Curious Appetite

Brunch

35th St. Bistro in Fremont

Come here for Brunch.

By night, 35th St. Bistro can be a bit off putting for the everyday city dweller, it might feel like you are only welcome if you are on a date, that NPR listening middle-aged francophile with wire framed glasses looking for that shoo-shoo chic wood-colored bistro, nicely endowed with a nice wad of cash and a preexisting familiarity with French pronunciations. I am none of those things.

At Brunch, however, all bets are off. Especially if you are smart and swoon in the bar nook. I suggest coming at around 1, either with a friend you can happily dwell with at length or a book that will last you at least a couple hours. Because at 2pm, happy hour begins and it’s the perfect time for a Tom Collins or a fresh fruit muddled martini (strawberry if you are lucky) before buzzing over to the last bit of the Fremont Market.

One should confidently enjoy a French Pizza for breakfast. Adorned with carmelized onions, bits of smokey sweet bacon, hints of gruyere, salty brunch potatoes and a farm-style egg on top, how is pizza not more common at brunchtime?

If you are looking for a stealth power packed plate to keep you full and able to resist the beignets with salted caramel and chocolate dip at Happy Hour, the Bistro Omelet is your ticket to fine herbed and gruyere fluffy eggie savourment. Be sure to order the homemade sausage over the bacon, its flavorfully saged and explosively hearty. And, who can argue with homemade?

Ladies and gentlemen, I may never be able to go back again. This little wrinkle in Sunday’s afternoon should only be relived by you and your favored ones. My time with mine has left the building. In order to keep finding gems like these. 🙂

Skillet Diner- "Street" food: brick and mortar style

Sunday mornings should be spent in bed, and if you are forced out of one there should be something worth for such an awful separation. So for me, the motivation is brunch or the farmer’s market (which usually included munchables).

I have heard buzzings about Skillet Diner, they started out as a food truck and now they have a brick and mortar in Capitol Hill, as well as marketable retail goods like skillet bacon spread. This whole thing kind of irks me about “street” food in Seattle. Chefs start out something kitchy by stuffing it in a food truck, charging way more than the whole concept of “street” food is supposed to stand for and once they get to a certain threshold of popularity, they open a brick and mortar, still serving overpriced “street” food IN A FRICKEN RESTARANT!  And boutiquey “shop” marketed plastic jars of over-glorified Bacon GREASE? Give me a break. Vomit is officially everywhere. Suffice to say, I haven’t quite jumped aboard the food truck “wagon”.

But I just had to come to Skillet this Sunday brunch. I knew it would be good, from the looks its menu’ of pork belly and cornmeal waffles to a straight up “standard”. And honestly the last couple times I have tried to scope out the undiscovered hole in the walls at breakfast, I was a little hrmph’d for having separated myself from loungeness and p.js on precious weekend mornings for some crap on a plate I could have made 12 times better. And Skillet was a good bet after all. The wait is a little annoying, but not really because these marketeers got you waitees covered with a coffee station, where you can also purchase a jar of this bacon spread (how is this not called grease?!!). And chairs outside to make the time go by better with your warm bodied joe. The bar/diner seating is spin-able,bright and comfy. The prices are pretty descent as long as you stick with the 9 buck plates, which are usually the most belly filling and rib stickily like the homemade (cream-stricken meaty perfected) sausage gravy (oh mylanta…) and biscuits (buttery sweet salty carb HEAVEN!). The nice touch here is that they serve it with fried crispy sage on top. They have a seasonal rotating scramble that I was super tempted to try which was a duck confit grit something something fancy and rainbow chard. But my friend ordered the deconstructed hash which was basically french spiced root vegetables and meaty marbling steak chunks with an egg on top oozing a bright orange yolk. I’m not gonna sing skillet’s high praises and i’m not gonna rip it apart (other than about the general pretentiousness of “street” food in Seattle). I read the Seattle Weekly review and a few others, and they seemed to be a little underwhelmed, i believe due to preconditioned hype. My response to them is that Skillet Diner doesn’t require a microscopic analysis: its good breakfast. Its good because, its consistent, reasonable and interesting. And not 18 bucks a plate like Steelhead Diner. Plus, they have bacon salt bloody mary’s in mason jars (2 bucks cheaper during breakfast and brunch!)

Curious approves:)

Wayward Cafe'- Vegan Sanctuary(?)

There was a point in my life in which I was vegan. At that time, I also was pretty disciplined in karate and took dance. I was one healthy little lady. And not a deprived one, neither. Vegan food has a bad rap. Its not all tofu, bread and margarine. Its also creative milks made from luscious almonds, fermented bbq “bakon” tempeh, cashew tahini, sprouted grain & bean burgers, olive oil mock-anaisse, raw chocolate avocado mousse pie, coconut milk ice cream…as you can see, it can get quite decadent. In the U-District, I realized there are very few breakfast joints and can embody the image of the rolling hay deserted western town on a weekend morning. There is Portage Bay, but forget it unless you have a reservation or get there at an unfair time, unfair to your REM cycle that is.

