Before entering the working world, summer meant warm days, long nights and vacation.  In honor of that tradition, OC2Seattle.com will be on summer vacation until after Labor Day.  In the meantime please pop over to Examiner.com where I dish on Seattle restaurants and food goings-on in the Seattle area.

Casa Patron: Flavorful Mild Mexican Food

From the outside, Casa Patron looks like any other business in the Ravenna neighborhood – plain, strip-mallish, uninspired. But walk in the door and you are transported to a Mexican Hacienda complete with Zorro inspired chandeliers and cowboy hats hanging over the large downstairs bar.

The dining area of Casa Patron consists of an open area with high ceilings on the lower level, and a smaller, more intimate area of booths and tables in a loft like space. The booths next to the loft balcony let you enjoy the intimacy of the upper area while keeping an eye on the action below and a service bar upstairs means you’ll never have to wait long for your drink.

The menu features traditional Mexican fare but mixes things up with Latin-American dishes like Camarones a la Diabla (large shrimp sautéed in garlic butter with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers in a hot spicy sauce). 

The meal begins with the expected crispy, salty, just right complimentary chips and two-kinds of salsa; a medium deep red traditional salsa and a pico de gallo variety with a hint of heat.

The cocktail list features a long-list of tequila based drinks and a well-rounded selection of Mexican beers, like Negro Modelo and Dos Equis Amber, on tap.

The Taquitos Patron with chicken ($8.50) is an appetizer fit for four. The taquitos are nicely crisped without the greasiness so often found. The chicken is moist and the guacamole served with the dish is fresh and creamy. If you like your food mild, this is an excellent starter. If you like your Latin on the spicy side, you’ll likely find this dish a bit bland. Dipping in the spicier pico de gallo served with the chips and requesting hot sauce helps spice things up.

Like the Taquitos, the quesadilla appetizer ($8.00) is easily sharable by four or more. Flour tortillas stuffed with cheese or add steak or chicken for an extra $1.00. The cheese is the star here and is so plentiful the steak or chicken flavor gets slightly smothered. 

The Casa Patron Plato Favorito entrée ($18) lets you sample some of the best Casa Patron has to offer. It includes tender steak marinated in a spicy sauce, fresh, meaty and succulent shrimp, and chicken, spiced and pounded thin, and sautéed mushrooms surrounded by super-sized portions of rice and worthy refried beans. The steak was the star of this dish and indicates that any of the dishes on the menu featuring the beef marinated in spicy sauce will be winners. The shrimp was a very close and very satisfying second.

The Fajitas de Pollo ($13) were served in the traditional sizzling manner with a bevy of bright red and green bell peppers and onions and rice, refried beans and flour tortillas on the side. The chicken was well-seasoned but again, not very spicy.

The Enchiladas de Congrejo ($12.95) features enchiladas stuffed with Dungeness crab and topped with salsa verde and Monterey jack cheese.  The salsa verde is just as it should be but a bit overwhelming for the light flavor of the Dungeness crab. The shrimp variation may stand up better to the verde.

Dinner is not complete without a serving of the Coconut Flan; a dish that will convert even the most devout flan-hater. Creamy instead of spongy, with a texture between crème brulee and cheesecake it is infused with a deep, rich coconut flavor. The coconut flan alone is reason to keep coming back to Casa Patron.

Casa Patron delivers good, fresh Mexican and Latin cuisine in a relaxed and friendly ambience. Dishes like the Coconut Flan and the Casa Patron Plato Favorito elevate the cuisine above the typical Seattle Mexican restaurant and the friendly and attentive, but not invasive, service will make Casa Patron a neighborhood favorite.  But, as with most Mexican restaurants in Seattle, it would benefit from turning up the heat.

Casa Patron is located at 805 NE 65th St (at the corner of 65th NE and 8th NE) and is open Monday – Thursday from 11:00am – 12:00am, Friday – Sunday between 8:00am – 2:00am and hosts a daily Happy Hour from 3:00pm – 6:00pm.   Reservations can be made by phoning 206.923.7680.

Book Review: A Pig in Provence

When I’ve had a ho-hum day, a non-stop day, or a “Please just let it be over day!” there’s nothing that helps me escape and unwind faster than a good book.  Curled up on the couch in the living room in front of the fire, while soaking in a hot bubble bath or just a few minutes in bed before turning out the lights, books let me step out of my life, my worries and my to-do list and fall into the life of someone else (real or imagined). 

