Well, here's the abridged version. One of my projects....a really huge project, was delayed. All trips had been put on hold. As soon as I got official word of the dates being pushed back, I pinged the Missus and went to work, first requesting time off, then doing the logistics. It came together in an instant. You see, a few months earlier, one of the folks I occasionally work with mentioned the Icelandair free stopover program. Basically, you fly out of one of the airlines hub and you get up to a 7 night stopover in Iceland at no extra charge (there's even a "Stopover Buddy" program that's offered on occasion). I started quickly checking prices and found that Business Class from SEA to ORY was really affordable and we could easily fit in a 3 night stopover on the way back.
This meant we'd have 1 night in Seattle on our way to and from Paris.
We've been here so many times, way back to pre-blogging days, and I used to visit regularly while living in HNL....in fact, before I met the Missus, I was considering a move here.
But that's ancient history now and here we were....staring at this!
I had just been mentioning what a clear night it was when we came upon Fernando Botero's"Adam". (Click the link - It's a great article). So perhaps the night was a bit too clear for us?
We had a perfect night of rest and since breakfast was included in our room rate, we ended up having a satisfying breakfast at the Renaissance.
Pretty standard stuff. What made this for us was the awesome service. Friendly, efficient, just really perfect. Before we left one of the Servers brought us more coffee....in take out cups....a "little something for the morning". The Missus whispered to me, "increase your tip". Now that's a new one! I know it doesn't cost the Servers anything to do these little things, but they make all the difference to us; the customers.
So while we hadn't stayed at the Renaissance in ages, I think this is where we'll be when we return.
Renaissance Seattle Hotel 515 Madison St Seattle, WA 98104
Plus, check out time isn't until noon, so we took another nice little walk.
It had drizzled in the morning, but things had cleared up......but not everyone was enjoying their walk.....
Though by the time we headed down the Waterfront Steps, things were under control.
We headed up Post Alley to another "landmark", the Seattle Gum Wall, which is kinda neat or pretty gross, depending on your point of view.
Still, there's always something interesting to see or experience at Pike Place.
Our flight wasn't until almost 5 pm; as I mentioned earlier check-out time at the Renaissance is at noon, I'm sure I could have requested a late check-out, but we decided to just catch the Link out to Sea-Tac. Icelandair flies out of the 'S' terminal at Sea-Tac, which is our least favorite, but since we were flying Business we got to use the "Club at SEA".......even though there wasn't anything special in terms of food or drink, the comfort and low stress vibe is a welcome change from the usual cattle call.
Flying Business Class on Icelandair was a mixed bag. The seating is like domestic first, which means nothing lies flat....the movie selection is dated.....however, the service is fantastic, and in all honesty, the food was not bad.
During our most recent stay in Seattle; having dinner at Sitka & Spruce would seem to be the obvious choice. But after our last meal there, we decided that maybe a change was in order. We'd arrived for an overnight stay on our way to our final destination.
On our previous visit, we passed what seemed to be a very popular place named Terra Plata; literally "Land to Plate". Reading a bit more, it seems that the focus was on local growers and artisans, which seemed like the perfect meal for us.
We arrived at the Renaissance without incident. I used to stay here all the time, but for some reason hadn't during our last few visits. They seemed to have done some nice upgrading of the rooms and the corner room we had was very comfortable.
It was a pleasant walk to the restaurant, heck, it's basically next to S&S, and we've been to Seattle so many times. The dining room is nice and warm, though seating is pretty cramped; fitting as many bodies in as little space seems the trend these days. The place was half full when we arrived at 6pm and quickly filled up. The menu, as is also the norm these days was a simple single sheet, fairly vegetable heavy and meant for sharing which suits our preferences,
We started with a couple of cocktails; the Missus a "Seattle Raindrop" ($12) and I a "Will I Tell" ($13)....both were a bit too sweets for our tastes.
After looking over the menu; we decided to forgo the meat options. We've been finding that vegetable and starters are more interesting items these days. It seems that in the case of mains; the kitchen has to keep it kind of close to the vest while the other courses seem more fascinating.
