June 13, 2014 in Features

Goodbye, Spokane, stay cool, SpoCool

Blogger’s return to Norway means fewer updates to site
By The Spokesman-Review
Adriana Janovich photo

Foodie and blogger Remi Olsen, who started SpoCool.com in 2004, is moving back to Norway today. The popular blog will remain online, but it won’t be updated as frequently as it has been in the past.
(Full-size photo)

Remi Olsen’s favorites

In honor of his impending departure, 7 asked Remi Olsen, founder of the popular food blog SpoCool, to share the Spokane eats and drinks he’ll miss most.

“Limiting to 10 was hard,” he said.

Here’s what made the cut:

• Americano with DOMA coffee from Revel 77 or Manners coffee at Coeur. “I realize that’s kind of two or four entries in one, but it seemed fitting. All four deserve recognition,” he said. (We’ll give him a pass.)

• Casper Fry’s pimento and pickles.

• Central Food’s bacon and egg toast.

• Rocket Market’s ginger carrot soup, paired with a beer from their case.

• Italia Trattoria’s farmer’s breakfast.

• Perry Street Brewing’s Double IPA.

• Santé’s gnocchi, paired with a Butcher Bar cocktail.

• Saranac’s Nuclear Spiceawar Burger. This “will forever be one of my personal favorite burgers. Not only because it was named after our illustrious spicy food contest, but man, the flavor punch it packed. Awesome,” he wrote on the blog on May 2, 2014.

• Veraci’s asparagus and prosciutto pizza.

• Washington State University’s Cougar Gold cheddar. “It’s a perfect burger cheese: sharp, but not overpowering,” he wrote on April 28, 2014.

He’s been documenting deliciousness – as well as disappointing dishes – for a decade now. But today, the man behind one of Spokane’s longest-running independent food blogs is moving on and away.

Remi Olsen, a native of Norway, is returning to his homeland, leaving a lengthy online legacy of local restaurant reviews.

From the ramen burger at the new Nudo Ramen House downtown – “Use your fork, and you’ll be OK” – to pizza at Five Mile’s Boiler Room – “This is not a bad spot at all; it is, in fact, downright good” – nothing’s sacred nor off-limits at SpoCool.com.

The tone is casual, but not always complimentary. If Olsen thinks something’s overcooked or flavorless, he’ll say so. He takes pride in being honest, even if some find it brutal.

“It can be snarky, maybe a little edgy,” he said of the site. “There’s a contingency of people who have been pissed-off, for lack of a better word.”

But, “There are people who have appreciated it.”

Olsen, a 36-year-old foodie and blogger from Oslo, has been a prolific poster, usually updating the site several times a week. He’s reported on restaurants’ and bars’ openings, closures and menu changes; ranked Spokane’s best burgers and restaurants; and hosted spicy foods, homebrew and other contests.

He’s also created an automatically updated “Liquor License Stalker” to track applications with the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

But he’s best known for his opinion.

Olsen likes Central Food, Lindaman’s, Latah Bistro, The Lantern Tap House and Wild Sage: “The food is good and fresh, there’s a high quality wine selection, and the bar is well stocked.” They all get smiley faces.

The spots he doesn’t favor aren’t so lucky; sad faces show up next to their name on his site.

Olsen has opined about eateries and drinkeries, burgers and burritos, breakfast and dinner, IPAs and horchatas, upscale local bistros and national fast-food chains.

While he’s moving back to Oslo, his opinions are here to stay. The SpoCool site will remain live, but it will be archived, curated and transformed into less of a blog and more of an online resource.

“SpoCool.com will be changed into a kind of restaurant guide,” said Olsen, describing his vision as “a better version of Urbanspoon,” which aggregates reviews from bloggers, diners and professional food critics. “It will be updated now and again, but not as frequently as before.”

He plans to entrust the site to a friend or friends and remain involved from overseas: “I enjoy writing. It’s kind of therapeutic for me. It comes pretty naturally, and I like food.”

He’s been particularly impressed with the growing number of chef-owned restaurants cropping up in Spokane, as well as increasing experimentation with menu items.

“People are taking chances,” Olsen said. “It felt for a long time that any new restaurants aimed right in the middle, for the safe choices – the seared ahi tuna.”

Much has changed in Spokane’s food scene since Olsen moved here in 1998. Back then, he said, options were limited: “There was nothing. It was horrible. It’s still improving.”

He started SpoCool in 2004, working on the site nights and weekends. By day, he was a Web developer for the Community Colleges of Spokane.

His wife, Spokane native Geneva Drouin, 30, helped him maintain SpoCool and stage events, like the homebrew and spicy foods contests.

“We don’t have any kids, and we’re still relatively young,” Olsen said about the reason for packing up and heading to Scandinavia.

The move is indefinite.

“I’m not giving myself a time limit, but I can see myself coming back to Spokane,” Olsen said. “We’re not planning to stay in Norway for the rest of our lives.”

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