My friend, Seattle chef Christina Choi died suddenly last Wednesday after suffering a brain aneurysm. Christina was 34. If you ever attended one of our infamous Bumbershoot parties, The Year Of The Kev Party, or ate at with me at Nettletown restaurant, you’ve tasted Christina’s cooking and I’m pretty sure you’ve never forgotten it.
I met Christina through master mushroom forager Jeremy Faber when the duo catered the annual Bumber-Bash Kevin and I threw on the Friday night of the music festival. Although the theme was always very rock and roll and always included surprise visits from many of the artists playing on our stages at the festival, this party was no casual kegger. We put linens on rows of tables across our yard and served a full dinner on china plates with real silverware and linen napkins. Christina and Jeremy often cooked for over 100 people in our tiny kitchen. And their meals were simple, flavorful and legendary. People begged, begged to be invited back. The parties were primarily held for our staffs at The Mountain and KEXP and I had one co-worker tell me she waited to quit until after The Bumbershoot Party for fear of being edited off the list.
The year Christina told me she wasn’t available to cook for The Bumbershoot Party was the last year we threw it. What was the point without her, really?
I was thrilled to learn she’d opened her own restaurant in the old Sitka and Spruce space on Eastlake and became a regular almost immediately. Yummy Food, that was Nettletown’s motto. And so it was. And so unlike all the other foodie joints around Seattle; there was no pretension to Christina’s food or her staff. Often I would tell whoever was manning the counter I was a friend of Christina’s and they’d say, “Go on back and say ‘Hi'”.
I would often tell Christina that every meal she made me was like a last meal; her cooking was that good. Christina understood savory better than anyone who has ever cooked me a meal and she could make something simple like the knoepfli noodles with cabbage and a poached egg as addictive as crack cocaine.
I remember when I heard Christina was closing Nettletown felling devastated. I would have been happy to eat there everyday for the rest of my life. How many restaurants can you say that about? But devastation doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m feeling now with Christina gone. It will be hard to live without the unpretentious comfort of Christina’s kitchen, but to live without the unpretentious and comforting Christina herself? Unfathomable.
So I’m left to savor my memories of Christina the way that I savored every bite of food she ever made me. I know that Christina knew how much I loved her cooking, but I’m not sure she knew how much I loved her, and that leaves me tasting bittersweet.
Here’s The Seattle Times article on Christina: http://bit.ly/tYvE9A