We did need a bit of "protein" so we started with the Charcuterie Plate ($20) which was on the pricy side, but we loved the presentation.
The real winner on this plate was the chicken liver terrine, which had the perfect amount of liver flavor combined with a pleasant texture, and just a hint of winey-sweetness. The pate champagne was also quite good; not too salty, great texture. The Missus loved the mustards and pickles; especially the pickled capers and cornichons. The lomo iberico was too salty, cut too thick, making it hard, and the Duck Rillette was really bland and hardly had any of the nice assertive flavor we enjoy.
I should have skipped on the Risotto ($20). I've mentioned the issues I have with typical restaurant par cooked prep for risotto. This just didn't do it, the core of the risotto was hard and crunchy. This version also had too much marscapone for my taste and not enough salty components.
Loved the chanterelles, so earthy, and the addition of brown butter was nice, though it clashed with the marscapone in my mind.
The Missus, who loves lentils and broccoli, really enjoyed the having both of them in the Broccoli with Moroccan Spiced Lentils ($14).
This basically looked like a stir fry; the flavor was nice and savory, though I think it could have used a bit more balsamic. I think they are also using Worcestershire or something similar to give this a flavor close to soy sauce. A nice dish.
We both really enjoyed the Beets with Walnut Romesco and Feta ($14).
The various greens added a nice combination of bitter-herbaceous flavor to the "just crisp enough" and sweet beets. The Romesco Sauce had the perfect amount of garlic and slightly smoky-sweet flavors which went nicely with the milky-salty feta. This was just a wonderful dish.
So nice, that I decided to finish things off with an Old Fashioned ($11).
The service was friendly and warm, the room got really loud, and like I mentioned before; the tables are really close together....the server kept bumping into me and the person seated in back of me when passing. The price; well, the Missus actually was kind of shocked....over $100 for mostly vegetables...but of course we had the three cocktails and such.
So, Sitka & Spruce or Terra Plata......I think the Missus enjoyed the execution at Terra Plata more....perhaps the next time we're in Seattle we'll do one after the other. Or who knows, maybe there will be another great option?
While we did enjoy our meal we really weren't quite as impressed this time around and perhaps the best part of the meal was my cocktail, called "The Garden".
Loved the addition of the celery bitters and oregano, which gave this white grape juice and ancho reyes cocktail a wonderful complex array of flavors. Not too boozy and quite refreshing. The sweetness of honey and citrus really balanced things out.
We started with some Shigoku Oysters ($3/each), which is basically a new variation of Kusshi Oysters a strain of Pacific Oyster.
These were very mild in flavor and perhaps a bit too firm for my taste. Also, one of the oysters tasted a bit off; but I suffered no ill effects.
We also ordered the combination of pickled and fermented vegetables with pickled egg ($11).
This was a lot of pickles....a lot, enough for 4-5 people, except for the egg of course, which was very good. The Shishito Peppers had a very nice texture and the beets were delicious. Probably too much of a good thing though.
Next up; the Heirloom Tomatoes and Halloumi ($18).
The tomatoes were good...a bit too mild in flavor and acid. This dish had way too much basil on it. The big surprise was the seared Halloumi, which had a fairly crisp exterior and a creamy interior. It added a bit of saltiness to the dish which was welcomed as was the presence of Shiro Plums which added a pleasant sweetness.
The Crispy Yukon Golds with Tuna and Egg Yolk ($14) was quite good.
That egg yolk added rich creaminess and the tonnato (a tuna-mayo based sauce) added a nice creamy-savory flavor as well. The olive oil was lovely and the potatoes delicious. The tuna confit really had no flavor and brought nothing to the dish in our opinion.
The Broccoli with Charred Eggplant ($13) was quite good in spite of the rather greyish hue of the dish.
Think broccolini with baba gannoush. The restrained amount of Aleppo Pepper added some zip to the smoky eggplant puree. The anchovies were a bit too salty for this in my opinion.
The seemingly odd combination of Nectarines, Lardo, Seared Shishito Peppers, and Chickpea Puree ($14) sounds a bit disjointed, but it worked quite well.
