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Tuesday Take: April 24 – May 7, 2013

Spring has definitely sprung in Seattle, and there’s a whole lot to do, so let’s get to it. Here’s the latest round-up of things we’ve visited, places we’ve dined at (who am I kidding, having a beer counts), and so forth.

  • Terra Plata – we managed to hit this place 2x in a week, and with good reason. The food is unique and flavorful, the location is grand, and the roof deck. Oh, the roof deck. Brunch here will certainly need to move into the “rotation” of things. Try the green chile pork, Moroccan steak sandwich or the Greek style baked eggs.
  • Cure – You had me at $12 bottle of Cava on a Sunday afternoon. People watching at Cal Anderson Park, some meats and cheeses and enthusiastic service and a decent happy hour? Sign me up.
  • Hilliard’s – Celebrating Zipcar and Uber on a sunny day with solid brews, a fun crowd, tacos and Jen Joyce? How could we miss it? Anyway, this spot in Ballard should provide a fun place to visit and meet with the fine folks behind Hilliard’s beer. Try the barrel aged saison. Or as it was described to me, “It’s $4 and comes in a belgian, but’ll knock you on your ass.”
  • Ocho – A well-priced menu – happy hour or not – outside seating for those beautiful days, and a pretty darn good bloody mary. Try the patatas bravas and deviled eggs.
  • Bar Ferd’nand – Stopping in Melrose Market is an experience on its own, but popping into this “bar” and bottle shop is refreshing. Always with a healthy mix of glass pours and a bit of knowledge as to what you’re imbibing (or viewing on the shelves), and an opportunity to taste some of the fancy morsels from the surrounding shops in the market.
  • Frolik – Really dig the location, as having a glass of wine or a beer on a downtown Seattle rooftop is fun, but the service is challenging at best, whether you’re waiting outside or spooling up at the bar. So there’s that. Certainly won’t stop us from going back (shuffleboard! ping pong!), but you should keep an eye on that sort of thing if you’re planning on popping by for a Friday happy hour. Thankfully, happy hour is 4-10p.
  • Essence Wine Shop – If wandering up Capitol Hill has taught me anything, it’s that I’m going to stumble (maybe not literally) into a few things that are super intriguing. Essence Wine Shop falls into that category, and I definitely want to revisit it. Warm staff, a nice mix of wine offerings, and a great local vibe. Did I mention board / card games?
  • Flywheel – Anyone who tells you that spin class is stupid has no idea what they’re talking about. Riding a bike is easy. Riding a stationary bike while attempting to keep up with the pace of your spin instructor is not. You can so see why people become virtually addicted to going to this, and when multiple people (Brittany Tracy included) have said they see a real impact on how they feel, there’s gotta be something to it. Now, if only I could make it through the full class next time.

Until next time!

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Tuesday Take: April 3-23, 2013

Okay, so it’s been a few weeks since the latest Tuesday Take, but we’ve been busy busy! And yes, I know that it’s Thursday.

