Sunday, March 7, 2010

Skillet Street Food (Seattle)

One of my greatest culinary passions is street food. It’s a passion that I discovered at a very young age. I actually remember walking through the streets of Taipei with my mother during my Spring Break and eating whatever goodies that we’d come across, my favorite being the green onion pancakes that were cooked on the huge oil drum woks. When travelling, I believe that consuming street food is one of the best ways to get to know a city or a culture. So you can imagine my disappointment upon moving to Seattle, and the severe lack of street food as opposed to LA, as the weather here is not conducive to such an industry. Yes there is a Taco truck down the street from my place that I can’t get enough of… But that is entirely different blog in it of itself.

When one thinks of “street food” the idea that normally comes to mind is a questionably sanitary truck, stand or cart, serving the economically priced food of the people. But what the gentlemen at Skillet Street Food have accomplished turns the concept of “street food” on its head. Based in a shiny silver trailer, and operating only twice a week at random locations all over the city, this little gem is absolutely worth the drive, the line and quite possibly Armageddon.

Friday at approximately 11:20am, I pulled into an alley in SoDo, down the street from the Starbucks headquarters. In the adjacent parking lot, there was a silver trailer, with Anita Franklin’s “RESPECT” blaring from the speakers within. The menu was simple and written on the side of the trailer in black marker, and as I was aware that they change the menu frequently, my friend and I decided to order one of everything. And all I have to say is thank God we did. While I wasn’t a fan of the slightly watered down and too sweet Rosemary Lemonade, there was not one other thing on the menu that I can say I would not order again, and again, and again. I won’t recap the entire meal for you, but here are the highlights…

As you know, I can’t stand Rachel Ray. I hate her acronyms and stupid words like “E-V-O-O”, “Sammys” and “Choup”. But if “sammys” all tasted like the Fried Chicken Sammy at Skillet, then I swear I’ll convert to her idiotic linguistics tomorrow. The breading on the chicken was spicy, flavorful and crisp and had been deep fried at the perfect temperature so the breading didn’t retain too much oil. Using radicchio in place of a traditional green lettuce added a different spin, and the celery root and apple slaw gave the sandwich a light freshness that I actually woke up craving today. The soft roll that it was served on had the sweet flavor of egg bread and was the perfect vehicle on which to spread the creamy, spicy aioli. Overall, the sandwich had a phenomenal balance of savory, sweet and spicy; hot and cold; soft and crunchy. In this cook’s book it was fabulous.

“The Burger” was composed of grass fed beef, and topped with a mild blue cheese, peppery arugula and the legendary bacon jam that Skillet dishes out. Served on a soft grilled roll, it was perfection. I know that you really can’t go wrong with bacon any time, however I have to say- Skillet’s Bacon Jam was incredible. The caramelized onions provided a rich amber color, an intense sweetness and sticky, jammy consistency, while the rendered bacon and spices gave it an incredibly savory flavor. As we ate the burger, we noted all the complexities and depth of flavor. The earthiness of the grass fed beef was so rich and yummy, and the sweet, savory combination with the bacon jam and tangy bleu cheese was such an outstanding combination. This was definitely no ordinary burger. All together as a package, it was flawless.

Now, like any heavy consumer of vodka, I enjoy a really good French fry in the morning. And I know that Poutine is a dinner staple among the good people of Quebec, and I officially want to thank them for sharing it with us. Skillet’s spin on the traditional Poutine was fabulous. Instead of cheese curds and brown gravy, the frites were smothered in cheddars, lighter gravy, and then tossed with Italian parsley and Rosemary. It was by far the most addicting dish I have had in a very long time.

Sitting in the back of our car devouring the meal, not caring about the potential of aioli stained leather, but all while cursing the fact I had worn the Dolce tux jacket, I couldn’t help but think how fabulous a concept Skillet was. Street food has always been something that is near and dear to my heart, and I am so elated to see Seattle ushering in new ideas such as making what was once the cheap eats of the people into innovative and gourmet delights. So when it comes to Skillet, I suggest you go immediately, and get there early, because more than likely, I’ll already be standing in line.

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