Category Archives: restaurants

Five Hidden Spots That Will Have You Saying “Save Me, Cheesus!” This Winter

The Valentina
The Dane’s Valentina is a comforting treat on a cold day. Photo: Teddie McCormick

In one of the universe’s cruel jokes, right up there with getting drenched by a passing car or sitting in gum, it was decreed that I kick off 2018 by being denied some of my favorite vices: sugar, gluten, and yes, I’m afraid so, dairy.

I’m blaming the universe, but, if I’m being completely honest, it’s my poor choices that made this move a necessity, But never fear, dear readers, because I vow to not punish you for my bad decisions. Instead, I’m bringing you a round-up of one of the world’s ultimate comfort foods, even if I can’t partake at the moment, relying on sense memory and some good friends to deliver the goods.

Winter in Seattle: when the skies are gray and spitting endless buckets of water, and your poor solar porch light is so starved it can’t even light your walkway. When this inevitibility happens every year, Seattleites turn inward, seeking comfort.

There are good reasons why we’re considered one of the most nation’s most literate cities, and also the most suicidal, and my personal favorite, the place with one of the highest number of serial killers. It’s called THIS EFFING WEATHER.

In a season that’s so bleak that local magazines print survival guides for just getting through it, is it any wonder that we tend to self-prescribe a little love in the form of comfort food?

What could be more comforting than a meltingly warm grilled cheese sammy on a cold, wet day? It’s no surprise that Seattle has several well-known standouts to choose from, from nationally famous places like Beecher’s to local heroes like the Cheese Wizards and The Grilled Cheese Experience.

This round-up focuses on the hidden gems; grilled cheeses that might be a bit off the beaten path, but worth seeking out. So if you find yourself needing some love this winter, check out a few of my faves:

The Dane
Opened in 2017, this Scandinavian-style cafe has several sandwiches on the menu, including the traditional Scandi smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill combo. My favorite, however, is the Valentina, a mix of blue and cheddar cheese, with tomato. The toothsome and sublime Sea Wolf sourdough combined with the sharp tang of the blue cheese will simply melt your heart. Sorry folks, it had to be pun, I mean, done. Skål!

Homegrown
With approximately 12 years of eating experience within the topic at hand, I’d say my daughter Lily is an excellent judge of what makes a great “grilled cheeser” (as we call it). For one thing, she abhors too much globby cheese, and she finds Homegrown’s kid-size classic pretty close to a perfect cheese/bread ratio. It’s just the right amount of grilled white cheddar, and it’s available in half and whole sizes if you want to maybe get a little comforting cup of soup also. Talk about just right!

Smartypants
I’ve been a fan of this Georgetown sammy spot forever, because you can’t really go wrong with anything on their extensive menu, and I’ve sampled quite a few of the offerings (research is so crucial, people). The Deluxe Grilled Cheese stands out though. The avocado spread, along with a tasteful mix jack and cheddar, makes it uniquely yummy.

Valhalla
Classic grilled cheese in Phinney Ridge that hits all the high marks: slightly crunchy Como bread and quality cheese, again, two kinds (provolone and cheddar) add up to a delightful lightness. Word to the wise, if you’re not insatiably hungry, get one and split it. Two thumbs up!

Husky Deli
I love this old-school West Seattle deli for their classics, but their take on the grilled cheese is almost subversive. House-made pesto, three, count ’em, THREE kinds of cheese: cheddar, swiss, havarti, tomatoes and fresh basil for that touch o’ green all combine into a perfect panini style grilled cheese explosion. Delish!

What’s your favorite hidden place to grab a grilled cheese when the weather sucks? I promise I’ll keep it to myself. Scout’s honor!

Book Review: “A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches”, by Tyler Kord

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First of all, let me apologize profusely for ever letting this blog lapse. Was my last post really November, 2014? ACK! What was I thinking?

Life has taken some interesting turns lately, and though I’ve personally been through some ‘stuff’, it doesn’t compare to what the great citizens of these United States are going through. Every. Single. Day.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the upside of going through ‘stuff’ is that it usually provides some much-needed clarity.  That’s why one thing is now crystal clear:

Now, more than ever, we need sandwiches. Many, many, many sandwiches.

With that in mind, I wanted to kick off the new and hopefully improved blog with something a little different: a book review. Yay, reading! It never lets me down.

A few months ago, I devoured (guys, see what I did there?) Tyler Kord’s , A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches. Although the book does include many painstakingly detailed recipes, it offers way more than a traditional cookbook. It’s also hilarious and thought-provoking.

Kord’s witty, insightful, and strong opinions about what constitutes a quality sandwich, among other things, is fascinating reading. His obsession with adventurous flavor and texture combinations, as well as over-the-top, quirky sandwich ingredients (homemade Canadian Bacon, lychees), are mouth-watering and sometimes, just a little out there. I can’t see myself ordering a sandwich with pickled blueberries or Fritos, but I’m really happy that they exist.

