mmm-yoso!!! is a blog of food, events, events with food and other reasons to share what we (Kirk, Ed (from Yuma) and Cathy) eat. Today Cathy is writing about an event and also a meal, which did not occur on the same day...
Last Saturday, The Mister and I once again volunteered for "dry decorating" some of the floats which will participate in the 126th Tournament of Roses Rose Parade. A variety of materials are used... Covering every exposed part of every float with organic material is achieved with various glues... Really, the day is more "Detail Decorating"... Peas, lentils, beans, poppy seeds as well as bark, pulverized dried flour petals and cinnamon are the majority of materials used on these decorating days-December Saturdays before Christmas Day. Long day, with much accomplished by about 450 volunteers and yet so much more to do. Intensive decorating with live flowers begins December 26 and goes through until the morning of December 31, just before judging.
Of course this blog is about food, but this day was not very interesting... Stopping at Cream Pan in Tustin before 7 a.m., for some karaage, an orange cream roll, a cheese crisp and, of course, a ham and cheese croissant. Bringing our own lunch this time, we ate on the hood of the car... Getting ready for the drive home, we heard traffic reports on a major accident on the 210, another one on the 5, two on the 101 and others on the 57, 71, 91 and 15, so we tried to avoid it all and ended up getting home in about four hours after having not stopped for dinner, made grilled cheese sandwiches at home and slept deeply.
So, to have some sort of interesting food for this post, The Mister and I drove North during the week...stopping for a late breakfast/early lunch in Garden Grove at Brodard. When you walk in, there is an area to order 'To Go' items and snacks... Along the side of this ordering area, you can see the ladies making the famous nem nuong... Which we, of course, ordered after being seated in the already crowded restaurant... "Mixed order" of Nem and Chao Tom- Two pork paste and two shrimp paste ($8) Spring rolls were brought out almost immediately.What makes these Spring rolls special is, that in addition to the fresh lettuce, cucumber, carrot, daikon, cilantro and mint wrapped tightly in rice paper, there is a folded piece of crispy fried egg roll skin in the center of each fresh roll. The 'house special sauce', served warm (I believe it is made with pork and pork broth and maybe some honey) also make these Spring rolls unique. Another item ordered was the simple and tasty Gou du du bo kho, Gan Chay (papaya salad, $6). Made with both beef jerky and smoked pork liver, the version here is a favorite. The two sauces, one a spicy vinaigrette and the other more soy based, are served on the side and mixed to our preference when we eat the salad...
Again, we try a 'new to us' item at most restaurants and this time it was... Banh Hoi Chao Tom (angel hair vermicelli sheets topped with grilled shrimp paste and served with greens and a lime chili fish sauce) ($8.95) This was a delightful surprise! The dry, delicate noodles were just the thing to go with the various wrappings and good amount of grilled shrimp paste. We could have ordered this with whole shrimp, BBQ pork, grilled beef or nem nuong, or (as we will do next time) order the Banh Hoi Brodard- the toppings are grilled chicken, BBQ pork, grilled whole shrimp, grilled shrimp paste, pork sausage and egg roll, for only $2 more.
Brodard Restaurant 9892 Westminster Ave Garden Grove, CA 92844 8 a.m.-9 pm. daily Closed on Tuesdays
Over the last couple of years, I've tried to plan something a bit "different" on our trips.....while it might not be different to the adventurous traveller, for basic folks, not on a tour, without a guide or handlers....well, it might be. When we visited Istanbul-Rhodes, we did a side trip to Symi. When in Tunisia, we travelled to Ksar Ghilane and slept in a tent in the Sahara, on our trip to Portugal and Rome, we visited Malta, on our trip earlier in the year, we took the train to Poperinge, then rented bikes to get to SAint Sixtus, in search of Westvleteren 12.....I know, there's a lot of catching up to do.
I knew there were places the Missus had always dreamed of visiting.....in some cases these places were just something from a photo She had seen. There was a classic photo of Japan......that looked something like this.
The "Floating Tori"........ So when making plans, between trips to Kyoto and Osaka, I made arrangements to stay over night on Miyajima. That way we'd be able to get past all the day trips. Luck was on our side as Typhoon Vongfong hit the night before we were set to leave.
And by the time we left, it was clear skies.....
Three people emailed me asking for photos of the Shinkansen......so here are a couple of the "Bullet Train" arriving at Kyoto Station.
