I Ate Here: Lanai Cafe Olympia, WA

Thurston County is saying ‘aloha’ to Hawaiian flavors. The Lanai Café opened in downtown Olympia less than six months ago. Though the owners are from the Pacific Northwest, their business partners are from Maui and Oahu.

Lanai Pulled Pork Main

As the name suggests, this pork dish is marinated and braised with Kalua. It has a deep, smokey flavor and tender texture.

The menu features items like a savory pulled pork that is slow cooked and shredded. It can be eaten on its own or put inside pulled pork sliders. There are braised Kali short ribs, fried pork loin, chicken katsu (a breaded fried chicken breast with a tonkatsu—barbecue sauce) Spam appetizers, Hawaiian sweet bread, and Kona coffee drinks, just to name a few. All combos are served with Asian sesame salad and steamed white rice, or for a little extra, you can order pineapple fried rice.

Lanai Platter 1

Kalua Pork platter served with Asian sesame salad, steamed white rice and a slice of pineapple

One of the biggest surprises was the lumpia, which is traditionally a Filipino appetizer. It’s like an eggroll, but filled with meat and served in a rice flour wrapper (as opposed to a regular flour wrapper), which makes them extra crispy.  I make this dish often, with a recipe passed down from my mother’s side of the family for generations, so I was curious to see what the Hawaiian take was on it.

Lumpia at the Lanai Cafe. Though a traditional Filipino dish, the Lanai offers a Hawaiian take on the dish from the Philippine Islands

Lumpia at the Lanai Cafe. Though a traditional Filipino dish, the Lanai offers a Hawaiian take on the dish from the Philippine Islands

The Hawaiian version is made with beef, and instead of using a simple salt and pepper seasoning the Hawaiians use a jerk seasoning blend—which is a hodge podge of sweet and slightly spicy seasonings including cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and garlic, which gave the savory appetizer a slightly sweet and spicy, almost peppery undertone, which was a delightful departure from the Filipino version I am used to. (It’s still not as good as the Filipino version I make, but since I am Filipino, I will always think the Filipino version is better) It is the best lumpia I’ve eaten so far at a restaurant.

The Lani Café

514 Capitol Way S. Olympia

Hours:

Mon-Th 11 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11a.m. -10 p.m.

Entrée Price Range: $7-15

 

I Ate Here: Ramirez Mexican Store, Tumwater, WA

Ramirez Mexican Store Offers Tamales y Comida Muy Autentica (Very Authentic Food)

A plate of chicken tamales and pork enchiladas at Ramirez Mexican store in Tumwater, Wash.

A plate of chicken tamales and pork enchiladas at Ramirez Mexican store in Tumwater, Wash.

I’m originally from Yakima, Wash., a city wthose population is nearly half Hispanic. On nearly every corner, you can find flavorful, authentic Mexican, food in the form of restaurants and outdoor“taco wagons,” food carts where you can watch cooks prepare the food in front of you.

Since moving to western Washington seven years ago, I’ve often struggled to find great Mexican food that rivaled that of my hometown, particularly tamales (a most street food made of a ground corn substance called masa that’s filled with a variety of meats and wrapped inside a corn husk and steamed.) Tamales sold at many restaurants and supermarkets have tamales that are grainy and dry. But Ramirez Mexican Store in Tumwater got it right!.

For $2.95 diners can eat a tamale that comes stuffed with your choice of chicken or pork. Each tamale is  slathered in rijo (red) or verde (green sauce). Chicken tamales have a traditional tomato-based red sauce, while the pork comes with the green tomatillo sauce. The tamale is finished with a drizzling of smooth crema and cotija cheese crumnbles. (Cotija is a cow’s milk cheese that has a texture similar to feta) Each tamale is moist and melts in your mouth! Best of all is the value for your money. Most tamales are small and can fit in your hand. These tamales are served on a big dinner plate and are about 1 ½ times the length of your hand (unless you have big hands like Shaq, then maybe it’s just one). On Mondays, you can spend about $10 to get the two tamale lunch special that comes with a side of rice and beans. Some of the beans in the refried beans have not been crushed all the way, so there are delightful chunks of beans with every bite.

A homemade chicken tamale smothered in salsa rojo, crema and cotija cheese.

A homemade chicken tamale smothered in salsa rojo, crema and cotija cheese.

