Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Know Anyone Looking for a Great Condo in Redmond?

Know Anyone Looking for a Great Condo in Redmond?

My wife and I just put our condo on the market!!!

  • Commanding views of Redmond & Cascade Mountains! Amazing Sunrises and rainbows, too
  • Pristine, dramatic 2 Bedroom, 2 Baths plus a multi-use loft style condo in Knollwood Condominiums
  • Great Location: Close to Downtown Redmond and Redmond Town Center. Minutes to Microsoft and Marymoor Park. Right off West Lake Sammamish 520 exit
  • Remodeled and Updated to Perfection: Gorgeous upgraded kitchen with cherry cabinets, granite counter tops and Stainless Steel appliances, new energy star LG dishwasher and Whirlpool fridge, beautiful tile floors and brand new carpet throughout
  • Soaring 20ft ceilings in the living with dramatic picture windows.
  • Wood burning fireplace and sunny view deck for warm weather BBQ's
  • Warm and Inviting Master Suite with sitting, updated full bath en suite including new flooring and glass tile backsplash, oversized walk-in closet with built-in wardrobe organizers and convenient laundry area complete with folding table
  • Upstairs loft area with fantastic views. Perfect for office, den or exercise room.
  • Second bedroom on Main Floor with adjacent full bath and large closet.
  • Brand new carpet, blinds and paint! Recently replaced furnace.
  • Includes one covered parking space with plenty of easy, visitor spaces available
  • Dues include: basic cable, garbage, water, use of pool and hot tub
  • Recent complex updates including new siding, brand new vinyl windows and doors
  • Lake Washington School District
  • Listed by Rick Smith (425) 830-0067

Wintergrass: Insider's Guide to Bellevue

This Thursday the Wintergrass Music Festival will be coming to the Hyatt Regency. While primarily a bluegrass festival there will be an eclectic mix of bands from many musical genres including Gypsy jazz, Celtic music, Old-Timey, Swedish polskas and many more types of acoustic string music. Having previously been held at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma this will be the festival's first year at its new digs in Bellevue. This is one of the best indoor festivals in the country and draws a very dedicated following of bluegrass fanatics, many of whom bring their instruments with them and participate in informal jam sessions throughout the festival space.

If you have never been, this weekend is a great opportunity to get to know this festival as it expands into its new home. For those who have been to Wintergrass when it was in Tacoma, it may be a bit intimidating to get your bearings, especially if you have not spent much time in Bellevue. This guide is here to assist you make the most of your time. Whether you are looking for a quick bite to eat in between bands, a more relaxing dinner, to whet your whistle or perhaps just want to get out and stretch your legs this guide is here to help you get around town. Not knowing what the Hyatt's music venues will be like until this weekend, it is clear that the sheer number of dining and entertainment options in such close proximity to the festival makes Bellevue a much better choice than Tacoma.

Quick Bites to Eat:
  • Casa D's Taqueria – Cheap, Fast and Big Portions

    • 102 Bellevue Way NE – less than 5 minutes walk less than 2 blocks south of Hyatt

  • Blue C Sushi – Conveyor Belt Sushi, Pretty Affordable, Quick and Lots of Selection

    • 503 Bellevue Square - 3 minute walk right down Bellevue Way

  • Boom Noodle - Pretty Quick, Affordable and Satisfying on a chilly, NW day.

    • 504 Bellevue Square – 4 minute walk down Bellevue Way, just past Blue C

  • M.O.D Superfast Pizza – Fast, Thin Crust Personal Pizzas, $6 unlimited toppings

    • 317 Bellevue Way NE – 5 minute walk, just south of Bellevue Square Mall

More Relaxing Dinner:

  • Daniel's Broiler – Great steaks, Killer Happy Hours (4-6:30pm & 9pm-12am), Great Views

    • 10500 NE 8th St, 21st Floor – In same complex (Bellevue Place as Hyatt), in Bank of America Tower

  • Maggiano's – Good Food, Great Service, Exclusive Wintergrass dinner show Friday night only 5-8pm for Wintergrass attendees only.

    • 10455 NE 8th St – right across the street from the Hyatt at Lincoln Square

  • Pearl Bar & Dining – Beautiful Restaurant, Awesome Cocktails, Excellent Happy Hours (3-6pm, 9pm-12am)

    • 700 Bellevue Way NE, Suite 50 – 5 minutes walk, on the south side of Lincoln Square, across from the Westin.