  • Temple Billiards – Aside from the fact that you can’t beat an afternoon hanging with your best ECS buds, thought this was a pretty cool spot to hang on a weekend afternoon to watch a game and shoot some pool. Good local beer selection, and the pizzas were solid. Great place to catch a Sounders away game (or a home one, if you’re without tickets).
  • Steelhead Diner – This has definitely been a bit of a go-to spot for lunch, business or otherwise. Aside from the pretty solid view of the Market and Elliott Bay, it’s a good portion of food for the price. Now, about the wine glasses…
  • Rione XIII – still one of the best bang for the buck restaurants of the Italian type – even with a corkage fee. Fun servers, good people watching (inside and outside), and a nice buzz, something that RN74 brings to the table as well. As an aside, we’ll be dining there on Thursday night for Dining Out for Life, as they’ll be donating 30% of our tab to Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
  • Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky – We finally sat at the bar for brunch, and aside from the fact that we were thismuchcloser to the unlimited mimosas, it was just as fantastic as sitting in a booth or at a table, especially when the people watching factor comes into play. Aside from that, if you want to talk about great marketing, I’m pretty sure their proactive tweet @ Brittany Tracy and I about what the quiche was that weekend was a win. How could we not go in that weekend?
  • Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 4.24.03 PMCinnamon Works – Friends, Seattleites, Washingtonians, lend me your ears so you can follow me to this bakery and get your nom on. You really need to try the vegan banana chip muffin [photo: right]. Wanna get your gluten on? Done. Want some gluten-free options? Done. Cookies? Yep. Nice staff? Definitely. A fantastic perk of a place in Pike Place Market.
  • Restaurant Zoë – It’d been a few months since we had been to Zoë, and there’s really no good reason other than the amazing options we all have to dine at in Seattle. We visited during Restaurant Week, which was a fun way to try a few things on the menu that we might not have gone with otherwise. As always, Derek and the staff were super welcoming, the restaurant has really grown into the space on Cap Hill over time, and the burger is absolutely fantastic. Yep, even when you take home half of it and eat it a day and a half later for lunch.
  • Barrage Cellars – Kevin and Rebecca had their latest release a couple of weeks back, and we continue to enjoy visiting with them and trying their wines. The Outcast Cab Franc is always solid (I’m still a fan of the last vintage, but a lot of people were enjoying the 2010), and this year’s Syrah is drinking really well right now, for a new release. Really gotta complement them on doing “verticals” of this year’s and last year’s vintages of a number of their wines, giving a fun chance to see how the wine program has grown and what the future holds for the wine you’re about to walk away with.
  • Artusi – How have I not gone here before? Other than the fact that it feels like I’m cheating on Spinasse (they share a restroom, among other things) by going there, this is a great spot for an adult pre-game (read: a drink or a bottle of bubbles) before a nice dinner and walk around the Hill. The staff was great to chat with, and it was a fairly unpretentious spot to learn a bit about Italian wine while sitting at a bar.

We’ll have more next Tuesday (I promise!).

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Seattle’s pizza scene

After growing up on the East Coast and moving to Seattle in my 30s, my “sense” of what a decent slice of pizza probably leaned heavily towards the foldable, dab some oil off with a napkin, cooked just right pepperoni slice from one of the zillion corner pizza spots I was privy to. Having spent 3+ years in Seattle now, that’s definitely evolved and brought a better appreciation for pizzas of all shapes, sizes and styles.

Something I quickly found when arriving in Seattle was a predilection to consider pizza “good” if it cost $13-18 and had good ingredients. It’s still the case, and most restaurants are fairly deserving of being considered pretty solid in this area. That said, I’ve been absolutely shocked when the only “high end,” craft pizza, so to say, that people have had is from Tom Douglas’ Serious Pie. Hell, I gave it four stars in a Yelp review back in 2010 (and would still bring friends and family there) but after exploring no less than 7-10 well-crafted spots that have pizza in town, Serious Pie should definitely be visited, but it’s not the dominant player that people might perceive it as given the play it gets. (Also: location, location, location)

For me, not much of that similar “style” beats Alibi Room, all things considered – price, quality of ingredients, location, and so forth. Their Andouille sausage and peppers ($14.50, or about $7 on happy hour) would beat Serious Pie’s fennel sausage, peppers and provolone 10 out of 10 times in my experience. Aside from the fact that the HH / lunch portion is about the same size as the “full price” Serious Pie edition, there’s just something different about it, down to the tomato sauce can your pie is set atop at the bar. Plus, it’s always surprising as getout to people that Alibi Room rocks a pretty good set of pizza pies.

Personal favorites aside, though, there’s a whole lot to enjoy about Seattle pizza, even if you’re just trying it all out to trash talk your friends on “your style” or what your particular neighborhood favorite does with the crust. Some people like to order in their Pagliacci, others dig Zeeks, but has anyone outside of Cap Hill made their way to Hot Mama’s? After a fellow resident at the building I’d moved into found this gem, I had my New York-ish style pizza haven, just a few blocks’ walk. If that, or the late-night stylings of A Pizza Mart don’t get your pre-hangover blood flowing, you can always get in line and hang for Delancey, which was a meal I really enjoyed. This could turn into a crazy listing of pizza places, and I most certainly didn’t set out to create any sort of comprehensive list, just wanted to share a quick POV on what’s been a curious bit of exploration.

Net-net, while people like to trash talk the [insert food] scene in Seattle for just about any option, my advice would be to keep your eyes open, and don’t just stick with the crowd – or, in cases like Delancey, avoid the rumors in an effort to be a contrarian.

