Gig Harbor Chowder Cook-Off

Our timing is mostly great for the Seattle area (Big Star Diner, not so much). We happened to be around for the last Kimball Drive Farmers’ Market of the season that included a Chowder Cook-off.

We arrived a little after 10 AM, with just enough time to visit all the vendors before the Chowder Cook-off began.

One vendor had these very interesting “flowers,” we have never seen this artwork before so we were very intrigued.

There was a vendor with blown glass, he saw my San Diego shirt and said he used to sell at the Seaside Flea Market in Encinitas – what a coincidence! Then there was Eau de Joe. Joe was sampling his lotion, and at first I thought he was just there to help his mom or something and she was temporarily away from the booth. No. The booth belonged to Joe! Visit eaudejoe.com for more details – I bought the Christmas trio of glycerin soap from him since they were on sale and I can’t resist supporting a kid.

The fruits and vegetables looked amazing, but there is not enough time left in Seattle to purchase anymore…but we have time for bread. We bought this asparagus, mozzarella, black olive bread. (So delicious with butter, although is certainly didn’t need any!)

Then just before 11 AM it was time for the Chowder Cook-off. Five restaurants participated with samples of their chowder; they were clearly competing for bragging rights. One was O’Callahan’s, one was Tides Tavern (where we ended up having lunch), one was Mallard’s Landing a retirement facility and the chef had competed against Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America in December 2009!

There was the Heritage at the Inn of Gig Harbor, and a last minute arrival; the guys had made a hand-written sign on a napkin – very roadhouse inn-ish! And one other that clearly did not make much of an impression.

Anyway, we tasted and retasted and tasted again. HH picked the Tides Tavern chowder; I picked Mallard’s Landing the retirement facility (no nasty comments about the direction my taste buds are going, it was good chowder made by an Iron Chef competitor!) And the winner….Mallard’s Landing for Peoples’ Choice and the official judged competition. Tides Tavern was second for Peoples’ Choice and third for the official judged competition. Delicious!


Here Fishy Fishy

Part of our lodging choice in Seattle was based on the fishing. HH often talks about “finding a cabin on the lake,” so he can fish and I can read (and write for the Diner.) In Seattle on Lake St. Claire, this is our view.

And this is the fish HH caught off the dock for breakfast the other morning, a trout.

This is HH’s breakfast.

Then for dinner that night we sat on our balcony overlooking Lake St. Claire and enjoyed the bounty of Pikes Place Market Рsmoked salmon, salmon jerky, saut̩ed shrimp in garlic and butter, juicy red grapes and some plump raspberries (not from Pikes Place, so not as high quality as everything else, but good.)

Ahhh, life at the lake is good.


Pikes Place Market

A trip to Pikes Place Market a few days ago meant fish, fruit, tea, and, well, the most interesting fish & chips I have ever seen.

One of our stops in Seattle definitely needed to be Pikes Place Market. It was a beautiful day, we got lucky on parking and it was off to the market for an abundance of, well, food of course! I have to say that it wasn’t exactly as I anticipated, there were a lot more merchandise booths than I had envisioned. But the food certainly did not disappoint!

(Look at that Ling Cod hanging over the display!)
The first fish monger that sucked us in gave us samples of salmon jerky and smoked salmon, OMG! They were delicious, especially the jerky. The produce stands were next with beautiful Honeycrisp Apples and Starkrimson Pears, oh, and juicy red grapes for HH. We sampled and moved on, agreeing to not make purchases until we were on the return trip.

Next we passed the pasta stand; they were sampling chocolate fettuccine suggesting that you add a creamy sweet sauce for dessert – how decadent! Then we were at a fork in the road, HH was hoping I didn’t spy the tea shoppe, too late! In we ventured, and they were sampling a house special market tea of cinnamon and orange – naturally sweet and delicious. I was sure we would not pass that again, so I had to buy some.

We kept meandering, passing what must have been the first Starbucks as you could hardly get in – I don’t know that one more person could have FIT in the shop, it was overwhelming. I kept an eye out for the first Sur La Table; I had read that they originated at Pikes Place Market also. We saw the famous pig statue, and as HH commented “I wonder how many people have touched that.” We continued without touching the pig.

We were getting hungry, had looked at a few menus, were beginning to feel the plethora of teriyaki places and decided to go back to the fish and chips we saw earlier. We stopped at Athenian’s with a view of the water (of course) and both ordered fish and chips. HH also got the frosty-est mug of beer we had ever seen.

