Cathy Conner in her studio.JPGFolks with long memories will remember Cathy Conner's bakery in the Pike Place Market called Au Gavroche, un gavroche being a Parisian street urchin. When the urchin grew up, when times changed, Conner changed careers. She moved to Paris, she studied in Florence, and she became an accomplished painter. Not a "fine art" painter like Rembrandt (well, that, too) but a decorative painter, a creative discipline that requires more hard-nosed discipline than wild & woolly unstable creativity.

The decorative arts are the province of artisans with a solid background in paints and materials, in the history of design as much as the history of art. Technique, patience, an eye for color. And starting next week, Seattle will be the focus of international attention as the Salon of Decorative Arts, an international event founded in Belgium 19 years ago, will be held this year at Union Station. It's the first time the Salon has been held on the west coast of the USA. Previous salons have been held in Japan, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, England.

The 19th annual Salon will bring several dozen leading practitioners --artists and master craftsmen--from around the globe to Seattle for four days of free, open-to-the-public exhibits and demonstrations. The Salon's theme is "Seattle and the New West: Classic and Contemporary Industrial Elegance."

Live painting demonstrations, lectures and videos will introduce the ancient art of "trompe l'oeil" murals and decorative techniques like woodgraining, marbling, and other ornamentation, And before they leave town, many of the visiting craftsmen will participate in the creation of a painted mural that will be donated to the City of Seattle.

Conner is the impetus and host behind the Seattle event. King County exec Dow Constantine is welcoming the delegates. The events at Union Station are open to the public. Worth going to see.

Palcohol and Big Gulp

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Mark Phillips.jpgTwo shake-your-head stories in the nooz today, and neither one gives you much hope for humanity.

On the product development front, something called Palcohol, which purports to be alcohol in powdered form. One packet equals one drink. Various flavors (Lemondrop, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, etc.). Imagine your next camping trip! Football games! The alarmists are at it as well, "Think of the children!!"

The supposed inventor of this powder is Mark Phillips, a TV entertainer whose book is called "Swallow This."

Think of the physics, people. Alcohol is 40 proof ethanol, which is a liquid. There's no such thing as "solid" alcohol. It's a hoax. A pretty good one, because who doesn't want to carry around an emergency ration of booze, but a hoax nonetheless.

4/22 UPDATE: "Regulatory approvals for Palcohol are withdrawn." Now we'll never know.

On the Big Gulp front: A customer spent $400 on dinner at Art of the Table but brought along her own soft drinks, purchased (at a server's suggestion) from a nearby Seven-11. Afterwards (afterwards!) the chef complained on Facebook about the Big Gulp cups on the table.

So here's a thought: If you don't like the idea of customers bringing Big Gulps cups into your restaurant, why not just serve Cokes yourself? What about "Just say no" when the customers ask if they can bring their own soft drinks? No need to escalate the issue to a DefCon Three (Yelp-FB-Twitter) confrontation.

We have separate issues here. One: should a customer be allowed to bring outside food or drink into a restaurant. My answer is no, except for special bottles of wine (and expect to be charged "corkage") or dessert for a celebration (and pay "cakeage"). Two: should servers have suggested a way around the good-sense ban? No. Three: should restaurant owners be dicks and criticize their customers on social media? Never, unless they want to be held up as dicks & douches for all to see.

Tinello lunch.jpg

A tinello, in Italian, is a larder, a pantry. A closet for food. It's a word like any other kitchen term, like padella (saucepan) or coltello (knife). But in Noo Yawk there's an actual restaurant called Tinello, whose owners have a warped view of their own importance.

When a dude named Rudy LaValle opened a spot in Pioneer Square last year and called it Tinello, the Noo Yawk guys freaked out and had their lawyers send LaValle a "cease & desist" letter claiming they owned the Tinello name. And like a total doofus, LaValle caved in.

Now, my original impression of the Pioneer Square Tinello was less than four-star. It lacked focus, its food was uninteresting, its wine list dull. But LaValle launched a quick Kickstarter campaign to "finish" the place and relaunch with a new name,


Radici are not radishes but roots. Rah-DEE-chee. Went back there for lunch the other day, before they changed the sign, and it was yummy, Especially the caprese plate. A fine addition to Seattle's Sandwich District.

Babcock Ridge & Two-Gun vineyard.JPG

Last year at about this time we reported on the newest AVA in Washington State, Ancient Lakes. Much was due to the imagination and perseverance of Dr. Vince Bryan, the neurologist-turned-grape grower who personally excavated The Gorge amphitheater as well as planting the vineyards for Cave B. But he didn't do it alone. Butch and Jerry Millbrandt, brothers and enlightened farmers, did much of the heavy lifting: 2,300 acres at a dozen sites in the desert sands of eastern Washington. That's their Babcock Vineyard in the photo above.

Now the Millbrandts have decided to make the move from growers to wine makers. The Capital Press reports that they're investing $6 million in a crushing facility to be built at the new Port of Quincy. Their label will be called Ancient Lakes Winery. You might think Washington is all wined out, that Walla Walla and Woodinville are saturated with "wineries" that are basically glorified gift shops with a limited inventory. You'd be wrong.

Bill the  Butcher hog butcher.jpg

You will note, please, that Chris Marquez is covered in tattoos and piercings, yet wears a tie when he's in public. He's a butcher by trade and training, and works for Bill the Butcher, a chain of six shops in the Seattle area. Last night, in Wallingford, he made short work of a 200-lb. hog from Tails & Trotters, a farm outside Portland, Ore.

With saw, scimitar and boning knife, Marquez first removes the head, then the jowls (guanciale, highly prized by Italian chefs), the coppa, or neck collar, then the trotters, then the hocks. Shoulder, rack, loin. (The butt isn't the pig's butt but its shoulder, in butcher-speak.) Ending with the hams, at the back end of the animal, skin on, skin off, smoked, boneless.

If you're content buying your Easter ham at Safeway or Freddie's, if it doesn't matter to you where they get their meat or how the frozen carcasses were rammed through a bandsaw, then you'll be put off by the prices at a custom butcher shop. But if you care about what you put on your plate and into your mouth, well, that's a whole different story. The difference per serving is probably less than the cost of a beer.

At the Northwest Foodservice Show this week, Seattle-based Corfini Gourmet and Portland-based Nicky USA were also touting the virtues of meat without chemicals. This just might be the moment for a heightened awareness that chickens, goats, lambs, pigs and beef can be raised humanely.

As for Bill the Butcher, the fledgling company seems to have weathered its latest storms. Its ceo, J'Amy Owens, just announced plans to open 10 stores in Oregon.

Full moon? Eclipse?

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I don't know, the moon was there last ngiht.


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