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First Impressions: Tanglewood Supreme

One of the hurdles that appear during an effort to do a lot of one activity or another, from dining out to exercising is the ease of getting into habits – good or bad. In the case of exercise, it’s not challenging your body to the levels you need to continue progress rather than maintaining, and with enjoying the fruits (and vegetables, I don’t discriminate) of others’ labor in the restaurant business, it’s quite easy to stick to your favorites and not explore very often. [ed: First world problems, I know.]

Generally speaking, we’ve made an attempt to regularly pick a few new places to try, whether at home in Seattle or while traveling, just to mix it up and keep solid perspective on what’s out there. This doesn’t always mean trying the gleaming, shiny object restaurant that just opened in the next neighborhood, sometimes it’s about heading to a neighborhood classic that perhaps you’ve overlooked or heard not-so-great things about. For weeks now, my #1 choice on this particular list of “go somewhere new” spots has been Tanglewood Supreme in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood.

TanglewoodKitchenHence my being thrilled when on Friday night, I was treated to a great meal organized by my dining partner in crime Brittany, who scored us an 8p reservation at the counter, in prime view of the kitchen [photo: right]. As owner Kent Chappelle was nice enough to talk us through after dinner, his goal was to have a neighborhood seafood spot that was a great value and didn’t fit the same mold as some others in Seattle. To his point – and which a lot of us would agree – this is Seattle, shouldn’t we be able to have a fantastic seafood meal that stands out, every single time you have it? We have access to amazing fish and produce – and talent – and making sure it stands out, all the time, is something that came off as important to Chappelle, and most certainly his staff, including sous chef Tyler Johnston and chef Jeffrey Kessenich (more on the spot in this Seattle Met piece by Allecia Vermillion from last fall).

The restaurant has an appropriate number of seats for its space, and didn’t at all feel cramped when we arrived and it was fully seated just before our appointed reservation. The counter / kitchen area seated six, I believe, and was full for the better part of our meal. Overall, it’s a combination of booth seating, European-style “longer” tables, the counters, and so forth. We’d highly recommend dining at the counter if you can secure a spot. [ed: Thanks to Chris Nishiwaki for the pointer there!]

The menu is, in my opinion, one of the more well-priced in town, portion size, experience and vibe all included. As a relatively picky eater (cheese, as some of you might know, isn’t really my thing), it’s the first time in awhile that I’ve gone to a restaurant and would have been disappointed to order any selection. We contemplated the $40(!) tasting menu for a bit, but were in the mood to mix-and-match, and did so for pretty much the same cost. We’ll definitely go back to give it a whirl, however. As Hanna Raskin noted recently in Seattle Weekly:

Nor are prices ratcheted up to announce artistry, or account for it: A seven-course tasting, drawn directly from the menu, is a remarkably reasonable $40. While there’s plenty of deliciousness available, dinner at Tanglewood is always presented as a meal, not an event, which is probably why the restaurant languished for months without much online love.

But there’s nothing wrong with a restaurant that doesn’t mug for the cameras (or make a noisy fuss about the eaters armed with them).

Our only real criticism of our meal might have been the pace. While we didn’t go with the fixed-price option, we were seated directly aside Kessenich’s view, and given that the window was right next to our seats, were caught slightly by surprise once while completing a course by the next one approaching. That’s not to say we weren’t on our final bite (or two), but perhaps we got spoiled by the insanely well-paced experience we had at The Herbfarm on Valentine’s Day.

We started with a grilled albacore crudo, which was served with beets, frisee and hazelnuts, along with steamed edamame, garnished with pink peppercorn and Murray River salt. That was followed by an heirloom lettuce salad [photo: right] ($6) which came with a pretty awesome, and lighter-than-expected sunflower brittle, while Brittany chose the asian pear and red quinoa ($6).

For our mains, we went with the Hawaiian blue prawns ($22), which adorned grilled polenta and featured turnip greens and a grapefruit nage, and the Alaskan Weathervane scallops ($24), served with naan puffs that even usual non-carb eater Brittany raved about. As the above-mentioned Raskin piece notes, Tanglewood Supreme has a relatively limited liquor and wine selection, but don’t let that dissuade you, or have you in a tizzy like this guy. The corkage fee is $15 (!) which is an absolutely fantastic value, especially given that most of us locals make a point to have a bottle or two (hundred) sitting at home. We brought along two selections, ultimately going with a 2000 Torciano Cavaliere IGT that’s been calling our name for awhile. After about 15-20 minutes of air, our wine opened up nicely, and meshed well with most of our meal, considering we brought it as a bit of a wildcard. Oh, and if you drink red wine and are planning on having dessert here, save some.

