Last night at Benaroya Hall, author Michael Pollan paced the stage and talked to an audience that seemed to adore him. He's tall, thin, and bald with wireframe glasses. He wore jeans and a navy-blue sport coat.
If he'd been wearing a turtleneck, Pollan could have been mistaken for Steve Jobs. Which is appropriate, because his critique of the food system is Jobsian—highly effective, technically on point, even cool. But snobbish and alienating.
The substance of Pollan's argument against the corporate food industry is solid. He began with an anecdote from early in his career that encapsulates it perfectly, when he visited an Idaho farm where potatoes have to off-gas the toxicity from pesticides for five days before they can be turned into McDonald's French fries.
So I was totally with him. But then Pollan received the biggest laughs and applause of the night when he called the microwave "the Ayn Rand of appliances." He recounted the experience of buying frozen meals from Safeway as if it was an adventure on an alien planet. Waiting for them to cook in the microwave was "soul-irradiating," he said. The food was gross.
Pollan juxtaposed this with his nostalgia for the family meal of yesteryear, when kids "learn to argue without screaming or fighting. They learn the art of conversation." Chicken kiev was his favorite dish made by mom each birthday. (Who eats chicken kiev on his birthday?)
For the affluent Benaroya audience, this seemed to be all well and good. Personally, my memories of the kitchen are less fond. In single-family households (mine was firmly middle class), kids take on a lot more cooking and cleaning duties. I remember being yelled at a lot. And I thought frozen King's Hawaiian Teriyaki Bowls and Marie Callender pot pies were absolutely delicious.
As a big fan of savory foods, I welcome this news:
In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.
Those levels, 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt, were supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk, including anyone older than 50, blacks and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease — a group that makes up more than half of the American population. ... But the new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since the last such report was issued, in 2005.
I mostly cook and bake for myself rather than eating out or buying prepared foods, so I'm guessing my sodium intake is way lower than the average American's. But there's no way I manage to stay below 1,500 milligrams on most days. Now I can stop giving myself hypertension worrying about my salt intake.
I have seen the occasional pile of oranges and bananas at a Walgreens. The sad cafeteria-style pile of unripe fruit makes a kind of sense. But this drugstore's exotic fruit display—pineapples, coconuts, papayas, mangos in between hair dryers and cans of nuts—totally blew my mind. Overhead, they played Joni Mitchell. The wooden display is actually for a brand of "crunch dried® fruit and vegetable snacks" in plastic bags, the kind of food I expect at the drugstore. It was a tropical fluke in the snack aisle. Or is this a new trend?
Two things: 1) It's a little pricey—over $8, since you're buying a milkshake and a Rachel's Ginger Beer (you get the left over ginger beer, too), but it's large enough that you could definitely share it with a friend. 2) This one is made with CR's vanilla ice cream, but Cupcake Royale also currently has a honey snickerdoodle flavor as well as an orange hibiscus sorbet that would probably be AMAZING and really refreshing when blended with Rachel's Ginger Beer.
The hamburger, assembled from tiny bits of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory and to be cooked and eaten at an event in London, perhaps in a few weeks, is meant to show the world — including potential sources of research funds — that so-called in-Vitro meat, or cultured meat, is a reality.
Does it make it extra appetizing to know that it's environmentally friendly?
THE BANANA-SPLIT SHAKE AT LUNA PARK CAFE: Whoever thought of this is A GENIUS!
Tears came out of my eyes as I pulled the blood-soaked gauze out of my mouth—I couldn't feel anything on the lower half of my face, but the fresh wounds in my gums, where my wisdom teeth used to be, were still trickling a tinny-tasting stream of blood that all the water in the world couldn't rinse off my tongue. Blech.
After getting all four of my wisdom teeth pulled, I stayed hunkered down in bed and survived on a diet of over-the-counter painkillers, Netflix's terrible reality TV shows (Bridalplasty, dudes—seriously), and liquid meals for several days. Within the first 24 hours, I had already grown tired of juice, soups, and chalky Odwalla protein shakes. I was dying to eat something real, something that stuck to my bones and satisfied my sweet tooth.
