Delicatus Delivers Diverse Sandwiches and More in Pioneer Square

Best sandwich of the visit was The Rebel: hot pastrami with white cheddar, jalapeno-lime aioli, picked red onions, jalapenos, and cilantro on a 10″ Italian roll (half sandwich shown), served here with potato salad and pickles
Best sandwich of the visit was The Rebel: hot pastrami with white cheddar, jalapeno-lime aioli, picked red onions, jalapenos, and cilantro on a 10″ Italian roll (half sandwich shown), served here with potato salad and pickles

In addition to its German association with delicatessen, the word “delicatus” has Latin meaning of alluring and charming and “that which gives pleasure.” It also means voluptuous. Hang out at Delicatus in Seattle’s Pioneer Square enjoying the sensual sandwiches, and you too may become more curvaceous alluring.

While some sandwich shops specialize in, say, just three sandwiches, Delicatus greets you with three towering chalkboards chock-full of sandwich choices. The left and right boards are loaded with the “traditionalists” and “progressives,” while the middle goes even further with a handful of “extremists.” Ordering might take time as you contemplate the interesting ingredient combinations, Wooden Table meats, and thoughtful bread choices. Note the variety of aiolis and the number of peppers that spice up many of the sandwiches.

Lots of sandwiches
Lots of sandwiches
Inside Delicatus
Inside Delicatus
A closer look at that important quote above the counter
A closer look at that important quote above the counter

The friendly staff will help you with your sandwich selection, which come with chips by default, though I recommend an upgrade to the German-style potato salad (delightfully spiked with mustard seeds) for less than a dollar. Save room for a corn flake cookie. This thin guy is easy to overlook, but has a captivatingly crispy texture and just the right levels of chocolate and salt.

Delicatus gives you a large number of sandwich choices, as well as a large number of seating options. You can sit out on the sidewalk, in the sun-filled window, at the counter, in the back dining room, or upstairs in the mezzanine.

The Seattle Cure: cured albacore tuna bresaola, salmon lox, lemon-caper aioli, shaved red onions, sweet peppers, and field greens on a toasted ciabatta roll (the lox flavor prevails), served with pasta salad with asparagus
The Seattle Cure: cured albacore tuna bresaola, salmon lox, lemon-caper aioli, shaved red onions, sweet peppers, and field greens on a toasted ciabatta roll (the lox flavor prevails), served with pasta salad with asparagus
Pavo Diablo: hickory-smoked turkey, sliced avocado, spinach, havarti, roasted poblano peppers, spicy chipotle aioli, and cilantro on sourdough bread (a “soft and comforting” half sandwich that wasn’t really spicy), served with a nice house salad
Pavo Diablo: hickory-smoked turkey, sliced avocado, spinach, havarti, roasted poblano peppers, spicy chipotle aioli, and cilantro on sourdough bread (a “soft and comforting” half sandwich that wasn’t really spicy), served with a nice house salad
Fists of Fury: tender pulled pork, sliced jalapenos, carrots, cucumbers, shaved cabbage, tobiko caviar (!), wasabi aioli, and cilantro on a toasted Italian roll (half sandwich pictured, like a banh mi), served with potato chips
Fists of Fury: tender pulled pork, sliced jalapenos, carrots, cucumbers, shaved cabbage, tobiko caviar (!), wasabi aioli, and cilantro on a toasted Italian roll (half sandwich pictured, like a banh mi), served with potato chips
Cheesecake with the corn flake cookie in the background
Cheesecake with the corn flake cookie in the background

But it’s not just sandwiches. Non-sandwich eaters will find a few brunch options on the weekends. (I saw some terrific-looking challah French toast paired with bacon—or is that a sort of deconstructed sandwich?). Plus, dinner is served weekdays with focus on a few classic preparations. (The shepherd’s pie looks especially intriguing.) There’s also a little bar, which is the perfect place to enjoy happy hour, perhaps with a sausage plate. Or take home the makings of a charcuterie plate (some meats are made in-house, while others are sourced from fine local to international artisans) along with a bottle of wine.

As for that wine, it comes from just two blocks south at The Kitchen by Delicatus. Consider this the creative space of the Delicatus team. Here you’ll find Sous Sol Winery and a 1,500 square foot private event space, which at times plays host to guest chef/pop-up dinners. It’s also the site of a regular dinner series by Delicatus’ own staff. Much like the sandwiches, these are casual and playful affairs, with slightly elevated but not stuffy presentations and service.