Other items on the menu include tacos, enchiladas, wet burritos, and quesadillas that can be filled with a variety of meats such as asada (steak), barbacoa (shredded pork), chicken, pulled pork carnitas, chile verde, ground beef, or lengua (beef tongue). When you dine in, make sure to fill up on the complimentary chips. Their chips are quite different than chips you would get at most Mexican restaurants. They are quite a bit thicker–almost like a pita chip and they have seeds in them (I suspect either chia or flax seeds).

After you’re done eating, stop by the Mexican store and panaderia (bakery). The bakery has a wide selection of pan dulce (Mexican donuts) that are topped with a rainbow of sugar. Some are stuffed with cream, others chocolate. The churros are rolled in white sugar and cinnamon and filled with different flavors. Each one is a surprise. The one I ate was pineapple. The store has some of their fresh baked tortillas and lots of hard to find latin ingredients like chile de arbol, spanish adobo seasoning, and dried rose buds.

In additon to the main tumwater store, there is also a smaller Ramirez to Go location in West Olympia that is open for breakfast. (Breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros–eggs)

 

Ramirez Mexican Store

Most Entres $8-$10, sides about $4

Ramirez Mexican Store

5105 Capitol Blvd. SW #C

Tumwater, WA 98501

Store Hours

Mon-Thurs: 9:00am-8:00pm

Fri-Sat: 9:00am-9:00pm

Sun: 9:00am-7:00pm

Ramirez To Go

2400 Harrison Ave SW

Olympia, WA 98501

Note: Hours for the Ramirez To Go location were not listed on the website. It’s advisable to call in advance for hours. (360) 753-1829

 

I Ate Here: Mac N’More, Lacey, WA

Mac N’More Offers ‘Slightly Twisted’ Take on Comfort Food

Mac And More (4 of 5)

Mac N’More is an “Urban Mac N’Cheese House,”located in Hawk Prairie in Thurston County. The Macaroni and cheese is extra creamy and features a blend of three cheeses, including pacific northwest favorite, Tillamook cheddar.

Crayfish tails and green onions or a blend of beef and pork meatloaf aren’t ingredients most come cooks would think of adding to macaroni and cheese.

It’s a concept Steve Cobb hopes will catch on among Thurston County diners. The 52-year old owner of the Mac N’ More restaurant in Lacey has spent the last few years integrating combinations of ingredients to one of America’s favorite comfort foods.

“I strive to serve original food, stuff you can’t get anywhere else in town,” Cobb said. “We’re taking mac and cheese, which is a traditional side dish and elevating it to a sophisticated main dish. We’re also slightly twisted, off the normal path and want to appeal to foodies out there who are looking for something interesting and daring.”

Mac N’ More has a menu featuring eight or nine macaroni and cheese skillets. Each dish begins with a portion of traditional elbow macaroni smothered in a smooth, creamy sauce with a slightly smoky undertone featuring a blend of four cheeses including Tillamook aged extra sharp cheddar. Various ingredients such as crayfish and green onions (The “Mudbug”), tender chicken strips coated in a tangy buffalo sauce and blue cheese (the “Buffalo”) are cooked along with the macaroni and cheese rather than simply tossed on top–a process Cobb says creates a marriage of flavor profiles. The dishes are finished with finely crushed corn flake crumbs to add a crunchy texture. Other combinations include “the loaded potato mac” (bacon, potatoes, green onion and cheddar cheese) and a mac and cheese meatloaf with a beef and pork meat blend, tomatoes, green onions and bacon. There’s also a “garden” option featuring spinach, black olives, tomatoes and green onions.

Customers also have the option of channeling their internal macaroni artist by creating unique combinations using a choice of ingredients such as pickled jalapenos, hard boiled eggs, avocados, mushrooms, pesto and chili beans. And of course, there’s always the original mac and cheese option with no mix-ins.

Cobb says with all the various ingredients and combinations on the menu, there are more than 1,000 different mac and cheese combinations.

the "California Mac:" Grilled calimari, steak, capers, garlic, artichoke, parmesan pesto, served with grilled sour dough bread and dpesto butter

the “California Mac:” Grilled calimari, steak, capers, garlic, artichoke, parmesan pesto, served with grilled sour dough bread and dpesto butter

Rise of the Mac

Steve Cobb and his wife had always dreamed of opening their own restaurant, but career and travel prevented them from doing so. His wife, Kati Cobb, was an Army soldier, and Cobb says he and his family lived as “nomads” for close to 26 years. Kati Cobb served three terms of deployment in Iraq. For a while, Steve was a stay-at home dad, and when his kids grew older, he held many positions in the restaurant industry and spent years refining his culinary skills before opening Mac N’ More in 2011.