An interesting combination of textures and flavors; sweet, that chlorophyll-sweet-mild spice of the peppers, the texture of the lardo, and topped off with a nutty hummus like puree, this worked nicely for us.
As with our previous meal; we were intrigued with the combination of textures and flavors, some of which worked better than others. Though during our previous visit, we had that one dish which we thought was just amazing, which we didn't find on this visit. Still, while you might think $120+ for mostly vegetables (and cocktails) is mighty steep, the meal was a fun little ride.
It's been a really busy couple of months. Work has been crazy and we needed a break. So with Cathy and Ed from Yuma always willing to help keep the blog going, the Missus and I are taking a nice break.
To where you may ask? Well, I think you can figure things out in 4 photos. So here goes.
This is where we started.
Then we ended up here.
And we are enjoying our last evening in this region.
As expected, the meals have been great. What's even more surprising is that we haven't had a bad meal yet. Rubbing this little guy's head is supposed to be good luck. Maybe it worked.
Because the eats sure have been good.
And we've been having a blast as well. Beautiful countryside.....
And cute little villages.
So hopefully things will work out and I'll get another post in sometime. You know, to give you something to chew on.
Yep, that's us. Long story for another day. Anyway, after spending a good part of they day in airports, we're stranded here for the night. So we decided to make the best of it and have managed to get reservations at one of our favorite restaurants here.
Things are always a bit better after a nice cocktail.
I don't sleep in much. Remember what they say about needing less sleep as you get older? I'm not sure I buy into that, but I usually wake at 5am on work days and by 6:30 or so on weekends. But there's something about the weather and coziness of Seattle that just makes you want to sleep in. Or perhaps it was that wonderful dinner and the rather long walk we had the night before. Regardless, by the time I threw back the curtains on our hotel room, it looked like a glorious day.
Our flight wasn't leaving until 5pm, so I had arranged for a late check-out. We'd just loaf around until then. But first, we needed sustenance.
We'd passed by The London Plane, a wine bar, cum bakery, cum specialty food shop, cum cafe the day before. I'd heard of the place, so we stopped in and looked at the brunch menu. The menu looked interesting, so we decided on yet another Matt Dillon shop for Saturday brunch.
Though the rest of the "in transition" Pioneer Square area looked pretty empty, the London Plane was almost half full.
Our Server told us, "I think you got the best seats in the house...." And I don't doubt him. I love watching the timing and coordination of the different stations. An open kitchen means you've got to work really clean....which this place totally did.
Wanna make a food blogger's day? Give them seats at the counter or open kitchen.
We started with the Smashed Avocado and local Albacore Toast ($12).
I believe the albacore was oil poached...still, it was rather dry, and a bit "fishy" to my tastebuds. Guacamole on toast....why didn't I think of that before? I actually enjoyed the avocado - olive oil...the sourdough, which I think is one of the shop's hallmarks is very good and the red pepper...well, not flakes, but crumbs brought a nice mild smoky, pungent, heat to the whole deal.
Take a look at some of my coolking posts over the last couple of years and you'll notice how various vegetables have started to really take up a bigger part in our diet. So there's no wonder that the Missus decided She wanted brunch here after seeing different assortments of vegetables available for brunch.
By far, my favorite were the Roasted Baby Carrots and Red Emporer Onions with pistachios and mint (far left). I really enjoyed the levels of savory sweetness....it never went too far, the light touch of mint really added a nice touch. The Missus loved the roasted delicata squash (duh...) and kale (double duh...) with tahini and pumpkin seed. Nice balance here as folks tend to be rather heavy handed with tahini.
The raw beet, apple, fennel, and celery slaw with walnuts was definitely no shrinking violet, but was a bit too tart for my taste.
One bad thing about having several enjoyable dishes is that as the meal goes on, the higher the expectations. Since I make gravlax at home, the Missus expected the lox in the Salmon lox, potato, pickled peppers, and creme fraiche was going to be something sublime. I guess simply being "lox" was not good enough......
Of course the Missus loved the romanesco........but was less than impressed with the rest of it. Deconstructed; the potato is the "bagel", the pickled peppers the red onion and capers, and the creme fraiche....well, creme fraiche. I would love a bit more dill and something more herbaceous to set this off. Not a bad dish by any means....but while carried out well, quite mundane.
