Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mason Jar madness

I'm a foodie. I admit it with my fork held high and my taste buds waiting in anticipation for the next truly transcendent morsel to cross my lips. In the last year or so I've graduated from quantity to quality and in so doing have lost about 80 pounds. What I haven't lost is the pure sybaritic pleasure of a superb savory sensation, nor have I lost the pleasure I derive from creating great food for friends and family to enjoy.

And therein lies a problem. At any given moment, members of my family are on 'diets' or 'plans' or 'lifestyle changes' or medical restrictions or, among the preteens and teens just plain pickiness. Which would be okay if 'pickiness' wasn't defined by fast fooditis and sugar highs (I don't care what the damn studies say, kids get wired on sugar--or maybe just the anticipation of it.). So I don't get to cook that much for anyone except myself, which leads to a huge array of small containers in every nook and cranny of the fridge containing the remains of some wonderfulness only I have experienced. Fortunately, I hardly ever write down how I made something, so every meal seems like a new adventure. Occasionally I even get around to eating some of the leftovers.

I'm the only person I know that makes his own ketchup. I do so with tomatoes fresh from my tiny garden. Canned some yesterday and, today I used the last of my jalapeno crop to create pepper jelly. I make my own chicken stock. I'm sure it costs twice as much (or more) as the stuff in the box, but I'm such a cheapskate I just can't help it when chicken is cheap. First I fill the freezer with cut up fryers, then the backs, wing tips, excess fat and skin gets browned, add some spices, herbs & vegetables, simmer for 4 or 5 hours, filter, skim, bottle, process & voila, chicken stock. If there are enough livers, perhaps a nice pate' is in order.

When I owned a restaurant, and later when I was a caterer (two different endeavors), cooking was work. If you were good you did it to please patrons, not yourself. I was good. Chef-ing was long, grueling hours in a hostile environment which left you dead tired and yet exhilarated beyond common sense. It's hard to explain, really, unless you're a foodie, then you just get it.

Because of who I am, I pay as much attention to what and where I am eating when I dine out as a movie critic might to the acting, score, directing and editing of a motion picture. Which leads me to the real reason for this post; a recommendation.

If you live in Whatcom County, or visit, you must experience Soy House. The unassuming name and tastefully minimalist decor, tucked away in a new shopping center at 414 W. Bakerview in Bellingham, disguises the tasty treasures on the menu. A Vietnamese cuisine cafe, this is not a six bucks a bowl pho joint. The menu is carefully constructed to offer a wide range of palate pleasers without trying to be all things to all people. To be sure, they have pho and it is superb. Well balanced broths, (not the same broth for everything) fresh organic ingredients, choice of noodle types. All well and good, but venturing into the heart of the menu is much more fun. Each recipe has been honed to perfection before being offered to the public and it is literally impossible to make a bad choice for a meal. I know this because I've tried virtually everything on that budget friendly menu.

Including a new take on an old favorite; flatbread. Okay, pizza really, but flatbread is so much more trendy in a 90's sort of way, and this flatbread is fab-u-lous. Forget glops of insipid tomato sauce & greasy slathers of cheese-like substance, that's old news-college kid stuff. These pies are at the same time ethereal yet substantive. Thin, crispy, crust and lightly sauced with a southeastern Asian pesto, just spicy enough to illuminate your senses, just subtle enough to demand your careful attention. Not up for pesto, however succulent and not Italian? Okay, how about savory pineapple sauce--just enough sweet, that little acid for balance yet not cloying in the least. Even the cheeses are selected for a smart new take on balance and flavor. Toppings are a work in process as they develop this menu line. I'm pushing for the lemon grass chicken on the pesto, and maybe Chinese sausage on the pineapple. There are a couple of other options for sauces, but you get the point--it will redefine how you think of bread, sauce and cheese--and it will be a good thing.

Now, I just have to educate all you eaters out there about the virtues of duck and maybe I can convince them to put some on the menu. Soy House, are you listening? How about a play on an Asian style BBQ sauce with duck breast on that pizza? Or maybe smoked duck pho. I'm telling you, it could be a real winner.

Just ask me, I know these things; I'm a foodie.


  1. You make your own ketchup? Your certainly the only person I know that does that.

    Will be traveling to the Bellingham area next week & will give Soy House a try.

  2. I found the Soy House, as you recommended, and I tried it. You are as good as your word, the food was great and the prices moderate. I even liked the decor. Simple but classy and tasteful. I don't know how many people I can send from King County, but if anyone asks I'll sure tell them where to find this place the next time they head for Bellingham.

    Tjhanks for the tip!

  3. My wife & i asked about the pizza because we couldnt find it on the menu. They said it wasn't on there yet burt they would make one for me. We had the pesto sauce one. It was the best pizza I ever ate! We had their salad rolls (spring rolls? fressh rools?) and a beef dish with wide rice noodles. It was terrrific too. I really like this place & will come back & tell me friends. Thanks Robert. Tell us about other places to go, please,