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Kaarin Olsen

Kaarin is a Seattle-native and lover of the Emerald City’s cuisine. As a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Communication and Sociology, she is pursuing a career in marketing and public relations. Living on a college budget, Kaarin is always searching for a cheap bite at a local happy hour and documents these experiences on her personal blog. Kaarin has been a passionate dancer her entire life and when not blogging, she can be found breaking it down anywhere where there is a catchy tune. She also enjoys exploring the city, browsing around Seattle-area boutiques, or sipping on a cup of coffee at a local café.

Posts by Kaarin Olsen


Utensil roll call: where's the knife?

It is very easy to appreciate the wonderful taste of food as it reaches our mouths and fills our senses. But, eating would never be as easy if it weren’t for utensils. The Department of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences houses the Rietz Collection of Food Technology. Home to nearly 1,400 items, a large portion of the collection contain eating utensils and display the history and innovation of each over time.

Chopsticks were surprisingly developed over 5,000 years ago in China and historians believe they were first used to retrieve food from large pots as twigs broken off from trees. As the shape of the 9 to 10 inch square chopstick became more common, food was small enough that it was the only utensil necessary, chopsticks spread widely. It is estimated that the use of chopsticks quickly spread through Vietnam, Korea, and Japan by 500CE. Chopsticks have been made out of a variety of materials, although bamboo has remained the most popular as it is inexpensive, easy to maneuver and always available. The wealthy held their status by having chopstick sets made from jade, gold, bronze, brass, agate, coral, ivory, and silver.

Forks were first used in the time of the Ancient Greeks. At that time, the fork was two tines that prevented meat from twisting and moving during carving and serving. Starting in the 7th Century CE, forks were used at the table for dining and by the 13th Century CE, forks were common among the wealthy in Byzantium. Forks didn’t make their way to France until 1533 and it wasn’t until 1608 that they were first used in England. Similar to the original Greek verision, dining forks at that time consisted of two long and widely spaced tines. It was not until France in late 17th century that larger forks with 4 curved tines, similar to the forks we see today, were developed. By the early 19th century, this type of fork spread its way into Germany and England and slowly throughout the United States.

Knives have not only been used as weapons and tools, but eating utensils since prehistoric times. But knives were not provided to guests for eating until the Middle Ages in Europe. Since the knife was still widely used as a weapon, it continued to pose as a threat at the dinner table. Years later, cutlers began to make the ends of the knife wider and rounder to make food easier to pile with a fork. The knife also found its curved shape making it easier for the wrist to cut. Knives were spread widely through the beginning of the 18th century at which time, the edges became blunter. As the fork became more common, knives started to lose their curved, bulbous tips in the 19th century and are now the knife that we commonly see today.

Since Paleolithic times, spoons have been used for eating. The Greek and Latin words for spoon come from cochlea, meaning a spiral-shaped snail shell, suggesting that shells were the first common type of spoon in Southern Europe. Wood spoons remained more common in Northern Europe as the Anglo-Saxon word spon means a chip or splinter of wood. Romans designed two types of spoons in the First Century CE: The ligula for soft foods and soups and the cochleare for shellfish and eggs. English spoons were modeled after these two types between 43 and 410 CE. Wealthy families served meals with gold and silver spoons during the middle ages. But, starting in the 14th Century, spoons were made of iron brass, pewter and other metals and became wide spread.

The next time you pick up those chopsticks, fork, knife, or spoon, think about where we would be today if we didn’t have the wonderful invention of eating utensils!

If we didn’t have eating utensils today, what do you think an average meal at a restaurant would look like?

CC image courtesy of Lohb on flickr

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That will do pig, that will do!

We often hear stories of people who have felt more life fulfillment through saving money. With the financial hardships that many Americans are still facing today, almost all of us wish we could have that extra dollar or two in the bank. What many may not believe though is that saving money actually can improve the quality of your life.

Improving your life through saving all begins with having a budget. Although many people use their financial budget as restraining and remedial, About.com finds that budgeting can actually provide benefits to personal financial health. Saving money by having a budget is important because it:

-Visually reveals where every dollar is spent: Being able to visually view where each dollar is spent can be satisfying when saving improvements can be seen. A visual budget also allows for improvements and updates to be easily made. One tip may be to compare how the use of coupons or shopping during sales make a difference with your visual budget.

