Remember Pigs On Parade?

“Prosciutto & Melon” on a sidewalk in Belltown, summer of 2007

You might recall the concept, back in the summer of 2007: local artists created fiberglass sculptures based on Seattle’s Ur-Piggy Rachel, which were sold to raise money for the Pike Place Market Foundation. One such sculptor was Colin Reedy, an Oregon furniture designer also known for a couple of ride-em “Pork Choppers.” This particular creation, titled “Prosciutto and Melon Pig,” should have been positioned at a deli counter like DeLaurenti, not on the sidewalk in Belltown next to, gulp, the pork-free Tandoori Hut.

Where will it lead, all this “On Parade” stuff? Cows in Chicago, Cows in Zurich, “Sound of Moosic” cows in Salzburg, Vach’Art in Paris, nutcrackers and ponies in downtown Seattle, more piggies in Cincinnati, ducks in Eugene, salmon in Salem, hearts in San Francisco, donkeys and elephants in Washington, DC, bulls in Torino, Italy, lions in Lyon, lions in Venice. Whales on Parade to raise money for ocean research? Rats on Parade for urban sanitation?

What brings this on is the outrage in Rome this week over a new porcine sculpture, Porchetta, which drew the ire of animal rights activists and was vandalized within hours of its installation. The municipal authorities removed the offending artwork forthwith, but the story is far from over.

Don’t Cry for Me

Eva Duarte, who grew up in poverty on the Pampas of rural Argentina, married Colonel Juan Peron in Buenos Aires in 1945, a year before his election to the presidency. She quickly won the adulation of the country and became the voice of its “shirtless” masses, the descamisados. Evita died of cancer in 1952 at the age of 33.

Evita’s generous spirit inhabits Belltown’s historic Queen City Grill, which has been refurbished during the pandemic by the indefatigable Seattle restaurateur Marco Casas Beaux (a string of Argentine steak houses) and his business partner, designer Liliana Edwards of Restaurant Bar Design Group. The new name is Boca, same as Beaux’s older spot on Broadway, and he has given it a similar menu focused on charcoal-grilled steaks. Edwards reimagined the inside of the restaurant as informal yet clubby, with dark walls, leather banquettes, and bright spots of flowers. The restaurant’s celebrated back bar feels familiar but is entirely new.

The mixed grill at Boca in Belltown.

In the kitchen, grillmaster Luis Torrez puts out huge portions of grilled meats. The $40 parrillada, or mixed grill, featured an enormous pork chop, a small chicken, a couple of housemade sausages, along with half a dozen cuts of beef (New York strip, skirt steak, rib-eye, short ribs, tenderloin, and so on). The selection, which really should be shared by a couple (or more) hungry diners, is delivered atop a brazier of live coals.

Happy Hour is expected to begin as soon patrons can once more sit at the bar. Highly recommended: the beef empañadas.

The property at the corner of First & Blanchard had been home to Queen City Grill for decades. It closed for good a couple of years back and the owners, Steve and Jennifer Good, sold the property to restaurateur and music promoter Linda Dershang. Before she could build out her new concept (a place like Capitol Hill’s Linda’s Tavern), the pandemic hit and closed everything down. When Casas Beaux offered to take it over, Dershang agreed. So now it’s Boca.

Boca Restobar & Grill, 2201 First Avenue at Blanchard. 206-268-0528

Poisson d’Avril

It began in France, they say, the tradition of calling the first of April “April Fool’s Day.” Something to do with the old Julian calendar (that started the year on April 1), perhaps, a day to play practical jokes on those a bit slow to catch on. The French call it poisson d’avril, April fish, as do the Italians, pesce d’aprile. Slap a dead fish on your buddy’s back: like calling him dumb as a post.

Well, this year, as it happens, Easter once again falls on a Sunday. And it’s too early in the season for football, so what are families going to do to pass the time while they wait for the turkey or the leg of lamb to come out of the oven? May I suggest a parlor game?

Let’s consider the many ways we mistreat our food, shall we? Cruelty to vegetables, for starters.

Pity the parsnip. Artificially germinated, forced to sprout in a furrow, nurtured (if you can call it that) in a bed of manure, raised with indifference, virtually ignored until it reaches market weight. Then it’s thoughtlessly deracinated, mechanically decapitated, mercilessly skinned, and, in a final act of stultifying callousness, boiled alive.

