Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pastelería y Panadería La Ideal

Pastelería y Panadería La Ideal, 3/$1.00

Seattle's South Park neighborhood has always been something of an outlier. In the late 19th century the expansion of downtown Seattle pushed Italian immigrant George Colello off his original farm at what is now First and Jackson; Colello became one of the first of many farmers, mostly Italian and Japanese, to raised produce in South Park for sale at stalls in Pike Place Market.

Ironically, the area's industrialization during the 20th century left South Park dangerously polluted. Over the years the neighborhood has also struggled with crime and gentrification, and as if all that weren't enough, the bridge that had been South Park's most direct connection to the city since 1929 was closed in 2010 and its replacement is still under construction.

So it's both a wonder and no wonder at all that in 2007 master baker and Mexico City native Fernando Marquez Galicia looked around South Park and saw both a market and a need. As he told the Catch the Culture website,
“South Park has lots of Latinos, lots of good people, and South Park needed a bakery.”

Today Pastelería y Panadería La Ideal is an aromatic neighborhood hotspot. The fresh-daily treats run the gamut from simple sweet breads (pan dulce) and pastries to fancy desserts. There's creamy caramel-topped flan, empanadas filled with fruit jams, jiggly gelatinas in colorful small cups, and pastel tres leches, a cake bathed in three kinds of milk (evaporated, condensed, and cream).

Conchas (above) are light buns topped with a soft sugar paste; before baking lines are stamped or raked into the paste, giving the bun a vaguely shell-like appearance. I also tried buns filled with custard (below left) and cream cheese (below right).

La Ideal is cash-only, but almost everything is between $0.50 and $1.00. So much about visiting South Park seems a little like traveling back in time--including the opportunity to gorge on fresh baked goods after spending only the small change scrounged from the floor of the car.

Pastelería y Panadería La Ideal
8909 14th Ave S
Seattle, WA

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Penland Gingerade


I've been attending residential art classes at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina off and on since 1996. What with juggling 24-hour studio access and whatever work-study job I've been assigned, I tend to push myself hard while I'm there, often teetering on the edge of what could be a disastrous illness.

Gingerade to the rescue! Over the years, the Penland Coffee Shop has migrated and mutated, but this spicy, invigorating brew has been a blessedly constant presence on the menu. I can't begin to calculate how many gallons I must have bought.

Now I make this versatile tonic at home, bringing a little bit of Penland magic to whatever creative or physical challenge I happen to be facing. Wretched winter cold? Hot with extra honey, and maybe a touch of whiskey. Demoralizing summer cold? Full-strength over ice. Looming exhibition deadline? Fancied up with seltzer and a lime wedge.

(As written the recipe recipe makes 2 quarts, but it's easy math to scale up for bigger batches.)

1 c peeled and thinly sliced ginger
1 t whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
2 whole lemons, washed and quartered with peels left on
2 quarts water

Combine the above ingredients and simmer for 2 hours. Strain out the chunks and while the liquid is still hot add 2 cups of orange juice and 1 cup (or to taste) of your favorite sweetener (honey, agave, sugar, brown sugar, or succanat work fine). Stir until the sweetener is dissolved. Serve hot or cold, straight or diluted with still or fizzy water.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Polish Home Association, $16 all-you-can-eat

"Pierogi Fest" is the major annual fundraiser for Seattle's Polish Home Association, drawing huge crowds for food, beer, and Polish entertainment. A $16 ticket gives you the right to elbow your way through to a long table lined with steam trays; hunted-looking ladies in festive costume periodically restock the trays with pierogi, plump hand-crimped dumplings stuffed with hearty combinations of sauerkraut, potato, cheese, and meat.

For dessert, there are sweet pierogi filled with cherries, blueberries, or plums (an advertised "sweet cheese" pierogi was sadly absent during my visit); they're dense, slippery, and bursting with juice. It takes a little experimenting to figure out which are best topped with sour cream and which with sweetened whipped cream, but with unlimited buffet privileges, there's nothing to stop you from trying every possible variation.