Saturday, April 28, 2012

Local Inspirations (Part I)

Someone recently inquired about where I am inspired locally.  The nuts and bolts of where I enjoy tasting, drinking, spending time and in such a way I would go back repeatedly. 

This list is ever evolving and I’ll check in periodically and share the ones that are near and dear to me.  I would love to hear about your favorites.  My dream is that when we get B&H open we’ll make someone else’s list of favorite places too.
Ba Bar: My first introduction to this family establishment was in the late 90’s with their inaugural restaurant Monsoon.  Ba Bar, the newest endeavor offers Vietnamese comfort food near Seattle University.  As you enter the front door, it feels as if you’ve walked into the kitchen.  Just a few steps away you’re among the hungry diners.  The food is outstanding.  The service is delightful. 

Beloved dish: Mung bean dumplings!
Special detail: Walking in the front door and being in the kitchen
Favorite server: Grant

Mr. Gyros:  Two brothers (Sammy & Johnny) own this in Ballard and Greenwood neck of town.  I have been in a handful of times and their outgoing, genuine demeanor greets me every time.  Most visits I am welcomed by my first name and Sammy can recall what I had on the last visit.  The Greenwood space could fit in my garage while the Ballard location has a little more elbow room, and walk-up window if you’re prowling the streets after hours.

Beloved dish:  Lamb Gyro
Special detail: Customer service!
Delicious drink: Arabic mint tea
Favorite server: Sammy (just because I go to the Greenwood more often)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Penny Profiler #17

Brad Benson and Lara Zahaba, along with their two boys Emery and Thayer.  Brad is the best big brother from another mother, I could ever ask for.  He is the methodical voice of calculated reason, and for that I love yanking his chain whenever I can.  Lara is my closest and dearest girlfriend.  Their family is precious to me.  Lara has been an extra set of eyes and ears to everything I have done personally and professionally over the last several years.  Her insight, perspective and soothing demeanor are to me like a lighthouse is to the sailor.  I am welcome in their home like another family member and if I had my druthers, I’d be a permanent fixture for Sunday supper.  As for the pennies, the pictures speak for themselves.  Their oldest son Emery was SO excited to unload them for me he could barely contain himself.  I squeal with delight every single time I look at this!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Penny Profiler #16

Sharon & Harley Doak.  AKA Mom & Dad.  It has always been the three of us.  Well, not including all the dogs we adopted growing up, but that is another story.  I love looking back at us eating dinner as a family almost every night.  I love that my parents took me out to eat as a small child and it’s something we still love doing today.  My dad is a good eater/diner but he does have limitations so mom and I explore some places without him.  I love that my mom is like MacGyver in the kitchen and can make something from nothing.  And that my dad channels Ed Hume and grows amazing produce in the back yard to support her cooking habits. 

My dad has contributed a bag of the regular pennies and a few rolls of 1943 steel pennies aka the steel war penny or steelie.  It was a variety of the U.S. one-cent coin which was struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper.

A little history care of Wikipedia: Due to copper use in ammunition and other military equipment during World War II, the United States Mint researched various ways to limit dependence and meet conservation goals on copper. After trying out several substitutes (ranging from other metals to plastics) the one-cent coin was minted in zinc-coated steel.

However, problems began to arise. Freshly minted, they were often mistaken for dimes. Magnets in vending machines (which took copper cents) placed to pick up steel slugs also picked up the legitimate steel cents. Because the galvanization process didn't cover the edges of the coins, sweat would quickly rust the metal. After public outcry, the Mint developed a process whereby salvaged brass shell casings were augmented with pure copper to produce an alloy close to the 1941–42 composition. This was used for 1944–46-dated cents, after which the prewar composition was resumed. Although they continued to circulate in the 1960s, the mint collected large numbers of the 1943 cents and destroyed them.

My folks have and will contribute far more than pennies to this project and a few paragraphs paying tribute seems hardly adequate.  As the doors open for business at Brimmer and Heeltap I can only hope that they will be regular customers that everyone else gets to know them as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Penny Profiler #15

Aimee and Chris Hirata.  I am a firm believer in surrounding myself with really good people.  It elevates my own game. Run with faster runners.  Hang out with deeper thinkers. Ski with better skiers.  Cook with excellent chefs.  Friends are no different.  They inevitably rub off and these two do just that. 

