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Seattle in February

6 Mar

Last month I was fortunate enough to spend a wonderful weekend in Seattle with two of my very good friends and my lovely sister. We said au revoir to Canada and drove down with the goal of eating the city of Seattle out of food within 24 hours. I’d like to think that we made a pretty good dent!

I don’t like comparing Vancouver to other places because that really isn’t fair (ha ha!) but, in my opinion, the food is generally of a higher standard in Vancouver and I think a lot of it comes down to the quality of the ingredients. This opinion is based on my two recent trips so it is likely that I could be swayed with a few more visits but, for now, I stand by my opinion. And for the record, I have made an effort, on both times, to find places that are recommended to me or that I’ve seen highly rated on foodie sites or blogs but so far, I have yet to strike the elusive gold.

On my November trip I did enjoy Serious Pie and Victrola Café. The pizza was addictive at Serious Pie and the coffee was robust at Victrola Café so I was pretty happy to find those two. But on the other hand, I was quite underwhelmed by Café Campagne and Wild Ginger. Even though neither of these were terrible, I am surprised to find that they came as highly recommended as they did.

On my recent trip in February, I came across two really good finds that I want to share. The first was Dahlia Bakery, a bakery in downtown Seattle that is part of the Tom Douglas chain of restaurants. When we first walked in I thought I’d been led astray again. It is a teeny tiny space that has a display cabinet on one side, and baskets of breads that lined the wall behind the register, but that was about it. There isn’t even room inside for seating. And perhaps we got there too late for the showy baked treats but I was kinda thinking to myself “Is this it?” Thankfully, this Greedy Guts ordered anyway and I walked out with a coconut macaroon and a peanut butter cookie.

I was powerless to resist the smells of peanut butter that were coming from my bag and, with the first bite, my socks were knocked off. My first thought was to get back to the bakery as soon as I could to pillage the rest of the cookies. But, alas, I am a lady and so I stayed, paused, in the moment with my cookie. The cookie was so perfect that I didn’t even think to get a picture of it so I’ll have to walk you through the visual…think of two moist peanut butter cookies sandwiched together with a creamy peanut butter filling. Ohhhh, yeah!

Often peanut butter cookies are too dry for my liking but these cookies were extremely soft and slightly moist (if anyone has this recipe, please forward it to me!). I went back the next day to buy some more. The coconut macaroon was also really good. I believe it was made with egg whites so it was light and almost fluffy but still with a slight crunch. Obviously, I recommend a visit to Dahlia Bakery.

The second place that I will definitely be spending some time at on my next visit is Fonté Café and Wine Bar. Just to be clear, I didn’t eat there so I can’t recommend the food but the coffee was exceptional. No doubt this is because they are an actual roaster and they supply coffee to many restaurants around the US. We stopped in for a quick coffee and I instantly regretted not eating there. The brunch that was being served looked much better than what we had at Etta’s. If you are looking for a good jolt of caffeine then pop into Fonté. It’s also conveniently located across from the Art Gallery and next to the Four Seasons.

Some of the places that I was underwhelmed with on my most recent trip were The Pink Door, Purple, and Etta’s. Thankfully, they almost all have redeeming features. I didn’t like the food very much at Purple, however, with a 90 page drinks menu, don’t go for the food – go for the booze. The space is dark and sexy but it is too cavernous to have any real personality. Wine lovers will love the variety and there are cheese plates and tapas to pair with your drinks. My suggestion would be to have pre-dinner drinks and nibbles at Purple but have your main meal elsewhere.

If you are searching for something that Vancouver doesn’t have try The Pink Door for a spot of food that comes with a side of entertainment. Every night, whilst eating their Italian-American cuisine (i.e. not at all authentic!), diners are entertained by a rotating schedule of entertainers that perform skills such as trapeze, cabaret, tarot, opera, and magic. There is also burlesque on Saturday nights. The Pink Door attracts a lot of people so ensure that you book in advance and note that evenings is when the place comes alive. From my experience, don’t expect much from the food but, regardless, sit back and enjoy the show.

As for Etta’s, I was really disappointed with their brunch. Sure, I ordered bacon and eggs (so I’m aware that there isn’t too much that they can do to make it special) but the over-sized plate of mediocre food that I got was incredibly disappointing. I would have preferred less food with better quality. Even the coffee was terrible (and cold). Unfortunately, I didn’t see much appeal so I am still looking for a good brunch place for the next time I’m in Seattle. I am thinking that I will have to give Fonte’s food a try as it looked much better than what we got from Etta’s.

I suppose finding two good food places out of five isn’t too bad but I am looking for more. Do you have any Seattle dining suggestions that you could give me? How ’bout that peanut butter cookie recipe?!?

Mini-moon in Seattle

2 Dec

Although B and I were married back in August, we have yet to take our honeymoon (insert sympathy grab here). The main reason we haven’t been anywhere is that we are saving for a trip to Australia in May. Yep, a trip to Australia and constant eating-out certainly drain the bank balance fast.

