Thursday, May 29, 2014

CantCoachFat Restaurant List

When I was in college, I knew three roommates, all of whom had the middle name William. My movie tastes overlapped with all of them, though not in the same area. If all three of the Williams liked/disliked a movie, then the Venn diagram in my head indicated I should/should not see the movie, irrespective of what reviews or other people said.  It was a fully calibrated review system that functioned well every time.

Unfortunately, I don't have as reliable 3-Williams system for  restaurants. So, as a public service and to avoid doing what I'm actually supposed to be doing, I decided to post my list. Perhaps you can find two others and create your own triangulated system.  Some day, I may elaborate on them. For now, I'm tracking them under the categories below.

Remember, what I look for in a restaurant is probably related to a) MY taste in food  and b) MY standard for service and cleanliness ins a particular context. That means you may completely disagree. Generally, I prefer food at my or another's home now, so you should consider that fact.  We eat better  at home than most restaurants serve (and we spend the savings on scotch, port and cheese), so I'm less willing than most to pay for food. Plus, I'm cheap. I don't mind cooking or washing up, so restaurants really have to make it worthwhile.

I find Seattle's level of service to be among the worst in the world, so I'm probably biased towards places run like how I was taught restaurants should be run, but that's another story. (I'm betting most of you don't reflexively start clocking the time between being seated and "first greet," nor can you enter a restaurant and know by smell what's not being cleaned).

Most of the places listed are in Seattle and low- to mid-range, as we gave up on higher end restaurants after too many disappointments. In some cases, the food is fine but the service might be bad. Also, I don't care if something is "authentic." The fact that I can eat "Chinese food" in Seattle, Dallas, Bangalore, Paris, London and Beijing and have it be something completely different in each place is fantastic and interesting (except in London where it's bland and terrible and should always be avoided). I'm also willing to subdivide food to distinguish things like Mex-Mex from Tex-Mex from New-Mex-Mex from Cal-Mex and recognize the strengths of each. (For other-US-Mex, please refer to "Chinese food in London.")

I encourage you to do this yourself. It really underscores what a dining rut you can get stuck in. These places are in no particular order, and I've probably left off plenty of places.


7 Star(s) Pepper, 12th and Jackson (Order hand-shaven dan dan noodles, green onion pancakes, chon jin chicken, at least)
Ben Than Pho on Rainier (nice people, cheap and fast)
Red Mill Burgers (I even like the veggie burgers)
Little Uncle (either location)
Yumiko's Teriyaki, Redmond (none better(
Tippe and Drague, Beacon Hill (We can cook most of these things well, but we love this place. Don't get the steak sandwich or the Field Roast, though. Not good.)
Hana sushi, Cap Hill  (reasonably priced and fresh. Nothing fancy, but the staff is unfailingly nice.)
Taco Wagon, 12th and King (get  a burrito. Possibly best value in Seattle)

Good Enough to Go Back

Café Turko, Fremont (Really, really nice Turkish food)
Sitka and Spruce
Black Bottle
Local 360 (Had some very good things here and one miss that happened to be a house specialty.)
Huarichito's (Excellent margaritas, chips.
Mae Phim, downtown Seattle (#14)
Malay Satay Hut
Ray's Boathouse
Tamarind Tree
El Asadero, Rainier
Sichaun Chinese Restaurant on Jackson and 12th (get the fish soup. Yes, that's what it's called.)
Bizarro Italian Café, Wallingford
Zayda Buddy's (I do love a hot dish.)
Other Coast Café (Ragin' Cajun. And you only need a half sandwich. Really.)
Blue Ginger
Stellar Pizza (I haven't been back since it got new owners)
Rock Creek, Fremont (Most dishes were delicious. THE RESTAURANT WAS REALLY LOUD, THOUGH.)
Hunger, Fremont
Kabul, Wallingford (The lamb dishes were pretty good.)
La Carta de Oxaca
Chili Deli, University District


