What is "Northwest Cuisine"
Hello Seattle. I'm here from NY doing a play at the Intiman. Curious to hear people's ideas about what "Northwest Cuisine" means. I've already had a few great meals at restaurants that label themselves or are labelled by the press as Northwest. Local ingredients, simple preparation. But many good restaurants all over follow this California cuisine idea. Are there special flavors or ethnic influences here I haven't sussed out yet that make the food Northwest?
Fresh and lovely right now: peaches from yakima, plums, huckleberries, wild mushrooms, baby squashes, local tomatoes, basil, corn finally coming in.
I suppose CA has strawberries and almonds, WA has blackberries and apples. Some of the tree fruit does better up here because it needs more winter chilling. Also we probably have a wild mushroom advantage due to closer, moister mountains.
I don't think 'Northwest Cuisine' gets as much hype here as 'California Cuisine' does there (I just spent 18 mos in the bay area, so I do have an opinion on this), or maybe it just hasn't been the trend for as long. Aside from the local produce aspect, I'd say there's a healthy dose of Pacific Rim influence in a lot of Northwest food.
To me, part of Northwest cuisine is about use of special, Northwest ingredients when they're in season and making dishes that highlight those ingredients in straightforward ways.
I think of salmon cooked in a huckleberry-chantrelle-walla walla sweet onion sauce with something baked out of blackberries you picked yourself for dessert.
[Note to self: don't post while hungry!]
though it is possible that you were merely free associating, using huckleberries and chanterelles and sweet onions in a sauce is incredible overkill and unfair to such fine ingredients. better, perhaps, to grill and serve the salmon and the onions together; saute the mushrooms in a drop of hazelnut oil to go along with them and serve both the berries raw with unpastuerized cream and a local reisling for dessert
"northwest cuisine" is the same as "california cuisine" if you accept the term as a concept rather than a geographical identifier; alice waters brought it to the usa but the french and italians have been doing it (having no other choice, it is true...) for centuries. the precepts are use of local ingredients in season and light handling so the glory of fresh procucts shines through. the danger is that a chef who is evangelical in his/her approach will not, for example, use olive oil in region (like here) where they do not grow; we would be forced into the "butter food" of northern france. a walk thru a farmers market (and seattle is blessed with many) will indicate what is fresh that day/week/month and those are the products to seek out. apricots in spring, apples in winter and fabulous tomatoes today....