This is when I fell in love with the milkshake all over again. I'd been so distracted by eating dessert that I completely forgot that sometimes the best way to spike your blood sugar comes through a straw! The milkshake is the bright side of having to have four large teeth yanked out of your face.
Whether it's a traditional strawberry shake from Dick's Drive-In ($2.15) or a boozy smoked-chocolate-and-whiskey concoction from Ballard's Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery ($13!), as long as real ice cream is used, it's nearly impossible to make a bad milkshake. (A mediocre milkshake, sure, but certainly not a bad one.)
UK-based scientists have designed an 'intelligent' microchip which they claim can suppress appetite.
Animal trials of the electronic implant are about to begin and its makers say it could provide a more effective alternative to weight-loss surgery.
The chip is attached to the vagus nerve which plays a role in appetite as well as a host of other functions within the body.
Human trials of the implant could begin within three years, say its makers.
The last two chapters of Micheal Gazzaniga's book Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique are devoted to this sort of thing, the future of the human body. After explaining for 300 pages what's biologically special about the human animal (our hands, our brains, our languages, our cultures, our dependence on technology), he begins to examine the latest technological direction—from the outside to the inside. In the past, tools were external (hammer, spoon, shoes); in the future that's arriving all around us, tools are becoming more and more internal. In the past, we were fyborgs (dependent on technology), but the future is transforming us into cyborgs.
Cyborgs have a physical integration of biological and technological structures. And we now have a few in our midst.
Capitol Hill finally has a place to eat that is open all day and all night. After Basic Plumbing—the windowless, louche gay bathhouse on 10th and Pike—closed its clammy doors, David Meinert (5 Point/Big Mario's) and Jason Lajeunesse (Neumo's/Moe Bar/etc.) turned the space into 24-hour diner Lost Lake Cafe & Lounge (with an accidental, but hopefully cleansing, fire occurring during the process). They promise "the stiffest drinks on the Hill" (stiffest-er than the Crescent*?! Lord help us) and "no pretentious deconstructed anything, just real food for real people at great prices." The atmosphere is retro-Twin-Peaks-y, and we hear that the tuna melt is good, and there is pie.
*UPDATE: Or stiffest-er than C.C. Attle's, as commenter kittenalarm rightfully asks!?
The comments thread to that post has been pretty great, including a link from Gold Star Slog Commenter Merchant Seaman to a story from KPLU that seems to prove my thesis about McDonald's employees doing better at their jobs when they're paid a better wage. It's about a McDonald's along the border in Washington State (where the minimum wage is $9.19) that won't move twenty feet into Idaho, where the minimum wage is $7.25:
So, just to be clear: This McDonalds is in the state with the higher minimum wage. And this busy intersection is so profitable that it didn’t occur to [franchise owner Tim] Skubitz to move, even when he tore down the old McDonald’s in 2011. He built a fancier new one in the same place instead of in the state right across the street with the lower minimum wage. Skibutz says wages are just one piece of a larger puzzle.
“Just because we've expanded our business shows that we're growing our business,” he said. “And so with growing our business, I need more employees. So we've grown substantially I'd say in the last year and a half.”
The researchers who studied neighboring counties across state lines say there are a couple of reasons why minimum wage increases turn out to be a wash for businesses overall. They say first, the wage hike reduces turnover. It also leads employers to invest more in worker training, which increases productivity.
This story is proof that Republicans who insist lower wages are the way to build jobs are full of shit. I suggest you go read the whole thing.
Chris DeRose published an article at Business Insider addressing the fact that McDonald's is failing at customer service, with a vice president of the company openly talking about the “rude or unprofessional employees" at some franchises. Here are DeRose's suggestions:
1. Create shared emotion around delivering a great customer experience. 2. Keep simplifying work processes and rules 3. Invest more in tools and training. 4. Reward and recognize great service.
What DeRose doesn't suggest? Paying the employees a living wage. Instead, he spends his time blathering about bullshit PowerPoint terms like "wow stories" and "customer mania" and "creating memories." If you treat your employees like garbage, they're going to treat your customers like garbage. McDonald's shitty pay doesn't even get a mention in DeRose's article, but a program where "employees nominate each other for a series of pins" is suggested as a fix. Fucking unbelievable.