Getting to Miyajima is a slam dunk....get to Hiroshima Station and change trains to Miyajimaguchi and catch the ferry. The only delay was when the train stopped for about 30 minutes midway. I'm thinking there were still some problems post-typhoon that were being taken care of.
The ferry takes about 10 minutes or so, and finding our hotel, which was right across the Ferry Terminal was a slam dunk. We dropped off our bags and headed off. What I didn't know was that we'd be so busy doing things we wouldn't return until nightfall!
What I really didn't anticipate were how, well, interestingly persistent these residents of the island were.
The deer here are quite, well, I'm not sure if "tame" is the right word. They are used to humans and will grab your bag or tear into your pockets looking for something to snack on. On the other hand, it was funny seeing kids tease the deer and then suddenly have the tables turned.....
There was, of course, one thing the Missus wanted to see. ....so we headed off ASAP. It wasn't hard finding the Floating Torii.
This torii is the gate to Istukushima Shrine which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Shinto Shrine is dedicated to the daughters of the God of the Sea and Storms, Susanoo-no-Mikoto.
The island itself was considered sacred, so the shrine was built, out into the bay, so that pilgrims could visit without setting foot on, and defiling the island.
In fact, I've read that to this day, no deaths or births are allowed in proximity to the shrine and no burials are allowed on the island!
It seems that the island was simply created for one to marvel in the beauty of it.
It's obvious why Miyajima is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan.
Photogenic sites like the 5-Story Pagoda look really beautiful, but not so much close-up.
It's much better to take a photo like this.....
And while the waterfront and the main shopping arcade are busy and full of tourists. It seems like the back streets are not. Right down the back steps from the pagoda things looked like this.
We caught the scent of coffee and found a little shop, which we later found is pretty popular named Sarasvati and had a nice cup fo coffee.
The great smell of coffee......it seems that Japan does love coffee and takes it to the next level.
It was a nice break. We sat and put together a plan for the rest of the day....which seemed quite easy at the time.
Of ocurse, everything seems simple over a nice cup of iced and non-iced coffee.
We hadn't eaten since our "Vongfong snacks" the night before so getting a bite ot eat would be the first priority.
I had received a recommendation for Miyajima from a friend. Now the trick was finding the place......addresses on Miyajima, much like other places in Japan are kind of a mystery to me. Though in terms of being a trick, it wasn't nearly as amazing as what what that pooch was doing standing on the dude's shoulders! That is one talented and well trained dog.
Anyway, bolstered by our coffee we set off....trying to find our lunch destination. One really nice thing about Miyajima, and Japan as a whole, is people are so very helpful.
As we wandered the back streets, we'd ask people for directions and they were so helpful.
The place was actually located in the main shopping arcade, duh. Here's a photo of the front of shop later in the day.
When we arrived, there was a line outside the restaurant and that oyster grill was going full tilt. Unfortunately, there were only "tatami style seating available. So, there I was....when was the last time I sat this way? I could hear my joints, making a sound like twigs snapping in a windstorm as I tried to sit correctly. My left foot immediately fell asleep and I had the mental picture of trying to get up and falling over on another table and impaling myself on one of those little replicas of the Floating Torii that accompanied the raw oysters.
It was oyster season, so guess what we ordered......
The Nama-Gaki, oysters on the half-shell, really didn't make much of an impression.
While very meaty, they lacked any real, distinct flavor, that would make an imprint in my mind. Very mild, lacking in any great aftertaste, really not impressed. This would be great for the "oyster gringo", you know, the guy who hits the raw bar and says, "gimme the biggest oysters you got.....".
The anago really didn't impress me as well.
Things turned on the kaki-furai....the fried oysters seemed to highlite the best of the local bivalve.
My goodness, the initial crisp texture, followed by the meaty follow-up...something happens when you apply heat to these oysters; the briney-beefy flavor is magnified. This was quite delicious.
The crescendo peaked with the grilled oysters.....
The smoke from the grill just added an additional layer of flavor which took these meaty morsels to the next level. Now I understood what the deal was with Miyajima Oysters......
Life was good. I managed to get up after our meal without falling over onto another table.
The Missus had made Her plans for the day and now it was all about surviving it.