As we left, the dining room was packed, and the shop quite busy. We'd enjoyed our meal here and the service(and the coffee) was quite good as well.
The London Plane 300 Occidental Ave S Seattle, WA 98104
This was a bit more than we'd usually have for breakfast....which left us ready to roll back in bed. Having a late check-out, that's exactly what we did. After all of the walking the last two days, the extra rest was welcomed.
After our nap, we walked around a bit, then checked-out and headed off to SeaTac. Man, the light rail makes everything so easy.
We managed to grab a beer at the airport since we got there early.
And even a grilled cheese and some cheese curds from Beecher's near Concourse C.
Like I learned in Madison; those cheese curds will hold you for a good long time......they were really good; garlic and herb flavor. We didn't get to the grilled cheese until getting home!
Anyway, we had a blast in Seattle; it remains one of my favorite cities. And we surely won't wait another 7 years to return!
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.
It always makes me want to jump right back in bed...... We usually wake very early when travelling. Getting up at 4 or 5 am is the norm, whether in Hanoi, Prague, Antigua, or Istanbul. When in Seattle though, we usually get a great, long, night of sleep. And usually awake famished......
The Missus picked the spot for breakfast; Lola in Belltown. I was interested as well, since this is part of the Tom Douglas empire. In spite of all my visits to Seattle, I'd only eaten in one Tom Douglas restaurant; Dahlia Lounge back in 1994, when he won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Northwest.
It was 8am on a Friday morning and the place was packed!
The Missus ordered the "Lola Breakfast" ($15).....and for some reason ordered Her eggs boiled...6 minute eggs. One of the eggs that arrived had cracked and the albumen was oozing out sloppily. She asked about it and the Server grumpily removed the plate and it was brought back very quickly....so we knew they had just scrapped off the egg whites and dropped the plate back on the table.... the eggs, were also way past 6 minute territory.
Other than that, the smashed garlic potatoes were wonderful....I enjoyed the fingerling the best. We had potatoes this way twice in Seattle, something that I had done at home a while back, but now I've been inspired to do potatoes this way again. The bacon was very nice, great flavors, crisp around the edges, chewy in the center.
I ordered Tom's Favorite Breakfast ($19). I had read that Lola is Greek inspired and this "hash" of sorts featured octopus, which did not disappoint.
The octopus was among the best I've had in ages, perfectly tender, yet slight crisp from the griddle. The winter squash added a wonderful, mild sweetness to the dish, the bacon, salty-smoky flavors, and let's not forget the leek, which brought the entire dish together.
The poached egg was adequate, though I'm not a fan of the sourdough toast here....they are still into hard and chewy breads here.
We both enjoyed the coffee and instead of feeling weighed down by breakfast, both thought this hit the right balance in terms of portion size.
Lola 2000 4th Ave Seattle, WA 98121
We then headed off to this Seattle landmark and truly one of my favorite places in the world.
No matter how many times I've visited Seattle; I've never gotten tired of checking out Pike Place Market.
We have our favorite places; the Missus never gets tired of watching donuts being made at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company and I enjoy checking out Beecher's Cheese.
Well, make that "used to be" a must stop. I got a Sauerkraut, Cabbage, and Carrot ($4.20) which seemed to be a shadow of its former self....did they change the recipe somewhere in the recent past? First, the filling was pretty cold and strangely bland, second, the pastry lacked the buttery-yeasty flavor that we both recall.
Kind of sad since this used to be a tradition for us.......
Piroshky Piroshky 1908 Pike Pl Seattle, WA 98101
Still, it's always grest to visit Pike Place Market and to check out places that weren't around the last time we visited......I did want to taste the shot of the brine at Britt's Pickles, but no one was around....so we'll just have to go next time.
We then started off to our next stop when it started to come down a bit. So we ducked into Seattle Coffee Works...the Missus had Her V60 pour over and I had some iced coffee.
