Julefest at Seattle’s New Nordic Museum

Seattle’s Nordic heritage? It runs deep. And, it’s undergoing a renaissance thanks in large part to the new Nordic Museum, located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

Sleek, contemporary, and inspiring, this museum manages to walk the tightrope of time. In one glance, it brings the artists and current trends of the Nordic countries right before the visitor’s eyes and in another moment, it artfully looks back and shows the visitor where today’s trends are rooted and from which they came.

Formerly called the Nordic Heritage Museum and until this year, located in a turn of the century school building, the new 57,000 square foot museum is a giant leap forward and one that required a multimillion-dollar capital campaign in order to bring to fruition.

Photo Nov 17, 10 09 41 AMAlthough it opened last May, I hadn’t had a chance to visit until this morning.  It’s Julefest weekend at the museum and I knew this would be a great chance to celebrate the season and to see the new digs…for an admission fee of only $7. I purchased my tickets online last night and arrived early at the museum only to find that a line had already formed a half an hour before the 10 AM open!

Photo Nov 17, 9 58 04 AMA Nordic Christmas Celebration, Julefest brings together artisans,  purveyors, musicians, and bakers all of whom share a common Nordic legacy in one way or another.  When I attended Julefest at the old school house location last year, the event was lovely but crowded and cramped. This year? It was a complete shift.

Photo Nov 17, 10 00 50 AM (1)With the museum’s spacious interior, massive windows, and abundant light, Julefest was lively, upbeat and impressive. My first stop was to peruse the “Goodies2Go” section, which is basically the Scandinavian bake sale featuring Christmas classics such as spritz cookies, rosettes, and krumkake. I bypassed those for caloric reasons (!) and moved on to the purveyors where I found tables heavily laden with vintage Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates, Norwegian sweaters, long burning locally made beeswax candles, handcrafted wooden tools and more.

Photo Nov 17, 10 05 43 AMNext on my list was to do a quick perusal of the permanent collection, located up a sleek staircase. A sharp contrast to the permanent collection at the old museum, which was educational but dated, these galleries were bright, fresh, educational and informative while at the same time displaying many items that ran the gamut from contemporary to historic.  There were many nods to the community’s fishing legacy here in the Pacific Northwest, and I really enjoyed seeing some of the vintage items, such as old canned salmon labels and tools of the seafood trade.

Photo Nov 17, 10 22 57 AM

Photo Nov 17, 10 08 51 AMNext up? The gift shop which was very sleek and even fashionable might I say. A case of contemporary jewelry and items is right there at the entrance, while books, Norwegian sweaters, and Royal Copenhagen caught my eye.

Photo Nov 17, 10 08 44 AMNearly last on the list? I had to check out the museum cafe, Freya, which has a lovely sleek fireplace at the entrance and features updated Nordic specialties such a smorrebrod, Danish dogs, and even personal smorgasbords!

Before leaving, the last thing on the list was a gift to me. No, it wasn’t Royal Copenhagen or a new sweater. It was a new cookbook and an individual membership to the museum. I intend to visit often.

 

 

 

Banh Town in North Seattle: Vietnamese Street Food Served with a Smile

It pays to drive the carpool. It can be deliciously rewarding in many ways.

Twice a week I drive my son and his buddy over to evening lacrosse practice. En route, I get the scoop on everything from the Spanish curriculum at a local middle school to the boys’ recap on last week’s game.

Recently, one of our carpool conversations circled around food. We were talking about my son James’s favorite teriyaki joint in the neighborhood and our 14-year-old car pool passenger quickly chimed in with HIS favorite joint in the area…Banh Town.

Banh Town: Vietnamese Street Food. Banh Mi. Pho. Happiness

I was immediately intrigued by his suggestion because the place had been on my list for about two years…Will quickly gave me a recap on their pho and their sandwich selection. Sighing in the back seat, he told me their vermicelli salad was “the best.”  I think Will was in fact making a mental note to get back there sooner rather than later.

I made a similar note and this week when my husband and I wanted something light, fresh and different for lunch, I suggested Banh Town. We were soon out the door and on our way to this small, bright and cheerful little family owned and operated Vietnamese restaurant. Located at the busy intersection of Greenwood Avenue North and Holman Road and sitting right behind a Jiffy Lube, Banh Town is a treasure. The interior is bright and the walls are decorated with large  colorful photographs of Vietnam.