As per Rachel Eggers' 2011 review, Fuji Bakery's head baker Taka Hirai* spent three years at Joël Robuchon's three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo, and this expertise is reflected in everything at Fuji (except maybe the decor). They use a particular European cultured butter; they make their own yeast. Japanese-meets-French offerings include curry buns, green tea danishes, and baguette sandwiches with fillings such as smoked salmon, milk cream (!), and mentaiko butter, while the straight-up French stuff—croissants, tiny quiches, etc.—is WAY better than some so-called French bakeries.
Located next to Marination Station—upstairs from the QFC at Broadway and Pike, where Little Shanghai used to be—Vostok Dumpling House serves Russian dumplings, soups, salads, and so forth. They say:
Change has arrived! Now we are not talking about political change. We are talking about a change to the dinning experience. Your cravings are no longer limited to a tortilla or a bun. Vostok Dumpling House serves up a delicious variety of soviet inspired dumplings, starting from the unforgettably hearty meat filled Siberian pelmeni to the sweet and unpredictable Ukrainian vareniki. Paired with a proud collection of local micro brews the combination of flavors and experiences are bound to start a revolution!
The repurposedUSSR propaganda poster on the wall asks “Hungry?” instead of “Have you enlisted?” (Thank you, gavastik.)
But the real surprise are the “cups and saucers [that] are molded on the spot.” Of course, the point is not to improve or automate the kitchen but to get rid of it altogether and transfer all cooking to public spaces. As the yard must be replaced by the public park, the kitchen must be replaced by the restaurant.
The primary measure of an official's competence is defined by the snacks they purchase on their own dime to share with constituents. One of the photos below shows the candy bowl in Council Member Sally Bagshaw's office and one of them is the candy bowl in Mayor Mike McGinn's office. We're not saying whose is whose—but which one would you vote for?
NOW IN A BUNGALOW Is smaller better? And who’s that in the corner?
No one can really remember the interior of the old Thaiku in Ballard. (You can? You're the only one.) My colleague Anna Minard, who went there at least a dozen times during its near-decade of existence, stared blankly when asked about it, then finally said that it was big and dark and high-ceilinged, kind of, question mark? My friend Jill Lightner, the editor of Edible Seattle, e-mailed: "Thaiku used to be kind of dark, lots of wood beams and really crowded tables. Kind of boring." I only went there once, on an awkward date, and was mostly in the bar, which was so full that we awkwardly sat on top of a table that awkwardly didn't have any chairs. It was dark and big (and awkward, though that wasn't its fault, except for the chairs).
Thaiku used to be where brand-new Ballard Annex Oyster House now stands, and the Thai food was extra-good there; people do remember this. Then it shut down, and it was gone for more than a year. Now it has finally reopened on Phinney...
This celebratory issue is on newsstands now, with all kinds of recipes using "this centuries-old culinary herb, some of which are intended to provide the user with noticeable effects, while others simply make use of cannabis in the same manner we might use thyme or marjoram"—including pot pesto, herb-roasted root vegetables, pot-roasted chicken in a pot, and more.
Regarding cannabis butter, Edible Seattle editor Jill Lightner says: "From my own recent experiences, I can say that grinding it fine is KEY. I got lazy with one batch and I made cannagrossbrownsludge instead of cannabutter... the main thing is the fine grinding, like dust/powder."
I have to be honest, I'm one of the few lovers of wine who never sticks his nose into a wine glass. In my thinking, sniffing is fine for a dog or a cat or any animal that still finds olfactory information meaningful, but not for a human. We long ago traded the senses of the nose for the glory of tricolor vision.
...two members of the band Friends and Family, Alex McCauley and Nathaniel Elliot Tanner Rogers, wrote:
[We] ate at a pitch black restaurant recently. Part of the gimmick is the idea that without vision you can taste and smell the food better. I think we all found that out it was the opposite—without the visual cues it was much more difficult to make out what we were eating.
I do not have the ability to dissociate eating in the dark with the punishment of confinement in a cell with no light.
