Curious Appetite

Local/Organic

Dine Around Seattle: Ray’s Boathouse

March is an annoying month in Seattle. You think you’ve braved the bulk of winter but really it’s only just begun. February teases you with May weather, then March slaps you around with icy winds and grey. Coincidentally March is Washington Wine Month AND Dine Around Seattle Month. So I guess I will pass the time with wine (for March’s sake) and fancy 3 course meals for $30 at shmancy restaurants, like Ray’s Boathouse.

This massive hunk of love was a Tiramisu’ cheesecake. And it was one of the generous desserts apart of the 3 course $30 dine around deal.

I have heard lovely things about Ray’s Boathouse and have been trying to get in there for sometime. They are best known for, you guessed it, Pacific Northwest Inspired Seafood-centric cuisine. But if you look at the menu’ for Dine Around, it was strangely meat heavy. There was a seared tuna starter, which was delicately seared and extremely fresh and carefully paired with flavors of coconut, cilantro and ginger. There was also the saffron mussel bisque w/ pork belly but the pork was definitely the centerpiece to the cream saffron broth. On the mains list there was a Seafood Risotto but I couldn’t bring myself to trust a risotto in most restaurants, especially one that doesn’t even have a claim to Italian fame. Risotto tends to dry out almost immediately and its one of those dishes that takes a lot of attention and needs to be demolished immediately once ready. It can get gummy or mushy if it isn’t served within 15 minutes. So the one seafood main was the one I refused to try. So instead the Muscovy Duck Leg Confit and the Braised Lamb shank was on the to do list. Along with a bottle of a Salice Salentino Negroamaro (black bitter) which is a bold deep red from the Puglia region of Italy. Not too bold in tannin but structured enough to buddy up with duck and lamb.

And my my, these were not sad portions. I wish my camera hadn’t been misbehaving so I could show you their glory. These meats were cooked to perfection, layered a top vegetables like seasonal beets, arugula and swiss chard with grace. Brushed with thoughtful notes like honey lavender demi-glace (for the lamb) and roasted chanterelle jus (for the duck confit) that invoked a sense of true craftmanship.

However, there is usually a however with me, there was no soul. The ambiance seemed a little stiff and I felt as if I was sitting in a Denny’s booth albeit with a cute view of the bay. The chef’s at Ray’s have technique down pat. But there is too much a corporate feel and a lack of character to this restaurant that I feel less inclined to return. The decor was kind of like the kind I’d find at a rental cabin owned by a retired couple in Michigan. But perhaps this is the establishment that it would like to be. The kind that people in preppy suits come to dine and woo their in-town guests or for upscale family reunions. I’ve also heard the cafe’ area is a lot more relaxed and cozy. And for the summertime, which lasts about 6 weeks for us Seattlelittes, it would be a stellar place to enjoy some fresh salmon, a strawberry shortcake and a mint mojito.

If you are looking for true technique, proper portions and a place to bring someone on a suit and tie kind of occasion, Ray’s Boathouse is a win. Also a choice place for Dine Around Seattle Month, for sure.

Marx food Random Recipe challenge: the winner is…

The winner is…Lady Curious Appetite!

About 2 weeks ago I blogged about making a wonderful and tasty stuffed squash per inspiration for a Food Blogger Challenge I was selected to participate in! The winning recipe can be found here:

https://thecuriousappetite.com/2011/10/14/marxfood-random-recipe-challenge-wildly-stuffed-squash/

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!

http://marxfood.com/random-recipe-challenge-winner-not-randomly-chosen/

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! 😛

Stay tuned for more recipes by Lady Curious!

Lecosho

Lecosho is Chinook for Pig and Lecosho is also an riveting new restaurant on the Harbor Steps of Downtown Seattle, run by the gastro artist Matt Janke- the mother of Matt’s in the Market. (and is apparently no longer there, and I really don’t care as I’ve never been to MITM)

Did you find this information helpful or “captivating?” Probably not, its just I was seemingly taught, from my very intensive University degree work, that all essays, even blogs, should have a “hooking” yet (sterile) academia-ish entry intro. And see how many moments of your life I wasted trying to adhere to an academic model of writing that is arbitrarily relevant to the subject at hand, and that is: YUM.

I’ll get down to it. Which, is what I liked.

I liked: the roominess. the ability to make a rez a mere 2 days in advance. the sultry view of Elliot Bay in the background AND the steps. And being able to people watch. And realize how boring dating can be. Not that my date was boring, quite the contrary. No, I didn’t doop myself like the lady next to me whose date i’m sure had no more than 12 words to mutter. How. Lame.

We ordered:

The Housemade Sausage (this was an obvy choice) with braised cabbage in a mustard sauce with a dash of julienned green apple.

Bibb Lettuce wedges slathered modestly in a savory toasted onion ranch, sprinkled with crispy pancetta, crumbled smoky blue cheese and roasted romas.

Spatzle.

And Catalan Style fish soup. Catalan style I suppose because it had a creamy saffron paprika broth.

I liked: that they CHOSE how to order the arrival. Meaning, The Housemade sausage and bibb wedges came out 1st! This won a star in my book, because I can’t impress how much it annoys me when overly ambitious waitstaff come out juggling all your plates and plops them awkwardly onto a tiny quaint table, and you have to help them or you would just be equally if not more akward just watching them. So since food gets COLD and not terribly enjoyable in such circumstances, it makes so much sense to “shift” out plate orders. THANK YOU!

To serve the hearty sausage with the somewhat palate cleansing yet light and super poignant Bibb lettuce-bacony-toasted onion ranch-plate, makes sense to me. The sausage was fused with caraway and beer.  It wasn’t too greasy or dry like chicken sausage. The braised cabbage which accompanied the piggie was silky and mustard spiced.

I liked: that the second round of plates weren’t rushed out! That gave us a few moments to relish in what we just imbibed in and recharging our palates for the next, not rushedly cramming down food just for the sake of tasting.

The second round included the seafood soup. Which included the best chunks of saffron bathed salmon, plump shrimp, fleshy clams (not overcooked and not slimy), and meaty mussels. The broth was specked with the finest herbs and buttery smooth.

The Spatzle tasted as if it were fried in bacon fat and a hint of nutmeg broth, probably a little too rich for my blood, but who doesn’t love tasty fried potato dumplings alla Germans?

We were stuffed. we also had a couple German pilsners. We wanted to avoid looking at the bill as if it were from the doctor.

But we were pleasantly surprised. We escaped, with all that food and a beverage for less than 30 including tax and tip.

Thank you. You’re welcome.

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?

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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