Ciudad’s head chef Aaron Willis serves grilled Moroccan chicken, charcoal style


Ciudad, a more recent Georgetown staple and much loved collaboration between two well known restauranteurs Matt Dillon (of Sitka & Spruce, London Plane & Bar Ferdinand) and Marcus Lalario (95 Slide, Li’l Woody’s & Fat’s Chicken and Waffles) have taken charcoal grilled meats to another level. Luckily we benefit from the global Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influence that sprinkles their menu. On this day and occasion the Moroccan grilled chicken with Harissa was grilled to perfection.


Aaron Willis aka ’Willis’, the talented, and fun spirited head-chef behind the scenes took time out of his busy day to show us what makes Ciudad so unique while also sharing many moments of laughter.

Clearly charcoal is a main ingredient here, add to that the global influence and of course the variety of meats, the artistic atmosphere of the gritty and authentic Georgetown where the underbelly of planes feel so close you can touch them, and you find a restaurant that pleases all the senses.


A lifelong dedication to food and curiosity for different cuisines makes the sharing of his grilled Moroccan chicken stand out, beyond the ordinary, to the extraordinary. Even though he can easily bring on the laughter, he takes his job very seriously.


The juicy deliciousness involves a special rub that he kindly shares with us. Thanks Aaron for making our day!


Moroccan Roasted Chicken

  • 5lb Trimmed Chicken Thighs

  • 4 tbls Villa Jerada Harissa

  • 1 tbls Villa Jerada Kefta Rub

  • 3 cups Water

  • Olive Oil

    Prepare rub by mixing Kefta Rub, Harissa and water into a thick paste. Massage chicken vigorously with rub and drizzle with olive oil. Then grill or roast for 20-30 mins or until meat is cooked through.

Clearly Harissa brings people together…


Our spontaneous outfits show our obvious mutual love for Harissa, and of course the cool design (paintings by local PNW artist Tashina Suzuki) makes for an easy wardrobe choice.

Follow Aaron's cooking adventures outside of Ciudad at The Generous Chef.

The Walrus & The Carpenter Headchef BJ Gives Watermelon a Unique Spiced Twist

We stopped into one of Seattle's iconic oyster bars, The Walrus & The Carpenter recently and lunched with head chef, BJ Bresnik. She shared with us a beautiful watermelon salad with a surprisingly delightful twist in the form of Sumac, Urfa Biber and Dried Lime.


This famed Ballard restaurant (from Chef/Restauranteur Renee Erickson’s string of renowned eateries) has whimsical nautical touches all around which Bon Appetit Mag has said makes ‘dining here feel less like a night out and more like eating at a friend's place’ and ‘arguably the best oyster bar in all America’. We couldn’t agree more.


BJ shows off her watermelon slicing technique.


This recipe is incredibly simple. BJ mixes Villa Jerada Sumac, Urfa Biber, Dried Lime and sea salt to season the salad.


She then adds the watermelon, feta cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro.


Et voilà!


If you haven’t been to The Walrus and The Carpenter recently, do go visit BJ and try her famed Crudo. Believe us you won’t regret it.

Watermelon Salad

  • 1 Watermelon

  • 1 tsp Sumac

  • 1 tsp Urfa Biber

  • 1 tsp Dried Lime (grated or crushed)

  • 1 pinch Sea Salt

  • 1 handful Feta (or any crumbly cheese)

  • 3-4 tbls Pumpkin Seeds (toasted)

  • Cilantro - to taste

    Cut watermelon into cubes, Mix Sumac, Urfa Biber, Dried Lime, and sea salt well and sprinkle over watermelon and mix well. Top with feta and pumpkin seeds and garnish with cilantro.

Renee Erickson of Sea Creatures shares her best end of Summer recipes


The restaurateur extraordinaire Renee Erickson (of Sea Creatures restaurant group, co-founder of The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale WinsBarnacleBar Melusine, Bateau, Rana e Rospo, and the new Deep Dive in the Amazon Spheres ) was gracious enough to share with us her favorite recipes using VJ spices during our recent lunch.


The proverb home is where the heart is comes to mind when watching Renee cook in her kitchen. Her simple and elegant style exposes beauty throughout and her love of cooking, culture and ingredients, never hidden, for those too are tucked neatly in all the corners of her home. Distinguishing characteristics seen also in her restaurant endeavors.


The allure of Renee’s cooking comes from her use of clean, fresh regional ingredients and her ability to creatively blend the global influence of her travels abroad. A true artist, curious, open and imaginative, which is why our team was eager to ask Renee her favorite ways to use some of our spices at home. She tells us Ras el Hanout with Greek yogurt and grilled halibut is a regular occurrence on her kitchen table.


Renee & Mehdi reminisce on adventures and the most memorable Fish Tagine they had together in Morocco. Traveling home with friends has never been so easy. Renee’s adventurous spirit and love of culture and food made the sharing special and created a bond that has set the foundation for an enduring friendship and collaborative exchange that has supported Villa Jerada in its infancy until today. 

 Grilled peach and tomato salad with Aleppo

Grilled peach and tomato salad with Aleppo

Ingredients tell only one part of the recipe story. Perspective matters, and with spices it’s good to include them beyond traditional uses. Renee does a great job blending our spices to local ingredients. Her creative approach inspires us to use our products in ways we had not yet imagined.  She made us a wonderful grilled peach and tomato salad with extra virgin olive oil from a farm we all stayed at in Marrakech and Aleppo pepper flakes grown in Turkey. We also had lamb chops with our Moruno Rub on a bed of greek yogurt whipped with Ras el Hanout, and radishes with Sumac, ricotta and Dukkah. When asked if she were to cook a dish for Moroccans using local ingredients, which NW dish would you cook? She said, “Steamed Dungeness crab with spiced butter”. Sounds delicious!!!!

 Sumac Radishes and Ricotta with Dukkah have become our favorite dishes of the summer

Sumac Radishes and Ricotta with Dukkah have become our favorite dishes of the summer

Nothing beats an awesome meal surrounded by friends that encourage you in your efforts. Renee’s kindness and determination to help and support her community moves beyond her relationship to food, to the very heart of her values, and who she is.


It’s with gratitude for all her love, support and influence in the Seattle food scene and for cooking us a lovely meal in her home that makes the launch of our 'Meet the Chef' series extra special.


Dukkah Ricotta

  • Ricotta

  • 2 Tbls VJ Dukkah

  • Lime zest (to your taste)

Moruno Lamb chops

  • Lamb chops

  • Olive oil

  • 1 Tbls Moruno Rub

  • Sea Salt

Rub lamb chops with olive oil, sprinkle salt, and rub a generous tablespoon of our Moruno Rub for 4 chops. Add more spice to your liking.

Ras el Hanout Yogurt

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1 tsp Ras el Hanout

Whip until creamy and well blended

Sumac Radishes

  • Radishes

  • 1 Tbls Olive Oil

  • 1 Tsp Sumac

  • 1 pinch Sea Salt

Cook radishes in olive oil, add salt. Remove from heat and add a generous sprinkle of Sumac.

Peach and Tomato salad

  • Peaches

  • Tomatoes

  • 1 Tbls Olive oil

  • Lemon juice (to taste)

  • 1 Tbls Aleppo pepper

  • Thai Basil (generous sprinkle)

Rub peaches with olive oil, gently grill for 2 min.

Cut tomatoes in chunks, mix in a bowl olive oil, lemon juice, salt and Aleppo pepper. Add the tomatoes, peaches and coat well. Serve on a platter and sprinkle with Thai basil.