Sunday, December 16, 2007


Well, the end of the year is almost here, which means that it's time for bloggers everywhere to put together their "Best of" lists. Everyone loves being a critic, and nothing is more satisfying for bloggers than to dish out their opinions on unsuspecting readers; it makes us feel smart and important. In keeping with that grand tradition, I am presenting you with my annual list of the best (and worst) restaurants of 2007. Obviously, I can't include all of my favorite restaurants, so I am limiting it to the places in Seattle that I tried for the first time in the past year. Also, keep in mind that most of these are not new restaurants, but they're new to me, and that's what counts.

Best (in no particular order):
Monsoon- Very nice Asian restaurant on Capitol Hill. A little pricey, but worth it. Everything was delicious, and the scallops were the best I've ever had.
Fu Man Dumpling House- About a quarter of the price of Monsoon, but equally satisfying. The green onion pancake was awesome: layers of soft dough, pan-fried to perfection. Actual Asian people eat here, unlike Monsoon.
La Spiga- Very large, industrial-looking space, but comfortable and stylish. I had some kind of gooey pasta dish with cheese and ground a really good version of Hamburger Helper, if you can imagine that.
Wing Dome- I avoided this place for so long due to a particularly bad chicken wing experience (not at the WingDome) many years ago, but this place has fantastic wings. The least-gay restaurant in Seattle.
Ohana- Hawaiian/Japanese restaurant in Belltown. I had a bento box with some of the best beef teriyaki I've ever tasted. Lots of tacky Polynesian decor inside, if you like that sort of thing.

Kona Kitchen- Terrible Hawaiian food, sort of like the opposite of Ohana. The Kalua pork was soggy and salty, and everthing else tasted like it came out of a can. The place looked sad and run-down. Owned by a former child actor, which probably explains a lot.
Kalia- I went here because it's owned by the brother-in-law of one of my co-workers, and it's in my neighborhood. Indian food is usually fairly dependable, but not this place; everything was awful.

So there you have it...the best and worst of Seattle. Feel free to send me any tips on your fave/least-fave eating establishments. Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Heart Katamari

Hey! It's me again. I'm sure you've all been wondering what Mr. Concord has been up to recently. Well, the Christmas season has kept me pretty busy. You know the familiar drill: dressing up in Victorian clothes, making homemade candy canes, poring over the L.L. Bean holiday catalog. But this year I've started a new tradition: playing video games. I'm not much of a gamer, but I was recently introduced to the charms of the Xbox, Wii, and Playstation. Take it from me, you don't have to be a greasy-haired teenager with poor social skills to enjoy the sublime pleasures of Halo 3 and Super Mario Galaxy. These are time-wasters of the highest order.

Of all the games I've tried, by far the most bizarre is a Japanese game called Katamari. The object of the game is to maneuver a sticky ball around and roll over as many objects as possible, causing them to get stuck to the ball. Gradually, as you roll over more and more objects (starting with small things like sushi but eventually moving up to entire houses), the ball increases in size. The winner is, to paraphrase an old AC/DC song, the one with the biggest ball of all. This all may sound rather silly and childish, but what puts the game over the top is the surreal humor that permeates the whole production. It's one of those things that probably makes complete sense to the Japanese but comes off as completely fucked-up to everyone else. In other words, it's total genius. Check out this clip of the intro.

That's all for now, kids. Stay warm and be good, okay? Santa is watching you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Birthday

Today is is the birthday of Jaleel White, who turns 31. Both a comic genius and a master thespian, Mr. White is best known for his groundbreaking role as the autistic character Urkel on the T.V. show "Family Matters". Through his harrowing portrayal of a mentally disabled teenager, Mr. White paved the way for future depictions of idiots, geeks, and simpletons in the popular media. Here's a brief clip of his work on YouTube. Urkel became so popular in the mid-90's that he inspired the creation of a strawberry-and-banana-flavored breakfast cereal called "Urkel-O's"; to this day it holds the distinction of being the only cereal ever to feature a retarded child as its mascot.
Although his acting days are mostly behind him, Mr. White continues to stay in the public eye via his website, a brilliant example of artistic restraint and minimalism in its own right. He also writes a blog about the NBA. Happy birthday, Jaleel!

