Top Pot is now serving its famous doughnuts and coffee in South Lake Union. photo/Ronald Holden.

Top Pot is now serving its famous doughnuts and coffee in South Lake Union. photo/Ronald Holden.


In the run-up to the election, a few cutesy, election-themed promotions. Metropolitan Markets are running a “Commander-in-Cheese” poll alongside an “Ode to Cheese” promotion. 

At the top of Queen Anne, at the Five Point Cafe, there’s a Red Door-Blue Door poll. 


Going coast-to-coast

Prince Edward Island (PEI), on Canada’s Atlantic coast, is more than 3,500 miles from Seattle, so remote that you almost can’t get there from here. But intrepid Seattle chef John Howie (Seastar, Sport, John Howie Steak) traveled to PEI’s capital city of Charlottetown for its annual International Shellfish Festival as one of 14 chefs from North America invited to compete in two contests, the first being the International Chef Challenge. 

It started with eight or nine chefs on Friday. By Sunday, two were left standing: Howie and Marc Lepine, owner and chef at the ritzy Atelier in Ottawa, who beat Howie by less than a tenth of a point and collected a $10,000 prize.

Disappointed but not out, Howie turned his attention to the International Seafood Chowder competition. This time, using only ingredients he’d been given by the organizers and essentially following their recipe, Howie was named the winner and recipient of the $2,000 first prize.

Seattle oyster guru Jon Rowley said, “It’s a really big deal to win a chowder competition in Prince Edward Island.”


Hammering it home

“Marteau” is French for “hammer.” It’s also Gwydion Stone’s brand of absinthe, Stone being the founding member of an association called the Wormwood Society, whose purpose is to educate bartenders and drinkers about the magic green distillate. It’s not an easy task, since competitors (virtually the entire alcoholic-beverage industry, not to mention zealous government bureaucrats) are more than eager to demonize absinthe, ascribing to it every evil and unfortunate medical condition known to the planet. 

Never mind that real absinthe, properly made, is a thing of beauty, “like drinking an Alpine meadow,” as Stone put it to a dozen curious imbibers on the penthouse terrace of the Sorrento Hotel. It was the final session of 2012 for the hotel’s popular series of monthly “Drinking Lessons,” which resume next year on the second Wednesday of every month, with two sessions a night in the hotel’s elegant Hunt Club bar. 

In regard to the drinking lesson: To sweeten the absinthe, drip some ice water through a sugar cube suspended on a slotted spoon above the glass. 

Don’t set fire to the sugar! That’s a bar trick from Eastern Europe designed to camouflage counterfeit absinthe; the real stuff turns milky when water is added. 

Absinthe used to be cheaper than wine; that’s why it was so popular during the belle époque, at the end of the 19th century. In its early years, until craft distilleries were legalized in Washington state, Stone’s Marteau was distilled under contract in Switzerland. 

Remember, it’s a distillate, not an infusion. Now close your eyes and taste the meadow.


Comings and goings

Bill the Butcher has closed two of its stores (Madison Park and Bellevue) but will open new locations in Wallingford and Edmonds. The company has settled its long-running legal battles with co-founder William von Schneidau. 

On Capitol Hill, Dave Meinert (of Belltown’s 5-Point) will open a 24-hour diner in the building that’s been home to a series of gay bathhouses (Basic Plumbing). 

Rumba has opened close to sibling Tango — I bet you can’t guess which spirits are featured. 

Coastal Kitchen has added an oyster bar. 

Broadway Cafe is closed. 

In South Lake Union news: Top Pot Doughnuts is now open. 

Mokas coffeehouse is closed. 

There’s a new Cal’s New American Kitchen in the Amazon complex, as well.

At CenturyLink Field, there’s a new menu of game-related eats. 

In downtown, Von’s, at the Roosevelt Hotel, confirms plans to move, come February, to Harbor Steps. 

Also downtown, Fonté Café & Wine Bar hosted a 20th-birthday party for its parent company, the micro-roaster Fonté. 

In Madison Park, Rover’s turns 25. 

Almost a year after announcing plans for a supper club at Fourth Avenue and Vine Street, Mark and Katie Stern have actually celebrated a grand opening for Henry and Oscar. The Sterns also own Big Picture Theater in Belltown and on the Eastside, but they felt they’d never “formally” opened their restaurant. They got Mayor Mike McGinn to stop in one recent evening for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and the presentation of his customized martini glass. 

Also in Belltown, Fumaça has opened at the corner of First Avenue and Denny Way. It’s a Brazilian-style, all-you-can-eat steakhouse. 

Bambino’s is now serving cocktails during happy hour, but Mestizo’s lounge has turned out the lights. 


Quite a pairing

Finally, it’s less than two weeks to go before your faithful correspondent dons an apron alongside Chef Alex Paguaga of Suncadia Resort; we’ve been paired in the Lamb Pro-Am at Cedarbrook Lodge. 

To reach the finals, I’d developed a Moroccan-style coffee-and-cumin rub for boneless cubes of lamb. 

The date is Oct. 10.

RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at and To comment on this column, write to