Monday, September 2, 2013

Mixed Plate: Summer Lovin', Happened So Fast!

For as much as I complain about the heat of summer, or rather, our inability to adjust to the return of the blazing orb in the sky called, The Sun, it's probably the most active time of the year for us Pacific Northwesternites. I literally couldn't keep up with the summertime points of interest on the blog, so I decided to hit the Montage button, and just say a big, huge THANK YOU, SUMMER! Because it'll probably take all winter for us to recover in time for next year's summer. Despite the waning days of August, we'll likely have a summery September to look forward to. Summertime - Onwards!

Unbelievable Northwest summer sunsets! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

The summer season had a hiccup-filled start, with unusual temperature spikes as early as May (well, early for us), and then a return to typical chilly, gray days. Temperatures normalized around mid June, which worked out well for our typical summer kickoff event, the Father's Day Brewfest, put together by the Washington Beer Commission. This was their second year at Marymoor Park, giving them more space and access for food trucks, which made it more of a beer and food event. Having people tumbling about in the hot sun, tipsy on beer, and no food in sight is not a good idea, so the growth of this festival has definitely been for the better. I was very pleased to enjoy the Indian fry bread tacos from Off the Rez, and the guilt-ridden gravy-topped poutine from Skillet Street Food. There were other food vendors as well, but fried tacos and gooey fries were the goodies that appealed the most to my beer-brained state of mind.

Viva la food trucks at beer events! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Summer is also the time for a ton of food/drink festivals. I've covered wine events like Pour on the Plaza or Hootenanny on previous posts (both are awesome wine events, do go if you've never been), but I wanted to make sure I tried new things this year. Poor scheduling on my part always resulted in my missing Wine Rocks, but wanted to make sure I checked it out this year. Held at Bell Harbor, along the waterfront, this is an all-encompassing wine/spirits/beer/food/music event to showcase and celebrate the local makers of delicious things, set against a waterfront backdrop. Winemakers are the majority of pourers, but this year had quite a few distilleries. I did have my samplings of fine summer wines, but I took the opportunity to talk with the spirit-makers, like the folks at Captive Spirits, who makes Big Gin, and a bourbon barreled Big Gin, which I highly recommend giving a try; and I talked to the folks at Bainbridge Organic Distillers, who make Battle Point Whiskey, which a friend turned me onto their whiskey, and it's one of my new favorites. They also had a ton of food trucks, which was a nice way to sample a bit of everything, but I went straight for Lumpia World's new special, a Hawaii-style mac salad with fried Spam. Awwwww yeah. You know I had to get that! It came with a couple of their crispy-delcious lumpia -- I had the lemongrass chicken-filled ones -- and my appetite was too sated to try anything else. I seriously wished I had several stomachs, as there were some fantastic food trucks in attendance this year, like Jemil's Big Easy, Marination Mobile and Monte Cristo (who's sadly moved on to Portland, but hey, Portlandia's not so far away, and their cheesy goodness is worth the drive!).

A spirited time at Wine Rocks, with Spam mac salad rocking the house - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Speaking of mobile foodery, the nice weather makes for easier food truck-spotting around the city. Baseball season means there's a Mariners game almost every week, so the stadium area in the South Downtown area of Seattle stays pretty busy. The popularity of food trucks means food truck "pods" pop up regularly around busy neighborhoods, like South Lake Union and Ballard. If you work Eastside, Microsoft has key locations on their main campus where trucks also congregate.

Food truck-spotting in the stadium area of Seattle - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I found myself in the stadium area on a regular basis over summer for work reasons, so I made sure to check out the Stadium Food Truck Pod that congregates along Occidental Avenue, in front of the CenturyLink Stadium, aka, The Clink. CenturyLink's website posts what trucks will be there on certain dates, but it's not accurate -- schedules change, stuff happens, whatever. Head to Twitter to see where the food trucks of Seattle are at any given time. Follow your favorite food truck Twitter feeds, of course, but if you just want an overview of where trucks are, I like reading @SeattleFoodTrk's feed; they're good about RT-ing other truck's feeds and based on where you are that day, you can see what's close by. On my exploration of the stadium's food truckery, I had tasty fish tacos from old favorite, El Camion, who makes delicious tacos and leaves out an impressive spread of salsas and sauces to top your order. I also got to chow down on what Jules from Pulp Fiction would undoubtedly deem "one tasty burger," from The People's Burger. It really was an outstanding burger -- meat was cooked perfectly, still pink in the middle, and you really tasted the flavor of the beef. They don't overly-season the meat, they let the fresh beef speak for itself. And it speaks beautifully, with intelligence, diction, and freakin' deliciousness.

