Anger Burger

Fish & Chips, Now With Puns

Posted by on Aug 31, 2009 at 12:26 am

Long, long ago, in a Olympia-adjacent town far, far away, my mom told me there was some new fish & chips place we had to go to.  HAD TO.  You may not understand a certain rabidness of my family’s commitment to seafood, but just as an example, the Scottish faction pretty much came to this country because they heard there would be fried oysters.  Fact.

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Anyway, Mom heard about some place in Lacey, Washington that had great fish & chips, so off we went.  And because I take hand-clapping, mentally retarded delight in puns, I basically fell out of my car seat when I saw that it was called “Beau Legs”.  Bring it!

Beau Legs’ ambiance is borderline grim: a new strip mall in a deserted part of town, the interior little altered beyond its “What you see is what you rent” decor, but there’s also a glimmer of hopefulness that comes from these kinds of places.  Is it possible they care more about food than about plastic plants?  One can dream.

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Also a good sign in the strawberry Fanta — a fry house without red pop is a bad omen indeed.

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Anyway, let’s get to the point, shall we?  For the most part, Beau Legs knows how to fry a damn fish.  Everything was perfectly cooked and well-battered, though the cornmeal catfish did nothing to win me over to a side I was already against (I will hold a standard for beer batter until the day I die).  But fuck catfish, we’ve got more important matters at hand.  First up, look at those french fries.  LOOK AT THEM.  They are as perfect as you can hope for as a goddamn mortal, no question.   Thin and equal parts crispy to mushy (do not even roll your eyes, you know you like the mushy ones), the fries are lightly seasoned with something akin to but not exactly Old Bay.

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One of the things that made me stop and wonder who exactly was hiding behind the curtain to the kitchen were these buggers in the corner there.  Those are clams strips, but not just any clam strips.  Ideal ones.  Fantasy ones.  The kind of clam strip you think clam strips should taste like every time you order then and then find them disappointing.  They were sweet enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d been soaked in sugar water, and the slices were thick and clean-tasting and eventually prompted us to ask if we could order a basket of just clam strips (which weren’t on the menu).  The proprietress assured us we could (and indeed, did at a later date).

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Another surprise: hush puppies.  Not that they had them, but that I liked them.  All too often Hush Puppies strike me as a strange way to dispose of unwanted cornmeal.  They’re gluey and greasy, leaden and unflavored.  These weren’t exactly “lite” or anything, but they had a herbal flavor we couldn’t quite put our fingers on.  We identified onion for certain, but I never could explain why they were such quality specimens.

As an aside, you might be surprised to learn that finding good fish & chips in the Northwest can be somewhat of a burden.  The major player in town, The Olympia Oyster House, is mediocre on its finest day and potentially poisonous every other day.  The bit players can be decent (Ben Moore’s) and disappointing (The Spar/McMenamins).  The best fish & chips in the Northwest are found to the North, at  Sunfish in Alki Beach.  But should you find yourself 60 miles south, I’d hit Beau Legs if I were you.

3 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

Hot Pot Gonna Knock You Out

Posted by on Aug 29, 2009 at 10:11 pm

I’m so behind on my writing, it’s just one first-world drama after another around here (my Volvo broke!  I have too many friends!) and all of a sudden it’s like 10 days later.  Life!  What a racket.

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Anyway, long story short: my friend Junko made me hotpot for my birthday!  I think technically it was nabemono, but I’m not big on technicalities.

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Nabe is a beautiful meal and equally delicious and all of that is second to the fact that it is sort of suspiciously easy.  It helps1 if you have a table-top gas burner (which can be reliably found at Asian markets for under $20) and one of these very nice clay pots (also can be quite cheap, though the nice ones are a little pricier) and then, well, you boil shit.  The more people the better, you sit around and boil down meat, tofu and vegetables, scooping things out as they cook.

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The broth (which in this instance was a ginger & kimchee mash-up of Junko’s own design) gets increasingly flavorous as everything cooks until toward the end (as seen above) the broth is total ambrosia.  Bittersweet considering that by this point you are totally fucking stuffed and sipping the broth is torture.  Delicious, wonderful Japanese torture.  And no, it’s not exactly summertime eating, but it was my birthday and I could manipulate my Japanese friends into making nabe if I wanted to.