  • Monsoon East – Excellent Food, Elegant Restaurant, Weekend Dim Sum Brunch

    • 10245 Main St. - A nice 12 minute, 3 block walk south of the Hyatt in Old Bellevue

Places to Whet Your Whistle:

  • Twisted Cork Wine Bar – Lounge will be an official venue Friday and Saturday but you don't need a wrtistband to get in here, great way to experience the festival without the expense of a ticket, great wine-by-the-glass selection.

    • Lobby of the Hyatt (going to be busy, might want to make a reservation if you have your heart set on eating here)

  • Stir Martini & Raw Bar– Will also be a festival venue on Friday and Saturday nights but the dining room will still be open, Great Cocktails, Exciting Seafood based menu.

    • Lobby of the Hyatt (going to be busy, might want to make a reservation if you have your heart set on eating here)

  • Tap House Grill – Best Beer Selection on Eastside, Over 150 Taps, Decent Happy Hour

    • 550 106th Ave NE – 6 minute walk about 2 blocks south of Hyatt

  • Paddy Coyne's Irish Pub – Decent Pub Grub (Good Fish & Chips!!!), Guinness on Tap

    • 700 Bellevue Way NE – Right across the street from the Hyatt, next to Maggiano's

Stretch Your Legs:

  • Lucky Strike – Swanky Bowling Alley with big video screens, decent happy hour from 4-7pm

    • 700 Bellevue Way NE – right across the street in Lincoln Square, up the escalators one level

  • The Parlor – Upscale Billiards Parlor, Happy Hour all day on Sundays, $12/hr tables during the days.

    • 700 Bellevue Way NE – 3rd Floor of Lincoln Square, up one level from Lucky Strike

  • Downtown Bellevue Park – City Oasis, ½ mile loop trail, Cool Water Fountains

    • 10201 NE 4th Street – About 5 minutes from Hyatt, just south of Bellevue Square Mall

  • Bellevue Botanical Gardens – Beautiful Escape from the city,

    • 12001 Main Street – 5 minute drive away, on the east side of 405

Enjoy the Festival!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pullin Shots: Urban Coffee Lounge in Kirkland

*This article first ran on on 2/18.

In Pullin' Shots, Seattlest visits some of the region's best coffeehouses. Nothing is more Seattle than our unique coffee culture, and it is our goal to uncover what makes our famed "third places" so special. Today, Pullin' Shots stops in at Urban Coffee Lounge in Kirkland's Juanita neighborhood.

Where do they get their beans? Urban Coffee Loungs (UCL) uses Stumptown beans roasted in Seattle.

What espresso machine do they use? La Marzocca GB5

What kinds of milk do they carry? Whole and skim milk, soy ( an additional 40 cents & for Breve) and Hemp Milk for an extra 50 cents. We were very surprising and a sign of the times, to learn that they serve considerably more Hemp milk than Soy! Also of interest, UCL offers what they call a Top Shelf Mocha (which is a bit more than their normal Mocha) that uses handmade truffle chocolate syrup from Chocolati.

What food do they offer? For such a small place, UCL has a lot of great food choices. Two delicious looking loaves of fruit bread sit at the counter from Finales (this Seattlest tried the Vanilla Blueberry bread and it was great!), plus sandwiches and wraps from Domovoi Happy Foods, assorted other pastries and delectables from Essential Baking, McTavish Shortbreads, Blazing Bagels, Chocolati Chocolates and the list goes on and on.

Music? Devotion by Beach House, on the Band of Horses Pandora music station.

Snob Factor? Surprisingly, very low! Pulling into my parking space in this little contrived “Downtown” setting (complete with contrived, avant garde iron sculpture that seem to be all the rage throughout the Eastside!) in Kirkland's uppity Juanita neighborhood we couldn't imagine that this place is half as cool as it actually is. UCL is unexpectedly laid back with a mellow, natural meets industrial design and attention placed on all the details. Staff including Assistant Manager, Andrew are uber friendly and helpful. On a side note, we really have to respect such confident owners who step into the belly of the beast so to speak, and have opened UCL kitty-corned in the same small intersection with a bustling Starbucks.

