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The Culinary Heart of Seattle

Tom has raised an intriguing and provocative question, even if somewhat abstract and intangible, which has produced some intriguing and provocative responses. Like akq, I’m not exactly sure what the “culinary heart” of a city means or if it is a concept that can be applied in practice. It may be more of a gestalt, than something that can be precisely analyzed or defined. Does Seattle, or the larger Pacific Northwest, have a culinary identity akin to the fried food, pickles and chutneys, and various BBQ traditions (North Carolina, Memphis, etc.) of the south, or the meat-and-potatoes identified with the mid-west, or the clam shacks and lobster rolls of New England? The culinary scene in Seattle has changed a lot in the last 30 or 40 years, as Seattle has become more urbanized and an increasing number of sophisticated eaters and sophisticated chefs have created a new culinary landscape. Fine dining certainly wasn’t the “culinary heart” of Seattle in the 1970s, and the options then weren’t anything like they are today. I still associate Seattle with seafood (e.g., salmon, lingcod, rockfish, oysters) and a casual ambience of jeans and wool shirts, although I recognize that this has changed a lot over the years. The “culinary heart” of a city or area isn’t necessarily defined by its restaurants. More often, it seems to me, it’s defined by local traditions of what people cook at home, and this is often dictated by the specific types of ingredients that are produced in that area. This is especially true in countries like Italy, France, or China where regional differences are quite distinct.

Nov 01, 2010
toby2 in Greater Seattle

Is Filipino food embarassing?

I agree with you 100 percent, Charles. I think the part-Filipino chef clearly tried hard and aimed high. But the result was hugely disappointing. All three seatings of the dinner last night sold out almost immediately after it was plugged by Angela Garbes on her Voracious blog. The question is, why would all these people (myself included) spend $65 per person (plus $25 for wine pairing) for standard Filipino dishes that would be a fraction of the cost at a Filipino restaurant? For this price, my expectations were soaring. But almost all of the dishes lacked the authentic flavors of traditional Filipino food – not that those laying down their cash at Harvest Vine for the experience seemed to either notice or care. For example, the planned chicken adobo was up-scaled to duck adobo. The duck was tasty enough, but if I had been served the dish at, say, Place Pigalle, under the moniker “Duck leg with tangy sauce,” I wouldn’t have recognized it as a Filipino preparation. It lacked the sharp bite of vinegar and the big hit of garlic typical of classic Filipino adobos. Likewise, the liver sauce used in many parts of the Philippines (although not typically in Cebu) for spit-roasted whole pig (lechon), which accompanied the pork-belly substituted at Harvest Vine for lechon, lacked the bite of black pepper and Filipino vinegar of the sauce I remember from the Philippines. The chef gets points for using the Filipino fish bangus (milkfish) in the sinigang, and there was some of the classic sourness of green sampaloc (tamarind) in the broth, even if the funkiness of the patis (fish sauce) was tamed down considerably. This tamed-down, up-scaled version of Filipino food at Harvest Vine was, perhaps, predictable given the targeted audience. But $65 per person??? To a sold-out house???

Oct 05, 2010
toby2 in Greater Seattle

Canadian (Calgary, former vancouverite) chowhound in seattle for sunday night...suggestions on food and wine

Hey Tom, I appreciate the detail you always include in your posts. It makes them much more meaningful than posts that simply say something like, “I recommend Restaurant X,” with no supporting detail.

Nov 01, 2009
toby2 in Greater Seattle