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Showing posts from November, 2013

Willows Inn - Lummi Island, Washington

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The first thing I notice upon arriving are the smells: the salt ocean air, fresh cut grass, a whiff of wood smoke. The ferry ride from the mainland takes only about ten minutes, but Lummi Island - the home of the Willows Inn - seems almost a world to itself. Lummi, about a dozen miles from end to end, is the easternmost of the San Juan Islands, an archipelago in the Strait of Juan de Fuca stretching between mainland Washington State and Vancouver Island. It's also one of the more beautiful places I've ever been.


We spent a couple days on Lummi Island before eating at Willows Inn, and I'm glad we did.[1] We saw the reefnets where salmon are fished in the same way that Native Americans did it centuries ago.[2] We caught (and released) a massive thirty pound lingcod. We kayaked along the island's coast, tasting bull kelp and sea lettuce we pulled right out of the water alongside our boats. After a little while, it starts to seem as if the entire landscape is edible: blac…

CobayaBelly with Chef Jose Mendin at PB Steak

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It's always interesting to see how chefs approach doing a Cobaya dinner with us. Having a "theme" is entirely optional, but many chefs choose to do so. When we lined up a dinner with Chef José Mendin, of Pubbelly and its sibling PB Steak, he went with a "Bloody Monday" motif.


The decorations seemed inspired equally by a butcher's abattoir and a goth chick's boudoir,with PB Steak's unfinished wood and concrete dressed up with lots of candles, black apothecary bottles and the occasional crow.


Chef Mendin's offal-intensive menu, making extensive use of the "fifth quarter" of the cattle whose prime cuts usually grace the restaurant's menu, was drawn up like a butcher's diagram, though the pieces actually came from several different places - beef heart from Niman Ranch in California, veal brains from Strauss Farms in Wisconsin, tongue from Jackman Ranch in upstate Florida, prime rib from Cox Family Farms in Alabama.

(You can see al…

Tapas - Spanish Design for Food @ The Moore Building

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According to Penelope Casas' excellent book "Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain," the original tapa was a slice of cured ham or chorizo, served compliments of the house, and - according to some - placed over the top of the customer's wineglass to keep flies out of the sherry. In other words, it was a simple, effective, and delicious confluence of food and design.


The exhibition "Tapas - Spanish Design for Food," currently on display at the Moore Building in the Design District, explores and celebrates that confluence, using Spanish tapas as the springboard. Organized by Acción Cultural Española, and curated by Spanish architect Juli Capella, it's a fascinating glimpse into the circular relationship of cuisine, art, design and culture.

The displays are divided into sections - "The Kitchen," "The Table," and "The Food" - with a well-selected compilation of objects created for each. They range from the utterly pragmatic - a se…

"Pink Collar" Cobaya for a Cause with Chef Daniel Serfer

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We mostly do this Cobaya thing to eat well and have fun, but occasionally we try to do good, too. Almost exactly a year ago, we helped Chef Andrew Carmellini fill seats for a Hurricane Sandy Relief Dinner at The Dutch, which was a fantastic meal (with contributions from several Cobaya alumni) and raised more than $17,000 for Sandy relief efforts.


This year, when Chef Daniel Serfer of Blue Collar approached us about doing a charity Cobaya dinner to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we were eager to take part. It's a cause that is particularly meaningful to Danny, who lost his mother to breast cancer eleven years ago this month, and he described the menu he put together as takes on some of her favorite dishes.

I'll tell you this: Marsha ate very well. Though Blue Collar is, as the name suggests, a working-class kind of place, Chef Serfer has a fine dining background, having toiled at the now-closed Chef Allen's before opening his own place. And he's already th…