Curious Appetite

Month: January 2012

Hunger in Fremont- something left to be desired.

Hunger, yes this is a name of a Seattle restaurant, a somewhat conceited restaurant. The name on its own makes you go “what’s it called?”  Look up the definition for” hunger” and it will list it as “a strong need or craving for something.” Well, these guys have the name right because I was definitely still plagued by craving after dining here on a cold, winter evening in Seattle.

To sum up my major observations: too delicate of portions, inappropriate utensils, misplaced spice, I would go as far as saying a side too large of grease and too expensive.

Due kudos? Our server! The service was amazing and our server was chipper, warm, polite, prompt and entertaining albeit the weekend night blitz.

Exhibit A: Bacon Wrapped Dates  w/ chorizo, smoked paprika oil and a spoonful of Valdeon Ice cream. $12

I fully admit that the texture of this photo makes it a bit hard to tell that these dates were barely wrapped and coddled by bacon. I kept asking myself where’s the BACON? Not to mention these were TINY. Traditionally, bacon wrapped dates are stuffed with manchego and wrapped in BACON. Whats with the frilly ice cream and paprika oil? Just stick to tried-and-true! What makes someone think they can out-do manchego and BACON? Also, there should have been spoons for this plate! How can anyone scoop up melty ice cream and glazey stuff with a FORK? Hello!

Exhibit B: Bison Tagine w/ root veggies, grapefruit (I think…) saffron, toasted almond, currant couscous and some sort of yogurt sauce.

This was actually the most decent dish of them all. The bison was very tender and chunky, the couscous perfectly fluffed, nice accents with the almond and yogurt sauce and peppery arugula. However, I can’t say that I could sense the saffron. I know its expensive, but a little goes a looooong way. I know saffron, and I didn’t see her here. It was a bit greasy and I was surprised by the 2 bits of random grapefruit slice. But all in all, it was tasty. I’m not sure worth $16 tasty.

The other dishes not pictured were Clams w/ Chorizo and Crispy Pork Belly. The Clams were waaaaaay too piquant and it was such a shame because the clams were cooked perfectly. The broth was quite nice as well. It is a slippery slope combining clams with spice, in my humble opinion. Especially if you are going to pair it with something as bold as Chorizo, that is in my opinion a stand-alone. It goes best with a blank palate food like eggs, avocado, beans, etc. Clams are subtly delectable and I for one enjoy to taste the mar. I can understand a need for adding sausage for texture, but choose one wisely. And the crispy pork belly was blah blah blah. The cider braised cabbage et al accoutrements seemed more like the centerpiece. I didn’t find the belly to be thick, meaty or smokey enough.

Exhibit C was dessert: A Cheesecake with a smoked pepper and cacao crust and a caramelized banana jam.

Again, I must tisk-tisk the pastry chef for the overuse of spice here. With smoked black pepper in the crust, I was not convinced that this was dessert and could hardly be able to describe the cheesecake filling. The fire extinguisher on this slice was the banana jam. But I still felt like this was a poor combination. And at $9, I found it was arrogantly underwhelming despite the blaze of smoked pepper overpowering my delicate palate. A suggestion would be that if one would like to play with spice in sweets, perhaps master a chili chocolate glaze and stick to a traditional cookie crust. Maybe even include some almond marzipan to keep it interesting. But I have to wonder what lent this cake its inspiration.

What was left to be desired was a more honest sized prices, a better use of spice combining and a more aggressive approach towards inviting bacon and pork belly onto the plate. I went home and wished I had instead enjoyed my skirt steak ginger lemongrass mushroom ramen leftovers. I think this place has potential, luckily this is not a huge “oh my gosh its soooo good” Seattle restaurant. It is a new place so you never know what may transpire. But I wonder how many people, with a discerning palate, will likewise leave in a state of desire.

{The Book Larder: A literary oasis for "foodies"}

Have you ever been at a massive bookstore and shot straight to the food section, wishing it were bigger and included musings from your local writers? Have you ever dreamed of a bookstore, whose collection was focused on all things food, had a large inviting kitchen for food demos and cooking classes, made fresh-baked cookies waiting just for you on snow days, hosted book signings with the author who might even create one of their recipes on site in said-kitchen?  Well, if you haven’t heard of the Book Larder, you may want to reconsider your ignorance.