A favorite (and a steal at only $5.20 on Amazon) is  A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France, a memoir by Georgeanne Brennan.  

Georgeanne Brennan won the James Beard Award and the IACP/Julia Child Cookbook Award for her writing and is the author of numerous cooking and gardening books such as “The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence,” “The Family Table” and “Savoring France.”

“A Pig in Provence” recounts her initial move to Provence to keep goats and try to make a living from making fresh goat cheese and moves though subsequent summers spent in Provence.  Each chapter is a chapter from her life tied to the food that defines that experience: goat cheese, mushrooms found through wild mushroom foraging, pork and her family’s first pig purchase, bouillabaisse, garlic, lamb, and tarts. 

The narrative is consuming, making you feel like you’re right there in Provence whether it be on a hot summer night celebrating Bastille Day or a cold morning performing the ritual butcher of a pig.   At the end of each chapter is a recipe highlighting the flavor that has become the star of that chapter.  “Goat Cheese Salad with Fried Bread” and “Juniper-rubbed Chicken Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms” sound especially enticing.  

If you love food, France, a good read, or any of the above, buy, beg, or borrow a copy of “A Pig in Provence,” and escape to the south of France.

For more of my book reviews, click here.

Happy Bastille Day!

I miss Paris. I think I must go back soon.  Perhaps permanently. Voulez-vous?


Caitlin Kelly Dishes on the Reality of the Life of a Full Time Writer

Caitlin Kelly is a freelance writer who has written for The New York Times, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Glamour, Business Week, Town & Country, Family Circle and Penthouse to name a few. She is also the author of two non-fiction books: Blown Away: American Women and Gunsand her latest Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.

In this, the second part of our two-part series, I asked Caitlin to expose the reality of the writer’s life as I know many of us would like to make a livelihood from our writing passions and quit our day jobs.

Here’s her thoughtful response to my query:

Describe the “writer’s life.”

Now there’s an impossible assignment!

The simple truth is this: we’re all on a ladder. Some of us feel like we’re (perpetually) at the bottom, some stuck in the middle, all of us driven types – yes, that would be me – gazing at the top and wondering if or when we’ll ever get there.

What’s the top?

Best-sellerdom, rave reviews, prizes, fellowships, grants, movies with Julia Roberts or Anne Hathaway playing you. Very few of us will achieve those elusive, lucrative, Olympian heights, so the “writer’s life” is often wherever we are right now, and how much we’re able to enjoy it.

I started writing for a living while a college sophomore, was a reporter for three major newspapers and an editor for three national magazines. I’ve written two non-fiction books, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” (Pocket Books, 2004) and “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio, 2011.)

I hope to write many more.

Here’s some of what being a writer means to me:

Being a writer means:

never feeling satisfied

being part of a large and honored nation – but one with hostile tribes

worrying about money almost all the time, no matter how many Big Name Publications are on my resume

knowing your work has made strangers laugh and cry, ditch their boyfriends and quit lousy jobs

never knowing how your work is going to be received, whether by your editor, agent, publisher or readers

feeling the fear — of rejection, of being asked to revise the manuscript again, of lousy reviews, of disappointing sales, of not winning the grant or the fellowship – and doing it anyway

finding out that two of your favorite fellow writers have all applied for the same fellowship as you – and then, when none of you win, feeling a little relieved

watching work you find execrable crap dominate the best-seller list for months

seeing people like Jon-Jon Gulian win a $750,000 advance and three mentions in The New York Times. No, I’ve never heard of him either.

shrugging it off and getting on with your own work anyway

speaking on NPR in front of a huge national audience and having a caller sneer: “Why should I read your book? It’s just….entertainment.

spending more than the mortgage payment to buy liability insurance in case someone you write about decides to sue you

having your non-writer neighbors think you’re a celebrity

wondering who’s actually buying your books – and wanting to meet a few of them face to face and say “Thanks!”