Yakigaki No Hayashi 505-1 Hatsukaichi Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan
As much as we enjoyed Rhodes, we had been kind of underwhelmed at the food we'd had. It's the tourist trade that brings in the money, I get it. It wasn't until the end of our stay on Rhodes that we found a place, a humble taverna in the Old Town, just a block or so off the main tourist track, named Taverna Kostas.
You walk in and it looks like a simple little shop.
The first time we visited, we peeked in the front and had our doubts, but the older gentleman sitting at the table peeling garlic, stood up and warmly greeted us...."welcome, welcome....come in!" And we couldn't turn back. This was Kostas, whom we loved.......warm and friendly, with a gentle demeanor.
We were led to a much brighter and nicer dining area at the rear of the restaurant.
There were no other workers in the place.........everything was done by one man....and done with great joy.
When we mentioned how much we loved the olive oil he served, Kostas, smiled and said he got it from one of his relatives.....
Then proceeded to show on the standard issue Rhodes Taverna paper tablecloth, cum map where he got the olive oil from.
When a larger party came in, we noticed they set the table themselves, putting on the tablecloth and getting water.........as they conversed with Kostas, it became clear that they were regular visitors who came to Rhodes every year and ate here....they knew the drill.
The next night, after walking past several places, we decided to head back to Kostas. After walking in, we set our own table, which just delighted Kostas! "Good, good....thank you....you are now family!"
The item the Missus enjoyed the most were the Gigantes Plaki.
And while some of the other dishes were less memorable, none of them were bad at all.
Of all the meals we had on Rhodes, it was this humble taverna that we enjoyed the most. On another funny note, one of the restaurant owners of a place in Rhodes I posted on has sent me a couple of emails ordering me to delete my post or be slapped with a law suit....really? C'mon, get serious. Just kind of tells you about the folks who run that place.....
And then you have Taverna Kostas. A little place on a side street with well priced, unpretentious, honest food.... and one heck of a nice owner.
The Missus had made some plans for our third day in Kyoto. Unfortunately, the impending arrival of Typhoon Vongfong made us change our plans a bit. Masae, the owner of our Machiya kept us apprised of the Typhoon situation, as did Kat. So instead of doing the Philosopher's Walk, we headed off to Shijo-dori to wander around and do some shopping.
Strangely, most things seemed like business as usual. We walked through the Gion and over the bridge, first heading to Nishiki Market, which, unlike the mass of humanity we encountered on our first day in Kyoto was quite sedate at this time of the day.
A handful of businesses were closed, but for most it was just another day it seemed. Like these two who were out scrubbing the walkway in fornt of their shop.......right before a Typhoon?
My favorite stop was the knife shop....with all the handmade scissors and knives.
At the east end of Nishiki Market on Teramachi street is Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine.
The lanterns are quite stunning.
The water that comes from the deep well in the shrine is supposed to be so pure and clean that it has no odor and the temperature is usually at a steady 65 degrees.
The shopping arcades were quite empty at this time of the morning......in startk contrast to our previous visit to the area.
We couldn't help but notice all the "Kyoto drip" gear in a shop called Holly's Cafe as we walked past.
The Missus, who's become a bit of a coffee nerd over the last year just had to stop. So I had a nice Kyoto cold brew....which was very cheap compared to the states....like about $2.50 or so!
It was a nice and relaxing break.......sitting and watching the folks walk by on a slightly wet Sunday morning.
Refreshed we headed off, across the Kamo River for the umpteenth time.
On the corner of Hanamikoji and Shijo streets the Missus found a bustling shop.....full of make-up and other stuffs. One of the objectives of this trip was to stock up on various brands and products, so the Missus was in heaven.
The store was a outpost of Yojiya a time honored Kyoto brand known for their facial blotting paper. The Missus had a blast and purchased a good number of gifts.
We'd done a pretty good job of passing the time and the Missus was getting hungry. She was still craving that karaage from Karako, so we headed up Higashishoji-dori, first stopping off to unload our purchases.
Unfortunately, Karako was closed due to the impending storm. I recalled a couple of shops across the street and we found one of them open. We decided on eating here based on the plastic food display.
No English spoken, but not a big deal..... I had the Tempura Soba, which was nice and hot.
The Missus had been wanting to have a Katsudon, one of Her favorite dishes since we got to Japan, so She got Her wish...though what She really wanted was a Chicken Katsudon, which seemed to be pretty rare.....anyway, She finally got a katsudon.
She actually enjoyed the miso soup the most. As for the katsudon? I think it did the job, though She did tell me; "you know what....you make a pretty good katsudon."