Even with this in mind, I have still been pestering B to come on a mini-moon with me since the wedding. You know, just a few romantic days away, somewhere close by to tie us over until May. New York, San Francisco, Tofino, have all been destinations that I’ve thrown at him but we finally settled on…Seattle. Hrrrrm. Not exactly the glamorous location that I had in mind but I’ll take it. My job, of course, was to select the eating establishments. Done! I was born to do that role.

I started my research at Vancouver Good, a blog by Angie Schick, as she always has reliable suggestions and I completely trust her opinion. With her recommendations and the help of Urban Spoon, I scribbled a list of places that I wanted us to try.

We arrived too late in the day to try the famous Salumi, a deli owned and operated by Mario Batali’s father, but we did make it in time for Serious Pie’s happy hour. Serious Pie is a small, downtown pizzeria that fills the stomachs of loyal diners with wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant is quite dark, with a surprisingly grungy feel, and seating is fairly limited. Prices on the regular menu are a little high (around $16/$17) but from 3pm to 5pm during the week they offer happy hour. This means mini pizzas for $5 each, beers for $3 and wine at $5 a glass. Bargain! By having smaller pizzas we were able to try more of their yummy selections. We decided on:

1/ Buffalo mozzarella with San Marzano tomato

2/ Chanterelle mushrooms and truffle cheese

3/ Guanciale, soft egg, arugula

4/ Delicata squash, roasted garlic, gorgonzola lucifero

With its simplicity, the buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomato pizza knocked our socks off and was easily our favourite. The flavour was just bursting from the chewy, airy wood-fired crust. Flawless! Our second favourite was the chanterelle mushrooms and truffle cheese. The slight hint of truffle flavour gave this pizza a slight earthiness that paired well with the chanterelles.

Guanciale is an Italian bacon so paired with the softness of the egg and the bitterness of the arugula, the third pizza was well-rounded and delicious. The only pizza I didn’t try was the squash and gorgonzola – that was all for B as I can’t stand gorgonzola (or blue cheese or goat cheese for that matter). We washed our lunch down with some cheap drinks and walked out only having paid $30 for the delight of eating at Serious Pie. I will seriously be heading back there.

We couldn’t go to Seattle and not visit the Pike Markets. We dawdled through there for a bit and I poked around in some of incredible food stores; examining bottles of rustic olive oils, perusing European chocolates, ogling home-made cheeses.  B eventually had to drag me away from the market as I could have wasted many more hours in my food daze.

Dinner was at Wild Ginger, a modern pan-Asian restaurant meets satay bar. Even without a reservation, we were fortunate enough to be seated within about 20 minutes. We opted to enjoy some (very strong!) cocktails at the bar whilst we waited for our table. The restaurant is BIG, much bigger than a lot of restaurants that I’ve been to in Vancouver, and the dining room was spread out over two levels and two rooms. The menu was also big (I guess it’s true that everything is bigger in the USA) so we had a hard time narrowing down our choices. The menu is full of exotic Asian dishes, such as curries, noodle dishes, tropical salads, and soupy laksa.

The food was pretty good and although the menu sounded quite authentic, I think the execution was too westernized for my tastes. i.e. the flavours were a little flat and not as spicy as I’d been hoping for. Prices are quite fair though, the portions are generous and the service was fast. I’d just been hoping for a little more considering the rave reviews on Urban Spoon.

Even though Seattle is the home of Starbucks I wasn’t going to succumb to them for a coffee, instead we went on a hunt for a coffee shop called Victrola Café at 310 E Pike Street. The location that we went to is part café, part roastery. Yup, they even roast their own beans – now that is dedication. The coffee shop was very cute and had a bohemian feel. It was a great little sunny spot to slowly wake up with a nice cup of coffee.

We had received a lot of recommendations for brunch at a place called Café Campagne, down by the Pike Markets. Everyone else in Seattle must have also got the same recommendation as it was extremely busy. Without a reservation, we had to wait about ½ hour for a table (not too bad considering after us it went up to over an hour wait). Unfortunately, I didn’t really think it was worth the wait. Café Campagne serves French food and the brunch menu stays very loyal to its French roots with quiche, cassoulet, country-style pâté, croque-madame and croque-monsieur all available to break your fast.

I ordered the French toast but I was completely under-whelmed. It’s hard to compete with the French Toast at Provence in Vancouver.

B ordered the Ouefs en Meurette (poached eggs served on garlic croutons, with pearl onions, bacon and champignons in red wine-foie gras sauce), which was a hearty dish that did the trick on a Sunday morning.

Lunch and dinner at Café Campagne are also very classical French and so those menus are full of the usual suspects too (steak frites, cassoulet, etc). Regarding prices, I would classify it as mid-range as nothing on their dinner menu is over $23. Inside, the restaurant is warm and welcoming but certainly didn’t take me back to my time in France. Service was a little rusty but we only went the one time so I don’t really think I can judge it based on a one-time visit. Next time, I will likely try Etta’s for brunch instead.

Overall, I was quite happy with the food scene in Seattle, we had some good eats whilst we were there and, even better, the drinks were much cheaper than Vancouver. Serious Pie was our best meal whilst we were there but I’d be willing to go back to eat my way around the city to see if I could improve on a few of our other meals. Any suggestions for Seattle dining? Send ‘em my way!

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