bursting into tears of joy and relief when your very first copy of the finished book arrives

suddenly having people ask you to speak and lecture and give webinars – all without payment or even travel expenses — because they’re offering you “exposure”

learning to tell these people hoping to take unpaid advantage of your time, skill and energy — to piss off

getting extraordinarily moving emails from total strangers telling you that your work has changed, even saved, their life

that total strangers who have no idea how to write pull you, and your work, to bloody shreds on amazon.com because…they can

that libraries worldwide are acquiring your books

going into Barnes & Noble and seeing a pile of your books on the front tables – and taking a photo just to prove it really happened

spending thousands of dollars of your own money to keep your book visible, audible and in demand

putting your faith, trust and career in your agent’s hands – who may or may not deserve it

cheering for your friends who get on the “Today” show when you don’t

driving hours to give a bookstore reading and only one person shows up – and giving it your best anyway

finding people who understand and can explain the words “modified gross” in your Hollywood contract

reading other writers’ work and feeling, gnawed with awe and envy and admiration, you’ll never, ever, ever be that good

reading other writers’ work and wondering how on earth they ever got a book deal, let alone huge advances and their own imprint

your writer friends sometimes have more faith in you than you do yourself

everything, everywhere is material

having the guts and skill to actually use it in your work

having stacks of your own books on the bookshelf beside your bed

needing friends whose own creative work – whether dance, art, photography or writing – means they truly understand the financial, intellectual and emotional rollercoaster of this sort of life

means taking chances month after month, year after year: choosing your agent(s), selecting your ideas, deciding with whom and when you choose to share them (be careful!)

The writer’s life is filled with rejection, joy, panic, fatigue. It’s not easy or simple. Success is rarely quick or lucrative.

Only you can decide if it’s worth it. For me, still, it is.

Read Caitlin Kelly’s take on disclosure in Part One of this series.

Seattle Beerfest is this Weekend (July 1-3)

Image by digitalart

If you’re going to be in Seattle this weekend and have a fondness for the hoppy beverage check out my latest article on Examiner.com for all the details on the Seattle Beerfest, July 1-3.

Kick Your Grilling Up a Notch With Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Seattle is finally enjoying some sun after days of rain with more on the horizon. When it’s sunny, Seattleites flock to the outdoors and the smell of charcoal wafts through the neighborhoods. When I catch that smell I start thinking of burgers. Cheese stuffed burgers to be exact.

Burgers stuffed with cheese is the savory equivalent of a jelly donut. You get a crisp bun, meat that is positively juicy – no medium-well only at our house – and gooey, hot cheese filling in the middle. Forget the ordinary burgers, once you start stuffing your meat you’ll never go back.  (For the slider version of this savory treat, check out my recipe in the Nudie Foodies: Food Bloggers Peel for Japan cookbook.) 

Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Ingredients: Makes 4

  • 1.25 pounds of ground beef. Minimum fat of 7% but you can go higher if you like.
  • Cheese: grated or broken into pieces. We like Cougar Gold Cheddar, Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar and Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese.
  • Hamburger buns (buy or make your own, just make sure they are not too squishy);
  • Waxed paper.


  • Onions: either raw or grilled, I prefer the carmelized taste of grilled onions;
  • Lettuce;
  • Tomato;
  • Variety of condiments (mustard, mayo, but no ketchup please, it overwhelms the taste).

Step One: Get Your Grill Going (For Charcoal Grills Only)

If you’re a fan of the gas grill, skip on down to Step Two, but if you’re charcoal grill fans like us, you’ll want to get your grill going before you start assembling your stuffed burgers. Unlike traditional burgers, stuffed meat requires indirect or slow heat. We get our charcoal going and let the coals heat for about 20 minutes before putting the burgers on the grill.

Step Two: Forming and Stuffing the Hamburger Patties

Each stuffed burger requires two thin patties. So for four burgers, you need eight patties.  Roll your meat out as thin as a pie crust and then use a glass to make patties of matching size.  

On four of the patties layer your cheese in the middle of each patty. Be generous with that cheesy filling. Once your cheese is in place put another patty on top and crimp the edges of the two patties together to seal the cheese inside the meat. 

Step Three: Start Grilling

Now that your stuffed burgers are assembled, it’s time to get them on the grill. You want to cook on low or indirect heat so the cheese can melt.

Stuffed Burgers on the grill

15-20 minutes is optimal for achieving volcanic, cheesy, fabulousness. During the last few minutes we like to spray our hamburger buns with a decent coating of olive oil and throw them on the grill. Once everything is cooked, take it off the grill and assemble as you see fit. With a blue cheese filled burger I favor onions (raw or grilled) and Maille’s chocolate-mustard – my homage to Paris.

And one last but vital note – there is an art to eating a stuffed burger, go slow and hold the back of the burger down so the cheese doesn’t go exploding out the back when you take that first bite 😉

Hamburgers on Foodista