 

Vermicelli Salad.JPGChauanh, was our server and she is also one of the owners. Service with a smile seems to be the mantra at Banh Town and we were quickly briefed on the menu which includes an array of banh mi, pho, vermicelli salads and a variety of starters. Although I’ve been making a lot of pho during this wet and rainy Seattle winter we’ve been having, I opted to celebrate the sunshine yesterday and ordered the chicken vermicelli salad ($9.95). My husband had the five spice chicken banh mi ($6.95) and we shared two spring rolls ($7) and an order of quail’s egg poppers ($7), which were a family recipe from Grandma Le. ( I think Grandma Le might be Chauanh’s maternal grandma. We were told she is a great cook and she is cited as the recipe creator on a few of the flagship items on the menu so take note!)

Bahn MiThe banh mi arrived with a side of sesame slaw and the sandwich was light and beautifully done with a crispy airy French roll and lots of fresh cilantro. My salad was full of flavor and the skewered chicken was grilled to the perfect degree. Perched on top of cold vermicelli noodles and a cucumber lettuce combo, the chicken added a nice protein punch to the light and satisfying entrée. The quail’s egg  poppers were crispy on the  outside and the interior was subtle and comforting.

The bill was reasonable by Seattle standards and totaled less $40 with tax and tip. The restaurant  is now open seven days a week and offers takeout and delivery via Doordash and Postmates.

The restaurant’s logo touts: Banh Town: Vietnamese Street Food. Banh Mi. Pho. Happiness.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

 

 

 

Duke’s Chowder House Publishes First Cookbook

Duke Moscrip, one of Seattle’s longtime and legendary restaurateurs, has just released his first cookbook. As Wild as It Gets: Duke’s Secret Sustainable Seafood Recipes is a hefty treasure to hold. Published by Aviva Publishing in New York and clocking in with a whopping 382 full-color pages, this book shares the recipes for all of the dishes served at Duke’s Chowder House.

Moscrip opened Duke’s in 1976 and the restaurant’s flagship dish, clam chowder, was inspired by Duke’s New England grandfather and the chowder that he served to Duke when he was a child. Over the years, the business has expanded and there are now six locations throughout the Puget Sound. Chowder remains a hallmark at the restaurant but over the years Duke has expanded the repertoire to include wild sustainable seafood much of which hails from waters here in the Pacific Northwest and, of course, Alaska.

The book, co-authored with Chef “Wild” Bill Ranniger, explores the story of Duke’s…and Duke…in great detail. Duke’s salmon sourcing trips to Alaska are highlighted as are family meals with his children and grandchildren.

I only received my review copy this morning and was pleased to be offered a copy as I cook a lot of seafood in my little kitchen. I’ve also eaten at Duke’s many times and a few years ago I wrote the press releases for the restaurant.   At first glance, the color photography in the book grabbed my eye and enticed my culinary instincts.  The recipes aren’t only geared towards seafood…they obviously run the gamut from soup to desserts.

Over the years,  I’ve admired Duke’s wedge salad, an iceberg classic,  so I was happy to see Sweet Blackberry Wedge Salad on page 116. The recipe for Nothing But Blue Sky Bleu Cheese is revealed and that’s one that is now on my recipe to do list.

After a quick glance through the recipes, I realized that I’d need to get organized and dedicate a little more time to recreating some of the dishes at home. Because these are restaurant recipes, there are often recipes within recipes, meaning to make a salad you have to make a specific dressing the recipe for which is found on another page. Some people might think this is too complicated to follow but it’s the nature of the beast when you recreate chef recipes.

That being said, even though I was short on time, I soon found myself rustling up ingredients and adapting one of the salmon recipes, “Wild Alaska Salmon Caesar Shoots” found in the “Appeteasers & Shared Plates” chapter. The photo shows little blackened salmon strips tucked snugly into romaine lettuce leaves drizzled with Caesar dressing.   In the recipe introduction, Duke mentions how he loves salads but salads require a bowl, utensils, a napkin, a chair etc. He said he liked this recipe because you have all the comforts of a salad but you can eat it with your hands! Aha! That description was perfect and it was all that I needed to launch into a spontaneous cooking session.  Admittedly, I didn’t follow the ingredient list exactly because I didn’t have all the spices handy for Duke’s Blackening Spice of Life. That being said, I used the technique described and the results were excellent…perfect finger food for Super Bowl Weekend.

So if you want to add to your seafood cookbook repertoire, check out this newbie. You will be inspired to not only follow the recipes but to use them as a culinary launching pad, tweaking and testing to suit your wild, wonderful and whimsical ways.