Thursday, February 25, 2010

Keep it Simple....

I've decided to change the format of this blog. It's just going to be a very short summary of what I thought. If you know what I like, a yeah/nay will suffice.

Soooo, in the spirit of short-and-sweet...... Elemental Next Door (E.N.D.). We went last night (Wednesday evening) early. I'm not sure how my husband finds these places - we drove up on a dead-end street and I was still not able to locate the restaurant from my seat in the vehicle. As I unbuckled my seatbelt however, I noticed a small sign, "E.N.D".

We entered the restaurant and were immediately greeted by a young man who would be our waiter for the evening. He welcomed us and gave us a run-down of how things worked there and then proceeded to pour us a glass of sparkling to start our evening. Yeah! The menu is written on a chalkboard near the door; the wines and beer are located on shelves on the wall. All wines are $8 a glass, $15 a half bottle, and $30 a bottle. I don't recall the price of the beers - shows where my interests were that evening.

We started with a glass each of red - mine was a Quinto Cae from the Douro, and my husband chose a Basal red blend. Both were delicious. I ordered a pheasant terrine plank and mushroom aspic plank to start the evening. They were both wonderful choices. We continued with a sunchoke ravioli, followed by a rabbit dish. Those were both amazingly good. We ended up passing on the dessert options but did choose to end the meal with their cheese plank. Two cow's milk cheeses, and two sheep's milk choices. All four were wonderful and they were served with a homemade wine mustard, pickled beets, and almond-stuffed dates.

This was an easy, "YES"! I can't wait to return!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Husband's Birthday Dinner!

My husband's birthday fell on a Friday this year so we decided to simply meet in town at one of our favorite restaurants after he finished work. He picked Asado, an Argentinian grill. Since we were foregoing reservations the plan was for me to arrive a little early and put our name in for a table while waiting in the bar. As I walked up the sidewalk after turning the corner from where I had parked, I saw my husband’s back just as he was entering the restaurant. So much for the plans. We waited just a short time before a table became available. The area where we were seated happened to be in our favorite server’s section. Nice bonus. We originally came to know this waitress at Primo Grill, around the corner. She quickly became our favorite there and held that ‘esteemed position’ for years. Then, it seemed that we kept missing her shift at Primo. We were delighted to re-find her at Asado and always enjoy her service.

Asado has a nice, active bar on one side of the room, and the dining area on the other. It is dimly lit and has an Agentinian pampas décor. The wall that faces 6th Ave. is mostly glass and there are areas to eat outside in the warmer months. The door on the bar side opens right to the street and can create a bit of a chill in the cold weather, but the door on the dining side has one of those velvet-curtained areas that prevents drafts. The kitchen is open to the dining area and between it and the bar, the place always seems very ‘alive’. We love it.

This evening we decided on the Mollejas to start our meal. They are pan-fried sweetbreads with a sorrel puree and balsamic reduction sauce served with bacon leek slaw. They were good – not great. My husband felt they were a bit greasy and they just didn’t have the light, fluffiness that is the hallmark of great sweetbreads. Next up was the Ensalada Hierbas. This salad combines watercress, mint, cilantro, arugula, spiced walnuts, jicama, and shaved manchego cheese. It is dressed with a passion fruit vinaigrette. Wow! This was a nice surprise. We had never ordered this salad before but we won’t make that mistake again. The combination of flavors was perfect. The various flavors meshed well and complimented each other perfectly. For our entrees I had the Lomillo, hanger steak with stewed lentils. My husband had the Espalda Asado, a marinated flat iron steak. He chose the Poblano polenta as his side. My steak seemed a bit a bit more medium, than the medium rare I had ordered but the sear was perfect and the meat tender. The taste was great and the lentils were very flavorful. I will simply order my steak to be cooked rare next time. My husband’s steak was grilled to perfection (all Asado’s steaks are prepared on their mesquite-fired grill). His polenta was also creamy and tasty. Nice! We finished the meal by sharing their chocolate torte. Our server had of course inserted a lit candle. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bothell Evening

We ate at Preservation Kitchen last night. I saw a write-up about this restaurant in the Seattle PI so I put the newspaper in the car as we started a day of fun in Seattle. After perusing several gourmet shops and warehouses, we decided it was time to think about dinner. I showed the article to my husband. In fact, I hadn’t read the article at all. The picture accompanying the story was what had intrigued me – a perfectly seared chicken quarter regally standing on a bed of mashed potatoes and green beans, with a glass of red wine in the background. That photo was enough to entice my husband into reading the entire piece. He was sold too. We called the restaurant and made reservations for four, then called some friends to meet us there.

Preservation Kitchen is located in Bothell, and as I looked on the GPS I realized it was near the river trail where I had run a 50K race the week before. We haven’t been to Bothell in many years, and now twice in one week – hmmmm.