Operating owner Derek Shankland told me that Kitchen evolved “as a creative and experimental center that seeks to celebrate our industry while bringing our community together for many diverse and unique food and beverage experiences.” A sneak peek at the menu for the May 16 Slovenian dinner shows Triglav mushroom soup, lamb loin with cherry knedle, and flancati filled with rhubarb and topped with fresh cream cheese. On May 30, Delicatus’ chef Aaron Willis teams with Lost Angeles’ Barolo Joe team for a Northwest Heritage dinner featuring courses that range from smoked venison agnolotti with Shaanxi-style shaved noodles (two noodles in one dish?) to Korean bbq to deconstructed tiramisu. Diverse and unique indeed.

I was invited to attend the recent “Cold Water Excursion” dinner, which featured the following four seafood courses (plus dessert):

Char-grilled octopus salad with baby arugula, Calabrian peppers, Cerignola olive relish, rosemary cracker, Alhema de Queiles organic arbequina oil, and aged sherry vinegar
Char-grilled octopus salad with baby arugula, Calabrian peppers, Cerignola olive relish, rosemary cracker, Alhema de Queiles organic arbequina oil, and aged sherry vinegar
White shrimp bisque with chili oil-poached shrimp, served with basil pistou (and bread)
White shrimp bisque with chili oil-poached shrimp, served with basil pistou (and bread)
Semolina-dusted New England scallops with Gothberg Farms chevre gnudi, micro greens, and salmon roe (favorite dish of the night), served with creamy morel buttered English peas with thyme
Semolina-dusted New England scallops with Gothberg Farms chevre gnudi, micro greens, and salmon roe (favorite dish of the night), served with creamy morel buttered English peas with thyme
Seared Alaskan king salmon with asparagus and tomato salad, pancetta lardons, fried rosemary, Bormane Rivera Italian evoo, and 25-year Oro di Reggio Emilia balsamic vinegar, served with pecorino polenta
Seared Alaskan king salmon with asparagus and tomato salad, pancetta lardons, fried rosemary, Bormane Rivera Italian evoo, and 25-year Oro di Reggio Emilia balsamic vinegar, served with pecorino polenta
Inside The Kitchen by Delicatus (this photo courtesy of Derek Shankland)
Inside The Kitchen by Delicatus (this photo courtesy of Derek Shankland)

SIFF: Nevermind the Weather, SIFF41 Lineup Available, Box Office Open

SIFF 2015
SIFF 2015 is coming. Are you ready to watch?

Late last week, SIFF unveiled the complete lineup for the 2015 festival (the 41st) on their website and in stacks of glossy printed guides all over town, complete with a full festival calendar, compact film descriptions, trailers, and all sorts of other bells and whistles.

Opening Night brings Paul Feig and his C.I.A. comedy Spy — starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, and Jason Statham that maintains universal acclaim on the basis of its SXSW premiere this spring — to McCaw Hall, preceded by a red carpet festivities and followed by a huge party next door in Exhibition Hall. From there, SIFF gives cinema-bound Seattleites plenty of occasions to socialize after the credits roll with a packed slate of so many galas, parties, and events, culminating with a closing night presentation of The Overnight (a Seattle-to-Los Angeles relocation comedy starring Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) at the Seattle’s chocolate popcorn theater mecca, the Cinerama, followed by a SIFF Soiree at Seattle’s fanciest attic, MOHAI, on Sunday June 7th.  If you plan on diving deep into the SIFF party scene, clear out your Saturday schedule and consider the the “Gala and Party Pass” — gets you expedited entry into many of the films and events along with open bar privileges for $300 ($250 for members).

Yes, between opening and closing night, the country’s biggest festival is ready to overwhelm and delight with a total of 450 films from 92 countries (193 features, 70 documentaries, 164 short films). In addition to festival favorites from around the world, this list represents 49 world premieres (23 features/26 shorts), 51 North American premieres (33/18), and 18 U.S. premieres (7/11) are rolling into town. Can you ever be truly prepared for this film onslaught? I think this year’s ad-campaign answers that question directly:

Yes, even SIFF acknowledges that seeing it all requires something like voluntarily stepping inside Booth Jonathan’s torture tower or committing yourself to an extended stay in Room 23 and accepting that side-effects might include going Full Malkovich. That’s why in the coming weeks we’ll be hivemindmelding to let you know how we’re planning to allocate our precious time to “BE WATCHING” with regular follow-up to chat about what we saw, loved, and hated. And really, if you see a quarter of those, you’ll feel it your stiff legs, bleary eyes, and sun-deprived skin by the end.

If you can’t wait for our crystal ball readings and rambly debriefs, but know that you like your fims, for instance, to get romantic, induce nightmares, take you on a rocket ship to adventure, or cause you to feel horribly melancholic upon having the dire state of human rights/environmental collapse/economic atrocities/etc., SIFF continues to organize the festival into user-friendly moods (“Love“, “Make Me Laugh“, “Open My Eyes“, “Thrill Me“, “Provoke Me”, “Show Me the World“, “Sci-Fi and Fact“, “To the Extreme“, “Creative Streak“, and “Face the Music“) to let you customize your viewing agenda to how you feel like feeling on a given night.