Ambiance/Clientele: This is a great neighborhood coffeeshop doing a lot of things right, in quite the unexpected location. During the day they cater to the usual Suburbanite Soccer Mom crowd with kids in tow, laptop shielded students and a handful of groups conducting business over their lattes. At night UCL dons its hipster, cool-cat hat and welcomes yuppies (and yippies !!) to relax with coffee, a rotating selection of bottled beer (Everett's Scuttlebutt Brewing, Stone IPA, North Coast's Old Rasputin and La Fin Du Monde) and wine by the glass or bottle (including 14 Hands Chardonnay and Cab, Trinity Oaks Pinot Noir and Desert Wind Ruah). During the cold months, they host unplugged musicians on their small stage on Friday nights and then heads outside for louder live music on their expansive patio.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Andrea Nguyen Delights with Dumplings at Monsoon East

In celebration of the Asian Lunar New Year, Eric and Sophie Banh of Monsoon East presented a celebratory lunch this past Friday hosted by acclaimed cookbook author Andrea Nguyen. Nguyen who recently published her second cookbook "Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More," is a very charismatic, personable cook who masterfully captivated the capacity crowd in Monsoon East's main dining room. Like any good speaker, Andrea worked the somewhat awkwardly shaped room expertly, making sure that everyone could see and hear what she was discussing and demonstrating.

With her new book it is Andrea's mission to demystify the revered Asian dumpling. For someone like me, who has hit up their share of Dim Sum brunches yet have fiddled at home helplessly with those sticky store-bought dumpling wrappers; Andrea Nguyen is a beacon of hope in a see of uncertainty. She took a big risk in trying to convince the average home cook that they can indeed make their own dumpling shells by providing a simple, food-processor recipe that she insists results in a much more user-friendly dumpling assembly process.

The five-course luncheon paired several styles of dumplings inspired by Nguyen's recipes yet prepared by the masterful Monsoon East kitchen, with some delicious teas that truly showcased the versatility of each. In between courses, Nguyen offered some insight into the dishes as well as tips and techniques attendees could use to make delicious dumplings at home. Some of the most useful tips were to make your own skins (as they will be more supple, more forgiving and likely hold more filling), to use a standard issue tortilla press to assist in the creation of a perfect round wrapper and to remove as much of the liquid and moisture as possible from your filling.

As for the food, it most certainly did not disappoint. The first course showcased a sticky rice dumpling technique that most closely resembled a stuffed and trussed pork loin, filled with mung bean paste and pork and served with cubed Vietnamese pork sausage on top. This dumpling was a wonderful play on contrast with the delicate flavors of the mung bean paste countering the toothiness of the cubed pork and the sticky texture of the rice.

The next course again showcased a unique texture, this time with a glistening tapioca pearl doughsphere filled with shrimp and taro root, swimming in a sea of delicious Nuoc Cham sauce (that ubiquitous Vietnamese sauce that is served alongside your spring rolls and usually has carrots floating in it). The chewy texture of the tapoica and the subtle flavors from the filling really popped when mixed with the sweet and tartness of the sauce. Next up was a delicious fried dumpling filled with lobster that was paired with the most delicious tea I have ever had; a magnificent toasted rice tea that was subtle enough to pair perfectly with the crunchy dumpling and its succulent filling.

The fourth course, my favorite of the meal was a delicate rice flour dumpling wrapped like a mini-crepe filled with Kurobuta pork shoulder and Woodear mushrooms topped with batones of the same pork sausage used earlier. The delicate, thin texture of this dumpling worked perfectly with the unctuous filling and the light sauce to provide the best four bites I took all day. (Beautiful photo of this course is courtesy of Denise over at Wasabi Prime)

Finally to come full circle, the dessert dumpling showcased the same pork-loin-esque technique as the first course but this time was filled with banana that had intiguingly turned a muddish red color from its overnight cooking process and was accompanied by a delicious coconut and basil sauce. It served as the perfect final act to a great meal.

I would like to thank the folks at Monsoon East, Gruman & Nicoll PR and Andrea herself for putting on such a wonderful event. It was an eye opening experience for me and I look forward to trying out some of Andrea's recipes. If you are looking for an introduction to making your own dumplings at home, this book is certainly a great place to start.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pullin' Shots: Soulfood Books, Music and Organic Coffeehouse in Redmond

*This piece written by Eastside Eats originally ran on on 2/12/10

In Pullin' Shots, Seattlest visits some of the region's best coffeehouses. Nothing is more Seattle than our unique coffee culture, and it is our goal to uncover what makes our famed "third places" so special. Today, Pullin' Shots stops in at Soulfood Books, Music and Organic Coffee House in Redmond.