As we waited patiently for our order, we contemplated what we would by on the way back to the car and how delicious our fish should be considering we were in Seattle. Our fish and chips arrived and…

They were…orange – this is not the cameras fault; this is the color of the fish!

Our waitress was off to service others, so we looked at one another encouragingly and dove in. The fish tasted fine, the color was just not what we anticipated. Finally, as we were about half way through with our fish, I was able to flag the waitress down and ask why the fish was orange. She said,”It’s the cornmeal batter (so far this makes sense) that reacts with the oil. The orange becomes more prominent as the oil gets older. One more shade of orange and they will change the oil in the kitchen. I actually like the fish about a shade lighter than that, and then it’s perfect.”

Boy, maybe it’s just me, but that is NOT how I would be “selling” orange battered fish! I think I would take the approach of “It’s the cornmeal batter that interacts with the oil. As the oil becomes more seasoned, it enhances the color and flavor of the fish.” Now doesn’t that sound better! Don’t tell me that the oil is past where you like it and just about too used to serve, that’s not appealing! My goodness!

Anyway, after our first round of fish and chips in Seattle, we set off to get our grapes, beautiful red Starkrimson Pears, bountiful Honeycrisp Apples, super moist smoked salmon, 8/10 count jumbo shrimp and the most amazing jerk salmon I have ever tasted (the only one too, but who’s keeping track!)

Pikes Place Market, a success.


Diner Drivin' Part 5

Yesterday didn’t start off this way, but it sure ended up this way. And bear with me; it was a long day…

So HH and I started off our second day of adventure in Seattle with a trip to Shari’s Restaurant for breakfast – nothing to write home about, and an early drizzly morning at the Western Washington Fair in Puyallup or “Pull-U-Up” as HH likes to call it. We didn’t eat anything, since we had just finished breakfast, but there were scones everywhere! We had already discovered that the SeaTac area was a teriyaki town, but the Fair was definitely all about scones! I was all about the hot chocolate on a rainy day at the Fair – it was delicious.

After two hours of walking around and seeing it all, we are Fair professionals after all - how long can it take to walk about ANY Fair?, we were on our way to…

Snoqualmie Falls was recommended by a friend’s Mom, so off we were to find Snoqualmie Falls. Now I have to give you an aside here, HH says that “when” we enter the Amazing Race I have to drive because I am a terrible navigator and can’t read maps. I want you to know that everywhere we went from Yelm to Puyallup to Snoqualmie and beyond, I did a great job of navigating! Snoqualmie Falls was beautiful and taller than Niagara Falls – so much power!
We were off to, well, we could not quite decide. We talked about Bainbridge Island because one of the stops for Diners Drive-Ins and Dives was located there. Guy Fieri suggested a place called the Big Star Diner. Getting there is not easy. It’s either taking the ferry from Seattle, which we didn’t want to venture into the city at 3:30 PM, or drive all the way around – take a look at a map and find Snoqualmie Falls then Bainbridge Island – after much discussion we decided to drive, why not!

So through some traffic, around Tacoma, up through Gig Harbor, up and around and over a couple of bridges and onto Bainbridge Island – just as the ferries were starting to drop of commute traffic at 5 PM. But no problem, they were headed north and we were headed south. I found a small map that gave me some of the streets on Bainbridge Island, locating Madison Avenue, where Big Star Diner is located just off the main drag – no problem! I directed HH to the north end of Madison Avenue, since I didn’t know exactly where it was, and the first address we saw was something like 14455 – we needed to go to 805. My map skills were not bad; I just didn’t have all the information available to me! Just a few blocks to travel. I also reminded HH that he does not like to cover the same territory twice, so this gave us a quaint scenic tour of the Island. Then Madison Avenue ended. Oops.

No worries, as we traveled down the main highway, at the next intersection we picked up Madison Avenue again, we were almost there! The anticipation was killing us! I felt as though we would be redeemed as soon as we walked into the Big Star Diner. We found it! We drove past the old diner car restaurant and what appeared to be a very available parking lot. Hmmm….
We turned around and pulled in the parking lot. The “open” sign was not on. There was only one car in the parking lot. There was a sign on the door. All of this was not good. Was it out of business? Couldn’t be. Were they closed on Thursdays?! No way.