If this all sounds too emo, you can always plan your festival around seventeen overlapping film programs including geographic groupings both international (Africa, Spain, Asia, Latin America) and closer to home (New American Cinema, Northwest Connections); time-of-day (Midnight Adrenaline); time-of-life (Films4Families, FutureWave); or dedication to secrecy (a Secret Festival that includes Sunday morning screenings of films so exclusive that an Oath of Silence is required for entry); or a sommelier-like selection of films to pair with your meal. Of course, local film lovers eager for quality time with celebrities will want to consider attending the annual tributes to film legends, in which SIFF honors a body of work with an extended interview, clip show, feature presentation, Q&A and awards presentation. First up, find yourself one degree closer to every celebrity on earth by way of an evening with Kevin Bacon on May 27th, followed by a screening of his latest film Cop Car at the Egyptian. The next week, Jason Schwartzmann will face hundreds of Wes Anderfans along with a tribute screening of 7 Chinese Brothers on June 6th at the Harvard Exit.

Let’s hash through the details. We’ll update our classic collection of  tips & tricks with the latest info on queue cards and other fluctuating festival features closer to opening day. First, though, in compliance with the SunBreak’s most sacred oath of office, it is my solemn duty to inform you that iSIFF, the amazingly useful little iPhone app, remains in cold storage (as they say in sportsball, “there’s always next year”). But hey! MySIFF is still kind-of around, connected to an alternate festival universe calendar, and approximately functional (successfully adding a film to YourSIFF results in a page with nothing but a reassuring zero).

Early-bird prices have come and gone, but you can still sign up for an all-you-can-eat buffet by getting a series pass or set more achievable goals with a bulk order of six or twenty slightly-discounted tickets. Aside from shopping online, the festival maintains three in-person box offices — one at SIFF Cinema and SIFF Film Center (Lower Queen Anne) and another at SIFF Cinema Egyptian (Capitol Hill). In terms of in-city programming, this year’s map remains fairly compact with most regular screenings taking place downtown at Pacific Place, in Capitol Hill at permanently-revived Egyptian and temporarily-revived Harvard Exit (for an extended wake before the beloved neighborhood theater goes the way of creative offices and craft cocktails), and on SIFF’s home turf in lower Queen Anne with three screens at the Uptown and one at the Film Center. Once again, the festival will take the show on the road to Bellevue (Lincoln Square), Renton, and Kirkland, but we have enough trouble catching everything in Seattle and don’t expect to venture too far beyond city limits.

Can’t wait? Start scouring the festival’s offerings and strategically slotting them into your social calendars, with extra credit for plotting out agendas that allow you to see multiple films at different venues while still managing to find a meal other than popcorn and soda along the way. Should the mood strike, reward yourself with a beer or wine, sold at SIFF-operated venues to accompany you into the theater. With a festival this stuffed full of tough choices and epic film sprints, you’ll more than deserve it.

Auburn Symphony Brings Mozart to Mountainview High

ASO conductor Stewart Kershaw (Photo: Auburn Symphony Orchestra)
ASO conductor Stewart Kershaw (Photo: Auburn Symphony Orchestra)

When the Auburn Symphony Orchestra was formed by music director Steward Kershaw 17 years ago it was in order, he said, to give the members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra an opportunity to play the general orchestral literature.

Kershaw had been music director at PNB for many years, conducting an orchestra described by many admiring critics as “the finest ballet orchestra in the country.” While there are still many musicians who are members of both ensembles, there are others who belong to one only.

The Auburn Symphony has showed its caliber over the years since in the small city south of Seattle which showed its pleasure in having its own orchestra by giving it support, although finances have often been dicey particularly in the recent recession. (Their annual gala is coming up June 6.)

The ASO normally performs at the Performing Arts Center, which doubles as Auburn High School’s auditorium, but this past season has seen that venue in the throes of extensive renovation, and the ASO has been performing at Auburn’s Mountainview High School instead. Next season it will be back at the PAC.

Meanwhile the final concert of the 2014-15 season had a packed audience Sunday afternoon at Mountainview. The orchestra showed itself at its best in a superb performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 29. The orchestra was the right size for this music, about 43 players, and the players in each section played as one, clean and crisp. Kershaw drew expressive details from them, the balance was perfect, and the whole an unalloyed pleasure to hear.