Fruit and veg of other species fare no better. Corn is stripped from its parental cob. Parsley is hacked to death. Spinach is chopped and creamed, potatoes routinely whipped, pumpkins eviscerated, grain thrashed and flailed. Who’s there to coddle and console a carrot? Provide foster-care for an orphaned banana? Instead, there’s jubilation when cherries are doused in alcohol and set afire.

Think about this: by “harvesting” a string bean, we’re kidnapping the plant’s children. What does it do to our humanity, when, three times a day, we kill vegetables just to feed our voracious animal appetites?

Cruelty to vegetables ought to be a serious concern, but it’s hidden from view. Farming and gardening appear to be so natural, and questioning “nature’s way” isn’t politically correct. But lower taxes on farmland means higher taxes for the rest of our property. Plants require a lot of water, and water’s not cheap.

Look it up: I’ll bet farmers use more than their share of sunlight, too.

The Starbucks Mermaid

The Starbucks mermaid doesn’t have a name, but her creator does: graphic artist and advertising guru Terry Heckler. In the 1970s, the Seattle-based Heckler would brainstorm ideas for the new coffee company that his creative partner, Gordon Bowker, wanted to launch.

It was Heckler who came up with the name, a reference to Mr. Starbuck, first mate aboard the Moby Dick. “Seattle being a town settled by seafaring Scandinavians, we wanted to evoke the siren-song of the sea,” Bowker recalls. The name sounded right, so Heckler started looking through old books for illustrations of sirens, sprites, water nymphs, mermaids. The earliest version was brown and fierce-looking; her breasts had nipples, and her tail was forked. Eventually all that softened. and Heckler’s original, bare-breasted sea serpent became a friendlier melusine, then the current iteration (no longer a seductive siren, more of a mermaid).

wrote about the evolution of the company “mark” a couple of times over the years. Along the way, Starbucks not only ditched references to coffee in its logo, and, in a move that still seems shocking, even removed its own name from the logo.

Heckler told me, at the time, that it was “a horrible misjudgment” to remove the words Coffee and Starbucks from the logo. “Now she just looks like a princess with a crown on her head.”

That may be, but a new story in FastCodeDesign.com described what happened when the global branding firm Lippincott took over in 2011. The problem with the face, they decided, was its symmetry. It was too perfect.

So they made the tiniest tweak: the mermaid’s left eye drops down just a tiny fraction lower than the right eye.

“In the end, just for the face part of the drawing, there’s a slight asymmetry to it. It has a bit more shadow on the right side of the face,” says design partner Bogdan Geana. “It felt a bit more human, and felt less like a perfectly cut mask.”

Like fashion editors airbrushing photographs, the Lippincott designers pushed, pulled, stretched, even recolored their model  “In the end we decided that giving her a mythical, mysterious, alluring quality was something we wanted to retain,” Geana said. But a perfect mask would turn the mermaid into a Barbie Doll. Hence the deliberate imperfection. 

Heckler is retired and had no immediate comment on the FastCoDesign story. In addition to Starbucks, his clients included Rainier Beer, K2 Skis, Panera Bread, Cinnabon, Ivar’s, New Balance, and Red Hook.

When his clients hit the big time, they “usually go public and have to work with an agency with international credentials.,” he told an interviewer in 2011. “Then we do special projects work for them.”

The Bitter, the Sweet

Let’s start with the sweet. Two friends, Armen Tertsagian and Mark Balaban, who had immigrated from Armenia in 1918, became fruit growers in Cashmere and co-owners Liberty Orchards. In 1945, at the conclusion of World War II, sugar rationing came to an end in the United States. Tersagian and Balaban recalled a sugar-dusted candy they had known in their childhood, a treat called rahat locoum. The English translation is Turkish Delight.

Now they had all the raw materials at hand to recreate their childhood treat: bountiful crops of gorgeous apples and apricots as well as sugar. For a couple of decades, they sold their confections, which they dubbed Aplets & Cotlets, at roadside stands in the Yakima Valley. Then came the World’s Fair in Seattle, and suddenly they found commercial success. Until now.

For the past three years the owners have tried to sell the business, to no avail. So they will simply close the doors on June 1st. That’s it. Buh-bye.

WAIT, WAIT!! The owners now (June 1st) think they’ve found a buyer, so they’re going to stay open, at least until the deal goes through. It’s in the P-I.

My Dinner with Jim

The NYT ran a nice profile of Jim Haynes, who died last week at the age of 87, back in 2012. Five years earlier, I wrote this profile for Cornichon.org:

On the phone, Jim Haynes invites me to come for dinner on Sunday, something he’s been saying to visitors for decades. By now, well over 100,000 people–most of them total strangers–have accepted his invitation. mostly, but not exclusively, American visitors. [Another 25,000 have been added over the past five years.]