Eventually, Kati’s military career brought them to the Pacific Northwest. Steve spent some time cooking for soldiers at JBLM. He studied some old recipes on Army recipe cards and made several dishes using their cooking techniques. He eventually rose to a shift leader, supervising eight cooks. Together they made thousands of meals for soldiers out in the field. Sometimes, they would make up to 1,000 meals per meal period. After leaving JBLM, he continued his career at Elyse’s Catering in Tumwater for two years, where he became head chef. He also spent some time at the Dome Deli on the capitol campus cooking mainly when the legislature was in session.

By then, Kati had returned from her deployments in Iraq, and had risen to the rank of a First Sergeant. After three deployments, Kati decided it was time to retire. It was then that she and Steve revisited their dream that was more than two decades in the making.

“We always said that once she retired, we could open our own place,” Steve said.

Opening a restaurant required a lot of planning, determination and research. Steve said he did a lot of market research about what kind of restaurant people would want in Thurston County that wasn’t already there. He even spent time polling random passersby on the street. He also did research on various types of restaurants throughout the country, in larger cities. One restaurant he came across was S’Mac restaurant in New York City, where the menu featured macaroni and cheese as a main dish. He says macaroni and cheese restaurants were popular in larger cities and areas near universities, mostly because it was often an affordable late-night bar food dish, and it appealed to mass populations because it was a traditional comfort food. He says the restaurants were often called “urban mac and cheese houses.”

Classic Mac N Cheese with pickled jalapenos

Classic Mac N Cheese with pickled jalapenos

“The concept was copied in big cities but not here,” Steve said. And so the idea for Mac N’ More was born.

Running Mac N’ More has been truly a family affair, Steve said.

His son, Theo, often helps cook in the kitchen. Sam, the couple’s daughter, who is a Washington State University business graduate helped develop the marketing plan. And his other daughter, Jordan has dreams of one day opening her own bakery and many of her baked treats are available at the restaurant.

“I’m all proud. They’re a chip off the old block,” he said of his children.

He also said he eventually wants to open five restaurants, including one in West Olympia and start offering gluten-free options.

‘N More

Mac and cheese isn’t the only thing on the menu. It also features a wide selection of American diner fare. There’s fresh salads with crisp vegetables and homemade dressings such as champagne vinaigrette thousand island. There’s soup, chili, meatloaf, buttermilk marinated chicken breast and a variety of classic sandwiches and burgers served on a giant English muffin.

The food isn’t the only thing customers can enjoy. Each table is painted with a chalkboard friendly paint so you can draw on the tables with chalk while you eat.

Mac N More also has a wide selection of diner fare. Their burgers, like this bacon cheese burger, come on a freshly-baked jumbo English muffin from a local bakery.

Mac N More also has a wide selection of diner fare. Their burgers, like this bacon cheese burger, come on a freshly-baked jumbo English muffin from a local bakery.

Recommendations:

For a light, yet satisfying lunch, I recommend a half order of the classic mac and cheese with 1-2 of your desired mix-ins, with a side garden salad. The salads are green and crisp with a a selection of homemade dressings. The one I tried was a white raspberry vinaigrette. The raspberry puree in the vinaigrette complimented the sourness of the vinegar for a perfectly balanced, tangy dressing.

Mac And More (1 of 5)

House Garden salad with olives, croutons and a white balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

 

Mac N’ More

9323 Martin Way in Lacey

Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Follow the restaurant on Facebook.

Average Price For an Entree: $8-10. Mix-ins range from 35 cents to 75 cents.

 

 

Have You Seen This Pig? “Polly” The Pig Stolen From the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House

Some news about the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House I blogged about last month: Their mascot, “Polly” the Pig, has been STOLEN! 

PollyTwin2

“Penny” the pig, is the identical twin of “Polly” the pig statue that was stolen from the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House in Olympia. The Ranch House Steak BBQ and Steak House is on Highway 8, in between Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties.

Some little piggies go to market. Other little piggies stay home. But one particular little piggy was stolen and her owners want her back.

“Polly,” the brown resin pig statue that for years greeted hungry diners at the entrance of the Ranch House BBQ and Steak House, was pig-napped nearly a year ago, and employees at the restaurant have not stopped searching for her.

