Curious Appetite

Cheese

Piadina- the Italian flatbread

Piadina Tartufato- by yours truly

La Piadina is a wonderful thing. What it is IS an Italian flatbread made of flour, lard (or olive oil), salt and water and stuffed with 2-3 ingredients- usually a meat, cheese and a veg. In Emilia Romagna, where la piadina romagnola originates, you will find piadinerie that make the flatbread fresh (even with little charred blots on) and stuff it with local cheeses, prosciutto and fancy sauces (truffle cream upon request!!!).

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Guten appetite- in Germany!

In route to Italy, I first landed in Munich and Berlin- both new cities for miss curious! Germany was shocking in so many ways in terms of efficiency, accessibility and style of living (in comparison to Italy). I know not one lick of German, and there was little time to learn key phrases before I left. Life before leaving was like trying to escape bowels of fire while trying to keep my body in one piece. It seems that many Germans speak English and I felt I’ve done my duty as a traveler by learning at least one, albeit somewhat useless, European language. I was also visiting friends who speak German so I felt like I could get a bit lazy. I will say, on one day that a friend was at work and there was a desperate jet-lag inspired need to find a coffee shop which I expected to be on every corner like in Italy, why I expected that I don’t know. Rather, you should expect to find a Bierstube on every corner. Anyways, so like a complete child walking around streets, which I can’t read or pronounce, looking for a coffee shop. So what did I do? I stumbled into an Italian resto and asked the guy, in Italian, where one could find a coffee. He put me in the right direction but also very confused I imagine, that some random foreigner with an American accent is asking him directions. So I guess Italian is not all that useless outside of Italy:)

In Germany, I got to enjoy some dirt cheap beer that you can walk in the streets freely with, fantastic hendel (roast chicken), fresh warm PRETZEL, Bavarian yogurt, falafel + doner and my then obsession: WIENER ART! Okay, so I am pretty childish. I was obsessed with the word “fahrt” and “wiener” which are on signs everywhere in Germany because “Fahrt” means journey, way, via, pathway, etc. And Wiener…I don’t know all I know is that it’s a type of Schnitzel. And it’s not a hot dog- but rather like a veal cutlet. So I tried to take shots of any signs I caught with those words so I could create a “bloggage.” A food I did not enjoy was beef phở bò at a Vietnamese resto. It was not as cheap as in the states (considering the currency) and it was salty, void and empty of ingredients. Jagged thin short slices of chewy beef and cilantro that was just thrown in with some spaghetti noodles. My pals got some sort of coconut milk based curry noodle dish that seemed worthy, but I felt duped and naive to have expected consistency in beef phở in Germany coming from Seattle where phở’ is pretty damn good. Something to note about eating in Europe is that you have to ask for tap water explicitly to avoid getting charged for bottle water. So here I asked for tap water and they brought out water practically in shot glasses. When we asked for more, like 2 seconds later, they said the policy was one per customer. Jerks. I totally am trying to overcome the whole American customer service/entitlement thing since that doesn’t exist anywhere else, but I find it truly rude when people get cheap and stingy providing basic human necessities like water and using the bathroom- especially if you are a paying guest! Arg! Anyway, another thing I noticed in Germany is that they love Italian food. I was boycotting Italian food as long as I could since I knew I was moving there and in Italy the restos mostly serve – you guessed it: Italian. So it was actually pretty hard to avoid Italian food in Germany, but I still managed to get some German/Italian fusion pizza at a sweet place in Berlin. Also worth noting, Germany is famous for it’s white wines- especially Riesling. And I was lucky to find a wine on tap shop that not only had several German whites but also of course Italian reds for like 3 euros a liter! This shop,called Vom Fass, also had several barrels of whiskey on tap straight from the ageing barrel as well as dozens of flavored liquors! Oh man, I wish they had something like this in Italy! (or the U.S. for that matter!)

Enjoy the sights from Monaco and Berliner- baby!

Okay, enough with the wiener shots- here’s some food porn 🙂

schnitzel wiener art + frites and a Hefe!

