A Feast Fit for Cleo

The Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis menu is  FINALLY here!


Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Caramelized sweet onions, spinach, feta cheese and roasted peppers wrapped in a flaky dough pyramid with a 3 olive tapenade and served with a rich basil cream


Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Egyptian yellow lentil soup with caraway cream and pita strips


Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Arugula and fresh green leaf lettuce with English cucumber, Roma tomato, shaved sweet onion, Kalamata olives, brioche croutons and lemon-tarragon vinaigrette


Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Kurobuta Pork Chop with our own ‘Love Spice’ topped with baked apple-mint sauce and served with roasted garlic –Parmesan mash and local seasonal mini vegetables

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Halibut with basil and fresh fig chutney, fin herbe couscous and local seasonal mini vegetables

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Roasted tomato and fennel quinoa stuffed pepper with a fresh cucumber raita, basil-fig tartlet and citrus dressed kale & pepper salad


Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Photo Credit: Matthew Worden

Peach, ricotta and pecan Baklava

Who’s hungry?


Chef’s Corner

The lights dim, the music begins its thud-thud, the tantalizing fragrance of sweet summer berries wafts through the air… your senses have been welcomed. You have entered another world, a world I call home: Teatro ZinZanni. I am Erik D. Carlson, Executive Chef, and the creator of the food for your otherworldly experience.

Photo credit: Amaryllis Images

Chef Erik Carlson. Photo credit: Amaryllis Images

The decision to run away and join the circus came easy for me, and in 2011. I jumped in with both feet and never looked back. And let me tell you it has been one wild ride! I am excited for a chance to share with you the view from the kitchen. The best place to begin is with a little bit about myself, and my inspiration to make it all flow together under the hoods of the kitchen and to bright lights of the tent.

When asked what genre I fall into within the large world of chefs, I’d say perhaps somewhere between the crazy kid in a candy store and a seasoned cook who lives and breathes in extreme kitchen conditions. I began at culinary school, where I learned French basics at South Seattle Community College. After graduation I spent time apprenticing for some ground breaking local chefs such as Brian Poor and Emily Moore, then working my way around the Seattle area.

My tutelage is not a fancy pedigree of fine dining houses and prix fixe menus; please don’t hold it against me. Instead I spent the last 30-years working in environments that taught me about restaurants and food culture, instilling a constant wonder at all the fantastic foods available around the world, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. Admittedly this makes me a food geek but by no means a foodie elitist. The dishes I create come from a comfortable, unpretentious place that our guests will love and relate to with gusto.

Here at Teatro ZinZanni, it is my privilege to create a new menu every four months for each new show. I start with a general synopsis of the upcoming show. Inspired by a theme and a time period or locale, the real fun begins with homework, homework, and more homework. It is a very exciting place for a chef to be! That kid in the candy store reference. Using the unbridled freedom to take guests on a gastronomical journey, as a character would in our show, I tinker with ideas silly and strange. The culmination is a menu designed with fun in mind, offering up a unique way to approach dining that is slightly divergent of the norm.

Photo credit: Matthew Worden

Photo credit: Matthew Worden

There are, however, some interesting challenges here at Teatro ZinZanni that needs to be taken into account. How does one make sure the dessert doesn’t fly off the plate as it shoots down a 12-foot slide? How will the food rest on a plate when our excellent service staff “tango” it to your table? In the end these challenges only make it more fun, more Teatro ZinZanni. I cannot imagine doing anything else anywhere else.

That’s my spiel my friends. Moving forward, I will use this forum, as a bit of a window in to the world that is our Teatro ZinZanni kitchen. With some humor, some insights and a few recipes too, join me in our culinary travel down this rabbit hole of love, dinner and chaos.


Chef Erik D Carlson

Cook Like A Chef: Root Vegetable Smash

Have you ever cooked a meal for 285 of your closest friends?  285 of your closest enemies (mmm spite)?  285 people, period?

This is a feat our Executive Chef, Erik Carlson, and his crew of crackerjack culinary wizards achieve every evening (and sometimes during the afternoon for matinees) we have a show in the spiegeltent.  He also hand-picks which tasty morsels star on each of our menus.  Chef Erik took some time out of his impossible schedule to make an at home version (meaning portioned for not 285 people) of the Root Vegetable Smash, a Return to Paradise guest favorite.


Root Vegetable Smash

by Chef Eric Carlson
Yield approx. 3 lb

3 gallons water
2 lb Yukon Potatoes, washed and diced 1”x1”x1”
1/3 lb peeled and diced parsnip and diced ¼”x ¼ “ x ¼”
1/3 lb peeled and diced rutabaga and diced ¼”x ¼”x ¼”

4 oz butter, unsalted
1 ¼ cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
4 teas Garlic puree (roasted garlic cloves in oil, golden brown, then puree up just
the garlic, saving the oil for some other yummy usage)
2 teas sea salt or kosher salt


Bring water to a boil and add in the potatoes, parsnips, and rutabaga. Boil until all
pieces are fully softened. Pour through a colander and strain thoroughly. Meanwhile,
in a small saucepan melt butter in the cream and whisk in the garlic puree. Once
the butter has melted and the cream mixture is hot (do not boil, it will scald your
milk) mash together with the root vegetables using a mixer or hand masher. Add in
salt and adjust to taste. Enjoy this on a cool fall night or surprise your guests with
something a bit more interesting than your usual mashed potatoes!

Eat Well.

And the Winner Is…

Do you know this man?

This dashing gent in a chef coat is Erik Carlson, the culinary wizard here at the tent. This is also his game face.  He has been masterfully crafting our menus, ensuring that our fantastic feasts are a feat of the imagination for over a year.