When things settled down a bit we caught the route 131 bus down to SODO. Now, I might joke about the Missus and Her love for Chanel bags and such......but I've got a bit of a bag fetish as well. You see, I'd been searching for the perfect carry-on bag for years. We only do carry-on when we're travelling, unless we'll be bringing stuff back....we have a foldable duffle for that. A few years back, I got a Tom Bihn Tri Star, basically a European sized carry-on and I loved it. The Missus complained about spending so much for luggage, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.....Until the Aeronaut 30 came out and I got Her one.....now She's a Tom Bihn-nite as well.
Anyway, Tom Bihn's factory and only showroom is located on Ohio Ave South. So we caught the bus, got out at the South Dawson Street stop and walked to the showroom.
The showroom is basically a partitioned off section in front of the factory floor. But.... I was in travel bag geek heaven! Anyway, the Missus determined that I should get an Aeronaut 45, which can actually hold a lot more than I believed. So yes, another bag for me.......
We caught the bus back to Pioneer Square. By now we were getting a bit hungry. So we stopped by this fast casual shop named Sprout, ordered a Cobb Salad and went back to the room and shared it. By now it was nap time for the Missus and usually, I'd be joining Her. But, for some reason, I was still a bit jazzed. I guess that 10 hours of sleep I got he night before really did me good....except for my legs of course....
It had dried out a bit, so I decided to take a walk around the area....to some of those places I hadn't been to in a while.
Man, the last time I actually visited the Waterfall Garden was back in the 90's.
And though the area is still kind of gritty.....kind of like the Tenderloin in SF, things look a lot better than I remembered. It looks like folks are starting to move into lofts, we saw folks walking their dogs.....
I had a destination in mind.....funny, how you get into a pattern of things. By habit, I went to the "old" location of Uwajimaya.....and then remembered it had moved over a block back in 2000!
Picked up some bottled tea and water and walked back to where we were staying. I was kind of suprised to smell so much reefer in the air as I walked around Seattle. I don't ever recall that before!
I'd been gone over an hour, so the Missus had a nice nap. It looked like it was going to be a nice evening.....
And we had reservations at Sitka & Spruce for dinner.....
The Missus and I have always said that Seattle is one of our favorite cities. I had even considered moving here before I met the Missus. We've always enjoyed the personality and vibe of the city; the unpretentious, tolerant, down-to-earth, polite, though perhaps a bit introverted folks..... We used to visit every year and our best visits were during the holiday season, so shame on us for not visiting since 2007. And double shame on us for not visiting during the end of fall/beginning of winter in 10 years!
There have been alot of changes in the 7 years since we visited, the very inexpensive Link Light Rail route from SeaTac to Downtown Seattle didn't even exist back then. Now it's an inexpensive $2.75 from the airport. I'd have never even considered staying near Pioneer Square when I first started visiting in 1993, yet here we were dropping off our luggage at the Courtyard Pioneer Square. It was easy making eating plans for this trip. Included in those plans was a visit to the Walrus and the Carpenter. The Missus jumped at the plan, since most of our past trips have kind of revolved around oysters. Of course She had Her own little twist on things. I've long mentioned various "death marches" the Missus had taken me on. Well, this time the Missus had an urban version planned.
She wanted to walk from Pioneer Square to the Walrus and the Carpenter. A walk of approximately 5.72 miles. In Seattle, in winter, yikes!
Just for kicks, I posted the question of this walk on the Chowhound Seattle Board. Unlike some of the other CH boards, the folks here seemed quite helpful. I didn't expect 20+ answers....such varied opinions, from being a terrible (read: a nice way of saying certifiably insane) idea, about 50%, to being an urban adventure. As a joke, I mentioned the comment about going to Fremont, since the Missus had never seen The Fremont Troll. Well, She was all in....which made the walk over 7 miles long! Double sigh.....
Still, we were to start at Salumi. We'd never had a chance to check out this very popular shop, so I was more than happy to start here.
I was told that there's always a line at this shop run by the Batali family....yes, that Batali family. It's an interesting story that you can read here. So, of course there was a line, which moved very quickly, with folks replacing those in line at about the same pace.