I am indebted to their insight in business, talking shop and being great cheerleaders to my endeavors.  We used to be sort-of neighbors until they had to go and build their dream home all the way out at Green Lake. Thankfully, they are worth the hefty commute.  On a recent visit to their new abode, we swapped stories and pennies.  The stories make the pennies, and this project, all the more worthwhile. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Penny Profiler #14

Gary Meikle and Mary Lloyd, or as many refer to them as The Ary’s. Jack of all traits, master of all traits. I have known Gary for well over a decade now. (Neither of us has aged a bit.) Mary, his bride of only a few years, feels like she’s been in my life as long. They are such good people with infectious personalities and hobbies. Surfing, beach clean-ups, music festivals, pizza making, beer and wine drinking/making, gardening, volunteering, and the list can go on for days. Gary is single handedly lowering the average age at the Ballard Elks club – one of the best kept secrets in the area! Mary is as smart as a whip with a consulting business in education and Gary is following her entrepreneurial spirit with a new business constructing pizza ovens (website coming soon at Their generous pennies were exchanged over a pizza fest in their backyard and I wish I would have snapped a shot of one of those amazing pies. All the more reason for scratch & sniff!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lessons from the Floor (Part II)

Table 51.  It was Sunday brunch and my section seemed to keep expanding like a bagpiper’s lungs.  I like being busy.  I don’t like making mistakes.  Everything was going along seemingly well when I realized that one table in my section didn’t have food and those around them who ordered later, did.  My stomach sank.  Was it the kitchen or was it me?  I hustled off to the kitchen and didn’t see a ticket.  My stomach sank again.  It was my fault.  I knew that I had to come clean and just break the news.  A lump formed in my throat.  I went back to the table and just laid it out on the line.  I told them I messed up.  Not the kitchen.  It was me.  I would buy their breakfast if they had time for me to actually send it in this time.  They were peeved only a little bit, they were hungry after all, AND they were sympathetic.  At the end of the meal, one woman told me that she appreciated me owning the mistake and they still tipped me generously.

Table 61.  Ms. Melvin (90 years old) and her daughter (in her early 60’s).  I would never in a million years have guessed that but they told me.  It is no secret that I have a soft spot for senior citizens, I always have.  Now that my dearest grandparents are no longer with me, I’m even more of a softy.  These two darlings joined us for Sunday brunch after seeing the exhibit.  They were keen on including me in their discussion of the Gauguin works and had no shortage of things to discuss.  They were vibrant, beautiful ladies that clearly enjoyed themselves.  Brunch started with a mezzo of red wine and a side of our amazing bacon (this was the appetizer).  They took their time, they talked, they smiled, and they dined.  The next two courses followed with another mezzo of red wine.  The two closed us down being the last guests to leave the restaurant.  Their visit warms a part of my heart that almost makes me verklempt.  What an inspiration.

These stories are all around us if we choose to see them.  I hope my sight for spotting them reaches beyond the walls of the restaurant. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Penny Profiler #13

Ryan & Jen Mrazik.  Homemade pickles, relish, jam, and pennies?  This is just how they roll and I consider myself one lucky girl.  I met these crazy kids from their devoted time in The Tasting Room.  They are a couple that you can’t help but love.  Our paths crossed just after they arrived in Seattle and we quickly moved from acquaintances to friends.  Having relocated to Seattle from the east coast, this area definitely fits them and the PNW is better off as a result.  They have just expanded the Mrazik clan to welcome their first baby boy, Harlan.  I am so thrilled to witness their new chapters unfold too.  It certainly makes this journey all worthwhile.    

Jen’s mom Janet holds a special place in my heart as an exuberant, fill the room personality, that tickles me pink every time I see her.  She deserves a shout out for the relish in the photo.  I just opened this sweet & tangy concoction to try with cheese and can’t wait to explore schmearing it on other goodies.  Janet, I adore you and can’t wait for the next Seattle visit!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Penny Profiler #12

Kristin Doll, or K-Doll as she’s so affectionately referred to.  We are the single ladies within our friendly tribe.  The two of us are often compared to the ornery old men in the Muppets.  She’s Statler and I’m Waldorf and we sit in our proverbial balcony seats casting commentary on much of life that passes us by.  We’ve become fast friends over such memorable activities like camping, Rummikub, Mexican Train, drinking, eating, strategizing new places to eat and drink, and pondering places we can travel to do more eating and drinking. 

Kristin is a straight shooting, no nonsense kind of gal with a wicked funny sense of humor, and one of the sweetest dogs in town, Louis.  Louis also happens to have his own website

Upon mentioning the penny project K-Doll broke it down for me.  “Listen, here’s 20 bucks.  I never have cash on me so I certainly won’t have pennies.  Go buy your own.”  Someone recently told me that it will take a $2.25 per square foot to build my penny floor.  If that’s true, I just amassed almost nine feet!  Thank you is an understatement! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Penny Profiler #11

Sue Stronk.  Sue is my mom’s sister’s husband’s sister.  I don’t get to see her as often as I would like and when we do, something good is brewing with the family, usually centered around the dining room table.
Her laugh and warmth fills a room.  The impressive home she’s created is a lovely extension of her personality. Her adoration of golden retrievers, the warm sun and her garden make me happy. 