They’ve put up posters around the restaurant and posted her picture on their Facebook page. They even filed a police report, to no avail.

PoillyAmy

Ranch House owner, founder and pit master, Amy Anderson sits on top of “Penny” the Pig statue. Penny greets customers in the lobby. She is also the identical twin statue of “Polly” the pig, who was stolen last year. Her owners have not given up the search.

“Polly is a symbol of the beginning of our restaurant and where we want to be,” said Ranch House owner, chef and World Champion Pitmaster, Amy Anderson. “We’d love to have her back with her family.”

Polly’s Arrival

Polly was originally purchased in late 2006. Anderson says she was driving down for what would have been the restaurant’s “Express” location in downtown Olympia. However, massive rainstorms in 2007 triggered a mudslide that destroyed the original Ranch House, located on Kennedy Creek Road near Summit Lake. The restaurant was run out of Olympia’s Governor Hotel during the rebuild. When the restaurant re-opened on Kennedy Creek Road the following year, Polly was placed at the entrance to serve as the restaurant’s “greeter.”

Polly was also the restaurant’s mascot. Staff brought her to barbecue competitions and booths at local farmer’s markets. She even came along to weddings and events at which the restaurant catered.

“She was a memory-maker,” recalls General Manager and Pitmaster Joe Gutierrerz. “People took pictures with her. I’ve had customers tell me they remember when their son was 3 and climbed up and was riding on her.”

Night of The ‘Napping

Polly disappeared last year sometime during the night of April 24, 2014. Staffers arrived in the morning and began their pre-opening routine: checking to see if the parking lot is clean start to prep food for the day. It didn’t take long to notice something was amiss.

Gutierrez stepped outside to go to the parking lot and discovered an empty spot beside the bench where Polly used to sit. He and staffers walked all around the restaurant. The only thing that remained of Polly was a broken hoof.

A broken hoof is the only clue left by the pig-nappers.

A broken hoof is the only clue left by the pig-nappers.

“At first I thought it was a practical joke,” Anderson said. “They left the hoof and we were expecting a ransom note.”

The staff have had a few theories as to whodunit. Polly weighs well over 100 pounds, so they think there were at least two co-conspirators.

“It was right around graduation time, so we thought that maybe some of the high schoolers were pulling a prank,” Gutierrez said.

He said employees have investigated tips they have received from customers. Once they thought they might have found Polly in front of another restaurant. But after driving there to inspect it, discovered it was a different pig.

He also said he heard a story of a Thurston County resident who once had a lawn gnome stolen. A year later the gnome reappeared at its owner’s home–with a scrapbook. Apparently, the thief had taken a road trip and, brought the gnome as a travelling companion and took pictures of the gnome at every stop.

But more than a year passed, with neither a scrapbook, nor any further clues as to Polly’s whereabouts.

Gutierrez says it may have been funny at first, but “it’s been a year and it’s not really funny anymore.”

Polly used to travel with staff to farmer's markets, cooking competitions and other community events before she was stolen.

Polly used to travel with staff to farmer’s markets, cooking competitions and other community events before she was stolen.

Other Pigs

The Ranch House has many other pigs in and around the restaurant. Several concrete pigs adorn the garden and walls around the outdoor patio. Wooden pig-shaped cutting boards are hung next to the many trophies and ribbons the restaurant has won in cooking competitions over the years. “Cash,” a giant pig wearing a chef’s hat stands in the lobby. If customers want to know what Polly looked like, they can simply gaze upon “Penny.” Penny is Polly’s identical twin, big, brown and with red handkerchief around her neck.

Since Polly’s disappearance, Anderson purchased “Hope,” a tall, metal pig that now greets diners in the Ranch House’s parking lot. It can easily be seen from the freeway and is probably harder to steal because of its massive size. However, Anderson says Hope won’t fill the void left behind by Polly.

“We got Hope two weeks after (Polly was taken),” Anderson said. “But we didn’t make a big deal about it because we’ve been so bummed about Polly being stolen.”

If you know where Polly is or have any tips that might lead to Polly’s whereabouts, call the Ranch House BBQ and Steakhouse at 360-866-8704.

The "Wanted" Poster describing Polly and what little details are known about the night of her disappearance.

The “Wanted” Poster describing Polly and what little details are known about the night of her disappearance.

I Ate Here: RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse (Olympia)

A full rack RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse ribs can feed two people.

A full rack RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse ribs can feed two people.

