Food & Beverage News

DEATH BY RICE PASTE Every Jan. 1, the entire population of Japan sits down to a New Year's feast that includes a special holiday soup made with miso, vegetables, and big globs of gooey mochi (a substance that resembles lumpy wall-paper paste). And every year a number of Japanese typically between six and eight people, mostly elderlychoke to death while eating this national delicacy. The newspapers duly report the death toll, much in the way American newspapers report the death toll on the nation's highways on the Fourth of July. The Japanese press reports this story absolutely straightwith no sense of irony, although it has reported some twists and turns: Among them an elderly man whose life was saved by a quick-thinking relative wielding a vacuum cleaner. Interestingly, there don't seem to have been any mochi choking deaths in Seattle recently, according to spokespeople for the Seattle police and fire departments. "Never heard of it," said Susan Gregg-Hanson of Harborview Medical Center. Bill Colter, the manager of Nikkei Manor, an old-folks home in the International District, says the Manor serves mochi to residents on New Year's Day, so far without incident. "We cut it smaller," he says, "and serve it hot . . . or with other foods like daikon or bean paste." In Seattle, the place to go for mochi for the holiday is Uwajimaya, the Asian food emporium in the International District. You'll find it fresh and frozen, round and square, colored and white, plain and filled with sweetened red beans (my personal favorite). If you plan to serve it, don't offer it to children under age 3, and if Grandma wants somewell, keep the vacuum cleaner handy. Jeanne Sather TWO NON-ITALIANS FROM HERE AND THERE That First Avenue watering hole with the dubious moniker and the endless menu Two Dagos From Texas has changed hands. Neither of the new owners, John and Julie Fawcett, hails from Texas, but they're planning to keep the familiar name while changing almost everything else: scouring the restaurant and bar from top to bottom, refinishing the floors, replacing the carpets, and refitting much of the kitchen. As for the bill of fare, "We looked around the neighborhood to see what it needed," says John, "and decided on a good, moderate-priced steak house." Apart from the large-portion rib eye and New York steaks, no main dish tops $20, and all entrées come with choice of two sides. Two Dagos hasn't gone completely anti-Belltownmornings after 7, the place opens for espresso, pastries, and the morning news; the bar remains sports-oriented and stays open until 2 a.m. OVERHEARD AT SALUMI Word has it that La Panzanella Bakery, home of the crustiest, chewiest loaf in town, has been sold. The new owner, a scion of the Pigott family of Pacific Car & Foundry fame, was chosen by founder Ciro Pasciutto as the most likely to carry on the bakery's artisanal traditions.

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