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All Your Food- and Drink-Related Pet Peeves


Saffy
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i too wish there were more cheap/neighboorhood/everyday *good* places in seattle proper. i wish dearly that we had street food. i wager that the existence of street food - hot, fast, cheap and plentiful makes everyone better at their game.

however, for a city as small as seattle, i think there are a remarkable number of those quality pockets jason mentioned. i can think of several excellent bakeries, 3 local spots that make and sell their own charcuterie *retail!*, 2 places i love to get pho, a couple of decent sandwich shops, insanely good oysters that needn't cost a fortune if you know where to have them...and then, of course, there are tacos. i live in west seattle and so die a slow death every time a new restaurant opens on alki - it's bound to either be terrible or close again immediately. unless it's a fish and chips shack (oh, hey - fish and chips!).

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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i too wish there were more cheap/neighboorhood/everyday *good* places in seattle proper.  i wish dearly that we had street food. i wager that the existence of street food - hot, fast, cheap and plentiful makes everyone better at their game.

I think being a city that rains and/or snows for 3/4 of the year really puts a damper on street foods.

PS: I am a guy.

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Mostly, the city restriction that limits street-vending carts to 3 feet deep by 5 feet wide combined with the health department regulation that says street carts must have minimal-to-no-on-cart-preparation of food, that carts preparing food have fully functional, full-sized handwashing and refrigeration facilities, and that all prep work done in a certified (inspected) commercial kitchens are what restricts the street food scene in Seattle to coffee and stale muffins.

I don't mean to suggest that the health department regulations are inappropriate. But the size constraint makes it rather hard to comply and offer good, fresh food; allow 4ftx6ft designs and it suddenly becomes feasible. Outside of the US, the commercial kitchen requirement usually goes away or is gleefully ignored with minimal consequence.

Rainy areas frequently do have street food scenes, and there are vending umbrellas.

i too wish there were more cheap/neighboorhood/everyday *good* places in seattle proper.   i wish dearly that we had street food. i wager that the existence of street food - hot, fast, cheap and plentiful makes everyone better at their game.

I think being a city that rains and/or snows for 3/4 of the year really puts a damper on street foods.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Having only lived in Vancouver and (now) Seattle, I must say Seattlites have it pretty good when it comes to cheap eats! :smile: There are no good sandwiches in Vancouver because there is no good bread to begin with. The produce seems to be better quality down here too. (BTW, Vancouver doesn't have good pizza either. The only good "cheap" option, IMO, for lunch/dinner is Chinese.) OK, so maybe Seattle doesn't compare with Asia for tasty and inexpensive food...but it's not that bad here at all! :wink:

BTW, we were driving around after lunch at Salumi today and I saw a tofu shop with a Vietnamese-sounding name...I'm sorry I can't give any more clues because I just caught a glimpse of it and remembered you mentioning tofu in this thread. But perhaps they have fresher (soft) tofu there for sale?

ETA: Sorry, I re-read your initial post and Than Son might have been the tofu shop you mentioned. As for tomatoes, I can easily find heirlooms at Pike Place all through the summer/early fall (though they were not as good as Milan's heirloom tomatoes from BC), and U-District farmer's market even had a big selection of them 2 weekends ago! Some smaller pasta plates can be found at Salumi...we have the gnocchi on Tuesdays, and today Gina fed us a selection of items, including a very nice spinach lasagna. Only $7-8 bucks, I think. And I actually like the pizza at Whole Foods for a quick lunch option...all their pizzas are hot and fresh out of the oven, and only $3-3.50 a slice. Smaller pastries can be found at Cafe Besalu and Belle Epicurean, my two favourite bakeries for croissants.

Edited by Ling (log)
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I can't get soba that's made so perfectly it needs nothing more than a house-made tsuyu and a couple of bites of pickled vegetables to accompany it, or a nicely done bibimbap, or piadina, or whatever... the kind of food you might spend $5-12 for here. The specifics of the cuisine aren't so important as the focus on quality (instead of, for example, size and speed).

There are, I think, pockets of this attention to detail in Seattle, but it's far easier to find in service of making coffee than it is to find in food. The minimum bar for quality in Japan or Korea, in my experience, is much higher, even on the most ordinary of foods. It's hard to survive by selling "big", for example, instead of "good."