The RanchHouse BBQ and Steakhouse has been a landmark on Highway 8, greeting drivers between Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties.

The bright, red building that looks like a farmhouse (with a giant iron pig at the entrance) has received national acclaim.The Ranch House has been featured on the Food Network special BBQ Country Cook-off, Grill Girls and TLC’s Buzzworthy BBQ. Menu items have also won competitions in several countries. There is a shadow box filled with ribbons and trophies from many competitions. According to the restaurant’s website, owner and Olympia native Amy Anderson have earned championship titles for BBQ from five states, Canada and a championship in Ireland in 2000.

pig1

A large iron pig greets guests who come for dinner at the RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse, located on Highway 8 in between Thurston and Grays Harbor counties.

 

A former reporter for The Daily World of Aberdeen told me that the restaurant is a favorite of former Washington state governor Christine Gregoire. It also overcame tragedy. In 2007, a heavy rainfalls caused the creek that runs adjacent to the parking lot (Kennedy Creek) to wash out half the restaurant. Locals and residents from all over Puget Sound stop here to enjoy some award-winning favorites on the menu. So I had high expectations when I stopped in to eat there. The menu has big portions, so one rack of ribs and a couple of sides is enough to feed two people, and that’s exactly what my fiance and I did.

A view of Kennedy Creek, adjacent to the parking lot at RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse.

A view of Kennedy Creek, adjacent to the parking lot at RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse.

The menu says a whole rack of ribs is supposed to have ten individual ribs. We must’ve gotten lucky or happened to get a mutant pig. Our rack of ribs had 11! The ribs are St.Lois style ribs, which means they are spare ribs which are grilled and heavily-sauced (as opposed to dry-rubbed). The ribs were smoked over cherry wood, giving the ribs a distinct savory, and slightly sweet flavor. (The type of wood used in BBQ smoking can affect the flavor of the meat. Check out the science behind it here.) The ribs were moist, tender and fell of the bone with every bite. I could’ve used a little more sauce. Thankfully, the restaurant has bottles of its signature sauce at every table. It tasted spicier than the sauce that was on the ribs. I’m not sure if this was because:

1) it was a different sauce OR

2) it was the same sauce used in the cooking process but the flavor profile was changed because it was at room temperature and it had not gone through the cooking process with the ribs

In either case, it complimented the ribs well.

A c up pf the RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse Chilli. Oh, the beautiful cheese!

A c up pf the RanchHouse BBQ and SteakHouse Chilli. Oh, the beautiful cheese!

I also enjoyed the chili. I usually pass on the chili because I don’t care for most beans. But the chili had a robust flavor and was not overly-spicy. The ground beef and beans were slow-cooked so their flavors combined flawlessly. The best part was the ooey, gooey melted cheddar cheese on top. (My fiance said he wanted crackers to add a crunchy texture to the chili, but I was satisfied because of all the cheese!)

The house caesar salad had large, crispy, green, fresh leaves of romaine and a thorough amount of parmesan cheese. It came served in a small cup–about the same size of the chili cup. It was difficult to eat without spilling over, so I finally just dumped it out on a plate and had no further problems. (FYI: there is also a garden salad and for an additional charge, diners can top any salad with smoked chicken, pulled pork, or beef brisket.)

the house Caesar salad

the house Caesar salad

The menu also has a plethora of sides that include hot wings, chili cheese fries and deep fried macaroni balls. Desserts include mudslide pie (an oreo cookie crust layered with chocolate sauce, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream and chopped nuts) and fruit crisp (your choice of apple, strawberry rhubarb, blackberry or peach) that has a cinnamon oatmeal crumb crust served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But I DID NOT try any of the sides or the dessert because I was too FULL from the entree. I’ll just have to make a vow to try of them on a return visit.

In the meantime, if any of my readers has eaten one or more of the RanchHouse BBQ and Steak House’s sides or desserts, feel free to post a review and/or photos in the comments section.

About RanchHouse BBQ and Steak House:

Prices range for entree: $12-28

Sides: $5.49-$12.99

Desserts: $4.50-$7

10841 Kennedy Creek Rd. SW

Olympia, WA 98502

(360) 866-8704

www.ranchhousebbq.com

 

 

Happy #NationalDoughnutDay! Doos Donuts Opens In West Olympia

Left: Maple Bacon Bar, Center: Chocolate Glazed Right: Cake Doughnut Holes rolled in sprinkles

Left: Maple Bacon Bar Center: Chocolate Glazed Right: Cake Doughnut Holes rolled in sprinkles

Mmm… Doughnuts. June 5 is #NationalDoughnutDay. And Olympia residents have a new place to enjoy Homer Simpson’s favorite treat.