It’s not common to hear the bassoon as a solo instrument, but Vivaldi wrote many concertos for it, and principal bassoonist Mona Butler performed as the soloist in his Concerto in A Minor. The bassoon is the lowest of the wind instruments, but its pitch, timbre, and textures were never overlaid by the orchestral accompaniment. Vivaldi chose in this concerto to intersperse orchestra and bassoon with duets between bassoon and solo cello, ably played by Brian Wharton. It’s a concerto of considerable charm, well played by Butler, but there were many moments where orchestra and soloist were not quite together, which detracted from overall enjoyment.

She returned after intermission for a rarely heard and delightful work by Elgar, a short Romance for bassoon and orchestra. This is unmistakable Elgar from the first notes, with a much larger orchestra and clever orchestration to keep from drowning the soloist. Again however, there were moments when they were not together.

The concert ended with Bizet’s lively “Arlesienne” Suites Nos. 1 and 2, between them eight short pieces, robust, fun, colorful, foot-tapping stuff, most feeling like dances (which they may have been as accompaniments for a play by Alphonse Daudet), and of which the orchestra took full advantage. The whole was a pleasure to hear. Kudos particularly to principal flute Wendy Wilhelmi and piccolo player Laura Werner, for their zestful and musical playing.

The Mein Man: Pad Thai (and Pleasant Peculiarities) at Song Phang Kong

Sweet and spicy pad thai
Sweet and spicy pad thai

Dish: Pad Thai

Place: Song Phang Kong, International District (Seattle)

Price: $7.00 (inclusive of tax)

On the plate: Rice noodles with choice of protein (shrimp is great), crushed peanuts, shredded carrot, bean sprouts, egg, and green onions.

Supporting cast/What to do: The dish comes with a lime wedge. Usually. Another time, there was both lemon and lime. Squirt if you want a hit of acidity. Eat and enjoy.

Noodling around: This is a generous portion for $7. What strikes me about the pad thai here is the initial sweetness, countered by spicy heat—even though there’s no inquiry about desired spice level. Excellent balance. The noodles are perfectly cooked: soft and yet slightly chewy.

There’s pad see ew on the “menu” (see below), but we asked for pad kee mao, and our “host” (see below) was happy to oblige. (I believe she’s willing to make anything she can, if she has time and ingredients on hand or close by—see below.) The wide noodle dish was fine, but not remarkably different than other preparations in town. Pad thai is the preferred choice, as it’s much better than you’ll find at most local restaurants.

Pad kee mao, with its wide noodles
Pad kee mao, with its wide noodles

If you want more: It depends what else is available, which leads us to…

Be aware/beware: Song Phang Kong is a magical place that’s a bit mysterious, making for a unique dining experience. In a sliver of a space that was once a banh mi shop (across from Viet Wah supermarket), the restaurant has but four tables. Despite the small size, expect to wait for your food as it’s all made from scratch.

Song Phang Kong is a true mom-and-pop operation; she’s Lao and he’s Thai, though he wasn’t there last visit, which meant slightly slower service and some inconsistency in terms of food preparation. After all, this left “mom” (more like “grandma”) to do it all (cooking, serving, cleaning), and as in a previous visit, this included leaving the restaurant mid-service to go to a nearby store to buy food. This after my group found a locked door at 11:30 (the restaurant is scheduled to open daily at 10am); just as we were ready to give up, mom came to the door bleary-eyed, beckoning us in after struggling to get the door open.

There’s just one menu for all the tables, upright and encased in plastic, plus a pile of laminated pages with photos, with most of those pages repeats. And you never know what menu items will be available (the sausage has been unavailable for reasons I can’t quite understand due to mom’s limited English), or what adjustments mom will make after you’ve placed your order (“I hope pork is okay in your curry instead of chicken”).

It’s hard to stay upset, though, when she brings each person a bottle of water and a Pepsi (randomly regular or diet) and says, “these are free.” And then brings mismatched plates, laughing while she says “oh, I forgot” when you have to help yourself to napkins and chopsticks from a nearby tray.

Green papaya salad, which will wake up your senses
Green papaya salad, which will wake up your senses

All is forgiven when you hear the pounding of the pestle in mortar as she starts preparing your green papaya salad. (For now, I even forgive the picture of Jesus above the mortar and pestle, as it was gone by the next visit. I prefer my restaurants religion-free.) As she prepares that salad, you should prepare for pretty high spice level. She’s not shy with the chile peppers. Fortunately, that salad comes with raw vegetables and an enormous bag of sticky rice for each person to absorb the heat.

A big bowl of non-sticky rice will come if you order curry or beef jerky or any other dish, I suppose. Try to explain that it’s too much rice, and mom will laugh and tell you she can bring more. It’s all part of the quirkiness that makes Song Phang Wong fun. And a delicious bargain, if you’re willing to embrace the experience.

Green curry with pork
Green curry with pork
Beef jerky
Beef jerky

Curious Georges in a conversation with Seattle