Jane and Michael Stern are coming to Benaroya Hall Tuesday as part of the Seattle Arts & Lectures series. I wrote a bit on Al Dente about whether the Sterns and their Roadfood writings are still relevant in the age of Yelp. (The answer: Heck yes.) 

The last time the Sterns came to Seattle, I had the happy task of trying to share some of Seattle’s best Roadfood bets with them. It was surprisingly tough, as I discussed here

In the three years since that tour, though, Seattle seems to have added another layer of eating out, a new willingness to expand beyond the fine-dining and into the just plain fine. This time, I’d send the Sterns any number of new places — Lunchbox Laboratory, Skillet, Marination Mobile, just for starters.

Where do you think they should eat? And if you want to dine with them, albeit in fancier digs, they’ll also be speaking at a fund-raising dinner to benefit Arts & Lectures at the Palace Ballroom Monday night.

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I’ve been impressed with the events food-lover Keren Brown organizes around town, from the Foodportunity networking nights to meetups with visiting authors. I’m glad to be part of her first “Foodportunity Expression” seminar, a food writing class that I’ll lead at Andaluca restaurant from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Jan. 16.  We’ll cover a range of topics, including effective writing and meaningful restaurant criticism, hands-on exercises and critiques, standing out in a crowded field, and finding inspiration.We’ll also enjoy lunch together, with pintxos cooked up by  Andaluca’s Wayne Johnson.

Here’s a link to the full details. Want to join us? Sign up here. (Cost: $99, including lunch). I may be the official speaker for the day, but I can already see that some wonderful writers will be part of the group, and I’m looking forward to a great day of conversations and questions and constructive criticism.

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pennyworkshop21My husband and I took a food photography workshop with Penny De Los Santos earlier this month (you’ve seen her work in Saveur and National Geographic and various cookbooks), organized by the amazing Seattle Bon Vivant. It’s been interesting exploring photography: When I started out as a journalist, the antiquated expectation was that the writer would stay out of the photo planning, leaving that entirely to the professionals. Later, some of my favorite photographers to work with were those who enjoyed collaborating, helping me understand how they translated or supplemented a story with images. But now, writers really do need to understand enough about the mechanics of photography to take at least passable pictures on our own, even if we’ll never rate as pros.

My big step into improving my (zero) baseline was taking a 10-week Introduction to Digital Photography class at the professional Photographic Center Northwest, where we learned to take our cameras off manual, to learn about shutter speeds and depth of field and other fundamentals. (This was my final project.) Food photography is such a specialized field on its own, though, and Penny’s class got me thinking about food pictures again, eyeing what other people do and trying to figure out how they got the effect they did, trying to break down their photos the same way I analyze the words of writers I admire. 

I also remembered that we don’t even necessarily need a class to improve. Just the practice of photographing the same object and comparing and critiquing our results, as we students did with Penny at Spring Hill, was enormously instructive. We could do the same with a group of friends at any meal.

Here’s a more detailed writeup I did on the class over at Al Dente Blog, and here is a link to a Flickr page of photos from participants (we still need to get ours up there) and links to blog entries by others who wrote about the experience. I especially enjoyed this post by photographer Paula Thomas, who compared Penny’s approach to another food photography workshop she took this year. Funny how interesting it is to see how others describe the same event in words as well as pictures.

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Let the bidding begin! It’s time for the sixth annual Menu for Hope, the food-lover’s ultimate fund-raiser, and this year’s prizes look fabulous. 

The raffle raises money for hungry people, in the form of donations to the UN World Food Purchase for Progress program. Raffle tickets cost $10 apiece, and can be applied toward any prize you find tempting in the mix of swag and edibles and equipment and classes from some prominent (and generous) food bloggers. This year’s list of temptations includes personal photo workshops from professionals like Matt Armendariz and Lara Ferroni, dinner for two at Ad Hoc, an afternoon of foraging with Langdon Cook, six jars of Pim’s amazing marmalade, a 7.75-lb leg of acorn-fed Berkshire cured by La Quercia, a $449 home sous-vide machine (I’ll be writing more about this one next week, as I just test-drove a model), a jar of the sourdough starter Clotilde uses in her Paris kitchen, scads of signed cookbooks, and much more. 

