When I was in Seattle recently I ate at Michael Mina's RN74 and ordered the corn chowder.  It was poured for me tableside and in the bowl was some popcorn as garnish. I found that an interesting and sensible garnish, one I had not thought of doing before.  So I've taken that and twisted it into a Thai version.

For the Srirach popcorn might I suggest that you use coconut oil instead of butter?  This is how I now eat my popcorn because it is a healthier alternative than butter. For this recipe, I actually had about 1/4 of coconut oil left in a jar and so I just nuked the jar in the microwave to melt it to a liquid state and then added the sriracha, closed and shook the jar vigorously to mix the two together, and then used that to drizzle over the popcorn.  This is the first time I've made sriracha popcorn and I am now a fan.  It's important that you are able to vigorously shake the two in a container because trying to whip them together with a whisk was not enough to blend them.  The sriracha stayed in globules when I tried it that way.

As to popcorn, I have given up microwave popcorn and instead have a West Bend electric popcorn popper that I love. It will pop every single kernel and the texture is better than from the microwave.  I highly recommend it.

If you've ever been in a Sur la Table, it's downright overwhelming.  If you have a lot of time and money, you could spend plenty of both there.  I tend to be a tightwad and am easily overwhelmed by their abundance. Therefore, I don't venture in too often. (Plus there's none really close by.) But this weekend I was privileged to go to the new Sur la Table headquarters in Seattle, Washington and they successfully made me want some new great items.

Our host was Doralece Dullaghan, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Public Relations. Doralece has been with Sur la Table for many years, starting with opening their second store in Berkeley. We also met with the CEO, Jack Schwefel, who talked about his history in retail and where the company has been and is going. 

But it was Jacob Maurer, their top merchandiser, that got me really excited by introducing us to some of the key products for the fall of 2014. I also learned some interesting new tips along the way.

KitchenAid's new items

These days it is tough to stay competitive when everybody can sell the same items at competing prices. To combat this, Sur la Table has agreements with companies to be the sole distributor of certain products. They have such an agreement with KitchenAid to be the only one to sell the Pro Line series and certain colors. The Pro Line series is designed with a retro look with rugged, sturdy construction. All of their pieces are heavy to ensure there is no wobbling or crawling on your counter top while in operation.

There's a new Peruvian joint in town and it is worth a visit! Jimmy's Peruvian is a true hole-in-the-wall joint at 3032 Auburn Blvd. Be careful. You'll drive right past it, especially since it's signage says Taqueria. In fact, it's pulling double duty serving both Mexican and Peruvian menus.

I don't know much about Peruvian food, but I do know that since it has a huge coastline, there is a lot of seafood consumption. This is what you'll find at Jimmy's, with the focus on seafood.

Another Peruvian influence is Japan. In the late 1800s Japanese went to Peru after hearing stories of gold and great farming. The gold turned out to be a lie, but the farming wasn't. Many ended up settling there and thus a small ethnic minority of Japanese were now in  Peru.

I started with the ceviche. I love ceviche and will often make it at home because it is easy and super healthy.  I was really pleased with Jimmy's.  It was plentiful, the fish had great texture, and there was a good kick to it.  If you don't like spicy foods, you might need to steer clear. I found it interesting that they also added hominy corn as part of the vegetable component.  I didn't care for those as the texture was too close to lima beans. (yuk).  Overall, a great ceviche.

Years ago my then boyfriend and I went to the Winchester Mystery House for a Halloween night tour. Having arrived early, we were hungry and looked across the street at the Santana Row shopping/condo complex and ended up at Maggiano's for a fantastic Italian dinner.  It was so good, that even though I had no idea if they were independent or a chain or what, I remembered them.

Turns out they are a group of over 40 restaurants now and the latest one, and the fifth for California, has just come to Arden Fair Mall.

Here are some reasons Maggiano's is going to become your new favorite Italian restaurant.

  • They make all their pasta, sauces, and dressings, etc. fresh daily from scratch.
  • They have a new Lighter Take menu where they take some of your favorites and they lighten the calorie load. In my case, I ordered the chicken piccata and it seemed they reduced it by only giving a little fettuccine and instead added nice sauteed spinach. Loved it! 
  • They have gluten-free pasta.
  • They have a thing called On the House Classic Pastas.  You order a pasta dish to eat in the restaurant and then they give you ANOTHER one to take home!  Two for the price of one!  Update: They don't have to be the same!  I had Alfredo to eat and took home lasagna!
  • If you sign up for their e-newsletter you'll get a $10 coupon to your next visit. And if you complete your profile, you get a free dessert!
If these aren't enough reasons to try them out, plus the fact that Ms. Munchie loves it, then you can keep going to >>>>>> (I'll refrain from naming gross, low level chains and fast food.)

There really are no better conferences to go to than those that have some relationship to food.  In my case, I go to food blogger conferences. While there are a few different ones around the country each year, large and small, I can definitively say that IFBC, or the International Food Blogger Conference, is the best that I've gone to and, from what I've heard from others, the best overall in the United States. 

This year it is the sixth one held from Sept 19-21 in Seattle, Washington.  This is where the very first one was held and is where Foodista, the organizers, are headquartered. Since then I've been to almost all of them, including Portland and Santa Monica. It is getting a little bit more difficult for me now that we have Farm to Fork during the same period. 

A very important factor for many is the price. Active bloggers can register for only $95. This compared to other conferences that are in the $300-500 range. 

James Oseland
In past years they have had high quality speakers such as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, James Oseland (then editor of Saveur Magazine), Dorie Greenspan (one of my favorite cookbook authors), and Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer winning food critic).  

And, of course, there's the food. Top brands such as Rodelle, Bob's Red Mill, and Sahale Snacks stop by and supply samples either in our swag bags or via some of our included meals. I see that this year our own local California Endive will be there. So I guess I won't be surprised if I run into owner Rich Collins there. Also sponsoring, my friends from Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics

There's some great sessions this year, including how to self publish an e-book on Amazon.com and how to create good video postings. 

The very best reason to go - to make new friends from all around the country. 

If you are a food blogger and want the best experience with some of the best in the business, then IFBC is for you. And if you are new, look me up and introduce yourself!