Seattle – From NOLA with Love Pop-Up

Jemil’s Big Easy is one of my favorite food trucks, unfortunately rarely get to have it, or any food truck for that matter, since my office is not close to one of the major food truck pods or large enough to attract the top ones to our location. So when this dinner showed up on the Dyne schedule I quickly made a reservation. I go to a lot of pop-ups because I like to see chefs push the boundaries of their cuisine; most of the time they have to serve what people are used to and the risk/reward of trying dishes with obscure ingredients, different flavor profiles, or simply not what they’re known for isn’t high enough. They’re a way for chefs with their own restaurant to gauge the reaction of a small group of customers before moving it to the main menu or aspiring chefs to test out their menu before opening up their own place or food truck. Thankfully there is a network of restaurant owners who are willing to let their competition use their space for these events which is not something you’d expect until you realize they had a lot of help getting started and are just paying it forward. It’s one thing I really like about the Seattle food scene, there is a lot of camaraderie and appreciation for what others are doing with a hint of jealousy that they didn’t think to do that first. The last sentence of that article sums it up best, “‘The more that people here have access to great food,’ Kit Schumann [Whale Wins sous chef] says, ‘the more they want to eat it, the more it becomes part of the culture, and the more room there is for all of us.'”

This was my first time to Kraken Congee, itself a product of pop-ups, in Pioneer Square in a nice subterranean space with cool artwork and figurines. Their congee menu doesn’t look like what I’m used to seeing and I’m sure is better than my usual thousand year egg and shredded pork with ingredients like nuoc cham hanger steak, five spice duck, and pork belly adobo.

Dinner itself was a bit different than I’m used to since it was the early seating, usually have semi-communal seating but I was at a table alone which gave me the opportunity to talk to the one of the Kraken owners and Chef Yang from Dyne. So while I missed out on meeting new people which is another fun part of pop-ups, I was able to talk to these chefs about Jemil’s food and their philosophy for their own dishes.

Thankfully dinner progressed quickly, when I made the reservation I had totally forgotten had tickets to see Bourdain later in the evening. My buddy didn’t want to rush through dinner so met me at the theater, I powered walked there and almost cramped up. Unfortunately in my haste to leave forgot to snap a picture of the dessert, but did grab a few of Jemil plating it in the kitchen.

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Corn Fritters with Crab, Spiced Yams, Greens. The corn fritter was fantastic and overall the dish was a great start, but the crab and greens were lacking in seasoning when tasted individually.

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Duck and Andouille Gumbo. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better gumbo, there was a great spicy kick which a good depth of flavor and adding duck made it a more refined dish. My favorite of the night.

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Melon soup with bell peppers. A refreshing palate cleanser, the peppers added some crunch to the dish and paired well with the melon.

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Light Pasta Bordelaise. New Orleans version of course that’s simply butter, garlic, parsley with some lemon juice. Added some pecorino on top and a few slices of garlic bread. It was one of those simple dishes that is just perfect with subtle flavors that contrasted well with the flavor bombs of the gumbo then the trio of mains that followed.

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Cajun Trio Taster: Crawfish Étouffée, Jambalaya, Blackened Quail. Where to begin, three mains in one. The jambalaya is a truck mainstay and as good as ever. The etouffee had lots of crawfish and was seasoned perfectly. The quail was juicy with a nicely charred skin, cooked perfectly which is difficult on such a small bird.

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Flambéed Bananas Foster Bread Pudding served à la mode

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