Monday, September 21, 2009

why isn't there a southern disneyland?

i've passed by crawfish king more times that i can remember, but never thought of actually going there because i hadn't read any reviews, nor was my curiosity great enough to convert me. however, after telling one of my friends about it, he absolutely HAD to get fist deep in crawfish boil.

this place is like a cajun disneyland: zydeco music, plastic shellfish and rope fishing nets on the wall, dock pillars, buoys hanging from the wall. it was a little bit much for me. all this artifice, but how's the food??

the menu is pretty simple. fish and chips. po'boys. "cajun platters."

the real deal is the boils. you can order shellfish and other assorted seafood from the fresh board by he pound to create your optimal mix of seasoned, steamed goodies. supposedly there's one piece of corn per person and quartered potatoes aplenty (lies!), but we only got 4 measly chunks of potato. too bad, too, because they were the best vehicle to soak up the insane garlic and spices.

i think we got one pound of prawns and three pounds of crawfish. the server advised that 1 lb per person would be plenty. i don't know about that, sir.

the condiment six pack included ketchup, mayo, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and, of course, some "special sauce." as you can see, the table setting is trying to be "authentically" low-brow with a butcher paper table cover, roll of paper towels at every table, all disposable cutlery, and paper boats for any crawfish boil detritus. i was also displeased to see the "boil" arrive in a plastic bag that was ceremoniously cut tableside.

now, i wouldn't say i'm obsessive-compulsive about environmental soundness, but all this waste seemed irresponsible. everything can be thrown away. why? in such a conscious city as seattle where even our takeout is monitored, how can this wastefulness fly? c'mon, crawfish king.

the boil. we ordered it as spicy as possible, and the heat level did not disappoint. i quite enjoyed it, and as it mingled with the butter and seafood juices, the burn developed more and more as i continued to eat. you have the choice of "rajun cajun (original)" or "the big easy (the house sauce)" flavors. these really make no sense, but when pressed, our server said that the main difference is that "the big easy" has garlic. needless to say, we got pretty easy.

although the crawfish were challenging to eat, the flavor was amazing. it might be a little on the salty side for the sodium-sensitive, but i thought it was perfectly intense; rife with old bay, file, chile, black pepper, garlic, and thyme. mmm.

thanks for the cajun adventure, crawfish king!

Crawfish King on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The 1st Annual Great Ballard Chili Cook Off

Cook Off Co-Founders CB and Kevin....and Me!

A few months ago CB asked me if I was available to be a judge for a chili cook off. Me? A judge? I guess since I love food and am part of this kick-ass food blog that is all the qualifications required. I was honored to participate. Now, the story goes something like this, two friends got to talking about how they both made some good chili and somehow it turned into what will be now known as the 1st Annual Great Ballard Chili Cook Off aka a friendly competition between chili chefs voted on by their friends and families.

I arrived at 1pm with my mom at the Sunset Hill Community Club house which is located in West Ballard. This is a great space, check it out.

Upon walking in, I was welcomed with a stylish and personalized judge's apron and a robust introduction from Chili Emcee Chas. Seated in front with the other 4 judges and four ballots, we patiently waited for the unveiling of the 4 chili's entered in the competition.

Each chili was brought out in a white paper cup and all were assigned a specific number. The first chili I sampled was the one below, this was contestant #4. The first thing that came to mind when tasting this was that all the ingredients were fresh and high quality. This was a top notch, choice chili. With two kinds of andouille sausage and bites of flavorful chicken the textures in this chili were my favorite. The ratio of meat to beans was tasty and the growing heat really made this a great chili. Let me also point out that cheese on anything wins.

The second chili I tasted was the green chili from contestant #2. The chili was thin more like soup but the taste alone made up for the consistency. Immediately touching my tongue this chili had an immediate bite. The pork was soft and the rich and spicy blend of chilies like poblano and jalapenos along with the red beans made a fabulous tasting chili. The layers of ingredients were evident when looking closely at the bright color and textures in this chili. Served with a slice of tortilla this chili had the heat that I absolutely love about chili. Superb.