In a not-particularly-fashionable neighborhood in the southeast quadrant of Paris, a high metal gate swings open. You walk into a courtyard and enter a high-ceilinged artist’s studio. Jim is on a stool next to the stove, welcoming new arrivals (or on the phone, talking to strays who got lost). By 9 PM, the apartment is crowded with perhaps 75 or 80 guests.

The three-course menu is unpretentious and tasty: salad, boeuf bourguignon over pasta, ice cream with poached pears. On the landing, you help yourself to decent, bag-in-box wine. And you meet people, you converse. Jim makes sure of that. He calls out names. “Pierre, talk to Julie! Mitch from Cleveland, right? This is Suzanne. She lives in the neighborhood.” He doesn’t refer to his guest list, has it down pat. “Ronald, Seattle, Bruce, Seattle.” Bruce ignores me; he hasn’t come this far to meet neighbors.

A few of the guests are newcomers, some come regularly, others whenever they’re in town. To be sure, some are just cruising, but many are couples. “It’s a nice way to spend a Sunday night in Paris,” says a Belgian expat.

“Ronald, you speak French. Sit over there by the bookcase with Martine and Danielle!” They live in the suburbs, tell me they’ve heard about Jim’s soirées for years, finally decided to see for themselves.

Jim is from Louisiana, a theatrical type (as if you couldn’t guess), clearly enjoys his role as stage-manager. Why does he do it, this whole permanent floating crap game of an international dinner party? A pause, a smile. “Why not?” he answers.

A fine obituary, in The Guardian, is here.

The Midnight Ride of Oscar Mayer

The venerable New York Times, trying to expand its world-view, has discovered hot dogs. Specifically, the Oscar Mayer “Wienermobile.” Cute feature today that reprises a piece I posted on Cornichon.org two years ago [pause for a moment of respect].

Here’s a link to the Times piece.

And here, by popular demand, is mine:

60 dogs long, 18 dogs wide, 24 dogs high

Deep breath, you can do this. After all, it’s just a Chevy truck with a fiberglass hot dog on top, right? There are six of them around the country, each with a two-person crew, recent college grads with a one-year assignment to roll around in the Wienermobile. You remember the jingle that came out in 1963:

My bologna has a first name
It’s O-S-C-A-R
My bologna has a second name
It’s M-A-Y-E-R.
I love to eat it every day
And if you ask my why I say
’cause Oscar Mayer has a way
With B-O-L-O-G-N-A !

But what about Armour? Their jingle came out four years later.

Hot dogs, Armour Hot Dogs
What kinds of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?
Big kids, little kids, kids who climb on rocks
Fat kids, skinny kids, even kids with chicken pox
Love hot dogs, Armour Dot Dogs
The dogs kids love to bite!

Oscar’s Wienermobile happens to be in Seattle this weekend for a couple of promotional appearances. Seafair? The Wiener crew (“Hotdoggers” Habanero Hayley Rozman and Anthony “Tony Bologna” SanMiguel) were not aware of that little event. Wait till they try to get that 27-foot dog across the floating bridge!

There really was an Oscar Mayer, a butcher from southern Germany who moved to Chicago in the 1880s and started a successful sausage company. His descendants sold it, and ownership eventually passed into the hands (the maw?) of the Kraft-Heinz conglomerate. Which at least has the decency to hire doctors and scientists to test what goes into and comes out of the company’s products.

But look, I was in Italy couple of years ago, in Bologna, to be precise, and what they enjoy in Bologna is called mortadella. No baloney. It’s considered the finest of Italy’s many cured meats (salami, prosciutto, etc.). Here’s the piece I wrote back then.

The hot dog, on the other hand, came from Vienna, hence the name Wiener. Okay, gotta go, the Blue Angels are after me.

Southport’s Outdoor Dining

For all of Seattle’s love affair with the water, you have to wonder: why are there so few actual waterfront restaurants? I can list them on one-and-a-half hands, in fact. Okay, downtown waterfront is expensive, but only one spot in West Seattle (Salty’s) with a skyline view? And a disappointing record for the Ship Canal (Ivar’s Salmon House is fine, but Hiram’s closed years ago). The situation is even worse for restaurants along the shores of Lake Washington. West side of the lake, north of the Ship Canal, nothing. South? Leschi offers Daniel’s Broiler and Meet the Moon. On the eastside, there’s the Beach House and Le Grand Bistro in Kirkland. I get it, you’re supposed to order takeout and eat on your yacht. Not.