Jones BBQ (It's perfectly acceptable food. BBQ is sweet, so if you like dry and smoky, it won't be for you. Prices keep going up.)
Coastal Kitchen (It's hit or miss, loud and unpredictable service).
Oak, Beacon Hill (It's dark, loud and service is mediocre. The burgers and fries are good.).
Tom Douglas restaurants (They have  good service and good-but-not-great food, but the prices are too high for what you get. They're good options for a kinda-fancy lunch, though.)
Salumi (I don't eat much pork anymore, so it's kind of a waste of time for me.)
Boka happy hour (It used to be good, but I haven't been in a while.)
Senor Moose (Can be hot or miss. Esquites and margaritas are always good).
Smarty Pants (this place would rank higher if their service were better. Yes, it's bad service even for Georgetown.)
Pecos Pit (sweeter, black peppery barbecue. I like going here every once in a while.)
Northlake pizza
Via Tribunali (I haven't been in years. the one in Cap Hill was great for a while, then it got meh. the Georgetown location was meh. Maybe they got better--who knows? I have better sources for this style of pizza.)
Flying Squirrel Pizza (Very kid-friendly without being kid-oriented.)
Tutta Bella
Efes, West Seattle (Really good food, but expensive for the portions.)
Maharaja, West Seattle (Used to be better. It'll do in a pinch.)
Joule, Fremont (Only ate here once. A couple dishes were delicious; a couple dishes were crappy.)


Wild Ginger at Dinner. Wild Ginger at lunch is OK in a pinch.
Crush (only went here once. It was disappointing in many categories.)
Barrio, Seattle (The margaritas and salsa are good. Avoid the sliders.)
Fonda La Catrina (terrible service, loud, hit or miss food. Good drinks, though).
Dixie's BBQ
any steakhouse in Seattle
Shanghai Garden (Used to be good. not anymore)
All Purpose Pizza (Good sauce and pizza if you can manage to get there during operating hours, but $50 for a pizza, salad and a pitcher? The pizza isn't *that* good, and that style of pizza is easy to make at home.)
Traveler's Indian Beacon Hill (People say this is "authentic Indian". The pani puri was good, but everything else lacked body. Near as I can guess, it's run by some guys who lived on an ashram. We never see Indians in there. I might give it another try some day.)
Quetzel, Beacon Hill (used to be a nice, family-run place. Now they have booze, a bar, bad service and mediocre, over-priced food.)
Ezell's or Heaven Sent Chicken (My fried chicken is superior.)
Hawk's Nest (Drink here. Don't eat here.)
Purple Café (Or anything from the Heavy Restaurant Group. It's just not that good.)
Molly Moon's (I don't like this style of ice cream)
Revel (I've been here at least three times. All three times, I had one good dish, two boring dishes and a bad dish or two. Also, why is the bar, Quoin, so dirty?)

Never to Dine In or Out From, Even if It's Your Friend's Birthday and Her Favorite Place Ever

Any food at a hotel or a country club, if you can avoid it (unless listed above).
The Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel
Palomino (or any of those big upscale chains around downtown Seattle or Bellevue, unless noted above)
Maggiano's (Brinker International--what is WRONG with you? This food is DIRE. I get stuck here for work functions.)
Hector's in Kirkland
Any food from Cannon Bar (the drinks are fine, though)
Von Trapp's
Cold Stone Creamery

Memorial: Please Bring Back this Place

The Silver Fork
La Cabana (OK--it wasn't great Mexican, but I loved the paintings, the portions were enough for a week and the family was really nice. sometimes it just hit the spot. Sad to see it's gone.)
Preet (The only Indian food I've had outside of India or someone's home that tastes "correct" to me.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I document The English's Bread Recipe

Another bread recipe, this one with proper rising and such. Remember to read through the whole recipe first!

