chili oil, the plate was not only beautiful to look at, but a wonderful interplay of flavors and textures–warm potatoes, chewy (in a good way) octopus, herbal green sauce. A winner!

Matt\'s in the Market Octopus Appetize

As good as the octopus was, however, the star of the show was the whole Pink Snapper, sourced from New Zealand waters and served with Manila clams, Castelvetrano olives, caperberries, cherry tomatoes, and herbs. I only wish I’d had a spoon to lap up the shellstock-based sauce. Now that I think of it, I suppose a clam shell would have served the purpose. Darn!

Matt\'s Pink Snapper snaps to attention on the plate.

Chef Chet left us all in a very festive mood by serving Gummy Fish (made in-house so they weren’t as chewy as traditional gummi fish) flavored with Champagne and basil (!) and served swimming in Strawberry Soup topped with Sour Cream Ice Cream.

Gummy Fish at Matt\'s in the Market

Here’s the proud owner of Matt’s in the Market, Dan Bugge, and his public relations representative, Michi Suzuki. On the DVD player in the background they showed a lively demo tape that Bugge had made with a buddy of his from the Food Network. While watching it, we learned that Bugge had thrown fish for Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show!” Bugge described Leno as “one of the nicest guys I know,” when I questioned him further about the heady experience.

Matt\'s in the Market

Bastille Day at Maximilien Restaurant

July 13, 2009

A press release from Maximilien Restaurant in the Pike Place Market reminded me that July 14th is Bastille Day, which to the French marks the end of monarchy and the beginning of the French Revolution.

“In its native country, the “Fête Nationale” and is not only a national holiday, but a day of community celebration. In nearly every town or ‘commune’ there are parades, fireworks, and dinner parties. Bastille Day in France is a celebration, and everyone is invited to the party.”

In honor of Bastille Day, Maximilien will prepare a $35, three-course dinner menu typical of what you might actually experience in France. In addition, this special dinner will also feature the talented Janet Rayor & Steve Rice performing a collection of French accordion songs to celebrate the occasion. Ooh-la-la!

Here’s a photo of two of the dishes we’ve enjoyed lately at Maximilien–a smoked salmon appetizer (the beloved Gerard & Dominique brand) with a glass of Rosé, bien sûr. . .

Maximilien Smoked Salmon

And Fillet of Sole with Wild Mushrooms, Parsnip-Chive Piped Potatoes, Seasonal Veggies and Mushrooms, a Sherry-Wine Bacon-Cream Sauce, all of which paired nicely with a glass of Pinot Noir.

Maximilien Sole Entrée

A Phond (Pond?) Pharewell to Phish

July 10, 2009

Some of you may remember the (now) funny story of how Spencer and I became “parents” again after swearing off pets after the death of our beloved feline–Bo-Bo–in 2004.

A local public-relations agency delivered a live betta fish to our doorstep just about eight months ago. Unannounced and in an aquarium the size of a baseball, the poor neon-blue and maroon-striped fish seemed on his last legs. I triaged him and nursed him back to health, and he lived to see another day.

After a quick trip to PETCO for all the appropriate fish supplies, we named the creature “Phish.” I reasoned that if he died, I would be much less invested than if his name were Calvin or Jody or Dick.

I always thought that goldfish and their ilk were dumb animals. To my surprise and delight, Phish provided countless hours of pleasure. He seemed to sense when I’d arrive each morning to pheed him, rising to the top of his little tank to greet me and greedily snapping away at his blood worms or special betta phish phood.

Alas, about two weeks ago, his good-natured antics stopped and he spent most of his time on the bottom of his tank, not in his phavorite plastic tree. One morning, I called Spencer over to say goodbye to Phish, for I knew this would be his day of reckoning.

And sure enough, as Spencer and I watched, he started swimming frenetically around his pond. He surged to the top for a gulp of air, darted to the bottom, then back up again.

