For the next six months, you can find me over at The Seattle Times, where I’m writing for the All You Can Eat blog during the incomparable Nancy Leson’s leave. Already, it’s been fun dishing on topics like great Thai street food, the rise in winter farmers markets, and whether that’s really Mario Batali giving out one-on-one advice on Twitter.

Even though I’ve been writing for Pacific Magazine in the Times for a few years now, I hadn’t realized how much I missed daily newspapers. It’s a blast to be back, and I hope you’ll join me.

Either way, you can still find me on the newsstands, in places like Sunset magazine’s look at modern-day butchers, or this piece in Edible Seattle on how a chef brought meat to a vegetarian cafeteria, or this Times piece on what I call “the new 100-mile diet”. Here’s to a delicious, happy, and healthy winter, and I’ll see you in the funny papers and on the food page.

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I remember Michael Pollan telling me that eating junk food isn’t so bad so long as you put in the work to make it yourself. Clearly he hadn’t come across the new Top Pot cookbook, where I learned that it’s so easy to put together great doughnuts at home that we could make them morning, noon, and night.

As I said over at Al Dente, the fact that these are Top Pot’s fabulous doughnuts is just the icing on the whole raised cake. And, as I said there, Top Pot owners Mark and Michael Klebeck were lucky to have Jess Thomson to translate their recipes for the home cook. “Jess is one of my favorite writers, and she’s also a peerless recipe developer. Her recipes are clear and accurate, reproducible and well-tested. You can take them to the bank — or, more appropriately and happily in this case, to the kitchen.” Why make ‘em at home if you’ve got a Top Pot in the area? Because it’s easier than driving to the shop, and you’ll never taste a fresher, better doughnut. Watch the video (or just skip to minute 10:08 for the “How Long Did All This Take?” section and see), and move forward with some chocolate-glazed old-fashioneds of your own.

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Seattle Times/Harley Soltes

Seattle Times/Harley Soltes

Have we seen each other on the newsstands?

I wrote about the unlikely intersection of a carrot farmer and a grocery store in The Seattle Times recently, in a cover story featuring the PCC Farmland Trust. In the same issue of the Times, I wrote about what I’m calling “Peak Week,” that sweet spot of Seattle menus when market baskets overflow with Washington-grown peaches, tomatoes, melons, corn, peppers, plums — all at once.

Earlier in the Times, I wrote about the (blecchh!) herb that smells better than it tastes (and how to make it taste better),  and about a chef on an island. (No, not Lummi.) Devra Gartenstein always gives us a thoughtful, informed take on food from the other side of the counter, and I was glad to write about how she changed her vegetarian business into one that serves meat.

In the latest issue of Sunset magazine, I wrote about three of the city’s most interesting new restaurants, all run by former sous chefs taking the #1 spot for the first time. (I have a particular soft spot for this one.) In the same issue, look for my article on street carts going brick-and-mortar, and on “The New New Asian”. (”Is the Revel menu Jewish-Vietnamese (corned lamb and nuoc cham)? Chinese-British (dumplings stuffed with Earl Grey ricotta)? It’s the world on a plate, and it’s delicious right down to the chili-spiked ice cream sandwiches.”)

For Edible Seattle, I got to visit an unexpected oasis of fine food a mile from Sea-Tac Airport, and for Seattle Magazine, I checked in with the food revolution in Seattle Public Schools. (Ulp. That didn’t go over so well.) In Seattle’s Child, I confessed that being a food writer actually contributes to my  being a lousy meal planner. I’m trying to reform.

When I”m not thinking about food, I’m probably thinking about books, so it was quite a pleasure to profile The Elliott Bay Book Co. for Success Magazine. Yes, an independent bookstore as a success story. I love seeing those words all together.

And then, can we raise a glass the woman who brought books and books about food and so much more to Seattle. If you read just one tribute to Kim Ricketts, it should probably be Surly Gourmand’s, but I was grateful to say a few words about her and about The Book Larder in The Christian Science Monitor.

There’s probably more, but it’s late, and I’m heading to San Francisco for our panel. If you’re there, come say hello in person rather than on the page!

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sustainable-openspaceI’ll be in San Francisco this weekend, moderating a Greenpeace panel titled “Is Sustainable Attainable? When What’s For Dinner Can Change The World.”

If you’re in town, come join the conversation!

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51ni87rw3l_sl500_aa300_1I get asked all the time where to eat in Seattle. Now I can just point visitors (and natives, for that matter) to Keren Brown’s new book, the “Food Lovers’ Guide To Seattle“. Read through it and you’ll absorb the city’s food scene in a way you could normally only achieve by crunching thousands of the most on-target and up-to-date food tweets and reviews.