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups water (use slightly more if making wheat bread)
3 tbsp brown sugar ( dark or light--will affect yeast and sweetness, though. Sugar makes for a crunchy crust, but if you want the bread less sweet, cut down the sugar some. I advise using the amount above for your first loaf.)
~ 5 1/2 cups SIFTED unbleached flour (or wheat, All-purpose, bread--anything but self-rising. If you use wheat, double-sift. More sifting means lighter bread, generally. If you want wheat bread, about 2 cups of wheat and 3 white. You'll need a bit more oil and water, too--maybe a tablespoon or so of each.)
some more flour for counter flouring
1 to 3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
olive oil/butter for greasing and adding flavor

timer (any timer will do)
KitchenAid mixer, mixing bowl and dough hook attchment
silicone spatula (or other bendy spatula)
large bowl (bowl will hold sifted flour)
platic lid or other item that will cover the top of the metal mixing bowl (cover, doesn't have to seal)
measuring spoons
measuring cup
liquid measuring cup
olive oil mister or basting brush and small bowl to hold oil/butter (you can grease things by hand if you don't have these)
baking pan, silicone recommended
cooling rack recommended
clean cloth to cover
oven mitts
cleanup supplies

Total time including waiting and cleaning: 4-5 hours
Total active time including prep and cleaning: 1 hour (or less time, when you get the routine.)

Stage 0: prep kitchen - 10 minutes
Clear and clean counter or cutting board where you will knead bread. Do not use strong cleaners, as the bread will pick up the flavor. Make sure the surface is dry. Also, make sure you have room in the sink to put used equipment when you finish. Wash and dry your hands. Get out your ingredients and equipment and measure what you can.

Stage 1: Prep yeast and flour - 12 minutes

1) In mixer bowl, mix the ingredients below.

2 1/4 tsp yeast
3 tsp brown sugar
2 cups hottish tap water (not-as-hot as coming out of the tap, but warmer than you would give a baby. So I'm told. Remember to use a tsp to tblsp more water if adding wheat flour))

2) Cover with a lid from a storage container. Set timer for 10 minutes for the yeast activation.

3) While yeast is activating, sift and measure flour.
5 to 5 1/2 cups sifted flour (sift BEFORE you measure. Wheat flour should be sifted At least twice.)

4) When timer goes off, wash and dry your hands. Check the yeast-water-sugar mixture to make sure it started foaming. If not, start over. (possibly your water was too hot or too cold) .

Stage 2: Mixing - 10 minutes

5) Put the bowl and lock on the mixer stand. Add about a third of the flour, turn the mixer on, and then slowly pour/scoop in the remaining flour.

6) Pour in 1-2tbsp of olive oil to add flavor and moisture. Use more for wheat than for white flour.

7) Set a timer for 7 minutes to time the mixing. You do not want to overmix, so if it took you a little longer to set the timer, then reduce the amount of time. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula.

8) While the dough is mixing, sprinkle flour (start with a tablespoon and see) on the countertop, put away the liquid measuring cup and clean the teaspoon and measuring cup and put them away. Put away the sifter (if you have to add a little flour later, it's ok if it's not sifted).

9) When the timer goes off, wash and dry your hands, if needed. Sprinkle in the salt.
(Salt addition is recommended for as late as possible in the process to facilitate the rise.)

10) Turn off the mixer. Look at the dough and touch it. It should be firm but not dry. I prefer to work with slightly wetter dough, but it's more difficult to manage. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in flour a tablespoon at a time and mix for a few seconds.

Stage 3 - Prep for first rise - 7 minutes

11) Wash and dry your hands. Pull the bowl off the stand. Flour your hands. The dough will be wrapped around the hook somewhat. Spatula off the dough and stick the hook in the sink (ideally in water). Sprinkle a little bit of flour around the edges of the dough.
Take the spatula and push down the sides of the bowl to push the dough to the center so that you can drop it out in one lump on the floured countertop , if possible.
Scrape the bowl in a downward direction to get the sides clean. A bit of dough-film on the bowl is OK.

12) Mist the same bowl with olive oil.

13) Knead the dough a bit by hand (1-2 minutes). If it's sticking to your fingers or the counter, flour the surface and/or the dough.

14) Form the dough into a ball (I pinch it under) and drop into the lightly greaesed bowl. Put a lid/clean towel/ whatever over it. It doesn't have to seal.

15) Put the bowl somewhere warm. The warmer the spot, the faster the rise will occur. If you're cooking something else, on top of a warm oven is perfect. REMEMBER: dough absorbs smells, so don't smoke around your rising dough.

16) Set a timer for 45-60 minutes ( 30 if you found a good warm spot). You want the dough ball to double in size.

17) Clean the dough hook (dry dough is harder to clean) and put it away. Put away all ingredients excpt the flour and the olive oil mister. Leave the floured countertop, but you can clean up any little bits of dough. If you have any remaining measuring equipment out, it can be cleaned.

Stage 4 - WAIT TIME 40-60 minutes.

18) When the timer goes off, check to see if the dough has doubled in size. If it hasn't, give it another 10-15 minutes.

Stage 5 - Prep for second rise - 5 minutes

19) Wash and dry your hands. Punch down the dough and repeat steps 11-16. You need the dough ball to double in size again. You may not need the extra bits of flour.

Stage 6- SECOND WAIT TIME 40-60 minutes.

20) When the dough has doubled in size again, wash and dry your hands. Get the dough out of the bowl in the same way as before. Put the bowl in the sink with water in it.

Stage 7 - Prep for the final rise - 5 minutes

21) Punch down, knead a few times and form into a loaf shape.

22) Grease the loaf pan if it isn't silicone.

23) Put the loaf in the loaf pan. Set the same lid over the loaf pan and put it somewhere warm again. This rise will be uour last rise for this loaf.

24) Set a timer for 30 minutes.

Stage 8 -THIRD WAIT TIME 30 minutes.

25) When the timer goes off, check the oven to make sure no extra pans are in it. Preheat the oven to 400.

26) set timer for 15 minutes.

Stage 9 WAIT TIME 15 minutes.

27) When timer goes off, check to see if dough has risen slightly above bread pan. If not, set another timer for 10-15 minutes.

Stage 10: Prep for baking

28) When loaf has proofed up to be at or slightly above pan edge, take a knife and cut parallel diagonal lines from top corner, then criss-cross them from another corner. The cuts will make the loaf look pretty and keep it from "erupting" in the middle of the loaf. Mist the top with olive oil or butter.

29) Bake uncovered at 400 for ~30 minutes. Set a timer. While bread is baking, wash and put away everything except olive oil mister/butter, cooling rack and knife.

Stage 11 BAKING WAIT TIME 30 minutes.

Stage 12: Cooling

30) Pull out the loaf when it looks ready. Golden brown lid, etc indicates readiness. If you think it might stick, run a knife around the edge of the bread pan. Tip out the loaf. Optional: mist with olive oil or top with butter pats.

31) For a nice, crispy crust, put the bread on a rack to cool. For a softer loaf, put it somewhere to cool and cover with a clean cloth. Alternately, you can start stuffing your face. Keep bread in a sealed container.

Notes: Tough bread means it was probably over-kneaded.
"Clean Towels" means they haven't been used for anything else. Towels that you have been drying your washed hands on are NOT clean enough. I'll spare you the biology lecture.
I often forget to add salt. It's fine. Just salt your bread when you eat it. Mmmmm
Bread only keeps for a few days. It will mold or harden.
I sometimes slightly underbake bread so that it's nicer when toasted later or if I am taking it over to someone's for dinner and want to pop it in the oven to heat.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Didn't You Read the Subtitle?

Life was briefly interrupted by a trip to The Republic,  optic neuritis resulting in some family management (namely poking fun at family and operating as chauffeur among medical facilities) and an absence of things to post that weren't Another Damned Food Post. I'll catch up and add a few items this week, including More Damned Food Posts and possibly some cat photos.

Friday, September 28, 2012

If you here thumping at 7:30 in the morning and think it's the cat, you're right.

Feathers all over and the day begins pursuit of small, freaked out bird who was scuttling around behind the furniture to escape Lewis. The bird is now outside, presumed living.

Why does this keep happening?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lentil Rain, Lentil Reign

Today, while prepping some food, I managed to come up with about five stupid ways to describe lentils falling all over me and the kitchen (they've been dropping out of my hair every now and again since 11 AM). I could have written a wacky description of the event, but you don't need to think too much about dried legumes. It's sufficient to say that whenever you think "Is that bag secure enough?" the answer is probably "No."

In the writing classes I took in college,**  we learned some basic rules for better writing. Things like keeping sentences at one line or less and  using one word instead of two when possible. Among the most important (and at times most difficult to execute) is "murder your darlings."*** A darling is that clever phrase that you want to put in your writing, even if it's too much/too long/tangential.

You can spot your darling when you start restructuring your writing around it or--worse yet--build a whole piece around a certain phrase rather than a concept. You might also question anything that is sexual to describe a non-sexual item, uses a simile or metaphor you've impressed yourself with or anything you think is the first time anyone might have phrased in that way. But generally, you just know a phrase needs to be cut because you want it in there so badly that you're willing to compromise the rest of your selection, just to get it in there.

Fortunately for armchair editors like myself and the turgid writing minds waiting to drip their juices on us like a fecund cheerleader (see what I did there?), we have Facebook now. All those words, all that imagery, all that CLEVER can be neatly packaged in a status message. If you can't murder your darling, at least put it somewhere it does the least harm.

And now, my (non-lentil) darling of the day

 "Remember, you have vole karma on your side."

** No, I have never fancied myself a "writer," in that I lack storytelling capability.  I could be "paid to write," but that's different from "being a writer."  I was once paid to be the Easter Bunny, but it doesn't mean I'm the next Fred Rogers.

*** Through the magic of the internet, I've *just* learned the origin of the phrase, attributed to Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, a Cornishman from Bodmin. This entire Wikipedia article is delightful to me, as it brings together the darling, the southwest of England and Wind in The Willows. Feel free to guess which characters The English and I identify with.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

40-minute rolls in 25 minutes, as Told by The Queen of the Wiki

I promise I am not starting a food blog. I assure you the Western world has plenty of food blogs. The Eastern world probably does, too, but I'm too lazy to find and translate them.

Need Nice Buns, Cheap

The story of the rolls** Is that we were in Whole Foods getting lamb burger supplies. At seeing $5 for four ciabatta buns, we declared "F*** that" because we already make bread and pizza dough, so why pay for hamburger buns. A recipe search ensued (for about 10 seconds) and  I made buns.

Recipe Improvements

Like my friend's Great Aunt Lily, I find that cooking shows don't show enough about how to prep and clean. If you want people to cook (they want people to buy the prepackaged meals on the commercials), you have to make the cleaning process easy. "Cooking"--i.e. the application of heat to food--usually doesn't take much time unless you have to stir a sauce or gravy. Most things either get a quick jab with a spoon every now and again. It's cleaning, chopping, figuring out what to use because you don't have a Chinoise sleeve and all the other bits that take up the time.

Hence, I have added ALL my steps and made the instructions carry a similar level of detail as the technical wikis I've written. The recipe will still take longer the first couple times, but I hope that the cleaning tips and timing will make the process better for someone (namely me, if I go a while without making them). Don't feel intimidated by the number of steps--it's just more specific than most recipes.

The Recipe
Read through the whole recipe first. These make nice small buns. If you want bigger, lighter buns, you can let them rise or do a double-rise, but this method gets you small rolls with a lot of texture. 


2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (and you may need more if the dough gets dry)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (I use less if I want rolls to be less sweet)
1/3 cup  olive oil (cheap oil is fine, original recipe calls for vegetable oil)
1 egg
3 cups unbleached white flour, plus ~1/2 cup to add to dough, if needed and for flouring counter. (If you use whole wheat flour, use just under 3 cups and sift it)
olive oil to spread on rolls (or butter, if you prefer)
* original recipe calls for a pinch of salt, which I do not use in order to encourage more rising.
Equipment KitchenAid or similar mixer, dough hook attachment and bowl *If you don't have a mixer, you can make the recipe and hand-knead, as described in the original recipe (link at the end of this one)*
liquid measuring cup
dry measuring cups and spoons
cookie sheet and silicone mat (or grease the sheet)
cooling rack ( or plater or whatever if you don't have a cooling rack.)
basting brush or olive oil sprayer
clean cloth or something to cover them with like a clean, large paper bag


0. Clean yourself some counter space and get your ingredients and supplies out and ready.

1.Place yeast in mixer bowl

2. Add warm water and stir

3. add light brown sugar and stir.

