Restaurant News: Time-saving trends for putting together a meal

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Walls of sauce at Double D Meats.

Trends in the air:

The restaurant business is booming, and not just in Edmonds. More than ever, folks eat meals away from home. Great for our economy, and for our farmers, as the fruits of their labors appear on the porcelain plates at the local eatery.

The USDA reports that consumption of food prepared away from home plays an increasingly large role in the American diet. In 1970, 25.9 percent of all food spending was on food away from home; by 2012, that share rose to its highest level of 43.1 percent.

A recent article in the Washington Post noted that less than 60 percent of suppers served at home were actually cooked at home last year. Only 30 years ago, the percentage was closer to 75 percent.

Working parents present entrees — on paper plates — at the dinner table, prepared at the local deli or as take-out from the nearby restaurant. Time-saving trends — a simple salad served up from a cello bag. When consumers do shop for the ingredients at a grocer, it is more apt to be a specialty shop, a local bakery, butcher shop, green grocer or cheese monger.

Restaurant News noted on a recent visit to Mountlake Terrace that across the street from the closed Rogers Market, there is a whole shopping area with individual purveyors and shops. These shops supply most food items found in a traditional grocery. I’d visited this complex to do a review on the Diamond Knot Brewery. When I pulled into the lot, I noticed not only the Double D Meats, but Snohomish Pie Company, and to the right of the brewery, Paradise Market complete with a vegetable stand and a new Chinese restaurant, Mandarin Chili (reviewed below).

Double D Meats not only has a full supply of meat and cuts, but aisles of shelves crowded with thousands of condiment bottles to season the finished product when it comes off the grill, or to add a kick to the stewpot.

Recent My Edmonds News commentary involves the local IGA’s conversion from a traditional grocery store to more of a mini mart, with the addition of a hardware store in the other half of the space.

Not enough grocery business? Is this a trend?

To-go items from the Cheesemonger’s Table.

Downtown Edmonds has its share of specialty shops. Grab a sandwich and a bowl of soup at the Cheesemonger’s Table for lunch and buy a dozen locally sourced eggs. Want an omelet? Fresh cheese choices are in the case. Pasta, bread and condiments to go with the meal you plan for that evening, perhaps more convenient than a stop at another store.

Bill the Butcher’s closure was not due to the quality or content of the cuts offered. Sadly, mismanagement of funds for the butcher business brought about its demise, and a great opportunity for local restaurant Salt and Iron, which now occupies the space.

Edmonds establishments offer baked goods. Edmonds Bakery’s tasty treats grace the tables for birthdays and special occasions, and everyday their buns and cookies are utilized right next door at their burger place — bopNburger.

Baked goods, scones and other pastries are available at coffee cafes like Walnut Street Coffee. Greens, vegetables and fruits, offered throughout the season, along with various dairy products and a plethora of proteins, condiments and other foods, can be found at our local Edmonds Museum Summer market. Country Farms, open from March through Christmas right on the corner of 228th and Hwy 99, does a brisk business.

Restaurant News has to confess, I belong in that 40 percent group that takes advantage of meals cooked outside the home. The phone number of a certain big orange food truck, cough, Here and There, cough…is on speed dial of the cell phone. Duties of reporting the news in our local restaurant scene takes its toll too. I mean all those “to-go” containers do stack up in the fridge. I’m lucky to have a rich variety of cuisine and so close by.

Chowder Chatter

Shrimp corn chowder.

Here’s some history on the source of this weekend’s Edmonds Clam Chowder Cook-off event.

The crucial item, stated in the research articles I read, is the cracker. Who knew? Chowder crackers, or oyster crackers, are slightly less salty than a saltine and are a must, to be served with the cream chowder, right along with it culinary cousin the oyster stew.

Did you know — the State of Maine tried to ban tomatoes forever from the recipes. In the 1930s, Maine State Representative Cleveland Sleeper actually introduced a bill into the local legislature to make it illegal as well as a culinary offense to introduce tomatoes into clam chowder. He was not successful, but here is a link if you’d like to read the whole story of the “war on chowder.”

The word itself is thought to come from French word chaudron or the cauldron, the type of cooking or heating stove on which the first chowders were probably cooked. Some theories also point to the English word Joker for the fish peddler.

In New England, Clam Chowder Day is Jan. 21; however, Edmonds has its own chowder caper planned for Feb. 25. (Details of our Edmonds Chamber event, including spoonful-by-spoonful descriptions of all the delightful entries and, of course, the winners in each category, will be reported in a separate column Saturday.)

Here’s an apt description from an old salt:

“Regarding chowder- when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh sweet friends hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams scarcely bigger than hazelnuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit and salted pork, cut into little flakes. The whole enriched with butter and beautifully seasoned with salt and pepper.”

— Herman Melville

More excuses to party? Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday” is Tuesday, Feb. 28

To celebrate, Spud Fish and Chips in Edmonds offers a free small Cajun sauce for anyone who “likes” them on Facebook and posts a photo.

And 190 Sunset is offering specials from Executive Chef Clive Gomez all Mardi Gras long, including Mardi Gras King Cake and classic Cajun and Creole favorites like gumbo, jambalaya, hurricanes, and more. There will be a masquerade party with live music on Saturday night, Feb. 25, from 9-11 p.m., and all-day happy hour drinks from Sunday through Fat Tuesday.

New Chinese eatery in Mountlake Terrace:

Green onion pancake at Mandarin Chili

Mandarin Chili opened recently at 23202 57th Ave. W., Mountlake Terrace. Owners state they’ve had some bumps with opening, it still is a bit unfinished inside, but I can attest — the food is fabulous. Challenges with the website, hosted by a separate entity, have frustrated owners. Hours are posted incorrectly too; the owner says call for reservations or place to-go orders at 425-771-5531.

We ordered a green onion pancake for starters. The crispy triangles came with a gingery dipping sauce and shredded cabbage — nice touch to fold veggies into each wedge and  we gobbled them up.

Mandarin Chili soups.

Fresh soups taste homemade. Egg flower is loaded with strands of egg, afloat in savory broth with tiny kernels of corn. The hot-and-sour was ordered as a bowl with the intention to take home the extra — well, that disappeared almost as quickly as the cup of egg glower! Spicy broth loaded with tofu pieces, cloud ear mushrooms, shredded bamboo shoots, still tooth tender. The spice level was perfect.

Honey walnut prawns.

Honey walnut prawns feature a creamy sauce over crispy walnuts and super tender prawns. Not a stray shell on those prawns either, which made it even more delightful to eat.

Vegetarian chow mein.

My partner ordered the veggie version of chow mein. So generous a portion, it was shared with me and we still took half of it home. Colorful vegetables, tender noodles topped with the house-made chili bits. These were tossed on the grill and browned to perfection and sprinkled throughout the dish. The spicy chili oil on the table is homemade as well and really added interest to the dish without becoming overly hot spice-wise.

Service is prompt, friendly and attentive. Requests for refills on tea, which was a nice pot of a green Jasmine, kept us warm and happy. Steamed rice is included with combination meals and lunch specials, but otherwise an extra expense at $1.50.

Locals have already discovered Mandarin Chili. We noticed a large group that the owner says “meets there every Saturday.” We will certainly be back too.

— By Kathy Passage

Kathy Passage Hi ResA specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the food and restaurant scene in Edmonds.

5 COMMENTS

      • I meant Aisle… but DD is an Isle unto itself too. Lester’s vision for a complete butchery shows in the expanded offerings and additional products. I love that the Snohomish Pie Co. next door uses DD Meat for their sandwiches. Can’t get more “local” with ingredients.

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