Usually, when we travel, I get some aches and pains from all the walking......with the Missus making fun of all the "grandpa" noises I make. On this trip, I could tell that all the walking was taking a toll on the Missus as well. Somehow, it just made all my aches feel that much better....I guess sharing the wealth does that to you.
Heading back for a post lunch nap we passed this shop.
This place specialized in Yatsuhashi, one of the most well known confections of Kyoto.
We decided to get a few nama yatsuhashi....the soft, unbaked version to try.
I'm not big on sweets and the Missus doesn't care for cinnamon flavored confections, so while it was nice to try these, I don't think we'll be racing back to buy any.
We headed back in a rather roundabout way, taking our time. It had started to rain intermittently, the sky was getting pretty dark, and the wind was starting to pick up.
Even the ducks in Shirakawa Canal seemed to think something was up as they all faced the same direction....upstream.
We headed back to the machiya, the Missus took a nice long bath, and I worked on a post. We'd been going at a pretty good pace so an easy day was a nice treat and just what we needed.
After a short nap we awoke and decided to take a walk around. It was starting to rain pretty hard and the wind was blowing pretty good.....but there were still quite a few people and cars out and about.
We wandered around a bit, then headed back....
Meanwhile, many of the shops in the shopping arcade started closing up early. Even with all of this; things just seemed to happen at a very relaxed pace. Before leaving Tokyo, we chatted with Reiko about the Typhoon. She said, "yes Kirk-san, there will be some rain, maybe some wind......." Some rain? Maybe some wind?
Darkness seemed to fall quickly, like someone pulling a shade down. The big question was, "what are we going to eat?" There was always picking something up at Family Mart....you could basically live out of convenience stores in Japan....though I'm not quite sure what your sodium levels would be after a couple of weeks.
We'd noticed a gyoza shop right around the corner from the shopping arcade the previous day. This seemed like a simple, light meal.
Just one of the many shops you see everywhere.... Serving basically one thing; here it's gyoza, with a few small "salads" on the menu. And cold beer......nice, cold, and refreshing beer.
The gyoza was as good a gyoza can be; crisp on the bottom, the filling nice and light....nothing like a good guotie, mind you, but still good.
We actually enjoyed the onion salad more.
Earlier in the evening, Kat sent me a text, reminding me to pick up some snacks since we wouldn't be going out and about this evening. Thanks Kat! So on the way back, we dropped by the market, which was pretty busy........ I guess everyone was buying some snacks on typhoon night!
So that's what we did as typhoon Vongfong passed. The Missus was upstairs reading....while I turned on a television for the first time during this whole trip and watched storm reports....
While having a couple of beers and some snacks.
Sometime before drifting off to sleep the Missus said, "you owe me......another trip to Kyoto". I told Her, "no problem, we can come back anytime you want." We have unfinished business here. Which I'm hoping to take care of in the near future.
A fairly large collection for a SoCal winter Wednesday.
Pho DaKao and Grill Closes:
I drove by and noticed the parking lot was totally empty so I drove in. The Eviction Restoration Notice was posted on the door. Man, this place didn't last very long. I think I visited soon after they opened....so they pulled the plug pretty fast.
I'd driven past a couple of times and the place looked closed so I stopped by earlier in the week.
This former Balboa Avenue institution moved to this location back in the summer of 2013. It's too bad that the renovation and creation of chain restaurant hell drove them from their old location and it seems that they barely made it past a year here. Though never a destination for me, I'd eaten at the old location a couple of times and thought it decent.......
So hopefully I'm mistaken? But it sure looks like they've shut down....
4344 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
So here comes the "New" Dumpling Inn and Shanghai Saloon:
While never great shakes, the place really "jumped the shark" in my opinion after the owner got involved with The Dragon's Den and Del Mar Rendezvous, both of which have been sold. So now we get this........ I'm told he has a taste for "fusion", which is great, remember, I'm from the home of Pacific Rim Cuisine, so I love fusion.....but it's a thin line between fusion and "con-fusion".
In the old First Korean Market location.
4625 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
We had some much needed rain over the last two weeks........and we're kind of enjoying the nice sleeping weather, which would be great if I wasn't working so many long hours.
Still, I actually saw a double rainbow while driving to Target on the way home yesterday. Pardon the bad photos.