There is something about the Viking that reminds me of old Seattle: the lush and green and lonely Seattle of the 1970s, imbued with the infinite sadness of spent resources and industrialized, polluted, then abandoned riverbanks. In the old Seattle, there were weeds, and dogs without leashes. The paint peeled off houses and nobody bothered the city council about it. My grandpa, a lean man who sleeps with a gun under his pillow in his mossy rambler out in Preston, would drink at the Viking if he lived in Ballard. I imagine both my grandparents being very comfortable at the Viking, in fact, with their pair of Dobermans, Acey and Deucy, at attention next to several rib bones picked clean...
The ground upon which the Viking stands will become a development called the Ballard Lofts. Please join me now in a moment of silent hating of the world.
As of tomorrow at closing time, the neon lights at Ninth and Madison will be no more. After 34 years and some health troubles, the owner of Greek-American 1st Hill Bar and Grill has decided to sell. Marti Jonjak’s Happiest Hour love note doubles as an elegy for one of the last truly old-school Seattle restaurant-and-lounges:
The 1st Hill Bar & Grill is a deeply charming dive that's been around forever. Occupying the front space: a pleasant, ordinary diner with old men and mauve seashell-print upholstery and garlands of plastic ivy. But the back lounge blooms into a distinct and unexpected realm—vast and still, with glossy orange underlights and murals on every wall depicting famous Greek ruins.
Come say your goodbyes!
There's a silver lining to this story: The buyer is Ridgley Kuang, owner of the two Green Leaf locations—one serves the best Vietnamese food in Belltown (no contest) and the other serves arguably the best Vietnamese in the International District (we can fight about it in the comments). I go to the Belltown Green Leaf so often that the waitresses know how I like my iced coffee and sometimes send over free dessert.
Kuang isn’t opening another Green Leaf; he thinks two is enough. The new restaurant will be called Lotus Asian Kitchen and Lounge, following a few months of remodeling. Some Green Leaf dishes might migrate, but the menu will have more of an experimental, Asian-fusion vibe, plus a full bar.
And if you find yourself wandering First Hill, in need in of old-fashioned, homey ambience and cheap, serviceable souvlaki, there’s always Mediterranean Kitchen.
Here is the connection: In The Making of Global Capitalism, the Canadian authors (Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin—the first is a professor of political science and the second is an economist), convincingly argue that globalization is essentially Americanization. To understand their reasoning, you have to first understand this: There is no such thing as a pure capitalism, a capitalism as a kind of Platonic form. There are instead multiple capitalisms, each marked by the culture through which it is expressed—Singaporean capitalism, German capitalism, Brazilian capitalism, and so on. The kind of capitalism that went global during the second half of the 20th century was US capitalism. Not only that, this capitalism was made global not by capitalists or multinational corporations but by the US government. Only a powerful state has the kind of muscle needed to build, support, and reproduce an economic order on a global scale.
And how does this connect with the Wonder Coffee and Sports Bar? A passage from my review:
A part of the menu offers Ethiopian dishes. The other part offers plain American meals... Now here is where things get wonderfully weird: The Ethiopian dishes are in the Wonder Special Ethiopian section of the menu, and the American meals are in the Wonder Special International section. When you eat a hamburger down the street, it is not international—but when you eat it in Wonder, it is. America, not Ethiopia, is international in Wonder.
Wonder, however, is correct to categorize American plates (even in America) as international—it is the food/language/culture of global capitalism. A cheeseburger, no matter where it is served, is international; injera bread, no matter where it is served, is local.
On this gray and somber morning, a little story that contains three of my favorite things—women in science, kids at the grown-up table, and yummy organic produce—is brightening things just a bit. Dallas teenager Ria Chhabra, who started this project in middle school and is now 16, has had her research on organic foods published in a peer-reviewed journal after winning honors at national science competitions.
The research, titled “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” tracked the effects of organic and conventional diets on the health of fruit flies. By nearly every measure, including fertility, stress resistance and longevity, flies that fed on organic bananas and potatoes fared better than those who dined on conventionally raised produce.
She's been working with a Southern Methodist University professor, Dr. Johannes Bauer, in his lab. According to Pope, "Dr. Bauer said that he was happy to have her working in his lab and that her biggest problem was that 'she has too many ideas for her own good.'" Bless you, internet, for the good stuff.