This Larder sits next to Dot’s Deli, which is also a new Fremont gem serving up sandys, in-house charcuterie, steak tartare and pates. The Book Larder is in quite the perfect location within this little wedge of foodie haven. Across the street is Caffe’ Vita, Via Tribunali Pizzeria, a few beats past there is Pecado Bueno (home of the $3 margarita) and Uneeda Burger. I love this little nook of Fremont. With the Fremont Abby also within couple steps to furnish your art and culture appetite, you really don’t need to bother tumbling down the hill to the main strip. All this area would need is a grocery store….oh wait, there IS.

Anywho, one of the snow laden days that Seattle shutdown, I received a FB update from the Larder offering up hot cookies and tea for any who dared to make the trek. Oh, you bet I did.

And bet your pants that I went sledding later on for, you know, “exercise”.  These gems were warm gooey buttery crunchy around the edges dark chocolate hazelnut cookies. And it came from a British baking book. Of course it did. Those Brits know a couple things (emphasis on “couple” ;), and those are jacket potatoes and cookies. Our American oatmeal raisin (I’m sorry but raisin in cookies are just gross) and even some versions of the chocolate chip are pathetic in comparison. Americans rarely invite the hazelnut, sorry I mean filberts, to the baking goodies party. Peanuts, maybe. And the Brits also are not afraid of…BUTTER.

During this peruse, I discovered rad rare finds like The Anthropologist’s Cookbook (which you bet it included beetle stews). They have every reference book you can think of, as long as you’re interested say in making your own sausages, DIY butchering and pickling, WINE guides, and even books on IRAQI cuisine! So far, my picks have been Plate to Pixel (a great read and how-to for snapping Food Porn) and The Wine Lover’s Companion (a wicked useful handy dictionary for all A to Z wine talk!).

Here’s a link to their calendar

http://www.booklarder.com/events/2012/01

I hope you get a chance to pop in! But only after you enjoy a treat from Dot’s Deli. I’ve heard their Ruben is to cry for. 🙂

{New Seattle Spots: Seen and Wanted}

I haven’t been dining out much recently, which is why my blog has been a little quiet recently. A New Year’s “goal” of mine is to consume more healthy meals at home and to reserve eating out splurges for special occasions. In other words, I’m one of the 300 million Americans dieting after the holidays. Its okay, I admit it. Don’t pretend like you aren’t thinking about taking the plunge too or didn’t consider it before when you were sipping all that eggnog and butter holiday cookies. However, there have been a few spots I’ve been able to nudge a happy hour or small plate in over the last month or so.

SEEN:

The Innkeeper in Belltown: Highly recommend this. This is by the same brainchildren as Black Bottle, and if you haven’t been to Black Bottle, a wonderful wine and gastro bar, you should. I love the concept of The Innkeeper and that it’s Latin-inspired comfort food. The atmosphere is pretty laid back yet classy with a cherry wood and vintage detail kinda decor. The $-signs are extremely fair, the portions are not to leave you in hunger’s cradle and the flavors are very well balanced and thoughtfully executed. Imbibed they were: the padron peppers; which are like little roasted mild green peppers, savory beef Argentine empanadas that had a nice sweet compliment of golden raisins, and a Brazilian Slow-Roasted chicken thigh bowl w/ fried plantains that was served with half a bulb of roasted garlic. Yum! I have most recently discovered that the thighs have the most gusto for your buck and I was glad to see it in the form of “Brazilian Slow-Roasted” on the eats menu’. What I’d like to try next time is the Spicy Caribbean Goat Curry with Pigeon Peas & Rice. And you will most definitely find me there on repeat, as the bill also included a ticket for a courteous glass of bubbly good for the next visit. I’m really curious about their Happy Hour which includes $3 cava bubbly by the glass, $1 Kushi or Kumamoto oysters and $1 chorizo quesadillas.

