reading

Jason's Blog

Seattle, here I come! (+ Indian Lentil Soup)

The symbol of Seattle, for a foodie. And you thought it was the Space Needle. Bah!

Well, I took a vacation because I’d not done anything for myself since my mom died.  My dad had a bit of a hesitance when I said “I’m going to Seattle for a week!” because he doesn’t understand planes and hasn’t been on one.  He said he’d be praying that the plane would be fine and to go have fun, so I did.  I went all the way to the Pacific Northwest, home of Pistachio House West and didn’t see Francine.  Yes, let me repeat.  I went all the way to the Pacific Northwest and didn’t see Francine.  Our schedules just didn’t work and since she lives a tiny tad away in Tacoma, and I demonstrated early on that I was inept at using public transportation (i.e. the bus) we decided to try again for a Francine-specific visit in December, if Uncle American Express wants to play nicely.

Single Cheeseburger - sadly not Animal Style

How can I afford to get out there…and still eat, I asked?  I redeemed a Sky Miles award ticket that included two bonuses – a stopover in Los Angeles and a flight leg LAX-SEA on Alaska Airlines as a codeshare.  I’d never flown with them before and was highly impressed.  One of my life’s bucket list items is to eat at the In n’ Out burger at LAX, where planes landing on 24L skim over your head.  If you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll know I’m an aviation geek.  For years I’ve heard my west coast friends speak of this burger and how amazing it is and how it puts Five Guys on the east coast to shame.  Well, I had to try it.  Given a 3 hr layover, we headed out and flagged down a shuttle from the parking deck that’s behind the restaurant and through the system of “here’s a few dollars, keep your mouth shut, cause I didn’t park here,” we obtained transportation to and from the restaurant.

This restaurant was so busy the line was in the street for the Drive Thru and a guy was outside taking orders on paper and radio-ing them inside.  It smelled like, well, real meat.  If you know me, you know I’m a huge burger-freak.  There are two distinct categories – fast food, which I won’t ever eat, and high-style restaurant or gastropub burgers.  That I even wanted to eat this speaks volumes for how good it was.  It’s real food, not a round, brown puck like your favorite fast food place that may be represented by a castle, crown, girl with freckles, a guy named Carl or those ubiquitous yellow arches that look like twin streams of pee in the sky.  Billions served?  Billions left feeling sick later, no doubt.

While I was in the bathroom, a Singapore Airlines A380 buzzed the top of the building for a nice smoky landing a few feet away – and I missed it because the science teacher in me insists that I wash my hands before I eat.  I’d trade a little campylobacter for the chance to see that again.  Drat!

A lovely snack over the Cascades en route consisted of hawaiian snack mix–Go Alaska!  Sesame sticks, dried pineapple bits and macadamia nuts.  Wow, so much better than peanuts or pretzels.  One thing i did learn while sitting in a plastic chair on the deck of a slightly moldy smelling harbor cruising ship where they were selling booze and beer at 1:30 in the afternoon was what I’d already been putting together in my brain–it doesn’t really rain in the Puget Sound area.  No, see, the Olympic mountains make a rain shadow, and block the clouds from reaching the cities.  That explains why the Olympic National Park is home to the only temperate rainforest on the continent.  They measure their rain in feet instead of inches.  My umbrella was lonely all week, because the rare sun came out and we had only a few days of misty, foggy type sprinkle–or the stuff that comes out of your hair stylist’s bottle before he or she begins to cut your hair.

Flower bundles $5-$10 at Pike Market

This was my second trip to the city, the first with Francine a few years ago, but this one afforded some length of time to see everything and, of course, eat everything.  I ate everything in sight.  Cue entrance music to Pike Place Market, where I had an organic-gasm at the very shiny fruits and vegetables plucked from the ground hours earlier and the flying fish and the dungeness crab that were swimming in the frigid Bering Sea a few days ago.  I ate more cherries than is proper for a human to consume. I may turn into a cherry and be in need of a good pressing at the Wonka factory like that little girl that chewed too much gum.

Everyone, and I mean everyone had flowers, and given that they’re <$20 for a giant handful, why wouldn’t everyone be walking around with them.  I toyed with the notion of buying flowers the night before we departed for home, but decided that the TSA might destroy them because, well, they’re bullies!  Man, what these people can do with organic fare beats the heck out of a summer roadside stand here in the south.

On my first visit, Francine and I visited Michou, a deli, to have panini sandwiches and watch the birds peck the peppers at the market.  On this trip, I returned for a hunk of baklava and caught a whiff of something spectacular – Indian Lentil Soup.  Red lentils, to be exact.  It was one of those “Oh, I gotta make this!” moments.  But, I’d just had something sweet and didn’t want my palette annihilated by something savory, so we moved on.

Thanks to Francine’s years schmoozing with the executives at Macy’s Northwest Division, we were clued in to amazing Asian Fusion cuisine at Wild Ginger.  This restaurant holds the distinction of being ranked the #1 Most Popular Restaurant in the Pacific Northwest by Zagat, 11 years and running.  Say no more, I’m there with a poncho on instead of a bib, cause it’s about to get messy!  For a starter, we had a selection from the satay bar – Peasant’s Chicken, which was marinated in coconut curry and served with peanut sauce.  We shared Seven Flavor Beef (lemongrass, peanuts, hoisin, chilies, basil, garlic and ginger, quickly wok fried) and their version of sweet and sour chicken, called Mandarin Chicken.  Man!

By far the best meal we had was breakfast at Geraldine’s Counter in the Columbia City neighborhood of South Seattle.  I found this place on Chowhound (a message board for foodies) and once I looked at the menu, we programmed the talking-lady-in-a-box and drove there ASAP.  Just walking into the restaurant and my feet were lifting off the floor from the smell of coffee and powdered sugar.  I had sourdough french toast – huge, thick slices with cage-free co-op eggs and thick-sliced bacon.  On top was a honey-peach compote.  I bit into the french toast and had a moment where I needed prayer, and Jesus…STAT!  I needed to find a bible, turn to a verse, and seek His way, because it was sinful and ungodly, which is how all good things must be.  My partner in crime had oatmeal pancakes (made with oat flour) and blueberry compote – he too needed prayer, but instead of verbalizing it, he just drooled and loosened his belt.  If you’re ever in that neighborhood – GO!

Below are some of the various food shots that I took – the gallery feature in WordPress isn’t agreeing with me – who wants to see photos that are already in the article?  Meh.


Indian Red Lentil Soup – Dal Shorba
from The Washington Post
Serves 4-6

8 ounces dried red lentils (I used yellow, sorry)

Dal Shorba

2 tb vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 (3 inch) piece of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (about 3 tb)
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced (about 3 tb)
3/4 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped (2.5 cups)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp madras curry powder
1 tsp cumin
4.5 cups water, or as needed
1 medium bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup packed mint leaves (from 1/2 bunch)
1 cup packed cilantro leaves (from 1/2 bunch)
lemon wedges, for garnish

Rinse and drain the lentils, sorting through them for any pebbles. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 12-15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Reduce the heat as needed to keep them from burning. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, cumin, and curry powder. Cook this for 3-4 more minutes, stirring to blend the spices. Add the water and bring to a boil.

Add the lentils to the pot along with the bell pepper, mint, and cilantro. Reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a bubbling simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Process the soup with an immersion blender to the texture of your liking – I chose moderate chunks, although you could puree completely and strain through a strainer for a completely smooth soup.

If the lentils absorb too much of the soup base, add more water.