My earliest memories date back to when kids actually went door to door selling things.  My merchandise ranged from candy bars, Christmas wrapping paper, canned food drive, etc.  Sue always hooked me up and single handedly helped increase my sales by a large margin.  Her recent penny donation gives me nostalgic flash backs to yesteryear even though I’m not trying to make a sales quota or compete with my classmates for the most raised this go around.  This penny collection mission is far more personal.  Heartfelt thank you Aunt Sue.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Penny Profiler #10

Katherine and Jeffrey Bergman.  Katherine (aka Kathy Reinys) grew up about 15 feet away from me.  Neighbor to the south with two other siblings and lovely parents in the aforementioned Newport Woods.  We were far enough apart in age as kids that we didn’t spend much time together.  We are close enough now to have wonderful life parallels and things in common.

Our social lives have collided with our mutual interests in great food and beverages.  Katherine and her husband Jeffrey are two of the most gracious hosts I’ve ever met.   Their pups Max & Lola did their part too (their enthusiasm was such I couldn’t even snap a shot without them wiggling).  On a recent dining adventure and storytelling evening we burst at the seams both from the A-M-A-Z-I-N-G food coming out of their kitchen, to the stories they have from their travels.  Look out Jane and Michael Stern!  Katherine and Jeffrey are the West Coast versions and I could listen to their stories all night long.  Delighted to reconnect as adults. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Penny Profiler #9

Kevin Kato.  I grew up in what is now called Newcastle.  Back in the day it was unincorporated King County.  Back then an inordinate part of the area was undeveloped and it was a great place to be a kid.  My neighborhood specifically, Newport Woods, had gaggles of kids fairly close in age, growing up together.  Kevin and his family lived eight houses away.  My first memories of Kevin date back to Kindergarten and we’re still close today. Separated by only eight houses, there are many memories of childhood antics, turned teenage, then collegiate, and now adult are a loving testament to our friendship.  There are countless stories I’d love to tell you about Kevin, some of which would thoroughly embarrass my dear friend.  I’ll just give him a virtual “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” on this one.  He did contribute pennies after all.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Penny Profiler #8

Anne Nisbet, her husband Mark Cooley and their adorable, hunk of a pup Wilson. 
Anne and I met when I debuted at the Wine Commission way back in 1997.  Anne is an event planner/facilitator extraordinaire.  She is the Culinary Director to IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration: and owner of the Cookie Box (  She knows how to juggle a lot, and well!  Her background is impressive to say the least and I’ve appreciated being witness to her professional trail blazing.  Mark and Wilson are the two men in her life that while I don’t know very well, I adore.  On a recent field trip to their home to collect their generous penny collection, Mark had his beautiful homemade cheeses ripening on various counters.  I would turn into a wheel of cheese if I had that kind of gourmet distraction within reach.  I hope Malcolm isn’t reading this, but I must proclaim my crush on Wilson.  Big time.  Wilson is 160 lbs. of drooling, mush face, love.  I know he didn’t have anything to do with their lovely penny donation but he’s so cute I had to give him a shout out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lessons from the Floor

I have been mostly working lunches at Taste these days during the Gauguin exhibit.  To be expected, I’ve overheard a few stories and been a part of a few memorable ones.  So far some of the things that will stick with me from these walls include:

Table 31.  A two top, one elderly woman and man.  They paid separately and she stayed a little longer than he did.  As I was checking back on her to refill her coffee she inquired if I was single or dating or married.  I let her know that I was single and taking applications. She told me the man she was with is her ex and what a pain the ass he is.  She encouraged me to take my time and really know what I was getting into.  I thanked her for the advice, it certainly made me smile.

Table 32.  Three generations of women sit down in my section and the hostess has already rolled her eyes at their commentary as she seats them and gives me a “good luck” as I approach.  I try to ignore those comments and form my own thoughts.  Seated is the granddaughter, her mother (I come to find out is born and raised in NYC) and her mother born in Ireland.  They fussed over trying to understand the menu and picking out something they might enjoy.  They weren’t mean, maybe a touch snarky but pretty funny and certainly direct.  I just kept my cool, smiling and explaining the menu and coming back to check on them.  They liked me.  I liked them.  The daughter explained that despite her mother’s tough exterior, she’s a softy at heart.  We joked, the grandmother told me a few stories and her daughter often interrupted.  The granddaughter looked on with mild curiosity.  In the end, the daughter expressed that she just wished people were okay being direct, happy, sad, pissed off, whatever they needed to be and that others wouldn’t be so caught up in it.  Everything passes she says and if people weren’t so worried about having to be “this or that”, I think we’d all get along just fine.  I can’t argue.  I happen to like knowing where I stand with people, where ever that might be.

My time is limited in this restaurant due to the show wrapping up at the end of April and I’m looking for the next learning opportunity.  I am thinking of another restaurant or a beer focus, any ideas?