The restaurant is located in a converted, Craftsman-style house. A sign in the drive said there was free valet parking so we drove right up to the door. It was raining and it was nice not having to deal with umbrellas. There is a small vestibule right inside the door and a fire was burning. Nice touch. We met our friends in the bar and then were guided to our table. The place had a cozy feel to it. Our server for the evening is also the manager/wine director. We asked her for some information of some of the wines and she told us that the owner of Guardian Cellars was eating there that night and he would happily come to our table to discuss his wines. He did. He spent quite a bit of time with us and we enjoyed every minute. We purchased a bottle of his syrah. It was a nice, deep but fruity, full-bodied red. Perfect.

For starters we ordered the pulled pork sliders with lime cold slaw. They were wonderfully cooked and served on a nice firm bun. Our friends had ordered the olives in the bar and we all agreed they were quite salty so when we first tried the sliders, they seemed to lack salt. It was hard to decide if one influenced the other. The sliders were very flavorful.

Next, my husband and I had the house salad with duck confit. We had wanted the green bean and duck confit salad, but they were out of it for the evening and our server suggested this as an alternative. It was a good choice. The duck was succulent and tasty, and paired well with the vinaigrette. Our friends had the crispy coppa and arugula salad and they felt it was delicious too.

For our entrees we ordered the seared chicken, since it was the picture of this dish that got us here in the first place. Our friend quickly stated that it was the best chicken he had ever had. After tasting it ourselves we all agreed it was superb. My husband ordered the wild, coffee-crusted boar with potato hash, broccoli rabe, and braised chippolini onions. Another superb dish. Our other friend ordered the rib eye steak with potato puree, sautéed red chard, cabernet butter, and crispy sweet onions. Once again, we all tasted this dish and loved it. Finally, I had the grilled wild salmon with parsnip puree, arugula and lemon vinaigrette. I was a bit leary about ordering this dish – that’s a lot of different flavors. Our server “warned” me that the chef likes to cook the salmon “rare” and that is what encouraged me to order it. It was a good move. This dish was very original and it totally worked. The flavors perfectly complimented each other without any one flavor being overbearing. Perfect!

We finished the meal with bread pudding with lavender ice cream for my husband and me. And, goat cheese and walnut fritters in a honey sauce with lavender ice cream. I enjoyed the bread pudding and the lavender ice cream reminded me of the Herbfarm Restaurant. I did not taste the fritters but our friends felt it needed to be sweeter.

The Preservation Kitchen was a nice surprise! We really enjoyed the atmosphere and the food and especially the wine! Highly recommended!

Basque in Seattle

We went to Txori last year around this time and fell in love with the place. Swore we’d be back soon, and it took nearly a year to make good on the promise. Txori is a Basque Restaurant that is owned by the same people who run Harvest Vine (another Seattle favorite). Txori specializes in San Sebastian-style pintxos (small bites). It is a small restaurant located in Belltown.

As soon as you walk in, the open kitchen on your left entices you with amazing aromas. We chose a tall table-for-two (or three) across from the action in the kitchen. The location made it easy to watch the pedestrians walking by outside too. We ordered wine first - a glass of red for each of us. Nice! Then we started deciding on food. We skipped over all of the pintxos frios and went straight for the pintxos calientes. It was a cold day and we wanted just warm food. As a matter of fact, the wall heater by my feet felt amazing. Anyway, we ordered a handful of items to get us started. The dishes are served as they come up on the line. First was the scallop special from the board – one large, perfectly seared scallop sitting on a crust of bread with a tasty sauce. Just enough for two small bites each. My husband and I enjoyed it immensely. Next was the chorizo cocido with white wine. Again, just enough for two small bites each. The wonderful flavor lingered in our mouths until the arrival of the tartaleta de rabo de toro (braised oxtail tartlet). It came on a bed of potatoes and was another hit! Then, came the carmelized onion tartlet. Yum! Finally, we had the duck special on the board. I can’t remember the details of the duck other than to say it was delicious. We were going to order another scallop but then realized we were full. We skipped the wonderful-looking desserts for the same reason. We had some shopping to do so we reluctantly decided we needed to go.

This is a fun little restaurant that makes us feel like we’re somewhere far away. It’s a great place to linger and talk and eat and drink - slowly. We have never been disappointed here. Highly recommended!

Puyallup Indian Restaurant!

There’s an Indian restaurant on South Hill!! That’s right, our very own Indian food here in the outskirts of Puyallup. It was very exciting when I came home from an office party during the Christmas season and found my husband dining on a plate of Indian food - which he had bought on Meridian! I tried some right away but wanted to eat at the restaurant before I wrote anything. Well, the opportunity came just a few days later. We stopped at Sumay for a late lunch. While the restaurant is located on always-busy Meridian, it is in a strip mall situated diagonally behind – and nearly obscured by – Speedy Auto Glass. None-the-less, it is a nice little place with white tablecloths and that long-narrow footprint that we like. The menu had all the usual offerings and we started with papadam and mango chutney; and vegetable samosas. Both were crispy and tasty. The trio of sauces brought with the samosas (the traditional tamarin, mint, and chili) were delicious too. Next we had saag aloo (spinach and potatoes in a spicy sauce) which was quite tasty, chicken curry which was wonderful, and daal. With the daall, there was a choice of either the green lentils or the pink and yellow. I chose the latter. I did not care for this rendition. I usually love daal so this was a disappointment to me. The lunch dishes we ordered came with rice and vegetables. The servings were huge and despite our best efforts, we were only able to finish half of the food served. We were told that soon a lunch buffet would be added. We will be back!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Seattle Dinner

