Hot Dish

Tapas with a twist Discriminating diners flock to Seattle's Harvest Vine for its superb interpretations of classic Spanish tapas items. But HV chef Joseph Jiménez de Jiménez is not content with preparing old favorites. He periodically revisits his roots in the Basque provinces of north-central Spain, taking staff members with him so they can experience the Basque way with food on native grounds. And since Spanish cooking is widely acknowledged as the most creative and exciting of European cuisines, and Basque cooking as the most exciting in Spain, they return to Seattle brimming with new ideas and techniques. (Jiménez doesn't confine his research to home cooking; on his most recent European foray he also took in the food of Guide Michelin six-star superchef Alain Ducasse.) Now the kitchen traffic has turned two-way, with Jiménez inviting Bilbao-born Eder Montero, late of New York hot dining spot Nobu, to share the spotlight at Harvest Vine, first in what Jiménez hopes will be a twice-yearly chef exchange designed to bring the sizzle of cutting-edge cooking to sometimes somnolent Seattle. Montero's visit culminates this Sunday in a $150-per-person eight-course banquet, but you don't need to break the bank to find out what's cooking in Basqueland, because some of the exotic cooking techniques making news in Europe—meat and vegetable "foams," gels, and the like—will be turning up on the regular Harvest Vine menu as well. What do you say, say, to fresh anchovies with a side of olive-oil ice cream? Nacho average nachos And now, a quick update on the Ultimate Nacho Recipe Contest, the annual Washington Dairy Council–sponsored competition in which nacho auteurs submit wildly innovative recipes until a single, clearly superior formula emerges. This year's victorious entry came, interestingly enough, from a restaurant better known for its pizza: Piecora's "short rib nachos with avocado salsa and roasted sliced scallion garnish." The dish's homespun history, according to winning chef Brian Casey, involves his Irish-Mexican grandmother, "cool summer evenings," and lemonade. The evolution of the iconic snack food itself—supposedly invented by a Mexican chef named Ignacio during World War II—is partially shrouded in mystery. To wit: Where are Ignacio's descendents? Are they living opulent lives off stratospheric royalties, or do they suffer in cosmically unjust poverty? What we know for certain is that Piecora's walked away from the contest with a $500 gift certificate for Washington artisan cheeses. Get your ducks in a line It's only natural to question the origin of the food we eat, and now customers can rest assured that all of the White Pekin duck products coming from Maple Leaf Farms are free of hormones, growth promotants, and antibiotic-"enriched" feed. Customers can also feel good about investing in Maple Leaf products because although the ducks are nationally distributed, the business is family run and operated with a commitment to quality. The Maple Leaf Farms has created an independent Animal Well-Being Committee, which includes prominent animal experts to create and enforce guidelines to ensure healthy production, growth and processing of these birds. So when you say "dead duck," don't ruffle your feathers; these ducks died happy. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at

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