Seattle's "Street Doughnuts": Ginger Spice & Everything Nice

The last time I had a doughnut, I was living in Dallas. You see, it's okay to eat doughnuts in Dallas. Encouraged, even. But living in L.A., apparently we all sign an unspoken yet very strict agreement barring us from the wonders of the deep-fried, tubular, glazed stomach sinker. It's a sad reality, but one that almost everyone that I know follows. So when I ended my societally-enforced SoCal donut strike two weeks ago, it didn't count. Why? I was in Seattle. Plus, they were mini doughnuts.

Here's how it happened and boy, am I happy that it did. On our last morning in Seattle, Bryan and I -- most literally -- stumbled upon a tiny food truck emblazoned with "Street Doughnuts" on its side. It was the morning of the Fourth of July, a national holiday when everyone seems to BBQ but no restaurants actually seem to be open. We were starving, admittedly irritable and unable to agree on which of the 50 coffee shops in our ONE square mile radius would be most local and also have breakfast sandwiches. A tough combo when you've officially eliminated Starbucks from your options due to its monopolization of the coffee world.

Street Doughnut's Mini Truck
Enter Street Doughtnuts. The tiny truck was a shimmering beacon of hope in a landscape of "closed signs" and unacceptable coffee chains. One look at the menu brought even more promise, offering creative flavor combos such as cardamom + ginger dusting; mango sauce + coconut; chocolate sauce + coconut; chocolate sauce + roasted peanuts; and the ever fascinating vanilla pudding + Nerds dusting. Yes, Nerds as in your favorite double-sided box of childhood candy. Of course, the combinations were only friendly suggestions. You can create combinations to satiate any sweet, salty or savory tooth. Curry and caramel would have been a hit, but we thought of it too late.

The Mini Menu
Suffice to say we were desperate, so we went with option #1: A small order of doughnuts dusted with cardamon and ginger. The process was simple enough; tiny rings of dough were dropped into an itty-bitty fryer (that's the technical term) and flipped halfway through. The 2-inch doughnuts emerged golden brown and piping hot and were immediately shaken with a mix of cardamom and ginger sugar. Our friendly doughnut-maker then transferred them to a small bowl lined with parchment paper, stabbed two doughnuts with oversized cocktail picks, and breakfast was officially served. Thank you baby Jesus for giving us baby doughnuts.

Mini Donut Ma'am, Hard At Work
To say the mini doughnuts hit the spot was an understatement, because both Bryan and I immediately transformed back from grumpy "feed me now" monsters into lovely human beings. Human beings that stood happily on a sunny Seattle sidewalk and popped tiny spiced doughnuts into our mouths, "cheering" every one before each bite. And my goodness, were they delicious. The doughnuts were so delicate, giving way like a tiny pillow with each bite. The parchment paper helped absorb any excess oil, ensuring the spice and texture wasn't overshadowed by grease. The cardamom and ginger sugar dusting gave true meaning to "sugar, spice and everything nice," not to mention boosted each doughnut's exterior with a wonderful subtle crunch.

Breakfast of Champions: Cardamom & Ginger Mini Doughnuts
I don't know if we were just starving or if they were really that good. Either way, the Street Doughnuts were awesome. So the next time you're by Seattle's market, look for an empty parking lot at 2nd Ave. and Pike Street. If you're lucky, the Street Doughnuts truck will be there. Check out the chocolate sauce and coconut doughnuts below, which we didn't get but I admired from Street Doughnuts Facebook page.

Mini Doughnuts with Chocolate Drizzle & Coconut Flakes

Street Doughnuts
2nd Avenue & Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101


East LA Meets Napa 2011: Holy Mole!

Last Friday, AltaMed hosted the sixth annual East LA Meets Napa in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The event, which celebrated the success of both East LA's Mexican culinary community and Latino-owned vineyards in California, took over historic Union Station's flow of gorgeous Spanish courtyards, intermingling tables serving mini plates of authentic Mexican eats with nearly 30 Napa-based wine tasting stations. The nearly forty participating restaurants represented some of the best of LA's Mexican cuisine, and better yet, many of the restaurants are family-owned by generations of East LA residents. Each restaurant's featured dish -- ranging from shrimp taquitos, to sweet corn and scarlet quinoa tamales, to pork skin quesadillas, and a bounty of moles -- was paired with wines like crisp Sauvignon Blancs, spicy Zinfandels and bold Cabernet Sauvignons.

