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. 🙂
I was so ecstatic to see that my recipe was so well received. And, the competition was fierce. In fact, I would have had a hard time choosing between carmelized pork empanadas, my wild stuffed squash AND coconut wild rice pudding too! I invite you all to read the announcement with the links to the fellow random recipe participants as well, I was quite impressed (and inspired!) by all of their blogs!
I also realized that my traffic has gone up a smidgen since the challenge and I’d like to thank every single eye ball and fingertip for taking the time to visit my blog of random food musings, I appreciate the precious time that is taken out of your important days for following up on the curious! Thank you again!
And also, check out Marx Foods! I’m dying to try their GABA Rice, which is fermented and sprouted brown rice. It’s called GABA because during the sprouting enzymatic process, GABA is a residual by-product. GABA, is not only an acronym that I can’t be bothered with GoOgGlE’ING, it is a neurotransmitter/amino acid important for starving anxiety, poor sleep patterns and stress waves away! In Japan, it is common to find rice cookers with a GABA option cook setting! GABA GABA DOO! 😛
I rarely blog about making food, but rather critique others who make it. Nevertheless, thanks to being a food blogger, MarxFood.com sent me some random samples as apart of a recipe contest! The much anticipated box had come with an assortment of dried gourmet goodies: black trumpet mushrooms, Japones Chilies, Habanero Chilies, Wild Rice and Coconut Sap Sugar. Hmmmmm, I thought, what to do with such differing powers of flavor! I stewed long and hard going through explosive japones chili thai soupy thoughts to Mexican habanero rasberry coconut sap jam dreams. Part of the challenge is that I would need to use at least 2 of the 5 ingredients in order to come up with some random dish. Finally after days of tossing the ingredients back and forth in my head, I realized the conception:
Wild and Foraged Stuffed Winter Squash. Baked with coconut sap and finished with black truffle oil. For this recipe, I utilized 3 of the 5 ingredients sent! What makes it wild is the wild rice, foraged dried black trumpet mushrooms and fresh chantrelles. And of course, truffle oil is pretty wild itself!
I love fall cooking, the possibilities are endless! I love the rib sticking goodness of bright carby squashes. I realized that we are also totally in mushroom season so I wanted to capitalize on the earthy pattern of the wild rice and black trumpets by incorporating further mushroom compliments: chantrelles and black truffle oil. Not to mention, the milky salty touch of ricotta salata that imparts the creamy texture of its fresh grassy ricotta sister while insinuating the briney similarities of a feta.
I took a trip down to the weekend farmer’s market to obtain the bulk of the seasonal foods at hand:
(the following images may be of extreme graphic nature and I totally blame Monica Barrett for being the official food pornagrapher and gastrocohort)
Serves 4, easily:
1 each of Carnival, delicata and acorn squash
2 cups of fresh spinach
1/2 lb of Fresh chantrelles
8 ounces of ricotta salata (cheese)
1 lb smoked keta salmon fillet
2 small leeks or 1 large
1 dry cup of wild rice
4 oz Black Trumpet Mushrooms (dried)
clove of garlic, crushed and chopped
olive oil for saute’
coconut sap sugar, for exposed squash edges in final baking phase
black truffle oil to finish
(salt and pepper to taste)
…all bought fresh, local and organic at the Farmer’s Market!
The bags you see are the little samples MarxFood sent that tied it all together! I also PAIRED the whole dinner with an unoaked WA state Ryan Patrick Chardonnay from Piccola Wine.
Now that you have the grocery list, here goes the process:
Overview: The idea is to stuff the squash with a lightly sauteed melange of foraged wild mushrooms (such as the black trumpet and fresh chantrelles), leeks and spinach with garlic and olive oil. Then mix this “melange” with perfectly tender and chewy wild rice. Crumble in ricotta salata then fill in the various squashes after they have been prebaked at 350 faced down in olive oil), sprinkle with coconut sap at the edges to brown, caramelize and bake to perfection.
1st step, reconstitute the dried mushooms in hot water for about 30 minutes. Be glad the black trumpets are dried because that means you can use the earthy umami broth to cook the wild rice in. Sit down and relax for 30 minutes. Have a glass of Zin and snack on pumpkin bread while they become “constituted.”
30 minutes later: now we drain the hydrated trumpets, ahhhh. Now you’re left with mushroom broth. And you’re going to cook the wild rice in it, trust me. I was happy to be “green” and recycle this precious water. Once the black trumpets were reconstituted, the stuffing game was on.