We got out of the car, looked at the sign on the door – open until 3 PM weekdays, later on Fridays and Saturdays.


Need to read the hours of operation better next time, especially before going 75 minutes out of our way.

HH wasn’t pleased (but still had some humor, just trying not to show it); I was laughing so much I could hardly talk but trying to salvage the situation. We looked for a local to ask about a good place to eat, found one although she had just moved there recently and could only recommend two places – we were in the parking lot of one of them and she said they had the best fries on the Island, sold!

We parked. I prayed. We landed at the Harbor Public House Pub.

Our server, Sarah, greeted us, we told her of our adventure and she was very sympathetic. She was helpful with all our choices, gave great recommendations and genuinely seemed to want to help make up for our misadventure to Bainbridge Island and she did.

Great looking place.

Great view.

Great food! And the Whistling Pig brew did the trick - the best microbrew HH has ever had! It was meant to be. Thanks, Sarah, for helping to make our visit so memorable.

As we got in the car to drive the 90 minutes back to Yelm/Olympia, I reminded HH that it’s about the adventure and the memories, not always about the destination we are planning on. He had to agree.

We won’t soon forget, but may never get back to, the Big Star Diner on Bainbridge Island.


"Sponge" Bread

HH and I went garage saling Saturday morning, looking for “things we can’t live without.” As we stopped and looked at one yard sale, we noticed a bunch of squash sitting, available. I asked the seller, “how much for the zucchini?” “They’re free, please take them. We can’t use any more and our neighbors don’t want any more.”

Very pleased, since our squash got buried by the over-enthusiast tomato plants early on, I swooped up two large zucchini. Finally, I thought, I’ll be able to make zucchini bread this season from home-grown zucchini – even if it’s not from our garden.

I brought the zucchini back to the Diner; after we found a few things we couldn’t live without, and prepared for zucchini bread. The first obstacle, no cinnamon. Lots of ginger and nutmeg but no cinnamon. How is that possible? So across the street I went with my tsp in hand to Patty’s, her roommate Donna found some cinnamon thankfully.

Next came the lemon zest, no fresh lemons on hand. Although, the recipe calls for vegetable oil but I have a wonderful citrus olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil that I bought during the San Diego Co. Fair, hopefully this will due.

I had everything out; measured the dry ingredients, set out the wet ingredients and started to grate the zucchini. After a few passes on the grater, the zucchini was just too big to hold as one piece so I cut it in half. As I looked at the center of the fresh cut zucchini, it occurred to me something was not quite right. The center core of the zucchini was much more fibrous and the seeds were much firmer (not edible) like a zucchini should be.

I thought back to the morning, the guy I got the zucchini from said that the zucchini were hybrids of some sort. They were volunteers from last year, and they had zucchini, patty pan squash and a few other things in the area, but this year’s crop tasted fine and looked fine. I remember when I first picked up the zucchini that it was a little light for its size. Hmm, curious.

As I looked at the core of this zucchini I had just cut, I realized it might be a luffa gourd hybrid. Luffa gourds are in the squash family and look a lot like zucchini when they grow, but you let them cure on the vine to dry; harvest them and dry them more, finally peeling away the hard exterior when they feel like they weigh nothing to reveal a natural sponge.

Now I wonder, is this going to work? I know you can eat luffas like zucchini if you treat them like zucchini when they are growing and simply slice them up. Although I’ve grown luffas for a sponge, I have never harvested them to eat – looks like I’m going to this time.

Well, with everything measured and prepped, it looks like I’m committed to this bread. Whatever it is.

So I shred – look how the core fibers continue to stay in the center of the squash and turn back inside, I kept having to cut and clean out the fibers as I went.

And mix. And pour.

And bake. And cool.

And slice.

And butter.

And eat.
Tastes just like it’s supposed to. And the texture is fine too. Who knew “sponge” bread could be so good!


Chili Dogs and Man Food

For the 2010 premier of NFL season, I thought I would serve up some Man Food at the Diner. I decided the special would be chili dogs – hearty, filling, no vegetables insight, “steak” included (tube steak, that is.)

I told HH what was going to be on the menu for NFL season premier, Saints vs. Vikings, “chili dogs, real Man Food!” I said, with great enthusiasm. I was informed, “That’s not football food. You can’t eat a chili dog at the stadium, it’ll get everywhere. And it’s not Man Food.” I was shocked and taken aback!