Another note worthy new open in Seattle…

Revel: I’ve only been in once and it was for their Seasonal Hot Pot Soup which is no longer on the menu’, so I ponder the validity of the mention. However, it was a good spot that I will surely revisit and recount more lovely pots of Korean-inspired noodles. The hot-pot served 2-4 people although it was good for a very hungry dos. It was filled in a no-f%(&ing around Le Creuset pot (like a $300 cast iron perfectly-cooked every use pot) with thick squeaky silky shrimp, glass rice noodles, earthy shiitake mushrooms, daikon, fishcake and bok choy in a lightly pale fish broth. This place is neat because they serve you with a group of sauces you can add red miso, thick unknown soy-like sauce, fish sauce and hot sriacha-like goo to your soupbowl’s content. Next time I go, I will be intrigued to see how oxtail ragout does with preserved lemon and chili in a Korean noodle bowl, not that I know Korean food, the composition just sounds “cool.”

The Sexton in Ballard: This new little cutesy Southern small plates and cocktails nook seems a whole lot like the set up in the Walrus & The Carpenter. but with very strange wallpaper. The only orders were a red beans and rice ramekin and collard greens small plate. The cocktails were worth the trip and included thoughtful notes like cardamom bitters, plum syrup and house-made apricot brandy, but I can’t say I was impressed with the nosh. The greens were a bit watery and bland, they could have used some magical bibbity bobbity BACON. The Beans and Rice w/ (3 morsels of Andouille sausage) was like a Jambalaya flavored Rice-a-Roni box. I also though the whole shabang was a tad over priced. I’d maybe return for another drink and a slice of pie.

WANTED:

Bathtub Gin- Anything with the name “Bathtub” should get to the top of any list.

Canon in Capitol Hill- I’ve been here on a couple of occasions for cocktails, but I do need to try their food, especially the pork belly buns and the ricotta & shitake gnudi.

Clever Bottle- A new-to-me charcuterie-centric gastrobar that serves locally hand-crafted spirits such as Bainbridge Vodka in their cocktail program.

I hope to tell some more delicious tales, in like 3 weeks when I realize how ridiculous sweating by sunrise and eating kale and radicchio egg white and turkey bacon omelets for breakfast, is.

Eating in L.A.- Lukshon, Father’s Office, Bay Cities Deli & Bossa Nova

Every so often, I make the random jaunt to L.A. for family visits. I usually make a respectable effort to put my feelers out into the local food culture there, which is not too hard to do. In a certain sense, L.A. is a true foodie mecca. Its a honey pot of agricultural abundance, ethnic food gut busting hole-in-the-walls, Middle-eastern/Mediterranean food markets, raw food and all things fringe gourmets and the place where organic became “cool”. I can’t begin to describe how explosively abundant this place is for all of our gastronomic fantasies. But L.A. also represents a huge paradox as a sunshine metropolis of tormenting traffic, insanely sterile, cookie-cutter strip mall urban design, material girls, hair gel, obsession with all things vain and plastic, nonsensical local government and poor fiscal policies. Not to mention, its unyielding familiarity to some of the worst pollution in the country. You hope for a windy day here in order to blow the smog aside just long enough to get a view of the rolling canyons. I have a love hate relationship with L.A. and Orange County, my (sorta) hometown.

Prior to arrival, I do some research. I come up with a list of establishments I have hopes of visiting and believe my family would be so impressed with, but to my surprise, I am usually met with “What?! That’s on the East Side! You know how much traffic that means?”

In Seattle, people will drive 2 hours North to Skagit Valley, on a Saturday a.m. with 1.3 hrs of sleep, to get fresh raspberry french toast from a place called “Calico Cupboard”. We don’t mess around. So it was quite foreign to me, the concept of limiting yourself a scrumptious meal based on something as temporary as “traffic.” But eventually I did realize just how deep this trama runs during one of my foodie visits, which was at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery. The realization was made after a conversation with a young surfer-looking Ray-Ban sporting gentleman which consisted mostly of all his traffic and parking horror stories which eventually prompted him to move to NYC and never look back. Sheesh, this guy is messed up. (Yeah- what 20somethingyearold isn’t) I just wanted to chat to someone while eating my sandwich, but now I get it, okay? Traffic steals your soul in L.A.

Anyway, I found and  read up on Bay Cities and apparently this was the legit spot for sandwiches of the grinder genre. Upon walking in, I was immediately comforted by its familiar chaos. The kind that I’ve experienced mostly in delis in Rome and Naples. Its the kind of place where you take a number, keep your hands to yourself and listen carefully for your #, for if you don’t slam it on the counter within 3 seconds, they are already onto 6 numbers ahead of you. And be careful about taking pictures, they might ask you kindly: “Hey! You! No paparazzi, aiiiight?!”