Keren guides you through under-the-radar favorites like Nettletown and Tillikum Place Cafe, super cheap eats like El Quetzal and Hallava Felafel, and the best of the rest from newcomers to landmarks. She did a colossal amount of eating out to refine her choices, but she already knew the city’s food scene well. Heck, she’s become an integral part of it herself, as the force behind the Foodportunity” networking parties and a host of other events mixing good people and good food.

Thanks to the publisher, I am happy to say that I’m giving away one copy of the book. And I’m also giving away five tickets to the book release party, at 7 p.m. July 25 at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club. The party’s sponsored by Fonte Coffee, and will feature nibbles from some fine restaurants. (Tickets to the party otherwise run $5, with proceeds going to Fare Start.)

Want to play? Leave a comment here on one of your favorite places to eat in Seattle. (And if you’re from out of town, and just jonesing for a copy of the book, tell us where you’d like to eat.) Comments will close at 9 p.m. PST on July 16, with winners chosen through random numbers.

Updated 7/18 with winners: Anna (#11), you are the lucky winner of the book! Email me at rebekahdenn at with your address and we’ll have it sent out. clow (#18), Keridwyn (#13), Camille St. Onge (#29), Aubrey (#12) and Tina (#25), you have won tickets to Keren’s party! Send me your full names and emails, and I’ll get the tickets. Thanks for playing and for the great recommendations!

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“THE TATER-MATER man’s most famous creation has been the centerpiece of salads at the nation’s top restaurants, a clue on Jeopardy, a bright flash of contrasting color on horticultural posters.

“An old heirloom variety,” one seed catalog says about the gorgeous, tangy Green Zebra tomato. “Origin: Unknown,” says another.

“Actually, its originator was Tom Wagner of Everett, a man obsessed with producing ever-better varieties of tomatoes (”maters”) and potatoes (”taters”), whose bookcase holds binders with some 50 years of careful notes on hybridization and disease resistance, whose bathtub is full of potatoes, who has sneaked a few breeding experiments past his wife onto the extended testing ground of their back balcony. (Even after nearly four decades of marriage, he says, “She still kind of hates me doing this. This is like a mistress to her.”)

That’s how I started a Seattle Times article on the amazing Tom Wagner, a man who has spent decades developing ever-better varieties of tomatoes and potatoes, including the distinctively striped “Green Zebra” on so many restaurant plates.

The Tater-Mater man kindly talked with me on a day earlier this year when his hundreds of tomato seedlings were only a few inches high. I’d love to find out how they grew, and what he learned from them to use for following years.

The full story is here, but I think Wagner’s knowledge could easily fill a book.

Other things that have been on my plate lately: In The Seattle Times, I also wrote about the fine print of food labels and the terroir of food. Also, yes, that was me writing an ode to Crisco.

In the latest Sunset magazine, I wrote about omakase dining — not the usual sort, but the way people like Ethan Stowell at Staple+Fancy are interpreting it these days.

In Seattle Magazine, I wrote about the FDA crackdown on local farms (mainly cheesemakers), and in Edible Seattle I wrote about the Tieton Farm and Creamery, one of my favorite new cheesemakers (irony noted).

Over at The Christian Science Monitor, here’s a Q&A with Jeff Benedict on his timely new book “Poisoned. And, you can often find me over at Al Dente, where I talked about cooking on a budget, when a recipe is really yours, and how annoying it gets when an “Every Day” cookbook aimed at working parents suggests a good lunch idea starts with cleaning beef hearts and simmering them on the stove for two hours. Maybe if your work involves a test kitchen, sure.

Hope your summer is warm and your taters and maters are growing strong

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42611-blog_full_380Marcella Hazan is known as “The Godmother of Italian Cooking“. But did you know that the revered, no-nonsense 87-year-old has a new title? It’s “Queen of Social Media”.  Marcella graciously answered a handful of questions from me about Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, and life in general both online and offline.  The full q&a is over here in one of my regular posts for the Christian Science Monitor.

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Modernist CuisineSo I dash into the conference room, already a little flustered from fighting traffic, and look around for an empty seat. The guy next to me sticks out his hand and says, “Hello, I’m Thomas Keller“. The guy on the other side introduces himself as Tim Ryan.

Then we went off for a thrilling 28-course dinner prepared by the team behind Modernist Cuisine, the book that’s racking up accolades like “The cookbook to end all cookbooks.”

Then I write it up for The Washington Post.


Hey! Not a dream!

I spent some time last year and earlier this year helping work on Modernist Cuisine, as did pros like Cynthia Nims. My part, as I’ve said, was that of a tiny cog in a big centrifuge. Still, it was the most fun and exciting learning experience I’ve had since college. (I was one of those people who loved college). Eating the food, after all that time talking about it with authors Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet, felt like winning Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket.