Where do they get their beans? Soulfood gets their organic beans from Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Sleepy Monk is owned and operated by Victor Harding, who was the original owner and roaster at Victor's Coffee, a popular coffeeshop also in Redmond. Soulfood serves two proprietary blends, the Namaste Blend for drip and the Awake blend for espresso.

What espresso machine do they use? Astoria Rapallo AL2, lever-operated machine for manual extraction

What kinds of milk do they carry? Whole and skim from Sunshine Dairy. Rice, Soy and Hemp for an additional 50 cents.

What food do they offer? An assortment of pastries from Macrina, Hancock Bakery and Blazing Bagels both in Redmond. Fresh Panini Sandwiches

Music? Currently playing Joseph Childress's The Rebirths, from the Jose Gonzalez Pandora station.

Snob Factor? Very Low. The beans are quality, shots are pulled properly and products are purposefully locally sourced, but not in a pretentious way.

Ambiance/Clientele: Soulfood serves the best, most-consistent coffee on the Eastside in an uber-relaxed, community based setting. The coffeehouse is towards the back of the hippy-new age bookshop and is a great place to relax over a game of chess, book or laptop. They have numerous tables in addition to a living room-like circle of comfy chairs surrounded by local art on the walls. A couple nights a week Soulfood offers the best live music on the Eastside offering an ecletic mix of folk, jazz and rock. The first friday of every month is usually reserved for an incarnation of Twirl, Soulfood's owner Clint McCune's band. Come to see one of his performances and you will immediately know what Soulfood is all about. It truly is a shame that throngs of people in their Lexus SUVs and minivans shuffle through the $tarbucks drive-thru in the adjacent parking lot ,when one of the best and most unique coffeehouses in all of the Northwest is just a few steps away!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bellevue's Popcorn Pavilion Delivers Quality Corn!

Back in December, I received a press release (one of the cool things about blogging!) informing me of the opening of a new gourmet popcorn store called Popcorn Pavilion in the Bellevue Square Mall. I wrote it off as just another huge franchise bringing another homogenized food product to the masses at your local McMall.

Like any good PR firm they followed up with me last week, asking if I would like a complimentary sample pack to try out some of their popcorn. Looking a little bit deeper into the company, I found that this is the one and only Popcorn Pavilion and that it was founded by local Bellevue residents Grant and Ashley Jones, and having enjoyed my fair share of popcorn, figured why not!

The sample pack arrived at my doorstep in Redmond this morning (just two days late for me to celebrate National Popcorn Day!) and I quickly opened the box to see which of the 18 different popcorn flavors they had sent me. They have some pretty exotic flavors like Green Tea & Sea Salt, Seattle Style with Cappuccino flavored popcorn and their winter seasonal Peppermint Cocoa.

In the attractive sample box, I found Chicago Style, a combination of Caramel Corn and Cheddar Cheese popcorn, an enticing Jalapeno White Cheddar and the frightening Sweet Banana. I dug into each bag and was very surprised with the freshness and quality of the popcorn. They even go so far as to have the date the popcorn was popped and the name of the popper handwritten on the back of the bag. All the kernels were big, dense and crunchy, with each 16oz bag seeming quite heavy for its size. The Jalapeno White Cheddar flavor was my favorite with its cheesiness (think gourmet SmartFood) and a touch of fruity Jalapeno spice on the back end. The Sweet Banana flavor turned out to be pretty interesting. The flavor definitely resembled those banana shaped Runts candy you find in quarter vending machines, but the banana chips that were mixed in with the popcorn gave just enough contrast to make it enjoyable.

I would love to see the nutritional values for some of their flavors, as I can't imagine this incarnation of popcorn is a healthy snack. Additionally, I would be curious to know why Popcorn Pavilion chooses to use Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil to pop (ed. note: they use Canola oil for popping) in some of their corns, when there are likely healthier options available.

If you happen to be shopping at the Bellevue Square Mall or are looking for a unique gift, check out Popcorn Pavilion.