Some of the prizes depend on location, so don’t bid on the private chocolate tasting at Rococo in London or a 10-course degustation at Attica in Australia unless you’re prepared to travel.

 Chez Pim has an overview of the fund-raiser and a link to the sites hosting prizes around the world (some of which can be shipped anywhere). Gluten-Free Girl is hosting the West Coast bids, so check out her post for a list of what’s available here.

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Always dreamed of writing a cookbook for a major publishing house? How about… well, contributing a recipe to a group cookbook? Winners of a cookbook contest at Foodista.com will have their recipes in a Foodista cookbook published by Andrews McMeel in 2010. I wrote about it in today’s Christian Science Monitor, over here.

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We’re finally seeing more Seattle chefs compete on reality TV, now some of our amateur cooks are going to get a chance too.

Master Chef, the new Fox TV reality show featuring Gordon Ramsey, is scheduling auditions in Seattle for Jan. 10. The Hollywood Reporter calls the show, based on a hit show in the U.K. and Australia,  ”a culinary American Idol” where contestents around the country will create dishes for a judging panel to consider. 

The key prerequisite for applicants: You can’t be a professional cook. They’re looking for “amateur chefs, passionate foodies, the ultimate dinner party host/hostesses.”   

Want to get a jump on the process? Not too intimidated by the idea of working with Mr. “SHUT IT DOWN”? Email masterchefseattle@gmail.com, and give the casting folks your name, age, occupation, current photo, contact number and a brief description of your cooking experience and style. Put Seattle, WA as the subject of the email. The Seattle casting call will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Sur La Table in Kirkland, 90 Central Way.


*updated 12/10

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I probably am a foodie, by any definition of the word, but I’ve always hated that term. I wrote here in today’s Christian Science Monitor about whether I’m alone, and whether there might be a better word to use.  Nominations?

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One of the things that surprised me the most about the massive salmonella-related peanut recalls earlier this year was how many of the people we think of as “the good guys” got caught in the mess along with everyone else. Small, local companies, trying their best to source high-quality ingredients, wound up using the same nuts as the country’s biggest chains, from a company that reportedly knew it was sending out contaminated goods.

I wrote in the Sunday Seattle Times about how companies get caught in the national food distribution web, and how some locals are trying to disentangle themselves from it as best they can. We looked at why CB’s Nuts will never be another Peanut Corporation of America, and how Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream is making its add-in ingredients by hand, from fresh caramel sauce to cookie dough. 

The full story is online here.

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Sounds like Marination Mobile won that Good Morning America contest for the nation’s best street food cart! The crew is planning a celebration with the GMA cameras for a live shot just hours from now, at 4:15 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 22), with champagne, spicy pork tacos, and potentially spam ‘n eggs. All the early risers (or late-to-sleepers, as the case may be) are invited to celebrate with them, at Rex’s Garage by the Seward Park PCC, 5059 Wilson Ave S.

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What’s that we were saying about street food cred? Marination Mobile, home of the kalua pork slider, is up for Good Morning America’s “Best Food Cart Challenge.” (Here the GMA cameras are, taping the truck in Fremont earlier this week). The winner will be chosen through a combination of online votes and a judging panel; you should be able to vote for the cart online tomorrow, Saturday, at this link. The GMA website is woefully short on details, but apparently Portland’s Garden State food cart also made the final four, and Marination says the other two are in New York and Virginia. (What? No KoGi?) We think Marination deserves our vote out of more than hometown pride: Who else, on getting the news, would tweet “We cry kimchi tears of joy!”

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