Food and dining resolutions for 2016

Cooking with umami and seeking out other cuisines top my list

By Seattle Mag


December 28, 2015

As a new year draws close, I’m supposed to vow to exercise more, find a worthy cause, and make more me time.

While those tasks are on my resolution list, they’re not at the top.

Cooking with umami is.

As Seattle magazine’s food and dining editor, I spend a lot of my time thinking about eating better and dining out with intention. The ultimate goal is to pass those morsels on to you, dear reader, like tiny kisses of Hot Cakes’ smoked chocolate chips (Ooooh, resolution No. 1: I vow to finally bake with those instead of popping the whole bag in my mouth).

Here are my others:

2. Cook with umami. I don’t mean make Japanese food at home. We certainly have the Japanese to thank for the word that describes the scientifically-recognized fifth taste, umami. Umami is meaty. Umami is earthy. Umami adds a richness to almost anything, as Amy Pennington showed us in her August article featuring Ma’ono’s Mark Fuller and his favorite ingredient (fish sauce). So many cultures source it and as a result their food simply tastes more savory. Now, food importers, like Marx Foods on Queen Anne, are jumping on the trend and bringing us the best of the best, whether it’s salted anchovy extract or white truffle oil from Italy, ground shiitake powder from Japan, or a tube of Laura Santtini’s Taste No. 5 Original Tomato Umami, made from the paste of tomatoes and black olives. I’m using them all. Good restaurants for umami: Altura, Mollusk, Naka.

3. Eat more sexy vegetables. If I eat out three times a week, you can bet that two if not all three of those meals had their highlights in the vegetable starter, vegetable entree, or vegetable side. It’s not just the micro-seasonal aspect that fresh tastes best. I think chefs are finding super unique and flavor-packing ways to enhance vegetables using fermented goodies, fish and meat broths, and the aforementioned umami. Add the beautiful colors and unbeatable textures and you have very seductive food. Eat for yourself: The Carlile Room, Salare, Ernest Loves Agnes.

4. Visit more non-Asian ethnic restaurants. I get it, Seattle. Regional Asian and Asian fusion is your happy place. But, when you venture to other cosmopolitan cities, you realize you haven’t had an exceptional kabob back at home in a while. Or Ethiopian. Or a freakin Spanish pixto or Indian dosa. So, here’s my next resolution: Instead of having another bowl of pho, seek out these other cuisines. These restaurants may not dot every corner, but we do have them, and, sometimes, they’re quite good. For example: Cafe Turko, Traveler’s Thali House, Adey Abeba.

5. Treat myself to lunch more often. There is no longer an excuse for eating leftover office donuts and packaged ramen for lunch in 2016. Not with everyone getting in on the fine dining on-demand trend: Caviar, Bite Squad, Peach, Gather (with former La Spiga chef James Pech) and PrimeNow all want you to eat better during the day. This year, we also got Uber Eats, which brings everything from sandwiches (Paseo) to organic salads (Bounty Kitchen) and dumplings (Vostok) curbside for $10-$12.

Told ya I’d make more me time. Happy New Year.