Spring Hill Restaurant - new-to-us restaurant in Seattle. We had an amazing meal and evening of delight at this establishment. The restaurant is in West Seattle – a nice change of pace for us – we generally eat on the other side of Elliot Bay. The restaurant looked nice from the exterior and felt warm and cozy as soon as we entered. We were efficiently ushered to our table at the front window. The décor was what we call Seattle modern – a nearly Scandinavian simplicity with a warmness that is somewhat difficult to put a finger on – chrome and mirrors on the wall, textured concrete flooring, very comfortable but simple chairs, no tablecloths but rather placemats, and light-wood tables. The lights were dimmed to what we consider to be the perfect level.

We started with their Duck Egg Yolk Raviolo with green sauce, duck ham and garlic chips. Wow! I’ll go back just to get more of this dish. The only thing that would have made it better would have been the inclusion of bread at the table to sop up the last bits of sauce! (Spring Hill offers bread and butter for $3. I’m not sure why but I’m willing to pay for bread in Europe, but not usually in the States). Next up was the Spruce Needle-Cured Moose with sour cream and crackers. The moose was delicious and delicate but completely overpowered by the cracker if eaten in one bite. I would suggest eating the two separately (as we did) to fully enjoy the dish. (The waiter said we were the third group who made the same recommendation so I have a feeling there will be an adjustment made to this dish.) We ordered the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads and enjoyed every bite. They were perfectly prepared. Next was their Lardo with chanterelle mushroom toast. Excellent! For the main course our group ordered the Sauteed Black Cod with smoked clam panzanella, olive oil sauce with parsley, and escarole. This was a wonderful combination of ingredients and the fish was perfectly cooked. Excellent! The Carlton’s Farm Pork with red garnet yam, local collards, sweet and sour cranberries, and pork croutons was anotherperfectly balanced, excellent dish. The Roasted Duck Breast with cabbage sausage, quinoa waffle, spaghetti squash, and ornage-maple mustard was yet another hit. Again, an great balance of flavors. The Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Anson Mills grits, brussels sprouts, and caper-lemon relish were extremely tender and the pan-reduction sauce was superb. Finally, the 1/2 Pound Beef Burger with house bacon, teleme, white cheddar, special sauce, and beef fat fries were perfectly cooked and tasty. To top it all off, our waiter was outstanding.

For dessert, we ordered the chocolate torte and the trio of ice creams. It was a perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Spring Hill – highly recommended!


This is a new restaurant in Tacoma that my husband heard about from one of his colleagues. It looked nice from the outside and we entered with enthusiasm. The restaurant has a long, narrow footprint that we generally find appealing. We were greeted at the door and picked a table in the back (away from possible door drafts?). Nice overall design of the space, but it seemed a bit cold, or austere. We decided the décor was good with the exception of the light-colored carpeting, and the Western-Steakhouse-style chairs. The lights needed to be dimmed a notch too. The tables were made of an attractive wood (species?) and when we asked our waiter about them he said the owner’s son had crafted them. Nice.

Our waiter was a charming fellow who did a nice job describing the specials. We started with some of their, “Small Bites” (merende is Italian for the small meal/snack between lunch and dinner - sort of the Italian equivalent of the British High Tea.)
First up was, Herbed Farro with roasted root vegetables, fresh oregano, and basil oil. We thought it was good, not great. Next was Sautéed Calamari Calabrase with hot peppers, garlic, and oregano. We enjoyed this dish. Finally, we had the Oven-Roasted Clams with white beans, tomatoes, lemon, red onions, dry cinzano, and butter. All but two of the clams had grit in them and the sauce just didn’t work. We gave the thumbs down to this dish.

For our main course we the ordered Tagliatelle with Ragu Alla Bolognese. Theirs was good and classic. Next we had their Papardelli with Lamb special. This dish was excellent. The sauce was complex and wipe-up-with-the-bread tasty! The final selection was their Hare and Mushroom Risotto with creamy goat cheese and carnaroli rice. This dish was completely overpowered by thyme, which was a shame since the mushrooms were excellent and the hare was delicately cooked.

We chose their Chianti Rufina Riserva and Primitivo Cantele Apulia to go with our dinner. They were both good choices.

For dessert we had the Orange Saffron Cake with
Franglico whipped crema and candied hazelnuts. It was a wonderful cake that needed some sort of sauce to keep it from tasting too dry. We also had their Caprese Torta - a chocolate, almond, flourless cake, with amaretto whipped cream and fresh berries. Another nice dessert (the berries were superb – but they came on the plate with the cake instead of the torta) that could have used something to add moisture – cinnamon gelato?

Overall this was a good, fun, dining experience. The restaurant has only been open for a few weeks and I think all of the dishes have great potential with minor adjustments. We plan to return to Merende.