It’s all a time juggle. Wild rice on the back burner, squashes pre-bake in the oven just waiting to be stuffed, saute’ pan is simmering with leeks, garlic, foraged mushrooms and finished with wilted spinach.35 minutes or so later, your whole puzzle is ready to be put together. Fold in the mushroom-leek saute with the earthy aromatic Wild Rice, and then hand crumble ricotta salata over the stuffing like snow.
Use a deep spoon to scoop to stuff and mold. After stuffing, the edges of the squash were carefully sprinkled and hand pressed with coconut sap so that they could sort of be caramelized at the edges. Bake uncovered at 350 for an additional 20 minutes.
A good tip that I failed to mention before is that you need to slice the squash lengthwise, and kinda gut the squash. As pointed out to me by my faithful gastrocohort, aka the fabulous food pornagrapher of this endeavor, the seeds are totally salvagable and should be toasted with salt while the squash prebake, that way you have an interim nibble while they bake during the 20 minute finale.
Careful, don’t fall into the temptation to gobble all these up. Save some, because they make a nice presentation for the final product. My cohort had to slap my hand a couple times. This is probably the real reason I enlisted the culinary support of food pornagrapher Monica…to make sure that I didn’t drink all the wine and eat all the fixins!
Once they have cooled down, line the middle of your plate with the toasted seeds. Portion off a slab of smoked salmon, maybe lay a couple thin slices of ricotta salata atop smokey slab. Then drizzle your much aromatic black truffle oil in zig zaggy layers. It should look a lil’ something like this:
Tasting notes: Pairing the unoaked Chardonnay was a brilliant idea. It complimented the sweet onset of the squash and supported the lingering earthy umami finish brought to you by the mushrooms and spots of truffle. The mushrooms served as a true bridge to bring you a silky full mouth-feel explosion of sweet, savory and umami.
Pairing with the smoked salmon was almost too good to be true, it imparted a sweet salmon candy pop and accented lemony notes from the Chardonnay and an unassuming fruit “punch” with the ricotta salata.
Conclusion: This was quite the treat. Its worth every minute of prep and attention to detail. Be warned: you may fall into a food coma and not wanna get up.
I understand that the 1st few months of a restaurants, or any small business, are crucial for building a trustful customer base and raving publicity. Because in the following months a huge percentage of them (96%) either fail within the 1st year or succeed and maybe 5 years down the road start to churn out a paycheck for themselves (4%). Those first 3 months are essential for staying at the top of the “J” curve. By the time that Little Water Cantina has irritated enough diners, fall/winter will hit and their fancy patio won’t be the consolation prize for all the overpriced tasteless mush, crappy service and arbitrary corporate-like policies which inhibit them from providing common sense customer service. Unless they have some sort of intervention, they will more than likely wallow at the bottom of that “J” until they have to close their doors.
Now lets get down to the part where I explain my disdain. It’s Thursday afternoon on one of the 16 days of summer in Seattle. I walk in, I was swept away by the darling decor, the sun beaming in and sparkling over the bar, inviting me, luring me: hey, have a sangria on the patio and breathe in the nice cool air drifting off Lake Union. And I was swooning over the fact that the whole operation was LEED certified (platinum efficient GREEN practices) and that their (promoted) mission was to provide exotic Mexican food, with a Pacific Northwest Twist, sourcing locally & organic when most possible. Nevermind the boxes of Peruvian mangoes sitting in plain view. They really do support local. Pu-lease.
This waft of euphoria lasted for about 3 minutes, when the friend I was meeting at the bar had to close out her tab before being able to sit with us on the patio because of their jackal rules. She was waiting for a party of 5-6 but since they weren’t also present they shuffled her around from private table to bar stool as if she were a game of musical chairs, making her close out at every shuffle. Really? You couldn’t just sit her at the WIDE open table and let her friends trickle in? Or rather, just keep tab on her tab? Get over yourselves.
The 2nd insult was the “happy hour.” 6 dollar “chips” and a tiny ramekin of watery pasty soupy tasteless guacamole (local avocados….?) Where was the peppers? Where was the garlic? the onions? The tomatoes, which ARE local and in season? So sad.
