2009 Seattle Noshing Review

Pam’s Trinidadian-Caribbean Kitchen
5000 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
http://www.pams-kitchen.com
This place is amazing! The food is even better. Its the only Trinidadian restaurant in the Seattle area and specializes in roti dishes served with your choice of four different curried meats or vegetarian style with garbanzo beans and potato. Pam’s also stands out for its exotic smoothies and for its Guinness ice cream! Just go for the Guinness ice cream if nothing else! What the heck is a roti? Roti is a flatbread and is kinda like a tortilla, pita and naan hybrid-mix. There are two types roti and both are popular to the West Indies. My favorite is the Lamb dhalpurie roti. Try the Goat paratha roti if you want something exotic. Always have the Guinness ice cream.

Lola
2000 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
http://www.tomdouglas.com/restaurants/lola
The hubby took me here for a date night. Lola features a Mediterranean Greek and North African flavors, highlighted by kebabs (chicken, squid, pork or lamb) delivered to your table in a sizzling iron skillet with a splash of ouzo. Go for the kebabs and dolmades. Splash it all down with a martini with olives stuffed with aged feta cheese. Yum!

Palace Kitchen
2030 5th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
http://www.tomdouglas.com/index.php/restaurants/palace-kitchen
We went here when a friend of ours came into town for a visit. They mainly serve northwest flavors mixed with Mediterranean. Their goat cheese and lavender fondue served with grilled bread and apples is super tasty. Their entree menu changes seasonally, so I can’t say if the gourmet burger I had will still be there.

Vital Tea Leaf
1401 1st Avenue, Seattle
Seattle, WA 98121
http://www.vitaltleaf.com
Vital Tea Leaf offers a modern twist on the age-old tradition of Chinese tea drinking. Modeled after a wine bar, they have complimentary “Try before you buy” tastings. With more than four hundred teas to select from, you’ll want to come back for more. They also have an assortment of tea gear such as Yixing purple clay teapots, hand painted tea sets, and tea tasting trays. Their collection of Puer cakes is amazing! Our favorite teas from Vital Tea: Blue People Ginseng Oolong, Lychee Black, and Blue Tea.

U-District Portage Bay Cafe
4130 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
http://www.portagebaycafe.com
A breakfast treat for both Sig and I, is the challah-bread French toast and a trip to the toppings bar. Another favorite is the Rancher’s Breakfast if you like to mix your platter up with protien and carbs. Its super crowded during weekends, so we go on weekdays when we have time off or when we’re planning to work from home. I hear the new South Lake Union Portage Bay Cafe has better cooks and service, while the Ballard one isn’t worth the effort. The U-District one is consistent and the original.

2009 Music Review

Dear Science is the fourth studio album from New York based band TV on the Radio. Named the best album of 2008 by Rolling Stone, MTV, and many other music critics I decided to pick this up early this year. Its been a staple on my iPhone in 2009
Alive 2007 is a live album by Daft Punk, first released on November 19, 2007. It is the second album recorded live by the duo, following Alive 1997. Alive 2007 features their performance at Bercy in Paris from June 14, 2007. The album finally won the Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album in 2009.
It’s Blitz! is the third full-length studio album by New York band Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The album was produced by Nick Launay (Nick Cave, Arcade Fire, Talking Heads, PiL), along with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. It’s Blitz was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album on December 2009
Fantasies is the fourth album released by the Canadian indie rock band Metric. Sig got this album for me on a whim at Silver Platters one spring day. In the U.S. it debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers. My fav track is “Help I’m Alive” which has kept me rolling during crunch modes.
The Fame Monster, Deluxe Edition is the second studio album by Lady Gaga, released on November 18, 2009. Lady Gaga is an amazing artist, I really would love to go to one of her concerts. I don’t think I’ve liked 100% of an album, but this is it. Most surprising track is Teeth with its gospel sounds and strong beats.
Living Thing is the fifth album by Peter Bjorn and John, released on March 30, 2009 in the UK and March 31 in the US. The lead-off single from this album is “Nothing to Worry About.” My favorite track followed by “Living Thing.”
The Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack was composed by A. R. Rahman who planned the score in two months and completed it in a quick two weeks. The soundtrack has won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, and two Academy Awards, one for Best Original Music Score and the other for Best Original Song for ‘Jai Ho’. “Paper Planes” by MIA is by far my favorite track.
The E.N.D. World Tour is a concert tour by the Black Eyed Peas. The album by the same name was released in June 2009. “Boom Boom Pow,” “Meet Me Halfway,” and “Party All The Time” are my favorite tracks. Lots of energy in the whole album great for fast pace programming work.