The artistic, next-level creations are as unique as their names. When did you last enjoy a Chutzpah Express (roast beef, pickled mushroom, Chinese mustard), or my favorite, Famous Rap Battles of History? You don’t even need to know what’s on that one to enjoy it.

While the author’s writing style is charming and a maybe even a bit neurotic, the book also gives a rare glimpse into some of the joys and challenges of running and owning a restaurant for a modern day chef.

Kord is the co-owner and chef of No. 7 Sub sandwich shops in New York, which makes him more than qualified to share his thoughts on things like pricing, sustainable practices, and why some things–in particular, the realities of shrimp production–are indeed, pretty upsetting.

The recipes in the book piqued my interest, but since I’m far too lazy to make my own grape jelly or smoke my own mayonnaise, I probably won’t even attempt them, but I’m pretty sure I will consult the helpful graphic: “Sandwich Construction: Theory & A Chart” the next time I’m in the kitchen.

I’d also be thrilled to visit the source of these creations the next time I’m in NYC.

Available from amazing independent bookstores like Elliott Bay Books and Amazon

 

Eulogy For a Sandwich. RIP Paseo.

Paseo Sammy
From the Paseo website.

Editor’s Update: Un Bien, open in Ballard June, 2015, is the love child of Julian and Lucas Lorenzo, sons of the former owner of Paseo, Lorenzo Lorenzo. Check it out and decide for yourself if they capture that old Paseo magic. It works for me!

Un Bien, 7302 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117, (206) 588-2040
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 – 8 for lunch and dinner

The Seattle sandwich world was rocked yesterday by news that Paseo, a veritable institution of Caribbean delicacies and a permanent fixture for foodies for the last 21 years, had suddenly shuttered both their Fremont and Ballard locations.

The news first broke on local website Seattle Eater. As it quickly went viral, stunned wails of “Why, God. WHY?” could be heard throughout the I-5 corridor. The story was front-page news in the Seattle Times, and reported heavily by other local media.

In fact, the public outcry was so great, a memorial of sorts has sprung up in front of the Fremont outpost, with diners coming to pay their last respects to arguably the best Cuban sandwiches available this side of Miami.

Paseo even had a national following. It was voted Number Two in Yelp’s 2014 national poll of 100 must-try foods in the U.S., and was written up in Esquire,  and Bon Appetit, among others.

Although reasons for the sudden closure are somewhat murky, it’s become apparent that the restaurant’s owners had several issues managing their business, including a labor dispute over payment of its employees.

Due to their already huge following and consistently long lines, I never even bothered to review Paseo for Seatown. Everyone already loves (sob, loved) it. In truth, I’d like to think I was saving it up, not feeling like sharing the ecstasy that is the Caribbean Roast with the world at large, but wanting to keep a bit of it for myself.

So let this be yet another sandwich-related life lesson for you. Don’t put off the sandwiches you could be enjoying today. Make it a priority to grab life by the baguette and dig in. Herewith, I give you my posthumous review of the best damn sandwich you’ll never get to enjoy again:

Let’s start with what Paseo did best: meat. And by meat, I mean pork. Whether it was the tenderly roasted shoulder or the succulent cubed loin, that stuff was decadently juicy from Paseo’s secret-recipe  marinade, and mouth-watering enough to be a delicious meal in itself.

Both the Grilled Pork and the Caribbean Roast “signature” sandwich came piled high with protein. These sandwiches were definitely knife-and-fork worthy, but somehow I was always able to break my “no sandwiches bigger than my head” rule. I like to tell myself that they were simply too messy to share, but that would be a lie. I wanted that sandwich all to myself.

Much like no man is an island, no sandwich is worth anything unless it’s served on amazing bread. Paseo piled their meat on perfectly toasted baguettes. I’m not sure where the bread came from (did they make it in-house? I guess we’ll never know…) but it was always fresh, and perfectly, consistently toasted. Crunchy on the outside with a luscious interior perfect for soaking up the sauce within, it was never soggy.

Adding what could almost be considered insult to injury, these mile-high sammies were topped off with lettuce (satisfying crunchy romaine that could on occasion become soggy and maybe a little superfluous), pickled jalapenos (critical to the overall flavor profile and in no way overly hot), gorgeously caramelized onions, and the coup de grace, a slathering of garlic aioli so delicious, people would stand in line for upwards of an hour just for a taste. Paseo didn’t offer extra sauce to go. Believe me, I tried.

Now that I have clarity, I realize that there were other, somewhat lesser, sandwiches on the Paseo menu. Chicken. Fish. Scallops. Even one with tofu. My vegetarian friends were huge fans of the Shrimp. Me, I never tried anything but the pork. Why? When perfection is (sorry, was) already right there, one doesn’t need to look elsewhere. Until today.

Vaya con dios, Paseo, you’ll be sorely missed.