Friday, August 28, 2009

FoodTrek: Grilling in the City Event - For the Love of Food

Seattle is called the Emerald City, which is just a polite way of saying we're inundated with so much rain that everything stays green. But I think there's something to be said about this whole area, much like in the Wizard of Oz, that it can be a place to inspire people and find within themselves the impulse to follow their own bliss. I was lucky enough to attend the first Grilling in the City event, hosted by the Downtown Bellevue Network and 425 Magazine, at the Bellevue Towers, to sample some local food and beverages. Getting a chance to meet some of the people behind these food businesses, you get a sense that they all had a pair of Ruby Slippers of their own when they got to the City of Emeralds, and clicked their heels three times to make their own magic happen.

Trophy Cupcakes - purveyors of twee sweetness, bane of dentists everyhere - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Shea, the smart cookie, er, cupcake, behind the well-loved and local darling known as Trophy Cupcakes. It's no surprise that the success of Trophy's boutique sweetness has inspired them to make the jump to the Eastside, readying for an opening at the Bravern on September 12th. She explained that it's been a round-the-clock flurry of activity, getting the new shop prepared for the big day, but it was a nice thing for her and the cupcake posse to share both baked treats and their time with a chatty food blogger with a helpless sweet tooth. I've been a fan of Trophy not just because they have a quality product of spongey, sprinkled goodness; they get the Ruby Slipper nod because it was a business built from the ground-up, with a lot of heart and personal touches, featuring food as an experience. They have a menu of rotating flavors that evoke comfort memories and simpler times, and when you walk into their shops, they want a visitor to be fully immersed in their world of celebration, attention to detail, and the holy union of cake and frosting. I look forward to visiting the new shop when it opens. I also look forward to having another Pineapple Upside Down Cupcake, as it's not just a baked good, it's more like a baked great.

Say it with me now: Yes, you CAN haz hamburgers - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Continuing to follow the Yellow Brick Road (ok, it was just concrete), I got a chance to meet Rebecca and David Makuen, owners of BuiltBurger, who could be considered the new self-made burger mavericks on the block. They offer handmade, uniquely-flavored burgers that are frozen and shipped to one's door, ready for gatherings or any personal burger-crave emergency (hey, it happens). Recently started in Seattle, with a store in Ballard, BuiltBurger hooked onto the keen notion of gourmet offerings for a busy lifestyle, and they present their goods with a sincere understanding of a love for comfort foods. Their site describes burgers as An emotional mouthful synonymous with good times, and it's as spot-on as their burger flavors. I was surprised when I saw the frozen patties hit the grill, but once the ice melted away and the meat began to take on the lovely sear marks, the colors of their multi-ingredient burgers really came out. I know some burger purists don't like to add a lot to the meat, but I prefer strong, bold flavors, so I didn't mind when I saw burger names like Thrill BBQ Pork, Luxe Italian, or Utopia Chicken get bandied about during the event. The deep-flavored and spicy Thrill BBQ Pork, and the caramelized onion-sweet Pinnacle Bacon Bleu were probably my two favorites. I was especially impressed with their Utopia Chicken, since poultry is notorious for being dry and becoming overcooked as a burger, but BuiltBurger wisely mixed their chicken with savory, Thai-inspired ingredients that helped the meat get perfectly cooked. If burgers are as comforting as a warm blanket, then BuiltBurger takes their admirable love of comfort food and turns it into a cashmere Snuggie. With a TV remote.

BuiltBurger's David Makuen spreading the good word of Burgerology, and CUPCAKES!!! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Along with the delicious food and treats, guests were treated to an Ayinger brew, courtesy of Merchant du Vin, and a cocktail of Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea, a Southern style iced tea-flavored vodka. Both were delicious options to enjoy with the food, as well as the summer-perfect patio of the Bellevue Towers. I had not yet had the opportunity to walk through the new construction that's right on 106th, next to the Galleria, so it was a treat to be able to walk through the beautiful lobby and enjoy a perfect summer evening on their 6th floor oasis with a view.

Cheers to beers -- and sweet tea! Photos by Wasabi Prime

A very special Wasabi Thanks to the good foodie-friendly folks who put this event together: Downtown Bellevue Network for keeping us in-the-know online, 425 Magazine for keeping us in-the-know in print, Bellevue Towers for letting us hang out at their rockin' new pad, Merchant du Vin for bringing the drinks, and of course Trophy Cupcakes and BuiltBurger for serving up the good eats. Total shameless plug, but pick up the latest 425 Magazine, Sept/Oct issue -- aside from the conversation-worthy list of reader picks, a letter I wrote to the editor, hopeful for more wine adventures, was published. Yay! Thanks again, to everyone who put the Grilling in the City event together!

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  1. Wow! I love that you put dessert first! What a great event :)

  2. Looks like you have a fun time with food and booze. That iced tea flavored vodka is interesting. How do they come up with that? Read your blog makes me hungry. Gotta go eat dinner soon:)

  3. I really like the presentation and pictures on your site. the foos looks great. Please do visit my blog. I'm a novice an this is great inspiration


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