-Builds positive habits: Working with a budget helps individuals build positive habits, especially with spending, that can be maintained over time.

-Reduces stress: By following a budget and working towards a goal of saving keeps both families and individuals in good financial health. Budgets make it easier to realize if large purchases, indulgences or vacations can be afforded.

-Brings joint effort: If working on the budget is a family project, then families can come together by working hard to save up for an important vacation or big event. The budget is a barometer for family finances. Try holding a family meeting and planning financial goals for the year and how each family member can contribute to the goal. Even include the kids!

-Builds reward: It is important to reward yourself or your family if you are staying in line with your financial goals.

It is easy to reduce stress and feel fulfillment individually or with the joint effort of family members by saving money through a budget.

When shopping for groceries or dining out, what decisions do you make to save a few extra bucks?

cc image courtesy of Alan Cleaver on flickr

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May-9-2011

Never Wait For the Check Again

Posted by Kaarin Olsen under Food, Food Trends, News, Restaurants
Waiting for Restauranteers

Where is that tablet?

Have you ever sat at a restaurant table, wondering when your waiter will notice you to bring over the check at the end of the meal? A new company based out of Palo Alto, California has put this agony to an end with their E la Carte Tablet.

The new tablet, called Presto which has a full day’s battery life and a built-in credit card reader, makes it easy for customers to order and pay. Customers can customize their dining experience by the number of people in the dinner party, know exactly how long it will take for their food to arrive, and can even play games on the tablet while they wait.

According to Slate, the tablet is already available in 20 different restaurants and has been generating interest by many more nationally-known chains such as McDonalds. Competing with Ziosk, a similar product that has already been seen in California Pizza Kitchen and Chili’s restaurants across the country. Presto hopes to land itself in restaurant chains across the country over the next few years and change the dining experience for all.

The restaurant table tablet invention is a new string of technology continuing to appear in restaurants around the globe:

-Wireless payment systems have been put in place in many restaurants around the world, especially in Europe. Companies like Digital Dining have developed a way for waiters to easily bring a check to your table and swipe your credit card on the spot.

-Open Table, an app available on the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, makes it easier for customers to search restaurants in their area, check wait times, and even make reservations. No more driving around from one popular restaurant to the next looking for an open table.

-Popular restaurants that hold parties such as wedding receptions or rehearsal dinners are promoting their special events by posting pictures from recent events on flat screens around their restaurant.

-Location smartphone apps such as Foursquare, Meetup, and Facebook Places allow users to “check in” at public locations. Many restaurants have followed this trend and have placed specials in the apps for users who “check in” to their location.

And then there are new concepts altogether:

-Restauranteers is behind the scenes developing a brand new way to introduce you to great restaurant experiences. Have you ever had trouble deciding where to eat? Have you wanted to eat at the best restaurants in your city, but at prices you can afford? Keep your eye out for the upcoming launch of the new Restauranteers. We just may be bringing a new technology worth waiting for…

Tell us your experience? How do you think new technology will change your typical dining experience?

CC image courtesy of o b s k u r a on Flickr

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May-2-2011

A Meal Fit for a King

Posted by Kaarin Olsen under Food, News
Royal Wedding Menu

I don't think cupcakes were on the menu.

Many food critics have been speculating the lunch reception and dinner dance menu for the marriage of William and Kate for months. With last Friday’s excitement coming to an end, we learn exactly what the happy couple ate on their big day.

Following their first kiss atop a balcony outside Buckingham Palace, which was watched on the internet and television by over 2 billion people around the world, William and Kate made their way to a luncheon reception held by the Queen at the palace. Attended by around 650 guests according to The Australian, Buckingham Palace served a selection of canapés as many had predicted. The full menu included:

- Cornish crab salad on lemon blini

- Pressed duck terrine with fruit chutney

- Roulade of goats’ cheese with caramelized walnuts

- Assortment of palmiers and cheese straws

- Scottish smoked salmon rose on beetroot blini

- Miniature watercress and asparagus tart

- Poached asparagus spears with Hollandaise sauce

- Quails eggs with celery salt

- Scottish langoustines with lemon mayonnaise pressed confit of pork belly with crayfish and crackling