1 And by “helps” I mean that you can’t do it without one.

0 Posted in Food Rant

In Which the Author Eats BBQ After Having Knocked It

Posted by on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:53 pm

As mentioned in a previous episode, I took the light rail (which sounds like it should take you into another solar system: I hitched the light rail to Betelgeuse) to Columbia City to see Sol and Yuko, who I haven’t seen in so long that they made an entire whole ‘nother human being in the interim.

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A messy dinner-in-progress is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

By design, all of my friends in Seattle are excellent cooks.  I don’t really want to visit people that can’t cook, do you?  Anyway, Sol and Yuko are both no exception, and when Sol claimed to have a “foolproof” way of cooking steak I accepted his claim and warned that if he was wrong our trust bridge would be broken and possibly beyond repair.

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They’ve also worked hard at making a beautiful house for themselves, and a little pocket garden near the alley was thriving.

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But lets get to the meat.  First of all, Sol studied up about salting meat, and while I don’t know what he read exactly, I found an informative page over at Steamy Kitchen that sums up what Sol was going on about.  That, and I genuinely thought this illustration was supposed to be a hairy cock and balls:

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And wouldn’t you know it,  the meat was spectacular.  Sol was right.  Salt your meat.

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I mean, I wouldn’t normally trust this dude just from looking at him, but I can’t deny what I ate.

5 Posted in Food Rant

Yoppy Barfday

Posted by on Aug 15, 2009 at 12:00 am

It’s my birthday.  I drew a picture:

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Click on photo to link to Flickr image, which will be larger and actually legible.  I’m too lazy to make a pop-out right now.  Viva la birthdays!

4 Posted in Totally Unrelated

Good Advice

Posted by on Aug 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I’ve been asked when the best month to visit Seattle is, and I always answer “August, but I wouldn’t if I were you.”  You see, in August, the Northwest is a majestic, alluring, fragrant, warm, pulsating bosom into which no one can resist burying their face.  It’s a perfect climate in a world literally dripping with ripe blackberries and figs, where beer very nearly grows on trees and it’s difficult to avoid stumbling into a charming little cafe first thing in the morning.

The other 11 months are total shit.

Sure, I love hyperbole, but I really have had the same conversation too many times to count while waiting for a bus in side-slanting rain while dreadlocked hippies hump our legs:

me: So, why did you move to the Northwest?

transplant: Well, we visited in August…

me: Oh, I’m sorry.

And here I am sucked into the very same Siren-bedecked whirlpool — Seattle is beautiful.  It really is.  The scenery is perfect, the weather is tempestuous but good and the eating, holy mother of Buddha, the eating is good.

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For a long time a favorite destination was Le Pichet, a French hole-in-the wall that kicked froggy ass at œuf plat, a simple dish of baked eggs over good French ham that cured anything at all that ailed you.  But it being close to the Pike Place Market and having a kind of devoted clientele meant that more often than not, Le Pichet was full.  Since then, and of course since I moved away from the area, the folks who gave us Le Pichet opened Café Presse, a larger, more American-feeling restaurant with – most importantly – the same delightful food.  In fact, better than same.

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Behold, the greatest croque-madame I have ever eaten.   I warned Mike that it was the best madame I’d had, and he nodded with sage experience and said “Yes, but you’ve never been to Paris.”  True, but if they are better in Paris then I will have an actual aneurysm.  And indeed, with the startled hesitancy that I imagine lottery winners feel, he agreed: this is one fucking hell of a thing.  I mean, I’m stumped for words.  I never even took photos of mine half-eaten as I intended to… I don’t remember anything from the duration of my eating it.  My brain shut down to save me from the memory of it.  Otherwise, day-to-day experiences would seem colorless and grim by comparison.

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Indeed.