Worried that he might need phresh water, I drew some filtered water from the tap, put in some bowl conditioner, and transpherred the now almost lifeless animal to phresh water.

I went to phold some clothes, and when I came back our Phish was gone. Not knowing what else to do with his little body, I got a black cardboard box (that had once held jewelry). It was lined with cotton, which seemed phitting. So I carefully laid Phish between the plush layers and deposited him in a safe place in the phreezer.

That weekend we gave Phish a proper send-off at Golden Gardens. It seemed he came from the sea, so should go back to the sea.

Phish\'s Phuneral

So we pushed the little black box off the Pier at Golden Gardens, and watched it float toward the open waters of Puget Sound. Or, at least we hoped it phinally phloated away.

Phish Phloats Out to Sea

Here’s the last we saw of Phish phloating away in the black box. RIP and smooth sailing, little phriend!

P.S. If you are a member of PETA, please don’t write me a letter. Absolutely no phish were killed in the writing of this blog entry, and Phish was already gone when we put him into the phreezer and, ultimately, the waters of Puget Sound.

Social Media’s Unexpected New Horizons

July 8, 2009

I’ve really embraced social media the last couple of weeks, reading wonderful books including “Twitter: Tips, Tricks, and Tweets” and “facebook me: A Guide to Having Fun with Your Friends and Promoting Your Projects on Facebook.”

Yesterday I even attended a workshop presented by the respected Pacific Northwest-based law firm Lane Powell. The workshop was entitled, “Social Media–New Horizons Ahead: Expect the Unexpected.” With such a tantalizing title, how could I not go?

Lane Powell Workshop

Keynote speaker was Kevin O’Keefe (second from left), CEO of LexBlog, which help lawyers around the world learn about and leverage blogging and other social media. He was a passionate and engaging speaker who told 100 of Seattle’s corporate leaders–mostly 40- and 50-somethings in fields as diverse as law, food writing, and real estate–not to think of social-networking sites as onerous “technology” but as a chance to build “relationships.”

•Leaders of companies themselves (as opposed to young, tech-savvy new hires who may not have enough business acumen) should be involved in social media.

•You can choose to mingle with the influencers on social media sites (reporters and editors, bloggers, customers active in social media, conference coordinators, publishers) which offers a great business advantage.

•Social media requires engagement, but you must listen first.

•Social networking sites are similar to taking a client to lunch. The sites with the highest Return on Investment (ROI) include LinkedIn, personal blogging (which affords more depth than Twitter), and Twitter (which O’Keefe sees as “the single biggest branding tool since the telephone”).

•Reference other thought leaders, he suggests, and retweet useful information to help build relationships.

D. Michael Reilly, Director of Labor and Employment and Employee Benefits Practice Group at Lane Powell, said you can find success on social-networking sites if you are careful about the context and value you offer to the public. How do you best offer something of value?

Mike Nesteroff, a former journalist with KOMO television and now with Lane Powell’s Sustainability and Climate Change Team, said he tweets the same way he worked in the newsroom: “terse, tight, and telegraphic.”

Craig Bachman, who moderated the workshop and works as a trial lawyer and counsel at Lane Powell, suggested never saying anything on social-networking sites that you wouldn’t say in church.

I think that’s a good motto to carry throughout life, and felt that the workshop was an eye-opening and, in some ways, life-changing two hours for many in the room.

Hard Rock Cafe Update

July 8, 2009

Hard Rock Cafe Construction Site

Curious about the new Hard Rock Cafe? Me, too. And since it’s in my ‘hood, on the way home yesterday, I stopped to snap a shot across the street from the Second Avenue and Pike Street construction site.

The “bones” of the old building look gorgeous–coliseum-style and majestic. Here’s a link to the official Web site, with the architect’s rendering of the final facade and interior spaces.

Whether patronized by tourists or locals, here’s hoping this establishment helps to clean up this notoriously bad block of downtown Seattle.

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