Monday, November 19, 2007

B is for Bacon

Hey there! I hope you had a nice weekend. I thought I'd include a photo of myself, since a lot of you folks out there in blog-land keep writing me and asking what I look like. And you wouldn't believe the number of times that people come up to me in airports, grocery stores, fancy restaurants, etc., and want to know if I'm "that guy who blogs about grapes". Yes, it's me, and no, you can't have my autograph. I wear about twenty pounds of gold chains around my neck; do I look like I have time to chit-chat with internet geeks? Sorry...I didn't mean to sound like an ungrateful jerk. I love each and every one of you. But seriously, get a life, okay?

Anyway, if you've been reading the comments section of this blog, you may have read about something called BaconSalt. I was planning on writing a lengthy post on this subject in the near future. Thank you, El, for stealing my thunder and tipping everyone off to this new discovery of mine. I might as well tell you about it anyway, so here goes: BaconSalt. Let me say it again: BaconSalt. Have you ever heard such a beautiful word in your life? Trust me, folks, if you ask for just one thing this Christmas, make it a bottle of BaconSalt. And I'm not the only one who is in love with this stuff; I spoke with a supermarket clerk recently, and he explained that the store sold out of three cases the previous day. I was lucky enough to grab one of the last two bottles on the shelf.

BaconSalt comes in three flavors: Original, Hickory, and Peppered. I've only tried the Hickory version, but I'm already a fan. It's basically bacon-flavored seasoning salt which can be used on meat, pasta, cooked vegetables...hell, put it on just about anything and it'll probably make it taste better. As the logo on the label says, "Everything should taste like bacon". Damn straight. I'm putting a bottle of this stuff on the table for Thanksgiving; I'll be surprised if it isn't empty by the end of the day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Get On The Bus

Hola amigos, and welcome to another edition of Concords Are Better. Today we're going to learn about taco trucks. That's right, I'm talking about those four-wheeled cookeries of Hispanic heaven that are scattered throughout the parking lots of this great nation. Even a pasty-faced gringo like me can appreciate the charms of eating Mexican food served from a vehicle; it's a culinary experience that crosses all racial bounderies. And since this blog is all about busting stereotypes and increasing cultural awareness, it's an appropriate topic for this week's post. So dust off that sombrero, hop into your lowrider, and let's roll!

Although Seattle is not exactly a bastion of Mexican food, the situation here seems to have gotten a little better in the past few years. There's a new torta shop on 78th and Aurora, there's El Chupacabra on Greenwood for Mission-style burritos, and there's La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard, to name a few. But for a cheap, authentic Mexican meal, it's hard to beat the taco trucks. One blog post isn't big enough to do justice to the various trucks in the greater Seattle area, so I must direct you to another blog that is strictly devoted to that topic. The cool thing about that particular blog is that it provides a link to the health inspection report for each truck, which is great if you're looking for an authentic dining experience without the authentic gastrointestinal experience, if you know what I mean. With that in mind, let's focus on one specific taco truck in Seattle, which isn't really a truck at all. Rather, it's an old yellow schoolbus that has been gutted and converted into a mini-restaurant. The name of the place is El Carreton, and it's located in a strip mall on Aurora, near 150th. Here's the set-up: the front third of the bus houses the kitchen, and the rest of the bus has counters and stools on each side for dining. Like all good Mexican restaurants, there's Spanish-language television blaring in the background, and the whole operation is about as unpretentious as you can find in this yuppie-infested city. Ironically, the bus is parked across the street from a Taco Bell.

The food at El Carreton is typical taco truck fare, which means that it's simple yet satisfying. I've tried the carne asada tacos and the spicy pork burrito, and both were delicious. It's miles better than a place like Gordito's, where the burrito is about as tasty as a used diaper. And it somehow seems appropriate for a city like Seattle to have a taco truck with indoor seating, given the often-crappy weather. Do yourself a favor and check it out; you'll be living "la vida loca" if you do.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Greetings from DC

Hey kids, it's me again. I know you've been waiting patiently for another mind-blowing blog post, and I realize that I haven't written anything in awhile, so I just want to say thanks for checking back in with me. Mr. Sunshine is here to brighten your day. I know, it's been a rough two weeks without me. If you learn just one thing from this blog, it's that no matter how badly life shits all over you, you'll always have a friend here at Concords Are Better. Now turn that frown upside-down and prepare to be dazzled!