**disclaimer: these pictures are s*** quality and I fully admit that in hindsight.

Instead of all you see here, I went with the critically acclaimed: Godmother. With the WORKS. Oh man, talk about a heart attack on gluten. The crohns people shouldn’t even be looking.

Think every cured meat that exists then smother it nicely with olive oil, dijon, provolone, pepperoncini in between the chewiest buttery sourdoughy Italian roll, a heart attack and you’ve now been blessed by the Godmother.

A particularly noteworthy joint I attended was Asian fusion extraordinaire Lukshon in Culver City, L.A.. Delish delights involved soft, moist marinated and cilantro dressed duck rolls, lemongrass & coconut cream tender short ribs, chinese eggplant fries w/ fennel raita, heirloom black rice w/ lamb bacon and fried egg and little precious custard and brittle desserts on the house! Our server was amazingly sweet and enthusiastic. Another observation about an eater L.A. trend is wine on tap, this place had several dazzling Cali whites on tap (wine in kegs, not bottles) including complex Asian-flavor food-friendly Rieslings. Yum!

On the weekend I heavily enjoyed Bossa Nova, a top notch Brazilian go-to for many L.A.lalers, someone told me to not mess around with anything but the ribeye steak and plantains. But that sounded kinda too safe and boring. I’m an adventurous eater, so I went with a Coxinha (a typical Brazilian “street-food” pyramid shaped delicacy of shredded chicken and cheese and then breaded and fried) and the Linguiça Frita (sausages!) with Yucca flour, fresh salsa and extra plantains.

Then for last supper, I visited Father’s Office. Which, has a sort of following and is obviously pretentious by its purposefully inappropriate name and “Office Max” marketing theme. Oh brother, give me a break. I don’t quite get your niche…yelp reviewers praised them mostly for their carmelized onion bacon burger w/ blue & gruyere, but as I learned during my visit that this burger (by the way trademarked- eye-roll please!) was the ONLY burger on the menu’ and like 3 other menu items including random things like ribs and bacon fried brussel sprouts. So bizarre. And if you go to the website, it’s increasingly more cryptic. They have no menu’ online, however you’ll assume the tab for office supplies is a cute name for menu’. Oh no, its actually a link to get Father’s Office (FO) logo crap like shirts and a skateboard (?!).

Word to the wise: Don’t ask for ketchup.

Exhibit A: “May I have some ketchup for my fries?”…”We don’t do ketchup, ma’am.” I was pretty baffled by the attitude, fluff and snobbery in this “office”. Besides the incredulous no-ketchup policy, they don’t permit substitutions or modifications since they assume their shit don’t stink (maybe I want sweet potato fries instead of boring ol’ showstring ones ). What the hell? What if I didn’t want some greasy egg oil glob of garlic aioli for these FRIES and BACON burger…sheesh!!! But I have to say, after all the grating irritation I was totally placated by the (trademarked??!) juicy flavor stricken burger and the malty, spicy seasonal Cali beers on Tap

A couple other places I visited were Salute Wine Bar and Versailles Cuban Cuisine. Oh man, Versailles was phenomenal. The kind of random vinyl table cloth restaurant on a strip of car dealership highway-kind worthy of every woo and yay known to Cuban pork and mojito heaven. Salute on the other hand was a total crap house. Un[wine]friendly Seaweed Beignets that tasted like salt balls wrapped in nori and cream puffs, pizza with like 3 pieces of porcini on stale dry dough, and pathetic sub-par wines on that you had to self-serve using a dispensing card to keep track of your overpriced 2 oz pours. And then this off-balance, scratchy dessert of pickled fennel, orange, (dry, chewy tasteless mush) sponge cake and dots of creme fraiche that really lasted like fish. It was terrible.

One of the absolute worse and reckless establishments I’d ever seen, and I’ve never met a wine bar that I didn’t like. But this, man no. Salute really should fire its chef or give him some serious culinary intensive therapy.

Otherwise, I encourage you the very same delicious stay in Los Angeles, just avoid Salute on Main St. 🙂

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