Wild Ginger Dim Sum Review from Cornichon

Last week, I talked about the new brunch offerings at Wild Ginger and Barrio in Bellevue. While I had a mediocre meal off of Barrio's new brunch menu, my colleague at the Seattlest Ronald Holden stopped in to explore Wild Ginger's new Dim Sum offerings. Looks like he made the better choice.

Here is an excerpt his review from his blog Cornichon.

"This is Bellevue's version of Asian street food, not so much dumbed down as cleaned up. "Authentic"? If you mean aggressively spicy, no. The Ladies Who Lunch, who let the valet park their Lincolns, probably won't come in for the full-on Thai treatment, which you can find elsewhere on Bellevue's back streets, if that's your preference. But let's give Yoder (Wild Ginger owner) and his crew big points for going where mainstreet Bellevue hasn't gone before, even if it's where the Eastside is already heading: there's a huge Asian community out past Crossroads, and the young fashionistas cruising the Bravern's shops look more like China Beach than Jersey Shore."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eastside News & Notes Roundup

There has been alot going on in the Eastside food scene these days. Instead of doing short posts about each story, we have combined everything into one comprehensive post covering all sorts of local happenings.

Chef Brian Scheehser of Kirkland's Trellis is featured on PBS's Chef's a Field series this week in an episode titled "The Real Chef's Garden"
This episode of Chef's a Field showcases Chef Scheehser's relationship with the South 47 Farm in Redmond where he grows many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs that are served at Trellis. It truly personifies the connection between farm to table cuisine. As Scheehser describes of himself, "I would say that I am 75% farmer and 75% chef..." and later as "A Chef with Farmer Hands" it really shows his desire to perform both of these important, full-time roles. The episode shows the chef walking amongst the rows of the farm seeking inspiration from nature's gifts. He discusses what he plans to do with everything he grows; from the edamame like presentation of the fava beans, the many uses of all parts of fennel, to the simple, grilled preparation of the onion scapes.

Then the chef moves into Trellis' kitchen where he prepares his Two-Hour' Summer Salad with
Sweet Grilled Red Onion, Strawberries, Olive Oil And Balsamic Drizzle, Wild King Salmon Seared With Artichoke Salad, and a Summer Strawberry Shortcake with Mascarpone Cream. All three of these recipes can be found here.

PCC Natural Markets Donate to Haiti Relief
As reported by the Redmond Reporter, PCC Natural Markets, the nation's largest natural foods cooperative has donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross for earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

“The magnitude of food, health care and infrastructure support needed by victims of this disaster is overwhelming,” said Tracy Wolpert, PCC’s CEO. “We are pleased to contribute to the recovery efforts being coordinated by the American Red Cross.”

If you needed yet another reason to support PCC, this is a great one. Be sure to check them out at their 3 Eastside locations in Issaquah, Redmond and Kirkland.

Things are Changing in Kirkland
As reported on the Eastside Inside blog, the TGIF in Kirkland's Parkplace shopping area has closed and in its place is the Parkplace Pub, owned by the same people that run Damien's in the Overlake neighborhood. They will be having an opening celebration next Tuesday night, January 19th that will a live DJ and drink specials.

Additionally, we have learned that a new Metropolitan Market is in the works to replace the Houghton Market at 10611 N.E. 68th St. in Kirkland. This will be the first Eastside location for this chain of upscale markets that currently has 6 locations in Seattle, Tacoma and Federal Way.

The new tenant will allow Houghton Market's employees to apply for jobs and will add more than 100 additional, new jobs once the store opens are its remodel.

Bellevue Happenings
As reported by the Downtown Bellevue Network, Cantinetta is rumored to be taking over Salute's vacant spot on Main Street in Old Bellevue. Cantinetta is a popular, neighborhood Italian eatery in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood.

Although it has been on Eastside Eat's wishlist for a long time, we unfortunately do not have first hand experience about Cantinetta but have heard very good things, especially about their in-house, handmade pastas.

Hope this rumor is true, as the addition of Cantinetta would make Main Street quite the dining destination alongside Monsoon East, Bis on Main and La Cocina Del Puerco.

Additionally, as we learned from, Toy's Cafe celebrated its grand re-opening last week at its new location at Bellevue Plaza, at the corner of 106th Ave NE and NE 2nd Street.