Last weekend at The Bite of Seattle, Chef Erik participated in a battle of whisks, a.k. the Bite Cook Off!   He went head-to-head (spatula-to-spatula?) against Stumbling Goat Bistro’s chef Joshua Theilen.

This was the first ever Bite Cook Off!, an event which tests a chef’s quick wit and culinary prowess.  This year also featured guest host Thierry Rautureau from Chef In The Hat (we are in love with him).  Contestants are competing for a $200 donation to the charity of their choice and the coveted title of “Bite Cooks Master!”.  During this challenge the chefs are given a box filled with three mystery ingredients to merge into a delicious dish.  Simple right?

Wrong.  Chefs have just 30 minutes to prepare this epic feast.  30 minutes!!!   From learning the ingredients to hands-up you’re finished meal just 30 minutes!  This is just like the series Chopped!  So stressful.

The competition was fierce, friendly, and a heapin’ helpin’ of fun.  The judges, selected from the audience, had a big decision on their plates.  After some intense deliberation, the judges crowned Chef Erik “Bite Cooks Master!” for his delectable dish.  Huzzah!

If you happen to visit Stumbling Goat Bistro (which is simply scrumptious with delightful cocktails to boot) or see Chef Erik under the big top (where the cuisine is always fabulous, thanks to Chef Erik and his stellar team), congratulate them both on a job well done!

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Gangsters Loot the Tent

The story begins long before you get to the tent. Check out this teaser for Gangsters of Love playing at Teatro ZinZanni in Seattle through September 30.

It is finally here!  Gangsters of Love opened June 14th to a full house of adoring fans and freshly minted converts. For this spectacular spectacular, the tent sends you back in time to 1932. America is deep in the depression. Bread lines, unemployment and homelessness are rife. Prohibition, which made the sale and distribution of liquor illegal, has been the law of the land for 13 years. Why on earth did we send you back here, you might be asking yourself?

Oh right, because it is also the age of jazz, Art Deco, and glamor! This show has everything, and we mean everything: Three aerial acts, gangsters, tap dancing, King Kong, Chef Caesar, gambling, socks, cement boots, moxie, jazz, Francine Reed, and so much more. Gangsters of Love features comedian Frank Ferrante, aerialist Dreya Weber, blues vocal powerhouse Francine Reed, Duo Madrona (Ben Wendel and Rachel Nehmer) on trapeze, funnyman Joe DePaul, comic acrobat Andrea Conway Doba, vaudevillian Wayne Doba and juggler rola bola extraordinaire Bernard Hazen. This much talent in one tent is probably illegal, so don’t tell the fuzz!

Chef Erik Carlson has simply outdone himself with his newest five-course extravaganza of flavor. Think we are being biased? Check out the menu! Seriously, he is serving Blue Nose Bass en Parchment with lemon, Mascarpone and fresh herbs, served with garlic saffron rice, broccolini almandine and carrots. We dream in cheesecake! You will not be disappointed.

Drinking for a Cause

On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, we are hosting the 3rd annual Exotic Wines Festival, a winter wine tasting event in Seattle not to be missed.   And we are talking more than just Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay!  With 25 Washington wineries featuring their new “exotic” varietals, such as Mourvedre, Cinsault, Malbec, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Roussanne, Viognier and Albarino as well as some interesting blends, guests will be treated to the ever growing array of unique wines from around the State.

While sipping, keep an eye out for cast members from our new show ¡Caliente! mingling, entertaining, and generally being fabulous.  Our very own culinary powerhouse Executive Chef, Erik Carlson, has devised some delicious nibbles for those wishing to nosh while sampling delectable wines. What a perfect way to have a fun break from the dreary days of February in Seattle!

Didn’t we say something about drinking for a cause?   All proceeds benefit ZinZanni Institute for Circus Arts (ZICA).  ZICA, you may recall from posts like these, is dedicated to the preservation, development and enhancement of ancient and contemporary circus arts, including Juggling, Clowning, Magic and Acrobatics with an emphasis on all aspects of performance and production. Programs range from master classes taught by resident performers to technical or artistic apprenticeships and summer camps.

Get your tickets here! 

Find out more about the event’s producers, Wine Events and Promotions and Seattle Uncorked, a social club for wine enthusiasts.

And now here is a video of ZICA Camp kids performing!

Find out more about upcoming camps!

Seattle Magazine Raves About Bonsoir Liliane!

The muscles in my face literally ached from smiling“, says Bond Huberman from Seattle Magazine.  It appears Mr. Hubberman has fallen under the spell of the velvet-topped tent (he is not the first, we assure you) and its fantastically talented cast.  Of the show, he says it “tilts between musical numbers, acrobat stunts, comedy routines and even one opportunity for audience members to stand up and enjoy a romantic slow dance with their loved ones.”

Photo by Micheal DoucettOther highlights from the review:
“(Liliane) Montevecchi’s Auntie Mame persona keeps up with Kent in sheer audacity. She’s a petite older woman, but she has shockingly flexible legs (which she is unafraid to show off) and a voice that sometimes talks through and sometimes blasts out standard numbers like La Vie En Rose and Diamonds Are Forever.”
 “Every move (Kevin) Kent makes is backed by expert improv skills – or his uncanny ability to predict exactly who his audience members are, and where their boundaries are flexible.”

“So, when we’re not marveling at what Ukrainian contortionist Vita Radionova can do in spite of the typical rules of a human rib cage – or the terrifying free falls of Les Petits Freres (an adorable trio of French acrobats), we take deep dives into a darker story…”.

Read the full review in all its glory!