HH informed me that I like chili dogs, chili cheese dogs to be exact, much more than he does. “Wings are what we need for the start of football season - wings and cheesy garlic bread.” Now that doesn’t sound like stadium food to me either, but what do I know! I only go to one game a year, and it’s pre-season!

So last Thursday, for the kick-off of the 2010 football season, I had chili cheese dogs and HH had wings and cheesy garlic bread. Everyone was happy.

I have learned something new this football season - just because no vegetables are involved, don’t assume it’s Man Food.


What's Cookin' @ the Diner

We had a busy Labor Day weekend at the Diner – replacing some windows and holiday barbequing in between.

On Sunday it was burgers, always a favorite at the Diner. I think this was the last of the big homegrown tomatoes on those burgers for this season. Although there are still lots of cherry tomatoes to harvest, the bun-sized tomatoes are done.

Then for Monday, it was tri-tip on the smoker. HH was the Chef of the Day, so the tri-tip went on the Weber to smoke with his new remote temperature gauge – it worked really well!

I did the corn-on-the-cob on the grill. It was five ears for $1, so I got ten. I grilled all ten, we ate our fill and I de-kernelled the others to freeze for corn chowder this fall/winter.

Ten little corns on the grill

We had the rest of the giant tomato from the burgers the night before on the side with the corn-on-the-cob and tri-tip. So delicious!


What's Cookin'? - Labor Day Weekend

Welcome to a new series at Holly’s Diner – What’s Cookin’?

As cooking season approaches with cooler days, football, time in the kitchen and the holidays just around the corner, I introduce you to What’s Cookin’?

What’s Cookin’? will be an intermittent, on-going series that is looking for what you are cooking at your Diner, with a follow-up of what’s cookin’ at Holly’s Diner.

So let’s start with Labor Day weekend – tell me, what’s cookin’?


Any Bozzo Can Cook

By request, there is a picture of Any Bozzo Can Cook. Now don’t judge this book by its funny cover! This cookbook is filled with great recipes, all of Gilroy-decent. If you are really interested in a copy, I’ll connect you with Garlic Gal, and she can help.



It’s been a summer of autographs, in my cookbooks, of course.

It started in June during the San Diego County Fair with Alton Brown, who was on-site filming a portion of an upcoming series for the Food Network. I talked to my friends and was able to get my copy of Feasting on Asphalt signed by Alton.

Then Guy Fieri arrived for his weekend show. I sent my books back stage, and again my friends were able to get Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and More Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives signed by Guy.

(A little back story - I knew that Guy had done other live shows like this before, but word was that when he and his crew arrived on-site they talked to the San Diego County Fair crew about the potential size of the crowd. Guy had played to an audience of a couple hundred, but not a couple thousand! Guy had done shows in more theatre-style, so the grandstand set-up was a whole new thing. Everyone made it work, and the crowd loved it!)

I just got a Deen Family Cookbook signed by Paula Deen a few weeks ago. It was a special through the Food Network, and I’m happy to have it in my collection.

In July when I was at the Gilroy Garlic Festival (GGF), I realized I had another signed cookbook. I think it was 2008 when two of the stars of the GGF came out with their own cookbook – Any Bozzo Can Cook by SakaBozzo, Twins Separated at Birth. Sam Bozzo and Gene Sakahara may not look like twins (or even brothers for that matter), but they are brothers in the kitchen, for sure.

When I got back from the GGF this year, I was looking through my autographed version of Any Bozzo Can Cook, remembering there was a recipe Sam came up with inspired by the movie, The Big Night. The recipe is Timballo di Maccheroni e Melanzane. Sam based this on an amazing looking dish which was the highlight of the night in The Big Night.

Anyway, I started going through Any Bozzo Can Cook just to see what I had missed the first leaf-through. And low-and-behold! There was a recipe from Sam’s neighbor, and Chef at the Bevi Bistro, Don! Don’s White Sauce!

This winter, I’m going to be making Don’s White Sauce, especially since HH loves Alfredo sauce. And next year, if I am lucky enough to return to the GGF, I’m going to add Chef Don’s autograph to my cookbook collection. Can’t wait!

By the way, if you are interested in your copy of Any Bozzo Can Cook, you can order one through:
Gene Sakahara
7200 Yorktown Drive
Gilroy, CA 95020