Anne, Alton, & ATK: Steak and Mashed Potatoes

For Christmas, I got myself Alton Brown’s latest book Good Eats: The Early Years. When I first found this show back in 1995, I was just shy of 18 years old and lamenting about how my mother’s cooking absolutely sucked. So I started cooking on my own. Sadly, I found many of the cooking shows to be boring. Alton’s show was different: Good Eats armed me with knowledge! Not just on how to prepare a single recipe of the day, but really how to cook. Good Eats was not only informative, but entertaining in a Mr. Wizard kinda way and funnier.
Good Eats lead to my discovery of Cooks Illustrated magazine, by the American Test Kitchen (ATK). My magazine archive only goes back to 2000, but I remember going to the library to scribble or photocopy recipes. I love ATK because, like Good Eats, it was very informative – again not just teaching me the recipe but also how to cook in general. I found their little side bar notes and kitchen hardware recommendations exceedingly helpful.

In 2010, I vowed to cook more at home and eating out less. So I went back to what I know and love best: Alton & ATK.

My first set of recipes of the year included Pan-Seared Rib Eye Steaks and Cognac Pan Sauce (Brown 14-15). For sides I selected Mashers (Brown 18).

The steaks required to set the oven to 500 degrees F. WARNING: do not do this unless your oven is clean!! At 500, all the carbon caked on to the sides of your oven will start to smoke, set your fire alarms off and your house cats into a mad stampede! After cooking, resting meat is important, and Alton suggests that you rest in a “resting rig.”  For my rig, I opted for the thick slices of toast so that the escaping meat juices would get absorbed into a nice side treat.

The pan sauce needed a bit more work and perhaps real Cognac, I tried to substitute Burbon, but it didn’t work out as well. The instructions also say to use a blue cheese, but I found that Gorganzola was better.

Mashers are simple enough and it turned out great the first time, though a bit wetter than what the book intended. Maybe leaving the heat on a bit longer after draining should do the trick.

For this meal, I also used my plate warming drawer. Yes, my oven has one. It’s awesome! Cold plates suck heat away from the food, so if I had plated the mashers by the time the steaks were ready and served, the mashers would have gotten cold. Not so with a warm plate!

The hubby approved of the meal greatly, though would have liked the steaks with a crisper crust. Maybe a thicker steak next time, so I can get the crust without over cooking the meat into scary well-done land.

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America’s Test Kitchen. The New Best Recipe All-New Edition with 1,000 Recipes. New York: America’s Test Kitchen, 2004. Print.

Brown, Alton. Good Eats: The Early Years. New York: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2009.

2009 Movie Reviews

Best Theater EVAR:  Cinebarre
I usually don’t go to theaters to watch movies, but since Cinebarre opened in Mountlake Terrace (and much to Sig’s delight) we’ve seen quite a number of movies. I really love Cinebarre because it removes many of the factors which deter me from going to theaters:

No Kids – yes, kids are great. But really I don’t want them crying or complaining or whining or making any noise while I’m watching a movie. Why no kids? Read below.

Open Bar – This means the whole theater is also a bar, hence folks must be 21 and over to watch a movie. There have been a number of times where I’ve been dragged to a horrible bad movie, only wishing I had a drink to dull the pain of said bad movie. Nothing says yummy like Stella’s or a Guinness.

Food – the food is far better than regular theaters. I would say not great, but I like the burgers and drinks, while Sig loves the chicken tenders. Plus they have popcorn with REAL butter, not that fake stuff.

No Ads – OMG! I had those fucking ads they run before the previews. They beat you over the head with their stick of lameness repeatedly until you’re the consumer zombie they want you to be. Instead, Cinebarre has film shorts by budding film makers for their preshow. They also take effort to theme the film shorts to match the main show. For example, we went to see Ninja Assassin, for the preshow they featured 2 film shorts: one about a female samurai and one a modern kabuki singer. If you have a mobile device you can even go online and rate the short film. How cool is that? More cool than some fucking lame ads.

The Good

  • Coraline – This was just a pretty movie and the plot was cute. I really should go back and read the book
  • Watchmen – I mainly watched it because it had eye candy and decent action sequences. I’ve never read the comics before I heard of the movie, but I did go out and get the graphic novel before watching it. I was entertained by “Southern Manhattan”
  • Star Trek – I watched this movie twice. I loved it because it was different in good ways from the original series and it contained bits of fan homage to what was already known to Star Trek.
  • Zombieland – in 2009, I played quite a bit of L4D. So I had to go watch this one. I have a hard time finding movies that will make me laugh hard.  But Zombieland nearly busted my gut!
  • District 9 – though provoking movie all nicely wrapped up in some great eye-candy. The Story reminded me of the kind you find in classic sci-fi books.
  • Avatar – best movie all around. It didn’t even feel like a 2+ hour movie and was surprised it was done.