The official opening of summer - Fourth of July, aka Blow EVERYTHING UP - Photos by Wasabi Prime
June is like Seattle's "soft opening" for summer, but July is when the public/grand opening of summer in the Northwest begins. For many years running, the rule has always been the weather can be finicky from May through June, but oddly, the Gods of Summer grant us this one, glorious moment of decent weather so that we may blow stuff up with abandon on July Fourth. We tend to keep a low profile on ID4, staying close to home, possibly watching Will Smith defeat aliens, and not bothering to grab a spot for the now-dwindling public fireworks shows in the surrounding cities. Some friends were kind enough to let us unleash hell at their place, which had ample acreage for a ridiculous-sized bonfire, a safely-distanced concrete basketball area for fireworks, and plenty of room for us to lounge around, grilling meats and eating way too many hamburgers and hot dogs. When people are shouting to throw another door or a fallen tree onto the bonfire, you know this was exactly the kind of freedom our Forefathers envisioned.

The hot day food you don't think of, but should -- SUSHI! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
When summer brings the heat, we turn into giant wimps. I certainly do. I pretty much stop cooking, or I do weird things like cook dinner in the morning and just reheat with a microwave or the toaster oven when dinnertime rolls around. Which is why the notion of having sushi instead of cooking over a hot grill is a brilliant thing! Sure, you have to cook the rice, but a rice cooker doesn't heat up the kitchen much. And most of the filling is typically served cold and/or raw. You could honestly fill it with whatever fish or vegetables you like. It's wonderfully refreshing when it gets too hot and the horrible realization sets in that nobody has air conditioning at home. A friend  who spent time in Japan was sweet enough to throw a sushi party, which was a pretty fun way to get introduced to making your own makizushi  or cylindrical roll-style sushi. The rolled sushi is probably the easiest to do; with a few rounds of practice, sushi-rolling novices were feeling very comfortable with the process. We had brave sushi-rolling souls at the party, getting wild and crazy with fillings, like adding Cheetos. Surprisingly, the crunch is quite pleasant, similar to the tempura-fried fillings in some rolls -- you barely taste the cheesy flavor. For reals, they were good!

If DIY sushi (or Cheeto sushi) isn't your thing, I found myself escaping a hot day in the cool bar area of Wasabi Bistro, on 2nd Avenue, near the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. They have outdoor patio seating that faces the street, but I was craving cool inside-air for the Inside Kid that I will forever be. They do traditional-style sushi, but I dig their unique, piled-high rolls like the Pretty Python, filled with crab, shrimp tempura and topped with seared salmon, asparagus and shaved shiitake mushrooms -- a visual feast, to be sure. And discounted during Happy Hour, which is a perfect time to try some of their specialty rolls.

Eating and drinking well in the Wood-hood - Photos by Wasabi Prime
There are many nights where I just want to enjoy what's relatively close to home -- I often find myself in the Woodinville, aka, The Wood-Hood, as my friend Radish lovingly calls it. I was at Redhood Brewery's preview night for the opening of their renovated Forecasters Pub. They did a really great job on the redux -- I love the new central bar area, made with reclaimed wood, rescued from the Boeing plant. It's got a more relaxed, cozy-industrial look, settling more comfortably into the concrete/steel structure that was always a part of the building. Their Tuesday trivia nights are great when the weather gets gloomy, but for now, enjoy the outdoor seating and savor those precious days of beer drinking at sunset. I also love visiting The Station Pizzeria, who celebrated their first anniversary this summer -- much well-deserved success for a place that makes delicious fresh n' funky pizzas, as well as tasty things to keep you cool on a hot day. Their deviled eggs and the Brussels sprouts salad with walnuts and shaved Parmesan are hot weather favorites. That salad is pure magic, and the eggs are on their happy hour menu that they debuted earlier this year. The happy hour 8-inch pizzas are perfect for sharing with a friend, but I admit to being able to eat a whole one myself. No judgement.

As the sun sets, so does another summer in Seattle - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Don't think of this summer love letter as a swan song. There are still good times to be had, we're not expecting a blizzard by midweek, but you can tell the days of summer are waning with the shorter days and a little bit of a chill in the air as the sun sets. September is nearly here (scratch that, September IS here, I just wrote this post in August) -- one of my favorite months, actually -- and it's the perfect combination of summer and fall. The farmers markets will still be flush with harvest goods, the last flavors of summer will linger, and every spectacular sunset will just be a reminder of how incredibly lucky we are to live in such a gorgeous, food-and-drink-obsessed place! To all my dear friends who have shared this summer with us, THANK YOU.

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