Geeking Out in Seattle
On June 3rd we took a road trip to Seattle and indulged in a wee bit of geeky revelry. Here, at long last, is our trip report.
1. The party begins with a cheese sandwich.
It’s the beginning of February and we’re waist deep in The Great Cheese Sandwich Controversy of 2006. Chopper’s just grilled up this crazy tuna melt extravaganza, and I’m all set to blog on it, when I see this post over on Food Blog S’cool. Andrew of Spittoon is pointing us toward free wine from the Stormhoek Winery in South Africa. Free wine? Cool! How can I pass that up?
So, I head over to gapingvoid and the free wine blurb …. and get utterly sidetracked reading Hugh Macleod’s most excellent manifesto on How to Be Creative. Now that’s what I’m talking about, I think, and promptly rewrite my first cheese sannie post, pack my bags, and run off to the crazy land of Gastroblogia.
And then, I sign up for the free wine, because first of all, duh, free wine, and second of all, this whole Geek Dinner thing is just plain cool.
Now, where to go to find a bunch of geeks?
2. Dude! Seattle!
Of course, the next thing I do is contact our good buddies over at Clawfoot Bathdog and say Hey! We need geeks! Oh, and we’ve got free wine!
Naturally, they jump on it.
Of course it helps that we offer to cook. A lot.
3. You want us to cater your what?
Because, see, not only do we seriously dig cooking for parties, but later this summer — end of July to be exact — we’re catering our first wedding. Or, to be more exact, we’re catering our first wedding that’s not our own wedding. In a word: Yikes! In four words: we need to practice. A lot. Okay, that’s six words, but point is, this party gives us a great chance to not only show off our cooking chops to our geeky Seattle friends, but refine the art (or chaos, as the case may be) of preparing great food in someone else’s kitchen.
So, we dedicate many hours in May to discussing recipes. Menu items are discarded for being too time-consuming, too messy, or too costly in ingredients. Other menu items stay on the menu despite being too time-consuming, or too messy, or too costly in ingredients. Eventually we find a moderately happy medium and begin the at-home prep work prior to packing up our whole kit and caboodle for the trip to Seattle.
And naturally we run out of time to prep everything we want to prep ahead of time, so now I know I’ll be spending at least two hours before the party rolling truffles. (Note for future reference: don’t let this happen at the wedding.)
4. Once again: Dude! Seattle!
We arrive the night before and of course the first thing we do is stay up too late. Never fear though, that’s what annoyingly grating alarm clocks are for. Next morning, somewhat bright and moderately early, we head down to Pike Place Market and complete our party shopping.
The thing about Pike Place is you don’t want to have to shop in a hurry. The thing about our recent visits to Pike Place is we’ve always had to shop in a hurry. This time, we rush through the outdoor stalls and then hit Sosio’s Produce, where we snag some mighty fine looking fruit and a couple of ginormous yams for Chopper’s mixed tempura veggie platter. I want to stay and look around, or at least snap a few decent photos, but we’ve got to run. We’ve got to hit the neighborhood grocery store and then head over to the party location by noon or we’ll never get our cooking done in time, truffle rolling or no truffle rolling.
5. Belly Timber’s Circus of Innovation and Libation.
That’s what we call it on the Geek Dinner Wiki, but in truth, libation leaves innovation at the starting blocks and hits a hundred meters in nine seconds flat. Not that we don’t hobnob with about fifty seriously cool and creative people (most of whom rarely ever update their blogs, ahem, and yeah, look who’s talking), but the topic drift from creative ventures to Damn, this pinotage rocks with the chimichurri is both abrupt and overwhelming.
Eventually we give up, give in to the great cosmic party magnet that is a fine spread of wine and food and say, screw it, let’s indulge.
Our menu, in brief
Spicy Pork Brochettes with Chimichurri
Tomato Basil Fritters
Chicken and Mushroom Pate
Chickpea and Turnip Spread
Mixed Vegetable Tempura with Soy Lime Ginger Sauce
And because you can never have too many dips at a party…
Goat Cheese Pesto
And for dessert
Dark Chocolate Truffles
Mixed Fruit with Chocolate Fondue
Regular readers of Belly Timber may recognize the chickpea spread and a variation on the fritters from May’s Paper Chef. Shame on us, repeating ourselves like that! Readers may also question the two “spicy” items at the top of the list. Well, let me assure you that while the meatballs are just spicy, the brochettes are SPICY. So spicy that I have to snag the little title card I’d made for them and change SPICY to
6. And about that libation…
There’s a reason for spicy.
We cheated. Well, not exactly cheated, but see the fabulous folks at Stormhoek sent us lots of wine and we had more of the pinotage than anything so we just had to sample it first. So, we tested a bottle, promptly loved it to death, and declared its rich, blackberry flavor perfect for a kick-ass spicy food pairing.
Oh darn, Chopper says. I have to go spicy again, what a shame.
Right. Like I can ever get Chopper to cook bland food.
Now, back at the party, granted, the libation factor is at a level that doesn’t exactly lend itself to the finer points of sommelierity (oh screw it, of course sommelierity is a word), but we do reach the conclusion that Stormhoek’s pinot grigio goes quite nicely with the tomato basil fritters, and their sauvignon blanc is a fine match for the savory chicken and mushroom pate. But the pinotage? Seriously, if Chopper would cook spicy foods every night for a year and pair it with that pinotage, I’d be in red wine heaven. Love it to death, I say.
7. And when the party’s in full swing…
…we discover our fabulous hostess has been keeping a secret from us. There’s a reason for that mirror ball in her back room and it’s not to con us into a re-enactment K-Tel’s Discomania, featuring Boogie Oogie Oogie by A Taste of Honey. No, it’s much better than that.
Because nothing screams creative amateur hour in all its exuberant participatory glory quite like a pinotagedly (yes, that’s a word too, dammit!) giddy Mrs D and Chopper Dave luring the crowd into a sing-along with the Worst Journey Song Ever.
Ah, but it didn’t stop there. Neil Diamond! Meatloaf! Ozzy! The Madonna Like a Prayer dance party! Sheryl Crow in the style of Rammstein meets Klaus Nomi!
Oh, I could go on, but I won’t. It’s far too scary. And we have pictures to prove it.
8. Again pls, thanx!
No more parties for us while we’re stuck on this rock, but oh let me tell you when we finally get back to Portland we’ve got plans. Big, crazy, collaborative plans. (Plans we can’t talk about just yet, so shuush already!)
And big, crazy, collaborative plans always go down well with wine.
And now, a brief slideshow
Photos by Mrs D and a collection of drunken revellers, shot at innappropriate camera settings, tweaked disastrously in Photoshop, cursed at time and again for their shortcomings, but hey, at least you can tell we all had a grand time!
Special monster thanks to Stormhoek for the great wine, to Hugh Macleod for setting up the whole Geek Dinner thing and for the cool swag, to our co-coordinators at Clawfoot Bathdog, to our fabulous house hostess, Dawn, and to all our wonderful collaborators in revelry!
Oh, and PS: more party pics over at Paul’s photo gallery!