The Suprising

  • Drag Me to Hell – this movie was far better than I expected. It was written and directed by Sam Rami. It felt like a modern day version of Evil Dead. It was the first movie of the year that shocked and made me laugh at the same time.
  • Terminator: Salvation – this is the movie they should have made instead of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Guilty Pleasures

  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – I use to watch GI Joe the cartoon as a kid. I couldn’t help but giggle my way through scenes that viewed ridiculous characters in a dramatic light. Destro just made me laugh. Did I mention that I’m an eye candy fan? I like the action sequences much more than I had anticipated. Snake Eyes is hot!
  • Pandorum – It’s been a very long time since I was able to see a space horror movie. I kind of liked this one because it reminded me of Resident Evil in space.
  • Paranormal Activity – I think I only wanted to watch it in theater so I could watch other people in the theater scream or get shocked.
  • Sherlock Homes – I love the costumes! The steampunk fashion fan girl was all giddy inside.

For Netflix

  • Surrogates – intersting, but not enough to tempt me out to the theaters
  • Ponyo – I was very tempted by the newest Miyazaki Film, but they didn’t show it at Cinebarre. I wasn’t up to encounting the middle school mafia nor the elemetary echelons
  • Nine – I usually don’t go for musicals, but i hear this one is pretty entertaining.


The Very Bad

  • Brüno – I went to this movie because Sig asked me to. I’m just glad I had two beers by 30 min in the movie, because I can’t remember much of it only the parts which were horrifyingly awful. I think I laughed at certain bits, but that was the booze laughing not me. I think I was done with my fourth by the second half.

2009 Video Games Review

There have been some really fun games in the past year. I only wish I had the time to play them all the way through. Much like last year, game publishers have decided to release the hot games at the end of the year for the holiday season.

The Good

Dragon Age: Origins – Just pure pleasure to play this RPG Strategy game. The story is rich and the world so immersive – I sometimes get that nostalgic feeling of when I was a kid reading some deep fantasy novel: lost in the visions on a page, but now with a game. DA:O is story, visual, and voice acting art all rolled into the media of a game. Relationships between characters must be nurtured. Combat is challenging, yet rewarding. Quests are exciting filled with unexpected twists. On the PC, Xbox 360, or PS3 it is worth playing it. You will not regret it. PC version runs pretty slick on my machine. I’ve heard reports that the consol versions have glitches.

Borderlands –An FPS Action game with persistent characters. This game is a hoot! After the initial network routing setup wrangling, it’s fun to play. It’s an awesome 4-man Co-Op game: kind of grindy, but very low commitment. This was my kind of game for 2009, since I was busy with work. I can pick it up for about an hour, get some good game time in and then walk away without having to think about it. Weapons, shields, and other phat lewts come fast and flowing – this is what makes the game play feel rewarding. The visual art style is refreshingly different. I was easily miffed at the lack of a loot distribution system. It’s a free for all — if you want to be nice and save something for a friend, you can’t because someone else will just grab it up. The only thing that is auto managed is cash, which is evenly divided between the party members. You can play it on the PC, 360, or PS3 – I prefer the PC version myself. The Firefly references make the fan girl in me giggle.

The Bad

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin – The original F.E.A.R was an awesome game. The sequel was such a disappointment. Maybe I had such high expectations based on the first game, which was unique game play with a captivating story. F.E.A.R. 2 was just so undistinguished and unexceptional that it felt like any other FPS shooter.

Champions Online – Like most MMOs, this puppy was half-baked when they fed it to the masses. They promised an active combat system with mouse aiming and mouse dodging, but they dummied it down and put in powers with a fast cool down timers so now combat feels like any other MMORPG out there. You have to select your target, have line of sight, and click an attack power button just like any other MMORPG. YAWN! It’s filled with about one month’s worth of action in quests – just enough to play for that first free month, but not enough story to keep you playing (and paying!) longer than that.

2010 Playlist
I didn’t have much time this year to play a plethora of games, so it gets added to my playlist for the coming year:

  • Play it Again Set – KOTOR, KOTOR 2, Jade Empire, Assassin’s Creed, and Bioshock. Mainly to prep for sequel game play; see items below!
  • Left 4 Dead 2 – I didn’t pick this one up as fast, but I did get it on sale for 40% off during Steam’s holiday sale event.
  • Assassin’s Creed 2 – They took what was wrong in first game and made it right…and in some cases better. I want to experience that
  • Bioshock 2 – I loved the first game so much and so far what I’ve seen says I’ll like the sequel. I hope.
  • Mass Effect 2 – Only the PC version. The consol version was clunky and inventory management was a bitch.
  • Heavy Rain – I just hope the story is as good as promised. I have low expectations for the game part. David Cage is the writer and director of this game. He also wrote & directed Omikron: The Nomad Soul, which I did like the story a lot, but the game play was awful. Still, Omikron is one of my guilty pleasures
  • Final Fantasy XIII – no more PS2 Graphics!!