One of my Korean students told me that some decent bibimbap was to be had on Aurora somewhere, and I've had great Korean food at both Hosoonyi and a little hole in Pioneer Square. I agree that fresh, minimally processed, well-done items are spread out, but they are there, and many really high quality items are found at the farmers markets. That's where I get great cheese and yogurt, aforementioned oysters, fresh vegetarian cheese quesadillas, seafood chowder, and in the summer, the very best stone fruits and berries one can have. And let's not forget taco trucks!

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If you were around 12th & Yesler, that's probably the Thanh Son Tofu company that I mentioned... they have momen (medium) tofu, and custardy tofu which I use as oborodoufu (though they don't do kinugoshi/soft). They also have good atsuage in about three or four variations (deep fried tofu). When I'm able to go down there on a Saturday, I definitely snap up some warm tofu from them (they sell it just minutes out of the tofu making equipment). Alas, they never seem to be open on Sunday, though most of their products are carried at other nearby Asian markets including Uwajimaya and is usually reasonably fresh.

Here's some of their momen tofu with yuzu-kosho

http://blog.jagaimo.com/images/ul/hiyayakko_2Dyuzukoshou.jpg

And atsuage with yutsai:

http://blog.jagaimo.com/images/ul/yutsaiandatsuage.jpg

Somehow I seem to have neglected to publish a photograph their custardy tofu, but it is quite good without the syrup. It looks somewhat similar to godoufu:

http://blog.jagaimo.com/images/ul/godoufutoshiso.jpg

Godoufu isn't actually tofu, but it's an interesting mochi-like kuzu starch and katakuriko thickened soymilk common in Arita. I can't buy it readily (even in most of Japan) so I just make it from time to time.

Actually I think Vancouver and Seattle are similar in terms of offering pockets of good inexpensive food. Seattle's strengths tend to be in breads and, to some extent, pastry, whereas in Vancouver the better inexpensive options tend to be Korean, Chinese or sometimes Japanese restaurants, preferably with short menus. I find the same thing in Portland. It's just that the local cliches are slightly different :biggrin: and tend to be more interesting when you're not used to it.

My girlfriend has been making short trips to Seattle for almost 3 years, and she was convinced that Seattle was full of spectacular and amazing restaurants because those were the only ones I took her to... then when she moved here this year she started complaining about many disappointments, realizing there weren't so many gems in the less extravagant realm (we had exhausted most of them before she moved here :raz:)

It looks like I missed a chance to eat good soba in Burnaby earlier in November:

http://knifeskills.blogspot.com/2006/11/soba-lunch.html

Though I'm not sure I'd serve soba with ponzu, it's not entirely unheard of.

Having only lived in Vancouver and (now) Seattle, I must say Seattlites have it pretty good when it comes to cheap eats!  :smile: There are no good sandwiches in Vancouver because there is no good bread to begin with. The produce seems to be better quality down here too. OK, so maybe Seattle doesn't compare with Asia for tasty and inexpensive food...but it's not that bad here at all!  :wink:

BTW, we were driving around after lunch at Salumi today and I saw a tofu shop with a Vietnamese-sounding name...I'm sorry I can't give any more clues because I just caught a glimpse of it and remembered you mentioning tofu in this thread. But perhaps they have fresher (soft) tofu there for sale?

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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  • An almost complete lack of effort to offer high-quality lowbrow daily dining options, other than maybe sandwiches and some passable pizza-by-the-slice. A little attention to detail, please! If we can do it with coffee, we can figure out how to get decent soba, maybe a quick piadina, and Mexican quick-service spots at least smart enough to eschew yellow Irish cheese without having to run all over town. The majority of lunch spots and inexpensive dining places aspire only to mediocrity, rarely approaching the level of professionalism I can expect from a local indie barista (Yes, I know there are a few exceptions, but I find a much better success rate when I am in Japan, Korea, and even Germany, purely by stumbling in; it seems to be harder to succeed if you're not at least good, whereas you can open a terrible ambiguously Asian restaurant on Broadway and gain a loyal following simply by offering big food.).

They do a surprisingly decent bowl of pho on the University Ave. $5 will get you a huge steaming bowl. I was expecting something quite ordinary given the stuff I had heard about the Ave prior to coming but it easily compares to some of the best pho's I've had in Sydney which has a much stronger Vietmanese community.

PS: I am a guy.

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  • 1 month later...