Halben hendel (half roasted chicken) and fresh pretzel +more beer in one of Munich’s many beer gardens (cost? like 6 euros each!)

A night of Mexican food- actually more descent that I expected!

and more beer of course- Dunkel, danke!

Whiskey and wine on tap!

Pizza- German style with sausage, herbs and mushroom cream

Oh, food trucks you say, America? Well check this out! A fresh fish stand!

11 euro smorgasbord brunch BUFFET!! SCORE, Berlin!

CHEESE!

CREPE! (chocolate pudding in the backdrop!)

Bottlehouse: Three (3) words…

I. heart. alot.

I was 1st introduced to Bottlehouse in Madrona by chance for a friend’s birthday gathering. Since then, I have brought a handful of friends here almost as if to vicariously relive their 1st time visit amazement. Bottlehouse is a wine bar that refers to itself as a tasting gallery, as if this were home and the owners decided to delicately decorate it with only the finest selected wines. And by the way, everyone’s invited to dwell and be happy. I was charmed. Not only by the cute little house with grapevines grazing around the patio, but  I was charmed also by Madrona itself. I can’t quite describe its extreme quaintness and how it makes me flutter but if you have ever been to London, one could say that Madrona is a bit reminiscent of Portobello Road.

The owners are genious. Wine is enjoyed here, people are here to be casual and relax, and food is intentionally paired. There is food, however there is a strict boundary that I quite respect. Meaning that there are no small plates, there are no entrees, and there are barely desserts. What they do have are only the best local artsian cheeses and renowned Armandino Batali’s Salumi cured meats as well as staple accoutrements such as meaty castelvetrano olives, fried and sea saltyspanish marcona almonds, cornichons (crunchy crisp swoon!).

For dessert they have a teeny tiny selection of deliciously moist and butterwhipcreamy whoopie pies and fresh churned ice creams.

The one thing I don’t quite understand is that they have High 5 Pies. It’s pretty cliche’ to rag on High 5, but in this case they really have no place at a wine bar like this. Especially since they are pretty mushily non-complex and have little to do with accentuating a pour. However, with still having a limited selection of bites I have to say that this is remarkable and a smart way to remain distinct as a wine and tasting bar. But don’t be fooled, the nibbles they do have are seriously selected. They have a resident cheesemonger, who has delighted my epicurious heart on the few occassions I have dwelled. The cheesemonger makes a pitstop to your table after having decided on a wine in order to inquire a bit about your cheese preferences (soft, pungent, sweet or nutty to name a few). Those attributes are then taken into consideration with regards to what wine you chose. If that weren’t brilliant enough, once the cheese and charcuterie board have arrived you might be so lucky as to get the historical background for one of your selections as I did with the Pyramide Frais Cendre.

This cheese was a soft goat chevre-like coated in ash, and seemingly was in a pyramid/cone shape but the very tip-top seemed to be missing. Anyone else wouldn’t have noticed this “minor” detail, but the cheesemonger pointed out that this cheese dated back to Napoleon I. According to historical legend, Napoleon was so spiteful towards all things Egypt after having suffered a defeat, that he chopped off the tip of this pyramid shaped cheese that his chef had developed specially for him during his time away in Egypt. Wow! Who knows if this is true? Even if it isn’t, who cares!

I have to say that Bottlehouse is, a ticket to truly unwind and pamper your senses. It is the one of the 1st establishments in Seattle to offer some of its wines on tap. They even have an BH house branded red.  I enjoy and appreciate the “market” feel and the human factor involved, where its not just some shot in the dark whether or not you’ve chosen food pairings off an inanimate menu. No, someone who knows their stuff has you covered and will talk to you about it as well as delight you with off-beat food knowledge. Many, many kudos. And the real kicker is that they have a happy hour, even on Saturday! Please do yourself a favor and relax here. And take me with you. Cheers!

http://bottlehouseseattle.com/

PAIR

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.

PAIR

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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