Doos Donuts is now open in West Olympia. The new store is the only one open in Thurston County. (The first, located in Mason County in Shelton, already has a loyal customer base.)

The doughnut flavors are off the beaten path. There’s pineapple fritters, apple-filled bear claws, cherry-cream glazed, raspberry fritters, peanut butter and jelly glazed. The filled doughnuts come in more than just the standard vanilla custard with flavors such as coconut  cream and banana cream. And for those not so adventurous, there’s the standard chocolate bars and sugar glazed. There’s also several sprinkle-topped varieties including doughnut holes.

I sampled the maple bacon bar. The way the bacon is incorporated into the doughnut is pretty ingenious.  Instead of simply placing one strip of cooked bacon on top of the doughnut, the entire length of the doughnut is blanketed with chopped up bacon bits, so there is an equal distribution of bacon and maple glaze in every bite. I stopped in later in the day (around 3:30 p.m.) and the doughnuts were as soft and pillowy as some I might expect to be prepared in the early morning hours.

You can wash down your doughnut with milk, coffee or a variety of bottled beverages, too. They are also planning on launching a line of gluten-free doughnuts soon.

SPECIAL DEALS: On National Doughnut Day (June 5), a dozen doughnuts is on sale for $7.99. And from now until June 30, you can get a FREE doughnut by liking the Doos donuts Olympia Facebook page.

Thank you Doughnut Gods, for bestowing this sweet, wonderful treat upon us.

 

About Doos Donuts:

Prices vary depending on size and type of doughnut, but most are under $2.

West Olympia location:

1621 Harrison Ave. NW

(360) 753-DOOS (3667)

Hours: 6 a.m.to  4 p.m. Monday-Thursday

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

6 a.m.to 4 p.m. Sundays

Shelton location:

2337 Olympic Highway N. #100

(360) 460-8656

Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

 

I Ate Here: Beau Legs (Southern Cuisine)

 

Review: Beau Legs, Lacey, WA

Somewhere along the evolutionary chain between fish and chicken, emerged frogs. Sometime in history, a primitive human slaughtered an amphibian and discovered it was tasty. We’ve been eating the part land-dwelling  and part water-dwelling slimy critters ever since. (Fun Fact: Some researchers suggest some of the first frog legs ever eaten occured over 10,000 years ago in ancient Wiltshire, England)

Frog legs are one of the star dishes at Beau Legs, located in Lacey, Wash. For foodies brave enough to try frog legs, their flavor profile is just that–a cross between a chicken and a fish. Frog legs have a history of being braised or roasted Asian and European dishes (mainly French.) However, at Beau Legs, frog legs are prepared Southern style: drenched in a cajun-spiced flour mixture and then deep fried like chicken wings. (If you’ve never seen frog legs before, picture a longer, more slender chicken wing without the pointy tips on the end).

 Southern-style deep fried frog legs at Beau Legs in Lacey, WA

Southern-style deep fried frog legs at Beau Legs in Lacey, WA

Beau legs has a plethora of other Southern Style offerings, such as gumbo ( a stew-like concoction with beans, spices, andouille sausage over rice)  mac and cheese, jambalaya (much like gumbo, but not a stew), deep fried chicken, alligator po’ boys, and fried okra. (Note: When I ate at Beau Legs recently, they were out of the alligator po’ boys. The waitress who served us said the alligator is sometimes a difficult-to-get-item from local suppliers. So if you want to try some alligator, call ahead.)

My fiance and I decided to try this restaurant after reading lots of positive reviews on yelp. My notes on overall dining experience:

Appearance:The decor doesn’t immediately scream ‘southern style’ save for a couple of mardi-gras masks on the wall. The interior dawns shades of a nautical blue, the same that you would find at most fish and chip establishments. The dining room is quaint, with about five tables and five booths. Though most tables were occupied and seating limited, it  was very clean and did not feel crowded.

Frog legs: The frog legs are coated in the same flour mixture as is used as the fried chicken. The texture of the frog legs met the expectation of what any flour-fried meat should be: golden brown, soft on the inside and with crispy on the edges. The meat was moist, easy-to-separate from the bones and cooked all the way through.

