Local Flavor

2009 was a huge year for Kirkland mom Melissa d’Arabian. She not only competed and won on season five of the Food Network show, The Next Food Network Star , she also juggled a move to our state with her family (including 4 little kids). Since winning the show last summer, she now hosts her very own hit Food Network show, 10 Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian (new season premieres at 12:30pm July 4th). When she’s not in New York taping new episodes, d’Arabian lives in Kirkland with her husband and four young daughters (Valentine-age 5, Charlotte-age 4, and almost 3 year old twins, Margaux and Océane). This super-mom whips up budget-friendly meals while teaching her viewers all sorts of tricks in the kitchen and recently took some time to dish with Red Tricycle about her family life in Kirkland.

RT: After living all over the US and overseas, what have you discovered about Seattle that you can’t find anywhere else?

Our house is on a hill surrounded by trees and deer, overlooking Lake Washington. We can walk to a sandy beach in 10 minutes! I can’t think of any other place with this natural beauty near a large city.

RT: When you’re not in NYC filming 10 Dollar Dinners, you live in Kirkland. Have you found some favorite local activities to do with your girls?

Farmers markets! I’m so excited they’ve re-opened for the warm season! I take my girls to several each week. We have a rule: each girl can pick one thing (anything!) at the farmers market, and I’ll develop a recipe around that one item. It’s great entertainment just to walk around together as a family, and I like that the farmers markets help connect my girls to their food and its source.

RT: Do the girls have a favorite park?

They love Juanita Beach (“the farmers market park”), and Denny Park (“the soccer park” because we taught the girls to play soccer there), and St. Edwards (“the park next to the house” because it’s about a three minute drive).

RT: Where do you like to eat out in Kirkland when the kids are with you?

We love Purple Café because the environment and menu manage to be both sophisticated and kid-friendly. The small plates from the regular menu are perfect for my daughters to sample, plus they also have a great kids menu. But, since we also like this for date nights, we are big believers in taking the kids right at 5 so that by the time couples who have likely paid babysitters to take an adult break from their own kids arrive, they won’t have to deal with mine.

RT: How about a date night?

We love the Artisanal Table in Bellevue pre-movie!

RT: Have you had a chance to explore Washington a little further and take any local vacations or day trips?

We just got back from our first trip to the beach over Mother’s Day. We rented a house for the weekend in Seabrook, on the Pacific shore. The twins slept in “real beds” instead of cribs for the first time ever. Ahh…what a relaxing, restful and peaceful Mother’s Day that was; like a day at the spa. (If anyone out there has transitioned two two-year-olds from cribs to beds while on vacation, then they certainly recognize that I’m kidding here!)

RT: When you’re filming, do you shop for your own clothes you wear on the show?

Luckily, I have a stylist who brings in racks of clothes before we shoot a season. I try everything on with her and we pick out the outfits we like best for the episodes.

RT: Have you found any local boutiques where you love to shop for yourself and/or the girls?

My mother in law is such a doting grandmother that every time she visits us from France, she totes at least one huge suitcase jam-packed with clothes for the girls. So honestly, between that and hand-me-downs, I cannot remember the last time I bought the girls new clothes. As for me, I just love the consignment shops in Kirkland! Ragamuffin, Linda Liu’s and Champagne Taste are my favorites. Almost anything “high-end” that I own is from a consignment shop. I am convinced that there are two or three women in the Kirkland area who are my size and who are supplying the consignment stores with all the stuff I love. I wonder if they see me on TV and think “oh, I used to have a blouse like that! And wait a minute….is that my skirt too?” I just got a pair of really fun Dolce and Gabana shoes with an original price tag that said $410; I paid $37.

RT: When you get a bit of alone time, how do you spend it?

My favorite Kirkland “me” activity: herbal foot massages.

RT: Describe a perfect Sunday with your family.

Weekends for us are all about family. In fact, the girls divide the week into two kinds of days: “school days” and “family days.” My husband and I take turns sleeping in, while the other makes breakfast with the girls help for the whole family (his specialty: waffles; mine: Dutch Babies). Yesterday we spent the whole day at Ikea buying the twins big girl beds (see vacation discussion, above). We ate two of our meals there! But it was a great family day, all of us together. Nothing says sisterly love like a bucket of Swedish meatballs.

RT: Where do you like to grocery shop?

I absolutely love grocery shopping. My favorite: farmers markets. Oh! The oysters at the farmers markets. I’m getting excited for summer just thinking about it. But I also shop at the “regular” markets. The key to saving money is to use the right strategy for each store. I shop Costco differently from how I shop QFC or Safeway, for instance. That’s exactly the kind of life experience that I like bringing to my viewers in Ten Dollar Dinners. It’s never about just the recipes; I want my viewers to learn strategies for saving money that will build up their toolkit as the financial managers of their homes.

RT: How do you get the girls to eat their vegetables?

I worry less about how much food gets in their mouths and focus more about the bigger food message I’m sending. For instance, the farmers market rule of picking a fruit or vegetable means sometimes we have a vegetable my girls don’t like. That’s OK at our house! I’d rather have my girls being willing to try vegetables with an open and curious mind than have them scarf down a plate of green beans to be part of the clean plate club. That’s just my own philosophy; there are many valid ways of parenting. One “trick” I do employ: serve two different vegetables at a meal and allow everyone to pick the one they want to eat. I like offering a choice: “would you like carrots or beans for your vegetable tonight?”

RT: How do you involve the kids with preparing for mealtime?

I love cooking with my kids when I’m not in a rush! It’s a fantastic crafty activity that we all enjoy together. I put out four small bowls, or cutting boards (or whatever equipment the recipe requires) and the four girls each work on their own little version of the recipe and then we combine everything together. If I need to get a meal on the table in a hurry, I let them stir up some applesauce with cinnamon to make dessert while I get the main meal quickly pulled together.

RT: What’s for dinner tonight?

Ask United Airlines; I’m flying to Chicago! At home, though, they are eating a marinated pork blade steak I made yesterday on the grill.

-Angie J. Ballas