Seeing a rainbow in San Diego is rare enough....a double rainbow, well I don't ever recall seeing one here.
So I took a photo....then took photos of other folks taking photos of the double rainbow.....like I said, this is like an event.
Or maybe a celebrity? This guy is having his picture taken "with" the rainbow! No selfies here....though I did pass two couple taking selfies with the rainbow.
Well, no, I'm not making it a "habit" (pun intended) of eating here. The main reason for visiting the new location at that little corner of chain restaurantland....that would be Balboa and Genesee, was that FOY - Friend of Yoso, "SomTommy" mentioned that Habit Burger had a tri-tip sandwich on its menu in the comments of my Sweet and Savory Gourmet post. Sheesh, I hadn't even noticed! And being that the chain originated in .....Santa Barbara county, I thought it only right that I check it out.
Not much to say about the interior....if you've been in one, you've pretty much seen the whole spectrum of design and colors.
And yes, there was a Tri-Tip Sandwich on the menu. Which is what I got. It was nice and hot and served on a could have toasted a bit more french roll....lot's of bread on this one.
I'm not sure what to say about this......much like what I said in my previous post about the burgers, I've had worse and I've had better. The tri-tip was fine, on the tough side, straight forward flavors. The portion reminded me of their burger, thin and skimpy. The grilled onions weren't griddled enough. Not terrible, but pretty much....blah.....business as usual. This ain't nearly as good as Sweet and Savory about a half mile away. Though I prefer the French Roll to the ice cold ciabatta they serve.
I also got some onion rings, which were by the book.
Crisp and hot, these are about as good as thise gets. I prefer them to the fries.
Overall, I'll pass on the tri-tip, maybe it's time I try a burger again.....so I guess I'll stop by again soon since the prices are quite reasonable. Though I doubt that I'll be making a "habit" out of it.
The Habit Burger Grill 4175 Genesee Ave San Diego, CA 92111
I tried finding out a bit about the place, but my usual network of informants weren't able to find out much...owners supposedly from Seattle via the SGV, the head chef from Chongqing, also via the SGV......
The restaurant itself is quite large......and for the life of me I can't remember what this place was before? It's next to the Bullpen Sports Bar....was it a Men's Wearhouse or something like that? Anyway, the place is bright and clean, the Servers are pretty friendly if a bit slow, overall nothing to complain about.
So here's the rundown on dishes, from the best to the worst..... and no, I didn't order the XLB or the Hongshao Rou.
1 - Shui Zhu Yu - the classic fish "boiled in hot sauce". Called Sliced Fish in Hot & Spicy Gravy ($12.99).
First the good, a decent amount of Sichuan Peppercorn...hallelujah! Really. Nice garlic tones to match the "ma" - the numbing sensation. Not very spicy until having leftover two days later. Lots of oil...I know, I've often said "oil is the pathway to flavor"...but this was really oil heavy with not enough bean paste or stock to balance things out. Which left the flavor a bit on the flat side. The fish was drier and more chewy than the silken texture I prefer as well. That said, not bad. The portion size was quite hefty.
2 - Chongqing La Zi Ji(重庆辣子鸡). Chongqing Hot Chicken ($12.99) on the menu.
Wow, two dishes with a decent amount of Sichuan Peppercorn! Still, "ma" without the "la".....as in not spicy enough. The chicken could have been fried a bit more crisp. And then there's that odd sweetness that we've been noticing in these fried dishes over the last couple of years. It's like an amount of cake flower or something with this annoying sweetness is being used nowadays.
This could have been quite good with more cumin. The meat was decent in terms of texture and it had a slight kick to it. Would have loved some cilantro and more onions. another dish that tasted better two days later.
The humblest of dishes, but also quite comforting when made well.
This was nice and spicy, with good balance. The problem with the dish was that the liang fen was strangely mushy.....really bad.
5 - Szechuan Won Ton ($6.99).
This was not bad, and for me, it's totally legit to have tons of slippery-noodle-ly wrapper (which this was not) with a nice "kou gan" (mouthfeel) and a small amount of meat filler. This was a bit too hard, tough, and dry.
It had some heat, a bit of sweet, but nothing really remarkable.
And nowhere near this:
6 - Pork Intestine with Laba Garlic ($12.99)
Kind of an interesting dish. Laba Garlic is more of a Northern Chinese thing. The garlic is supposed to have a strong vinegar flavor and be green....this garlic was more like "blue" which is normal for pickling garlic, if I recall, something to do with the sulfur comp0unds in the garlic reacting with the amino acids.