I've read rave reviews about the pochetta and all that stuff, but this is a salumi shop. Plus, the Missus doesn't eat much bread these days, so the salumi plate ($13) was an obvious choice. Man, this was good, nice, distinct, yet balanced flavors to all the salumi. And only $13??? Boy, does what we had at S&M recently seem highly over-priced. My favorites? I loved the addition of a hint of curry to the traditional fennel salame, the Finnocchiona Salame. The flavors of the Agrumi Salame, hints of citrus, also was fantastic.
The beef tongue is not sold by weight, so we ordered a sandwich ($10). The tongue was very nicely flavored, beefy, not too salty, nice seasonings, fantastic tender texture. It's a bit too much bread for my taste and I felt bad about not eating it all....but I just couldn't do it; especially after the Missus ate all of the meat of one half the sandwich. A bit too much olive spread for me as well. The ratio is kind of off....but oh man, that beef tongue.....
On a whim, the Missus ordered a single meatball ($2.50) and it was love at first bite.
I loved the sauce, it had just about the right balance for my tastes.....simple, tangy, lightly sweet, that flavor of sunshine.....
The woman managing the orders was very nice. The place is super packed, so she told us to sit at the "front table", which is basically the front display window. Kind of odd and cool at the same time. You feel like some kind of window display and yet, it's interesting to people watch.
We really enjoyed our meal and we look forward to returning next time. More meatballs for the Missus.
Salumi Artisan Cured Meats 309 3rd Ave S Seattle, WA 98104 Hours: Tues - Fri 11am - 330pm
After this, the death march ensued. We basically headed straight down 2nd, past all those familiar places. Up Pine, past Westlake Center and one of the places we used to stay at; the Westin, swinging around back and down Westlake Avenue which used to look a bit more industrial, but now there quite a bit of construction going on. And I swear, the Space Needle used to seem a lot farther away than this......
And when did Whole Foods get here? Must be after 2003 which was the last time around these parts.
This can only mean one thing.....this part of the Denny Triangle is obviously doing well. I was told all the construction going on in the distance were buildings for Amazon in Belltown....
As for the three fairly odd statues right outside, they are works by ceramic sculptor, Akio Takamori, named "Young Woman, Girl, Mother and Child".
From here we passed a ton of newer buildings, intertwined with more industrial businesses like a Firestone Autocare, before arriving at Lake Union.....
And all those houseboats.....
It started drizzling a bit more.....though temperatures weren't too bad....in the mid-high 40's. We hastened our pace a bit, before finally coming to the Fremont Bridge and that sign I love.....
Of course, after crossing we'd have to climb up to visit The Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge which is on North 36th Street.
After crossing the Fremont Bridge, I was a bit wet and somewhat sweaty....it was time for a break. We stopped at Milstead & Co, the Missus had a coffee and I some iced jasmine tea, which really did the job.
We then hikes up the hill, to visit the troll, who seemed to have a mesmerized fan.
The young woman in a blue coat, who looked Japanese, just sat very still and quiet, like she was trying to communicate with the beast crushing a VW. She moved not an inch....she was quietly sitting in place when we left. For all I know, she might still be sitting there, meditating in front of a troll.
Down 36th Street is another of Fremont's "(in)famous" art pieces.....
Yep, that's a statue of Lenin (not Lennon), as in Vladimir, wishing you Merry Christmas. The story of how this statue made it from Poprad, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) to its current resting place is quite interesting. It's funny how you find little threads if you travel enough, this statue which was in front of Poprad's Lenin Sqaure was removed during the Velvet Revolution, which I mentioned in a previous post about Prague.
It was just about 310......and so it was time to head off to our dinner destination.....which was a "mere" 1.9 miles away! Lovely.....
And so we walked on, past the Bev Mo and and the Fred Meyers....and all those industrial areas in between. I'd never been to the Ballard area before....but knew that as long as we saw the #40 bus, we'd be ok. Walking along Ballard Avenue NW, I knew to look for the sign... The Missus walked right pass, but I knew what to look for.
You then had to go down a hallway and at the end you hit paydirt.
