Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lump-O-Coal Christmas.

So here we are, another Christmas upon us and all that.

Due to various horrible circumstances, Mr.Pants and I have extremely little income coming in these past few month. I still get my pittance, but Mr. Pants doesn't get his, at the moment.

So we are preparing for a Lump-O-Coal Christmas. We'll get a lump of coal and put it on the credenza. Maybe if we put Googly eyes on Lumpy it might lighten the mood, make it seem like a little pet or something. We are discussing.

One side of my family always celebrated on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was more like recovery time, but Christmas eve was the big production. I remember sitting at the kids table with my cousins, a plastic yellow table with matching chairs where we could throw our asparagus spears and freely play with our olives.

A large, fragrant Christmas Tree looming its sparkly glow over everyone, crinkling of piles of wrapping paper as everyone unwrapped each present at once, one present at a time. We had to display each present and tell everyone what we had gotten. The youngest kid played Santa and did the distribution of gifts. It was all VERY exciting to me. The lights, the decorations, the imminent potential for loot. ESPECIALLY the imminent potential for loot.

This year, our closest friends will be in Florida, others in Vegas and still others in Mexico. We will no doubt make some fabulous meal and eat it in front of our pal Netflix.

No tree this year. No loot either, but that's okay. We'll just have to make up for it later with presents and /or trips to foreign lands and, you know, joy. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Favorites: Quinn's

It isn't the handy location, just blocks away. It isn't the waitress that Mr. Pants thinks is cute. It isn't even the friendly staff or that the bartenders make possibly the best Old Fashioned in Seattle.

It's more that the food is really quite good. Quinn's super fine selection of whiskeys and beers doesn't hurt, either.

I also have to love a place that doesn't cave to foie gras protestors picketing right in front of the diners. The wall of windows look right out on Pike Street and the occasional protestors. Dim lighting, dark bar, tables and chairs and other cool touches make it a hip but comfortable space.

Though I am sorry they took the bold descriptor "Braised Farm Animal of the Day" off the menu. I wonder if they had second thoughts on their own, or received complaints. Whatever it is they are calling it, it's hellishly tasty.

They use some uncommon cuts in some entrees, which denotes a sort of respect for the animal. It also may be off-putting for some, and sometimes a dish can be less than stellar to my eyes because of this. Yet I appreciate the whole beast principle.

Beasts like chicken, for example. There's often a great chicken dish on the menu; usually halved and roasted with various seasonal preps like chick pea puree and green olives. Soups are also seasonal; we loved the summery green asparagus and prawn several months ago, and recently, a winter-perfect borcht.

Mr. Pants is fond of their "Reinforced" Guinness. The reinforcement comes in the form of shot of Cynar and bourbon, which keeps him loopy and docile.

Highlights: chicken, soups, WIld Boar Sloppy Joe

Mr. Pants: full and happy, loopy, docile.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tavern Law

I'd checked out Tavern Law soon after they opened. I was to meet a friend who texted that she was stuck in traffic for a good 40 minutes. What to do but have a drink! I started with an Old Fashioned (a cocktail litmus test, personally) and was not sorry. Time flew.

The friendly, solicitous bartender, told me the cocktail was good because he made it "with love". He asked if I wanted another and I said I'd found that love fairly intoxicating, and should probably switch to water lest my friend finds me drooling and lolling on the bar. My friend arrived and we got the crispy pork belly that time; small, but stellar.

So recently, after working a whopping two days during the holiday week, I felt like celebrating with fancy cocktails and Mr. Pants. We headed for Tavern Law and the drinks WERE fancy, not that I expected anything less from the Spur people, after all.

The drink list is fun to read, with everything from slings to fizzes and a glossary of terms for the curious. Mr. Pants sat down to his Singapore Sling with gusto, and I sipped my Seelbach Cocktail, with bourbon and bitters.

Drinking on an empty stomach, while fun, gets nauseating right quick, so we ordered the Arancini: little round balls of fried risotto with an insanely delicious variant on a Romesco sauce, slightly spicy, with tiny slivers of orange rind.

The next table sat four very dressed-up women on a night out, who all ordered the same dish. I shouldn't rant, but it does make me unduly enraged when I see a table for four all getting the same item! To be fair, the menu is small. They all got the seared Butterfish with Fregola Sarda and after I tasted it, I couldn't blame them. It was gorgeous and delicious. Though Mr. Pants complained that it was too rich. (WHAT?!)

Highlights: Drinks! Arancini appetizer, crisply seared Butterfish. Drinks! Drinks!

Disappointments: It is what it is: slender portions at fairly stiff prices, your tab can add up quickly.

Mr. Pants: Liked it on the whole, loved the arancini, but found fish dish too rich and used a silly French word to describe this sentiment. He left secretly happy. I could tell.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Po Dogs

Though it's early days- too early for an earnest review in fact- so far I'm glad Po Dogs is here with their slightly fancy hot (haute) dogs on Capitol Hill.

Po Dogs has a neat space- cool and strange wallpaper with a guns and bullets motif, wooden booths for two, yellow mustard and ketchup on the tables and white modern chairs at the tables.

