Former Chef at Dirty Oscar’s Annex on Top Chef Season 12

Did anyone else notice from the previews that there was a familiar face on the upcoming season of Top Chef Season Twelve in Boston? I thought I recognized him from the previews, so I checked on their website, and indeed, Aaron Grissom, former chef of Tacoma’s Dirty Oscar’s Annex, is on this season of Top Chef.

From the previews, it looks like he gets off to quite a fiery start.

Watch Aaron and all the other Top Chef Season 12 contestants starting tomorrow, October 15 at 10/9 central.

Image via Bravo.

Johnny’s Seafood Market & Bistro

Johnny’s Seafood Co. has reopened as Johnny’s Seafood Market & Bistro after a top to bottom remodel that now features a cafe in addition to their longstanding seafood counter. Diners can sit at the bar, inside near the seafood counter or on the outdoor patio on the Thea Foss Waterway. There’s even a great view of Mt. Rainier.

Tacoma has needed another casual waterfront seafood restaurant, and I was eager to check it out. There’s Steamers Seafood Cafe on Titlow Beach, but I’ve never found the quality or portion size to be good for the price.

We stopped at Johnny’s for dinner tonight, and I wasn’t really planning on blogging about it, so I didn’t take any photos of our food…and I’m not seeing the menu anywhere online at the moment, but the food was generally really good, so I thought I’d share our experience.

It’s a little awkward walking into Johnny’s because the seafood counter is to your right, and the tables are to the left — which isn’t really the problem. I know they just reopened, but while watching numerous people come in and try to purchase seafood at the counter, there was a lot of confusion with the process, and there wasn’t always a staff person to help people at the seafood counter. Once they get the hang of it, hopefully it’ll go more smoothly. The staff was very friendly and the food was served very quickly after ordering, but the seating and general entrance was a little odd.

We ordered the bay shrimp cocktail ($5.95), and though the shrimp were fresh and sweet, the plating (in a little cup, topped with sauce atop a salad of lettuce and celery), was a little different than I’m used to.

The Caesar salad ($8.95) has lightly grilled romaine with options such as adding crab, shrimp or blackened salmon or chicken for an additional reasonable fee. The blackened salmon was high-quality, well cooked and flavored with a nice kick from the blackening spice, and the crab was fresh and pJohnny's Seafood Tacomalentiful atop the salad.

We’ll definitely be back for either a quick lunch or easy dinner. The menu features favorites like clam chowder, fish and chips (including gluten free fish and chips!), Copper River salmon, prime ribeye steak, lots of sandwiches, cioppino, salads, fish tacos, crab and shrimp cocktail, beer and wine.

I also glanced at the seafood counter and noticed they had fresh whole trout, which I haven’t seen anywhere else in Tacoma. In addition to seafood, they also sell beef and pork from Snake River Farms.

The prices were generally reasonable and it seemed like it would be family-friendly. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Johnny’s Seafood Market & Bistro | 1199 Dock Street, Tacoma | 253.627.2158
Open 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. daily

Whole Foods is Coming to Pierce County

Today The News Tribune reported that Whole Foods is coming to Pierce County — University Place in particular, and is projected to open March 2015.

My first reaction to this news was, “Heck yes! Finally. I never thought this would happen!” Visions of organic berries and free-range chickens danced in my head.

During the time I was in graduate school in Seattle, I frequented Whole Foods on a weekly basis. It’s a playground for food lovers, with products you’ve never heard of and an endless selection of options. I like options.

I also like a good deli. The prepared foods deli area at Whole Foods is second to none. The variety, quality and flavor of the various “bars”, be it sandwich, sushi or otherwise, salads, meats, cheeses, soups…is excellent. It makes for a quick and easy lunch, something that I’m constantly in search for.

A Whole Foods shopping trip is an experience. From presentation to customer service, all seems to be top-notch and even maybe even makes grocery shopping a little fun. Sure, I’m Whole Foods’ target demographic. I fit the profile, of a 30-something, female, educated, health-conscious professional. It’s not a shocker that I’ve shopped there and will probably continue to do so, especially if it’s close by.

Honestly, I never thought we’d get a Whole Foods in the Tacoma area. The News Tribune article sites that Whole Foods weighed their decision carefully to open up shop in University Place. I imagine they did. It’s quite a decision, since this would be the only store south of Seattle until Portland.

Initially, I’m excited to be getting a Whole Foods in our area. That said, there are a lot of thoughts and concerns running through my mind. Thinking about all of the things I’ve listed that I love about Whole Foods: Options, excellent prepared foods and an enjoyable experience, I wonder. Don’t we already have all of those things in Tacoma and Pierce County?

If I’m looking for fresh produce, I either hit the farmers markets, various produce stands in the area, Tacoma Boys, Harbor Greens or Metropolitan Market, to name a few of my favorites. For organic and free-range meats, there are butcher shops or the previously mentioned groceries. For natural foods, gluten free and allergen-free products, I hit Marlene’s, Tacoma Food Co-Op or GF Joe’s. A great deli can be found at Met Market, Harbor Greens or Stadium Thriftway.

How will these stores and markets be affected with a Whole Foods in town?