It was a fascinating dinner, not just because the food was spectacular, but because the “Cooking Lab” is the one place you could actually taste such a broad cross-section of the book’s recipes and get a vivid look at the research behind them. I don’t know any restaurant that has scanning electron microscopes, or laser cutters, or centrifuges with such power. Pacojets, sure, and maybe a Roto-vap, but a spray dryer too? (My husband used to work as a lab tech at Salk and the Hutch, and even his face betrayed a bit of equipment envy when he heard that list).

Whether you can cook all the recipes specifically as written, though, isn’t the point. I’ll never try Modernist’s cavitated “ultrasonic fries” on my own, but eating them made me think harder about Tom Douglas’s “smashed potatoes,” the game-changer in my own Sunday brunches. Even 23 courses in, I was hungry to try a home-based hybrid of the two. Chefs and culinary students and true food geeks will get the most practical use out of the book, but everyone gets some — plus an education on food and cooking. I think it’s fascinating for all of us to see what’s possible, and how to get there, and why.

My account of the dinner is here. Believe me, I know that $625 ($461.62 on Amazon) is a ton to spend on anything outside a mortgage payment or a tuition payment (which it kind of is)… but look: The Seattle Public Library has two copies on order.  At 2,438 pages, I hope they allow renewals.

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If you have some reading time, here are a couple places I’ve been lately:

I was honored that the James Beard Foundation asked me to write about a recipe of my choice from Beard’s American Cookery. That’s how the photo above came about. If you don’t want to guess what I picked from the 896-page new edition, you can read about it and get the recipe here.

I’ve been a fan of the gorgeous Edible Seattle magazine since its first issue. It has a goal I can appreciate — to “make farmers and fishers as famous as rock stars” —  and it includes some of the best food writers around. I’m so pleased to have a story in the latest edition, writing about Skagit River Ranch’s quest for “heart-healthy ham” (thanks, editor supreme Jill Lightner, for that catchy phrase).

Canlis is turning 60, and celebrated by… oh, by a super-hot treasure hunt using new media, and a super-philanthropic party. I joined the Canlis family for lunch — not at the restaurant, they make a point of meeting weekly outside the workplace — for an article in the December Seattle Magazine.

I knew I was a longtime fan of Cakespy, but it wasn’t until I wrote this profile for The Seattle Times that I realized I’ve devoured Jessie’s sweet, madcap words and artwork almost since the start. (Her latest? Watch your favorite bookstore for “the best thing to happen to butter and sugar since flour“.)

If you’ve ever thought of farming as a romantic career, read “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball. I reviewed it here for The Christian Science Monitor. And, speaking of farming books, I said for the record that you’ll feel pretty prescient about picking up Kurt Timmermeister’s “Growing A Farmer” when it starts showing up on the “best books of 2011” lists. I talked with Timmermeister here for the Monitor.

I write a monthly food-news column for Seattle’s Child magazine, and wrote there about the secret ingredient for perfect pie. I also talked with Laurie David about “The Family Dinner”.

You can often find me over at Al Dente, where I interviewed chocolate queen Alice Medrich, couldn’t stop cooking from Melissa Clark’s new cookbook, weighed in on the best baby present (John Howie’s chili, in case you’re wondering about the food connection), wondered if you would buy your nephews an Easy-Bake Oven, and felt compelled to reprint this recipe for bacon-sriracha cornbread.

Thanks for following along! If you miss the more back-and-forth conversations of my PI days (as I still do), I also spend way too much time on Twitter. I hope you’ll join me there.

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I was plenty interested in seeing what Jason Stratton of Spinasse was doing with organic tomatoes at this event last night. But the first question I hear when I say “Muir Glen” these days, I told the organizers, is when their tomato cans will be free of BPA.

The company announced last year that it would have BPA-free cans with “the next harvest,” delighting customers who are tearing out their hair trying to find ways to avoid the endocrine disrupter, but leaving them without a firm date.

Good news: “It’s already happened,” said Julie Johnson, an internal marketing communications consultant for General Mills, which owns Muir Glen. The harvest in question was the fall one, the tomatoes have already been packaged in BPA-free, non-epoxy-lined cans, and “they are literally hitting the stores now”. When the shipments are complete the company will announce the news from the rooftops. So for now, the Muir Glen tomatoes you find at the market might be BPA-free. Wait for the announcement and it’ll be a sure thing (or, at least, as sure as you can be these days). Eden Foods, an early adopter of BPA-free packaging for its beans,  has noted that their alternative cans cost them 14 percent more to produce. I didn’t ask Johnson about production costs, but she did say that Muir Glen did not raise retail prices when they made the switch.

One interesting note: Eden Foods now packages tomatoes in glass jars, citing the difficulty of finding BPA-free linings for such high-acid canned foods. I’ll update when I know more about what Muir Glen is using.

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