After cocktails, that Wasabi Dog would hit the spot. A hot dog in an eggroll (pig in a chinese blanket?) it really worked with the wasabi-mayoed crisp cabbage slaw.

Hipsters (friendly ones!) made our dogs to order. We also got the Chicago dog, (not traditional, no poppyseed bun in sight!) but tradition isn't what this place is about. They use brioche buns, which I liked but Mr Pants thought strange. It worked for me, and I liked the slightly sweet quality it lent to the whole dog. Along with the Wasabi Dog and the so-called "Chicago" dog, we had a regular ol' classic- building our own with mustard and cheese. In a certain decadent mood I'd go back to try the deep fried bacon wrapped dog.

Highlights: Wasabi Dog was chewy and special, accompanying slaw kicky and interesting. An unusual and large choice of toppings, (avocado, jalapeno, cream cheese) so you can build your own dog as you like it.

Mr Pants: "meh" but then he was already in a stroppy mood, and he finished everything in front of him, so there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Harvest Vine Chef's Dinner

Mid-November doldrums required a treat, stat. So when a friend suggested a chef's dinner at Harvest Vine, we leapt. Well, we quickly factored in the cost, then leapt.

We started with Cava (and shouldn't everything start with Cava?) and toasted ourselves for being there for "Food from the Basque Country."

A small glass of sherry (Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa) was poured to be sipped with the first course: Porrusalda - a very salty, very fishy, potato, leek and salt cod soup. The first taste gave us pause, it seemed saltier and fishier than a soup should ever be. With our sherry, the flavors soon began to make sense, until we were scraping the the bottom of the bowl with our spoons. A strange soup.

Highlights: Canelon de Txangurro a San Sebastian style pasta tube filled with crab- I inhaled this embarrassingly quickly, while my companions were still lifting their forks.
Flan de Gambas y Puerros A shrimp and leek flan with prawn sauce was gorgeous and delicious, so too a Guisado de Vaca a beef stew with coffee essence. Gateau Basque was light, moist and a perfect finish.
Every single wine was really lovely, especially the Uriondo Txakolina 2007 and the Abadia Retuerta Rivola Sardon de Duero 2006

Disappointments: The service on the whole was efficient, but overzealous plate yanking made us feel a bit rushed. One of my wine glasses was yanked before I finished the last swallow. I guarded the remaining glasses like a bulldog. A slightly tipsy, pink-cheeked, belligerent bulldog. The tables were small, elevated and hard for the servers to reach across to deliver plates and so they put those of us furthest away to quite a bit of work - they handed us the plate, which we had to maneuver over wine glasses to our places constantly.

Recommended: A great evening.

Mr. Pants: content and satisfied, Gateau Basque reminded him of his French childhood.

Friday, November 6, 2009


After a grueling day of Jury Duty, I made my way over to Tom Douglas' Palace Ballroom this past Monday night.

I met Mr. Pants, looking sharp in a striped suit jacket and we hung out with fellow foodies, trying to unobtrusively check out name tags as we mingled. Met the charming French father of Phillipe Thomelin, chef of Olivar. His name tag said (French Only) so I nudged Mr Pants in his direction so he could parlez with him, which he bravely did. I don't mean to rhyme, but Mr. Pants is from France, and fluent. I did a lot of nodding and smiling and lent all of a word or two to the conversation.

Briefly saw Julie Oleson of Cakespy fame, surrounded by a bevy of admirers, and lingered by the panel discussion featuring Tamara Murphy of Brasa and the soon to be opened Terra Plata, Ethan Stowell of his many fantastic joints, and Kurt Dammeier of Minimus Maximus, Pasta & Co. and Beechers Cheese. Words of wisdom such as "you are never stuck where you are" "you can always improve" hit home for me. Interesting thoughts from Stowell about the future of food writing in general. He thought there's no longer that air of intense anticipation for the restaurant review to hit the presses, that food bloggers have gradually taken over. Makes me a little sad, but thems the breaks.

We sampled fantastic frogs legs (surprising how many people said they were tasting them for the first time!) stout floats, pot stickers, Joule's head cheese on toast (yep, I said head cheese) and steak tartar from Campagne among many other items.
Fun times, topped off our drinking and snacking with octopus and salmon at the Palace Kitchen. Not bad for a Monday night.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

About Us

My companion, (dining and otherwise) I shall call Mr. Pants. We moved from Chicago to San Francisco to Seattle's First Hill, where we hunker down during the dark months and meals become the bright spots. Well, ok, they are pretty much the bright spots during the summer months as well...

I'm the daughter of a food writer and editor, and grew up dining out in Chicago, stealing menus under the table and distracting waitstaff from surreptitious note-taking.

We are big travelers and big eaters, and we dine out far too often than is likely good for us, or our wallets.
I'll rave about the new places, if they are worthy, but I'll try not to gush and I'll always be fair. I'll yammer on about food quite a bit, but not only food.
You could say I'll cover dinner, sure, but also everything one might discuss over a meal, and, most likely, some things one shouldn't discuss over a meal.

I know everyone is doing this, but seriously, why the heck not?