I’m not sure how to answer that.

One of Whole Foods’ brand promises is that they source locally, though I don’t exactly know how hyper-local (i.e. to this county) that gets.

Then there’s the unofficial nickname of Whole Foods, “Whole Paycheck”. It’s not cheap to shop at Whole Foods. Of course, you’re paying a premium for all those prepared foods, organic, non-GMO items. I understand that it’s not a realistic place for every individual or family to shop. There’s no way I could do all my grocery shopping there…it would deplete most of our monthly grocery budget in one shopping trip.

These are just some of the things I’m thinking about with this news. On one hand, I’m glad to hear it. I welcome a one-stop shop for all my specialty and organic foods. On the other hand, I’m not so sure it’s a good thing for our community or for my wallet.

What are your thoughts on Whole Foods coming to Pierce County?

November Food Events

  • Morso Wine Bar Oysterfest
    Nov. 1. A variety of oyster dishes served, as well as an artist reception from 5-7 p.m. Check out the menu here.
  •  Pierce County Gleaning Project
    Nov. 6, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Join us on a Pumpkin Glean at Terry’s Berries for one of the last harvest of the season! There is a field small field of pumpkin to rescue, as well as 2 pallets to repack and deliver to a food bank! Sign up online.
  • Basic Pig Butchery Class
    Nov. 9, 12 p.m.-4 p.m. This Olympia Meat Collective class will teach students how to split sides of pork into primals, and how to cut those primals into familiar cuts like ribs, pork chops, tenderloins, ham roasts, picnic roasts, and coppas. At the beginning of class, we will demo on one side of pork. Then, the students will break into two groups and work together on two other sides of pork. The class will also include tips on how to cook and cure various cuts – if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make your own bacon or ham, this is the class for you. Students will go home with plenty of recipes as well as their share of meat and bones (about 30-40 pounds). No experience required. All tools and equipment provided. Cost is $235. Register online.
  • Gluten-Free Health and Wellness Experience
    Nov. 10, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. A variety of cooking demos, exhibitors and speakers, all related to gluten free living. Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. Tickets are $5 and available online.
  • Free Clam Chowder at Duke’s Chowder House
    Nov. 12. FREE Duke’s award winning chowder all day, all night at all six locations to celebrate National Chowder Day.
  • Primo Grill Cooking Classes
    Nov. 2, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Making Fresh pasta. $65 inclusive of recipes, instruction, lunch, a glass of wine, tax and gratuity. Call 253-383-7000 to reserve.
    Nov. 9, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. The Cuisine of Northern Italy. $65 inclusive of recipes, instruction, lunch, a glass of wine, tax and gratuity. Call 253-383-7000 to reserve.
    Nov. 16, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. A NW Holiday Feast. $65 inclusive of recipes, instruction, lunch, a glass of wine, tax and gratuity. Call 253-383-7000 to reserve.
  • Chambers Bay Grill Junior Top Chefs
    Nov. 5-Dec. 3. Five classes for ages 9-15, held at Chambers Bay Grill. Juniors will learn a variety of skills, including knife skills and a variety of foods to cook. Their skills will be put to the test with a formal dinner at the end of the course. Cost is $120/child. For more information or to register visit or call 253-798-4141.
  • Bayview School of Cooking Classes
    Nov. 5, 6:00-8:30 p.m., Hands-On Lefse and Kransekage.
    Nov. 6, 6:00-8:30 p.m. Lobster Fra Diavolo
    Nov. 7th, 6:00-8:30 p.m. In a Mexican Kitchen
    Nov. 12, 6:00-8:30 p.m. Grilled Turkey for Thanksgiving
    Nov. 14, 6:00-8:30 p.m. Hands-On Thai Cooking with Family & Friends
    Nov. 18, 6:00-8:30 p.m. Autumn Vegetables for the Festive Season
    *For all call 360-754-1448 to reserve
  • Enoteca Wine Bar/Tacoma Wine Merchants Champagne Tasting
    Nov. 23, 6 p.m. Annual holiday Champagne tasting. We will be tasting a variety of top end bubbles. Cost is $40/person. Call 253-779-8258 to reserve.

Olympia’s Award-Winning Ranch House BBQ

My brother Jeff’s birthday was this past weekend, and he had one request: Good barbeque. To be honest, I haven’t had any local BBQ I’ve been wowed over, until now.

I come from a family of food lovers, and we all have our own opinions when it comes to choosing a restaurant for a family dinner. Doing as brothers do, Jeff reminded me I don’t know everything about everything, even restaurants, and he did a little research on his own, finding Ranch House BBQ and Steakhouse in Olympia. I took to Twitter and asked folks what they thought. From the unanimously positive responses I received, it seemed like a good idea to check out what people were calling the best BBQ in the South Puget Sound.

The drive to Ranch House is scenic, and while it is a bit out of town, it’s worth the drive down the tree-lined highway. Just when we thought we were lost or must have passed the restaurant, we spotted it on the side of the road, right alongside Kennedy Creek. The giant smokers outside were a good sign.

When we stepped through the doors, the first thing I noticed were the walls lined with awards. There are trophies on the window, banners and plaques everywhere you look.

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