Change of perspective. A Renton bureaucrat named George Coulon, who ran the city’s parks department for several decades in the mid-20th century, had a vision. He found an abandoned and littered tract of railroad property close to the Boeing plant at the south end of Lake Washington, 23 acres in all, and determined to make it into something. A swimming hole, sure, but more than that: a sanctuary for the folks who worked and lived at the south end of the lake. Coulon died in 1978 after a 30-year career with the City of Renton, but his dream of a great park was just getting started. First, funds were found to buy another 32 acres. Then, a bond issue raised nearly $10 million to get the park fully designed and landscaped. The Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park was dedicated in 1982, and what a spot it is.

Inside the park itself, an Ivar’s and a Kidd Valley. Outside, it’s big time: first of all, the Peyrassol cafe, owned by Sachia Tinsley and Scott Cory. (Tinsley’s sister Sabrina and her husband Pietro Borghesi own La Spiga on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.) More recently, Seco Development. has built a $325 million project for Hyatt Regency (350 rooms), 400 new housing units, 700,000 square feet of office space on the adjacent Lake Washington frontage, which is named Southport.

The idea is to lure corporate offices away from Bellevue and Seattle with rental rates that are 50 percent lower and amenities (like a boat dock) you can’t find atop the Columbia Center or the Paccar Tower. Plus, the restaurants. The Hyatt has a “Marketplace” for basic groceries, a bar & grill at water level, and a fine-dining spot, Water’s Table, overlooking the dock. Bellevue’s high-rise office towers are on the horizon, silhouetted in the setting sun.

Ryan Olivas (formerly of the downtown Hyatt Regency) along with chef de cuisine Thomas Sheehan have taken over the kitchen at this spot, now three years old, and have a new menu; it’s a simple, straightforward set of standard appetizers and entrées, all very well-executed.

Crab cakes, $18, could have used a sharper aioli, but the oysters, $36 for six kushis, came with a splendid mignonette. The cedar-planked salmon, $32, (wild, brought in from New Zealand, consistently high quality, reliable year-round supply) was quite flavorful. The steak-frites, $34, was a hefty slab of teres major, a shoulder cut similar in tenderness to a petite tenderloin that’s become a go-to cut for bistro chefs. More-than-decent potatoes. A lovely apple crumble, $9, topped with vanilla gelato, for dessert. A by-the-glass wine list that offers satisfaction, from an unpretentious sparkler to a hefty red. (But why was there no orange peel in the Negroni?)

A side note regarding the salmon because it’s the one surprise on the menu. Not for quality but for provenance. We’ve become so accustomed to “wild Alaska salmon” on local restaurant menuus that we cringe when the source of our fish is anything other than US waters. Granted, Cordova, Alaska, is some 1,300 miles from Seattle, and New Zealand is over 7,000 miles. That said, Ora salmon couldn’t be better, in terms of low-impact and high quality.

It probably doesn’t matter much that Boeing’s 737 factory, the sprawling industrial development that anchors Renton, is ailing. Water’s Table starts serving socially distanced lunch this week, which is all the more reason to meander down the shores of Lake Washington.

The shame of Evian in 1938

It was 82 years ago this week, July of 1938, that delegates from 32 countries met at the French resort town of Evian to consider the most pressing problem of the day: what to do about the growing number of visa applications from Jews seeking to leave Germany. The Nazis wanted to be rid of its half-million Jews (less than one percent of its population); the problem was finding a country that would welcome them.

The United States, which had called for the conference, hoped that other countries would find a long-term solution, but was unwilling to ease the draconian immigration restrictions enacted by Congress in 1924. After the first five years of Nazi rule, 150,000 Jews (my parents among them) had managed to flee the country. Now, half a million more were looking for an escape route; what they needed were not exit visas from Germany but a country willing to take them in.

No other countries stepped forward. Most feared that an increase of refugees would cause economic hardships. Only the tiny Dominican Republic expressed a willingness to accept more refugees.

The conference lasted a week and ended in failure. The German government was able to crow how “astounding” it was that foreign countries criticized Germany for their treatment of the Jews, but none of them wanted to open the doors to them when the opportunity arose.

Even worse: a year later, a Senate bill to rescue 20,000 Jewish children failed to pass. Historians blame widespread racial prejudices among Americans–including antisemitic attitudes held by officials of the State Department.