Catfish: The catfish was coated in cornmeal mix of seasonings with salt, pepper and I believe a hint of paprika. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the catfish was fried. I’ve tried many a fish rolled in cornbread and fried that was either greasy (which happens when you don’t wait long enough for the oil in the pan to heat up to the right temperature for frying and the piece of food you are trying to cook absorbs the oil) or the oil was too hot and the cornmeal burned too quickly. The catfish was neither oily or burned. The salt brought out the oceany flavor of the catfish and the cornmeal provided a lightly crunchy texture.

Tartar Sauce: Instead of handing out tartar sauce packets or having customers squirt out a generic brand through a pump,Beau Legs uses a fresh tartar sauce. The horseradish flavor is distinct, but not overly-sharp. The horseradish mix is finely minced and gives the tartar sauce a smoother consistency, unlike some brands of mass-produced tartar sauce,which have huge chunks of horseradish in them. There’s also a layer of sweetness to the tartar sauce (presumably from lemon), and chopped dill that adds a tangy element to the sauce that counterbalances the sweetness. They need to bottle this sauce and sell it!

Fried Prawns: The prawns were coated in a panko breadcrumbs. The prawns were quite large and plump. The ratio of breadcrumbs to prawns was equally proportional, allowing me to taste the buttery, juicy texture of the prawns.

Red Beans and Rice: Red beans were molded on top of the rice like the top of Mt. Rainer and it was great fun to dig down to find the rice and mix it up with my spoon! The rice was fluffy, but still firm. All of this was mixed in with creole seasonings and chunks of andouille sausage.

A cup of Beau Legs' red beans and rice

A cup of Beau Legs’ red beans and rice

Hush Puppies: My biggest surprise of the whole meal! I was apprehensive about tying the hushpuppies at first because 1) the hush puppies were a darker brown instead of a golden brown that I am used to seeing in photos 2) The first time I tried hush puppies at a national fast food chain and they had absolutely no flavor at all. They were just burned cornmeal balls. This was about five years ago and I never ate another hush puppy again.

The Beau Legs version of hush puppies were like a flavor explosion in your mouth. Crunchy on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside. There were some onions that were finely chopped (in the same way as the horseradish in the tartar sauce) that gave the inside of the hush puppies wonderful sweetness that complimented the herbs inside (I could not decide if the herb was parsley or thyme). If this is how hush puppies are supposed to taste, I have been missing out because of one bad experience long ago.

Beau Legs Fish and Chips

8765 Tallon Ln NE Ste G, Lacey, WA 98516

(360) 915-6328

Hours:

11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday

11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Noon- 7 p.m. Sunday

Menu price range: $3.99 for most sides $9-$15 for entrees and special dishes

 

 

I Ate Here: Cebu, A Taste of The Philippines

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Lumpia Shanghi is a traditional appetizer in the Philippines. It is made using spring roll wrappers and is often filled with pork and finely shredded carrots.

I am half Filipino. My mother immigrated to the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, and it was always a special treat when her extended family members visited us and she, my grandmother and aunts and uncles would cook prepare things like lumpia(kind of like an eggroll,but CRUNCHIER)  and pancit (a vegetable and meat noodle dish). The flavors of the Philippine islands are part of my heritage and I was thrilled to find a restaurant in the South Sound that specializes in that cuisine. It’s very nostalgic for me whenever I eat there, and I’m happy to introduce some of my culture with you.

Cebu – A Taste of Traditional Philippine Cuisine

By Rachel Thomson

Angel Vano wants to take diners on a culinary tour of the Philippines. His passion is introducing locals to a culture rich with history and international influence, which they may not be familiar.

Vano is the owner and cook at Cebu (pronounced SAY-boo), a restaurant offering Filipino cuisine. Named after one of the more than 7,100 islands in the Philippines, Cebu has been offering traditional Filipino dishes to diners since 2001.

“I enjoy promoting culture and heritage through food,” Vano says. “Filipino food transports you to another place.”

The Philippines’ history and influences borrowed from other countries are evident in the culinary offerings found on Cebu’s menu.

An example of this is Cebu’s adobo, a meat dish slowly marinated and stewed with vinegar originating from Spain. In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines and claimed the islands for Spain, thus marking the beginning of a 300-year rule by Spain. The Spanish version of adobo is made with oregano, salt, vinegar and paprika, which gives it a spicy flavor. However, paprika was not a spice common in the Philippines, so the Filipino version features ingredients such as soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves and black pepper, which allows the tanginess of the vinegar to come through.