As the sun set over downtown LA, the event flooded with ladies dressed in colorful cocktail dresses and summer-inspired wedges, and men who ditched their jackets and rolled up the sleeves of their button downs. Live music flooded the courtyard, setting the mood for hungry guests doing their best to balance plates, wine glasses and the occasional napkin. To say people had their hands full is an understatement, but it was either maneuver the crowd with your plate+glass combo or miss out on sampling the goods. We heard some guests devising creative strategies to get the most mole for their moolah, while others patiently stood in line at each table, chatting, munching and mingling.

If there was a culinary theme to the evening, it would easily be "Holy Mole!" The famed 40+ ingredient Mexican sauce -- prevalent in East LA restaurants -- played a prominent role at nearly every station. Velvety black mole was slathered on sweet corn tamales and mini pork tostadas, flowed off the edges of fried tortilla rounds, and drizzled into shredded chicken tacos. Green moles -- tomatillos and cilantro lend the sauce its "green" color -- topped chicken skewers and mini Chile Rellenos stuffed with shrimp.

Homemade tacos proved to be the second theme, filled with everything under the sun: shrimp, pork, chicken, carne asada, zucchini blossoms, bell peppers, goat cheese... You name it, it was in a taco. Steaming tortillas, fresh off the griddle, were available at every turn. As were endless bowls of creamy guacamole, perfect for taco dipping and later, finger licking. Hindsight being 20/20, I'm fairly certain thousands of tacos and an unfathomable amount of guacamole was consumed on that balmy Friday evening.

The Wine Corridor
While the authentic Mexican food was fantastic, so were the tiny details that made up the East LA Meets Napa event itself. Compared to many foods events throughout the year, East LA Meets Napa was incredibly well run. The crowd never seemed impossible to maneuver. The plate+wine glass combo showed forward-thinking. Cocktail tables with sunflower centerpieces dotted the landscape, never out of reach for a quick rest or a flat surface to eat on. The event guide included a map revealing the location of each specific restaurant and winery's station. Those same stations were strategically placed throughout the courtyard, creating a nice flow without any traffic jams. While mole and tacos seemed to be strong suits, the cuisine was versatile and flavorful. The wines were refreshing and perfectly paired for the food at hand.

We're looking forward to returning next year and supporting the cause. But thinking about last week, some of our favorite East LA tastes of the evening came from the following restaurants:

Mini Tostadas from Homegirl Cafe & Catering

Sweet Corn & Scarlet Quinoa Tamale from Rivera

Mango & Carne Apache Ceviches from CaCao Mexicatessens

Scallops with Lime & Serrano Chile from Loteria Grill

Shrimp Taquito from Yxta Cocina Mexicana

Fried Tortilla With Beans & Green Mole from La Parrilla Restaurant

Mole Cups from Moles La Tia

Hand-Injected Jello Designs from Attila The Flan

PB&J and Lemon Cupcakes from Goodie Girls

Passion Fruit Cream & Raspberry Gold Rush from Porto's Bakery & Cafe


Beer & (Shark!) Burgers: Tiato's Summer Beer Garden

From July 15 to September 30, Tiato’s (tea-ah-tow) awesome outdoor herb garden/patio turns into a Summer beer garden every Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. The German-heavy brew menu clearly pays homage to the "beer garden's" country of origin by featuring several quality German beers including the world’s oldest dark beer Barock-Dunkel, the light and dark beer blend Anno 1050 created for the 95th anniversary of the brewery, and the impressive pilsner Rieder Classic.

To add their twist of Asian fusion on the beer garden concept, Tiato will also offer numerous hard to find beers from Vietnam, including Hue and Saigon on tap, as well as some of other Asian beers from Thailand and Japan, such as Singha and Sapporo. In total, the Tiato Beer Garden will offer more than 20 beers on tap and by the bottle every Friday night.

Tiato's Beer Garden
Photo Credit: Tiato

You've got the beer, but what about the bites? The Beer Garden menu includes three premium sausages: lamb Merquez sausage with grilled halloumi and harissa sauce; chicken apricot and basil sausage with tzatziki; and grilled rosemary bratwurst topped with sauerkraut and mustard sauce. For burger enthusiasts, choose from three varieties of sliders such as shark, grass fed beef, and vegetarian. Yes, shark. For the first time ever, Tiato will also sell mini-boxes of An's famous garlic noodles for only $4; possibly the best noodles I've ever had. You've heard of them; they're at Beverly Hills' Crustacean, one of An's more upscale restaurants. If you can't make up your mind, try the Tiato Beer Garden Tasting Flight ($21): you get to pair three sausages with three premium German and Asian beers.