Here's something that will make everyone happy: design-your-own donuts. During a recent trip to Washington, DC, I learned about a donut shop in Maryland that lets you create your own deep-fried masterpieces, complete with the toppings of your choice. What could be more perfect than that? And get this- the name of the shop is The Fractured Prune. Seriously, I could not have come up with a better name. The folks at Top Pot (a so-called gourmet donut store in my hometown of Seattle) ought to be hanging their heads in shame right now. Sadly, I was unable to visit The Fractured Prune during my trip, so I can only dream of the wondrous tastes and smells that fill that magical shop. Here's a link to their website. I dare anyone to look at it without drooling.

Another great thing I discovered in DC was the Hirshhorn Museum. Although not nearly as big as the National Gallery (and less comprehensive, as it only focuses on contemporary art), it nevertheless has a ton of cool art that shouldn't be missed during a visit to the city. One of the pieces in the museum that stuck in my mind was a 30-minute film called "The Way Things Go". If you were ever fascinated by those goofy Rube Goldberg contraptions when you were a kid, you'll appreciate the mad genius of this movie, which is basically one long chain reaction of rolling tires, catapults, and fireballs. Here's a short clip of it on YouTube.

Donuts and fireballs aside, the highlight of my trip was exploring the various neighborhoods with my girlfriend (who used to live in DC) and meeting her old friends. I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but I do want to give a shout-out to Sarah and Michael for being such gracious hosts. And a special thanks to Michael for giving me his hemp shoes. Few things in life are as comforting as the knowledge that if times get rough, I can always smoke my shoes.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nature's Candy

Hi folks, and welcome to my blog. It is a magical place, filled with joy and wonder. And rainbows! If you read my blog, you will discover important things about art, culture, the world, and maybe even yourself. I want to touch the soul of each and every one of you, dear readers, and give you something to make your day shine a little brighter. If you're feeling down in the dumps, simply check into my blog and you'll get a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. Why? Because I love you.

Now, you may be wondering about the name of this blog. Let me explain. Most people in this country have never eaten a Concord grape. This is a shame. Seedless grapes (a.k.a. green grapes, although there are also red and black varieties) are usually the only grapes found in the supermarket; as a result, they are the only kind eaten by the average American consumer. The flavor of seedless grapes is sweet yet bland, and it bears little resemblance to the flavor of Concord grapes. And yet, when someone eats a Concord grape for the first time, he/she usually recognizes the flavor instantly. It is the flavor of grape juice, grape jelly, and grape candy. In fact, most grape-flavored products are made with either the juice of the Concord or a Concord-like flavoring. Moreover, the color of these foods is almost always purple, just like the skin of the Concord. What I'm getting at is this: there is a major disconnect in this society, one in which children are not able to associate the flavor of grape juice with the fruit from which it came. Applesauce tastes like apples, orange juice tastes like oranges, but grape jelly tastes nothing like seedless grapes. It's gastronomic confusion of the worst kind. This problem needs to be fixed, and I am determined to fix it, one blog reader at a time.

Let me tell you what you've been missing. Concords have a taste which is much sweeter and more complex than that of green grapes, with a pleasing tartness that perfectly balances the sugar. Every time I eat one, a symphony of flavors fills my mouth. So if Concords taste so much better, why aren't they more popular? To better understand this dilemma, let's go back to something I mentioned earlier: rainbows. As Confucius once said, you can't have rainbows without rain. Similarly, there is a small price to pay for the miracle of Concords, and that price is the seeds and skins of the grapes. These need to be spit out every time you eat a Concord. Honestly, it's not a big deal, unless you're an infant. The only other drawback is the fact that the grapes are hard to find, but they can usually be found at Korean gorcery stores. Now that you've been enlightened, you have no excuse not to enjoy one of nature's hidden treasures. Let the magic begin!