- Wild mushroom and celeriac chausson

- Bubble and squeak with confit shoulder of lamb

- Grain mustard and honey-glazed chipolatas

- Smoked haddock fishcake with pea guacamole

- Miniature Yorkshire pudding with roast fillet of beef and horseradish mousse

- Gateau opera

- Blood orange pate de fruit

- Raspberry financier

- Rhubarb crème brulèe tartlet

- Passionfruit praline

- White chocolate ganache truffle

- Milk chocolate praline with nuts

- Dark chocolate ganache truffle

The OfficialRoyalWedding2011 explained that preparation for the Queen’s Luncheon was no easy task. “Approximately 10,000 canapés have been prepared by a team of 21 chefs, led by Royal Chef Mark Flanagan.”

Guests washed these delicious canapés down with Pol Roger NV brut reserve champagne as well as other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages while they watched the bride and groom cut their cake and toasts were made to the happy couple.

Hours later and adored in a new white dress, Kate Middleton returned with Prince William to Buckingham Palace for a dinner dance hosted by Price Charles. The dinner dance, which was a more intimate affair, had only 300 attendees on the guest list.

At the time of press, the menu for the dinner dance has not yet been revealed, but many can image the extravagant menu held at the party, knowing the estimated $88,000 that Prince Charles spent on the evening bash for his son.

Which of the canapés held at the Queen’s Luncheon sounds most appetizing to you?

CC image courtesy of L2F1 on Flickr

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Apr-20-2011

Staph Bacteria Found in Meat and Poultry Nationwide

Posted by Kaarin Olsen under Food, News
Flaming Burger

Well Done

A recent nationwide study, which analyzed 136 different samples of beef, chicken, turkey and pork from stores around the United States were found to be contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus or Staph bacteria. According to HealthDay News, this bacteria can cause serious illness in humans.

MedicineNet explains that Staph can cause skin infections and if it enters the blood, a variety of diseases including food poisoning, pneumonia, inflammation of the bones (osteomyelitis), or even heart failure. These infections and diseases are contagious and can be transferred person to person.

47% of meat and poultry, which came from stores in Chicago, Flagstaff, Fort Lauderdale,, L.A. and Washington D.C. was found to be contaminated. 52% of the bacteria found were resistant to 3 different kinds of antibiotics.

The drug resistant Staph worries researcher Lance B. Price who “demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today.” Somereports blame a low dose of antibiotics and overcrowding at industrial farms may be to blame for this bacteria discovery. After this discovery, Price suggests that the United States government should regularly survey meat and poultry across the country.

How does this affect the consumer? Reports have explained that Staph bacteria can be killed with thorough cooking, but meat and poultry could be a health risk through improper food handling.

Will you continue to eat meat and poultry, despite the news?

CC image courtesy of Ken Wilcox on Flickr

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Apr-10-2011

Is That What’s Keeping Me Awake?

Posted by Kaarin Olsen under Food, Food Trends, Tips
Wide Awake

Need...some...shuteye...

Have you ever laid in bed late at night, not sure what could possibly be keeping you awake? Chances are, you ate something for dinner that contained tyramine, taurine, and/or tyrosine.

According to HealthMad.com, food and drinks with the active ingredients tyramine, taurine and tyrosine keep our eyes open and our bodies awake.

According to HealthMad.com, “Tyramine is an amino acid that makes the brain release norepinephrine, a stimulant that can keep you awake.” Tyramine is often found in breakfast foods, thus is often consumed by people in the morning to give them enough energy to get through their day.

Some foods that contain tyramine are:

  • bacon
  • ham
  • cheese
  • sausages
  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • fish
  • smoked meats
  • chocolates

Taurine is an amino acid that can also keep you awake. Often found in coffees, teas, and energy drinks, it is often combined with caffeine to give drinkers an extra boost.

A final ingredient common in foods that may keep you awake is tyrosine. Tyrosine is commonly found in protein rich foods. It helps to perk up the brain which is what keeps people from becoming fatigued. Iron and protein rich foods are important to prevent fatigue because they distribute oxygen throughout the body which is a natural way to regain energy in the body and keep you awake. (Also the reason you yawn when tired – to breathe in extra oxygen.)