The intestine was prepared well, the garlic quite sour, but the dish just didn't seem to some together real well for me. Something was missing.....perhaps a bit more heat....I kept thinking how this would be with Pa Jiao - pickled peppers instead...well, maybe not.
8 - Dry Cooked Intestine Dry Pot ($11.99). I liked the presentation, over a heating element, and my gosh the portion size was humongous.
The heat in this was sneaky and got me good......the intestine was really tough though and the flavor one dimensional. Strangely, this had me thinking of Qi Wei, which ain't no great shakes either, but better than this.
9 - Emei (I guess named after Mount Emei) Mountain Style Beef ($13.99). Another large portion, the beef was nice and tender.
Strangely bland though......
10 - Fu Qi Fei Pian ($7.99). I was having lunch with my coworker Lily. We ordered this and had almost finished the meal when it arrived......strange. We thought they had forgotten about it. This was terrible.
Part of what makes this dish so good is the amount of time it spends marinating....it's also a liang cai (cold dish) and this was warm. The meat was super tough and hadn't really absorbed any flavor.
There is one thing that I had that was worse than the Fu Qi Fei Pian.....I can't really complain because it was free, but the Hot and Sour Soup ...it was barely warm, not very sour, not hot at all, kind of insipid.
Overall, I think a couple of dishes have some potential, but right now it's just another Sichuan place in the area.....other than using a decent amount of peppercorns, I'm not sure what to say. Of course, it seems that most customers of these type of places want quantity more than quality, which is kind of sad. The folks working here were very nice on all my visits.
When things warm up, I'll come back for the Sichuan Liang Mian and the Ko Shui Ji and I'm hoping for maybe some nice surprises.
Szechuan Taste 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Before heading off to Sitka & Spruce for dinner, the Missus needed a couple of gifts. Chocolate is always appreciated. I looked up a couple of places and found a listing for Intrigue Chocolate who specializes in truffles.
The kitchen, cum shop is located....well, I'll quote the website:
"The shop, which is also our industrial-style kitchen, can be a little tricky to find because we are not on the street level. Easiest way to find us is to find the entrance to Sake Nomi (Sake bar) and continue up the stairs. Then it's just down the hall which turns to the left, and we are the clearly marked brown door, third on the left."
The two guys running the place were so enthusiastic, they'd let us try everything if we'd been able to stay longer! They also make a nice cold brew concentrate as well!
Our favorites were the Juniper Berry and the Nutmeg & Chipotle.
We loved the place, they just seem to enjoy what they do.....and even though they currently use, high quality Belcolade chocolate, we were given a taste of a work in progress, the chocolate they are developing on their own. It was nice talking coffee and Belgian chocolate. We'll be back.
Intrigue Chocolate 76 S Washington St. Suite 104 Seattle, WA 98104
We headed back to our room, dropped off the truffles, and headed off to....
Sitka & Spruce:
The walk was a tad over a mile, though the hills.....sheesh...anyway we did pretty good time, about 20 minutes to Melrose Market in the popular and trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood. We loved the setting; Sitka & Spruce is located in back of the brick building, understated, in that warm, yet somewhat industrial style, high ceilings, a large communal table, and open kitchen.....
The restaurant itself is not large; just a few tables, counter, and communal table seating. As is our MO, we try to eat early, before the rush and crowds. We usually get a better experience and the restaurant is able to do "it's thing".
My main reason for selecting S&S was the menu, which is nice and tight, focusing on seasonal Northwest products. We both thought the tapas-type dishes were much more interesting and we prefer having a tasting style meal. Our diet has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years and the small dishes at S&S seemed right up our alley. A variety of great local produce with interesting combinations of texture and flavors. So we were quite excited to try this establishment of the Matt Dillon empire.
There was one interesting thing about the beverage selection.....based on our dinner the previous night at The Walrus and the Carpenter and now Sitka & Spruce, it seems that Wine and Cocktails are still king for meals in Seattle. Which I thought strange since I usually see Seattle ranked in the top 10 beer cities in the US. Here it's nothing on tap, five choices Hilliard from a can or Rainier?
Whatever....I guess we'd just go and find the Stumbling Monk, or another place after dinner.
