Sunday, August 26, 2007

Taste of India

Everything I had was good here and I plan to go again. Samosas are my favoite thing to order, perhaps my favorite food ever, and these did not disappoint. Crispy, flaky shells with tender potato insides and the twin sauces accompanying were good if somewhat standard. Even better though, at this particular restaurant, is the naan. I ordered garlic naan and was very pleased to chew on the hunks of garlicky goodness, not burnt or tough or limp like other Indian establishments but fresh, hot and flavorful. The only dish that I could have lived without was the Palak Masala Paneer, frankly I've had better. The paneer, a mild cheese, was not as fantastic as I've had before, and the creamed spinach that is palak was a bit too creamed and one dimensional in flavor for me. Not bad, just not great. The service and atmosphere were both pleasant and unassuming, I am eager to go again and delve deeper into their extensive menu and see what tastes of India wait to be discovered.

Baguette Box in Freemont

Not a bad sandwich (I had the pork with cilantro and red onions) but a bit over priced and lacking in wow. I felt as if it was missing something, some tang or heat, pickled peppers perhaps? Nothing really wrong with the food or place, just that it could be so much more for the money, with Paseos just up the hill with better food and more generous portions for the buck, I can't imagine bothering with this place, too bad to, it's conveniently located and I imagine they are getting by on that.

Etta's Seafood

Well, I've only had the soup and bread but it was very good. The clam chowder had a subtle white wine and brine flavor to it and was good till nearly the end when the heaviness of the cream started taking its toll. I just stopped in for a very early dinner and filled up on the chowder and very decent bread. The room itself is relaxed and the large windows afford good views of tourists strolling by. The entrees seemed a bit expensive but looked beautiful, not a place I'd go often on my own but would be great to take visiting relatives to after a day at Pike's Place.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Il Terrazzo Carmine

I've been missing the cutting edge cuisine of Chicago but not missing the prices. Here in Seattle most of the food is more directly rooted in the traditions of the countries the cuisine originates from, which can be fantastic when done well. Il Terrazzo Carmine is an example, probably the best example, of this traditional approach done extremely well, at least for Italian dining.

The room is formal but not overly stuffy, they managed to not sneer at my bohemian attire and were politely welcoming, though certainly not effusive. My server, Brian, was a friendly young man (the servers were all male on this night) from Jersey, he was capable and attentive to everyone equally. Over all the service is just as polished as the attractive silverware but had a relaxed feel, I felt comfortable despite being so obviously out of place in my Sketchers and T-shirt.

Il Terrazzo Carmine has exceptional food. The soup I ordered, the Zuppa di Pesce, was a revelation of properly cooked seafood. Tender calamari rings, moist salmon, and fresh mussels swim in the light tomato, garlic, and basil infused broth, powerful but balanced, a difficult dish to follow. Indeed the Ravioli Di Capriolo, a very good pasta stuffed with veal, spinach, and mushrooms with a heady veal based sauce, was a very good dish, it simply didn't seem as spectacular in light of the amazing soup that it followed. I was also pleased with the bread and butter served, I finished off my little basket worth happily, eagerly tearing away at the bread and dipping it into my soup to sop up the goodness.

Sticking to a small serving of pasta and devouring all my bread, I was able to have one of the more satisfying meals of my life without breaking the bank and left happy and full into the night to walk along nearby Puget Sound, a romantic evening sadly for one, though not so sad as I was able to fully concentrate on the transcendent Italian cuisine.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Catering Life

My boss and I swung by for some more terrific Sichuanese after work the other night. We usually don't have time to go out after catering big weddings but this time we were just doing the rare dinner party for twelve. We had pork with pickled veg and hot and spicy prawns, both fantastic dishes but I still love the cumin lamb the best.

The party for twelve was a fun gig, we served perfect Filet mignon with a red wine and mushroom demi glace based sauce. We served this with garlic mash potatoes and fancy little veggie bundles. My boss is into the classical French fare and really knows how to make this stuff taste great. We usually do more Americanized and International type food for the weddings though, because it's what the customers ask for.

