Friday, May 26, 2006

Colombian Cuisine in Renton?

The State of Washington has only one Colombian restaurant, and it is right here in Renton.
The Mexi-Cali(as in Cali, Colombia) is at 239 Sunset Blvd N., Renton 425-917-8886, and serves both Mexican and Colombian cuisine. The menu is mostly Mexican, but Colombian cuisine is quite different from Mexican, and the Colombian entrees are served with yucca and fried plantains, and black beans.
It is much closer to Brazilian, both geographically and cuisine-wise.
I've now been there four or five times, and like the place. It's cheap, the service is efficient and friendly, the food is unusual and good, and they have a salsa bar, and a chipotle salsa that's smokey and hot.
Tonight I had the garlic shrimp, which was cooked nicely and had plenty of garlic. The menu features a number of Mexican shrimp dishes, as well as a whole fried fish, Colombian style.
Colombian cuisine also favors tender beef, which is served in most dishes with a tangy tomatoey garlicky sauce.
All in all, Mexi-Cali serves food that is pretty unusual...the food is consistantly good, the prices are right, and they do Mexican food better than most Mexican places.
This is a place that deserves to be busy, and would be mobbed if it were in Queen Anne or Wallingford or Capitol Hill.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mucho Bueno

Without any evidence to support this, I think that proportionately speaking ,Renton has a higher percentage of Mexican and Mexican-Americans than Seattle.
As a result, Renton is no slouch in the Mexican eatery department. I maintain that Renton has a lot of Mexican places that are at least pretty good, and a few that are top notch.
Today was a venture into the Mucho Bueno, at 247 Park Ave N in Renton.
During the week, Mucho Bueno is fairly ordinary foodwise, but for Friday and Saturday dinner, and Sunday brunch, the place is pretty special. At those times they do an all you can eat seafood focused buffet.
The place is large and today was mobbed for mother's day, with more than ninety percent of the customers being Mexican. ( A good sign.)
They had the usual taco bar, but also chile rellenos, enchiladas, home made tortillas, shrimp in garlic, fried shrimp, made to order coctels de camaron, or with fish or octopus or a combination.
They had fried mojarra fish and baked salmon, and several salsas that had either bits of shrimp, octopus, or fish in them. The salsas are quite good, and they had a huge variety of salsas, seafoody and otherwise.
Desserts consisted of home made cakes and flan, and fresh and canned fruits, including watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, banana, grapes.
Beverages are included in the price of 13.50 per person. Service is attentive, and between their special seafood items, home baked desserts and tortillas, and their variety of salsas, Mucho Bueno is clearly a cut above the norm, and a worthy contender.
I've been told that the phrase " Mucho Bueno" is grammatically incorrect Spanish, that it ought to be " Muy Bueno" unless additional words are added, like " Mucho Bueno Sabor" (very good flavor), but in their defense, I'd rather experience bad grammar than bad salsa.

Monday, May 08, 2006

An Oasis Amidst the Scuzz

Between the scuzz of Skyway and the scuzz of Rainier Beach is one of Seattle's least known and prettiest parks- Lakeridge Park, also known as Dead Horse Canyon.
If you're heading north from Renton, turn left on 68th Avenue South from Rainier Avenue, and you'll see the trailhead and pullout for a few cars a couple of blocks away.
The trail is fairly steep, and runs along Taylor Creek in a rainforest like setting: mossy, ferny, and the continual sound of running creekwater.
You'd never believe that one minute earlier you were on busy Rainier Avenue, it's the kind of place where tensions melt away instantly. You can walk to the end and back in about 25 minutes; not a long walk but uphill enough so that you'll feel it, and on a rare hot and sunny Seattle day Dead Horse canyon stays cool and shaded.
On another note, Skyway's El Agave Mexican restaurant remains open. The owner told me that the place is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so maybe I tried to go on those days?
In any event, we went on Friday, which was Cinco de Mayo. The place was not packed, but was fairly busy. I still can't decide what to make of the atmosphere: this time it seemed pleasant enough, and I want to like these guys- they are the underdogs, as any business in Skyway is other than Ezell's Chicken or the casinos.
And the food, after several visits, remains consistantly above average, though the salsa is too mild, but it's fresh tasting and good. Service is a little slow, but not insanely slow. Prices are a bit high for neighborhood Mexican, but the menu has some options unavailable elsewhere.
Skyway is a rather pathetic neighborhood, though some folks are active envisioning improvement and celebrating it's 50's-60's futuristic Jetsons kind of thing.
And in front of Skyway's now Asian supermarket is Nevzat's Espresso, which truly makes some of the best coffee around. Nevzat knows his coffee, and has operated his espresso stand there for 11 years .
To survive owning a business in Skyway for 11 years is a mighty accomplishment.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Renton's Public Greenhouse

The City of Renton, through it's Parks and Recreation division, rents table space to the public in a very large heated and ventilated greenhouse. You can rent half a table for six months for 24 dollars.
I've been doing greenhouse gardening there for several years. Recently rumors have been growing that the greenhouse and the large pea-patch next to it will be closed and torn down to make room for a Renton city employee parking lot. I hope the rumor proves false, or that the public can fight this, because greenhouse gardening is fun, satisfying, and worthwhile. But it's not the direction the City of Renton is taking. The last few years Renton is all about growth, and is fancying itself an "eastside" city like Bellevue, even though most of Renton is more of a "southside" city like Auburn.
It's a two way street. With development and the goal of attracting high quality housing stock, new and good restaurants are inevitable. But what could be lost will be Renton's unpretencious working class roots: Renton was a coal mining and farming town. Greenhouses insinuate something that unsophisticated hicks use.
All that aside, once again I have started vegetables that I will later transplant to the backyard veggie garden.
At this point, I have 19 tomato plants; 7 are Halladay Mortgage Lifter, a variety that thrives in our climate and produces very large, sweet , juicy, and ugly tomatoes, and also a dozen cherry tomato plants.
Also growing are 15 melon plants- 5 canary melons, 5 Ukranian cantaloupes, and 5 "passport", a tropical, very delicious creamy tasting melon that looks like a cantaloupe from the outside and a honeydew inside.
Then there are the peppers: 5 "senorita", a mild jalapeno, and 8 "Giant Marconi", a long thick walled mild pepper thatis almost smoky tasting and is superb for roasting.
Often many of the seeds I start don't come up at all, but this year things are growing like gangbusters, and I'll have many more plants than I'll have the energy to transplant.
Mikelle and Tin Foil- Can I foist some on you?