Wednesday, September 7, 2011

FoodTrek: Set Hunger to Warp Ten and Geek Out for a Weekend

I've made no bones about what a total smelly nerd I am. Science fiction, comics, movies, television shows, it all fits in my repertoire of nerdiferous geekitude. One odd realm I've never ventured beyond a casual visit now and then is video games; it's just never totally sunk its gryphon-like talons into me. Which is odd, as Mr. Wasabi works at a game company and we have more game consoles than televisions to attach them to. But I do make it a point to jump headfirst into the mad world of Penny Arcade Expo, an annual game convention that happens at the end of every summer in Seattle, to take some fun photos and support the company my Mister works for (Go Runic Games and Torchlight II!). This year, I decided I'd eat like a nerd, but in a fabulously Seattle way, heading over to Local 360 to geek out with one of their tasty burgers and one heck of a spicy Bloody Mary.

Eating like a locavore/nerd queen at Local 360 in Seattle - Photo by Wasabi Prime

There can be as much geek-ness about food as there are arguments over who would win a fight, Superman or Green Lantern (neither, as Wonder Woman would smack them down with her hotness). Local 360 is one of those places that's straight out of a Portlandia skit, the one where restaurant patrons ask how the chickens were raised, were they local, did someone snuggle them and tell them positive things before their necks were unceremoniously wrung for the sake of dinner. But it's not a mean joke, it's like a "funny, because it's true," joke, because the whole idea behind Local 360 and their adjoining shop next door is that everything came from within a 360 mile radius, which is pretty fantastic. It's part of the growing trend everywhere, but especially in the Northwest, to emphasize the need to eat and live sustainably. It's not just about the resources, but the businesses as well -- it's local people, working at small to mid-sized companies, farms, etc. who were involved in getting the food on those plates. Local food, local jobs -- quite frankly, this is the American Dream needing to be readjusted towards. At Local 360, there are no mass-produced products spit out of a factory from a continent away; the bread came from a nearby bakery, the produce came fresh from a local farm, and I'm sure someone said some soothing things to the cow before it was made into the tasty hamburger I just chomped into.

I have to say, in the words of Jules from Pulp Fiction, this is one tasty burger. Fluffy bun, a bit like a potato bread; pillow-soft and not heavily fussed-over, the perfect doughy cradle for the burger. The beef patty has lovely charred smoky bits, cooked medium with a bit of pinkness in the middle, and my favorite is the sweet/sour spice of their pickled peppers they add as a relish. That tangy kick makes it distinctive. You can add cheese or bacon, but I wanted to enjoy the burger on its own. Besides, I wanted to save the bacon for... the Bloody Mary. Awww yeah. I wanted to live large, Big Pimpin' Geek style, so I went to Local 360 in the morning, killing time before the Seattle Convention Center opened for Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). The restaurant is in the perfect spot, as it's within reasonable walking distance in the Belltown neighborhood, but far enough to where the hordes of people dressed like Sailor Moon probably wouldn't think to head a few blocks north. But that's fine, all the more Hot Monkey Bloody Mary for me. Yeah, when you want a Bloody Mary with bite, absolutely "Hot Monkey" it, as it'll be a wicked kick of spice and they jam a huge spear of pickled asparagus and a hefty wedge of crispy bacon as a garnish. For them, it's a garnish, but if they could somehow introduce an egg to this drink, it's a whole damn meal.

Do you covet my Hot Monkey? Of course you do - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I couldn't even finish the whole thing. I finished off my Hot Monkey (I just like saying that) and wiped a bit of spicy sweat off my brow and scooped up half the hamburger and fries to high-tail it midtown to the convention center and the PAX epicenter. I bequeathed the leftovers to Mr. Wasabi, who was literally propped up on coffee and slightly zombified from the lack of sleep -- he spent the night in the office the night before after working the first day of PAX. What a trooper, right? Of course he deserved slightly cold locavore leftovers! Such a saint, I am.

What, your weekends don't look like this? - Photos by Wasabi Prime

The belly-filling, geek-approved breakfast powered me through the whole day and then some, as I wandered through the halls filled with gamers willing to wait three hours for ten minutes of precious play time on unreleased games. I wasn't there to play so much as be an eager observer. A fly on the wall with a big, heavy camera. And copious hand sanitizer usage, because a couple of years ago, swine flu hit PAX pretty hard, no joke. Not a surprise, considering over seventy thousand bodies wandering about, questionable hand-washing habits, lack of sleep, and a diet consisting mainly of pizza and nachos. Welcome to PAX, where the P should stand for Penicillin.

That's not to say it's a bad experience, just a health warning should you decide to revel in this celebration of all things that would have gotten your butt kicked over in grade school. Where else are you going to see a walking slice of bacon, Power Rangers, Star Wards droids, and every imaginable craft-class-gone-awry homemade costume the imagination could dare to consider? It's a plethora of crazy, to be sure.

Games, delicious swag, tons of people...and a dragon - Photos by Wasabi Prime

So, what's a game convention like? A bit like a refuge for the socially awkward damned, but oddly fun. There was a zombie makeup table, which meant everyone was having their cute little cherubs get turned into the bloodthirsty undead. Any girl wearing a figure-hugging costume was getting serious play, being asked for photos that are by now all over Facebook with the tag, "my hot girlfriend." You could get super-modded computers that looked like scooters. Yeah, so that's a thing. And after several years of attending PAX, I finally saw Wil Wheaton. Yeah, Wesley Crusher/Star Trek Next Gen, Gordie/Stand By Me Wil Wheaton. But lately he's been busy as the amusingly douchey Dr. Parrish on the erroneously cancelled SyFy series Eureka (seriously, SyFy - WTF?). Walking through one of the vendor rooms we literally almost ran into him. He was wearing a fan-made cape that had fleur de lis shaped like penises. Long story short, there was a longstanding joke about not being a dick at sci-fi/gamer conventions, so that's where the cape came from. Note, the cape is meant to be ironic, he's probably one of the cooler dudes out there in Hollywoodland. And if you're aware of nerd/gamer stuff, Felicia Day was there, too. Damn, that girl is tiny! But cute as a button, and super awesome for giving the good folks at Runic Games some shoutouts over Twitter and Google +.

Droids, scooter-computers, steampunks w/ smartphones and Wesley Crusher - Photos by Wasabi Prime

So there was the epic meal and gamer-fest that was. Don't ever say that this food blogger doesn't take you to some deliciously bizarre places.

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