It was 345, we'd done pretty good time, about 35 minutes. We were the third party in line(no reservations at this small place)...not bad. I went down the stairs to the restroom, following one of the guys who exiting the restaurant. I was a bit wet and somewhat sweaty from the walk and the drizzle. The guy asked looked at me and said, "drizzling down a bit out there?" I told him that it was a combination of things since we walked here from Pioneer Square, via Fremont. "You what? "I heard that this was where we needed to come for oysters...." "Ok, then, you'll be happy, we got some good oysters tonight." Nice guy! I got myself a bit more presentable and headed back upstairs.
We were asked where we'd like to sit and requested a seat at the bar, which turned out to be a great decision. Remember the guy in the restroom? Well, he was the one working the raw bar..... I just knew this was going to be a nice meal. After all, we were here for the oysters, all local, no middle men, no brokers........
The restaurant itself is tiny, cramped, but warm and inviting and without pretense....like I guess what your little secret neighborhood spot serving world class seafood would be like.....
As for the oysters.....well, I asked for recommendations, describing that I enjoy the finish that's interesting and more on what I call the "nutty, rare beef side", though I appreciate that cucumbery flavor as well. David, our master shucker, chose us, "the oysters he would choose on the menu today."
The first dozen were composed of Treasure Cove, Blue Pool, and Baywater Sweet. The Missus immediately took to the Treasure Cove, which took real well to the mignonette. When it comes to good oysters, I just do a drop or two of lemon, it does just enough to balance out the salinity for me. I just took to the finish on the Blue Pool, it was sort of funky, slightly nutty, with a deep and long lasting finish..... it was just what I'd been wanting.
Meanwhile, our first garde manger dish arrived; the Duck Breast, rockwell beans, masutake mushrooms, sea wolf croutons, and tarragon.
In terms of what we had, this was the weakest dish; but by no means was it terrible, it's just that the duck breat was dry and lacking in the duck flavor we enjoy. The masutake mushroom and especially the beans were the stars of the dish for us. Loved the use of tarragon as well.
The beef tartare was very nice.
Buttery, with a clean, refreshing finish. This went very well with the rye toast and is osmething I'd have weekly if I could.
Our second dozen oysters; Nordic Knute, North Bay, and a repeat of Blue Pool.
I still loved the Blue Pool.....
The Missus demanded equal time, so we got another dozen with Her favorite, the Treasure Cove, plus the Hove Cove and one of my old favorites the Hama Hama.
The Hama Hama had that almost acid like citrus flavor I recall, but the Treasure Cove were still the favorite of the Missus.
Meanwhile, we got to chatting a bit with the master of the raw bar between plates. He was super fast and shucked with amazing ease. Anyway, "David" is David Leck a champion shucker. If you'd like to see him doing his thing, check this out.
We had a great time...... we loved the oysters, the vibe, the folks working here.....they have a great cocktail program and a nice wine list....but I wish they'd do a bit more with the beer program.
Still, when in Seattle, we'll be back. David made it a great night for us.
The Walrus and the Carpenter 4743 Ballard Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107
Speaking of beer. A bit further up the street is a beer bar named The Noble Fir. We stopped by....because; well, I wanted a beer. Luckily they were having a nice progressive. Which I enjoyed while the Missus went meandering around the local shops.
Anyway, the big name in the progressive was the Bourbon County Imperial Stout, boozy, with coffee-caramel-molasses tones, and a boozy hit. It was a bit too much for me, but the Missus really liked it. She also had a Blueberry Ale from Cascade brewing.
Funny, the thing I enjoyed most about the place was the great 80's music they played!
The Noble Fir 5316 Ballard Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107
After our liquid refreshment, we walked over to the bus stop and caught the 40 back to downtown Seattle. The Missus, still believing we needed "more exercise", decided that we should get off at 3rd and Virginia. Which was kind of nice, since we'd get to enjoy the walk through downtown and those sights we'd gotten used too.....
Years ago, we flew into Seattle right after Thanksgiving and ran into a Holiday Parade. At the end, the star at Bon Marche was lit. So even though it's now Macy's, it's still the Bon Marche star to us.
You never know what you'll run into in downtown. On this night it was a Ferguson protest.....
We skirted the protest, which seemed very peaceful and headed down 2nd......past some very familiar sights.