We started with the Charcuterie ($25)
While the air dried ham (aka prosciutto, though they can't call it that) was "meh", really bland and lacking in the deep cured flavor we love, there were some real winner here. The chicken liver, basically a a light, spreadable pate really caught me off guard, sweet molasses at first, giving away to savory, with that chicken liver finish. I'm not a big fan of metallic chicken liver flavors, though I love my pate's. This gave me a wonderful ride. The duck rillette had a tremendous almost condensed duck flavor. The head cheese was nice and balanced and the pork terrine was also very tasty. Loved the variety of flavors present here.
Next up Delicata Squash, Haloumi, and Pumpkin Seeds ($15).
We started seeing Delicata Squash on menus last fall. The Missus loves them; moderately sweet, with a nice texture, and an edible peel....heck, even I enjoy them. So it goes without saying the Missus loved this. I really enjoyed the combination of flavors, the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds, the light subtle milkiness of the haloumi cheese. I thought the amount of nuttiness and milky flavors went beyond just the haloumi and pumpkin seeds. When I mentioned this to our Server, she also noted that the sauce was made of whey and argan oil. The mint also added another dimension of flavor.......
My least favorite dish of the night was the Charred Celeriac, Braised Quince, Ambrosia Apple and Bread Crisps ($15).
I really didn't care for the amount of almost tart-tannic flavors. The celeriac was lost in the dish. Tongue numbing and not in a good way.
The Smoked Potato, Pickled Seaweed, Anchovy, and Egg Yolk ($16), took me to that edge.....I loved the smoky flavor, the seaweed added a nice oceany brine, the anchovies were teetering on the edge of too salty, but that egg yolk somehow seemed to temper the salt.
I loved the smoked potatoes....why hadn't I tried that before? Smashed potatoes also seemed to be "the thing" in Seattle. The Missus said She'd have preferred bacon, but I told Her, "that would be so TGI Friday's". Loved the crisp skin on the potatoes as well. you can tell by the meal I made the day after we returned, that this dish made an imprint.
By far, the best single dish we had on this trip was the Hen of the Woods Mushroom, Guanciale, Oyster Cream, and Cider ($18).
My goodness, the earthy-savory aroma, meaty texture of the Hen of the Woods mushroom, more familiar to me as Maitake, was just superb. The sage along with the cider added an citrus tone, along with a hint of sweetness. The oysters in the sauce just took the flavors to another level. I'm not sure of the purpose of the guanciale as I couldn't make out any pork flavors. But who cares. In terms of an outstanding dish; this has our votes.
I realize that the dishes we chose and enjoyed at S&S might not be for everyone; especially the hardcore carnivore. There are 3-4 entrees on the menu any given night....this time it was chicken, black cod, and rabbit. I just chose dishes that best reflected the foraging background of Matt Dillon. I believed that this would be the strongpoint of the restaurant and it seemed that way to us. Our check came in at a bit over a hundred and it was worth every penny.
Sitka & Spruce 1531 Melrose Ave Seattle, WA 98101
We were a bit too full and decided against finding a pub. But, as we headed back toward Pike Street we noticed a crowd of people being let into a building. We walked up Pike a bit, then headed back down. When we passed the building again, the Missus couldn't help it.....we had to go and check it out.
The place seemed buzzing....hip.....totally perfect for the Missus....totally wrong for me.
Arriving at the door, we asked the gentleman inside what was going on. "This is the grand opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, please come in......" Wow, it seemed like a big deal.
Just looking at the equipment, it looks like Starbucks is experimenting with going more high end.
I'm not the biggest fan of Starbucks....but kudos to them for seeming to ride the Third Wave.
This place looks fantastic and smells wonderful. Roasters were on hand to explain the different processes and equipment.
These guys really know how to market.......
Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room 1124 Pike St Seattle, WA 98101
Heading down Pike, we ran into the inevitable shopping crowds.....heck, Christmas is around the corner.
But the crowd seemed extra dense and we heard music in the air......and my goodness...Sugarplum Elves?
It's all these things that makes Seattle special for us....there's always an interesting surprise.
We talked about this as walked back to Whole Foods......the Missus wanted me to get in as much exercise as I could. This was the reason I was thinking of moving here before I met the Missus.
And while I don't think we could live here; it's a bit too cold, there's not enough Asian food within a 2 hour drive, and there's not enough sunshine. The city holds a special place in our hearts. So I guess we'll have to keep coming back.