Tiato's Grass Fed Burger (An's Famous Noodles in Background)

2700 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404


Hey Y'All! Win Brunch With Paula Deen!

Attention, SoCal foodies! It's time to give up your low-carb, gluten-free, vegan diets with reckless abandon! Why? Because you're only four days and one short 25-word essay away from winning a trip to Savannah, Georgia to have brunch and a city tour led by none other than Food Network's queen of Southern cuisine herself, Paula Deen!

Win Brunch with Paula Deen!
Photo Credit: Facebook/Smithfield

Smithfield Ham -- a match made in Paula Deen heaven if there ever was one -- is sponsoring the trip to Savannah and the opportunity to join Paula for a brunch to remember. If Paula's Home Cooking recipes and dishes at her Savannah-based restaurants are any indication -- think Praline French toast casserole, fried green tomatoes and egg hollandaise, sausage balls, and baked garlic cheese grits -- brunch with Paula is sure to be one decadent, butter-laden affair.

How do you enter to win? Find all the details below.

The Contest: "Come Ham It Up With Paula Deen"

How To Win: Visit Smithfield's Facebook page and submit an essay of 25 words or less in response to, “Tell Me Why You Love Smithfield Hams.” The entry response must come directly from the individual entering the contest and must be submitted by Friday, July 15 at 5 p.m. EDT. Entrants must be 18 years or older.

All voteable entries are public, and the winning entry is the one that gets the most public votes and then a nod from the judges. So get your family and friends to vote for your essay between July 16 and August 15. Once the essays are narrowed down, official judging goes underway from August 15 to 20, and the winner is announced on August 23! That means you only have a few days to write your essay and get every friend, family member and Twitter follower to vote for your essay!

The Prize: A trip for winner and one guest to Savannah, GA in October 2011 (dates TBD with Paula Deen); including round-trip coach class air transportation, two night hotel stay, Paula Deen Tour of Savannah, lunch at The Lady & Sons, dinner at Uncle Bubba’s Restaurant and transportation, additional meals for two days. See contest rules and regulations for a complete description of the grand prize.


Eat Real Fest: Culver City's Answer to Carmageddon

Okay, now this is getting ridiculous. What am I talking about? Carmageddon, aka the two-day shut-down of the 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways. Los Angeles news outlets have been covering the "story" for at least two months, predicting widespread traffic jams and putting the fear of God into LA drivers everywhere. Personally I think everyone is going to stay home and the streets are going to be clear -- BUT -- just in case I'm wrong, I've got surefire weekend plans for us Eastsiders that don't requiring going West of the 405: The Eat Real Fest at the Helms Bakery District in Culver City.

Eat Real is a free (yes, FREE!) two day block-party-meets-street-food-fest celebrating all things local, sustainable and home-grown. Think tons of eating, drinking and learning how to make the very foods you're enjoying, from jams, sauerkraut, and breads; raising backyard chickens and bees, or even seeing the artistry involved in butchering a steer or pig. You can even enter your very own homemade jams, jellies, syrups, pickles, chutneys, relishes and breads in the Eat Real Fest competition.

Photo Credits: EatRealFest.com

While everything at Eat Real Fest is free, make sure to pony up and support sustainable purveyors by purchasing goods (all priced at $5 or less) from local vendors in the event's marketplace. You'll feel even better about what you're buying, since all of Eat Real's participating vendors have committed to using 1-2 local or sustainable ingredients in their food, as well as hormone free meats. We're talking local makers of cheeses, charcuterie, pickles, jams, and even urban homesteading specialists who will teach you what it takes to get in touch with your inner backyard farmer. Sounds like much more fun than sitting in Carmageddon traffic to me!

Here are the Eat Real Fest highlights thus far:

  • Kraut-a-thon from Ernie Miller’s Master Preserver Class – the first class in 10 years
  • Chickens in the City - meet the Dare2Dream chicken farmers, learn how to build coops and tend to urban chickens
  • Growing food in small places with "Life on the Balcony's" Fern Richardson
  • Goat Cheese making with goats from Soledad Farms
  • Tomato sauce making with KCRW “Good Food’s” Evan Kleiman
  • Pretzel making with Aida Mollenkamp
  • Solar cooking
  • Pantry cook-offs from LA Top Chef former contestants and other local chefs
  • Kimchi for All class with Lauryn Chun (of Mother in Law's Kimchi)
  • Foraging in Southern California - Learn some of the wild and abundant food that grows in SoCal
  • Urban bee keeping demo and installations
  • Butchery competitions with Lindy and Grundy, Chef Chris Jacobson of The Yard and more
  • Educational farm-to-table story focusing on sustainably raised whole cows purchased for use and consumption at the festival
  • Coolhaus
  • Flying Pig
  • Nom Nom
  • Komodo
  • Vizzi
  • Global Soul
  • The Hungry Nomad
  • Slap Fish
  • Even a community oven for freshly baked bread!
Pizza Making at 2010's Eat Real Fest