Toy's Café offers a mix of familiar Cantonese, Mandarin and Szechuan dishes. They have value-oriented lunch specials that run from 11:30am through 3pm, all under $7. If you need to have a working lunch, they also offer free delivery (within a limited area) for orders over $25 if you want to get your co-workers involved.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Two New Brunch Options in Downtown Bellevue

Bellevue already has two pretty decent offerings for authentic Dim Sum in Noble Court and Top Gun, but if you are looking for a little bit more of a comfortable, upscale experience in Downtown Bellevue, Wild Ginger fits the bill.

Beginning tomorrow Wild Ginger at the Bravern will be serving Dim Sum and a Hawker Brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 10am through 3pm.

Most people are probably familiar with Dim Sum with its steaming dumplings, roasted pork humbows and assortment of various small dishes, but Hawker (street) foods are still pretty exotic for most Americans. Similar in fashion to the NYC hot dogs and falafel trucks or to some of Seattle's mobile food trucks, Hawker foods are ubiquitous around Asia where they are usually situated amongst open-air markets and offer customers good, authentic, affordable local fare. Wild Ginger already has some of Asia's most popular hawker foods on their menu; satay, laksa and curry crab, but are adding additional menu items like Singapore noodles, nasi goreng (fried rice topped with a fried egg), and coconut pancakes for these special brunches.

Barrio Restaurant recently launched their own new Brunch menu last weekend. Many of their regular menu items will be available, but there are some very enticing specialty items that will be available only for brunch .

Most notably are the Breakfast Tacos en Cazuela with scrambled eggs, housemade chorizo, habanero salsa, manchego cheese, fried potatoes, guacamole, fresh tomato salsa and house hot sauce that will run you $13, that sound great as well as the Mexican Style French Toast made from brioche accompanied with candied pecans and maple syrup for 10.

I think these are two great additions to the pretty lackluster assortment of local brunch offerings. Hopefully they will literally and figuratively, spice up the local dining scene.

I hope to check out these brunch spots in the coming weeks, but if you beat me to it please share your experiences by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Four Local Chefs Advance to Next Round of Ramsay Auditions

As we first reported last week, Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay's production company held an open casting call for amateur chefs in Kirkland this past Sunday for a new cooking show called MasterChefs.

Although Eastside Eats did not attend (thinking you've got to be a bit sadistic if you want to get ridiculed by Gordon?), but heard there was a pretty decent turn-out at Kirkland's Sur La Table. Of the many hopefuls, four Seattle food personalities have made the cut and are moving on to the next round of auditions. Since starting Eastside Eats, I have had a chance to immerse myself in the Seattle food blogosphere and it seems like Ramsay's casting agents did a good job. They selected Seattle Food Geek Scott Heimendinger, Leslie Kelly of Whining and Dining and the PI, Linda Miller Nicholson who writes the Salty Seattle blog, and last but not least Mark Schermerhorn, who by all accounts doesn't have a blog, although he does Twitter!

By trying to decipher Mark's twitter feed it looks like the four MasterChef hopefuls had a follow-up interview with the casting people on January 11th, but have yet to hear anything back. Good Luck to everyone!

Update: For those interested in a closer, first person report from the auditions, check out Leslie Kelly's post this afternoon on the Serious Eats blog detailing her experience.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Off the Eaten Path: Tropea Ristorante in Redmond

David Siegel covers the burgeoning Eastside food scene on his blog Eastside Eats.

In Off the Eaten Path, Seattlest visits some of the overlooked and under-rated restaurants in the Seattle area. Whether they are found in strip malls on the Eastside, next to a casino on Aurora or hidden away in South Park these are the places that don't get the exposure they deserve--until now. Today, Off the Eaten Path looks at Tropea Ristorante in Redmond.

Tucked behind a wall of hedges in the most mundane of strip malls in downtown Redmond is Tropea Ristorante, a true hole-in-the-wall. Situated next to an insurance office and a Mexican grocery sits one of the most authentic and personable Italian restaurants you will find in the Northwest. Named after the hometown of owner Lorenzo Scordamaglia, Tropea is the quintessential independently owned restaurant. From the family portraits and mural of the Italian countryside on the walls to the handwritten Specials Board to the ever present futbol on their tiny TV, this is certainly no Olive Garden!