Some foods that are high in Tyramine are:

  • Soy Based Foods
  • Aged Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Cured Meets
  • Fruits

Tyramine, taurine, and tyrosine can be found in many different types of foods and drinks. Do you prefer to drink a cup of coffee full of taurine, or eat a tyramine or tyrosine rich meal to increase your energy?

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Tom Douglas

Est. 1989

Tom Douglas, Seattle-area chef famous for his 7 different local restaurants, was recently nominated for the 2011 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Restauranteur.

Douglas, who won the 2004 James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef and has been nominated for several others, grew up in Delaware, and went through many career changes before falling in love with cooking. Having never attended culinary school, his work comes from sampling food from across the country and having what he calls, “a food memory.”

After having worked in several restaurants, he moved to Seattle in 1977 to define Northwest cuisine. After experimenting with many local ingredients, he opened up his first restaurant, Dahlia Lounge in 1989.
Since his first opening, he has opened several other restaurants around Seattle with very different concepts:

-What Seattle Metropolitan calls the Best in Town, Lola, “has a greek spirit.” Lola has a homemade nature featuring Modern Mediterranean and North African flavors.

-1997 James Beard nominee for Best New Restaurant, Palace Kitchen serves an array of dishes from happy hour bites and bar food until 1a.m. to full service dinners. They are also well known for breakfast.

-Dahlia Bakery holds many breakfast favorites and bakery pastries. A new workshop in South Lake Union opened recently, where all of their baking is currently taking place. This is where Tom’s Famous Triple Coconut Cream Pie is created and if we haven’t tasted it ourselves, most of us have heard it is out of this world.

-Located near Pike Place Market on Western Avenue is Etta’s. This is a great stop for any local or tourist who can look out their large windows onto the hustle and bustle of Pike Place Market.

-For an unlimited menu of delicious wood-fired pizzas, head on over to Serious Pie. The popular restaurant just opened their second location in South Lake Union.

-Seatown devotes over half of their menu to local seafood. They even have a To-Go counter to take home your favorite meal!

Get ready for more new restaurants coming from Tom Douglas. South Lake Union will soon find themselves with three new restaurants located on Terry Avenue: Couco, an Italian Pasta spot, just opened this week and will surely become the new restaurant to try for any Seattle area food lover. Brave House Tavern appears to be the new place for Happy Hour, with 26 different beers on tap and their very own pretzel oven, it is set to be “opening soon.” And finally, set to open this month, Ting Momo, will stamo our memories with what is sure to be great dumplings and noodles. Ting Momo!

In addition to his many restaurants, Tom Douglas designed the menu for the popular comedy and circus show, Teatro Zinzanni. Douglas has also found time to start his own catering company and product line including his three cookbooks. His 2001 book, Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen won the James Beard award for Best American cookbook.

We congratulate one of Seattle’s favorite chefs on yet another James Beard nomination!

What’s your favorite Tom Douglas Restaurant?

CC image courtesy of Angela N. on Flickr

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Mar-22-2011

Maybe Diet Coke Isn’t so Much of a Diet After All

Posted by Kaarin Olsen under Beverages

Diet Coke

Vitamin DC

This just in, diet soda may not be as good for you as you once thought.

The results from a recent study found that diet pop consumers have a “61 percent higher risk of vascular events, including stroke and heart attack, than those who completely eschewed the diet drinks,” according to MSNBC and researchers from the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

But don’t put down that soda can just yet.

There are still many diet soda studies currently underway to determine more information on this new development. Doctors and researchers are telling us to stay tuned.

So what could be causing these vascular problems?

Some past animal studies have found that caramel coloring has been a harmful ingredient in sodas. The type of caramel coloring that is found in darker sodas like Pepsi and Coca Cola uses sugars that are reacted with ammonium and sulfite compounds. This has been proven to form many different chemical byproducts that were shown to cause lung, liver and thyroid tumors in lab rats and mice.

Now, many researchers are finding that this caramel coloring could also be linked to cause vascular problems. But once again, nothing is scientifically proven yet, more research is being done to determine if this is the main cause.

