Monday, February 3, 2014

FoodTrek: Treat Yo Self - It's the Best Day/Night of the Yeeeeeear!

Kudos to all you For the Glow/health-conscious/clean livin' folks pushing ahead through January and beyond. This is not a post about any of that. This is a post about livin' large (within reason) and celebrating that most wonderful of unofficial self-proclaimed holidays that should be proclaimed as often as possible: TREAT YO SELF: 2014.

Get your disco sparkle jacket -- tis the season! - Image from NBC's Parks and Recreation

If Aziz Ansari's raddest-of-the-radsauce sequined jacket doesn't inspire you to Treat Yo Self, I don't know WHAT will. Much like all our treasured nuggets of wisdom to guide us through an uncertain future, this nugget was gleaned from television, more specifically, NBC's sitcom, Parks and Recreation. I don't even like sitcoms, nor do I watch them regularly, I just catch parts and pieces, but the famous Treat Yo Self segment has pretty much become a mantra for myself, friends and much of the Interwebs. And for good reason. You should treat yo self and put yourself first for a day. But it needs to be something meaningful. Don't eat whipped cream from the cans until you asphyxiate yourself, or max out your credit card on hideous luxury crap like this, that you know you will never, ever use. Treat Yo Self and make it count!

Eastside treats at John Howie Steak and Moksha - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I admit, I declare many Treat Yo Self afternoons or evenings. It's like taking small weekender trips instead of one huge vacation. I was pretty much housebound for most of the holidays, doing a lot of home-cooking, hosting, and just taking care of Indy (who's doing OK, if you haven't yet been inundated with the constant dog photos on Instagram). I took advantage of the holiday break lull, and before meeting with a friend for drinks, I took myself on a mini-date, checking out the post-holiday sales and giving myself the gift of All the Favorite Things. This included trying the specialty cocktail of the month over at John Howie Steak -- it was the Icelandic Rose for January, which was like having a spiced apple pie in a glass -- and settling in for a plate of their very elegant carpaccio, which has a nice dollop of caramelized onions hidden under a pile of arugula in the center to balance the savory with some sweet. It was cold that day, wandering around downtown Bellevue, I needed the spicy, warming feeling of freshly-made potato samosas at Moksha with their trio of tasty dipping sauces - tamarind, mint and a chile sauce with heat! It's one of my new favorite spots to grab happy hour food that isn't the typical burger n' fries, and they've got good drinks to compliment their spiced-up menu.

Feel the burn at Miller's Guild in Seattle - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I had a whirlwind evening in Seattle, trying out Jason Wilson's new restaurant, Miller's Guild, located in Hotel Max, along with a few other stops. I just sampled a few of their delicious bites like their amazing delicata squash, roasted beets, crab with cured jowl on toast, and rich pork belly, all roasty-toasty and delicious after a turn on their impressive wood fire grill area, open for everyone to see and admire. At the moment, it's just open for dinner, but will expand to lunch and breakfast -- be patient, Grasshopper, it's new -- and the menu focuses on hearty ingredients that can hold up to the smoky wood flavor that the fire imparts. They've got a lot of cuts of pork or big flavors like bone marrow -- it's got a great rustic butcher shop-feel, but with a beautiful bar area that has a stunning art installation of perfectly aligned wine glasses, adding a nice yin to the meaty yang. Perfect for the chilly months of winter, and I'm very curious to see how this concept works in the warmer months.

Sips and bites at Miller's Guild to start off my Treat Yo Self: Seattle evening - Photos by Wasabi Prime
As I said, it was a whirlwind night, and I was due for a cocktail at one of my favorite bars, Rob Roy, before meeting friends for a full nosh at TanakaSan. I was at Rob Roy earlier in the holiday season for the first (and hopefully annual) Nog Crawl, celebrating all that is egg nog. This night was less noggy. I ordered up a tall glass of The Huntsman, a vodka-based concoction with rum from Trinidad, fresh lime and cane sugar. A surprisingly refreshing and charming drink; you'd think it would be burly and intense, but maybe that's the point, if they were taking a cue from the old Snow White tale, where the Evil Queen sends this scary Huntsman to literally cut the heart out of Snow White because the Queen has serious is-sues, but he shows mercy and reveals a gentle soul, allowing her to escape. This drink allowed my liver to escape unharmed, as I ran off to my next stop.

A favorite watering hole for food celebs and nobodies like me - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I'm loving on TanakaSan lately. And really, why not? The atmosphere is fun with the gilded Godzilla toys (they decorated them with wreaths over the holidays) and a fun, retro vibe that carries over to their menu, which takes traditional ingredients and dishes, but mixes things up a bit. I was meeting up with friends, and this was a perfect place to gather.

Treat Yo Self to TanakaSan - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Don't be a food snob about the menu; the dishes aren't meant to be strictly to-style, they riff on classics, so be cool and roll with it like a G. If you're a strict ramen-traditionalist, their ramen with sliced Granny Smith apples and a dollop of chicken schmaltz might make you go what-the-what?, but it felt like a clever nod to the Northwest.  The food is flavorful, with the spice of chiles, garlic and ginger that you expect in Asian dishes, but presented in different ways, like fried oysters in steamed buns -- shellfish sliders? I'm so cool with that, we got a double order. Their Osaka Pancake is probably my favorite thing, which is like the traditional Japanese seafood pancake-omelet, okonomiyaki. I guess it's not strictly seafood, there are variants, but the Osaka-style typically has shreds of cabbage, green onion, chunks of yam, chopped seafood, all glued together with egg. It's a delicious pile of food, which has the extra benefit of freaking people out as it's served, as the heat from the pancake makes the sprinkled shreds of paper-thin bonito (dried fish) flakes wave like tentacles atop the omelet. Food should always have a nice element of surprise and freakiness.

Drinks, noodles, pancakes and popcorn - freak your appetite out! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I was hopping around the city so much that night, I tracked most of it on a new photo/location share app I've been playing around with, WerYoo. It's kind of like if Foursquare and Instagram got together and had a phone-app baby. You snap a photo at a place you're at, no check-in's, it just drops a virtual pin on a map, with the image you took, which is cool if you're traveling and want to photo-map your journey. It makes you more selective about posting -- no one wants to see me shopping for dog food and I wouldn't want to share personal info, like my home or a friend's. Knowing how much information can be embedded in a little photo, it's an app that encourages a bit more restraint and caution, but that's probably for the best, since, again, no one cares if I'm at Petco buying kibble.

I felt like I heartily celebrated my first Treat Yo Self mini-adventures of the year, which only served as a reminder to not forget about this glorious self-imposed fake holiday. If this post hasn't inspired you to design-your-own day, you need to Treat Yo Self to watching the original clip from Parks and Rec because damn, it's funny, yo. 

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