Even though I catered a half dozen weddings when I owned the Mr E Cafe (cheesy name, right?) I never really had the catering business figured out; how to price things, the timing of champagne toasts and what not. Most wedding caterers aren't really chefs, but my boss is, and I've been super impressed with how good the food we manage to produce for large crowds is. It's inherently difficult to cook in unfamiliar kitchens (often home kitchens) and get the food out hot, on time, and cooked properly. I think we do it with great aplomb and I have been enjoying the job immensely. It's been nice to be a small part of so many peoples big day!

The next night we did a plated wedding (we plated everything rather than setting up a buffet) which is an added challenge. To plate so much food fast and get it to the tables quickly is always tough. We figure out a way to set up an assembly line and then just blast it out, "table five; three salmon, two chicken, two beef...let's go people!" The sun was setting on the water when we got out, there was a picturesque ferry boat tugging along in the distance, pretty fantastic sight after several hours in the kitchen. We headed back to unload the van and cleanup, ending an eleven hour shift of constantly being on my toes, lifting heavy loads, and snacking on delicious foods. Not an easy job but satisfying when we see everyone smiling and thanking us for a great meal! Then we wake up and do it again...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Roxy's Diner

Roxy's makes one mean Reuben! The meaty sandwich arrives piping hot and oozing goodness. I took several photos before consuming and it hadn't lost its savor and sizzle one bit by the time I bit. Though seductively good from the first mouth full I found the allure fizzled slightly by end due to the saltiness of the meat, and frequent readers know I like the salt. They do have turkey and pastrami options if corned beef isn't your thing. If alone again I will definitely try the turkey, I'd be happy to split the corn beef as it's huge and so very good! The decor of the place is casual, funky, and fun. I sat at the bar and was served by Jamie, a lovely girl who did her job well, and made a newbie feel at home.

I've heard they do other things well so I'll have to post again when I get the chance for a repeat date with Roxy's.

Jahnjay Vegetarian Thai Cuisine

The staff here is about as friendly as it comes and the food is very good. Everything was so good; from the friendly welcome, to the comfortable decor, the pleasant background music, and the tasty tofu with red curry was rich and creamy with veggies cooked just right- I really have nothing to say bad about the place. Was it an amazing, transcendent experience? No, but for the price I wouldn't expect a restaurant to be. Definitely worth stopping for, even if you aren't vegetarian, and especially if you are having a hard time finding a friendly and unassuming place that's clean, just a little stylish, and very tasty.

(in Wallingford)
1718 N 45th St
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-1484

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Black Bottle Bistro

Black Bottle Bistro is one sexy restaurant. I clean up OK, I'm by no means a hipster, but I felt perfectly at home sitting at the bar with the fabulous people sipping martinis. The bar tender was a friendly and refined fellow and the food felt just as welcoming. So far I've only had the dried cherry and smoked chicken flat bread, I say so far because everything here looked fabulous coming out of the kitchen and smelled great too so I intend on returning soon. I had to restrain myself from stealing morsels from my neighbors at the bar. I've actually made flat breads at a fancy restaurant in Chicago under the direction of an Iron Chef contestant, so it's no light recommendation that I say the flat breads here are worth a trip for. I did request some salt, but that's pretty standard with me. The balance of meat to cheese with the earthy sweetness of the cherries and occasional hint of rosemary was spot on, very close to perfection, my hats off to the chef!

I walked there all the way from the Elliot Bay Cafe in Pioneer Square, which for me wasn't a long walk, but I was approached by crazed meth heads (at least their eyes were glassy) on two occasions. Where are the cops in this town? One of the guys punched a metal sign just a few feet from me and was stomping around as if looking for easy prey, lucky for me I don't flinch easily and he moved on. I've felt at ease in Seattle until this occurred, I assume it's a problem in that area, so watch yourself.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Chiso Sushi in Fremont Seattle

My favorite coffee shop in Seattle is quite a trek for me but I don't mind so much when there are other great reasons to be in Fremont, such as this wonderful sushi restaurant.