What health problems have we seen in the past from diet soda?

It seems as though the diet soda health debate has been continuing on for years. Just typing in “diet soda health risks” into a Google search, there are many different studies listed which seem to find some sort of harm in the diet soda ingredients.

What can we do as consumers in the meantime?

Dr. Tudor Jovin, associate professor of neurology and medicine and director of the Stroke Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center suggests that unless you have underlying vascular problems or you are at high risk for them, it is best to wait it out. As many studies are currently underway to give us soda drinkers more information on how it could cause not only vascular, but other health problems, it’s still ok to get that caffeine fix with a little diet soda.

What do you think of the diet soda health debate? Is this really something that we as consumers need to be worried about at this time, or is it best to continue our regular habits with pop until we see more major health developments?

CC image courtesy of gfpeck on flickr

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Mar-20-2011

Rainy Weather Keeping You Dining Indoors?

Posted by Kaarin Olsen under Food
Nigella Lawson Cookbook

Are cookbooks a thing of the past?

Have no fear…cookbook apps are here!

Smartphones have made our lives much easier, delivering endless information at our fingertips. And now smartphones have made their way into the kitchen with 5 different cookbook apps which hold hundreds of recipes:

How To Cook Everything, available on the iPhone, was one of the first cookbook apps created. Inspired by Mark Bittman’s best-selling cookbooks, it contains over 2,000 recipes and 40 how-to demonstrations, making the preparation for delicious meals much easier.

Nigella Lawson is a famous British food writer, journalist, and broadcaster. She has taken her experiences as well as famous recipes from her books to create a mobile application for iPhones. She is known for having express recipes, being 6 steps or less, which is perfect for any busy family. In addition, she includes video and audio along with her recipes to make cooking a breeze.

Epicurious is available on both Android and the iPhone. It contains more than 25,000 recipes from top chefs, food critics and food magazines that are rated by the app users. I especially like that it breaks recipes down by course so that they are very easy to search for. They even have an “I Can Barely Cook” section.

Cookstr, available on the iPhone, allows visitors to “discover the top recipes from the world’s best chefs and cookbook authors.” This very popular website that allows users to submit their own recipes and follow their favorite chefs, is now available as an app!

The Betty Crocker cookbook that we grew up eating recipes from is now available as an app! Using your Android or iPhone, browse the more than 2,500 “tried and true recipes” from one of America’s favorite cookbooks.

Will the smart phone apps become the new way that we cook? What other great cookbook apps do you use?

CC image courtesy of chatirygirl on flickr

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Mar-7-2011

Stuff Your Face with Some Southern Cuisine this Fat Tuesday

Posted by Kaarin Olsen under Food
Mardi Gras Beads

Mardi Gras Beads

Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday in French, is one of the largest party nights of the year in Seattle. The celebration of Mardi Gras is known as the “last hurrah” before the beginning of the season of fasting and prayer known as Lent.

As Mardi Gras parties may be well known around the world as the final chance to stuff your face before lent, it is largely celebrated in New Orleans. With their famous southern cuisine and giant block party.

Don’t have plans to head to the south? There are plenty of opportunities to get your southern grub on in Seattle this Fat Tuesday:

Head on over to Whole Foods on Westlake Avenue for a Crawfish and Cornbread Happy Hour. From 5p.m. till 7p.m. anyone can sample Crawfish Bourbon Bisque with Sweet Pepper Rice and Red Bean Relish, Crawfish Seafood File Gumbo Served with White Rice, or Cornbread and Spicy Crawfish Gravy with Pickled Okra and Stewed Greens. Each dish is only $6.99 and since Fat Tuesday is all about indulging, why not throw in a glass of wine or beer with it?

Cooks World welcomes native New Orleans chef, Matthew Lasof as he makes some of his favorite home style dishes: Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo Ya-Ya, “dirty” Rice & Red beans, New Orleans-style BBQ Shrimp and Banana Walnut Bread Pudding with Butter-Rum Sauce for dessert. Yum!

Try The Kingfish Café which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer raves about for their southern classics, including the cat fish!

What are your plans for Fat Tuesday?

CC image courtesy of Mark Gstohl on flickr

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