  • Firestone Walker
  • Stone Brewing Co.
  • The Lost Abbey
  • Ballast Point
  • Hangar 24
  • Eagle Rock Brewery
  • The Bruery
  • MAS Wine Vino Blanco
  • Silvertap Chardonnay
  • Palmina Rosso Raro
Draft Brews from 2010's Eat Real Fest
Photo Credit: Flickr/Eat Real Fest

  • Canned Heat - Salsas or spicy condiments
  • Sweet Spread - Jams, jelly, conserves, and syrups.
  • Puttin’ It Up - All things pickles, chutneys and relishes
  • Breads – Bake ‘em if you’ve got ‘em

"The Future of Food Writing" panel at Room & Board moderated by OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano with noted LA food writers & bloggers:
  • Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times
  • Amy Scattergood, LA Weekly “Squid Ink”
  • Eddie Lin, Deep End Dining blog
  • Hazel Quimpo, Yelp

  • Mothercluck
  • Lindy and Grundy
  • Shortnin’ Bread
  • Crème Caramel LA
  • Pop-ups from: Santa Monica FM and Hollywood Farmers Kitchen
  • And many, many more!!!

Eat Real Fest
Helms Bakery District
8800 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034
Saturday, July 16 from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 17 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Spur Gastropub: Satiating Seattle's Foodies

Bryan and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary last week by going to Seattle. We planned the trip months ahead of time, enlisting the help of Seattle natives and Seattlites in the Twittersphere to help guide our time in the Northwest. Turns out Fourth of July weekend is an opportune time to visit: the Seattle International Beerfest was in full force, wine tasting was a mere 25 minutes away, and the sun made a long-awaited appearance after hibernating for a rainy winter.

Celebrating in Seattle
If you can even believe it, Bryan and I pledged not to make any dinner reservations for the three nights we were in town. Now, this is a historical moment for a couple who plans meals out to the tee. But our individual experiences in a town we had yet to experience together inspired us to live spontaneously. Worse comes to worse, Seattle has a great seafood restaurant on nearly every corner. Or at least a good small bites bar. Surely we could manage.

Well, we did much more than manage, thanks to the recommendation of Eric, a 20-something employee at Tenor Wines in Woodinville. After a rousing hour of tasting with Eric and Rochelle in Tenor's tasting room, we were hot on the trail for dinner recommendations. Our requirements came out in full force, "We're foodies... we like good wine... recommend off the beaten path places... we've already been to Tom Douglas' places... what about gastropubs..." Okay, we weren't that demanding (and by "we," I mean "me"), but we scored when Eric recommended a place just a stone's throw from downtown Seattle called Spur Gastropub.

Spur Gastropub
Photo Credit: SpurSeattle.com

Not only is it a hot neighborhood joint hiding inside a historic building, chefs and co-owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough were recently nominated by the editors of Food & Wine Magazine as "People's Best New Chef 2011." They've also landed on Condé Nast Traveler's 'Hot List' as well as Food & Wine's "Where to Go Next" list. It's clear that McCracken and Tough are going places, but it remains unclear how we didn't hear about Spur while planning our trip...

McCracken & Tough
Suffice to say the tip was a hot one, but after being disappointed by a heavily-lauded yet over-rated Woodinville restaurant the previous evening, Bryan and I were skeptical at best. Thank goodness, because Spur's dishes blew us away. The menu is made up of small bites, which was perfect as we were happy to share. The sockeye salmon crostini -- just LOOK at the color of that salmon -- was so gorgeous we had a hard time diving into it. The jewel tones of the salmon were so vibrant, the flavor so fresh, and the cool, creaminess of the mascarpone provided the perfect contrast against the crunch of the crostini. It was one, maybe two perfect bites.

The Menu

Sockeye Salmon Crostini | Marscarpone, Caper, Picked Shallot
Pork belly sliders came on toasted butter brioche warm and springy to the touch. While pork belly can often be passé, this was supple, juicy and delightful. Despite the pervasive bacon and butter flavors, crisp cubes of chilled apple and celery with a tangy citrus curd cut the richness.

