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.