Before we get into my epicurean adventures in the Seattle don’t forget to enter our giveaway for the cookbook Millennial Kosher by Chanie Apfelbaum of the amazing kosher food blog Busy In Brooklyn
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For Labor Day weekend my friends Ari and Jessica Hoffman invited me to come out an visit them in Seattle. Seattle has been on my high on my list of a places to visit for a long time, so as soon as my wife gave me the OK, I jumped at the chance. This was not just a pleasure trip, that is where the 100 lbs of meat come in, but more on that later.
After a long Uber ride through Chicago’s afternoon rush hour traffic I made it to Midway Airport. You should have seen the looks I got from the gate agents when they weighed my boxes, which of course were a little over weight, and I started pulling out salami’s and throwing them in my carry-on. After bribing the agents with a little 1/2 pound salami that brought with me for just such an occasion, I headed to the gate. After a four hour flight, with a baby screaming in the next row over, I made it to safely to Sea-Tac Airport. The meat made it safely as well, although it came back to me with a lot of TSA tape on the boxes. Ari picked me up in his pickup truck so there was plenty of room for the meat and we headed back to his place. After a quick bite to eat, I crashed for the night.
I woke up Friday to the most amazing view from Ari’s balcony.
I then headed out to explore the city. Unfortunately the streets of Seattle are not as pretty as the view. Seattle has a terrible homelessness problem, with many people living in tents and RVs.
Top on my list of things to see was Pike’s Place Market. According to the website, Pike’s Place Market is Seattle’s original farmer’s market. It is right on the water and is huge. It is about 3 blocks long on both sides of the street and is multiple stories. I literally let myself get lost there for three hours. You can find anything there, from vegetables to video games. They are famous for their fish monger who throws fish from a front display case to behind the counter for wrapping. It was mildly amusing, but somewhat underwhelming.
I was hoping to pick up some Britt’s Pickles from their stand while I was there (I am sucker for a good local small batch pickle), but they opened late that day. Luckily Ari and Jessica had some in their fridge and I got a chance to taste them later that weekend. Overall a very tasty pickle, but definitely not traditional. Britt’s Pickles have a whole lot going on in the flavor department. While many pickles have a dominant flavor like garlic or dill, the variety of Britt’s I tried were extremely complex.
I did find one of my favorite Chicago based pickled products there. One of the stores there carries “That Pickle Guy” products which are made in Chicago and are certified kosher by Chicago Rabbinical Council.
I wrapped up my visit to Pike’s Place with a visit to “original” Starbucks, or at least the location where the original one moved to. It is really just another Starbucks like any other, with a longer line.
After finishing up at Pike’s Place I met back up with Ari and we headed to Pabla Indian Cuisine for their lunch buffet, which had a decent selection although not excessive and included some tasty fried dumplings. It seemed like a fairly typical kosher vegetarian Indian restaurant, not unlike Gokul in St. Louis, which I visited with Rachel last year when we went down there for a kosher BBQ competition. The food was tasty overall, and treat coming from Chicago where it is not available, despite the close proximity of the Jewish and Indian populations.
Ari then took me on a quick tour of three different major grocery stores that all had decent kosher sections, although none of them had a full service kosher deli counter. Also, none of them are close to the main Jewish area.
We then headed back to Ari and Jessica’s place to get ready for Shabbat. Jessica prepared a tasty Friday night dinner, and invited several other guests for the meal, making for a great time.
Many of you may know Melinda Strauss of the great blog Kitchen-Tested . What you may not know is she is originally from Seattle and is Jessica’s younger sister. While she currently resides in the New York area, Melinda happened to be in Seattle for the holiday weekend as well, visiting her family. Shabbat lunch was at Melinda and Jessica’s grandmother’s house with the whole family. I had a some great conversations with Melinda about the future of this blog. I am looking forward to attending the Jewish Food Media Conference that she runs, in about a month. I also had a great time talking to Jessica and Melinda’s father, who is an avid cook himself.
There is a very large Sephardic Jewish community in Seattle. The main Sephardic synagogue, Sephardic Bikur Holim was having their annual food bazaar on the Sunday I was there, so know I had to check that out. There was a breakfast which included a couple of different types of homemade borekas, and I love anything with puff pastry.
There was also a lunch which included kosher burgers made by the crew from the local Fatburger, BBQ from KoGo, and cotton candy and popcorn for the kids.
Then it was time to get down to work. The real reason I went out to Seattle was to help Ari’s with his synagogue, Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath’s annual BBQ know as “BassarFest” that was held this year on Labor Day. For those of you who don’t understand Hebrew, Bassar roughly translates to meat.
The kosher options in Seattle are somewhat limited and that is why I brought 100 lbs of meat, including hot dogs, Italian sausages, salami and beef bacon produced by Romanian Kosher Sausage Company, from Chicago to Seattle. (Thank you Southwest Airlines for the free bags!) With some great help from volunteers from the synagogue we managed to get all of the sides ready for the next day.
At last the day had arrived. While the event wasn’t until late afternoon, the volunteers and I got started at about 10 AM. It was quite an ambitious menu, but we managed to get it all done just in time:
Sausage and Pepper: A Chicago classic featuring Romanian’s Italian Sausage with grilled green and red bell peppers and onions
Romanian Grilled Salami Sandwich: Romanian’s world famous salami glazed with a house made sweet and savory BBQ sauce served on a bun
Make Your Own Chicago Style Hot Dogs: A plump all beef Romanian hot dog served with yellow mustard, (but never ketchup), onions, relish, celery salt, tomato, sport peppers, and dill pickles on a poppy seed bun
Grilled German Potato Salad: A warm red potato salad topped with Romanian beef fry tossed in a Dijon tarragon vinaigrette
Grilled Chicken Wings: A classic BBQ finger food, tossed in a sweet Kansas City style BBQ sauce
Baked Beans: Sweet and smoky beans with just little kick, including some Romanian beef fry
Homemade Coleslaw: A mix of shredded red and green cabbage, carrots, and fennel, with an apple cider vinaigrette dressing
Grilled Beef Sliders: A great crowd-pleaser of mini hamburgers
We ended up feeding about 300 people and had the perfect amount of food, and thanks to the help of the volunteers, I even had some time to walk around and schmooze with the crowd. The crowd was great and it seemed like everyone was having a great time. Being Seattle, I met what seemed like a dozen software developers, which gave me a chance to geek out at bit. I work in software development for my day job.
There usually is a cooking competition that goes along with the BBQ, but despite my best efforts in creating a new format for them it failed to attract teams. Ari believes that it was caused by the fact that most of the the people that usually compete were unavailable due to the holiday weekend.
All and all, I had a great time. While Seattle definitely could use some help in the kosher restaurant and grocery department, it makes up for it with a warm community that is dedicated to their local Jewish institutions.
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