After strolling up and down the ave, looking for warm eggy goodies, I landed instead at a tofu scramble hole in the wall called Wayward. They are pretty popular even among non-vegans. They have hearty portions of veggie stuffed burritos, massive piles of spiced home fries and even old school sweets like cheez blintzes. As well as home made biscuits with vegan “sausage” mushroom gravy with generous sides of garlicky kale greens. In the kitchen, all you can see are cast-iron pans that are an obvious flavor-savour plus. I have a question mark in the headline because what I ordered was totally gross but it was my own damn fault. It was a vegan Monte-Cristo. Which traditionally is turkey and some fancy white cheese slathered smoked and melted in between 2 buttery sugary maple hunks of french toast. I thought that by eating this, it would be a tongue in cheek gesture towards food novelty. But there is nothing savour-worthy of plastic dry tofurky sandwiched in between 2 rubbery earth-balance pan seared hunks of what seemed like angel food cake bread, without the pillow sweet, just the pillow white bland texture. And a dried-out side of hashbrowns that was only salvaged by dollops of hot sauce and ketchup. But every place has its crappy menu item, and even the cashier warned me of the tofurky. I should have taken heed. But my neighbor’s plate, the biscuits & “gravy” with garlicky greens,  was quite nice, and nice enough to have shared and taken pity on my fearless mistake. The biscuits are warm and buttery-like and perfectly salty. Nice and ‘shroom earthy hint o’ umami gravy, with pleasant chunks of broccoli and peppers. Greens held up nicely and werent overdone and still bright green.

If you want something hearty, semi-greasy spoon, chock full of greens, vegan and cheap Wayward Cafe is a good bet. Just run like hell if you see any tofurk-slice anything!

Brunch at St. Cloud’s in Madrona – not heavenly

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. There are very few days in the week that go by in which I don’t break my fast in a very calculated manner. I am not a cereal girl. Neither an oatmeal. Unless its steel-cut with apples simmered in cinnamon & butter. And I’m hoping that if you are reading a food blog, you share my fondness for the most important meal of the day. I probably love a brunch outing as much as I enjoy making coconut flour chocolate chip Belgian waffles touched with PB and bananas at home. But before I do, I carefully comb through a variety of Weekly, Stranger and Yelp reviews before making the faithful descent from PJ’s to skirt&leggings. I found St. Clouds because there was a rather hilarious review that I just had to see for myself, even despite several tens of glowing recommendations. Here’s a little teaser by the one (and opinionated) Aaron S.:

“…I moved past the pork tenderloin {which was previously compared to eating bland sawdust that belonged in a kitty litter box…} to the penne pasta soaking in a sauce covered in spinach, bacon, capers & tomato, topped with spinach aioli…sounds delicious, right?  Oh my god…all i can say is vomit in my mouth.  The sauce was some balsamic vinegar, broth a$$ that did not deserve another bite.” 

I wanted to see this for myself. I heart, Madrona. If it is home to Bottlehouse, how could she allow anything less than amazing?

I have to say Aaron S., you are on to something. Don’t let the other 125 medium-positive reviews make you second guess yourself. Even Galileo faced opposition from the Catholic Church when he challenged the Ptolemaic notion of an Earth-centered universe.

When I walked in, the decor was cozy and casual. Like. When sat down, I was surprised by good coffee. Which, should be a given. But! An empty cream pitcher? When they brought back the cream, turned out it was off and formed curds as it swirled through the coffee mug. Talk about a buzz-kill.

Then there were the specials. One was a seasonal-veggie-omeletewithsquashmarinatedinbalsamicvinagersundriedtomatoesmushrooms ricottasalataandatomatobalsamiccoulisontopofomelette and Biscuits and Gravy. At the end of the special announcment, I was like what the hell was in that seasonal omelette and my breakfast pal was like “what kind of gravy? is that all? whats so special about those biscuits and gravy?” Do you get my drift?

When I decided on the “special”, the waitress initially said they came with hash browns, and coffee cake or lime cake. I asked for a salad sub for taters, which is common right? She then responded that she’d have to charge me for a dinner size salad. Whoa whoa, lady. Hold your horses. This is brunch. Usually places charge $2 max sub charge, whats your beef? I just don’t want the hash browns, ever heard of the obesity epidemic? Greasy eggs, fried potatoes AND cake? I celebrate decadence but c’mon. She counter haggled “well…how about fruit?” substitute. Okay, sure i’ll take what I can get to avoid food coma. So it was brought out, fruit and all.