And some that weren't around the last time we visited.
Making back to our hotel. It had been what seemed to be a long day, but it was barely 8pm! I dunno.....maybe old age is settling in, but all that walking....perhaps 9 miles or so really wiped me out!
Still, it was nice to be back in Seattle and we were eating well!
I realize this was a supr long post. Thanks for reading!
You can call me late to the party....I know that Seven Stars Pepper is under new Ownership, but since we were here, I thought what the heck. Also, I'd been told that one of the not-to-miss dishes (still) was the Sichuan Crab at Seven Stars. The restaurant is located on the second floor of a strip mall on the corner of 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street that would not look out of place in Monterey Park or Alhambra.
In fact from the graffiti to the dried out pieces of gum on the sidewalk, to the loud and slow elevator that took us to the second floor....this almost had San Gabriel Valley written all over it.
The interior consisted of faux laminated plywood siding and weaved mats, going for the Asian feel. I had even considered the possibility that the tables would be a "San Gabriel Sticky", but they were in fact spotless glass topped tables.
While my Father In Law and the Missus chatted with the nice Server in Mandarin, I looked over the menu board...and there it was Sichuan Crab. Unfortunately, they were out of crab, so we made due.
We started with the Fuqi Feipian($4.75):
Instead of the usual cold appetizer table, everything here was off the menu. Fuqi Feipian, the "Husband and Wife" dish is probably my favorite Sichuan appetizer, usually a combination of thinly sliced brisket or shank, and tendon or tripe drizzled with chili oil, sichuan peppercorns, crushed peanuts, chinese celery, scallions, and sesame seeds, or a combination thereof. This version left me less than satisfied; first off the lack of peppercorns eliminated the wonderfully addictive numbing heat. This version used too much vinegar, which my Father In Law and I didn't care for. The Missus and Her Mother enjoyed the flavor, since it was pretty close to the Beijing-style Sichuan flavors they enjoy.
The Chong Gin Hot Chicken (Chongqing La Zi Ji - $10.75):
Another go to dish that I usually enjoy. In this version, the cubes of chicken were deep fried to a perfect crunchiness. Again I lamented the lack of Sichuan Peppercorns, making the heat(which wasn't very hot) one dimensional. In addition, the "hot sauce" used had an interesting vinegar kick, that the Missus and I kept trying to put our finger on......until it came to me. It almost tasted like Frank's Louisiana Hot Sauce! In other words like Chongqing style buffalo chicken cubes with chilies....... It sure was a long way from Chung King in Monterey Park.
Not really a Sichuan dish, but I really enjoy the combination of lamb and cumin. I've been told that this is originally a Xinjiang style dish. The Missus has told me of street vendors selling skewers of grilled lamb with cumin in Qingdao where She grew up. I enjoyed this dish, though not quite as much as the Dry Fried Cumin Lamb from Dede's back in San Diego, as it was a bit on the oily side. Still, the nutty cumin flavor, along with a slight chili kick provided by the dried chilies, along with wild flavor of the lamb was nice. One thing I noticed is that the Chef doesn't "scald" his dried chilies, which would make the dishes much more fragrant and release much more of the chili flavor.
The Sichuan Prawns ($12.95):
Much like the chicken, these nice sized prawns were cooked perfectly... the meat moist, with a nice firm texture, the shells crisp, with a nice dusting of corn starch, but not hard. Again, these were not particularly spicy, but this allowed the sweet flavor flavor of the prawns to come through.
Overall, a decent, but not exceptional meal at Seven Stars Pepper. Too bad about the lack of crab. The service was very nice and accommodating, if a bit on the slow side. Perhaps on our next trip, we'll be able to check out Szechuan Chef, the restaurant run by the former owners of Seven Stars Pepper in Bellevue, or another restaurant recommended by one of the bellmen at the hotel, Yea's Wok.
Seven Stars Pepper Szechuan Restaurant 1207 S. Jackson St. Suite 211 Seattle, WA 98144
Open Daily: 11am - 1030pm 206-568-6446
Oh yes, special thanks to Tohta for a nice list of recommendations for our next trip up to PNW!