Shopping:

  • The softest tofu at most supermarkets, including PCC and Whole Foods, starts at Firm and goes to Extra Firm, and is usually old. This is a travesty, as it continues to perpetuate continued abuse (and the myth that tofu needs to be excessively seasoned to become palatable), and makes preparing Korean and Japanese food at home a serious problem unless I plan my week around trips to Asian markets or Central Market. I want custardy, fresh oboro tofu, soon dubu, and kinugoshi tofu, momen at the firmest, and it must taste like soybeans, not sour milk. (Yes, I know I have options at Uwajimaya and some Korean markets, and at Thanh Son if I ask to skip the soft tofu's syrup. But they aren't in my neighborhood).

The Safeway in the U-district has silken tofu, 2 for $3. Looked reasonably fresh too. I snagged some today but I don't know what the quality will be like.

I'm finding the lack of coconut cream anywhere outside the U-district to be puzzling. Plenty of coconut milk but no cream in either QFC, Whole Foods or Safeway that I've checked. Also, pre-ground and mixed five spice powder has been hard to find. It was fun making my own for the first time but it was odd that nobody sells it. Puff pastry with real butter and that comes in flat sheets rather than folded up would also be a huge boon.

PS: I am a guy.

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maybe a quick piadina

I just noticed that La Spiga sells their piadina at Cafe Umbria in Pioneer Square. Their whole sandwich/pizza case looked really good, actually.

Shalmanese, I know I've seen both 5 spice powder (in bulk) and coconut cream at the Ballard Market. I haven't looked for either of these things recently, so definitely call and check to make sure they still carry them if you are making a special trip. I think PCC also has 5 spice (again, I know I've bought it there in the past but now I'm in the habit of making my own, so I haven't checked in a while).

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I just noticed that La Spiga sells their piadina at Cafe Umbria in Pioneer Square. Their whole sandwich/pizza case looked really good, actually.

Shalmanese, I know I've seen both 5 spice powder (in bulk) and coconut cream at the Ballard Market. I haven't looked for either of these things recently, so definitely call and check to make sure they still carry them if you are making a special trip. I think PCC also has 5 spice (again, I know I've bought it there in the past but now I'm in the habit of making my own, so I haven't checked in a while).

World Spice has five spice and they will blend it for you, they also happen to have very fresh spices.

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It's no biggie. I stock up whenever I make a trip down to the ID. I just found it puzzling as those were two things which were almost ubiquitous at supermarkets in Australia so it was a bit disconcerting not being able to find them anywhere you go.

PS: I am a guy.

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I haven't been in Safeway for years after a series of disappointments, but maybe in a pinch I'll give that a try.

In regular supermarkets, coconut cream is often sold near ingredients for cocktails, such as tonic water, key lime juice,if it's the same thing I assume you're referring to. The cocktail stuff is occasionally disturbingly pink. In Germany at Thai markets I occasionally also found a dried product called coconut cream, which I think was meant to be reconstituted. Alternatively, if you want the most natural coconut cream possible without a lot of work, avoid shaking your cans of coconut milk and skim it from the top half of the can.

In supermarkets, five spice powder is often stored away from other jars of spices, instead found in the "ambiguously Asian" section usally in an aisle of other foods deemed "ethnic." It's usually from Sun Luck, which is a brand of last resort for me. Their five spice powder is made with regular black pepper, if I recall.

I've never bought all-butter puff pastry anywhere other than PFI; the all-butter stuff at Larry's or Metropolitan was about twice as expensive and folded like you describe. I sure would be happy to have a more convenient source, but the price at PFI probably can't be beat. Around the country, Pepperidge Farms seems to have a stranglehold on the supermarket frozen puff pastry market with their shortening-based product.

The Safeway in the U-district has silken tofu, 2 for $3. Looked reasonably fresh too. I snagged some today but I don't know what the quality will be like.

I'm finding the lack of coconut cream anywhere outside the U-district to be puzzling. Plenty of coconut milk but no cream in either QFC, Whole Foods or Safeway that I've checked. Also, pre-ground and mixed five spice powder has been hard to find. It was fun making my own for the first time but it was odd that nobody sells it. Puff pastry with real butter and that comes in flat sheets rather than folded up would also be a huge boon.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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I'm finding the lack of coconut cream anywhere outside the U-district to be puzzling. Plenty of coconut milk but no cream in either QFC, Whole Foods or Safeway that I've checked.