Literally, fruit and all. Do you see anything potentially gross here? Well I don’t particularly enjoy  pineapple and orange wedges oiled by a  savory tomato balsamic coulis, do you? Gross. The coulis was all I could taste, super strong vinegar notes and little reminiscent of tomato, other that the super tart overly sweet “sun-dried tomatoes” tuckered into the omelette. The slivers of dried tomato tasted like someone took dried tomatoes out of a plastic bag, reconstituted it with boiling water for 5 minutes then threw it in the egg veggie blanket. Ideally, you want to eat sundried tomatoes “sott’olio” style; meaning the sun-dried tomatoes “cured” under olive oil & salt, maybe capers and a smidge of vinegar to offset the sweetness that drying a tomato can dangerously ruin a dish for. I lived on a farm in Puglia for a short while, where I weeded, olive picked, repaired holes in olive catching nets the size of a football field with a net sewing needle by hand. And my reward at the end of the work day was the most amazing pomodore sott’olio con friselle. Which were basically sundried tomatoes, grown and dried on-site, submersed under peppery fresh olive oil (also produced onsite) infused with dried herbs and capers, which were enjoyed by the jar on top of friselle, which are ring shaped dried  bread resembling english muffin halves that must be slightly wetted 1st with spring water to soften up the ice crunch texture. So I did not feel like the tomato themed seasonal omelette truly did tomato justice. It was too sweet, too chewy and too slimy with the balsamic squash (whatever that means) and crimini mushrooms. Another chewy downfall was the overcooked, dried-out bland overly pine-sole-rosemary cover-up chicken sausage.

I think this charred image speaks for itself. And lent a poor 1st impression to my fellow diner who was curious about apple smoked chicken sausage. I felt compelled to convey that this should never be considered a frame of reference for anything “chicken sausage”.

The only saving umami grace was the ricotta salata that tried to hamper the chewy dried tomato and coulis sweetness.

That and the coffee cake saving face, which should have also been served on a separate plate in order to avoid the tomato coulis oil slick contamination.

This coffee cake was moist, buttery, melt in your mouth flowery caramelized nut crumbly goodness. It was full of spice and worth every carby calorie.

I think this St. Cloud’s should stick to whats good and consistent: like their signature coffee cake. And instead of trying to negotiate a dinner priced salad, at BRUNCH, for a simple common sub, they should be trying to negotiate better food. Get your head out of the clouds, Madrona. Earth called and they said St. Clouds should strictly be a buns and cake place round’ breakfast time.

Nettletown

One morning, as I was restlessly slept-in, I was feeling spontaneous and felt compelled to venture out for brunch. I urbanspoon’d “brunch” and found this “Nettletown.” I thought, what a peculiar name. It seems that Nettles have become a culinary trend in the Pacific Northwest, i.e. nettle papparadelle, nettled sausage, nettle gratin. Nettles are medicinal as they are delicious. They are amazing towards combating allergies. And amazing in curing the experimental palate.

I was quite surprised to see this place tucked next to subway in the seemingly convenience strip of Eastlake. I walked in, and was covered by colors, mural-inspired decor, and a counter lined of eccentric sweets. Dark chocolate covered noodle haystacks to mexican chocolate (sliced) coconut bars.  They were delicately arranged and gastronomically full of beauty. And the best part? COST. $1.60 for that chocolatey coconut blissy bar that I enjoyed much with some full-bodied organic coffee that was served in a cute modestly sized Japanese-like styled light blue ceramic mug, and as I waited for my baked truffled sunchoke eggs to arrive.

Menu items seem baked and/or cooked to order (allow 20 minutes for this special): and I was impressed by all of the choices. Simplicity, yet complexity. Traditional, yet experimental. There was something truly special about the vibe inside. It really seemed like a little hole in the wall that no one knew about, and that would only be exposed by Anthony Bourdain. I found that to be completely false once I stumbled upon the latest Eater Heat Map http://m.eater.com/archives/2010/12/29/the-eater-seattle-heat-map-where-to-eat-right-now.php

I feel like homey little hole in the wall joints that you can fill up on precious gourmet comfort meals for less than ten bucks is a rarity in Seattle, unless you hit up the I.D., Beacon Hill, White Center, or maybe Korean joints along HWY 99. Usually, so-called “foodie” and well-ranked venues like Springhill (bless your hearts and please forgive me for the following profiling:)  are in high-profiled spaces with seemingly high-profiled snooty clientele. And that with coffee and tip and maybe a slice of brioche will let you escape for those ten $mackers.

The point IS…these baked eggies were creamy, truffly (of the black variety) and had semi-firm savory sunchokes baked in with a creamy cheese crust. The green spinach salad was a great way to polish off the palate and still leave the truffle lingering and mingling with the olivey vinaigrette.

As I lurked through the website, I discovered the owner’s inspirations come from her Swiss and Chinese roots. TOTALLY made sense, after I was confounded by the melange of modern European Ikea-eske ideas of Elk-Balls and Swiss Knoepfli (swiss spaetzle) yet Asian style-comfort foods like 5-spiced Berkshire pork ribs buried in wild mushroom noodle soup.

I am so bewildered by this place, not only for the way you can get sweet unpretentious treats for under $2, its small yet bursting  selection of brunch items, the fact that its hard to spot along Eastlake ave and sits right next to a franchise that is belittling the gastronomic integrity of America, and the fact that they actually utilize a CSA farm/produce box  scheme to provide its whole food ingredients.

So, my question is, how good is a lemongrass elk meatball?

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