My trip to Lake Geneva two years ago was sponsored by Evian’s PR company in connection with the opening of a new bottling plant.

Rose Ann Finkel, 1947-2020

Rose Ann Finkel, an ebullient, indefatigable patron of good food and drink, and longtime CEO of the Pike Pub & Brewery, died yesterday of bone marrow cancer. Her husband Charles, also a fixture of Seattle’s beverage scene, announced the news in a message to family and friends.

Rose Ann, a native of New Orleans, was 73. She had received a bone marrow transplant eight months ago, but in the end the procedure didn’t save her.

* * *

Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Charles and Rose Ann Finkel opened their Pike Pub & Brewery. It’s such a fixture at the Market, you’d think it’s been there forever, but there was a time, not that long ago, when fewer than half a dozen national breweries supplied the entire country with “lawnmower beer” and maybe half a dozen artisans and idealists—Sam Adams in Boston comes to mind—were making what they called craft beer. It was a classic struggle between industrial, bottom-fermented lagers and flavorful, top-fermented ales, between standardization and individuality. In the end, as we know, it was the consumers who won. Local artisan beers flourished, and some, like Red Hook, even formed an unholy alliance with the big boys to get national distribution.

In this fomenting vat of yeast and mash stepped the Finkels, who had decades of experience navigating the currents of beverage sales. Back in Oklahoma, Charles had been an early champion of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines and was hired to run the company’s national sales effort. Arriving at the same time was a young marketing whiz, Paul Shipman, who became Ste. Michelle’s brand manager. Later, Charles started a company called Merchant du Vin, which, despite its name, imported nothing but craft beer, while Shipman went on to run Red Hook. Then the Finkels started a tiny craft brewery on Western Avenue, which over the years grew and grew to its current location, a multi-level, gravity flow, steam heated brewery and brew pub.

The Finkels sold everything, “retired,” and embarked on bicycle trips to the food capitals of Europe and Asia, but they ended up buying the place back a decade ago, with Rose Ann as president. They hired a serious brewmaster, Drew Cluley, and quickly restored Pike Brewery to prominence. The family-friendly pub features a dozen or so brews on tap, a vast array of bottles and mixed drinks. Down on the brewery floor, several bourbon barrels stand alongside the stainless steel trappings of a craft brewery that produces 9,000 barrels a year. (At 15.5-gallons a barrel, that’s about 1.5 million 12-ounce glasses or bottles of beer. Sounds like a lot, but Budweiser probably spills more every day.)

Rose Ann was one of Seattle’s most prominent foodies. She and a couple of pals owned Truffles, a specialty food store in Laurelhurst; she was chief operating officer of Merchant du Vin, started Seattle’s Slow Food convivium, and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. In addition to his passion for craft beer and fine wine, Charles has a remarkable talent as a graphic designer, specializing in marketing materials for breweries. He’s also a writer, photographer and world traveler; his design shop website is a hoot. But his favorite stories still revolve around wine.

On vacation in California decades ago, the Finkels paid a call on the wine writer Leon Adams at his home in Sausalito. “Pay attention to the Yakima Valley,” said Adams. (Shades of “Go north, young man.”) Eventually, as Ste. Michelle’s sales manager, Finkel found himself sorting through resumés. One was from a promising microbiologist who’d just returned from a year in Europe. “My claim to fame,” Finkel says, “is that I called Bob Betz back.”

In 1998, having sold the brewery (hah! we know how that turned out) the Finkels became active in the Slow Food movement and traveled to Italy to participate in Salone del Gusto in Turin and at the University of Bologna, where they judged the Slow Food Awards.  They served artisan, American cheese at ‘Cheese’ in Bra in September 2001 because the cheese makers who were planning to be there were unable to fly. They became the leaders of the Seattle Slow Food convivium.

Rose Ann was an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization of women leaders in food, beverage, and hospitality whose mission is education, advocacy, and philanthropy. She contributed the section on beer to their cookbook, “Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier: At Home with the Women Who Shape the Way We Eat and Drink.”

In October 2015, Rose Ann and Charles were honored with the Angelo Pellegrini Award in recognition of their contributions to the world of food and drink.

“We have had a wonderful experience for almost 52 years,” Charles says of Rose Ann. “She had a lot of friends, a lot of people who loved her. She made a really great impression on everyone she met. I miss her, obviously. But I’m very happy she died in peace surrounded by people who loved her.”