Pork Belly Sliders | Celery, Apple, Smoke
Hand-cut tagliatelle came next, generously topped with fresh Parmesan shavings, a barely-to-temp duck egg, and tender oyster mushrooms. A gentle dab into the center of the egg sent yolk oozing all over the pasta, creating an instant sauce. Earthy pine nuts completed the dish. When we had finished the last al dente pasta strand, it was impossible to get all the sauce go to waste. We ordered warm brioche to sop up every last drop.

Tagliatelle | Duck egg, oyster mushrooms, pine nuts
In what is proof of a fantastic meal, we got so absorbed in our second round of mini plates that I forgot to snap photos. The missing pieces included a hot Merguez sausage with chickpeas, harissa and tender herbs, as well as a corned duck breast with sunchokes, Brussels sprouts and slivers of juicy white peach. Since peaches are in season, their delicate scent wafted up from the plate. Heavenly. I can say without hesitation the corned duck is easily the best duck I've ever had. Scratch that; it's the best we've both ever had. Try as I might, I can't find photos of the dishes anywhere. The pitfalls of a weekly menu!

Our final dish was a hand-rolled, browned Parisian gnocchi topped with meaty morel mushrooms (no grit here), shucked peas, pea puree and Parmesan. Beautiful pea tendrils added an element of sophistication, not that the presentation was lacking. This gnocchi made up for all the lackluster, tough, doughy gnocchi of meals past. Light and pillowy, we ate them slow and deliberately, not wanting the meal to come to an end.

Parisian Gnocchi | Morels, English Peas, Parmesan
We ended on a high note and didn't order dessert, which I've since been told was a mistake. In my mind though, it just gives us a reason to go back.

Spur Gastropub
113 Blanchard Street
Seattle, WA 98121


Son of a Gun: Got Me "Shook," Line & Sinker

Here's the deal. I'm not the type to make a mad dash for the newest hot spot in town, for a few reasons. First, things are shaky for at least the first few months. The kitchen needs time to refine their menu, servers need time to get their bearings, bartenders need time to refine their cocktails, and the entire restaurant operation really needs a few months to get into a groove. It's like dating someone new; you can just jump in and expect them to be 100% flawless. You need time to let the quirks come out, get to know each other, and ultimately become a lot more comfortable 3-4 months in.

Son of a Gun Restaurant

That philosophy really separates me from the "must-get-the-first-available-reservation!!!!" blogging mentality, but I'm good with it. Not to mention it really -- and I mean REALLY -- paid off when my friends Joey, Mary and I went to Son of a Gun recently.

This is a restaurant that has gotten into a crazy good groove. Granted, chefs and co-owners Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook (Photo credit: Food & Wine) had some practice with Animal, their first restaurant venture dedicated to all things meat. Son of a Gun, however, trades land for the sea by giving the menu an expert fisherman's touch. They've got it all covered: scallops, trout, shrimp, salmon, lobster, clams, octopus, tuna, catfish, and even the occasional river monster, alligator. Ironically, they've also got what's perhaps the hands-down best fried chicken sandwich this side of the Mississippi River. Juicy, succulent and with a wonderfully spiced, crunchy crust. And with Chef Ludo and Chick-Fil-A in town, that's saying a lot.

While I had heard mixed reviews from blogger friends who had walked Son of a Gun's plank too early on, I truly can't think of one critique. Maybe the menu was too expensive? Nah, we just ordered too much. Was the decor kitschy? Negative to that, too; designer Ruth De Jong's minimalist mariner theme -- complete with a whiskey barrel bar and walls lined with floatation devices -- sets the perfect stage for the meal to come.

Speaking of, let's relive the meal, shall we? My personal favorites were the linguine and claim pasta, fried chicken sandwich, Idaho trout, and ironically, the spring green salad. So light but with so much flavor...

The Menu

Lobster Roll | Celery, Lemon Aioli

Shrimp Toast Sandwich | Herbs, Sriracha Mayo

Spring Lettuces | Green Goddess, Avocado

Fried Chicken Sandwich | Spicy B&B Pickle Slaw, Rooster Aioli

Linguine & Clams | Uni Aglio-Olio, Breadcrumbs

Bay Scallops | Balsamic Soubise, Radicchio

Idaho Trout | Carrot, Potato, Caper Dill Butter

Peel & Eat Shrimp Boil | Lime Mustard Sauce

Peace & Berry Pie | Buttermilk Ice Cream

Son of a Gun
8370 West Third Street
West Hollywood, CA 90048
Reservations recommended
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