But I’d eaten at Café Presse before and knew what to expect, and these things pass as all thing do.  Of much greater surprise to me was the sudden appearance of the Seattle light rail, a kind of half-assed subway.  I can’t tell you how many years of bus-riding took me past a station for the light rail as they built it, bolt by tiny bolt, inch by inch of concrete.  It was like they were getting paid by the hour to build the damn thing.  And here I was, ready to ride on it!

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Where everybody go?

First off, I have to say it was a nice ride.  Our intention was to visit a friend in Columbia City, and I enjoyed the experience.  Apart from where we paid for tickets that we apparently didn’t need to pay for.

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Let me put it this way: having ridden subways before, I automatically purchased a ticket and then later realized that no matter how far you are going, it’s always going to be $2.  Just a few blocks?  $2.  Twenty miles to the airport?  $2.  So sure, a trip to the airport is a steal, but to get from Westlake to the International District?  Maybe a dollar too expensive.  Second thing: there were no turnstiles.  So for what reason I just purchased a ticket I cannot say.  Honor system?  A moment of observation revealed that other Seattlites had no such honor.  Not a big revelation.

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Why no turnstiles?  Well, basically it goes something like this: the stops are mostly open air, and the few that aren’t are underground in a shared tunnel system that also services buses.  If the bus passengers pay on the bus (as most do) then they’d have no way to get past the turnstile.  Um.  Sure.  I don’t know what the solution is, but I admit that I expected the city to have figured it out before they opened the light rail.  Where this sudden optimism for Seattle’s transportation infrastructure came from I can’t say.

Wait, yes I can:  August.

Home Again, Home Again

Posted by on Aug 11, 2009 at 4:54 pm

On of the first things I did when I rolled back into my home town was make my mom go out to phở with me.  In Olympia, the phở choices are pretty good (there’s a large Vietnamese population), but for convenience we inevitably go to Phở Hoa.

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Which isn’t to say that Phở Hoa is bad – it isn’t the best I’ve had, but it’s reliable and fast and there is almost always a table open.  It’s one of those rare conditions where elements other than the food make a restaurant a favorite.

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My only real beef with Phở Hoa is that they always skimp on the shrubbery – but to be fair, I think they do because the locals don’t eat a lot of it.  They’ll bring more if you ask, of course.  Still.  I like to see a tower of lawn clippings without having to invest any effort into it.

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The next most immediate destination is my favorite barista in the Pacific Northwest, Fraoigh.  She works at B&B’s Dancing Goats down at the Farmer’s Market, where she’s drastically underappreciated I’m sure (I mean, as far as I can tell she isn’t carried around town in a palanquin, so I assume she’s underappreciated).

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Today for a treat she made us a secret off-menu cocktail she calls a Bibi Cream.  I don’t want to leak her secret formula or anything, but for the most part you can figure it out.  Bibicaffe.  Some cream.  And something else.  You’ll just have to let her go make you one should you pass through Olympia, Washington.  Though she warns that she’ll ask the secret password, which is to pronounce and spell her name correctly.  Good luck.

0 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at These.

Posted by on Aug 5, 2009 at 9:40 pm

When I was growing up, my mother made supper nearly every night. She wanted to make sure that her family always got a well rounded meal. A side effect of this desire was that meals, while always varied, followed a formula. There was always three things. A protein, a starch, and a green. Even when times were tough meals followed the formula except that meat was replaced with beans.1

Now that my sister and I are grown and we cook for our own families, we follow the same formula. Not on purpose mind you, we didn’t even realize it. Wife actually pointed it out to me, and I asked Sister. Turns out that she does it too. And when we cook, dinner seems incomplete without the third leg of the dietary tripod.

But on Theme Night the formula goes out the window. Tonight was Far East Adventure Night.2 And last night was Mexican Night.3

Tonight I made Sesame Chicken and Soba Noodles. The best part was that it took altogether about ten minutes and no measuring.

Soba and Sesame Chicken

For the Soba you just need:

Soy Sauce
Rice Vinegar
Garlic
Sesame Seeds and Sesame Oil
Sliced green onions would be nice but are not so necessary.

Cook the noodles to the package instructions. Rinse. Add the other stuff. Cover. Put in fridge. Eat when cold.