After placing your order with their uber-knowledgeable servers, a bread basket accompanied by the most delicious olive oil dipping sauce is brought to your table. Brimming with fresh chopped garlic, red pepper flake and fresh herbs it is a challenge in itself to not spoil your appetite on this pre-Antipasti treat. Your self-restraint will be rewarded when your appetizer arrives; whether it is Tropea's sumptuous bruschetta, wonderful Caprese salad or their wholesome Pasta Fagioli soup.

We have been delighted with nearly everything we have ordered for dinner here, aside from their pizza which unfortunately has missed the mark on numerous occasions. Instead, order off the special board or stick to their menu standards. The Spaghetti Bolognese is superb as is their Lasagna Tropeana with its rich Italian sausage and hearty meat sauce. They prepare veal expertly, too especially the Vitello Pizzaiola showcasing the flavors of the Mediterranean with a decadent sauce of tomatoes, capers and plenty of fresh basil and oregano. If you have the room, don't pass up their homemade Tiramisu or handmade Cannoli. On a recent visit, they had a special Limoncello Gelato that was the perfect palate-cleansing finale to our rich meal.

With its rustic interior, top-notch cuisine and a deep wine list, Tropea is the place to come for Italian on the Eastside. With most dishes under $20, you get alot for your dollar especially considering the attentive service you will receive. Just don't tell too many people or you will have trouble getting a table as they do not take reservations.

** This post also runs on the Seattlest blog site as part of the new Off the Eaten Path feature that will cover affordable, independent food businesses that most people don't know about.

Casting Call in Kirkland for new Gordon Ramsay Show - Amateur Cooks Only!

On Sunday, January 10th there will be an open casting call for Gordon Ramsay's newest cooking show called MasterChefs at the Kirkland Sur La Table from 11am to 4pm. Unlike most other cooking competition shows, this one is only looking for amateurs "from all walks of life - amateur chefs, passionate foodies, the ultimate dinner party host/hostessess."

MasterChefs will celebrate great people who make great food. Contestants will have the opportunity to develop their cooking skills while being encouraged, mentored and celebrated by the undustry's best and evaluated by world-renowned judges!

Personally, I have a love/hate opinion of Chef Ramsay and am not sure if I would want to participate on one of his shows. He has a couple of decent cookbooks (especially Three Star Chef) and has some really great cooking videos up on Youtube that I have emulated to create some awesome dishes. In interviews he comes off like a very genuine, likable person which contrasts with his brazen, caustic, sometimes even abusive personality on some of his shows.

If you are interested in learning more about the show or the casting call, check this out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

M.O.D. Pizza Coming to Bellevue

As first reported by The Downtown Bellevue Network, a new pizza restaurant will be coming to Bellevue. MOD (Made On Demand) Pizza is a new pizza concept brought to you by the same folks who own and operate Top Pot Doughnuts. This will be the second location, with the first on 6th Ave in Downtown Seattle right across from the Washington Athletic Club. What sets MOD apart is their one-size-fits all pizza pricing, as all 11 inch pizzas are $5.88 regardless of how many toppings you have, and their speed as pizzas are prepared and cooked in less than 5 minutes in their stone fire oven.

They have 10 unique topping combinations to choose from, including the enticingly, spicy Calexico with their signature red sauce, mozzarella, Gorgonzola, chicken, hot buffalo sauce and crunchy jalapenos. or you can make your own combination from their seemingly endless list of ingredients. The crust is thin and crunchy, perhaps more like a flatbread than your traditional pie. To accompany your pizza they also offer some salads, garlic knots and the random Hostess Ding Dong for dessert. Also not to be missed are MOD's old-fashioned milkshakes available in Vanilla, Chocolate or the not to be missed Huckleberry.

The Bellevue location will be at NE 4th Avenue Street & Bellevue Way, where Clampitts Dry Cleaners used to be across from Safeway. It will be nice to see another quick, affordable and unique eatery open up in Downtown Bellevue. This is a trend I would love to see continue. MOD Pizza is set to open later this month.

MOD Pizza - Bellevue
317 Bellevue Way NE
Bellevue, WA 98004

Friday, January 1, 2010

Have you heard of Eating the Road?

I recently got turned onto the awesomely, entertaining food related flowcharts made by the folks at the Eating the Road blog.

These flowcharts are fascinating on multiple levels; not only are they informative all by themselves, but their breadth and reverence for their subject matter is impressive.

Of the ones I have seen, I think my favorite flowchart so far is the Candy Edition with honorable mention going to the Chain Restaurant chart.