The chips were WONTON strips. I’m sorry, but last time I checked traditional Mexican chips are made out of corn, not flour. And they were super greasy just like fried wontons. C’mon, 6 dollar chips are not happy hour. And to add insult to injury, another friend ordered their Albacore Tuna Ceviche ($15) (which had 3 dinky pieces of fishy albacore) and that came with corn tortilla chips that I attempted to soup up the rest of my guac with, only to find they were stale and chewy. How do you screw up corn chips? Either the oil was too hot when they fried them, they let them sit out (more probable) or they got them in a bag that was left to dry (most probable).
The other “happy hour” item were the empanadas ($8 for 2). I’m sorry, a happy hour menu should cut off at $5-6 ESPECIALLY if its finger/handheld food like a dinky little empanada, which by the way was mushy. Don’t be fooled by appearances, their empanadas were dull and should have been fried and greasy. Inside they had maybe 4 little pieces of dry bland pulled pork “jerky.” and had some watercress (okay…) and a salty overly vinegar hot sauce to try to mask the empanada’s lack of depth.
Lets do a price check: La Isla, has a wicked happy hour and coincidentally has wickedly delicious food. Their comfort crusty buttery possibly lardy sturdy savory marinated pulled pork delicious empanadas run about: $3.99 each. At happy hour, they run: $1.99. Little Water Cantina: get over yourselves! La Isla is also partnered with the Green Scene recycling program! You maybe LEED certified and support local/organics, but you can’t depend on those factors to make that your “shtick.” I understand that your operating and overhead costs must be phenomenal, but having feathers doesn’t make you a chicken. Having well-designed plates, ethical-epicurean recipes, Green practices, homemade hot sauce, doesn’t make you a Pacific Northwest go-to for gourmet Mexican food.
Lets get to dessert: the grand finale. Dessert was on the house. But it came with a condition: to have hot sauced spilled and splattered all over a couple of our friends from the stumbles of our waitress (not her fault, the fault of poorly arranged crammed patio seating). As a courtesy, she offered 2 desserts to the hot sauced casualties. In my opinion, she should have comp’d them. Or at least comp’d a drink. If they couldn’t even get corn chips right, what made her think we wanted their spongy watery chocolate graham cracker Flan Cheesecake (which I didn’t quite understand) or Tres Leches cake (which, I only spotted one milk and that seemed to be condensed milk in a can).
The results of getting hot sauced was that one of my friend’s purse got demolished a bit, the hot sauce got in the crevices of the fine stich-work. Its just a purse and it can get cleaned, but who wants to deal with that? And the damage control didn’t control anything except destroy any remaining approval we had for that place. And here’s the icing on the Tres Leches: when brought our (separate) bills, they decided to stick us with an included gratuity. Really? Since 1st you made someone close out like 3 times so technically they weren’t apart of the billing party, and we had maybe a glass of sangria and an order of chips and 2 appetizers. I get added gratuity, but for a group ordering dinner, not at happy hour. I should be able to decide whether and how I am going to tip. That was wack. The ultimate wackness was that I noticed I was charged $9 for the supposedly $6 happy hour sangria (seriously, 6 bucks for juice, some mango puree at the bottom and wine?)
Turned out, she mixed up mine with one of the hot sauce casualties and charged her the happy hour price. She did order the drink maybe 5 minutes past 6. So what the waitress did was adjust my bill, which took 15 minutes, and brought the hot sauce casualty a bill for the extra 3 dollars she was undercharged for ordering a Jungle Juice Sangria 5 minutes past 6, and of course another hit of mandatory gratuity. SERIOUSLY? You couldn’t just let it go? Especially after you spilled hot sauce all over her? This is what I meant by ridiculous arbitrary corporate policies.
I am fuming just reliving this whole bit. My advice is that the owners chill out for a bit trying to salvage a profit. Charge reasonably and not try to nickle and dime everyone. And for the love of carne asada, please get another chef in the kitchen. If you go into a small business, you have to factor that you are going to loose some money. And you have to win over your customers in those first visits. The biggest challenge for restaurants in a food-centric city like Seattle, is to secure repeat business. And you guys will only attract a shallow-non food appreciative crowd for a short while until they get distracted by some new hot kid on another waterfront block.
And that’s that. Little Water Cantina. nothing to see here.
Pair is a little nook in the almost Wedgewood, nearly underrated, neighborhood of Seattle. It’s perched on a steepish hill with a tender view of a local cemetery. The inside decor is nicely inviting, with a picnic table-like set-up and a cozy bar area where this dinner was nested. Pair is trying to be the neighborhood date and foodie joint with an emphasis on a locally sourced, euro-inspired seasonal menu and strategically paired quality wines that the average person would never be able to pronounce.
