• ARAGONA • downtown: From acclaimed chef Jason Stratton (Spinasse, Artusi), it's an extremely hotly anticipated restaurant focusing on the foods of Spain, with the acclaimed David Nelson (Tavern Law, Spur, Il Bistro) in charge of the bar. Aragona is kitty-corner from the Seattle Art Museum, in the neato space where Thoa's used to be. (96 Union St, 682-3590, aragonaseattle.com, $$–$$$)
• ALTSTADT BIERHALLE & BRATHAUS • Pioneer Square: Brendan McGill, chef/owner of the well-liked Hitchcock on Bainbridge Island (and winner of Food & Wine's "People's Best New Chef") runs this great-looking old-school beer hall—big long tables, exposed brick walls, house-made bratwurst and pretzels, house-fermented sauerkraut, and big ol' steins of beer. "Altstadt" means "old town" in German, as befits its Pioneer Square location. (209 First Ave S, 602-6442, altstadtseattle.com, $$)
• HUARACHITOS • Rainier Valley: This family-owned Mexican place is especially beloved for its namesake huaraches—corn cake "sandals" smeared with beans and topped with cheese, meat, and veggies. The original Huarachitos on MLK closed due to a fire in June 2011...
The Old Sage: mural of locomotive at left, Arthur Denny center.
The Old Sage serves a roll that costs nine dollars. On the menu, it's called "Butter Flake Bread," and it is, in fact, buttery without being at all greasy, and it is full of light, flaky layers. It comes with a pat of particularly delicious cultured butter with tiny bits of chive and sea salt on top, and one side of the Butter Flake Bread, where the butter congregates, is extra crisped and extra tasty. The Butter Flake Bread appears to have miniscule flecks of herbs in it. Still, it is a roll—a single roll, made of bread—and it costs $9.
"It's pretty good, for a roll," the person I shared the roll with said...
The thing you realize after getting a few pages into Tristan Donovan's Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World is that the book is basically a history of America's dominance in the 20th century. It's all here: The wretched excess of soda fountain culture in the Gilded Age (the Arctic Soda Water Apparatus, a device created in 1876, "stood thirty-three feet high, weighed thirty tons, and measured twelve feet in diameter. It could dispense twenty-eight types of water and store seventy-six different flavoring syrups and was capped off with hanging ferns, a chandelier, and a device for spraying perfume into the air") which gave way to the Henry Ford-style industrialization of the soda-making process, followed by the attempts to win new territory in post-World War II Europe and eventual global colonization.
Donovan keeps things snappy and informative the whole way through. Nearly every page brings an interesting piece of trivia about how soda changed the world. Pepsi introduced the first thirty-second advertisement with a radio jingle that many stations at first refused to carry. (Most radio ads were five minutes or longer at the time.) Eventually, the thirty-second ad became so popular that stations were dying to play the song, and tens of thousands of people were happily buying the jingle on record:
Soda pops up in the strangest places: Richard Nixon, for example, was a Pepsi man. When he finally won the presidency, he took back the Coca-Cola CEO's White House access pass. Soda brands have influenced diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and China, they've battled over access to outer space, and they've tried as hard as they can to keep their health risks underreported. It's a fascinating story.
Even though soda consumption has declined for nearly the past decade, our love affair with soda seems rock-solid. This 1936 speech delivered by a Coca-Cola executive to his employees on the fiftieth anniversary of the company seems to be truer than ever:
There may be war. We can stand that. There may be revolutions. We will survive. Taxes may bear down to the breaking point. We can take it. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse may charge over the Earth and back again—and Coca-Cola will remain.
Duck Dynasty is in its fourth season (51 episodes!), which is amazing because superhuman strength is required to reach even the middle of a single 20-minute show. The one I watched, "Spring Clean Pong" (it was first screened a year ago), opens with the beards picking berries (Mama, we are told, makes the best pie with these here berries). The men shake a tree, the berries fall, and the men pick the berries from the ground. One of the beards decides to eat a berry he has just picked—but almost immediately he spits it out and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "Damn! That berry tastes terrible." Another beard, pointing at something on the ground: "Did you pick it up from right there? You did? Because that's a coon turd [not a berry]." This is entertainment? And why in the world is a city person like me even watching this nonsense? Because the hicks who make the duck calls have decided to make wine.
Yesterday, Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing noted that Amazon has owed money to Metabrainz, "a tiny, charitable nonprofit that relies on grants and donations for the majority of its operating capital," for the past three years. To celebrate the anniversary of their outstanding invoice, Metabrainz sent Amazon a cake:
Is it, by any chance, 54 degrees and drizzling there, Chicago? Because here in Seattle, it's sunny-bright and cold as hell, with a freezing wind chill on top of it. Feel free to go check the temperature here on the internet and make fun of me, Chicago. I'm happy I'm innocent of how actually, really goddamn cold it gets there. For us in Seattle, right now it's seriously cold, and that beaming thing in the sky is scary. (Luckily, it's almost dusk.)
• One butternut squash • One large onion • Butter • Chicken broth (large can or carton) (organic is better) • Salt and fresh-ground pepper • Cinnamon • Nutmeg • Organic sour cream
I took you home and cut you. I scraped your cute insides out. I put some olive oil on you. I set you in a pan filled with a half inch of water and put you in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then I browned a huge onion and some butter in a stock pot, with lots of salt and pepper. When I took you out of the oven after 45 minutes you were all hot and mad, but you were pretty soft, so I took a spoon and scooped you out of your skin and put you in the stock pot with the browned onions, and then I poured a giant can of chicken broth over you. Then I just let you bubble for a while. Bubble, bubble, bubble. Simmer I guess is the word that people who know what they’re doing would use. I’m not a cook. All of this made me so nervous. I got all these instructions from a friend, and I was sure I had some of them wrong. Chicken stock? I kept thinking. Bock, bock, bock!
After a while bubbling in that chicken broth you went real soft. Your orangey hunks become a chunky puree. I gave you some more pepper, and some cinnamon, and if I could have found the nutmeg I would have given you some of that too. I tried you with a spoon. God damn! I could have just eaten you like this, but I was feeling fancy, I was in the mood to go all the way, so I got out the blender and blended you. In batches. With the help of a mug, since I don’t have a ladle. Once you were smooth, I poured some of you into a bowl, with a plop of organic sour cream in the middle, and I ate you.
It was snowing. You were so good.
It's maybe supposed to snow, a tiny bit, here this weekend. Until then, just SUN AND BRRRRRR.
Everything in Violet Sweet Shoppe is incredible. Their shortbread is my favorite, available in a variety of flavors like pistachio (THE BEST!), chocolate, lavender, and lemon. It’s buttery and crumbly, as the best shortbread is, without being too dry—it goes perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea...