Sunday, December 12, 2004

My love letter to MSG

I often ask myself what my favorite food is or what my favorite cuisine is. When I was little, my favorite food was pizza, just as, I'm sure, pizza was yours as well. I recently went through a big breakfast kick, and I thought that eggs were my favorite food. I love me some fried eggs! For that same reason, I also thought that potatoes were my favorite food because I love hashbrowns and other potato-derived dishes. But I've recently gotten off of my breakfast kick.

As far as cuisine, a lot of people love Italian food, I think because it is based on things people love, that is, cheese, bread and other carbohydrates, and creamy sauces. I'm not so crazy about cheese or the heavy sauces. I think I have some mild form of lactose intolerance. And for some reason, bread does not inspire me. I'm not the girl who will eat a lot of bread before dinner.

I had a boyfriend for a long time who loved Chinese food, so we would eat it constantly. I always thought that Chinese food was my favorite. But now I can't really single out Chinese food. Maybe it's because I just went to one of my regular Chinese places, and it was awful. Or maybe it's because no new Chinese places have opened. It seems to be a dying cuisine in the part of the city where I live. Thai food is THE food in North Seattle, and for a long time, I thought it was just a trendy thing, that was until I started eating at the best Thai place I've ever eaten at. I'm not sure what it's name is, because the friends I go there with just call it Turbo Thai. But it is very very delicious. I think the appeal of Thai food was also enhanced for me once I started eating it really really spicy. I also like Korean food, but it's been a long time since I've had really good Korean food.

So is Thai my favorite? Can I be certain it's not just a phase, that I've caught up with the trend about three years too late? Can I really abandon Chinese food and forget about all the good years we spent together? The answer to all that, in my heart, is "No." I've come to the conclusion that they are all my favorite. I'm wimping out and declaring my love for all Asian food. And my favorite food is MSG. I don't care if it's not good for me. And it doesn't give me any headaches. I ate fast food Thai at Northgate five hours ago, and I can still taste the lingering MSG in my mouth. And it's a good taste! I don't know how to describe it. People say it is just a taste enhancer, but it is more. It has a flavor all of its own. You might think it's like salt, but to me, it has a weightiness, a substance, that makes it more than just a garnish. I once added MSG to spaghetti sauce, and it was really fucking good. Are my tastebuds crazy or does MSG rock?

And if only more Russian restaurants would open!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Las Coronas

Successlessness and I looked at the menu when we sat down at Las Coronas, a new Mexican place between 45th and 47th. It listed two locations -- one in Seattle and one in Smokey Point, WA. Smokey Point?? Where the hell is that? Did they make that city up? And even if they didn't, isn't it kinda odd that they would have one location here and one location in some BFE city in Washington? Odd...

Well, I've since looked it up, and Smokey Point is a street in Arlington, which makes it a little less mysterious, I guess. In Seattle, Las Coronas is housed in a building that used to belong to the dearly departed Dalmuti's, which was the restaurant connected to the old Wizard of the Coast store that was on the Ave all through my college years. I have great memories of eating burgers, chicken strips, and fries and then going next door and playing Magic for hours and hours into the night. (Um, well, just kidding about the last part, although we would sometimes play video games.) The walls were adorned by display cases with classic games in them, such as Monopoly, Stratego, and my personal favorite, Diplomacy (a nerdy world-domination game that I would play with friends in high school). The boards of these games were also reproduced on the tables you ate on. What's the best set of properties in Monopoly? Orange, obviously.

But now that's all gone, although the Las Coronas looks basically the same as the old Dalmuti's, sans board games. The kitchen is still exposed, diner style, so that you can see people scurrying about behind the scenes. Successlessness ordered something like a tamale and a chimichanga. I decided to try something different and ordered some kind of enchilada with baby lobsters as the seafood filling. The food wasn't fantastic, but I would say it was a step better than a shitty Mexican place like Azteca. Successlessness noted that his meal had good quality ingredients (as opposed to that greasy slop-otherwise-known-as-beef that you get at Azteca). My baby lobsters looked basically like shrimp. And it did taste like lobster, even if it did look a little creepy.

So basically, I would recommend this place if you want some nice, unchallenging Mexican food (even though the baby lobsters were a bit challenging). And there's something about being in that building that is comforting. Believe me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Cedars

Cedars is an Indian restaurant that is located on the corner of 50th and Brooklyn, right across from the Safeway. Yes, it's not, strictly speaking, located on the Ave, but it is such a popular place that it merits mention. The restaurant looks like a two-story house. You enter by the restaurant by climbing the stair on to a second-level porch. You then enter a small entry room, and inevitably, it will be packed. Successlessness and I had attempted to eat there a couple of times, but the wait was too long (say, half an hour) in those cases. So it's a popular place, beloved by many. I know that Wheelson, for example, loves Cedars. But it also does not seem to be very big. There are two rooms on either side of the entry room, so that might explain the wait.

When Successlessness and I went to Cedars before seeing the very very excellent movie Sideways on a Sunday evening, we had to wait for about 15 minutes before we were shown to a table outside on the porch. They have heat lamps, so we did not feel the cold much at all. I decided to try something new, so I ordered beef rogan josh, which is basically a brown curry dish. I wish I could say more, but the dish did not leave much of an impression. I am not a huge Indian food fan, so perhaps my palate isn't sophisticated enough to really distinguish excellent Indian food from average Indian food. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't blown away. Maybe if Wheelson has stumbled across this blog (and if he hasn't, it's my and Successlessness's fault since we don't write enough on it), he can recommend a better dish. I would eat there again, but the wait may turn me off.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Cafe Allegro

I used to hate the ideas of cafes and the coffee culture. I pictured pretentious people sitting around having deep discussions and reveling in their genius. And the Cafe Allegro was the type of place I pictured. It's in an old, rundown building. Art is for sale on the walls. Funky music of some kind or the other is playing. I often hear people talking about their music project or their art or theater projects. The service is rude, and there is a "No cellphones please" sign near the cash register. And the acoustics in the back room are such (there is also a smoking room upstairs) that once I couldn't help overhearing a REALLY BORING conversation between students about the state of the Comparative Literature program at the UW. There's a bench out in front always filled with smokers and people hanging outside, looking at their laptops and their new graphic arts programs.

But hey, sometimes it's too early to get a beer. And there's free Wi-Fi here. And I guess I kinda like being around people who are creative and write music and stuff anyway, since I am doomed to be a fan or art, never a creator of it (unless you count good putdowns -- "Yo momma is so fat... Booyah!"). And it's clean, unlike the Espresso Roma. Also, unlike the Espresso Roma, I feel like I will walk out of here with all of my limbs (although the ER has changed ownership, so it's cleaning up its act). After the intial discomfort of wondering "I'm not hip enough to sit here," it's a pretty chill place, yo. The coffee is good enough, they have a fine strawberry lemonade, and they have an assortment of pastries. There is one barista here who looks like the 8th member of The Strokes (or the 4th or whatever... not a Strokes fan), and he is often playing British music I like, such as The Kinks or Pulp. There's another barista who ain't so nice, but it's gotta be tough working in this joint while your band is on hold, waiting for their "big break," gotta be tough...

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Kiku

God bless Kiku!

Kiku caused me to do something that I don't do very often. Usually, I decide to either eat in or eat out. I don't decide on one and do the other. But the other day I was on my way to the Safeway on 50th and Brooklyn, and I thought, "Fuck cooking shit tonight, I'm going to get me some teriyaki."

Kiku is a little bit north of 50th on the Ave on the east side of the street. A coworker first told me about this teriyaki joint, and I went there and ordered their chicken teriyaki, which is really a half chicken whose skin has been deliciously and tenderly marinated in a yummy teriyaki marinade. The chicken teriyaki is not your typical chicken teriyaki, where you get dried pieces of grilled chicken smothered with teriyaki sauce. You get so much food that you can eat it for two meals. The chicken is tender and succulent, practically falling off the bone. I once got in an argument with Successlessness about whether this is really teriyaki, but whatever it is, it is delicious.

I would call Kiku the best teriyaki place that I know, but it is wrong to pigeonhole it as a teriyaki joint. Last week, I had oyakodon, a dish that I have never heard of, which is onions, chicken, and egg simmered together and served on top of a bowl of rice. They also have kimchi, tempura, a couple of seafood soups, kalbi, and sushi. So expect the menu to be a mixture of Japanese and Korean delights.

And what does "kiku" mean in Japanese? I look it up, and the first result is "fear; misgivings," but other meanings include "chrysanthemum," "to be effective," and "to ask." Fascinating and intriguing, eh?