The house white was an Italian Pinot Grigio and the red was a Montepulciano. Eh, pretty basic. I thought it was strange that the house wines were imports, and this joint is claiming to have a bleeding local heart. I did eventually move up to a menu merlot/cab/syrah wine from Walla Walla that blew my socks off. Talk about delicious! Very fruity spicy and equipped with a thick body. We ordered a cheese plate along with our 3 small plates and the server asked if we wanted the cheese plate before or after the plates. And what a concept! Duh, right? Clean your palate (and surrogate your sweet tooth) with some yummy cheeses and red wine AFTER a ton of complex flavors.
Sauteed Chard with sliced carrots, raisins and pine nuts.
Nill ingredients of which seem local. Ok, maybe the chard. But last time i checked pine nuts came from china and raisins probably from a box. Sorry im being nit-picky but if you’re gonna call yourself a locally sourced restaurant then make a little more sense. You could have used hazelnuts and cherries and ditched the carrots, actually it was like 2 pieces of sliced carrot that seemed way too robust to be from WA, as our growing season has been lame due to equally LAME temps. The plate was OK. I could have made it better myself, by adding a lil pepper and cumin and maybe even truffle salt. For a whole lot less than 9 dollars. It was certainly anti-climatic for foodie expectations.
Manila Clams w/ Salumi Guanciale and large cannellini beans.
Ok, so Guanciale is pork cheek and Salumi is the brand that Pair sourced its Guanciale (aka THE Seattle salumeria). I thought this was going to be really unique since Guanciale has a very delicate yet porky smokey bacony melt in your mouth kind of feel. But there were like 3 pieces in the whole thing which seemed more like pancetta than guanciale and the clams were too chewy. The broth was pretty mediocre, it was as if some boxed chicken stock was poured over already boiled clams and then cooked some more. Maybe threw some sage in there to throw the eater off. The only redeeming quality were the beans. They were cooked perfectly and absorbed all the flavors of the Guanciale and Clam juices very nicely. I liked making a little wrap of Guanciale a bean and a clam. When all nestled together, it made the dish worth while, left to their own devices: boring.
Potato Leek Gratin. My favorite dish.
But you really can’t screw up a Gratin unless you really burn everything and even toast. Its potatoes baked with olive oil (sometimes butter) gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs, how is that not good? AND with Leeks? Delicious! But also the least seasonal and local of the bunch. Ok, maybe the potatoes were local. Keyword: WERE, from last season. Nevertheless, a potato bake with heavy cream and cheese should never be a seasonally offered (advertised) plate in the summer, even if I am wearing my cable knit sweater at night here in the PNW. It was fantastic though, gruyere very creamy and gooey, breadcrumbs fried baked in the plate’s natural oils and buttery firm yet tender potatoes. NOT atkins friendly by any means.
The highlight of the night was the 3 cheese plate. It came adorned with julienned dates with walnuts and a tiny tub of (i hope) local honey.
Le Bleu des Basques- A blue veined cows Basque cheese wedge. It was pretty creamy, bluey, more sweet than spice. Firm and not crumbly. Cream indeed. Paired greatly when dipped with honey and crunched in a walnut.
Caprifeuille- This was a delightful almondy french goat chevre. Pretty firm, a lot of goat chevres crumble and seem too chalky to me, the firmness indicated to me good quality cheesemaking, with attention to moisture details. The cheese also didn’t have that gamey “barty” waft to it most goat cheese have, which also is a check plus for artisanship. I read in Edible Seattle that the gamey, they call “Barty”, aroma is actually pheromones produced by does in the presence of billy goats, a good cheese maker knows to separate the boys and girls for milking season.
Aragonès- A spanish washed rind cow/sheep milk hybrid. It was sooooo good, pretty firm and slicable witha nutty sweet cream sheepy finish.
Verdict: If you live in this neighborhood, you don’t have much choice for fine dining and as long as you don’t mind the view of the cemetery you got your self a descent dinner spot. I wouldn’t recommend coming to this place more than once if you are coming from cooler foodie friendly quarters of this emerald city. Its good that Wedgewood has a nook for good wines and cheeses (that are mostly French) and a good back-up of creative (so called local) small plates that you yourself can then go home and probably make better at home. In your very own, local kitchen.
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