For the Sesame Chicken:

Soy Sauce
Honey
Garlic
Ginger
Sesame Seeds and Sesame Oil
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Clove
Spicy Mustard
Red Pepper Flakes
1 Bag Quorn Chicken (Or real chicken. That’s good, too)

In a large skillet saute the chicken with the garlic until it starts to brown ever so slightly. Turn off heat. Mix all other ingredients together and pour over chicken, mixing until sauce is thickened and all pieces are covered. Serve over rice.

1 Which I always considered a vegetable, thus making the formula green, starch, green. What a ripoff.
2Chinese night.
3 Mexican night.

2 Posted in Aaron, Make It So

An Ode to Tater Salad

Posted by on Aug 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Right, so, this has got to be a quick one because I’m a hair busy.

Potato salad.  Everyone has a recipe.  I don’t like most of them.  It’s terrible, I know, but they’re always just wrong somehow.  I think, like pasta salad, they tend to just be nothing but potatoes and some sauce (mayonnaise, generally) and little else.  Eggs, which doesn’t help pull the entire thing out of the white hole of blandness it is falling into.

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And so also like pasta salad, my solution is to up the “other stuff” quotient as much as I dare.  Lots of celery, red onion thinly sliced and green onions.  As many frozen peas as I can push without it turning into pea salad.  Bacon.  Enough fresh dill that there’s a real danger of permanently stinking up the fridge.

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And last but not least, making the dressing from about 2/3 sour cream to 1/3 mayonnaise.  After that a healthy dose of salt, pepper, a spoonful of sugar and a big glug of rice vinegar and now, folks, we’re talking.

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It’s perfect, and I can and did eat it every day for about five days.  It could even have withstood more herbs; basil never hurt anyone, and rosemary never met a potato it didn’t like.  Even more vinegar, but I wanted other people to be able to eat the salad too.  In fact, I’m not even going to list a recipe, because it’s one of those things: you’ve already got a potato salad you like.  And that’s just grand.

4 Posted in Food Rant

Udon, My Old Friend

Posted by on Aug 2, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Whenever I’m not feeling well, my absolutely number one meal of choice is udon.  Nabeyaki udon, to be exact.  And, as I have discovered, it is easy to screw up.  It shouldn’t be, but it is. One time I ordered nabeyaki udon and it had cabbage in it – cabbage! Oh my god.

Nabeyaki udon is traditionally a — oh, who the fuck am I fooling.  I don’t know what it traditionally is.  I mean, I’m pretty sure that the “nabe” part just refers to how it is served (in a hot pot) but other than that it could have started out as a Albuquerque specialty for all I know; I’m a Scottish-Melungeon from Washington.

Anyway, finding a solid nabeyaki udon is high on my list of lifetime priorities, and what luck that there should be one within easy distance of where I live.  Some friends asked if I wanted to catch lunch with them on short notice, and we immediately agreed on Mishima1.

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Mishima is a noodle joint – they serve sushi, but what you’re going there for is either udon or soba.  At which they kick ass.  Above is a photo of Mike’s Curry Udon.  The curry ‘broth’ is a thin version of the same sort of curry gravy that gets ladled over fried pork chops and rice at other Japanese restaurants (a personal favorite of mine), but with a more-than-generous portion of udon, meat of choice and some vegetables.  It’s an excellent meal and at $7.95 is sort of unbelievably priced.

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My own nabeyaki udon was a model of the form, though I have to admit I kind of don’t understand why it costs a full $2 more than the curry udon.  But que sera, it is delicious.  Our server was a little off on this last trip, an older Hispanic gentleman who is normally friendly but on that day seemed irritated that we had a baby with us.  Not a crying baby or anything, just a regular baby.  Who eats napkins.

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I mean really?  That’s one great baby.

1You’d have to live here to understand, but it’s very funny to me that their website claims they are in “Beverly Hills.”  Uh, no.  They are at best in West Hollywood, and probably are technically Mid Wilshire.  But such is the way of life in Los Angeles and if claiming one is dining in Beverly Hills gets them more customers, then great.

2 Posted in Eatin' Fancy