Editor’s note: In this occasional series, Nancy Leson introduces you to food folks you should know. They eat (at one of her subject’s favorite restaurants). They talk (sometimes with their mouths full). No one leaves hungry.
Lunching with Loki Fish Co.’s Dylan Knutson
Food writer Nancy Leson sits down with Dylan Knutson, the general manager of local salmon specialists Loki Fish Co.
Seattle Times food writer
Say hello to Dylan Knutson, the low-key general manager at Loki Fish Co. (www.lokifish.com) known for sustainably harvested salmon sold directly by the Knutson family. Their boats, the Loki (captained by his brother, Jonah) and the Njord (steered by their dad, Pete), fish out of Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound.
How do I know him? He’s the fresh-faced fella who sells me ikura (cured salmon roe) at the University District Farmers Market, though you might see him in the booth at Ballard or at his home-hang West Seattle — among nine farmers markets where he’s hawking Loki wild salmon sold canned, smoked, pickled, cured, flash-frozen or fresh in season. Oh, and he’s also the newly elected vendor-representative to the board of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance.
Where we’re eating: 88 Restaurant (9418 Delridge Way S.W., Seattle, 206-768-9767), a darling little Vietnamese and Thai cafe.
Why here? The family who own it are always on hand to greet Dylan, who appreciates its proximity to his company warehouse. Plus, “the food is always delicious and not even close to being overpriced.”
His standing order — which I heartily stand by: Grilled pork rolls ($6.95), Vietnamese salad rolls whose rice paper wrappers come stuffed with frilly lettuce leaves, grilled pork, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts and basil. Next! Brilliantly lemongrass-flavored tofu played lead ingredient in a classic vermicelli noodle bowl ($6.95), and Dylan (what a prince) insisted we pump up the porcine-quotient of the tofu bowl with a grilled pork add-on ($2). Add to that: gloriously garlicky beef short-ribs, grilled and served over steamed rice ($7.95).
Locally grown, globally aware: Dylan grew up in West Seattle, went to Franklin High School and graduated from Nova. At Pitzer College he majored in environmental studies. “That and Chinese medicine. I got to finish college in Beijing.” His mother, Hing Lau Ng, was born in Kwangdung province and immigrated to the U.S. as an infant. While in South China, Dylan and his dad made a pilgrimage to her native village. “It was the classic homecoming with a big party involving the whole village,” home to water buffalo, rice paddies and plenty of ducks for roasting. “I was the first blood relative to return since her family left.”
First job?: “I’ve been in the fish business since I was born,” says Dylan, whose job description these days is “making sure the salmon gets where it’s supposed to go” and “managing all the little details.” His earliest memories of work have him trailing his mother from the airport, where she’d pick up Loki-caught salmon and deliver it to Pike Place Market. “I carried the clipboard.”
When you’re hungry at the farmers market, you make a beeline for?: In West Seattle and at the U District, it’s a spinach empanada from Pampeana (www.pampeanaempanadas.com). “And my staple lunch at the U District is from Tandoozi,” where naan is made fresh in a portable tandoor and Dylan goes for the chicken naan with cilantro garlic sauce. “When you’re standing outside drinking a lot of black coffee, it’s nice to have something substantial to eat.”
Trade ya! Market vendors have a great opportunity to trade. What’s on the top of your barter list? “Bacon from Eiko at Skagit River Ranch (www.skagitriverranch.com), and fresh baked bread from Alex at Preston Hill Bakery.”
Any etiquette tips for market goers?: “Grabbing a sample and saying ‘thank you’ is fine. It’s polite to acknowledge you just took a piece of free food, but if someone grabs four pieces and keeps walking, that’s not cool. We appreciate it when customers control their children. It’s OK for kids to get a sample, but sometimes they’re all over it and that’s a little bit awkward.”
Favorite sushi joint? “If I want to have sushi, I cut up a sockeye fillet and eat it with wasabi and soy sauce.” Oh, come on. Really? “Well, we like Kamei, in the Junction.” (4512 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-923-1000; www.kameijapaneserestaurant.com) “We” being his main squeeze (and Loki’s retail manager), Amy Ross.
And to drink like a sailor? It’s gotta be Loretta’s Northwesterner, in South Park (8617 14th Ave. S., Seattle, 206-327-9649; www.lorettasnorthwesterner.com). “It’s a small bar with maybe 12 seats and five booths, and in the back is a partially covered area with an Airstream set up with couches. They have really good, really cheap burgers, including a great sockeye burger.” Your sockeye? “No, it’s not ours.”
Nancy Leson: firstname.lastname@example.org