Curious Appetite

salumi

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/

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.

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.

How to Cook a WOLF.

I work in Queen Anne and was hoping to go to Emmer and Rye after work and ended up at Ethan Stowell’s joint, How to Cook a Wolf. Funny name. It was quite cozy in there and is described as “a handsome wood-slatted den that evokes a Le Corbusier-designed wine barrel.”

La Burrata sopra Frise'

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