Another example of Asian fusion on Cebu’s menu can be found in the restaurant’s take on pancit (PAN-set). In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Chinese established colonies in the Philippines. With them, the Chinese brought noodle dishes and bean curds. The Cebu version of pancit starts with your choice of three different types of sautéed noodles: sotanghon (bean thread), bihon (rice), or canton (egg), which are then mixed with your choice of chicken, pork, prawns or tofu and vegetables like carrots, yellow peppers and red cabbage.

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Pancit can be made with various types of noodles. (bean sprout noodles, egg noodles, rice noodles) Pictured here is pancit canton, made with egg noodles.

Cebu also offers appetizers such as lumpia (pronounced Loomp-YA), which are similar to Chinese egg rolls. However, lumpia are stuffed with mainly pork and shredded carrots and their wrappers are thinner, which gives the lumpia a pronounced crunch. Cebu’s dessert items allude to the Philippines’ Polynesian roots, featuring a Halo Halo (pronounced HALL-oh, HALL-oh) shaved ice that is mixed with tropical fruits and topped with ice cream.

Vano opened Cebu in Olympia with his wife, Kim, in 2001. He met his wife in Cebu and they immigrated to the United States more than two decades ago. Van attended Pacific Lutheran University, earned a degree in business, and worked in the banking industry for 11 years. However, he says opening his own restaurant has “always been a dream” of his. One day, he decided to leave the banking world, but put his knowledge of business to work into his restaurant.

“It was kind of a now or never kind of dream,” Vano says.

Cebu’s menu is created from family recipes that have been passed down for generations. Vano considers himself the sous chef and says most of the recipes come from his wife’s family. Prior to immigrating to the United States, Kim worked as a dietician and nutritionist and prepared meals for nuns at a hospital.

Since opening the restaurant on Marvin Road, Vano says he’s been able to educate the community about Filipino culture and heritage. He is the president of theFilipino American Community of South Puget Sound (FACSPS). The organization, which started in 1982, is a non-profit committed to promoting and preserving Filipino American heritage in the United States. The organization runs a “Visiting Artists” program, which hosts performing artists such as The Philippine Ballet Troupe and choral singers. The group also runs a humanitarian relief program called “Uhaw,” derived from a tagalong word meaning “thirst.” The organization also sends basic aid to victims of mass disasters and crises in the Philippines and the United States. Recently, FACSPS held a benefit dinner to send aid to victims of the category 5 typhoon Haiyan, which killed thousands of people in 2013. The group also provides a limited number of scholarships to local graduating seniors in Thurston County schools and regularly participates at the annual Ethnic Celebration at Saint Martin’s University.

CebuAngelVano-300x225Vano says the best thing about running Cebu is the opportunity he gets to educate the community about the cultural diversity of the Philippines. He remembers a group of students from an Asian and International Studies course at South Puget Sound Community College who came in for lunch one day for an assignment. They had to try an international type of food and discuss it in class. Vano says none of the students had tried Filipino food before and they began taking pictures and writing notes.

“I’m glad to be here to represent that cuisine,” Vano says. “I didn’t think that educating people would be such a big effect of opening a restaurant, but it bloomed into that. Food is culture and I like being able to bridge culture through food.”

Cebu

9408 Martin Way

Olympia, WA 98516

Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Saturday: noon – 9:00 p.m.

Sunday: Closed

Price Range for entree: $8-12

Cebu also hosts special Filipino buffets on holidays such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, which features a wider variety of Filipino food not on the regular menu, and Cebu also offers a full-service catering menu. For more information call

Cebu at 360-455-9128.

 

 

Foodie Profile: Sierra Rumble

Check out this feature I did on Sierrra Rumble. She’s only 16 years old, but she’s already a talented pastry chef! She is based out of Thurston County and runs an unofficial business with her mom. She’s an AMAZING food artist!

sierraMost sixteen year olds are excited about getting their driver’s license and shopping for the perfect prom dress – not trying out a new hand mixer or getting their hands covered in flour and granulated sugar while experimenting with pastry recipes.

But that’s how Sierra Rumble likes to spend most days after school. The junior at North Thurston High School has plans on becoming a pastry chef one day. Though she’s had no professional culinary training, she’s already getting lots of recognition for her sweet treats.  READ MORE

Check out some of her edible artistry!  Visit her website

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cupcake  skellingtonfondant