Let me introduce you to chili #3, which was a thick, rich and sweet masterpiece. The one word you might to use describe this is succulent. I was waiting for the heat and it was there but subtle. I enjoyed the honey sweetness that lingered in your mouth. With a mix of portuguese sausage and kahlua pork you knew upon eating this how long it took to prepare. Although quite thick and reminiscent of bbq you would put on a bun, this chili created a lane all its own. It was during this taste, I realized that all of the chili we were eating were so different! Served with a soft slice of white bread, the whole package was there to win.

Lastly, I sampled the chili with the best presentation, contestant #1. Coming out with its own corn muffin and a patriotic plate, I loved the extra flare for the judges.This was the veggie chili and it was a first class mix of black beans, sweet corn and squash. I loved how all the veggies were crisp and flavorsome. Served with a white cheese blend on top and a side of lime, the flavors were blended quite well creating a unique, rich, meatless chili . The consistency was great and the blended beans almost created the texture of authentic refried beans which truly held the variety of veggies together. Only thing I would have added to this chili was more heat. This was a very good veggie chili and definitely stood strong among all the meaty competitors.

So now what? All the judges had to circle a number on a small slip of paper between 1-4.

Who is going to win!??!!?

Two awards were given away at the 1st Annual Great Ballard Chili Cook Off, one from the judges and one from the people. Four of Ballard's finest chili cooks waited to see who was going to get the bragging rights for this first annual event.

While we waited we were treated to some soulful songs from Youth Rescue Mission. Check out their myspace to listen to some of their music. Great harmonies for chili eating.

Emcee Chas Roberts was entertaining all afternoon and as he stepped up to the mic to announce the winners we all waited on his news and laughed with him, not at him. I have seen this guy host a few things at Re-Bar, kick-ass.

The judges award was given to the man behind chili #2 and his mamma's recipe, Santos!!!!

The peoples choice was awarded to the man behind chili #3, and chili cook off co-founder, Kevin Sur!!!!

I had a great time and can't wait until next year. I also make a really good classic chili with a few secret ingredients, perhaps I will enter the competition!

ps. i grabbed some photos from Kevin's facebook to supplement my pics. Thanks Kevin!

Doing My Part for the Environment One Salad at a Time

as we transition into fall, i've been reminiscing about nice weather meals. when my office was located in south lake union, portage bay cafe was a nice treat for a special lunch. as a thank you, my coworker took me out to PBC, a former university district favorite for breakfast and lunch, whose slu outpost is brand new, spacious, open, and inviting.

portage bay cafe is all about locally-sourced, sustainable, organic products which deliver optimal flavor in simple preparations. i have to admit, the menu is a bit pricey, but i've never had a bad experience with PBC. it's the type of food i can feel good about eating and supporting.

G ordered the tofu and soba noodle salad which features cold soba, marinated & baked tofu, tomatoes, mushrooms, and field greens in a light ginger vinaigrette. i had a taste, and it was excellent. it was well-dressed with a not-too-overpowering, tangy ginger. the chilled, baked tofu was a nice touch, as it had a more substantial mouth feel.

i ordered the walnut salad and added in-house smoked salmon. it was very simple; just field greens, a significant serving of Rogue River blue, lightly candied and natural walnuts, strawberries, and tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette. with the smoked salmon, the salad was a nice balance of sweet, tangy, herbal (arugula, my fave!), tannic, and smoke. i must admit that i've thought about this salad several times since my visit. it's just difficult to justify the $13 price tag for a lunch on any given weekday.

thanks for the responsible, deliciously simple food, portage bay cafe. it was just what i needed. that you thought about it so i didn't have to was just icing on the salad...err, cake.

NB: PBC is only open for breakfast and lunch until 3pm. just keep that in mind!

Portage Bay Cafe & Catering on Urbanspoon