Chiso has great atmosphere and a knowledgeable and friendly staff, at least my server was top notch and the others seemed to be doing a great job as well. I chose to try some non-sushi dishes this time out. I started with ankimo, which is a pate of monk fish liver. The smooth, rich, and subtle pate was served on top of seaweed with ponzu, a bright, vinegary tasting citrus dressing. The ponzu was a great addition to the pate, some of which, the gray parts, were a bit dry and tasting of canned tuna; the pate was a mix of pink and gray, the pink being more rich and addictive in flavor. I would order this over and over again, nearly a perfect dish, they even added a touch of spicy minced tuna as a garnish, just fabulous, and the dry, chilled sake my server recommended was an excellent accompaniment.

Next I sampled the hamachi kama, Yellowtail collar, a grilled fish dish I love for its tender, mild flesh. I was expecting to order rolls after this but the hamachi was very large and my appetite sated. I should have ordered a side of rice as this was a lot of protein for one person to consume but it all tasted great! I'll be going back soon to try their sushi offerings.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Bokchoy For Breakfast?

Here is my version of a dish my friend Thao makes, mine is a little Americanized. Having no fish sauce on hand I simply used salt and pepper to season. I cook the eggs first (in butter) then set aside, insuring that they aren't overdone, next I saute the white parts of some baby bokchoy then add the rice (left overs) and the green parts, along with some water and flat leaf parsley (because it was there); after a minute or so. I also stirred in some Vietnamese chili and garlic paste for a little added Oomph! Not your typical American breakfast but maybe it should be, the chilies definitely woke me up a bit!

I am helping to cater three weddings over three days (and nights) this weekend. Luckily after my long day yesterday I was able to sleep in a little. Hopefully this meal will give me the boost I'll need for another long one.

Good eating everyone!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Spanglish Dish

Today I made an early dinner of grilled chicken thighs that I shredded and mixed with black beans that had been simmered with garlic, thyme, bay leaf, oregano, and minced cilantro stems (they have lots of flavor). What made the dish for me was the perfectly plump corn that I grilled in the husk after soaking in a water bath for twenty minutes. The corn steams inside its own skin and comes out beautifully sweet and tender, just watch it, mine caught aflame a bit but was easily tamped out. Browning both sides of the corn in a medium hot space on the grill should do it, squeezing with the tongs you should be able to feel a bit of give that will let you know it's done. I mixed the corn, chicken, and beans together, making sure to add the delicious juices of the chicken that came out while cooling. To this I added some extra virgin olive oil, just a bit to round out the flavors, and adjusted salt levels to my liking. Served over rice, topped with sour cream, sweet sauteed onion, a bit of chili paste, and some fresh sprigs of cilantro. A simple dish that's made great by the addition of the grilled chicken's juices, and by using local corn in season you transform something simple into the sublime.

Paseo Carribean in Fremont

Yesterday I traveled two hours by bus and foot just to eat this sandwich and let me tell yah' it was oh so worth it. It's a monster Cuban, filled with the juiciest pork you'll ever eat, tender caramelized onions, peppers, cilantro and special mayo sauce on crusty bread. If you get the chance, or even if you have to commandeer an airplane, try the #8 Midnight Cuban, all future sandwiches will just be a sneering reminder of how much better your lunch could be.

This place is not on any major traffic artery, but it's always packed. I ate at two and was lucky to get a chair to sit in, no table, just a chair on the side walk, I would have happily sat on nails! Seriously though, the food came quickly despite the crowd (there's only seating for maybe a dozen so it goes quick) and the local vibe is a welcome thing in this cookie cutter world. Visitors; feel free to skip the Space Needle and head to Fremont for an out of this world gustatory experience.

Sichuanese Cuisine

Had a great dinner tonight in Chinatown. This place may not be swank, in fact it's a dive, but the food is excellent and the servers are actually prompt and friendly! I had the Cumin Lamb, xinjiang style, I guess that means rockin' style, my loose translation. I was surprised at the volume of lamb and the heaping mound of rice they served with it, I nearly polished it all off too, the spice fueling my appetite. I honestly don't remember forking it in with such gusto in recent memory, the lamb was perfectly tender and the multitude of sauteed onions were a treat.

My only regret is that the cutie at the adjacent table didn't agree to join me, well, we'll always have Sichuanese...