I also forgot to mention that it is cheap -- $4.50 to $7.00. And I love cheap things!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ruby

Last Friday, I went to a restaurant called Ruby to meet some friends for some early drinks. It is located on the Ave, between 42nd and 43rd. I had been there once before with Successlessness and my friend Elizabeth about a year ago, and I remember liking the food.

When I got there, I dug through my backpack and realized that I had left my wallet somewhere. I felt slightly panicked as I wondered where my wallet could be, and when the waiter came to take our drink order, I ordered a water after telling him that I did not have my ID. He was visibly peeved as he walked away. Later, when he came to take a drink order for the second round, David explained that we would have to go somewhere else since his friend did not have her ID, and again, he rolled his eyes and was obviously annoyed.

Now bad, rude service is really a pet peeve of mine. I know that it's not easy to be pleasant to people all day. It just goes to show how difficult it is and what skill it takes to be a good waiter. In this situation, I was already feeling out of sorts about my missing wallet, and it didn't make it easier to feel as if I was ruining this poser dude's day. I can handle it if a waiter makes a miscalculation on a bill -- accidents will happen after all -- but rudeness really angers me.

So warning: The service at Ruby may not be the warmest. Watch out for a hipster waiter dude wearing a white V-neck sweater with a red polo shirt (collar turned up!) underneath.

Other than that, the decor is way nicer and hipper and more stylish than your average U-District joint. It would fit in on Capital Hill or Fremont. My friend Liz noted that this is a great place for the U-District, because students can take a date there and eat affordable food. It isn't really my kind of place (I figure soon these kids will grow up and frequent nothing but places where people try to outdo each other in the hip department), but she is basically right.

Monday, August 23, 2004

My lover letter to the U-District

Perhaps you are wondering why Successlessness and I have started this blog. Well, it's because I (even more than Successlessness) love the U-District, a neighborhood that most people find seedy and frightening. You want proof? If so, I'll have to show you my U-District Neighborhoodie. About a year ago, we started a mission: to eat on every place on the Ave in order, starting with the College Inn and going northward. I think you'll find that the Ave has a large variety of cuisines to offer at affordable prices.

You may wonder: Why the Ave? It's really gross there! I love the Ave for the same reason that many people may not find it compelling. There is no "scene" there. Capitol Hill has the dirty hipsters and the gay scene, Fremont has the yuppies and the hippies, Belltown has the hipster establishment, and so on. The U-District is without a scene, so you always feel comfortable in its abyss of nothingness and coffeeshops that close too early. Anybody who can stand the gentle trashiness of the neighborhood in the first place can feel like they belong. It accepts everyone.

Many people think that there are only young people in the U-District. This is true to an extent, and there are times when I feel too old for the neighborhood. But if you look, there are people that represent many age groups. There are people employed at the university and the other businesses in the area. The neighborhood also has its dirtier inhabitants, but most of them will be fine with you if you simply say "no" after they ask you for money. If you go to some of the drinking establishments on the Ave, you will find less college students than you expect. And also, because many people here are associated with the university, you can find some pretty interesting people with interesting things to say.

But maybe I love the U-District because it is so youth-centric. It has the laid back feel that reminds me of what it is like to be carefree and 21. People are not stressed out here.

Plus, don't forget that the U-District is pretty well situated as far as north and central Seattle is concerned. There's good bus service to Fremont, Wallingford, Ballard, Capitol Hill, and Downtown. Of course, I am woefully neglecting South Seattle, which is an area I really need to investigate more if I am to really get to know Seattle.

But of course, I understand how the U-District does not suit everybody's tastes. There are the Ave Rats around Pagliacci that are pretty bothersome. And there are no cool record shops a la Sonic Boom there (although Tower Records + Cellophane Square = a tolerable combination).

OK, so I will admit that Ballard probably has as much as the U-District. But the U-District will forever be my first Seattle love. Look to the right, that's where I went with my friends when I was in high school to see Reservoir Dogs in the big city, look to the left and that is where I first fell in love, look behind you and that's where I laughed at frat boys fighting over gyros, look ahead and there's the record shop where I indulged my vinyl fetish (as in 45s and LPs, pervert, not S&M). Look there now, and that's where you will find me at the Allegro, drinking coffee and typing on my lap top. Just as I had to leave the home of my youth, I know that I will someday have to leave my Seattle home. But U-District, you will always be special to me.