Curious Appetite

Seattle

{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.

The Capital Grille: Seattle

Everyone says “save dessert for last” but in some cultures, dessert is actually eaten 1st in order to properly digest a meal. I.e. sugars digest fast and protein, fiber, fat and complex carbs burn slow. Better to eat from simple burning to slow in order to prevent stomach upset. Whatever, in that case I’ll just eat my cake before and after my meal. How about that, nutrition.

I’ve lived in Seattle for several years now and I have always noticed the Capital Grille but never would have given it a thought until I attended a Foodportunity Seattle Food Blogger’s happy hour. It seemed way too fancy, you know what I mean by that. The kind of fancy that I thought only invited the symphony go-ers, the steakhouse ballers and the diamond girls. With valet men outside the door, how could you blame me in my funky boots and nose ring sporting 20something self? I mean, I’m not frumpy I just never felt that was my scene. Luckily, I did go out of pure chance back in August and I was quite impressed with the whole experience. They sampled us their entire happy hour which included marinated skewered meats, lobster sliders, parm-truffle frites, calamari, mini-caprese sandwiches and desserts. And best of all they were serving adorable cocktails  in mini martini glasses and such. And to my surprise, valet was complimentary for evening diners. The staff were extremely cordial, warm and surprisingly involved in the local food scene. Make no mistake, The Capital Grille is definitely under a massive corporate umbrella of chain restaurants and they are in the same brand family as Red Lobster and The Olive Garden. However, the Capital Grille, at least in Seattle, is seemingly committed to seasonality, green-practices such as low-energy lighting, progressive recycling programs and food donation programs that work with local non-profits such as Food Lifeline.  It just goes to show, never judge a book by its corporate cover. I am realizing, and appreciating, the corporate entities that are beginning to adopt responsible behaviors.

Anyway, aside from all thaaaaaaat…lets get down to the pudding:)

I returned for lunch this week and was thoroughly content that I did. Walk in the rotating door and you are greeted most courteously by the host staff as they seat you and LAY your napkin on your LAP. Not to mention they have coat check! I must say, the menu’ was pretty diverse and interesting showcasing creative salads and appetizers like hot pepper calamari and wagyu beef carpaccio as well as enticing sandwiches and entrees which are also very steak and seafood centric yet with a seasonal twist. However, if it is your 1st time, I would suggest the “Plates” menu’ for lunch. Which is a choice of soup or salad, sandwich and a vegetable side. Sounds boring, right? Does porcini bisque, clam chowder or lobster bisque sound boring? What about Tenderloin Sliders, Lobster Roll or a Fork and Knife BLT? Truffle pomme frites, Green Beans with Heirloom Tomatoes and Leeks sound blah too? NOT.

(I regrettably left home w/o my camera, please bear with me and my Droid shots:)

Lobster Roll w/ Truffle Parmesean Frittes

Perfectly tender melt in your mouth, savory umami stricken mini tenderloin sliders, order them medium.

This 3 course Lunch is quite the steal at $15. We were in a good mood so we also decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of bubbly Marques de la Tour Brut, which was a steal and a half. A perfect lunch bubbly that was light, crisp and low enough in alcohol that we could justify enjoying hooch at noon. But, I think anytime is wine time, just think of the Greek and Romans winos back over 3000 years ago in the Bacchanalia Era…do you think they cared what time it was?

I think this place is great for a downtown lunch trek, a perfect place to bring your boss to, to host work parties and happy hours for sure. If you are looking to experience dining in the heart of downtown with a wicked extensive wine list, I dare you to check out The Capital Grille. Its not “sceney’ or “trendy” which at times can be more pretentiously grating than seemingly upscale fine dining. They seem to have a consistent focus on what should be important in a dining experience. That is: fine service, pro-chef crafted food in a top location. Go see a show at Benaroya or The Triple Door and stop by here for Happy Hour, pre-show drinks or Dinner, the valet is complimentary so might as well save the stress of parking and treat yourself!  Also, I think this is also the spot for surf and turf on a fancy occasion splurge…or even a classy datey dinner or post-date dessert. Check out the opening photo of Creme Brulee-inspired Ricotta & Vanilla Wafer crust cheesecake….oh man good thing there were leftovers, I was quite thankful the day after:)

I hope you go and eat here at least once! It made our day:) Happy New Year!

Golden Beetle: Maria Hine's tipsy spinoff

You know that feeling when you and millions of other people discover a movie so good it becomes a cult classic? It’s so good that you almost want a sequel so the genius of the 1st one just keeps entertaining you? Without further adieu, that much anticipated sequel arrives…

Golden Beetle is Maria Hines’ newest venture following Tilth, a local, organic comfort food institution. Lady Hines even competed on Iron Chef and sliced everyone away.  You do not wanna mess with these skills. Tilth is unlike any other New American restaurant in town. So what do you do when you are so well received; not only by your eaters and Iron Chef judges, but by The James Beard Foundation, The NY Times AND Food & Wine Magazine? Naturally, you come up with a sequel.

Tilth seems to always be bustling and humming, making it hard to reserve a seat less than a week in advance. Golden Beetle has been open for about a year and I am not convinced of its soul quite yet. I see tables filled but it still seems a little sterile. The food is good, but I think it’s a little too forced. By the way, “good” is probably one of the most frustrating descriptions you can give for “food.” What is good, exactly?

For happy hour, they have some reasonable small plates all under $5. I really can’t ask for a better value from such the highly revered chef. The good stuff to order is the Lamb Chickpea Stew. Its small but packs a filling punch with chickpeas bathing in Moroccan spices and little studs of lamb popping out behind preserved lemon notes.  Another good item to order if you would like to be confused would be the Skagit River Ranch Sliders with tomato sauce and pickled cucumber. I’m a tad befuddled, how is a mini-burger (aka a pretentious “deconstruction” of a White Castle burghetto) Mediterranean? In Golden Beetle’s case, its cramming the patty with a confusing mix of Greek-Turkish-Italian spices and herbs then getting roasted pepper tomato soup poured on top of this constructed “slider.” I mean, at the end it was good. But not very impressive.

Another baffle was the service. Also ordered was a Hummus and Pita small plate ($4). This came with a generous ramiken-sized serving of decently garlicked chickpea mash, but it came with 6 tiny squares of fresh pita. Obviously, there was more dip than bread could handle. When asked to bring extra bread, considering the obvious underestimation of bread:dip ration, this came with an additional $3 cost. So the happy hour item turned out to be $7 and when I looked at the normal menu, the same hummus plate is priced at $3. Hmmmmm.

I was a little frustrated by the haphazard over-spicing and a little put off by the pretentious gloat of all the “handmade” goods like sumac bitters and harissa sauce. Ever been to Mediterranean Mix in Pioneer SQ? Well, it’s a little hole-in-the-wall that serves up steaming fresh gyros just glazing with homemade from scratch hummus, marinated juicy lamb, raw grassy gyro-friendly herbs and cradled by a pillowy soft slightly spotty charred pita. For probably $6 bucks. And made by the Mediterranean-sourced owner themselves who isn’t afraid to look you in the eye, say hello and ask how many brothers and sisters you have. I feel like no matter how much one travels to these parts of the world, doing culinary research, and trying to merge the local ideologies they hold back home, you just can’t imitate Mediterranean culture, food is culture. I don’t care if its local and organic, the fact is you are trying to stick it to me for 6 cubes of bread. And you’re missing the warm personable spirit of the Romance cultures you are trying to impart into your sequel. And that just won’t fly with me, lady. No matter how fancy your bitters are.

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. 🙂

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