Proof that I am only 99% affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder

4 Dec

There you have it, folks. I haven’t been hit by a car or eaten by the moths on my porch. Nah, just mildly depressed as per winter usual, and needing money to motivate me to actually make good on my hobbies. So for that, Cascadia Weekly, I salute you. Thank you for getting me off my ass. I’m copying and pasting my article below, or you can read it at this link: http://www.cascadiaweekly.com/entertainment/not_just_for_adventurous_eaters/

My version is way more fun though, since it’s got pictures (for some reason there’s no photo on the website, but in the publication it is quite large and delicious looking).

All right, it’s hammertime.

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Ah, banchan!

STONE POT KOREAN: NOT JUST FOR ADVENTUROUS EATERS

Being a food junkie, I’m surprised I made it as far as I did without ever experiencing Korean food. I don’t want to admit this, but I was afraid. I’ve watched too many episodes of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain downs various fermented and previously buried “specialties,” and, well, I was a little freaked out about finding a rancid soft boiled egg on my plate. After Stone Pot opened up in the space next to Everyday Music on Magnolia though, I knew I had to swallow my irrational fears (literally) for the sake of wary eaters everywhere. In the wake of The Bistro, Nona Rosa’s, Chiribin’s etc., I was feeling particularly hopeful that the latest inhabitant of the cursed building would manage to keep afloat.

Throwing the doors open one blustery Saturday afternoon, we were greeted by an unceremonious electronic bell and a cheery older woman who allowed my man and I to sit wherever we pleased. As we settled into our window seats and surveyed the menu, the friendly chatter of happy diners melded with the sounds of kitchen clatter and faint pop music wafting from the back. When I asked on Facebook what I should order, the majority of respondents had little to offer or just seemed disgusted by Korean food. One helpful friend, however, advised me to get bulgogi and plenty of kimchi, so I did just that. With a refreshingly short menu, we managed to pour over every item in and make our decisions in 5 minutes or so. He settled on the pork bibimbap ($10.99) and I on the bulgogi (14.99), with some complimentary tea (which tragically tasted like a seat cushion in an airport terminal).

Our server brought us out six dainty dishes of banchan: various kinds of kimchi, marinated bamboo shoots, radish, broccoli, and sprouts, then doled out our chopsticks and returned a few moments later with our steaming entrees. Before I had a chance to photograph the bibimbap, a glorious arrangement of pork, rice, vegetables, and a fried egg, our server took the liberty of instructing my partner in the ways of preparing the dish for consumption. She leaned over his lunch and vigorously scraped the sides of the screamingly hot stone pot that the food is served in, folding the various layers together and, by default, absolutely murdering the aesthetic of the dish. However, it had to be done and we were both grateful for the instruction, since both of us were most likely doomed to look like clueless Americans had she not shown us the traditional method of bibimbap preparation.

His dish was the perfect “grub:” a pile of rice, veggies and sizzling pork, slathered in broken egg yolk and doused in the not-so-spicy-but-extremely-garlicky hot sauce. Bits of rice that had continued to cook in the bottom of the pot caramelized and hardened, adding a pop of crunch and texture to an otherwise pretty soft dish. In my opinion though, my bulgogi beat his lunch, hands down. I didn’t think I could manage to finish my heaping plate of fire-roasted beef, vegetables, and rice, but I did. And it was awesome. Besides a couple questionable baby carrots and a few gristly bits of meat, the dish was incredible. The vegetables were the perfect consistency and the beef was chewy but tender, bursting with an intense black pepperyness that I absolutely adored.  With each bite a little different (thanks to the wildly flavor-diverse banchan provided,) our meal seemed less like a means to sustain us and more like fun (and tasty) experiment.

Though we shelled out a little more than we normally would for lunch, we could have scored significantly better deals had we managed to show up between 11 and 2:30, when their lunch menu is available at very reasonable prices. After reviewing their menu (seafood pancake, yes please! And spicy noodle soups? Sounds like the perfect hangover cure!) I’m not sure what it is about Korean food that seems to scare off the everyday diner. Sure, the lighting in the restaurant is reminiscent of a horror movie set in an abandoned convenience store, but somehow I doubt that every Korean restaurant has that disadvantage. Based on the deliciously smoky smell that hits you in the face when you walk through the door and the happy slurping at the tables next to us, I’m going to guess that Korean food is just a misunderstood cousin of the numerous other Asian cuisines that we all seem to enjoy without a trace of skepticism. No, my mouth didn’t catch on fire. No, kimchi isn’t going to poison you (in fact, I could have used bigger helpings, I was hooked!). And no, I didn’t eat anything previously buried and left to ferment…I don’t think.

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Mmmm, Airport tea.ImageI’d eat that.

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