I had this same problem and ended up skimming the top of coconut milk to get just the coconut cream. It was surprising and frustrating -- I even had a problem finding it at Uwajimaya's on two different trips. I didn't think of checking near the cocktail mixers. I'm going to check that out at Safeway/QFC/WF the next time I'm there. I eventually came across a good selection of coconut cream next to the coconut milk at Ranch 99 in Edmonds/Lynnwood, so I stocked up. But it would be nice to find something in the neighborhood (I'm in Roosevelt, near the high school).

It was almost as difficult to find coconut cream as it was to find cocoa nibs* or the ever-elusive Vya Vermouth, which I've been told is at Whole Foods, but I've never found there.

*After checking Central Market, Ballard Market, all national chain grocery stores, PFI, Market Spice, DeLaurenti's and Metropolitan Market, I found cocoa nibs in the market at the chocolate store (Rose's?). But I'm going to check if Chefshop.com's brick and mortar store has them, like they do online, once I finally make it to their store.

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I had this same problem and ended up skimming the top of coconut milk to get just the coconut cream. It was surprising and frustrating -- I even had a problem finding it at Uwajimaya's on two different trips. I didn't think of checking near the cocktail mixers. I'm going to check that out at Safeway/QFC/WF the next time I'm there. I eventually came across a good selection of coconut cream next to the coconut milk at Ranch 99 in Edmonds/Lynnwood, so I stocked up. But it would be nice to find something in the neighborhood (I'm in Roosevelt, near the high school).

It was almost as difficult to find coconut cream as it was to find cocoa nibs* or the ever-elusive Vya Vermouth, which I've been told is at Whole Foods, but I've never found there.

*After checking Central Market, Ballard Market, all national chain grocery stores, PFI, Market Spice, DeLaurenti's and Metropolitan Market, I found cocoa nibs in the market at the chocolate store (Rose's?). But I'm going to check if Chefshop.com's brick and mortar store has them, like they do online, once I finally make it to their store.

I'm evidently right next door to you. QFC does have coconut cream in the mixer section, above the ice cream but it's like $3 for a can half the size of what I can get at Uwajimaya for $1. Coconut cream doesn't go bad so I just picked up 5 cans at the ID which should last me for quite a while.

I swear I've seen cocoa nibs somewhere before... PFI maybe? Or Trader Joes I think has some. Vya Vermouth I'm pretty sure you can get at the wine store on 65th and 20thish. If not, I'm sure they can order it in for you. (while you're there, pick up a bottle of Dog Point from NZ. It's one of the most amazing NZ Sav Blancs I've had at that price range and I've never seen it anywhere else in Seattle).

Whole foods does have all butter pie dough but it's $11 for 2 measly sheets... crazy. Can I get pie dough at PFI as well or should I just resign myself to making my own?

PS: I am a guy.

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I checked World Spice Merchants as well, so they must have been out of them the day I was there. The salesperson there had never heard of them (which was weird -- maybe new?).

Whole Foods doesn't have cocoa/cacao nibs, at least not regularly. I live a few blocks away and still check about once a month out of curiosity and habit. PFI and Trader Joe's didn't have them either. I keep meaning to go to Theo. It's a shame I haven't, since I'm in Fremont all the time...I may go there today, to sample.

Where's Chocosphere in Seattle? Or is it online?

And thanks Shalmanese, for the tip on the wine store at 65th/20th! I will have to walk over there.

Edited by sallysimpleton (log)
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I checked World Spice Merchants as well, so they must have been out of them the day I was there. The salesperson there had never heard of them (which was weird -- maybe new?).

Whole Foods doesn't have cocoa/cacao nibs, at least not regularly. I live a few blocks away and still check about once a month out of curiosity and habit. PFI and Trader Joe's didn't have them either. I keep meaning to go to Theo. It's a shame I haven't, since I'm in Fremont all the time...I may go there today, to sample.

Hrmm... that's odd because I definately remember seeing them somewhere recently. I'll keep an eye out for you.

PS: I am a guy.

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It was almost as difficult to find coconut cream as it was to find cocoa nibs* or the ever-elusive Vya Vermouth, which I've been told is at Whole Foods, but I've never found there.

They have Vya vermouth at U-Village QFC. Last spotted on the shelf with the ports and dessert wines, next to the room with the premium wines.

Jan

Seattle, WA

"But there's tacos, Randy. You know how I feel about tacos. It's the only food shaped like a smile....A beef smile."

--Earl (Jason Lee), from "My Name is Earl", Episode: South of the Border Part Uno, Season 2

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