4. loosely cover and let stand for 5 minutes. set a timer. Ideally, set the bowl in a warm area (example--I put mine next to the stove if I have something bubbling or on top if the oven is on).

5. measure out your oil and make sure you have your cookie sheet, etc ready.(The point here is to use this five minutes constructively, especially if you are pressed for time).

6. when your 5 min timer goes off, preheat oven to 420. (not a euphemism. also, you may find your oven heats faster or more slowly, but the point is to remember to preheat your oven so that's ready)

7. Uncover your yeast/sugar/water mixture. Add the oil into the mixer bowl.

8. Add the egg to the mixer bowl.

9. Put the flour in the mixing bowl.

10. Put the bowl on the mixer stand-with-dough hook. Use speed 1/2 for about 5-7 minutes. Shut off the mixer and move to the next step.

* Set a timer! You do not want the dough to get overworked.*  I like it slightly on the sticky side (especially for wheat). A decent test is that if you stop the mixer and raise the dough hook, most of the dough should be in a ball and slide off with it's own weight. Stickier dough is messier to work with, but I err on the side of moist and add flour while hand-finishing the kneading, if needed.

11. Sprinkle ~1 tablespoon of flour on a clean counter space and set the cookie sheet nearby. Make sure the cookie sheet has whatever coating (silicone mat, olive oil, butter, paper) you're using to keep the rolls from sticking (nonstick cookie sheet itself it fine).

12.Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and get the dough into the middle of the bowl, then dump the dough onto the floured counter. Use the spatula to get the bits out. (Put the bowl in the sink and the hook in the bowl and fill with water to start your cleaning early).

13. Knead the dough a bit by hand (20 secs or so) to get it into a symmetrical lump. Symmetry makes it easier to divide evenly into twelve pieces. The dough should be elastic. Lots of info and videos online about what that means, but a smooth, pleasant dough that sticks a little to unfloured fingers but not to floured fingers.

14. Cut by halves and thirds to get twelve evenly-sized blobs of dough.  Try not to squish the main parts of the dough, as at this point it's proofing (rising) a bit.

15. GENTLY shape dough blobs into rolls by  pinching the squarish bits under the dough, then cupping the blobs in your hand and rounding. Shake more rather than squishing. Imagine it's a flower you're rolling around. Or something.  Place it on the cookie sheet. Note--I have also made hot dog buns-- just change the shape and size.

Optional: If you are using wheat or for any reason feel like your dough is dry, you can brush/spritz with olive oil or butter.

16. If the oven is ready, put the rolls in. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Make sure you have your cooling rack, olive oil (or melted butter) and clean cloth/bag ready.

17. When the timer goes off, you should evaluate how you want them.  Best to look through the oven window, if you have one and your light works, etc. Peek rather than opening the oven and taking them out.

*If you're going to reheat them  to be served more than an hour or so, you may want to leave them partially baked (par-baked). They end up yeastier and more dense ( which most people like).

* If you're using them right away, I like them juuuust golden brown. Bake them in  60-second intervals until they are done. Err on the side of Under-baking. *They should not have totally brown domes.* If yr oven heats unevenly, you may need to rotate the cookie sheet mid-bake.

18.  Remove from oven. Brush/spritz with olive oil (or butter). *If you think they may have overbaked, switch steps 18 and 19.*

19. IMPORTANT: Get them out of the oven, off the cookie sheet and on to your cooling surface. 

20. Cover with a clean cloth or clean brown paper bag. Make sure your cooling rack isn't sitting on top of the stove (because your oven is probably warm).  *If you want a more crisp outer surface, don't cover them.

Travel: Put a layer of wax or other paper in the bottom of a paper bag. Layer rolls and paper. Tear/snip a couple vent holes in the sides of the bag.
Storage: Air-tight container.

Original recipe at:

** If Food Network teaches us nothing else, it's that one must have an emotional tie to one's recipe. In this case, my emotion is "I'm not paying $5 for four hamburger buns."
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