Monday, May 21, 2012

Mixed Plate: Hey, Ma, I'm on TV! Wasabi Makes a Nervous Debut

I remember watching old movies on PBS, late on Friday nights when I was thirteen. I remember coming home after school and watching cooking shows where chefs would make fancy spun-sugar domes placed over desserts. PBS was a great window to the world, inviting me to subjects I never knew I was interested in. I have great fondness for this channel. And so it was a really special thing to say that I had the rare opportunity to be on PBS, for an episode of Check, Please, Northwest. Yes, Ma, I was on TV!
Yep, it's me - screencap from KCTS 9 website
So yes - for reals, I was on TV! I was glad to hear our local PBS station was developing a Northwest edition of Check, Please! which started around March of this year, with hostess with the mostess, Amy Pennington. It's a series that brings three people to a table to talk about favorite restaurants and the dishes they liked. It's so simple, but it proves the idea that food can make friends out of strangers. It's a fun, genuine way to present restaurants without the official titles of "restaurant critic" or "food experts." They want regular folks to sit around a table and just hang out. Expertise can muddle up the enjoyment of food, sometimes you just want to talk about the place you like to go, without any of the fuss of business and politics of restaurant industry. It really is all about the food, and I think a show like this is a nice reminder of that.

The making of a TV show - behind the scenes photos of Check, Please! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I will admit, being on camera -- very weird. So weird I am ashamed to say I haven't even seen the episode of Check, Please! The episode is online now, if you want to take a peek at it. I'm sure I'll eventually watch it. It's not that I didn't enjoy the experience -- it was a blast! And if you live in the area, fill out an application to be a guest. I love the show, it's put some new places I want to check out on my restaurant-radar. It's just a bizarre thing to see yourself on television. I can see why actors say they love the work, but they feel out of sorts watching their own performances. Seeing and hearing yourself on camera is somewhat overwhelming. But I don't want my weirdness to take away from the experience. It was Amazeballs, the crew and producers of Check, Please! do amazing work and they get an incredible amount of stuff done in a single day. They take such good care of the guests -- I was so nervous and they know how to handle people who have never been on camera before (like me). And yes, the green room snacks are awesome. Even if I may not watch the final product because I'm a weird-a-saurus-nervous-wrecks, I would totally do it again.

Tons o' food at Adams Northwest Bistro in Monroe - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It feels good to finally talk about this; had to be all Fight Club about it for a few months until the episode aired. The shooting actually happened back in April, and it was like a month of pure restaurant bliss. As guests, everyone gets to try each others's favorite eating spots, so we all have our own experiences at each place. It was a fantastic excuse to visit Adam's Northwest Bistro, Poppy and Shamiana for a meal. When the camera focuses on you, it's total deer-in-the-headlights -- it was for me, anyways. I wished I'd talked about the first time I went to Adam's over a year ago, when I was there with my family. It meant a lot to bring them to a place that had so much of the regional flavors, prepared in a way that was really simple and approachable, and they had a great time. That made this place special for me, so that was the reason it was a restaurant I chose for Check, Please! Of course I forgot to say any of that, I think I said something more along the lines of, "uh... duh...." and blanked out, but believe me, I meant to say all that in the studio. With any luck, images of deep fried Scotch eggs wrapped in pork sausage and gooey yolk centers are all that people cared about, because at the end of the day, that's really all that matters, right?

Shamiana dinner in Kirkland - cardamom-a-rama! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It was good to go back to Shamiana -- this was one of our old lunch spots when I worked for a company in Kirkland. We would go to their lunch buffet, a totally different experience than dinner, which I think is a good thing to do with restaurants, going at different times of the day. It's really like going to a new place. Lunch is great -- I love getting a little bite of everything and heaping seconds of my favorites, like their chicken tikka masala. Dinner is a much more intimate minus the lunch rush, and it's nice to sample their other dishes. I'd never had a salmon curry before, but I really liked the sweet-sour tomato-based sauce and it workled really nicely with the fish. And they love their cardamom, so if you're a fan of this marvelous fragrant spice, this is your place. Even if you're not sure if you like this flavor, it adds something special to everything, both sweet and savory. And if you're getting over a cold like I was when I was there, the cardamom tea is a life-saver.

Poppy - our favorite special occasion spot! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Of course Poppy gets raves from everyone. I think it's one of the 50 most amazing restaurants in the world on some super-duper top list. And they're not wrong to put it there -- it's a total gem. We've been going here for several years, but usually reserved for special occasions. They really present food in a special, respectful way, so to have it for a celebratory reason makes the whole experience that much more endearing -- proof again that eating in restaurants can be magical. I like getting the vegetarian thali because I think it shows off the ingredients even more than the heavier meat or fish options. And their eggplant fries drizzled with wild honey blew my mindgrape. I definitely want to do a baked version of this with eggplant, I think the honey helps balance out the bitterness eggplant can sometimes have. I don't need to say much about Poppy because the food speaks for itself and it's something you have to experience, so if you've never been, put it on your list. 'Nuff said.

Look around, you never know what you'll miss at a restaurant - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It was a delicious experience, going to so many places in a month and having the chance to talk about it. The best part of everything was of course the food, and experiencing such different places. Food is an expression, it can be personal and special. The way its presented is very much a part of the person who prepared it. So savor every moment you have in a restaurant, really enjoy the food that someone else has created. And definitely wander around the place -- having to be more aware of the restaurant itself made me take note of little details, like unusual collections, cute teapots and yes, even strange vintage photos in the womens' restroom. Clearly a greater force was at work for this whole experience, as even Nessie made it a point to make an appearance in my beer. A portence of greatness to come, clearly. But I do hope you check out Check, Please! on a regular basis, add some new restaurants to your must-go list, and support all the marvelous things that PBS does for community programming.

Waiter, there's a plesiosaur in my beer! - Photo by Wasabi Prime


  1. I have never been to Adams or Shamiana. Definitely going to both after watching the show. Sounds like your time at PBS was such a fun and memorable experience. I don't know that I would be able to watch either if I were you... that would be so surreal. Rest assured though, the show turned out great and you were a wonderful addition to the table.

  2. Way to go! It made me hungry just watching the show. I used to watch cooking and food shows on PBS all the time and it brought back fond memories. I want to be on that show!

    1. Daniel - sign up!! You'd be perfect for the series! And I promise they won't ask you what to do with Chinese Five Spice. :P

  3. YAY! I'm so behind on these episodes -- will definitely check out your debut online this week. Way to go, Wasabi! :)

    1. Aw - thanks, Jenn! I love that they post the episodes online, that's how I've been watching them too!

  4. Thanks so much for watching! You should sign up to get on the show, then I can watch you, and tell you how great you did, if you're too nervous to see it. ;)

  5. Watch yourself now! You did a great job - very natural and comfortable. And now I want to check out Adams!


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