IMG_0348aFor that final course, we went with a goat’s milk cheesecake, completed with warm asian pear and apple and candied cilantro, along with the chocolate cake crowned with a ginger-orange coulis [photo: right]. Did I mention the red wine with chocolate dessert? A super solid finish to a well-portioned, never-overwhelming meal.

We spent about ten minutes chatting with Chappelle about the restaurant, the Seattle food scene, and some of the behind-the-scenes in putting Tanglewood Supreme together, and enjoyed his perspective and motivation for opening the spot. If you’re looking for an atypical seafood-focused meal in Seattle, this might be just what you’re looking for.

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Tuesday Take: February 13-19, 2013

It’s a Tuesday, so it’s obviously time for the Tuesday Take…

  • Mark Ryan Winery – On Friday night, we attended a release event at the new Woodinville space, and got a taste of the 2011 Black Love Pinot Noir and 2010 Lonely Heart Cabernet Sauvignon. Aside from the fact that the tasting room is indeed great for events, the wines weren’t too bad either. The Pinot – sourced from Lachini – was solid, though I could use to learn a thing or two about Pinot Noir in the U.S. Enjoyed the Lonely Heart as well, and this winery has definitely grown on me a bit.
  • Purple Cafe & Wine Bar – It’s so crazy to me that you can have variance in a restaurant like this, from neighborhood to neighborhood. We stopped in at the absolutely bustling Woodinville spot in an attempt to dine before going to the Mark Ryan event, and ended up coming back afterwards as it was packed. It’s one of my favorite places to eat at the bar and have almost the same dining experience you do at a table, and Mike at the bar is always a pleasure to chat with. Great attitude. Earlier in the week (Wednesday evening) we’d dined at the downtown Seattle location, which while it can’t be beat from a “vibe” perspective in the area, and I would absolutely recommend it without even thinking about it due to its location, the “feel,” the wine list, and so forth, the food is absolutely different. A Purple Chopped Salad should be a Purple Chopped Salad no matter which restaurant you go to. The one downtown is *easily* 3/4 the size of the one in Woodinville, for the same price, for instance. The service is fine, sitting at the bar and admiring the staircase of wine bottles is fantastic, but we’ve absolutely driven to Woodinville to eat there in order to absolutely guarantee we get exactly what we’re looking for. Don’t get me wrong – I love Purple – but find this really particular over the last few years.
  • The Herbfarm – That Brittany Tracy really knows how to surprise someone with a Valentine’s Day dinner, let me tell you. A cup of tea on entry along with a walk through memory lane on how the restaurant came to be, followed by a properly-paced, delicately-served and 100% intuitive meal that I hesitate to describe in less than 1,000 words. Needless to say, a post to follow on this event, but if anyone ever tells you not to go here, just pretend it’s opposite day like when you were six years old and book a reservation.
  • RN74 – 2006 Iron Horse bubbles on the train board? Yes, please. Thanks, Jeff and Eric!
  • AQUA – Wait, so you want to reward me for coming back over and over again with free “money” that I can spend to enjoy all-day happy hour on Sunday and Monday evenings? Needless to say, Seattleites (and those visiting our fair city), it’s staying light out longer, and this is an absolutely fantastic spot to enjoy your happy hour times (and beyond, obvs) should you be looking for something a bit different with a significant value.
  • Portage Bay Cafe – while my dining partner in crime has an absolute addiction to this place, I’m a bit harder to convince. My food’s pretty good (and I’m really only a carb/fruit eater for breakfast, so I’m unfortunately limited in my choices and likes), but I always feel like if I’m going to spend $12 on brunch, I’m going to go to Ma’ono and get french toast with chicken nuggets in West Seattle. Everyone else seems to enjoy it though, but I still think it’s because there’s not a whole lot of other great brunchy options in that spot in SLU.
  • The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co. – Always impressed by this spot, even when we’re binging in the afternoon and choose to have a 4:30pm cupcake run and we end up cutting everything into fourths. IMO, just something about the cake itself, and they don’t overdo it with icing (cough). Well played, Yellow Leaf.

 

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